A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way

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The Weekly Grocery Bill: Progress and Challenges

Before we started adhering to a budget this past April, we paid little attention to our weekly grocery bill.  We're a vegetarian/vegan household, and we believe that fresh, nourishing food is both necessary and worthwhile. Thus, we gave ourselves license to purchase whatever we wanted to purchase, whenever the mood struck. Sure, we'd use the occasional coupon, and sometimes we'd stock up on sale items. But for the most part, anything was fair game as long as it was reasonably healthy.

Then I tallied our food expenses and realized that sometimes we were spending upwards of $1100 a month for a family of three. That's about $500 more than what Americans spent per month on groceries in 2012. And that... that was an eye-opener. I, for one, hadn't realized just how big a chunk of our income was going into our stomachs.

When we formulated our budget, we decided to set our weekly grocery target at $225, a number that we felt would help us rein in our spending without being totally unrealistic. After all, if we're trying to go out to eat less, then we do need to be satisfied with what we're consuming on a daily basis at home. 

I'm happy to report that we stayed within our grocery budget throughout all of April, May, and June. On average, we spent $220 a week, and the reduction hasn't felt like a sacrifice. I've been compiling weekly menus and grocery lists, and we've been eating more pasta, rice and beans, and simple salads. Preparation has helped a great deal. 

I'm sure we could tighten up the budget even further if we were willing to spend more time couponing or go to multiple stores to get the best deals, but I have to admit that I have never been able to stick with those strategies. That's in large part because the combination of people and fluorescent lighting at most grocery stores is enough to make me hyperventilate within five minutes of entering the premises. Typically, Fortysomething does all of our grocery shopping at the store down the street and takes whatever coupons we've remembered to shove into our sparsely-populated coupon envelope.

Given this, I'm happy with our progress. But we've set the bar even higher this month by taking our grocery budget down to $200 per week. Fortysomething is starting a new job, and with that comes a (manageable but challenging) gap in pay while he wraps up projects with his previous employer and onboards with his new one. To ease that transition, we've tightened the pursestrings a little more. I can already tell that it isn't going to be easy. Our strategy this month is to focus on simple meals and simple ingredients, reduce consumption of snack and convenience foods, and buy our staples on sale when we can.

What about you? How much do you spend on groceries in a typical week? What are your tricks for getting good deals on nutritious food?

1 comment:

  1. Just found your blog, so doing some back reading and commenting :)

    I budget about $150 per week for a family of four (2 adults, 1 teen and 1 vegetarian preteen). When I started budgeting, the first thing I did was to eliminate Trader Joe's from my routine, as there were too many tempting spontaneous purchases there. I make a weekly menu, and divide my list into the things I can get at the discount grocery (Aldi) and the things I need to get elsewhere (Wegmans). As far as getting good deals on nutritious food, honestly, I find the more I stick to whole, unprocessed stuff (fresh produce, grains, beans and the occasional animal protein), the less I spend. The processed vegetarian stuff I buy specifically for my daughter (to compensate for when I'm serving meat for the rest of us) is where the expense adds up.