The 2011 Grocery Challenge – Part 1

Since May of 2009, we have been on a real frugal kick around the house, thanks to Dave Ramsey.  We were going along really well…and then sometime last summer, I spent way more than I should have and took a few steps back.  So, after reviewing my spending trends with my Mint.com account, I decided to super-amp up my frugality for 2011.  First place to cut spending?  The grocery bill.

Now, outside of home expenses, the second largest amount we typically spend our money on is food.  If you’ve never done so, for a single month save every receipt.  Every single one, even if it’s a stick of gum.  At the end of the month, whip out a calculator and categorize all of your purchases.  I can almost guarantee you that what you spend by eating out alone will make you sick!  For a while, I couldn’t figure out why we were always broke by the end of the month.  Once you track your money (and I’d highly recommend Mint.com if you use a debit card), it’s easy to see where all the ‘leaks’ in your budget are. Here’s a pretty good budget worksheet, based on a ‘zer0-based’ budget.  That is, you will allot all of your paycheck/income to a category, so you have ‘nothing left’ by the end of the month.  (of course, this can include funding your savings/retirement…you’re not going to spend all of the money except on paper)

Anyway, one of our own major ‘leaks’ was in the food category.  Number one offender was eating out and number two was overspending on groceries.  So, in May of 2009 we decided to make a change…and we have!  We started the gardens so we are now able to grow a lot of our own fruits and veggies, I bake our bread now, and the chickens give us plenty of eggs. We try not to eat out often, though Jason and I do have a date night every other weekend, and yes, we usually do go out to eat.  However, getting water to drink (drinks are up to 2.19 each around here) and splitting a meal helps a LOT.   I was being a lot more careful about grocery spending, but I kinda ‘fell off of the wagon’ so to speak.  Some months I’d spend up to 450 to 500 a month on groceries…and a typical month for us beforehand was between 250-350 dollars.  Now, even that may sound low to some of you, but we don’t buy a lot of convenience food.  If I can make it, I’ll usually not buy it.  So, I make our own rolls, hamburger buns, hot dog buns, sandwich bread, jams and jellies, pickles, canned tomatoes, and now I even have a pasta maker!  Lol.  Watch out, world!

Now that I’m back on track for 2011 and all fired up about becoming debt-free, I am issuing a challenge to you all.  Let’s see how much we can save on our grocery bill.  Now that that has been said, you’ll have to know how much you spend in a normal month, right?  So for the month of February, let’s do Part one and track your spending expenses.  If you want to go all out, categorize ALL your expenses, but for the sake of the challenge just track what you spend on food. Save all of your food receipts for the month of February.  I used to stash mine all in an envelope.  At the end of February add up your grocery expenses, and then add up your dining out expenses separately.  Meet me back here at the end of February, and let’s compare notes.  Then for March we’ll see how much money we can save and re-post what we spent.  Sound like fun?

Here are the results of my own personal challenge.  In December, I spent $458 on groceries.  This month, so far, I have spent $147.  Now, we did spend about $185 on groceries a few days before the end of the year.  We hadn’t gone to the grocery in about 3 weeks and went a little crazy! Of course, that food lasted for a few weeks, so I expect February to be a little higher.

Just a little about the food that I do buy:  There are some foods that I won’t compromise on, for example,  organic milk.  I refuse to buy the regular stuff.  It tastes plain nasty to me and I really do care what’s in my food.  Yes, I pay seven dollars a gallon for milk!  I also read ingredient lists. I don’t buy things with TBHQ (bye,bye Ritz crackers and chicken McNuggets ) and I also try to avoid things like partially hydrogenated oils and soybean oil (most soybeans nowadays are GMOs…no thanks).  I also try to buy food grown in the state, if possible and I don’t buy out-of-season produce (like tomatoes).  Rather than buy California citrus, why not buy Texas citrus?  Grown right here in the Valley and it’s delicious stuff.  Of course, that’s just my personal choice.  The point is, is that it’s very possible to buy good nutritious food and not spend an arm and leg.  BUT, you do have to cook and you do have to know what store has the best price on what.  That in itself will save you a ton.

If you are local to East Texas, I would recommend the following:

Sav-A-Lot (Jacksonville): Kind of like a mini-Aldi’s.  Great pricing on canned goods, boxed goods, and some frozen items.  Fruit/veggies are usually well priced.  Also, they carry dairy and meat. Most items are not name brand, but I have found that quality is still great.

Break N’ Bread (Jacksonville):  My favorite place to get the organic milk.  At 3.49 for a half gallon, it even beats WalMart’s price. I also get my spices here, since you can buy as little or as much as you need, and they are the BEST.

Super Gallo (Jacksonville): Big produce section, homemade tortillas, and an awesome meat department with a real butcher.  Not that we have steaks but once in a blue moon, but the ribeyes and T-bones looked awesome.  I went away with a pound of ground and it was great stuff.  Though it was labeled as 80/20, there just wasn’t that much fat in it.

So, dust off those CrockPots and recipes in preparation for March and let’s begin the challenge!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Amy P says:

    I shop at Brookshire’s usually (not Brookshire Bro.). I always shop by the sale ad that comes out once a week. One of my tips is to watch for roast when they are on sale and have the market grind it into hamburger or chili meat. It is a better quality meat at a lower price.

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