One of the things we’ve had to get real about since having Ellie is our food. I wish I were more of a budget person because I’d love to know where the heck all the money was going before we had to pay for daycare, because MAN it is expensive. We’ve never really tracked our spending that carefully, just paying bills when they came up and moving money into savings whenever there were chunks leftover (I know, we are financial GENIUSES).
We decided to start tracking all our food purchases at the beginning of January. We didn’t have a target number in mind, it was more just a loose plan to collect receipts, enter them into a spreadsheet, and see if there was anything we could cut back on.
Mike was awesome about setting up the spreadsheet in nice little categories (price, food type, store) so when I say “we’re tracking our food spending” I pretty much mean he’s doing all the dirty work.
A few things jump out at you when it’s all laid out like that. One, we really like our cheese and butter. Two, AVOID the “make your own six pack” shelf at Whole Foods ($21 dollar six pack? oopsie). Three, We spend a TON on produce. A TON. I’ve definitely started noticing that some things are cheaper at Whole Foods while others are a better deal at the Farmers Market. We try to buy only organic produce (and local as much as we can) but it is not cheap!
Now, how can we cut costs?
– I’ve cut way back on tofu and processed soy in our meals and haven’t really used any in the last couple weeks. We still have a bunch of big jars of dried beans that I’ve been working through, and that definitely means less money spent.
– We stopped buying dairy milk. The kind we bought came in glass and you return the bottle to be refilled (no waste except for the tiny top, yay) which is awesome, but we realized that Ellie doesn’t drink milk and we don’t really use it. We started making our own almond milk instead because it’s SUPER quick and seems to be pretty cost effective, plus that cuts back on packaging a lot.
– I started baking our bread. It’s really not that time-intensive to bake two loaves of whole wheat bread on Sunday afternoon, and it costs a fraction of the cost of buying it, plus no plastic is involved!
– Mike is now brewing our beer. Still not sure whether this is going to end up saving us money, but it’s a hobby he loves and so far, the results have been fantastic. The start-up costs weren’t exactly zero, but our alcohol spending has gone way down now that we have a whole bunch of home brew ready to drink.
– I’m being way more careful about using up all our produce. I go a little crazy buying greens sometimes, and they don’t always get eaten. But at $2.49 for a bunch of organic chard, I’m making sure to put extra greens in my morning smoothies when they start to look a little limp.
– We’re prepping WAY more food. It’s amazing how much more likely we are to use produce when it’s already washed. I’m trying to get in the habit of washing everything as soon as it comes in the door, before going into the fridge. I’ve also started making big batches of dried beans and freezing them so I can use them more quickly than having to wait for them to soak and cook (plus dried beans are cheaper and have lest waste than cans!)
Tonight I made a batch of these bean burgers to put in the freezer, so now we have those and tamales in case we need last minute dinners (why didn’t I do any of this when I was pregnant with Ellie? Who starts stocking the freezer when they have a one year old?)
– I’ve cut back on baking. I don’t NEED to have cookies lying around, and when I bake cookies, I eat way more dough than I should. Plus, buying all that chocolate adds up. I do still have all that butter in the freezer though…
One of the things I’m not willing to do is switch to non-organics or buy things that have more packaging. I’m trying to keep our food spending in check, but I’m also really concerned about waste. The less plastic that comes into this house, the better, so I’m doing everything I can to make sure that what I buy doesn’t come with any.
And now for the obligatory end of the post question: Do you keep a spreadsheet of your groceries? Any food budget tips?