Grocery Geek: At Month’s End

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Fluctuating grocery prices can make it tempting to overbuy. So, what’s the plan to conquer that?

I knew that I would go over budget on groceries this month. Thankfully, hubs and I have always had a little slush fund to make up for that kind of thing. It’s a safety in case my math is wrong somewhere.

In thinking about why we went over budget, I can narrow it down to three things:

  • a desire to stock up on seasonal produce, like apples to process for freezing
  • a yearning for some type of convenience in my busy days
  • an anxiety about rising grocery prices and potential shortages

I know that I bought more than “we needed” based on these three factors. Going into next month, I’m thinking through how to stave off these issues. At least some of them.

Seasonal stocking up – I’m going to continue to stock up on items that we want to enjoy throughout the winter when they become unavailable. I won’t have the option to buy them later and I remember that it was great to have corn and beans last winter. We’ve got pickles and jam galore in the pantry, so those are things that I won’t need to buy in the coming months.

I bought another 20 pounds of apples this week and ordered another 20 pounds for next week. These will become applesauce and apple pie. I also plan on making a load of pesto next week with extra basil I ordered. This freezes well and makes mealtimes a little more exciting.

Convenience – Between mine and hubby’s diet and the start of school, meal prep has been a crazy affair. Now that we’ve both reached our goals — he lost 20 pounds and I lost 8 — we can adjust our diet a little more and not be such sticklers on keeping the calorie count low.

My solution? A more in-depth freezer cooking session this next week. I want simple, convenient meals, so those are the ones going on the plan.

Speculation on food prices – I’m not sure how to handle this one. It’s an election year, so who can you believe? These are the techniques that got us out of debt years ago:

  • stock up on great prices
  • don’t spend more than you have.

Thankfully, I haven’t gone into debt over boneless, skinless chicken breasts. But, I know that it’s easy to overbuy when you’re in a panic. So, I’m going to go back to the envelope budget system for my groceries this month. This will force me to be more intentional about what I buy and not rely (too much) on the aforementioned slush fund.

Here’s how the shopping went down this last week of the month:


My Vons list was mostly to round out some things that I wanted for meals (tostada shells, cheese, milk, bananas) and stocking up on things that were a good deal, like sugar, cake mixes, and beans. I bought the barley because it’s really hard to find at Walmart and such, and I want barley soup soon.

Total spent: $41

Abundant Harvest Organics

The produce box was beautiful this week, filled with eggplant, apples, lettuce, arugula, peppers, thyme, tomatoes, radishes, carrots, potatoes, and grapes. Just need to get busy processing it all and serving it up.

Total spent: $52

Not pictured:

More milk, and some meat stocked up at Sprouts.

Total spent: $20

Total spent this week $113, bringing the monthly total up to $982.

Looking at the big picture

So far this year, our grocery expenses have bounced all around! But since we buy things in one month to use in the next month, it makes sense to average our spending over the course of a year. Here’s how the numbers are crunching:

  • January = $442
  • February = $800
  • March = $1142
  • April = $615
  • May = $820
  • June = $940
  • July = $595
  • August = $912
  • September = $982
Total spent to date: $7248

Average monthly spending for 2012: $805.33

So, there. I’m officially over our monthly budget by an average of five bucks a month. With three months left in the year, we can easily make up for the difference. If I play my cards right.

How do YOU handle your grocery challenges?

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  1. Does this include toiletries? I also spent some time this week analyzing my budget and determining my areas in need of improvement.

    • @Lori, recent numbers do not include toiletries. (Earlier in the year, I did.) Now it’s just food. I figure the usda charts only cover food, and that is my source of comparison.

  2. I have been reading lately about the impending increase in food prices in 2013, over an above the one that we are experiencing right now. This is due in a large part to the failed crops due to the drought experienced in much of the US and Canada this summer. The articles I have been reading mentioned that we would see a drop in prices for meat products because the farmers will be slaughtering more of their animals because the price of feed will be too high for them to feed them over the winter. Once this glut in the market is finished the price of meat will increase. Also again because of slaughtering the price of diary products will increase, less cows, less milk, higher prices. Also the cost of processed food will be higher because of less corn and soy to put in these products. Most of you probably already know all this, but I thought I would share what I have been reading. They say to expect an increase of at least 4% if not more in 2013.


    • I’ve heard similar stuff from readers, but hadn’t read it in news sources. Thanks for sharing. It all makes a lot of sense. Too bad that it’s mainly the processed stuff that goes on really good sales. Weird.

  3. “The cost of pork is expected to rise at the fastest pace – by 31% by the end of June next year – while beef costs could increase by up to 8%.

    I am glad my family does not pork.

  4. eat pork that should read.

  5. Is there any advice for people who have a super low food budget? I am pregnant with my 3rd child and we spend $240 a month, plus whatever we get free from WIC. The thought of stocking up and planning ahead sounds great, but there is literally no room for that for us, and doesn’t look like there will be any time soon. Has anyone been in this situation who is still able to eat healthy?

    • I totally feel for you! About five years ago we were on a super tight budget. There were 7 of us and toward the end of that first year, I was pregnant with our sixth kid. Couponing and stockpiling saved us. Seriously. We ate more processed food than we ever had in our lives, but we were eating. My budget then was $100/week for 7-8 people, depending on how you count a pregnant lady. I was amazed at how well I could keep the fridge and pantry stocked by buying what was on sale and pairing it with a coupon whenever possible. It made for some very interesting shopping trips, to buy 30 yogurts at one time instead of what looked like a well-rounded cart, but by stockpiling, I eventually had a full pantry. This post explains what I did to reduce our spending as drastically as I did.

  6. I am feeling the need to stockpile too b/c of rising grocery prices but I am slowing it down a bit. I need a really good meat sale b/c we have 1 pkg of ground beef left from our 1/2 cow order and we won’t be ordering again until next year. My grocery budget has been high these past few months as 2 of my favorite stores (Publix and Trader Joe’s) just opened in our area and it’s been Christmas for me!

    Are there really only 3 months left in the year?! Hard to believe.

  7. Wow… Im still impressed! Your monthly average is still awesome for a family of 8!!! And while on a diet!!! I am still averaging about $1050 for my family of 8.. I know alot of that is convience food too. What can a mom of 6 do when you have a part time job and kids that need constant shuttle service??!!!! Congrats on doing such a great job and losing 8 pounds… you are my hero!!!

    • @Heidi, thanks for your encouraging words. It is definitely a challenge. I just noticed how full my freezer is, so I’m wondering if I should stop shopping this month. Hehe.

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