Expenses Friday: Groceries

Every Friday, I will highlight one of our monthly expenses. I will then discuss trends, savings, and other tidbits of information about that specific expense.

This week’s expense that I want to highlight is: groceries.

Looking at our budget the past few months, we spend on average about $360 per month on groceries. Since we don’t have any kids yet, this comes out to roughly ~$2/meal/person (assuming 3 meals per day and a 30 day month). The way that I view grocery spending is that if there are groceries in the fridge we are less likely to eat out. If you think about eating out, you’d be hard pressed to find a healthy meal for $6/person. With careful planning and a willingness to cook occasionally, you’ll save over 60% of the cost of what it would be to eat out. Not to say you shouldn’t go out to restaurants at all, but limiting your dining out to special occasions or catching up with friends can greatly decrease your spending.

My wife and I actually went grocery shopping a few days ago. Our goal is always to find the best deals for the products that we need or want. One of our favorite places to shop is Grocery Outlet. It is kind of like the TJ Maxx or Marshalls of the grocery store world. It’s definitely not glorious and you never really know what they are going to have in stock. They constantly rotate products through the store. There are some products that they consistently have and others that are only around for a couple of weeks. For me, it’s like a treasure hunt. My goal is to always try something new whenever I shop there. At first I was sort of embarrassed that I shopped at a place like Grocery Outlet, but then my wife reminded me… who cares what other people think when you’re getting the same groceries for 30% less?!

At Grocery Outlet, you’ll find name brands, but you’ll also find some random brand that you’ve never heard of before. These completely off brands are typically cheaper and to be honest they usually taste the same as the name brand product. Furthermore, while we go into the store with a shopping list, we typically let our list evolve based on what we see on sale. For instance, say we were planning on making a chicken stir fry that needed chicken breast and soy sauce. However, the store has chicken breast and salsa on sale, but not soy sauce. We will change our list/menu to incorporate what we find. You can also save quite a bit of money by not purchasing alcohol. We also shop at Safeway and utilize their iPhone app to “clip” coupons. On average, I’d say about 70% of what we buy is on sale.

Another thing to remember is that once you have certain staple ingredients there are a lot of options that you can build from there. For instance, we always keep our fridge/pantry stocked with rice, flour, cheese, eggs, butter, bread, salad, noodles. This allows us to just go to the store and purchase the protein/meat that we feel like eating and adding the staple items to make a delicious meal.

We find that we typically spend less on groceries during months that we are travelling. We usually will allocate these extra funds saved in groceries to restaurants since we tend to eat out more when travelling. Overall, as long as we end up eating the food we buy, we typically come out ahead. Therefore, I never worry about overspending in this category because it means we are probably under-spending in our restaurant category.