Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tracking My Food Spending Over the Long Term

I've kept track of my food spending for the last three full years.  I started in 2009 but don't have the full year's spending for that year.
Call me anal, that's ok.  I'm a bit nerdy when it comes to money stuff.

Here are my numbers.  This includes all food spending, as well as toiletries, pet food, all household paper products.  It does not include "eating out" monies.  And let me tell you.....we can do some bigtime eating out! lol
Keep in mind that these numbers are for a family of 5-3(number of people being fed varied as 2 kids came and went to college)and 2 dogs.  It's not more scientific than taking my receipts and writing my totals down every week in a notebook, a year at a time, and then dragging out a calculator and adding it all up.

2011--$3,080.59   Up $788.92 from 2010
2012--$4,196.36   Up $1,115.77 from 2011

I am trying to make sense of these numbers so bear with me.

On the face of it, it appears that I spent increasingly and substantially more each year on food spending.

Between the increasing inflation rate on the cost of food and the decrease in the amount of couponing from one year to the next(I've been on a downward trend with the volume of coupons I use)you could argue that these 2 conditions accounted for the rise in food spending from 2010 to 2012.

Now let's look at my Rebating Totals during these same years.
I use to send away for a fair amount of rebates, both for cash ones and others that gave back gift cards(or prepaid credit cards). 

2010--$841.73 rebate checks/ $563.99 gift cards
2011--$433.22 rebate checks/ $76.00 gift cards
2012--$67.48 rebate checks/ $5.00 gift cards

Sometimes the gift cards were used to pay for food and toiletries, sometimes not, so if we just plug in the cash rebates which were all added back into my food kitty,  my food "spending" totals after these checks looks like this.....

2011--$3,513.81    Up $380.41
2012--$4,263.84    Up $750.03

After the cash rebates, the increases from year to year in spending are much lower and easily explained away by inflation and the decrease in couponing.

It saddens me though to see how few cash rebates I was able to partake in last year, down from a high in 2010 of $841.73.    And most of that $67.48 in cash rebates in 2012 was from Rite-Aid! ;-)

Since the Recession of 2008 I am finding fewer and fewer manufacturer's offering worthwhile rebate offers in my state for products we want/need.
Given this sad state of affairs, if I continue to purchase roughly the same products in 2013, with food inflation and a continued less than stellar crop of coupon deals combined with a stingy few cash rebate offerings, I guesstimate that my Food Spending Totals for 2013 might reach $5,000+.

This increase is even more reason to redouble my efforts to keep our food costs down in any way I can.
Food spending is one of those items that can very quickly get out of hand.
It's something you can't NOT spend on, but what you buy, where and when you buy it and how much you buy can sink your budget quickly.

It's an item in your budget that can sneak up on you......buying a little better quality food or an item that's a "treat"(not something you buy every day) or buying a food even though it's not a good deal because you just want to eat it now anyway.....these are all the ways that add a few pennies here, a dollar there to your food costs, and before you know it, you are $30 over your food budget for the week or month.  And if you keep on that path from month to month, you'll be looking up a year later to see that you've overspent on the food category without a clue how.

It's important for all of us to at least consider all the tricks in the food shoppers' arsenal.

Even if you've never taken a list to shop from to the store before, or made your own convenience mixes, or meal planned, or gone in with some neighbors and started your own food co-op, or grown a garden, or used a coupon, or bought from a farmer and froze or canned inexpensive veggies, or stockpiled in good quantity something your family eats when it's on a great sale, or bought a new item and gotten a full price cash rebate back so basically you've gotten the item for free(minus postage), maybe you should consider trying one or more of these methods of bringing down your food and toiletries bill.

Don't dismiss any of these techniques out of hand!  You might just find that something you never considered before might be a great way to make your food dollar go further.
Some of these are simple ways to stretch your food dollars, some take much time and effort, and some may seem like they are difficult but once you figure it out, you'll wonder why you never tried them before.

What about you?
Do you budget your food spending?
How do you figure out what to spend?
What do you do to reduce the amount you have to spend to feed your family?
What has worked best for you in the past to keep your spending in line with your income?



  1. So far since 2011, I've put down a $120/mo food expenditure, and when that's gone, it's gone and I may borrow from my personal funds ($80) which are supposed to cover for stuff like toiletries and clothes and non-food items. And when that's gone, then it's all gone, since I can't borrow from my gas funds... It's not a great system, and it is very arbitrary, but if it ain't broke, I ain't fixing it. (It has cracked a few times where I had NO food and NO personal money for 2wks at a time because of pop-ups, but I can't call that a break in the system... yet.)

  2. I absolutely budget for groceries... we live on a low income so overspending is NOT an option. I budget $180 for a family of 6 living in Canada where food prices are generally higher than in the US. I keep our food budget down by buying *REAL* food as much as possible. I'll buy the odd convenience food, but real food more than anything else. I will only eat local and organic, free range meats, so I save up to place a couple big orders a few times a year. :)

  3. I budget, sort of. I figure $100/month or less for one. If I spend too much because of great meat sales one week or one month, I can spend less the next week or month. For instance, I bought enough Cokes for two months because of a great sale and enough meat for three months at another store. That means overall, I will spend less some weeks and some months.

    I saved 87% one week this month and spent $45 using sales and coupons. Then, this week I saved 60% this week by using sales and coupons, spending $35. I have enough cheese until the next bogo. I have no money for anything else until the Feb 1, no matter what is on sale or what I need.

    I buy sweet potatoes from the farm for $.25/lb. I picked up my own pecans this year. I eat produce from the hens' produce box. Food banks help to feed me.

    Since there is just me, sometimes I have no milk for a day, a catastrophe in my world. I can cut back on spending by eating what I have bought cheaply.

    I eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables even though I have little to spend.

    Toothbrushes, bath soap, and toothpaste are free or I pay only tax once I work my magic with sales and coupons. I even supply three children, dil, and four gchildren with the above.

  4. Sluggy, you aren't the only nerd. I track my spending to. I have multiple worksheets, one for budgeting bill payments, one for tracking electricity usage and one for tracking grocery/gas/cig spending. In the grocery category, I include food, health and beauty, pet food/supplies, household goods like paper and cleaning products and all pharmacy items except prescriptions. Last year our spending increased over 2011 by $463 for the year. BUT...and this is a big but....we saved $913 because I quit smoking on 1/1/12. So we came out ahead. I would feel bad about spending what we do on the grocery category...$5274 last year, but most of my Christmas gifts come out of this since I give a lot of jam as gifts. Jars, fruit, sugar and pectin all fall in the grocery category for me. If I took those out, my amount spent would drop some. But, I not gonna.

  5. Oh, and I plan to save a lot of money in the grocery category this year by shopping at my new Aldi when it opens!!!

  6. I LOVE our Aldis! But my hubs prefers another groceries meats. SO I have a few stores where I get the varieties we need.


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