Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Budgeting Update: The Grocery Line Item

I don't think I've ever gone into detail about my grocery budget.  (So what if Financial Literacy Month is over?)

A few years ago, I started an excel spreadsheet that is now almost 1000 rows long of each item I buy, quantity, and cost per.

I menu plan first. And I almost exclusively cook in the slow cooker. I've accrued quite a few recipes through blogs, websites and books. Then I heard that emeals was now offering a slow cooker option, so I re-joined. (No, no referral fee or anything. I know, I'm so bad at trying to monetize this blog!)

I keep my grocery list in a note on my phone so that I can add things during the week as we run out.
On Thursday or Friday, I put together my menu for the coming week and finalize my grocery list. Then I go to my grocery budget spreadsheet.

It has been built one grocery trip at a time. It started with estimates of how much each item cost. Now, I take each receipt and update the spreadsheet with the actual amount spent for each item. Here in CA, we're not taxed on food items, but I do buy more than just food, so I go ahead and multiply the sub-total by the tax rate to come up with a total. I try to use coupons, but I don't always remember to do so, so I do not deduct any coupons from that total. Of course, if the total is over my budgeted amount, then I have to re-think my planned meals or forego a desired, but not needed, product or two.

8 out of 10 times, by putting together my list this way, I spend less than I have budgeted for my groceries. This week was one of those weeks where I went over. By seven bucks. Oh, well. It happens. I subtracted the overage from my "Miscellaneous" line item on my budget.

Previously, I've tried to keep track of my spending while shopping, but that's not nearly as reliable or efficient.

I also only shop once a week. If I forget something, then that recipe will just have to wait until next week. (Though, admittedly, it's not necessarily out of principle; it's more lack of willpower.) I usually have spaghetti or other easy items on hand to make do.

Every so often, I will make a trip to Costco to stock up. I also have a Costco shopping list tab in my grocery budget, but I do not dare rely on that alone. On Costco trips, we keep the calculator tool open on the phone so we can add as we go. I also compare and have found on some items, it is cheaper to buy at the grocery store than Costco so I know which items to leave off the Costco list. I'm proud to say, I have actually left Costco for less than $100.

I am absolutely dreadful at actually using left-overs, so I could still do better when it comes to saving money on groceries. And I wanted to kick myself when I came across a book of coupons from my grocery store that had already expired before I opened them. Still, I do have to balance my free time with saving money. Overall, this method is working for us.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

As much as it looks like it's a lot of work, this is a good practice to have when it comes to finances. Not only do you manage to keep track and stay within budget, but you can also have references for future expenses and know exactly where your money has gone. Thanks for sharing, April!