Does Using What You’ve Got Save You Money?

Spoiler alert: Yes. Of course it does. No surprises there, right?

(For those just tuning in, I tried eat up the food in our pantry and freezer for the month of September. We kept our grocery spending limited mainly to produce and dairy.)

IMG_0993.JPGI hope if I scatter pictures throughout this lengthy post, I can drag your eye along until the bitter end.

Settle in, folks, for something rare and unusual. I’m going to name actual dollar amounts regarding our grocery spending. I’m going to tell you how much we spent in the months leading up to Use What You’ve Got Month and then how much we spent in September, eating from the pantry and freezer.

This is akin to a unicorn sighting- you’ll likely not see me name figures again- so lean in and really focus.

First, a few details on our grocery spending and what these numbers entail. Because whenever I hear what someone else spends on groceries, I want to know how our shopping compares:

1. Does this include toiletries? Wipes? Diapers? Or just straight-up food? Yes, these numbers include toiletries. We bought a massive amount of t.p. at Sam’s Club in August, and other little non-food items are toothpaste or baby shampoo. Wipes- nope. (We haven’t bought those in months). Diapers? One pack of overnight Huggies for maybe $20. Other than that, no need. So the vast majority of this money goes to food and food alone.

2. Do you buy organic? Gluten-free? Vegan?
Organic for maybe half of our diary, meat, and produce. Gluten-free/Vegan/Paleo/Grapefruit Diet/Anything else- nope.

IMG_1488.JPGLook! A fast horse! Are you still reading?

3. How much of your food is packaged/processed/convenience food?
This is where I admit that I never really know what people mean when they say “packaged food”. We buy pretzels- those are in a package, right? But Hamburger Helper or that type of food where you just add water? Or frozen packs you dump in a skillet and heat? Not much. We buy boxed mac and cheese and pancake mix on a regular basis. Other than that- we buy pretty simple food that has to be combined with other foods to make a meal. Clear as mud? Goooood.

4. Do you coupon or shop the sales?
Couponing- no.
If I see a food staple on sale I will buy a lot and stock up. But I don’t go from one store to another to get the best prices. Most of our grocery shopping is done at Trader Joes or at Kroger.

5. Any other outliers in your grocery spending?
We make or buy meals for friends who have babies, and we are in a reproduction-heavy time of life. So I would guess $50/mo goes toward meals for other people. I also helped throw a baby shower, and we traveled in there, so there are chunks of money going toward one-time events. Which- surprise!- seem to happen every month. So I kept them in the average.

Enough clarifiers. Here are our numbers:

From June, July, and August, our grocery spending averaged $825/mo.
For September, our bill was $415.

(Let me just swallow my shock that we spend as much as we do on food. Particularly given that we don’t have to buy for particular food allergies or insensitivities, which I know jacks a food bill up even higher. And we don’t buy all organic. Wow.)

IMG_1417.JPGA baby with a sno-cone! Keep reading!

I am pretty shocked that our grocery spending was as high as it was in September. Here’s where that money went every week:
and here and there (not every week): beer, ice cream, and lunch meat

That’s just higher than I thought it would be. I think I pictured spending about half that amount for just the basic dairy and produce.

Here’s my takeaway from last month: I liked using up our excess. I liked using our food conscientiously. We barely threw any food away. We cut our grocery bill in half for a month. All good things!

And another takeaway from our grocery spending as a whole: Our overall grocery spending (the $800/mo part) is an example of “lifestyle creep” at work. Here’s what I mean. When we were first married, our finances were tiiiiiight. We allotted $100/mo for groceries. Then I graduated from school and started working and making the big bucks, so we upped our grocery budget. Then kids came along, and we upped it a little more. All fine, within our means, and for good reasons.

But- BUT- this is where lifestyle creep comes in. We’ve had five in our family for the past few years now, yet our grocery spending has gone up by quite a bit in same time frame. $800/mo is waaaaaay past what we projected to spend on groceries per month. We’re no longer increasing our spending because there’s another mouth to feed; rather, we spend more just because…we want to? We deserve to? We don’t want to think about it?

Here’s my disclaimer: spending money is fine, and I don’t think we should all think of money all the time, everywhere. That’s dumb. And some of this increased spending is a reflection of some good internal shifts in my thinking about money.

A lot of it, though, is mindless. And I like seeing those totals to remind me to be thoughtful about our food, our money, and our excess. I’d rather not get used to- or entitled to- spending whatever I want, without much thought. Ick. I would like to be a bit more intentional than that, moving forward.

*****For those of you who are still reading, I admire your fortitude. I cannot be brief, in spite of my best efforts. And who knew that a post on eating those six month old lentils will derail into money management 101. That is all I have to say…


4 thoughts on “Does Using What You’ve Got Save You Money?

  1. I can tell how much of that budget creep is being less conscientious/frugal and how much is because food is costing more. Because I don’t know if food is really costing more, or if I just think it is. Anyway, I liked all your words on this topic. I’m kind of afraid to know how much we’re really spending on food. Which is a whole different kind of issue than how much we spend on food. Sigh.

    • Yes- that’s a good point. Even buying *some* organic is more expensive than several years ago, when we bought no organic. And overall food prices rising… There are a lot of factors there.

  2. just. wait. i’m sorry in advance that in ten years you will have four people eating your entire paychecks plus you and a petite little elementary school girl. remember this post. remember….

    • My parents made us earn our own money for car insurance, clothes, and gas. Maybe I’ll make my kids pay for their own food? Or- I know!- just send them over to your house a lot??

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s