When we lived in MN we went grocery shopping at a big store about once a month. I had no grocery budget, it was more important to buy items when we got to the city. It was not unusual for us to spend $400 at Costco because we only went to Costco about 3 times a year. When we got to a big grocery store we usually spent over $200. We did weekly trips over the border to SD to buy produce. We had to buy special items to feed Lamb 1 a dairy free diet. One good part was most of the time we lived in MN we received WIC. Also the members were very generous at Christmas time with giving us meat. I remember talking to a Looper then and being embarrassed because I had no idea how much we spent on groceries. Our pantry was always very well stocked, but I had no idea how much we spent to stock it.
When we moved here we are so close to Costco that it is not unusual to go to Costco every week or two. Thankfully those trips are usually under $30 since we go so often. I'm so close to stores that each week I usually shop at two different stores to get the best prices. I began in 2013 keeping track of what we spend. I didn't have a budget during 2013 or 2014, just kept track of what we actually spent.
I broke down what we spend into specific categories. The grocery category is just for what we eat and drink. It does not include items used in the bathroom (toilet paper, soap etc.), items used for cleaning (laundry soap, dishwasher soap, etc.) or items like baggies. It does include food I buy to take to church potlucks or church fundraisers which is often some parts of the year (Advent and Lent). It does include berries and produce for canning even though I give most of that jam away as gifts. It does include treats like candy for the Lambs and when I occasionally buy pop to have with homemade pizza. If I ever participate in rebates those are subtracted from what we spend. Usually we end up using our yearly Costco rebate from American Express on food, but I do not subtract that from the total-I'm looking to see how much we spent on food. It does not matter where we purchase the food-whether I buy it at the grocery store or farmer's market-if it is something we eat or drink it gets recorded in the grocery category.
Especially when we began eating closer to Paleo I knew groceries were going to cost us more. I also knew the cost of groceries went up. I'm happy to report that I saved an average of $15 per month in 2014 vs. 2013.
Ram and I had a long discussion about our grocery budget in January. We decided to set the grocery budget the same as we spent in 2014 with a few differences. I have kept track of how much I spent on food and how much sales tax on food cost me separately. This is because we get a $100 tax credit per person in our house because we have sales tax on food. I was curious if we spent more than $500 a year on sales tax. In 2014 we spent $444 on sales tax on food. So we "made" $56 from the state of ID. This made me think if we could spend less on groceries we would spend less on sales tax and we could "make" even more money on this.
So my grocery budget for 2015 is the same as we spent last year but will include sales tax this year. If we spent the same as last year I would have $37 less a month even though the amount is the same as we spent last year.
I don't want to blog how much my amount is. It is quite large each month because I want to have dollars budgeted when I buy meat from Zaycon or when the entire health food side of the grocery store is 25% off (usually twice a year) or when Costco has something on sale that we use often and could stock up on. Many of my friends in the Midwest would think the amount is way too high. But we no longer get many food gifts from members. We don't have a garden here. We pay more for groceries here than we did in the Midwest too.
Ram and I decided that I am not ever allowed to go over my monthly budget since it is so large. What I do not spend in that month is not rolled over to the next month. So I do need to watch my monthly budget closely especially if I want to buy Zaycon that month. If I do spend the entire amount then we will eat out of the pantry until the beginning of the next month.
Each quarter we are going to total how much I was under budget and donate that to charity. This is a big incentive to me to stay under budget. At the end of 2014 I wanted to donate to several LCMS missionaries that are our friends. In January I was $59 under budget so that will be given to charity.
I am going to need to watch my budget closely in February. Lent suppers begin and our preschool fundraiser is this month. I know I will buy Zaycon chicken this month. Today I did grocery shopping and spent almost 1/4 of this month's budget.
I know everyone does their budgets differently. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I didn't have a budget for my first 13 years of marriage. So far our 2015 plan is working very well for us.