Do you have a monthly grocery budget? Do you stick to it?
My monthly coupon reports are a way I keep myself in check with how much money I’m spending at the grocery store (well, grocery stores) each month and in turn how many coupons I’m using. Coupons are hobby of mine. I like to cut, clip and organize for fun but have never really sat down and tracked how much I’m spending at the store each month and how many coupons I’m using. And of the coupons I’ve used, which source did they come from (Sunday paper, digital, etc.)?
I used to track my spending religiously a few years ago based on a friends recommendation. After tracking for over a year I thought I had a good handle on where my money went each month so I stopped. Recently I’ve become curious again as I have a 2-year-old and money seems to fly out of my wallet faster than I realize. So I’ve started tracking expenses once again and have been surprised by the results.
May 2018 Grocery Report
Total grocery store spend $498.62!
April was a slap-in-the-face and a reality check for me about how far passed reality I had gone when it came to what I thought I spent at the grocery store. I challenged myself, knowing how much higher my spend was than I thought in April, to be at $400 or less for groceries in May.
Outcome: MAJOR FAIL!
The spend was from 14 total store visits, 5 different stores.
What went wrong with our May grocery budget?
I didn’t have a plan about what changes I was going to make in May to spend less. I think I convinced myself that April was some kind of horrible outliner financially and that I truly can’t be spending that much every month at the store. I thought that May would just magically be less. Wrong, wrong, and wrong again.
One of my passions is chasing the deals and not wanting to feel like I missed out on a great deal. Along with that means many trips to the grocery store. Each trip adds up, even if it was for the “right” reasons for trying to cash in on a good sale.
For example a great sale on chicken breast. Or $.99 strawberries. Cheap produce is great until you buy more than you can eat and end up throwing half of them away. How far ahead am I really than if I had bought only what I was going to use, but paid more?
Factors that affected the May grocery spend
I traveled for work in early May. So I thought organically our spend for the moth would be less since I was gone for 4 nights, 5 days. However, my in-laws visited during the time I was gone. So we replaced my mouth with two more
mouths to feed for the weekend.
When I was traveling, my husband did some grocery shopping. He was kind enough to leave the receipt for me as he knows I am doing these monthly grocery reports so I know what he spent; and I also know he doesn’t look at prices as aggressively as I do and doesn’t use coupons, so we likely overspent with his store trip.
We stocked up on charcoal for the summer as there was a crazy sale on it.
My sister visited mid-month over Mother’s Day. We spend the weekend at my parents’ house and I brought a few dishes. Additionally, I bought 4 lbs of cheese curds for my sister to take back with her to California which was included on one of my regular grocery store receipts
Memorial Day weekend, in general, was crazy: lots of grilling, lots of drinking. We didn’t host but went to our neighbor’s house multiple times and brought dishes to share.
I had multiple regrettable couponing challenges this month that make me start to question if I’m the teacher, or still a student:
- I purchased $40 worth of diapers and wipes and was supposed to receive a $10.00 register reward at Meijer. The register reward never printed and I didn’t notice until I got home. I never went back to reconcile! Seriously, am I losing my edge?
- I let a $6.00 CVS ExtraBucks Reward EXPIRE! Grrrrrr so frustrating. I knew it day-of and just didn’t have a chance to make it to the store.
- I was overcharged by $1.19 for a few pounds of peaches. I was shopping with my daughter and distracted and not watching the register. Again didn’t notice it until I got home, was probably valued at $3-$4; was frustrated but never took action.
- I LEFT STEAK IN SHOPPING CART – I’m not kidding. This has literally never happened to me before. My husband texts me and asks if I want to have a little date night in. He’ll pick up our daughter from daycare if I run to the store and get something to grill. Steak, asparagus, and mushrooms make it through the register, but somehow never make it to my car. I shopped locally to work and then drove about 30 minutes home. My husband is unloading some of the other groceries and then asks “what’s for dinner?” I think he’s joking as it should be obvious what’s for dinner. I then realize he’s not joking. I check my trunk again: not there. I was so freaking frustrated I literally start crying. Not hysterically crying just frustrated tears over an $11.00 steak I paid for and won’t get to enjoy. I was hungry for steak. Not the chicken we ended up having that night.
I’m losing my edge – and I want to get it back! What happened to the girl who was so frugal and so attentive to prices and coupons that nothing would get buy her? I’m determined to bring her back and not let situations like the ones listed above happen in June.
May Coupon Breakdown
I’ve always wondered if the amount of money I spend on the Sunday papers are actually offset by coupon usage. Never mind my time (although I recognize time is money), but could I look myself in the face and say the money I spend on the physical newspapers are offset by the value of coupons I use in a month.
The answer for May: No
- Newspaper – $5.75
- Printed (at home) – $0.00 (I used to print-at-home religiously but have fallen off the wagon on even printing them out. No print = no use
- Digital/Store Provided – $17.40
- “Extra Bucks” type or other – $12.00
- Total Coupon Savings for May 2018: $35.15
I spend $1.50 on the Sunday paper to be delivered each week. If I pick up an additional newspaper when the coupons are too good to not grab another paper they are also $1.50. I pick them up at Menards as my local Dollar Tree stopped selling them. Note, the Sunday paper of Memorial Day weekend did not include any coupons at all which is common during a holiday weekend. So I spent $1.50 on a paper and knew I was going to get zero dollars in coupons.
So I spent $6.00 on the physical newspaper in May and only used $5.75 worth of printed coupons. While I really really enjoy the Sunday paper and the physical act of cutting coupons out each month, the numbers indicate it’s not worth my time or money, and that a better use of my time and money would be to use the computer to print what I need or digitally clip.
Goals for June
Same as my goal for May: Reduce grocery bill to $400 or less
The difference is that I want to do a better job of meal planning based on what is already in our refrigerator and freezer and use what we have as often as I can.
We do have a vacation planned for a week later in the month. We’re spending the weekend with friends in Minneapolis then joining my husband’s family for a few nights at a cabin. I’m not sure how that will affect the grocery budget. We may be eating out more and or be chipping in for groceries when we’re at the cabin.
I’ve also been contemplating signing up for Shipt the grocery delivery service with Meijer (the same one Target uses). They are currently offering it on sale for $49 for an annual service. There is a $35.00 minimum but then delivery is free.
I LOVE going to the stores and matching up my coupons with sale prices in person, but I’m wondering if an online delivery option would not only save me time but help me stay on budget by only shopping one store and only buying what’s on my list.
I mentioned this service to our daycare providers who do a lot of grocery shopping for their family and for the daycare and they signed up for the free trial. They tried it and couldn’t say enough about it. From the time savings of them not having to spend an hour at the store to the fact that they are tied up from 7:00am-5:30pm Monday-Friday, they can place an order online and have it delivered anytime, they made it sound really convenient! If I do it, I’ll definitely share my experience with you!
What are you doing to reduce your monthly grocery bill?
Take one small step today – to help your finances tomorrow,