Last night, when I opened my fridge to grab some leftovers to reheat for dinner, I was surprised at just how empty my fridge has gotten. My freezer is starting to look a bit bare as well. The cabinet I use as a pantry looks relatively well stocked, though not as stuffed as it has been.
Why is this noteworthy? Because only a few minutes before, I was updating my budget for the month and noted that I only have about $16 left in my monthly grocery budget.
Where is the money going? Have I really consumed that much food in the past few weeks? My grocery budget doesn’t even include the cash that I spend at the Farmer’s Market every week, and that accounts for the fruit in the crisper and the bread in the freezer. I don’t feel like I’ve eaten that much recently. In fact, in an effort to get healthier, I’ve been trying to eat mindfully and writing down what I eat and when. A quick glance at that notebook tells me that I haven’t been totally gluttonous over the past week or so.
Of course, if you pay attention to the news or your supermarket receipts, you know the answer to this is obvious. Increased food prices. Additionally, I’ve been spending less money on processed food and trying to buy healthier things – lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, plus more frozen vegetables than normal. All these things lead to higher prices at the checkout.
Solutions? Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution here. I admit that I haven’t been couponing much, but I found that I wasn’t finding coupons for the things that I regularly use – I see where they work great for families with kids, but for me, it didn’t make sense to buy a paper in order to get coupons that I might or might not be able to use. I do still check the online coupons – those are free, after all. I always peruse the sale flyer from the grocery store before I make my list – and if anything I use on a regular basis is on sale, I stock up.
For the most part, I’m not a meal planner. I’m just cooking for one, after all. And I don’t cook with a lot of meat, so planning my meals around what’s on sale doesn’t help a lot. Sure, I make a mean eggplant parmesan, and if eggplant happens to go on sale, I’ll definitely be eating that one week. But I typically just keep staples around the house and then throw together whatever sounds good. Every so often, I go on a batch cooking kick and make a bunch of things, package them in single servings, and freeze them for quick and easy lunches and dinners. I’ve even cut back on my Lean Cuisine consumption (though I do pick a few up when they’re on sale for those days when I’m too lazy to cook and have no leftovers to eat – spending $2.50 on a healthy meal is much better for my health and my budget than bowing to temptation and grabbing pizza from the place around the corner).
I’m not looking forward to the winter, that’s for sure, when fruit will be out of season and prices will skyrocket. I’m thinking about purchasing a bit more fruit than normal and freezing what will freeze well.
I’m not sure how to stop the increased spending. It’s not a huge problem – I just adjust my budget accordingly. But it feels ridiculous to be spending so much money on food. And not even splurge food! I’m not willing to sacrifice nutrition, which is unfortunately what a lot of families are being forced to do. Once the weather cools, I will be doing more batch cooking, I think, though I don’t know that it will save me any money. I’m also going to continue to look for recipes that are healthy and will freeze well – some hearty soups perhaps.
And I’m going to continue to watch for deals and be careful about splurge purchases. I’ve learned that I can’t completely eliminate them from my budget, and in terms of nutrition, splurging every so often on a few mangos is much better than grabbing a (cheaper) candy bar.
What are you doing to save money at the supermarket?