Yesterday, I did my last grocery shop for the month. I’ve been tracking all the groceries I buy this month, logging and categorizing each item. It was an eye opening experience.
I did go overbudget on groceries this month, but by less than $5, which initially pleased me. Mid-month, I decided I wanted to bake cookies and had only one of the ingredients (vanilla), which meant a big shop. But it also means I have tons of flour and sugar and other cookie ingredients leftover.
Not surprisingly, one of the top expense categories was frozen foods. I’m working on not eating so many of those, but I will always keep a few in the freezer, because a $2.50 Lean Cuisine is cheaper and healthier than getting take-out from a restaurant. I spent nearly $30 on various beverages, which does include a bag of coffee and some tea, but also included a bit too much soda. Sure, it’s diet soda, but I should cut back. Especially if I’m drinking tea instead.
The category that bothered me and made me frustrated about going over budget was what I called “treats.” I spent over $15 on treats, which in this project were candy, cookies, single beverages, things that I hadn’t planned to buy, didn’t need to buy, and didn’t need to eat. True, $5 of that was for Halloween candy that has yet to be touched – I bought it on the off chance I do get trick-or-treaters, but in all likelihood, I will be eating that candy myself (or bringing it to work to share). Even with the candy, I could have saved $10 this month by just not buying the ridiculous impulse items that I didn’t need.
Of course, those weren’t my only “impulse” items. I’m not good at shopping with a list. I make a list and take it to the store, but always end up picking up extras – usually things that I use that are on sale but that weren’t featured in the sale flyer. Sure, maybe I could save more if I stuck to the list and didn’t buy that impulse mango, but it’s a good, healthy treat, and a much better expense than a cookie at the bakery.
The lesson here? Don’t buy junk. So what if the cookies are on sale for $1. That’s $1 I could spend elsewhere, plus it’s empty calories I don’t need.
I’m not sure yet if I’m going to track again for November. I’m not sure how November’s groceries are going to go, primarily because I’m not sure if I’m hosting Thanksgiving or not. But this was a good exercise, and one that was fairly eye opening. And nowhere near as tedious as I thought. Another month of tracking, this time while keeping in mind what happened in October, might be helpful.