Have you ever had analysis paralysis? Well after Mr. SFF and I sat down and reviewed our 2015 total expenses we were shocked at how much we spent on food. At the start of this journey we decided we still wanted to eat well but these numbers were just too high for my liking so we decided to take action. Starting on Jan 8th we started to track every single food and grocery store purchase. This will help to determine how much of the grocery store totals were for things like toilet paper and cleaning products but also to hopefully help us narrow down the actual problem so we can make changes. We didn’t really make any conscious efforts to make any changes to our eating habits over the past month but I am sure they unconsciously happened since we were tracking everything.
We collected every receipt and I logged things in a spreadsheet. I had the numbers break down into three broad categories and then 12 more detailed categories. Here is what we came up with:
The good news is that we didn’t eat out at all so the food costs are the total to feed the two of us for the month. The bad news is that there are only two of us and this is a huge expense. Annualize this and it comes to $9,447 which is a large percentage of our expenses. This would still be less than what we spent on food last year (approx 22% of our total expenditures) but there is certainly a lot of room for improvement. Unfortunately now that I had all of this data I am trying to figure out what to do with it and where exactly we can make changes.
How Do We Eat
I guess I should explain a little about the importance of food to the two of us. I am a bit of a fitness freak and as I result I have to eat healthy in order to have the results I want in the gym and when I race. This means there is really no junk food and very little processed food in our house. We try to have balanced healthy meals with plenty of protein and fresh vegetables. I am gluten free so the lovely cheap pasta choice is not really an option in our house. There are GF pasta options but this is not a staple in our house because it doesn’t provide the overall nutrition benefits that I am looking for.
As I exercise 4-5 times per week I also find that I need to eat all of the time. The meals I eat are normal sized but I find that I am always snacking on something. Sometimes it is just a banana or small bowl of yogurt while other times I will eat a nut mix, cheese and crackers, or make a smoothie. Since I eat two extra “meals” per day this certainly adds to our overall food costs. Once again, this is not something I can cut out but I want to make sure my snacks are more cost effective. One of the upsides to my healthy fitness/food habits is that I rarely drink so our alcohol costs are pretty low.
We also try to eat organic and locally sourced foods because they tend to taste better as well as we believe there are some health benefits to eating organic (less pesticides, chemicals, hormones in meat, etc) and there is less environmental impact as the food doesn’t have to travel as far. These types of foods are always more expensive and sometimes I will opt for the conventional options but we do often choose the slightly more expensive organic/local option. I am sure we could save money by going 100% conventional but this is not something we are willing to change completely. Will we make conscious efforts to choose organic when it is not twice the price? Yes, but we are not willing to cut them out completely.
What’s The Next Step?
So where does this leave us? A little stuck in analysis paralysis but I am slowly working through it. I started taking this info and putting together the costs for individual meals. Dinner’s are the easiest to calculate. Taking out the cost for things like olive oil, spices, etc, I found that our average dinners were costing between $5-6 per person. This alone would bring our monthly cost to $300-$360. We did make a couple of meals like a shepherd’s pie with lean ground turkey (therefore still relatively healthy) where the cost was $2.12 per serving and a new recipe Mr. SFF found for One Pot Chicken Taco Pasta which gave us a lot of leftovers for lunch and came out to $2.44 per serving. I think we are going to try to put these into a regular rotation but I am trying to find other options to add in as well that still fit our guidelines for healthy choices. Part of the problem is that we really like we way we eat. It’s usually nothing fancy but satisfying and healthy.
This past week I have been attempting to do some full week meal planning but seem to get stuck so I need to work on this. I have been a little better about planning our lunches the night before and even making steel cut oats ahead of time for breakfast. This has meant that some nights I have cooked three meals (dinner, breakfast and lunch) which can be cumbersome and not always possible as some nights I exercise after work but I’m hoping over time I will get better about planning ahead of time.
Going forward we are going to continue to track our spending as I continue to figure out how to make more changes and reduce some of our costs. I am curious to see what I am able to do or if this is just going to have to be one of our biggest budget categories.
I sometimes Instragram food on my personal account so I happen to have some photos of our usual meals. Not represented here is chicken which we do eat a couple of times per week.