we frequently read blog posts outlining people’s grocery spending and practically have to pick our jaws up off the floor afterward.
you’re spending only $30 a week for groceries?!?!
you’re feeding a family of four for $70 a week?!?!
we even read one post talking about how the snap (food stamps) challenge of $28 per person per week was no big deal. we beg to differ!
we’ve always known that our grocery spending is higher than most other pf bloggers, but don’t track it to the penny, because of our anti-budget, pay-ourselves-first philosophy. but, inspired by the snap challenge, we decided to start paying closer attention. we tracked every penny we spent on groceries in june, and it was a bone rattling $…
wait. before we share the number, take a deep breath. this is a big confession.
and maybe a few caveats first. we had a family vacation included in this number, so some of it reflects that we had to buy some food at gas stations while on the road trip portion, and some of the money was spent on communal food.
maybe take another deep breath.
and it’s worth remembering that spending should align to values, meaning that it’s fine to spend more on the things that are important to you. clearly, food is important to us.
third deep breath? okay, here goes…
in june, we spent $716.43 on groceries. for two people.
it’s scandalous, we know. we don’t blame you if you judge us for that. we would never argue for others to spend as much as we do. but here’s the thing: despite all the caveats and hesitation to share what is an obviously high number, we’re mostly okay with this. mostly. we’d love for it to be closer to $500 or even $600, but to us, food is the last place we should scrimp, and so it’s our biggest consistent splurge.
back during our couponing days, we spent as little as $300 a month on groceries, but then we mostly ate processed crap and felt horrible, not to mention that couponing took huge amounts of time to do well. now we spend more money on groceries and less time looking for deals, and the result is we feel better physically, and we have peace of mind from knowing that we’re supporting food producers who are doing better by the planet and their customers.
but why are our groceries so expensive? it basically boils down to: we care a lot about our health, the planet and the treatment of workers, and we live in an expensive place. here are the details:
related post: frugal = environmental = healthy
we live in a high cost of living area. even though there’s a ton of amazing quality local food, we pay a premium for it. supply and demand says we will just never see the prices at the grocery store or farmers market that people in lower cost of living areas will see. this is a fact we’ve come to accept, though begrudgingly, because we love where we live, and have no desire to move to a low cost of living place. but it means that our food easily costs 20-30 percent more than the same food would elsewhere.
we buy mostly organic. we plan to live long, healthy lives in retirement, and place a premium on our health. we also care deeply about the planet, and don’t want to contribute to poisoning the soil or our water. for us, this means not buying foods laden with pesticides or preservatives, and that raises our costs by another 25 percent or so.
related post: the value of health
we support local growers. we buy as much as possible at the local farmers markets, in part to get the best quality, and in part to support local growers. we don’t like the idea of buying an avocado that’s more well-traveled than we are, or an orange from across the country. at the farmers market, we can buy food with a smaller carbon footprint, that’s maximally delicious because it’s in-season and was picked at its peak, and that was raised without soil-depleting practices. but again, this means paying a premium.
we have a major dietary restriction. on this one, we’re just pretty much having to buy through extortion, and we definitely resent it. the products that meet our requirements have their prices jacked up by as much as 100 percent because producers know they have us over a barrel.
we shop with zero-waste practices as much as possible. this one may earn us some funny looks, and it’s not for everyone. we hate how much garbage is generated by “normal” food shopping, and we make it our job to minimize the packaging we purchase. this means we mostly shop loose produce with our mesh produce bags, the bulk bins with our cloth bags and jars, and get milk in returnable glass and eggs in our reusable egg holder. we also pay a premium to do this, not because the prices are especially high, but because these items rarely go on sale the way packaged foods do, and there’s not a lot of choice. if we need olive oil, the co-op has one olive oil in the bulk section, and we are limited to that option. if we need eggs, there’s only one option that’s sold without a carton. the zero waste approach also means avoiding stores where we could save money, like trader joe’s or costco, because their food is packaged to the high heavens. (here’s a great primer on zero waste shopping from treehugger, if you’re curious.)
there’s our justification for that huge number. but the truth is, we’d like to get the number down by at least $100 a month, since our retirement budget allows for “only” $600 per month on groceries.
here are some things we could do better:
- eliminate food waste: work travel is often our excuse, but we do let things go bad. this has to stop. it’s bad for the planet and our finances, though good for our compost. ;-)
- avoid impulse buys: we’re mostly good about shopping from a list, but sometimes a juice or gatorade or prepared food snack will happen, especially when we’re far from home. we can avoid this by planning better, and bringing more beverages and snacks with us.
- eat less: while not pc to say, we think it’s the truth. we’re not overweight, and we’re plenty active, but we could still stand to eat less, which would save money and probably be better for us in the long run.
- make everything ourselves: because we avoid processed foods, we make plenty of things from scratch. but not everything. some of this will have to wait until we retire and have more time, but there’s no reason why we can’t make all of our baked goods, sauces and condiments ourselves. (except maybe ketchup — thanks, kate.)
- change our meal-planning approach: we aren’t religious meal-planners, but definitely try to keep meals in mind when we shop, so that we don’t end up with food waste. but we could switch to think about what the cheapest meals would be to make, and shop around those, rather than shopping purely around what produce is the best quality at the moment.
so, big exhale. it feels good to get that off our chests! now tell us what you think…
shocked by what we’ve just divulged? what’s your biggest splurge? any other big grocery spenders out there? anything you splurge on that is verboten in the pf blogosphere? we’ll help you get it off your chest… :-)