Cleaning Up the Kitchen: Day 3

Day 3 in the Don’t Waste the Crumbs clean out the kitchen list is: Set a grocery budget

Thanks to Mint.com, I have a record of every transaction that was categorized as “Groceries” from the start of every one of my accounts. Usually, I split off non-grocery items like clothing or toys bought at Meijer, but not always. I know, for example, that the September grocery numbers include packing supplies and birthday presents for two of the little’s school friends. I’m going to go back 6 months, because that’s when T and I pooled our accounts and started tracking things together. We had been splitting costs for a while, but I only saw my half. So, here we go.
April – $385.91
May – $308.58
June – $571.20
July – $349.68
August – $390.07
September – $502.55

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m aiming for the three-person food stamp budget of $497. Our average grocery spending is $418. So that looks like we’re on target.

Now that we have that though, I’d like to also take a look at our overall food spending. The “difference” between the total and the grocery bill will be what we spent on fast food, restaurants, gas stations and coffee shops.
April – $1123.51 – Difference of $737.60
May – $751.97 – Difference of $443.39
June – $1354.94 – Difference of $783.74
July – $1386.12 – Difference of $1036.44
August – $1184.46 – Difference of $794.39
September – $1262.00 – Difference of $759.45

Well. That was … enlightening. We spend and average of $759 on food per month outside of groceries! And after throwing out restaurant leftovers for the past few days, it makes me wonder how much of that money is going straight into the garbage.

There are certainly reasons for why September’s was so high. For example, we spent $70 to feed the group that helped us move. But um, hi July, I didn’t see you there. What? Oh the little one was out of town and we were only buying for two that month? Thanks for reminding me. FML. It’s terrifying that we didn’t see it happening.  I think this undertaking has come at just the right time. I showed this breakdown to T before I posted. She was as surprised as I was.

So. Going forward. T and I have agreed that we’re not going to set a grocery budget for this month. I’ll wait while your head explodes.

Are you with me, now? OK.

We’re not going to set a grocery budget. We’re going to set an eating out budget. That includes coffee, fast food, restaurants, etc. If we want something from a gas station, we should go into an actual grocery store to get it. I’m not sure what the number will be yet, but I’d like to come down to $400.

I don’t honestly know how October is going to go. T appears to have full blown pneumonia at this point, I’ve had a fever for two days,  and we still have stuff at the old house that we’re trying to move to the new house because everyone has been sick. Did I mention, I’ve only found 1 pan so far? It’s frustrating to want to do better but have so many other things going on in life. But I digress.

There is one part of today’s challenge that I’ve been thinking about a lot. What percentage of our plate do I want to contain meat, starches and produce? And does my spending reflect that? That’s something that Mint.com can’t tell me. So today’s challenge is ongoing in a lot of ways. I’ve also been using the worksheets made available to subscribers for mapping spending in different categories. I don’t have enough information at the moment to answer that question. But it is something that I’ll be mindful of going forward.

Some things to consider:
– If meat costs more than produce and I want us to eat about twice as much produce as meat, should I spend the same amount on meat as produce? Or less?
– I don’t eat much dairy products in general. But T and the little one both drink milk (albeit the little one drinks almond milk) and they both eat cheese (I dislike most cheese). I’m happy with the amount of those items that we currently consume, but I don’t know how this category stacks up.
– I periodically feel like we eat too much starchy food. Hi, My name is Alicia, I am a bread and pasta addict. But I haven’t really taken stock lately of what the family is consuming, much less how much we should spend on it. I do know that this is the least expensive category and should get the smallest allocation in the grocery budget.

I’m about halfway through week 1 on the grocery budget worksheets, and I plan to check in on Thursday (Due to my days off, I’m tracking weeks beginning on Friday). But guys, I’ll be honest, this week doesn’t look good on the eating out front. I have yet to cook anything and we’ve been packing the little one’s lunches with raw fruit and leftovers because that’s what we can manage. T and I ate ramen (read: noodles in MSG sauce) yesterday for the first time in months because comfort food. Then the little one had it for breakfast with a cheese stick and apple juice. T and I didn’t eat again until we stopped for Subway on the way to work.

Rule number 1: An it harm none, do as thou wilt. But if we’re not putting the best things possible into our and our families’s bodies, we’re certainly doing harm. That’s the point here, right? But if I will to spend all day in the kitchen, but I get sick because I didn’t take care of myself, that’s harm too. I’m reminding myself that baby steps are required here. No one expects this except me and I have to first forgive and love myself before I can love my family in all the ways I want to. And that doesn’t just apply to cooking or grocery shopping. It applies to every way that I push myself, wanting to give my family and my work and my friends the best possible me I can give them. But I forget that I have to give me my best first. And that I have to love me first and foremost.

By the way, if I make it to Day 6 anytime soon, the eat a simple meal step is one that I’ve been looking forward to. I’m making lazy tacos. I may just skip ahead and make them anyway, because they make me happy.

This Series

Oct. 4 – Clean out the fridge
Oct. 5-6 – Eat the old stuff
Oct. 7 – Create a grocery budget
Oct. 9 – Ditch hydrogenated oils
Oct. 10-12 – Clean out the Freezer
Oct. 13 – Eat a Simple Meal
Oct. 14 – Make money
Oct. 20 – Bake Bread Plan meals for one week
Oct. 30 – Clean out the pantry and cupboards; Create a signature company dish; Use food twice
Oct. 31 – Budget check-in
Nov. 1 – All the rest

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