I'm wondering if anyone else does what I do with the food budget, and divide it into different areas to see how much each area costs?
I don't worry much about it these days, but when I was first starting to watch what we spent on food, I looked at how much we spent each month (we run a monthly budget) in each area of our food budget...so meat, fruit and veges, eggs, bread, and dry goods (which also includes sundry things like deodorant, toothpaste, tinfoil, etc, and anything else I can squeeze in there!). Being someone who likes to know what is where and where is what, I found this helpful in assisting me to get a handle on where our food dollars were vanishing.
In Townsville, I used to write down the costs of everything I bought in the grocery budget. I made an Excel spreadsheet specifically, and would write up each month, giving myself a total for the month, and then also breaking down the fruit (what I got, how much it cost and per serve cost) and meat (same again). Yup, a little extreme perhaps, but because I did this for the three years we lived in North QLD, I was very aware of how food prices moved. People would comment that it felt like food had gone up a lot. The newspapers even reported it. And I noticed that I was starting to run out of money in what had originally been a rather generous budget. So I went back and looked at my grocery spreadsheet. Sure enough, our food costs went up by around 20-25% in just over a year. Fortunately we were on a higher income then and were able to increase the budget, as well as being more aware of areas we could cut back in. Now, being on a lower income, being aware of what I am spending on groceries is even more important.
Here's our old food budget of $400 a month (Australian):
Chooks/Garden $10/month (save for seed/grit/seeds/fertilizer/etc)
Fruit and Vegetables $130/month ($30/weekly)
Dinner out $30/month
Obviously things have changed somewhat! Our grocery budget is now $550NZ. And it doesn't include dinner out as an item. Our meat costs have risen to around $70/month. Giving remains the same, if I am careful I can spend $30 on Christmas Child Box items. I am not specifically putting money aside for the garden (no chooks, very sad!). I make bread, and Boyo buys it. Fruit and veges are taking up to double what they were each week (and this with a vegetable garden that produces way more than my old one!), and staples have gone through the roof!
So how do I do things now? We operate a cash system for our day to day spending. We pay our main monthly bills online, in person, by the 1st of each month. We could have set them up as automatic payments, but I prefer it this way. This way, we have to physically sit down and assess where we are at financially at least once a month. (This year I have not been doing my monthly groceries write up though. I do kind of miss it, but the time factor means that it has had to go.) So once that is done, we take out enough cash for groceries, spending, birthdays, giving, petrol, and pocket money. It currently goes into plastic bags. I hope to make some zipped fabric ones instead, both because the bags keep breaking, and people keep staring at my plastic bag of money! One of these days (I need help with zips).
So I get my $550 for groceries, and fill in my shopping list (an Excel spreadsheet with our usual stuff listed, which I orint out and write amounts next to or cross out if not needed). A few months back I also started putting $60 aside for each week's fruit and veges (which includes eggs and bread too) as I was finding that I'd not leave enough after the big shop and things were getting too thin by the end of the month. I really don't like scrimping on the fresh stuff and this seems to be helping! If there is money left at the end of the month, it is a good month! If there isn't, I have to find some from somewhere or change what I want to buy.
So there you go. Further posts will follow on individual areas of the groceries.
In the meantime, happy munching!
Tuesday, 4th January, 2011