Last week, I went to the grocery store to buy groceries. I picked up a few things for my son's birthday party. I was surprised when the bill was about $10 more than it had been for the past few weeks. I totaled up what I'd spent for his party and I had spent $4 on two bags of chips (on sale), $3 on pretzels (store brand), and $3 on candy (on clearance). I was struck by how a few extra things can add on a lot.
A friend of mine asked me last night how much we spend on groceries each month. I've always tried to be careful, but for all of my efforts to save money on groceries, I thought our grocery bill had been very high. This morning I looked a bit closer at how our budget broke out. Since January, we've only eaten out once a month as a family and once on a date. We've cut out Starbucks almost completely. It helps that we moved farther away from one and that there isn't anywhere nearby that we like to eat at.
Our bill wasn't that high actually when I just looked at groceries and toiletries. I've been able to cut it some during the past two months, but it's interesting to realize how much. I'm curious to compare this year with last year when we get to the end of it. The hard part about comparing food budgets over the past few years is we're not really comparing apples to apples. They're really apples and oranges.
I remember about 4 or 5 years ago when I noticed that some of the food items we'd purchased for several years jumped 50-100% in price. The price increase was disguised, though, because most food manufacturers shrank the size of the products they were selling--by a little at a time. Breyers ice cream is one of those products. They shrank the amount of ice cream per package a few years ago and I believe they shrank it again over the past year. So, it was hard. I was expecting to keep our food budget the same, but I was ultimately paying more for the same food we'd been eating because I had to buy more packages to get the same amount over all.
I found that I made a lot of cuts back then. I cut back to my kids having juice at one meal a day, milk one meal a day, and water the rest of the day. Milk has climbed back down in price quite a bit, so I'm not as careful with it as I used to be.
And then I went to Costco on Monday. I seriously paused when the checker told me the total was close to $100. Really? I bought cheese, honey, chocolate chips, dog food, milk, generic zyrtec, and a bag of coffee. Nothing beyond basics.
I walked away considering my purchases. There wasn't anything extra in my basket.
I think it's interesting to read the articles about families of 4 or 6 living on $400 a month. But, there's something else to think about. What do they eat? How do they eat? White bread? My mom told me last week when we were talking about food that my family eats well. I think that is my goal--even more than being as frugal as I can about my groceries.
I want to be balanced and feed my family a healthy, varied diet full of fruits and vegetables and different meats--and different dishes. And I want to be as wise financially as I can about it. I don't want to be obsessive and make it a lesser idol as we can potentially do with any good thing in our life. I pray for the Lord's provision for my family and trust Him to help me make wise decisions in my grocery purchases.