Saturday, June 19, 2010


Recently, my husband complained that each week our grocery shopping trips led to different purchases and varying costs. He wasn't too happy with a growing tendency for increasing costs at the grocery store. Like so many families, we would like to have a little money to save at the end of the month, so being aware of what we buy and trimming back where we can is certainly a good idea.

Yet we weren't sure if the reason for the increasing food costs was because we weren't careful to buy only what we need and use or if there was also some little-publicized inflation at the stores. (According to the US government, the general living costs in the country are flat or even may be deflationary, but we couldn't prove it by our experience.)

In order to track just what we buy at the grocery store and the resulting costs, my husband challenged me to make a data spreadsheet that would help us figure out just what was our situation. I made the spreadsheet and we've decided to follow our shopping experience for at least a couple of months to see if we can, in fact, cut back on our food costs. Our goal is to spend no more than $45 a week for the two of us - something that we've done in the past - and we hope to do as well or even better as we gain more knowledge of our situation. (By the way, our non-food items purchased at the grocery store can add another $10 - $15 to the shopping cart - depending on the needs of the week. I haven't included our non-food items in this grocery list.)

So, dear readers, I decide to share with you my "almost vegetarian" grocery list. I call it almost vegetarian because we like to include a lot of vegetarian meals in our weekly menu. On the other hand, we aren't very strict with our diet and most weeks we also have some poultry, fish, eggs, and a bit of pork in the canned pork'n'beans that we like. All in all, we consider our diet to be healthy, nutritious, and economical. We eat all our meals at home, and my husband takes homemade sandwiches to work. We eat out at restaurants, including fast food places, not more than twice a month. Part of our economy comes from buying many things in bulk, refusing to buy highly processed foods, and baking our own bread.

While the list is almost complete as far as individual items, I need to stress that we don't buy every single thing, every week - the cost would be much more! In particular, things like other staples and spices are purchased only as needed, and months may pass by without running out of those things.

Strange as it may (or may not) seem to you, the list that you'll read below is as close as I can come to our real food buying habits. I added a row for other items under each food group because it's likely that I have left something out or may want to make an unusual purchase from time to time.

I won't bore you with the details of the quantities and exact costs of foods (which are probably variable, anyway), but I've included here the food list and the main columns of my spreadsheet. You may be interested in doing something similar for your home with the hope that you can track and control your food shopping costs.

The columns of the spreadsheet are:

Food groups

# Items needed

Unit cost

Total item cost

The food groups and the items are as follows:

Poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs
Veggie burgers
Ground turkey meat
Chicken (for grilling)
Cheese - sliced, cottage, shredded
Sour cream
Turkey lunchmeat
Canned tuna, salmon, and sardines
Fresh or frozen fish filets

Cereals and starches
Wheat flour whole grain or unbleached
Corn meal
Packaged breakfast cereal (not a big item because we like whole grain oatmeal cereal better)
Chips or popcorn
Tortillas – plain, whole grain or corn (we often make our own and save here)
Pasta, noodles or spaghetti
Whole grains (oats, quinoa, barley, etc.),
Crackers – unsalted tops
Cookies and cakes(we often make our own and save here)

Nuts and beans
Canned beans (refried, chili, pork’n’beans)
Toasted nuts (almonds, pecans, or cashews)
Dried beans (pintos, lentils, black, etc.)
Peanut butter or other nut butter
Natural soy milk
Textured soy protein

dried fruit – raisins, coconut, apricots

Greens and salad makings
Green pepper

Other veggies
Canned tomatoes
Canned spaghetti sauce
Frozen green beans
Frozen green peas
Frozen broccoli

Other staples
Butter or margarine
Cooking oil – olive, vegetable
Soy sauce
Vinegar – wine, apple cider
Salad dressing/mustard/catsup (We make our own salad dressing some of the time.)
Brown sugar, honey or molasses
Hot sauce, canned chilis
Sea salt
Baking powder, baking soda, yeast
Flavorings- cocoa, vanilla, maple
Canned milk or powdered butter milk (for baking)
Bottled lemon juice
Coffee, tea
bouillon cubes

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