Bad Consumer Habit #1: My Love of Groceries

No, I’m not 400 lbs. Grocery shopping is really the only acceptable form of consumerism in my life at the moment. At least, it’s the one that I can most easily rationalize. Gotta have them. Someone’s got to buy them. And I don’t mind.

So, why is my love of grocery shopping a bad consumer habit? I consistently over-spend and always have a well-stocked kitchen. There’s something so strangely comforting about a stocked pantry. Looking at a multitude of cans or a full fridge makes me feel good. I may not have much of other things, but I can feed you. I’ll buy new items to try different recipes, items that can often be pricey. I also favour buying in bulk because I love a deal, but this can lead to a larger than expected bill.

Then there is the global increase in food costs, or there is this article about shrinking containers – we’re paying the same prices for less food. As a reader commented a week ago, the grocery bill is climbing even if you do everything ‘right’ like menu plan, shop with a list, and stick to the periphery of the store.

So how do you reduce the grocery bill? TLC posted some tips on reducing the grocery bill:

1. Make a list (which means planning meals in advance so you know what to buy)
2. Clip coupons (and/or, go on the first Tuesday of the month where you generally get 10-15% off your whole bill depending on the store)
3. Eat leftovers (in other words, make one meal and spread it over a couple of days for lunches or maybe another dinner)
4. Use what you have (there’s more in the cupboard than you think)
5. Grow your own
6. Eat before you shop
7. Buy in bulk
8. Buy store brands
9. Eat your veggies (meat can be expensive. MJ and I usually eat meat only 2-3 times a week)
10. Set a firm budget

Despite these tips, I wonder if it’s time that I worry less about shopping smart and more about using up the things in our pantry. Or, maybe it’s time to kick the habit and let MJ do all the shopping?

I’m curious. Are there readers who are willing to tell how much they spend on groceries? We budget $300 for every two weeks but we (um, I) generally go over by about $20-$50.

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  6. 6 Doré May 10, 2011 at 7:04 am

    I agree with you, Laura. I take great satisfaction and find comfort in having a fully-stocked kitchen. A full refrigerator is a beautiful thing in our house, because it is usually filled with piles of vegetables and fruit, with some dairy, and little meat. We probably eat meat 3-5 times per week (+ Edd’s ham sandwiches at lunch). That said, we might share one chicken breast between the two of us for supper (and often have leftovers). Our meat portion sizes are small.

    But your question was about spending. We budget $100/week, and we tend to hit that mark quite closely if we average it out over the entire month. We take into account the likelihood that there will be some entertaining during the month. We definitely don’t consume 1/2 of our groceries each.

    I hope that my grocery spending will be reduced starting this summer now that we have a back yard and a greenhouse!

    • 7 Mama Tortoise May 10, 2011 at 11:12 am

      Thanks for commenting, Doré! A garden makes things way easier! And you have a greenhouse? I’m so jealous! There is so much we can grow and preserve. I’m a big fan of making sure our garden is entirely edible.

  7. 8 Michelle May 6, 2011 at 5:43 am

    We spend at least $200 each week on groceries (and sundry items, like toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.). If I broke it down, I would guess that it’s about $40 on produce, $40 on meat, $30 on dairy and eggs, $10 on bread, $30 in the aisles (cereal, crackers), $20 on cleaning/toiletries…..hmmmm, where does that other $30 go?

    In an effort to reduce that bill I’ve been planning meals around what I have in my pantry or freezer. But there are some items that I just refuse to skimp on: meat and fish (I buy free range/wild whenever possible), fruits and veggies (always fresh!!) and cheese (if I’m going to eat cheap cheddar, I may as well be eating plastic). These items drive my grocery bill upward, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my family’s diet in an effort to save a few bucks. And if they’re not going to eat it, then it’s a complete waste. To balance the costs of the meat, I stretch three chicken breasts into dinner and leftovers for lunch the following day. Have you seen the size of some chicken breasts?!? They’re bigger than mine! And, for most people, that is not a single portion. It’s too much meat for one person at one sitting.

    Grocery shopping is about balance – health and well-being vs. cost.

    • 9 Mama Tortoise May 10, 2011 at 11:11 am

      Thanks for commenting, Michelle. Yup, balance. The Bear already calls processed cheese ‘plastic cheese’ and MJ and I look at her adoringly whenever she turns up her nose at it. I mean, we can eat healthy and still keep the bill down.

  8. 10 Sarah May 6, 2011 at 3:32 am

    This is really interesting! I feel the exact same way. I always go over ‘budget’ in grocery shopping and can easily spend $100/week on groceries and I am just buying groceries for myself. I try and eat locally and also like to eat really good food (which sometimes means really healthy food and sometimes means just really good quality food) and shop at the farmers market, local grocery stores and at chains. Food is one area of life where I find it really hard to stick to a budget because what is the point of clipping all those coupons if you have to drive half way accross the city and waste gas on buying those groceries. And when you are truly making ‘good’ food, you need lots of ingredients and that adds up in cost. Food is so expensive unless you are buying packaged food, which really isn’t good for you. I’d rather pay the money and eat well, then pay half the money and eat poorly because to me that is more of a waste of money. I am also a big advocate for gardening but that can be expensive too for start up costs too but it does pay off in the end. I think making one big meal and splitting into small containers and freezing it (or just eating the same thing for a few days) is an effective cost saving method.

    To make a long post short, I would love to learn some tips to save money (which for me might be saying ‘no’ to certain things more often at the grocery store) but I also think that sometimes unfortunately, eating well comes with a bit higher of a price tag.

    • 11 Mama Tortoise May 10, 2011 at 11:08 am

      Oh Sarah, welcome to my world of food rationalization! Of course it costs more to eat well. And, like you, this is something that I’m hesitant to give-up. Maybe simpler recipes for every extravagant meal? I’m making bean salad tomorrow just to use up some things in the pantry.

      Thanks for your comment!


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