Let’s talk about groceries and spending

One of the 18 in 2018 items on my list is to analyse our grocery spend because it feels like it’s out of hand.

Notice I said “feels” because I don’t know for sure.

I’m hearing lots around these days about grocery spend, money stuff, and so on, and so I decided to use the impetus on the internet to get this exercise done for us, and cross off that item.

A few bits of background:

  • We are a household of 4 – Dion, me, and our nearly 9-year-old twins. Most days, Connor now eats more than I do!
  • Our nanny is here every weekday and eats what we do for lunches (sandwiches and a piece of fruit) and the gardener is here one day but he doesn’t eat sandwiches so brings his own lunch.
  • The children grab a muffin or have a quick breakfast before school, take their school lunch with them, return home, have a small lunch/ snack and then supper.
  • I pack breakfast and lunch to take to work, and have supper at home.
  • D has breakfast at home, packs lunch for work and has supper at home too.
  • So we eat almost everything at home. All of that is considered grocery spend.
  • Cleaning products is also all “grocery” money as is toiletries for the kids. Specialised toiletries for the parents are for our own account, e.g. my shampoo, moisturizer, vitamins, etc.
  • We eat a lunch out on the weekends every second Sunday, and Dion and I have date afternoon once a month, but eating out comes out of its own budget. I don’t believe in takeaways so we never get food to eat at home unless for a very special occasion (Valentine’s Day).
  • I never waste food; I pack leftovers away and once a week we eat whatever’s there. No one is fussy in my house because the rule is “you cook for yourself if you get fussy”. I guess they hate cooking more 🙂
  • We shop weekly at Pick and Pay. I love the quality and I can get 98% of what I need. I have a tiny pantry. It’s smaller than at the previous house and I now consider it a game to use up all that food before buying more.

These are questions I’m asking of our household…

  1. what is our snacks vs real food ratio?
  2. are we shopping at too many stores? many people swear by this but that is precisely why the spend is astronomical, unless you are exceptionally self-disciplined and walk out with exactly what you wanted, and no more in quantity than you need. We have got into a habit of doing an “after church” stop at Checkers which is, on average, R300 a week. Thankfully we don’t go every week.
  3. have we used up all our food before buying more? Or are we lazy to get creative so we just keep buying?
  4. do I need to bring back a focused eat out of the freezer and pantry week every month?

What do you want me to talk about next in this series? 

Questions for you:

do you know what you spend on groceries? do you question whether it’s excessive or not? do you want to save money in this area or doesn’t it bother you?

PS The Frugal Girl writes a post every week on what we ate, what I spent. I love her blog – it’s mindful of money without being crazy over the top.

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  1. I think it is so important to to know what you are spending on groceries. We did this exercise and remain vigilant over the grocery spend, because this can get out of hand quickly. We write up the monthly fixed items that we know we always get: lunchbox cheese, biltong, croissants, bread, yoghurt…that kind of fixed items we always need. Fresh food once a week and only what is in season and then we stick with the strict whiteboard list. Hubby works in a supermarket so this avoids always going into the shop spending what is not on the list.
    I normally shop the fresh food, and hubby will get things on special and will always check with me first, because I have a menu plan going all the time and I know what I am going to cook. We just shop in Pnp or Checkers and the croissants are from Woolies. The fresh food just depends where I am and what I see. There are the little fresh food markets that I frequent depending where I happen to be.
    Do you plan around what you bought or do you buy to cook specific meals?

    • Marcia Francois says

      I suppose I plan around the seasons mainly (more comfort food/ soup/ curries in winter, for example), and then according to what I feel like eating. I ask the rest of them every week but no-one else needs variety as much as I do 🙂 so they leave it to me.

      And then I have my tricks – I use up all food, or give to our helper if I see we won’t use it and it’s still good.

  2. Terisha says

    I used to be so good with the grocery budget in past years. I stayed within budget always and could tell you what I spent to the cent.But for the last year and a half the budget has has gone crazy.Need to get back to my disciplined self. At the moment I know we spend way way too much for 2 adults (and Kaylan on week days) but can’t give you a definitely figure. (ha there is no budget at the moment) On top of that we eat out or get take-away too much as well for my liking. Maybe 5 take-away meals a week. So the goal from April going forward is too reduce the eating out/take out to one meal a week. And make a grocery budget and stick to it!

    • Marcia Francois says

      Terisha, how did you do with your grocery budget goals?

      did you manage only one takeaway a week?

  3. I have a rough idea as to what we spend every month on groceries, but I do think that I need to keep a closer track of this as I am almost certain we are spending way too much. We need to do try use up what we have before we actually go out and do a shop again. Currently doing one big shop monthly and then getting fruit, veg and yoghurt weekly or every two weeks. My problem is that when I go into the store I don’t stick to getting just what I need, I get the items that are special as well as I think that this will save me in the long run but I don’t think that that is the case. I think for our family of four, that is hubby, myself, almost 10 year old girl and 5 year old boy we are spending way too much on groceries and we are like you, eat most of our meals at home, we take breakfast and lunch to work and have takeaway maybe twice a month. I am going to keep track of this month’s spend as I haven’t done my monthly grocery shop as yet.

    • Marcia Francois says

      Antoinette, you nailed it – it’s true that buying all the specials doesn’t actually save you money if it’s not the time you should have bought it anyway. This is hugely controversial of course – everyone argues with me, especially about toilet rolls.

      I would love to know what your insights are from April 🙂


  1. […] wrote last month about how I wanted to analyse our grocery spend as we hadn’t done this for at least four […]

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