{money and organising} Let’s talk about food spend and 3 tips to reduce wastage

I read an interesting statistic in Laura Vanderkam’s book, “All the money in the world”.Β 

The average household spends 7.6% of its budget on food consumed at home and 5.3% on food eaten out.

(of course, I do realise that this is an American book and that currencies and food prices are all different, but it’s still fascinating to me)

This kind of thing makes me super curious so I went looking at our budget.

We obviously don’t spend all the money we make, so I’m looking at our groceries and eating out line items as a percentage of total expenses.

Ours are much, much higher for groceries and much, much lower for eating out πŸ™‚

This tells me one thing at least – that we cook a lot more at home than the average family (this I do know). It’s true – I have been known to say that I can cook something quicker than it would take me to buy something prepared (or get a takeaway) at the shops.

I’m curious – do you know what you spend on groceries and eating out every month? Is your % spend also higher than the quoted %?

There’s no right or wrong way to approach this food spend area but I would encourage as I always do to not imagine you will use more food than you actually do. Especially as we’re in South Africa, I just can’t stand the thought of food wastage with so many people starving on our literal doorsteps.

If you spend a significant of money on groceries but you actually use all of the stuff you’re buying, then good going for you.

I personally am uncomfortable with spending what is a house payment on food.

3 tips to reduce food wastage

  1. If you grow fruit and vegetables in your garden, and you know you can’t get through all of them, share with your work colleagues. A classmate of Kendra’s has been bringing her lemons which I think is so generous and thoughtful of him.
  2. If you don’t want to menu plan, at least plan the fruits and vegetables (and make actual pen on paper notes somewhere in your kitchen) so you know how long it takes for your family to use up a 1.5 kg bag of apples, or a small bag of bananas, or a small head of cauliflower. It’s very tempting when you’re in the store to see all the beautiful colours and think you’re going to cook 6 different vegetables before they go bad. You won’t. Err on the side of buying less and perhaps keep a bag of frozen peas in the freezer.
  3. Plan for a leftovers night every week. A pasta is always good to use up bits of cheese and a few odd vegetables. One of my skills is gathering up odds and ends from the fridge and using them all up in a stirfry or pasta, or on a pizza πŸ™‚

Do you find it easier to cook something at home or pop by Woolworths/ Pick and Pay to get a convenience meal? What do you do to reduce food wastage?

More posts on groceries (and some good comments)

Let’s talk about groceries and spending

Feedback on my groceries experiment

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  1. Mamacat says

    Interesting. I did a check. We spend 8% on groceries and 1% on eating out. I don’t like eating out, because it is inconvenient…having to be dressed neatly, etc and actually going there. Also, our freezer meals are almost always available, and it is way more convenient to heat something we have cooked, than to drive out somewhere. We choose carefully when we eat out, to make sure that we all will enjoy it and that the food is worth eating out, because it tastes good and is well made.

    • Marcia Francois says

      I completely agree with you – eating out is inconvenient for me with kids’ bedtimes and how I can’t control how long it will take on weeknights.

      I should go recheck my figures again πŸ™‚

  2. HI Marcia,
    I struggle more with both of these areas now that I am back in the US rather than Moz. At the center, I could share every bit of food easily, even down to cucumber peelings (when I felt like peeling them rather than leave them on, on occasion). Now that I live alone in the US, I find way too much food is going to waste. In regards to eating out, I’ve always been one to eat out a bit too much. At the center in Moz, it was one of the only things to do off the center to get a break. Now, I live alone so I go out to eat a lot to get out around people and also because everything is within five minutes of my house! I am working on both of these areas and appreciate your post.

  3. Really thought-provoking post…! Thank you πŸ™‚

    As someone from Scotland who moved to America, I noticed some significant differences in the culture around eating out. When I moved over here, there were ~14 colleagues who moved from Scotland to the US at the same time, and we all observed this phenomenon. In Scotland, eating out was more of a monthly thing (e.g. some people once a month, others once every 6 months). In America, it is often a daily thing, to grab a coffee every morning at a drivethrough, or join the same group of work colleagues for lunch most weekdays at a restaurant. Or meeting up with a friend at a coffee shop (America) v.s. inviting a friend over for a cuppa tea/meal at my own home (Scotland). I wonder how that affects the U.S. spend statistics and how they apply in different countries/cultures. And the cost-per-meal of the eat-out v.s. cooking at home alternatives. (Macdonalds isn’t healthy, yet could be cheaper than cooking at home. I suspect the more usual dynamic is that eating out would cost more.)

    On the finances, we spend a higher percentage (~20%) for at-home food compared to total spend. We spend ~2% on eating out. Our normal spending in other areas is extremely frugal, meaning I believe we save much more than average which would make the %% of (budget?) income lower than the numbers in the book. Food is an important area for us, and we choose to prioritize it, especially due to dietary restrictions that are both more costly and less convenient for eating out. Taking a look at this exercise has just made me more curious about the breakdown – what is the definition of “budget”, “spend”, are savings included, etc. Maybe I should read the book πŸ™‚

    My biggest change recently with groceries was to move from a weekly shop to a shop every other week. (Wasting time/energy is my biggest gripe – no way will I “run to the store” more often than I need to!) By going less frequently, I thought running out of things before my next trip would drive me crazy, and yet I’m actually really enjoying a longer ‘cycle’. My husband now knows when my trip is due based on how stark bare the fridge looks. Having a basically empty fridge helps me see I’m not wasting food, and also challenges me to be a little more creative with the last things left lying in there. (I might have to try your pasta trick πŸ˜‰ )

  4. Laney4 says

    We spend far less than the average person on outside meals. I don’t plan meals every day of the upcoming week but instead plan around my leftovers/items in the fridge. Sometimes I take leftover gravy, dressing, a roast, and vegetables to make a pot pie; sometimes I freeze a second one to eat later. Last night I made lasagna and put a second one uncooked into my freezer for later (which I might give to a neighbour if she’s overwhelmed re sickness in her family or to my daughter, who just had a baby). If I have the oven on for tonight’s main entrΓ©e, I will bake a dessert at the same time. (Last night I made buns on the other side of the oven.) I share my desserts with friends and families all the time (plus freeze some for later). I have a pizza oven that I appreciate much more than a toaster oven (it is bigger, plus the rack is solid rather than wire, which makes for MUCH easier cleaning); it is wonderful for reheating items that get soggy in the microwave (like buns), plus it cooks much faster than a regular oven, which is especially nice with smaller quantities of food. We have “leftover night” often, where I set out all the small bits of leftovers on the counter, we put what we want on our plates, and then heat the plate up in the microwave; sometimes we do this two nights in a row, if we’ve had a big roast, for example.
    I eat out once a month with my husband and a friend at a seniors’ luncheon, once a month with a girlfriend, and whenever we have a birthday/anniversary celebration to share with family. That’s pretty well it (other than vacations). We have friends over for weekend meals often (thus creating lots of leftovers, which is just fine with my whole family).

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