Every year since starting The Grocery Game Challenge back in 2012 we have evaluated our food costs in accordance to our overall budget.
Before then we were just two people in a loving relationship renting and grocery shopping like every other frugal couple, so we thought.
Although we were just starting to clip coupons but not heavily stockpiling we also followed the sales. We were spending on average around $400 a month which only continued to increase.
That might not seem like much to you but for us that was a huge amount to be spending on groceries for 2 people. Since we were saving for the down-payment on our first home saving money was critical to keep costs low.
You may think you are doing well with all the grocery savings but all that money adds up every month whether you got a deal or not. When we bought our home in 2009 it was just shortly after the coupon craze hit Canada and everyone was going mad for free or near free deals, including us. Yes, we joined in on the fun because we wanted to save even more money.
We weren’t actually budgeting at that time so we would clip coupons, match the sales and go shopping. There were times we would come home with 20 packs of free toilet paper only paying the tax or 20 cans of almost free baked beans. Over the course of 2 years we amassed a stockpile that has kept us going up until present and we’re not done yet. I’m not joking when I say we started with about 100 jugs of laundry soap.
Coupons are not the same these days. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing for us. I’m betting we still have a few years worth of health and beauty items we won’t have to buy which means less money spent in our health and beauty category. This is one reason we decided to pull health and beauty from the grocery category and keep it separate.
When we created a budget and started to track our grocery expenses it didn’t take long to see that we were still spending upwards of $400 a month sometimes hundreds more. This is why The Grocery Game Challenge was started. We needed to get that $400 we were spending on groceries under control and fast.
Related: The Grocery Game Challenge Rules
If you’ve heard me say we hardly stockpile food these days the reason is that we were never keeping up with the food we had in our cold room and pantry. We either donated it or it went to waste and the both of us were pretty hard on ourselves about that since we do not like food waste.
We were committed and still are to keep our grocery budget steady at $235.00 a month with a $25 stockpile budget. Typically that would be cheese or something that we find in bulk for a great price. Some months we might not even use the stockpile budget. It’s not there to be used every month. It’s there if we need it.
So without any real health and beauty or laundry detergents to buy we set off in 2012 with this challenge and haven’t looked back. Back when we started though we included health and beauty and dog food which we have since removed. We lost our dog in 2013 and although I haven’t come to terms with talking about it yet he was a huge part of our family and is greatly missed.
Taking away anything that wasn’t food apart from paper towel as that is something we use in the kitchen on odd occasions the grocery budget was set at just under $200 back in 2012. Every year we evaluate what we’ve spent over the course of the year and if our budget permits we either increase the grocery budget if need be or we can lower it if we don’t spend it all. Unfortunately we were spending it and then some. It’s been a long journey the past 4 years trying to balance our monthly budget while eating a balanced diet.
I read a Financial Facelift Globe and Mail article last week about a Canadian couple who net $12,620 monthly spending $1200 or $14,400 a year for food costs. My mouth dropped but then I just figured that some people who earn lots of money have fancy tastes or they don’t mind splurging to buy the best cuts of meat, fancy cheeses and so on. Who knows, maybe they are building a bomb shelter underground and are stocking the shelves like in the movie, Blast from the Past!
All laughter aside, spending over $1000 a month is not uncommon and many people who don’t budget might be surprised just how much they are spending. You don’t have to have a fancy job to spend money, people go into debt to eat just as much as they do buying clothes and other wants.
In all fairness, this couple did budget and they clearly put a heavy weight on making sure they eat VERY well each month. There is nothing wrong with that and clearly they can afford to do so.
If you’re already trying to spend $1200 a month in your mind for 2 people, don’t worry I did the same thing. Lots of organic foods, lobster, lamb, fine roasts, steaks and the best of the best wines and I don’t know what else. I really don’t know what we would do with so much food every month but to each their own I suppose. It made our yearly $2820 grocery budget look like a couple of months worth of snacks.
I didn’t condemn them to the CBB corner (inside joke my Facebook What’s for dinner fans would know) for spending so much money on food each month. It just made me realize that everyone recognizes their grocery budget from a different perspective. Sure, they could save tonnes of money even if they cut their grocery budget by 50% totalling a $7200 savings a year. This is what we did and cut our grocery budget by 58% when we finally said enough was enough.
We took our $400 monthly food expenses and slashed it by 41% because we knew we could. After so many years of clipping coupons and frugal shopping you know your prices and how to save money when grocery shopping. Gone are the days where we would stock up on just about anything because it was under a dollar.
Do you know what we’ve done with the extra money we’ve saved over the years? We paid off our mortgage! That’s right all the extra cash we saved by cutting food costs went towards our mortgage and investments. In 5 short years we were able to burn our mortgage papers for good.
No, we didn’t eat junk or lots of processed food either. It’s amazing how well you can eat, if you really want to. Gardening in the summer really helps to save money on herbs and vegetables. There are plenty of ways to save.
How to calculate food costs
One concern I hear most often is that people don’t know how much money they are spending on food every month. Believe me when I say having a grocery budget isn’t a big deal to some people and they fly by the seat of their pants with a shopping cart in hand.
If you’ve ever seen someone just tossing items in their shopping cart they likely don’t have a budget or they are spectacular at mathematics in their head. You might tell me that you have an “idea” of how much you are buying and know what you are permitted to spend. Fair enough but you can still do MUCH better and save MORE!
If you really want to know your food costs you MUST document every grocery shop for at least 3 months. This will give you a wider picture of just how much you are actually spending and what you are spending your money on.
Once you start a budget or know how much money you can afford to spend on food after all the bills and living expenses are paid it’s time to get to work shopping. Keep in mind that food costs go up and down and things may change for you personally so adjusting your grocery budget accordingly. We typically do this once a year but you may opt to do it twice a year.
How to control food costs
There are many ways to control food costs all of which I’ve talked about many times on this blog over the years.
- Know your prices
- Take a food inventory of what you already have
- Stockpile if necessary
- Shop the flyer sales
- Use coupons and coupon apps to save money
- Price match
- Get and Use Rain Checks
- Understand the Scanning Code of Practice and why it can help you get free food
- Eat less food
- Shop smart and buy less processed foods
- Shop the reduced rack
You can read every grocery game post ever written in my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide to get you familiar with cutting your food costs. It’s not difficult to do, it just takes time to understand the process and once you do it a few times you’ll get the hang of it. In no time you will be a pro!
Two Canadian Budget Binder fans Della F. and Christine W. who have both been posting their grocery shops in the Grocery Game Challenge for years have learned lots about their shopping habits. The best part is that they are still here which means they see the benefit it has to their overall budget which makes me a happy guy.
Here is what they had to say:
Christine WI look for more reduced and pink sticker 30-50% off meats when at the store. I also tend to use less meat in recipes as it is getting so expensive. I’m looking for more meatless meals that hubby and the boys will willingly eat which is not an easy thing to do. Our grocery budget has to stay the same as we are on a fixed income and it isn’t going up at all. Oh and I watch the sales like crazy and try to stock up on something if it’s a good price and we like it.
Della FI can’t say what my yearly food costs were by the end of 2014 but I found an old version of my budget that stopped during the month of October. By that time, I had spent over $2600 so that value would have been much higher, where as I haven’t even spent $1900 so far this year.
After evaluating our monthly budget we knew we would start the year with a grocery budget of $235 which is 41% less than the $400 a month food costs we were used to.
Even though we have a separate category for health and beauty now even if we had to add that back in we would be able to sustain this figure. We simply wanted to see how much of our money would need to go towards food and whether we could sustain the budget by including everything. Things may change in the future so we will evaluate our numbers when the time comes.
Everyone has different budgeting goals. What are yours?
Keep your eye on the end goal
If you want something bad enough like we did you will do whatever it takes. I’m not saying eat crap food to pay off debt but do yourself a favour and invest in knowledge and this will get you through faster than guessing.
How have you slashed your food costs over the years? (Share your comments below for others who come looking for tips.)
December Grocery Game Challenge posts
Join in the Grocery Game Challenge (GGC) fun and post your grocery shop in the comment section of each GGC blog post. Here are the rules to get you started and if you have any questions feel free to email me.
New monthly prize: $10 President’s Choice Gift Card for Canadian residents only.
NEW!! If you want to play from outside of Canada and have PayPal and you win I will pay you $10CDN via PayPal. I use a random online generator to pick the winning ballot every month.
Congratulations to Ballot #10 Mary C. for winning the November Grocery Game Challenge!
If you missed any grocery game posts for the month I will post the line-up each week here for you so you don’t have to go looking for past GGC posts for the month. This makes posting a bit easier although all you need to do is click on The Grocery Game Challenge on the homepage sidebar and you will see them all.
Free Grocery Budget Tools
Click, Save and Print. It’s that easy!
Free Money Saving Downloads are awesome lists that were created to get us on track to work towards reaching our budgeting goals and now we are sharing them with you.
I hope you take the time to get back on track and start the savings process in your grocery budget today.
Get organized with a FREE freezer inventory, meal plan, shopping list, price comparison list and much more all for FREE. CLICK HERE to download all the free lists and even our family budget spreadsheet for FREE.
NEW!! You can now download the FREE Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet in Excel…Grab it while you can… It’s FREE! We use it to budget and in large part a reason we could pay our mortgage off in 5 years, check it out!
Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide
If you are new here and haven’t had a chance to read past posts grab yourself a beverage, sit down, relax and enjoy some educational reading material on ways to save money in your grocery budget.
If you missed a Grocery Game Challenge post some of the most popular posts are listed below or you can now find the posts listed on their own page called The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.
If you know a topic that should be discussed send me an email.
2015 Grocery shop results
Yearly grocery budget for two + 1 Toddler 2015: $2820
(The above total does not include the stockpile budget of $235 per year or $25 per month.
Points Overview (add any other sections you need to show us your savings)
- Total Grocery Budget for the Month:
- Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs
- Total Gift Cards used to date: $32.40
- Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $90.00
- Total Rewards Points used to date: $230.00
- PC Points Plus Earned to date: 8134
- Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) to date $0.98
Coupon Apps (add any other apps you use to save money)
- Snap Groupon to date: $28.00
- Zweet to date: $18.00
- Checkout51 to date: $7.00
Grocery Shop This Week
- 4 x Astro Yogurt $1.97
- 5 x Schneiders Bacon $2.77 each Salt reduced
Total Out-of-Pocket: $24.50
Shoppers Drug Mart
- 2 x dozen eggs $2.49 each
Total Out-of-Pocket: $3.00
- Bounty Paper Towel $4.99-$0.50 coupon
- 14 x Lindt 70% Chocolate Bars 2/$5-50% $1.25 each
- 2 x jars maraschino cherries $2.99
- 6 x 1lb butter $2.88 each
- Chapman’s Frozen Yogurt $3.77- FPC
- Butterflied chicken breasts $7.98-50%
- Chipolte Pork Rib Chops $21.00-50%
- 2 x Boconcini $6.49-50%
- Triple Brie $7.99-50%
- 2 x Notre Dame Brie $5.99-50%
- Samosas $4.19-59% (party snacks)
Total Out-of-Pocket: $80.94 used PC Points to pay
- Bananas $1.08
- 2 x Pineapple $1.88 each
- 2 x 2% milk $3.97 each
- 2 x Homo milk $4.97 each
- 4 x Irresistible Cream cheese $2.99 each
- 6 x Cheese Blocks $3.88 each (stockpile) $23.28
Total Out-of-Pocket: $57.96-$23.28=$34.68
- Total to spend this month $235.00-$60.94=$174.05 (overspend from November)
- Stockpile budget 2015 ($25.00): (Jan/Feb) $50.00 +$0 (Mar)+$16.94+$25.00 (April)+$25.00+ May $25.00+ June $25.00+July $14.44+Aug $25.00+Sept $25.00+ Oct $25.00+ Nov $25.00
- Stockpile budget used this month: $23.28
- Total coupons used this week: $4.27
- Total coupons used to date: $38.77
- Total in-store discounts this week: $27.50
- Total in-store discounts to date: $703.12
- Total spent this week: $62.18
- Total spent so far this month: $62.18
- Total over/Under spend this shop:over
- Total over/Under spend for the month: over $n/a
- Total left to spend for the month: $111.87
- Total Spent To Date 2015: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $166.49+ Feb $261.51+ Mar $231.02 + April $258.44+May $218.12+ June $235.67+July $212.16+August $118.15+ September $130.37+ October $281.89+ November $249.04+ December $
Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)
We loaded up on lots of great deals this week and decided to use up our PC Points as we’ve been saving them for this very moment.At Zehrs we bought 6 x Charmin toilet paper $4.99 each and Quality Street chocolates $11.99 each which falsl under Christmas in our budget. The toilet paper will go under Health and Beauty.
I screwed up and got the wrong cream cheese at Food Basics so I paid a little more than I should have, oops. Wife caught me for that one. The Chapman’s ice-cream was free with the yearly coupon they sent us in the mail for $4.00. I did not get the extra money left as she rang it in as an FPC.
Overall, we did well and should make it to the end without an overspend and we have about $10 in PC points left. Fingers crossed!!
Here are some great places you can find Canadian Coupons! These are your latest Checkout 51 offers which you can use to help save money. We’re finding less and less coupons in the stores these days. What are your thoughts? Are coupon apps taking over the paper coupons?
Grocery Game Challenge FAQ’s
- Grocery Game Challenge RULES: Read the rules first and if you have any questions email me or comment on this post with your question and someone will answer you as soon as possible.
- Do I have to be Canadian to post my Grocery Shop?: No, you don’t have to be Canadian to post your shops. We have fans who post their grocery shop who live all over the world.
- What is the monthly prize and who can claim it?- The monthly prize is a $10 PC Loblaws Gift Card and for our out of country friends it’s $10 CDN via Paypal if they win. As more people join I will add more money to the gift card or I will split it up and offer 2 prizes every month.
- When does the Grocery Game close each month?: The Grocery Game Challenge closes at midnight of the last Sunday of the last post for the month but you will still get a ballot when you post your shops even if they are late but I encourage you to stay on schedule. If you choose to post monthly or bi-weekly you will only get 1 ballot for that shop. It’s a proven fact the minute we stop doing something that is scheduled that we end up forgetting to do it all together. Don’t let that be you! You can post your shops all month-long.
- Does your Grocery Budget include health and beauty and laundry products?:
YesNo, our Grocery Budget includes such items as shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap etc. As of 2014-2015 we no longer include such items in our grocery budget so we can see actual food numbers at the end of the year so we can plan accordingly for our budget. We don’t mind stockpiling items that won’t be affected by expiry dates or have long expiry dates but not so much food any more. It’s just one way to help cut your budget to save money.
- Canadian Coupons: Where can I find Canadian Coupons?: Here are your latest Checkout 51 offers that you can use to help you save money in the Grocery Game Challenge. There are many great Canadian Couponing websites online that share weekly coupon match-ups so you can plan your grocery list.
- Best Coupon Apps: Coupons are slowly fading out but mobile coupon apps are the big rave these days. Just recently the popular coupon site that mailed coupons to households have gotten involved with their new mobile Save.ca app joining forces with the many apps that are already out there.
- What is the Best Flyer App- We use Flipp on our Iphone so if you wan to have all your flyers in one spot download Flipp from the Apple Store or get it on Google Play.
- What is an FPC?: An FPC is a free product coupon which means you can get a free product as described on the coupon.
- What is GGC?– The Grocery Game Challenge of course!
- How Do I Know what stores accept coupons?: If you are not sure it’s always best to call the store and ask.
- How Do I Grocery Shop?: I can tell you about grocery shopping and what we do in terms of shopping to save money and how it works for us. There are no wrong or right answers, just smart choices.
Over time you will gradually learn where you should and shouldn’t go in the grocery store or at least how to say no, I’m on a budget I need to buy this or that.
You may also substitute items in order to stick to your grocery budget to make it work. Nobody is perfect, heck we struggle with this part of our budget like many people do.
This is why the grocery game challenge was created to not only show you that we are like everyone else but to bring us all together to work as a team to get our budgets on track.
If you have just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2015 get ready to dive deep into your grocery budget and learn just where you are spending, how much you are spending and what you are saving.
Feel free to read all the above posts that I linked to above which I feel are relevant to learning about the grocery budget and grocery shopping in general.
If you are brave and want to learn everything I know about grocery shopping in Canada check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide! It’s FREE!
You’ve made a wise decision to take control of your grocery budget now show me your shops and let’s get saving!
Welcome to The Grocery Game Challenge 2015!
Join in and become money savers and take control of your grocery budget.
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