The Grocery Game | Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide

How To Calculate and Track Only Your Food Expenses : The Grocery Game Challenge 2016 #3 Dec 19-25

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how to calculate and track only food expenseshow to calculate and track only food expenses



Working out food costs might sound boring but what’s exciting is knowing you’re working hard to save money by understanding your spending habits and tracking numbers. Over the years we’ve began to track our food expenses a bit differently than we have in the past.

Originally we would calculate any receipt that came from the grocery store and classified those numbers our grocery budget. This is fine if all you want is a estimate of how much your food expenses are but you won’t get a true number. Some of you budget fans might not want to break it down and just dump the full expense into a dominant category depending on the store you shop at.

Some savers like to keep their budget very simple with basic budget categories and then there is the wife and I who like to dig a little more. By this I mean we take our monthly budget and any category that we can think of that should be on its own or that we want to exclusively track throughout the year we give it a line on the budget.

If you are new to budgeting or haven’t had experience venturing away from the standard budget categories calculating your monthly food expenses can be a bit frustrating until you get the hang of it. There is one major thing that we’ve started to do that has helped us speed up the process and confident about our numbers.

Let me explain…


Only Food Expenses


Hi Mr.CBB,

Sorry to bother you but I have a question that I was hoping you could help me with. My husband and I would like to start calculating food costs every month. Last year we tracked our grocery receipts in full and considered them part of the grocery budget. However for 2017 we want to exclusively track food expenses so we are better able to work out food costs for 2018. Anything else on our grocery receipt will be going to assigned categories in our budget.

I’m just wondering if there was an easy way to do this or if I’m out of my mind crazy for doing this?


Judy. L

Well hello Judy,

Don’t be sorry I encourage blog readers to contact me if they are stumped on something with their finances and you’ve actually come up with an excellent question. You’re not out of your mind at all.

Working out only your food expenses is a great way to learn how to budget without the stress of a full budget. I’ve had many fans who email me who don’t budget their entire monthly expenses but would like to track food expenses. Either way do what works for you. Full Budget or specific category tracking.

How much does food cost?

Food costs in Canada seem to be all over the place right now but come early 2017 we will see increases on prices of food which will affect everyone’s food expenses from the start. Canadians are expected to spend an extra $420 in 2017 on food expenses compared to 2016 according to a recent Food Canada Report.

Grocery costs vary depending on where you live and the best way to get familiar with prices at your neighbourhood grocer is to create a food price book and track products you typically buy. Tracking allows you find out approximately when the prices increase, decrease and the best time of year to stock up.

I’ve been in Canada for just over 9 years now and if you’ve recently immigrated to Canada like I did you’re likely overwhelmed. You’ll need some practice and over time grocery shopping becomes a breeze.

Related: How to create a grocery price book? (free template)


Typical monthly expenses


Your food expenses will fluctuate from month to month based on food prices as how much you actually spend. What shouldn’t change is how much your grocery budget actually is. For example, if you have a grocery budget of $250 for food expenses only each month you either spend it all or spend less. Unless of course you have the spare cash to bump up your grocery budget any time of year.

For most, just because food prices increase that doesn’t necessarily mean that your grocery budget should too. Some shoppers just don’t have the cash to do so which means sticking to your budgeted numbers. If you’re dedicated to tracking only your food expenses for the year it’s suggested you stick to that number. If you go over then try to scale back the next month to cover that overage. This keeps your overall budget balanced.


Save Receipts


The worst thing you can do for your budget is not get a receipt,  lose it or forget where you put it.

I know I’m stating the obvious here but if you’re not used to asking for your receipt or you toss it out, stop and listen. That piece of paper is gold to you so treat as such. Without your grocery receipt you cannot accurately calculate your food expenses. You wouldn’t want your employer to estimate your pay cheque because he’d either pay to little or too much. The same approach is applied to your food expenses. The numbers are critical.

Related: Why you should always say YES to your receipt.


Removing the extras


Any time we analyze a receipt we review everything that was purchased and then begin to break everything down. For example, If we went to Canadian Tire

  • Expense Motor Oil $12.99
  • Wiper Blades $18.48
  • Granulated Sugar Sale $1.88

Total Out-Of-Pocket $33.35

If you aren’t worried about the accuracy of your grocery budget you might just put this under Vehicle Maintenance in your budget. Fair enough, but what about that granulated sugar? That’s not going help run your car is it? So, you  must carry the $1.88 and treat it as food expenses.

Your receipt will now look like this:

  • Motor Oil $12.99
  • Wiper Blades $18.48
  • Granulated Sugar Sale $1.88

Total Out-Of-Pocket $33.35

Budget Totals– Vehicle Maintenance ($31.47) Food Expenses ($1.88)

Obviously any taxes would be applied but for this example I kept it simple. Remember this is all about how much detailed information you want from your overall budget.


Tracking and Making Notes


On every receipt that I review I do the above calculations and either on the back or in a space on the front of the receipt I document my calculations for quick reference. This way when it comes time to enter the data into my budget spreadsheet I’ve already taken care of breaking down the receipt.

Don’t do what I used to do and think that you will remember later, you won’t. You’ll be scratching your head in confusion and wasting valuable time. I’d suggest doing the above documentation of reviewing receipts as soon as you put your groceries away or make time later that same day. When your mind is fresh it’s easier to capture the data and any notes you want to make rather than wait.


Sub Categories


Your budget categories are entirely up to you which means you track what you want to track. For instance with our monthly budget we have grocery (food only) Health and Beauty, Prescriptions and Health Care, Baby, Home maintenance. Each of these categories will capture what we typically purchase at the grocery store or any related store. If you have a pet for instance you might buy pet food at the grocery store but not part of your food expenses.

If we have something that we haven’t classified or included in our original budgeted numbers we track it in miscellaneous and document what the expenses were. This way when we design our budget for the next year we make sure we include the expense in the budget whether it’s projected or not.

Related: What are projected expenses and how do I calculate them?


Meals expenses, tax deductions and reimbursements


I was asked once by a fan why her grocery expenses were not balancing so I had a look at her budget information. During my review I noticed that she was able to claim any meals expenses while she worked on the road. This included if she bought groceries to cook wherever she was staying. Sometimes she would stay in rented condos by her company other times she didn’t want to go for food so she just bought snacks.

While she felt it was important to tally these expenses into her monthly food expenses she was forgetting to remove them because her company was reimbursing her the money. She possibly could have missed food expenses during her monthly budget tally because she submitted grocery receipts without making a copy.

On the receipts she submitted she mentioned that there may have been food that she purchased for personal at home cooking. It’s very important when tracking your food expenses to always make notes on receipts so you have them for later reference.


How to track food expenses


Honestly you can do all the above by using our free budget download spreadsheet even if you only want to track food expenses for the year. There’s lots of room to make notes as well. Alternatively you can create an excel spreadsheet simply to track your monthly food expenses or write it in a budget binder.

What is a budget binder?

Ah, it’s similar to what you may be familiar with if you’ve watched Canadian finance guru Gail Vaz Oxlade in the past on television. A budget binder essentially is your budget bible. It is a place where you document everything from your budget to your expenses and everything else in between.

Making a budget binder is simple to do and if you want to find a fab budget binder for less go to the second-hand shops. There always seems to be tonnes of binders and you’ll often find one that will be perfect for what you’re looking for.

You may have printed budget tracking sheets, dividers, insert pockets to stash receipts and a pad of paper to make notes. If your binder has room for a calculator and other important supplies stash it all together in one spot. This way your finances are portable which is great if you are on the road and need to complete your budget while gone.

Related: Our Free Money Tools and Budget Downloads

This has worked out great for us especially when we are away from the house for a week or two. It’s all about organization and doing what works for you. If you struggle to keep your receipts, get a file folder. It’s that easy, rely on yourself but fix what you’re not good at doing with positive goals and improve along the way.

Overall, this is a trouble-free process especially if your goals is simply tracking food expenses for the month so you can calculate your annual total. That end number will be a number that most people don’t know because it takes a special person to dedicate time to finding this number out.

Best of luck and again if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

Discussion Question: How do you decide what goes in which budget category when reviewing your receipts?


December Grocery Game Challenge


Join in the 2016 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 where you’ll also find a link for the updated 2016 GGC schedule. Please feel free to download, save and even print the schedule so it’s handy.

New monthly prize: $10 President’s Choice Gift Card for Canadian residents only BUT If you want to play from outside of Canada and have PayPal and you win I will pay you $10 Canadian. I use a random online generator to pick the winning ballot every month.

If you missed any grocery game posts for the month I will post the line-up each week below for you so you don’t have to go looking for past GGC posts for the month. Alternatively, just click on the “Grocery Game Challenge” tab on the blog side-bar to see past posts.

December Grocery Game Posts


Free Money Saving Tools 2016


You WILL want to check this out!

I know I blast you every which way I can on this blog about my free money saving tools and that’s because I want you to take advantage of them being FREE. So many people pay for budgets and tools on the internet to help them save money and honestly you don’t need to. Even a paper and pen will do the trick.

Click, Save and Print. It’s that easy!

This is the budget that brought us to debt freedom back in 2013 and now I’m offering to all of you for FREE. We still use this budget every month as it helps us to see our overall financial picture.

2014 Free Money Saving ToolsDon’t pay someone for these services, I’ve done the work for you along with some help from other amazing bloggers.

You can 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!

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.

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. So many free resources at your fingertips.


Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide 2016


the ultimate grocery shopping guide cbbEverything you want to know about grocery shopping in Canada is packed into this amazing FREE grocery shopping guide that has taken over 4 years to create.

The Ultimate Grocery Shopping guide is ongoing with new informative money-saving posts added every month.

Even if you don’t live in Canada there are some amazing budget saving tips that will help put you on the path to more savings at the supermarket.

Share this guide with your friends and tell them about Canadian Budget Binder especially if they are struggling with their grocery budget.

The time is NOW to get started saving money on groceries so please enjoy the  many money-saving posts in the The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.


2016 Grocery Shop Results


Yearly grocery budget for two + 1 Toddler 2016: $2820

(The above total does not include the stockpile budget of $300/year or $25/month.

Points Overview (add any other sections you need to show us your savings)

  • Total Grocery Budget for this Month: $233.25
  • Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs $233.25
  • Total Gift Cards used to date: $65
  • Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $0
  • Total Rewards Points used to date: $0
  • PC Points Plus Earned to date: 390,000
  • Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) to date $6.00
  • Shoppers Optimum: Just under 850,000 Optimum points  (I will update this twice a year)

Coupon Apps (add any other apps you use to save money)

  • Zweet to cash out : $18.25
  • Checkout51 to cash out : $22.00


Our Grocery Shop This Week


Food Basics

  • 2 x 4L 2% Milk Sealtest $4.27
  • 2 x 10% Cream $3.49 each

Total Out-Of-Pocket $15.52

  • Total to spend this month : $235.00-$1.75 overage from November= $233.25
  • Stockpile budget 2016 : $25.00
  • Stockpile budget used this month: $26.19 over $1.19
  • Total coupons used this week: $0
  • Total coupons used to date: $15.36
  • Total in-store discounts this week:$0
  • Total in-store discounts to date: $511.24
  • Total spent this week: $15.52
  • Total spent so far this month: $195.76
  • Total over/Under spend this shop: under
  • Total over/Under spend for the month: under
  • Total left to spend for the month: $21.98
  • Total Spent To Date 2016: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $252.95 + Feb $249.46 + March $211.11 + April $248.11 + May $279.07 + June $231.96 + July $244.40 + Aug $201.30+ Sept $238.12+ October $236.77+ November $227.30+December $

Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)

We only purchased milk and cream this week as we are stocked up for the week until we go away for the rest of the month to enjoy Christmas holidays.
How can I make the GGC better? Share your thoughts in the comments or email me. I appreciate all feedback and will take it into consideration. Let’s take the GGC to new heights and show the world just how challenging it can be to be frugal but conquer it.

Get ready for some NEW prize amounts next year too!!! I challenge you to play the grocery game challenge 2017.

Your online savings partner,



Coupons and Coupon Apps 2016


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?

If you notice I’m missing a valuable link please message me and I’ll get it added to the savings list below.

Sign up for the Nielsen Canada Home Scan Program and you can earn rewards points fast to redeem for awesome products or gift cards. I did this in the UK and loved it!!

Where can I find Canadian Coupons 2016?

Plus check out these other hidden areas online to get more coupons!!

  • Healthy Essentials Printable Coupons (Johnson and Johnson)
  • Danone Coupons Get up to $25 in coupons
  • Clorox Coupons Sign up to print coupons in the Clorox family which include Greenworks, Glad etc.
  • Kraft Canada Sign up and receive recipes and coupons by email
  • Printable Smart Source Coupons
  • Walmart Canada Printable Coupons
  • Proctor and Gamble PandG Sign up for printable coupons
  • Hidden Coupon Portals You Should know about – I found this over at Save a Loonie and you’ll want to sign up for notifications and check out the site so you get notified every time a hidden coupon is available from, Brandsaver, Smart Source etc.


Grocery Game Challenge 2016 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. The rules have been updated for the 2016 challenge year.
  • 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 altogether. 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?: No, 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 in order to plan accordingly our budget.
  • Do you stockpile food? 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 longer as we found we weren’t eating it fast enough. Stockpiling is still great and just one way to help cut your budget to save money if you do find items that you can buy in bulk at a sale price.
  • 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 with mobile coupon apps being the big rave these days. Just recently the popular coupon site that mailed coupons to households has gotten involved with the addition of a new mobile app joining forces with the many other coupon apps available. If you find an app that I don’t talk about please let me know as they are always being added and I’d like to review them.
  • 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.

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 back in 2012 and is one of the most popular hang out spots for people who want to save money on groceries in Canada.

If you’ve just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2016 get ready to look at your grocery budget by learning…

  • Where you are spending money
  • How much money you are spending
  • How much money you are saving every month

If you want to learn everything I know about grocery shopping in Canada check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide! It’s FREE!

If you know a topic that should be discussed send me an email. If I use your topic I will put your name in a draw for a prize at the end of the year.

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 2016!


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