It’s been long enough since I last wrote that it was worth looking at an aspect of our finances, specifically, food. It’s one of the largest categories of expenditure for us and therefore deserves a lot of attention.
Last year, from January 2015 through December 2015, we spent about $4,440 on food and dining, giving an average of around $370 per month. From January up until today, we have only spent $2,380 in food and dining, giving an average of around $340 per month. These expenditures generally include anything we buy at grocery stores including non-grocery items, fast-food and restaurants. The vast majority of the spending was $2,000 at grocery stores so far this year ($285/month), $270 at restaurants ($38/month) , and $105 at fast food restaurants ($15/month). Comparing these from last year, we spent around $253/month at grocery stores, $66/month at restaurants, $43/month on fast food, and $3.80 on coffee shops per month.
Without trying very hard, we’ve been even more frugal this year than we were last year. We have spent more on groceries, which makes sense since we’re cooking more at home and eating out a bit less. It seems that Eccentric Cute Aunt has not been going to Starbucks at all this year either, although it was never really a habit for her, so we have no coffee shop expenditures. She also seems to eat out even less, opting to pack her lunch nearly every day.
I have also changed my lunchtime diet a bit. I used to do cold meat & cheese sandwiches, but I have switched to home-made flatbread and hummus for most lunches. It’s a good meal and since I make the flatbread at home, super cheap. I also generally get the hummus at Grocery Outlet, a discount grocery chain in the area, saving a few bucks further. My cost for lunch for a week is about $5 currently (4 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of yeast, 2 teaspoons of salt, 6 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder, and a 9oz container of hummus), and it’s healthier, so a win-win. I’ve also picked up baking, making my own bread which is both extremely cheap and extremely delicious!
Not everything has been an decrease though. EC Aunt has been spending more on fresh fruits this year than last year by my estimation, eating more blueberries, watermelon (which she eats about 1 large one a week!), and lychee rather than fruits like apples. After reading about the various health benefits of drinking in general, I have also tried to pick up red wine. I pretty much only used to drink once a month or so with coworkers on the rare occasion, but now I’m drinking more frequently at home (probably 3 days a week on average). I’ve also picked up home brewing hard cider, which was not very successful on my first batch, but I’m giving it a second chance currently!
All-in-all, I don’t think we’re at the absolute rock bottom of frugality on our food expenditures, but we’re doing quite well! We are well below the USDA’s “thrifty” plan of $389.90/month (which we were last year as well). We’ve also managed to avoid the dreaded “lifestyle inflation” which up until now, we’ve experienced very little of even with increased wages. I think the biggest factor for us is that neither of us really enjoy eating out. The food is rarely better than what I could have made myself, it takes a long time, and it’s expensive! Fast food is convenient and cheap and tasty, but it’s horrible for you. So, we just make our own meals. Luckily, it’s also the most frugal way to go!