Grocery Challenge Update for February 2013

I was considering not posting about our grocery challenge this week because I don’t have a complete report, but then I decided that this blog is supposed to reflect real life and sometimes real life just doesn’t leave room for tracking receipts!


stressed outI know how much money we spent on groceries last month thanks to Mint – $458.50 – but at some point in the month we lost track of our receipts for the mega pie charts I’ve made in previous monthsKyle took over the grocery shopping in the latter half of February as I spent more and more time preparing for my preliminary exam.  I’m pretty sure he put the receipts somewhere logical like our dining room table, but before I recorded them them he cleaned the whole house so we could host a post-prelim celebration and who knows where they got to.  (Kyle and I started calling him “perfect husband” during the weeks leading up to my prelim because he was so supportive and amazing.)  Frankly, at this point I feel too far removed from February to be motivated to look for them.


So, missing receipts means no pie charts.  What I can say was successful about February is that I told myself “no,” something I have been unable to do regarding our groceries for, like, ever.  After the third weekend in February we had spent about $380 of our $400 budget and I told myself we could make it to March 1 without going over.  I asked Kyle to buy me two items for about $5 and resolved that I could make it work until that Friday.  He bought me just the items I asked for and I did survive until March on that food.


Unfortunately, Kyle also bought a bunch of other stuff for himself so we ended up well over budget.  I’m not blaming him for the overage because the food I eat does cost a lot more.  I’m just saying I told myself no and I stuck to it and I’m happy about that, but we ended up over budget.


The other ‘unfortunately’ is that I’m not actually that bad at meal planning.  Making my real food stretch was possible only because I ended up eating way more grains/carbohydrate than is usual for me; as a result, I’ve been feeling worse and the scale tells me I put on a few lbs.  I can’t blame it all on the grocery situation – I convinced myself I didn’t have the time to cook as often and I could be lenient about the grains until after my prelim.  And that’s how a sugar addiction gets ya!


Lessons learned: I’m glad I told myself ‘no’ this once because now I know that I can.  But I’m going to return to the food that I know is more healthful for me, even if it means paying more for vegetables over grains.  As always I will be looking to reduce waste and get the categories of food I want for the lowest price, and that’s about it.


Do you ever finding tracking PF-related goals tedious or overwhelming?  What happens to your tracking when you get really busy or stressed?  After you tell yourself ‘no’ once do you stick with it or return to ‘yes’?


photo from Free Digital Photos


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27 Responses to "Grocery Challenge Update for February 2013"

  1. Life happens. Mr. PoP is pretty incapable of hanging on to receipts, so I compromise by knowing how much was spent at grocery stores using mint. Basically I feel like if I make the tracking too hard, it’s going to be counter productive.
    Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies recently posted..What’s An Appropriate Level of Stockpiling?

    1. Emily says:

      I agree, tracking shouldn’t be so arduous that you give up on it. I wouldn’t give up tracking money – it’s so easy, especially with Mint – but individual food prices are quite another ball game.

  2. Admittedly sometimes tracking finances can be a big energy drain. It is important though. Dont’ beat yourself up!
    CT – Cashtastrophe recently posted..The Definition of a Recessionista

    1. Emily says:

      I’m so glad we have Mint now. If I was still tracking by hand/using Excel that might have gotten behind, too.

  3. Sara says:

    I am (ahem, Liam is) so bad at keeping receipts that I track our spending by watching our debit and credit card statements. The only time that’s difficult is when we buy, say alcohol and groceries in the same shopping trip, because those are separate categories for us.

    As for your groceries, that’s not a crazy amount per person, especially if you eat different food. I didn’t think of it before, but you’re buying groceries for two individuals, rather than a couple, and that costs more. Also- I know we talked about discount produce shops before…even if you don’t have one in town, do you have any ethnic grocers? I’ve found they also have great prices on fruit and veg, and sometimes the most random staples too
    Sara recently posted..American Austerity … and me

    1. Emily says:

      I can’t blame Kyle for losing track of these receipts because he seriously cleaned the whole downstairs of our house in like 1 hour so that was amazing. It’s only been the last couple months that I’ve really scrutinized our grocery receipts – we just lump household consumables in there anyway so we can avoid dividing our receipts on a regular basis.

      I dunno, how does a household really spend less than the same number of individuals on groceries if you aren’t wasting food? We do share some food, like meat, but Kyle just eats grains and I eat more vegetables. The produce he prefers is also less expensive than the produce I prefer (oranges, canned vegetables for him). We share condiments, which are a big source of waste/one-time expense. And once our CSA starts up again we’ll both eat those fresh vegetables, etc.

      We definitely have an Asian supermarket near by that I need to check out! Last month was a time when we were grasping to keep to our routine so it wasn’t a time for experimentation – maybe this month.

  4. Emily too says:

    Sometimes other things in life take priority. Prelims definitely, absolutely earn you some slack.

    Shopping as two individuals isn’t necessarily more expensive than as a couple. Being long distance again this spring due to research, our grocery bill has actually gone down! Being able to enjoy meals together was one of our big motivations for cooking nice things, so without that we’re both just eating simpler food; my husband cares less about fresh vegetables than I do so he’s eating more frozen; and I’m buying fewer pricy ingredients like cheese and meat due to my Lenten commitments. So you can do it as two!

    1. Emily says:

      Thanks for the example of when ones are cheaper than two! It’s true that we influence on another – I imagine Kyle will spend even less on groceries after he moves than “his” food costs now. I might spend less, too, as I expect to be working longer hours.

  5. Yes, I totally get that overwhelmed feeling occasionally. I hate when I see receipts unrecorded just all over the house. It makes me feel icky. And I’m a little like you in that if I’m stressed or busy and haven’t been eating as well, I’ll take a tiny hit in the expenses to get back on track. I “try” to sick with my no’s, but there are times where the yes’s win.
    Budget and the Beach recently posted..Link Love/Week in Review 3/7/13

    1. Emily says:

      I always feel like I should be saving receipts, but I never access them after the month passes! If I get them recorded that’s great and I can get rid of them. I’m not completely regretful that I took this diversion from my normal eating – first time this far off in the two years I’ve been eating this way – because it reconfirmed how crappy the typical American diet makes me feel. (A crappy-ness I never realized until I stopped eating that way!)

  6. Do or Debt says:

    I hate tracking groceries and eating out, simply because it is my weakest point. I love eating healthy as well, but sometimes I cave and eat junk. I feel double guilt for eating crappy and spending money on crap! I want to cut down on carbs and increase my vegetable intake. I am mostly pescetarian, and I love cheese and bread, but I don’t think it’s that good for me. I feel like cutting things out and budgeting for food properly is so hard!
    Do or Debt recently posted..How do you manage your work online?

    1. Emily says:

      It’s difficult to balance competing goals no matter if it’s food or anything else. For me, I’ve done enough experimentation with my eating to know what works well and what doesn’t and now is my experimenting-with-buying-groceries phase (not deciding what those groceries are). I know what you mean about feeling doubly guilty!

  7. Suba says:

    I have not looked at our food spending in detail. I don’t think we did well. As we are packing and getting ready to move, I know we ate out a lot more than we should have in Feb (and probably will in March as most of our stuff is packed for the month end move). I am overwhelmed at this moment because I don’t have control of our packing (I have been spending every waking minute doing move related stuff but I am nowhere near done) and our food/ move related spending is spiraling out of control as well. I need to do something.
    Suba recently posted..Travel for free or cheap: Churning credit card rewards for fun and profit

    1. Emily says:

      Is the extra spending something you’re willing to absorb? When we were leading up to our wedding we were eating out a lot more than usual so I know that’s how it goes sometimes and maybe it’s not realistic to expect spending to be the same. But if you don’t have the cushion or don’t want to use it for that purpose then you need to pay attention to it and exert self-control, unfortunately (for the timing). How far are you moving?

  8. Ross says:

    It’s always a great feeling when you tell yourself no in order to accomplish a goal. At the end of February I was also close to my grocery budget limit, and I just decided that I’d cook some more lentils and make it work. When you challenge yourself, sometimes you create tasty meals from food you didn’t know you had.
    Ross recently posted..My Thoughts on Credit Karma: A Review

    1. Emily says:

      Or if you’re me, you just eat Ritz crackers and cheddar cheese. :/ But I’m glad you succeeded in your grocery-budget-keeping endeavor.

  9. I would loose my head if it wasn’t attached. It’s one of the reasons I don’t enter receipts, because I loose more than make to my desk.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Job Search Tip: Never Answer Phone Calls When Busy

    1. Emily says:

      I’m so glad online banking exists so we don’t have to track receipts to track spending!

  10. […] PF with Grocery Challenge Update for February 2013  We lost some receipts too, so our food fight update will be as good as it gets with the credit […]

  11. I think we just spent over $300 at various grocery stores over the past 3 days. It’s ok so long as we eat it all eventually…
    nicoleandmaggie recently posted..Unnatural Mother

    1. Emily says:

      Yes, it will turn out OK if there is no waste. It might mess up your short-term budgeting, though!

  12. […] from Budgeting in the Fun Stuff included Grocery Challenge Update for February 2013 in her weekly […]

  13. I do pretty well until I either get sick or am stressed, which both happened this last week. I have been really bad with grocery receipts for the last couple of weeks because I know I’ve spent too much. Next week we’re back on track, and that’s all you can do. It does get tedious, but if I wasn’t posting my grocery shops at CBB, I would probably fall off the wagon and go back to not planning very well.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Eyes on the Dollar 20/20 Roundup #29-Gotta Love the Neighbors

    1. Emily says:

      Maybe I should check out the CBB challenge more in detail since I’m doing something similar by myself and having accountability is way better.

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