Jan 18, 2008

Food budgets and the recession

My weekly grocery bill is going up and up and up. Apparently, the Recession is moving from politicians talking about it to an actuality. I know gas prices are on a real roller coaster here in the greater Cincinnati area. You can drive by a gas station and find gas for $2.86 a gallon on your way to the grocery store, and find the same gas station's price has gone up to $3.09 on the way home! Something's just not right about that. Obviously, gas prices affect food prices. And I'm definitely seeing it in our stores. Ground beef is up to $3 per pound (oh, for the .49 a pound days!) and any decent cut of beef is well over $6 per pound. So I need to start thinking about how to cut my grocery budget. There are only two of us, plus Brayden two days a week, and one cat. However, I do make three meals a day -- Jeff gets a full breakfast every morning, plus I make his lunch for him to take to work, plus dinner. My grocery bill is currently about $140 a week, which includes cleaning supplies, paper goods, and pet food and supplies. I'd like to cut that back to $100 per week, despite the increase in prices. I do know how to cook economically. Putting it into practice is something else. On days that I have Brayden, I prefer something fast -- canned soup and grilled cheese or a frozen pizza, for example. But soup is now up to almost $2 per can, and that's just not economically feasible when I can make one batch of homemade soup that will give us 6 to 8 meals for about $4. I need to plan ahead. Use sale flyers and coupons and come up with a menu for the week, then prepare a grocery list accordingly. I also need to put in some meatless meals. Jeff does like eggs and omelettes for dinner, and we will both eat spaghetti with a plain tomato sauce. I have a recipe for budget rice pilaf using leftover meats and vegetables, and stir fry is also an option that we like. I used to have plastic freezer bags in my freezer -- one for leftover veggies and one for leftover meats. Little pieces of this and that which don't seem worth saving, but when it comes time to make a good vegetable soup, make a world of difference. I also used to save all meat stock in a freezer bag. I'll have to implement those bags again. I'm a loyal shopper. I shop at our local Krogers and have for 20 years. New stores have come and gone, but Krogers has always been my favorite -- clean, nice employees, reasonably good produce, OK meats. There is a new Aldi's in town, but it seems to be mostly prepackaged and prepared foods, which we don't generally eat. But Krogers sends me "loyal customer" coupons -- with at least one every month or so for $16 off my total! And the coupons they send me are for goods I buy on a regular basis. So it's time to cut back on some things -- prepared foods (like canned soups and gravies) and expensive beef cuts -- and use my coupons, study the sales, and plan plan plan ahead. It's definitely going to be necessary if I want to keep my grocery bill at it's usual amount, but even more so if I want to get the grocery bill down by $40 per week. Good news on the financial front last night. Jeff told me that we have used 10,000 gallons of water LESS than last year! Despite water prices going up, our bill has gone down. We put "water saver" faucet thingies in all our faucets, neither of us run the water now as we brush our teeth (we turn it on, wet the brush, turn it off until it's time to rinse -- I hear this saves 8 gallons of water per person per day!), and we did not water our lawn or our garden this past summer. I also try not to run the water thoughtlessly in the kitchen, and make sure our washer is always filled with clothes (no half loads), and that the dishwasher is full before running it. Apparently, something's working! It's been easy to do. All I do is picture living in a poorer country and having to tote water whenever I want it. I doubt those ladies walk away from the kitchen sink with the water running without thinking about it! If you picture yourself carrying all that water, you definitely cut back on the amount of water you consume needlessly.


karen said...

yikes! $140 a week is a lot....Just out of curiousity I added up what I pay for groceries and it averages about $85. Same situation...just the two of us, and includes paper products, shampoo, etc. No pets or kids to feed though. I think my bill is lower for the following reasons:
1 - I buy almost exclusively store-brand....a few exceptions (it's gotta be Kraft mac and cheese!).
2 - I don't buy any prepared foods. Everything I make is from scratch.
3 - I don't make a full breakfast every day...we usually have oatmeal. I do make a big breakfast on weekends.
4 - All our lunches are leftovers...I never buy cold meat or other things just for lunch.

I do go shopping every day, which is supposed to make you buy more, but not in my case. I think I buy less than if I shopped for a full week and bought things I never ended out using.

Good luck with your budget reduction.....it's tough to cut down!
Karen :)

Lisa said...

For us, $140 a week would be pretty good if it includes all paper products and toiletries. I think what drives up the cost for us is some more expensive items that we like, like higher-end shampoos and other toiletries as well as more expensive foods, such as coffee. Also, we are buying healthier foods, which tend to be more expensive.
One thing that has helped us a lot is simply eating less. If you do count the calories in a meal, you will often find that you are really eating 2-3 servings of something, rather than 1 serving. This goes far in saving on the cost of meat, pasta, and breads - things that I used to overeat. For example, one of the whole wheat tortillas that we buy has 200calories, so I only eat half of it because I'm adding a salad and tuna, which is plenty of calories.
I also agree with Karen that a full breakfast every morning is too much. Eat cereal - 1 serving only, not a full bowl - and one box will last you 2 weeks! I don't think you can get much better than that, budget-wise.
With both of us working, we would never be able to make everything from scratch (unless we wanted to spend our evenings and weekends in the kitchen), but I'm sure that's a great way to save money as well.

Good luck!

Jeff said...

Good News! There IS NO RECESSION! Oil prices are high because demand is skyrocketing in China and India, two countries that together make up in excess of 30% of the world's population. China is decentralizing its government and turning state property back over to the people. Amazing... you come back to the right a little bit and your economy starts working!

Anyway, oil demand has risen and we leave control of oil production to handful of arab Sheik's in OPEC and left-wing nutjob environmentalists who's opinions we somehow take seriously enough to stop us from tapping into our considerable domestic resources. Hence oil prices are up, fuel costs go up, transportation costs go up, prices go up.

You want to see a recession? Watch what happens if a lib makes it into the white house and raises taxes to pay for health care and other BS government entitlements.