How to Save Money – Food Expenses 2017-07

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I haven’t put much effort into learning exactly how to save money on food expenses. I’ve been wishing and hoping and fell into the same trap that millions of people have fallen into. We wish and hope for better outcomes without doing what’s necessary to improve our situations.

In early July, I committed to tracking my food expenses every month. Personal finance bloggers know that groceries and eating out can get out of control quickly and become a major pain in the @$$ets. Maybe I haven’t paid attention in the past or I wasn’t receptive to doing this although many others have been saving hundreds of dollars a month.

Thank you, Mrs. Frugal Asian Finance, for inspiring me with your monthly food expense reports.

Track Expenses

I wanted to track my expenses on a spreadsheet but am lazy have to spend more time with my wife and kids leaving me very little time to devote to bookkeeping.

After searching Google Play, I found a few receipt-scanning, expense-tracking apps but everything required so much time and commitment that I couldn’t commit to using them. I need simple, easy, and quick.

How to Save Money on Food
Track income and expenses under Cash Flow using Personal Capital.

So, I decided to see if Personal Capital has a way of tracking my expenses. It does!

I didn’t realize that I could categorize all my income and expenses in one combined view. Awesome! Convenient! Easy!

Oh my God! How much did we spend?

  • July 1 – 31, 2017
    • Groceries -$1201
    • Restaurants -$608

I thought this wasn’t too bad but then I decided to go back three more months…

  • June 1 – 30, 2017
    • Groceries -$1174
    • Restaurants -$648
  • May 1 – 31, 2017
    • Groceries -$1226
    • Restaurants -$1066
  • April 1 – 30, 2017
    • Groceries -$1327
    • Restaurants -$978

I stopped with April’s data because I can’t take anymore. This is really painful and an eye-opener for me.

The first thing we have to do is…

How to Save Money - Food Expenses 2017-07

Quit Eating Out So Much!

I know how to save money on food expenses. Quit eating out so much and buy groceries after planning our meals for the week … but it’s easier said than done. That’s why I just committed to the Zero Day Challenge and will be tracking all our expenses on a dry erase board. It’s hanging up in our dining room and it’s a big eye sore. My wife and older daughter are involuntary participants.

Every single day, we’re going to write our expenses up on the board AND hang our receipts up at the upper-left corner using a little magnet clip. That magnet better not fall off!

Our intent is to have as many zero days as possible before the end of the month. My goal is to spend less than $500 eating out. This is going to be tough because we have a vacation coming up in mid-August.

I’m going to pack a lunch for work every day. My colleagues and I usually eat out together at least once a week. This is fine since our meals typically average $10. We call this our team-building lunch. 🙂

Meal Plan for Each Week

The Mrs. isn’t usually on board with frugality. The word doesn’t exist in her vocabulary. In fact, I just coerced convinced her to stop grocery shopping for the week. We’ll see what happens because she’s NEVER been able to go more than a few days without buying some groceries for something. Our two refrigerators (yes, we have two) are packed with food that eventually gets eaten or thrown out.

I want our grocery bill to be under $700. This might be a lofty goal but if other people can keep their monthly grocery bills under $500 we should be able to manage. We’re a family of four with two little girls. There’s no way we’re eating that much food!

We’ll figure out what to eat for the rest of the week. On Sunday, the Mrs. and I are going to sit down and develop a meal plan for the upcoming week. We usually skip breakfast but still need to feed the kids. Although I love steak and everything beef, I’ve decided to eat a lot more chicken, pork, and other cheaper cuts of meat. We’ll probably buy more frozen vegetables and prepare large meals in advance so I have leftovers for lunch.

At the end of August, I’ll follow up and post what our meal plans were. We’re going to figure out how to save money on our food expenses. It’s gonna happen…

Final Thoughts

We’re doing so many things right like saving money on our cell phone plans, not paying for or watching cable TV, and having other people help pay for our children’s college education. It’s time we started controlling one of our biggest expenses: food.

Although we’re spending a ridiculous sum of money on groceries and eating out, we’re trending in the right direction. We just haven’t been deliberate about it because it takes work. I usually don’t have any problem eating out because to me it’s more of an entertainment expense than a food expense. However, we can definitely do better and I’d rather spend the money we save on one more vacation a year.

What about you?

Do you know how to save money on food expenses?

Please share your tips and advice in the comment section below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

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10 Comments

  1. One of the ways that we save money when we do eat out is getting gift cards from Cardpool. Normally you can find some pretty good deals on the site and it allows us to save some money along the way 🙂 It’s not as cheap as eating at home but it does save a little bit of money!!!

    1. Just went by cardpool.com but their site seems to be down. I wanted to find out more about it. We eat out so much that any bit of money saved is worth it. I’ve concluded that we simply have to limit how much we eat out. There’s no other way. We used to eat out at least 20 times a month and that adds up quickly especially when the meals are over $50!

      Thanks for commenting. I appreciate it! 🙂

  2. Maybe you can figure out which grocery items are either a want or need. Once you find your wants, try to cut down on it and that will help slash your grocery bill some

    1. We’re doing ok this month but it’s only the 3rd… The Mrs. and I agree that we shouldn’t have to buy any groceries until Sunday. We’ll make a weekly plan and I’m going to focus on “bulk” meals, manly style. We have a vacation towards the end of Aug so I’ve got to free up some cash somewhere. I don’t want to publish a post where we failed this Aug. One of the pros and cons of blogging I suppose.

      Thanks for commenting. I really appreciate it!

      Darren

  3. I think the easiest way to cut the grocery bill is to indulge less in the expensive meats/cuts like you’ve been doing! I think the hardest thing for me is the Meal Plan. I wish there was an easy way to just come up with one! Otherwise without a meal plan, I get home and have no clue what to eat and end up eating out just because of that (my frugal default is just to cook 4-6 eggs for a meal…yeah, really healthy…..)!

    1. You’re right Jing. I honestly wish this were automated. One of these days, I’ll come up with an app or something that I can share with others. I don’t want to sell it like most people do. I really want to help others with this process.

      Thanks for commenting! I appreciate it!

      Darren

  4. We don’t eat out that often…a lot of that is because taking a 4 year old and a 1 year old out to eat can be a hassle. For grocery costs, we usually buy whatever is on sale…we’re pretty flexible with our menu. And we find the Asian supermarkets to have awesome prices when it comes to produce/fruits/meat. Aldi’s and Target has good prices for the other stuff.

    1. We don’t have an Aldi’s around us. We’re mostly shopping at Costco’s or Fred Meyers for the majority of our groceries. We do go to a local Korean grocery store for our Asian needs. The prices do seem decent.

      It’s tough eating out with young kids. Usually, we’ll regret taking the kids out because our younger one is quite a handful at times. Thanks for commenting!

      Darren

  5. Thank you so much for the shout-out, Darren! I’ve been waiting for your food expense report to come out since you’ve mentioned it a couple of times!

    Don’t get too stressed out about the numbers. Starting to keep track of what we spend is always a great start. Looking forward to the next one! ^.^

    1. Thanks Ms. FAF!
      We’re already starting to cut back on food expenses but once we start meal planning each week, I’m positive our numbers will be much better. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it.
      Darren

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