The official Summertime Pantry Challenge at Good Cheap Eats ended two weeks ago, but we've been having our own sort of modified pantry challenge for the entire month of July. We're trying to switch to once a month shopping... and we're trying to bring our average monthly budget down for the year.
Really, we're going to have to cut our grocery spending until December if we want our average to be decent. The first six months of the year had a tendency to be a little spendthrift. And June? When we were trying to figure out how much to buy to get us through a month and stocking the pantry?
Don't even ask me about June.
Part of the problem is how to account for bulk purchases -- and how to keep them in line with the budget. I really struggle with this because I buy in bulk a lot. I know that we will eat the food I buy in bulk and that it is cheaper to buy in bulk, but the hefty price tag of many bulk purchases can blow the budget much faster than a simple impulse buy of ice cream and cookies.
|My homemade GF birthday cherry pie was better than store-bought cookies anyway.|
That is essentially what happened this month. Andy does the grocery shopping and tends to be an impulse shopper. He tends not to check prices or labels So in addition to what was on my list this month he also bought Honey Stinger Waffles, beer, ice cream, and a coconut milk creamer that contains sugar and titanium dioxide. He also bought an extra package of xanthan gum because he didn't notice how much they cost ($13.99 a bag) and since he doesn't cook, he didn't know that xanthan gum doesn't run out too fast. So all that added up.
|Grilled GF Zucchini Bread with maple syrup for breakfast... a good use for xanthan gum.|
But what really killed the budget were two things I did. One was, I forgot to adjust the Amazon Subscribe and Save account for the fact that we have enough sunbutter to survive a zombie apocalypse and I didn't really want or need white rice flour or sweet rice flour. Total of mistake = about $45. Then I was offered the opportunity to buy a case of steaks cheap, so I did... even though they weren't local or grass-fed, only hormone-free "organic". The steaks were cheap and we were running low on beef, but the case still added up to $194.
|Stretching the meat in meatballs with leftover oatmeal seemed to go over well.|
Another problem we had was that I didn't figure the budget number for the month right in the first place. Originally I had set it at $1350 for the month. (Remember we're feeding 10 people -- 1 is a nursing infant but I have to eat extra to fuel those chubby cheeks, and 7 are boys.) As I started looking back over the rest of the year, it occurred to me that the number looked a little high based on the other numbers. So I added everything up again and sure enough, my number was high. The budget for the month should have been $1278.
So how did we do?
Well, not too bad, considering my big mistakes. We came in at $1353.41 for the month. This would have been only $3.41 over the original budget of $1350. But it was $75.41 over what the real number should have been.
(Incidentally, I'm trying to get the year to average out to $1600/month including the 9 month CSA and bulk local meat purchases, which will include probably two sides of beef and a whole hog. This undoubtedly seems high to many of you, but like I said: 7 boys, nursing mama, plus lots of food sensitivities and a desire to eat local, organic, real food. On the other hand, if I can reduce our budget over the course of the next few months, that's what I'm going to do. We have college looming over us in a couple of years.)
Stuff that wasn't included in the regular grocery budget:
Andy's lunches during the week when he ate out
My birthday lunch out
Andy's treats for the kids after swim lessons one night
A few assorted experimental items used to make Redwall recipes
What was included in the grocery budget:
22 pounds of IPM peaches, 15 pounds of IPM cherries, and 20 pounds of local, organic potatoes = $90.90
That case of steaks = $194
GF pasta, sunbutter, white rice flour and sweet rice flour = $109.41
An extra order of 4 bags of tapioca flour because I ran out = $11.98
So now we reset for August with the same budget of $1278. We'll see if I learned any lessons.