Grocery shopping breakdown

The other day I walked to the grocery store and got stuff for dinner. There is something about cooking with groceries you obtained using your own two feet, rather than a car, I think.

I spent $35.92 on the trip. First, let’s deduct anything that didn’t have to do with dinner.

  • Reusable bag refund (five cents per bag): $0.10
  • Orange juice: $4.19
  • Green bell pepper: $0.50
  • Eggs: $2.59
  • Russet potato:  $1.75

That’s $26.79 I spent on dinner only. With that I made four main dishes. (Super Enchiladas that my wife raved about.) My wife and I ate two those that night. The next morning I made huevos rancheros with leftover ingredients. (She said they were the second best she’s ever had.) Then, the next evening, we had the remaining two entrees for dinner.

That’s a total of six meals for $26.79. Not too bad, I thought, plus we still have some ingredients left over, like salsa, tortillas, sour cream, cream cheese, cilantro, green onions, spinach, and some cheese. That works out to be about $4.47 per meal. (The actual price is somewhat less, due to the leftover ingredients, but that’s a bit harder to quantify.)

I decided to extrapolate that cost per meal a bit and see how it added up. Assuming my wife and I each eat three meals a day, at $4.47 per mail, that would work out to be about $26.82 a day. Or, to put it differently, about $804.60 a month.

Wow! Now that doesn’t sound so good after all. Yikes. That’s way more than our grocery budget even allows.

To me, this emphasizes the importance of what I like to call food efficiency. The idea is to eat what you buy. This takes a surprising amount of effort. It takes planning, organization and follow through.


I’m writing this on Sunday. Saturday morning started off with me throwing out four different kinds of bread that had gone bad. Ugh.

This morning, though, I made huevos rancheros again and they were just as delicious. Even better, that killed off a jar of roasted red peppers and a package of corn tortillas from the shopping trip described above.

So we did stretch a few more meals out of that trip. So the final cost per meal for that trip is better than what I initially calculated, maybe even by a factor of two.

That feels good! Cooking at home instead of spending money to eat out, using up ingredients efficiently before they go bad. And, also important, emptying a few more items out of the fridge.

Overall, however, the fridge has become more cluttered this week. Next week I’m going to be working to get it back under control. In other news, we no longer have a fridge in the garage. (Which was decadent, I know!) So in light of that fact I think we’re doing pretty good.

Anyone out there working on your fridge, too? I’d love to hear how it is going and any ideas you might have.

16 responses

  1. I have to make a list every so often of what needs to be eaten and meal plan around it. Otherwise, there’s 6 sauce bottles and nothing to put them on!


    1. LOL! You know, that’s how things always end up for me, too. I buy a bottle of sauce for a recipe and then never seem to use it again.

      I heard someone say once you can judge someone based on where things are in their fridge. My top shelf usually has a lot of condiments, and I guess that was supposed to be pretty bad. 🙂


  2. A couple of years ago, I did a breakdown of our grocery costs versus our dining-out costs and it was appalling — especially because we were getting too many lunches “out” while at work. We made a concerted effort to take lunches most days and we don’t go out for dinner except on special occasions. Big savings.


    1. Those little daily charges can add up faster than you’d ever believe if you didn’t track them down. It’s amazing. I’d say eliminating that is the first step. Next up is making your home meals more economical by shopping better, but I personally think that’s a lot of work.


      1. A couple years ago, we joined a CSA and get a box of organic fruits and vegetables every two weeks (for the two of us). One interesting aspect of this has been that we now plan our meals to “finish the box” — so we’ve ended up eating more vegetarian dinners.


  3. Back in the day you used buy food for the evening meal THE SAME DAY. Nothing got wasted…you bought what you needed for one meal and, done. Now, who has the time for a leisurely stroll to the butcher, baker, etc.

    While shopping in a gigantic superstore can be fun, it can distract from the food shopping into “crap you don’t need” shopping and that jacks up the final total. Just once, I’d like to get up in the morning, walk to the village, do my shopping then sit and have an espresso. I hear there are places in Europe where you can still do that. When I go next year, I tell you all about it. 🙂


    1. Now that sounds heaven to me. If I didn’t work full time I would shop each day. Plus the fact that we’d have to move. There are no quint specialty shops where we live. I really need to move to a city or at least a hip town. (hmm, notice I said “I really need to move” and not “we” 😉


      1. You know I’ll find you. I always do.


      2. A hip town would be cool! It would be a great place for a woman with your charm, wit and smarts. You’re right though…you couldn’t bring Shouts with you. “Hip” would be too much of a stretch. 🙂


    2. The neighborhood artisan store is great when you can live by it. But even then, I just can’t bring myself to go every single day. When I do go I try to think of ways to make the trip last multiple days.

      Your description sounds a lot like I imagine it might be in Italy. It just might be time to read The Broker by John Grisham again. 🙂


      1. Just how many days, say in a one month span, do you actually set foot in a grocery store Shouts?


      2. We hope to save our pennies and head to Italy next summer. I’ll think of you when lazing in a sunny square sipping my latte and planning the day’s shopping. Pasta, parm, wine, gelato…more pasta. Mmmm. 🙂


  4. And Mrs. Abyss FTW. 🙂


    1. What were we talking about again?


  5. Thanks, Steve. We’ve really wanted to try the CSA box thing, too. Maybe we should get off our duffs and do it.


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