Operation: Get a Grip on My 2021 Grocery Bill

Alright y’all, it’s time for me to get a grip on our monthly grocery bill. It’s been creeping up steadily since the pandemic started, and at first, I was fine with that.

We’re comfortable and we were happy to pay the extra fees and tips for delivery. However, even now that we’re doing a lot of our shopping in-person again, it’s still much higher than we’d like — and I’m starting to feel a bit like a budget fraud. *gasp*

For example, by the end of September, we had already spent $1,400 more on groceries in 2021 than we had in the whole of 2019…and we still have 3 months to go in the year.

It’d be a bit more understandable if our higher grocery bill was making up for a dramatically reduced takeout budget…but it’s not. We’re currently on track to spend slightly more on dining out/takeout by the end of the year than we did in 2019.

All this to say: I’m ready to take some of my own advice. We need to put a dent in our food costs so we can start putting that extra money to some more important priorities we have at the moment. 

To help cut these grocery and takeout costs, I’ve put in place the following plan.

1. Taking Stock of What We Already Have

We’ve gone through our pantry and freezer and made a list of staples and proteins that we currently have. We’ll plan certain meals each week around these ingredients to avoid having to purchase all the needed ingredients for a meal.

Also, now that we have a list, we’ll avoid accidentally buying duplicates of things we already have (which we’ve done a lot recently). Not only will this help cut down costs, but it will also help us use the dry and frozen foods that have been taking up room and cluttering our freezer and pantry. 

2. Meal planning simpler meals

We already meal plan weekly, but we will be planning simpler meals for the next few months. We both like to cook, and so we’ll often plan meals that can take a decent amount of time to prepare and include more ingredients than average.

However, between work, school, and other various responsibilities, we’ve been finding we have less and less time and energy to spend in the kitchen. This means sometimes that big meal we planned and bought the ingredients for we never end up making. Instead, we opt for something simpler…or order take out.

This leads to more food waste (our compost bin only alleviates some of the guilt) and wasted dollars. We’ll be sticking to faster, simpler (but still delicious) recipes for the next couple of months, especially with all the holiday busyness.

3. Eating less meat

This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while anyways, but I haven’t put much intentional energy behind it. I’ll be trying to plan only one or two meals a week that include meat and relying on more vegetarian meals the rest of the time. This will help reduce our food costs and just help us feel better in general. I’ve already added a bunch of new vegetarian recipes to Plan to Eat*.

4. Reducing our alcohol intake

Since the pandemic started, we’ve gotten into the habit of having a beer or glass of wine pretty much every night with dinner. Like meat, this is something I’ve been wanting to cut back in general. The plan is to limit ourselves to either splitting a six pack or a bottle of wine each week.

5. Stocking up on convenient back-ups

Even though we’ll be planning simpler meals, sometimes you just don’t want to cook or do the dishes at all. To help us avoid ordering takeout on these nights, we’ll make sure to always have a few frozen meals at the ready.

We’ve already given ourselves a head start with this when we stocked up on some of our favorite frozen goodies during a recent trip to Trader Joes. Frozen pizzas from Whole Foods are also another convenience staple in our house, and they were recently 50% off, so we stocked up.

6. Public Accountability

The final piece of my plan is actually writing this article as a bit of public accountability. Lately, as a household we’ve been averaging a bit under $950 a month between groceries and dining out (we do include our cleaning and personal hygiene products in groceries as well, but still!!!).

I’m hoping to halve that and be down to around $500 per month: $400 for groceries and $100 for dining out. I’ll be updating at the start of next month with how we did. Wish us luck!

(BTW — that link to Plan to Eat is an affiliate link. We’ve used it for more than a year now, and it’s seriously changed our lives. More on that later!)

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