Grocery Budget Tool and Staying Focused on Fitness

Dual post this time to combine two of my favorite subjects, finances and fitness.

Tips for Saving Money on Groceries

Using excel’s many tools are very helpful if you know how to use them to your advantage. Even though I used Excel a lot in college, I still learn new formulas all the time. Some of you may remember my first grocery post here, which had a picture of my spreadsheet to track purchases. Since that time I have updated the formulas to automatically sum the totals for each of the categories, and I added a drop down menu in the column for categories. I’ve had a couple people ask for my template so I thought I would share for anyone else who wants to assess their monthly grocery shopping list.

Grocery Analysis Template

I challenge you to look at each purchase to see where you might be able to save money on groceries.

As for us, in February, we spent a little more on groceries than in January. I know a good part of it was due to actually buying meat this month. We buy meat on sale and then freeze it in order to help save money. I also noticed we had a lot more small trips to the grocery store this month. If you can plan ahead and minimize your trips to the store you will both save time and money on groceries. Here is the summary by category for February.

Fruits and Veggies: $72.82/21%
Animal Products: $119.31/34%
Grains: $53.79/15%
Fats and Oils: $24.67/7%
Sweetners: $20.72/6%
Miscellaneous: $43.36/12%
*Taxes: $13.67/4%

Total: $348.34

* New Category I thought I should keep track of.

Now on to the second topic of today’s post! Fitness update.

Lately I have been pretty tired because of school and work and a baby and household chores, so I only I managed to work out about twice a week during the month of February.

This post is for the busy moms and dads out there who don’t always find the time to work out. Believe me, you aren’t the only one! As far as I’m concerned any workout you find time to do is better than nothing! Some ideas for quick workouts that I do include: 20 minute circuits, 20 minute runs, indoor biking while watching a show, and push-ups before bed. All of these help with your overall health and well-being even if it is not consistent! Sometimes even just getting a good stretch in can help you relax and release some endorphins.

I’m still working towards getting adjusted on my bike and prepping for RAGBRAI. Official RAGBRAI training starts in April. I’m supposed to be able to ride minimum 80 miles per week starting about mid-April. I’m averaging about 40 right now. But I’ve got the bike and a reading stand set-up in the living room to ride during TV shows or while I’m doing homework. Multi-tasking is definitely my friend.

Well, maybe in the month of March I will have time to give weekly updates of my workouts, but until then, thanks for motivating me!

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Groceries vs. Restaurants – Where’s our money REALLY going?

On my last post about our grocery budget, I simply gave a review of our overall monthly grocery expenses in January. Brandon, from Military Finance Report Blog, pointed out to me that I should also assess the correlation of my dining out expenses to grocery expenses to make sure that I didn’t just shift my spending from one category to the other. Thanks, Brandon, for the suggestion! Here we go 🙂

In our actual monthly budget, I set aside about $450 per month for groceries and $300 for restaurants/dining-out. Between my husband and I, I spend significantly more on restaurants. I attribute this primarily on our different life styles growing up. My family ate out significantly more than his, and it has been quite a compromise/transition for us to be on the same page as far as when we should eat out and when we should have a nice home cooked meal! We are always striving to do better, and we are thankfully mostly on the same page now…But, that’s another story!

In order to better assess my January expenses, I should look at our spending habits from 2013! Over the past year we spent a little higher than my goals for both groceries ($450) and restaurants ($300). I will have to admit I treat my budget categories more as guidelines rather than strict pots of money. We have so far been blessed to be able to do this. We still strive to live below our means every month and to put money in savings, so I don’t worry about it too much.

Here are a few things to consider about the graph:

1. “Groceries” includes household products like cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc for my 2013 numbers so they are slightly skewed compared to January 2014 because I wasn’t tracking groceries manually. I was simply using the Spend Tool on my banks website.
2. We did the Paleo diet in January and October of 2013, which I attribute to the higher grocery expenses those months. We tend to buy more meat on Paleo which adds up.
3. We had family in town in June because of the baby, but we were very blessed that families from our church brought us meals during the month of June and part of July, so we didn’t spend much on groceries or eating out.
4. Months like November and December were high because family visited for the holidays, and we cooked full Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.
5. The only thing I’ll say about the “Restaurant” expenses is that it includes everything from fast food to sit-down restaurants to coffee stops to snacks at the gas station.

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The average from last year is $538 for groceries and $325 for restaurants. This puts our average food expenses at $864. Yikes! That’s quite a bit more than my budgeted $750 per month. But, again, I haven’t been too preoccupied with it because we still spend below our means for the rest of the budget… it’s all a little give and take among the categories. Maybe one of these days I will find the motivation to blog about our budget and how I keep tracking of everything.

One thing I just noticed by looking at this graph is a pretty significant increase starting in July. My only guess for that is I went back to work in August and started going out to eat for lunch again… hmm. Haha. Or the increase is probably due to Sky eating so much food!!! That’s definitely it! Okay, okay. I kid. I kid. He didn’t even start solids until the end of November. But anyway…I’ll have to do more thinking about that July increase. Any thoughts?

Now that I have last year’s expenses mapped out as my starting point, let’s look at the same chart but with January 2014 added on.

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Tada! There is proof that we spent way less in January 2014 than any month in 2013. I think part of it has to do with my blogging. I know you bloggers are holding me accountable so I am more self conscious/think twice about eating out. I also think part of it is us being more intentional about leftovers and eating the food we have in our freezers. I’ll also contribute part of it to the freezing temperatures in Wyoming. Who wants to drive to lunch in sub zero weather?

So what you should learn from my experience so far?

1. Manually track your expenses – it will force you to look at each charge and write it down.
2. Start a journal or blog – this will hopefully hold you accountable to your goals.
3. Don’t stress about a budget – but make sure you do have goals.

Well, I think that’s it for my analysis for the night. I am glad to find that our expenses did not shift from groceries to restaurants as we thought might have happened. Here’s to continuing the trend into February!

Grocery Budget – January Review

For those of you who have been following my grocery review, here is my update for the entire month of January!

You can read my first post here: Our Grocery Budget! Or my mid-month post here, which is also talks about my goals for each of the categories.

Groceries to date, January 1 – 31, 2014:

Fruits and Veggies:                 $82.06/33%
Animal Products:                    $72.11/29%
Grains:                                     $33.66/14%
Fats and Oils:                           $3.49/1%
Sweeteners:                             $0/0%
Miscellaneous:                        $53.70/22%
Total January 1 – 31:              $245.02

I am happily surprised by the $245.02! I really thought we were spending closer to $500 per month on groceries! Granted, I normally count purchases like toilet paper, paper towels, etc in my calculations, so it’s good to know how much is food versus house products.

I know that I am a nerd, but I look forward to analyzing our grocery budget some more over the next few months to find our average spending on groceries as well as what items we normally purchase. I am trying to enjoy pursuit of frugal living so that we might be the best stewards of the money we have been blessed with.

Please share with me if you think this amount is high or low compared to your budget! Also, we love hearing about cheap but quality places to shop at 🙂 Looking forward to discussion!

Grocery Budget – Week of Jan 18th

Good afternoon, everyone,

We have been enjoying a nice 4-day weekend so far.  We ran errands yesterday and today we’re cleaning the house a little.  We went to Target for some baby stuff.  We also dropped by Lowe’s to look at refrigerators and window coverings just to get an idea for what’s out there and average prices.  I’m thinking French Door with freezer on the bottom! 🙂 We had a gift card to my favorite restaurant, B-dubs, also known as  Buffalo Wild Wings so we went there for lunch! Mango Habanero is soooo delicious but it was soooo spicy yesterday. Here’s my hubby at BWWs enjoying some jalapeno wings 🙂

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We still didn’t do too much grocery shopping this week. We have realized that ever since we bought our deep freezer on Craigslist this summer to help with storage of our breastmilk we have been collecting more and more food in the freezers! We’re slowly working through everything, so it will be interesting to see where we are for groceries at the end of the month as well as what they will settle out to over the next few months. Apparently this project is going to take longer than I thought 🙂 Oh well!

You can read my first post here: Our Grocery Budget!

Groceries to date, January 18:

Fruits and Veggies:                 $18.09/21%
Animal Products:                    $36.89/43%
Grains:                                     $7.57/9%
Fats and Oils:                           $0/0%
Sweeteners:                             $0/0%
Miscellaneous:                        $22.49/26%
Total as of January 18:         $85.04

You might be wondering why I’ve decided to brake out the grocery bill into these specific categories? Well as mentioned before, I am reading Your Grocery Budget Toolbox by Anne Simpson. She is able to buy monthly groceries for her entire family for under $300 and still eat healthy. She suggests these percentages of each of the categories more or less:

Fruits and Veggies: 40%
Animal Products (includes dairy): 25%
Grains (& Legumes, Nuts, and Seeds): 10%
Fats and Oils: 15%
Sweeteners: <5%
Miscellaneous (includes cookies supplies): <5%

Obviously we have a way to go to match these percentages.  We still tend to buy a lot of processed foods like chips and crackers, which makes our Miscellaneous/grains categories pretty big.   But before I start thinking about all that we have to identify where we currently are and then go from there! We’re on our way 🙂

Should married couples have joint accounts? Here’s 5 reasons why!

Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:5 “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

When Christians marry, a miracle occurs and “two become one”. This means physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But it also means financially.

Although I agree couples should have joint accounts, we had separate checking accounts for our first few years of marriage. Moving from financial independence to financial interdependence can be difficult for some married couples. Separate checking accounts that you both have access to allow transparency yet a sense of fairness in the beginning of married life. However, I have found that the longer WE are married the more intertwined our budget becomes and the more blurred the lines of “his” and “hers.” Here are 5 reasons that I think married couples should eventually move towards a joint account, especially if they are Christians.

1. Simplicity/Paying the Bills

The first one is pretty obvious. If there is only one account, paying the bill is much simpler. You don’t have to move $400 over here for the car payment and $200 over there for the utilities. Life is simpler when you have a joint account.

2. Budgeting

Speaking of paying bills, a joint account forces couples to budget and prioritize together. It requires coordination and financial unity on tithing, savings, and prioritization of expenses in the marriage. Maintaining a budget is key to financial strength and stability. Budgets allow you to plan for the future and to learn to live below your means. A joint account can encourage both spouses to participate in the budget process.

3. Encourages and Enforces Communication

Communication is key with a joint account. With all this budgeting going on both spouses will need to coordinate when purchasing items. A joint account requires a higher level of communication to ensure both spouses don’t spend those last few dollars at the end of the month.

4. Transparency/trust

A joint account allows complete transparency and shows you have nothing to hide. It also shows you trust your partner with your money to spend it wisely. Tension can be caused between spouses if there is no trust with the joint account. One spouse might think the other over spends or spends on the wrong items. If you have a joint account you must work to trust your spouse to make the right decisions for your family. Otherwise, there are more issues than just money.

5. Strengthen Your Marriage

“What’s Mine Is Yours, Baby!” That is what my husband and I jokingly say to each other when one person eats the other person’s ice cream. This applies not only to sharing a home (and ice cream) but sharing your revenue and debts as well. When you have a joint account you are able to support each other’s overall financial health, which might include helping pay off the other person’s debts. Paying off both debts will help in the future when jointly applying for new cars or a house that you will both sign for.

If you continue to hold onto the idea of “my money” and “your money” it can be difficult to fully commit to the relationship. Getting a joint account can be the next step towards strengthening your marriage.

Reference: “Financial Unity” from Christian Couples

Linked up here.

Our Grocery Budget!

I posted in an earlier blog that we would be accessing our grocery budget based on the book I bought called Your Grocery Budget Tool Box. In the book the author claims she can buy healthy, some-what organic groceries for her family for less than $300 a month! Well, rather skeptically I have set-out to find if it is possible for us to do the same thing without extreme couponing!

Here are the steps I’m going to follow over the next few months:

1. Observe: Where are we currently?

The first thing I had to create when I embarked on this crazy journey was a tool to track our groceries manually. I usually use the Spending Plan tool on my bank website that allows me to categorize charges in my account but most of the time we tend to buy toilet paper, paper towels, etc when we go to the grocery store, and there is no option on my Spending Plan to divide a charge into separate categories. This means the grocery dollars on my Spending Plan on the website are slightly over estimated.

To solve this issue I created a spreadsheet to help me out. Here is my little spreadsheet to help track the expenses. It’s nothing fancy but it gets the job done.

So far we have spent $71.08 on groceries in January as of 7:45 tonight lol. We are trying to eat through a lot of stuff in the freezer so I have a feeling this month will be on the low end of our average, but hey, maybe we spend less money on groceries than I originally thought!

2. Identify: Where are the cheapest prices?

After about 2 months of seeing our average spending I will start tracking where the cheapest prices are for the items we buy. This will require some research and coordination especially since the Mister does most of the grocery shopping.

3. Modify: Organic vs Conventional

After we have minimized our budget as much as possible, we will look into working in more organic foods to the mix. I am new to the whole organic/natural way of eating and need to do more research on it, but I could see buying organic vegetables from the “Dirty Dozen” list and conventional from the “Clean Fifteen” at the least. More to come as I research that topic!

4. Observe: How did our budget change through the process?

The best way to make sure we achieved our objectives is to re-assess our final product! Somewhere in the middle of this process I will see if we’ve made the new budget a habit or if it were all for not.