Our Grocery Budget – How It’s Evolved

If you are visiting from the Carnival of Money Stories II hosted at PT Finance, welcome to Out of Debt Again! Thank you Phil for including my post in today’s carnival!

When Mr. A and I were married the first time, I was the “money person” much like Blunt Money discusses in a recent post Why is it hard to stick to a budget? I was in charge of the finances, made the grocery shopping list, and did all the shopping.  Rarely did he do any grocery shopping by himself.

After we divorced, of course I still did the grocery shopping and meal planning.  I used to shop all the stores, buy everything on sale and used coupons.  Then my car’s timing chain broke. That was after I’d decided to get out of debt and just a few months into signing on with a debt consolidation company. I had no credit cards, was on a very tight budget, and no way to fix the car.  My mom helped me buy another car for $1000 with money from my Grandma, but it was a lemon and broke down within three months.

Without a car, shopping at all the stores became an impossibility. For the next three years, I shopped once a month, limiting my shopping to one grocery store. I would shop close to the first of the month, as that is when the welfare check and food stamps arrived.  A friend (she is disabled and was also on government support and food stamps) and I went to the store on the bus, and we shared a cab ride home.  Boy, those cab drivers sure would get upset with us for sharing a ride home. The fare came to $5.00, and we’d give a dollar tip, so we’d pay $3 each. Rarely we’d get a nice one that wouldn’t mind stopping with my friend and her three or four bags, but usually we’d just get all our groceries out at my place (since typically I had more groceries) and then I’d help her carry her groceries to her home.  Once we got such a mean cab driver that I was in tears crying over it, and had to call a friend to give us a ride home since we weren’t about to get into the car with that jerk.

My mom during this time was also helping us out by bringing food boxes every other week.  I really appreciate my mom doing that for us.  I’d usually have saved $20 from the first of the month shopping so I’d ride my bike up to get fresh veggies or salad fixings.  That worked out pretty good. It was actually good training for when we moved out to the rural area and the nearest store was 8 miles away.  That makes it a lot harder to just “run up to the store” for this or that ingredient. It helped us learn how to keep our cupboards stocked, and how to improvise when something was missing.

Fast forward to 2000. Mr. A and I had been divorced for eight years, but we had remained friends.  To make a long story short, we decided that Mr. A would move in. For a couple of reasons: First of all, our boys were getting to an age where they really needed their father’s presence in their lives on a daily basis, and second, I was just plumb sick of being a single parent.  Besides, I’d just been hired at my current job and the wage afforded us the luxury of having one parent stay at home.  I continued to manage the money, and Mr. A and I did the grocery shopping together every Friday, after I made a list.  We were once again able to shop at four or five stores to get all the sale items, and we used coupons.

We moved out to the country, and continued to do the shopping every Friday. But I started to lose control slowly, because Mr. A would be anxious to get going to the store early on Friday morning so we wouldn’t lose the entire day. I wasn’t finding the time to go through all the ads, make the list, add everything up and stick to the list. Slowly I began to relax my grip on how much money was being spent at the grocery store.

About three years ago, I began working a fourth day at my job.  Since I have low energy, I really need to stay home and relax and recuperate on the other days.  Fridays became precious to my being able to rest, so eventually Mr. A started taking over the grocery shopping.  Then we got married, and last year, Mr. A started his own business. We have been busier than ever.  He likes to stop at the store every single day, on his way through town, so he took over doing all the shopping, and I felt like our budget was out of control. I know daily shopping is a huge mistake. Huge, gigantic mistake. The amount of money being spent just totally spiraled out of control.

I have fussed about the amount of money being spent many times, and can remember telling Mr. A we  are spending too much money on groceries and stuff. But apparently there was a disconnect between Mr. A and the plastic. He had no idea how much he was spending, and to my extreme annoyance a couple of months ago he admitted to me that he didn’t know we were even on a budget (which reminds me again of the post over at Blunt Money).

But back to the grocery budget, we decided to start using the cash system again, limiting to buying groceries with cash as a test, to see if we could do it.

The first few weeks have been pretty successful, and Mr. A has had some eye opening experiences, several incidents where he knows in the past, using the plastic, he wouldn’t have noticed being overcharged for items.  So it has been very positive in some aspects.  However, I think we are starting to feel the strain of the budget.

We’ve also noticed that food prices have been rising, which is frustrating.  I think $160 is pretty good, I don’t see us going any lower than that.  Although of course I think if I were the one in charge of the shopping, we would spend less than that. Because I would check the ads, plan meals, make a list and stick to it. I would be perfect, you all know that.  😉   So far Mr. A is still flying by the seat of his pants, trying to stay within the budget with sheer luck.  It’s one of those things, I can make suggestions, but I can’t force him to change.

So that’s where we’ve been, and where we are now.

Have you seen your grocery budget evolve over time?

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9 thoughts on “Our Grocery Budget – How It’s Evolved

  1. Wow, that’s quite a story. I agree with you, stopping by the store randomly tends to throw off our grocery budget. The only thing I do want to mention, is that my husband and I also set aside a day to shop at discount stores, like the 99-cent store. This keeps our groceries at a low price, we then purchase meat, cheese, and milk on sale at the regular grocery store, as well as some fresh veggies. But there’s only two of us, no kids yet, so this makes it a little easier!


  2. Hi Little House, the dollar stores are a great idea – I will mention to Mr. A. The biggest problem is we don’t have one in our area. But when he’s in town he probably passes by one or two in his travels. Thanks for the suggestion!


  3. I think it’s horrible that the cab drivers were mean to you. You were doing the best you could!


    Mrs. Accountability Reply:

    Hi Kacie, thanks for the encouragement. Yes, we were doing the best we could. The cab ride home was only 2 miles, the fare $5 and we tipped one dollar. I don’t know what they expected, but that is a 20% tip. I think they were probably just annoyed at having to take the time to go such a short distance. I was very happy when I got a car again and didn’t have to use them. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!!


  4. I think more families should try this. I honestly don’t notice how much I’m spending when I pull out my plastic at every opportunity. When I have cash, it goes so quickly and I’m forced to do some quick arithmetic to make sure I am spending within my limits.


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