Out of Control Grocery Budgets

The good part about the lockdown is that I’ve been cooking a ton. I cook dinners 4-5 times a week, using the leftovers for lunches or dinner the next night, and then we supplement some quick stuff for the other meals – usually because I can’t decide what to make. And I mean, I’m mentally incapable of making a decision. That’s when we turn to the microwave the wife cooks.

The bad part about the lockdown is that I’ve been cooking a ton. At work, I had access to a fully-stocked kitchen and pantry to cook with, and a chef who would cook lunches two times per week, plus a warm breakfast on Mondays. Yes, I know how insane that sounds. But it definitely saved me a ton of money and cooking. Now that I’m working from home for the foreseeable future, I gotta take care of all my meals again. Yes, I know this is a very first world problem.

This has the side effect of much higher grocery bills. Our bills before we went into lockdown were still much higher than we’d like (and more than two people should spend, especially given our entertainment spending. We each trade off who does the shopping (and paying), and we each budget $300 a month. That’s $150 per week in groceries, which seems high to me. Since lockdown, I’ve destroyed that budget….

BudgetedActual% Off
March$300$682.49+127%
April$300$432.90+44%
May$300$579.39+93%
June$300$365.02+22%

March is clearly the worst, but it’s at least somewhat explainable. When it became clear that we would need to essentially shelter-in-place for the time being, and with no sense of when things would feel safe again, I definitely did some panic buying. Canned goods, stuff to stock the freezer, stuff like that. I definitely over purchased by a ton; I’ve still got stuff in the freezer I haven’t touched! And since we’re not going out to eat, I’ve been cooking better date night dinners. That’s contributed quite a bit here.

It’s also not just what we’re buying, but how. We’ve been relying pretty heavily on Instacart for our shopping trips. The items are usually marked up, there are delivery fees (and alcohol surcharges, since it apparently costs $10 to check an ID on delivery), and since the shopper is taking on the risk we’ve been tipping a good amount. A $100 trip suddenly becomes $150 or so. It adds up throughout the month. At least we’ve been sticking to once a week, but that’s also led to panic if we forget something…we don’t want to place another order for like a couple of things.

I used to love grocery shopping. I’d have a list, but I’d get to pick my own produce and meats and stuff. I’d walk around and get inspired by something I find and create a menu around it. The few times we’ve gone to the actual store, you gotta have a gameplan, you can’t really backtrack, and it’s overall a pretty stressful thing. So, we end up leaning on Instacart and paying a ton.

We really need to get this under control. Our positive case counts have skyrocketed and our reopening plan has been paused, and likely will be rolled back. That means we’re likely looking at a few more months of this, so it’s time to get our grocery spending back to a reasonable level. This month wasn’t too bad, hopefully it’s a harbinger of things to come.

How have you kept your grocery budget in check?

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