$138 A Week For Groceries: Wrap-Up By The Numbers

For those of you just joining us, I spent the last month tracking all my grocery expenses and calculating the cost of each and every meal we ate at home. This is the wrap-up post. If you'd like to see all the posts of this series in reverse chron order, click HERE.

At last the final post of this month long grocery budget diary! I'm always so ready to be done with them by the end. I can't imagine tracking every single meal for longer than a month - I would die of the drudgery.

Slow Cooker Korean Style Spicy Soy Sauce Chicken -
The most popular recipe of this blog series.

Some people were under the impression that I either lowered or set my budget for this project. To clarify, this is the budget we always work with. I just made a diary of it for a month.

Here's the wrap-up by the numbers.

See spreadsheet detail HERE.


Protein: $169.79 / 31.44%
Produce: $145.65 / 26.97%
Beverages: $52.97 / 9.81%
Grains/Starches: $48.34 / 8.95%
Dairy: $47.74 / 8.84%
Pantry: $40.90 / 7.57%
Snacks/Indulgences: $24.90 / 4.61%
Misc: $9.79 / 1.81%

$439.46 of that was accounted for in this diary. The roughly $100 difference goes to the $10 spent on toilet paper, roughly $30 worth of non-perishable groceries bought during this month but haven't yet been used, probably about $12 in drinks I forgot to account for, about $15 in dog food not accounted, $4 in chicken livers and green beans that had to be tossed, and the rest (about $30) in snacks and other miscellany I was probably too busy or tired to catch people eating.

Despite how annoying I find it when people unsolicitedly preach their dietary philosophies at me (or anyone else, really), it's important to me that we eat wholesome and well balanced meals in which fresh produce plays a big part. So while meatless meals are not my focus, ensuring that my family get lots of colorful, nutritious plant matter and roughage in our diets is.

Yogurt Brined Fried Chicken -
The 2nd most popular recipe of this series.

Since we pretty much eat almost everything I buy (very little gets thrown away), I'm glad to see that the numbers still reflect that priority.

Fresh, raw protein and produce make up almost 60% of our spending. What that means, for good and for bad, is that we don't really have much pre-prepared or heavily processed food in our diets. Every once in a great while, we crave chips, crackers, cookies, and we eat them in moderate quantities when we do. But honestly, we don't eat them that often and as a result really don't crave them that often.

Another reason we don't crave them that often is that we have varied and flavorful meals created with a well balanced assortment of ingredients that include real fat and actual sugar in reasonable amounts. Trying too hard to cut the culprit ingredients du jour out of our diets can often result in anemic tasting and unsatisfying meals, and if you don't get your satisfaction from your meals, you'll often end up seeking it in much more starch-/sugar-/useless calorie- dense highly processed foods.

Slow Cooker Tomato Pasta Sauce with Italian Snausage -
Number 3.

Most of our Beverage cost is inexpensive beer and wine (better wines and craft beers come from the Entertainment budget). We'd rather have beer or wine with our meals than soda. Just a personal preference.

If it seems our Grains/Starches expenditures are exceptionally low, it's not only because they're generally cheap, but also because we don't consume large portions of them with our meals. Nutritional science has long indicated, and my personal experience has supported, that starches (as a generic term for the types of savory carbs eaten at mealtime that aren't fresh produce) generally provide calories best spent by physical exertion. Dean and I essentially have desk jobs and aren't at a specially athletic juncture in our lives. We don't avoid starches, but most of the time we have small portions of them to enhance our meals and not much more.

Pico de Gallo - Number 4.
To see all my recipes, click HERE.


To see all the meals we've eaten in the past month, click HERE.

Meals Eaten In: 78
Meals Eaten Out: 6

Number of Unique First Run (As In Not Repurposed Leftovers) Meals Cooked: 21
Lowest Cost Per Serving: $0.88
Highest Cost Per Serving: $3.49
Average Cost Per Serving: $1.91

Breakfast Average Cost Per Serving: $0.91
Lunch Average Cost Per Serving: $1.25
Dinner Average Cost Per Serving: $2.68

I didn't track the cost of those 6 meals out, but I'm almost certain they equaled or exceeded the cost of our 78 meals in. Granted it's not an apples to apples comparison. When we dine out, everyone gets to pick their own dish, I don't have to cook, and no one has to clean up. On the other hand, dining out all the time is completely unsustainable for us from both the money and health standpoint, restaurant food isn't always all its cracked up to be, and there's always the gratuity no matter how low the general standard and competence of service everywhere seems to have sunk. (We don't reward shitty attitude from servers, but we definitely don't ding them for the issues over which they have no control that can lend to overall poor service.)

Even at the highest cost per serving of a meal at home, we're looking at at least triple that amount per person out before tax and tips.

For now, I'm happy with our current ratio of meals in to out. The fact that we have an unpredictable toddler makes it easier for me to be ok with not eating out more often, but I'm sure my fellow more experienced cooks will agree that the better our cooking skills, the lower our ROI on dining out dollars seems as well.

Having done this diary 3 times in 3 years now, I can't say that our habits have changed all that much or that I necessarily want to change them all that much.

Sure - in an ideal world, we'd have a better balance of small, medium, and large farms and ranches, and it wouldn't have to be such an effort or political statement to support a wider variety of businesses in general. That's a thing I try to do when I can, but it's not the primary driving factor in my shopping decisions or food philosophy.

To the extent that I represent anything about food, I hope it comes across as a sane, intelligent, adventurous, balanced, healthful, frugal, grateful, dynamic, and enthusiastic approach to cooking and eating. That's what I stand for, and that's what I hope to inspire in others.

I hate to end so abruptly, but I'm out of gas and typing mojo at this point, and I'm afraid if I don't wrap this up now, it won't get done before we head out for San Francisco.

I hope this little blog series has been interesting and/or useful to you. It's always a good exercise for me, even if I end up hating it a little bit by the end.

Thanks for joining me. :)

With love,




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