Food has been my Achille’s heel on my debt-free journey. Certain things have been easy for me to sacrifice, mainly clothes shopping + “going out” to restaurants /bars. But, ‘food shopping’…man that was the bill that was getting me good, until now that is ! What changed? Basically, it was a lot of trial and error.
Per usual, I’d like to back pedal to HOW I got here. It’s more about the journey than the end point, right? In fact, I realized in writing about this, I have a lot to say about food. Hence, I decided to break this post into two. One with my food buying history and Part II with my current food budgeting solution.
And now, for a trip down memory lane…
Back when I was single, circa 2011-2013, I was able to keep my food bills SO low, like $30-60(?) per week low, with the occasional spike or dip. One big meal, like a stew or chili, could feed me for days. I brought cheap, bag lunches to work such as PB & J with a fruit, or yogurt , nuts, & crackers. Looking back towards those days, it was not the most fulfilling part of my life, neither professional nor personal. Yet, damn I could learn a thing or 2 from my former self !
The inception of grad. school in 2013 coincided with the beginning of my courtship. Some may say this was perfect timing, or others absolutely horrible timing. Whatever it was, it happened! And like that, my food bills slowly crept up. Honestly, it probably wasn’t even that slow. I was mainly consumed with the following and not necessarily in this order: 1. not failing out of school, 2. adjusting to my new city, Miami, and 3. being in a new relationship <3.
Thus, my spending, particularly as it relates to food was not a priority. Not only did my weekly food shopping expenses go up, but so did my outside of the house food expenses. I was buying more food to feed a man + making more meals per week to feed said man. During our first few years of dating, he always paid for our meals/drinks/treats outside of the house (90%) and I picked up more of the grocery costs (70%). By the way, these percentages are total educated guesses ! I was also going to Starbucks on the reg and buying salad lunches as “needed” ($5-8). I did occasionally bring my lunc (it came and went in spurts), but if I haven’t been clear enough already, food budget was NOT my priority !
To add some more fuel to the spending fire, my weekly shopping trips were haphazard. Nothing for dinner? No problem ! I would stop by one of my neighborhood’s 2 pricey grocery stores and drop anywhere from $20-30 on a ‘few’ items. Sure, I would make lists every week, but they were so disorganized and not always well thought out. Meanwhile, my partner was eating out for lunch EVERY day…yup every day. He doesn’t do this anymore, by the way.
Finally, add in dining out for coffee and/or dinner at Least 1 X per week. We lived in a fun city, we were young, we were tired, and the WORST — We deserved it. The excuses and the $$ were flowing…
Unfortunately, I can’t access my credit card statements from back in those days. Am I not trying hard enough? Not sure, don’t care! I know it was bad and I sure learned from it!
Now, to present-“ish” day. 2017 was my first full year in Tampa. The area I reside in currently is nothing like my former Miami neighborhood. We live much further from the majority of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops aside from those located in our little suburb. Unknowingly, we moved to the “baby raising” part of town without having any babies of our own, as of yet. We immediately slowed down on our eating out expenses. To be candid, it was forced more than an active decision.
Food shopping expenses, however, did not slow down. For example, in Winter 2017 I enrolled in Hello Fresh for approximately 4-5 weeks. Bye, $300! Additionally, my haphazard shopping trips although decreasing in frequency, still prevailed. My partner would comment at times, “you are spending too much. Or, we don’t use all that we buy.” Mostly, I would bark back too stubborn and proud to listen.
I was still filled with excuses, and they sounded something like this: We need to eat healthy, We are ‘saving’ more than going out to eat, and the very familiar– We deserve it. Every time I left the register at the check out line, I would get a pang in my stomach. How in the world did I spend so much?
Here are some food expense numbers, directly from my Mint app:
-October 2017: $815
-November 2017: $455
-January (up through January 18th): $236
Seriously, what the hell was October? Looking back at the receipts it was a few crazy high expensive weekly trips, with some of those ‘rando’ trips for a few items spurted in. This was also one of our trickiest months as a household–Post Hurricane-Irma, Maria, Partner working at a commission based job). I was doing our household a HUGE disservice by not having my food budget/spending together !
Nevertheless, I had my “wake up call” in realizing that I was severely hindering my debt-pay off through spending so much on freaking Food! In the next post, I’ll outline what I *think* has been our “Magic Bullet” in reducing food expenses. Stay tuned …