Financial Friday #17 – Groceries Per Month

Or a secondary title I considered was…Reasons To Stop Cooking with Cheese

Financial Housekeeping

Feeling great about your finances?  Feeling like you are finally getting things under control?

If the answer is yes, then it is time to calculate your monthly expenditure on groceries.

Not feeling so good anymore, are you.

Where’s the beef?
Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

The Shocking Truth of What We Spend on Groceries

There are two lines items we have failed to put into our spending plan:

  1.  Gas
  2. Groceries

This way I could live in the delusional world that we really didn’t spend that much…probably about $1000 a month for groceries for a family of five was my estimation.  Gas was variable so we just approximate a week by week amount (more on that in another post).

Groceries has always been a bit of a sore subject with me.  I think because I know some super frugal people who can stretch a dollar like no one’s business. They make things from scratch, cook simple meals that their family likes and know how to work the grocery stores.  I admire them immensely and wish I had that skill because saving money is a skill.  It is also a religion that your entire family needs to buy into.  If they don’t, you can preach your faith as much as you want, they’ll just be sabotaging you with the sin of deceit (sneaking things into the cart).

Finally getting fed up of seeing money disappearing faster than it should be and watching our emergency fund go up painfully slowly, I decided it was time to get a better handle on our expenses of gas and groceries.

So, what do we spend on groceries?

$1500 a month.

I preferred avoidance.

A Short Sulk

Whenever I get bad money news, I immediately go into the money sulk.  Granted working on healing my relationship with money, these episodes are getting shorter. This was no exception.  Once my sulk was done, I decided that it was time to figure out how we compared to our fellow Canadians.

The Average Canadian

For a deep question, who is the average Canadian?  I imagine it is a middle-aged woman with a family of five and two dogs with existential questions and a yearning to write a thought-provoking blog post (the woman, not the two dogs).

From my extensive Google research, the average Canadian spends between $200 to $350 per month on groceries not including eating out, cleaning supplies, toiletries, toilet paper, etc.  We spend $1500 on everything including cleaning supplies, toiletries and toilet paper…everything you can buy at Costco and your average grocery store was included.  Our last bill from Costco had potting soil on it.  Yum! This does not include eating out as we really don’t eat out very often.

I started to feel better. 

Forces That Work Against Me

I feel especially better since I have a few complications that challenge our grocery bill:

  1. I have a family with a vast difference in eating tastes.  On one side, I have the vegan, and on the other, I have a self-identified carnivore.  No matter how you slice it when you have different food requirements, it gets more expensive…especially when we’re talking cashew nuts and any kind of meat.
  2. I am feeding 5 adults essentially.  No small children half portions here.  Think of vacuuming the food from your fridge down into a black hole.
  3. Inability for me to cook from scratch for everything and a lack of desire.  I know I could save myself a lot of money making vegan cheese from scratch, but do I want to?
  4. No Trader Joe’s in Canada for those $1 can refried beans.  Nope, luxury beans here in Canada costing $3 to $4…have you ever heard those two words together…luxury beans?
  5. A family-wide peanut butter addiction….not natural healthy peanut butter…full on Squirrel…both crunchy and creamy.  We don’t hoard TP.  We hoard PB.

Damn Evolution

The biggest problem in my view is eating.  If we could just stop that we’d save some money.  Intermittent fasting is started to look more attractive.

Failing that, it helps to know that we’re on the lower end of “normal” and not wasteful.  What a relief.  I will have to come to terms with our expenditure on groceries and am potentially considering a challenge for my family….whatever we save on groceries every month can go towards a new dishwasher.   I think I’ll get some serious consideration, but not enough to let the PB go…,,maybe a downgrade from cashews to almonds.

Peanut Butter – Is there anything more beautiful – unless you’re anaphylactic.
Photo by Corleto Peanut butter on Unsplash

Whew!  This financial independence thing is a real challenge.  Constant examining.  Enough personal growth already. Changing my blog to be all about watching paint dry. I could call it…Accepting Pain.

Look for next week’s post on a few grocery-shopping strategies I employ.  Not that I am one to talk after the above, but I shudder in horror at what we could spend if I didn’t employ little strategy.

This Week’s Financial Plan
To DateGoal
Emergency Fund (Up $174.03)$2523.48$6000
High-Interest Savings
* Monthly car insurance/property tax
Current DebtTotal Paid
Debt (Starting $21,803.49)
* Minimum payment of $95. Interest rate dropped!
Savings Rate (April 2020)7%58.8 years
Groceries For May– Next Week$1500

Financial Friday #16 – Living Versus Working

Stretching out under the covers (as well as you can when you share the bed with two dogs and a husband) waking up to the noise of birds, I stick my tongue out at my alarm.  It doesn’t own me today.  It’s Sunday, there’s a virus out there and I’m not working.

The Back Story

In 2017 in solidarity of my husband’s decision to leave a toxic work environment, I ramped up my hours from a 25-hour work week to a 40-hour work week.  This was a temporary change until we got on our feet again.

As per my husband’s usual, he pounded the pavement and found himself another job within a couple of months.  However, there were always reasons why it didn’t feel right to change my hours.  Financial setbacks, shortage of work, cars breaking down…always reasons why the time wasn’t right to give up income.

Punch buggy blue…green…rust coloured!?
Photo by The Nigmatic on Unsplash

Before Coronavirus

Flash forward to 2020, I was still working my 40-hour work week and not even thinking about it.  Being the one working from home, I was primarily responsible for being the master organizer of meal planning, children, household chores and scheduling.  Being also a mother, this meant I naturally invested myself into the emotional and relational pulse of the household. Often, I found myself short on work time during the week and made up time on the weekend. Lucky for me, I work a job with flexible hours where I commit to a volume of work, but it’s up to me when I get that work done. Seven days a week though does not contribute positively to being a well-rounded individual.

This is the schedule that I have worked for the last three years.  Being self-employed, stat holidays and vacation pay are non-existent, so I would find myself working those days as well with maybe a week or so off a year.  I realize that in the scheme of life a 40-hour work week and juggling home life is the norm for most people, so this is not a complaint.  I just like many of you ran out of energy before I ran out of week…a life lived on autopilot.

Then, COVID hit, and my hours were slashed to half. I was now self-employed with a 20-hour work week.

More Time, Less Money

First, a little worry clouded my horizon.  Then, curiosity drove me to see how this experiment would work and where we could tighten up financially.  I was excited by the challenge.

Then, I remembered.  I remembered what it was like not to have to work on the weekend, to sleep in, to start the day with a book, to watch Netflix, to start projects, to do more than just the bare minimum on the house, to get rid of stuff, to have more time to maintain relationships and to cook from scratch.

And I loved it!!!

Hearing from my work that hours would be picking up this week, my initial feeling was one of loss and sadness, but what was I going to do about it?

A New Normal

Work started up again slowly this week, but with one big change, my future schedule will have a max of 30 hours. I feel so fortunate to be in a job where changing my hours are an option.  This short glimpse of living more slowly was addictive, and I just couldn’t let it go.  I had a discussion with my husband, and we both agreed that while we have goals, time for a living is an important element of our journey.  My husband has also been intentionally decreasing his hours.  This may delay our journey to financial independence, but I am optimistic it will not significantly even if we have to employ geoarbitaage.  In decreasing by 10 hours a week, I am hopeful it will give us more time to further figure out our long-term plan. 

Shortening my week by 10 hours doesn’t seem like a lot, and like finances, I will have to guard against time creep, but to me at this moment, it feels like an absolute luxury.

The gift of time
Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Re-evaluating Priorities

While I am not at all happy that it took a virus to make me stop working so much, I am not sure I would have been able to do this without having my work hours cut so abruptly and without having our financial house in some amount of order. 

I know I’m not the only one saying that I have enjoyed living more slowly during this pandemic. It is my hope that people all over the world consider life today against pre-pandemic life and have the chance to make changes….maybe your kids will be in less activities, maybe you’ll enjoy more family time together with a game night, maybe you’ll continue to support local businesses, get out in your neighborhood more or maybe like me you’ll cut back your working time.  Whatever it is, readjusting our lives in alignment with our values is always a worthy endeavor…just wish it didn’t take a pandemic to do it.

Stay safe, my friends.

This Week’s Financial Plan
To DateGoal
Emergency Fund (Up $19.73)$2349.45$6000
High-Interest Savings
* Monthly car insurance/property tax
Current DebtTotal Paid
Debt (Starting $21,803.49)
* Minimum payment of $95. Interest rate dropped!
Savings Rate (April 2020)7%58.8 years

Slow progress during COVID. Interesting to see how things play out during this next few months.