Still low cost?

Four months almost to the day that I lost my last job I’ll be starting a new job, so the immediate need for reducing my food costs will go away. Here’s a bit of a retrospective on the experience:

  • I set the goal of spending $150 per month but the lowest I managed was $259 and my average was $300. Given that my average monthly grocery spending in 2013 was $700 plus $100 at restaurants, this was still a significant reduction. (My only spending at restaurants was up to 3 inexpensive coffees per month, which I included in grocery spending.)
  • I didn’t bother trying to separate out the food I was buying for myself and the food that I was buying for the dogs, which inflated my food budget a bit.
  • I cooked for friends fairly regularly during my time off. (I do in general, actually.) The cost was a good trade-off for me since I’d normally do more of my socializing at restaurants, which would be much more expensive. There was also a certain amount of bartering baked goods for rides, which again is a good trade-off for me.

Things I liked:

  • Eating down my pantry. I live in such a convenient spot for groceries, there’s really no reason for me to keep as much food around the house as I’m used to. It’s much easier to have a small pantry and buy things as I need them. (Ditto personal care items and cleaners.)
  • Carrying cash to limit my tendency to buy more than I need to hit either actual minimums to use plastic or the minimums that exist in my head when the store doesn’t enforce a minimum.
  • Cooking for friends more often and eating out less often.
  • Schmaltz!
  • Beef heart. I didn’t try this until last week, but I love it and will continue to buy and cook it. (I just tried pork heart today and it’s wonderful as well.)
  • Feeding the dogs mostly homemade food. I’m not sure where I’ll end up on this because it was time consuming – for example, I might cook them a slightly more expensive mixture of meats that don’t require as much time to prepare as fish trimmings or chicken carcasses. (The dogs did occasionally get an all dog food meal. They still eat it, but unless I pour broth on it, one of my dogs is more interested in playing than in eating.)
  • Keeping bar soap instead of liquid soap in the bathroom and kitchen for hand washing. (It’s not food, but since I often buy it at the grocery store, it was lumped in with my food budget.)
  • Using bar soap instead of body wash in the shower.
  • Reading flyers and shopping at some less expensive grocery stores. I’m not going to continue to read as many fliers as I was, but Food Basics, Bulk Barn, and FreshCo flyers all helped me to save some money, so I’ll keep an eye on them. (I prefer not to get paper flyers, so I just read them online.) Saving my bulk food purchases for when Bulk Barn has a coupon is something I’ll continue, too.
  • Splitting 3 packs of garlic with a friend to avoid having some of the garlic sprout or dry out.
  • Grinding my own almond flour.

Things I didn’t like:

  • Scented dish soap. I’ve been using Nature Clean dish soap for years but I bought some less expensive dish soap on sale to save a bit of money. (It’s very strange to me that major brands don’t make an unscented version.) I bought some Nature Clean (on sale, naturally) pretty much as soon as I got a job.
  • Limiting the heavy cream and coffee that I buy. I’ll be happy to have them back as a regular grocery item.
  • Eating only cheap cheese. (I only bought 500 g blocks of mozzarella and cheddar on sale while I wasn’t working. The No Name mozzarella and cheddar were particularly bad. After I finish the blocks I have, I’m going to pick up some parmesan and some havarti. Yum!)
  • Not having olive oil in the house. I only ran out a few weeks ago, but I chose not to replace it  at the time and I’ll be glad to have it back.
  • California and Florida strawberries. They’re just bland. (Although now it’s free berry time – there are a lot of mulberry trees in my neighborhood, and most people just let the birds eat them.) We’re going berry picking in the morning.
  • Avoiding buying avocados.

I’d intended to start making homemade mayo, but even though I use mayo regularly, I’m still nowhere near out. (See: I keep too much food in my pantry.)

I expect that my spending will end up somewhere between where it has been for the past four months and where it was before, which I’m OK with. I’m going to set $400 as a goal and see how that goes.

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