Tracking grocery expenses
I put together a little spreadsheet to help me find out (and control) how much we spend at the supermarket. I call it “grocery”, but it includes all household items I buy there: cleaning supplies, paper products, kitty litter, and the like, along with food. I simply tuck the cash-register tape into my pocket and enter those at home when I have time. I realize that there’s probably a wonderful smartphone app for this, but I am still computer-oriented.
Next to each purchase entry I note any items that significantly added to the cost or that struck me as worth noting.
The USDA provides the average spent for food at four budget levels in a series of tables updated monthly: here they are. Example: for a family of two aged 51-70, the cost per month for food in Oct 2013 averages:
Thrifty plan: $362.40
Low-cost plan: $467.70
Moderate-cost plan: $582.90
Liberal plan: $700.10
Since a fair amount of non-food spending is included when using the totals from the supermarket cash-register receipts, I went with the Liberal plan. Our actual amount spent purely for food is less than the liberal plan. (We probably spend close to the Moderate-cost plan.)
I include money spent at the supermarket on things like laundry detergent, paper towels, kitty litter, and aluminum foil in a “non-food” column and subtract from the total to get the food cost. I generally don’t enter into the spreadsheet the cost of restaurant meals. I think of those as “entertainment,” and so it doesn’t get counted. It’s not a problem for us: we eat out rarely, so that cost is not significant in our situation. We just pay for that from our personal spending allowance. You should do what fits your own circumstances.
I’ve found that in practice it’s quite easy to accept the cash register receipts, fold them up, and keep them in my shirt pocket until I’m ready to enter the totals.
Here’s the spreadsheet. Enjoy. After you’ve used it a while, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.