It’s an area of your budget that’s easy to overlook: the creeping costs of your monthly grocery bill. Maybe you’re accidentally buying duplicate cans of beans. Or consistently tossing (i.e., wasting) the same bag of wilted lettuce from your fridge before finishing it. By taking just seven minutes to assess what you’re really spending on food each week, you’ll not only gain a better understanding of your household’s grocery needs but also determine where you can cut costs. (Hello, forever goal.)
Great, so how do I audit my grocery bill? To start, gather your grocery receipts from the past month. Next, tally the members of your household and jot down any special dietary needs (say, a food allergy or sensitivity) that need to be accounted for. An example: In your family of four, one person is a vegetarian. Or one is gluten-free. This information will provide context for the next step,because you can’t properly assess your food budget without first quantifying the number of mouths you’re feeding and understanding the origins for any spending spikes.
Next, categorize your food spending. Is the bulk of your cash going to organic produce? Or are you dropping major bucks on fancy jars of tomato sauce for your penne-loving child? (Yes, we’re looking at you, Rao’s.) Separate the items on your list by food group—meats, produce, snacks, etc.—then total the costs. Note: This isn’t a guilt trip—it’s more about grasping where your money is going every time you visit the store.
The final step. Open your fridge. Check out your pantry. What’s in there that’s consistently gobbled up? And what’s continually going to waste? Maybe you have four cans of chickpeas that you forgot about but could easily sprinkle into your lunch salads over the next three weeks. Or perhaps you shelled out $7 for a stir-fry sauce that you never used and the expiration date is drawing near. Whatever the items, take stock and add them to your list.
Now, the million-dollar question. Based on everything you wrote down, where can you save? In other words, could you pivot to buying store-brand pasta sauce? (Will your 7-year-old notice a difference? Probably not.) Or, if you’re going to spend more on organic meat, what’s another area where you can easily cut back? (Maybe you can mix in more vegetarian options a few times a week to trim costs.)
The point of this exercise is to not only gut check your food spending but also your habits. New Year, new you, right? An audit is not just good for your waistline, it’s also great for your wallet.