Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight

April’s Food Budget Challenge Finale

At the beginning of April, I gave my husband Vin and myself a mighty challenge. Track every food and drink purchase to get a better idea of what we’re spending in an average month. To say I’ve been blindsided by the results is an understatement. For two people who don’t eat large portions, dine out rarely and hardly drink alcohol, we collectively spend a lot of money on food and drink. In April, that grand total was a shuddering $1,041.57.

 trade fair grocery

Here’s how that broke down:

Groceries: $542.78

Meals Out: $318.87

Drinks (all non-alcoholic): $124.12

My Total Spending: $566.32

Vin’s Total Spending: $475.85

Grand Total: $1,041.57

(Sidenote: I didn’t tally all purchases in this breakdown). 


So what have I learned from this?

* Well, we live in an expensive area, first of all. This is obviously not news to me, but when I took photographs of all the food I purchased at the grocery for $40, $50, and $60 it just didn’t really look like that much food. Bummer.

* There are some things we’re willing to spend money on, simply because they make our lives better. I’m never going to stop buying organic chicken, milk or eggs to save money. That was a conscious switch I made years ago, and it’s staying put for a multitude of reasons. We’re never going to stop going out to dinner on Saturday nights or having brunch with friends on Sunday. Life’s too short.

* Some battles aren’t worth fighting. When I began to see $3+ hot chocolates from Dunkin’ Donuts pop up on Vin’s side of the spreadsheet nearly every single workday, it admittedly seemed like an easy cut to make. I make coffee at home, and I was thinking maybe he could make hot chocolate at his work with an electric kettle he has there. But Vin is a hard-working man who leaves his office very rarely throughout the day, and grabbing a hot chocolate down the street at Dunkin’ is often his only break. I get it.

* I need to look at grocery shopping as a weekly whole, rather than a series of individual meals. Meaning, because I love to cook and find a lot of joy in it, I often over-complicate things and feel like every dinner has to be some big ordeal. This leads to multiple trips to the grocery store for various ingredients, when I should be buying stuff that can be used multiple times weekly for a variety of meals. Also, it wouldn’t kill us to have just a simple meal comprised of 3-4 ingredients from time to time.

* If I prepare lunches for us daily, our overall spending will go down quite a bit. Both of our spending during the day is proportionally much higher on days when I don’t pack us lunches. This is a no-brainer which unfortunately requires more effort on my part, cause Vin sure ain’t waking up early to make turkey sandwiches.

 salad lunch

Vin and I have had the same method for divvying up costs for the five years we’ve lived together. I pay for all groceries; he pays for all meals out. We also have very concrete ways of splitting up our other monthly bills. However, this is the first time Vin and I have ever tracked our budgets together as a financial team, and it’s opened up a floodgate of conversations about money, savings and our financial future. All good  things. We’re now talking about other ways to bring in extra income, and investments we might consider making. Not all aspects of married or coupled life are terribly romantic though, are they? Not sure if I can convince him to keep tracking purchases for May, but it makes sense to me to see if we’re able to get our spending down.


I tip my hat to anyone who managed to continue with this challenge through the whole month. Did anyone else follow through? What lessons did you learn about your spending?

Jenn P.

30-something psychotherapist. Loves cooking, hosting parties, exploring new places. Texan by birth. New Yorker by choice. Likes to tell little stories. Pull up a chair; I'll tell you one.

  • jackiefo
    We need to do this. But I’m scared. Because we love our wine and beer. Seriously, you should just pat yourselves on the back and say hey – at least we don’t imbibe! You’re saving money right there! I like this challenge though…
    • Jenn P.
      Thanks for the feeback Jackie! What we lack in beer/wine spending, we make up for with impromptu trips to the grocery and lots of hot beverages during the workday! Good luck if you do start tracking– it’s an eye-opening experience. We’re going to keep doing it.
  • Mitch
    I would like to do this for all purchases. Not just food.
    But if you run the numbers it gets interesting. For example:
    If a household/person earns $5,ooo per month after taxes (this would be a household that earns approximately $75-80k/year in salary pre-tax), then how much of your money is going where?
    If you spend, $1,500 on food/drink, $2,500 on rent and bills, that leaves $1,000 for the others (clothes, entertainment, etc). Obviously, if you have more income, you have more potential savings and less if you earn less. It’s an interesting project to entail, but you need a larger sample size than just one month. Maybe I’ll try this someday, but not until after the summer. Until then I look forward to hemorrhaging money like I’ve been doing for the past 15 years.
    • Jenn P.
      Definitely agree that it takes more than a month to see what average spending is really like. We are going to keep tracking our spending on food together. I doubt I can get Vin on board to document everything he spends overall, but I will probably try to do this on my own. It’s extra important for me to be very mindful about where my money goes because I do not make the same amount each pay period; it all depends on how many clients I see per week.
  • BlairSays
    Even if the results shock you at first, knowing where your money is going and how you are spending it is an amazing accomplishment. I totally agree that packing lunches is a huge money saver…now the trick is packing them at night (I never seemed to be able to do that). In our household and I am budgeter meaning I keep track of all our expenses throughout the month. My husband is great with money but its also a source of stress for him so it’s better if I keep track. This involves writing down everything we spend. It really isn’t that time consuming and to be honest I find it creates a lot more freedom when I know what we can afford rather than guessing.