Sep 2017 Food Expense Report – $1,106.2

After publishing our August food expense report ($844.26), I got a lot of feedback from you all about how to cut our grocery bills (Thank you!).

I thought Mr. FAF and I would learn some lessons from August.

But as the story goes, our food expenses for September have officially crossed the $1,000 mark.

I usually start tallying our food expenses after the second week of each month.

I’m afraid that I might forget what we bought or will find it almost impossible to document all the details for the food expense report.

After seeing the amount reaching roughly $450 after the second week in September, I constantly reminded Mr. FAF about our increasing food expenses.

When I was by myself, my food expenses hovered around $100. But now that we have three adults (Mr. FAF, grandma FAF, and me) and a 2.5 year-old (Baby FAF) in the family, our food budget has increased tenfold.

If you missed my previous food expense reports, you can check them out below:

August 2017 Food Expense Report – $844.26

July 2017 Food Expense Report – $511.93

June 2017 Food Expense Report – $467.21

May 2017 Food Expense Report – $777.26

April 2017 Food Expense Report – $80.39

March 2017 Food Expense Report – $87.52

September 2017 Food Expenses: $1,106.2

WEEK 1 (Sep 1-10) – $348.94 

GROCERIES – $249.14  

Great Wall – $120

Last time I mentioned that we would no longer buy groceries from Great Wall. However, we were on our way to buy my new Samsung laptop, so we dropped by the store to save gas and time.

Celery, onions, bok choy, ginger, jalapeno, cilantro, seaweed, sweet potatoes, cabbage, bell pepper, taro, napa cabbage, egg noodles, dried shrimp noodles, tofu, spiced tofu, eggplant, and tomatoes

Chestnuts, bananas, squash, smoked pork, leeks, cherries, mandarins, noodles, edamame, garlic, and seaweed

Ground pork, pork stomach, pork ribs, and fish

Costco – $115.18 

Lettuce, bananas, watermelon, mushrooms, eggs, yogurt, oil, and flour

Crabs and pork

We don’t usually buy crabs. Mr. FAF decided to buy some after getting his first paycheck as a way to celebrate. We often buy pork from Costco because my mother-in-law (MIL) and Mr. FAF think it’s fresher than at other grocery stores.

Safeway – $9.95 

The orange juice and corn were on sale at Safeway, so my MIL bought a lot more than we normally would. The corn was juicy and sweet!

Shoppers – $4.01 

We forgot to buy milk the previous weekend. We ran out of milk on Tuesday, so Mr. FAF bought two jugs of whole milk on his way home from work.

WHAT WE ATE AT HOME

Mushrooms stir-fried with napa cabbage, pork stir-fried with mushrooms and napa cabbage, lettuce, shrimp, stir-fried carrots and green peas, corn, pork stir-fried with string beans, shrimp, tofu and seaweed soup

Spicy beef (Chinese takeout), fish, stir-fried bell pepper with chayote, stir-fried eggplant, stir-fried egg and tomato

EATING OUT – $99.8

Dimsum – $36

We planned our summer trips to the beach or a camping site, but it never happened. To celebrate the end of the summer, we went to a dimsum near our house and really enjoyed it.

It was recommended by our Chinese neighbor, who has lived in the area for almost 20 years. They know what’s good, and we were glad we took their advice.

Shanghai soup dumplings, seafood and veggies wrapped in tofu skin, chicken feet, tripe, and pork ribs

Chinese takeout – $24.85

Fried fish and spicy beef

We had a friend over for dinner. Mr. FAF bought some fried fish and spicy beef from the food court.

Great Wall takeout – $10.44

Pork stir-fried with veggies

Mr. FAF bought Chinese takeout on his way home from work. I didn’t really like it since the food was very greasy. Mr. FAF said he would not buy it again.

Bubble tea – $4.51

Mr. FAF and I went to get some bubble tea on a Saturday night. I told Mr. FAF I could try making it for him at home, but he said he likes the ambiance at the bubble tea place. We shared it between the two of us.

Sushi – $20

Mr. FAF went to lunch with his colleague.

Peanuts – $4

Mr. FAF, my MIL, and Baby FAF went to the mall. They came back with a bag of roasted peanuts.

***

WEEK 2 (Sep 11-17) – $245.13

GROCERIES – $144.66

Vietnamese grocery store – $124.66

Watermelon, taro, winter melon, corn, chayote, edamame, cabbage, bell pepper, tofu, spiced tofu, frozen corn, frozen chickpeas, garlic, green onion pancake, and squash

Mandarins, cucumber, Chinese veggies, tomatoes, cilantro, bean sprouts, cabbage, ginger, garlic, pickle, longan, and lotus roots

Fish, pork ribs, pork stomach, and ground pork

Costco – $20 

My MIL bought dinner rolls, apples, and walnuts.

WHAT WE ATE AT HOME

Below is what we packed for lunch for Mr. FAF and me to bring to work and for Baby FAF to eat at daycare.

From left to right: lunch for Mr. FAF, me, and Baby FAF

EATING OUT – $100.47

Dimsum – $40

Our whole family went grocery shopping on a Saturday morning. We got hungry after the trip and decided to eat out. We have decided that Mr. FAF and my MIL would go grocery shopping while I cook and watch Baby FAF at home from now on to prevent impulse eating out. The food, however, was delicious.

The beginning of our dim sum feast

Sizhuan restaurant- $46

We went to a Sizhuan restaurant with two friends. The food was super spicy but still delicious. The restaurant provided unlimited dessert (cake, tiramisu, fruit, etc.)

  

Appetizers (mushrooms and cucumber salad) and dessert

The main dish: clear noodles, fish, shrimp, and veggies. We all shared this one dish. I heard somewhere that this dish is also called dry hotpot. 

 

Meat skewers and noodles

Great Wall takeout – $14.47

 

Mr. FAF came home from work one day and bought roasted duck. 

***

WEEK 3 (Sep 18-24) – $271.88 

GROCERIES – $187.96 

Costco – $124 

Cookies (for grandma FAF), onions, dinner rolls, bananas, pork, oranges, croissant, cheerios (snacks for Baby FAF), and whole milk

Vietnamese store – $58.39

Shrimp, fish, ground pork, edamame, Chinese sausages, radish, corn, and eggplant

Shoppers – $5.57

My MIL bought 4 packs of eggs.

WHAT WE ATE AT HOME

Stir-fried tofu and taro, steamed squash, stir-fried pork with eggplant and bell pepper, onion salad (mixed with salt and sugar), shrimp, and squash and tofu soup

EATING OUT – $83.92 

Spicy duck – $60.19

Mr. FAF bought some spicy duck to eat when he drinks at home. He freezes all of the duck and just takes out one or two pieces at a time.

Shrimp cocktail – $8.5

Mr. FAF bought some cocktail shrimp for Grandma FAF to take to a potluck with her new Chinese friends.

 

Spicy duck and cocktail shrimp

Chicken takeout – $9.98

Mr. FAF got some chicken and pork takeout from the Vietnamese store.

Bubble Thai tea – $5.25

We found a new boba tea place and tried the Thai tea. It was good, but we will try not to get it too often since it’s a bit expensive.

***

WEEK 4 (Sep 25-30)

GROCERIES – $223.61

Vietnamese grocery store – $144.6

Mooncake, cilantro, pickle, seaweed, sweet potatoes, aloe vera juice, salt, peanuts, garlic, black bean paste, chili, broccoli, bean sprouts, napa cabbage, and cabbage

We usually don’t buy aloe vera juice or any other sugary drinks. But we had two friends coming to visit this weekend, so we wanted to buy some juice for all of us. We also gave them the mooncake as a gift.

Ground pork, fish, sweet potatoes, soy sauce, bananas, smoked pork, sesame oil, ginger, cashews, seaweed, and Chinese veggies

Costco – $79.01

Beer, milk, eggs, and apples

Mr. FAF drinks beer at home every once in a while. He doesn’t go to bar or pub to drink, so it keeps his entertainment budget low.

WHAT WE ATE AT HOME

Broccoli stir-fried with mushrooms, pork stir-fried with onions, bean sprouts stir-fried with bell pepper, and braised mackerel

EATING OUT

Chinese takeout – $16.64

Every time we have guests, Mr. FAF would get some Chinese takeout to spice up our dinner. Mr. FAF thinks that our homemade food is fine but not good enough for our guests.

Spicy beef and grilled pork

Conclusion

I was so embarrassed about this exploded food budget that I thought about discontinuing this series. I am a frugal personal finance blogger, but my family’s food expenses have gone through the roof.

However, I have decided to still continue publishing our food expense reports since it helps us keep track of what we eat and how much we spend on feeding ourselves every month.

I will try to work with Mr. FAF to lower our food expenses in October. He and my MIL usually pick out what food to buy since my MIL does most of the cooking.

I usually don’t make promises, so I’ll just say I will have a new update for you in a month. Hopefully, it will be better than this one.

How about you? Did you have an exploded food budget like we did? What are some of the things that you do to keep your food expenses low? 

Related:

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Eating out v. Home-cooked Meals – The Dilemma

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38 thoughts on “Sep 2017 Food Expense Report – $1,106.2”

  • When it comes to food and grocery bills, I gotta admit that I am a huge spender in this area. This is one of the few places in my expenses that I don’t go cheap on (I love food).

    I don’t spend much on anything else so balance things out, I chose the area that I want spend it on.

    I am all for saving money, but there’s got to be a time that you want to spend your money.

    • I think food is one area where we tend to splurge and need the most work in. I like eating good food too, but maybe Mr. FAF and I need to reassess our budget 😀

  • The thing you have to remember is that you are still figuring out what your food budget looks like now. You have had a lot of change in a short time, adding a whole lot of people to the house. So you need to allow some grace to see what you need to allot for food.

    The best way I can say is to meal plan. Or have Mr. FAF or MIL meal plan. They don’t have to get detailed but a general meal list for the week can help you keep from forgetting things.

    We go through this all the time. We have times we are awesome and rock our budget, and times we get a bit wild and enjoy the high life (aka not fast food haha) which increases our budget. It’s okay to enjoy a bit now and then, especially since y’all live so frugally in general.

    • I think meal planning is a great idea! My MIL helps us with the cooking, so it depends on her mood and preferences on a daily basis. But when my MIL leaves for China, Mr. FAF and I will need to plan our meals and maybe use the crockpot more often hehe.

  • Good for you for still reporting your spending. I am working on my first post for my grocery spending for Sept. and I felt the same as you do, do I really want to post it? That is not good:( But I went thru my list on how to save $ and I am going to be more diligent this month. Also breaking it down by category was very helpful so I know what to focus on for now. Is your MIL available anytime soon? The food looks great:)

    • Tracking your grocery spending sounds like a great idea! My MIL is probably gonna stay with us until the end of the year.

    • Haha dimsum is great! It’d take us forever to make all of those dishes. Not really a cheap eat, but it’s delicious! 😉

  • You are making me hungry…

    I have started to gamify my shopping. I will set a general ballpark number, then try to keep my shopping near/under it (mentally adding up the cart total as I shop). It help me to reconsider extras and avoid impulse buys… but you still gotta buy what you need! 🙂

  • Everything looks great. I’m hungry now. Thanks..
    That’s a ton of food in September. Did you get any wastage? Pretty amazing you guys ate all that.
    Maybe you’ve got to just let it go until MIL leaves.
    Keep reporting the food expense. I’m sure it will go down at some point.

    • Haha thanks, Joe! We did waste quite a bit of food, especially the food I packed for Baby FAF to take to daycare. His appetite changes every day, so I just want to pack the same amount in case he gets hungry. Also, sometimes we forget about the food in the fridge, and it just goes bad. We need more work in that area. I think a lot of the food we buy ends up in the freezer and the pantry. We need a freezer & pantry challenge!

  • Thanks for sharing your food budget with all of us. Your current food budget actually looks like mine last year. Food was something I easily spent $1,000 per month on before I started ZDF.

    But then I made a deal. I limited myself to 1 restaurant per week, and only buying groceries once per week as well. If I forgot milk, I’d have to live without it. This forced us to be a bit more creative, and also make comprehensive grocery lists. These 2 decisions helped us save a ton.

    Combine that with my Zero Day Challenge, and I cut our monthly food budget from about $800 to $250 in a few months. Worth every penny!

    • $250 for food a month sounds amazing! It’s almost the same as what I used to spend when I was living by myself hehe. Your ZDC definitely can do wonders to someone’s budget! 😉

  • Your MIL looks like a great cook! Lots of fresh veggies and meat and very little packaged goods and lots of nutrition. There’s 3 adults and one toddler in your household that’s A lot of mouths to feed :). I used to have low food expenses before I got married but they are higher now with my husband. He eats way more than me lol.

    Is your MIL staying with you guys to live?

  • I spend a horrifying amount on food. Like I probably spend almost as much just for myself as you do for your family. So take what I say with a grain of salt (hah!). I think as long as you’re eating healthily, don’t have food wastage, and can afford your current levels of spending that you shouldn’t give yourself too much of a hard time over it. Especially as it seems you’re negotiating between your, your spouse’s, and grandma’s preferences.

  • You can’t possibly have eaten all of that while also eating out all the time, can you? 108 eggs plus 4 boxes your MIL bought? 55 heads of garlic? I suspect you are wasting a lot of food. Maybe challenge yourself to stop buying until you’ve eaten what you already have?

    I do enjoy your blog a lot, keep up the good work!

  • Oh I know the “shame” of the runaway budget. Good of you to resist the urge to hide the report. All change needs some time and it’s quite a change from just yourself to 4 people. I’d give it a few months for you guys to find your rhythm before I got frustrated with the costs.

    Such yummy food btw..

  • Before my dad came to town, our budget was almost 500 for eating out + food at home for just Jared and me. So it’s not that bad if you cross that there’s 4 of you guys! I was embarrassed by our $500/2 people too.

    I’ll make an food report but I think I already see the amount of variety in your food than ours. My dad only buy staple vegetables at a certain price range. Definitely no crab for him.

    I’ll keep better track of our food for October.

    • I’m so excited about your food report! Looking forward to it! Seattle is expensive, so $500 might not be bad at all. That’s about what Mr. FAF and I used to spend before Baby FAF and my MIL came back to DC.

  • It sounds like cutting back on spending for groceries must be a group effort if other people are involved in the buying/cooking process. The only way I was able to reduce spending on groceries was by meal planning at the start of each week and sticking to it, with the help of my spouse. Your food pictures look soo tasty, but there are a ton of different ingredients and dishes on the table, so I could definitely see how that all adds up over time – so at least you’re getting something good out of that spending. I’m sure you’ve already done this, but have you considered looking for store shopper bonuses that reward frequent shoppers (I think HMart and Safeway have programs) or looking at credit cards that offer a % back when you use it at grocery stores? Amex Blue gives you 3-6% back on grocery store purchases, up to a certain amount.

  • Not going to sugar coat it, that is A LOT to spend on food in a month. The good thing is, you know it and you are hoping to improve it. That’s the whole POINT of monitoring your spending, so don’t get too disheartened by it. I’m a new reader so I don’t know much about your spending, but I’m sure you make up for it in other areas!

  • I love all the pictures of the food! The seaweed soup from week one looks SO good. I also love seeing all the family size meat hauls 😛 I think the price seems pretty good considering you’re feeding 4 mouths! I could spend half that just on my own!!

  • Don’t be embarrassed! I appreciate you being so open about your expenses. It seems like your family really values food and cooking and eating well. Maybe this is something that you will always spend more on, but I’m sure you make up for it in other areas.

  • I think $1000 is pretty average in a high cost of living area and especially if you’re cooking multiple dishes per meal. I just checked on personal capital and my restaurant expense ($760) and groceries ($417) and probably $50 in cash of miscellaneous food purchase here and there. So total of $1227 for three adults and 3 children under 7. Now if I included the kids school lunch, it would increase a bit.

    Overall, I don’t think you can decrease your food budget much because it all depends on the person who’s cooking your meals. Whatever grandma wants, she gets. The only area I can see you cut it, is for the husband to not randomly buy takeout.

    For dim sum, my family of 6 can easily eat $60-$100 per occasion.

  • We bought corn too at Safeway early last month when it went on sale and Baby with Cents loved it. He ate one cob a day for a whole week.
    We stop by my parents on the weekends and they had the Activia yogurt too in their fridge. All three flavors(peach, blueberry and strawberry) are really good.
    You shouldn’t consider discontinuing your food expense report because keeping track of them makes you be aware of what you can cut back on the following month. It’s also great for us to see how you spend on food and makes us hungry XD

  • Hi there. I really like how you keep track of your expenses. Anyway, if you would like to bring down the costs, perhaps you could gently tell MIL to cut down on the dishes per meal? For us, our dinner is usually after 8pm, so there is no need to eat much. Usually my dad will prepare 1pot meals [fried noodles with vegetables/chicken rice/curry chicken with rice/ stiryfry capsicums with onions and pork slices] and that’s it. All the best!

  • Your food expenses don’t seem to me to be frivolous. You live where food is expensive and you have 3 adults and a baby. I imagine in time you will fine tune it. You have good salaries and a busy life so I think you are doing well all things considered. If you are overbuying some raw produce you will soon discover it, and make changes. Of course, you have to consider everyone’s personal preferences which my increase the cost, too.

  • Everything looks delicious, I’m especially impressed by the fact that y’all can make crabs at home! Like many, my wife and I have the most budget trouble on food; it seems to be an area that’s especially hard to control. Meal planning has helped in terms of pre-making meals in large ziploc bags and then freezing them; then, the day before eating, we thaw in the fridge overnight and dump in the slow cooker in the morning.

    Also, shopping mostly at ALDI and Trader Joe’s have helped (as opposed to Whole Foods and Publix). I hear that LIDL is supposed to be expanding in the US, and is incredibly cheap.

  • Cutting down on food waste has been our biggest budget help. Try cleaning out the fridge once a week so that you can catch things before they go bad. Challenge yourself​ to use up what you have before you buy more.

    I also think DC is a HCOL area. I know you’ve mentioned possibly relocating to CA. While CA is a high cost of living area as well for most everything, food is unusually cheap there. They grow everything in CA and things grow year round, so it just doesn’t cost as much. Our grocery bill was less there than when we moved to NC. Restaurants are cheaper in large cities out there bc there is so much competition. LA is the only place I’ve lived where it’s cheaper to eat out than at home.

  • This is the first time that I’ve seen your blog and now am STARVING because of all of the amazing pictures. As a foodie and a person who refuses to eat bad food I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to cut my food budget without: cutting quality (not going to happen). The main thing that works against you is that you’re in a food city where it’s common to eat out socially. After going through the post a couple of times I had some thoughts…the food that you buy outside of your home is exactly the same as the food you eat at home. And, it looks like what you cook is equal if not better quality. When I eat out I tend to eat DIFFERENT things outside of the home as a special treat (I’m a really good cook, I do not eat fast food or fast casual) so when I eat out it’s a big deal. But, I’m not going to restaurants eating food similar to what I could cook at home. If I can cook it at home then why buy it somewhere else? I also cook different types of foods so that means meals out have to be pretty special. Eat before you grocery shop. Only grocery shop once a week with a meal plan. Take the 1/2 hour before you go to the store and look through your cabinets, etc. Then buy your groceries. Cut the impulse shopping because it will save you money and TIME. Also, try to do one no shopping week so that you can eat through what’s in the house. Yes, you eat a lot of fresh, yummy food but I bet you have really good quality foods frozen in the freezer that you could eat. Finally, everyone has to be in on what you’re trying to do re: saving money via groceries. It’s totally possible. I love this post. I now want to eat all the things. Good luck!

  • I’m partly with the crowd that says let it slide (a bit) until MIL moves out. While she’s there, you can figure out what dishes your family likes to know what to put in the rotation and also maybe eyeball how to scale recipes. If you are ending up w/ a lot of waste, maybe halving recipes that can’t be frozen is the way to go, or pack a lunch for the next day while you serve dinner. And also imagine DC has a high grocery cost.

  • Wow, those takeouts look delicious! I spend about the same on food. There are 2 of use and our budget is $400 per month but we usually go a little bit over so on average it turns out to be about $425 per month

  • Your groceries are crazy healthy! I often end up with some frozen dim sum when I visit an asian market, rather than the greens you’re walking away with. I’m a huge fan of chayote squash too – how do you cook it?

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