That included breakfast, lunch to take to work, and dinner when I got home. I was adamant about cooking at home because $40 for a week could not be beat. I was also deeply in debt, so I pinched pennies and cut corners everywhere to focus on paying off my debt and saving in my 401k (because I got a company match and didn't want to leave that money on the table!).
As I mentioned in my October monthly report, I got so good at managing my grocery budget, I could eyeball the contents of my cart and tell within $5 how much the whole thing would ring up. I planned meals around coupons and what I already had in the apartment. Now, some months I'd be over budget on food, but I did have it down to a science.
Eating out was rare, but when I did, I almost never ordered drinks (including soda) or dessert. I usually split my entree in half and took the remainder to work the next day for lunch.
When I moved to Washington, D.C., most of that went out the window.
First, I had seriously underestimated the cost of groceries. The first few times I went shopping, I thought I had about $40 worth of
stuff in my cart and the clerk would be like, "That'll be $65." For
some peanut butter and bread?! For nearly the first YEAR I was in D.C., I had no clue how much my groceries would ring up.
I also started eating out WAY more. And, because I was quickly approaching debt freedom, I'd order a drink. I'd order dessert.And I usually ate the whole thing right there. No seconds for lunch the next day.
For those of you who keep up with my monthly reports, you see that just about EVERY month I go over budget on food. But, honestly, I don't do a lot of the things I used to do. I don't do coupons anymore. The return on investment (i.e., the investment of time) was not worth the pennies I was saving. I also plan my meals based on stuff that sounds good or that I haven't tried before. And because I work later hours then I used to, sometimes I just grab something on the way home. I don't feel like cooking when I walk in my front door.
You'd think that this is the sole reason my food budget is so crazy. But no, actually, some months I do way better when I don't go grocery shopping much and just eat out. It depends on where I eat though -- a $60 meal out and a $15 meal out make a difference. Since I eat at swankier places than I used to, sometimes it's hard to eat just half the meal -- the prices are higher and the portions are smaller (but the food is so much better).
So, here is the question: am I wasting time and money trying to cook at home? Should I just let someone else do the cooking?
Well, I still have no idea. I think I need a deeper analysis on just what sucks up my money without leaving my fridge full by the end of the week. Even though I keep track of every receipt, I think I'm not clear on where my food money goes.
Any suggestions from yall out there? What could I do to get a picture of where this money is going? Any suggestions for getting back control of this part of my budget?