how we do it : weekly staples budget

So everyone has their own system, and if I'm like most people then we're all constantly tweaking that system to work with a new budget, new person, new events. In preparation for our budget talk last night, I got down to business on something I'd been wanting to complete for quite some time.

A weekly staples budget.

Exciting, right? Aren't you on the edge of your seat?

See, like I said in this post, I go over budget in groceries almost every week. We have a monthly budget, but I break that down into a weekly budget because I like to shop for and plan meals on a weekly basis. I don't think we're anything near extravagant (even my favorite beer is only $7.99 for a bottled sixer), so I couldn't put my finger on where the money was going.

I thought I had three problems:

  1. I often had to rush through meal planning, so I couldn't always keep the budget in check.
  2. Because of #1, I'd have to run out and grab random items or meal-fixin's at the last minute, which we all know is more expensive than not.
  3. I wasn't sure what we spent on our fixed staples, items we use up every week and that retain a pretty even price.
So here's what I did: First, I checked my Master Grocery List, recorded in Excel. In this list I have tracked ALL my grocery items, even those I've only purchased once before, if I think I'll ever purchase them again. When I have time to properly menu plan this is a phenomenal resource. I can run down the list of what I need and figure out the actual expense at the actual store, no guessing! I even comparison shop between the big chain, Pick'N'Save (really, Roundy's) and the local market, Sendik's. Some items are cheaper in one place than the other, but I haven't noticed a marked change.

Then, I went through our pantry and jotted down our weekly staples like bread, milk, honey. I ran through recent receipts and the Master Grocery List and compiled a separate staples sheet. Like this:

Remember, this doesn't include produce because the prices and items fluctuate with the season. And we buy a lot of fresh produce.

I love it already and it's really opened my eyes to our spending. Let me break it down a bit:
  1. I organized it by the aisles of Sendik's since it's my favorite place to shop.
  2. I added up each section for quick visual reference when I'm in the store.
  3. I added up the totals of all sections so I can see what my expected maximum could be and thus budget for produce, the prices of which fluctuate almost weekly.
  4. I kept totals and X's in light gray so I can see them but write over them when I'm using the list a particular week. So when I plan, I scratch the X next to an item I know I'll buy and then I know to write that new section total in before I hit the store.
  5. I keep an updated on date so I know how reliable these prices can be.
This has already helped me see I spend almost twice as much on weekly staples than I would have imagined. We literally eat everything here at least once a week, and sometimes twice! 

FINALLY, I called the two stores to find out their current meat prices per pound. I was SO impressed with both conversations, particularly with their willingness to walk me through prices, the differences provided in ABF and reserve meat, the different cuts, etc. The Sendik's butcher was even able to tell me about the limitations the store places on their purchases to preserve quality of meat and integrity of farming. Very enlightening and enjoyable. Who knew? I recorded all of this in the Grocery Master (would you like to see it?), and just chose the prices for what I think I'll purchase in the next week.

I'll let you know how it goes in the next two weeks, but thus far I'm encouraged. I like to know what I'm working with. I can be very creative when I know what my boundaries are.

What do you think? Do you do anything like this, too? Or do you think I'm nuts?



  1. you're insane. i wish I had the stamina for this. have you ever thought about offering this as a giveaway? personalize it? maybe if i had something like this i wouldn't be over our budget too.

    1. if people are interested, I could totally do something like that!

  2. hahah!! ^^^

    Oh Jen, trust me, coupons helps us huge and Pick N Save doubles them. I've been paying close to 50% off every time now.

    1. I totally believe you, I just can't seem to find the time to menu plan and coupon. This is why I'm going to interview you here!

  3. You sit down for budget talks And you make spread sheets and you have two kids? I am in awe!

    1. It's called bedtime:) and it explains why I'm soooooo tired today. ha! I wouldn't trade things for the world, but I am looking forward to a full night's sleep one day...

  4. that is incredibly intense. I couldn't even follow all of it. wow. impressive and I am sure enlightening!


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