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24 July 2009

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Amy F

Very interesting! Dan likes spreadsheets, but not nearly as much as I do, so I get to play with my crazy, detailed spreadsheets for budgeting without those issues. But I can definitely see two engineers butting heads like that.

Does your $160/wk of normal grocery spending include all food, or just grocery stores? I only budget $225/mo for groceries during CSA season, but I have another $300/mo for the CSA (veggies and fruit), the milk farmer, you-pick fruit, and farmers' market bulk veggies.

Rebekka

I'm so with you on the see-how-it-goes non-budgeting. Occasionally I get a budgeting flip though and one of the things I did was to do several accounts, which I suppose is like a really complicated way of doing that envelope system. We have a bill-pay account where we transfer a set amount every month and then let it do its own thing, our "regular" account that we use for most stuff, and our "food account". So we actually have two cards each. The food account is for groceries and household items since, as you mentioned, they are usually purchased at the same place. When I made a budget of where our money usually went I just added the monthly average for food and housekeeping supplies together. (For the record it is 4100 Danish kroner per month = ca. $780, which sounds obscene for two people and no kids compared to you guys but the cost of living here is really hard to compare to the US, and the dollar is weak right now.) Anyway, I really like this system with two cards, although my husband griped at the beginning. If I end up buying some large-ish non-food item at a supermarket while also buying groceries I just transfer the amount from our regular account when I get home (these are debit, not credit cards).

bearing

Rebekka, I like "that envelope system" but it was one of the things I could never convince Mark to do. I suggested multiple accounts some time ago, or at least multiple virtual accounts, and it turned out that it was full of obvious flaws and illogical, unnecessary machinations that I had never noticed. What do you know.

Amy, the $160/ week or so that we have been spending at the grocery store doesn't count the beef and pork we buy from a local farmer (a quarter-beef and a half-hog together will last us well over a year, although eventually we run out of bacon), and it doesn't count dairy orders including whole chickens, milk, eggs, and some (not all) of our cheese.

That also doesn't include most non-food grocery items (paper towels, cough drops and such), because we buy all that stuff quarterly, and usually at Walmart. We also stock the pantry with things like canned fish, brown rice, or granola bars on the WM trip.

It's important to me to have high-quality and humanely raised meat, eggs, and milk, and lots of fresh vegetables and fruit -- that's where I want to pay a premium (and do). I like to save money on garbage bags, ketchup, and coffee filters.

Jamie

First, we agree to pay for absolutely everything we can with credit cards.

The anti-Dave Ramsey plan!

bearing

Heh. If you never carry a balance, there's no reason not to use them.

MrsDarwin

We do all our spending on credit card and pay off each month as well. I will say that we probably spend more using credit cards than we would with a strict cash limit, but as we stay within our means I guess we're not excessive.

Back in the early days of our marriage, when we were truly hard up, we had a very strict weekly groceries budget, and we had no reserves either of cash or food. I was talking with a friend (whose household income was double ours) and mentioned that our grocery budget was $60/wk, firm. The next week she blithely tells me, "Oh, I only have $25 for groceries this week!" Turns out she was planning around eating down their immense food reserves (including frozen milk, ugh), and planned on using that $25 for things like ketchup and chile powder.

bearing

We're fortunate to have a huge pantry with two chest freezers, which lets us buy lots of things in bulk and stock up. It has occurred to me that I might successfully reduce our grocery bill by periodically declaring a "buy nothing week" and consuming only what's in our pantry.

Yes, we did have to buy that stuff at some point, and will restock. But when you do that, and eliminate a trip to the store, you also eliminate all impulse purchases, and you force yourself to plan meals around what you *have* (e.g. frozen collard greens, tuna) rather than what you'd *like to have* (e.g. proscuitto, arugula.)

Amy F

I think disciplined people could do the all-credit-card approach and it does make things easier to track. We've gone nearly all-cash for the past year and it does save us money because I avoid buying extras if I'm limited by the cash I've got. When I tried budgeting with credit cards in the past, I found it difficult because paying was separating by a month from the purchasing, and the delay goofed me up, especially when I got behind downloading accounts and categorizing things. For us, I'm not convinced that the 1-2% back on credit cards is more than the amount we save by using cash. I do use credit cards on big purchases (most recently tuition and a car repair) then pay it off right away to take advantage of the cash back and convenience.

Our direct-from-farmer money also includes our annual 1/4 cow. How much bacon is on a 1/2 hog? We don't really eat pork chops, but my parents do and I bet we could split a hog that way and keep the bacon and ham.

bearing

The answer to how much bacon is on a half hog: not nearly enough.

WikiAnswers says it's 15% of carcass (hanging) weight. I don't remember how much hanging weight our last hog was.

We can order the pig custom cut; I prefer, for instance, to have fewer roasts and more pork "steaks" and sausage. This time around I'm going to see if they can do back bacon, thin sliced, to increase our bacon-to-roast percentage.

We get pork delivered in November and I never have any bacon left for BLTs by the time tomatoes are nice in July. :-( Perhaps if I get more link sausage this year, and bury some bacon in the deep freeze, I will be able to eat locavore BLTs next summer.

Amy F

Are you opposed to getting bacon via the dairy guy while you have other pork still in the freezer? We've really liked the bacon and wieners we've bought from them so far. I think buying pork by the piece makes more sense than a whole/half hog, although we get whole chickens and 1/4 beef. Actually, I need to go fill out our beef order form -- thanks for the reminder.

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