My husband and I typically spend $200 – $250 on groceries each month so I was shocked to find $525 worth of grocery expenses on our credit card bill. We enjoyed two vacations during this credit card cycle, spending two weeks in North Carolina and five days in Colorado. While we were on vacation I thought we spent our money rather wisely. On both trips we ate almost every meal at home. So how did we spend so much money on food?
When we are at home in Maryland I tend to stock up on items when they’re on sale. Our fridge is almost always stocked with staples like butter, sour cream, cheese, tortillas, pasta, chicken and bread. Of course, while we were on vacation we were at the mercy of the local grocery store. If we needed chicken, and chicken wasn’t on sale, we purchased it anyway. The same can be said for butter, sour cream, bread and anything and everything else that was thrown into the cart. I did review the sales circular and bring coupons along, but the deals simply didn’t match the items I needed. So right off the bat I paid full retail price for most of the items I purchased.
The second problem: I didn’t plan for all of the meals I made. On at least two or three different occasions I found myself in the middle of a meal without all of the ingredients I required. Rather than wasting the day driving back and forth to the local Food Lion, I decided to drive to the gourmet grocer nearby. The prices in that store were at least two to three times higher than Food Lion’s. At the time I convinced myself that we were saving money. After all, eating in is certainly cheaper than going out to eat, but in the long run these little trips added up to quite a bit.
In addition to the high cost of groceries we also spent quite a bit eating out. As I mentioned above we rarely ate out on our trip, but when we did eat out we paid premium prices at resorts and airports. I also found myself eating out in between our vacations. I typically clean out the refrigerator before we travel, so when we arrived home from vacation our fridge was bare. On both occasions I didn’t make it to the grocery store for a day or two after we got home, so although we scrounged for food for dinner, I bought lunch at work for at least two or three days after we got home.
The next time we travel I would definitely like to watch my grocery expenses more closely. If we drive I’d like to bring a bag or two of staple food items with us. This will ensure that we purchase the items on sale, rather than being at the mercy of the local grocery store. Of course, to make this work I will also need to create a menu in advance of our departure. That way I can limit the number of trips I need to make to the grocery store. Not only will it prevent me from buying items at the high-priced gourmet grocery store, but it will also give me extra time at the beach and pool.
Also, the next time we travel by air I will definitely prepare for meals before we leave for the airport. If we carry sandwiches, snacks and fruit we won’t need to pay ridiculously high prices for fast-food.