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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Did I Pay for My House By Saving on Groceries?

I'm sure there are errors in my math and assumptions, but I would bet that my general point is sound (economists: correct me if I'm wrong).

One of my great skills is being a black-belt grocery shopper. (Another, in case you are curious, is analyzing poetry.) I have never spent more than about $200/month for my family of 4. And, no, I don't use coupons (I'm too messy). And even though we eat a lot of beans (because we love them; because they are a superfood; because they are environmentally good--oh, and cheap), we eat lots of luxury items too. So last week, Mr FS and I dined on lamb: we had lamb twice, lamb stir-fry once, and then--oh bliss--Scotch Broth, which Miss Em, back from college, declared her new favorite soup.

Last night, we had Miss Em's former favorite shrimp and corn soup.

I buy in the seemingly bizarre way advocated by the couponing-help site The Grocery Game: buy a bunch when it's on sale. There, you don't have to subscribe to the Game, which costs a little bit of money. Anyway, my cart will have one week 20 coffees; another week 20 peanut butters, whatever. When you are a poverty-stricken beginner at this, you can buy 3 coffees or peanut butters. Anything is better than nothing.

So, according to the USDA, in 2010 a family of four spent--per month--$582 for the thrifty plan, $758 for the next one, then $948, then $1150.

OK, let's ignore inflation and compounding. The fact that we eat well on less than the food stamp allotment (!) over 20 years: around $400 a month (around $5000/year) over 20 years=$100,000! Hey, that's around the principle on my house. Which I paid off early, btw. Now I see how.

Little savings over many years matter a lot. And really add up. That's good news for those of us who can't (or don't want to) find ways to earn more money.


Patience_Crabstick said...

I'm impressed with your ability to eat well on little money. This is something my husband and I argue about. I feel that since food is something we buy constantly, we should make an effort to spend less on it but he seems to think that any attempt to curtail food spending means starvation rations. I did once experiment with shopping and cooking on the USDA's thrifty food plan for two weeks (and blogged about it). It turned out to be not-so thrifty. I'm considering the "$45 emergency menu"from The Hillbilly Housewife now.

Duchesse said...

I can;t believe I'm reading your blog on Christmas (while waiting for son and gf to arrive for dinner.) Standing ovation for your food costs. Also, for your family's eating habits! Not all persons, regardless of age, will eat soup for dinner. (We do- but we've had kids visiting who turned up their little noses.) Many families rely on prepared foods- so expensive, not to mention not as good.

Sons just catching on to crock pot cooking, stockpiling what's on sale, etc. We have a really zany food-buying life, extravagant in some ways (foie gras) and frugal in others (making own food, freezing, etc.)

Oh and your house is so lovely!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post! Food is the one item that seems to eat my budget alive (har). Is your method purely based on stockpiling and shopping sales? I'm decent at wielding a budget, but I have difficulty with this area.

I, too, am one of those who would prefer not to take on more work but would still like to eat well. Oh, and to pay off the mortgage early. :)

Shelley said...

Great house. What security there is in having a home that is paid off! I got my stocking up the pantry advice from the Tightwad Gazette, but the principle is the same. I read here and there about the snowball principle, paying off debts and then putting the amount no longer owed on another large bill. I went into my mortgage with no other debt, so every spare penny I had went to pay it off. The next big challenge, not one I feel I met very well, was what to do with the money that would have gone on the mortgage? Happy holidays, btw - best wishes for 2012 and all that!

feMOMhist said...

totally off topic but I can't find a contact link. I listed you on my "versatile bloggers" post