The Average Grocery Cost Debacle

Before I begin this post, can we talk about how much I love the hats my grandma makes me?  She just sent me this peach beanie in the mail - and it may edge out the competition as my favorite.  It's perfect for a sunny day that's too warm for jackets but too cool in the shade to walk around with a naked head.  My co-workers and I are offering a knitting/gossip circle group to the girls in our after-school program this semester, so maybe I can sit in and learn how to knit too. 

Hat: my Gramadear!
T-shirt: Delias
Undershirt: J. Crew
Jeans: Sevens from Buffalo Exchange
Shoes: sequined Chuck look-alikes by Gotta Flirt

Ok, back to my promised topic, food:

I know it's not proper etiquette to talk about money, but Lennon and I are having a disagreement, and I want to air it out in public and open up the debate.  The topic is average weekly grocery expenditure.

Last week, I spent about $80 total on groceries.  With this money, I made/acquired:

  • Veggie chicken pot pie
  • Veggie chicken tetrazzini
  • Polenta with Italian eggs
  • Tamale Pie
  • Salsa from scratch
  • Bagel, cucumber, cream cheese and tomato sandwiches
  • Red wine
  • Cereal
  • Fruit for snacking
  • Breakfast stuff
  • Staples: milk, yogurt, etc.
Sunday evening, we spent $90 on ingredients and food for the week.  We got ingredients for meals and items that included:

  • Corn and potato chowder
  • Enchiladas Verde
  • Butternut squash soup
  • Veggie chicken pot pie (again)
  • Pesto sauce from scratch
  • Tomato sauce from scratch
  • LOTS of fruit. (we both need to up our intake)
  • Salad fixins
  • Red wine
  • Six pack craft beer
  • Cereal
  • Staples like OJ, milk, cooking spray, olive oil, more yogurt, etc.
We divided up the cost of everything, like we do, and after he paid, he about had a heart attack at the register.  This is from the boy who can feed himself for $20 a week on Ramen, mac n'cheese, and PBR.  In the past we have also been guilty of only cooking one to two times a week, as we tend to over indulge in eating out or unhealthy, quick choices (like the mac n'cheese, I won't touch Ramen).  So this whole cooking-everyday-thing is a recent development of the past few weeks.  (At least for him, as I used to cook with incredible regularity, and am much happier, healthier, and typically richer when I do, as eating out can cost upwards of $20 a meal).  

He argues that the amount of money we have spent on groceries in recent weeks is ridiculous, but for a "family of two," the national average says that we are well below par.    I offer up the following evidence from the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion's average cost of grocery statistics:

For the age bracket of 19-50, with two people in a house, the "thrifty" average cost from November 2009 is about $80 a week, and the "low cost" average is $101.  At $70 and $90 the past two weeks, I'd say we know how to pinch pennies.  Lennon disagrees. 

Is it too un-kosher to ask for opinions on this matter, or worse, ask what y'all's average cost of groceries is?  Do you cook in or eat out?  Prefer making from scratch or from a box?  Clip coupons?  I don't do that like I should, but I tried it once and found myself buying things I wouldn't have otherwise just because I had a coupon. 

Our compromise is that Lennon and I will try and keep the monthly average on or under the $250 mark, which still seems very, very thrifty to me.  If I had my way and the money, I'd be at Whole Foods every week!  But considering our nick name for it: Whole Paycheck, that won't be happening anytime soon.  My co-worker Elizabeth has raved about Central Market and it's price variance in product offerings, so maybe I can sneak over there from the regular HEB occasionally. 

To conclude: I'd love to hear thoughts on the great grocery debate, and/or advice on belt tightening (in both senses, as eating out makes my middle expand).