COVID19 life Parenting

Day 106: Measurement & Analysis

June 29, 2020

As the years have gone by I have gotten more and more into tracking and analyzing things. In part because I am often thinking about optimizing the use of precious resources (and how do you optimize without knowing the details about where you stand?) but also because . . . I just find it interesting and kind of fun. And maybe at 40 I’m comfortable leaning in to this idiosyncrasy.

I was curious about our grocery bills – lately, they are consistently in the ~$350/week range which means food makes up ~10% of our outgoing expenses. Which seems reasonable, but certainly significant. Yesterday, I realized I had never actually looked at the receipt to figure out exactly what that $ is being spent on.

So, I took the Publix receipt and categorized. Above is the breakdown. I am not sure it’s terribly exciting. But it was interesting (to me)! Dairy was higher than expected — in part because the kids eat a lot of it (organic milk, yogurt, cheese adds up). I thought vegetables/fruits would be higher than 23%; I feel like we go through an insane amount of fruit. Just this week I bought: raspberries (2), blackberries (2), strawberries, blueberries, apricots, apples, mandarin oranges, bananas. And every week no matter how much I buy it is GONE.

“Other Lunch & Dinner Components” is a catchall, but I didn’t know where else to put the olive oil, the oregano, the Annie’s mac ‘n’ cheese, the broth for soup, etc.

Anyway. While this wasn’t earth shattering, I’m glad I looked at it. I love tracking my budget, habits, fitness, books read, and so many other things. I do not particularly love tracking time, though it was tolerable to do for a week last week.

What do you track?

PS: In yesterday’s comments, a couple of you asked about our lunches! You are right, we do not typically eat dinner leftovers for lunch although sometimes there is STILL a meal or so left after eating things 2x and Josh will take it for lunch.

Typical lunch options at our house:

  • sandwiches (PB&J, hummus & cucumbers, grilled cheese, turkey, salmon salad, avocado toast)
  • eggs in some form
  • yogurt / granola / fruit bowl (the kids LOVE this)
  • snack plate (crackers, cheese, veg, fruit, nuts, etc)
  • leftover pizza or some other hidden treasure from the freezer
  • (for me) I usually eat an Amy’s burrito or frozen meal 2x/week or so while at work
  • Josh usually eats hospital cafeteria lunches (free for physicians in our health system or in actuality, I guess bundled into the compensation). I almost never eat there b/c it’s not convenient from my office and I got sick of the food very rapidly.

More food related pix . . .

yesterday’s lunch: salmon salad in mini pitas, brie cheese, berries, leftover salad
cobb salad! kids loved this!!
G’s version


  • Reply Rachel June 29, 2020 at 8:17 am

    I am so impressed!! You guys eat great and the kids eat sooo much better than most
    I remember you used to post that A and C were picky, had that gotten better with age? Is G picky?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 29, 2020 at 9:28 am

      I don’t think A or C were ever very picky! A is more picky (selective) now than when she was a toddler – she won’t eat pasta or shrimp. G is the pickiest of the 3 by far.

      • Reply rachel June 29, 2020 at 10:29 am

        That’s incredible!! it must have just been a the kids did not like it type comment that I misunderstood. That’s awesome!! Do you have any tips for raising good eaters? 🙂

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 29, 2020 at 10:36 am

          Oh there is plenty that they don’t like or refuse … don’t get me wrong. I just would not call them picky overall.

  • Reply Heather June 29, 2020 at 10:33 am

    Thank you for satisfying my lunch curiosity! We do sandwiches similar to yours in addition to leftovers for lunch. Are you doubling your dinner recipes then to get multiple dinners out of them? We often have leftovers for lunch, but usually not enough for all three of us (so one will have sandwich/eggs/etc.) and often supplemented by chips, fruit, etc. Or is my family in a phase where we are eating that much more? (Entirely possible as the adults are both trying for new fitness challenges – I have my first half marathon in Sept – and the boy has been in a continuous growth spurt since March.)

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 29, 2020 at 10:37 am

      Yes we often double dinner recipes!!

  • Reply Jess June 29, 2020 at 11:18 am

    Something I track that you didn’t mention: places I’ve been! I check off states I’ve been to against a full list (30/50, plus DC and Puerto Rico), national parks (I have a scratch-off map in addition to a full list – 14/61), and countries (I color in a blank world map – 20 other than the US). I was hoping to get the countries to catch up to my age (I’m 25) but that’s obviously on hold right now! I think I can do some safe national park road trips during the pandemic though 🙂

    I don’t love time tracking, but I find it useful when I can get myself to do it at work. I also love tracking finances (budgets, general notion of my net worth) but have tried to steer away from thinking about finances so much because I think I have it under control on autopilot! You mention budget tracking pretty often – Obviously you don’t want to post about your net worth, but do you track that as well? I don’t want to retire early, but I love tracking my “coastFI” date/number, aka the point at which I no longer have to worry about adding money to my retirement accounts because they will grow to be enough through compound interest as long as I don’t remove anything before retirement age.

    Also, I really love the beautiful habit tracking that you do, but can’t get myself to stick with it! Might keep working on it.

  • Reply Victoria B. June 29, 2020 at 11:21 am

    Have you considered shopping in bulk at Sams or Costco? We are a family of two adults, but we go through so much produce and dairy and I have found that Sam’s club prices on organic produce and dairy in bulk are a better value than our regular grocery store – Harris Teeter in my case. I can also stretch my grocery runs to every ten days or so by shopping primarily at Sam’s Club vs. needing to go every six to seven days at the HT.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 29, 2020 at 11:23 am

      Honestly I think it’s time to explore that idea but I hate the idea of two trips especially now!!

      • Reply Dominique June 29, 2020 at 11:41 am

        We would often alternate – Costco/Sam’s on week one, regular grocery store on week two, repeat. It takes a little planning -but you figure out very quickly what you need to get from each. And Sam’s/Costco are getting much better at having basically anything you need. And if you are going through huge amounts of fruits/veggies, I highly suggest getting them from Costco/Sams. And they have great prices on pull-ups/diapers.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 29, 2020 at 11:42 am

      Although from reading this it sounds like maybe you can get everything at Costco! Maybe something to try in future …

      • Reply KGC June 29, 2020 at 12:28 pm

        Our grocery store (Wegman’s, usually) budget is less than $50 a week (currently 3 adults and 2 [little] kids living in the house) because we are able to get SO MUCH at Costco. We definitely spend a lot there, but the price per item is lower overall (even if you have to buy large quantities) and we are finding fewer and fewer things that require a regular grocery store run. Costco produce and fruit are excellent where we live. Plus, my husband now gets most of his wardrobe from there for amazing prices (casual clothes only – shorts, tees, socks, etc.). Definitely consider giving it a try!!!

  • Reply Marcia (OrganisingQueen) June 29, 2020 at 11:41 am

    I LOVE this post. I also love tracking things but I didn’t consider it weird 🙂 🙂

    I track books read, when I see my friends, goals – both on a monthly, mid-year and annual basis, money (!) – how much I’m saving against my goal, how my investments are doing and quarterly movement, how much we spend. There are probably more but I’m forgetting them.

    I’m honestly too scared to track the food categories but maybe I should just for fun!

    • Reply Marcia (OrganisingQueen) June 29, 2020 at 3:33 pm

      Okay, I’ve just spent some time tracking just our grocery spend this weekend (two different stores) and it’s shocking. We could easily spend only 3/4 if we were a little more diligent.

  • Reply Connie C June 29, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    I second Sam’s Club. I buy all our meat from there, as well as frozen salmon. Milk is cheaper. Veggies are good, and their salad mix lasts over a week, whereas our regular store mix wilts in less than 5 days.

  • Reply Elizabeth June 29, 2020 at 1:17 pm

    Another plug for Costco! There are certain grocery items we exclusively get there, and others from a regular supermarket. Like another reader, we do Costco every other or even every 3rd week (see: bulk items!) Things that last 3 weeks in bulk include dried goods (pasta, spaghetti sauces, snacks such as popcorn, granola bars and applesauce pouches), their organic milk, butter (I freeze it), bread (I slice & freeze it), tortillas, cheese, and meat (you guessed it: I divvy into meal-sized portions and freeze it!) When I go I get fruit and I supplement with more fresh fruit on grocery runs. Also—and this varies by state—our local Costco sells wine, beer & liquor and if they have the kind of alcohol you enjoy it is definitely the best price. Their in-house brands are pretty good and very inexpensive!

    We definitely make up the membership fee in savings annually—and then some! We see this in our rebate and also use the Costco credit card for additional savings. Costco also has great prices on gas, if you live close enough to one to fill up there regularly. Lastly, they have an exceptional return policy, so you won’t actually get stuck with a mega-pack of something that It turns out your family just doesn’t like. I 100% recommend you give it a try. Happy shopping!

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns June 29, 2020 at 2:11 pm

    I’m also impressed with how well your kids eat. We struggle majorly with a picky toddler. He allegedly eats most things at daycare except fruit. We can not get him to eat any fruits unless they are in puree form and we try not to buy purees anymore unless we are out and about. I keep trying to get him to eat things and he does surprise us sometimes. Like he loves lentil enchiladas. That was a shocker. But things like brats/hotdogs? Or chicken? Or most meat in general unless it’s turkey (like a roasted turkey breast) or shredded or ground? Hard pass from the toddler. Vegetables are challenging, too, so he ends up eating a lot of veggie tots or veggies shaped like a dinosaur. Not idea to get veggies in a processed food form but I have to take what I can get. His daycare provides super health and organic meals and he does eat alot of soups there with veggies in them. So I know he CAN eat them. He just needs a bunch of toddlers to show him it’s ok to eat different foods. Eye roll.

    I actually don’t know what our grocery bill is anymore. It is typically less than $150/week I think. My husband does our grocery shopping and his account isn’t linked to my mint account which is where I track my spending. He goes to Aldi and then another big box grocery store. I can’t convince my husband of the benefits of getting lots of organic produce/meat/etc…. But I figure if HE is going to do the grocery shopping, HE gets to decide what we buy. If it bothered me enough, i’d have to take it over and I”m not willing to do that right now. We are also in the minority in not shopping at Costco but there isn’t one close to us and we are all about convenience. The 2 stores we shop at are within 5 miles of our house.

  • Reply Jenn June 29, 2020 at 2:54 pm

    I too have the tracking bug. I track sooo many things…right now for my kiddo I track feedings/diapers/sleep/pumping. I have weekly goals (like walking every day outside for twenty minutes, 3 workouts a week – although upped to every day for 21 Day Fix right now, reading the Bible every morning, turning my phone to airplane mode for at least four consecutive hours on Sunday, putting on makeup once a week haha), track my weight, plus I keep a one line a day journal! ALSO I just had to pop on here and say I’m donating my breast milk to a local hospital (in Ontario) and the doctor (who I’ve never met) on the requisition form was S. Unger! I got excited before I realized that I read your blog every day and you are definitely not up here hahaha. Anyway, I’d love to track our groceries but I’m scared right now about how much we spend on junk food…!

  • Reply Grateful Kae June 29, 2020 at 4:37 pm

    I track a ridiculous number of things. I have a notebook with habit tracker pages for each month and let’s see… I currently have 26 items on that list!

    It’s just part of my morning routine to check off the list. Some things I don’t do daily, but I like to see how often I do them in the month. Some examples are: how many days I: read at least 10 minutes, get 10,000 steps, exercise for at least 30 minutes, floss, walk outside, run/bike or swim, update my finances/ check in, try a new recipe, wash my face before bed (used to be an issue- now mostly daily!), get outside for at least 10 minutes (again, more of a rollover from winter in WI), get my email inbox cleaned out, do yoga/ stretch, read with my boys, do my Duo Lingo French app, etc.

    I tend to add in other items depending on monthly goals. For example, I’ve had a goal to organize my online photos, so I have been tracking any day that I spend time transferring photos from our old hardrive to Amazon photos (trying to get all of my digital photos to Amazon photos little by little).

    • Reply Coco June 29, 2020 at 6:06 pm

      can you write about what you track Kae? I’m curious! 🙂

  • Reply Ann June 29, 2020 at 4:41 pm

    That Cobb salad looks amazing!

  • Reply Coco June 29, 2020 at 6:08 pm

    I”d love to track too. I also track monthly spending but i’d love to do one for groceries bills as a family of 4 living in Manila and mostly plant based. 🙂 Awesome idea.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 29, 2020 at 8:55 pm

      I would love to read about that!!!

  • Reply Teresa June 30, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    I love the 2017 plate! Is that something you ordered? So cool!

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