Stay Connected

Monday, January 13, 2020

My High Fall Grocery Spends Appear to Lead to Low Winter Grocery Spends: The Numbers

I think most of us realize that in the grocery stores, the fall months have more of the basic cooking and baking items featured on sale than the later winter months. And I myself have mentioned that I spend a lot in the fall stocking up on supplies and comparatively less following in the first couple of months of the year. 

I wanted to see the actual numbers (comparing fall and winter spends) in a long-range perspective (not just one or two years). So, here they are. I have listed my spending amounts for late fall and early winter of the past 9 years.

I consider November and December to be my primary stocking up months, while January and February are my "coasting" months, where we use what we bought at a discount or seasonally-low price in the fall.

Nov. 2012 $290   Dec. 2012 $247   Jan. 2013 $137  Feb. 2013 $191
Nov. 2013 $254   Dec. 2013 $162    Jan. 2014 $119  Feb. 2014 $135
Nov. 2014 $297   Dec. 2014 $159    Jan. 2015 $94    Feb. 2015 $201
Nov. 2015 $232   Dec. 2015 $91      Jan. 2016 $118  Feb. 2016 $164 
Nov. 2016 $493   Dec. 2016 $142   Jan. 2017 $129  Feb. 2017 $158
Nov. 2017 $284   Dec. 2017 $330   Jan 2018  $110  Feb. 2018 $183
Nov. 2018 $275   Dec. 2018 $265   Jan 2019  $162  Feb. 2019 $90
Nov. 2019 $157    Dec. 2019 $171    Jan 2020 (current $81, budget -- $106)  Feb 2020 (budget - $105)

In the numbers below, I've combined together November and December, then January and February of specific years, to get an idea of how the higher fall spending leads to lower winter spending.

The amounts spent per month varied quite a bit, and in one or two cases an isolated month bucked the trend and either incurred less or more spending than would have been projected. However, when the fall months are combined and weighed against the combined winter months, the trend is consistent -- I spend more in the fall and less in the winter. In some years, I spent over $300 more in fall than in I spent in winter.

Part of this could be due to buying holiday foods in fall, whereas, I don't do a lot of holiday food shopping in winter. Even so, I don't spend $300 on holiday foods between Thanksgiving and Christmas, ever. My holiday dinners run about $15 to $25 per holiday. In addition, while I bake more during the holidays, I don't believe that I bake $300 worth of goodies each holiday season. My waistline couldn't handle that much baking. Also, we bake a relatively small amount of goodies to be given to others during the holidays. 

The other plausible explanation for the difference in spending between fall and winter is I have found more deals in the fall (and therefore stocked up) than I have in winter.

In the fall, I find a lot of advertised sales on shelf-stable baking ingredients, canned goods, long-keeping refrigerated foods (like cheese and butter), and of course, turkey and ham (both which freeze well). In winter, my primary source of great deals is the clearance rack. Other than that, great deals on basic cooking and baking supplies are few and far between from January through February.

2012 Fall $537 2013 Winter $328
2013 Fall $416 2014 Winter $254
2014 Fall $456 2015 Winter $295
2015 Fall $323 2016 Winter $282
2016 Fall $635 2017 Winter $287
2017 Fall $614 2018 Winter $293
2018 Fall $540 2019 Winter $252*
2019 Fall $328 2020 Winter (budget of $211

What does all of this mean? Well, it's interesting to see this typed out -- just how great of a difference the spending between fall and winter of the same "year" can be. But also, as I mentioned at the beginning of November, knowing this allows me to plan my budgeting for these four months. My grocery budget, then, is dynamic and responsive to available deals. 

This past fall, I "borrowed" $30 each from both January 2020 and February 2020's grocery budget to give me a larger, stocking-up grocery budget for both November and December. January and February of 2020 are "coasting" months, meaning I will buy less and instead rely on all that I bought at seasonally-low prices previously.

There you have it -- a very geeky look at one household's grocery spending in the fall and winter months.

*to note: Our reduced grocery budget, due to my husband's employment situation, did not kick in until March of 2019. So, the fall 2018 and winter 2019 comparison does not include any cutbacks to the budget, which could have skewed this assessment for that year. The fall 2019 and winter 2020 months all contain our budgetary cutbacks, so the comparison should be accurate and again not skewed.


  1. Lili,

    I did a little laugh at the geekiness but it's exactly how I would figure things out. Yes, mine is slightly different but I can easily go back a lot of years and see similarities and changes.

    I think someone is going to come across this notebook (yes, I keep a notebook because hubby doesn't love computers) in fifty years and if interested, begin reading and either have a good laugh or will get a good idea of what life was like "back then". I follow a blogger who has found diaries of people living in the 20s, 30s, and 40s and has actually written them out on her blog. She and her husband try to live like each of these folks did "back then". I think knowing so much about the past is wonderful and I love it.


  2. Okay, I LOVE geeky nerdy numbers posts. :D Thanks for sharing. Interesting to see it all broken down like that. I have not been on the ball recording but am thinking I need to take more of your approach in stocking up in the fall this coming year.

    Biggest of all--it's good you've figured out how best to make the sales and deals work for you and your family's needs.

  3. I found your post backs up my findings from a different part of the country. My January and February grocery purchases are always extremely low as I draw from my stockpile of previous good deals. For example, I have only spent $20 so far this month but my cupboards and freezer are very full.

  4. Wow. That's a lot of math. I'm grateful for people like you who enjoy figuring out things that I really don't like to do and allowing me to benefit from your research!

  5. Hi Alice,
    I've seen photos of old journals that primarily detail expenditures. Someday, someone will find your notebooks and think they're interesting, I believe. I agree -- learning about how people lived in the past (cultural history) is fascinating and so beneficial.
    Have a great day, Alice!

  6. Hi Cat,
    It really helped me to see in numbers that stocking up in the fall, then spending less in winter was the way to go. I think this is a consumer trend that can be implemented for almost all of the U.S., which is nice to know.
    Have a great day, Cat.

  7. Hi Frugal in the USA,
    $20 sounds wonderfully-low. I agree, my cupboards are bursting with food this month, so there is no real reason to buy anything else right now. It's good to know that my own numbers match another area of the country and is a general trend that can help most people in the US.
    Have a great day!

  8. Hi Kris,
    Thankfully there are calculators. I'm glad that my numbers can help someone.
    Enjoy your day, Kris!

  9. Well I am a slacker, I just know I spend more during November and December but don't write it down.

  10. Hi Cheryl,
    Whether you write it down or not, you've noticed the trend for your own spending. And that's what counts!


Thank you for joining the discussion today. Here at creative savv, we strive to maintain a respectful community centered around frugal living. Creative savv would like to continue to be a welcoming and safe place for discussion, and as such reserves the right to remove comments that are inappropriate for the conversation.


Be a voice that helps someone else on their frugal living journey

Are you interested in writing for creative savv?
What's your frugal story?

Do you have a favorite frugal recipe, special insight, DIY project, or tips that could make frugal living more do-able for someone else?

Creative savv is seeking new voices.


share this post