How much of your grocery budget is on non-food items?


Power Conserver
Jan 25, 2011
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I've been reading the other threads about how long one could survive on food stores, how much we spend on food etc., and while doing dishes just now, got to thinking about the portion of the grocery budget that is "not food". So I thought I'd start a thread to discuss ways we might reduce just that portion of the budget.

I guess to start we have to know how much of our grocery bill is actually food and how much is not. Hopefully I'm not the only nerd out there that tracks those expenses. I use Quicken but there are other products out there. Rather than just call a transaction "groceries", I actually break it down when entering it, into sub-categories such as "groceries", "household - paper", "household - cleaning" and "sales tax". I've done it for years this way so am used to it. I realize it might sound time-consuming, just tracking it, but to me it is time well-spent.

I digress…one thing that tracking has done for me is help me reduce expenditure. So I'll get this started with some of the ideas I have come up with to reduce how much I spend on perishables that are not food.

  • Paper towels. I don't buy them. We cut up old clothes and use those as cleaning rags.
  • Toilet paper. I reduced the amount we buy by switching to microfiber cloths for #1. Once the females in the house reduced their usage to the same as the males, our overall use of tp went way down.
  • Sanitary. Switched to a reusable cup and cloth panty lines and not only like it better but cut out a huge monthly expense.
  • Kitchen sponge. Rather than disposable sponges, for the same cost as one packet of 4 disposable sponges, I purchased a pack of 2 that are reusable. One side is a scourer, the other side microfiber and in between is some kind of absorbent, spongy material. When it gets dirty, throw it in the washing machine. I've been using the two now for a year so in that time have not had to purchase new sponges.
  • Cleaning products. I stopped buying any of the commercial cleaning products and now use baking soda and/or vinegar for everything. One or the other seems to work for almost any application and I love not having an under the sink cabinet full of a variety of cleaning products specific to each new task.
  • Aluminum foil. I haven't completely cut this out but I've reduced purchases by reusing each piece several times before it is discarded. Most of the time I use it to cover a casserole and because it was over the food, it never touched it and is still completely clean and reusable.
I'm sure there are others but those are the ones that come to mind immediately. So let's have it: how much of YOUR budget is for non-food items and what have ideas do YOU have for reducing expenses in this area?


Super Self-Sufficient
Feb 6, 2011
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rural Abilene, KS, 67410 USA
I'm also making shampoo bars, general bathroom stuff (tooth powder, pit powder, that kind of stuff). I don't use a bunch of expensive EO or scents, so the soaps are pretty economical. DH still uses purchased deodorant and toothpaste, but he uses the homemade soap and shampoo bar. Oh, he also has liquid soap at his sink - yes, we each have a bathroom--talk about luxury.

I'm also rag person, for sure. DH isn't. So even though I have brightly colored washcloths for reusable napkins in the kitchen (not washed with socks or underwear), he still grabs a paper napkin (or 10 or 12) that is right below them. Drives me nuts, but I finally threw in the towel.

I'm okay with family cloth, DH will use it occasionally. All evidence is hidden before anyone comes over though - the rest of the family would just wig out.

Even though DH won't do everything that I do, I figure it's still half the cost of what it used to be.

I still buy freezer paper (to wrap meat instead of using plastic bags or buying the seal a meal do-hickey) and parchment paper. I have a roll of plastic wrap that's probably two or three years old. I reuse foil, too. A few months ago I bought a set of Pyrex bowls that have resealable lids, love that stuff. I was kind of tap dancing when I sent leftovers home with one of the kids, but I got it all back.


Almost Self-Reliant
Sep 23, 2009
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We don't spend much on non-food items either--cloth for just about anything you can think of and reusable everything possible.

I mainly use 2 home made cleaners: laundry soap (1 bar Sunlight laundry soap grated, 1 cup borax, 1 cup washing soda, 5 gallons hot water in a 5 gallon bucket--lasts us around a year at 1/4 to 1/2 cup per load) and tub/tile cleaner (1 part Sunlight dish soap, 1 part vinegar, 1 part hot water in a spray bottle cleans just about anything with very little cleaner needed).

I use a cheap dollar store "dish brush" to wash dishes along with a piece of net fabric as my dishwashing cloth--both last forever. I have tons of real linen (not cotton) tea towels for drying hand and dishes that need it, most times we just air-dry our dishes.

I pick up real linen towels anytime I see them at thrift stores, people just don't know what they are discarding. It may wrinkle like the dickens, but it lasts forever (WAY stronger than cotton) and it is naturally anti-microbial so you don't need to launder as often as long as it dries in between uses.

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