When I first started blogging, I read a post at Faith and Family Live that asked readers to share what they spent on food in a week. The comments were hopping, some with frustrations that they spent so much, some annoyed that the author asked them to compare to others in a faith-based situation, and many simply sharing their food budgets. (photo source)
Amy at Finer Things wrote a response that hit the nail on the head: “What we spend on groceries compared to others is irrelevant.” Her post is called Grocery Stewardship, of course a perfect title, and brings an important and sensible perspective to the sharing of grocery budgets. Although we can learn from what others spend, because of differences in location, family size, eating habits, resources, choices, dietary needs, ETC., it’s not really fair to compare bottom lines.
I am going to share my grocery budget today, just because I’m fascinated by how we’ve changed our habits and choices over the past three years. I hope I can give you some insight into how real food may or may not change your budget, and some hope that you CAN eat well, spend less – without going into debt.
I really do keep track of every penny, practically, and it’s really coming in handy to evaluate how we’ve spent money on food in the last three years.
2008 Total food expenditures: $3818.96
That’s $318/month or about $73/week for a family of two adults and a three-year-old. Our lifestyle at the time included some make-from-scratch foods but also a great deal of sale shopping and couponing. We ate whole grain breads, but I was already making homemade yogurt, for example.
We also had a baby that summer, which meant that people brought us dinner three times/week for about two months (my network here is an amazing blessing), which probably reduced the budget a bit overall.
- bread store: 9 trips, $40.19
- Farmer’s Market: 15 trips, $207 ($14/visit)
- U-pick fruits: $72.85 (plus I’m certain we picked blueberries, but I didn’t mark them as such. Probably $10-20 more.)
- no raw milk, what’s a health foods store?
2009 Total food expenditures: $4178.95
I see I actually added $150 to the food budget from the tax refund, $50 from a credit card rebate, and $60 that I made selling stuff at a friend’s garage sale. That was how important buying good food was becoming for me…
This year comes out to about $350/month or $80/week for a family of two adults, a four-year-old, and an emerging eater from 6-18 months.
We started getting a gallon of raw milk and a dozen eggs each week in February of this year, and every week that went by, I was making new changes, from making more of my own bread to switching to meat from the farm (starting in May). You can see a little about where I buy my meat at my local resources page and more on Country Life bulk orders at today’s other post on making use of local food sources. My bulk oil source is here.
- health food store: 9 trips, $206
- bread store: 9 trips, $22.99
- Farmer’s Market: 20 trips, almost $500 ($25/visit)
- U-pick fruits: $110.10
- about $370 on raw milk and pastured eggs, plus additional eggs in the Farmer’s Market category
- cheese and butter: $35 6.5
- Country Life bulk orders: $35.95
- Quality meat: $215.69
- Oils: $111.50
I’m excited to see that I could shift the budget around, increase my Farmer’s Market attendance by more than double, start buying (some) more expensive meat, AND add an eater with very little difference in the monthly output. Making more and more from scratch certainly helped a lot!
2010 Total food: $5730.25
Yikes! That’s up to $477/month now and $110/week for a family of two adults, a growing five-year-old boy, and a two-year-old girl who is always hungry and loves nuts best of all. On the one hand, I was shocked to see the increase in the monthly total, but on the other hand, I have excuses.
The Farmer’s Market trips often include meat and eggs, not just vegetables, but those prices also stocked my freezer with peppers and my shelves with tomatoes that we’re still eating.
- health food store: 9 trips, $293
- bread store: making my own now
- Farmer’s Market: 27 trips, $734.95 ($27/visit)
- U-pick fruits: $164.10, missing one strawberry picking, +$47.25 in frozen cherries
- raw milk and pastured eggs: $483
- cheese and butter, additional eggs: $179.75
- Country Life: $228.10
- Quality meat: $594.93
- Oils: $262
My excuses for the vast increase include:
I had 2 gallons of coconut oil stocked up plus about 30 pounds of bulk grains available at the end of the year, and we bought 1/16 of a cow in December, much of which we still have remaining (except the ground beef, which I’ve had to buy at least 15 pounds more of since then).
Running a blog:
I’ve been paying more for quality ingredients or weird ingredients so that I can test things for this site. Some of that I can deduct as a business expense, but I still left it in the food budget to be realistic.
A growing family:
I’m sure we eat more, especially snacks like nuts and dried fruit, than in past years. The kids are just getting bigger, and that’s normal.
A changing economy:
One can’t deny that prices have increased, on everything from beans to milk to grains. Some of that can’t be helped.
Relaxing my frugality:
We made the conscious choice as a family to seek more organic foods (but certainly not all!) and buy what we needed rather than worry so much about finances. Job changes enabled us to do that, but not everyone can relax so much. I also kind of slacked on my receipt-entering for the entire year, to the tune of a full basket of receipts greeting me for tax time this spring! My computer time that used to split among many tasks is now taken up by social media…
I also ran out of energy to shop some deals and clip the few remaining coupons I could, so sometimes I’d just grin and bear it when I had to buy something for more than I usually would.
Going grain-free for two months in the fall:
What’s the cost of going grain-free? As you might imagine, more meat, eggs and cheese makes a significant difference. Check out these comparisons:
- 9/15/10 –> 11/15/10 = $1,199.48 (includes apple picking and a Country Life order – still!)
- Compare to 2/15/10 –> 4/15/10, spanning Lent = $937.51
- Compare to 6/16/10 –> 8/15/10, with summer camping, fruit picking, $100 oil order = $984.94
- Jan to March, $700
- April to June, nothing special going on: $890
- Nov/Dec including Christmas and Thanksgiving hospitality, $958
Looks to me like a grain-free lifestyle could potentially add $100/month to the food budget. Has anyone else found this to be true?
Many foodie experts say that the percentage of a family’s budget spent on food in America these days is about 7%, whereas 50 years ago it was more like 20-30% (that’s from memory, sorry no source). Food was more important then, and if you really care about your family’s health, perhaps making it more of a priority in your budget is the way to do that.
There, see, I’ve rationalized it all away and now have successfully prioritized food and health as I should! Voila!
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