I spent $469/month on food last year.
Yes, I do keep track that closely.
If you had asked me a few years back whether that was a decent figure, I would have caught my breath a bit. I used to try to stay under $300 a month on food…those days are no longer, for many reasons (all of them good, except the blasted economy and rising food prices!).
This month marks the one-year anniversary of the Eat Well, Spend Less series, and it’s been a lovely ride thus far.
To celebrate, we’re doing what all happy teams do on an anniversary: looking back. All of us have made plenty of changes in our cooking and buying decisions over the past year, so the theme for this month is to share those with you.
I’ve been inspired recently to make sure that the topics and writing here don’t stray too far from one of the four pillars of Kitchen Stewardship: frugality.
This week, I’m going to share my 2011 real food budget with you, talk about changes my family has made in the past year, demonstrate what we really eat day to day, down to the snacks (although I’m not counting how many pieces of dark chocolate I snitch…), and finally, most importantly, break down real food and natural living habits into categories to demonstrate which will save money compared to a conventional diet, which will cost you more, and what’s the most important from each list to make sure you break even right down the middle of your budget.
Today, let’s look back at my real food budget that I share last year:
- $318/month on food for two adults and a 3yo in 2008
- $350/month for two adults, a 4yo, and a new toddler in 2009
- $477/month (yikes!) for that same family in 2010, with a lot more real food and some new choices
To see more of the breakdown, check out the full post from last year.
2011 Real Food Budget
I ran the numbers from this year and was pleasantly surprised to learn that we spent about $469/mo. or $108/week, actually down slightly from last year.
- health food store: 13 trips, $343
- bread store: we hardly do bread at all!
- Farmer’s Market: 22 trips, $560 (produce ONLY)
- U-pick fruits: $260 (includes 2 strawberry picking, 1 blueberry picking plus a few 10 lb boxes at market, 2 apple picking)
- raw milk and pastured eggs: $500 (1 gallon, 1 dozen per week)
- cheese: $207.50 (including raw cheddar purchased by mail with friends and Farmer’s Market cheese, $12 for 3 blocks of 8 oz. – that was one of those “caution to the wind” purchases I mention below! I do buy regular store cheese often (no hormones), because the raw is simply not available all year round.)
- butter, additional eggs or milk, some meat: $264 (includes Cedar Crest butter, eggs purchased at Farmer’s Market, and some meat and milk purchased at market with eggs. I also buy regular store butter most of the time, not in this category, and I bought regular whole milk for yogurt some of the year, not included here. I do not buy conventional eggs, but many eggs are included in the health food store trips in the winter because they are all that’s available.)
- Country Life bulk foods: $321 (3 orders)
- Quality meat: $360 (includes Grassfield’s, anything from Farmer’s Market, plus local butcher…and yes, we eat a lot of beans – The Everything Beans Book!)
- Bulk Oils: $216
- 2 gallons maple syrup: $80
- 2 half bushels tomatoes for canning: $20
- grocery shopping in Florida on spring break: $110
- eating out for sustenance: $72 (maybe more, as opposed to for celebration, which goes in “entertainment” category – our entertainment fees were down about $400 from the year before)
- $2312 left, spent at regular grocery stores like Meijer, Save-a-Lot, Aldi, Family Fare, Horrock’s, etc.
2010 Category breakdown for comparison:
- health food store: 9 trips, $293
- bread store: making my own now
- Farmer’s Market: 27 trips, $734.95 ($27/visit, but includes some meat/eggs)
- 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
We had so many unique circumstances that changed the budget one way or another:
- Lived with in-laws for 5 months
- Should have increased because I was doing my best to cook for an extra two adults
- May have decreased slightly because I had no source for good chicken meat and simply bought grocery store birds and said a prayer
- Should have increased because I couldn’t buy in bulk, although decreased because I was trying to eat from some previous food storage
- Should have increased because I was throwing caution to the wind – it was tricky enough cooking in someone else’s kitchen 8 months pregnant and with a newborn, and we weren’t paying a mortgage, so we decided that whatever I wanted to spend on food, I could. A lot of habits didn’t change, but I bought more pints of fresh raspberries than I might have otherwise.
- May have decreased because my mother-in-law cooked for us for a few weeks after John was born (thanks, Mom, you’re the best!)
- Some food I received as product review samples or bartered for advertising on KS, like soaked granola from JoshEWEa’s Garden and almond flour from Honeyville.
- Some food I purchased from Amazon using Swagbucks – you earn points for searching the web and redeem them for gift cards.
- I got some food through Tropical Traditions referral program – anytime a new customer there buys something after clicking with my special link, I get a $25 e-certificate. Anyone can sign up, not just bloggers, so if you find yourself recommending places to buy food to friends via email, sign up! The only catch is that you can’t use the free shipping codes with the certificates, and free shipping is the only time I used to purchase there. I would buy tomatoes in glass jars, coconut flour, and hand sanitizer there even if I didn’t have certificates, so I just make sure I’m not paying more in shipping than those items would cost anyway. (I don’t make anything from mentioning the referral program, by the way, I just know it’s awesome to get free food on your porch and hoped someone else could tap into that!)
- I wonder how much of last year’s budget was eaten this year, in the form of bulk foods, 1/16 of a cow, and frozen produce and meals?
- Our 2010 budget took a hit when we went grain-free, but we also went grain-free and gluten-free for Lent in 2011, plus we pretty much just didn’t eat bread products except for an occasional grain-free biscuit or something made from a bit of flour that I ground and brought along frozen.
I’m not exactly sure what I’ve learned from this, although I am surprised the numbers weren’t higher. I’ll still process the evaluation over the next few days. I guess we picked more fruit, ate less quality meats (partly because I moved out of my foodshed and had to find new), and ate more cheese! Mmmm….nothing wrong with more cheese…
I’m already curious to see this year’s budget breakdown now that we’re in our normal situation. We’re already spending more on raw milk, having upped our share, made a $400 bulk foods order, and am working on better butter…so I have a feeling the bottom line is going up again this year.
Tune in tomorrow for what all that money actually puts on the table and into our mouths…
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Disclosure: I make commission from Amazon and Honeyville and used referral links for Trop Trad. See my full disclosure statement here.