Food Spending

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about how our food budget was $40 a week.

I think it’d be obvious to any regular readers that our eating habits have changed a lot since then, and I’ve had some people ask how it’s affected our food budget.

Well, it’s not $40 a week anymore.

Actually, though, I feel pretty good about it. Food prices have gone up a lot in recent years, we now have a third mouth to feed, and we eat a much healthier diet. So $65 a week doesn’t seem at all unreasonable to me.

For us, $65 a week includes non-food items like toothpaste, toilet paper, and dish soap. And I’m pretty rigorous about sticking to that budget (if I have a week where we go over, the next week, I am almost always under).

Here are some of the things that $65 a week buys:

  • Our CSA box from Johnson’s Backyard Garden. We split it with our neighbors and we usually get it three times a month (with a week off to help us catch up), so that’s $17 of our weekly food budget.
  • Organic, free-range eggs (I buy them for $3/dozen from a lady who has chickens in her yard a mile or two away from us)
  • Organic milk (Ella drinks about a gallon a week of whole milk and Bart and I use about half a gallon of 2% a week for cooking and cereal – Bart can’t stand whole milk, so 2% is our compromise).
  • Organic apples (they are so much better than regular apples – I haven’t had a mushy, mealy one yet)
  • Organic jam and peanut butter
  • Gobs and gobs of Brown Cow Plain Yogurt. Ella eats it almost every single day at least once. We add our own sweeteners, usually in the form of peanut butter or jam or granola.

Some things that have helped us keep costs low:

  • I make all my own vegetable stock from my CSA vegetables and just freeze it in yogurt containers. Buying broth that isn’t full of horrible-ness is really expensive and I go through a lot of it, especially in the winter when I’m making a lot of soups and crockpot meals.
  • We buy almost no meat. I think we eat meat perhaps one meal a week, and maybe even not that much. I just have read too much to feel at all good about buying regular meat and I’m still working on finding consistent sources for buying meat that’s decent, so for now we just pretty much forgo it. Bless Bart for not caring. Also, cooking without meat is so much easier than dealing with meat. When I do cook with meat, it is a really small amount – I portion my ground beef, for instance, into quarter pound sections.
  • Bulk items – seriously, I cannot believe how I lived before I knew about the bulk sections in grocery stores. Now I can buy just the amount of something I need without ruining my budget over a $5 teeny spice bottle. Also bulk cheese is a thousand times better AND costs less than the pre-packaged bricks.
  • Making my own bread. Buying a loaf of bread that isn’t full of junk costs quite a bit, but I can make a loaf for around 90 cents.
  • I have a little herb garden on my patio so I’m not spending a fortune on two tablespoons of fresh thyme. Ella loves watering these every other morning.
  • I freeze everything to keep from throwing away extras (tomato paste, pesto, peppers, ginger, egg whites, etc). And then voila! Ready for next time.
  • We eat a lot of dried beans and other grains (like lentils), which are dirt cheap. We aren’t really pasta eaters, although that’s pretty cheap too, even when you’re buying organic, whole-grain versions.

Some things I haven’t given up:

  • Cold cereal. I have a hard time eating breakfast and always have (morning sickness since I was a teenager!), and frankly, cereal is the one thing that consistently appeals to me and doesn’t make me feel like death afterward, so I buy a reasonably healthy-ish brand from Sprouts and I just go with it.
  • Conventional strawberries. Somehow, I cannot bring myself to consistently pay the higher price on these. Or cilantro or lettuce (when it doesn’t show up in the CSA).
  • Triscuits. I know – soybean oil is evil. But Triscuits are so very delicious. And Bart loves them so so much.
  • I don’t buy other organic dairy besides milk (but I do buy brands that only have a few ingredients and no additives. I’d rather have a non-organic sour cream with three ingredients than an organic one with fifteen (including organic guar gum).

Perhaps the thing I like most about how we eat now is how much more variety we eat. I’m not reliant on meat anymore to anchor our dinners, and I now LIKE so many things that I never thought I’d enjoy. It makes me happy to think of how many items Ella has eaten and enjoyed and how she’ll never live a life where “kale” is a foreign word. I love reading and thinking and talking about food, and transitioning into a more healthy lifestyle has been really a fun adventure.

Also, I still layout my grocery list like this, even though at least 75% of my shopping trips have no meat included. I’m a creature of habit:


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  1. Thanks for the comment! I'm really excited to try your goat cheese pizza. I love this post too. Frugal living definitely doesn't have to rely on super processed food. And you just got me super excited about farmer's markets this summer. We haven't taken the plunge in MA to get a CSA share, so farmer's markets are the next best thing. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. love this post! i'm on a constant quest to feed my family the healthiest food for as cheap as possible so these ideas are very helpful – thanks! (oh, and i freeze EVERYTHING too! 😉

  3. I've been working for years to get J. to eat less meat. And then I kicked him off to London and all my hard work was scuppered because with me out of the way, he can get all the hamburgers and Chipotle he wants. Le sigh. Now I have to start all over again.

  4. I love reading this. We spend 300 a month on food, including eating out, but it was 250 for year until i upped it earlier this year. I'm actually abursdly proud of how little we spend on food and other things in general but still eat, in my humble opinion, quite well. I'm showing this to spencer so he can see how to organic on the cheap.

  5. I, too, do my lists in a similar manner. I hate forgetting something at the store b/c of an unorganized list!!

    But darn…I am impressed w/ how little you spend! Our grocery budget is the death of us. And I make a lot of things (granola bars, granola, tortillas, sometimes bread, etc). And I have 2 sq ft gardens that I grow produce in during the summer, as well as pots for herbs. Its the produce that kills us–that, and the voracious appetites of my 3 kids (and their friends that come over at times). I don't eat meat at all, so meat is rarely cooked in this house (only when I am gone). I'd say we spend close to $1,200-$1,500/mo on food and other necessities.

  6. I miss sprouts! they had the best produce and bulk. We have WinCo here which has great bulk and i get my veggies from Bountiful Baskets now but i still miss the 4 for $1 avocados at Sprouts. And i love the way you do your list. Folding it that way is brilliant.

  7. You are an inspiration. Truly. I want to make some serious changes to how I shop/cook when we move. I have put it off because often I'm dieting in some form (usually low carb) so what Jacob and Addie are eating is so different than me that it seems silly to meal plan, then we end up just winging it. And usually it ends up expensive and unhealthy for at least those two, and sometimes me! I aspire to be as organized about it as you. Someday, someday hopefully soon.

  8. I love the part about meat no longer anchoring a meal and the possiblities that are created because of that. Here here! {hands clasped and shaking them above head}

  9. I love this post. Thanks for sharing how you do food at your house. I think you are really blessing Ella with such a diverse and healthy pallet so early in life. Yes, knowing what kale is is good!

    I don't spend too much on food, but it's just one person. I eat quite a bit out, but have tried to lower that. Really the majority of my food money is spent on fresh, usually organic veggies. My dad is kind enough to pick me up a dozen of local, organic eggs when he buys his. What a guy.

    I would love to do a CSA. Right now is not the best time for me, but in the future I'd be all about it.

  10. This is great. We spend a bit more, but mostly because I never plan ahead enough. Planning is the thing I'm the worst at. But this is about how we eat too and I love it. Although Oreos are one of my guilty pleasures. Sickening, huh?

  11. we have gone through some serious food changes as well (I know we've read the same books)…although sometimes I think I jumped into it all too quickly and there are days I feel like I'm falling apart at the seams in the kitchen and don't know what to do! I need to rewind and make smaller baby steps. I wish I could do CSA, we know how that goes in New England where it doesn't start until June (and we are moving then to who knows where). *just take a deep breath*…I need some coaching.

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