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: