This article is the second in a re-posted series from my blog. The first can be found by clicking here.
Originally posted on October 31, 2008. (Since this post, I have made adjustments to our budget to lower spending in other areas and to allow us to spend more on food, health, and body, so that we are able to make choices that are good physically and ecologically.)
I am a fairly frugal person and I am still struggling with our grocery budget, so if you are challenging yourself to economize your budget in any way, this might be an interesting comparison for you. As the size of our family has grown and our desire to eat more naturally has increased, our budget has had to adjust. I generally follow the Environmental Working Group’s list for organic produce and I usually buy milk organically.
My October 2008 budget was $400.
My goal was $300.
The thrifty plan for an American family of our size is over $500.
This month was for 2 adults (it varies, actually) and 2 kids and included all household and health products and food.
I spent $425 even.
I was really disappointed that I didn’t even meet our budget. I need to be averaging $400 on a regular basis or I need to make adjustments our overall spending in other categories was much lower, however, and part of the grocery money spent went to some health products that are healthier for us and the environment, will last a long time, and were a part of our budget that I previously never spent money on due to free-after-rebate and coupon deals.
I learned a lot about our habits this month. I really did challenge myself, even though I didn’t meet my goals. I tried new recipes from scratch with foods on hand and I really needed to shop for produce earlier in the week, but put if off, simply because i wanted to meet my budget. Clearly I need to be limiting more. I skipped temptations, so what you see listed below, even if many items don’t strike you as necessary, are our basics (plus wine!). We ate out once as a family, which itself was very unusual, and I went out once with mamma friends. Generally, any “special” meals come from our basic grocery budget as well.
Listing out what we bought allowed me to mentally highlight the items that we could do without and all the items we should do without. Although several of the items jump out as uneconomical (walnuts, wine, 7th generation diapers (we generally use cloth), for example), I realize most of what we buy is extremely healthy and close to its original form. The most processed food we buy tends to be Os cereal. The most convenience foods we tend to buy are freshly frozen fruits and vegetables (with no additives).
2 bars glycerin soap, tube unpetroleum jelly, tub Oxo Brite, large Dr. Bronners, 32oz lotion, 32oz shower gel, 19oz organic kids shampoo, 4 ‘green’ lunch sacks, whole wheat tortillas, flour tortillas, 5 gallons milk, #10 can tomato sauce, 10lb sugar, 10lb carrots, 3 canteloupes, 3lb walnuts, 2lb organic spinach, 1lb blue cheese, 6lb mozzarella, 5lb monterey jack cheese, 2lb pecorino romano, 2lb cheddar, 4lb butter, 2 loaves whole grain bread, 6 brita water filters, 2lb frozen peas, 2lb frozen pineapple, 1 lb frozen mango chunks, 2lb organic tomatoes, 2 cans OJ concentrate, 4pk avocados, 11 bottles wine, boxes Os cereal, 40 bananas, container curry paste, 5 packages tofu, 1lb organic mixed lettuce, 1 large and 4 small pumpkins, 6+lb brown rice, 4 onions, sack organic apples, 6 organic potatoes, 1 bagel, 1lb organic strawberries, 10 dozen eggs, 1 pack lasagna noodles, 3 packs rotelle, 4 jars natural peanut butter, 1 sack rice crackers, 20lb whole wheat flour, 6 kiwi, 20 rolls toilet paper, 60 Seventh Generation diapers, 2 packages of lunch containers, fish tank filter, and I am missing a couple receipts detailing about $45 of the $425 that i spent!
Next step: create an updated price list to reflect the foods and products we like to buy now. (We buy more unprocessed, more wholesome, and more organic products than we used to.)
A price list is a list of items, brand, size, price, store of purchase, date, and general description. Listing this out allows you to track which stores carry which items and for what unit price (price per unit size, such as dollars per pound). Use old receipts to compile these numbers, a daunting task at first, but simple to update and extremely informative about what the lowest prices are and where they can be found for items you buy the most.
Click for a price list template and a spending tally template. Here in the Bay Area, we have so many wonderful stores.
More of my thoughts on food can be found here and for a wonderfully thoughtful post and comment discussion on groceries, click here, with a follow-up post here.