I recently shared my own grocery budget break down with you, to give an example of what I spend on different parts of my budget, where my food comes from, etc.
Though it’s helpful to share my own budget, budgets are a very particular thing. It makes a real difference where I live, the size of my family, our diet particulars, our general eating habits, the resources available to me and many other variables. Every family’s budget looks different and that’s entirely ok.
I realized that although it is helpful to see others budgets, but maybe the key is to see more than just one persons. When you look over a spread of different budgets, you begin to see trends emerge and find families whose circumstances are closer to your own.
Thus, my new series “Real Food Bloggers and Their Grocery Budgets” was born. Week by week, over the next month (or possibly several months) I will highlight a different blogger who endeavors to eat whole, natural, real foods and examine their own budget and how it works.
Today’s featured blogger is Kate of Modern Alternative Mama, where she blogs about “living the non-mainstream life”. My kind of mom.
1. How much do you spend on groceries, and is this a firm amount or does it change from month to month?
We typically spend about $500 per month on groceries, although lately it has been more. I’m in a season of preserving right now and having to buy certain bulk items that I didn’t know how to plan for this year (it’s the first time I’ve really done preserving) so we’re spending more than usual. However, we plan to cut back the grocery budget for a few months early in the winter to “make up” the difference, then start setting aside money for next year’s CSA and other bulk purchases so we are prepared!
2. Briefly describe your family, their food needs and preferences.
We have four members of our family: 2 adults, a 2.5 year old, and a 1 year old. My 2.5 year old daughter goes through phases where she’ll eat more or less, but in general ALL of us seem to have larger-than-average appetites.
For awhile we were off all dairy, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes due to food allergies, but some time on GAPS has helped immensely. Still, we feel we really need to focus on the highest quality, most natural foods that we can.
We NEED to have raw milk, we NEED to sprout grains, etc. or our family does not tolerate it well. My daughter and husband are also a bit picky. They like things simple and plain, so it limits my creativity in the kitchen (too bad, because my son and I like EVERYTHING!).
3. Tell us about where you live and where most of your food comes from.
I live in Central Ohio, which is really excellent because there are a LOT of options near me. We get our food from a number of places, but the two biggest are a semi-local farm (2 hours away) and Trader Joe’s. We can get sustainable meats, raw milk, pastured eggs, raw cheeses, and other “major” purchases from these stores.
We also have a CSA at a local farm. We supplement these purchases with Whole Foods, Raisin Rack (locally owned health food store), and occasionally Walmart.
4. As best as you are able, could you give us an average break down of your monthly grocery expenses?
About $150 or so goes towards meat, which is mostly purchased from the farm. $20 goes towards raw milk (4 gallons!). $50 goes towards cheese (yes, really…the kids love it all the time!). $25 goes towards eggs. About $20 or so goes towards bulk grain purchases. $8 goes towards cream to make butter. I buy coconut oil or olive oil only every couple of months, but that’s $7 – $20 depending on what I need. The rest goes to honey, maple syrup, fresh produce, or other needs.
5. What money-saving techniques are the most valuable to you in keeping your costs down?
Finding the farm where we buy most of our meat has been HUGE for us. They follow all organic, sustainable practices (when you go visit the farm, the first thing you see are all their animals out on pasture), yet since they’re not certified organic, their prices are a lot lower.
The going rate for “good” eggs in my area is upwards of $4/doz, yet I can get (better) eggs from the farm for only $2.50/doz! I also source what I can at Walmart, if it’s decent. They have some yogurt and sour cream where “cultured milk or cream” are the only ingredients.
As I’m in this season of preservation, I find great deals and stock up. A local farmer’s market recently had green peppers, 6/$1! In the winter I’d easily pay $0.80/each and that’s not even organic. I froze nearly 100 peppers, halved. I also was able to purchase about 50 lbs. of peaches for around $1/lb. Whenever anyone offers me free food (garden overflows, usually), I take it.
I also shop SEVERAL different stores so I can find the best prices. I don’t go to all of them every shopping trip (since that would obviously take lots of time/gas money), but I plan my trips carefully so I can get what I need cheap. There’s a local coop store near me, and you don’t have to be a member to shop there. They have the BEST prices on bulk items like grains, beans, even herbs. I go there once every month or two to stock up on grains (wheat is only $0.89/lb!).
6. If you could give others one tip for keeping their grocery budget reasonable (while eating real, whole foods), what would it be?
Think simple. You don’t need to make fancy meals, you don’t need to spend a ton on special ingredients. Buy cheese and apples and that’s a great snack. You’ll save SO much by not buying any convenience foods (even organic ones). And you really won’t miss them.
Kate also wrote a post awhile back comparing the SAD (Standard American Diet) vs. Real Food, in which she compared an average menu over the course of 3 days of meals and real food came up cheaper- check it out!