Ok, so this is a topic that I don't generally bring up with my friends, as people tend to be a little touchy with anything related to finances BUT since we're relatively anonymous on this board, I thought some of y'all might be willing to talk grocery budgets. Back when it was just my partner and I, we usually spent about $400 a month but now that we're a family of four, we're spending about $600 a month (though that does include detergent, cleaners and diapers). Is that somewhat normal? And are groceries just way less expensive in the US (I'm in Canada) because I keep finding these pages online (american) where people are talking about spending $400 a month for a family of six, etc. And their big tips seem to be to clip coupons and buy meat on sale. Umm...we don't even eat meat! We do eat a buttload of fruit and some fake meat substitutes (veggie dogs and such) but also lots of beans, which are dirt cheap because we buy them dried and cook them in our pressure cooker. I make bread in a bread machine every second day and we eat lots of oatmeal and homemade granola - also cheap. I just don't see how I could cut costs much more and still feed my family healthy food.
>>> More and more, I'm determined to learn more about how to garden, if only so I can give my budget a break
Yes! Gardening is a huge help for the budget. Last year was the first summer in four years that we didn't have a garden and it really saddened me. I'm hoping that we can have one this summer even though my youngest is still a total handful and we're going to be out of town a bunch.
I'm actually feeling way better about my budget after talking to a couple of my mommy friends though (they have the same size family as me). They both said that they spent close to double what I did on groceries, etc. So I guess that I do OK considering the cost of food around here.
I've been wanting to ask this question recently as well. I've been trying to get the grocery bill to $600 and haven't been successful. Occasionally the explanation is parties or cooking ahead or something, but I've started tracking that to be just food, no paper products or alcohol. It seems crazy that it is that high, when we eat no meat and very little dairy. I do try to do the organic route for the "dirty dozen" items, but cut it for everything else. The grocery budget stresses me out.
And I've also tried the coupon route, but yes, the coupons for processed food. But, on occasions that we might otherwise eat out, at least I can pull something from the freezer that is processed, but cheaper than eating out. What kills me is when the frozen processed lasagna costs significantly less than homemade vegan (or even just vegetarian) lasagna or canned/boxed soup is cheaper than my homemade soup. I guess it makes sense that it does, but I think, "I'm cooking to save money", but I'm not always. Then, I have to go with "I'm cooking to be healthier" and I'm exhausted just thinking of the never ending battle to accomplish that.
Those who garden... I've given up gardening because of the cost that I incur to produce the amount of produce my family can eat. There's water, compost, the time to weed and water etc. the "opportunity" cost. For me, it just seemed like I was growing some lovely treats, but it didn't help me actually cut any costs in terms of weekly throughput for carrots, celery, peppers, salad greens, apples, onions, spinach, tomatoes etc.
I did find I saved a little bit when I was able to buy and freeze or can lots of things, but even that was limited to things that freeze or can well, like tomatoes, peas, squash.
To be honest, I think there's probably bigger savings to be had by not eating out, cutting out cable or reducing phone services, carpooling or not buying coffee than trimming a grocery budget. If you eat the food you buy and aren't wasting it, and you're doing what works for your family in terms of the healthiness, maybe there isn't actually a problem?
At least where I live, gardening is absolutely not cheaper. Maybe for herbs, because buying fresh herbs in the grocery store is killer, but other than that, I'm lucky to break even and usually I spend more on plants, soil, pots, etc., than it costs to just go buy that same stuff at the farmer's market (which I also do).
I have my small garden anyway, and I mostly only grow things we can eat, but I do it because I like it and the best tasting tomatoes are the ones you can just go out and pick off the plant. Also, I still have cherry tomatoes in a pot growing in my one sunny kitchen window that I brought in from last summer--in February. Not very many, but still, I have tomatoes in northern Ohio in February. That just makes me happy.
Whoa...I posted an earlier response in which I signed my real name, so I had to delete it! I'm blaming pregnancy brain. So odd that I did that. Who signs comments?
Hmm...my experience with gardening has been different than that of others here - I have found that it cuts our food costs quite a bit in the summer. But all I've ever had to spend money on is seeds since soil, beds and compost are all provided at my community garden. And I have like one garden tool...not even sure if I have gloves.
I'm also the sort of weird person who will eat beans every day 15 different ways because I have a bunch of beans ready to be picked. And I only grow things that provide bang for your buck (kale, bush beans, etc.) But I can see how gardening could be an expensive undertaking.
@Wookie - I don't actually have a problem with $600 a month - I can totally live with it. However, we were not budgeting stringently enough before and were blowing that budget, which was not good. So I started looking into budgeting and then was feeling like we were actually spending A LOT on food compared to the people who were feeding families of five for $250. We have to work hard to keep the grocery budget in check because there's not a whole lot else to trim around here: rarely eat out, no cable, no car, basic phone & internet and no freakin' way we're giving up coffee :)
I live about an hour north of ks, and I have similar issues. However, it's not a Michigan climate thing, it's a housing thing. We live in well, what I grew up calling an "allotment" or "subdivision" about a mile outside of downtown. The good soil here was plowed and basically removed in the 60s and has gradually been eroded even further by Chem-lawn loving owners. It's all clay and mineral-less rock. We went to raised beds with trucked in dirt, but we can't get a decent yield out of five 3x6 beds. Some years we have a tomato boom, other years...a bust. Bush cucumbers did well last year, they did horrid the year before that. It's a gamble.
One thing we did do is join a CSA. Paying 300 dollars for a weekly box of veggies from mid-May through mid-October might seem like a steal, but we divide it up with another family. So if you were really diligent you might get 2 maybe 3 meals out of it per week. In the early months you better LOVE your kale--LOVE IT. In the later months you better make due on about a dozen varieties of squash that seem merely decorative. You also can't control their growing issues. One week we got 1 apple in the fruit share because of weather. However, it is kind of fun to see what comes every week.
So basically we pay out the nose. We cut corners elsewhere, we rarely go out, or on vacation, or anything really. But we don't keep track of food. I'd say some months we might do around 600, but some months we might go over 1000. And that's with the youngest eating only baby food, and the 4 year old eating mostly fruits and veggies.
This month we spent around 150 on a 1/4 pig. Last year we spent about 300 on 1/4 of a cow. Those portions last us about 8 months to a year. That came to about 2 dollars a lb for the cow and 3.50 for the pig. Processed into edible cuts, thank you! That's not bad for organic meat.
Someone mentioned cheap lasagne. My husband makes this, which freezes well. It seems cheap:
Yes, for those who eat meat, it is absolutely worth going to a farmer and buying a 1/2 pig or cow or whatever. We've done that several times and split it with my mother and it was fan freaking tastic.
Except now we mostly eat chicken and are cutting down on that :-/ How does one get cheap cheese and eggs? I loathe the texture of most beans and meat subsitutes.
wookie - is there a search site similar to Local Harvest for your area?
Our local CSA (community supported agriculture) websites only (ONLY) do vegetables. No fruits, no meat, no cheese, very rarely eggs.
And yes... thou shalt love kale if you have a farmshare. I like kale for about 2 weeks then I'm freaking sick of it.
I rely heavily on kale and cabbage in the winter months. It's so ridiculously cheap and so delicious. Srsly, less than $1/lb. We have kale at least a few times a week, kind of like we used to have string beans a few times a week in my house growing up.
I love kale. Kale chips are really really delicious.
But the line about the squashes that look decorative made me giggle. That is so true. What the hell do you do with those squashes?