I read all the time about people living a simpler life, ditching their cars or doing something that most of us would say, “That’s crazy!”. Usually they are across the country, and we can easily say, “you can’t do that here.” Oh, but you can, and my friend Megan is.
I’m inspired by knowing someone personally who is taking such care with her life to really create the life she wants to lead. While going car-free isn’t an option for us right now, I do believe that in the future we’ll have even more opportunities to simplify our life, like Megan and her brood.
Megan and I met up at a park in the fall. We were so passionate about making our own food, we spent over an hour talking more about it, even after we had said our goodbyes! There was one thing that stuck out that Megan said: I don’t limit my food budget, as the healthiest and best food that is available is what we want to eat. Your body is a temple, so why not feed it the best you can?
Okay, that was paraphrased, sorry if I got something wrong Megan. I loved her thoughts and want to throw caution to the wind, but I just can’t get around budgeting. It’s a personal problem 😉
Chris and I work to be within a certain food budget each week. Last winter we stuck with $40 dollars a week for two of us, which included all of our meals and toiletries (plus take-out or going out most times). Add in our baby guy and it’s a little higher, because we had formula to buy. With that though, we’re still at around $60-$75 a week.
I’ve heard loud gasps from people when I’ve mentioned our food budget. We eat on less than the U.S. Government says is “Thrifty” as per their weekly cost of a nutritious diet for two people and a child under one year. According to their stats, we could eat on $110 a week if we wanted to stay thrifty. Don’t tell Chris 🙂
Spending on food is not rocket science and we actually eat very healthy on our budget. Do I look like I’m starving? Haha. Also, you see what I eat most weeks – and it’s pretty good right?? We stick to whole foods from the local farmer’s market (which is open in the winter, too!) and we buy staples like whole wheat flour, oats, almonds and meats once a month or less.
Where do you start?
First get a hold of your spending. Look back at what you’ve spent the past month on food, and then come up with a target goal for the next month. How to spend on meals, eating out, etc.
Next, Meal plan. Meal plan. Meal plan. How on earth can you decide what to buy if you don’t know what you’re going to cook? We choose to have a chicken dish, a beef dish, and possibly a seafood dish once per week. The rest of the week are veggie meals or left-overs. If we are going out, we plan for that, too.
Each week I look in the fridge and in the pantry to see what we have. I like to try to use up as much as possible before restocking or refiling. I used to run into the habit of overbuying, to end up with old food stuffed in the back, veggies going bad and being out a lot of money. Now that we’re stricter with our budget, we definitely eat all that we have and usually still have lots left over. Plus, we make plans to eat meals more often with family and friends – free food – hahahahaha…
The bigger bonus to meal planning – left-overs. We always have left-overs for lunch each week. We’ve stopped buying deli meats and other fillers for the day. Instead, by Thursday or Friday we usually have too much food left, to even bother making another meal. I love this feeling…
After you have your budgeted amount, next time you go shopping start to note the prices of certain foods you purchase often and price differences where you shop. Last year I kept notes on the best prices from the supermarket to the farmer’s market. The farmer’s market won out so often, even on fresh fish prices, that we just focus in on what’s in season and on sale there most weeks.
Shop by unit price. On every item there is a shelf price, and a unit price (usually much smaller). I only shop by unit prices, comparing the costs I’m paying per pound, ounce or per 100 count, etc. even when an item is on sale. This will tell you if you are getting the best deal. Bonus: they do this for fruits/vegs in the supermarket, too! Not usually in a farmer’s market though.
For the past year, we’ve had a BJs membership which is unusual for us. It offered the better price for formula, so we went with it. I’ve also found that I enjoy some items like raw almonds there in bulk – because the unit per pound is much lower than elsewhere. I will miss our membership come July, but we really don’t need to spend $40 a year to be a member now that Miles is off formula.
In addition, I’d like to start using our local butcher for fresh meat each week, instead of buying in bulk every so many months. It just sounds much easier than remembering to defrost chicken, as well as yummier, too. The price is a little higher, $2.59/lb for chicken breast, but I also know it most likely comes from a farm more locally than frozen and shipped across the country. I’ll be investigating more about that…
In the end, if you don’t do anything but one thing… planning your meals makes a huge difference in how much food goes to waste, how healthy you are, and a great way to keep your financial health in check.
Start today. Get out a pen and piece of paper. Write down some meals you can make with what’s in your fridge. You don’t have to meal plan on Sunday or Monday or Saturday. This week, we just ate whatever, until I decided I couldn’t take anymore chicken parm. Then, a beautiful meal plan arose Wednesday night on the fridge.
While it might be daunting to cook for yourself or your family, once you get the basic skills down, it’s pretty easy from there. I’ve had great conversations with co-workers about the amount of time it takes to make fresh mashed potatoes vs. boxed. Once you know how to do it, it may take 5 minutes more, but you’re feeding your body, and your soul, with healthier foods.
Not to mention, get the kids involved! I can’t wait for Miles to start helping out in the kitchen. He spends a lot of cooking time in there with us already.
When you cook for yourself, there is more of a reward not just in the nutrients, but in the time, care, love and learning that goes into it. Don’t wait to feel good, it’s within your reach.
What will you be cooking this week?
How much do you spend a week on food?