A lot has been in the news lately about the budget for those on benefits from the government. I don’t plan to comment on all of that (here’s a great piece on it), but I thought it would be fun to share how we use our budget for food and write about things like I used to.
I’m always surprised to find out that our family food budget is below the “Thrifty Plan” under the USDA food cost guidelines. We spend about $75 or less per week, currently shooting for $50 a week to stockpile a few extra bucks, on food and household goods. This isn’t to say that we are able to always stick to that budget, sometimes we go over to around $80 per week, but I strive to see that number or below weekly when we hit the grocery store(s).
I budget about $25 per week per member of the household, planning to add another $25 per week when Baby #2 arrives (which might be tight with formula year one). I don’t have to budget for diapers, since we use cloth diapers which is a huge savings in our budget; especially this go around. And most people might not use their food budget for items other than edible goods, but I try to throw as much in that category as we can.
In college, I survived on $15 or less per week, so to me, it is a little more flexible (and little kids once past formula don’t consume huge amounts of food… though with two boys, we’ll be trending upwards… eeek).
I’m thankful we have the flexibility to add to our food budget when needed, but if we plan our meals in advance and keep staples on hand, it makes it easier to stay within a budget. We don’t exactly eat fancy, but on occasion I’ll spring for feta and peppadew peppers! (Thanks Alex and Steph for introducing me to them so many years ago). And it doesn’t hurt to plan a dinner at a g’parent’s house now and again 😉
I use a local farmer’s market for our produce, as it’s been far cheaper than the supermarket overall and fresher. And, you know what, I’m a Walmart shopper and feel no shame. We switch between Walmart and Wegmans depending on the staples or meals that upcoming week. Each provide us with low cost options in certain areas of our pantry and fridge. With Walmart’s Savings Catcher App, I’ve gotten a bit back on my purchases which is a nice addition.
Now, we don’t buy organic, but I’m not convinced that everything sold organic really is anymore. When we were a part of a local CSA, I could visit the farm and taste the difference. That isn’t always an option with supermarket goods, and knowing how a farm’s cross-winds, etc. affect pollination and pesticides we may or may not be getting organic for that higher price. I do prefer a local farmer’s market vs. a large supermarket, but as long as we’re focusing on vegetables (and now growing some ourselves) that’s a huge win in my book.
Oh, and I do look forward to picking my own strawberries at a u-pick farm visit in June… hot, sweaty, and 7 months pregnant. I’m crazy like that.
Are we perfect? No. Are we always Thrifty? Nope. I am not sure though I’d ever spend the “liberal” plan under the guidelines… whew, now how many crazy items could I buy that week?! It’s double… get me some goat cheese will ya? Wouldn’t doubling our food budget be fun! I believe a lot of food would go to waste that week.
I do feel we spend far less than the average household on food, but aren’t lacking nutritionally or otherwise. I still buy flax seeds, chia seeds, spirulina powder, red raspberry leaf tea, etc. Most of those added items come from my personal budgeted allowance. We are both on an allowance of about $40 per week for gas/extras, but I usually have leftover now with a smaller commute so I put it into my ice cream cravings or dinners out 🙂
The reason we’re on a tight budget is to get our emergency savings back in order from our huge house sale loss and our even larger house buying expense, plus the unpaid maternity leave I’m facing, and well, it’s fun to be frugal. It’s become somewhat of a game for Chris and I at times to see what we can do with what we have. We’ve learned so much in squeezing our budget; and I’m a bit of a general about it.
I mean, we definitely chose to have another boy because it would save us tons of money, right? Ha. How life is funny like that…
Throughout the past several years with the economic ups and downs, I’ve become far less of a shopper and more interested in selling old stuff and gaining side income. Chris has become super handy about making things for our house and doing renovation work himself. I love watching him finish a project and the joy it brings him. See: homemade desks, end tables, kitchen island thing, bathroom renovations… and more.
It’s helped us tremendously get out of debt, but also I’ve loosened my attachment to fancier things and have found pleasure in a more simple life. I don’t feel compelled, though at times I really really want that $2k lens…, to buy lots of new things anymore. I save up for larger purchases forgoing the things I want now, for the item I really want later (hence, I’m still saving for that lens and may sell a few items to get it). I prefer Goodwill (score, $3 pair of maternity shorts like new!) and re-purposing old items. It’s apparently better for the environment, too.
I used to think it was a bad thing to budget and be frugal, like I was weird or something. Now, I’m realizing the tremendous amount of freedom it’s bringing us, the peace of mind, and the joy of creating and viewing our entire house as a trendy makerspace.
– kate –