Everyone has a different household budget, and everyone has a different food budget. We have different family sizes, different income streams, different debt ratios, and different diets. So it's not easy to share a food budget as there are so many differing factors for each family. We live also in different parts of the world which involves food cost being so varied. But with that all being said, I am going to attempt to share with you the how's and why's of my family's food budget.
My food budget is $150 a week for the three of us. My daughter, Lucy, is 11 years old. We live in Southern California. I shop five different stores. (Not all on the same week.) One of them is a discount store, but I can't rely on it for necessary items as things vary week to week there. But it is an important store for my food shopping.
My $150 a week includes all food, paper products (tp and napkins), cleansers, toiletries, and water. (I need 6 gallons of spring water for my health condition each week. The rest of the water for my family is processed through a Berkey water filter.) We spend $50 a week per person, which is about $7.14 a day, or $2.38 per meal including snacks. This amount includes all fabrics washed, toiletries done, and a clean house. I've had a $150 a week budget for many years now. It still seems a lot to me. But when we paid off our final debt (our house) years ago, we gave ourselves a raise in our food budget. I know so many women do so much more with so much less. I used to do that as well, so I realize the challenge. But after working so hard to pay off our debt, my husband loves to go food shopping with me and get the things he likes. I am so thankful that we can do that now. It is often still a miracle to me!
When I share our food budget, I need to share how we prepare food. Our plates consist of half vegetables, a quarter protein, and a quarter carbohydrate for each meal. My husband typically gets more than a quarter protein for sure. 😊 My daughter, Lucy, typically gets more than a quarter starch for sure. Lucy is gluten free, so I need to buy special flours for her. I am grain free due to my health condition so I need different ingredients as well. My plate, however, definitely consists of half vegetables, a quarter protein, and a quarter carbohydrate. We eat yogurt, cheese, fruit, nuts, and snacks as well. I make several gluten free snacks for Lucy, but fruit is our main snack. I try to buy organic as much as possible.
I pray before I shop and while I am shopping to "see" the good deals. How the LORD helps me! I thank Him so much while I am unpacking the groceries at home.
As I shared before, I don't menu plan. I've tried and tried, and it just doesn't work for me. So if I see a piece of meat on sale, for example, I will buy it. When I get home I'll figure out what I want to do with it. I am a recipe collector, so I love to try new recipes. I enjoy figuring out what to do with a piece of meat, vegetables, or fruit for our meals or snacks. My menu varies as I really enjoy new recipes. I have so many old favorites, too.
I shop once a week, typically. Sometimes two times if need be, especially in the summer. But during the school year it is typically once a week. I've tried shopping twice a month, but it just doesn't work for me. I enjoy food shopping once a week, too. Food shopping is like a treasure hunt to see what deals I can find that week. I don't use circulars or check the ads, rather see the deals when I get there to the store. I don't use coupons. I used to years ago when you could double coupons, but now my family needs are so different that it just isn't profitable for me. And I use specific toiletries and cleansers which are more of a natural nature.
Believe it or not, I don't shop with a list unless it is a holiday. I know that is hard to believe. I would have a hard time believing it as well.😊 But I buy a lot of the same things every week, and I make a mental note of one or two items that I might really need. I usually tell Lucy, too. She always reminds me. After a quick check in the fridge and pantry I can tell what I need, but as I said it's pretty much the same things each week with a few things added in. I just prepare it differently. For example, a potato can be mashed, sautéed, roasted, grated and cooked like a pancake, gratin, or French fries. But I still buy just potatoes.😊
I try to buy ahead. So I always have meat in the freezer and dry goods in the pantry. I built up my pantry over the summer to have a supply of food for 6 months or more (which I wrote about in my pantry letter), but before that I tried to have up to a 3 month supply.
Sometimes I spend less than $150 for a week. I'll just tack it on to the next week. Sometimes I spend more than $150, especially for a holiday, then I will take it out of my weekly allowance (which I wrote about in my budget letter).
We have a garden and can grow vegetables year round here in California. That helps a lot. Presently I have broccoli and kale growing in my garden which I have a weekly harvest. (I stagger the plantings.) I need to eat veggies with every meal, so my garden is a big help with my food budget and diet.
I dehydrate and do some canning, which saves money on food as well. Today I have some pineapple in the fridge that I need to dehydrate. And I want to can some beef stew today. I've learned both methods to help save us money on food.
We eat out very rarely, so predominantly we are eating every meal at home. Once in awhile we will get a plain roasted chicken at one of the markets and call that "eating out". I love doing that, because when we finish the chicken I will make a nice soup from the bones. I made this soup two days ago from a roasted chicken I made at home.
Bones from the roasted chicken (remove any leftover meat and save)
Any drippings from the roasted chicken
1 chopped zucchini
3/4 c celery chopped
1/2 onion chopped
2 T. olive oil
Salt to taste
Put in an Instant Pot and cover with water, til water almost covers the bones. (You can do the same thing in a crock pot on low all day.) Manual for 30 minutes. Natural Release. Strain and use in recipes or in a soup. You might need to add more salt. You can add carrots, too, if you like. What I did with this stock was to add back in some chopped leftover chicken meat, some cooked rice, and some peas and corn. My husband loved it.
This was what we ate yesterday to give you an idea of my meals served:
Breakfast: scrambled eggs for all of us, steamed green beans, lentil bread for me, oatmeal for Lucy, banana bread for Art, plain yogurt, 1/2 apple and 4 frozen kiwi slices, coffee for Art and I (mine is with cashew milk)
Lunch: navy beans, tuna, avocado and green beans in a bowl with some drizzled olive oil, tea, roasted pecans and Brazil nuts. Lucy had banana bread for dessert.
Dinner: Turkey Machaka which is leftover turkey, onions, and celery sautéed in a little oil, delicata squash, Brussel sprouts thinly sliced and sautéed with little onion, lentil bread for me, corn tortillas for Lucy, and flour tortillas for Art. Plain yogurt and pistachios. Apples for Art and Lucy
If I had to reduce our food budget due to unforeseen circumstances, I would have to go back to food shopping alone. I would still go to all the stores that I go to, but I would probably add in a couple more stores to get as many loss leaders as I could. (The loss leaders are the deals for each store for that week). My stores are all pretty close to each other, except for two stores which I go to when I am on that side of town for other things. I would also make more Asian meals to stretch the meat, along with soups, which I make often as it is. Machaka is another great meat stretcher. I would make my own tortillas consistently rather than buying them. I would make my own cleansers as I used to do. I would use cloth napkins. I would try to keep my budget at $100-$125 a week. You are probably wondering why I don't do that now? Because I love shopping with my husband and seeing him pick out his special cheeses, a grape juice, some mangoes or pineapple or both, a cut of meat he likes, salsa ingredients, and chips to go with his salsa among other things. 😊 It took us 17 years to get completely debt free, so it is a blessing to see him blessed and enjoying food shopping with me.
"And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor, it is the gift of God." Ecclesiastes 3:13
It is such a gift from God.
P.S. After writing this letter, I think I am going to use cloth napkins, make tortillas more often, and make my window cleaner which is one part rubbing alcohol to 1 pt water in a spray bottle. 😊😊😊