Laine's Letters. My Food Budget.

 Dear Sisters,

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.
Chicken Stock 
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. 😊😊😊


  1. I just love your blog! The animal photos and updates as well as hearing and seeing your cooking and family photos ;). Really a wonderful place to visit! Thank you for the time you spend creating such a nice site. Also want to send along thanks for the new Laine’s letter that you are posting! What a fabulous thing to see her writing again. I had found links to her old articles but am really enjoying her new stuff! Thank you for working with her to get this new information out to all of us.

  2. It is interesting how we all approach food shopping so differently. I would be completely lost at the store without my detailed list. I love that your husband gets to enjoy shopping trips and pick what he wants. I was severely food intolerant for 25 years and through alternative medicine I am now healed and can eat anything. So, my husband loves to take me out to eat since I could not for decades. We get cash for eating out and he has it each month to take me out once or twice a week and he enjoys that so much. We love our cloth napkins not because they save money but because we just like the nicer feel and size of cloth.

  3. Another wonderful post, Laine. Thank you.

  4. Laine, we are retired for 16 years and debt free for 26 years. I no longer have a firm food budget because I want to be able to take advantage of bargains to build my pantry and fill my freezer, mostly with loss leaders. For US readers new to food budgeting, I would like to add that loss leaders--besides being appreciably cheaper than usual--normally take up the most space in the grocery ad and the price is often printed in red. People who haven't paid attention to grocery prices before will find this info useful.

    Unlike you, I do read the grocery ads when they come out on Wednesday. (You can probably find them online if you don't get the paper). I do 90% of my shopping at Winco, which is consistently .50 to $1 or so cheaper on EVERY item, but reading the ads tells me if I need to stop at another store, and which one.

    Also, nearly every time I shop, I glance at the items I frequently buy, even if I don't need that particular item that time. This way I see the prices as they go up and down...which they do. Last week, I noticed that canned tomatoes were on a price drop to .46 can. (This was at Winco, which doesn't advertise). My garden didn't produce very well last year, and I only canned a few toms. Knowing that I would run out fairly soon, I bought 18 cans. I know that anytime tomatoes are less than .50 can is the time to stock up.

    I try to keep a running list of items that I need to buy, but I don't bother with things like bread, milk and eggs that I buy all the time.

    A lot of people who are new to budget shopping for groceries assume that all stores sell groceries for about the same price. They shop at the one store that they like most, usually for reasons other than price. But I've already told you that Winco is .50 to $1+ cheaper per item! For those who have an Aldi nearby, it is another cheap choice. In my city, Fred Meyer (Kroger) is usually next up in price from Winco, Super One (a local chain) is somewhere in the middle but has the best loss leaders, and Albertsons and Safeway are by far the most expensive. During the week that Fred Meyer was offering Progresso soups as a loss leader at .99 can, the Albertsons/Safeway ad showed it at $2.59 and $2.89!

    I have a niece who is married to a wonderful man who has a few crazy ideas. One of them was that grocery shopping was family time. Five or six years ago, when their kids were teenagers, they were spending $1,000 a month for groceries, even though she shopped seasonally, bought meat on sale, bought store brands, etc. They were also all overweight! When she went back to college, while still working fulltime, she started ordering groceries online and picking up her groceries in the parking. She saved a couple of hundred dollars a month by not shopping with the whole family! Not only that, but the 4 of them (kids are now young adults living at home) have collectively lost 140 lbs.!!!

    I only buy meat on sale. If I wanted top sirloin this week, I could get it for $3.99 lb. That's what I paid last week for a tri-tip roast, and the last time that I bought 80/20 ground beef, it was $1.99 lb. I bought 10 lbs. and repackaged it for the freezer (most packages are only 1/2 lb. each). I only buy turkeys and hams around the holidays when they are dirt cheap, and I always get an extra for the freezer.

  5. From your last blog/fb, may i please have your recipe for the zucchini slices ? and Armenian nutmeg cake? They looked delicious. Is there a recipe index somewhere? Thank you so much and God bless.

  6. Thank you Laine, your letters are so encouraging. I too spend more on groceries since we paid off our mortgage last year. I enjoy not having to add every single item up as we used to in the past and to splurge on items like nuts! We volunteer so get our bread, fruit and vegetables for free which is a huge blessing as produce is expensive here in Western Australia. Love to you and your family xx

  7. I think your food budget is quite incredible! That would equate to about $195 Australian Dollars. We are a family of 5 and I often spend $300-$350 a week on food! Sometimes more 😩 I cook meals from scratch almost every night, I know I could spend less, it’s the snack food for the 3 teenagers that eats up the money. I really should make more snack food from home, or do as I did when we were kids, if we were hungry when we got home it was bread!

    1. Teach them how to cook and you'll be giving them life skills and confidence to cook for others. Recipes like very banana banana bread from all recipes site is a really cheap filler if you have seasonal bananas, and pad it out with ground almonds to make it more satiating. Make triple and freeze . We have it for breakfast with fruit and yogurt or snack with butter. Or teach them how to make bulk batches of baked cheesy mac etc. My children were taught to cook from age 9 and now stun friends and relatives with excellent dinners and cooked breakfast feasts!

  8. I am now alone and spend minimal $ on groceries. I have never menu planned - just use what I have or what I get on deals. I have a very well stocked pantry and freezer and I garden and can.
    I do watch the grocery ads and stock up when items are a deal. I always look for the clearance aisle - so many deals.
    I wish there was a discount grocer around my area. The last one closed a few years ago. I will not shop Wal-Mart unless an emergency.
    Thank you for taking time to share with everyone.

  9. Thank you for sharing, Laine. I appreciate your insight! My parents live in Bakersfield, CA and pay much more for their groceries than I. I live in northern Ohio and shop for 8! Of course, I purchase dry beans, and no prepared foods.
    I love that your husband likes to shop with you. When our children were all younger, our eldest son would watch them and our "date" was grocery shopping. ;)

  10. It was wonderful to hear how Laine manages the different dietary issues within her family. This is very relevant to my own family.

  11. Thank you Annabel and Laine :).

    Thank you Laine for your wise words on budgeting and yes I agree with you that having paid off your home, which is a huge effort and debt, that you both deserve some treats in your food budget.

    Sewingcreations15 (Lorna).


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