Today I'm going to to set a good example. I am going to attempt to go the next few months (I'm shooting for at least until August...) spending no more than $75 a week on food. Real, whole food. In my case I'm going to try to stay as organic as I can... something that will be made possible by the fact that it is the height of summer, the farmer's market is teaming with great deals, my organic CSA is chock full of goodies, and I have a freezer full of pastured beef, pork, and chicken (but I charge myself for that, don't worry!).
In order to assure success (and for you to do the same, should you try to emulate me... which you should... okay, so that was kind of a joke, but I always forget that sarcasm doesn't translate well to print. anywho...) I have done two things. I have created myself a little budget for each week, broken down by food group (to assure balance), and I have meal planned the first week.
Here is my weekly budget, broken down:
- CSA share: $15 a week for a half a share. This was, of course, paid up front, but if you feel like this is too much of a stretch for you, at least ask your local produce farmer- mine was willing to let me break it up into two payments, and even pro-rated me the shares I missed because I signed up late. Not all farmers may be this accomodating, but it doesn't hurt to ask!
- Meat(in this case beef, but if you did pork you could reduce this further- buying a whole hog yields almost as much meat as a half a beef, and the total price is a little less... or you could get totally crazy and buy a quarter beef and a half hog): $15 a week. In reality I actually paid less than this due to my ahem, connections (hi dad!), but in the interest of fairness I have taken a pretty average price for a half grass fed beef (about $750, give or take), divided it by 52, which gave me just under $15. I understand coming up with the initial $750 can be hard, but it is worth it in the long run both in savings and in the health benefits! But if you can't pull it off, go for the cheapest cuts of conventional meat, and learn to stretch them (more on that later)
- Chicken: $10 a week. This is a partially random number, because it's really hard for me to quantify what my own chicken is worth. I know it costs me about $6 per chicken to raise (give or take), but I didn't think it would be fair to count that as the final cost as most people don't have access to chicken that cheap, let alone pastured chicken. But I think $10 is a reasonable price for a good whole chicken- if that doesn't buy a pastured chicken in your area, buy the best chicken you can for the price.
- Eggs: $5 a week. This is for 2 dozen. This is the price I charge for my eggs. Look around your area, even if you don't think you're rural enough. When I lived in SoCal I used to buy my eggs from my midwife for $2 a dozen. If you can't find any, though, buy the best you can afford.
- Milk: $10 a week. For me this buys 2 gallons of raw goat milk. I know that it's a ridiculously low price for raw goat's milk, but I'm okay with that:) I strongly suggest you splurge in this area if you can afford to and at least try to find pastured non-homogenized milk (more and more places are starting to carry it- I can find three brands locally). When we were doing this $10 would have bought us one gallon, not two, but then we drank less. This is a good time to focus on quality, not quantity.
- Everything Else: That leaves me with $20 to spend on other sundries- butter, supplemental produce, dry goods. Stick with foods that don't have labels or packaging (other than the butter!) and you can make $20 go a long way.
But one thing about these "examples" that tends to bother people is that you obviously can't buy exactly what I buy for the same price, as I mentioned with the milk. That's fine. You do your best. You adjust the total budget amount or the budget amount for each individual item. I'm merely doing this to show that it can be done, with real foods, and without any coupon-y magic. However, in the interest of full disclosure...
Here's how I plan to "cheat:"
- I have a really decently stocked real food pantry. I have plenty of canned tomato products from last summer (although I'm out of salsa and pasta sauce... hurry up and ripen tomatoes!), a bag and a half of wheat, lots of dried beans, a nearly full container of olive oil and an unopened container of coconut oil, among lots of other things, and I plan to use them. When the time comes to replenish these, I will do my best to do so within budget, but I make no promises, esp when the coconut oil runs out!
- I have a garden. This will keep my produce costs down. But everyone should have a garden, so I don't consider this cheating:)