>>I’ve found that since I have such a good stockpile of non-perishable food, my grocery bill is less every month.<<
I got online with the intent to post about exactly this point, Michelle. I realized this morning that I’ve been misrepresenting how much I spend monthly on food here with all of you. I’ve been saying that I spend $600 monthly for our family of ten. But in fact, since I buy about six weeks worth of food for that amount, my true monthly costs are much closer to $400. And every single month, though I’m spending the same $600, the pantry is getting a little more full.
The reason this suddenly hit me is that today is the day that I re-start my monthly budget, and I’m not planning to do my main shopping for another couple of weeks. I did do some quick supplementary shopping, though, and got about $110 of chicken and veggies today (in addition to chicken for the next couple of weeks for Shabbos, it included a case of chicken wings, almost 35 lb, that I’m putting aside for meals during chol hamoed Pesach – bbq wings make a tasty and inexpensive meal), and am well set for another couple of weeks.
Actually, I realized, I’m set for more than that. When I buy chicken, fruits, or vegetables that end up being canned or dehydrated, since that money has been spent in that given month, I consider them as consumed. But in actuality, they usually aren’t used for weeks or even months. A case in point is the beef that I’m using for this week’s beef stew – I canned a lot of it after Sukkos. That money was spent long ago but I’ll enjoy the benefits now. The same thing with all of the ingredients that I’m using for almost everything else in my weekly menu plan – I don’t have to go out and buy anything. We have cottage cheese, cheese, and butter in the freezer; bulk oatmeal, wheat, cornmeal and sweeteners for baking; potatoes, yams, and eggs bought by the case last month; dried beans bought on sale.
This is something that everyone can (and should) do – make it your personal challenge to make your budget for four weeks last for five. It will probably mean choosing cheaper alternatives to some of what you currently are buying, until you get stocked up. But you’ll find it paying off as you find you can go longer periods of time between shopping trips, and are able to spend less on groceries while the quality of your diet stays the same or even improves.
You know, with the wiggle room this creates in my food budget, I could start buying more expensive cuts of meat or stop paying attention to the unit pricing of items I buy. I could buy more processed food so I spend less time in the kitchen. But why would I do that? My careful spending isn’t motivated by a lack of money (most people seem to assume that frugality is a strategy taken on out of financial desperation), but in the desire to be as responsible as I can with the means that I have.
It’s sad to me that some people assume that someone who spends the amount I do must be giving up quality or quantity – you know, “Well, I buy healthy foods and they cost so much more, and she would have to spend a lot more, too, if she cared about nutrition,” or “We like to enjoy our food, and her kids must be deprived to eat such a cheap diet.” It makes no difference to me how much people spend, as long as they can afford it and they have peace of mind, but I sometimes wonder if people want to think that those who spend much less than they do are deprived or off balanced, so that they can continue to justify their spending habits as essential. I haven’t had to give up anything to shop for food the way that I do (except unnecessary time and energy!). In fact, I buy a lot of things that many people would consider luxuries (for example, coconut/palm oils, honey/agave/sucanat – no cheap oils or sugar), and we’re able to eat a very healthy and abundant diet that we all enjoy. It’s shopping carefully that makes room in the budget for items that could otherwise be considered luxuries.
It’s so much more fun to see how we’re the ones who have the power to learn new strategies. It’s a fun challenge to make meals we love and simultaneously keep my food bills low!