>>Can you give a sample of your meals for a day and what it costs?<<
Well, since the request came today I guess today is as good a day as any to use as an example. This wasn’t an especially cheap day, but the very cheap days balance out the more expensive days so it doesn’t really matter. You’ll notice that my buying habits are reflected in the prices I pay. Please don’t post comments about how lucky I am that I can get things so cheaply and where you live it’s not possible – this gets really tiresome for me to hear because it’s just not true. Most of the women in my community would tell you it’s not possible for a family our size to have this kind of budget with food costs being what they are.
Breakfast was supposed to be Yorkshire pudding, but dd made pancakes instead. That was a very cheap breakfast – it’s basically just flour and some eggs, fried in coconut oil. We buy 50 lb sacks of wheat and grind the flour; a sack that size is about $35. That makes it .70 lb for a pound of wheat berries, and a pound of wheat comes out to a pound and a half of flour. Let’s round the flour costs up to .50 lb. The eggs were regular grocery eggs at 1.29 a dozen (I save the pastured eggs for smoothies when I want to use them raw) and she used half a dozen. So about $1 for the pancakes, since we used water instead of milk. They had a pound of organic cherries, too – that was another dollar. I have kefir in the fridge but no one felt like having it today. This was a smaller amount than we usually make; usually it would be 50% more. Breakfast total – $2.
Lunch – was supposed to be cream cheese roll ups, but kids decided they’d rather have it for lunch tomorrow. Instead they had leftover baked potatoes and lentil pecan burgers. But for the sake of showing something more easily documented (though more expensive), I’ll use the roll ups for my example and figure the amounts we’d usually use. Spinach tortillas – .89 package, 2 packages – purchased at discount store six weeks ago and taken from freezer – $1.78. Romaine lettuce – got a package of romaine hearts for 1.99 from the ethnic grocery where prices on vegetables are better than local supermarkets, but only need half a package – $1. Cream cheese – just bought some at a newly discovered discount store for .50 for 8 oz., half of what I usually get it for. Misc. vegetables and lacto fermented veggies to put in roll up – I buy many vegetables from the discounted section of the store, which works well when you plan to use them quickly. I didn’t pay more than .50 lb for any of those, figure up to 3 lb. of vegetables total – $1.50. Lunch total – $4.78.
Snack – blueberry scones. Someone gave us a box of scone mix yesterday, and ds10 asked if he could prepare it, so I agreed. He added half of a 12 oz package of frozen blueberries, bought at a discount grocery for 1.49 (instead of $4 in the regular supermarket), so .75.
Dinner – macaroni and cheese with summer squash and green beans. The organic flax rice spiral pasta was .99 for 12 oz, and we used 3 boxes – purchased at a salvage store six weeks ago – $2.97. For the cheese sauce, since I’m out of milk (because I’m delaying my monthly shopping trip by three weeks) I used something I virtually never use because it’s so unhealthy- powdered milk. Don’t do this at home! Anyway, it was organic and at least hormone, antibiotic, and pesticide free, and given to me months ago by a friend who bought it and wasn’t using it – free. Used 1 lb butter (discount grocery) – 1.39, a cup of whole grain flour – .25, 1 1/2 lb chalav yisroel mozzarella – 4.69 lb – get discounted price for buying a five pound brick – 7.04. I also threw in a handful of dehydrated mushrooms (bought fresh, on sale for .99 lb) and a handful of dehydrated onion (bought fresh from seconds section – .29 lb) – another $1. Summer squash and fresh green beans – from our garden – free. I have enough macaroni and cheese for tomorrow lunch, too, so really this dinner wasn’t as expensive as it seems. But I’m going to figure the costs as if we had actually eaten it all tonight – I prefer to overestimate my costs than to underestimate.
Total for the day for our family – $20.19 (b – $2, l – 4.78, sn – .75, d – 12.66). (I’m really tired tonight so it’s possible I made a mistake in the calculations, but this should be very close.)
To do, this, I used a variety of strategies – cooking from scratch, bulk buying, monthly shopping, stocking up when I see great deals, dehydrating/preserving foods that are on sale (in this case, vegetables), using vegetables close to the end of their shelf life that are significantly discounted, accepting groceries that are passed on to us, getting the cheapest items at different stores (every item above from a discount grocery was from a different store), and gardening. Those were strategies used just for today’s meals. The more strategies I learn about and use, the easier it is to stay within my budget. I’ve written about all of these in the past, but I know that there are always new visitors to the blog who haven’t seen what I’ve written on the topic of cutting down your food budget.
Some days I use a lot more beans and grains, which are much less expensive, and sometimes long periods can go by when I don’t use anything that I’ve gotten for free from a friend (today was unusual in that regard). You may see what seems like incredibly cheap prices, but what you don’t see is the time I’ve spent learning different ways to cut costs, my willingness to learn new things and experiment, the hours spent investigating different stores over the years, the managers of stores I’ve spoken to, and the commitment I make to stay within my budget no matter what. I constantly stay open to finding new sources of good deals; I never assume I’ve found the best or cheapest places for anything. Because of all these strategies, I feel like it keeps getting easier and easier to stay within my monthly budget, even with the rising food costs. I feel very expansive in my grocery shopping, and I don’t find it hard to limit myself to $600 monthly – $450 would be a challenge – doable, but we’d be eating a lot more beans and a lot less cheese and chicken.