I have been knitting a second Christmas Morning Sweater by Caddy Melville Ledbetter with Manos De Uruguay “Velvet Pincushion” since early January and trying to make our food budget stretch as far as I possibly can. I have spent an inordinate amount of time with this cook book : Economy Gastronomy. It has made feeding my family for less totally doable. It’s a theme in our house that the food budget is one of the only places where there is room to cut. In early 2013 I was shopping once a week and our month’s grocery bill was more than our month’s rent… seriously. M. and I could not believe how expensive food was and that it was full of GMOs, corn syrup and Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable fats which we had been easily avoiding in the UK because of EU and UK food labeling laws.
With some tweaks in what I bought and where I shopped I got our bill down to about $800 whilst avoiding most of the previously mentioned food baddies. For us that was still too high and felt like extortion when I had been feeding my whole family in England for about $720 a month without having to think or plan at all. So I sat down to researching what other people do. Last summer I tried couponing. No kidding it really is cheaper but only if you are willing to buy the sort of foods advertising wants you to buy. For a month our entire grocery bill was $50 a week but we were eating all those things I really really hate. And I was feeding my family out of pre-made, salty, sugar laden crap whilst spending a huge amount of time scouring the web for sales and coupons which would match up. It was easily a full time job and very very unsatisfactory.
So since then I had been looking much harder for solutions. Because I cook almost everything from scratch it was really the staples that were killing us and (amazingly to me) the weekly shopping!
So in January I learned to shop just once a month. Ironically we had been told by some wise soul before we ever moved back to the US that if you want to find the best prices on natural food you should shop where the Mexicans shop. That is what I do for half of the groceries: Food Maxx. The other half I buy in bulk at Costco. We are a few months in now and I can say genuinely the learning curve was harsh: planning a month of menus and all the different events that may come up and then transform that into a working shopping list from several different stores AND then to buy it all in one swoop is hard. Super hard. But it gets easier and easier again. I have traded in 5 grocery trips a month which with making a shopping list travelling to the stores, shopping and getting home again = about 18 hours a month, for one gargantuan and a little scary shopping day along side about two days of planning(= about 12 hours a month). Its worth the effort just for my own time sake but it has also cut our shopping down to $550 a month. That is about $18 a day or $3.66 per person per day or $1.66 per meal per person. Seriously. Less than $20 per day on food for a family of 5 and that is without taking into account the food we grow during the summer which will cut the bill down even more sharply.
I initially wondered if it was worth it… the extra thinking and planning and the huge shop that needs two people to complete it in a day. But then I realized saving only the difference in our $800 shopping bill and my current $550 is like giving M. a 8% pay raise. So yeah its worth it.
Today I am linking up with Ginny at Small Things for a Yarn Along!