This is a picture of my fridge. On the top is my fridge on Friday afternoon after I grocery shopped. Full to bursting, with stuff stacked on top of each other. More food than can even fit in the fridge. On the bottom is a picture of my fridge on the following Tuesday morning–three days later. It’s almost empty. It is RIDICULOUS how fast we go through food. Ridiculous, I say.
In any given week, I go to the grocery store at least twice, sometimes 3 or 4 times. I do almost all my shopping at Wegmans, which, to be completely honest and 100% unbiased, is the best grocery store in the history of the world. I do another fair chunk of shopping at Trader Joes, which is the second best grocery store. Once a month I make a trip to my favorite farm, Fields of Athenry Farm, and pick up all our meat for the month.
As I’ve said approximately one thousand times, we eat mostly whole and unprocessed foods, and just about everything I buy is organic. That means that yes, I spend more on a gallon of milk than I would if I bought conventional. But it also means I feed my family without fear, which is worth more to me than $3/gallon.
The thing is, with six people in our family, we spend a lot of money on food. Even if I bought regular produce and grocery-store meat, we’d be throwing a pretty penny down on food every month.
Matt and I try to create and follow a budget every month. Sometimes we are more successful than others, but we always try. One thing we are pretty good about is that we take out cash for groceries at the beginning of each month and I don’t use the debit/credit card for food. Sticking with cash makes it less likely that I’ll throw a bunch of extra stuff in the cart. But it also means we have to figure out what, realistically, we will spend on food each month.
For a long time, I felt really guilty because by the 15th or 20th, I’d have used the whole month’s grocery budget. I felt a bit like a failure, because why couldn’t I shop within my budget??? But recently, Matt and I sat down and talked about our food budget for the first time in ages, and I realized we simply were not allocating enough money to feed our family every month.
Now I’m going to talk specifics, which, when it comes to money makes some people uncomfortable. But I think it’s helpful when I talk to people who are interested in buying organic vs. conventional to have actual figures as evidence. Plus, I don’t care if anyone knows how much I spend on food every month.
So. We used to budget $1000/month for food. I could never make it work though, and felt guilty about it. Then a few months back we stretched to $1200/month, which I thought for sure would be enough. It was better, but still not great–the last week of the month I was always left with an envelope with $20 in it, trying to figure out what I had done wrong. I told Matt I really thought I needed to allocate more like $1500/month. It sounded like a really ridiculous amount though. But when Matt and I sat down and thought about the math though, we realized that with 5-ish weeks in a month, that was $300/week. Which was $50 per person per week. Which equals about $8 per day per person. Which made me feel way, way, way better.
I am feeding my family for $8 per day per person. I am feeding them healthy, organic, nourishing food. I am supporting a local farm with my money.
It’s really cheap then, actually,what we pay for groceries. I could barely buy myself a good lunch for $8 at a fast food restaurant, much less breakfast, lunch, dinner, AND snacks. I’m feeling pretty proud, in fact, and far less guilty at the checkout line every week.
Although I’m not going to lie…if it’s costing me $1500 a month right now for food, I’m a little scared of what the figure will be when I have three teenage boys.