Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Budgets, Food & the Environment

Has anyone else seen Heather's $400 grocery challenge? The challenge is to spend $400 or less a month on groceries. What do all of you think about that? I love her idea and the mindfulness she's putting into it. I plan on following all the posts to get some ideas for my own budget. I do have to admit I had a few giggles the first time I read the challenge... I'll go into that in a minute.

Anytime that I have read a blog post going into a person's personal grocery budget there was always a backlash to follow. Either the person who wrote the post had too much too spend or too little according to the people that responded. Knowing that, I am still going to throw caution to the wind and put our number out there.

The monthly grocery budget for our family of five, granted only four of us are eating solid foods, is $400, and I don't think we are in the minority here. This budget does not include the pet food and supplies but does include our homeopathic medicines, cleaning supplies (baking soda and vinegar, anyone?), and toiletries.

It's fun for C to sprinkle the sesame seeds onto her cold sesame noodles

Yep, that's why I had a giggle over the challenge. I am living the challenge every day out here in Oregon. Our budget was a bit more when we lived in Virginia, but I no longer remember how much exactly. I can tell you, however, that I didn't have to spend hours going through the grocery store doing math and adding up the cost of every single thing to see if we could afford it that month or not (like I do, now). It can be stressful for me to make that budget stretch enough to feed all of us real-food meals sometimes, and there are some nights I am up late trying to figure out how to arrange the next meal plan to stay under out limit - yet I know that we are still ok. We can still put warm, healthy meals in our little ones' tummies, and for that I know we are blessed and I am very thankful. We should always be thankful.

While it is an every day reality for me, it still is a challenge. I believe we are what we eat and that our food choices make a huge impact on our quality of life, not to mention the environment our children will inherit from us. So believe me, I make our money stretch as far as possible to purchase real, organic, whole foods. I think what helps our budget to work is the following:
We, ahem - I, make 98% of our meals from scratch, and although we are no longer vegan we are still strict vegetarians and we do not consume any alcohol (thanks to our straight edge roots).We meal plan, and to save my sanity I make enough of one meal for us to have leftovers the next night (that's why you see the same meals twice in my meal plan photo above) We don't eat out (probably better not to, anyways, right? At least that's what I try to tell myself), nor pick up snacks. I try to budget in fun snacks I can make for the girls instead, such as popsicles,kale chips and nutritional yeast popcorn. I also like to try out a new recipe or two every pay period (which is every 2 weeks for us), so I factor that in.

On those days when I am at the third grocery store for the day (after having spent hours at the other two) with 3 upset children, all wanting my attention, while trying to do math in my head - oh, what I wouldn't give to not have a budget and just buy groceries as I please. Then I realize I am just being foolish.
Thanks to our budget I have learned to meal plan (which I am grateful for), buy in bulk and shop for bargains. Food has become like gold to us and we can't bare the thought of wasting it. The girls know that whatever we don't eat gets saved for the next day or if it can't, it moves on to 'puppy compost'. It's funny because it's so normal to me that I have forgotten that not everyone lives this way. We have had guests at our house, that I would happily cook or bake for, take a bite of something I made, not like it, and then quickly throw the rest of it away. I would gasp thinking about how that food could have fed someone else. Silly reaction from me, I know, but food has become such a deep issue for me...shouldn't it be for us all?

So, that's us (in a 'scatterbrained, thoughts all over the place' fashion) - our number and all. Would you care to share YOUR grocery budget and what works for you?

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