Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Food Budgeting for the First Time

In all our years as a family, we have never kept a food budget. It just hasn't been possible, or it seemed like too much to deal with. We have really high food standards and that means a high food bill, right? Right. But things are tight right now and since we are already pretty frugal there is only one way to tighten our belts, so to speak. A grocery budget.

Last month I attempted to gather food receipts by using Scannable at the register. I'm hopeless at actually keeping actual receipts so I thought this would be a good solution. But I didn't capture every single receipt, so when the end of the month came around I had to go to our bank account to see the damage. We had tried to reduce spending that month but it wasn't good enough. I'm just going to put it out there- we are a family of seven and we spent over $2200 on food that month. Trying to be frugal.

We have a rough goal of $1600 per month. That would free up $600/ month for paying off debt. Yeah, debt. Kitchen renovation debt. Hot water heater exploding debt. Oven failure debt. House poor debt.

Can a family of seven eat well on $1600/month? First, let's lay down some ground rules.

1) We don't want to compromise on our quality standards. We don't always buy organic but we never buy GMO.  We prioritize seasonal, clean, and local. Organic is great when it is also in season, clean, and local.

2) We make most things from scratch. When we don't they have to be clean like we made them. No bread preservatives. No non-food ingredients. This means a lot of bulk purchases for beans, rice, oats, flour, and more.

 Homemade bread products may not save tons of money, but they are not something we are prepared to exchange for lower quality.

3) Our grocery bills almost always include dish soap and more, so there is wiggle room in our budget for those. We haven't decided how to compensate for those things in our budget. Remember, we are absolute beginners.

4) We aren't including dining out in this budget because we don't dine out much and when we do, we hit specific places. We are keeping a separate budget for dining that includes those rare meals out and coffee shops. We feel like its ok to eat out once a month or so, usually when we miss Liturgy on a Sunday and we feel like Buddhist Temple food.

Buddhist Temple FTW!

5) We keep chickens and a garden, and the costs associated with those things are not part of the budget. No price can be put on the eggs-and they are plentiful- we get from our very well-fed girls.

Ok, those are the rules. I'm not sure where we got our $1600 amount, but it's a goal. And to that end, we have started meal planning, something we are not new to. There have been many seasons where we've resorted to meal planning. It has never lasted very long, but it has been helpful from time to time. Right now meal planning is particularly helpful because I am on a diet protocol that requires me to avoid most of what the family is eating. It really helps to have a plan in place to make quick work of the family meals. (My diet is similar to GAPS intro, but I am also avoiding nuts, seeds, and nightshades. I am eating eggs and butter, so it is not AIP. All of that is for another entry.)

Over the next couple of months we will be using our meal plan and taking note of what we buy and how much of it. We will also be running out of staples and discovering the true cost of the meal plan. While the dinners are planned each week, breakfasts and lunches vary, so there is a lot to learn. I'll make another post about our weekly dinner plan and why we chose it.

Do you think $1600 a month is enough for our family, or do you think it's ridiculously high?

Any tips on food budgeting without undue fuss? 

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