About a year ago I tracked our food budget for a week and it was really interesting so I decided to do it again…
People have the misconception that eating healthy is expensive. I recently watched a popular health food documentary where a low income family said they couldn’t afford to eat healthy and they were forced to eat fast food to feed their family of four because its cheap. They had access to a car so getting to a grocery store wasn’t the problem. Now I know I don’t know their whole story but many people think this way. “Eating healthy is too expensive” is a common misconception.
We eat 100% organic foods and local as much as possible. We made the decision a while ago that food is something we were willing to spend more money on. So we don’t skimp on expensive products when we want them. We eat steaks, meat at every dinner, seafood, tons of fresh produce, organic greek yogurt, and ALL organic. All places we could save on, but we like it and its worth it to us. We eat unprocessed whole grains, meats, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and dairy. We go not eat anything processed or anything that comes out of a box. We also do not go out to eat. Well with one exception. Once a month when we do our big whole foods trip (an hour away but the best option since we live in a small town), we stop by an organic restaurant for a meal.
I tracked every penny we spent on food in the last month (ETA: this also includes things like toilet paper and paper towels. It also includes about $30 worth of wine we bought when we had visitors which we don’t buy otherwise. And also food for a meal I made for a friend who recently had a baby. I refigured out my numbers not including those things so that its just our food alone and put that in parenthesis).
It looks like this…
$540 whole foods: We make one big trip a month. We freeze a lot of meats and vegetables. We stock up on meat, 1-2 weeks of fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables and fruit, dairy, bulk bin items (barley, amaranth, quinoa, steel cut oats, raisins, nuts, seeds, beans)
$120 trader Joes: whole chickens, dairy
$45 commissary (military grocery store): fruit, ground turkey, milk and cheese
$40 produce delivery box: vegetables
$25 organic market: fresh vegetables
$55 commissary: fruit, milk, yogurt
$28 Epic Food Company (the organic restaurant)
That totals $833 ($793) for an entire months food for my entire family. That includes one 200 lb man, one breastfeeding mom, and 2 kids who eat so much I get frequently asked if I ever feed them because of how much food they put away in a single sitting. My parents always comment how one of my kids eats more than they do.
That’s $208 ($198) per week, $29.75 ($28) per day, $9.90 ($9.44) per meal for the entire family. That’s $2.48 ($2.36) per person per meal.
What fast food restaurant can you feed a family of 4 for UNDER $10? The dollar menu cant do that. A happy meal costs more than $2.48. So our way of eating is cheaper and obviously exponentially healthier. And this cost per meal is assuming we eat just 3 meals a day. In reality we all have an afternoon snack and we all have an evening snack around 730 since we usually eat an early 530 pm dinner. So each meal is actually cheaper than that.
Where do we save?
Bulk bins: For example, I use dried beans instead of canned. Bulk bins can save but some stuff is actually more expensive out of the bulk bins so I have compared and know what to buy bulk.
Beans for protein: We eat beans at lunch pretty much every day for protein instead of meat or processed expensive lunch meats
Homemade: I make everything from scratch. Premade hummus is $4, the dried beans cost a matter of cents. We make huge batches of steel cut oats for breakfast throughout the week instead of pricey boxes of cereal. It takes a little more planning but really not much extra time. I am a stay at home mom but I have 3 kids, one is a newborn and I homeschool my oldest, so I don’t have loads of free time for sure.
Snack foods: We don’t buy fruit snacks, crackers, cookies, etc. We snack on fruits, raw vegetables, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. When we eat dessert, I make it myself. A box of cookies is quite a few dollars but oats, dates, milk, peanuts (cookie or ice cream ingredients) are pretty cheap.
Chickens: Instead of buying chicken breasts I get whole chickens and cut them up. Organic chicken breasts are $7 per pound where a whole organic chicken is $2.69. I also use the chicken bones to make bone broth which saves money on not having to buy chicken broth.
Eggs: We have backyard chickens. We have 6 and we get roughly 3 dozen eggs a week. And they are the best eggs you’ve ever tasted. We do supplement them being free range with a small amount of grain however.
Eating out: we really don’t do it. We don’t drive thru Starbucks a couple times a week or catch lunch while we are out. We eat breakfast before we leave the house, we eat lunch at home since its right before naptime so we have to be home anyway, then dinner is shortly after naptime so we are still home and eat before we go back out anywhere. I also either pack my husband a lunch or he meets us at home every day for lunch.
Where we splurge. We could save here more but we just don’t for various reasons:
Coupons: I rarely use them unless they are on the front of the package in the store, ready to peel off. I need to get better about this but it seems coupons are mostly for processed foods. And its not really worth my time to search the internet for an hour to save $2 in coupons. Again, I have 3 kids, I’m busy.
Meats: We eat meat at every dinner and enjoy red meat and seafood weekly. The other nights its usually chicken or ground turkey. We could eat more beans or cheaper cuts of meat. But good food is our splurge. I don’t have 10 purses or a closet full of shoes. But I do have delicious grass fed organic beef in my freezer. Priorities.
Fresh Produce: Frozen is way cheaper and we buy a decent amount, especially in the winter to get us through the end of the month before we can get back to whole foods for more fresh. But fresh ones are just so good and theres such a better variety. We love them raw and roasted so we love fresh produce.
Organic: Organic is absolutely more expensive. No doubt about it. I think everything is more expensive organic. But we feel its worth it, so we do it. We have growing kids we don’t want chemicals, pesticides, gmos, or poor quality meat in their vulnerable bodies. So if we didn’t buy 100% organic, it would be way cheaper. Imagine that? Its already so cheap when you break it down!
It all comes down to priorities. I read so many blogs saying they cant afford to buy all organic, its just not in the cards. Well that may be true with their current budget. But to me I’d rather spend the money on good quality healthy food than a pair of shoes I may want, but not need. Another common reason is that someone doesn’t have the time. Again, its priorities. Do you ever watch a tv show? Ever spend time reading or doing another hobby? Of course most people do. And that’s fine. But the reason is because you don’t want to, not because you can’t. But honestly, once you have a routine down and plan ahead, it doesn’t take much time at all. Planning ahead really is key. No last minute grocery trips which end up in higher food bills and it saves loads of time when meal time rolls around.