From the food budget that is. In the last 30 days we’ve spent about $800 on food. Now, this number includes alcohol and toiletries, both of which are purchased at the same time as the rest of our groceries, but even removing those won’t get us down to what we consider to be an acceptable number. And surprisingly, this number only includes 5-6 meals out, non of which surpassed $35 and most of which were around $20 (namely La Fiesta and Carrburritos). So what’s causing this inflated figure and what are we going to do about it?
First. We could eliminate eating out altogether, or at least cut back to 2-3 times a month. That would save a wee bit, maybe $30 – $50, which is worth it because eating out really isn’t all that anyway. As noted above, we mainly eat Mexican when dining out and that can clearly be made at home for less cash, plus you don’t have to tip (though Sarah may feel that for certain stellar suppers a gratuity would be appropriate). So that’s an easy peasy fix for a decent decrease.
Another simple solution is to eat less meat. Many folks might argue that meat meals can be cooked up for the same cost as vegetarian meals, and this very well could be true if you are purchasing your meat from the average American grocery store. In those cases, however, one never knows where that meat came from, how it was raised, what it was fed or what unnatural processes were involved in it’s growth. For most people, this is not an issue. For us, it’s a huge issue. We’re not zealots about very many things, but food is something we take seriously and have strong beliefs about. We’re certainly not perfect, but we do our best to support local food sources, even growing some of our own veggies, and to get the meat we eat from local farms, or at the very least avoid anything undisclosed (this just screams CAFO). There’s no need to preach about food issues in our blog, the literature exists in abundance for anyone that cares to learn. Paying attention to what we put in our bodies is worth a good deal of time and money, so for us, meat is pretty pricey. And honestly we only eat it about twice a week. Cutting back to once a week, or even just making sure that it’s never more than twice a week, could be beneficial to the budget.
On that same note, our food values have driven us to do more of our shopping at our local co-op grocer known as Weaver Street. It’s your typical crunchy market with organics galore, a lovely selection of local meats and produce, and even environmentally friendly household goods and toiletries. We do love Weaver Street and hope to continue patronizing their stores for as long as we live in central North Carolina. That said, our foray into co-op shopping was relatively recent (the past year perhaps?) and with it came a noticeable increase in the weekly grocery bill. In the beginning, we only purchased meat and produce from them, while still getting the majority of our staples from the regular grocers like Lowe’s and Wal-Mart. Then, for no good reason, we started buying more and more from Weaver, everything from pretzels to canned tomatoes. This, we believe, is the greatest cause for our fat food bills each month. It’s less than noteworthy on an item by item basis – that extra $0.75 for a pack of tortillas hardly sets off an alarm – but my oh my how that adds up. So it’s time to rethink and refocus. There really is no need to buy pretzels at a premium price. I’m sure there’s some tiny benefit to eating the organic pretzels, but is it worth an extra buck? No. At least not in our opinion. We also took some time today to look into which produce items are most hazardous in terms of chemicals and pesticides and therefore to be avoided in any form other than organic. This list includes apples, berries, peaches, peppers and more. Produce on the “really not a big deal” list include bananas, pineapple, onions, avocados and asparagus. Knowing this will help us to feel a little less badly about buying some non-organics. It’s tough (and expensive) to be a hard-core locavore and finicky foodie, but even heading half way there counts for a lot.
One final thing that will help curtail our spending – spring! With spring comes gardening and after our intro into self-cultivated vegetables last year, we’re ecstatic to take what we learned and do even more this year.
Goal: Stick to a $650 food budget for the next 30 days. We’ll keep alcohol in this budget, but subtract any toiletry purchases from the bills. This is $150 less than the last 30 days, but we know we can do it!
Look, our garlic is growing!