I hear people say all the time that eating “like I do” is so expensive! I’m not even sure what that means, eating real food? I have been doing months worth of research to determine how much I actually spend every month on food to see if what I spend is really THAT much more than people buying packaged goods. Let’s face it, it costs less to buy Mac and cheese in a box than some grassfed beef. I thought to myself that since I had no idea how much I was spending, that maybe I was actually spending more than I expected!!
Some of you may be wondering how I could have no clue how much I was spending, so I will give you an idea of what my food spending looks like. EVERYTHING I buy is quality; this is because I can give up the cost of baked goods with almond flour if I need to in order to have healthy whole foods. I buy all my beef grassfed, all my chicken free range, all my pork pastured, most of my produce organic (unless I can’t find it or I am peeling it). I am not saying this is the standard everyone is at or should be at, but I wanted to give you an idea of what spending is like when you do it “all the way clean.” It has taken months to evaluate because when I buy a 1/4 of a cow, it takes more than a month to eat! So, that month I may spend a few hundred dollars on meat but then won’t have to buy meat for months to come. The same with produce. I pay for my CSA share in the beginning of the year but do not get any veggies until June-Oct, which means I don’t have them as an expense through the summer.
Drum roll. I would say that on average, I spend around 300/mo (per person) on food. Let me clarify….that means everything! Meat, veggies, items to bake, beverages, eating out, etc. I looked up what the average American spends on just a standard diet and it was way more than that! In eating out one night, someone can spend what my entire week of groceries cost!
I am going to give you some of the same tips that most quality-conscious people will give you, so they should not be a surprise.
1. Join a CSA. The CSA costs me $15/week from June-Oct and I have so many veggies that are local, organic, fresh that I can’t possibly keep up with eating them all! Therefore, I freeze some, ferment some, give some away and I hardly ever buy produce from the grocery store because I have so much already.
2. Start a garden. This is partly just fun to watch stuff grow, be able to harvest your own bounty, and feel good knowing that it came from your backyard! However, seeds cost next to nothing, and if you plant accordingly, you will have plants that keep giving you FREE food all summer long!
3. Buy in bulk! I buy my cows and pigs by the 1/4, I buy my chickens by the dozen, and I buy butter by the box. In the summer, I go to the local, organic orchards or farms and stock up on 30lbs of blueberries and 2 bushels of apples, etc. This fruit gets made into applesauce, crumbles, etc and frozen to be enjoyed all year at a fraction of the price.
4. Buy what’s on sale, not what you “want.” It’s easy to go to the store with an idea of what you want to eat that week and buy the ingredients. However, if what you want to eat is not in season, then you may pay double or triple the amount for your produce than if you bought produce that the farmers can’t get off their hands fast enough. There is no shelf life to produce, therefore, when it is in season, it is abundant and fresh and nutritious….and cheap!
5. Bake with coconut flour and tapioca flour. If you bake everything with almond flour, you could risk spending 10 dollars on the flour to make one coffee cake! Consider those items “treats” not because they are desserts but because they are budget-busters.
6. Eat eggs often. They are the cheapest protein source around and are full of nutrients. Have breakfast for dinner a few nights a month and it can go a long way.
7. Figure out what things you buy may be costing you a fortune. I found that buying coconut milk ice cream was running me $6 a pint! It costs me $3 to make more on my own! Therefore, if it’s something you consume frequently, you may find that making it at home is rewarding and cost-effective! That same thing goes for chicken stock. Save your $3 a quart and simply throw your left over bones in the crockpot with water and make your own.
8. Make your own laundry detergent. I was spending obscene amounts of money on “all natural” products and laundry detergent has been one of the best things ever! It costs me less than $10 to make a big barrel of it and it lasts months.
9. Have people over! Not only is hosting friends fun, but you can enjoy better food and drinks for much less! Having friends over for dinner will save your dining out budget from tipping the scales (and you will know that the food was quality!). Especially if you drink wine, $10 at the store equals $35 at the restaurant!
10. Pack you lunch. I feel like a broken record with this one because I say it ALL THE TIME. Eating leftovers for lunch means eating amazing food, AND not having to spend $15 everyday for a crappy hamburger sans the bun.
I would love for those with families to chime in and let us know how much they spend! It is definitely a do-able thing. Once you have your pantry stocked with “new” things like coconut oil, milk, flour, spices, etc., it’s really just maintenance from there. ;)