On a recent post Jordan Clark asked me how I managed to feed my family of three for about $300/month including our house hold goods like garbage bags and paper towel. I thought this might be an interesting post, so I ran through my last grocery bill to see where that money goes.
First off I should explain the basics of how things work for us. We do one big grocery run at the start of the month and try to keep it around $250. Then with my wife running a daycare we get some leftovers from the business that get passed along into the house. I would estimate that gives us around an extra $50/month in ‘free’ food. Then during the month we get milk, fruit, and a hand full of other items for perhaps $50 total. So in reality we spend about $350/month on food, but I only pay for $300.
Perhaps some of the most important things we do with our food are buy in bulk where ever possible and make as many things as possible from scratch. I bake all my own muffins and cakes. I’m fairly fearless with trying new things in the kitchen and I have found you can substitute or not use many of those exotic ingredients in some recipes. For example, skip the cinder vinegar just use apple juice with a spoonful of white vinegar.
We also tend to eat lots of fresh fruit and veggies and we only buy things when they are reasonably priced (in season). So I tend to freeze some of favorites for use later in the winter (mango, blueberries, raspberries, Saskatoon berries). We also keep a small garden out back and enjoy fresh salads in the summer months and I have fresh herbs growing in the front room.
I’ve also gotten good at finding out who grows what where. For example, my one neighbor is an old lady with a huge apple tree. She can’t possible eat them all so I met her last year when she gave use two bags full of apples. My mother keeps a huge garden at the lake so I go picking there frequently and freeze beans and other veggies when they are at their peak. My sister in law’s grandma has a huge garden as well so I got two bags of berries last year from her. I also learned another friend has a huge apple tree in his yard I will go picking later this year.
I tend to them freeze what we can in our little apartment sized deep freeze and then can some items as well. For example, last year I made a huge batch of apple sauce and canned it. The kid and I ate that off and on until after Christmas.
We are also very good at watching for sales and loading up on items when they are dirt cheap. We also tend to avoid ‘name brand’ and prefab food items as they are often very over priced. We do keep some prefab items in the house, but we use those when we don’t want to cook and save the cost of eating out. For example, we always have a frozen pizza in the freezer for that once in a while feeling of I want a pizza, but don’t want to make the dough for it.
Basically I eat very well, but I just refuse to pay huge amounts of money for it, so we watch what we buy and cook at home.