Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Costs

When we took on our year we gave quite a few reasons as to why we decided to do it. We wanted to eat healthier. We wanted to know what was on and in our food. We wanted to make sure farmers were paid fairly for their hard work. One reason, though, I never really touched on, but in actuality was one of the biggest reasons we did it.

We needed to save money.

In September of 2010 I was facing another possible pay cut at work. After spending over 2 1/2 years at part time and not being able to find a second part time job even after sending out dozens of resumes and applications every week (told time and again that I was overqualified) we had to make cuts, and unfortunately food was going to have to be one of them (cell phones, cable, and commercial beauty products also got the ax).

When I used to shop at the large chain supermarket I could easily spend $250 a week on groceries. Usually it was nothing but crap processed food but we did buy a lot of produce. I then started to make the switch to only shopping at Trader Joe's and the farmers market. Once a week I'd go to Trader Joe's and spend between $80 and $140 a week. It was usually higher in the Winter because we had less produce growing in our garden. Every Saturday we would spend $40 at the farmers' market. So every week we spent between $120-180 every week on food. Less than what we were spending compared to the large chain supermarket, but we still needed to cut it.

But, this also didn't include what we spent eating out. I can't really say how much that was, but we went out at least once a week, but usually more like twice a week. On average we'd probably spend about $30 per meal out. It added up quickly.

One of the first things I'm asked by a lot of people is how expensive it is to eat like this. There's an assumption that now that we buy all of our food from the farmers' market and from shops that specialize in local and organic food that we're actually spending more on food. It didn't turn out that way.

I kept track of all of our expenditures on food over the year. We ended up averaging $84/week. So if you included two meals out in a week totaling $60/week plus the grocery store bill we were saving $96-156 a week. Even without including eating out we still saved $56-96 a week.

The biggest change, and what saved us the most amount of money, was processing all of our own food. Bread is a prime example. A loaf of plain white bread costs between $2.50 and $4.50 at the grocery store. Making a loaf of bread at home costs less than $0.50. If we make 1 loaf per week, we save over $100 per year just on bread. Of course store bought, basic white bread doesn't compare to homemade bread so in reality the savings was greater.

Buying in bulk was also key. We have a very small house - only 750 sq ft. Organization is key for us and buying in bulk can prove difficult because of our size limitations. But we make it work. We have a chest freezer because we buy whole or partial animals. The cost of an organically raised pig that we bought live and had slaughtered and butchered came to $2/lb.

I won't lie. It takes a lot more planning and definitely more work, but we decided that we needed to save the money and eat better and so this is what we had to do.


  1. Have you done an article on purchasing partial animals and what goes into that?

    I linked to your site.


  2. I often get asked, "Doesn't that cost too much to buy everything organic?" I find that I spend more in some areas and less in others. For example I only eat bulk oatmeal for breakfast now, instead of instant oatmeal or cereal. So much cheaper! I do spend more on pasture raised bacon and sausage and eggs, but we only have them once in a while anyways. We eat out less often and cook more in sine our food is actually better than eating out! Do we spend more now? I don't know, but I do know I go to the grocery store rarely now which means less impulsive purchases....

  3. Yes, it takes more work, but it is more than worth it in it end! Thanks for posting this update!

  4. A lot more of us are going to do what you're doing now, either for economic or health reasons.

    We need more gardens, farmer's markets, and local seed banks.

    Congratulations on your successes.

  5. As I read this we are about to go meet our rancher half way to get our beef for the winter. We do this every year and like you say buying in bulk we save money and also have a ready supply in the house to last the winter. We have not gone to a supermarket for so long now. Still we need to work on meals because we often find we overbuy or don't eat all we have and there is waste. In these areas of the world we have overabundance and we have grown wasteful. On closing our garden since it is beginning to freeze we took every little bit of produce that was there. Often times it goes to waste. Luckily we compost a lot so it does not go to the landfill. I would like to be able to have small livestock but our bylaws don't allow it yet also. Although some people have started to keep hens nonetheless. Thanks for posting! I enjoyed reading your post

  6. I am so impressed with your blog. I got it from one of my friends facebook. My husband and I have boughten a 1890 home with 3 acres and we are going to be gardening and having our meet organic also. My husband has cancer, and have decided that homegrown food is so much better. Congratulation and keep your sucess going so that others can hear the word!!

  7. Nice blog and I will enjoy following you on your food adventures. I wonder about things like shampoo and laundry soap. I know these things can also be bought at Farmer's Markets sometimes. Where do you get yours?

  8. Cloud9doula, we actually make our own soaps. I use baking soda and apple cider vinegar as shampoo and conditioner and then I make cold process soaps for pretty much everything else. I make laundry detergent from a bar of my soap grated, 1 gallon of water, 1 cup of washing soda and 1 cup of baking soda. Heat up the water and dissolve everything in it. Voila! Laundry detergent!

  9. Great post! We try to grow as much food on our property as possible and buy the rest from local sources other than the grocery store. I commend people who do so.We can, freeze, dehydrate, pickle, etc. anything we can. We are now talking about getting some chickens and a few dairy goats. The cost of groceries seems to be going up quickly, so your savings gets greater and greater. Thanks for all you share here on your blog. I hope you will visit mine some time. I have 6 children and I am trying to teach what I learned growing up on a homestead/farm to the next generation.
    I make my own laundry detergent also, but my recipe is a little different. How much of your recipe do you use per load?

  10. Thanks! We use about 1/4 cup per load. Let me know and I'd be more than happy to help.