Thursday, October 27, 2011
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.