Saturday, September 1, 2012

Food Spending + Shopping on a budget

I love data. Charts, spreadsheets, lists... these things make me feel like all is right in the world.
I started in the middle of last month (8/19) keeping track of my food spending ina spreadsheet knowing that we were making the switch to Paleo.

This is the chart for food spending for the end for August. The categories could use some refining, there was one item on a receipt that I couldn't tell what it was so I think also filling out the spreadsheet as soon as I get the frozen and fridge goods put away is going to be necessary as store receipts can be very hard to read. I want to include restaurant meals as well, though preferably there will not be a lot of restaurant meals because a) eating Paleo at restaurants is kind of a pain b) eating out is expensive c) I'm kind of a picky eater and just plain prefer the way I make things a lot of the time!

Here is this month's chart starting with today's trip to the farmer's market. Categories will be added as they come up and I will re-post the chart at the end of the month. This chart is for two people, I will try to get my fella's receipts to include when he does grocery shopping as well. One of the arguments people have against Paleo is the expense of things. We won't be buying any bread, cereals, ice cream, or much cheese so we'll save money in those categories, as you can see below, our meat category may be a bit high but meat makes the feeling of fullness last longer and veggies and fruit will fill us up!

A few thoughts on saving money on food:

  • Think really hard if a CSA is right for you. We got a CSA and divided by the weeks it's $27/week for a tub of organic food. The problem is it includes things I don't like (fennel) or things I can't eat (white potatoes). If had done a little more research I did find another CSA that would have been $20/week. My issue is that I don't think I'm getting my money's worth. I love the idea of a CSA, supporting farmers at the front end of the season when they need they financial help and then getting what feels like a free box of produce once a week. I just feel like I end up wasting a lot of food or being disappointed in what I get. There are some CSAs with a different format where you assemble your box yourself based on what's available (this is the type of CSA I had in the past in Brooklyn,NY) , but it's still the same price. 
  • Shop at the farmer's market. When produce is in season and super available the prices at the farmer's market will be much cheaper than at the grocery store in order to get rid of excess product. The quality of meat available at the farmer's market is better. Knowing your farmer, you can ask questions about how the meat is produced and if you felt so inclined you could probably arrange a visit. This is important if you are that kind of foodie (which I am) but also, you are keeping your money local and helping people and small businesses rather than corporations. 
  • Buy things in bulk. If it's something you eat a lot of (I'm about to start hunting down large quantities of coconut oil) the bigger quantity you can buy (and store properly) the cheaper price you should be able to get. I decided we'd start out with smaller amounts though, while figuring out what we eat exactly and to give me time to find the best deals.
  • Shop around, but don't spend so much on gas getting between different stores that you negate your savings! We have a Costco membership but don't really go that often. I'm trying to keep track of how much things cost and what store they came from so that I can figure out, in my town, where the best deals are. Safeway and Roth's have online copies of their weekly fliers which you can check before going shopping to see if the items you are shopping for are on sale. 
  • Make smoothies when fruits (and veggies if you have a good blender) start getting a little less cosmetically appealing, you can still use them in smoothies without wasting them
  • Learn how to properly store your food. The longer you can keep your perishables fresh the less you'll waste. Saving money on food is part finding a good price for things and part not wasting what you've purchased already. It's too easy to forget the cost of materials when paying for it is behind you but that's money sitting on your counter or in your fridge or freezer. Don't let things go bad, and if they do get beyond consumption, compost what you can and give it back to the earth!
Geeze, I forgot how much I enjoy blogging :) I hope you'll continue to read as I find my blog voice :)

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