I did a lot of thinking after writing my post yesterday. I had a very interesting conversation with a friend of mine after publishing my post about cost of living vs budget, and how my $100 a week food budget was unrealistic in places where the cost of living is much higher. At first I agreed with her that yes budget restrictions are limited by cost of living, but that statem
ent REALLY bothered me because deep down I don’t agree with that. So I did a little research…
The whole premises of this blog is teaching people how to be able to live a happy fulfilling life, being able to eat well and save money for the occasional fun activity, and not have to live in poverty when you are, well, living in poverty. There are two numbers I want to throw at you. The first is, acc
ording to the National Conference of State Legislatures the highest STATE minimum wage currently in effect as of 1-1-15 is $9.50 in D.C(1). so that is the number we will use as the highest cost of living we will address. This is because that number is the highest of the lowest people have to live on, so that is the highest someone is expected to be able to live on when assessing cost of living. That is $380 a week if NO taxes are taken out (so about $285 a week). Basically this person would be on food stamps, they would have to be. The second number is the cost of land. As of 2014 the highest cost of agricultural land per acre in the US was Rhode Island ($13,700) (2). So basically if an acre of agricultural land would become available it should only cost $14,000, of course that numbe
r is completely arbitrary because it also is based on where it is, but usually only residential or commercial land costs more than that. Based on these figures there are several things I want you to understand about this project:
This project takes work and dedication. Period. You have to want to do it. It also takes sacrifice. Over the course of the past two years we have had to train ourselves to say no to ourselves, and that’s hard, but it’s important. I think as a society we spoil ourselves too much and we come to expect that these things that we spoil ourselves with are needs and not wants.
Our current $100 food budget figure is based on several factors. The first is how much we know we can afford. Based on C’s current wage increase we can afford more than $100 a week, so the second factor comes in, how much we WANT to afford. When we were on food stamps we were expected to live on $270 a month. There were times we really had to scrimp to make it because we really couldn’t afford more than what they gave us. We don’t want to have to scrimp like that anymore, but we don’t want to over-indulge either. We also want to show that you can eat well, and very healthy, with less than what the government thinks a family of 4 needs ($150/wk).
I also understand that it is difficult to find land in some areas, especially around cities. If you are considering something like what we are doing then you may have to either move a little outside your comfort zone, or outside where you work to be able to achieve these goals, or figure out how you can urban-farm where you are (below are some great ideas, keep reading!!). Yes city farming does occur, but many times you have to deal with city laws and crabby neighbors, but it’s still completely possible. We chose our piece of land because it was within our price range and exactly what we wanted but it’s almost an hour from Cs work. That was a sacrifice we were willing to make.
This is not an easy task and really I only recommend it for people who really want to homestead. Yesterday’s blog was not a “this is a quick fix” post. These are major life changes I’m talking about here. My friend was talking about high food costs despite the fact that they cut coupons and look at grocery store fliers each week. I don’t. I don’t do any of that. I am the worlds worst couponer ever. When I do find a coupon I want to use I forget to use them, or don’t bring them with me, or whatever. So how do I do it? How do I expect others to do it? Hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and imagination.
First off we grow a lot of our food. We also have become close with our local homesteaders. This goal is hard to achieve if you don’t. Homesteaders are GREAT. They are a fantastic community of people who want you to be educated on how to live like them. We got out there and met our local homesteaders. When someone would say, “hey you need to talk to so-and-so” we DID. We asked questions, we went out to learn things, we exchanged services for goods. We made deals to help buy feed in exchange for eggs, we exchanged produce, If you don’t take advantage of the homesteading community you are missing out on a lot of resources that would greatly cut down on your food costs. This is especially helpful if you live in an area where land isn’t available or if you can’t grow your own garden. I know people who rent space in either public gardens or private so they can grow a garden without having the space. Be creative. It’s going to take time, it’s going to take energy, but it’s totally worth it.
So here is my Challenge.
I Challenge each of you to live on my food budget for a week, wherever you are. I want you to show me it can be done, and done well, without eating non clean foods. Our food budget is $100 a week, but that’s based on 2 adults and 2 small children who don’t eat much. C and I discussed in detail what we think an accurate food budget should be and here is what we came up with:
$50 per person over 13
$25 per person 5-13
$10 per person 0-5
Here is an example of a week or groceries at our house:
Breakfasts: pancakes, eggs with cheese, banana smoothies, oatmeal
Lunches: lunchmeat Sandwiches, Beans and rice with cheese and sour cream, grilled cheese, peanut butter sandwiches, fruits and veggies for sides, leftovers
Snacks: homemade crackers, pancakes, fruits and veggies
Dinners: Fajitas, Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Salad Sandwiches, pizza, stir fry, hashbrown surprise (potatoes with meat and a cheese sauce), sweet potato cakes with cheese sauce
Grocery list (I am not adding everything you need to make these items because many of them you only need to buy every 3-4 months so I will leave out the cost of some of them)
Whole wheat pastry flour $6 (we buy every 2-3 weeks)
Milk (un-homogenized low temp paste pasteurized) $3.75 (sometimes we buy 2)
butter $3.75 faometimes we buy 2)
baking powder (most people already have this)
2 doz eggs (these are typically free for us, but this is winter so we will say $3 per doz) $6
3 blocks Chedder (we can get antibiotic free cheese at lucky’s for pretty cheap $4 per block) $12
1 block Lucky’s mozerella $4
bananas LOTS $5
cream (un-homogenized low temp paste pasteurized) $8
2 lbs oatmeal $2.50
1lb sale lunchmeat $7
2 cans blackbeans $2
sour cream $2
natural peanut butter $4
carrot sticks, celery (or whatever veggie kids like that’s on sale) $5
strip steak for fajitas $5
Whole Chicken (bake half to make chicken salad, cut up rest of raw meat for tikka masala) $10 (if it’s not already in your freezer!)
bag of onions $3
bag of potatoes $4
sweet potatoes $4
oil (this is an expensive item, but one you really only need once a month) $8 (I keep olive oil and expellor pressed safflour oil both of which I get at about $8 a bottle but it takes me a while to go through them)
Total = $107.50. I went over but the flour and oil I don’t buy every week, plus we wouldn’t be spending the $10 on chicken either. I know what you are thinking “you didn’t buy bread, or many veggies”. For one I make my own bread, for two ….
Here is the list of stuff that’s already in our freezer, fridge, or pantry:
stewed tomatoes (I blend and boil down to make the tikka masala, and pizza sauce)
Peppers for the fajitas
mayo (I make my own and everything I need is in the above grocery list)
berries (I bought some when they were on sale but we also freeze them if we pick a lot
rice (I buy a large bag 2-3 times a year)
I do believe that’s everything. We eat really well, don’t go hungry, and stay pretty close to our budget. There are some weeks that we rely more on freezer/ pantry goods so we can splurge and make huge batches of beef jerky or granola.
So how about you? How can you eat clean on a food budget?