One of the things I learned during our Live Below the Line challenge was realistic budgeting. I've read about a lot of families chasing ...

How to Budget for Groceries

One of the things I learned during our Live Below the Line challenge was realistic budgeting. I've read about a lot of families chasing the elusive $50 grocery budget. Let's break that down:

$50/week for two people. That's roughly $3.50 per person, per day. Let's assume you need to provide each person with 2000 calories a day. That means each nickel needs to buy you around 30 calories, assuming you don't waste any food at all.

What can you afford?

Rice, oats, and dried beans definitely fit into this kind of a budget. Peanut butter, at $3 for a 3000 calorie jar, also fits the budget nicely.

What about meat? A pound of pork tenderloin has about 550 calories. The most you could spend on it and stay on budget? 90 cents. (5 cents times 550 calories / 30 calories = about 90.) Our local Safeway currently has boneless pork on sale for $2/pound. And let's not even talk about sustainably produced, high quality, organic meat.

Fruits and veggies are also questionable. Onions have around 175 calories per pound, so if you can find them for less than 30 cents a pound, you're in the clear. Bananas might fit as well, but you'd have to be looking at 15 cents for a large banana. Of course, going under budget with rice, beans, oats and peanut butter will provide you some leeway, but don't expect to be eating haricot vert, organic apples or hearts of romaine—unless, of course, you grow it yourself.

And packaged foods? Unlikely. If you can get a 2-liter bottle of soda for a dollar, you'd be within budget. But even candy, at 75 cents for a 250 calorie bar, is way out of budget. Crackers and chips are similar.

How about those questionable in-betweens? Like cheese and yogurt? Eggs? Wild rice? OLIVE OIL?!?!

It's easy to calculate yourself.

Want to know the maximum price for something to stay on budget? Take the calorie per unit of the food item and divide by the calorie per penny you have to achieve in your food budget (in this example, 6 calories per penny). There are 248 calories per ounce of olive oil. 248 / 6 = 41.3 cents per ounce. A 1-liter bottle (34 ounces) of olive oil would have to cost less than $14.

Have a price and calorie count? Divide the total calories by the price in cents; if it's more calories per penny, you're in the clear.

What's the practical application of all of this? Well, let's say I'm trying to stick to the budget above. I have a list of items that fall within that budget. Rice, oats, beans, peanut butter, onions, cheap bananas, oil, inexpensive nuts and seeds, etc. These items will have to be the bulk of my food, providing well over 50% of my daily calories.

If your grocery list includes organic kale, an abundance of seasonal fresh fruit, packaged snacks or anything but the most boring of ingredients, you're probably not going to make a $50/week budget. I don't think that's a bad thing.

For our family, good food is a priority. It's a choice we make. BUT, we also choose to buy oats instead of cold cereal so we can put money towards purchasing organic apples and cucumbers. My tips for shopping for quality food on a budget:
- Eat simpler, cheaper, higher quality foods: buy organic peanut butter instead of almond butter, or cabbage instead of kale. eat toast instead of a Clif bar, or use canned/frozen fruit in place of jam
- Shop around and do the math: do you know the best price for organic rolled oats in your neighborhood? we get ours for $1.29/lb. which is cheaper, dried or canned beans? are you sure?
- Know the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen: organic sweet potatoes are expensive, but conventionals show up in the bargain bin regularly; should I buy them? same goes for apples; same answer? we posted the list on our fridge, next to our shopping list, which also helped us make smart swaps on our menu plans.
- Don't waste food: let's not even start on letting things mold because you're too picky to eat leftovers. I'm talking broccoli stems, carrot tops and orange peels. they can go into smoothies, be made into cleaning products, candied, juiced, boiled into veggie stock and so much more.

What's your budget? How did you set it? How do you stick to it?

You may also like

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.