As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~Joan Gussow

What’s Your Monthly Food Budget? Part I

I have an interest in eating and cooking on a budget for several reasons:

(1) Unfortunately, I do not have money trees in my yard. I tried hard to buy a house with a few, but they are a rare species these days.

(2) Cooking on a budget is strong part of my profession

(3) I find it challenging to create delicious, seasonal meals with a finite amount of money.

A few weeks ago, I came across this interesting publication by the USDA: Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels

Basically, the publication lists the average grocery expenditure of Americans–singles, families, men, women, old, young, large spenders, thrifty spenders, etc. I fall into the category of a single woman between the ages of 19 and 50. According to this chart, I could spend anywhere from $148.30 per month (Thrifty Plan) to $294.30 per month (Liberal Plan)

This got me thinking–where exactly do I fall? Why not keep a meal log along and track my grocery expenditures?

Because I cook so often, I am curious to know how much I spend on food that I specifically make. I am not tracking meals I eat at/get from restaurants/store or meals that were provided to me via dinner at friends’ houses, work events, etc.

If I have a grocery bill that is a combination of food items and toiletries,  for example, I am subtracting the cost of the toiletries so that I only am left with the “ingredients” with which I will cook. Also, I am not including “unnecessary” food stuffs, like the chocolate that I buy for my co-workers and me (we have a dark chocolate stash at work!).

I thought keeping a log for 30 days was sufficient. This will give me a rough idea of what I spend. Since February is a short month, I started on January 30th.

30 Day Meal Log*

January 30

Breakfast—oatmeal, egg @ Andy’s house

Lunch—leftover dinner (I bought ingredients)

Dinner—strata and tangerine

January 31


Lunch—strata and tangerine


February 1, 2011


Lunch—strata and greens from garden


February 2, 2011


Lunch—strata and tangerine

Dinner-strata and tangerine

February 3, 2011




February 4, 2011




February 5, 2011



Dinner—soup and salad

February 6, 2011

Breakfast-yogurt and granola



February 7, 2011

Breakfast—oatmeal and grapefruit



February 8, 2011




February 9, 2011




*The items in bold and italics are meals that I did not cook myself; (at at friend’s house, at restaurant or meal was provided through work).

And my grocery expenditures, how do they look so far?

$15.60 Wheatsville Co-op

$10.00 Whole Foods

$16.00 SFC Farmers’ Mkt

$30.95 HEB

TOTAL: $78.55

Average meal cost: $3.41 (based on 23 meals)

The story will continue…

3 responses

  1. Susan

    I’ll be curious to see how you go. We can compare notes at the end of the month…

    February 14, 2011 at 5:07 pm

  2. foodroots

    Did you include the estimated market cost of the foods you included from your garden? That would also be a great way to highlight the money-saving value associated with home gardening 🙂

    February 19, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    • Adrienne–that is a great idea! For this particular exercise/write-up, I wasn’t going to include that point. But thanks for bringing it up and I will probably cover in another entry!

      February 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm

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