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

Breakfast—muffins

Lunch—strata and tangerine

Dinner—Training

February 1, 2011

Breakfast—muffins

Lunch—strata and greens from garden

Dinner—Training

February 2, 2011

Breakfast—muffins

Lunch—strata and tangerine

Dinner-strata and tangerine

February 3, 2011

Breakfast—home

Lunch—home

Dinner–out

February 4, 2011

Breakfast—home

Lunch—sandwich

Dinner–soup

February 5, 2011

Breakfast—home

Lunch—soup

Dinner—soup and salad

February 6, 2011

Breakfast-yogurt and granola

Lunch—out

Dinner–out

February 7, 2011

Breakfast—oatmeal and grapefruit

Lunch–out

Dinner-training

February 8, 2011

Breakfast—home

Lunch—leftovers

Dinner—training

February 9, 2011

Breakfast—home

Lunch—salad

Dinner–

*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…

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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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