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

What’s Your Monthly Food Budget? Part II

Can you eat healthfully, sustainably and on a budget?

On February 10th I announced that I was going to track the number of meals I ate for 30 days as well as the groceries I purchased. Well, the 30 days are over and I have a final number. But first, I will show you how I came up with the number.

_________

30 Day Food Log

Notes: Italics denotes a meal NOT eaten with ingredients I purchased and prepared. I did not include any snacks. 

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—Facilitator Training

February 1, 2011

Breakfast—muffins

Lunch—strata and greens from garden

Dinner—Facilitator 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-pad thai

Dinner-training

February 8, 2011

Breakfast—home

Lunch—leftovers

Dinner—training

February 9, 2011

Breakfast—home

Lunch—salad

Dinner—salmon patties, turnips, peas

February 10, 2011

Breakfast—out

Lunch—leftovers

Dinner—yogurt, granola, carrots

February 11, 2011

Breakfast-home

Lunch-home

Dinner-home

February 12, 2011

Breakfast-nothing

Lunch-out

Dinner-ranch

February 13, 2011

Breakfast-ranch

Lunch-home

Dinner-out

February 14, 2011

Breakfast-out

Lunch-home cooked food

Dinner-training

February 15, 2011

Breakfast—home

Lunch—home cooked food

Dinner—training

February 16, 2011

Breakfast—yogurt and granola

Lunch-home-cooked food

Dinner—home cooked food

February 17, 2011

Breakfast—yogurt and granola

Lunch—leftovers

Dinner—leftovers

February 18, 2011

Breakfast—oatmeal

Lunch—potluck

Dinner—Rebecca’s house

February 19, 2001

Breakfast—home

Lunch—home

Dinner—out

February 20, 2011

Breakfast—home

Lunch—home

Dinner—out

February 21, 2011

Breakfast—home

Lunch—leftovers

Dinner—work

Feb 22, 2011

Breakfast—home

Lunch—work leftovers

Dinner—work

Feb. 23, 2011

Breakfast—home

Lunch—leftovers

Dinner-home

February 24, 2011

Breakfast—home

Lunch—salad, avocado

Dinner-sandwich

February 25, 2011

Breakfast—home

Lunch—home

Dinner—home

February 26th, 2011

Breakfast—home

Lunch—home

Dinner—home

February 27th, 2011

Brunch—home

Dinner—out

February 28, 2011

Breakfast—home

Lunch—home

Dinner–out

__________

Over the 30 days, I ate 63 home-cooked meals and 25 meals out (at friends’ houses, via work, restaurants).

Over the 30 days, I spent:

$15.60 Wheatsville
$10.00 Whole Foods
$16.00 SFC Farmers’ Mkt
$4.47 Fiesta
$1.50 HEB
$6.00 SFC Farmers’ Mkt
$30.95 HEB
$44.67 Wheatsville
$11.00 SFC Farmers’ Mkt
$140.19 TOTAL

Notes: I did not include any toiletries or non food items in the expenses. Nor did I include dessert items like chocolate or candy–I have a sweet-tooth 🙂 –or sparkling water (love to mix it with 100% cranberry juice); all the expenses are for ingredients that I used to prepare meals.

So, $140.19 divided by 63 meals = $2.23 meal

Let’s say I didn’t eat any meals out and cooked them all:

30 days in a month x 3 meals a day x $2.23 meal = $200.70

And according to the Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, as a single woman between the ages of 19 and 50, I could spend anywhere from $148.30 per month (Thrifty Plan) to $294.30 per month (Liberal Plan).

So I am smack-dab in the middle of the eating plan at $200.70/month. I guess that would make me Moderate (that’s a first…haha…).

How does that stack up? Well, I think it stacks up pretty well considering two things:

(1) The cost of food eaten out is always more expensive than food prepared at home. For example–$2.50+ for oatmeal at McDonalds; $2.75 for a Cinnamon Roll at  Bennu Coffee around the corner from my house; $2.50 + for a taco from Torchy’s; ~$9.00lb for anything from the Whole Foods salad/food bar;$9.25 for Mushroom Crepes in  bleu cheese/parmesan cream sauce from Blue Dahlia Bistro. (Wow, writing this makes me never want to go out again when I can eat for $2.23/meal!)

(2) Most of the food I consume is local, organic and healthy. I consider the money I spend on food as money spent on health care, local economic stimulus and environmental stewardship. As far as health, if I can ward off most diet-related disease and then some, I am saving a lot more in the long run. And feeling better along the way.

My big question now is: How did the USDA come up with the Food Plans? What sort of food is considered part of the “average” American eating plan? I have to go out on a limb and guess that the average American single woman between 19 and 50 is, in all likelihood, not eating sustainably raised and processed fruits, veggies, grains, legumes, meat, eggs and dairy.

So, I am going to give myself a big kudos for being able to eat healthfully, sustainably and on a budget!  It can be done!

Note: I realize that this is an estimate and some of the numbers in my calculations could vary.

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4 responses

  1. This is so interesting Joy. I would love to see the $ figure for snacks too.

    March 3, 2011 at 12:10 am

    • Thanks, Liddy! As far as snacks affecting the budget, I don’t think it would be too drastic as most of my snacks consist of fruit, cut-up veggies, nuts, etc. And sometimes chocolate 😉

      March 3, 2011 at 3:17 am

  2. Susan Truesdale

    Hi Joy,
    What a great blog!!! I’ve shared this with my kids. My youngest, Sammy, is on his 7 month as a vegetarian and I can’t believe the things he’s eating (turnips, beets, arugula-whatever comes in our Farm Fresh bushel each week). He likes to talk about sustainability and health, but now he’s telling everyone how much money they can save by eating their fresh veggies at home. He’s on a one man crusade.

    March 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm

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