Food prices vary sooooo much from area to area so I challenge you to try the same exercise on your own. Remember to look at it from an "apples to apples" point of view as well... quality for quality. When I am not baking my own bread I am paying $5 a loaf for a local made REAL sour dough loaf of bread with quality ingredients. Nutritionally that is not even in the same ball park as a loaf of white bread at the dollar store(one gives nutrients and other takes away!) Also everyone is different in what they are willing to grow or make homemade. I can say that making homemade saves different amounts in different areas. Example if you have a big bread eating family it could save you many dollars each week or if you grow tomatoes and can them it could save you a lot on sauces or ketchup over the year. It really depends on what you eat and the quantity of a given item. All of it adds up over time so you can't just say well I don't think I am going to do that because it will only save me .50 cent.... .50 could turn into hundreds of dollars a year for a bit more of your time. Also we have the added benefit of teaching our kids self-reliance, added nutrition and ingredient control(less sugar and no chemicals).
This is what we did-
I wrote down 14 common fall/winter meals that we eat. Then I wrote down all the ingredients I would need for my family of 4 for each meal. Then I added up all the quantities for each item.... like 20 carrots, 25 potatoes, etc. Then we set out for the grocery store/farmers market to start working on prices. We counted the average number of items per bag and then the price per bag to get our figures. We sometimes buy by the piece and other times when it is available organically- like onions at our regular grocery store we buy a bag. But to be honest I never stopped to figure out which saved me more until now. Also we don't buy many things that I could get a coupon for so saving that way is very hard when you eat fresh whole foods. When I can I will stock up on a sale item that I know we use in quantity over a season(like org. ketchup or org. peanut butter).
We found that breakfast for 2 weeks for 4 people ran us about $45. That was with one weekend meal of eggs/bacon and toast, one weekend meal of pancakes with maple syrup(bought in bulk once a year) and the rest of the days oatmeal packs(oats, oat bran, dried fruit, chia seeds, brown sugar) we make up ourselves. Lunches were about the same with 1/3 of them being from leftovers. So another $45 besides the leftovers. Lunches vary with the seasons but they can be egg salad, vegetables or fruit, crackers with cheese, soup, sandwich or veggie wraps. If we eat a good breakfast and eat nutrient dense snacks we don't eat as much. Snacks run us another $35 for 2 weeks... they consist of a bag of organic apples, raw carrots, smoothies, raw milk, yogurt, celery, cheese, lara bars(homemade), nuts and seeds. I do bake a dessert about once a week(brownies, cookies, energy balls, custard, etc.) that I have included in the snack price. We also don't buy soda, juice, sports drinks, etc. We make hot/iced tea, regular and iced coffee, chai tea and homemade hot cocoa. When in season we will buy org. cider locally.
Now for the meals-
- Beef/pork roast with seasonal vegetables(balsalmic vinegar, seasonings, 3lb roast, 4 org. potatoes, 4-5 org. carrots, 2 org. celery, org. onion and garlic) $18 but we usually have leftovers for 3 of us for lunch
- Stir fry chicken with rice(2 bags org. frozen stir fry vegetables, pastured chicken breast, cashews, seasoning and 4 cups jasmine rice made in broth) $20 with a little for leftovers
- 2 sprouted spelt pizza and salad(homemade dough made with sprouted spelt, org. tomato paste, seasonings, mozzarella, cooked hamburger and org. salad) $20 with no leftovers
- Hamburgers with side of potato/broccoli/cucumber/cabbage salad(4 pasture raised beef patties, raw cheese, 4 homemade honey oatmeal rolls, org.lettuce/tomato/onion/pepper/pickles/mayo/ketchup and salad) $14 with no leftovers
- Pasta and salad(1lb einkorn/spelt pasta, org. sauce/pesto, parmesan cheese, homemade bread sticks, org. salad) $14 sometimes with leftovers
- Meat pie and salad(any leftover meat, pie crust, homemade cream soup, org. potato, 1 bag frozen org. mixed vegetables or left over roasted vegetables, org. salad) $10 with no leftovers
- Large salad with grilled meat(seasonal vegetables/salad, 1-2lbs meat for grilling, nuts/seeds/fruit/cheese) $13 with no leftovers
- Italian vegetable soup(2lbs. ground beef, 2 quarts homemade or bought org. broth(Adds $7 to total), 2 stalks org. celery, org. onion, lg. can org. roasted chopped tomatoes, 1 bag org. frozen mixed vegetables, 1/2 c orzo or rice, seasonings) $22 but is a solid 2 meal and sometimes a little more
- Tacos(org. tortillas/hard shells, org. lettuce/tomato or fresh salsa, raw cheese, seasonings, 2lbs. pasture raised ground beef, org. sour cream, homemade guacamole)$24 sometimes with some leftovers
- Sausage stew(1lb smoked pasture raised sausage, 4-5 org. potatoes, org. onion, 2 stalks org. celery, 5-6 org. carrots, seasonings) $12 with a little leftover
- Steak/salad/baked potatoes(4 pasture raised beef steaks, 4 org. potatoes/sweet potatoes cut and rubbed with olive oil, org. mixed salad with seasonal vegetables) $17 with no leftovers
- Roasted whole chicken with seasonal roasted vegetables( 5-6lb pasture raised chicken, org. seasonal vegetables(beets/turnips/potatoes/brussels/carrots/celeriac/winter squash/zucchini/eggplant-chopped and rolled in walnut oil with sea salt) $20 but the leftovers are turned in broth and another meal
- Chicken chili over jasmine rice(the whole chicken leftovers turned into broth, 3c. chicken meat from an extra chicken breast, org. navy beans, handful of chopped chard, 1c. cheese, 4oz. green chili, seasonings,cooked jasmine rice, org. sour cream) $17 with leftovers for lunch
- Meatloaf and mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower(3lb pasture raised ground beef, zucchini/carrots/2 eggs/bread crumbs/onion/garlic/seasonings, 8 org. potatoes or 2 lg. heads cauliflower with milk/butter) $23 with leftovers
- Beef/Lamb stew92-3lbs cubed beef or lamb rolled in seasoning, 6 org.carrots, 4 org. potatoes, 2 org. stalks celery, 2 turnips, onion) $14 with a little leftover
Over the next year I am challenging myself to find more ways to save but keeping the quality the same. I am working on figuring out cost/savings of different produce to grow, what I save when I make things homemade and what I save when we buy bulk(meat, cheese, pantry staples). Trust me when I tell you I am no master gardener or master chef. I use the easiest recipes I can find for making desserts/breads/snacks or homemade mixes. I like simple ingredients list of less then 10 items. I also like to throw things in a pot and let them cook while I do other things. I had someone recently(a convenience box mix person) say well I don't have the time or energy to mix that up homemade.... really if you knew what was in it then it would only take you 40 seconds quicker to open the box and packaging as it would to mix it. In a weekend we make up mixes in mason jars with all organic ingredients to use over the fall/winter(3-6 months). Pancake mix, brownies, cookies, soup mix(minus bouillon, we use broth instead when we make it), cake, beer bread, biscuits, cornbread, and jambalaya. I know that sounds like a lot of flour but we only use one or two jars a week... often times when we have guests coming over. Homemade convenience!
So let me know your thoughts on this post.... how you save money in your budget and still eat quality whole foods.