On the Cheap
How I Cook Healthfully & on Budget for My Family of 5
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Nick M. February 4, 2019
The reported average spending for an adult in the US on food weekly is $150. That seems high, but that's what "they" say... Varies slightly based on income ($125-175), but that's the average.
Terry March 26, 2018
I wonder to what extent the part of the country one lives in affects the grocery budget. We don't have kids or entertain much, but I spend as much on groceries for just the two of us as (it seems) most families with kids. I do buy many things (though not all) organic and make a point of seeking out free-range (not just cage-free) eggs, grass-fed meat and butter, and raw milk. These things are of course more expensive than conventional "value pack" items at most grocery-stores, but this could be because the producers of these foods are more the exception here in the South rather than the rule. Not much can be grown organically due to the fungus and bugs down here - and if I ask about organics at a produce stand, "We can't afford to do that" is the typical answer - so most organics have to be shipped in. I do prepare meatless dishes and otherwise try to stretch our meat (i.e., not many "meat+3" meals) and use everything up so that little is wasted. I also make everything from scratch, including whole-grain breads, but buying ingredients rather than "products" means that coupons are typically useless. Meal-planning, buying in bulk, keeping the pantry stocked (although I don't buy many canned goods), using in-season produce, making extra - these all apply, but eating "real" food on a daily basis takes up a significant portion of my monthly budget. What happened to the days when eating "healthy" was cheaper, as only the rich could afford things like red meat and sugar? Now eating cheap - beyond beans and rice - means eating pre-packaged, processed foods or produce laden with herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. I imagine it's easy to go organic and grass-fed in places like southern California, but being selective in other places can be challenging and expensive, not only for the climate but because the food culture flows in other directions. Thoughts?
Agnieszka T. March 27, 2018
Hi Terry! I totally agree with you. I meal plan and meal prep for only two humans ( like you!) and I also spent similar amount of money for food also being mindful of sales, in season produce etc. I have Chrons so eating certain way is a priority (meaning fresh, leafy and light vegetables 80 percent and rest is best quality small farm chicken and turkey) and fresh fish only. I usually shop in Whole Foods not because they are some holy grail of quality food, in fact I disagree with wide spread opinion that whatever you buy in Whole Foods is automatically great for you, but because I can source best quality of what I need most often. Some weeks even Whole Foods is a let down. And we live in Southern Fairfield County, Connecticut, very close to New York City and because of that prices of quality food unfortunately reflect the notion that eating organic, free range, fresh food is a sign of status in society. The whole winter when berries are not in season I release silent scream whenever I see “fit” people buying 10 dollar containers because they read somewhere those have antioxidants or whatever magic ingredient they like to believe will keep them beautiful forever ( meanwhile few min later the same people buy packaged animal crackers and sugar loaded yogurts and all sort of other quick junk food). That said - I think the access to quality of food unfortunately is getting withdrawn from locality or seasonality but reflects more wide spread fad trends and marketing ploys by food giants. Sad but true....
Anna H. March 25, 2018
We are a vaguely flexitarian family of 4 and write a menu plan each week. It helps to keep the balance between carnivore and vegetarian meals. any new recipes which get rave reviews (thank you Food52!) get printed off and saved in our Book of Food.
Anna F. March 28, 2018
Rotating in meat-free meals is a great tip! Not only does it give the wallet some relief, it's eco conscience and so incredibly healthy to do so. Thanks so much for making this point!
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