How low can you go?
I created my January budget over the weekend, and realized some numbers needed to change. My food budget is pretty big at $300 for one full-time person and one part-time person (Bill Spaid spends part of his month here). I don’t drink wine or beer, but I really love coffee. Good coffee. So the beans are “spendy.” Sometimes I’ll mix my first choice of coffee beans with less expensive beans, but it is an item that is on my list every time I go to the grocery. Here in Vermont, we don’t have dozens of choices of stores, and there are no double and triple offers on coupons. I will stock up during the sales on regular items like flour and butter. Because of this, I knew I had some basic items stored that I could use for this month’s budget slashing. So I took inventory:
Months ago I bought 10 pounds of basmati rice at the local coop for $10. I still have around 4 pounds left.
There was a tiny amount of unbleached flour left in the pantry, so today I picked up 15 pounds of King Arthur unbleached flour for 8.97. The flour feeds William Butler Yeast, my sourdough starter, that in turn gives me the base for sourdough bread, pancakes, and noodles.
A half gallon jar full of Bob’s Red Mill Oats. I can see some overnight oatmeal in my future!
4 pounds of butter come from this month’s budget, because the 2-pound rolls were on sale for $7.99 each. I still have two pounds in the refrigerator, so I’m set.
I use coconut oil for most of my frying as well as oil in baking. The partial jar will be more than enough for this month.
Another purchase this month. I wanted to try making mayonnaise at home this month, and research suggested this as the best oil to use. It was expensive – $11 on sale. I’m thinking good thoughts about this purchase.
I have 4 hard-boiled eggs and 6 raw eggs. I’ll have to be creative and stretch them out for the rest of the month.
A pound of shrimp, a one-pound package of grass-fed lean ground beef (purchased this month for $5 on sale), a chicken breast, 2 frozen 1/2 cup packages of cooked breakfast sausage, and six cans of albacore tuna.
Last night Bill Spaid and I had New Year’s Day dinner at the home of some friends. I came home with a bag of sliced turkey and all the bones! My friend has an aversion to picking the bones, so I asked and received the beginnings of broth for soup and casseroles. The bones are simmering on the stove as I type. I’ll probably end up with about one gallon of turkey broth, and several cups of turkey meat in addition to the sliced pieces.
9 ounces of raw cashews, a small container of pine nuts, several cups of sliced raw almonds, and a handful of chopped walnuts.
Four pounds of assorted frozen vegetables, a large bag of dried kale, 1/2 pound of whole carrots, 4 large potatoes, and a few bags of shredded zucchini from last summer.
I have two pints of berries in the freezer, a one-pound container of sweet banana chips given to me by a neighbor (hmm, this may be a challenge – any recipes that use banana chips as an ingredient?), and a quart of homemade blueberry juice from my farmer friend.
This is not a starvation diet!
Cutting back on your food budget does not have to be a starvation diet. As you can see, I can probably eat very well this month with very few purchases! Don’t feel sorry for me, or for you! I mentioned the simmering turkey bones. I also just took two loaves of aromatic homemade bread out of the oven (only three ingredients – starter, flour and water. Seriously- I recommend you try baking your own bread).
On the recent trip to the grocery, the store membership had a daily special of one free package of natural sweetener, and a free 5-ounce container of a yogurt brand I have never tried.
After discounts, my grocery bill totaled $5o.92. If I divided my $300 budget by 4, my weekly bill would be $75.00. I haven’t listed everything I have on hand. I’ll work to spend no more, or very little, look for deals, and use what I already have. I’ll simply have to plan my meals a little more carefully.
The great thing about these types of challenges is that it makes you more aware of your stockpile, and of your spending. The food budget is a budget item that can spiral out of control, but can easily be an area where you can find money to ease the budget crunch. Your results will vary, depending on your original budget, your stockpile, the size of your family, and your willingness to try new recipes. I will share some of my meals in the next month and keep you posted on my progress.
How about you? I’m challenging you to take inventory of your pantry and refrigerator items and create meals for the entire month of January, spending as little as possible. It’s a win-win. You will spend less and save more! Let me know how you are faring in the comments below, and feel free to share tips and techniques to trim the food budget.