Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Change the World Wednesday: Food Budget

Every week I intent to write a Change The World Wednesday post, but you see how infrequently I post so it's just not getting written. I have a few hours left in Tuesday...we'll see if we get it done this week!

Though it's a bit ironic that this week I'm *not* participating...

The challenge this week was:

This week, spend no more than $25 per person on food. This includes anything which is consumed ... spices, oil, fast food items, soda, etc. Make smart choices and stretch that food dollar as far as it can go. In addition to budgeting your food dollar, please write about how it went. We'd like to know what worked, what didn't and your strategy for staying within the budget.

I'm not opposed to living on a budget. I already do! But I don't like trying to drastically slash my food budget. Good food: food that's good for you and good for the environment, tends to be more expensive than traditional food. It's a very sad commentary that it can be far cheaper to get processed food-stuff than fresh meats and vegetables, but there you go. What are some of the reasons I can't spend only $25 per week on food? Organic milk is twice as expensive as regular. Unbleached flour is more than bleached. Fair trade organic bananas and coffee are more expensive than traditional. Grass-fed, organic meats are at least twice as expensive as factory-farmed meat. Those are just a few of the items that I'm not willing to bend on, that would bust our $25/person food budget.

I hate that farmers can't make a living wage...there's so much pressure on the price of food! I think we should recognize the value of fresh, healthy food that is grown/prepared in an environmentally-friendly way--and I think it's worth paying a fair price for it.

That said, I do have a few tips for saving money on food:
  • Eat vegetarian/vegan. Meat is pricey, and I believe for health reasons should only be eaten in moderation anyway.
  • Shop your local farmers' markets rather than large grocery stores. Sometimes, though certainly not always, you can get better prices since there's no middle-man. Also, it's almost always tastier!
  • Shop sales/specials to stock up. For example, the other day our local grocery store was running a special on bags of peaches for $3 (probably 15 or so peaches)--only problem was, they were RIPE, and had to be used asap. We had some for lunch, then I pureed the rest for baby food and to make peach ice cream.
  • Eat what's in season. It's always cheaper than when it's out of season!
  • Find a you-pick place. We picked strawberries today and got 4 quarts for $10.30. At the store, I've seen local strawberries priced between $5.99 and $7.99 for a single quart! Special bonus: it's fun, especially for kids.
  • Prepare your own foods. Don't rely on prepared foods or eating out. Probably healthier that way, too, besides saving you money!
  • Don't waste food. Eat leftovers; don't let food go bad before you eat it.
Even with all those tips, though, I'm not even close to $25 per person per week. For a family of 2 adults, 2 preschoolers, and 1 baby, I'm spending closer to $200 per week for food, and that doesn't count my husband's lunches at work. I could certainly do better than that, but I'd never be able to get it down to $25 per person on a consistent basis. Sure, I could do it for a week by eating from our freezer and cabinet stores, but I couldn't keep it up.

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I also wanted to comment on a Change the World Wednesday challenge from a few weeks ago:

This week, give up single-serving foods. No single-serving containers of yogurt, pudding or jello. No single-serving snacks or drinks. Eliminate individually wrapped slices of cheese and fruit cups. Basically, if a container holds only one serving ... don't buy it.

I definitely try to do this on a regular basis, but what I wanted to talk about is baby food. Baby food: always in single serving containers! You end up with a zillion little glass jars or plastic containers. Ugh! I wanted to put out a suggestion to make your own baby food. It's pretty easy. I just steam the fruit or veggie, then blend it up with a stick blender. Pretty fast, easy, and nice that I can control what goes in. I freeze it in ice cube trays, then store it in a freezer bag: far less packaging than the jars of baby food! Plus, it's so much less expensive. The other day I bought 2 organic turkey thighs. It made 14 servings and cost $3.72. If I'd bought it jarred, it would have been more like $10! And don't even get me going about when I get a REALLY great deal, like that bag of peaches for $3!

Anyone looking to make their own baby food, Wholesome Baby Food is a great resource!

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Every Wednesday, there's a new challenge. Head on over to Reduce Footprints where you can help change the world, one small step at a time!

1 comment:

Small Footprints said...

Wonderful post! This challenge was interesting ... some people embraced it and said that it actually helped them to be more healthy & earth-friendly. Others suggested that budgeting might not be "green" or healthy at all. My personal feeling is that reducing a food budget can be good if one follows Eco-friendly, healthy precepts. Since most of us buy and consume more than our bodies require, cutting back can be a good thing. But for others who have already reduced their food budget to a healthy & Eco-friendly place, reducing further would be counter-productive. It's been great to hear what everyone has to say and my hope is that everyone gave it a little thought and perhaps learned something new.

Thanks for talking about it ... and for offering ways in which we can get the most out of our food dollar!