My Healthy Food Budget: Week One March, 2013

Week One Healthy Food Budget: $169.07

I’ve been posting budget updates on a monthly basis, but I wanted to return to posting more often, with details of what I’m specifically purchasing…so here goes!

March Week One Food Spending $169.07

I went a little crazy, which is normal for the first week of the month!

It’s like a celebration with a fresh new $400 to spend. Or maybe psychologically I thought I should spend that sweet $70 left from last month, burning a hole in my pocket. ;)

Dining Out: $24.46
Groceries: $144.61

So, for the rest of March, I have $230.93 to spend but I’m shooting for light spending next week. I’ll be going to the winter farmers market on Saturday, and I’ll probably need more fruit, and hopefully that will be it (besides our weekly take out treat.) If I can keep spending down for week 2, I don’t think I’ll have any problem sticking to the budget.

Where I Spent My Grocery Dollars

  • Whole Foods Market: $29.30 for organic apples, 5lb bag o’ organic carrots, organic celery, Theo chocolate, cashews, bulk sucanat sugar, olives, Manchego cheese
  • Open Meadow Farm: $23.11 for pork shoulder roast
  • Four Star Farms: $15 for 5lb whole wheat and 2lb barley flours
  • Brookline Winter Farmers Market: $21.70 Stillman’s Farm: pork sausage $14.70 & Silverbrook Farm beets, potatoes, swiss chard.
  • Trader Joes: $44.64 for California olive oil, Zinfandel wine, organic plain yogurt, feta cheese, (2) organic raisins, raw almonds, shelled pistachios, peanuts, 2lb clementines, (3) loose navel oranges, (2) bananas, mini baby-bel cheese (for DH)
  • Market Basket: $7.11 last bit o’ shopping for organic apples, oranges, and bananas

clementines little cutie oranges

About My Healthy Budget

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. DH occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.

My Healthy Food Budget: February, 2013

February Healthy Food Budget: $330.72

This was a great month! I spent $71 less than my $400 budget for the month!

It seems a lot easier to spend less in the winter, so this will allow me a little spending cushion for summer, when I know I spend more. Or if I do well next month, I might use the excess to pay off the whole meat delivery I received in January.

February Food Spending $330.72

Dining Out: $121.52
Groceries: $209.20

Dining out spending wasn’t bad, considering we had a sit-down Valentines night dinner at a local Italian eatery for an extra splurge.

I was amazed at how little I spent at the grocery store. Inspiration was sparked by the Good Cheap Eats 1 Month Pantry Challenge. I didn’t hold myself to any specific rules or timeframe, but I made a conscious effort to refrain from purchasing ingredients when I knew there was something that could be cooked from my pantry, fridge or freezer.

For instance, I skipped the Winter Farmers Market last weekend because I still had kale, cabbage, beet, celeriac, potatoes, and sweet potato left from the prior week’s shopping trip. All I needed at the store this week was some fruit; I was able to use what I had on hand for meals all week.

I’m also finding inspiration over at the $100 a Month blog. Mavis, the author, hopes to feed her family of four with an average of $100 per month. She has a spectacularly massive garden, complete with egg-laying chickens, and it’s very educational to read about her adventures. I’m fascinated by her “reclaimed” food posts. ((Thanks for the recommendation, Angela))

Lastly, I’m excited because I found a local grain grower; We’ll be meeting up with her at a local farmers market on Sunday. To start, I’m trying bags of zorro wheat and barley flours. If it’s as wonderful as I hope it is, the next step might be a grain mill to grind my own flour.

Where I Spent My Grocery Dollars This Month

Total: $209.20
Market Basket 63.43
Trader Joe’s 44.74
Whole Foods 37.68
Winchester Winter Farmers Market 30.65
Open Meadow Farm 25.20
Seven Acres Farm 7.50

About My Healthy Budget

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. DH occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.

My Healthy $400 Food Budget: Jan 2013

January Healthy Food Budget: $384.16

It’s great news that I ended up $15 under my $400 budget this month. Whoo hoo! Netted to the January slight underage and February overage, I’m still ahead by $2!

I was very pleased with our dining-out budget. We went out 5 times, but really kept it cheap!

There were two bulk purchases, Amazon’s subscribe & save tuna and three 2lb bags of shredded coconut from Tropical Traditions (which by the way is scrumptious!). Plus a half bottle of fish oil (split with the dog budget). All totaling about $55! Taking that into account, it really was an awesome month!

January Food Spending $384.16

Dining Out: $80.46
Groceries: $288.41
Vitamins & Supplements: $15.29

My summer canning and freezing is paying off. There’s been no need to purchase any jelly/jam yet and I’m hoping to can a few jars of citrus marmalade soon. My tomato stockpile is plentiful, and still should be enough until next tomato season.

I popped open a jar of my home-canned corn salsa, and it was absolutely delicious. I was hesitant to can additional salsa recipes because when I initially tasted this batch, it was over-the-top too vinegary; it must have mellowed over the months. We go through about a jar of salsa every week, so to be able to can my own, is thrilling. I’m looking forward to next summer when tomatoes are abundant! I’m already getting some tomato salsa recipes organized!

Lastly, I received a large delivery ($180) of local frozen meat this month, but I’m going to account for the cost as we consume it. It should last us 4-6 months, so it’s like I’ve created my own personal meat CSA. ;)

Where I Spent My Grocery Dollars This Month

Market Basket 83.24
Whole Foods 79.43
Trader Joe’s 67.98
Tropical Traditions 20.97
Amazon.com 18.60
Open Meadow Farm 13.26
Seven Acres Farm 7.00
Vitacost 4.94
Misc Credit for gifts ($7.10)

About My Healthy Budget

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. DH occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.

$400 Healthy Food Budget: December – End of 2012, Beginning 2013!

December Total Food Spending: $417.76

I thought I’d do much better this month, but “lazy food” choices got the best of me. Our dining out budget was through the roof, but thankfully I’m only $18 over budget for the month!

Besides being sluggish about home cooking, I’ve also (temporarily) gained about 6 lbs. But the new year, brings a new outlook! I’ll be back in shape (budget and healthwise) in no time!

December Food Spending: $417.76

This should have been an easy month. I’ve learned that seasonal food purchases in cooler months are less expensive than warmer months. I should have been way under budget, but as I said, I succumbed to take-out temptations!

Dining Out: $171.04
Groceries: $233.95
Vitamins/Supplements: $12.77

Here’s where I spent my grocery money:

Whole Foods: $71.08
Market Basket: $52.23
Trader Joe’s: $42.92
Ocean State Job Lot: $25.67
Seven Acres Farm: $16.75
iHerb.com: $13.27
Hannaford: $11.04
Other: 0.99

My $400 Healthy Budget Details

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. DH occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.

$400 Healthy Food Budget: November

November Total Food Spending: $395.95

November was the start of a brand new budgeting year, and I’m striving for an annual goal of $4800 – $5000 for food spending. That calculates to about $400 a month, give or take a few dollars over once in awhile.

This year, I decided to remove entertaining from the food budget, but all other conditions are the same: groceries, dining out, gardening, and vitamins/supplements.

November Food Spending: $395.95

I have to confess, on the last day of the month, I spent an additional $50, which would have put me way over-budget. To simplify, I decided to just lump those purchases into December.

Dining Out: $111.88
Groceries: $284.07

My dining out total is a little higher than I’d like, and I don’t know if December will be much better, since the holidays get crazy.

I know it will be a relief not to have to worry about counting my holiday food expense. Last year, I was over in December partly due to Christmas, and it was a nightmare trying to make up for the overage in January.

Here’s where I spent my grocery money:

Amazon $18.31 (Subscribe & Save tuna)
Mann Orchard $37.04 (which includes apples for canned applesauce)
Market Basket $41.65
Meat CSA $43.91 (pork roast was a large expense at $30, but there was enough cooked meat to freeze for future meals)
Seven Acres Farm $13.50 (eggs)
Trader Joes $12.95
Whole Foods $83.47
Wilson Farm $33.24

I canned 2 batches of applesauce this month, adding 10 pints to my canning cupboard. Yum. It will be nice to eat homemade applesauce later in the year, when local apples are long out of season.

applesauce canned

My $400 Healthy Budget Details

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. DH occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.

My Healthy Food Budget: October Month 12 / Final

Healthy Food Budget Weekly Total: $100.19
Healthy Food Budget Monthly Total: $397.23
Healthy Food Budget Yearly Total: $4821.97

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. My husband occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.

October – Month Twelve, Week Four – Final

This week, I spent $100.19, for a grand monthly total of $397.23. My final yearly total is $4821.97.

Weekly Totals:
Dining Out: $14.66
Groceries: $85.53

Yearly Totals:
Dining Out: $955.09
Entertaining: $163.64
Gardening: $79.71
Groceries: $3522.19
Vitamins/Supplements: $92.99

So this is it! The last week of the last month of my year of conscious food budgeting!

I learned so much SOOO MUCH this year! It’s still an ongoing process, but really, I’m quite proud of how much I accomplished in the last 12 months.

I found that meal planning (on my iPad using the “Notes” app) helped tremendously, as did making a strict shopping list.

I use the Shopper iPhone app to write my lists and track item pricing. I set a goal for each store, and tried very hard to stick to it. There were a few impulse add-ons, but I also put a lot of items back on the store shelves that I didn’t necessarily need that week.

So, how much has changed? Well, last year (Nov 2010 to Oct 2011), I spent over $7,000 for food! $500-$700 per month! This year, I cut my food spending to $4822, and I am thrilled! I’m hoping to keep up my $400 monthly budget for the next year too.

Weekly Spending Details

Alpine Butcher $2.43: (Tues) Italian sausage & free coupon for 1lb ground beef

The Meat House $16.37: (Tues) Used $25 groupon for $10 discount off my order. 2 large Chicken cordon bleu, 1lb ground 92% sirloin, 1lb garlic cheddar sausage

Whole Foods $37.75: (Fri) Shell-on pistachios, (2) peanuts, sucanat sugar, red grapes (sale), organic pears, organic apples, (4) whole chickens (sale .99/lb)

Meat CSA $8.35: Chicken legs (Luckily, products from the Meat CSA are paid in full, so technically no real money is actually spent, but I apply the cost to my budget as we consume it.)

Miscellaneous Grocery $18.13: Apples, bananas, grapefruit, desserts, and DH’s splurge of Cadbury Eggs

Week of Meals

  • Sunday: Soup with fresh broth, veggies & leftover chicken
  • Monday: Baked eggs & veggies (pepper, scallions, celery) over bulgur grain
  • Tuesday: Chicken cordon bleu (made by local grocer)
  • Wednesday: Pasta with freezer tomato veg sauce
  • Thursday: Leftover frozen pizza with carrot ginger soup
  • Friday: Chicken legs, potatoes, and salad
  • Saturday: Take out pizza
  • Sunday: Fried egg sandwich (went to family birthday lunch earlier)
  • Monday: Pasta with frozen tomato veg sauce
  • Tuesday: Homemade pasta dumplings (me) and Bread pizza (DH)
  • Wednesday: Chicken breast with roasted potatoes, cornbread, and small salad

How it Breaks Down by Store – Yearly %

(Groceries & Entertaining Costs Only)

Whole Foods $1225.31 (33%)
Market Basket $674.82 (18%)
Meat CSA $422.39 (11%)
Trader Joe’s $360.18 (10%)
Wilson Farm $213.88 (6%)
Ocean State Job Lot $149.96 (4%)
Amazon.com $112.69 (3%)
iHerb.com $105.73 (3%)
Local Farm: $84.48 (2%)
Local Egg Farm $79.50 (2%)
Wilmington Farmers Market $51.90 (1%)
All Others: $156.70

Interesting, Whole Foods has a strong lead at 33%, but compared to 64% last year, I’ve really reduced my spending there, buying more from local farms, Market Basket and Trader Joe’s.

Looking Forward

I certainly will continue to keep on my budget. Publicly posting actually helped me keep me accountable, so I don’t want to stop updates, but I might post monthly summaries instead of weekly. We’ll see how it goes.

I’m thankful to everyone that took the time to read my budgeting saga, but truthfully, I really blogged the details for me. It’s been a great year, and I’m really excited to start fresh in November! :)

My Healthy Food Budget: October Month 12 / Week 3

Healthy Food Budget Weekly total: $101.33

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. My husband occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.

October – Month Twelve, Week Three

This week, I spent $101.33, with a monthly total of $297.04. That leaves $102.96 for the rest of October.

Dining Out: $30.63
Groceries: $70.70

I placed an unexpected order at iHerb.com because all the Frontier Natural & Simply Organic products were on sale @ 20% off. I couldn’t resist!

So, with 1½ weeks left in October, I think I’ll be okay sticking to my budget total. I’m excited to end my full year of budgeting at the end of the month too! And even more excited to start a new budget year in November!

Spending Details

Freebie! This week, DH went on an ocean fishing trip and came home with pounds of fish! I kept the haddock and “red fish” and packed in the freezer. We had enough cod and cutter fish to share with both sets of parents too!

Market Basket $3.95: 5lb bag o’ onions and bananas

Local Farmstand $2.95: local Cortland apples

Whole Foods Market $36.28: Cashews, 12pk Organic Valley milk, Costa Rican chocolate, organic celery, red grapes, organic Gala apples, avocado, ginger root, (1) whole chicken (sale @.99lb)

iHerb.com $20.29: Unexpected sale on Frontier Naturals. I love their products, so I stocked up: Caraway seeds, fair trade vanilla, active dry yeast, & poppy seeds.

Local farmstand $7.23: local Cortland apples, local white potatoes (sale! .25lb), green pepper, and red lettuce

Week of Meals

  • Sunday: Roasted potatoes & onions with fried egg
  • Monday: Pasta with freezer tomato eggplant sauce & salad
  • Tuesday: DH’s boss’s fundraiser dinner
  • Wednesday: Crockpot chicken with leftover potatoes & leftover tomato sauce
  • Thursday: Light dinner with sandwiches
  • Friday: Burgers & brownies at Fuddruckers
  • Saturday: Dinner out – DH’s boss’ treat

My Healthy Food Budget: Oct Month 12 / Week 2

Healthy Food Budget Weekly total: $69.57

My healthy budget goal is to eat seasonal (local if possible,) home-cooked meals while sticking to a $400 monthly budget for all food including groceries, dining out, entertaining, vitamins/supplements, and gardening.

There’s two of us eating (mostly) 3 meals per day. My husband occasionally eats take-out lunch at work, & that $ comes out of his personal cash stash.

October – Month Twelve, Week Two

This week, I spent $69.57, with a monthly total of $195.71. That leaves $204.29 for the rest of October.

Dining Out: $20.00
Groceries: $49.57

I did very well this week. Last night, I made the choice to NOT go to a sit-down restaurant, but opted for take-out instead, saving $10-$20.

With 2½ weeks left for October, I am confident that I’ll remain within my budget. I’m shooting for $70-$75 spending for next week.

Whole Foods is having a month-long sale on whole chickens at $.99lb and I really want to pick up at least 3 or 4 for about $15-$20. I know it’s not “local” or pastured, but it’s nice to save a little money once in awhile on a loss leader product. I also am thinking of stocking up on a couple of packages of their 365 whole wheat flour, on sale for $2.50.

Spending Details

Local Farm $2.34: Pear and Apples (Cortlands are still .99/lb)

Trader Joe’s $22.03: Feta cheese, cheddar cheese, organic chicken broth, organic unsalted butter, organic raisins, organic gold potatoes, and fair trade chocolate (I was desperate, even though TJ’s isn’t on the list of trusted sources to buy)

Market Basket $4.21: Bananas and balsamic vinegar

Wilson Farm $14.49: (2) 3lb bags o’ carrots, scallions, Kendall apples, red leaf lettuce, green cabbage, white cauliflower, PLUS another freebie of beet greens from another shopper that didn’t want them!

Local Farm $6.50: 2 dozen xlarge eggs

Week of Meals

  • Sunday: Fried egg sandwich with salsa
  • Monday: Leftover meatloaf with leftover tomato veg sauce (freezer) topped over pasta and lentils
  • Tuesday: Garden carrot ginger soup with fried egg topped brown rice
  • Wednesday: (Leftover) chicken & brown rice soup (tomatoes, carrots, celery, greens)
  • Thursday: Chicken & brown rice soup (with homemade stock plus tomatoes, carrots, scallions, greens)
  • Friday: Take out Italian
  • Saturday: Family birthday party

Why Toss Away Those Greens?

I was shopping at Wilson Farm, and this was the second time I got a freebie bag of greens that another customer didn’t want.

The first time, I scored a huge batch of radish greens, and today I gained the tops of chioggia beets.

Funny, during both instances they asked what do I do with them? I eat them!

Raw or cooked. They are great in salads, soups, stir-fries.

In an economy where food prices are soaring, why would you pay $4 for a bundle of beets only to throw away a perfectly edible portion?

It could be the location I was in. Wilson Farm is in Lexington, MA, one of the snootier “higher income” towns in the state. Could be that money isn’t really an issue for most that live there, and they couldn’t be bothered to cook up some lowly greens!

But sadly, I bet that even consumers in my middle class town throw away their root veggie “greens” as well, maybe because they don’t look “perfect”, or maybe because no one knows that you can actually eat them.

Hopefully, my brief conversation sparked something in their minds, and maybe next time they shop, they won’t be so quick to toss the greens. Maybe they’ll actually take them home and try them.

But if not, I’m happy to take the throw-aways! Thank you very much! :)

Gardening Diary: Canning & Preserving the Harvest

canned jelly and apple sauce

Wow, this year, surprisingly I found that I really enjoy the craft of canning!

It’s a lot of work, but once you get 2 or 3 batches under your belt, there’s confidence and organization that makes the process a little bit easier. The rewards will outweigh the work!

There was a lot that I was worried about in the beginning (like most newbie canners), most importantly was I did NOT want to kill myself and my family with deadly bacteria!

But after reading a lot of library books, and scouring the web for good information, I learned that if done properly, following the instructions, you do not have to fear the canning process!

This post is L-O-N-G, and it might be boring to a lot of visitors, so if you want to learn more about my canning experience (and see a few photos), read onward!

Continue reading “Gardening Diary: Canning & Preserving the Harvest”