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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Groceries

I was inspired to write this post by a friend who was asking friends what their grocery budget looked like. People are often surprised at how little our large-ish family spends on groceries. So here is how we do it:

Our weekly budget is between $60-100 per week. I only food shop once per week. If we run out of it, then we live without it. We had a rough few weeks after I initiated this rule, but my "list-makers" have gotten better about double checking the list. And I will add that some things, toilet paper and coffee, are exceptions to the rule!! (Can you imagine? I shudder at the thought!)

I mainly shop at Aldi's for our weekly shopping, although as we are slowly switching to more locally grown products, that may change. Aldi's has a couple of benefits, besides their low prices. Yes, with coupons and sales I could probably get better prices at supermarkets, but that is time consuming. And my time is worth a lot! Aldi's prices are always low and I don't have to wait for a sale.

At Aldi's there is one brand; if you want ketchup, there is just one option. This makes it easy if I send in Sam or the older girls to do the shopping. At supermarkets, if I sent in Sam, I would get 2-3 phone calls about which product to chose. Another benefit: both Aldi's near me are also not far from a Tractor Supply. I can get house groceries and barn groceries in one trip!

Nathalie makes our weekly menu plan. The majority of our meals are vegetarian. Not because we are vegetarians, but because we raise our own meat and what is in the freezer has to last a whole year. We average two meals with meat per week. A few months ago she found a new recipe software program and has been trying lots of new recipes. She likes to experiment with new foods and has added one day a week which features a dish made with fish. I don't know what we'll do when she leaves for college in August!

About once per year we shop at the local wholesale club. This is when we stock up on canned goods, paper goods, and staples like flour and sugar. We spend about $500 in this trip. It often doesn't last us a whole year, but it takes the pressure off the weekly shopping budget. It also allows us to take a week or two (or six!) during the year to proclaim "living out of the pantry week". This is a week when, for whatever reason, the budget is REALLY tight. We do not food shop at all (see the disclaimer above regarding coffee and TP!) and only use what we have on hand in the pantry. We get some pretty creative meals that week!

Our livestock feed bill is a little weird to calculate. Abby pays for all the feed (hay, grain, minerals, etc.) for her herd of goats. We pay for Samantha's goats and our own. The milk from the goats goes into the calves, with what little is left over (if any) used by the family. One to one and a half of the calves get put in to our freezer, while the rest get sold to other families. The products from Abby's animals that are used by us are considered to be Abby's room and board, barn rental, pasture rental, etc. The feed bill for the animals not paid for by Abby, is about $30 per week. We usually make a good amount of that back in livestock sales and other farm income (breeding, boarding, fairs...).

Every once in a while we butcher some of our chickens or buy a half a pig from a local producer, to round out our freezer. We are starting a new batch of chickens this year, and if we can keep enough of them alive (it's been a rough few weeks for the chicks), we'll have bantam eggs for our use again.

With summer around the corner, we'll be shopping for produce at the local farmer's markets and getting some from our own garden. While this raises our grocery bill a bit, the benefit of supporting the local small farmer and getting stuff that is fresh, is worth it. Plus, strolling through markets makes for a great date with Sam!

So that's how we do it. I plan on $100 per week for groceries. Some weeks I spend more, some weeks less. I would estimate that with livestock feed included, we are averaging about $135 per week.
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