Bauman College Programs

Author Topic: Feeding a Family E4H On a Budget  (Read 71938 times)

Offline AmandaL

  • Alumni
  • ***
  • Posts: 200
Feeding a Family E4H On a Budget
« on: February 03, 2008, 02:50:35 PM »
This discussion was split from a previous topic, hence the way it sort of jumps into discussion below, but you will get the idea.... - M.E. Moderator

I spend between $120 - $200 per week on a family of 6 (that includes 2-80lb dogs that I homecook for).  We also eat only local, seasonal and organic (with a few exceptions).  That also includes plenty of organic meat (both for the humans and the four legged).  I enjoy seeing how other people shop for groceries.  Its been my hobby for the past 5+ years. ;D I am always irritated when I hear others say it costs too much to eat well. 
« Last Edit: February 04, 2008, 04:39:15 PM by Marlina E »
Wife, mother, food lover, advocate
www.mydailydiner.com
Healthy Eating Specialist
Whole Foods Market, Arlington, VA

KellyT

  • Guest
Feeding a Family E4H On a Budget
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2008, 10:18:15 PM »
Amanda -

I am extremely curious how you only spend $120 to $200 per week for a family of 6 and two dogs. Where do you live? Is that counting ALL food consumed, including meals/snacks/drinks away from home? Do you grow or raise any of your food yourselves? Do you buy in bulk several times a year that you are not counting in your weekly budget?

I held a parenting group meeting on Saturday here in the SF Bay Area and our topic was "Staying Home with Children: Making It Work Financially". One of the items we discussed was budgeting. It has been my experience over the last ten years that people greatly underestimate how much they spend on food. I showed the group that a family of 4 eating all their meals at home from scratch would easily spend $960 per month. That works out to only $8 per person per day. That allows $1 for breakfast, $2 for lunch, $4 for dinner, and $1 for snacks. That is quite a tight budget.

So...I would love to have ideas to pass along to my group if you truly do spend so little. Of course, if you live in a less expensive area than San Francisco, that may be part of the difference!

Offline AmandaL

  • Alumni
  • ***
  • Posts: 200
Feeding a Family E4H On a Budget
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2008, 08:20:46 AM »
Hi Kelly, thanks for asking.  First, for clarification, its a family of 6, INCLUDING the dogs--4 humans and 2 canines (although, dont tell them). 

It has taken me many years to get my grocery spending down.  I have maintained the $120 to $200 weekly budget for a little over two years.  My goal is to always get it down as low as possible while still eating well.   I live in Sacramento, so it might just be that groceries are less expensive here.  I donít know...it would be fun to compare costs.   I don't buy in bulk and this does not include paper towels, TP, laundry detergent etc.  Just food.   I put everything but the farmers market on my Amex card so I am able to keep track and itemize all of our spending.  That has been a great tool, it really helps to see where our money goes.  :)

I grow a very small garden in the spring/summer/fall but not in the winter and because of its limited size is not a real asset in terms of saving $$.   

Here's how I shop:

On Friday's, I hit Whole Foods and buy a weeks worth of meat.  I buy whatever is on sale. I spend $20 to $30/weekly on meat.

I also buy my dairy at Whole Foods.  I buy Clover products.  I buy 1 gallon of milk, butter, whatever organic yogurt is on sale--there's always at least one brand at $.69.  I spend $20-$25 on dairy.   

I also raid the bins for nuts, seeds, rice and beans. I only buy what is on sale.  $20

That night I sit and plan our meals for the week using the items that I bought at Whole Foods. This makes all the difference.

Saturday, I wake up and hit the Farmers Market.  I take $40 cash with me.  I walk around once taking note of price and quality.  I also take time to talk to the farmers.  I find that many of our local farmers use organic practices (or beyond) but aren't certified.  (note in the summer I take $60).  I walk out of there fully loaded.

After the farmers market I hit Trader Joes and pick up bread (organic 8 grain $2.29) and eggs (free range $2.99).   I buy one or two boxes of crackers and 1 box of cereal. I buy 2 cartons of OJ ($1.99/each).  I buy some of my cheese here too.  I also buy any peanut butter, preserves, olive oil, vinegar, tea, etc (as needed, usually once a month or once ever couple of months).  Sometimes I buy my meat here too--if there is a good deal on something.  I spend $30 -$50 tops.  (if I buy wine my budget goes up)     
 
After that, I swing by the regular grocery store and pick up a block of Tillamook Cheddar ($7.99) for my kids, and whole chickens for my dogs.  I wait until whole chickens go on sale for $.59 to $.69/lb (usually about 2x a month) I buy four and they usually total about $3 a bird.  These are Foster Farms and not organic--sorry pups!

 
Items I donít count for in this budget are: Fish.  I am luck to have a father that goes fishing in Alaska and out the SF bay many, many times a year.  I get the bounty of the fish.

Dry Dog food.  I feed my dogs, chicken, rice, veggies and dry kibble. (the chicken, rice and veggies are accounted for in the above budget).  But the dry kibble is not.  In my budgeting it falls under "pet expenses".   The dogs also get and dog friendly leftovers. 

Coffee.  Although this probably should fall into my budget, it falls in my "entertainment" category as that is how I view it....pure joy.  I have it shipped to us right from the roasters and limit myself to 8oz per day.   I sip it in the morning usually before 5 am, while I read the paper in my quiet home.  It is my most favorite part of the day! (thats sad considering everyone else is asleep!  HA!)     

I spend $3 in gas to get to all my stores!   

We donít waste anything.  I make most everything from scratch.  We snack on foods that we would normally eat for meals just in smaller quantities.   We don't typically eat out at restaurants.  My husband takes leftover dinners for his lunches.   

If I spend more than my budget allows in one week, I make up for it the following week.  My monthly budget is between $480 and $800 (which is 120 to 200/week) 

I write about meal planning on my blog, www.dailydiner.blogspot.com

Hope this helps.   Amanda
Wife, mother, food lover, advocate
www.mydailydiner.com
Healthy Eating Specialist
Whole Foods Market, Arlington, VA

Offline AmandaL

  • Alumni
  • ***
  • Posts: 200
Feeding a Family E4H On a Budget
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2008, 08:27:35 AM »
Kelly, one more thing.  My hussband and I drink the coffee in the am and herbal tea's throughout the cold winter days.  The kids are allowed one glass of orange juice a day.  Other than that we only drink water. 
Wife, mother, food lover, advocate
www.mydailydiner.com
Healthy Eating Specialist
Whole Foods Market, Arlington, VA

Offline Marlina E

  • Associate Director
  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1720
    • Bauman College Online
Feeding a Family E4H On a Budget
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2008, 04:22:47 PM »
Wow Amanda, this is a totally fascinating and valuable discussion.   Nice blog!
« Last Edit: February 05, 2008, 10:06:26 AM by Oshyan Greene »
BA Environmental Studies UCSB
Nutrition Consultant

KellyT

  • Guest
Re: Feeding a Family E4H On a Budget
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2008, 02:11:22 AM »
Amanda,

I LOVED IT!!!!!!!
Thank you so much for writing everything down. I found it very inspiring. I REALLY appreciate you taking the time to do this. Would you mind if I printed this out to share with my group members? I have about 35 families and I know they would really enjoy what you wrote.

I will also have to check out your blog soon too.

Thank you again!

PS - Maybe we can get together sometime. My sister lives in Sacramento, not far from Sac State. I am over in Contra Costa County.

Offline AmandaL

  • Alumni
  • ***
  • Posts: 200
Re: Feeding a Family E4H On a Budget
« Reply #6 on: February 05, 2008, 07:09:33 AM »
WOW!  I'm so glad this is helpful.  When I first became the sole provider (in terms of shopping and cooking) it was a bit overwhelming trying to find less expensive food and still have it be high quality.  Buying in bulk was good in theory but I found I wasted a lot more and bought things I didn't need.   Clipping coupons was never really an option because they never seemed to apply for anything I would buy.   

I over spent for many years.

Several years ago, I started "interviewing" my friends and other moms at the park about how they grocery shop.   It all came down to meal planning for the savvy ones.   Thats when the adventure really began.  ;D  At that point I had two things in mind: Saving $$ and eating high quality food.   By shopping around it became evident that there was a better way to shop.  I figured out a routine that worked for me and then last year started my blog hoping that others might benefit. I am so pleased that someone might find all of this helpful!  YAY!

Sure, print it out! Sure we can get together!  I've got lots of other tips too!  you can email me at amandalouden@hotmail.com
Wife, mother, food lover, advocate
www.mydailydiner.com
Healthy Eating Specialist
Whole Foods Market, Arlington, VA

Offline AmyB

  • Alumni
  • ***
  • Posts: 56
Re: Feeding a Family E4H On a Budget
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2008, 04:18:30 AM »
I know how it feels to spend a lot on groceries, we spend $100 -$120 a week on average for our family of three.  I try to look at it this way; by purchasing more healthy and organic foods we are making an investment in our health and the overall well being of our planet.  To me that makes it all worth it!
wife, mother, vegan, activist,
nature lover/treehugger, student

KellyT

  • Guest
Re: Feeding a Family E4H On a Budget
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2008, 11:38:48 AM »
We are a family of 6 (two adults, two kids turning 11 soon, one 6 year old, and one 2 year old) and we spend $1200 a month on food plus close to $200 a month on dry goods (laundry detergent, soap, paper towels, etc). Absolutely 100% of our meals are at home, as we have various food allergies (and one really picky kid) that precludes us from eating out. Everything is organic (including meat - we are carnivores) and we shop at Trader Joes, Whole Foods and the farmer's markets. I am hoping to spend less by learning to cook better (planning to take Natural Chef program here this fall or next spring) and by utilizing local CSA's. Right now, we are eating more premade-type food than I would like. However, we got rid of the microwave last October and we have definitely eaten betten since then. I am really looking forward to learning how to prepare soups and learning how to incorporate more non-meat meals. That is sure to save us money!

Offline jodi f.

  • Curriculum Consultant
  • Staff
  • *****
  • Posts: 2665
Re: Feeding a Family E4H On a Budget
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2008, 06:30:57 AM »
This is a great thread. I have no idea how much we spend on the 2 humans, 4 cats and 1 dog in this family, and I really don't want to know. But, I've recently discovered a great resource that helps us keep some of our food prices down.

We are now getting some of our food--mostly produce--from an organization called Abundant Harvest Organics. It's a group of California small family farmers who have worked out a wonderful survival technique. They omit the middlemen and deliver directly to the end users of their products. It's similar to a CSA, whereby you purchase either a small or large box each week and take what you get.

Those who have farmer's markets may not be interested, however the pricing on this produce, which is all certified organic, has been shown to be equivalent to conventionally grown produce. It's also extremely fresh, and here in our small town, we get varieties that are unavailable to us in the markets. I can also say unequivocably, that the quality and prices beat Whole Paycheck, er I mean Foods, hands down.

They are also slowly making other things available as add-ons, such as organic chicken and eggs (the eggs--free range organic--are $3.20/doz and beat anything I've ever purchased in a store); organic grains and dried beans; almonds, both steam pasturized and truly raw (from Organic Pastures). The list keeps growing.

Around here we have farms and a small farmer's market in the summer months. The nicest thing about Abundant Harvest is that we're not commited to getting each week's box. We pay $16.80 for a small box, $28.80 for a large one (and they're big), but during the summer, I'll just write in "vacation" days and support the locals. All they require is advance notice. The best thing about this for me is that I now get to support small family farmers all year long, so that I'm helping prevent the eroding of organics standards by not having to buy from the huge organics growers.

I have no idea how many communities they serve, but for those who want to check it out, their website is www.abundantharvestorganics.com. We're enjoying not only the great produce but the gathering of friends at the pickups. It's a terrific resource.

Jodi Friedlander

Offline MiraD

  • Alumni
  • ***
  • Posts: 649
    • Grains&More
Re: Feeding a Family E4H On a Budget
« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2008, 11:11:19 AM »
This thread has made me look again at our food budget.  I'm keeping track for 30 days of what we actually spend and where we spend it.

I will say that I do not believe we are extravagant in our expenditures but over the years have come to spend more on organic food, locally grown, etc.  I shop from a lot of different sources (a CSA in season, a delivery Co-op year round, several different grocery stores and ethnic groceries when I can get to them plus an occasional Trader Joes (it's pretty far away)).  It will be interesting to see where our food dollars go.

It's also going to be an interesting exercise because over the years I have begun to make more and more of our food (bread, jams, pickles, kefir, etc). 

Looking forward to seeing what and how others do with this.

Offline TeresaP

  • Alumni
  • ***
  • Posts: 12
Re: Feeding a Family E4H On a Budget
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2008, 09:47:27 PM »
Thank you for this awesome forum post! This topic is one that has frequently caused me concern. I don't have a family to feed so therefore I don't grasp the financial responsibilities of feeding a family, but I constantly worry that the most unhealthy Americans are those that do not have the means to feed their families healthfully.

I found this pretty compelling:

According to Adam Drewnowski, an obesity researcher at the University of Washington,

...a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of cookies or potato chips but only 250 calories of carrots. Looking for something to wash down those chips, he discovered that his dollar bought 875 calories of soda but only 170 calories of orange juice. - New York Times, April 22, 2007

Full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/22/magazine/22wwlnlede.t.html?pagewanted=1&sq=Food%20Issues&st=nyt&scp=2

Amanda, I think you did a great job of showing that it's feasible to eat healthy. However, curious how many hours of your week are spent grocery shopping/traveling to shop/meal planning? It becomes a full-time job! Another barrier too that I wonder if anyone has the answer to; we in northern California are extremely fortunate to have an abundance of farmers markets & Trader Joes, but what about the huge number (majority?) of families throughout the nation that do not have access to farmers markets or TJ's?

« Last Edit: February 11, 2008, 09:51:36 PM by TeresaP »

Offline AmandaL

  • Alumni
  • ***
  • Posts: 200
Re: Feeding a Family E4H On a Budget
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2008, 10:49:13 AM »
Hi Teresa, I do spend a lot of time shopping a planning....probably more than needs to be spent.   I really enjoy the process of it all and I incorparate my children which adds a lot of time. :)  I spend about 2 to 3 hours a week, planning and shopping. 

I chalk it up to a family activity--like going on a walk or bike ride, we shop and plan our menu's together.

I feel like I save time though because outside of those two or three hours, once a week we never step foot in a store.  I used to run to the store every couple of days, and that adds up.

Having lived only in California, I dont know how to apply the way I shop to the rest of the US.  Common sense tells me that it can easily be done--its really only been in the last 100 years that processed foods have been around--everyone ate better before that, not just people here in sunny CA.  It can be done. Maybe not with Trader Joe's, but just shopping smarter within the local market. 
Wife, mother, food lover, advocate
www.mydailydiner.com
Healthy Eating Specialist
Whole Foods Market, Arlington, VA

Offline CarolC

  • Alumni
  • ***
  • Posts: 14
Re: Feeding a Family E4H On a Budget
« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2008, 05:35:21 AM »
All of this discussion reminds me of the fact that low income families are the most adversely affected of all populations by the unhealthy food that comprises the standard American diet.  As a Nutrition Educator in training, I am looking at ways to address that problem, and your discussion at least points the way to a solution.  As an example, it is well known that after immigrants come to the U.S. their health deteriorates within two to three years.  They begin to develop diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other major illnesses at a much higher rate than in their country of origin.  Why is this?  Because most immigrants, who are starting a new life in a foreign land, are generally low income, working multiple jobs to support their family and stressed both financially and emotionally.  So the bulk of their diet, as well as that of the millions of families trapped in poverty for generations in urban and rural areas, comes from fast food and processed foods, both of which are higher in calories and lower in cost, though poor in nutritional quality.  So the problem is not only one of educating these disadvantaged people, but finding ways to improve their diet that are cost effective.  I think the ideas of buying in bulk, buying at farmer's markets (only fresh and locally grown foods), utilizing cooperatives and, most important, careful meal planning as you pointed out, are key to moving away from the unhealthy diet of Americans.  A further problem is one of how to reach this very busy population, share the information we have gathered and listen to what people have to say about the obstacles to eating healthy.  That might mean going out to the places where people congregate, including perhaps laundromats, county program sites, USDA commodity distribution sites, etc.  It seems to me one of the most effective things, out of all these choices, might be the organic farmer programs you mentioned, where the food could be delivered weekly either to people's homes or to a centralized location not far to reach.  At any rate, you are showing that eating healthy, and especially organic, does not mean spending top dollar for food items.  I would like to hear more of your ideas as you come across them.

KellyT

  • Guest
Re: Feeding a Family E4H On a Budget
« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2008, 03:30:34 PM »
All of this discussion reminds me of the fact that low income families are the most adversely affected of all populations by the unhealthy food that comprises the standard American diet. 

 A further problem is one of how to reach this very busy population, share the information we have gathered and listen to what people have to say about the obstacles to eating healthy.  That might mean going out to the places where people congregate, including perhaps laundromats, county program sites, USDA commodity distribution sites, etc.  It seems to me one of the most effective things, out of all these choices, might be the organic farmer programs you mentioned, where the food could be delivered weekly either to people's homes or to a centralized location not far to reach. 

Hi Carol,

I clipped a couple of your quotes to discuss, as you made excellent points. One thing I wanted to mention was that some people on WIC in California are eligible to receive coupons for use at farmer's markets. I have noticed that many of the stands at our local farmer's markets in Contra Costa County have signs that tell people which growers accept the coupons.

Also, I wanted to give you an additional insight into who the "lower income" population really is. It is me...a one income family with a stay home mom. My husband and I both have college degrees and grew up in upper middle class homes, but we chose to make sacrifices to raise our children. With the movement towards more families with stay home parents, including stay home dads, there are more families living paycheck to paycheck who find the only way to save money is to cut their food budget. I believe this is why Wal-Mart Super Centers and fast food places have such a large following. My sister represents another large segment of the "low income" population: a single mom. Many families headed by single parents also are large consumers of fast food, processed food, and the like. They also feel they don't have time to cook and many do not have the skills to cook. They are the target population of the grocery stores' premade meal selections. Even many two-income working families, while technically earning a higher level of income, also have a high level of debt, especially in high-cost areas like California. Again, one of the few avenues they have to save money is in their food budget. For many people, the food budget is the only flexible area they have. Debt, utilities, rent or mortgage, and transportation costs are usually fixed expenses.

As has been mentioned here, it will take a fundamental change in how people plan, shop, and cook to make a real change in their diet. As nutrition educators, personal chefs, and nutritional consultants it will be our job to find ways to help them do it. There are many avenues available to us to get to our target population. Moms clubs, workplace education, cooking demonstrations, and children's classes are only a few of the starting points. Perhaps approaching WIC offices with free planing/ shopping/ cooking classes would serve as a nice volunteer activity. I know in my volunteer work as both a breastfeeding counselor and a parenting support group leader I often work with families on nutrition issues. I expect as my studies progress through eventually completing the natural chef program, I will be able to provide more assistance. Frankly, I was led to the study of nutrition in order to help my own family. Now I see it as a future career to help other families as well.


 


anything