Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Groceries on the thrift...

According to the USDA our family of 4 should, if we are thrifty, be spending about $495.60 (I used the data for a family with a 2-3yr old and a 4-5 yr old since my kiddos are lighter eaters than their same aged peers.)
If we were more liberal with our spending our cost could be up to $954.60...
What are you buying if your costs are that high? 
Even the almost $500.00 "thrifty" price is high to me.  
For our "average" family of 4 our grocery budget is about $300.00/month.
Yes, $200 less than the "average" thrifty family of 4 (or $2,400 less per year)
How can one do this eating healthy whole foods and as local/organic as our budget allows?

1. Spend $250 upfront for a year's supply of beef by buying a quarter of a steer and splitting it with a friend.
Buying straight from the farmer saves you money and helps carry on small family farms that chose to             treat their animals humanely and raise them on grass (they do supplement with grain and hay in the winter but for the most part it's pasture beef.)  Bottom line: I rather pay the farmer than a grocery store.  And at $2.79/pound for meat/butchering/wrapping it's a good deal.  After I had made the commitment to buy from this farmer, a friend from the homeschool co-op we belong to butchered her steer and I could have gotten beef from them for $2.50/lb...oh well I asked her to let me know next time and maybe I'll buy some of hers.

2. At the same farm I put in an order for 30 pasture raised antibiotic/hormone free broilers...in the freezer they will go...I can make one 3.5lb chicken last about a week.  Whole chicken costs 2.19/lb.  Boneless skinless breast costs 3.79/lb...Buy the whole chicken and learn how to make the cuts you want.  It's worth it.  Most older cookbooks have mini lessons in this skill such as the Joy of Cooking.  Maybe someday (like this fall between when the garden is done and the snow flys) we'll do meat birds in the garden area at an additional discount to us.

Here's a pretty good youtube video on how to break down a chicken...it's the one with the best explanations of how to do it...without watching a 10 min video...(there was a really good one from a cooking school, but it was really long!)

So for a total of $400 I have meat for the YEAR...(I also supplement with some pork products, but that's a rare treat...)  That breaks down to about $33/month for the budget.

3. In relation to the above...We use meat often as a side dish or as flavoring.  We get protein, but think about it...An average adult should have 4-6 oz of protein a day...And lots of it can be obtained from milk, cheese, eggs, etc...So if I roast a chicken for dinner, we'll eat chicken, starch, veggie dinner...but then the leftovers are used for salad toppers, sandwiches, mixed in with rice, etc...and then the bones are frozen until several are obtained and then they are boiled into broth...which is then used to make soups, stews, rice, potatoes etc...We also do have meat free nights where we have salad, beans, eggs, breakfast, pasta...

4. Bulk buying.  We used to spend about $300 a month at an organic warehouse type seller...now it's down to about $150 every other month ($75/month) once you get your stores up, it costs very little to maintain them.  We keep flour (rye, non-bleached white, and whole wheat), oats, popcorn, rice, cornmeal, raisins, and honey stocked as well as things like baking soda, soap and ingredients for homemade laundry soap...And they have sales too...that's when the real magic happens...

5. Maintaining a garden.  We spent less than $100 on our garden last year and grew, by August, 41 pounds of food...by the end of October when we put the garden to bed the total was nearing 300 lbs.  At a price of $2.00/lb that is $600 lbs of food or a $500 "profit."  In other words, we don't spend much for veggies in the summer and fall.  Get to know your local garden center...mine gave me strawberry plants for free...tells me not to buy x this week because they're going on sale next week...etc...so breaking down the $100 to "monthly installments" gives us $8.33/month.

6. Canning...Freezing...Drying... Do it. What we don't eat fresh, gets processed.  It's February and I still have about 20 quarts of applesauce, 8 pints of corn, 2 pints of beets, 20 ears of corn, frozen tomatoes and green beans, blueberries, and apple pie filling.  Even if I don't grow it, I still can buy it in bulk and process it for much less (and better for you) than buying it from the store.  Again, getting to know your farmer gets you everywhere...I went to a farmer's market and the apple guy gave me a great deal on their apple seconds...I got a great deal on a bag of corn...I got a great deal on beef and chicken...

7. Maintain chickens.  Last year it cost just over $1 for a dozen eggs...cost of feed, straw, etc included.  If I factored in the cost of a new batch of chicks it would be slightly more...But when you factor in the cost of garden amendments that they supply (compost from manure and straw) and the free labor (scratching up the garden, tilling, pest control) their cost is negligible...and if you barter eggs...then it gets even better...

8. Shop the sales...It's not just for couponers...When a favorite product is on sale, I stock up.  When seed cataloges send coupons...Stock up.  We are attempting to put in trees this year so we won't have to buy as much fruit in the future.  We have a coupon for 50% off and $25 off.  We will use each separately in order to get the best deal.  But be careful...sometimes other places are cheaper (with good quality) without coupons and discounts.  Read reviews, shop around, and know prices.  And shopper loyalty cards pay off too...our feed store has one and now I have $10 in gift certificates.

9. A freezer is a must.  Ours is in the garage...it's cooler in the summer than our basement and barely needs any electric in the winter so it isn't constantly working hard to keep things cold.  We store the meat, frozen fruit and veggies, quarts of stock and large bulk bags of grain and bread that I stock up on.  Keeping it organized is a must.  When storing large amounts of meat I find it best to sort it into what one would use in a week...so I usually try to keep grocery bags with a variety of products in it...for example a whole chicken, 1lb hamburger, and a roast...I keep an old milk crate on top of the freezer and when the fridge freezer looks low, I go shopping.  I go to the garage and get a mix bag out as well as any stock, bread, fruit or grain that I need.

So if I add up the basic costs it's about $116 which then gets supplemented at the regular grocery store for toiletries, toilet paper, coffee, cleaning (sponges etc...), milk, bread for sandwiches (we make some bread, but the husband prefers his sandwiches come on store bought whole wheat bread, a small concession...) and some other basics.  So I have a budget of about $184 for those items.  We also shop around for these items...The husband stops at Trader Joe's or the Co-op on the way home from work to pick up items that I know are cheaper there such as fresh fruit and canned tuna, and I'll go to the local chain for their sale items and other must haves...

So there you have it.  Some of my secrets.  
I am a cheep skate...I make Lincoln cry when I pinch him...but that's the way it is.  
So while I'll never be on some ultimate couponer show...
I do have my ways of saving.

And hey, I've linked this up to Real Food Wednesdays...
and Simple Lives Thursday

1 comment:

  1. Wow- I'm blown away by how cheaply you can get meat. We spend $4.79/pound for a whole chicken from our farmer! And our beef (buying the whole cow) is $5.99/ pound! This is the best quality meat I can find, but it's also the norm around here price wise.
    Thank you for sharing your secrets! It's always interesting to see how people save!


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