Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Grocery Budget 2010 Wrap Up

Grocery Budgets...they are the fodder for many a blog post and even entire blogs, aren't they? They cause much angst and competition and are all as different as the families they feed.

I'm not posting ours in order to compete or to compare. I'm posting ours so I have a record and to encourage others who might be transitioning to a more local, seasonal, organic way of eating. We have been and are continuing to do so in baby steps!

In 2008 and 2009 my husband and I spent approximately $1300/year on groceries. I do not have the exact figures (where the heck did they go?) but it was within a few dollars of that each year. I had budgeted $100/month and there always seemed to be one or two months that added on to make it a 13 month year! I realize this number is very low for most families. This only fed 2 adults and I did almost all of our cooking from scratch. I make most of our bread products and use almost no prepackaged snacks or meals. I bought (and still buy) loss leaders at the grocery store and during those years really stocked up on meat when I found an amazing sale or marked down packages. I know I bought chicken for $.29/lb and often bought hamburger for about $.90/lb.

In 2009 we made the decision to change the way we ate. We had always eaten fairly well...lots of veggies and fruit, I grew what I could on our little city lot, I made things from scratch and (other than our chocolate obsession) we didn't eat much that most would consider junk food. However, we did eat conventional meat and didn't make a big deal about which veggies or fruit we were eating. I watched "Food, Inc" and read the book. I read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and "Eating Animals" and many other books. I got disgusted about the state of food in our nation. And decided things had to change in our house if we wanted things to change in the industry.

So in late 2009 and all of 2010 I made a much more conscious effort to buy local produce and eat it in season. I shopped our farmer's market like crazy and canned and froze as much as I could of what I could get cheaply in season. I threw a whole lot of tomato plants in the ground before Peanut was born (even among the evergreen shrubs in front of the house) and put some potatoes in a garbage can and put lettuce and basil and cilantro seeds in every pot and space I could. I canned many quarts of tomatoes from those plants and the seconds I bought at the farmer's market. We ate a lot of salads from all those tiny lettuce seeds. We are still loving the pesto that I froze from our basil plants. And I'll be planting even more this year since Mike turned out to be a BIG fan of pesto.

We were able to pick apples, pears, and glean a finished garden (including 19 acorn squash) from friends that live about 2 hours away. It was a busy, fun, beautiful fall day of collecting and visiting with good friends. And the week that followed was a busy time of canning and freezing! As the farmer's market wound down I bought a bushel of squash, 75 pounds of potatoes and 4 heads of cabbage to help tide us over the winter with local produce.

I stopped buying meat from the grocery store and started getting a few things from the one meat vendor at the farmer's market. Her prices shot up a lot this summer and while I know it is fair I was blanching even at the much lower prices that I paid back in April. We ate a lot less meat through the spring and summer. We never ate huge amounts, but we ate a lot, lot less. I finally found a chicken product I was okay with in Smart Chicken. I know it is still not pastured and it is not eating everything a chicken should eat. However it is air chilled and that makes me very happy. After I read how poultry is processed in 'water' it made me seriously reaffirm my desire to buy food that I trusted not just what was cheapest. I bought a couple of local, pastured chickens at Outpost when they had their truckload sale and I wish I had bought even more, but we just didn't have the freezer space to spare. I am now paying $2 or more for chicken on average. I only buy whole chickens and I break them down myself or I get legs if they are cheaper. I have found marked down Smart Chicken at Woodman's occasionally and that makes me a very happy girl indeed. The markdowns often come down to $1 a pound or so!

We bought a 1/4 of a grass fed, no added anything cow from Miller Brothers. It was ready in November and we have been loving it! We were never big beef eaters before, but this meat is wonderful and I know the animal was raised right and was treated right until the very end. The farmer makes a living, the small family owned butcher shop makes a living and we got a superior product. Our beef came out to about $4/pound when you figure out the weight of what we actually brought home. They also saved me the fat and I've rendered it out. An interesting new thing that I tried and a fat source for cooking that I feel better about than most conventional products.

We are looking into getting 1/2 pig from Miller Brothers when they have them available. That would be ideal as the pig would be totally pastured, no antibiotics, etc. If it doesn't work out fairly soon then we'll be getting one from a different local farm. We did stock up on bacon at the little processor in my grandparent's hometown in South Dakota. It is Mike's favorite bacon and the meat was local to the processor. I'm guessing it was confinement, but I've seen the farms in the area and know that it wasn't a CAFO for sure.

So what was the grand total after all this? We spent $2212.16 on groceries in 2010.

It was a BIG increase (almost $1000 more) but it was worth it to feed our family of 2 adults, one 2 year old and a baby who is a month into solids. We have almost an entire 1/4 of meat in the freezer, bacon for a year, and still have many, many jars of canned goods. Overall we have a lot more food in this house right now than we did last January. We have eaten almost all the frozen vegetables, but are going to have a second chest freezer for me to fill next summer so I'll have enough for more months. I also will have more room because I will not have the two big boxes of milk that I pumped and saved for Peanut. That milk took precedence as I can buy groceries and I can't buy her my milk!

All in all I feel good about what we are doing and where we are headed. We have a long way to go, but we like the changes we've made! Next step is probably getting a grain mill and starting to grind our own grains. I'm excited, but does anyone have any idea where I can buy non-GMO wheat here in Milwaukee for a good price? And I'd like to make all our eggs free range and our milk local and and and doesn't really end, does it? :)

Happy Eating!


  1. I think you are still a little over tired :) Do you mean 2010? You guys are really thrifty! I'm trying to make more things myself this year. In fact, I have dog treats baking in the oven right now!

  2. TOO FUNNY! Yes, of course I meant 2010, but in my head it is just now 2010 so the budget must be 2009...oops.

    I'll change it and thanks so much for pointing it out :) We'll have to keep exchanging recipes and cheering each other on. I've got beans soaking and tomorrow I'm going to can beans for the first time. When the high is going to be 6 for the day I figure heating up the kitchen with the pressure canner will be very welcome!