Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sustainable Food Budget Challenge

So a little while back I read about the Sustainable Food Budget Challenge over on Crunchy Chicken's blog.

I pretty much already practice this as I do use food stamps and I do try to eat as locally and sustainably as possible.

For several years I have planned menus, shopped at several locations, and followed a tight budget while trying to maximize our benefits and nutrition.

It started after I had my second child and my husband lost his job. Suddenly we were relying on my meager income, and it looked like we were going to for a while. We decided this was the perfect opportunity for him to go back to school for his teaching degree.

I was 23 then, and really - until that point hadn't cooked much. At all. Ever. My idea of a home-cooked meal was one of those frozen skillet meals that you added chicken to.

Now, it's pretty much common sense that home-cooked meals are cheaper. But, for me, cooking didn't come naturally. Even though I was an accounting major, I had no idea how to properly budget for food shopping. So I read everything I could about saving money on food costs. At the time I was spending on average 150 a week for me, my husband, my oldest son who was 5 and a newborn (who didn't eat solids).

In about a years time, I was able to get our weekly grocery bill down to 40-60 a week. But, my main goal then was saving money, not nutrition. We were on FS and receiving I think 90 a month at the time.

Shortly after, my interest turned to nutrition and local eating and the food industry and on and on. I don't remember how it began. I just know once that started, it all kind of snowballed from there - and led me to here, 6 years later.

Our average grocery bill, with an estimated 90% of foods being local and/or organic runs 60-120 a week depending on what I need to stock up on.

But I've stopped tracking the way I used to, and I admit I've gotten lazy with meal planning. I think that I could get our bill lower, and I would like to start recording what I'm buying and spending again anyway. So, I'm late - but in on the challenge. Only for me, it's not really a month long challenge - but my month to month life. We do receive foodstamp benefits.

My goal is to keep our food bill at 400 for the month. That is for a family of 4. We are: Me, 28 year old female; my husband, 29 year old male; two sons ages 10 and 6.

The goal of 400 does include out of pocket money. We don't get that much in food stamps, so that total is a combination of benefits and our money. I know some people following the challenge are using the number given as the max allotment for foodstamps. I'm going by what we live, and can afford.

We did our grocery shopping for the week on Saturday. I normally plan meals in advance, but like I said - I've been a little lazy on that. I can make dinners out of what we have in house though.

I'll get the information together, and post tomorrow on what our shopping list and food totals looked like for this week. If you want to join in, let me know! I'd love to follow what everyone else is doing too!

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