Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Our Serious Food Obsession...The Poor Farm Budget 2017


Since we're already a third of the way through the first month of the year, I've decided to carry on with our budget conversations until February. It's hard to get any outdoor projects done at this time of year anyway, especially tonight when the winds are upwards of 50 mph and the majority of our buckets, feed pans, shovels, totes and wheelbarrows are blowing across the neighbors fields.

Not to mention the ducks.

So, onto our food budget. In years past we had a garden, raised our own meat and like others who work hard everyday and feel exhausted at supper time, we did our share of eating out. Last year we really reigned that in knowing what 2017 would bring and now, here we are, with  a projected budget of just $150 a month.

This $150 must cover the following: food purchased at the grocery store, seeds or plants for the garden, any supplements we can't grow (like tumeric powder) and any over the counter meds. Right now the only med either of us take occasionally is ibuprofen and that is getting less frequent as we use more natural anti-inflammatory treatments like apple cider vinegar.

Obviously, there is no fat (sorry) in this food budget for eating out. Of course I broke that rule today when I had lunch with a friend. But, since I made this lunch date many weeks ago, I've cut myself some slack. I'll have to make it up by buying generic coffee. Not hardly. I can give up many things but good coffee is not one of them. So instead I'm giving up flavored teas, my beloved smoked salmon and learning all I can this winter about herbs I can grow to make my own teas and figuring out a way to raise salmon in the Midwest.

Over the years we've learned to shop the perimeter of the store, where all the fresh veggies and fruits exist, and thus ignore the middle aisles filled with processed and packaged foods. I do still buy pasta and rice but pasta making is another skill I plan to take on this year. My own canning has replaced
 90 % of our canned goods  we used to buy at the store and we are weaning ourselves from eating fruits etc... that are not in season.

We need hoop houses, a green house and as I mentioned before, a root cellar to preserve our root veggies, pumpkins and other squashes over the winter. We don't use coupons as we shop primarily at ALDI's where coupons are not needed since the food is already the cheapest in the county. Packing my own bags is easy, especially when the reward is paying less.

I now bake all our snacks, cakes and about half our bread needs. The goal is 100% of our bread needs by the spring. It's a learning process for me, I'm good with basic sandwich bread, and I'm getting better at hamburger buns, but my homemade crackers sort of suck. Twenty years ago I worked full time in nursing, and used to send my kids across the street to the restaurant in town to buy milk for their cereal. We ate carry out food 3-5 times a week.  Ten years ago I worked weekends only and cooked during the week bringing home carry out 1-2 times a week. Now I cook every day, often freezing leftovers for guests or Keith's lunches and we never bring home carry out.

So tell me, what do you spend on food each month? For how many? Where do you shop? How much of your own food do you grow? How much do you bake ? How often do you eat out? What else do you do to keep purchased food prices under control?

Can't wait to hear from you. Now I'm off to make some popcorn, which our middle son grew for us here last summer, which is amazing when cooked in coconut oil and smothered in butter from grass fed cows and sprinkled with sea salt.

Oh how I love popcorn. Now I just need to learn how to make sea salt.

24 comments:

  1. I spend on average about €800 ($844) per month on food, but I couldn't live without plenty of meat wine shellfish and charcuterie. Most of our vegs are home grown, and we have plenty of canned tomato products. We also like good fresh bread. I should probably add another €40 per month on petrol, spent travelling to buy all the above.

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    1. I love charcuterie and must learn how to make our own, we produce enough meat, especially pork to do so. We try to only shop at the grocery 915 miles from home) when we are in that town for other things. We try.

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  2. Hubby and I live on $300 a month for groceries, but we buy strictly organic produce and dairy and buy only pastured grass fed beef. Our neighbor raises our chickens -though when we are done traveling we intend to do those ourselves (that is factored into the $300 per month)
    I raise 90 percent of the vegetables we eat. I'm getting closer to my goal of raising ALL of them, but it's a learning curve. I have already run out of carrots--I have to grow WAY more of those. And I need to start growing peas--but I've held back on those because right now, we eat a pound of frozen (organic) peas a week. I'm not sure I could grow that many. Boggles the mind how I would snap that many peas!
    I don't like to see people cut food budgets by eating cheap food. We had a dramatic improvement in health when we started to eat better. We used to get by on $190 a month, but spent over $300 a month on meds. Now we are on NOTHING, are never sick anymore and feel like a million bucks, so the all organic/grassfed route has actually saved us money.

    I am SO enjoying this budget series. So very interesting to learn little tips/tricks and to find out where we stand. I was shocked last post at how EXPENSIVE Michigan is compared to other states. Hubby and I are contemplating moving.....but the thought of starting my veg garden all over again is mortifying. It's taken me 9 years to get it where I want it to be. Sigh.

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    1. PS I forgot to add (in my NOVEL) that I now do ALL my own breadmaking--and have THE BEST recipe for English Muffins-exactly like Thomas Eng. Muffins but all organic and yum....if in case you need a recipe, let me know.
      Cripes. Another novel. Sorry!

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    2. Has that jut lost my comment? Arrrggg it was really long as well!

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    3. Sue, I would LOVE your english muffin recipe. You can post it here or just email me at opies99gmail.com. We are so blessed to have the land and skills to raise all our own meat, beef, pork and chicken. I miss lamb though but we know an organic farmer nearby who will barter some for soap, so I get a wee bit every year. And Kev...so sorry your post didn't show. I love your input!

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    4. oh.. post it here please!!! I love english muffins..

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  3. I have no idea what we spend on food. On one hand - we don't go out, do 90% shopping at Aldi's (try their organic coffee!) only "meats" we buy in are bacon, fish and shrimp. Eat very seasonally. As much garden/canned as possible and few veg in the winter. On the other hand - we do like our wine and craft beers. So there's that.
    Breads I make: I make a very easy no-knead bread with so many variations: white, wheat, seeded, sweet with dried fruit. It's done in the dutch oven and I can make it in the morning with a toddler on my hip and have it out cooling by lunch.
    I also make a good naan (flat bread), pizza crust, bagels and soda bread. We very, very rarely buy bread in.

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    1. I will try that organic coffee. Thanks. I am not a wine person but I do like some Jameson at night before bed. A bottle here is about $25 so I have been rationing it, and putting it my Christmas/Birthday/Mother's Day gift request list. Sometimes when it's getting low I just lick the inside of the bottle to get me through. Anyway, so impressed with your bread making skills. I can also make pizza crust and soda bread but would like to master rye bread.

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    2. lol... The licking the bottle comment made me laugh out loud. I understand!!!!

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  4. Here in the Big City burbs, it is finally legal to own chickens - as pets only. We're not allowed to butcher them - If the neighbors complain, out with your chickens!! No front yard veggie gardens either in most places. Some neighborhoods even tell you what you're allowed to PLANT fer gawds sake.
    I don't grow anything edible. I'm a renter in a basement. I keep my food budget down by shopping the ethnic markets, the Dollar Stores & the perimeter of the Supermarket! I watch for sales, buy in bulk when I can & stock a really good supply of dried & canned goods in my panty. I shop at the farms up the Valley, April through October. I buy a lot of beans, lentils, whole grains & meaty soup bones. Greens, sushi carrots, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, celery & onions are my staples. I do eat chicken & pork but tend to buy it when it's 30 to 50% OFF at Safeway. I always have lots of fruit - Jackfruit & mangoes are my favorites. Cherries are my big splurge every year & I eat as many as I can get!!! I'm not a sweet eater & I'm weaning myself off chips. If the bag isn't open, I can usually walk past it. But I'm totally,absolutely addicted to Gummy Bears. I don't bake but I do buy good seedy, coarse dark bread from a local bakery once in a while. My budget is $2 - 300 a month depending on whether its Cherry or Salmon Season. I can live quite well on $40 a week if I don't buy butter, cheese & dried fruit.
    Here's a good site for all your HOME butchering, foraging, smoking, cider making etc www.kevinkossowan.com

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    1. I hate how government in one way or another, is allowed to tell us what FOOD we can produce, of course if you are into the conspiracy theory that a corrupt government is one that controls its peoples food (and I am) then it all makes sense. Chickens are more acceptable in Illinois in many counties as long as they are shhhhh, quiet. We are also allowed to butcher our own for our own use but not for resale. If selling to others must be done at licensed processor of which there are very few in Illinois. Sounds like you work hard at keeping your food budget down, and it does take work doesn't it? Thanks so much for the link. I'll check it out.

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    2. sooooo.. chickens as pets only huh.. who is to know if you have Cornish Cross Broilers as pets. and then 8 weeks later, you have no pets any more? I have a friend that does her butchering in the garage, out of sight from the townie neighbors she has. I also think this approach could work for those that are allow "pet pigs".. a nice American Guinea Hog that could be passed off as a Pot Belly for as long as he is around.. and then one day.. no more pet pig!! no one is any the wiser.. unless they read this blog..

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  5. Our food budget is $70 a week for three adults. When the garden is producing I can slash that almost in half, but our garden has failed in a major way for the past three years. My mother wanted to try the back to eden gardening method, but she didn't do it the right way and then had my father till all her amendments into the soil when it didn't work. I am still trying to fix the damage; the nutrient levels are so off it is not funny.

    Before we damaged the garden so badly we ate very well off of it. We always had enough produce to make up about 60% of our vegetable needs, plus we would always aim to plant enough of one item to preserve a two year supply of it. Usually either tomatoes or green beans, but occasionally other things as well.

    I miss when we could rely on the garden instead of my paycheck to feed us all.

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    1. Such sad garden news. When you've eaten well from your own produce and then lose it for whatever reason the loss is great. Those who only buy from the grocery don't know what they are missing. Good luck this next time around! And $70 for three adults is pretty darn good if you're getting all your food from the store. Kudos to you on that!

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  6. Ours is $600-$800 a month, for a family of four. Which is incredible when you think we live on 5 acres. The hardest challenge has been getting things to grow here. What we buy with that money isn't just food though, it's also toiletries, vitamins and cleaning agents. Also we'll stock up on specials (sales).

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    1. We have been blessed with our garden ground so far and in fact, surprised by how well produce grew this past summer, so I cannot imagine how frustrating it must be not to have good soil, good conditions. One way we did slash into our food budget was through elimination of many disposable items. We don't buy paper towels, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, wax paper, napkins or baggies. We do still buy toilet paper, not complete heathens yet. And for cleaners...I only use vinegar, baking soda, washing soda and my own soap bars. It took us years to break the disposable habit and we certainly used our fair share of paper products when our four kids lived at home. We do what we can do, when we can do it.

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  8. I like to do dinner prep in the morning so when dinner time comes around I can just pop something in the oven or it is ready in the crockpot. We rarely eat out and I bake most of our desserts and some bread. Do you bake sour dough bread? That's something I know I should learn.
    Growing herbs is one of my passions, although my husband would probably call it an obsession. I also like to identify the wild plants we have one our property and how to use them. If we all included dandelion, plantain and stinging nettle in our diet regularly we would probably be much healthier. I use herbs for cooking, I dry them, I make teas, I infuse them in oils and I make tinctures. I am also experimenting with growing turmeric and ginger in my house since they will not grow in our Michigan climate.
    Many perennial herbs can be obtained through root divisions so if you know someone who has a some growing they may be willing to give you some (or trade for soap). Last year one of my daughters decided since she was going to buy me a plant for mothers day it was best to ask what I wanted. I gave her a list and I ended up with two thyme plants and a Solomon's Seal plant. Another daughter bought me the turmeric root that I potted and have growing in my living room.

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    1. I love herbs too! I Grow sage, thyme, chives, comfrey, basil, holy basil, spearmint. Desperately want to grow ginger and tumeric, hope to start this year. Something to put on my birthday gift list.

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  9. Our food budget is $100 per week for two adults, but it has to cover more than food, it has to include household necessities and clothing as well. The most expensive items I have to buy are things for Dan to eat while he's over the road. Food is outrageously expensive at truck stops (drivers are something of a captive audience, so to speak). so I buy things that he can fix easily that are also healthy. I do most of my shopping at Aldi, with a few pick-up items at Walmart and Big Lots. We raise quite a bit of our own meat but not all, so I often buy that. Also milk in winter (goats are dry before kidding) to keep my kefir alive! I also have to buy sweeteners and fats (our Big Lots has gallon size coconut oil for $12, which is a great price), and 50# bags of wheat for making flour.

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    1. What a challenge to feed your Dan while he is on the road! Keith works for a couple other farmers part time and always takes his lunch so I try to cook a bunch on Sundays so he has many choices during the week. Honey has become our primary sweetener (we have bees) but I still buy some organic sugar for some of my baking. Your Big Lots sounds amazing! Had no idea they had such cheap coconut oil. Sadly ours is over 50 miles away.But I could go once a month and stock up.

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  10. I find it interesting how a "grocery budget" can look so different from person to person due to an individual's circumstances.

    Our nearest grocery store (Thriftway) is 30 miles. Safeway and Wal-Mart are 90 miles. Nearest Aldi's is 345 miles. My grocery budget and travel budget directly affect each other. In addition, we work from home, so we're never in a "stop by the grocery store" situation.

    I budget $300/month. That covers anything that goes for our personal needs (things that directly contact our body) and cleaning products. So If I want to buy a mop, it comes out of the "grocery" budget? I need to rework that.

    I just reworked our bare minimum diet. I can go as low as $210/month for two adults, while meeting our nutritional needs, and keeping with foods we normally eat.

    I buy by the case at our nearest town's Thriftway. We pay $2 over cost per case. I buy cases of "mature" produce, 40 to 50# for $0 to $20. Every month I'm processing something for storage. I also plant grocery food that can "cut and come again." A case of bok choy for $20 lasts about 5 months. I process as usual, leaving a few inches, then plant the ends.

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