Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Food, glorious food

One area of our budget that we continue to struggle with is the food bill. I've been saying for years that we should not be spending more than $150 a week on food, but DW thinks I'm living on the moon. I recently started to take over the shopping and have been able to hold the line a little better and yet still buy some "frivilous" (spices and sauces and whatnot) things but we still are overshooting the mark. This week: Friday I spent about $80 at Dillons, DW spent about $35 at Walgreens and $50 at the health food store on Sunday, then today (I couldn't get there) she spent another $72. I usually try to make a stop at the farmer's market on Wednesday but obviously we're over $150.

One thing we're trying to do is menu plan a little more. This weekend I went through the cookbooks and came up with 4 meals: a rice, TVP and tomato sauce casserole and a lentil cheese loaf, both from the Linda McCartney book; a broccoli and mushroom manicotti; a seat of the pants pad thai from Vegan with a Vengence. The first two didn't need any ingredients we didn't already have, the second two needed a few, but I think it's okay to buy a couple of special ingredients as long as we're not picking out recipes with all the most esoteric ingredients. (Which is a habit I can get into. ) I made the pad thai with spaghetti instead of the rice noodles the recipe called for. It still came out good.

We're also trying to rely on a pantry system somewhat more. There are a few things we basically have to buy every time we go: pasta, dry cereal (this is a major hit as we only like the kind in the health food section - whole grain, low in added sugar, organic if possible; I buy what's on sale but it can still be $3 a box, and we go through probably 4-5 boxes a week); milk and eggs of course, apples. Now I've been focusing on keeping tuna, canned tomato products and beans, a variety of veggie convenience foods like Boca burgers, and a variety of frozen veggies in the house. Rice, tuna and veggies is a workable meal on a weeknight.

I've been trying to keep track of specials and coupons, particularly on-line offers. Coupons don't really work that well for us because they're usually for name brands and we don't really buy those.

The short version of it is that we really can't afford to spend $600 in a month on food. If we're over $50 every week, that really adds up. I feel like this is the area where we could really see s0me of the most impact in our financial lives.


Mary T said...

I've been working on this too. I have the same budget I had a few months ago and 2 more kids moved home since then. I've been using all sorts of strategies. One thing I notice is planning more than a few meals ahead doesn't work well for me. Instead I just buy what I can get the best deals on and try to make as much of it as possible by combining with things in pantry & freezer. I'm under the $150 mark per week so far. Mary

Mary T said...

Oh another thing that helps-- stay out of the stores as much as you can. I try to only shop one day in the week. The more often I shop the worse it is. My kids do run out for soda during the week, maybe some chips--but I don't include that in my budget--that's theirs.