I’ve been reading recently about the high cost of eating healthier food, the disparity between poor/rich re: food, and about the current administration’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative … and I started thinking (again) about my life and eating habits before and my life and eating habits now … and about money, in general, and how I spend it on food.

Limited or no access to healthy food is one thing I won’t even pretend I’ve had to face or fully understand. That said – I sometimes wonder if the “it’s too expensive” line re: healthier food really means “it’s too hard” for a lot of (middle-class) people – and I recognize this was MY problem. I base this only on my experience where no money = eating from a dollar menu or eating food from boxes, but what I’ve found is that I’m spending a few dollars per meal NOW – just as I apparently did back when I thought eating healthier meals would be too expensive or time consuming.

I am sort of a control freak when it comes to money. I record everything we purchase and have spreadsheets going back years. I know exactly how much we spent on groceries each month 4 years ago (fat and much poorer) and I know exactly what we spend on groceries now. Overall? Not much has changed. I haven’t taken the time to analyze it so I’m not exactly sure how we’ve pulled it off, but we’ve somehow COMPLETELY overhauled our eating/buying habits and have just barely raised our (admittedly high for some standards) budget.

I know that I’m VERY fortunate to be able to afford what I afford and I’m not in any way saying “if I can do it, you can do it” because I HATE THAT quite a bit and usually want to shake people when I hear it. What I AM saying is we figured out a way to eat differently/better within a somewhat modest budget and I don’t mind sharing how we’ve done it. I don’t think we spend excessively, but I also know we could probably cut our costs if we were a little more careful and chose the same items – just non-grass-fed and non-organic (though that varies quite a bit since I see no need to buy organic options of most vegetables and fruit) or if we used coupons or actively looked for sales.

Here’s the deal:

Grocery shopping is a little bit of an ordeal for us. Some stuff comes from a local farm (purchased at their market – a fairly long haul from us), some stuff comes from a nearby co-op, most vegetables come from a warehouse place, and everything else (like jalapeños and almond flour, etc.) comes from a regular grocery store.

It seems like it could be a time-consuming hassle, but it’s not. It’s actually MUCH easier when you eat two main things – meat and vegetables – and generally avoid most of the “middle aisle” stuff. This weekend, for example, we planned ahead, bought meat from the farm for multiple meals and froze it. It takes about as long to run into the co-op for milk and eggs and any other miscellaneous items as it used to take to sit through a drive-thru at taco bell. The vegetables? Pretty quick and simple to run in, get what we need and get out. The regular grocery store? VERY simple since we typically need just a few items and hit just a few aisles.

Financially:

We just spent $245 on groceries that will last 2 weeks. Broken down, that means $122.50 for each week. Divide that for 2 people – $61.25 per week per person. That means $2.92 per meal for each person (since the groceries were purchased in anticipation of all meals at home/no eating out).

One caveat – we have kids (or at least a kid) here every other weekend and sometimes more. I didn’t factor that in since it varies and because I’m lazy. This would drop the cost per meal.

The flip side – we’ll likely pick up a few things here and there over the next couple of weeks (especially when kids are here), which would likely increase the cost per meal and potentially cancel out the drop for the kids.

Also? I didn’t factor in the groceries we already have on hand.

ANYWAY, I could obsess about this all day – Ultimately, I think $2.50 – $3 per meal for each of us is a very fair estimation.

Here’s what $245/two weeks of groceries looks like for us:

From the warehouse place (so everything is large/high volume) ($101):
4 portabella mushroom heads/caps/whatever
couple pounds of coffee
bag of 4 celery
mushrooms
3 pounds of walnuts
bag of broccoli/cauliflower/carrot mix
24 oz feta cheese
asparagus
huge thing of spring mix
green beans
bag of 6 red/yellow/orange peppers
blueberries
cherry tomatoes
strawberries
bag of 5 or so avocados
bag of vidalia onions

From the farm people (all grass-fed, pasture raised, blah, blah, blah) ($72):
1 whole chicken
4 chicken thighs
2 chicken leg quarters
a rack of pork ribs
couple pounds of ground beef
couple pounds of beef stew meat
4 pork chops
couple italian sausages
couple bratwurts
about 1/2 a pound or so of butter (have no idea because it’s just a huge hunk of butter wrapped in plastic)
a tomato
a bunch of fresh okra

From the regular grocery store ($59):
big jar of sauerkraut
bunch of small/one serving cans of peas, spinach and green beans (for lunches)
sardines (for Jon’s lunches)
my yogurt
couple sweet potatoes
couple white potatoes
more fresh green beans
couple cans of chickpeas
a cantaloupe
kale
yellow squash
red onion
garlic
bananas
cucumber
can of black beans
cheese
a bag of blue chips
salsa
guacamole mix (had nachos for dinner, obv)

From the co-op ($13):
couple cartons of eggs
1/2 gallon of milk
small fage yogurt (milk and this yogurt used to make large batch of homemade yogurt for Jon)

This is very typical.
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We went to a party/bbq yesterday hosted by my boss. I wanted to take healthy options, so our contributions were steamed green beans and a chickpea salad.

I requested the chickpea salad but but got a little nervous as Jon was making it because it was full of garlic and onions. I could probably live on garlic and onions alone, but I know lots of people have issues with both … so I stressed and made him use half an onion instead of the whole thing. Seems like it was ok – we brought home very little. And brought home no green beans (which he steamed and tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper).

The chickpea salad = chickpeas, red onion, garlic, celery, chopped up cherry tomatoes, rosemary, olive oil, vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper. I imagine you could add/subtract anything and it would be good.

I’m thinking I’m going to make this again today and blend it up to make a hummus-ish dip. I have no idea if it will work out, but we have a ton of celery, need something besides peanut butter to eat with it, Jon’s out playing disc golf with his sons, and I’m feeling adventurous. I have never used any of our food processing contraptions before, so I hope this doesn’t turn into a huge pain in the ass. We’ll see.

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