December 12, 2012

What's in my kitchen that feeds a family of six for $450 per month?

In a post I wrote one year ago,I mentioned how we don't spend as much as the average family the size of ours does on food each month.

Last year that amount was $400.
I will be honest and say that due to inflation and with our youngest now eating solids-and drinking Almond milk frequently,our food budget has increased slightly.
I still get away with less than $450 easily though.

Let's start with the types of things I buy and the different foods/dishes I prepare with them.
*Keep in mind that we are vegetarians,so some of these may seem unfamiliar or need modifications*

The staple items I buy are:

Potatoes-both white and sweet.
Whole wheat pasta
Brown rice
Whole oats
Dried beans
Organic Tofu
Almond milk-both vanilla and plain
Non-hydrogenated butter
Frozen Vegetables-broccoli,carrots,peas,spinach,brussel sprouts-corn in moderation
Canned foods-mushrooms,olives
Fresh fruits-oranges,bananas,apples-occasionally pears or in-season fruits
Whole grain/whole wheat breads-loaves,hamburger buns-occasional hotdog buns
Fresh vegetables-green/yellow/red/orange peppers,onions,cucumber,carrots,spinach,romaine lettuce,celery-others when in-season (asparagus for example) and others only when on sale or as needed (tomato,avocado,broccoli,squash)
Occasionally crackers for the kiddos (even though they are pretty much void of nutrients....)
Popcorn-learning to opt for organic.
Some cold cereals-cheerios,shredded wheat,raisin bran.
Taco stuff-tortilla shells,hard shell tacos
Peanut butter

Now,we do eat some dairy still-but as I will talk about later,dairy products can not only be not-so-great for you,but they also can make the cash register go "cha-ching!"

Occasionally we also buy coffee creamer as my hubby dearly loves his cup-o-joe.
Rare ice cream-mostly around birthdays.

I also go to each of our local health food stores every few months-this is the part where you may feel a bit lost,so I'll try to explain as best I can!

Dehydrated soy protein-this comes in many 'flavors' and naturally 'dyed' colors/textures.
Canned veggie 'meats'-these are various things-some are patties,hotdogs,'scallops' and the like.
'Chicken' and 'beef' seasoning
Bulk flour (whole wheat and whole wheat pastry)
Organic Corn meal
Raw Cane Sugar (although I do still use regular white sugar in a pinch!)
Vegan shortening

What do I fix?

Breakfasts are normally:
A fresh fruit
Either toast,cereal,oatmeal
Sometimes yogurt or an egg.

Lunches are:
The kids like 'basic' lunches-
PB&J,pasta,tacos,grilled cheese,homemade pizza or even 'breakfast' foods from the above list.
Hubby likes baked potatoes,rice+tofu,pasta,tacos
I happen to love sweet potatoes.

Suppers/meals I fix and we use the leftovers for the next day (or two,or three!)

I like to make chili-I use dried beans,my own canned tomatoes,dehydrated soy protein (looks like beef!).
I make my own loaves of bread (I have a favorite recipe and make a braided bread loaf)
I sometimes make 'oat burgers' from whole oats,onions and seasonings-then bake in 'patties'.
I make my own 'chicken' noodle-using dehydrated soy protein,'chicken' seasoning,carrots,celery,onions and noodles.
I make a huge pot of potato soup-potatoes,onions,carrots,celery...then just add a few seasonings.
I make my own pancakes/waffles.
I make my own 'vegan' cookies-you can't even tell there's no eggs!
I make fresh banana bread frequently with 'too-far-gone' banana's
I will use dehydrated soy protein with tomato paste/seasonings to make homemade sloppy joes.
I make my own cornbread

For the most part,I try to make things when they are 'in-season' strawberry shortcake in July,blueberry cobbler in August,raspberry crunch in September,apple pies in October-but I also make sure to purchase extra fresh fruits during those times to freeze for later use!
We eat a lot of zucchini and summer squash in the summer!

I can my own spaghetti sauce,applesauce,pickles,jams,tomatoes and green beans-this comes in handy since I don't have to BUY these things!

making applesauce!

I make nearly everything from scratch.
I buy in bulk.
I stock up when it's on sale.
I keep it fairly basic.

I will admit that there are months where I sit back and say "How did we spend almost $200 more on groceries this month?!?"
Then I remember-
The package of cookies,the extra yogurt,the juices,the potato chips we inhaled,the canned soup instead of making my own,the ice cream treats or a 'convenience' meal.

These things add up.

And it's OK to have convenience meals sometimes or the occasional ice cream.
But not only are these processed foods not so good for us,they are also LESS FILLING,DON'T STRETCH OUT and COST MORE PER OUNCE.

A 10 OZ bag of potato chips not on sale is an average of $3.89...a 10lb bag of potatoes? $3.99
A 36 count package of cookies is an average of $3.99...I make a full batch of 48 for less than that.

making cookies!

It really comes down to asking yourself while shopping "Do we really need this,or is it just for convenience?"

I accredit most of my budgeting success on cooking from scratch,being vegetarians and learning as I go.
Meal planning helps for some families.
I have heard there can be success in joining a co-op.
There are benefits to farmers markets or sharing fresh produce with neighbors-they grow cucumbers,you grow tomatoes and share.

I'm learning as I go here....and like I said,there have been hiccups in my budgeting!

So,those are some of my tricks and what works for me.....let me know if you have any questions!

Happy grocery budgeting!