Friends kept telling me food was my niche. I love to cook just as much as I despise recipes. Seasonal, local, and with what's in the fridge is my preference. Even better is if the cost comes to less than $8. Then I read about the 3SquaresVT challenge. 3Squares is Vermont's version of foodstamps. They challenged families in the area to try to eat on a 3Squares average budget to appreciate the challenge that food stamp recipients face. I appreciate how challenging it can be to eat on a budget but as soon as I saw the total for the week- $86 for our family of 3- I was shocked. We do not qualify for food stamps and we do not have $86 a week to put towards groceries. I showed my husband the challenge and his first response was "You spend way less than that." So here I am. In 2012, I will budget $86 a week for groceries. I will usually not spend the total, I average around $50-60/wk. I hope to share some fun recipes with you and show how you can make healthy meals for less.
Some facts about my shopping just to lay down my baseline:
* I shop with cash about every two weeks, which means on every trip I have a total of $172 to spend. Shopping with cash allows me to immediately see how much I have left for the next two weeks to pick up things we tend to run out of like milk, cream, and other last minute ingredients. It also allows me to save the money I don't spend to put towards special occasions or holiday meals or meals out.
* I shop mostly at Hannaford's. I pick up a few items at PriceChopper and when I venture into Burlington I pick up spices and other bulk items at City Market. During the summer we belong to a CSA that supplies us with abundant amounts of vegetables. That will also come out of our grocery budget.
* I am not a coupon queen. I tried that and although I am impressed with those who make it work I use a lot of whole ingredients and do mostly from scratch cooking. With couponing, I was consistently tempted to buy boxed meal type items that never got used. I may use a few coupons per visit but it's not extensive.
* I do use items from my pantry, freezer, and home canned items in my weekly meals as well. For the last 6 months I have not spent more than $60/wk on groceries so this still keeps me on budget. I think it's important to think of your weekly budget not just in terms of groceries lasting the week but also what you can add to your pantry for those "just in case" weeks.
* We have an extra freezer. This helps with freezing meals and buying meat on sale. I own a pressure canner which I purchased at Wal-Mart for under $70. I pick up additional cans at Pricechopper out of my grocery budget. I adore my crockpot and use it frequently. We also own a Sodastream which we adore. We buy replacement canisters every 2-3 months out of our grocery budget.
I hope you enjoy our journey- feel free to ask questions!