Project: Food Budget: Getting Started (Again)

Project: Food Budget

A lot has changed since the first time I did this project, which comes again courtesy of Emily Levenson.

First of all, of course, all the children are older! Flora is now a lanky 10-year-old who likes nothing more than drawing and reading. Kate is an energetic 8-year-old who wants to play Minecraft all day, narrating every move. And little M isn’t so little anymore; he’s an active, curious chatty 4-year-old, who wants to be outside pretty much all the time.

Dan is still my loving man, but even he’s made some major changes in the past four years that effect the food budget.

Secondly, the way we shop has changed radically. Market District/Giant Eagle is no longer my grocery store(s) of choice. We only head to Costco once every two months or so — I think this is due to the fact that I don’t have a baby in diapers any longer, thank heavens.

Thirdly, and sadly, we no longer belong to a CSA. This was the most difficult decision to make, and it does not reflect my feelings for Kretschmann’s Farm (whose quality organic produce remains most excellent) or my feelings about CSAs in general (they are a fantastic idea). But our food budget has changed considerably, and, frankly, we were not using all the produce we were getting. Despite my best intentions, a lot of produce was still going to waste.

Flora is still mostly vegetarian, but Kate and Michael are definitely omnivores. Dan, of course, is still an omnivore as well; but since the last time I did this project, he has joined a gym, started drinking protein shakes and smoothies, and has lost 40 pounds — and he’s still working to lose more fat and gain more muscle. I’m so proud of him, and I’m working hard to make sure he stays fit and motivated.

My own eating habits haven’t changed very much, but my shopping and cooking habits have changed.

Let’s start with *where*. I no longer shop primarily at the Big Bird. I discovered Aldi not too long ago, and that is where I shop for most of our staples. The quality is good; the prices are low; and it’s a fast trip. My only criticism is that they don’t stock much in the way of vegetarian goods — I would even be happy with tofu! — so I often have to make another stop.

I round out my Aldi’s trip by grocery shopping at Target. They carry a lot of vegetarian options; their prices are still lower than GE’s; I also pick up toiletries and the like; and I have a Target debit card, which gets me 5% off the total bill. I’ve also been trying to use the Target app Cartwheel to save more as well — it’s akin to clipping coupons, without the actual clipping.

I plan to make the Sewickley farmers market part of my monthly shopping as well. This is where I will get most of my produce while I can. By only buying what I know we will use over the course of a week, I will waste a lot less. Plus, I won’t end up with stuff like fennel, which I don’t like and don’t use, or tons of herbs that I usually manage to dry but never store.

My estimated budget on a weekly basis will be:

Aldi trip: $80-$100
Target: $50
Farmers Market: $25-$40

I cook at home A LOT. Through doing Project: Food Budget in 2011 I learned the value of menu planning. I have a go-to list of meals that come together very quickly during the week. The girls are starting to help me meal plan, which is fantastic. We almost never eat out anymore. And I don’t use as many meat substitutes as I used to. With Kate and Michael eating beef, chicken, and fish, I usually prepare beans or tofu for Flora and me. We still have the occasional meal with Morning Star nuggets or Boca burgers, but not nearly as often as we used to.

Oh, another improvement (IMO, anyway): I am baking a whole lot more. Like, almost weekly, if not twice a week. My family is very happy with this improvement, although Dan wants me to find a hiding place for the baked goods. He has terrible discipline when it comes to sweets. 🙂

Here are the other bloggers participating on this round. Can’t wait to see how everyone does!

Emily Levenson
McGinnis and Bean
Erra Creations
Eryn Says…
Seeking White Space
Gardening in High Heels
Melissa Firman
Copy & Post
Rachel Olive Miller

How has your food budget changed in the past four years?

15 thoughts on “Project: Food Budget: Getting Started (Again)

  1. Those are some big changes!! Congrats to Dan on the healthy changes he has been making. And to you for supporting him on his efforts. Excited to see how things shape up for you this round. xo

  2. I’ve wanted to do a CSA for a couple years now, but I know the same thing would happen to me.. I wouldn’t use half the produce. My husband and I are just now starting to eat a lot of organic veggies since having our son.. So it would be a huge step to go CSA.. But maybe next year. Who knows. We’ve gone from eating out 4 or 5 nights a week to eating out once or twice a month in the past year alone, so big changes are happening, that’s for sure! Love your post.

  3. I love fellow Aldi addicts! The only reason they weren’t in my weekly budget this week was that I know what everything there costs and was trying to get a sense of other places. I’m so grateful they launched their gluten-free line after my celiac diagnosis – it’s saved me hundreds of dollars. Can’t wait to read more!

  4. We have changed a lot in the last 4 years. We are now officially empty nesters, and our bill has gone down, but not as much as I thought it would. We started weight watchers 2 years ago, and I lost 40 pounds, DH lost 25, and in the process changed our diet dramatically. We eat a lot less carbs and a lot more fruit and vegetables. I still can, but haven’t been able to do much canning for the last two years because of health issues, so much of the vegetables and fruits are purchased, which increased the budget a bit. We also splurge on the occasional shrimp or fish now, which was impossible with two voracious children at home.

    • Good luck with your healthy changes. i hope you are back on your feet soon! My budget definitely is going up — the children are like locusts! And they aren’t even teens yet!

  5. Way to go Dan! I know I would have a hard time if my wife was baking, but I just can’t get my healthy changes off the ground. I keep trying.

    • Lou, I’m telling you, Dan woke up one day and said, “I’m sick of this. I’m sick of how I feel; I’m sick of how I look.” He found a gym and a trainer, and he hasn’t looked back. He still wants to lose about another 20 pounds, but he got his cholesterol under control and isn’t pre-diabetic. He’s got tons of energy. If you really want to make the change, you have to make the commitment. It’s hard, I know! I fell off the exercise wagon this week, and I feel awful. But I’m not going to beat myself up; I’m getting back at it!

  6. Fantastic changes! I haven’t set foot in an Aldi recently, but I know my stock-up trips will be there (cookies don’t care if the flower is King Arthur or generic store brand 🙂 ). The Sewickley farmers market is fantastic. Maybe I’ll run into you one Saturday!

  7. I have a plentiful garden I would love to share. Dan can swiing by on his way home. Currently I have a ton of radishes, kale, mint and sage you are welcome to!

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