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Project Food Budget



Holy crap,  y’all. Have you looked at your receipts lately? Our grocery bill is sky-high. Three years ago I could spend $120 bucks and come home with enough food to cook 5 delicious meals filled with great veggies, proteins and sides. These days if I did this our bill would be damn close to $200. Even though the Professor is now making “grown up money” we still can’t afford $800 a month in food. That is more than some mortgages are.

Inspired by Emily Levenson’s Project Food Budget, the Professor and I decided to work to get our bill down while not resorting to Ramen and Twinkies (although hormonal Belle would currently give LARGE SUMS OF MONEY or all the grapes in my fridge for a Twinkie. Stupid estrogen patches).

I grocery shop every Sunday morning before the church go-ers descend upon the stores. (No offense to my church-going readers, but the hordes of y’all that flock to Kroger after 12 p.m. with your hungry, flailing children are just too much for infertile me to deal with.)

I love grocery shopping. I love to leisurely stroll the isles reading labels, checking out new products and meticulously scrutinizing every. single. piece. of. produce that lands in my cart. I love to go home and wipe out my refrigerator and cabinets and organize the bounty. I love to open the fridge and marvel at all the perfectly sliced and stored produce. Then I love to take this food out and whip up amazing, nourishing meals that feature bright colors, varying tastes and sumptuous textures.

The one thing about this entire process that gives me serious heartburn is paying for the food. Every time I watch as the total increases. I mutter under my breath about how ridiculous the price of food is. I curse whoever has determined that coupons only exist for crappy packaged food, and not fresh broccoli. I bite my tongue as I swipe the Amazon card for $160 in food, knowing that there is still another store to run by for bulk goods.

I realize that food prices are only going to continue climbing with the current drought, too, meaning if I continue to shop and cook like I do we will be forking over more than a thousand bucks a month for food. For two humans. Oh my gosh that is ridiculous! So I’m making changes. No longer will I prepare 5 fancy dinners. I’m switching out some fresh produce for frozen produce. When things like frozen organic broccoli florets or petite peas (Nat – that’s for you 🙂 are on sale I am buying several bags. I’m learning to cook with fewer ingredients and still achieve ample nutrition. I’m hitting the farmer’s market when I can for things like the ugly tomatoes you can snag for $1.50 a pound.

We are also setting a $100 a week food budget (give or take a $5 window because I suck at math and adding things in my head is not always accurate).

This is SO HARD to stick too when you are a grocery store browser like I am so we are also setting a 1 hour grocery shopping limit. This means I have to hit all three stores in 60 minutes. For those who are curious – we shop at Whole Foods for a few select items that are cheaper there than anywhere else including:

  • Flax milk
  • Fat Free Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
  • Gluten-free, sprouted tortillas
  • That’s It bars

We shop at the local Co-Op for our bulk goods including:

  • Gluten-free and regular oats
  • Quinoa
  • Flours and sugars
  • Seasonings
  • Bulk agave nectar
  • Lunch meat for the Professor
  • Dairy-free ice-cream for me
  • My favorite cocoa powder
  • Meat and fish

The rest of our groceries have started coming from Trader Joe’s, which recently opened in Lexington. I’m super excited about TJ’s arrival as it has helped us get the food budget down quite a bit. The challenge with Trader Joe’s is that I don’t have the selection of fresh produce I’m used too having at places like Whole Foods. Occasionally I will splurge and grab a spaghetti squash or some beautiful beets from Whole Foods, but for the most part I’m learning to work with what TJ’s has in stock that day.

I have been doing our 1 hour/100 buck shopping trips for two weeks and am giddy that I actually accomplished it – twice! Emily shares weekly updates on her food budget and meal plan for the week. I don’t think I can commit to weekly update on groceries, nor do I think my infertility readers care that much about the state of my pantry. I will, however, post occasionally on  how we are doing, though. And if I find a smoking good deal on something, I might tout my success here. For example, there is currently a coupon for .55 cents off of flax milk which has excited me more than I should probably admit. I’ll also share occasional menus and link to recipes when I can, as I know I have numerous readers working on going gluten-free and looking for guidance on what the hell to make for dinner.

This week’s menu is:

  • Breakfasts: smoothies
  • Lunches: leftovers for me/chicken salad for the Professor
  • Snacks: fresh fruit
  • Sunday: This delicious roasted chicken recipe by Ina Garten. TJ’s did not have parsnips or whole carrots. Instead we used extra baby carrots. This week’s organic, free range chicken came from Whole Foods. Our chickens won’t be ready for a few more weeks. The chicken was the most expensive purchase of the month coming in at $9.71. We will get multiple meals from it, though. Chicken was served with quinoa that was seasoned with sesame oil, nutritional yeast and some sesame seeds (all of which we had in the cupboard already. Dinner was AMAZEBALLS.
  • Monday: Black bean and zucchini tacos. served on gluten-free sprouted corn tortillas with “Tease” fake cheese (my splurge for the week). We had frozen green beans on the side.
  • Tuesday: Salad with leftover chicken, heirloom cherry tomatoes left over from last week, some cucumber left from last week, olives, and whatever else I can rummage out of the fridge topped with a simple homemade dressing. Tonight we’ll put the chicken carcass in the crockpot and let it crock away all night and all tomorrow to make us some delicious meat jello bone broth.
  • Wednesday: Soup with the broth, a can of white beans, some carrots, frozen leeks, cauliflower and a sweet potato that I found lurking in the cabinet that is about to be past its prime.
  • Thursday: leftover soup
  • Friday: Company comes so we’ll be eating out.
  • Evening desserts will be homemade fruit soft serve courtesy of Sir Mix A Lot (my new blender that I MUST write about soon).

This week’s total food expenditures: $103. I went three bucks over – I’m not going to beat myself up over that one 🙂

Things to look forward to next week: a farmer’s market trip!


In other news: Our embryos are currently in transit. I’m refreshing the UPS tracker like a crazy woman.

Also, I had a uveitis checkup yesterday and the eye is finally quieting down.



Post a comment
  1. August 21, 2012

    WOW! so impressed with your budget and your meals. As soon as we get a house again, I think I’m going to try this!

  2. D #
    August 21, 2012

    Can you please come shopping with me next week and help me plan my weekly menu? We also usually shop at Whole Foods because, like you, I also scrutinize every piece of produce and buy either local or organic and check every label to make sure there is nothing bad in it. On Sunday we went (we go around 4 PM and there are still a ton of screaming brats!) and spent $170. We only got enough for 3 dinners, too so I have to go back there again tomorrow. 😦 We joke about just direct depositing half of our check to Whole Foods every other week.

    Your post has inspired me to be a little more thoughtful this week to see how low I can get that bill without sacrificing our taste-buds or health. The offer still stands if you want to take a trip out to the east coast to do a little grocery shopping with me though!! 🙂

    Also, wishing your embryos a very safe trip!

    • August 21, 2012

      I actually joke with my friend about how I should start a grocery shopping service. I LOVE GROCERIES! And I think I would love them even more if I were spending someone elses money 🙂 If I could dash out there for a weekend and shop with you I totally would!

  3. August 21, 2012

    I love this idea! For many reasons. The first is that it\’s become way to easy to just assume that eating well means that one has to pay a fortune. The second is that it means no more means on the fly/arguing about what\’s for dinner.

    Grey and I have a simple rule for grocery shopping: we try to not shop the aisles. We\’re lucky to have a grocery store that has almost everything we need available in bulk, so we focus instead of produce, bulk, deli and dairy. There are things that are hard to find fresh, but in general we find that avoiding packages actually saves us money. Trader Joe\’s is awesome on helping with reduced cost for some items as is Costco, but I also think planning helps too.

    Fingers crossed for a smooth transport of the embryos! May the have an uneventful trip.

    • August 21, 2012

      Shopping the perimeter is a GREAT shopping tip. I only drift inward for things like mustard, pickles and jars of delicious olives. Mmmmm, olives.

  4. August 21, 2012

    I’m not sure how it is in the USA as I haven’t been there in a really long time but I know over here it is ridiculous how expensive things have gotten! And the fact that SA is full of primarily low income families, the costs are just beyond most peoples budgets meaning they have to go and get really really poor quality,low cost groceries.

    I would LOVE to be able to coupon but as we don’t have that here,one way I have found is by using any in-store loyalty systems. They usually mean getting cash back or vouchers you can use in-store. I generally get between 5% and 10% of my monthly bill back in vouchers,which may not sound like a lot but every cent helps!

  5. August 21, 2012

    You know what helps keep grocery bills down? A garden. We shop at Whole Foods too and in the summer time we rarely have to buy any herbs or veggies because we could just walk to our backyard and use what we grew! It was great. I can’t wait to put raised beds into our new backyard.

  6. Lya #
    August 21, 2012

    Love your post! My husband likes to call shopping at Whole Food shopping at Whole Cheque 🙂 Because it really takes almost your whole paycheque to cover groceries for two. We live in Vancouver BC and I know a lot of things are super expensive here. But it is hard to justify spending $800 a month on food which we easily do. Your post got me motivated to try cutting back once again. Thanks!

  7. Lya #
    August 21, 2012

    Thank you for this post! My husband likes to call shopping at Whole Food shopping at Whole Cheque. Because it really almost takes a whole paycheque to cover groceries for two. We live in Vancouver, BC so I know things are redicilous expensive over here. But it is still hard to justify spending more than $800 a month on food which we easily do. Your post got me motivated to try cutting back once again. Thanks, Belle!

  8. August 21, 2012

    I was going to recommend bulk foods, farmers markets and TJs…but it looks like you have my real tricks covered already. The only other thing I’d add is that you might look into new recipes…we cook a lot of middle eastern/north african food, as well as some recipes I picked up from my dominican roommates in college. The rest of the world is poor and so those recipes tend to be cheap – especially if you have access to a good bulk foods store. Good luck!

  9. August 21, 2012

    I had to laugh at your $9 chicken. I paid $27 for an organic chicken this summer. It was big but probably not that big. I plucked 12-3oz servings from it and made broth too.

  10. August 22, 2012

    aaaaand this entry is why you are my hero, Belle.

  11. August 22, 2012

    That is an amazing feat for buying so much organic and all the special diet things. You did a great job!

  12. September 6, 2012

    Look at you, already a budgeting rock star. ❤

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