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Budgeting for Real Food

budget2photo by Tax Credits

So the titile isn’t exactly a mystery…and it certainly doesn’t sound too exciting does it? Well, you’re right. It’s not. But keep reading anyway. My husband and I just recently had a heart to heart talk about his worries and mine. One of his concerns was money. (Big shocker, there, huh?) It was no big surprise to me. We aren’t exactly very organized when it comes to finances. So we decided to change all that.

Before I get into detail about learning to budget, let me explain a few things. Last year at this time we were spending significantly less at the grocery store than what we spend on groceries now. We did a great deal of shopping at Aldi and bought discounted products. However, we were also buying mostly processed foods. Canned soups, frozen tater-tots and pizzas, bags of chips and processed cheese. Well, in the past year, our eating has changed drastically. Thus, our buying has changed drastically. Buying farm fresh eggs and produce, grass fed beef and organic dairy not only affected our bodies, it also affected our pocket book. We aren’t buying as much snack food, and processed items, which helps, but there was still a significant increase.

So recently, I’ve been watching what I buy all the time. Yogurt, cheese, and fresh and frozen produce are the items we buy the most. Of course, those can be the most expensive too. So, in addition to learning to make my own yogurt, I also expect these items to be higher than most anything else. So, because we eat those the most, I have been trying to keep other costs down. There are several ways to do this.

1.) Buy in Bulk- A great way to save money on items you use frequently is to buy it in bulk. For us, since we are learning to make bread, we have decided to buy wheat in bulk from our co-op. We buy the organic wheat berries and then sprout/and or grind them ourselves.

2.) Shop locally- It’s summertime which makes this step even easier right now. I can’t stress enough to buy local food. We have several families within a mile or less that sell produce, honey, syrup, eggs, meat, yogurt, cheese, soaps, and many other goodies. Granted, we have countless Amish and Mennonite farms around us. For those who may not have that opportunity, check out your community farmer’s markets. I have yet to attend our local farmer’s market but I intend to change that soon. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it.

3.) Grow your own- One of the easiest and budget-friendly ways to save on your groceries is to grow your own fruit, veggies and herbs. There also are several ways to store this food so you can eat it year round too.

4.) Plan your meals- This is one of the best ways to keep your pocketbook in check. Plan your meals ahead of time. If you’re internet savvy and you like digital lists and recipes, check out Plan to Eat. Otherwise, sit down once or twice a month and plan what you’re going to eat. Breakfast through dinner and snacks. Don’t leave anything out. Then write your grocery list accordingly. Your initial grocery bill might be a little more than you’re used to, but you won’t have as many little trips to the store. Remember, it all adds up.

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photo by david_shankbone

5.) Stick to it. This one is the hardest for us. Stick to your budget for food. Stick to your meal plan. Stick to your list. Stick to it. Don’t alter your meals once you have the plan. Now, I know things come up. Believe me, I know. But try with all your might to keep it up. This past few months has been interesting for us because we ran out of chickens from our freezer and all we had left was a ton of pork from buying half a hog several months ago. So, what have wee been eating? You guessed it. Pork. For months. Bacon, sausage, pork roast, ham roast, pork chops, ribs. But with a little creativity, it’s been fine. We get more chickens in June and we’re looking forward to it!

6.) Pay with cash. This is plenty easy (and necessary when buying local food). Use cash to buy anything, really! Even paying bills. That way, you’re seeing your money and where it goes, and you’re less likely to spend as much. Also, a plus for us has been saving the coins left from our purchases. Recently, my husband counted over $80 in coins just from paying in cash. He was able to buy a power tool with it!

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photo by Tax Credits

And lastly, (though this is actually the first step), don’t forget to create a written budget. Having something in writing always feels more binding. Just thinking in your head “I’ll just spend $50 this week”, doesn’t really do anything. Be sure to have accountability as well. Work with your spouse to establish a budget that will work for both of you. And keep each other to it.

There are plenty of free budget templates. Check out google docs and start putting it to use!

Stay tuned to see an example menu plan and shopping list. Also, I’ll tell you about ordering through a co-op.

Also, to get more real food recipes and ideas, check out my Pinterest board: Whole Food Eating and don’t forget to follow it!

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