A Peek at Our Real Food Budget

Screen shot 2009-11-12 at 3.07.12 PMPhoto by fivedotdesign

What does our food budget look like while trying to eat a real food diet on a budget? Today, I welcome you to take a peak into our food budget. We keep to the basics in our eating habits, nothing fancy. I have come to realize that although real foods can cost more up front, the value is worth every penny. We feel better, we are satisfied longer, and we rarely need the doctor. Truth be told…I have realized you can always afford what you prioritize. When we first started out pursuing a more whole foods diet, Aaron and I sat down to evaluate our overall budget. We concluded that if we wanted to spend more on food, other things would have to go. One of the main reasons I chose to cloth diaper, for example, was so that we could eliminate that monthly expense and use the money for food. Other expenses that we chose to eliminate: we own no television, no magazine subscriptions, own one vehicle, eat out less, etc. I have found that if you have the vision and passion to eat naturally, you can make it work!

Our food budget is $400 per month for four of us. Yes, Titus eats his share! ;) Whole foods definitely seem to be more expensive here in the Portland area of Oregon, probably because there is more demand for it. This includes all our food and household products (bath, cleaning, and general household items). Where does it get spent? I have listed out the stores I buy my food from below. These are typically the best sources that we have access to that I have found the best price. As you can see below, I keep pretty much the same list monthly and keep it organized in the Shopper application on my I-phone (which has been very helpful, by the way!). All these ingredients are also based upon my monthly menu plans. This works for our family, but there is always room for flexibility as to the season of life.

Trader Joe’s - I make a monthly grocery trip to TJ’s to pick up various staples. I found they have some of the best prices on good, organic, and preservative free items.

Here is what I buy monthly or as needed, spending around $125 per month:

All Beef, Nitrate Free Hot Dogs – 1 pack
Nitrate Free Ham (lunchmeat) – 1 lb
Chicken Italian Sausage (2 lbs)
Organic Spinach (for smoothies) – 3 bags
Bananas (about 20 – freeze for smoothies)
Avacados (2 packs – mainly for Titus)
Raw Parmesan Cheese (in the bulk form)
Canned Wild Salmon
Organic Ketchup
Organic Mustard
Mayonnaise (sometimes I buy, sometimes I make my own)
Kerrygold Butter (2 pounds)
Olives (2 cans)
Organic Sour Cream (1 container)
Peanut Butter (2 jars)
Brown Rice Pasta (1 pack of spaghetti, 1 pack penne, as needed)
Chicken Breasts (1 bag)
Frozen Organic Peas (1 pack)
Frozen Organic Corn (1 pack)
Frozen Wild Salmon (2 lb = 2 packs)
Olive Oil (32 oz container -every two months)
Pure Maple Syrup (every two months)
Organic Quinoa
Organic Raisins
Toothpaste (every two months)
Shampoo (every two months)
Soap Bars
Toilet Paper
Coffee & Beer (for the hubby)

Occasionally, we will get a few treats…such as Jo-Jo’s, (yes, those yummy oreo alternatives), raw bleu cheese, feta cheese, etc.

Azure Standard (whole foods co-op) – $50 per month – most of these items are purchased on an as needed basis

Raw Cheddar (5 lbs) – every two months – grate and freeze it
Mozzarella (5 lbs – every 2 months – also grate and freeze)
Organic Whole Grains, Legumes: Wheat, Kamut, Spelt, Oats, Millet, Lentils, Brown Rice, Black Beans (purchased in 5 lb quantities, oats and wheat in 25 lb bags)
Organic Coconut Milk
Chia Seeds
Cocoa Powder
Leavenings -baking soda, baking powder, arrowroot powder, sea salt
Goat’s Milk Powder (for baby)
Produce on occasion – Organic Apples, Pears (20 lb box)

Milk & Eggs – local source = $75.00 per month
2 dozen eggs weekly – $3.75 per dozen
1 1/2 gallons of milk weekly- $7.50 per gallon – from which I make kefir, yogurt, and some butter, and occasional ice cream

Vegetables/Fruit- local farms- $15-20 per week – $80 per month
I stick with the frugal vegetables and fruits and whats in season for better prices. I rarely if ever buy cherries, peppers, pineapple, etc. We eat a lot of greens, apples, pears, carrots, broccoli, onions, garlic, squash, potatoes, etc. We typically serve raw veggies and fruit with lunch and dinner includes a fresh salad (even if its just greens sometimes), and usually a steamed or baked veggie.

Beef – annual local purchase of 1/4 cow – $375 - $31.25 per month
We typically eat beef twice a week, chicken once, fish once, vegetarian once and pizza and leftovers on the weekends.

Chickens – annual local purchase of 12 chickens (one per month) – $180$15 per month – I cook up one chicken per month from which we make chicken stock.

Produce stocked up on in the summer for freezer- Strawberries, peaches, raspberries, blueberries, tomatoes (canned all my own tomatoes for sauce), pickling cucumbers for pickles, berries for homemade jam – I usually set aside $200 for such purchases, but I don’t really include this in our food budget. I just set money aside early in the summer from other earnings.

Other items from different sources:

Organic EV Coconut oil – order from Mountain Rose Herbs (we consume about 1 gallon every 2 months) – buy in quantity and split with friends
Cod liver oil – purchase through Vitacost
Pepperoni – I buy Applegate Farms nitrate free pepperoni from Fred Meyer’s
Bread – I currently buy sprouted bread, hot dog buns, hamburger buns from Dave’s Killer Bread OutletI can buy one loaf of sprouted 100% organic bread for $2.10 a loaf in bulk quantities (it’s been one of those seasons when making it from scratch has been a real challenge!)
Raw Honey -from a local farm – Honey House Farms (1/2 gallon every two months)
Vinegar, club soda, hydrogen peroxide, oxygen bleach and a few other cleaning supplies – infrequent purchases at wal-mart or Fred Meyers
Soap nuts – for laundry from NaturOli

What happens when we really need to cut corners? As my husband is self-employed, income is never quite consistent, so there have been times when we really had to cut back. In order to make it work, we cut the following out of our grocery list, and can usually get by with $300 per month:

limit to 1 gallon of milk
1 dozen eggs
no salmon
no lunchmeat
no snacks
make my own ketchup
make my own bread

What products do I make myself?

chicken broth
breakfasts (smoothies, pancakes, oatmeal – meaning that we don’t use packaged products, just use our own homemade recipes)
muffins and other breakfast pastries
salad dressings
ice cream and other desserts
protein bars for snacks
canned tomato sauce – homemade chili, spaghetti sauce, etc

I may have overlooked something…

What products do we avoid? As you can see, we do really strive to keep to the basics with the ocassional splurge on a special dessert or snack. I try to avoid mixes, cereal, soda, packaged snacks…

You can make it work! You just sometimes have to cut out some of those convenience foods. Alas!

Other Real Food Budgets:

Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home – How My Grocery Budget Works
Laura @ Heavenly Homemakers – Breaking Down the Budget

What does your food budget look like? Do you have any tips to share on how to make it work on a budget?

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

183 Responses to A Peek at Our Real Food Budget

  1. Faith September 22, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    Would you still be able to budget like this if your family was dependent of food stamps/SNAP AND were not able to spend cash on food?

    What about if there were also no “organic” food stores in your area (like Trader Joe’s Whole Foods, etc…)?

    These are both real circumstances for many people, myself included. I am more than interested if someone has done a budget like this while on food stamps and having no organic stores in their area.

    • kristina September 22, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

      Are there any Farmer’s markets near you. I know the ones near me accept SNAP/food stamps and actually give participants in the program $5 and a vendor coupon book to sign up. Also many farms accept SNAP/ food stamps for CSA food memberships. Just somethings to think about looking into if they are available in your area. I am in the Twin Cities.

      • Faith September 22, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

        How do you go about looking that up?

        • Michelle M December 22, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

          Start here…http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap

          Click on the hyperlinked list on the left that asks: Find a SNAP authorized retailers…

          A map of the US will come up…key in your Zip Code.

          I used it for our area and both our farmers market (who will double the benefits for SNAP participants) and our one natural foods store came up.

  2. sarahbethhomemaker June 27, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    This is delightfully thorough and informative. It’s great to see another blogger with a whole foods priority. It’s true that when it’s important to you, you make it work. My family of just two (with one on the way) has sacrificed television, cell phones, and we also share one car because good food is just that important.

    Affording whole foods saves money in other areas, too. Like you mention about making fewer trips to the doctor. I wrote a little about that here: http://themindfulhomemaker.com/2012/02/25/organics-and-affordability/ =)

  3. jimmie April 9, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    How do you feed a family of four, once a week for an entire month on one chicken? I for one find it hard to believe.

    • Michelle M December 23, 2013 at 6:17 am #

      We do the same. It depends on the size of chicken. I bake mine, we have our dinner, usually a Sunday or Saturday meal, then I boil it down and portion that meat out to use in casseroles or soup. If the chicken is more than 10# I can get enough to make 3 more meals. We are moving into more natural and bulk food buying so my extra dinners lean more toward comfort food than maybe 100% organic, but my other meals are usually – homemade pot pie, chicken and noodles and chicken Alfredo. Depending on what you buy, have on hand or make from scratch those extra meals range from “free” to $5.00. Our family is: Teenage boy, blue collar husband, mom and baby on the way.

  4. Young Mom February 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    How in the world do you only spend $400/mo for a family of four??? My husband and I eat like you — no processed, nothing packaged, all homemade, buying bulk.. and I get a 15% discount at the organic food store I work at (which brings costs to about the equivalent for organic there that I would pay for not-organic at Safeway). We spend $450/mo… NOT including household stuff… and we eat meat less too!!! Maybe it’s the difference of being waaay rural vs. closer to major metros??? Have other readers found this???

    • Lindsay February 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

      Please view my updated food budget post here.

    • kari February 10, 2012 at 7:17 am #

      Young mom, I spend $350/month on food and toiletries for five of us! My husband is in ministry and it’s all we have. We eat like Lindsay, except I have a gluten intolerance, so have to buy all the gf flours. Although, lately, we’ve been mostly grain free altogether. :) It’s possible..you just have to be strict with your budget. Keeper of the Home has her budget broken down, too, and I pretty much mimic her old budget of $350/month. I will add that my husband hunts and that helps with meat.

  5. Stephanie December 20, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    Hi – I am curious if your budget is still $400 per month since I noticed that this was written in 2009. I am always curious to how much people spend and if we are doing good or need to shore up something. We spend $800 per month on a family of eight and I make 98% of our food from scratch. We have eggs and next year, I will have a garden and hopefully in the next two years our fruit trees will produce lovely fruit. We even have a friend that gives us some basics (monthly) to help us. It is daunting to feed all these mouths, but God never ceases to amaze me in His provision and bless my children with good health as well!

    • Lindsay December 21, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

      I’m working on an update to this post. We spend between $475-500 currently.

      • Kelly January 4, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

        Looking forward to your updated food budget! My husband and I have been trying to make a budget and are not having the easiest time. I eat mostly raw and we are all vegan so it’s tricky! I like how you buy locally though and spend the extra money up front rather than buying spontaneously at the store throughout the week.. something I need to work on;).

  6. kelle December 20, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    What do your kids drink during the day and with meals? We are going through an absurd amount of raw milk in a week. My daughter isn’t very fond of milk and was curious what you give your children to drink. Also, can you explain how you use the powder goat milk for your baby? I have a baby and would like to maybe include this for her. thanks!

    • Lindsay December 21, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

      We mainly drink water to tell you the truth. They drink a small glass of milk occasionally with breakfast.