Does it always seem like too much of your budget goes to food? Do you wonder what amount of money is 'normal'? If so, go to the Official USDA Food Plans pdf.
This page will give you the 2010 averages, based on nutritionally balanced diets cooked at home. Now that you see how frugal you really are, here are some tips to help even more; pick just one or two to try so it's not overwhelming. Then all that's left is deciding how that new-found money is going to better use!
Ways to eat well on less money:
*Buy on sale and get extras so you never pay full price.
*Buy the fresh fruits/veggies that are $1/lb or less.
*Find ways to throw away less- only serve up what you will eat, save wilted veggies in the freezer for soup later, re-purpose leftovers.
*Use meat mostly as a flavoring (mixed in with other ingredients), not as its own dish.
*Buy meats that you can get for $2/lb or less, or whatever is bargain-price for your area.
*When you buy meat, get a bunch on sale, then cook it all at once. Package and freeze most of it for future, faster, meals.
*Buy flour, sugar in bulk, make more things from scratch.
*Keep your kitchen clean so you like being there! (You don't need to do it all yourself! Doing dishes 'all the time' causes depression for me- once I added that to my kids' job charts, I felt much better!)
*Grow a garden where you used to have some lawn- you get the same water bill, more food. Packets of seeds can last 4-5 years if kept cool and dark. Or split packets with a friend.
*Make your own bread instead of buying it.
How much can you save on bread? Cost varies by recipe, but mine comes out to less than $ .50 per loaf ($. 42), including the electricity for baking, for top-quality whole-wheat bread. (Well, frankly, the quality varies by week....) If you eat two loaves a week, that saves you $200/year when compared to $2.50/loaf of bread. We go through 6 loaves a week, so we’re saving over $600 per year. Yes, a stand mixer and grain mill definitely pay for themselves! For the recipe I use, see Basic Bread on my website.
Yesterday the Teachers' Quorum (14-15 yr. old boys) came to my house for their weekly activity. They've been learning about nutrition and safe food handling, so they all pitched in and cooked a meal. Their handout included budget-friendly, adaptable, and fairly fast recipes; the kind that would be especially valuable when in college or on missions. For these recipes, click on Quick & Cheap Meals. The boys did great with them, I think you'll like them, too.
Happy cooking and budgeting!