I’m noodling over my grocery budget and food preparation/storage and thought I’d write everything down so that I’m not relying on my faulty brain. I don’t expect that this is necessarily interesting to anyone but me…
In yesterday’s Daybook entry, I mentioned that I’ve been pondering home economics and that I’ve been feeling like I have been less frugal than usual. We are still within budget, but I don’t feel that I am making food choices that are the best for our budget and our health. Part of the “problem” is Aldi — it’s such a great store, but the low prices have really allowed me to justify buying junk food that I very rarely purchased before. Another problem is that I have been shopping after work on Saturday and that is a bad idea. I work a long day on Saturday and generally am hungry and tired. Even when I have a list I am pretty spacey and pick up weird stuff and forget others and get a pizza. I really liked shopping on Wednesday and probably need to get back to that. Except when I have all that open time, I feel like I need to go to all the stores and get all the deals. Which, obviously, I do not. We do have pretty robust appetites, but in general I have more food on hand than I really need. I say that from the perspective of someone who really, really prefers to have a healthy food storage built up, too. This past two weeks have been particularly bad in regards to food waste, another reason I’ve felt the need to reevaluate. Partly this is from being ill and not having the motivation to work through my produce. But it’s also true that things I buy one week I may not use for a few weeks or months. That’s fine if I bought it to stock up, but it’s dumb if I bought it specifically to make something that then just doesn’t happen.
Part of this reevaluation has involved really going back to the root of why we budget what we do and what my primary goals are for that budget. Broadly speaking, we allocate the money we do to this line item because it allows us to eat really well AT HOME while minimizing our reliance on take out and meals out. If we are eating out more, buying more convenience food and accruing more food waste — then something isn’t right. Additionally my goals for the grocery budget are:
- Get the best bang for our buck. This does not mean buying the cheapest thing, but buying what I consider high (or reasonable, not everything has to be gourmet quality) quality food at the most reasonable price I can find.
- Improve/maintain our health by purchasing primarily whole and minimally processed foods. Ideally I would make everything from scratch, but the more reasonable, realistic, and moderate goal is to make about 75% of our food from scratch.
- Maintain a reasonable level of food storage. I like to have about 6 months to 1 year of food stored, if possible. Which I realize seems absurd to many folks! This is somewhat uneven right now, but I plan to change that.
- Allow for generosity and treats in the form of occasional splurges on candy, junk food and the like as well as a pantry deep enough for me to make goodies to share at work or for us to invite friends over occasionally. Only occasionally because Michael and I are introverts and need long periods of time to recover from our ventures into socializing! 😉
Since we are buying more junk food than I prefer, picking up takeout a bit more than desired and generally not quite meeting the above goals, I think I need to do the following to get back on track.
- Lower the budget. I don’t want to waste food. I also don’t want to have random stuff on hand just because. I like a stocked pantry, but I want it to be intentional. At least mostly intentional! So. I think lowering the budget will help me to prioritize the kind of food that matches our goals. Also, if we’re going to eat more takeout, I’d rather just allocate the money up front. So my lowered grocery budget is probably just going to fund this for now. Ultimately I’d like to stop relying on take-out so much. But for now this is one way to acknowledge how we are actually eating.
- Sit down and really evaluate my lists of “standards.” These are the foods that we really like that are generally healthy and within my standards for reasonably easy to cook. What are the ingredients? Do I stock up on those items or do I purchase by whims and fancies? Right now I think I’m about half and half.
- Stop worrying so much about sales. I am so bad about buying things at a great price, forgetting that we actually don’t need those things and sometimes we don’t even enjoy them, which leads to waste.
- Shop strategically and buy things in bulk where possible. Bulk purchasing doesn’t always make sense and sometimes it’s not that much cheaper. But it does mean that I have a longer time between when I need to stock up on that item, allowing me to mark it off my list and generally minimize my time in stores.
- Cook strategically and plan to use the items I have on hand. Prioritize nutrition!
Luckily, this is mostly a re-calibration rather than starting from scratch. And I’m not sure how much will really be visible from the blog side of things, but as I go through each of my goals, I think I will maybe write something up so that I can check in with myself and also have a record for posterity.
Also, apparently reasonable is my favorite word. Do you think this means I am a moderate person? Actually I think this is me trying to remind myself to not go over the deep end trying to solve all the problems at once! 😉