Feeding the Family: Breaking Down our 2009 Food Budget

I just had a break through moment. Don’t ask me why I didn’t think through our food budget more specifically before. Really…I think this is so cool. Keep reading.

I’ve mentioned that we don’t skimp on our food budget. I’ve told you how important we think it is to “invest in our bodies” and eat whole, healthy foods.

And I’ve told you that we’ve been spending about $500 a month for our family of six. Looking at our new 2009 budget…we are seriously not sure how we can keep it under $500 per month…and not really sure where we can pull another $50-$100 a month (go without shoes, perhaps? turn off the furnace in the winter, maybe?).

Anyway…when I look at that figure in our budget…and maybe when you look at this figure in my budget…$500 to $600 each month on food…that may seem like A LOT OF MONEY.

So, one night at dinner last week…I decided to break it down a little. In between bites of soup…I had the boys do some division (because doing division during dinner is wonderful for your digestion). :)

We went with the $550 figure. Here’s what we came up with and what I found remarkable. I really don’t know why I didn’t break this down sooner:

$550 divided by 6 people in our family = $92 per person for food each month

$92 per person each month divided by an average 30 day month = about $3.00 per day per person

$3.00 per day per person = $1.00 per meal per person

That’s it??? Our family eats a healthy, wholesome meal for $1.00 per person on average? How is that even possible? (btw, I’m sure breakfast is less and dinner is more…and Malachi is less and Matt is more…it’s just an average.)

Here are some ways we figured out that we are able to do this:

  • We have a big garden so I can and freeze a lot of food. We also mooch accept all kinds of extra produce others are trying to give away in the fall that I can and freeze.
  • We get a free deer each year from a hunting friend.
  • The raw milk and free range eggs we get from friends are insanely inexpensively priced. $4 a gallon for organic raw milk from a grass fed cow…that’s amazing. (The cost will soon be going up to $5 a gallon…which is STILL amazing!) And, $1.50 for a dozen free range organic eggs? Amazing. We’re very spoiled.
  • I make almost every thing we eat from scratch. Organic processed foods with more wholesome ingredients are so, so expensive…and not always that much better for you. Making our food from scratch is healthier and much less expensive.
  • We almost never eat cereal.
  • I go easy on the cheese. Cheese can be expensive…especially the raw, organic cheese we prefer. I sprinkle it lightly on pizza and casseroles…and you can’t even tell. I also know how to make my own mozzarella, so that saves money. (Oh my goodness…I’ve been promising forever to tell you how to do that, huh? I really, really will. Really.)

Here is a bit of our food budget break down for you for 2009:

Last year we bought a half of a cow…and I don’t know how it’s happened, because we haven’t been skimping, but we still have a bunch of steak and roast left. (I think it’s something like Elijah and the widow and how God made the widow’s little bit of oil and flour never run out! 1 Kings 17:7-24) Because of the extra steak and roast…I don’t think we’ll need to buy an entire half cow this year. At this point, I think we’ll just be ordering ground beef and stew meat from a farm about an hour away. They raise their cows on grass and organic hay. It is SUCH good meat! We also get our free range chickens from this same farm (North Star Neighbors…for any of you who live in Nebraska want to take advantage of this service).

Our meat cost per month for beef and whole chicken should be about $70.00
Milk, 24 gallons/month: $96
Eggs, 12 dozen/month: $18
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Cost for milk, eggs and meat $184

That leaves $366 a month for everything else I need either from my food co-ops, my graneries, my online sources, the farmer’s market, and occasionally the grocery store or Wal-mart.

And for that…all six of us eat VERY WELL for about $1 per meal. God does provide, doesn’t he?! :)

I’m SO thankful that I took the time to break down our food budget further to examine how much it costs to feed our family good, wholesome meals. If you care to share…how much is your monthly food budget? Break it down and see how much it costs for each person to eat a meal! The number may surprise you! How do you feel about the quality of the food you are eating on your budget?

Now…I’ll start taking you shopping with me! I plan to take you to some farms, to my Azure Standard co-op pick up, to some online stores, to the grocery store. Aren’t field trips fun?! (You may want to pack a lunch.) :)
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More Frugal Friday posts here.

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Comments

  1. says

    Wow, I wish I could get all those good deals and free food! What a blessing! I have to pay much more for our organics. I’m spending about $550 on a family of 4. I did sign up for Azure Standard today though and I’m hoping to bring our budget down even more that way. Thanks for sharing everything!

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  2. says

    I happened to come across your blog via Tina Kroeker’s. What an interesting post – it made me think! I think we are spending approximately $400-500 a month on groceries for a family of 4, but you have challenged me to really check how much I am actually spending, and to continually get back to making the homemade food as my mom taught me. Much cheaper, and so much better for us!

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  3. says

    I love your site so much! You are too funny. I remember from a previous post how you said that your average was $500 and I thought that was really good because there is 6 in your family. On the Dave Ramsey forums the budget goal is $100/person/month and you were below that. I believe there is an “economy” of scale in feeding a larger family (there’s two of us and we spend more than $200 some months) but it still takes a lot of money and work. You’re doing great!

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  4. says

    This is awesome to read! I only spend about $200-250 for our family of four, but we don’t use more expensive things like raw milk, etc, nor do we use as many processed foods as some families I know. On the flip side, I’m finding that things are a little hard to find over here than when I was in the States – so it’s not like I can go to Safeway to stock up on loss leaders. LOL I figure this year our food budget may have to be adjusted, but hopefully not by much.

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  5. says

    I recently got the azure standard magazine and am a bit overwhelmed by all the products (still reading through it!) because I am new to it all and don’t know what most of the products are! I would love to see how you go through the whole process, not just pick-up!
    Our family of 6 (5 eaters, one infant)is in the $500 range too, but we are still using some organic convenince foods that I hope to learn to make from scratch soon, and we don’t get the raw milk yet…I have to research it all still and find a place nearby.

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  6. says

    This is right up my alley! I spend about the same for my fam of six, while cooking from scratch and shunning processed foods. And, I’m always trying to figure out how and what people eat when they boast of a $160/month food budget!

    Oh, and I cannot wait for the field trips!

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  7. S. says

    I love how you are sharing with everyone how your budget looks trying to eat healthier. Raw milk here in Arizona is $10/gallon, grass fed beef is $5/lb buying it in quarters or a half a side of beef. I can’t go over $500 a month and am really struggling with this eating healthy thing. It breaks my heart with the decision to either eat less organic healthy stuff with 7 mouths to feed or we abandon all that I know is good just so we can all eat.

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  8. Step says

    Wonderful! We’re looking into half of a cow this year as well. Otherwise, my monthly budget is $400-500 per month for the 5 of us and a yellow lab dog (I pretty much count him as my 4th child since his food is roughly $14 per month!). My FIL has a friend who provides us with organic, free range eggs for FREE — how wonderful is that? I also am a scratch cook.

    Good, healthy eating can be done within a reasonable budget and I know for a fact that the $500 I spend each month is FAR less than many of my peers who don’t cook and buy a lot of processed/convienence items. One of my friends (and I do love her dearly) spends $250 per WEEK on groceries for her family of 6 (children aged 9, 6, 4, 2). Why? Lots of brand names, lots of pre packaged snacks and middle aisle items. They are budget sappers for sure. Can’t wait for your field trips!!!

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  9. says

    I spend $400 or so each month for our family of 6, but I don’t thing we eat the healthiest. I cook a ton from scratch, but yet I still find prepackaged convenience foods in my cupboards. Snacks and lunches are my downfall. We are contemplating upping our budget in order to eat healthier, more organic, less artificial things. I am very interested in your Azure standard order, we are no where near NE (although have been there many times), so I wonder if they are everywhere? Plus exactly what you order and what you do with it. I am loving this series!

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  10. says

    I think your budget is very reasonable. There are so many factors that go into the food budget. I think we could all have a really low budget if we ate a lot of processed foods we got for free w/ coupons, etc…
    Your prices for milk and eggs are insane. It is over $7 a gallon for raw milk here and $4 a dozen for eggs. Plus I would have to drive almost 2 hours to pick up the milk every few weeks. So we have that on hold for now… enough rambling…
    Toni

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  11. says

    I hit enter to soon….ugggh.
    I meant to say, I spend 5.25 a gallon for raw milk. We have chickens but they aren’t really laying this time of year. Pretty soon we will order our broilers and raise and butcher them. We still have pork in the freezer from our pig though. (That was our first pig and our last one! I never ate pork before we got the pig unless my moma served us ham on holidays!)

    I am so lucky though, we have a meat place right up the road and they sell organic free range beef for pretty much the same price as the grocery stores around here. I love their meat.

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  12. Erin says

    We too are looking at buying half a cow this year. I also am looking into my own mill and I just recently found a local granary. I am very much looking forward to this series as it is helping me wrap my head around the entire process.

    I am currently playing the couponing strategy with as many natural convenience foods as possible. I’m curious as to how you do it as I don’t want to spend every waking moment in the kitchen, yet I want nutritious foods for my family.

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  13. Emily Kay says

    thanks for taking us through all this! I spend about $400 per month on groceries for my family of 5. We cook alot from scratch and eat as healthy as possible. I sure wish I could get some deals on meat and dairy, though! The only place close to me that sells raw milk sells it for $9.50 a gallon…and it is goat’s milk-not cow’s milk. The same place sells a dozen “pastured” chicken eggs for $4.25. I went to azure standard’s website a couple months ago, but I got overwhelmed. Maybe one day I will get it together enough to use a co-op. We also have a small garden in the spring-fall.

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  14. Jill Roper says

    Boy, after looking at all of this I hate to admit I spend $800 a month. I have 3 teenage sons. I cook from scatch. I checked with Azure and they dont ship to Michigan. Just my good flour is $4 for a 5# bag. I do get a side of beef, buy my eggs down the road for $2 and will have a garden. I feed alot of people beside my crew each week. We have a ministry to homeless women and I serve breakfast every week before Bible class. This is discouraging. Perhaps I can relook and see where I could save. That price also includes my PT and TP, dishsoap and dog food. I want a wheat grinder and hopefully will be able to get one some day. Keep up the good work Laura.

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  15. Barbara says

    You all are so organized – I don’t even have a budget! That’s NOT saying that I get to spend whatever I want, whenever I want! My husband is self-employed and business is bad right now, so we buy groceries if and when we can. I’ve had a garden the past 3 years, but this was the first year that I canned. We have a 1/2 cow (grass fed) in the freezer; we’re finishing up a 1/2 pig (grass & scrap fed, but we weren’t fond of it). I buy chicken breasts from Trader Joe’s when I’m in that neighborhood about once every 3 months. (I’ve tried finding the SMART chicken, but the store that they told me carries it, does not, so I need to find another.) I cook from scratch, buy free range eggs from a neighbor at $2.25 dozen. Another neighbor is a Tree of Life distributor and I get to buy at wholesale prices! I also order from Country Life Natural Foods (my regular items are white with germ flour, cane juice crystals, aluminum free baking powder, natural parchment paper and beans). We were getting raw milk, but I had to drop that because the price – including the delivery fee – was at least $10/gallon! I have a new contact for whole, free-range, organic chickens & turkeys, so I need to start getting those. The only reason I go to the grocery store is to buy fresh things from the edges of the store; I’ve learned to stay away from the middle! This is an exciting journey for me that started about 3 years ago. It just gets better and better! So sorry for being long winded today : o ) I highly recommend creating menus – this is what keeps me accountable to cooking 3 meals/day, and keeps me focussed on using what’s in my pantry and freezer.

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  16. says

    Wow I am impressed. I don’t think I would even know what we spend. But we are only two old people and we both love left-overs and that saves a lot. Thanks for sharing.
    Roberta Anne

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  17. Mrs. S says

    We spend $360 a month for a family of 4 and and infant (who really doesn’t count since she is mainly breastfed!). We live in CA, and most of our friends can’t believe how little we spend on food. Having said that, I cook almost always from scratch. We home school so boxed lunches aren’t needed. And hubs comes home for lunch too, so leftovers are a must! We used too (back in the pre-baby years) buy a lot of organics, but we can’t afford it now. I try to buy preservative and additive free, but would LOVE to buy raw milk and free range meat and eggs again! I don’t really understand Azure standard. From what I have seen their prices aren’t much better. Am I missing something? I buy my grain in 25# bags from bob’s red mill (cheapiest shipping I have found, probably because they are on the west coast). I totally agree with you on eating healthy. We don’t vaccinate our children, so I really want to give them the best diets possible (I so have been slacking on this!) to boost their natural immunity. Please get me pump up again! I would love to see what you buy, where you buy it and what you do with it all! I think I am going to have to hunt for some good deals on eggs and milk today! You would think (at least I do) that with all the “green people” in CA stuff like this would not only be easy to find (and it usually is) but also fairly inexpensive, but it is OUTRAGEOUS! Ok…done rambling. When you have a moment, can you explain Azure to me pleas?! Thanks so much!!

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  18. says

    I looked at that North Star Neighbors and I would love to buy the free range stuff but we could never afford it. Out health insurance premium just jumped to $609 a month and that takes up most of our budget. Between that and our mortgage their is not much left! I usually just get my meats on sale at the store. I think we spend about $350 a month on groceries. Although we don’t eat organic, I do make a menu and cook healthy meals.

    I guess I will have to wait and get a cow from my dad once he starts raising cows!

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  19. Sharon says

    What a great break down! I spend about $600.00 per month on food/paper goods/pet food/health & beauty for a family of 6. ((this doesn’t include feed for my chickens)) I strrrrrreeeetch my packs of chicken to get at least four meals out of them–chicken soup, chicken casserole, chicken burritos, chicken sandwiches. I make most eveything from scratch….but I DO have a sad Velveeta fixation….love the way it melts down and tastes so good. BUT I’m working on it. :)

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  20. Rosanna says

    Wow I didn’t realize how blessed I am! I get raw jersey milk for $2.75 a gallon, and my parents have free range chickens and always have extra eggs so they give them to me! I also get organic beef from my uncle each fall which is about $1.50/lb. I want to work on finding hormone free chicken for a good price but for now I will count my blessings for what I do have!

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  21. says

    When you break it down like that it really doesn’t sound so bad. I am glad you typed in your total for milk and eggs, because I relize the blessing in having a cow and chickens. It is a lot of work…but we save at least $100 a month! And we sell a product we believe in! We only buy the grass fed ground beef because we can get it for $2.50 a pound. We did buy half a cow the year before, but couldn’t fork out a big chunk this time. buying what we need when we need it works better for now. I do comprimise on some things, but not much. I love baking and cooking from scratch…which bring me to my next point. I love your recipes..keep em comming. Where is the sourdoug english muffing tutorial. Oh…I make mozzarella to! Isn’t it fun!

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  22. says

    I just realized that you are in Nebraska. I live in Kansas and can not seem to find a dairy around that has raw milk. I also have not been able to get anything from Azure standards because they said they do not ship to this area. I did not even think they shipped to this region. How do I go about getting things from them? Any advice you have would be appreciated.

    I spend around $300 a month for 4. It is so nice that my husband has told me that he would rather up our food budget and cut back on something else then eat processed food.

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    Sadie Reply:

    Hi Lorrie,
    I am a customer service rep for Azure and wanted to let you know that we have recently extended our truck routes into Ar, MO, OK, and yes, Kansas! Please feel free to contact us for more info.

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  23. says

    Wow, what a break down!! I am determined that once we get moved I am going to get us on a better food budget, possibly with more organic food. Thanks for the example that it CAN be done!!

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  24. Christi says

    What if you don’t need to save money on food? My husband has a good job so we buy healthy ingredients that we love that costs more instead of having to be cheap.

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  25. alyssa says

    Wow! You really do eat well for your budget! You inspire me! Interesting,though, how prices vary so much, depending on where you live.

    I spend around $150/month for three of us.
    (My 11 mo. old is starting to eat a ton, and she’s still nursing, so, well, I still eat enough for two! I’m not kidding, I feel like I eat All the time.)
    But at any rate, we certainly have a few less mouths to feed than you, and I also don’t feel like we eat as healthy, either. I don’t buy much organic, and as far as milk and meat, I sure wish I had sources like you! I cook most things from scratch, and am trying to focus more on whole, simple foods. Sometimes I feel like I’m barely scraping by, though.

    BTW, my budget includes all household items, toiletries, and diapers. I know, I know, all-natural stuff and cloth diapers would be better, but it’s just not feasible right now. But I count my blessings- one of which is CVS. :) Anyways, just curious if you include household stuff in your grocery budget.

    Thank you for these posts. I’m looking forward to gleaning more ideas on how to eat better without it costing too much!

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  26. Pam Smith says

    We are a family of 4 (me, DH, DS7 & DD5) living in Atlanta, GA. Here is our monthly food budget breakdown:
    $500 divided by 4 people = $125/person
    $125 divided by 30 days = $4.16 per day per person
    $4.16 per day per person = $1.39 per meal per person

    - We don’t garden (We don’t have a large backyard space and I’m not really interested. I know call me lazy.)
    - We get 3 gallons of raw organic milk at $4.75/gallon every every 3 weeks
    - We get 8 dozen free range eggs at $3.00/dozen every month
    - I make most everything from scratch (bread, cereal, etc)
    - We get 9 lbs of raw organic cheese (chedder) at $5.72/pound every 3 months
    - We purchase a 1/3 of a cow for $390 which lasts us around 1 year 4 months

    With all of the above purchases (we will save $130/month for the next 3 months for our cow purchase in March ’09) we are left with around $315 a month (or $78/week) for everything else (grains, grocery store, etc).

    I agree with Barbara who posted above about creating menus. It does help you stick to a meal plan, focus on what you have on hand and purchase only what you need for the meals. I plan my meals a week at a time and only spend my weekly amount of $78. I take a calculator to the store with me to keep me accountable. I do my best to buy “high pesticide” produce in the organic section and try to stay on the out skirts of the store (produce, meats, dairy, etc.) more than down the aisles.

    We’ve figured in $150/month for our sundrys (household items, hygiene, etc).

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  27. says

    Oh I just love how you got the boys involved in the division! What a great teaching tool, not only for math, but for life as well.

    Keep these great posts coming!

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  28. says

    Ok, you inspired me to pull out the calculator.

    I spend $380 a month for our family of 4 (my kids are 4 and 1 1/2, though the 4 year old can rival me for food even though I’m pregnant!). Breaking it down the way that you did, I spent $1.05 per person, per meal! I was really happy to see that number!

    We eat sooo similarly to you guys, and I’m really happy with the quality of our food. Also, my $380 includes all natural cleaning and toiletry supplies, which is at least $20-$25 a month.

    And no Americans are allowed to complain about the price of their raw milk, ok? :)

    I live in Canada, in a very expensive city (and we still eat so cheaply- it is so, so possible with God and careful planning). I pay (get ready for this) over $16 a gallon for my raw milk!!! Yikes! (And, my dollar isn’t worth as much as yours, LOL!)

    I’m encouraged, though, to realize that careful shopping, planning and cooking can make a small budget stretch so far, even living somewhere where food is quite expensive! God really does provide! :)

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  29. says

    I was reading posts that include raw milk buyers and started to wonder… How long does a gallon of raw milk keep? At this point I have been running over to a neighbors for it whenever it is needed. It isn’t organic, but since I have not found a supplier for that yet, we are settling for the fact that it still has a higher nutritional value than milk in the store. If I do find someone and they are further away, how many gallons can I pick up at a time and still have it stay fresh?

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  30. Brooke says

    Thank you! I spend about $450-500/month on a family of 7 and it’s good to hear that I’m doing a good job. I can take a deep breath now!

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  31. Chelesse says

    My husband found this site while looking for ways to help us save on our food budget. We spend about $800 a month on food for a family of 6. I would love to be able to do this for $500 to $550. Our kids are 14, 12, 10 and 6. Right now I am a SAM but will be starting a job in a few weeks. I won’t have the time to spend in the kitchen but want to be able to benefit from cooking from scratch as much as possible. I am not a great cook and making my own bread is totally out of the question. Also, canning or preserving is not an option as I have no clue how to do this nor have the equipment or money to purchase additional equipment. Negative set aside, I want to be able to feed the family healthy nutritious food that they will eat. I have 2 picky eaters who seem to want to eat nothing healthy.
    We live in West Tennessee. Any helpful information or advice would be greatly appreciated.

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    Laura Reply:

    That’s a tough and loaded question! I’ve begun writing a series called “Simple Steps Toward Healthy Eating” http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/category/simple-steps-toward-healthy-eating which you may find helpful. Also, my Feeding the Family series http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/category/feeding-the-family may have some tips you will like. Otherwise, I’d really just suggest that you try to eat as many “whole foods” as you can, like fruits and veggies, real cheese, whole grains, real butter…and just really work your way away from processed, boxed foods.

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  32. Becky says

    Wow. We have 6 in our family (kids 15 to 8). I spend about $350 to $400 a month on groceries including paper products, cleaning, etc…. I am fortunate enough to be able to raise chickens, a pig, a cow and a goat for milk. I garden too. And I love to cook from scratch. I figure tha our meals cost about $0.74 a person per meal. But, I don’t mind spending the time to do, I know some do not have the time.

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  33. Amy says

    Great info! I do a weekly budget rather than monthly, and budget $175/week. Family of 6 (2 adults and 13, 10, 8 and 1 year) breaks down to $1.39/meal. This is breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks every day for the whole family — kids take lunch to school, and husband takes leftovers for lunch most days. Oh, and desert a couple times a week :)

    Seeing that per-meal figure, rather than a lump sum, makes me feel SO much better about what I spend.

    I mostly buy store brand staples and only buy organic produce on the EWG’s list of top offenders. I do splurge on organic meat and eggs, and purchase soy and almond milk as we all have a dairy allergy. I am a vegetarian, but I do cook meat with a couple of meals a week for the rest of the family.

    This does not include diapers (baby wears cloth) or toiletries (I budget for those separately).

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