Getting Real With Food, Pt. 5 Our Food Budget

When I told my friend Anne a few weeks ago that I was going to start this “Getting Real With Food” series, one of the first things out of her mouth was that I needed to be sure and tell you how much money we make and how in the world we eat the way we do.

Because isn’t that the biggest dilima?  We all want to eat healthy food…but healthy food is expensive.  Many of us think we can’t afford to eat healthy.

I won’t come right out and tell you how much we earn…but I will tell you that we meet the income guidelines to qualify for WIC (which we don’t use) and medicaid for the kids.  The maximum income for a family of six to qualify for these services is somewhere around $51K…and we don’t come close to touching that.  Okay…so now you know.   

I share that with you so that when I tell you more about my view point on spending money on food…you don’t just assume that we’re rolling in dough and don’t have to care or think about what we spend on food.  FAR from it, I promise. 

I believe there is a big mis-conception about spending money on food.  All the time I hear, “We just can’t afford to eat healthy.”  If I wanted to pull out the “we can’t afford to eat healthy” card…I could.   And I used to.  And I struggled like crazy to come to the place in my thinking that I am today….that spending money on real and wholesome food is important and neccesary. 

Let me share my Food Budget/Healthy Eating Journey with you…

When our first two boys were babies, we lived in Colorado Springs where there were a great variety of grocery stores…many of which doubled coupons.  I thus became the “Coupon Queen”.  (Ask any of my relatives…I was famousor…something like that.)  I spent $100 a month on groceries and got TONS of stuff for free all the time.  I had a blast with my “hobby” and I loved it.

After our third son was born, we moved to Nebraska.  There are no stores that double coupons here…and I was really sad.  I still used coupons and did rebates and saved a lot of money on groceries.  I probably at that time was keeping my budget to around $175 a month.  We ate anything I could get for cheap or free, and nothing that I couldn’t.  My mind set was about saving money, and although I did feed my family fruits and veggies and very little candy or junk food…I didn’t give much thought to eating healthy.  I was all about spending as little as possible on groceries

When our fourth son, Malachi, was born in 2004, some of my friends started reading and learning about a healthier style of eating.  When Malachi was only two months old, he developed horrible eczema.  I was ready to put him on whatever drugs my doctor offered me because a good mama does whatever her doctor says, right?  My friends then started telling me about some of their diet changes that might help Malachi and about the ill effects some of the drugs being offered would have on him.

Thus began my quest and struggle to change our eating habits. 

We began changing our whole lifestyle really.  I was completely on board to change the way we ate and to start focusing on eating real food.  Healthy food.  Making up my mind about that was easy.

However, wrapping my brain around the changes in my food budget were actually very painful for me.  That might sound a little silly…but I had been the “Coupon Queen” for years.  I had been the amazing money saving shopper.  The one who could feed her family for less than $200 a month.  That was a big part of who I was. 

Now I had to learn how to actually spend money on food.  (And not only on food, but on  detergent and soap and shampoo and bathroom cleaner, as I began to learn about harmful chemicals and such.  I only had coupons for the toxic kinds.  Hmph.)

During this time too, my boys were of course growing and beginning to eat more.  My two healthy eating friends were constantly having to remind me of the value of feeding my family well and that it was okay to spend money on good food.  And gradually it began to sink in.

I now recognize that it is the FOOD that is meant to NOURISH OUR BODIES that we’re talking about here.  This is not a splurge or a luxury.  It’s not cable TV or fancy clothes.  It’s food.  We should not compromise on the single most important thing that has the power to make our bodies healthy or unhealthy.

I get that now.  I have come full circle.  I have gone from working very hard to spend little to nothing on groceries…to questioning a food’s nutritional value if it doesn’t cost very much.  Funny.

Now, I spend around $500 a month on food.  Sometimes a bit more.  This is for my family of six.  Five out of the six are male.  Five out of the six eat like there’s no tomorrow.  Five out of the six love asking the question, “What else can I have to eat?”  (It’s a good thing one out of the six loves to cook!)

I think that the $500 a month I spend is actually pretty impressive for what we eat.  We eat real food.  I know other families who spend more than that amount on processed foods. 

My family is proof that eating well on a limited budget can be done.  You have to eat.  You need to eat well.  You need to

I’ll break down our food budget for you next time and tell you what specifically we spend our food money on.  Stay tuned!  And be sure to leave any specific questions about this in the comments!  It’s fun getting real about food with you!

Check in with Biblical Womanhood for more Frugal Friday tips.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for this post. I am struggling with this area as well. I try to keep a food budget but my boys are growing and eating more and I feel like all I do is cook! I also feel “guilty” for spending extra at the grocery store but food is for survival. We have lots of allergies and intolerances to work around, so cooking often seems like a chore instead of an enjoyment. I am looking forward to reading more about your budget.

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  2. says

    Thanks for the post! I needed this. I am trying to cook healthier food for my family and am stuggling with this. Although we have some room in our budget for the extra cost I am stuggling with spending it on food. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. Amy says

    Me, too! Me, too! All three of my kiddos are suffering from skin “stuff,” especially eczema. I need to do some learning…

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  4. says

    I spend about $800.00 a month for my family of 5 but I live at the end of nowhere and food has to be trucked for a long while to get to us. That total also includes the cost of all the allergy free foods for my son.

    Love your series!

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  5. says

    ..You left me holding my breath for the breakdown!!!
    Our food budgets are not too far apart. I do pretty good and am trying to get better and better.

    My problem is like Michelle mentioned…I cook all day…I find myself in the kitchen most of the day and my feet hurt and my veins are starting to look real ugly. lol

    Planning a menu helps a lot (especially when I print out yours :-) –they are requested now, by kids and DH) but snacks have all got to be cooked-sigh-. If I make up a bunch-they eat a bunch!
    Can you offer some advice?

    But I can’t wait to hear how you break this down. And how could we do better if we cannot order foods but can only buy local? Any suggestions?

    I’m on the edge of my seat….this is better than watching a movie!

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  6. says

    I can’t wait for the next installment! We’ve gone back and forth with healthy eating to inexpensive eating. Right now with gas prices, we’re definitely erring on the side of inexpensive. :-( I spend right at 350.00 a month for our family of six (four of which are adults and of those adults 3 are men!).

    LOVE the Biblical Womanhood site. Thank you for sharing it!

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  7. says

    Under $100/month per person for wholesome foods… I think that you are getting great value for your money! I’m looking forward to reading more of the series.

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  8. says

    I am able to keep my budget pretty low for my large family, but I have to be really careful with my spending. No processed foods here either, way too expensive. You can feed your family good foods without spending a ton of money. Good job!

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  9. says

    We spend about $500 also for our family of 6. Although this last trip was quite a struggle to stay within budget. The prices around here have really gone up in the last 2 weeks. Or at least I’m noticing. I use vitacost, make my own cleaners, garden and food coops. These all come out of that total each month. I save a little of the budget aside for coops because they are not monthly.

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  10. says

    Isn’t it funny how difficult it feels to spend money (and time) on good food sometimes?
    If I ever start to feel this way, I think about ancient cultures (or Pioneers or Indians) and how they spent nearly all of their lives hunting, gathering, and preparing food, etc.
    Nourishment should be a major focus in our lives, not just whatever is quick and cheap.

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  11. says

    Whew! I am glad that I read your post today! I have been struggling with wanting to be the “coupon queen” and shopping healthy for my family. For my family of 7(five out of 7 are male!), I spend about the same you do per month and our income is such where we qualify for WIC and medicaid. I am using WIC but I only have 2 kids that actually qualify for the services. Anyway, your post makes me feel better in what I am doing. :)

    Thanks for stopping by! I will agree aspargus cheesecake does NOT sound good!! Bummer on no strawberries left! The last time I drove by my farmer’s marker…the sign said “strawberries coming soon”! LOL So I am still waiting for them to arrive!

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  12. says

    My four eat like there is no tomorrow, too. Well, three of them do–the oldest one moved out a few months ago! I’m proud of him because he is learning to do a lot of scratch cooking.
    Here is an idea that I might have first read right here on your blog–if you compare the price/ounce or pound on ‘junk’ food to what a pound of, say, peaches might cost…you’d run right back to the produce section! That’s a big thing I’ve learned…check unit prices. You might be surprised that eating fresh and healthy is actually quite reasonable in comparison.
    Oh, and don’t hesitate to use WIC if you qualify. It is there for you, and you are not cheating by using it. Trust me, the rules are so strict you couldn’t cheat if you wanted to, LOL!

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  13. Laura says

    We choose not to use WIC because we prefer organic raw milk and free range eggs. Plus we don’t eat much cereal or drink much juice. I forgot to mention that part…or actually, I’ll be talking more about that in other posts!

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  14. says

    Thank you for taking the time and trouble to do these posts. Of all the people I know in real life, maybe 1 eats right. We all need to do something better for our families. Thanks for the encouragement!

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  15. Lenetta says

    I swear, you could post about this every single day for six months and I still couldn’t get enough. It would wear you out, though. :>) Sometime, I would be interested in knowing what kinds of things you cut out in order to fund your food budget. It would be interesting, but also help me evaluate my own priorities. I’m finding lots of things I ought to be cutting down on, or cutting out of my life entirely.

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  16. says

    i love this series! we spend $650 a month on a family of 9 and we have to make all our snacks too , as one commenter mentioned. it does get to be a hassle tho! keep up all the good ideas- i need them cuz we are soooo tired of what meals i make lol

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  17. says

    We came to the same understandings about food and body products several years ago. My seven year old daughter was born with a skin rash (sometimes it was eczema, sometimes more psoriasis). After cutting all corn, soy, milk and gluten products out her rash is gone, her skin has completely healed!

    Currently we’re spending about $800/mo to feed a family of 5, (3 adults, 1 teen, and 1 child) but we do have alot of company, because as you know, you entertain at home alot when food allergies are involved.

    Looking forward to more installments of this series.

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  18. says

    Laura, THANK YOU so much for sharing this. I am in total agreement on your phiosophy of spending more money to eat more heatlhfully. I battle that often myself and I’m just beginning to work on tweaking our budget a bit to add in more real food. While I am glad we do not eat proccessed food (well, 98% of the time at least), I definitely want to incorporate real, whole foods into our daily diets.

    I can not wait to read the next part of your series. I have been so inspired by what you’ve written so far.

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  19. says

    Hi Laura,
    I love this post. We soend a lot on food each month. But it is very important to us to eat healthly. We both have health challenges.It really frighten me all the blogs out there that encourage women to be coupon queens and to feed thier family marked down food. Also process cheap foods. When I see the pictures of what those ladies are buying with thier coupons it makes me so sad to think of the poor children doing without healthly foods. I really admire the change you have made.
    Blessings,
    Elizabeth

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  20. says

    Laura-
    Right on with this post. As someone who has slashed their grocery budget over the past few years, I can honestly say that eating healthy costs less. Although when we were purchasing raw milk that was more expensive at $6.25 a gallon. But it was worth it. Unfortunately there are no sources around me where I live now, so we are back on the poison milk!
    Toni

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  21. Stephanie says

    I could have written this post myself. I used to be a coupon queen until I started to realize the things that were in the foods were we eating. It’s been a struggle especially when my dear husband asks me to start couponing again so that we have “quick” food in the house. Seems like he always wants something he doesn’t really have to cook, he loves the microwave. I have 3 little boys and changing the way they look at food is hard. My oldest is only 4, he hates trying anything new and hates vegtables. I’m trying though, to teach the younger two how to eat before they learn bad habits. Thank you for your blog, it’s been a source of inspiration when I needed it most.

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  22. shauna says

    Please help. I read your blog a lot for healthy recipes (and those of your blogging friends). I like you had to come to the realization that spending money on good food is important and worth the extra cost. However, I’m spending $200 per week and only have one young child!! I need help finding a way to feed my family on less but keeping the real, organic, healthy food priority.

    I’m headed to your link about your budget breakdown now.

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    shauna Reply:

    Forgot to check the “notify me” box.

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