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 famous…or…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.