OK, so my husband and I have settled into a meal routine for the week’s lunches. On Sunday I make a huge chopped salad with romaine hearts, spinach, kale, green leaf lettuce, red cabbage, broccoli, and some other ingredient (parsley, cilantro, bell peppers, something different so we don’t get bored), and we eat off of it for the week. My husband makes pasta salad to go with his (a pound of pasta, mayo, green peas, and canned chicken chunks) and has the salad as a side while the salad is my main lunch. I get different dressings so that I can vary the taste even more – strawberry vinaigrette, balsamic vinaigrette, Italian, things like that. For snacks we have carrots (I like mine with dip), apples with peanut butter and oats, and celery, bananas, and homemade bread with butter. We can get all of it for around $30 for 2 weeks worth. If we eat one lunch and two snacks a day that averages out to $0.71 each. Not terrible, right? And much healthier than a $0.75 Snickers bar out of the vending machine (which is what I’m likely to get if I don’t pack a lunch).
The boys get peanut butter and homemade jelly sandwiches, yogurt , Goldfish crackers, granola bars, and water to drink for their lunches. That’s right around $2 a day for both their lunches.
We got the meat bundle from the local meat processing place that included chicken leg quarters, boneless skinless chicken breasts, pork loin cut into a roast, chops and ribs, bacon, and ground beef. It averaged out to $2.08 a pound. If we assume 1.5 pounds of meat per dinner (a lot, but if meat is the main dish, my boys can eat that much and have a little left over for lunch the next day), that’s $3.12 in meat plus a bit of rice or pasta (at $0.68 a pound. I bought 40 pounds at this price!) and a veggie (canned corn or peas or something of that nature at $0.50 a can). That’s $4.30 for dinner, call it $5 with seasonings and the frozen chicken strips that my youngest son will eat on meat nights. We also eat just pasta some nights which is significantly cheaper, and we will all eat it, not just the boys.
Breakfast is usually frozen waffles for one and homemade chocolate chip pancakes for the other boy. Yogurt and granola for my husband, and coffee and a protein shake for me. The waffles are $0.75, the yogurt and granola is around $1.75, and the pancakes are about $0.60. My protein shake is the most expensive at around $2. Coffee works out to around $0.21 for 3 cups plus sugar and milk. That’s $5.50 for breakfast every day. Whew! I didn’t realize we were spending quite so much on that one meal!
All told, we are spending around $12 a day (on our most expensive days) on food. That works out to $360 a month on food. I spend more than that because we have popcorn and ice cream and cookies sometimes, as well as buying 6-20 boxes of some things to stock up at a good price. If I stick to my budget (which I am doing more and more lately), we are spending between $400 and $450 a month on groceries (which includes personal care products like shampoo, soap base for making soap, toothpaste, baking soda and vinegar for hair, cleaning, and cooking, etc., but not paper products.) It’s not great, but it’s better than the $700 we spent before I started paying attention to what we bought, using the discounts available to me, meal planning, and stockpiling things on sale. I still run out of things and pay full price sometimes, but not too often.
This pay period I bought 8-24 count boxes of granola bars, 6 boxes of granola (my husband is brand loyal), 10 bags of Goldfish crackers, and 5 bags of frozen popcorn chicken, all on sale. I bought all the salad fixings, fruits and veggies, plus various other groceries, and stayed at my $200 grocery budget for this paycheck. I’m going to start trying out various granola and granola bar recipes to see if I can wean the family off store bought versions. That will save a bundle.
Anyway, I thought I’d share my meal cost breakdown. I’ve been thinking about it since we ran short of money and I still needed to go shopping. I know there are other families who spend less, but we enjoy some luxuries and still keep our budget under some control. I’m always working on cheaper alternatives though.