Tag Archives: food

Food Stamp Challenge Update

As you know, I’m doing the Food Stamp Challenge this week. I’ll take any excuse I can get to make a spreadsheet, so that’s just what I did to track our food spending for the week.

Here’s how I’m making it more realistic: for all foods we’d already purchased or made before the challenge began, I’m adding their approximate value to the list the day we consume them. That way we can finish up leftovers, use bulk goods, etc.

I’m also being very strict and adding stuff like protein powder, wine, and other consumable “food” type items that probably aren’t covered by Food Stamps.

Here’s the spreadsheet so far:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Am8qaK8Qf80edEJyNVpIUjBrLVFKSGlESEtxaEoxVEE

We’ve spent $80 out of our allotted $94, though there are a few things I haven’t tracked yet. We probably have enough food to last us the rest of the week, but it’s going to be down to the wire!

You’ll notice we’re still eating healthy foods, with a lot of organic produce. Even if we do break the budget by a little, I aim to prove that living on a very limited food budget doesn’t mean that one needs to compromise when it comes to health, nutrition, or values.

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Food Stamp Challenge

My Rabbi challenged everyone in our congregation to do a week-long Food Stamp Challenge, starting on Sunday. This means you go a week spending the same amount on groceries that the average person on food-stamps receives in benefits, which is $31.50. It won’t be a huge stretch for our family, since our grocery spending is already at a pretty low level.

In the interest of full disclosure, we’re cheating and allowing ourselves to eat from the food in our pantry (which is modest though well-stocked). I’m talking about stuff like wheat flour to make bread, not caviar.

We’re planning a shopping trip for Sunday to get the food for the week. To make it more realistic, we also won’t be eating lunch in restaurants at work, which is something we normally do a couple times a week.

I’ll let you know how it goes, maybe with a detailed breakdown of how we fed our family for a week, spending only $31.50 per person.

Is anyone else interested in participating?

Bread Machine In Da House!

A few weeks ago I read this article on bread machines, and thought to myself “I bet Venessa would love a bread machine, since she loves to bake.” I brought it up with her, and she said “Only if you can get a free one.”

So I saved a search on Craigslist, and last night an ad was posted for a free bread maker. I didn’t notice the listing until it was a few hours old so I didn’t have my hopes up, but this morning the owner mailed me back and said it’s all mine!*

I brought it home and Venessa was very surprised. Turns out she didn’t really want a breadmaker, and she only said that thing about it needing to be free because she thought I’d never be able to find a free bread machine! Even after all these years, she still underestimates my power of frugality.

I immediately got a recipe from the article I linked to above, and plugged the thing in. It’s humming away in the kitchen as I write this. It shakes the counter wildly as it kneads the dough, so I coined the phrase “If the kitchen’s a-shakin, then bread’s a-bakin!

A good blogger would probably bake a loaf and eat it before writing an article about it, but I’m too excited to wait 3 hours. I guess that provides a good excuse for a follow-up post. I estimate it’ll save about $2 per loaf of bread, so it’ll pay for itself in 3 loaves.

* Worried that it wouldn’t fit on the scooter, I drove the car 6 miles round trip to pick it up. So really it was $6.

Mrs. Foundry gets down to business

Big news in the Foundry family. Mrs. Foundry in the Forest is opening a food cart here in Seattle, along with a friend of hers. It’s called How Pickle Got Out Of A Jam. They’re still working on the menu, but the guiding principle is “food you can eat every day” (as opposed to the standard food truck faire: burgers and BBQ).

She’s been testing out the entrepreneurial waters for the past couple years, as Infamous Pastries, making delicious wedding cakes and other treats for sale. But now she’s taking it up a notch. They’re planning on having a truck running by the end of summer.

They’ve already started the business out on a frugal note, scoring a fixer-upper truck at a bargain price. It’s going to sit on the curb outside our house, where we’ll pour sweat equity into it with every free moment. Even though I’m not officially part of the business, I’m excited to tear that thing apart and spit polish it ’till it shines. Maybe they’ll let me add some sweet rims

You can follow along the adventures on their blog and twitter accounts.

On a more scrumptious note, if you’re in the Seattle area and want to eat an unforgettable meal this summer, check out their pop-up dinner schedule, a series of prix-fixe dinners hosted by the future food cart chefs, to help them hone their menu and food-prep skills. Hope to see you there!

A closer look at grocery costs

In my last post I discussed the average American “consumer unit’s” yearly spending on (among other things) groceries.

According to the survey data, Americans spent about $125 per person per month on groceries. So the average 2.5 person unit spent $312 per month.

On the other hand, the USDA keeps detailed monthly statistics on how much it costs to buy a pre-selected list of groceries, enough to feed the average child, teen, adult, senior, etc.

When I looked at the most recent data available, I noticed that something didn’t add up. That $312 per month from the spending survey is lower than even the thrifty “family of 2” plan provided by the USDA, which allocates $374 for a couple with no children. There’s no way the average American unit can beat a “thrifty” shopping plan. It looks like a case of “Lake Wobegon syndrome,” where every family is above average. And I was feeling pretty good about our family’s slightly-above-average grocery spending, so maybe it’s too early to toot my own horn.

I sent an email to Mark Lino, Economist at the USDA to see what gives. Since it’s a holiday weekend, I doubt he’ll get back to me right away. I’ll keep you posted.

Until then, you can see a nifty spreadsheet I made to add up what a family of our size, with our age ranges, should be spending according to the USDA. You can make a similar one by replacing our age/gender groups with the ones for your family. Here’s a screenshot:

Here’s a link to a Google Spreadsheet so you can copy it and play around with the data:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Am8qaK8Qf80edGF3V2tFdTlRczFQMkJtdGFoNVN4WGc

The USDA updates the chart every month, as food prices change. I’ll update the spreadsheet each month when I do my Your Money Or Your Life activities.

A Full Freezer

[If you already know me, you’ve probably heard this story already so you can skip this post]

We bought a 7.2ft³ chest freezer for $75 delivered. To see how much it costs to power the freezer, I borrowed a kill-a-watt from the library to check out how much energy it consumes. At current electricity prices, it’s going to cost $25 a year to keep it running. Probably less, since I measured it when it was mostly empty and full fridges/freezers run more efficiently.

To fill the freezer, some friends and I bought an entire cow. I read that buying meat by the cow instead of by the pound can save a family of 4 almost $500 a year, if they eat beef frequently. We only eat occasionally, but even if we save $100 this year, that pays for the freezer and the cost of running it. It came to $4/lb for all the various cuts of meat. (Where I live, a good cut of grass-fed beef can be $10/lb.) We split the meat 5 ways, and each of us got anywhere from 80 – 145 lbs.

The meat is amazing! If you live in the Pacific Northwest, I highly recommend getting some meat from 3 Sisters Farms.