Rising to the challenge of higher grocery costs

Am I the only one who has felt an increasing difficulty in making the grocery budget stretch to keep our family well fed? It feels that each time I visit the grocery store these days, yet another item on my list has gone up in price, and I’m struggling to find more creative ways to make my dollar work as hard for me as it used to.

I’ve allowed this growing challenge to frustrate and discourage me these last couple months, as I work hard to plan our meals and keep that careful balance between excellent nutrition and necessary frugality.

Last week, I just decided that enough was enough. It was time for me to stop allowing the rising costs of living to control me and cause me to feel incapable of doing anything better than I was already doing (after all, I was already meal planning, shopping more or less with the seasons, stockpiling deals when possible, buying in bulk, using a produce market, making practically everything from scratch, etc.– what else could I possibly do?)

And then I remembered this wonderful little book that I read several years ago when I was first learning how to live on a tight budget… The Tightwad  Gazette!

This book is full of all sorts of ways to save money, in both common and completely random sorts of ways! Some of it was incredibly useful to me, much of it was not especially, but the overall concepts and practices proved to shape my ability to look at my world with a frugal mentality.

One of the things that I initially thought was a bit insane, but have now come to appreciate the value of, was that Amy Dacyczyn, the author, created charts breaking down the cost per serving of different food items, such as breakfast foods (comparing muffins, pancakes, toast, waffles, etc.). This way you could see at a glance which foods were actually the most cost efficient to serve and build your menu around.

Now, being the strong advocate of good nutrition that I am, I cannot say that I would ever plan my meals solely around cost, because I believe that a balanced and healthful diet must come first. That said, there are certainly dishes and particular foods that are less expensive to make, and that can still make up an excellent repertoire of meals.

So, today I began by breaking down my monthly grocery budget into it’s necessary parts:
$360 (total budget for groceries/toiletries/cleaning supplies)
-$25 (average amount that I spend on toiletries/cleaning)
-$20 (average that would go towards food staples not easily included in calculations- spices, some oil/butter, vinegar, baking soda/yeast, etc.)
$315 total remaining
/ 30 days per month
= $10.50 a day

I decided to further break that down into our 3 main meals, plus snacks:
$2.50 per breakfast ($0.83 per person)
$3.00 per lunch ($1 per person)
$4.00 per dinner ($1.33 per person)
$1.00 for snacks, extra beverages, baby food, etc.

Based on these calculations, I now plan to begin to analyze some of the meals that I commonly make and assess which ones fit the necessary cost per serving, and which ones don’t. I assume that some will cost under the per serving cost, and others will cost over, which will help me to know how to balance them over the course of a month.

Next week, I will have completed calculating the serving costs of some of our favorite/most common meals, and will share my findings with you!

One other great resource that I discovered last week was an upcoming frugal meals carnival, hosted by Owlhaven. I will definitely be taking part, and it would be great to see as many others join in as possible!

Frugal Fridays is hosted by Biblical Womanhood.

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  1. What a great post! I look forward to seeing the calculated costs of your meal! And thanks for sharing the link to the frugal meals carnival… it looks like it will be very informative!

  2. Wow! 360$ a month on food. I wish. My 9 and 5 year old are very big eaters. All natural of course, but they eat. Mine is at least 1000$. Can you detail more on what you buy and your weekly daily menu. I’d love to cut down. Alberta Girl

  3. That sounds like a lot of work. I do make a lot of things from scratch & buy in bulk. I am praying my garden is plentyfull this yr along w/the chickens we are going to butcher.

    I’m going to join the link for meals too. I just got a cookbook from my s/i/l called the Depression Era Recipes. Granted I won’t be cooking up Hasenpfeffer but it looks interesting.

  4. Alberta Girl, I’ll try to spend some more time detailing what it looks like for our family. In the meantime, you can look at the category Savvy Spending Challenge for a few details of some of my grocery shopping trips in November (when we were trying to be super, super cheap- way less than $360!) and at least you can get a feel for the stuff I buy. Also, check out the category Menu Plan Mondays for the past several months of my dinner meal plans.

    Mary, you’re so welcome– it’s a great idea!

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