Friday, October 2, 2009

Saving $24,000 this year on groceries - slow going thus far.

I keep coming back to the fact that for every $100 we can shave off our monthly expenses, we can reduce the number we need to reach financial independence by $24,000 at a five percent withdrawal rate or $40,000 at a safer three percent withdrawal rate.

That's a strong incentive to look at the fat in our monthly spending and one area we still have a lot of waste is food.

I'm happy to report since my daily tabulations of the actual dollar value of our tossed food for a week in August, we have greatly reduced the amount we're throwing out. I plan to do another assessment week in October to get a more exact number, but I can see it's a lot less than it was.

Nonetheless, I read about some of these food challenges on various forums and am amazed at how little some people are spending on food. My goal for the month is to come up with ten nutritious meals that would feed our family at a total cost of $2 per meal.

I figure if I could build up a repertoire of 15 or 20 such meals, we would vastly decrease the amount we spend now and at the same time, probably eat even healthier.

So tonight I started and kept track of the costs. Here's the result. We didn't make the $2 cut-off, but it was an interesting experiment.

Spinach pasta and unsweetened applesauce was the meal. I made enough to serve four though my older son took one look and insisted he was only going to eat the applesauce (the PTA school movie night is tonight and they are offering free popcorn so I'm not too worried he'll go hungry). My husband, who came home too late to eat dinner with us, took one bite, then got some Romano and cheddar cheese and started doctoring it up, throwing off my calculations a bit. But the cook takes no offence;-).

Whole wheat pasta, $1.99 for the box, we used about 1/5 or roughly 40 cents.

2 boxes of spinach (frozen) $2.38

1/2 of one thirty cent onion .15

Feta cheese $1.48 for roughly a cup size container. I used one teaspoon to sprinkle on mine and one on Greg's. There are 48 teaspoons in a cup, so two teaspoons of Feta cheese ran about 6 cents.

Unsweetened applesauce is $1.99 a jar and has eleven 1/2 cup servings. We easily went through two cups (mostly Kirk) so .72 cents total.

Drinks were water and left over iced tea from a Panera Bread outting earlier in the week.

So the entire meal (not include Greg's doctoring) was $3.71 for four of us or 93 cents each. I won't call this a huge success as Kirk loathed it and I ended up hungry for a bowl of cereal later in the evening, but it's a start. And there's one left-over serving for lunch tomorrow.

I also want to acknowledge that we're blessed to be able to do this as an experiment. Greg and I, several years back, helped out at a food kitchen where there were easily a hundred people, many parents with small children, who might have gone hungry without the extra help that organization offers. I read in Nickel and Dimed (on NOT getting by in America) by Barbara Ehrenreich that often minimum wage workers who have an unexpected setback such as health problems and expenses, family crisis, job loss, etc. lose their homes and then live in shelters or out of cars.

All the things people with homes take for granted such as refrigerators, cupboard space to store bulk goods, stoves, microwaves, pots and pans, all the things that in fact make it possible to eat healthy and cheaply, are often not available to the mom or dad with two children trying to make it after some unexpected reversal.

Those of us having a snack in our own kitchens tonight, not far from a well stocked refrigerator, with loved ones, pets, or a good book at hand are the lucky ones indeed.


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