We spent HOW MUCH on groceries last month?!?
Since our big move to Texas from Colorado, I have truly felt the pain of losing an established food system. The pain of having food that doesn’t taste as fresh, the pain of less healthy food, and most of all, the financial pain.
In Colorado we had a large garden, a CSA farm share and a freezer full of meat and fruit that we harvested ourselves. Oh yeah, and eggs and honey from the back yard. We basically had the freshest, healthiest food possible, at a really low cost.
This is what our grocery budget looked like:
Meat (hunting licenses, fuel, ammo, misc. expenses for trip): $250/year average
Vegetables from CSA: $520/year average
Garden, bees and chickens: $400/year average
Fruit from Western Slope (including gas for trip): $400/year average
Total yearly expenses: $1570/year or $131/month
Everything else from grocery store: $600/month average
This includes grains, dairy, beans, nuts, occasional imported fruits like oranges, limes, avocados, occasional meats like chicken, fish or bacon, canning ingredients like sugar and vinegar, misc. ingredients like soy sauce, salt, spices, etc., plus laundry detergent, shampoo, toilet paper, etc. because I’m too lazy to separate those things out.
Total average grocery spending: $731/per month for a family of five eating mainly organic, local and sustainable food.
*These averages were calculated from our actual spending totals in 2010, 2011 and 2012. I rounded up to the nearest ten dollars. In 2010 we only had two kids, so that year’s grocery totals were lower by about $50-100 per month than 2011 and 2012 bring the average down a bit.
When we found out we were moving, we had 8 weeks to empty that freezer full of meat and western slope peaches, eat through all our canned goods, and generally try to get through our pantry of stocked up food. Luckily it was January when we got the news and not September. Whatever we couldn’t eat, we gave away.
After the move, our grocery budget literally doubled… without the quality or quantity.
No more eggs that were just laid that morning. No more freezer stocked with meat. Telling the kids that no, they couldn’t have a peach smoothie because we don’t have frozen peaches.
We expected the jump in price the first month or two, but we really started to feel the pinch as time went on. The loss of the CSA and the garden hurt the most. I feel starved for a real tomato. I missed the asparagus harvest. And the pale grocery store eggs… sigh.
Plus we just didn’t have enough… I realized my menu planning revolved around my CSA share and that I was struggling with what veggies to even buy at the store. I’d get there and see the choices: conventionally grown with pesticides or organic but from across the globe. All of it over-priced and lacking flavor. I felt paralyzed, and often left the store with a big bill and too little veggies for my family who was used to a seemingly unending supply during the summer.
It wasn’t just the veggies. All the stores here carry different brands of food than I usually bought in Denver. I found myself reading labels again where I had been used to being able to just pick up what I knew. This made grocery trips much longer (with three kiddos in tow) and often discouraging.
Dinner time came around and I had no plan for what to make. We had chicken and frozen broccoli so many times the kids and Rick protested. We went out to eat way too many times. I gained almost fifteen pounds from the eating out, and sitting around not gardening.
Finally, I got my wits about me.
I made a giant run to Costco and bought the pantry items we needed to start rebuilding. Lots of canned tomatoes, pasta, chicken stock, brown rice, nuts, flour and sugar, frozen berries. I made a big trip to the bulk section of the grocery store and restocked on beans, rice, oats, quinoa and lentils.
I looked up the CSA’s I had researched before we moved. I called them and I signed up, even though we were halfway through their seasons. That’s right, them, their seasons. I signed us up for shares from TWO different CSA farms. One is an all vegetable share from a farm northeast of us, and the other is a mixed share of vegetables and grass-fed meat from a ranch to the southwest of us.
I picked-up up our first ranch share from the the farmers market Sunday. Wednesday I will get our first share from the farm.
It feels good. Good to have fresh, organic, locally grown veggies in the house. To know what to make for dinner. To have in-season food with actual flavor.
So starting with an empty pantry, no freezer (it sits unplugged in the garage), and no garden, building our food system here will take time. Restocking will take time. But it is time well spent, so here’s to a fresh start.