Rooted, I used to think.

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Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012 @ 12:06 pm

I've tracked our grocery spending for several years now, and we always seem to spend in the range of $400-$450 per month. This goes up in August (bulk meat purchase from the farmer, feeding house guests), and December (holiday entertaining) and drops quite low in the spring and fall. In January, we tried to eat cheaply, and it still ended up being $305, and that wasn't the true cost because we ate a huge amount of food from the freezer and pantry.

Out of curiosity, I did some calculations based on the Canada Food Guide. Each day, between the two of us, we should be eating 16 servings of vegetables, 15 servings of grain, 4 servings of dairy, and 5 servings of meat. Based on an average cost of $1.50/lb for vegetables (currently broccoli is $1.99/lb, lettuce is $1.79/head, cukes are $1.99 each, apples are $1.59/lb, tomatoes are $2.29/lb, green beans are $1.99/lb, kale is a whopping $4/bunch) we are be paying around $140 per month on produce alone. For dairy, we eat cheese and drink soy or almond milk. So for us, dairy costs $2/liter, which works out to $60/month. I based our grains cost on organic brown rice, which adds up to $180 per month. Obviously we're not eating only brown rice, but the price is similar for quinoa, sprouted wheat bread, millet, and good quality whole grain pasta. The price of protein can vary considerably, but I chose free range eggs, which is comparable in price to tofu and good quality canned beans, and the protien adds up to $150/month.

Anyhow, the grand total comes to $530/month. This does not include the cost of fats, spices, and condiments. A lot of assumptions in there, but it's baseline for the cost of eating a balanced, whole food diet in Canada.

For us, I see savings in cooking with the seasons. We need to check which vegetables are on sale, and then plan the meals. The price of produce seems to hold steady through the winter here, with the price of broccoli, green beans, carrots, celery, and lettuce varying by less than $0.20/lb. Squashes have been fairly cheap lately, but things like eggplants and avocados are pretty much always the same price ($4 and $2 each, respectively).

Another way for us to save is to be more diligent with using the bread machine and soaking beans overnight. We do these things on a fairly regular basis, but we need to make them daily habits.

I refuse to drink regular cow milk (this is based on a yuck factor more than anything else - Canadian dairy is generally healthy and humane), and we're simply not going to eat bulk plain rice or factory farmed eggs. Because we make simple meals, the quality of the rice highly influences the palatabilty of of the final product.

My next project might be to track the meals that we make for a month along with their associated costs. Can you tell that I don't have enough to do at work these days??

Roots | Shoots