So, about last week. First of all, I waited a full three days after the official beginning of the new week before launching Week 2, because I just wasn't in a rush to buy food again. We hadn't run out of anything significant except oats and olive oil. A major reason for this is that I followed my menu plan completely, which almost never happens. So I still had the same extra food in the house that I'd started with before last week.
We did eat out once last week. I went out for a drink with a friend and when I came home the dinner Jeremy had made was finished off. Two glasses of wine had me completely tipsy (for how little I can handle alcohol, you'd never know what a long line of alcoholics I have in my family), so instead of trying to navigate the kitchen (a stove counts as heavy machinery, right?), I sent out for Mexican food at a cost of about $15. Ah, it happens.
Overall, though, I found last week fairly comfortable. I think I could spend less if necessary. We ran out of olive oil and oats a bit sooner than I would have liked, but we still have vegetables and fruit in the house, plus rice and lentils, and butter and yogurt - we're doing pretty well!
Still, I did go over budget a bit this week. I bought some cucumbers to culture and I got some apples even though we still have several pounds; I'm not fond of these yellow apples so I'm going to make a big batch of apple butter and use the new apples for fresh eating. As I mentioned in Week 1, the issue of food storage is a significant one for people on limited incomes.
Here's my grocery list for the week. Like last week, OG indicates an organic food while LC is a local product. I had a couple of unexpected costs that weren't on the list; specifically, I gave into Willow's demand for smoothies, which sounded pretty good to me, too, so I bought orange juice and fair-trade bananas. And I forgot to bring my own bottle so I had to buy a packaged olive oil, which is more expensive than buying it in bulk. I think the cost balanced out, though, because I was planning to buy some coho salmon that was on sale, but when I got to the store I found that it was farmed, so I skipped it.
1 lb. black beans (OG), $1.57
1.5 lb. kidney beans (OG), 1.68
2 lb. garbanzo beans (OG), $3.14
1 lb. almonds (OG, LC), $4.58
4 lb. oats (OG), $3.73
25 oz. olive oil (LC, OG), $9.99
1 lb. peanut butter (OG), $3.36
1/2 lb. fair-trade coffee (OG, LC-roasted), $4.41
1 oz. coriander (OG, LC), $1.42
64 oz. orange juice, $3.98
1 lb. pastured butter (OG, LC), $5.45
1/2 gallon plain, whole-milk yogurt (OG, LC), $6.89
8 oz. cheese (OG, LC), $5.15
2 lb. fair-trade bananas (OG), $2.03
3 lb. sweet potatoes (LC), $2.72
1 green bell pepper (LC), $.89
1 bunch romaine lettuce (OG, LC), $1.79
2 bunches spinach (OG, LC), 2.98
1 watermelon (LC), $2.00
3 lb. apples (LC), $6.00
3 lb. cucumbers (LC), $6.00
2 lb. grapes (LC), $3.00
2 bunches of basil (LC), $4.00
2 bunches of dill (LC), $4.00
1 pint of okra (LC), $3.00
1 huge cheese pumpkin (LC), $2.00
1 sunflower head (LC), $5.00
1 loaf whole-grain bread, $2.79
2 cans coconut milk (OG), $1.85
$105.40 (plus $8 for bags to haul composted horse manure)
While planning for this week, I realized that I've gotten off-track just slightly with the Challenge. My original plan was to demonstrate that it's possible to base one's diet on whole foods while supporting local, sustainable agriculture even on a limited budget. I used the average food stamp balance for a guideline and in the process became consumed with the issue of food stamps specifically. So I hesitated to buy from the farmer's market or roadside stands or friends because I wanted to stick with places where food stamps are accepted. But my point is not specifically related to food stamps, though that's important, too. I'm still making an effort to focus on food stamp recipients, but for those who are not on assistance, I'd like to make the point that it's possible to eat whole foods, locally and organically, without breaking the bank.
I'm continuing to investigate this number I've chosen ($3.25 per person, per day, for a total of $400 a month for a family of four). In following others who have written on this topic, I've seen an incredible range of average cost - everything from $100 a week per person to $200 a month for a family of four. So I was pleased to find this chart (PDF), which outlines the average cost of food on thrifty, low-cost, moderate, and liberal eating plans. (The average food stamp allowance is assumed to be based on the thrifty plan.)
Based on this chart, average spending for our children (aged 4 and 5) would range from $94 to $180 a month. Jeremy's monthly range would be $163 to $318, while mine would be $146 to $288. So our monthly total could be expected to run from just under $500 to almost $1000 a month. Our absolute (and very short-lived) highest monthly expenditure has probably been $700 while our average has hovered between $500 and $600.
So this $400 monthly goal is quite a bit below the "thrifty" budget plan by which food stamps are set, which seems fair to me.
UPDATE: Thanks to Shannon, here's a more recent version of the PDF I posted above, reflecting higher food prices since 2008.