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“The mint makes it first, it is up to you to make it last.”
Evan Esar (American Humorist, 1899-1995)

This is the first ‘accounting’ report for the money part of the current installment of the series Someone Else’s Shoes.  This part is a little bit different than usual since the shoes are really my own. For the money part of the experience I’m sharing our actual food budget and the way we really shop. I thought I’d give you a general overview of how ‘shopping’ works at our house.

For the most part, when we shop it is with the goal of filling the pantry.  We try to purchase things in the largest quantity possible for products we know we’ll use before it would ‘go bad’.  Usually this is the best price per pound on the types of things we buy. This often means that I only buy an item once or twice per year. Such as the pinto beans we’ve been eating this week. They were purchased several months ago and will be used for several more months before we buy anymore. 

There are other things that are bought each month such as beef from our CSA. We only get 10 pounds of beef a month which works out well for us with our freezer full of wild game and home raised poultry.  Well, it was full last fall. It’s getting alot less full now!  We’ll empty it out before it is time to hunt and butcher again.  We also have the occasional addition of  ‘sale’ beef that we add.  A couple of ranchers I know notify me when they have specials.  When that happens, we buy as much as we can afford and/or fit in the freezer.

Each month we also pay our cowshares. We own 3 1/2 shares which equals 3 and 1/2 gallons of milk each week.  We just bumped up the 1/2 gallon this month so I’d be sure to have milk for making extra things. Some weeks at 3 gallons we’d be out by our pick up day.  And then some weeks we’d have a gallon leftover.  On leftover weeks I make clabber cheese, soft cheese, extra yogurt or kefir.  But it never fails the weeks I don’t have leftover is the week someone in the house will ask me ‘why didn’t you make _____’.  I might actually need to get a full four shares to do all I want, especially since I just received some fun new things from Cultures for Health but we’ll see.  Or maybe I should just get a cow. 😉

Every week or every other week I buy produce. We don’t have a local CSA or farmers market at this time of the year. We get as

2010 Garden Box Prior to a Hail Storm and Grasshopper Invasion

much of our produce as we can at the Natural Grocers. There prices are very good on seasonal items and they bring things in as local as possible.  If we can’t get enough then we fill in items from the Clean 15 list at regular stores or we go without.  Like this week, Joe wanted potatoes but the price was super high at Natural Grocers and 2 regular stores did not have organic.  So no potatoes for poor Joe.  Once the farmers market gets going (mid-July) we’ll shop there first. Of course, that is actually the back up plan since we’re growing a garden and this year it is going to be a spectacularly successful over-the-top producing totally rocking garden!

Once per month we order from Azure Standard.  We only do this during months that the weather is good which really means we are ‘shut down’ from October until March. Last year, we did go up in November for our pick up and that was a fun drive. It is 2 hours to the drop spot so a 4 hour round trip (not counting the time to unload the truck and then meet up with everyone to deliver the goods).  The Azure order happens at a set time so we have to adjust our budget to ensure we can order. Sometimes the order is at the very beginning of our budget time and sometimes at the very end.  I really like it when it is at the beginning and not so much at the end. This month it is at the end.  Which means, I need to set money aside for the Azure order. When it is at the beginning I can get it out of the way and will know what we received and what we didn’t. One of the things with Azure is just because you order it doesn’t mean you’ll get it. On the months we are not doing Azure, I try to order other bulk items such as coconut oil.  5 gallons of coconut oil is certainly a chunk of change but will last us for a year give or take.

Something you won’t see on my shopping receipts or in my accounting is eggs.  Right now, we’re eating ‘free eggs’.  A few people purchase our surplus eggs and that is enough to cover our feed costs (plus a little extra) while the hens are laying well. I keep the ‘little extra’ aside for when they slow down their laying. During the slow time then the feed is figured into our food costs (you can see that mentioned in this post I did that covered our 2011 averages).  You will however see a charge of $30 for baby ducks.  These are straight run ducks to add to our laying flock.  In about 5 months, the hens will start laying.  The drakes will go in our freezer.  It does get a little confusing sometimes trying to figure out what is food costs and what is not.  We don’t actually have a homestead/farm category in our budget. If we did I’d probably put purchases like this into that category.  But I really think for this purpose of this project, it does make sense to put the purchase of new ducks under food. After all, the eggs they lay will be our food and some will become actual food.  Does that make sense? What would you do?

Speaking of adding confusion. Another thing you will see this month in our food budget is the purchase of hunting tags. Actually let me rephrase that. The entry into hunting draws. In May, my huband and one daughter will put in for their antelope tags. They’ll know in July (I believe) if they got their draw choices.  The hunt is not until September. So while we pay now we won’t get our ‘food’ until September. And that of course assumes the hunts are successful. 

One other thing to note, we have a separate budget for dining out. This month we will be going out for Kiki’s 17th birthday (17!). And we had money left over from last month’s dining out budget.  We used to co-mingle dining out and groceries but it seems to work better for us to keep it separate. It really keeps us on track to not eat out except for ‘special’ occasions. At least that is the plan. This week we did have a dine out time that was not special. I had packed us a lunch when we knew we would be away from home but left the lunch at home! We picked up sandwiches in town and that was a mistake. My husband still has an upset stomach from his sandwich. Dining out becomes more and more challenging.

I’m sure there are plenty of things that I’m forgetting to tell you about our budget. If something comes up then I’ll share in a future post. Since this experience lasts from April 23 to May 22 I’ll have plenty of opportunity on these Monday reports!

Here is what we have spent so far:


Smiths= $43.26

Sushi papers (Nori)
5 pounds Tillamook Cheese
3 pounds organic unsalted butter
1 pineapple
3 pounds onions
1 frozen tuna steak

Natural Grocers= $42.94 (all organic produce)

1 pound strawberries
1 head leaf lettuce
1 bunch spinach
1 bunch beets with greens
2 pounds carrots
1 bunch rainbow chard
2 pounds old fashioned oats
1 Lara bar
1 jar Bubbies pickles
2 jars organic grape juice
2 pounds Sucanat
4 ounces gorgonzola cheese
1 jar peanut butter

A few notes:

Tillamook cheese– Tillamook products are made with hormone free milk. I meant to order raw cheese from Azure but forgot. It is only about $1 per pound difference (raw more).

Old Fashined Oats– I usually buy these in bulk but Azure hasn’t been shipping them for me. Bummer.

Juice– I use this for kefir soda. 1 jar makes 4 gallons of soda. When I open the jar, I use it to make one batch and then divide up the remaining and store in the freezer to use as needed. It was on sale so I bought 2 which will be enough for almost 2 months at our current consumption.

Other purchases this week:

Ducks= $30

Total so far: $116.20
Budgeted amount: $575
Amount remaining: $458.80

On Wednesday I’ll be sharing the time portion of this week. How much time does a real food kitchen take?  The time portion will also include what we ate. Part of this month’s experience is not doing  a menu plan each week (a definite departure from the normal for me) and that has certainly been interesting for me! I’m not sure if I like it or not yet. 

So there is week one of the budget.

What do you think? Do you shop to ‘fill the pantry’ or do you use a different method? Or maybe you just “wing it”? Share in the comments.

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