Tuesday, April 28, 2009

There She Blows

Thanks to the winds, the mini-greenhouse got blown over, spilling dozens of plants. I was able to salvage most of them, but I did lose about 2 dozen tomatoes. Not to worry ~ I have hundreds more growing. But, what a mess! It happened during the rain that dumped 5 inches on us.

Question: What would a reasonable budget for food be, for a family of 7?

My Answer: $400 a month.

Let me explain. We are in the process of eliminating debt using Dave Ramsey's proven method. We have a long ways to go, but we're dedicated to the mission. We decided to see a financial counselor to get a check up, so to speak. She went over our budget and suggested we cut the food budget in half. Um, WHAT?! 7 people should eat 100% of their meals on $200 a month? I have a pantry, but it's not THAT well stocked right now.

We didn't guesstimate correctly last fall when we were canning. It was the first year we decided to actually can enough to last us until this year's harvest. We under estimated on everything. So, I'm shopping more than I thought I would.

Also included in that budget are seeds & plants that will produce (raspberries & blueberries to name a few.)

I'm a very careful shopper and have a price book plus I'm now couponing in hopes that I can save money every place I can. (I used to just buy the store brand or at Aldi's but I'm discovering that I can often get better deals on the name brands by using coupons during a sale.) Also included are the products I use to make my own laundry soap, shampoo, conditioner and cleaners.

What isn't included in that budget is the cost of feed for the chickens, cats, dogs, and other pets. She insinuated that we might want to get rid of all the pets in order to apply that money to the debt. Again, I see her angle, but the pets (and chickens) add to our quality of life and we won't be getting rid of them. Plus, my chickens feed me. :D

I don't know why this is still rubbing me the wrong way (we met with her in Feb.) but it is. I guess I'd just really like to know how a family of 7 can eat 84 meals on $200 a month. I do buy 25 pounds of rice at the Chinese market and I am growing beans, so heck, we could do the beans-n-rice meals that Dave always spouts about, but I'm sure that we'd be sick of them by day 3.

We eat a ton of veggies. In the summer, we eat stir fry nearly every night. If it's not stir fry, it's grilled veggies. We love them. In the winter/early spring, we don't eat as many because it's not in the budget (have you SEEN the prices at the stores lately?)

The other thing we do to help offset the budget is barter. I have swapped eggs for Elderberry plants & baked goods. One of our sons helps a neighbor in his garden in exchange for veggies. Bartering is a great way to get more food without paying for it.

What do you think? Is my $400 a month too much?


Kathie said...

I have one of those little greenhouses too. It's far too windy here for me to use it outside. I do keep it in a sunny window inside, however; and it works well for me.

As for your budget, I can't imagine feeding 7 people so I can't offer much help... do what you can I suppose. Beans & Rice is a great thing but you do need variety...

Faye Farms said...

I think your counselors idea of only spending $200 a month on groceries is unrealistic, especially for your families size. I'd like to see her shopping list for a food budget like that.

Mrs. Maker said...

I too feed a family of seven and that number seems so low. I'm only just at the beginning of my self sustainable journey, so my number isn't even as low as yours. And I agree with you whole heartedly on the pets issue. Especially with kids...they love their pets like siblings in this house.

Farmgirl Cyn said...

Freakin' insane! A family of 7 on $200??? I'd like to see HER survive on less than $8.00 a week! She probably spends that much at Starbucks every week!
Now, realistically, it COULD be done if one was raising one's own meat, produce and grains. Since most of us do not have that 'luxury", I think your previous budget of $400 is far more realistic. And, quite frankly, I applaud you for keeping it THAT low!

Bethany said...

I agree that she's being fairly unrealistic. It seems very drastic to cut the food budget that much. I have a hard enough time keeping ours under two hundred a month, and there's just two of us. And that's with me making everything from scratch and doing meatless days a couple times a week. I can't imagine how it could be done until your garden is really in full swing and you've got lots and lots of food put up.

I suppose it's her job to come up with things like that, even if they won't work. Otherwise, what else would she say... "um... can't really see anywhere to cut, sorry."

Anyway, you're on the right track keeping it as low as you are and always trying to cut it!

Becca's Dirt said...

Melissa - that almost sounds like a joke to feed a family of 7 on $50.00 a week. You have got it going on girl with the veggies and chickens. I don't have chickens yet, but they are coming. I do have a veggie garden and expect it to help with some of the food bill.

ChristyACB said...

What that person sounds to me is like someone who can't find anything else to squeeze in your budget (meaning very well done!) and so adds in this positively ridiculous statement. Good heavens..that is less than my budget and I also grow about 70% and am feeding far fewer!

Those greenhouses are so much fun...until someone puts and eye out..errr...the wind blows them over. Glad you have more than you'll need so it isn't a huge loss.

And how can anyone realistically say that someone who is in a fairly good position like yourself should get rid of pets. How very heartless.

Sue said...

I'm including a link to the USDA's food cost web site. I think you'll read it and agree that woman is totally crazy.
And I'm sorry about your greenhouse. I would've been very upset.
Link: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2008/CostofFoodJun08.pdf

fullfreezer said...

Wow! That lady is out her @$$ ! $200 a month for a family of 7! I spend way more than that on a family of 5. Depending on the week (and the season) I spend anywhere from $50 to 100 a week. We are hoping to grow a larger percentage of our food this year so hopefully that will go down.
Too bad about the greenhouse. 5 inches of rain! We had about 2.5 and that was more than enough.

ATW said...

Sorry about the green house, that sucks. It's good you can recover from it. $200 dollars, hmmmmm that makes me think that my wife and I are wasting money. Becuse we budget $250 every 2 weeks and that includes food for the animals. But according to your finncial advisor we should be budgeting around $75 dollars. I don't even want to think about the possiblities, or maybe we are too spoiled. I have to talk to my wife about this. She might agree.

Jena said...

I know I've said it before, but I just love Dave Ramsey. He is my hero! I wondered if that's the plan you were using, sorry if I missed a comment back about that.

First off, bummer about the plants! All that wasted time, I'm so sorry!

I'm not sure I'll be much help in the food budget. Right now I'm just feeding myself and my hubby so nothing like what you have to do. However, I don't think that suggestion was as out of line as other people do. He's serious about the beans and rice.

Last year I canned enough fruit for the year. This year I want to do enough veggies for the year like you mentioned. When pasta is on sale (really, really cheap) I buy enough for 6 months or so. Same with juice, soaps, soups, and cereal. We don't eat cereal anymore (too expensive w/ the milk) but I make rice crispy treats and cheerio treats w/ it. So veggies and side dishes are covered. We have our own meat now but before that we would buy a quarter at a time. I buy tons of bread on sale and freeze it, or I make it myself. Between things I make from scratch and things I stock up on, we pretty much only go to the store for dairy products every couple weeks. Then I do bigger trips once every month or two.

I hope this helps you somehow, and I'm sorry if I'm preaching to the choir. It sounds like you're way ahead of me in a lot of ways, being self-sufficient. I just know how much I spend when I go to the store so if you can stock up and stay out of there it might help.

Jenni said...

Your counselor is insane. $400 a month for 7 people is *very* good. I think she must have been grasping at straws to figure out where you could cut back spending and came up with two very lame suggestions. Sounds like you're doing pretty well to me.

Jenni said...

BTW, when it was just dh and I and one nursing baby, we were poor and very frugal by necessity. I remember our average grocery bill was around $30-$40 a week with plenty of rice, beans, and eggs in the menu. Of course, we lived in an apartment and couldn't grow anything of our own, but you've got to figure costs into growing vegetables, raising animals for meat, and canning, too.

Leslie said...

$400 a month is a very frugal food budget for a family of 7. You should be proud of that number. That is only $13.15 per day! Of course if you had to you wouldn't starve on $200/month but like you said you would be eating something over and over to keep your cost that low and maybe compromise nutrition. I hope you didn't pay for her advice. Best wishes on eliminating debt, we have been doing it ourselves and it feels sooo good.

Regarding the plants: What a mess, don't you just hate it when things like that happen?

Jennifer said...

Oh darn! I am so sorry about the green house. Glad you did not lose too much, but still.

As for the food budget I am seriously impressed with your $400 a month budget for a family of 7! I am sitting here thinking and agreeing with everyone else that gosh I guess she just had to sound like she was suggesting something for her fee, even if it was unrealistic. I just don't know how that could be done unless a family ate Ramon noodles and hot dogs every day and that would be very unhealthy. A person's health is worth more than $200 a month! The only way to do that in a healthy way would be if someone could raise all their own meat and even butcher it themselves because it costs at least $75 just to get a goat done at the butchers and that wouldn't last a family that size long. I have no idea how much it costs to get a hog or steer done. So I am not sure even being able to raise all of your own meat would do it. (I doubt it would). Your food budget is a real achievement and hers is just unrealistic.

Christy said...

Our budget is $350 for a family of 3. And I thought we were pretty frugral with food. Guess we have a long way to go!

Farmgirl Cyn said...

AAAGGGHH! I should have linked you to my "To Market, To Market" bag! I am so sorry! All I bothered to do was put the Green Bag Lady in my bookmarks sidebar, and totally forgot where i got it from. I will remedy that right now.
But...you are right! Fun and easy bag to make! I love the floral you have.

Melissa said...

I think $400 is very good for 7. We are a family of 7 and make due with just under $400 a month. It helps that my newborn is breastfeeding also. We are working to become self-sustaining urban homesteaders...I hope we can get to where you are soon.

Anita Ann said...

What that lady is crazy. I don't see how $200 a month is healthy, unless you grow everything you need and are just buying staples. We do about $400 sometimes less. We have a family of 7 but, like the above poster we have one breastfeeding.