Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Whole Foods Budgeting 101

A delicious Strawberry I plan to eat in 2012

2012 has brought me a task of super mommy epic proportions.  Or, that is, my husband Jeremy has charged me with coming up with a grocery budget of $400 while still eating locally grown, organic food.  "Oh, that will be easy honey!" I say as I bite my lip and grab a pen and paper.  One thing that makes budgeting so easy with local food is that it's a flat rate with no extra tax.  I know exactly to the dollar what my grocery bill will be!  OK, I have THAT going for me....but not much else!  Feeding a family of 4 good wholesome food on $400/month, is...a stretch.  BUT, I have to do it, so I thought I would share this information with you!  I am sure many of us are in  budget crunch mode.  Truth be told, I could sacrifice quality and have more money for...what...snack food?  McDonald's?  But, what good will that do for our health?  NO, I am staying the course and enforcing our whole food lifestyle, and I am super mommy, budget green extraordinaire, and I am going to DO THIS!  Will you join me?  Will you make 2012 your healthiest year yet while staying on a budget fit for a lower middle class family?  Let's forge ahead, shall we?

Here it is.  Of course, you can tweak to your families needs.  If you don't eat meat, you have a lot to play with there, and if you don't drink milk, well, there ya go!  But, this is a pretty standard, 5 food group budget list.  Keep in mind, this is per month- not per week!

$70 10 gallons of milk- (yeah, my milk is worth every Penny!!!) 2 gallons are made into yogurt *I make my own yogurt with our milk (if you would like a starter, I am happy to oblige).
$13-1 gallon of cream *I make my own butter- and yes, it's easy, and no- I am not Amish
$15 cheese

$35/week.  I get a produce box from Nature's Garden Delivered, and allot myself $35/week for a variety of local/regional and some exotic fruits and vegetables.  It is delivered to my door!  *Many people ask what we do for snacks because we don't buy crackers and the like.  Answer: fruit and/or cheese

$51 Chicken- 3 whole chickens per month(about $17/chicken) A great way to stretch your buck because you can roast on day one, and make a beautiful soup on days 2 and 3.
$40 fish/seafood- Wide variety- salmon, shrimp, tuna (preferably from Vital Choice)
$20 Beef- this gives you a good pound of ground beef/week at $5/lb.  When you buy in bulk, you can typically get grass fed beef at this price.
$15 eggs

Nuts and Legumes
3 jars of peanut butter, or possibly adding in a bag of nuts here and there.  Prices fluctuate more because I buy these at the store, but I am looking into providing this for my co-op, which will improve the price and maintain a great quality!

$5 1 bag of quality oats (kept in the freezer to avoid oxidation of nutrients)
$5 Bag of Organic Brown Rice
We have limited most gluten in our diets for the time being.  The grain I have in the cabinet is calling my name, but I am happy to give it up for awhile.  At least grain lasts 7 years!! 

The painful truth.  I only have money for 1 lb of coffee per month.  I'm not quite over it, but I will just have to settle for 1 cup per day and hope that I sell a lot of books to up my coffee budget.  Sigh.

And this, folks, equals $400.  I haven't figured out how to add healthy oils besides my homemade butter, etc., but I am planning to use the months with an extra pay check to buy these items in bulk.  Also, if I am out of local raw honey, I will just subtract from one of these areas for a week to afford the extra staple I need.

Did I help you or did I make you more confused?  You might have questions like, "Anna, now we need to see a weekly meal planner to see how exactly you stretch that into 336 meals (that would be 3 meals a day for a month, for a fam of 4.)  Um yeah, I'll get back to you on blog, OK??

Right now, I am going to munch on a delicious celery stick, and come up with an answer to that question!

Happy Grocery Shopping, Everyone!!


  1. You have indeed inspired and confused me. I look forward to seeing that meal plan. I have to be honest, I'm having a hard time doing $125 and we don't do all whole foods. Now, I confess, we do a lb of coffee a week. :(

    I guess my other question is ... how much time does it take to make your own yogurt, butter, etc. Obviously, you're just as busy if not busier than any other working mom ... being a published author and all :) ... so you must have some kind of groove to get it all fit in.

    One last question ... how do you get in on getting produce delivered to your home? We have moved to an area of town that is far removed from everything. So it's a chore to get to the store or a produce market. I'm all about home delivery.

    (Thanks for sharing all your wisdom and experience!)

  2. Janie, These are fabulous questions!!! I will definitely sort this out in some blog briefly answer them:
    1. $125 is much more reasonable (and easy) to eat whole foods than $100- that $25 makes a huge difference and adds flexibility- the 1 lb of coffee per week will just add to your mental clarity in getting adjusted to the whole foods way of life. :)

    Because I use fresh, ready to go ingredients- meat, vegetables, and rice, let's say- I'm a 15 minute- 30 minute meal guru. The braeds took a little time with milling and what not, but I am not making bread at the moment. The roasted chicken is quick to get ready, and then it just has to bake for 1 hour and 15-20 minutes. Once we eat our meal of chicken and root veggies, I just toss the carcass(i know, gross word)and leftover veggies into a stock pot and cover with water. Let it steep all night, and boom- soup for the next 2 days! So yes, a system is key. I find that simplifying my meal selection, and knowing that we always have soup after we have a roast chicken, brings a sense of peace about knowing what we are eating. I don't have to think very hard after a long day! And because it is whole and delicious, the food satisfies, and you aren't sick of it.
    Butter- takes 10 minutes once a month. Yogurt, 30 seconds once a week. That's a wrap! Once you get the hang of things, it is just as simple as tossing a chinese frozen meal into a skillet.

    Last question- I have seen local produce delivery companies in FL- I would google "produce delivery in (insert your town) and see what comes up, or ask at the farmers market if anyone knows.

  3. I'm so interested in learning how to make butter and yogurt. We do buy organic food and use alot of veggies and I do meal prep. We also buy grass fed usually bison and cage/range free chicken. I am interested in learning of your co ops as well. Do you use pet (raw) milk? We get milk, cheese, eggs from Chads farm on Wednesday's. Please share as I would like more info.

  4. I am so inspired Anna, thanks for the blog. I too would love to see the meals you could make with only that for groceries. We eat out way to much and it stresses me out not to have more of a system for meals. My husband is not a believer in how different foods effect your body (good/bad) and doesn't eat healthy at all. I wish I could get him onboard but he doesn't want to hear it. Okay, enough venting :) I guess I'll keep praying that he doesn't die before he changes his eating habits and do the best I can for the rest of us. Can you please message me information about your co-op? Kim Nurmi

  5. Hey Anna! What about budgeting for bread? I see that you are not currently doing that right now but maybe I can pick your brain on this. . .?
    Also, what about things like toilet paper, soaps, and other non-food items. . .? Obviously you put them under a seperate budget?? I know some things you make.
    I am so looking forward to reading your book!
    And yes, we will be back on the NGD boat soon!

    1. Hi Vanessa!
      I miss you!! OK, bread- it is great because it is so cost effective. I buy my grains in bulk at breadbeckers, or similar companies. I would add these ingredients (bread is about $2.50/loaf) into my grain budget. Obviously, the grain is a big up-front investment. You could withhold a small amount from each month to have available to buy the grain when you are out, or you can wait for your tax returns or extra pay checks to buy your bulk foods.

  6. Thanks for taking the time to reply so thoroughly. And I'm totally not afraid of the word carcass.

    So, let me get this right ... you just throw the whole carcass in? And you don't have to heat the water overnight? Just let it sit there? Sounds too good to be true.

    One more question ... seasoning? Do you use fresh herbs or do you ever buy dry spices?

  7. Janie....OK, I wasn't super thorough in the stock making comment. Yes, you bring it to a boil for a minute or two, then turn it to low, cover tilted on the pot, and let it steep overnight. I also pull the bones apart to get ample gelatin in my stocks. You just want as much bone showing as possible. I will try to make a video- but I am sure you can look up stock videos on you tube. I use grey sea salt (tamise) as well as cracked pepper, and other fresh herbs. I do use dried herbs if I don't have fresh. I love Pensey's spices- they don't use any MSG, and are a really good quality. Frontier also has a ton of herb selection, among other things.

  8. Do you buy your dairy local? Is it organic? I cannot find 1 gallon of cream in Orlando for $13 if I buy local and organic. Just curious due to the big price difference. Do you buy all organic?

  9. Hi Anonymous, and thanks for reading!! I do buy organic dairy. More importantly, though, is that you know if your farmer uses pesticides on their pasture, or if they use growth hormones, etc. Many farmers don't pay to have the organic certification even though they farm with those principles. The organic cream for $13 is a good deal for grass fed dairy. Raw cream is going to be more in the neighborhood of $40/gallon, or $10 for a quart, which is how it is often sold. I do eat a variety of organic, or local food that I know is farmed using organic principles but is not certified. Regional prices will vary, so your dairy might be higher, but your produce might be less, for instance. If you have any other questions, let me know!

  10. (Might be an idea for you to make a little extra $ to buy more coffee...) Would pay to attend a class on making yogurt and/or cheese. Using local ingredients. Would you consider doing something like that? And I've GOT to start shopping at the market--since moving here I've fallen into the bad habit of depending on the local grocery stores, when everything within us is local, local, local.

    1. Hi Cheeky! I love teaching classes, and have taught a yogurt/butter making class before. Making your own yogurt is a huge money saver, and my starter makes it crazy easy to make! Send me your email and I will get in touch with you. I also have peeps asking for a bread class.

  11. When we were just 2, I pushed $500+ a month for groceries. Now that we are three, I cannot stay near the $500 to save my life. Admittedly, we eat a ton, and I do mean a *ton*, of greek yogurt - all 3 of us, which tends to easily add $20-30 to a grocery bill a week.

    How you are endeavoring to stay under $400 is amazing and inspiring. I can only wish to do the same.

    1. Hey Yazmin! Thanks for your comment. I know it is very difficult- even conventional foods are really expensive. I have struggled with the $100/week, I'm not gonna lie! BUT, making your own yogurt is a HUGE money saver, and I would be delighted to hook you up with a yogurt starter. Greek yogurt is just regular yogurt that has been strained through cheese cloth, so it's thicker, and since some of the whey is removed, it is higher in protein. I have requests for a yogurt class, so let me know if you're interested!

    2. Good idea. I think I'll buy a half carton of whole milk to try it out this week.

      If I mess it up, I will definitely be interested in the class. :)

    3. Great! Let me know how it goes! You can connect to my facebook page on here, or send me an email at if you need some help!