How Much it Costs to Feed Me

I have a thing for numbers.  Not math.  I hate math.  I suck at math, but when it comes to creating budgets I'm good at it and I'm fascinated (although sometimes disturbed) with knowing how much things cost.  Now that my normal meal plan has been firmly established for well over a year, I thought it would be interesting to see exactly how much it costs to feed me.  I've heard people say that eating healthy is not expensive, but I've never believed them.  Whole foods are not cheap, and when was the last time you saw a coupon for a bag of apples or a pack of meat?  Yes, those things do go on sale, but you will never find 3rd party coupons for them the way you do for things like Zatarain's rice and pasta dinner mix or Aunt Millie's hamburger buns. I got a thick coupon book from McDonald's in the mail full of the usual burgers and deep fried chicken, but they couldn't be bothered to include a single coupon for one of their premium salads.

This list of foods and prices were collected from several receipts over a period of months, and is a comprehensive listing of everything I meal prep and eat on a daily basis.  When I say everything, I mean everything.  My shopping list is saved as a note in my phone and it rarely changes. I eat out on Friday night and Saturday night always.  I'm sorry, but ground turkey and broccoli while I watch my Friday night movie does not cut it.  I don't mind eating the same thing every week, but I have my limits.  I might take a week off here and there, but for the most part I meal prep every week, and this is what I've been eating for the last year and a half. Same old, same old because I'm just not that into cooking. 

Peanut Butter (40oz):  $5.48  --$1.27 per week
Almonds (@6.99 per lb): $9.50  --$3.05 per week
Weekly Total:  $4.32

Whole Wheat Tortilla (12 ct): $2.46  --$1.43 per week
100% Whole Wheat Bread (8oz/18 slices): $2.96-$3.42--$2.66 per week (I eat 5 days per week .95)
Ezekial Bread 4:9 (24oz/20 slices): $4.99  --$3.49 per week (I eat this weekends only $1.50)
Fiber 1 Cereal (16oz): $3.74  --.87 per week
Weekly Total:  $4.75

Ground Turkey 93/7 (48 oz): $8.96
Boneless Chicken Breast (2.0 lbs @1.98 lb): $9.51 or
Boneless Chicken Tenders (2.0 lbs @4.95 lb): $7.18 x 2 or
Boneless Chicken Tenders (1.25 lbs): $4.95 x 2
Weekly Total:  $23.32

Fruits & Vegetables
Green Onions: $1.18  --0.59 per week
Frozen Bell Pepper Strips (14 oz): $2.18  --$1.09 per week
Broccoli (2.4 lbs@1.26 lb): $3.02
Shredded Carrots: $1.67  --0.84 per week
Baby Carrots (32 oz): $2.34  --$3.07 per week
Apple (@.97 per lb): $2.33  --$2.76 per week
Weekly Total:  $11.37  

Skim Milk (1/2 Gallon): $1.67  --0.84 per week
Fage Total 0% Yogurt (35 oz): $5.98  --$9.57 per week
Weekly Total:  $10.41

Stevia (80 ct):  $3.96  --$1.04 per week (I also use this in my Fage)
Creamer (16 oz): $3.18  --0.74 per week
K-Cup (72ct): $35.00 --$3.43 per week
Weekly Total:  $5.21*
*I only use K cups on weekends because coffee is free at work so actual expense is closer to .98 weekly, but I do occasionally stop for $1.25 coffee at 7-11 so I did not adjust.

Wine o'clock: 1 bottle $4.97

Total Spent Weekly $64.35
Total Spent Monthly $257.40

The weekly and monthly totals do not include sales tax.  They also do not include cinnamon to sweeten my Fage or the spices, reduced sodium soy sauce, and reduced sodium Worcestershire sauce ($3.42) that I use to season my meat. It does not include Reduced Fat Ritz Crackers ($1.98) and Pretzels ($1.98) which I like to keep on hand to snack on from time to time.  I almost didn't include my wine because it's not even food, but lets get real, I'm pretty consistent about my weekly wine habit, so even though it might make me look like a wino it made sense to add. 

I know these numbers to be true because I am that person who know exactly how many ounces of everything I eat and can tell you exactly how many ounces are in a pound or how many grams make an ounce without looking it up.  The only thing I did not calculate based on the exact portion size is creamer and peanut butter.  I just eye ball it.  I divided those prices by 30 days because I think I have to replace them about once a month or so.

What this tells me is that eating healthy isn't cheap, at least I don't think it is.  Minus the coffee accoutrements and the wine this is the cost for a healthy diet consisting of 100% whole foods.  Processed food tends to be more expensive.  Right?  So I imagine that my bill would be even higher if I those were a big part of my purchases.

I saved so much money when I didn't eat.  I will never go back to that, but sadly it's true.  It's also sad that I don't even know if I could have afforded $250 a month for groceries back then.  I may have, but it would have been so tight.  I didn't know how to eat properly back then, but even if I had wanted to I'm sure that I would have been put off by how much it costs.

The numbers also tell me that although I did a pretty good job of estimating, I may be a bit under on our joint grocery budget.  When I did Whole30 it cost $520.00 for me alone for 30 days!  I was floored.  After that, I increased our budget from $350 to $500 because we were making changes in our diets and I realized that $350 was not realistic.  If it takes $250 just to feed me, it definitely costs a more to feed my husband because he eats a lot more protein.  He changes his meal plans up a little bit more than I do, but when he returns home it will be interesting to calculate exactly how much it costs to feed him.  And we may have to increase our budget.  Ugh. 

 So how do I stack up? Am I spending too much?

The IRS National Standard for monthly food expense is $345 for 1, $612 for 2, and $737 for 3.  According to the official USDA Food Plan, Thrifty is $164.20, Low-Cost is $207.50, Moderate is $256.30 and Liberal is $327.10 monthly for a female of my age.  For a male & female family of two our $500 budget puts us between low cost and liberal.  According to this Gallup poll from 2012 the American family reports spending an average of $604 per month. In San Diego County a household can qualify for up to $194 for 1, $357 for 2, and $511 per month for 3 through the SNAP government assistance program.

Sometimes when I go through the check out and my total is $85.00, I'm shocked because I realize just how expensive it is to keep yourself fed, and that doesn't even include keeping yourself housed and clothed.  But what else can I do to spend less? 

Giving up coffee and wine isn't an option.

There are probably a few swaps I could make, but overall the cost of whole foods is the cost of whole foods and there isn't much I can do about it.  I buy Ezekiel Bread and Almonds in bulk at Sprouts.  I shop at my Neighborhood Walmart for everything else because it's close to home and cheap.  I am sure the totals would be much higher if I shopped at Ralph's or Von's.  I admit, Ezekiel bread is kind of a luxury item. Fage is pricey, but it's the best.  Regular carrots are probably cheaper, but baby carrots taste so much better.  The biggest swap I could (and probably should make) is to stick with the whole chicken breasts instead of the pre-cut tenders.  It bothers me that I am paying so much more just because I don't have to cut it, but raw meat is gross, and it's easier to have it done for me.  Those thick breasts take so much longer to cook and I got so sick of eating them that way.  I refuse to buy more than two at a time and since it's just me, I'm allowing myself to do it.  Also, since it's just me I don't feel the need to splurge on a "nice" bottle of wine. 

How do you stack up when it comes to your grocery expenses?  Do tell.  I'm fascinated.


Laura Darling said...

I love posts like this! I spend about $85/week on groceries, for me and my husband. This includes little household items I have to pick up, like toothpaste or dish soap. It's expensive to eat healthy! I try to meal plan and base what we eat by what's on sale, but I can't get it much below $85!

Vera Ezimora said...

Girl ......!!!

I have no idea how much it costs to feed me and my family (four people in total, including a milk-loving toddler), but I just know that I don't like paying for it.

Kate at Green Fashionista said...

This is amazing! And I love that you included wine o'clock <3
Green Fashionista

Carly Blogs Here said...

I've never thought about there never being coupons for things that are healthy, but that's so true. I always get sad/mad when I complain about how hard/expensive it is for us to buy whole foods and we live pretty comfortably-- when you think of people who really have to stretch their budget just to eat, it has to be so, so hard to make healthy choices.

Faith said...

I spend roughly $125 per week. Includes food & treats for my two dogs & cat. I meal prep so everything bought is used. I hate nothing more than wasting food. It really is expensive to eat healthy but I think meal prepping saves a ton of money as you're only buying what you'll use that week, etc.

Such a fascinating post. It's interesting to know what others budget & grocery shopping look like!

Stephanie said...

I found this so interesting, I love seeing the numbers like that. I have a post on this in my drafts but I never hit publish on it because people can be SO judgmental, and I just haven't felt like dealing with that! Maybe one day I'll just suck it up and publish it.

For myself personally, my monthly total is at or under the 'thrifty' number, I haven't tracked or finalized the math. I eat totally vegan, so basically cut your protein and dairy categories and that's me. Which are the most expensive categories, so it's cheap to be vegan haha! I mean, add in lots of beans and more veggies, but those are cheap. John certainly makes up for my lack of meat with his intake though, that's for sure.

Jackie Jade said...

This is so interesting! I have noooooo idea what I really spend on food since it changes constantly. I feel like if I were alone it could be pretty cheap since I'm vegetarian but spend more with getting protein for my husband. I've started to shop more on Amazon for some of our staples (things like Stevia and coffee etc) to save some money, so hopefully that will help. I'd love to see how much I spend but also nervous to actually add it all up ha.