On Food Costs

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I have to say, I’m a little surprised at the comments I got on my Food Dollars post. Most of the responses revealed a huge level of frugality when it comes to grocery shopping. When I think about food bloggers I generally don’t think cheap, but at the same time it goes to show how little food costs us these days. Almost everyone who responded around the “thrifty” level of spending (based on the USDA charts) – and so many of you are cooking whole foods, not convenience stuff.


We’re lucky to be in control of our food purchases, but what about those who aren’t? So many have to rely on the local food banks, food stamps, and WIC to be able to have enough to eat. Subsidized school lunch programs provide free food for what is often the only, and best, food the kids eat all day.

041.365, score!

Starting tomorrow, Austin food bloggers will be cooking using items in a typical bag of food provided by the Capital Area Food Bank. We are purchasing our own food, so as not to take any food away from people who truly need it. We don’t know yet how we are allowed to supplement the bags (to stand in for food stamps) but I definitely will be, in order to get in our fresh fruits and vegetables, along with dairy.

It will surely be interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the bloggers do. This will be a lesson not only in frugality, but in kitchen creativity. I plan on doing a recap of every day, including a cost breakdown. My challenge will go a day longer, because Saturday has already been set aside for another cooking project, which you’ll also hear all about.

Tomorrow evening we’ll be touring the Capital Area Food Bank and hearing how the program works. I’ll be posting a recap of what we learn, what my game plan is for the challenge, and how you can help, tomorrow night.

By the way, Food, Inc is on PBS tomorrow night. If you haven’t watched this yet, you NEED to. There are great lessons in there about our food system, and the segment about the fast-food family is particularly on-topic with this challenge.

One Comment

  1. The comments on that post really shocked me too (so much so that I felt embarrassed to say how much we spend, for fear of people calling us spoiled or something). But you know what? I’ll do it!

    We typically spend between $200-$300 per week for the two of us. We shop at three Austin-area farmers’ markets each week and we buy 95% of our food from there (including all meat, all eggs, all dairy, almost all vegetables, etc.) and we supplement with a small amount from the grocery store (some dried goods, spices, alcohol, etc.). We cook pretty much every day–all meals–and we also like to try lots of new things, like new kinds of beer or wine and whatnot.

    To be truthful, I often feel that some of the food we buy is too CHEAP. For example, we pay $3.00 for good quality buttermilk at the farmers’ market. Good quality buttermilk at Central Market costs us $3.99. I feel like I am ripping off the milk lady by paying her less for a product that I enjoy more. Same goes with much of the meat or seafood or produce that we buy. I feel such an attachment to the farmers that I want to give them a fair price for something I value so highly.

    Other countries spend a much larger proportion of their income on food, whereas we here in America do not. I don’t feel that we should be cutting costs as much as possible when it comes to food–it’s the very stuff that nourishes us and keeps us alive! We should instead be prioritizing so that we can afford high quality food, while still providing a decent wage for farmers, and we should decrease the amount we spend on non-essentials like going to the movies or buying new clothes. I know a lot of people don’t agree with this, but I personally have no qualms paying $4 for a dozen eggs. I’d pay $8 if it that’s what it took to get healthy, whole foods for my loved ones and to provide a living wage for the farmers and their loved ones.

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