How Eating Better {Didn’t} Break the Bank

Jeremy made a startling announcement to me the other day.

It was in the middle of yet another one of my apology and strategy sessions in which I humbly acknowledge my terrible lack of discipline in the little details of my life, specifically in the area of keeping track of cash. (I shall not make the excuse that I feel I have a 1/4 of the brain I had before motherhood. I shall not excuse myself by saying I simply do not have the time to keep a log of cash I’ve spent. I shall not point out that I haven’t lost my checkbook or credit card this month and things could be worse!)(I did lose the keys but that’s another – painful – story) I shall simply confess that I’m a complete failure, yet I’m trying once again this month, to keep track of my cash. This month, I said, I’m going to —

And that’s where he stopped me. Dead in my tracks. With what I thought was a segue to a less painful subject.

“I do want to thank you.” He said, wrapping his arms around me, halting me in my tracks as I rushed around the kitchen fixing lunch. I had no idea where this was going. He’s not the manipulative type. Was he changing the subject, or commending my measly efforts to try again?

“You have done an incredible job staying with the budget.”

I have? How could he tell? When I did so poorly giving him account for my spending? Was he serious?

Well, we use an electronic budgeting system called Mvelopes, from Crown Financial Ministries, which tracks all our credit card, check payments, and cash (IF I manually enter it!) That morning he’d gone back in the records and, with a bit of guess work and averaging out, he had managed to get a good picture of what we’ve spent on groceries each year since the beginning of our marriage.

He said in the beginning we were budgeting $250 a month for our family, which included the two of us plus a little one half-baked. Fast forward 6 years, 3 children, and a bad economy, and we have only increased our grocery budget by $100 (plus or minus the cash I spend each month on raw milk – that portion I can never seem to keep track of!). We’re feeding a family of 5 for $350 a month.

I was shocked, and, as you can imagine, very encouraged. Not only were my efforts to be economical in shopping and food prep paying off, but here was proof that this whole ‘cooking from scratch’ thing really does save you money. 

You see, since we got married, we’ve been on a constant journey to eat healthier. For us, this means more whole foods and less processed stuff. It means good fats, cleaner meats, properly prepared grains, and fresh, raw dairy. Yet even as we ate healthier, added 3 people to the family, and the economy sagged, our efforts to eat healthier did not break the budget.

Actually, I believe it’s what’s saved the budget. The fact is, when you choose more whole foods, and begin cooking more from scratch in your own kitchen, you WILL save money, even when you’re choosing more expensive ingredients like coconut oil, natural sweeteners, and farm fresh eggs. You save because

  • You learn to buy in bulk, from the coop or warehouse store
  • You’re not spending money on all the packaging and preservatives of boxed food
  • You’re often buying locally, which is cheaper for everyone ’cause food isn’t being hauled around
  • You’re eating out less
  • Your food is nourishing you well, meaning less sickness, time off work, and trips to the doctor. 

So, I just wanted to encourage you – if you’re afraid to take steps toward better nutrition, afraid of what it will do to your budget — relax. Take a deep breath. It’s not that bad. In fact, it may actually save you money.

I will note, though, that in order for a healthier diet to be budget friendly, it must center around buying whole, unprocessed foods and preparing them in your own kitchen, not simply switching your purchases to every package with an “Organic” or “All Natural” label at the grocery store. It involves learning to bake your own bread, mix your own seasoning packages, use all of the chicken (even the bones), and making your own pie crust and the filling.

If that’s overwhelming or foreign to you, I’ve got good news – I wrote a book all about how I actually have time to make all our food from scratch, even with three busy little children in the picture. It’s called Real {Fast} Food, full of familiar, tasty recipes, and it’s a pdf you can download in seconds, or you can purchase it for your kindle or nook. Let me help you learn how to save time and money in your kitchen!

And if you can’t afford the $6 for my ebook, please email me. I’d still love for you to benefit from the practical advice I have to offer.

8 responses to “How Eating Better {Didn’t} Break the Bank”

  1. Trina Avatar

    Hi, Jenni! Oh, thanks for your encouragement! Do sign up to be an affiliate – We're having a neat sale for Christmas this month (more later!)

  2. Jenni @MomEssentials Avatar

    Trina, I just bought your book and browsed through it. It's wonderful! I think I need to sign up as an affiliate, because I'd like to share your information. I have a set of recipes too, but they are more to transition people to the kind of food preparation you teach. I am grateful I found you and look forward to trying some of your recipes soon!

  3. Miki Avatar

    Wow, girl $350 a month is fantastic! Feeding me and my 3 kids still at home costs me more than that…. of course my Noah's appetite is gone straight through the roof now that he is approaching adolescence. I swear that boy eats as much as me and the two girls combined! eeek. He's been growing at a rate of almost an inch a month since last Christmas… I'm hoping his eating will slow done once his rate of growth does. Even then, I don't think I'll get down to under $400 a month.

    Well done, thou good and faithful homemaker:)

  4. Trina Avatar

    Jyl – yumm! can I come for leftovers? ๐Ÿ™‚
    Amy – I can work on a post about that for you!
    Kateri- you are so right. And I agree about the whole organic thing – it's more significant, in my mind, to learn to cook from scratch than to switch to all organic. I think the only people who could really justify the expense of organic would be those with an environmental disease or compromised immune systems who need to aggressively protect themselves from as many chemicals as possible.
    you're bulk meat purchase is an inspiration to me!

  5. Kateri Avatar

    Ah, but have you ever misplaced $200 cash? (Yep, that was me one month ago–I put it in a safe place to pay the well inspection guy and still haven't found it.) Or have you ever misplaced ALL your important personal documents–including passports, marriage certificate, birth certificates,social security cards, and baptismal certificates? (Yep that was me right after we got married–I put both of our personal documents together in a folder and put it in a safe place and it hasn't been seen since.) My husband still loves me though. ๐Ÿ™‚

    One of the things that drives me crazy is when my patients insist that they can't eat healthy becasue they are poor. I want to scream at them, yes you can! Guess what, if are a diabetic with out of control blood sugar or if you have heart failure, eating processed junk is going to speed up your death dramatically. You CAN'T afford to not eat healthy! Just buy real food and cook it yourself! Buy non organic fruits and vegetables in season, buy whole wheat flour, beans, rice and learn how to cook with them. Buy your non organic eggs, cheese, chicken, lean beef and pork when these things are on sale. Buy double what you need when things are on sale and stick them in the freezer or the pantry.

    Buying organic would be ideal, but I will admit that that does get expensive and I don't do it myself all the time. I don't see that making a huge difference in peoples health though, at least not their immediant health.

    To be honest, I am not sure how much I spend a month on food. I buy large quanities of certain things when they are on sale (For an example I just bought 40 lbs of strip steak @ 3.89 lb…yes, it was a chunk of money up front, but we will be eating it for at least the next 3-4 months and I couldn't pass up good beef at a price that round is sold at.)

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    I would personally love to see what a weeks worth of eating looks like at your house.
    Amy ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Kristina Avatar

    It is funny that you would write about this. Ray and I have just been talking about how much we spend on food and how we need to really start watching what we buy. Coupons are NOT always the way to go. You have to be very careful in how you use them! Thank you for the encouragment!

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Wow, I am impressed. Out here I spend about 440 a month for 2 adults and a toddlers. Even the most frugal couple I know (MK from Africa) spends about 350 a month. I am really hoping some of that is cost of living. ๐Ÿ™‚ One thing I think I can do though is to start doing more of the baking, bread, torillas, etc. That would be about forty a month. By the way, I have your baked oatmeal in the oven. ๐Ÿ™‚ and it encourages me that you have a hard time keeping track of your cash expenses too! ๐Ÿ™‚

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