About 6 months ago, when the tanking economy and rising food prices still caused some surprise, I found myself on the playground with a bunch of other moms discussing our weekly grocery bills. I couldn't help thinking that I had hit the big time of suburban motherhood. Who knew how fascinating this topic could be!
At that point each of us estimated spending about $125/week on groceries for 2 parents and 1 or 2 little ones. It was surprising to me that we all came up with the same number, especially since some of us were spending this amount at discount stores, some at Costco, some at Safeway, and then me at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. I can only attribute this phenomenon to a difference in products purchased. Although I probably spend more for produce, dairy, and pantry staples, I do not buy meat, nor a lot of processed foods which tend to cost more than scratch ingredients.
Since that time things have changed. Sam is eating more and more (often as much as an adult! I don't know where it all goes, and we'd better start saving for his teenage diet now). We have also taken a huge personal hit due to the general economy and particularly the California budget crisis. Just when our grocery bill started to creep up, we needed to cut it way back.
Since I don't get performance reviews and I certainly don't get raises, I'm just going to toot my own horn here for any of you still reading this scintillating report. For the past three weeks and counting, I have managed to get our grocery bill well under $100/week. I still buy quality food and a large proportion organic and local. I've done it by cutting out some of our few processed items (and if this causes my favorite fresh salsa company to go out of business I will be very sad because I am dreaming of eating it again when times get better), buying a little less cheese and a little more beans and grains, picking produce carefully based on price, delaying each food shop as long as possible, and (most importantly) diligently menu-planning. The funny thing is that in some ways we are eating even better than before. Maybe being more conscious about our food choices makes me cook better. Or maybe food is the sole semi-discretionary spending we have left in our budget, so it's the only thing left to enjoy.