Years of grad school. Two kids. Husband and I finally had made it: a 1950s ranch in a good school district, a 6-seat vehicle in the driveway, and enough money to not worry too much about our food bills.
And then the sky fell. The solid job that lifted us out of genteel academic poverty got yanked, and my husband’s income disappeared. My less-lucrative but more stable job covers a very reduced household budget, if we’re very careful.
After the initial panic when my husband delivered the news, I sat down with notebooks and excel spreadsheets to see just how bad it was. Obviously, we had to tighten our belts – but how far? We’ve been moving towards eating more locally grown foods and more sustainably-farmed foods for years; we’ve got ethical and professional concerns about food quality and its effects on our kids.
How well could we eat on the budget we’d set?
As it turns out, pretty well.
We’re lucky in that we’ve got resources: A fully stocked and functioning kitchen, access to a great grocery store and an incredible farmers market, and a lot of experience in shopping, budgeting, and cooking.
My plan for this blog is to document how we put those resources to work to try to maintain our food lifestyle as far as we could do so. I’m not going to post actual grocery receipts, and I’m not going to post every detail of our financial life. I’m still working to discover our optimal food budget.
I also will continue to examine my own privilege in the ways in which we were better set to embark on this enforced experiment than someone who’d never been better off.
The USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan puts the weekly cost of food for our family at 156.40 per week. I started, naively, with a goal of $100, but now I shoot for $125. With that, I’m buying organic meat and milk where possible. Our CSA was pre-paid last fall before the layoff, but when that starts up in June I hope to reduce grocery costs further.