A Peek into My Summer Produce Spending

I did our weekly produce run yesterday at Sami Fruits. A major wholesaler and retailer of fruits and vegetables located in the Montréal area. Definitely not organic or local, but oh man is it cheap. And cheap fruits and veggies are a nice change. (The photos in this post are not from this discount produce market but from Jean-Talon.)

I used to have this idea, back when the kids were little and I was not working outside (or inside) our home for pay, that when I started working and earning money it would help towards the "extras". Now that I'm starting to contribute to the family finances I realize any extra I earn simply goes to help buy the groceries. 

I don't talk grocery budget numbers on FIMBY because my grocery spending would make all the tightwads feel superior to me, which is funny since I'm quite frugal but I just can't cut our groceries anymore without significantly adjusting our diet (which I'm not willing to do). Or it would make all you readers with young ones cry at how much it costs to feed a growing family. It just seems discouraging all around. Who wants to bemoan my grocery spending anyway? Not me.

But I will tell you that yesterday I spent ninety dollars for one week's worth of produce for our family. This is at discounted prices (romaine lettuce for .50 a head!) and no organics. This does not include the frozen veggies and fruits I'll buy at the regular grocery store - maybe another twenty bucks per week. I spend more on frozen food in the winter but I spend less on fresh fruit then also, so it balances out. 

We always eat more fresh fruit in the summer. Our bodies crave it and there is so much more available. The grocery spending climbs a bit higher as we feast on nectarines, peaches, cherries, plums and watermelon. We each eat 3 to 5 fruits a day (this does not include vegetables) so what I spend on one week's worth of produce is what some families spent on their whole grocery bill. I've seen those blog posts, "how I spend only $100 per week on groceries" or whatever. 

Thank goodness I'm starting to earn some income is all I can say. Our son has reached the "hungry all the time" stage. A bottomless pit.

When we go back home to the Gaspé peninsula our farm share will start, but that will be only veggies and I'm guessing not that much. I joined the farm because I believe in community and local agriculture and where I live, farm "baskets" (as they call them) are the best way to buy organic. (There is no Whole Foods or any other store like that.) I'll still be buying the lion's share of our produce at the local grocery store. But unfortunately it won't be at the prices I've gotten used to in Montréal. 

Comparing grocery spending is a contentious issue (I don't want to go there). Where you live really plays a big role in your grocery budet. All those metropolitan area shoppers (I'm one this month) who can access discount food stores etc. can't relate to those living in rural areas where there's one or two grocery stores and that's the prices you get. It's not apples to apples.

Also, people have different eating priorities and values. What's good for my family might not work for yours and vice versa. I have struggled with this for years, which is why I don't read frugal food blogs - their food values do not reflect my own and I end up feeling inadequate and insecure as a homemaker. If we absolutely had to we could eat only cabbage, beans and rice. And then I too could write a cheap food blog. But that's not my reality and so FIMBY remains a "groceries sure cost a lot of money" blog.

Anything you'd like to share about food costs? Or summer eating in general?


PS. When I posted earlier today, I forget to share this link about why we eat so many fruits and veggies. We believe in the message of good health and abundant life. Watch Dave & Cathy's video for a feel good story of the best kind. Bon Appetit!

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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  • Johanna

    Johanna on June 23, 2012, 12:53 p.m.

    Oh how I love this! Last week my family ate 8 cantaloupes and my kids are only 4, 2, and 1... but what can i say, I cut up a cantaloupe for dinner and the whole thing is gone in a flash! I don't even want to know what it will be like when they are older! We don't snack, though, so I am okay with the spending.

    I agree about the different parts of the country. We have lived in several different areas and food costs have varied widely!


  • Jennifer @ kidoing!

    Jennifer @ kidoing! on June 23, 2012, 1:16 p.m.

    I don't have goals of reducing my grocery budget, but I do want to make sure I'm not spending foolishly. I started tracking my grocery expenses on a calendar last month (inspired by Frugal Babe - if you haven't been to her site, I think you'd like it). I really had no idea how much we spend, and while I am a careful shopper, I do not scrimp on food. If nothing else, I am now mindful of how much money we spend...knowing the actual number has been enlightening, and surprisingly it's not as much as I thought.

    That produce market is beautiful. We have discount markets here that I shop at for certain things (not organic, not local either), but they are held in ugly warehouses. No beautiful displays or signs and, unfortunately, lots of plastic bags, too.


    • renee

      renee on June 23, 2012, 1:28 p.m.

      The photos in this post are not from the discount market. They are from Jean-Talon (where I've also shopped this month), one of Montréal's famous food markets. Not trying to be misleading pairing photos from one place with talking about discount food shopping from another place. I just needed some nice produce photos and these worked! Actually, when I sat down to share these photos this morning I was only going to write a few words about summer produce and then this post is what happened instead. I actually wasn't thinking about writing about the food budget, it just came out! I also known exactly what we spend in every area of our budget. I track all that using a cash envelope system and spreadsheet.


      • Jennifer @ kidoing!

        Jennifer @ kidoing! on June 23, 2012, 5:49 p.m.

        They are gorgeous photos, that's for certain.

        One thing I didn't mention before is that I like how you buy your fruits according to how many will be eaten per day, per person. I am not calculated at all like that and usually just buy randomly. But, I'd prefer to have a method. We run out of fruit often, then I am back at the store again (which is inefficient and causes me to spend more).

        I am always looking for ways to improve our budgeting (or lack of budgeting). Do you have any posts on this? If not, I'd love to hear how you make it all work (of course without sharing too many personal details than you are comfortable).


  • Amanda

    Amanda on June 23, 2012, 3:04 p.m.

    I could go on and on about this! I'll try not to. Good food is expensive (and where we live, depending on the season, it's even more expensive!). I look at it as an investment in my family's health. I honestly don't even look at prices sometimes, if it's something I need to buy. We don't waste food, so I feel like it's more or less ok. Would I like to spend less? Absolutely!

    I just picked strawberries and spent about $55 for 18 lbs and had to just try not to think about it - they are organic and I freeze a ton so we can have them in the winter. I should pick more. And now peaches are here, and I'll do the same thing. It seems like we pay more in the summer but I'm sure it's just distributed differently. And I grow a lot of our veggies so we don't have to buy any of those for a few months, at least.

    I love the summer fruits and eat so much more fruit this time of year, and I feel better when I do, so I'm not about to stop!

    And I am seriously afraid of what is going to happen when my two boys get just a little older. Yikes!!


  • Amanda

    Amanda on June 23, 2012, 3:07 p.m.

    I will say that when we lived in AZ I wanted to take pictures of all the produce and prices when I first went to the store - it was so shocking! I mean, asparagus and red peppers in the dead of winter for $.69/lb! I nearly fell over from shock. Vermont is a different story!


  • Kika

    Kika on June 23, 2012, 5:26 p.m.

    This is a topic that weighs on me all the time. We spend sooo much on food and yet it feels like it is never enough. My husband has a side job which helps pay for kids' extras (sports) and extra food costs. I can't forever just close my eyes and buy when I am consistently over my food budget. For the first time I am considering cutting the extra principal-only-payments we allocate to our mortgage each month (we really want to be mortgage-free) in order to put this toward groceries, but even then I would be constantly tracking pennies in my budget book. Sigh. I don't want to put a fear in others either about rising costs associated with teens but... there is no doubt about it; this is our most expensive season of life yet :)


  • kyndale

    kyndale on June 23, 2012, 5:30 p.m.

    I feel bad too when I read how people spend $100 dollars a week on groceries. I feel so bad because I just can't do it. I don't know how it's possible to do that. I have a budget every week and I try to stay on it. I eat gluten free and I buy mostly organic. We also eat meat which I only buy organic. It's just important to me. I also have kids that eat adult sized portions. I shouldn't compare myself to others but I do. Thanks for this post! xo


  • Misti

    Misti on June 23, 2012, 5:46 p.m.

    I've been very excited and happy to have grown a lot of our own food this year. I know it isn't for everyone and not everyone wants to do it, but sometimes I think about when I've gone to the store and I can't remember when! I go to get the things I can't make or don't want to make but it sure has been nice not to go that often.

    I live in a small-ish town outside of a large suburban/urban area (houston) and while it is only 10+ miles to a large supermarket with a Target and Walmart, I notice the pricing differences and I'm not all that rural. The same Greek yogurt at my grocery store in town is $2 more than 10 miles away.

    Kids aren't in my picture yet---some day soon hopefully--so it is just me and my husband.


  • Erin

    Erin on June 23, 2012, 6:21 p.m.

    Here in my tiny remote town, I don't think I could buy anything at all for less than $2 a pound. Probably not even flour. We're rather frugal with purchased produce, some of which is $-related (I buy organic when I do buy), but a lot of which is based on the fact that I strive to eat local as much as is practical, and most stuff is shipped from far away.

    Right now, I have so much salad in the garden that I'm giving it away to anyone who'll let me, but we don't get fruit (and only get berries in this climate) until late July or early August. I'm just happy we froze so many blueberries that I still have some left.

    Do you think your bodies crave fruit because you live in a climate where it's the season for fruit? Or because our culture says summer is fruit time? Or because it's hot? (I'm just always curious about how all this works) I find that the more locally I eat, the more I crave what's in season - I've been eating salad for breakfast, but not much fruit at all lately.


    • renee

      renee on June 24, 2012, 1:17 a.m.

      Erin, great questions. They sparked a supper time conversation tonight about how local is local? And a discussion on how our ability to distribute food, along trade routes both modern and ancient, has spread people out all over the place. And are we best designed (or evolved) to live in these far flung places? Obviously people live all over the world but there are populations of people that experience better health and longevity because of where they live and the food they eat (and their social interactions, etc).  Too many questions, and once again, like I commented to Tonya, I feel so far from the ideal.  I admire your local sensibilities for where you live.  As far as craving fruit, I have a couple thoughts on that. In the heat we really want refreshing juicy things and fruit satisfies that. Also, we don't eat refined sweets very often (we reserve that for out of home eating) so when someone wants a "sweet" we turn to fruit.   I don't know about the seasonal thing, on some level it makes sense that our bodies would be tuned into the seasons where we live, if we let it. But then, I also believe in eating nutrient dense fruits and vegetables all year round and we eat salad all winter and (it feels to me) like my body wants that - we'll add miso soup if we want warmth. So I don't know.  I think we're probably so out of touch with nature that it's hard to trust our body's signals. And I also think there are some climates that humans are more suited to living and thriving. Those climates happen to be the most overpopulated ones (by my very unofficial and unscientific calculations). I do think that in many ways our family's diet does not match where we live but I'm not sure what to do about that since there are certain compromises we're not willing to make right now - either financially or food selection wise.  My constant conundrum....


      • Erin

        Erin on June 26, 2012, 8:39 p.m.

        I certainly haven't figured it all out myself either. And I greatly admire some things you've done (like no refined sweets!) that we don't come close to ourselves - I've always loved baking and we would all have a terrible time giving up homemade berry muffins and pies and local berry jam on homemade bread. (though I make all of them much less sweet than commercial versions, which we can't stand)

        We do buy some non-local fruit, a few pieces at a time, all year round. And part of the reason we don't do more is because it's expensive. But I don't do more even when we could easily spare the money. Somehow that non-local not-in-season aspect bothers me more for some reason with produce than it does for dried staples like rice or flour that come from equally far away. I do also enjoy the creative challenge of using local ingredients when I can, even when that means having a much higher ratio frozen vegetables at some times of the year.

        Lately, I've been trying to fill our fruit/sweet cravings as much as possible with smoothies of garden greens, frozen berries, and local raw milk (with just a touch of honey). But we don't have heat here the way most places do (a day over 70F would be VERY rare).


  • Jennifer

    Jennifer on June 23, 2012, 6:42 p.m.

    How do you manage to encourage and challenge me all the time? We spend so much on produce; we all eat at least an apple (organic, thanks to Sam's Club) a day, that's 6 apples a day! The baby (18 months) eat his and eats as many cores as he can get! We aren't completely vegan (learning, hoping to get there), but we recently started eating black beans and rice every day for lunch along with some sliced vegetables and fruit. The kids think I am a gourmet chef! Still looking forward to your new book, too...


  • Cindy

    Cindy on June 23, 2012, 10:02 p.m.


    I agree with you. I just don't talk to people about how much money we spend each week on real food. We have four little children 3 yrs thru 12 yrs and it does get pricy. And it bothers me when people always assume we use coupons. No....no coupons for healthy, real food that I know of. BUT....we don't spend much money at all on doctors and such because we are all extremely healthy! We are almost completely vegan with the occasional butter thrown in for baking once in a blue moon. Just know there are other mommas out there that are doing the same thing as you!! Keep on keeping on!! I am anxiously awaiting your new ebook too. I have a fresh raw salad every day for lunch! Yum! I hope you have some dressing suggestions because I am always looking for new ideas there.


    • renee

      renee on June 23, 2012, 11:13 p.m.

      Cindy, I have some great dressing recipes (it's a main point of the book). Coupons, tell me about it, I don't remember the last time I saw a coupon I could use. Actually just this week I saw a store coupon for pistachios. Ripped it off the dispenser, totally forgot to use it at the till! And I was thinking about it this morning after writing this post (bemoaning to myself our grocery bill), we haven't been to the doctor for well over one year. None of us. No prescriptions, no visits. I'm not saying there's a direct correlation, but I do think it's related. Funny, we get to Canada, land of universal health care and we don't go. 


  • Tonya

    Tonya on June 23, 2012, 11:54 p.m.

    Love this post Renee - we have seven children - of which three are boys ages 14, 16, and 18. And buying much organic and local and healthy are all priorities for us - so we spend the money - our car is ancient, we can't travel as much as we would like - but we are very healthy. - really if you don't have your health what good would the rest be anyway?

    We are able to grow much of our produce and having planted blueberry bushes and apple trees - that does help a lot.

    I am thinking that you priority of being adventure-bound would make it hard to grow you own food.

    Aren't we blessed to be able to choose our own paths?


    • renee

      renee on June 24, 2012, 1 a.m.

      You know, I really admire your family Tonya for creating the life you want to live, according to your values. I don't like to compare myself to other families but I sometimes wonder if your path isn't more sustainable than ours.   Growing more of your own food is one of the keys I think to sustainable food production (sustainable on all fronts - environmental and financial).  It pains me sometimes that our family has moved more away from this ideal in the present, though I still hope to return there in the future.  The problem I face, and I think many of us face (indeed all of us do in different areas of our lives) is when differing ideals bump up against each other. This happens in us personally and then when you're married and have kids it's just magnified. And in order to live in peace with each other we have to jostle and order those priorities around.  I feel this strain often in my own life because I'm a person of high ideals and I can never fully live up to those ideals. In some areas I do but I take no pride in that because in other others I fail to live up to my own standards and what I know to be best.  So in my ideal world we would be both adventurers and food growers. We'd live in California or some other similar high density food growing & naturally beautiful and adventurous area. And of course it would be a land with total homeschool & religious freedom, close to our families, etc. I know I've talked to you a bit before about the adventurer/homesteader tension I feel in my life. The more adventure we live (and particularly in this stage where we spend a lot of time growing our online livelihood) the further I get from any notions of ever growing any significant amount of our own food. The more we travel, the more I want to travel. The more we dream about places to go, the more I want to go there. And then I think, what about sustainable agriculture, being rooted in a place, producing more of our own food? And I'm torn. I am so glad I live in a world, in a place where I can choose but I sometimes wonder if we're making the best choice.   That was probably more than you bargained for in your comment but I really do love to talk about these things because they matter to me - what we eat, where our food is grown and having adventures and exploring the world.   


  • Christie

    Christie on June 24, 2012, 1:36 a.m.

    We decided a long time ago that the quality and easy of food buying was going to be a lifestyle choice for us. We do not spend (much) money on processed food. The bulk of my food budget is produce and free range chicken. When we sat down a few years ago wondering if we should make a concerted effort towards reducing the food budget, we decided that some people spend their money on ipads or travel or newer cars, and we choose to spend our money on good food. We announce regularly at the table, "Darn, we eat well." Well worth every penny. Oh, and I tried the penny pinching thing, and quickly decided that it simply wasn't an interest of mine and that people who do it well spend a good chunk of time on it.


  • Shannon

    Shannon on June 24, 2012, 1:46 a.m.

    I love reading all the comments. I think that although there is sometimes overlap between sustainable, frugal,healthy organic, etc., mostly we have to have to prioritize. We make decisions based on our circumstances. The most important thing is to make the best most thoughtful choices we can, that work for us, and not to be quick to judge others choices. About actual grocery prices---I don't it works to compare dollar for dollar because of location. I live in an area where I am less than ten miles from seven different supermarkets plus smaller specialty shops and a farm market. prices are very competitive. My strategy is to rotate based on season, what stores typically have the lowest prices for what I need most in a given week, and the quality of goods from a given store. I do grow some food too, but if I were to calculate the cost of us rookies getting our garden started it would be embarrassing :)


  • Patraq

    Patraq on June 24, 2012, 3:11 a.m.

    This is creepy. In a good way. ;-)

    We did our shopping at Whole Foods this morning, and while there, I found myself thinking about our possibly eventual move to a small town 40 miles from here. The reason for moving would be to cut my husband's commute time from 45 minutes to 5. But, when I think about moving to that small town . . . I tend to panic. And why am I panicking? Mostly because of grocery shopping!

    And that brings me to the creepy part. Just this morning, as I was strolling through Whole Foods (what I like to refer to as my happy place), I was thinking about you and how I doubted you'll have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's near your new home. So, what would Renee do?

    And I mean that literally. What do you do? How do you source your fruits and veggies, enough for a vegan lifestyle, when you're living in a rural environment? Can you make-do in a regular grocery store or do you have to special order things? Like, nutritional yeast -- where do you find that if you don't have a good co-op or a place like Whole Foods nearby?

    Oh, and we spent $310 this morning. It was a stock-up trip, but still . . . I can never figure out how we managed to spend that much in one trip. But I do love looking inside our colorful fridge after an outing like that. :-)


    • renee

      renee on June 24, 2012, 1:14 p.m.

      Patraq, For the record I haven't lived near a Whole Foods or Traders Joes (or their equivalents) for years. The nearest Whole Foods was 45 minutes away from our home in Maine, not worth the drive. When we lived in Maine though we had an excellent health food store in our community. Excellent prices, often cheaper than WF, and we had our beloved farm share (which I miss dearly) and we had a small year round produce stand where I bought almost all our produce (mixed local, non-local, organics and non-organic). And I was a member/founder/co-ordinator of two buying clubs. One in my home, one in my community. Those clubs brought a lot of organic and local into our home. Where we live in the Gaspe there are some decent sized grocery stores and a local health food store - almost everything I buy there is organic but pricey. This is where I buy nutritional yeast and bulk items. There are also local farms and food producers that sell their food together (ingenious) where I purchased winter roots & berries throughout the winter (all organic). Now when we go back in one week I will start getting our weekly summer farm share. Before we moved to Montréal for the month I helped get a buying club off the ground. We had our first order delivered while I was here, I'll pick it up from a friend when I get back.  One of my food goals this year is to maximize our buying club purchases for bulk organic (and sometimes local) grains and beans and whatever other dried goods make sense.  One of the great things about where I live in the Gaspé is that although it is somewhat remote there is a growing local & biologique (organic) food movement. A movement I am happy to be a part of and contribute to. Food work is one of the things I do - in my home and my community. It's one of my gifts to offer. Ok, so to make sure I've specifically answered your question. I can find everything I absolutely need where I live, including nut. yeast. Some things are not available (lemon juice) and I've learned to live without them (I juice lemons). Other things, like buying more organic at a better price, I'm working with other people to bring to the area in terms of buying clubs and joining farms etc. One thing I wanted to learn from this move and accepting more adventure into my life in general is how to make things work where you are. I think we limit our potential if we aren't willing to try new things because we fear change to our routines. I'm learning that people live all over the world in interesting and unique situations and I don't want to get so stuck on my own way of living that I'm too afraid to try new things. I had to work through all this when we left Maine -  a place I loved so much, so we could pursue the life we wanted for our family. And I don't regret it - living where we do or experiencing new things! I would feel so blessed if I had a 45 minute drive from a Whole Foods. There isn't a whole foods, or equivalent within 5 hours of me. Again, more than you probably wanted in a comment but I really am enjoying this conversation here and would love to encourage you that with some creative thinking you could probably make it work, quite well, in a different location from where you are now (smile).


  • Leanne

    Leanne on June 24, 2012, 3:49 a.m.

    Great post! I read an article somewhere...sometime..and whoever wrote the article asked this question...Do you think of grocery shopping (the food you buy) as an investment or an exspense? About 5 years ago is when I starting buying things organic. It IS exspensive, but I beleive my family and their health is worth this investment. I have asked some of my friends this question, very interesting to hear their responses...too few think of it as an investment!


    • renee

      renee on June 24, 2012, 12:30 p.m.

      I totally view groceries as an investment in our health. And with good health as our foundation we can work hard to earn a livelihood, go adventuring and spend less on health care (too bad insurance costs didn't reflect one's diet). But even so, there is only so much I can physically stretch our earnings to "invest" in groceries. There is a lot of other things we don't invest in (that the experts say we should) just so we can continue to eat the way we do. Based on where we live and what is available to us (via grocery stores, buying clubs, local farms) I estimate our grocery bill would increase by at least two thirds to switch to all organic (I already buy some organics). We already spend 25% of our income on food. To spend, 40 to 50% of our income on groceries, so we could afford all organic, is not financially possible for us, with our other priorities. As it is, we spend more on food than our monthly allotment for housing, clothing, education and adventure all put together. I think the key for me is growing more of our own. Which I'm not right now... but hope to return to one day.


  • Jennifer

    Jennifer on June 24, 2012, 6:17 a.m.

    I'm so glad to see this post, Renee. I feel insecure about our food budget all the time - we eat real food, gluten and corn free, mostly everything from scratch, but we spend so much! I don't follow the penny pinchers and couponers, because it is so demoralizing, and we just don't eat a lot of food that uses coupons. We are lucky to live in an urban area with lots of choices, but sometimes that is hard, too, since there are more stores to go to, and a limit to the amount of time I can shop. I agree with another commenter, good food is an investment. We eat well! My kids eat good food. And they eat adult portions already, and we haven't hit the teen years yet. Yikes!


  • Anonymous

    Anonymous on June 24, 2012, 8:25 a.m.

    As a cancer survivor, I try to eat organic as often as possible. But I live on a small island (Key West) and walk everywhere. There aren't many organics within walking distance. So I belong to an organic buying club and spend $35 per week for a half-share. This brings me a huge amount of fresh fruits and veggies every week, so much that there's often extra to freeze or dry or even can in small amounts. (the latter two options are preferred because summer Hurricane Season often brings power outages.). If I still had children at home, I'd buy a full share plus add-on options. Perhaps buying clubs or CSAs would work for others?


  • Anna

    Anna on June 24, 2012, 10:05 a.m.

    Thought provoking post Renee. I hear you about the clashes of ideals that can happen when trying to choose sustainablility AND adventure for example. We're a family of five (kids currently 4,8 and 12) and have had an itinerant travelling three years recently including time in outback Australia and 10 months in 23 countries doing volunteer work and sightseeing. My ideals involve attempting to grow most of our food and eating as little processed food as possible and I had to compromise on both of these while travelling. Now we've "settled" on a 1/4 acre and we're establishing fruit trees and a vegetable garden. I suspect by the time we get enough fruit to feed us from our mini orchard my 12 year old will be about to leave home! Meantime we get a huge local, seasonal organic box of fruit and veges each week (maybe next year we'll have enough veges and just need the fruit half). We freeze huge quantities of berries from a local orchard / berryfarm and buy huge sacks of oats and beans.

    I still fly back to the outback of Australia from NZ to provide medical cover to remote communities for about two weeks every 10 weeks and the only way I can continue to eat healthy food is by buying bagged lettuce and frozen berries that are far from local. Between the flights and the amount of refrigerated transport required to get me and the food out here my carbon footprint must be far beyond my intentions, but the town has a doctor and I stay well.

    It's winter in our hemisphere and I'm vicariously enjoying your stonefruit! Our NZ fruit box has the most divine mandarins and pears, persimmons and kiwifruit at the moment and lots of kale in with the veges!


  • renee

    renee on June 24, 2012, 12:15 p.m.

    This was so fascinating Anna, thank you for sharing. Sounds like your local produce box is a year round thing - how blessed you are. Ours will last for 3 months, shorter than our Maine farm share which was 5 1/2 months. I do wish we lived somewhere with a longer growing season but it just can't happen right now so I need to content myself with lots of winter skiing (make the most of what we do have!).


  • Rana

    Rana on June 24, 2012, 2:10 p.m.

    Ever since taking the 30 day vegan class my grocery shopping has changed. I used to spend more money on meat, now it's fruits and vegetables. I stopped reading those types of blogs too, because of how it made me feel. I shop for our family of 4 buying healthy foods and things I think will benefit the growth of my family. And if that means spending more or less than another family so be it.

    We do have a farmers market right down the street from our house. The kids and I can walk there. I have Trader Joes about 15 min. away and Whole Foods is about 30 min away. I do have a health food store 5 min away that actually has a sales paper with coupons and discount card which is nice so I can save a bit of money there.


  • Nicki

    Nicki on June 24, 2012, 4:37 p.m.

    I was shocked to discover recently that we (a family of 4) regularly spend about $300 a week on groceries. We don't buy processed foods and are largely vegetarian, I'm not sure where I go wrong!! Certainly I have noticed food prices here in the UK have soared over the past couple of years and we don't have any wholesalers or co-ops nearby. I have managed to trim it down a bit over recent weeks but you can only compromise so far can't you, good food costs.

    I relatively new to your blog, Renee, and I just wanted to say how much I love it. I'm busily skipping here, there and everywhere catching up on old posts. Oh and I can't wait for your new ebook release!


  • Roxy Schow

    Roxy Schow on June 24, 2012, 11:23 p.m.

    Hi, Renee!

    I just wanted to let you know that I loved your post. I sometimes get cranky when I read posts where people insist you can surely buy everything local, if you'd just try hard enough. While I may live in the breadbasket of the world, "local" means I have absolutely no access to local fresh fruits and vegetables for about nine months out of the year. I am at the mercy of my local grocery store, which is 30 miles away. Some things are organic, most are not; there is a good variety but all of it is trucked in from many miles away. We join a co-op for bulk items, but again, that's not local. There are no berry farms or orchards where I can go pick my own fruit - even if I wanted to drive a few hours, I could not find any. Farmers Markets can be found during the months of June - August, but my own garden is in full force at that time, so I get a little frustrated when everyone says I should buy local. Pretty much the only thing I could pick up locally is corn for cattle or wheat! :)

    So thanks for the honest post about buying food. I enjoyed reading it and the many comments. I loved the one about having the freedom to follow each person's own path. How true that is - especially when it comes to food!


  • MOM Tougas

    MOM Tougas on June 25, 2012, 12:43 a.m.

    Maybe when you get settled in your new home you will be able to make a garden next summer. Could save a lot of money on groceries just to grow your own organic vegetables and fruits. If you are able to do this, it would be a good idea to prepare the soil this summer for next year's gardening.


  • Patraq

    Patraq on June 25, 2012, 1:46 a.m.

    Thanks for that helpful response! If I could put a bug in your ear, I'd love to hear more about your actual meals. I know you have a lot of links about your vegan kitchen, but I'd be tickled pink to read a week-in-the-life series focused on how/what you eat each day!

    Pretty please? ;-)


  • Jason Elsworth

    Jason Elsworth on June 25, 2012, 9:24 a.m.

    We spend a lot on food and try to eat organic when possible. I don't really want to spend less by eating lower quality food and instead am currently trying to focus as much as possible on cooking more from scratch and carefully tracking what we spend. We get a lovely box of locally grown, seasonal organic fruit and veg delivered weekly which is fantastic. I terms of growing our own food I don't see us doing much of that for the next 5 years, as I want to put my time into other areas.

    We could spend a lot less, but eating well is a priority for us even if we don't always live up to my high standards :)..


  • Nicky Rothmann

    Nicky Rothmann on June 25, 2012, 10:52 a.m.

    We spend 95% of our income on food. (fortunately we don't have to pay rent, or any other utilities, just gas for the car) Its a little shocking, but we try to eat as sustainable, organic, fair trade, as we can and when we can't then we cut that that from the grocery list. When we eat 'out', we buy burger patties and frozen chips, especially for movie night. We also try and eat well so that we don't have to go to the doctor.

    And yes, love the summer eating, in South Africa you can eat that way almost all year round.


  • karolynah

    karolynah on June 25, 2012, 1:42 p.m.

    Hello Renne, loved this post. Thanks for sharing! I was wondering if you could one of these days, write what a typical day would be for you food-wise. Kind of like a menu. I admire the way you nurture your family and want to learn even more for when I have my own :-) Thanks again!


  • DWall

    DWall on June 25, 2012, 3:27 p.m.

    I bet i spend more than you!

    silent member of your readership until now.

    thanks for your honesty, generosity and spirit of this space.

    Had to weigh in on this.

    I probably would not admit what I spend on farm fresh produce if asked...

    looking forward to your salad e-book.

    i am in a salad rut!



    • renee

      renee on June 25, 2012, 3:36 p.m.

      I love all this conversation. I don't think  there is a right or wrong amount to spend on food (and I don't judge either way). We all have to live according to our convictions, ideals and the realities of own lifestyle choices or non-choices (many people are born into places where there is no choice). I am challenged by all the conversation here to look at my budget again and see if I can't allot more to organic & local food. It was easier in Maine and I had made great strides forward in that area. I've been adjusting to a new reality since our move.  There's a lot of voices on the internet about saving money on groceries and then I feel that's what I must do. But what I'm hearing from many of my readers (which I'm so loving!) is that they spend more, willingly, and do with a lot less in other areas. I'm really challenged by this. I'm wondering - "where can we cut or change so I can live more inline with values in this area?" It might be that we can't, in this season of life. But I bet I can do something, somewhere. I'm going to be giving this more thought this summer.  I would love it by the way if some of you could direct me to "we spend a lot on food" blogs so I could learn some tricks in adjusting finances in other areas to accommodate this.


  • Melissa

    Melissa on June 25, 2012, 4:23 p.m.

    Whenever I see blog posts about cutting food budgets I cringe. In my mind there is only so much cutting that can be done before you either lose variety in your diet or consume processed foods that may be cheaper (I'm thinking of the jar of pasta sauce that is $1 vs. making it from scratch), but which is heavy on sugar and salt etc.

    I don't feel there is any 'right' budget. People do the best they can with their means. I do believe that society has done itself a disservice through commercialized agriculture and the culture of fast food. The idea that food is cheap is not real. Or at least the total cost of food is not cheap. It hasn't been, even if you grow it yourself because your own labour counts for something.

    Occasionally I look at excerpts from "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats" (parts 1 & 2) for my own reality check. The photo essay always shows me how much many in the west spend on processed foods, and how little others get by with.

    The best I've come up with in terms of mindful grocery spending is much of what you already do....bulk purchasing, dried goods, seasonal when you can etc. The one thing that I've done away with is spending on disposable paper products...no more paper towels and paper napkins. And I've always used a french press to make coffee. Little things like that help, but it's not going to make a dent in a food budget. These days I spend less on clothing and other disposables and don't beat myself up when food is my priority.

    On the subject of coupons...I came across a coupon book earlier this spring that was geared towards truly healthy and green products. Hopefully it is a sign of more to come.


    • Melissa

      Melissa on June 25, 2012, 6:50 p.m.

      To add to my earlier comment...I went away and wondered what people historically spent on food (as a percentage of their budget). Some quick internet searching and I found USDA stats that look interesting. Before WWII, on average Americans spent over 20% of their personal disposable income on food (both home & away combined), with more spending on home prepared food. There were steady drops as the decades passed, when big agriculture and discounted food became prevalent there. See Food Expenditures

      If I can extrapolate...your style of food prep/consumption/buying is not dissimilar from 1929 and the years that followed. And the percentage is 23.4, not that far off your current 25%. When you consider that you are living in another country (where we typically have higher prices), and you are not in a central distribution area (i.e. a city), 25% is, dare I say, realistic...

      That doesn't necessarily help when actually budgeting, but it's an interesting perspective and balance to the expectations that seem to emanate from current budgeting blogs.


  • Susan

    Susan on June 25, 2012, 7:23 p.m.

    I am enjoying both the post and the comments . We are heading for a change in our eating habits . Boys are growing and need more food. Wondering what that is going to mean for the budget.


  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on June 25, 2012, 7:33 p.m.

    Oh Le marché Jean-Talon! How I miss it! It is really hard to find good produce on the road (especially in remoted areas). We are trying to find the farmer's market, but the timing is often off... Worst comes to worst, we go to Costco... They have the best and freshest (and cheapest) selection of fruits and veggies (not organic, of course), as well as coconut water, almond butter, raw nuts and Larabars...


  • Mama

    Mama on June 26, 2012, 3:12 a.m.

    Job loss certainly made us cut corners on our food budget for a while, but our goal is to grow most of our produce, and eat locally raised meat (if we don't raise it ourselves). Having four little kids has made gardening tricky this year, but we will get there! And we get all the eggs we could want from our chickens. And boy, do I love a good salad on summer days! We eat them year round, but I do start craving them more often in the spring.


  • Leticia

    Leticia on June 27, 2012, 1:32 a.m.

    So, I'm not the only one that doesn't use coupons! I think the only reason those companies give them, is to get us hooked on their products. And I've seen some of those frugal articles, they recommend a lot of food that will not do any good to my condition, I have Lupus.


  • Ulrike

    Ulrike on June 27, 2012, 10:20 a.m.

    Delurking here to say that I really, really liked your post. I'm a pretty frugal person but I'm not willing to give up quality food unless I'm forced too. We are five persons (my kids are 17, 13 and 6) and we eat local very often, organic most of the time and meat from grass feed/ethical raised animals now and then. If money is very tight I buy what I can at the discounter (except meat) and don't feel guilty about it. Good food isn't cheap to have, and those who produce it need to be paid fairly for their work. And - at least here in Germany - food prices aren't high, Germans only spend a small percentage (about 15%) of their money on food. I'd say that we spend about 20%-25% of our income on food. For me, it's worth it.

    Many greetings from Germany, Ulrike


  • Jenna

    Jenna on June 29, 2012, 7:02 p.m.

    Great post & comments. Just last night I spent $50 on produce at the farmer's market. This will need to be supplemented with more from whole foods later. We are also a vegan family and I am trying to nourish us with as many whole foods as possible. I consider this an investment for our health. I am learning daily on how to feed us well. Thanks!


  • renee@joyfulmombaude.com

    renee@joyfulmombaude.com on June 30, 2012, 2:58 a.m.

    Food is always an issue--we all need to eat and it seems like it would be so simple. I love my organic CSA box and I had high hopes of eating local but I'm finding it too much of a challenge. So I've backed off from my self-imposed ideals. I've written a few posts on how to save money--even when buying organic, but I've found that what worked in the past few months isn't working now and to complicate things the kids are just eating like crazy this summer. So I have decided to put lots of healthy food on the table and not stress. Did I mention how the entire garden project went belly up? For me the season of summer abundance has nothing to do with food at all.


  • kirsten

    kirsten on July 3, 2012, 6:21 a.m.

    My family of 4 also spends a ton on food, definitely more than my friends do! But, we view it as a sort of "health insurance" for ourselves, and we always eat fresh, colorful, and yummy meals! We buy mostly organic, and lots of produce... shopping, cooking, and eating takes up much of my time, but luckily my 3-year old daughter loves to help. In fact, we are all a bit obsessed with food (for my husband's birthday last week, he asked our parents for gift cards to our local health foods store). While we eat well, we sacrifice in other areas of spending.

    As we are starting to cut out processed and "snack" foods, I am curious to see if we end up spending more or less if we replace those items with more fruits and veggies.

    Thanks for creating this blog! I have enjoyed beginning to browse it the past couple days.


  • Amber

    Amber on July 29, 2012, 3:53 a.m.

    Renee, Thank you for this post. I feel much the same as many other readers have expressed about spending more for fresh and healthy food. I try not to buy processed and buy as much as I can organic.

    I am seeking advice as I struggle with the discrepancy between my standards and those of my parents and inlaws, primarily, as well as other people who give food to my kids. They all live close by and watch my kids maybe every other week. As well, we see them several sundays a month for lunch. We do eat meat and this is one of the harder parts for me to know what to do. The amount of not organic meat, processed foods and sweets that they serve really bothers me. I am struggling with knowing how to be thankful and gracious about their hospitality, while keeping my kids (and me and my husband) from being fed food that we don't usually allow in our own home. I allow my kids to have the occasional treat, but we don't buy candy with artificial sweeteners or colors or flavors...etc.....they get to have a home made baked treat if they get to have a treat....I think you get my point.

    Should I say something and maintain my standards when we are guests or when grandma and grandpa show up and hand my child something I don't like them having, or should I consider it part of life and just try to maintain our own standards in our every day life at home?


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