Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes (The New Food Budget)

After nearly 9 years working for the same company, and with no forewarning (not even a rumor) Hubby got the news that he, as well as quite a few others, would be let go. His last day is the 27th and he's scrambling to get all his stuff organized, turned in, cleaned up, and cleaned out.

On one hand this could be a good thing. Change is always stressful but maybe there's something better waiting just over the horizon. A better job with a more stable company, maybe a move to a different location, maybe this...maybe that. Maybe something just in general 'good' will come out of it. On the other hand I feel slightly panicked at the thought of the baby coming and no steady income. How will we pay the mortgage? What about this bill or that? What can we give up to stay afloat? Will anyone hire a waddling pregnant woman so I can help bring in something while Hubby is looking?

I was talking with a friend online and the first thing she wrote was "Are you going to give up that silly, expensive, diet now? Mac n cheese is so much cheaper than bacon." Um, no. No, we are not. (And who in their right mind gives up bacon for powdered cheese???)

The paleo/primal lifestyle is not expensive.

Let's look at my newly planned food budget for the summer/early fall (now till mid-September):

I'd been planning on purchasing a bulk meat order before we got the news and I am going to continue with that. The total will be around $300 but we'll have enough meat for 3 months (at least). Yeah, its a lot to pay all at once, but it averages out to only $100 a month for 3 carnivorous appetites.

Its summer and all the farmer's markets are going strong, plus there are the U-Pick farms. On average I'll spend $20 to $30 a week filling the fridge with greenery, fruits, and roots. Figure $120 a month for plant matter.

We are lucky that we have chickens and normally we don't have to worry about buying eggs. Lately though, the girls have not been producing as much for some reason so we've had to supplement. Figure $15 a month for eggs (2-3 dozen, $3 to $5 a dozen depending on which farm we are able to get them from). Dairy-wise we eat butter, cheese and heavy cream; I'm going to guess and say about $35 total a month for dairy items (just to be on the high side). At the moment I have 3 pounds of different fats (duck fat, bacon grease, goose fat, coconut oil/butter, and tallow) hanging out in my freezer. I would like to add lard to the mix but I'm actually set for cooking fats for now.

That makes up the core paleo/primal food groups.

Then there are the extras-stuff that is mostly for treats like almond and coconut flour, arrowroot powder, dark chocolate, maple syrup, other baking type items. We don't do a lot of baking during the hot summer so for now I'm not going to budget them in With tons of different types of local fruits coming ripe I know the family won't be lacking for sweet treats. I have some baking supplies already so those will just have to be stretched out over the next couple months.

During the summer we often buy produce in bulk to can or freeze. I really have no idea how to budget these since it has varied so much over the years and I really haven't paid that much attention. Some years we've purchased already-picked, others we've done U-Pick (cheaper than already picked), and sometimes friends and relatives have given us extras from their garden/purchases. I'm going to set aside $200 to cover these types of expenses ($67 a month). That may be rather high but better safe than sorry.

Where are we at? Meat- $100. Plants- $120. Dairy/Eggs- $50. Canning/Freezing-$67. That's a food budget of $337 a month for 3 people over 3 months. Granted, the bill for June is going to be closer to $500 because of the meat purchase, but then the bills for July, August, and September will be much lower since the meat will already be paid for.

What am I missing folks? I have to be missing something.

OK, yes, I may go to the farmer's market and have no desire to eat cabbage or chard. Tough! If that's what's in season that's what we're eating. Thank goodness for the internet and all the awesome paleo/primal chefs out there that share their recipes. I will NOT allow something to waste away to mush in the bottom of the drawer just because I'm not in the mood to cook/eat it. What is bought will be eaten!!

Yes, there may come a time I'd happily trade the car for a slab of chocolate. Tough! Right now strawberries are coming ripe and after them are all the other berries, then peaches and nectarines and melons (oh my!). Not only are they healthier but for the cost of a decent candy bar I can hit a U-Pick farm and get a pound of fruit. Thankfully I bought that ice cream maker a few weeks ago so we'll be able to make healthy cold treats for the hot summer days without buying anything off budget.

No, not everything will be organic. The meat will no doubt be a combination of grass-fed/finished and grain-fed/finished items from free-range animals. The plant matter will be purchased from local growers so it may be certified organic and it may not be. I'll no doubt trade some of my garden produce with a friend or neighbor who may or may not use organic methods. Does this bother me?

Not one bit. 

I could purchase only grass-fed and finished pastured animals. I could be a stickler and only hit the certified organic farms. I could be that 100% perfect paleo person. But why? I know where my protein is coming from, I know how its raised, slaughtered, and processed. I know my critters and plants are grown locally so my dollar is helping my community. I know it all tastes delicious. These things are more important to me than only putting "perfect" food in my mouth.

For the summer I will have to be very strict with myself. To be honest I've been doing a horrible job following any type of budget, even though Hubby and I constantly say that we need to put more into retirement and savings. Well, now we HAVE to stay on track.

It is going to be a very interesting summer.

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