I went grocery shopping the other day. And, I spent more than $100. That isn’t a big deal – it is just that I don’ t do it very often. My grocery bill is typically $30-50 a month for food – and another $50 or so for other essentials like TP and shampoo. That isn’t much considering that the “average” family spends between $150 – $290 a WEEK according to the USDA. Why is our bill so much lower than the national average? Mostly because we plant and grow our own veggies, raise meat and eggs, preserve our bounty, process in the home dairy and cook at home. Simply put, we produce more than we consume.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, my feed bill is not inconsequential. I spent $240 at the feed store last month and I do get the hay pretty cheap ($195 last month) but that still puts our food costs at about 25-50% of the cost of the average family.
Which begs the question — is there really that much savings in fermenting your own pickles??
I guess so. I mean, we do ferment our own pickles (there are 2 gallons of cucs in brine sitting on the counter right now and if the kitchen wasn’t such a mess I would snap a picture for the blog!), preserve jams, jellies, green beans, salsa, tomatoes, grape and apple juice, apple sauce, and pickles, and make our own yogurt, butter and cheese…which is a bit more “Pioneer Woman” than most folks. But we don’t make EVERYTHING. This should be pretty obvious since there are s’more fixin’s and potato chips on my receipt! I am thrifty, but not insanely DIY enough to make my own marshmallows no matter how easy that America’s Test Kitchen says it is. You will also notice that there are potato chips (You MUST have potato chips for a BBQ!) and a couple loaves of bread on there – because I haven’t had time to bake bread lately. Like I said, we are thrifty – but not Amish!
So what is the single thing that saves us the most $$$ on our food budget? I cook at home and I make most meals from scratch. Snacks are homemade (chocolate zucchini bread anyone??) and ingredients are fresh, local or homegrown, and unprocessed. Simple. But time consuming at times because we are more scratch than most. Take my lasagna for example The cow is days away from calving so we are a little light on milk right now, but I love to make lasagna because is uses 5 gallons of milk! The mozzarella cheese takes three gallons and with the left-over whey and two more gallons of whole milk I make the ricotta. Then, a pound of hamburger and a pound of ground pork (from our own beef and hogs), canned tomatoes (from the garden), garlic, onion (ditto!) in the sauce and the only store bought input at this point is the lasagna noodles. My recipe makes two 9×13 pans of lasagna – which should be at least four meals unless I am feeding the hay crew dinner. Pop one pan into the freezer for another day and I have a couple of cheap, quick meals for busy nights down the road.
The real cost of this kind of cooking and lifestyle? My time.
One can feel just a bit like the “Little Red Hen” (I milked the cow, I made the cheese, I assembled the lasagna…) because it is time and labor intensive. Is this the most efficient use of my time? Perhaps not when one looks at the cost of a pan of frozen lasagna in the grocery store or Costco. Is my time really worth only $9.99 for a whole day’s work? Depends upon your perspective. At the same time I am making the lasagna I am building relationships with my children who work with me, passing on skills that many have forgotten or never learned, and making a conscious decision about the value of producing rather than consuming.
“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” ~ Albert Einstein