Yesterday I read a post on Money Saving Mom that really struck a chord with me. It was in response to one of her readers asking for ideas on how to eat a healthful diet for approximately $30 per week as a single person. I do feel that the menu she came up with was excellent and I posted my own ideas on how I would customize it to my own taste and nutritional preferences. Still, if I had the opportunity there are some things I’d like to know…like what percentage of the reader’s income is her food budget?
I make approximately $52,000 annually, which breaks down to about $1000 per week in income. If I had a food budget of only $30 per week it would be only 3% of my weekly income. This is below the national average in 2011 of about 6%. This also happens to be the lowest percentage spent on food … in the world. Residents of some countries in Africa, like Angola, spend about 80% of their income on food. And they consume far fewer calories. The richest 25 countries in the world (U.S. included) consume well over 3000 calories daily, per person, some even hitting the 4000 calorie mark. In the 25 poorest countries they average about 2000 calories per day.
So what does this all mean? Obviously food in the U.S. costs less, period. I do find it sad that we complain about the cost of food when so many people pay so much more. I also ascribe to Michael Pollan’s philosophy of eat less, spend more. It’s a difficult concept to grasp but I do think that putting a larger chunk of your budget towards eating local, organic ingredients is better for your health. It leaves me to wonder if our food budgets are really where we need to cut costs. I believe in saving money wherever you can but …is there a better bang for your savings buck elsewhere?
This also illustrates why I am not a proponent of extreme couponing. Most of the items that have coupons available are for packaged and processed foods. I clip coupons only for toiletries and household supplies.
I’ve chosen to allot myself $300 a month for groceries and I’m looking into CSAs for dairy and produce and ordering my meat from local, organic suppliers. Here is the weekly breakdown:
Produce CSA - $21
Meat (ordered every 6 weeks) – 21.00
Misc groceries - milk, butter, eggs, cheese, bread, rice, pasta, beans, canned tomatoes, and peanut butter - $29
Pistachios for snacks - $4
Total - $75 per wk/ $300 per month
This is within the parameters of the budget that I have set for myself overall. It’s 7.5% of weekly income. I realize that a lot of people feed an entire family on less than this and I am feeding only myself and one other person on occasion. I may find I can buy less meat but for now, because I’m ordering only every 6 weeks, I want to make sure I have enough. This is all whole, local, organic foods with the exception of my “miscellaneous” items although many of those will be purchased from local suppliers as well. My hope is that I can make my own pasta sauces and salsa when tomatoes are in season. I also plan to freeze and store some CSA items for future use.
So what percentage of your weekly budget is your food cost? Do you buy local, organic? Do you think I could cut my budget and still eat healthfully?