|photo credit: Farmers' market haul, 2008-11-29 via photopin (license)|
One of the first comments a friend made after beginning the diet her doctor recommended (eat predominantly lean proteins, fruits and vegetables to lose weight) was that she was spending too much money on groceries. She complained of wasting food. Her husband and son were refusing to eat vegetables with every meal, she was growing tired of salads and many of the expensive fruits she was purchasing were spoiling before she had a chance to eat them.
I couldn’t help but think of her as I began my live healthy on a budget challenge, was my healthier diet going to cost more? I hadn’t tracked my monthly grocery spending in the past, but estimate I spent an average of $600 a month on groceries for my husband and me. Note: we rarely eat out and always pack a lunch for work. Could I spend less than that and still eat healthy?
To determine the average monthly food expenditures for a couple I consulted the Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average for December 2014. The monthly low-cost plan for a family of 2 aged 51 – 70 was $478.50. I used this information to set a monthly grocery spending budget of $500 or under.
Unfortunately in January we spent $605. I didn’t keep track of what we bought, but know the $605 included coffee which my husband insists belongs in the grocery budget. Also, in January he determined the back and chest soreness he was experiencing was due to acid reflux. After researching an acid reflux friendly diet he purchased pre-packaged cut-up vegetables at full price and other items that wouldn’t aggravate his already enflamed esophagus. In addition, some of the items purchased earlier in the month (coffee, tomato-based products and citrus) he was now unable to eat.
Our February grocery spending has been more in line with our budget - to date we have spent $194. I now attempt to buy only fresh fruits and vegetables that are inexpensive or on sale. Asparagus was the only fresh food on sale this week that interested us. In addition, I purchased dried peas, apples, yellow squash and carrots – none of which were on sale.
Our menu for the week is as follows:
Today: Asparagus Frittata from Maria A. Bella’s book The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Acid Reflux Diet
Monday: Split Pea and Wild Rice Soup from Leslie L. Cooper’s Low-Fat Living Cookbook: 250 Easy, Great-Tasting Recipes
Wednesday: Apple-Sautéed Turkey Tenderloin also from Maria A. Bella’s book The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Acid Reflux Diet and a vegetable stir-fry.
Friday: Coconut Panko Shrimp from Patricia Raymond’s Acid Reflux Diet and Cookbook For Dummies with stir-fried vegetables.
For the rest of the month I am going to explore using mushrooms as a replacement for meat in a recipe or two and eating more ancient grains such as barley, quinoa and falafel. My niece who is a vegetarian and a poor college student tells me barley is a good source of protein and is easy to digest. Also, I hope including grains in my salads will help make them more interesting.
How much do you spend on groceries each month? Do you have any tips to eat healthy and not break the budget?