If there seems to be anything that strikes stress into the heart of a mom lately, it’s the idea of menu planning and grocery shopping. I spend way more time than I would like to think going over recipes, organizing recipes, making a menu, making a grocery list and let’s not forget actually going shopping and cooking!
That said, I feel like I’ve sort of begun to turn a corner with my level of foodie stress, only to have a whole host of changes coming my way this summer. It’s an easy trap of perfectionism (or the thought of it) and comparing my kitchen to another’s to fall into and I would love to be a community where we encourage everyone to eat better without stressing over it.
Our family of four grocery budget hovers around $400. I don’t stick to it as closely as I should, but give or take $25-30, this is where we sit. Once upon a time I was shopping at least 4-5 different stores in a month and have gladly cut that down to just about two: Walmart (I know, gag, but it is the cheapest) and our local food co-op.
Some of the biggest changes I’ve made lately is with dairy. My kitchen overall is probably about 50% organic from produce to dry goods. I try to buy as little processed food as I can sanely manage and we do bake a lot in our house, but dairy was one of my last hangups. It’s just so freakin’ expensive.
I started out with yogurt. We eat a ton of yogurt in our house and I was probably spending $50 per grocery trip on those little yogurt tubs and little containers for my husband’s lunch. No more. I’ve started buying only the 32oz containers of vanilla and we are slowly experimenting with adding other flavors, fruits and granola to it. We have recently discovered Brown Cow yogurt and are completely smitten. It’s awesome.
I’m still working out the milk issue. We’ve put the kids back on whole milk, generally because they aren’t drinking as much as they used to. We ration milk pretty good around here. The hubs and I are on 1% when I can find it. I’ve been buying different brands over the course of the last month and I will say that I have seen a huge improvement in my ability to handle dairy, namely milk. Organic cheese and butter for baking are my last two dairy items to convert. We shall see.
One of the biggest changes that is happening this summer is where I buy my food. This is where the budget is going to hit the fan, as I’m really not sure how to budget for it. Azure Standard is heading my way in a month and I’m super excited. I’ve read nothing but raving reviews about this family owned company and their prices are pretty hard to beat, even with Earthfare and a local food co-op to choose from around here. This is where I just don’t know how to budget. I’m hoping to start buying pretty much all the stuff I was buying from the bulk bins from them, along with some of their frozen meat (their ground turkey supplier and their whole chicken supplier has nothing but awesome reviews online).
We are also getting a Trader Joes (insert gigantic scream of joy) and a Cosco this summer (not to mention a Publix). Talk about too many shopping choices. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out by August.
But biggest change in our lives is going to be our no food dye or food coloring challenge. I’ve been talking it up with the kids for the past few weeks and we’ve been talking about the things we would have to cut out. Why are we doing this? I truly think that my daughter for sure has a sensitivity to it. We aren’t a heavy food dye family to begin with, but she does get her fair share of it at school in the form of Popsicles and other junk (insert gigantic groan). Before I made a radical change in her food diet at school, I wanted to try it out at home during a time with I could control it pretty much 100 percent.
The Kitchen Stewardship blog has a great series on avoiding food dyes called “my food is not a number”. Check it out.
I’m already starting to stockpile a list in my head of the things we have to stop buying and today was totally bummed when I saw that Edy’s 100% fruit pops have yellow and red food dye in them. Urg! More incentive to use all those Pins from Pinterest and make my own fruit pops!
What are you doing in your kitchen to reduce your menu planning/budgeting stress?