Friday, October 31, 2008

The Cost of Food

We have been on a mission to drastically reduce our food budget, and I must admit that it has been very difficult. I went to the USDA website today. They have a guide to what families should expect to spend on groceries here. A family of 6, with kids the same ages as ours, has budget ranges that look like this:

Thrifty plan: $704/month
Low-cost plan: $896/month
Moderate plan: $1,089/month
Liberal plan: $1,343/month

This assumes that all meals are prepared at home, not eaten out at restaurants (certainly true here, with only one kosher restaurant in town, and given the fact that we can't afford to eat out anyway!).

I have been trying to get our groceries down from $1,000/month to $800/month. Given the "kosher tax" on food (i.e. kosher meats and cheeses are more expensive; often we can't buy the cheaper brand because it has no hechscher, etc., etc.), I was pretty pleased to see that actually we're doing pretty well if we're spending $800-900. We could probably be in the thrifty plan range if we only ate chicken thighs on Friday nights, and eliminated our dairy consumption. I don't want to go that far. But I also see it as a want, not a need. A human being can do just fine (maybe better!) on beans and rice.

Reading the Little House on the Prairie series has been a wonderful exercise in gratitude. We are buried in wants. Needs are easy to get, and don't necessarily require heavy physical labor to acquire. No matter how tight our budgets are these days, it's nothing compared to being a pioneer on the frontier. Even in the worst of economic times here (at least in recent history!), we are much better off than most of the world. We don't truly know hardship in this country. Most of us, anyway.

We're almost finished with the 5th book of 9, and we're going strong. I'm so excited. I've realized I only ever read three of the books, so it's been great reading the others. And discovering that pretty much all but a handful of stories on the Little House tv show were made up in tv land, not from the books. It was a great show nonetheless.

Back to shabbat cooking.

And here's THE MENU:

buffalo brisket
baked squash
carrot kugel
steamed cracked wheat
zucchini latkes
sugar cookies (that the kids painted with egg paint yesterday!)
apple cake

Okay, back at it. This was a nice break, and no one melted down as I typed it!

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