Large family food

Having just done the week's grocery shopping and because it was one of the reader questions I received, I thought I would share a little how I manage food for our crew. Plus, having had nearly two months off of having to cook every night has provided a much needed break and I find myself interested in cooking again. The adoption-insanity had really taken over right before we traveled and I was doing the bare minimum in the kitchen.

In order to feed our family, I try to go grocery shopping once a week. This shopping trip to the two stores a shop in on a regular basis (Aldi and a small independent store... Marketplace if you live in the area) and usually involves buying produce, dairy, and items I use on a regular basis. It is nearly 100% food purchases. I buy paper goods at a our local warehouse store, plus a few food staples (peanut butter, cinnamon, chocolate chips [yes, they're a staple!], and honey). More drugstore type supplies are purchased at a third grocery store which has fairly low prices for that type of thing. In general, I know what the price of things is and can take advantage of sales in other stores when I find them. Other things I purchase in bulk once or twice a year. Wheat berries, oatmeal, and the like I buy through a somewhat local farmer who organizes a bulk order twice a year. I will buy 50# of oatmeal and 200# of wheat at a time. Also, for the past several years we have purchased a side of beef which we store in a large freezer in the basement.

But I know what everyone wants to know is how much I spend. I won't kid you, it does cost a bit of money to feed 11 or 12 people every week, but probably not as much as you would expect. I spend an average of $150 on food each week. Every several weeks I spend $100 dollars at the warehouse store and let's say, $50 a month on random purchases at other stores. When I add in the amounts of the beef and bulk orders, after a little averaging, I come up with an average of $212.50 per week on all our groceries, not including diapers. From talking with people, I know that this is a surprisingly low number given the number of people for whom I'm shopping.

So what do I do to get this number to where it is? I think the key is in what I don't buy and where I don't shop. Some of the major chain grocery stores (at least in my area) are also some of the most expensive. They may have some good sales every now and then (which I'm happy to take advantage of), but for the most part, they are outrageously high. If you look around, often you can find less expensive stores to shop in. Next, I don't buy a lot of processed food. Very little in fact. We do most of our cooking from scratch and those ingredients tend to be less expensive. It does take a little more time in the preparation department, but I'm happy to do this since I often have more time than extra cash. (And, it's just a lot better for one's health to eat this way.) We don't tend to have snacks around. If children are hungry fresh fruit is always available. And no soda. It is a very special treat and some of our children don't even like the stuff. (I do buy coffee and tea. Those count as necessities in my book. I even buy fruit tea for the children to enjoy. I can be fun.)

When I buy fruit and vegetables, I'm afraid that I don't buy organic all the time. I just don't. When one looks critically at ones budget, there are many, many factors which need to be weighed. I do what I can and make the best decisions with what I have available at that moment. Sadly, it's not a perfect world. That said, I try to only buy fruit if it is under a dollar a pound. This means we pretty much eat only fruit that is in season.

We eat well. By keeping the bulk of the shopping to a reasonable amount, I can usually splurge on the ingredients for at least one meal a week. Every loves goat cheese and bacon around here, but those don't show up every day. It is another reason to really think carefully through the menu plan for the week so that you don't regret it at the checkout counter.

One last comment. I don't do coupons, either. Very few things I buy even have coupons available. I know that some can do amazing things with coupons, I'm just not one. I don't have the patience for  it.

So there you have it. Grocery shopping at the Big, Ugly House. Maybe by tomorrow something blog worthy will have occurred and I can write an actually interesting post.


Anonymous said…
I am impressed! And challenged to do better myself! We have 8 kids (although only 5 are here full-time now) and our bill is between $200 and $225 each week. I think I am a good, frugal shopper, but I think I need to take lessons from you! :)

molly said…
Wow I am amazed! We easily spend $150 per week on my family of 5. I feel like I do everything to keep my budget down (coupons, sales, scratch cooking) but it is so expensive here. I am going to challenge myself to do better.
thecurryseven said…
I want to be sure that I don't make someone feel badly about their food budget needlessly. A while back I wrote a post about hunger challenges and food deserts. In doing so I was shocked at the way the numbers worked out. In some ways it is far more efficient to feed a larger number of people. For a family, you have to buy certain basics, then once you are past that the cost per person continues to go down. That is why feeding 10 children is just about the same as feeding less... because I don't have to buy triple the food, I just buy larger quantities in larger packages. It's not the same thing.

I should have also added that we do not eat meat at every meal and about 1/3 to 1/2 of our meals are either meatless or use very little meat. It makes a difference. As does the fact that I don't have to pack lunches for my crew and we can eat inexpensive lunches or leftovers.

I just didn't want anyone to be discouraged over what they spend. I know I could spend less than I do... we all could. But it is hard to keep to that level of frugality on a weekly basis. And some weeks are bad... it's why I like to deal in averages. Some weeks I can be super frugal, and others I'm calling the pizza guy.

Anonymous said…
I appreciate a challenge! I have long wanted to do more meatless meals, but I'm afraid of what the reaction will be. Amazingly, when I sneak them in every now and then, there is no commotion! I want to be able to spend the money elsewhere. I want to be able to support families who are adopting, since that doesn't seem to be our particular mission right now. That's where I want my money to go!

comemorning said…
Love this! Have you done any posts on meatless meals? Would love some suggestions there, given that I think it's a great way to go in terms of health and pocketbook considerations. Thanks for all of the tips! Emily

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