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The 2011 “Budgie”

March 13, 2011

I affectionately refer to my budget spreadsheet as “the budgie.” I check in with it every once in a while, play with the numbers, and make sure we’re on track. I’d be lying if I said it’s no fun. I’m all kinds of geeky. Over the Christmas holidays, we sat down and took a good look at the budgie together. I’ve been keeping a detailed spreadsheet since we got married three years ago, and I find it requires tweaking fairly regularly, since our circumstances tend to change a lot, from me being a student, to working in the summers, to paying tuition (and then not), to having a baby, job changes, buying a house…our “routine” (if we’ve ever really had one) has changed frequently over the years, and so has our budget.

 

 

We decided on a few changes over Christmas, made some decisions about priorities (we do have a third person to consider now!), and re-calculated things. We also noticed that we could be doing a lot better in some areas. Food is one such area.

We’re in the midst making 2011 a year of heightened frugality in the kitchen for a few reasons:

  • I know a lot more about traditional food preparation than I did a few years ago, and for me, having more confidence means I create less waste, and have more room for creativity in the kitchen – in other words, I’m more than ready to move from the frontier stage to the implementation stage – to focusing less on sourcing and research, and more on stewardship of resources, if that makes sense;
  • With a new little person in our family, we have a new reason to save our funds, and food is always our biggest monthly variable expenditure (with the most potential room for savings);
  • Saving where possible means that we can invest more in the things that are more expensive, like quality meats and fats; and
  • I have a few ideas for making 2011 our healthiest year yet.

So far, we’re doing well. But it doesn’t stop there. We’re also making 2011 a year light in grains. Here are some notes about the things we’re doing to support that change:

  • Organ meats and fermented foods, two pillars of a healing grain-free diet, are VERY inexpensive. I am able to get grass-fed beef liver for $2/pound. This in a land where a pound of organic butter runs me $9-10. I’m well on my way to establishing a large repertoire of fermented staples, and my journey into weekly offal-dom (?) is impending.
  • Bone broth is nearly free, and we’re in the throes of making at least 1-2 batches every week. We are using it so much we don’t even need to freeze it. It’s hardly any work to set up a proper batch of stock, and worth gold in terms of nutrition. This is the truly nourishing, set-it-and-forget-it-for-two-days variety of stock, just to be clear. I think four hour stock is much more labour intensive, and it certainly can’t hold a candle to true bone broth, nutritionally speaking.
  • Eggs are a wonderful, relatively inexpensive source of animal protein, and we love them. How about an omelet night every week at the end of the week to use up the last of the veg, and stretch the protein budget? My fresh from the farm eggs are $5/doz, which means a 2 person 3-egg-each meal is only $2.50.
  • Frozen wild-caught fish has replaced fresh for the time being, at a fraction of the price, without too much of a taste sacrifice. Leftovers are salad fodder for lunches the next day. Less expensive fresh seafood will be making a larger appearance over time too. Goodbye, fresh wild pacific salmon at $15/pound. Hello, fresh mussels at $2/lb.
  • Meatballs. (If you’ve noticed the theme of this list is meat, you’re on to something. Aside from good fats, quality meats cost more pound-for-pound, but in terms of what you get (and what you don’t) when you go for quality, it’s hard to say they are really more expensive.) At the same time, more dollars to spend on meat means more dollars potentially saved if I can be creative enough. Anyhow, meatballs are inexpensive, relatively speaking, and can be stretched pretty far too.

All in all, my first quarter budgie report is quite positive. We’re eating better on less, so far. And it can only get better: I have a half-side of grass-fed beef, a side of (certified organic heritage breed) pork, and 30-40 pastured chickens coming when the weather gets nicer. These bulk purchases will help make the second half of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 even more frugal.

Is your budget spreadsheet set up to tell you what your per-day or per-meal budget is? Tell me it’s not just me :)

What do you do to keep the food budget down while limiting grains, and emphasizing quality?? I am so interested to learn from others on this front…let the discussion begin!

 

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