>Eating Healthfully on a Budget

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I was home with a sick child today, so I took the opportunity to update our monthly budget during one of his naps.  Our intention is to stick to a pretty strict budget every month, but we’re not always disciplined about sitting down and updating the spreadsheet on a regular basis.  This often leads to overspending, which leads to stress, which leads to arguments, which leads to dissatisfaction and distress.  Lack of discipline is not a good thing.  
It’s definitely better to keep up with it on a regular basis, especially when you are pleasantly surprised by your spending (or lack thereof).
A month or so ago, I mentioned the possibility of hosting a Hunger Awareness Blog Challenge during the month of January.  After speaking with representatives at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, we decided it might be better to wait until the spring to do something like this in our area.  There is an agency in Maryland that is currently doing a similar challenge, so if you’d like to get an idea of how it works, you can check them out.
When I got done entering all of our expenditures into the budget spreadsheet today, I looked at the total in the grocery column.  This column includes all of our food, including the bi-weekly produce delivery we receive from Nature’s Garden Delivered; diapers and wipes for the baby; toiletries, paper goods (toilet paper, paper towels), etc.  For a family of four, our total grocery spending for the month of January came to roughly $400.  Granted, there’s a week left in the month, but I just went to the store yesterday for a few supplemental vegetables (we ate everything from last week’s box already), and we have two almost-full gallons of milk, so we’re good for the rest of the week as far as I can tell.
If you break that down, that’s $100 per person for the month, which equates to just over $3 per person per day.  Or about $25 per person per week.  
It seems we’ve inadvertently participated in our own “food stamp challenge”.  Granted, I was also in the midst of a pantry clean-out during the month of January, so I’m sure that had something to do with it, but that mostly accounted for beans and pasta, which are relatively inexpensive items.  
And we ate well.  Here are a few of the things we enjoyed this month:

There was this bean soup with flatbread pizzas
A creamy pasta primavera        
Some healthy blueberry oat muffins
A tasty and hearty pot roast
This re-purposed pot roast hash with creamy grits and poached eggs
This tasty homemade pizza
This fabulous grass-fed, locally pastured steak (which was a total splurge, but also totally worth it)
We made falafel, hummus and Greek potatoes one night.  This, by the way, is probably one of the least expensive and most flavorful meals you can make.  It deserves its own post detailing just how inexpensive it really is (coming soon, I hope).
This flounder and quinoa – the first of my Eat Right America-themed meals.
A wonderful butterbean and kale soup, with quinoa and tomatoes.
And tonight’s white chili – navy beans and chicken in a smoky cumin-scented broth.  Yum.
You probably noticed the number of bean-centric soups in there.  Dried legumes really are the key to eating healthfully on a restricted budget.  A hearty soup with lots of beans is not only filling, but you’ll have leftovers for days.  You kind of have to resign yourself to eating it until it’s gone, or freezing some of it for later (the bean soup from the beginning of the month will probably make a reappearance sometime this week, since I’ve got a couple of pints of it in the freezer as I type). 
I noticed someone in one of the Eat Right America forums the other day asking if anyone thought they could do the challenge on a tight budget.  They were worried that all of the fresh fruits and veg were going to break their bank.
We receive a delivery of produce every other week.  This is what might come in a typical box.  We pay about $45 every two weeks for this service, and I usually have to go once during the off week to purchase supplemental produce (usually just bananas and maybe some extra greens or broccoli).  This is obviously for a family of four, so for a single person or a couple, your costs would be lower.  
Eating healthfully doesn’t have to be expensive.  And you don’t have to be resigned to eating overly processed junk food if you find yourself living on a restricted budget. 
Next month, I’ll share our grocery lists and give more detail on how we’re making it work for our family.
As for the Atlanta Hunger Awareness Blog Challenge, I hope to have more details in the coming months.  If you are interested in participating in something like this, and you haven’t already let me know, please do so.  You can email me at lifeinrecipes [at] gmail [dot] com.  Just put “Hunger Awareness Blog Challenge” in the subject line. 
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