Who Can Afford to Eat Organic? Maybe You! (part 1)
I used to say, “I think organic food is great, but who can afford it?” That was several years ago and based on an occasional trip to the local Whole Foods grocery store. Now, we buy more organic food than non-organic. There are more choices than ever and I haven’t increased our food budget from July of 2008 until now. July 2008 was the month we started budgeting and getting out of debt. Controlling food cost was one of the most powerful behaviors in our success. When we began, of course, I had no idea how much we spent on food, or whether that was reasonable.
What are you spending now on groceries? What? You don’t know? That’s okay, I didn’t either and I only know now because I get a set amount of cash out of the bank twice a month and only pay cash for food-hence no tracking of individual purchases. It is interesting to see the USDA average cost of food in the US at 4 different levels: Thrifty, Low Cost, Moderate Cost, and Liberal. This chart http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2013/CostofFoodNov2013.pdf shows November 2013 monthly cost for a “nutritious” diet (based on previous years Dietary Reference Intakes and Food pyramid) for different family sizes/ages. Numbers are updated monthly and June is considered the reference month for the year. Click here http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/USDAFoodCost-Home.htm for data from other months.
For a family of 4 with 2 adults and 2 school age children (6-11 years old) the monthly food costs are:
$633.80 – Thrifty
$829.20 – Low Cost
$1037.70 – Moderate Cost
$1258.50 – Liberal
This information is based on all meals and snacks being prepared at home and I’m pretty sure that isn’t reality for a family with 2 school aged kids. I hope these numbers don’t scare you. I want to encourage you by letting you know that we have been eating mostly organic and spending below the “Thrifty” food plan cost for our family size and that sometimes includes paper towels and non food items. I don’t see any adjustment for geographic location and I wonder how much grocery costs vary. When I visited my relatives in California, I always thought costs were quite a bit higher in the grocery store but my sister who moved here (Kansas City area) swears that food costs more here than in California.
Action step: Find out how much you are spending now on groceries. See how you compare to the USDA average, just as a starting point. I’d love to hear back from you if you think these USDA numbers are reasonable or way out of line, either direction. I’ll share strategies I’ve learned to convert to organic and stay on budget in future posts.