Saturday, April 2, 2011

Budget Revised

After my anxiety and guilt last week over buying so much conventionally grown meat I took a field trip to Puget Consumer Cooperative (known locally as PCC-- in fact I had to look up what PCC stood for just now). There are I think 9 stores, most of them far away in Seattle and on the East side (I live 20 miles North of the city). A couple years ago one finally opened comparatively closer to my house-- it's far enough (about 10 miles) I don't go there very often, though I always enjoy shopping there. I have another health food oriented store (Central Market) within 3 or 4 miles I go to, but that is also super expensive (I swear I can't get out of there without spending at least $50). We don't have a Whole Foods close to us (though we are getting one soon, Lord help us. I lived within walking distance of one in college and I went there every day!) Anyway, in my mind PCC was up there in expense with Whole Foods and Central as far as price, so it's rare I go there-- produce, while pristine is pretty spendy there. But they do have the best selection of local, pasture raised etc. meat around. Imagine my surprise then, to find that grass fed ground beef was $1 cheaper per pound at PCC then at Trader Joe's, and local instead of from New Zealand! I also found some of the more "roast" oriented cuts of meat to be relatively affordable too-- all within the $5-$6 a pound range (other than one pound of better steak I bought for $10 a pound). My favorite coconut milk was also significantly cheaper ($1.79 a can vs. $2.50 at Fred Meyer).

I purchased the following, all of which is local/grass-fed/pastured etc.:
~ 5 pounds ground beef
1.72 lb lamb shoulder roast
2.24 lb pork shoulder roast
1.05 lb Top sirloin steak (that was the only expensive splurge)
3.55 lb Sirloin tip roast
3.4 lb chicken thighs (these were the only sorta pastured Rosie's kind, but that's all they had)
2 cans of wild caught fish (one salmon one tuna)-- these were way cheaper than at Fred Meyer for the same brand!

4 cans of coconut milk
some loose rooibos tea
ginger green tea (in bags)

At Trader Joes and Fred Meyer I bought
Several bags of mixed greens and stir fry greens
broccoli crowns and cauliflower
3 bell peppers
1 dark chocolate lover's bar (85% cocoa)-- treat!
7 organic fuji apples
3 bananas
1 lemon

So how did this work out budget wise? My goal is to stay within $125-$150 a week, hopefully at least some of the time keeping to the lower end to allow for expenses like dish soap, toilet paper etc. So let's compare last week's bargain shopper experience with this week's all grass-fed, mostly organic shopping list. I've noticed I'm saving money from pre-paleo because gluten free bread and treats are very expensive. The gluten and dairy free ice cream I like is usually $5 or $6 a pint!

Last week I spent:
Total: $135 (I wrote in my post it was $125 or so but a mid-week run to Fred Meyer for a few things pushed it to this new total). This includes the $14 turkey that was completely inedible, save for some broth. Even 6 hours of simmering did not lessen the toughness of the meat. Lesson learned there.

Breakdown: Total: $135
Meat: $67.03 (around 15 pounds, plus the turkey)
Fruit: $6? (I can't find the receipt for the mid-week apples I bought)
Veg: $30.34
Other: $17.82

This week I spent: $148.73
Meat: $99.57 (17 pounds + 2 cans of canned fish)
Fruit: $5.79
Veg: $24.66
Other (includes avocadoes): $18.71

(Note: other is generally tea, coconut milk, spices, sometimes bread or peanut butter for M.)

So obviously I spent around 50% more for meat. But last week I over-bought vegetables (I may have done that again today-- a lot left from last week are going into the soup). Really if you take out the turkey, I pretty much doubled my meat budget, but overall I stayed (barely) in budget for the week. It is my hope that the meat I bought will last maybe 10 days, but that remains to be seen. I still have 1 pound of the regular extra lean ground beef I bought last week in the freezer, and I'm defrosting the last of my Costco cod for dinner tonight. If I buy a $63 membership to the co-op I can get 5% off on the 15th & 16th of the month, plus another 10% off one other day of the month. If I can clear some freezer space or get a second freezer maybe I could stock up once or twice a month and save some money.

I would need the overall budget $25 or so lower on alternate weeks-- I bought bread and peanut butter for M. at Costco a couple weeks ago and we will run out this week (he eats apples and peanut butter like they are going out of style, and still has the occasional sandwich. Once I get myself dialed in a little more I'll work on adjusting him closer to paleo too).

Today I tried driving 20 miles to the closest year-round farmer's market in the University District, but they just didn't have much produce, given that it's just barely Spring, so another week of Trader Joe's/Fred Meyer produce. I'm contemplating going back to using the CSA we used in the past (Full Circle Farm) but I'm not sure it's worth it right now, since come summer I do plan to visit more farmers markets. I think the fruit bill in particular will be higher in the summer since we eat tons of berries and peaches when they are in season, but this will be tempered by the fact I usually grow greens, tomatoes, raspberries and some herbs in the backyard (assuming we actually get some sun this year-- last year it was a cold summer and my tomatoes never got ripe)-- which come to think of it is the reason I quit the CSA in the first place. Maybe I'll save that for October.

Overall I am thrilled that I was able to get a week or so's worth of meat that I can feel environmentally, ethically, and healthily good about. I'll let you know how long all that meat lasts. If it doesn't last us the week then we are going to have to cut it down to maybe 75% best, 25% less than awesome.

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