Tedious as it may sound, this is what I've been working on in my "spare" time this past week (I use that term extremely loosely).
As I mentioned last week in my post about working with rising grocery costs, I thought that it would be useful to start to take some of my usual meals and break them down into individual serving costs. Last week, I broke my budget down into what I thought would be an appropriate cost per breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then also into per person costs.This exercise has so far proved to be both very valuable and somewhat discouraging.
First, the discouraging part (I prefer to hear the bad news first, before the good news-- I figure that way, it can't possibly get any worse!)... I now see why I am struggling so hard to make ends meet with out grocery budget as it is. Although I think that my meals are quite frugal and cost efficient in general, they are still coming out to higher cost-per-serving calculations than I had hoped to see. So, either my meals need to change, or I need to figure out how to get my food for less. Sigh...
And now, the valuable (and encouraging part)... I've never broken down my costs like this before, and it is so good to see! First, I made a list of all my basic ingredients and their cost, then tried to break it down into a useful cost, such as price per cup of uncooked rice, or per 1/2 cup of butter, or per lb of ground beef, or per carrot, etc. Very revealing, I must say!
My current task has been taking my meals and breaking them down into their primary ingredients (leaving out the spices, baking powder, etc. because I made allowance for that in my earlier calculations), adding up the total cost of the meal, dividing it by the number of servings that it makes, and recording my final cost-per-serving amount.
This is so valuable to see, because it has opened my eyes to some meals that felt quite cheap to me are actually more costly than I imagined them to be. Sometimes you need to see it to believe it. Allow me to share with you a few of my calculations in regards to breakfast dishes (I've only begun lunch/dinner dishes, so I'll share more of those next week):
1. Eggs with toast (including pb, jam, cheese, butter, etc.)= $1.46 per serving (homemade bread) or $1.67 (bought bread)
2. Yogurt with almonds and berries= $1.67
3. Smoothie (includes yogurt, fruit, sweetener, etc.)= $1.00
4. Oatmeal (including milk, honey, raisins)= $1.33
5. Muffins (blueberry or apple cinnamon, assuming 2 muffins is a serving)= $0.58
6. Omelet (milk, cheese, onion, pepper, butter)= $1.45
7. Baked Oatmeal (includes milk on top)= $1.51 (plain) or $1.55 (with apples or raisins in it)
8. Pancakes= $1.46 (with maple syrup/butter), $1.10 (with honey/butter), $1.39 (with whipped cream/fruit)
Guess what I'm making for breakfast tomorrow? You got it. Muffins!
Now, these are well above the price-per-serving that I had anticipated when I first broke down my budget, and that was where the discouragement set in. Although, I have begun to work out some dinner prices, and was encouraged that some of them are not quite as high as I though they might be. I've got me some work to do here, I think!
It comes down to two basic options (well, three, but I don't think my family will consider eating less an option!)... either I figure out some more frugal meal options or ways to alter my meals to make them more cost efficient, or I find some ways to get our ingredients for cheaper than I currently am getting them. Most likely, it will take a combination of both.
I have more that I want to say, and a comment I want to answer, but I'll save it for tomorrow. Enjoy some more frugality talk over at Biblical Womanhood!