So I've been asked several times about the financial aspect of this food revolution. There is a perception (mine included) out there that eating healthy in this day and age is impossible due to cost. When I have shared our decision to cut out processed foods, the reaction that I largely get is, "Dude, how will you afford that?"-the dude is for real!! I have cool friends. To answer the money question (and for the record I don't mind because I am used to people asking me how we swing it with a big family-I learned long ago not to be offended) we operate with a flexible zero based budget that uses cash envelopes for our variable spending. It's all about the budget baby!!!
About, well I can't even remember how long but I'll guesstimate that it's been 5 years, I started to get tired of randomly spending money and then wondering why at the end of the month we were short-REALLY short. A bit of background here-my husband gets paid once a month. I have been a stay at home mom for almost 13 years (working here and there but nothing full time). There isn't a lot of wiggle room in the paycheck. I had no system of tracking the dollars that were spent, and while I was not the most fiscally responsible person, I didn't think I was buying that much stuff. I honestly couldn't figure out why the checkbook was so empty!!! In desperation, I sat down with Derek and we made a list of all of our monthly expenses including debt. Then we made a list of variable expenses for the month which could change (groceries, gas, entertainment, miscellaneous spending, etc.). For one month we tracked every penny that we spent and kept the receipts. From that month we created a budget and decided to use cash envelopes for the variable expenses that we had. Our budget has changed (we used to have a specific envelope for baby needs) over time as have the dollars that we dedicate to an envelope (the grocery money has needed to increase several times). If there is money in an envelope it can be spent. When the money is gone-it's gone. We do have to adjust our budget during the summer months because our income goes down with my not working and Derek not teaching his class. We know ahead of time that things are very tight during June-September and so we plan accordingly for that.
Now to the nitty gritty of the grocery envelope. For the past two years I have devoted $800 cash (for the month) to the envelope labeled grocery. My definition of grocery spending in the past has been anything that I can purchase at a super store such as Walmart or Sams. I do include paper products, cleaning products, personal products, and alcohol in this spending. It is easier for me to do this because I hate having to break down our spending into these little micro subcategories. I DO NOT use my debit card unless it is an absolute emergency and then take the exact amount of cash and replenish my checking account. I keep all receipts that I use for the month in that envelope so I can always go back and see what I have spent our money on. As the food revolution gets closer (June 1st is right around the corner!!) I am trying to decide if this is going to change-am I going to continue including items other than food in our budget? And the big one-can I reduce the $800 down at all?
The big question is do we stay within the budget?? It is hard. I would be lying if I told you that I had hundreds of dollars left over at the end of the month. Typically towards the end of any given month I am shopping from our cupboards and cursing any unexpected item that we run out of. In the past I would do one very big shopping trip to Sams where I would purchase the "snacks" for the month (both for school lunches and for home) and most of our meat. Then I would fill in with fruit, vegetables, etc on my weekly trip to the store. This month it was different. I did go to Sams and make some big meat purchases, but everything else was fresh-less one box of "on the go" peanuts that the kids can have for a snack. I also utilized Aldi (how could I have forgotten about this gold mine?), Walmart, and Kroger (they had a huge 10 for $10 sale on peppers and blueberries this past week). So what you want to know is-did I blow my budget?
Drum roll please......I still have money and it is the end of the month. I've purchased "real" food and when I looked in the envelope there was one last $100 bill!!! How did this happen?? I am convinced that it is simply because I didn't buy one single "snack" food the entire month. No industrial sized boxes of baked chips or cookies. No (sniffle, sniffle) goldfish crackers or pretzles. Even with my $10 a week bread purchases at Great Harvest I still came out ahead. I still bought the monster toilet paper package, still bought paper towels, still bought laundry detergent-I just didn't shop many of the center aisles when I needed things. Is it a fluke? I don't know, but I have decided that on June 1st I will be sharing any receipt that is spent out of the envelope. I want everyone to see what I buy-hey, maybe it will inspire you to try to shop this way too:)
Now not to give you the impression that this is all Pollyanna rosey over here-I had some different issues with my family this past week-I'll share that in my food post. A lot of frustration here at chez Story!! It centers around the idea that we shall graze in the kitchen all day long whilst Mother prepares endless healthy snacks for the children-hello, I don't think so!!!!! I need to give that a bit more time before sharing-don't want to come across negatively!!
So to wrap this post up: Yes we use a budget. Yes it works for our family. No it isn't fancy (I write it down each month on paper and put it in a 3 ring binder). No it isn't rigid. Yes we allow for fun things (we have an envelope for entertainment) and yes we try very hard to stick to the amount in the envelope-i.e. once it's gone it's gone until the next month. If the cash envelope sounds interesting to you, google Dave Ramsey or Financial Peace. There are a lot of different methods that you can use-it really is helpful.