I have been spoiled.
Let me explain. For years now I have rarely denied myself any food that I wanted to buy, or denied my family either, as long as it was a healthy food (and sometimes, I'll admit, when it wasn't).
But here I am, starting over with voluntary frugality. I've set an initial grocery budget of $800 per month, which is between the thrifty and low cost plans on the USDA cost of food chart. If it isn't enough then we'll make more cuts, if we come in under we'll lower the budget. In that $800 I am including the special foods that my men eat because they are athletes - bars, gels, electrolytes, etc.
I decided that my breakdown might look something like this:
$225 ingredients for daily smoothies, including fresh and frozen fruit, hemp seed, flax seed, dates, and greens.
$75 ingredients for bread
$200 for other bulk purchases such as grains, legumes, sweeteners, oil, nuts, etc.
$200 for fresh produce (not related to smoothies)
$100 for other items (including athletic foods)
It's very theoretical at this point and will certainly get tweaked. I am planning to track each of these categories separately so I can see where the money is going and make adjustments.
I can only control so much of the budget; my main influence is on what we spend on our main meal and how we save by things I make at home, like bread.
(Friends playing along at home may realize that I am spending $75 on bread ingredients. This is our average 22 loaves plus ingredients for another 8 loaves which may become muffins, role, tortillas, etc. I was spending $123 per month on Dave's Killer Bread and that didn't include any other breads we ate.)
I don't want to be the weakest link here, so I know I have to give up some things, both things i bought because I liked them and things I bought because the guys like them. Here are some foods on my list to give up as well as ideas as how to replace them:
jarred kalamata olives
canned green olives from Trader Joe's
individual cans of sliced black olives
The kalamata and green olives are just too expensive to justify buying, and I worked out the individual cans of sliced black olives by buying bulk sliced olives at Costco and weaning the family off having them on tacos, so now we reserve them for pizza only. I plan to forage and cure some olives myself later this summer and fall; I know exactly where to find them on a local trail.
Field Roast Sausages
These were something we found recently, and they are very good but cost $6.99 per four sausages. I just can't buy them at that price, at least not regularly. The good thing, however, is that these sausages are based on vital wheat gluten and could be duplicated at home. I may try it in the future, but vital wheat gluten is processed so I would prefer my family learn to live without them.
Boca Burgers and other Boca products
These are all fake meats, and honestly, giving them up is no hardship for me; I don't even eat them most of the times. We'll use what we have in the freezer and be done with it. I have told my family that we can buy the Gardein chicken strips for 4th of July (our replacement for fried chicken at a picnic) and a Field Roast fake turkey roast for Thanksgiving. We also have a couple of cans of fake hotdogs set aside for camping. I do plan to learn to make legume and grain based veggie burgers and to try my hand at bacon bits and pepperoni bits using TVP. (I know that TVP isn't a whole food. I do my best, but I am only one of four people in this family. We'll use it sparingly.)
These are something I just found; I was so excited to find 100% granulated raw wildflower honey crystals. Alas, they are simply too expensive to buy any longer. While they have a much lighter taste than sucanat in frostings, it would be best to give up iced sweets and/or use organic white sugar on the rare occasions that we make a cake.
Daiya cheese and Daiya cream cheese
Again, this isn't a hardship for me; I hate Daiya shredded cheese and only like the cream cheese in icing. I am going to make my own fresh mozzarella (using soy milk) for pizza and hope the guys will like that. I also plan to try my hand at cashew cream cheese on the rare occasions we need cream cheese for a recipe.
I really, really hope I can wean my family off maple syrup because it is so expensive! I am hoping that jaggery syrup will be a fine substitute.
My boys like to eat peanuts mixed with chocolate chips as a snack. I am hoping that once there are no chocolate chips in the house and they haven't been replaced that they will just get used to it.
I hope to bring down the cost of my bread by using jaggery syrup instead of honey.