This time of year, we have plenty of vegetables from our garden and eggs from our chickens. While this does make up a good portion of our diet, we still need to buy our meats. Top quality ingredients like farm fresh meats and produce allow us to cook very simply and still have incredibly tasty, healthy food. By using basic ingredients we also save a lot of time and energy preparing our meals. Buying from a farm can be more expensive sometimes, but we respect the ingredients more and in turn, waste much less.
There was a time when we didn’t eat very many eggs. Growing up, my father had high cholesterol and the conventional wisdom was to avoid eggs. Now more research has proven this couldn’t be further from the truth. A few years ago, we met a friend’s wife who is a personal trainer and fitness guide. She is an egg fanatic to say the least, and couldn’t stop extolling the benefits of eggs – low calorie yet packed with protein and nutrients. We started eating more eggs, and now can’t see starting the day without them.
On average, we each have 2 eggs a day for breakfast. The chickens pretty much cover this, giving us around 10 dozen eggs every month. We pay around $20 a month to care for them, so it ends up costing us $2 a dozen for free range eggs. To fuel up for a day of splitting wood, I like to have more fat and protein, so I’ll add beans and bacon on the side. A quick cost breakdown yields $0.33 for 2 eggs, $0.20 for 1/4 can of beans, and $0.87 for 2oz of premium double pressed bacon from our local Polish deli. The bacon is a bit pricey at $7.50/lb but totally worth the expense 🙂 In total, a breakfast like this ends up costing $1.40.
We have tons of squash coming in, and I love eating them grilled with a side of meat. We get whole chickens for $3.00 a pound at a local farm. And I probably eat half a pound or $1.50 worth of chicken with my squash for lunch. We grow the squash for the cost of some seeds and water, and I have even seen them being given away for free at farm stands this time of year. With these farm fresh ingredients, all I add is salt and pepper, and a bit of olive oil for the squash. I might also wrap some garlic I harvested and throw them on the grill to roast. So for a $1.50 I can have a delicious grilled lunch.
If there is one thing I love about the summer, it’s having all the fresh ingredients to make Korean BBQ. Mrs. Crazy Kicks makes some mean KBQ – she essentially hooked me with this stuff when we started dating. We get the butcher at our international food store to slice up a couple of 7-lb packs of short ribs, then we marinate a big batch all at once. Some will get frozen and some we eat right away.
The traditional way to eat KBQ is to wrap some grilled meat in lettuce with rice, garlic, green onion, hot peppers and hot pepper paste. The tender fresh lettuce from our garden is a special treat in early summer. We pay $4/lb for the short ribs. By the time the extra fat is trimmed and we account for marinade, it’s ~$4.20/lb for our prepared KBQ. Rice is cheap in bulk so conservatively we might use $0.10 worth or rice per meal. We each eat around 1/2 lb of ribs – in the wraps, it’s a big meal. So with $2.10 worth of meat and $0.10 worth of rice, we spend a total of $2.20 for what is essentially my all time favorite meal.
I tend to snack a few times a day, usually after the gym or when I get the late night munchies. Snacks include garden veggies like sugar snap peas, broccoli and cherry tomatoes, but my go to snack these days is Greek yogurt with cereal – more protein! We are lucky to have an Aldi nearby and I really like their Greek yogurt which is only $3.50 for a 2-lb container. If I’m really hungry I can probably go through 1/4 of a container in a day. I top it off with some cereal I get for $1.50 a box which lasts me ~2 weeks. That’s another $1 a day for snacks.
Eating at home with the above meals, I spend $6.10 a day to eat really well. Of course this is just an example. If I’m having a lazy day with less physical activity, I might just have yogurt for lunch or squash and sausage for dinner. And we also have much more expensive meals such as dry aged steak from a local farm ($16/lb) or lobsters when in season and on sale ($6/lb). We’re in New England after all.
Aside from estimating a day with typical meals, I also took a look at our actual charges for the month. We spent $44 at the Polish deli (mostly sausages and bacon), $91 at the farmers’ market (mostly chicken and beef), $83 at local grocery stores (including lobsters) and $54 at the international food store. Counting the $20 a month for taking care of our flock of chickens brings us to a total of $292 for groceries.
So we spend less than $10 a day on groceries to feed us both with premium ingredients… Apparently I spend ~$6 of that to feed myself. The take away is that I’m a pig – all the bacon and sausages apparently cost more than the veggie scrambles my wife eats.
We ate out twice last month. There was a nice sushi lunch we had for $26. And we got tacos at the Long Wharf in New Haven, which has a water front stretch lined with authentic Mexican and Puerto Rican food trucks. They sell tacos for $1.50 each and they are superb. We also had to get some Puerto Rican morcilla (blood sausage) for a couple bucks. For 4 tacos and some morcilla, we spent $8 to lunch on the water.
This brings our total food expenses in the past month to $326. But that doesn’t include beer, which I will admit is a significant source of calories for myself, and the errant beer gnomes we seem to have around here.