Starting Monday, I am embarking on an intensive 4-week food budgeting exercise. For anyone who loves food, loves to cook, and / or reads or writes about food all day long, resisting that amazing $10 triple creme cheese or $6 box of fresh farmstand berries is nearly impossible. These days, however, it’s necessary. My goal is 4 weeks, $50 / week, 3 meals a day for 2 people. This is not the most ambitious goal out there — but I think it’s realistic. I am not trying to set myself up for failure, rather, to reorient my thought process when I hit the grocery store or farmer’s market. Ask myself not just “do I want it?” but “do I need it?”. Force myself to be more creative to create delicious food, because if there’s one area I’m not willing to compromise on, it’s taste. Here are my ground rules:

My budget of $50 per week will feed 2 people 3 meals a day. That is an average of $1.20  / serving.

My goal is to make the most diverse, delicious things I can on my budget, not just ketchup sandwiches and ramen noodles.

I will not count the most common “pantry” items toward my costs (salt, pepper, sugar), although I will try to estimate price if they are not as common.

Beverages are not included in the budget, although I am on a month-long booze hiatus anyway, and make coffee at home in the morning to save money (and the environment).

Some of my initial thoughts:

– Plan every meal for the week ahead of time.
– Limit meat consumption.
– Buy bulk items as much as possible.
– Keep snacks around at work so I don’t buy $4 pastries from City Bakery
– Always have bread, lunch meat, and cheese around for lunch sandwiches if leftovers aren’t an option.
– Keep a dry erase board on the fridge so I know what I have at all times. Use it.
– Bake a large batch of bagels / scones / muffins and freeze for breakfasts.
– Try to make things from scratch and buy responsibly as much as possible (i.e. organic milk, cage free eggs). Don’t compromise ethics.

Something else to note: When I buy things in bulk and freeze the rest (like chicken, etc.) I am counting the per piece price, not the capital needed to purchase the entire amount. I understand for some people who have severely limited budgets, this is not always possible, but for my purposes I will assume some capital is involved in order to get the best per-piece deal.

Sunday evening I will post the week’s meal plan and estimated grocery costs. And away we go! You can follow me either here, or on The Thrifty Gourmet!