Friday November 2, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, after my last mega-shop, I searched the internet and finally re-discovered the USDA’s “Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels” charts and information.  Corin and I ran across this information a few years ago, but I wanted to look at it again.  Once found, I used their instructions to see exactly how we were doing with being frugal and grocery shopping. 

It’s a very interesting little exercise to do.  All you need to figure out where you family fits on the USDA chart is the amount you spend for food each month and the instructions on their chart.  The schedule is based on a family of four, so you will need to make their recommended adjustments (see footnote #3) if your family is smaller or larger.  Keep in mind, the dollar figures they are using in the schedule are for food items only, and do not include paper products, cleansers, soap, pet food, light bulbs, etc.  On the other hand, the schedule also assumes that you are eating all of your meals at home and not eating any of them out.  There is some other related information available through links on this page.  Interesting stuff, but a lot to read through!

Finding out where we were on the chart was helpful.  After discussing the schedule and my findings with my husband, he was able to eek a few more dollars out of each check to go towards food, and I was able to realize that I was going to have to cut out some things, too.  We are eating quite well  at just under the Thrifty Plan, which is considered the “food stamp standard”.  Our ability to buy staples in bulk and cook from scratch is what makes all the difference between eating to survive and eating well!  I am sure that most of you will have similar results.  I’m still not sure exactly how much below “Thrifty Plan” we are, because we do purchase a good number of non-food items out of our food money.  Today, for example, I purchased a big pack of toilet paper, dishwasher detergent, dog shampoo, people shampoo, dental floss, cosmetics, feminine supplies, two big bags of cotton balls, and a case of bleach, and I had to pay for those out of the food money.  The boys and I did well, though.  We came home with just a little cash left over, and we will have that either to carry over to our next mega-shop or to pick up something in between now and the next shopping trip.

One of the things I had to run down today was finding a good source for soft white wheat, which is what I use in most of my recipes in place of white flour.  I use hard white wheat for bread, but soft white wheat for everything else.  I had to drive into the large city where my husband works to buy it in bulk.  I was pleased to find it for $.69/lb., but I need to do some research to see if I can do better elsewhere.

I want to share a fun thing with you.  Most of you know about my Will and the hard time he sometimes has.  Once this past summer, on a particularly hard day for him, he was treated very badly by a checker at WalMart.  In that particular circumstance, Will hadn’t even done anything to warrant her ill-treatment of him, and that made the incident sting all that much more.  My son was crushed.  I was in near tears.  We went on to Costco that day, and as we were leaving, the guy that checks receipts at the door went out of his way to be kind to Will.  He hadn’t a clue, of course, that we’d had a hard time at our last stop, nor did he know that Will was having a bad day and was prone to having bad days.  This man has worked at our Costco for twenty years, most usually as the receipt checking guy or the membership card checking guy.  He’s always at one door or the other.

One day, weeks later, I was in there with all of my kids and he was standing aside chatting with another employee as we left the store.  I sent Dani and the boys on ahead and I asked him if I might have a moment.  Fighting back the tears I told him that I had a son who looked absolutely normal on the outside, but who, on the inside, sometimes gets his wiring crossed.  I let him know that his always treating Will so kindly and sweetly (drawing faces on the back of the receipt that Will hands him, calling him “buddy”, greeting him with a friendly, “hi there guy”) meant the world to me and that I just wanted to thank him.  That man was moved to tears, thanked me, and I moved on out to catch up with my kids.  Dani and I wandered in there two weeks ago to pick up Aaron’s birthday cake and he saw us, greeted us, and put his hand on my shoulder and said, “How you doing?”.  You see, he remembers!  And today?  Today, when he saw us coming through the line, his face lit up, and he greeted both boys even more cheerfully than normal, and gave me a friendly wink and nod as we headed out the door.  What a blessing that man is to me!  I happen to know that this man is also a Christian, and I’m telling you he knows how to let his light shine in the darkness.

While we were gone today, and before she left for Lisa’s, Dani did a deep cleaning of the kitchen.  I cannot tell you how nice it was to bring the groceries into a sparkling clean kitchen at the end of a long day!  Thank you, Sweetie!

A big thanks to those of you who have clicked over to Ben’s site to take his survey!  I know that he appreciates the help toward his upcoming college graduation.

Oh, and the girls and I were quiet for a bit today, too!

I was certainly glad to pull back into my driveway early this evening.  The boys unloaded the van, while I put the groceries away.  I appreciate that I only have to go to town once every two weeks, but it does make for a long afternoon.  I still have to put my big bags of flour, etc., into buckets, but that can wait until tomorrow.  I’m happy that I will be here in my home all day tomorrow, doing what I love best!

God bless you as you look well to the ways of your households!
Proverbs 31:27






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18 comments to Friday November 2, 2007

  • Thanks Cheryl for sharing this information. I know we spend more for 2 people than most but we both have special diet needs.I am so thankful that God has blessed us to where we can afford our needs.

    Give Will a big hug. I feel for him everytime i read he is having a bad day.



  • Elizabeth – We, too, need to take care with what we buy for dietary reasons.  The whole grains, sucanat, etc., are certainly more pricey than the ordinary stuff.  That’s why I feel so blessed, just as you are, that I can still manage to buy for my family on a fairly low budgeted amount.  God is certainly supplying all of our needs!!  Thanks for the hugs for Will…..I know you understand.

  • OH Cheryl! Your story about your “angel” at Costco brought tears to my eyes!! Thank you so much! Have a blessed weekend!:sunny:

  • I have to say that the staff at our Costco up here in Canada is always excellent. I’ve commented to my husband many times about the really friendly people that work there.  I am going to check out that USDA report, even though we’re in Canada is should still be fairly relevant….I think.  Your Dani is a jewel!

  • ok, I did it.  We were well below thrifty for our family.  But we grow almost all our own meat and veg so that explains why, even with groceries in Canada being more expensive. Interesting, thanks Chery!

  • OH. I am above the liberal plan. I guess my argument with Sweet Hubby that “I do my best with what I have” is not gonna work. I struggle in this area. I spend about $300 a week on groceries for 5 people and thought I was doing good. Thant does not count 1 lunch and 1 dinner out every week. Am I wrong? Hmmm. It is amazing you brought this up. In our 28 years of marriage this is the ONE area we struggle in. He is (I was gonna say a tightwad, but that sounds “not nice”) frugal and I SPEND. Something to pray about.

    I too had tears at the story of your Costco angel. My Kyle brings either really horrible responses or angelic ones. Because of that the angelic ones are even more special.

    Bless your little Dani. A deep cleaned kitchen is the nicest gift I could imagine!

    Blessings, Bren

  • Hi Cheryl,

    I have a question . Do you buy store brands for some items? I sat down and was looking at my bill from yesterday seeing where I could cut back and brands is one area. There are some items I could buy store brands of. This post has inspired me to do better this month. I am going to try and plan our meals from the larder and freezer this month. I keep a stockpile way too big for the 2 of us. That is another thing do you keep a stockpile or do you buy as you need.? Household items is another area I need to work on. There are lots of things there i can cut back on.

    Tell Will I have been thinking about him lately. We are going through some major home repairs and all my downstairs but the kitchen is ripped up. We are living upstairs till the work is complete. The workmen are suppose to be done by Nov. 20 in time for Thanksgiving. This is really messing with my problem. My brain just doesn’t deal well with disorder. I have had some really tough days. Praise the Lord I only had a melt down 2 days out of the 10 days since we started this. Dave keep reminding this too shall pass and I will have a beautiful home again. I loved the Costco story. It does help when people stop and makes us feel special. My food store know how I am and they go out of thier way to make things work for me.

    Have a blessed day. Thanks for listening and sharing with us.


  • My little family is about $10 less than the Thrifty Plan shows, and we feed extra people during the week. A lot to be said for ‘scratch’ cooking and not buying junk! We purchase a good amount of our groceries at Trader Joe’s then the rest at Costco (most meat and bulk vegies) and a scant few things at Bel Air. One thing we’ve done to lessen our grocery tab is to think of meat as a side dish rather than the main dish. That way it’ll stretch out and can be used for multiple meals rather than one. :o)

  • I think it is so important to let those  people who touch our lives in a special way know just how special they truly are! After all~they are few and far between in this world today!

    Can’t wait to find out how my family is in the food budget!

  • Thank you for a most interesting post. We are on a fixed income, and it is becoming more difficult with each passing week to keep up with the rapidly increasing food prices.

    It’ll be interesting to see where we land on this chart.

    I hope that you are feeling more up to par, Cheryl.

    Have a wonderful day!

  • Wow, is all I have to say. According to the chart for the thrifty plan for my family of 5, it says I “should” be spending $164 per week on groceries. I don’t even come close to that WITH non food items and cat items. That makes me feel good. Just this past week I spent $66 and change. It’s very rare I spend more than $100.

    What a wonderful man!! It’s too bad there weren’t more people like him!!!

  • $129.90 per WEEK for the THRIFTY plan??? 😮

    I did us (minus baby, she doesn’t count yet), and that’s what it came to! I spend $180 every 2 weeks, and that includes toiletries, paper goods, cleaning supplies, vitameatavegimens, more JUNK than we really should be eating ( ), as well as other non-grocery things that catch my eye through the store. Imagine the damage I could do with $260 in my pocket! 😮 😆

  • Your story brought tears to my eyes as well. It is so easy to forget. When you meet someone as genuine as the gentlemen at costco it is truley a blessing! Thanks for sharing.

    Micah (Happy Homemaker)

  • oh my. I think I am doing something wrong in my calculations for the food plans. It doesn’t surprise me though. My math skills are below normal. 🙁

    I am going to track my food/hba/paper products spending really well this month and see if I can figure it out.


  • 😮  I’m in shock!  I did my totaling and found that on an average month, we’re $213 BELOW the Thrifty plan.  I totalled each person separately and did the monthly tally.  Woohoo!  I’m sure my hubby will LOVE to see this!  :goodjob: :spinning: 

    I often wondered how you dealt with situations with Will out and about.  I kwym about having challenges.  I have challenges of my own with my DD.  Going out with her is such a joy, but add all 3 of the children and it is certainly challenging.  Today in church was particularly challenging.  She needs to sit beside me so that when she starts getting fidgety, I can simply place my hand on her shoulder or in her hand and it calms her down.  It was a particularly long service today, so it made things rather difficult for her.  Give Will hugs for us too. 



  • I’m with Corin!! If I had that much money to spend on groceries each month, I could do some major damage! 😆 Seriously, I would have everything organic!

  • WOO HOO!!!! Thrifty! Even with Canada’s higher prices!!! :coolman:

  • I followed the link’s from Bren’s Blog to find the USD chart fearing the worst but come to find out we are below the Thrifty level!  Considering we have a family of 5 and I lump all my grocery items and household items like laundry soap, paper towel, etc. into that budget catagory.  So, I think I’m doing pretty good, but it also helps me understand why I’ve been so tight lately!  The cost of food seems to rise weekly around my town!

    I’m enjoying your site and hope to spend some more time reading through your posts.  Thanks!