On January 1st of last year, I began meticulously tracking my food purchases, both for groceries and for dining out, to see how much of my money was going toward locally-produced & sustainably-grown food. It was a daunting task. I logged every receipt, made notes of my cash use at farmers markets and on nights out, and even calculated the market value of the produce grown in my garden plots. Though I originally planned a monthly post documenting my progress, life did what it does and I ended up grouping together the months in roughly seasonal quarters. Now, having tracked for a year, I wanted to take a look back at my spending to see how I did.
But first: a brief moment to discuss my September-December expenses (since, you know, that just ended).
After not only one but two majorly epic failures in the kitchen yesterday, I thought I’d start off today with an easy, food budget update. I started the year off posting monthly, but as winter slid into spring, spring into summer, things got busy, and I’d suddenly find myself half-way through the month and still didn’t have time to post about my edible expenses from the previous month. In fact even this month, I’m clearly not posting until halfway through, but since this too is an accumulation of three months, I tossed up my hands and decided to post anyway.
And, as I discovered when looking at my graphs this morning, I’m glad I did. June, July, and August have, for the last two years, been a very unusual time for me. Brad has been away on internships both summers, which leaves me living a life of full of single lady meals at home and, frankly, a lot of take-out. I also traveled rather a lot, grew a lot of food in the garden, and canned copious amounts of summer produce that I otherwise would not have purchased. In some ways, my graphs reflect a bit of back-sliding from the previous installment of the rather fortuitous months of March, April, and May. Here’s how things shook out:
I’ve done a really bang-up job of giving a monthly update on my food budget, haven’t I? I started in January, updated in February, and then… got busy. And it’s not that I haven’t posted other things. I have! I really wanted to tell you about this. And these. And my progress on this. Firsts of months came, and I thought, I should write a budget post, and then before I knew it, Fifteenths came by and it was no longer relevant.
If you’re new here, to ring in the new year I started meticulously tracking my food expenses, both for groceries and for restaurants, to get a sense of just how much of my money was going to local food sources rather than corporate, distant ones. Despite my lack of updates, I have managed to continue this tracking. You can check out my first post on the subject to see how I distinguish one type of purchase from another.
So without further ado, here’s a three-month update.
On the Grocery Dollars front, I’m making some interesting progress. Interestingly, the purple wedge (the one I’m trying to get rid of) has only reduced a little since January, about 3%. The convenience of a 24-hour store SO close to my apartment is, I confess, challenging to overcome sometimes. And oddly, there are some items I simply cannot find at the co-op. Brad’s preferred pickle relish. Instant tapioca. Our favorite sandwich bread. But look at the blue and red! Up from about a third to over HALF! Not surprisingly, I’ve got a lot more produce out of my garden in the spring months than I did in January, and the variety of food available at the farmer’s market has increased as well. Exciting!
Just to re-cap, I started the new year with a goal: I wanted to learn just how I spend my money on food. Do I trade it with local culinary artisans? National corporations?
After some debate over which delineations mattered, I made a list of categories into which I would divide my purchases — both for groceries and for restaurants — and began the semi-tedious task of tracking every single receipt. My first month of tracking gave me some results that were expected, and some that surprised me.
Here are the results for February:
On this front, the numbers are almost identical to January. I did have a few extra runs to the big box grocery store close to my apartment this month, and to be totally honest, I’m not exactly sure why. Other than I must have really planned meals poorly that week. My goal for this month is to only hit the grocery store once a week, which should save food dollars, gas dollars, and time dollars. Yes time dollars.
But look! Grocery dollars may have been the same, but restaurant dollars show major improvement! I had friends in town one weekend and my parents in town for almost a week, which gave me opportunities to go outside my normal restaurant box and show off Durham’s local flavor. We’ll see how it keeps up when I am not entertaining guests…
So on goes the tracking. And finally, as promised, if you want to track as well, I’ve uploaded the spreadsheet I’m using. You can download it at the link below… it’s pretty smart and makes all your numbers turn into graphs. Poof! Time to get excited.
Fair warning: if you didn’t know I was a moderately obsessive, detail-oriented, and rather analytical, you certainly will be the end of this post.
I love cooking and baking. Taking photos of the process, digging through shots to find the best ones to tell a recipe’s story, and sharing them with you. I get a thrill from planting seeds that, after a few weeks of sunshine and water, will produce food. And my weekly trip to the farmers market is a cornerstone of every weekend.
But part of my intent in starting this blog was to challenge myself toward a lofty goal. I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to buy locally (or grow myself) as much as I could, but I’d never really tracked how I spent my food dollars exactly.
The new year gave me a great opportunity to step. it. up.
I wanted to see just how much of my money I spent in a local food versus, well, non-local food. Easy enough, right?