A Peek into My Summer Produce Spending

I did our weekly produce run yesterday at Sami Fruits. A major wholesaler and retailer of fruits and vegetables located in the Montréal area. Definitely not organic or local, but oh man is it cheap. And cheap fruits and veggies are a nice change. (The photos in this post are not from this discount produce market but from Jean-Talon.)

I used to have this idea, back when the kids were little and I was not working outside (or inside) our home for pay, that when I started working and earning money it would help towards the "extras". Now that I'm starting to contribute to the family finances I realize any extra I earn simply goes to help buy the groceries. 

I don't talk grocery budget numbers on FIMBY because my grocery spending would make all the tightwads feel superior to me, which is funny since I'm quite frugal but I just can't cut our groceries anymore without significantly adjusting our diet (which I'm not willing to do). Or it would make all you readers with young ones cry at how much it costs to feed a growing family. It just seems discouraging all around. Who wants to bemoan my grocery spending anyway? Not me.

But I will tell you that yesterday I spent ninety dollars for one week's worth of produce for our family. This is at discounted prices (romaine lettuce for .50 a head!) and no organics. This does not include the frozen veggies and fruits I'll buy at the regular grocery store - maybe another twenty bucks per week. I spend more on frozen food in the winter but I spend less on fresh fruit then also, so it balances out. 

We always eat more fresh fruit in the summer. Our bodies crave it and there is so much more available. The grocery spending climbs a bit higher as we feast on nectarines, peaches, cherries, plums and watermelon. We each eat 3 to 5 fruits a day (this does not include vegetables) so what I spend on one week's worth of produce is what some families spent on their whole grocery bill. I've seen those blog posts, "how I spend only $100 per week on groceries" or whatever. 

Thank goodness I'm starting to earn some income is all I can say. Our son has reached the "hungry all the time" stage. A bottomless pit.

When we go back home to the Gaspé peninsula our farm share will start, but that will be only veggies and I'm guessing not that much. I joined the farm because I believe in community and local agriculture and where I live, farm "baskets" (as they call them) are the best way to buy organic. (There is no Whole Foods or any other store like that.) I'll still be buying the lion's share of our produce at the local grocery store. But unfortunately it won't be at the prices I've gotten used to in Montréal. 

Comparing grocery spending is a contentious issue (I don't want to go there). Where you live really plays a big role in your grocery budet. All those metropolitan area shoppers (I'm one this month) who can access discount food stores etc. can't relate to those living in rural areas where there's one or two grocery stores and that's the prices you get. It's not apples to apples.

Also, people have different eating priorities and values. What's good for my family might not work for yours and vice versa. I have struggled with this for years, which is why I don't read frugal food blogs - their food values do not reflect my own and I end up feeling inadequate and insecure as a homemaker. If we absolutely had to we could eat only cabbage, beans and rice. And then I too could write a cheap food blog. But that's not my reality and so FIMBY remains a "groceries sure cost a lot of money" blog.

Anything you'd like to share about food costs? Or summer eating in general?


PS. When I posted earlier today, I forget to share this link about why we eat so many fruits and veggies. We believe in the message of good health and abundant life. Watch Dave & Cathy's video for a feel good story of the best kind. Bon Appetit!

23 June 12


Oh how I love this! Last week

Oh how I love this! Last week my family ate 8 cantaloupes and my kids are only 4, 2, and 1... but what can i say, I cut up a cantaloupe for dinner and the whole thing is gone in a flash! I don't even want to know what it will be like when they are older! We don't snack, though, so I am okay with the spending.

I agree about the different parts of the country. We have lived in several different areas and food costs have varied widely!

I don't have goals of

I don't have goals of reducing my grocery budget, but I do want to make sure I'm not spending foolishly. I started tracking my grocery expenses on a calendar last month (inspired by Frugal Babe - if you haven't been to her site, I think you'd like it). I really had no idea how much we spend, and while I am a careful shopper, I do not scrimp on food. If nothing else, I am now mindful of how much money we spend...knowing the actual number has been enlightening, and surprisingly it's not as much as I thought.

That produce market is beautiful. We have discount markets here that I shop at for certain things (not organic, not local either), but they are held in ugly warehouses. No beautiful displays or signs and, unfortunately, lots of plastic bags, too.

They are gorgeous photos,

They are gorgeous photos, that's for certain.

One thing I didn't mention before is that I like how you buy your fruits according to how many will be eaten per day, per person. I am not calculated at all like that and usually just buy randomly. But, I'd prefer to have a method. We run out of fruit often, then I am back at the store again (which is inefficient and causes me to spend more).

I am always looking for ways to improve our budgeting (or lack of budgeting). Do you have any posts on this? If not, I'd love to hear how you make it all work (of course without sharing too many personal details than you are comfortable).

I could go on and on about

I could go on and on about this! I'll try not to. Good food is expensive (and where we live, depending on the season, it's even more expensive!). I look at it as an investment in my family's health. I honestly don't even look at prices sometimes, if it's something I need to buy. We don't waste food, so I feel like it's more or less ok. Would I like to spend less? Absolutely!

I just picked strawberries and spent about $55 for 18 lbs and had to just try not to think about it - they are organic and I freeze a ton so we can have them in the winter. I should pick more. And now peaches are here, and I'll do the same thing. It seems like we pay more in the summer but I'm sure it's just distributed differently. And I grow a lot of our veggies so we don't have to buy any of those for a few months, at least.

I love the summer fruits and eat so much more fruit this time of year, and I feel better when I do, so I'm not about to stop!

And I am seriously afraid of what is going to happen when my two boys get just a little older. Yikes!!

I will say that when we lived

I will say that when we lived in AZ I wanted to take pictures of all the produce and prices when I first went to the store - it was so shocking! I mean, asparagus and red peppers in the dead of winter for $.69/lb! I nearly fell over from shock. Vermont is a different story!

This is a topic that weighs

This is a topic that weighs on me all the time. We spend sooo much on food and yet it feels like it is never enough. My husband has a side job which helps pay for kids' extras (sports) and extra food costs. I can't forever just close my eyes and buy when I am consistently over my food budget. For the first time I am considering cutting the extra principal-only-payments we allocate to our mortgage each month (we really want to be mortgage-free) in order to put this toward groceries, but even then I would be constantly tracking pennies in my budget book. Sigh. I don't want to put a fear in others either about rising costs associated with teens but... there is no doubt about it; this is our most expensive season of life yet :)

I feel bad too when I read

I feel bad too when I read how people spend $100 dollars a week on groceries. I feel so bad because I just can't do it. I don't know how it's possible to do that. I have a budget every week and I try to stay on it. I eat gluten free and I buy mostly organic. We also eat meat which I only buy organic. It's just important to me. I also have kids that eat adult sized portions. I shouldn't compare myself to others but I do. Thanks for this post! xo

I've been very excited and

I've been very excited and happy to have grown a lot of our own food this year. I know it isn't for everyone and not everyone wants to do it, but sometimes I think about when I've gone to the store and I can't remember when! I go to get the things I can't make or don't want to make but it sure has been nice not to go that often.

I live in a small-ish town outside of a large suburban/urban area (houston) and while it is only 10+ miles to a large supermarket with a Target and Walmart, I notice the pricing differences and I'm not all that rural. The same Greek yogurt at my grocery store in town is $2 more than 10 miles away.

Kids aren't in my picture yet---some day soon hopefully--so it is just me and my husband.

Here in my tiny remote town,

Here in my tiny remote town, I don't think I could buy anything at all for less than $2 a pound. Probably not even flour. We're rather frugal with purchased produce, some of which is $-related (I buy organic when I do buy), but a lot of which is based on the fact that I strive to eat local as much as is practical, and most stuff is shipped from far away.

Right now, I have so much salad in the garden that I'm giving it away to anyone who'll let me, but we don't get fruit (and only get berries in this climate) until late July or early August. I'm just happy we froze so many blueberries that I still have some left.

Do you think your bodies crave fruit because you live in a climate where it's the season for fruit? Or because our culture says summer is fruit time? Or because it's hot? (I'm just always curious about how all this works) I find that the more locally I eat, the more I crave what's in season - I've been eating salad for breakfast, but not much fruit at all lately.

I certainly haven't figured

I certainly haven't figured it all out myself either. And I greatly admire some things you've done (like no refined sweets!) that we don't come close to ourselves - I've always loved baking and we would all have a terrible time giving up homemade berry muffins and pies and local berry jam on homemade bread. (though I make all of them much less sweet than commercial versions, which we can't stand)

We do buy some non-local fruit, a few pieces at a time, all year round. And part of the reason we don't do more is because it's expensive. But I don't do more even when we could easily spare the money. Somehow that non-local not-in-season aspect bothers me more for some reason with produce than it does for dried staples like rice or flour that come from equally far away. I do also enjoy the creative challenge of using local ingredients when I can, even when that means having a much higher ratio frozen vegetables at some times of the year.

Lately, I've been trying to fill our fruit/sweet cravings as much as possible with smoothies of garden greens, frozen berries, and local raw milk (with just a touch of honey). But we don't have heat here the way most places do (a day over 70F would be VERY rare).

How do you manage to

How do you manage to encourage and challenge me all the time? We spend so much on produce; we all eat at least an apple (organic, thanks to Sam's Club) a day, that's 6 apples a day! The baby (18 months) eat his and eats as many cores as he can get! We aren't completely vegan (learning, hoping to get there), but we recently started eating black beans and rice every day for lunch along with some sliced vegetables and fruit. The kids think I am a gourmet chef! Still looking forward to your new book, too...

Renee, I agree with you. I


I agree with you. I just don't talk to people about how much money we spend each week on real food. We have four little children 3 yrs thru 12 yrs and it does get pricy. And it bothers me when people always assume we use coupons. coupons for healthy, real food that I know of. BUT....we don't spend much money at all on doctors and such because we are all extremely healthy! We are almost completely vegan with the occasional butter thrown in for baking once in a blue moon. Just know there are other mommas out there that are doing the same thing as you!! Keep on keeping on!! I am anxiously awaiting your new ebook too. I have a fresh raw salad every day for lunch! Yum! I hope you have some dressing suggestions because I am always looking for new ideas there.

Love this post Renee - we

Love this post Renee - we have seven children - of which three are boys ages 14, 16, and 18. And buying much organic and local and healthy are all priorities for us - so we spend the money - our car is ancient, we can't travel as much as we would like - but we are very healthy. - really if you don't have your health what good would the rest be anyway?

We are able to grow much of our produce and having planted blueberry bushes and apple trees - that does help a lot.

I am thinking that you priority of being adventure-bound would make it hard to grow you own food.

Aren't we blessed to be able to choose our own paths?

We decided a long time ago

We decided a long time ago that the quality and easy of food buying was going to be a lifestyle choice for us. We do not spend (much) money on processed food. The bulk of my food budget is produce and free range chicken. When we sat down a few years ago wondering if we should make a concerted effort towards reducing the food budget, we decided that some people spend their money on ipads or travel or newer cars, and we choose to spend our money on good food. We announce regularly at the table, "Darn, we eat well." Well worth every penny. Oh, and I tried the penny pinching thing, and quickly decided that it simply wasn't an interest of mine and that people who do it well spend a good chunk of time on it.

I love reading all the

I love reading all the comments. I think that although there is sometimes overlap between sustainable, frugal,healthy organic, etc., mostly we have to have to prioritize. We make decisions based on our circumstances. The most important thing is to make the best most thoughtful choices we can, that work for us, and not to be quick to judge others choices. About actual grocery prices---I don't it works to compare dollar for dollar because of location. I live in an area where I am less than ten miles from seven different supermarkets plus smaller specialty shops and a farm market. prices are very competitive. My strategy is to rotate based on season, what stores typically have the lowest prices for what I need most in a given week, and the quality of goods from a given store. I do grow some food too, but if I were to calculate the cost of us rookies getting our garden started it would be embarrassing :)

This is creepy. In a good

This is creepy. In a good way. ;-)

We did our shopping at Whole Foods this morning, and while there, I found myself thinking about our possibly eventual move to a small town 40 miles from here. The reason for moving would be to cut my husband's commute time from 45 minutes to 5. But, when I think about moving to that small town . . . I tend to panic. And why am I panicking? Mostly because of grocery shopping!

And that brings me to the creepy part. Just this morning, as I was strolling through Whole Foods (what I like to refer to as my happy place), I was thinking about you and how I doubted you'll have a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's near your new home. So, what would Renee do?

And I mean that literally. What do you do? How do you source your fruits and veggies, enough for a vegan lifestyle, when you're living in a rural environment? Can you make-do in a regular grocery store or do you have to special order things? Like, nutritional yeast -- where do you find that if you don't have a good co-op or a place like Whole Foods nearby?

Oh, and we spent $310 this morning. It was a stock-up trip, but still . . . I can never figure out how we managed to spend that much in one trip. But I do love looking inside our colorful fridge after an outing like that. :-)

Great post! I read an article

Great post! I read an article somewhere...sometime..and whoever wrote the article asked this question...Do you think of grocery shopping (the food you buy) as an investment or an exspense? About 5 years ago is when I starting buying things organic. It IS exspensive, but I beleive my family and their health is worth this investment. I have asked some of my friends this question, very interesting to hear their responses...too few think of it as an investment!

I'm so glad to see this post,

I'm so glad to see this post, Renee. I feel insecure about our food budget all the time - we eat real food, gluten and corn free, mostly everything from scratch, but we spend so much! I don't follow the penny pinchers and couponers, because it is so demoralizing, and we just don't eat a lot of food that uses coupons. We are lucky to live in an urban area with lots of choices, but sometimes that is hard, too, since there are more stores to go to, and a limit to the amount of time I can shop. I agree with another commenter, good food is an investment. We eat well! My kids eat good food. And they eat adult portions already, and we haven't hit the teen years yet. Yikes!

As a cancer survivor, I try

As a cancer survivor, I try to eat organic as often as possible. But I live on a small island (Key West) and walk everywhere. There aren't many organics within walking distance. So I belong to an organic buying club and spend $35 per week for a half-share. This brings me a huge amount of fresh fruits and veggies every week, so much that there's often extra to freeze or dry or even can in small amounts. (the latter two options are preferred because summer Hurricane Season often brings power outages.). If I still had children at home, I'd buy a full share plus add-on options. Perhaps buying clubs or CSAs would work for others?

Thought provoking post Renee.

Thought provoking post Renee. I hear you about the clashes of ideals that can happen when trying to choose sustainablility AND adventure for example. We're a family of five (kids currently 4,8 and 12) and have had an itinerant travelling three years recently including time in outback Australia and 10 months in 23 countries doing volunteer work and sightseeing. My ideals involve attempting to grow most of our food and eating as little processed food as possible and I had to compromise on both of these while travelling. Now we've "settled" on a 1/4 acre and we're establishing fruit trees and a vegetable garden. I suspect by the time we get enough fruit to feed us from our mini orchard my 12 year old will be about to leave home! Meantime we get a huge local, seasonal organic box of fruit and veges each week (maybe next year we'll have enough veges and just need the fruit half). We freeze huge quantities of berries from a local orchard / berryfarm and buy huge sacks of oats and beans.

I still fly back to the outback of Australia from NZ to provide medical cover to remote communities for about two weeks every 10 weeks and the only way I can continue to eat healthy food is by buying bagged lettuce and frozen berries that are far from local. Between the flights and the amount of refrigerated transport required to get me and the food out here my carbon footprint must be far beyond my intentions, but the town has a doctor and I stay well.

It's winter in our hemisphere and I'm vicariously enjoying your stonefruit! Our NZ fruit box has the most divine mandarins and pears, persimmons and kiwifruit at the moment and lots of kale in with the veges!

Ever since taking the 30 day

Ever since taking the 30 day vegan class my grocery shopping has changed. I used to spend more money on meat, now it's fruits and vegetables. I stopped reading those types of blogs too, because of how it made me feel. I shop for our family of 4 buying healthy foods and things I think will benefit the growth of my family. And if that means spending more or less than another family so be it.

We do have a farmers market right down the street from our house. The kids and I can walk there. I have Trader Joes about 15 min. away and Whole Foods is about 30 min away. I do have a health food store 5 min away that actually has a sales paper with coupons and discount card which is nice so I can save a bit of money there.

I was shocked to discover

I was shocked to discover recently that we (a family of 4) regularly spend about $300 a week on groceries. We don't buy processed foods and are largely vegetarian, I'm not sure where I go wrong!! Certainly I have noticed food prices here in the UK have soared over the past couple of years and we don't have any wholesalers or co-ops nearby. I have managed to trim it down a bit over recent weeks but you can only compromise so far can't you, good food costs.

I relatively new to your blog, Renee, and I just wanted to say how much I love it. I'm busily skipping here, there and everywhere catching up on old posts. Oh and I can't wait for your new ebook release!

Hi, Renee! I just wanted to

Hi, Renee!

I just wanted to let you know that I loved your post. I sometimes get cranky when I read posts where people insist you can surely buy everything local, if you'd just try hard enough. While I may live in the breadbasket of the world, "local" means I have absolutely no access to local fresh fruits and vegetables for about nine months out of the year. I am at the mercy of my local grocery store, which is 30 miles away. Some things are organic, most are not; there is a good variety but all of it is trucked in from many miles away. We join a co-op for bulk items, but again, that's not local. There are no berry farms or orchards where I can go pick my own fruit - even if I wanted to drive a few hours, I could not find any. Farmers Markets can be found during the months of June - August, but my own garden is in full force at that time, so I get a little frustrated when everyone says I should buy local. Pretty much the only thing I could pick up locally is corn for cattle or wheat! :)

So thanks for the honest post about buying food. I enjoyed reading it and the many comments. I loved the one about having the freedom to follow each person's own path. How true that is - especially when it comes to food!

Maybe when you get settled in

Maybe when you get settled in your new home you will be able to make a garden next summer. Could save a lot of money on groceries just to grow your own organic vegetables and fruits. If you are able to do this, it would be a good idea to prepare the soil this summer for next year's gardening.

Thanks for that helpful

Thanks for that helpful response! If I could put a bug in your ear, I'd love to hear more about your actual meals. I know you have a lot of links about your vegan kitchen, but I'd be tickled pink to read a week-in-the-life series focused on how/what you eat each day!

Pretty please? ;-)

We spend a lot on food and

We spend a lot on food and try to eat organic when possible. I don't really want to spend less by eating lower quality food and instead am currently trying to focus as much as possible on cooking more from scratch and carefully tracking what we spend. We get a lovely box of locally grown, seasonal organic fruit and veg delivered weekly which is fantastic. I terms of growing our own food I don't see us doing much of that for the next 5 years, as I want to put my time into other areas.

We could spend a lot less, but eating well is a priority for us even if we don't always live up to my high standards :)..

We spend 95% of our income on

We spend 95% of our income on food.
(fortunately we don't have to pay rent, or any other utilities, just gas for the car)
Its a little shocking, but we try to eat as sustainable, organic, fair trade, as we can and when we can't then we cut that that from the grocery list.
When we eat 'out', we buy burger patties and frozen chips, especially for movie night.
We also try and eat well so that we don't have to go to the doctor.

And yes, love the summer eating, in South Africa you can eat that way almost all year round.

Hello Renne, loved this post.

Hello Renne, loved this post. Thanks for sharing! I was wondering if you could one of these days, write what a typical day would be for you food-wise. Kind of like a menu. I admire the way you nurture your family and want to learn even more for when I have my own :-)
Thanks again!

I bet i spend more than

I bet i spend more than you!

silent member of your readership until now.

thanks for your honesty, generosity and spirit of this space.

Had to weigh in on this.

I probably would not admit what I spend on farm fresh produce if asked...

looking forward to your salad e-book.

i am in a salad rut!


Whenever I see blog posts

Whenever I see blog posts about cutting food budgets I cringe. In my mind there is only so much cutting that can be done before you either lose variety in your diet or consume processed foods that may be cheaper (I'm thinking of the jar of pasta sauce that is $1 vs. making it from scratch), but which is heavy on sugar and salt etc.

I don't feel there is any 'right' budget. People do the best they can with their means. I do believe that society has done itself a disservice through commercialized agriculture and the culture of fast food. The idea that food is cheap is not real. Or at least the total cost of food is not cheap. It hasn't been, even if you grow it yourself because your own labour counts for something.

Occasionally I look at excerpts from "Hungry Planet: What the World Eats" (parts 1 & 2) for my own reality check. The photo essay always shows me how much many in the west spend on processed foods, and how little others get by with.

The best I've come up with in terms of mindful grocery spending is much of what you already do....bulk purchasing, dried goods, seasonal when you can etc. The one thing that I've done away with is spending on disposable paper more paper towels and paper napkins. And I've always used a french press to make coffee. Little things like that help, but it's not going to make a dent in a food budget. These days I spend less on clothing and other disposables and don't beat myself up when food is my priority.

On the subject of coupons...I came across a coupon book earlier this spring that was geared towards truly healthy and green products. Hopefully it is a sign of more to come.

To add to my earlier

To add to my earlier comment...I went away and wondered what people historically spent on food (as a percentage of their budget). Some quick internet searching and I found USDA stats that look interesting. Before WWII, on average Americans spent over 20% of their personal disposable income on food (both home & away combined), with more spending on home prepared food. There were steady drops as the decades passed, when big agriculture and discounted food became prevalent there. See Food Expenditures

If I can extrapolate...your style of food prep/consumption/buying is not dissimilar from 1929 and the years that followed. And the percentage is 23.4, not that far off your current 25%. When you consider that you are living in another country (where we typically have higher prices), and you are not in a central distribution area (i.e. a city), 25% is, dare I say, realistic...

That doesn't necessarily help when actually budgeting, but it's an interesting perspective and balance to the expectations that seem to emanate from current budgeting blogs.

I am enjoying both the post

I am enjoying both the post and the comments . We are heading for a change in our eating habits . Boys are growing and need more food. Wondering what that is going to mean for the budget.

Oh Le marché Jean-Talon! How

Oh Le marché Jean-Talon! How I miss it! It is really hard to find good produce on the road (especially in remoted areas). We are trying to find the farmer's market, but the timing is often off... Worst comes to worst, we go to Costco... They have the best and freshest (and cheapest) selection of fruits and veggies (not organic, of course), as well as coconut water, almond butter, raw nuts and Larabars...

Job loss certainly made us

Job loss certainly made us cut corners on our food budget for a while, but our goal is to grow most of our produce, and eat locally raised meat (if we don't raise it ourselves). Having four little kids has made gardening tricky this year, but we will get there! And we get all the eggs we could want from our chickens. And boy, do I love a good salad on summer days! We eat them year round, but I do start craving them more often in the spring.

So, I'm not the only one that

So, I'm not the only one that doesn't use coupons! I think the only reason those companies give them, is to get us hooked on their products. And I've seen some of those frugal articles, they recommend a lot of food that will not do any good to my condition, I have Lupus.

Delurking here to say that I

Delurking here to say that I really, really liked your post. I'm a pretty frugal person but I'm not willing to give up quality food unless I'm forced too. We are five persons (my kids are 17, 13 and 6) and we eat local very often, organic most of the time and meat from grass feed/ethical raised animals now and then. If money is very tight I buy what I can at the discounter (except meat) and don't feel guilty about it. Good food isn't cheap to have, and those who produce it need to be paid fairly for their work. And - at least here in Germany - food prices aren't high, Germans only spend a small percentage (about 15%) of their money on food.
I'd say that we spend about 20%-25% of our income on food. For me, it's worth it.

Many greetings from Germany,


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