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Food versus Drink (and everything else)

September 22, 2010

Having recently moved out of the cover of a college meal plan and into cooking for myself, I’ve become much more aware of how much:

1) I actually eat (or rather don’t eat)

2)What I spend on food

3) How that food spending breaks down.

I had the great benefit of growing up within a 5min walk of my grandmother’s (and for several years, both sets of grandparents). We’re talking your quintessential grandmother who had a cookie jar right next to the entry and preparation for Christmas and Thanksgiving meals involved fasting for 24  hours on the fact that space had to cleared for the culinary wonders that were to come.  Between her and my mother with 20 green thumbs I learned what to cook with, how to cook it, and well.

Thus my food costs primarily consist of basic ingredients, steering away from pre-made, or ‘easy’ to make items.

Last weeks grocery bill for two full brown bags of goodies totaled $19.  Throw in a few more runs for fresh fruit and veggies over the next month, and perhaps a meal out;  I’ve been averaging a spending of $30-$50 per month on food.

According to the USDA July 2010 data, I’m spending near 1/3 of some one my age on average should be spending on the “thrifty plan” or $148.30:

http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2010/CostofFoodJul10.pdf

I chalk this number up to a couple factors, 80% of what I  buy is on sale/discount or the cheap brand. I also live in one of the lower cost of living areas in the country: http://wisconsin.gov/state/core/living_in_wisconsin_top10.html

However, if you add in my spending on coffee, tea, Mountain Dew, and wine, this food price tag doubles. Really.

My coffee/tea/mtn dew re-stock run cost just over $20, same for the last wine run. $40 in a month.

Granted, this are things I don’t buy on sale, or are only slightly discounted. Cheap coffee, tea, and wine is just ick. All noodles taste the same once the Preggo is dumped on them.

This still all only brings me up to the cost of food for a 5 year old in 1999.  Which after tuition and rent, is my #3 re-occurring cost on my budget. #4 after cell phone if I cut back on caffeine and alchy (what?).

Late night homework marathons aside, these beverages aren’t entirely necessary.  They’re more supplementary to life enhancement. Tea for warmth and comfort, coffee and MtnDew for wake ups and mild productivity boosts, and wine for..well…the love of wine.

I’m sure this personal 50/50 ratio will change as I age and tastes adjust to something more 60/40 or 70/30.

For now I mark it as a blessing that I live in a low cost segment of the country in the world where less than 10% of disposable income has to go towards food on average versus the 20 to 50% seen elsewhere.

But there are some questions for you.  We spend so much on other things, wouldn’t it be more valuable to our well being to cut back on the frivolous and improve the necessities? What is actually under the ‘food’ bracket of your costs? We’ll spend $15 extra on that perfect shirt theres never on context to wear, but not spend the extra buck on the whole grain bread? Food actually goes into the bodies we are forced to live in everyday. Wouldn’t it make more sense to invest in them?

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