We are working hard to face up to our current financial challenge. Our income this year will be about half of what it was last year. This will likely be a good learning experience for us--I'm looking at it as a kind of game where I have to figure out how I can get everything for cheaper without compromising our values and quality of life.
I calculated that our current food budget is considerably less than we would get if we qualified for food stamps. I have to prepare three meals a day for four people that average $4.60 per meal--that's $1.15 per person per meal with no snacks! John had a loaded PB&J, two hard-boiled eggs, and a glass of milk for lunch yesterday that totaled $1.76! The good news is that we have a fully-stocked chest freezer in the basement and our CSA veggie boxes are already paid for and will continue through mid-October.
I told John tonight that, miraculously, we were really prepared for this. We have a little bit of money in savings, both cars are paid for, and I read all 1000+ pages of The Complete Tightwad Gazette last spring.
I already have a detailed spreadsheet that shows the cost of most of our staples at the co-op, Whole Foods, and the other places we shop, so I know what to get at which store. I also have it all broken down by cost per serving per ingredient and per finished recipe per serving. I know that our pastured eggs cost 27 cents apiece and that our homemade bread is 10 cents a slice and that our sea salt is 3 cents a teaspoon. I am so grateful that I already had all that in place because, under stress, it would have been way too overwhelming.
I had also already been stocking up and buying things in bulk so I get case discounts and the quarterly 10% discount from the co-op. I was already freezing produce from our garden, washing and reusing baggies, and washing my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar instead of shampoo and conditioner.
Now we are washing fewer and larger loads of laundry and washing everything in cold water (all the "green" folks swear this works just as well and, so far, I'm finding it does!) and John is rigging up a clothes line in the back yard tomorrow. We are even running the dishwasher in cold water with half a shot of detergent and unplugging it before the dry cycle is done. I've unplugged all the night lights and things that keep sucking power even when off, like the computer, the coffee maker, and the phone chargers. I've been mending things with an actual needle and thread instead of just throwing them in the give-away pile. I'm a woman obsessed.
Thankfully the kids are well-stocked for clothes for fall and winter, including winter coats. I just picked up a pair of pink winter boots for Sissy at a garage sale for $4--just need to find boots in a size 4 for Snacks. I got Snacks' new backpack and lunch box on sale with free shipping and all his school supplies at Walm*rt (a first for me!) for under $20.