Housewife Challenge #1


Get the grocery bill under budget.

There are two major grocery stores on the island: the Grand Union in town and a Stop & Shop.  We go to the Stop & Shop, which off-island would not be my first choice of grocery stores, but it has a larger selection and larger isles (which are important when you’re going to the store in a little red wagon).

And yes, we do get dressed up for grocery shopping, because what’s the good of owning cute dresses if you don’t wear them?  Not to mention, special outfits tend to make everyday outings feel special too – or at least that’s what I tell myself when I get Nora all dolled up – from head to toe.

I can’t get over the cuteness of the non-functional shoes – they make her little toes look even more adorable (I didn’t know that was possible).  Plus, someone needs to be wearing non-functional shoes, because I’m certainly not.  I’ve been living in running shoes since moving to Nantucket and my little toes miss the cute, non-functional shoes I used to wear to work.  But more on that later, this is about my first big challenge as a housewife: tackling the issue of the grocery bill.

In order for me to stay at home we are budgeted to the penny.  This is fine; not having extras or play-around money is fine by me if it means more time cuddling Miss Nora and less time driving in the opposite direction of Chris. So, in our budget, we have allotted $50 per week to groceries.  This probably sounds shocking to most people, but that’s actually an increase from what we usually spend.  In New York, I could get in and out of Adam’s on Wednesday night “Family Night” (10% off your entire bill!) with a week’s worth of groceries for $35, or $40 if I bought some of our splurge items — by following some basic food rules.  Now I sound like Michael Pollan, and I haven’t even read the book.

But they work for budgeting and staying healthy, so here are our version of the rules: First, above all, eat local and, second, eat in-season. Third, eat vegetables, not meat (Chris gets his meat fill at work (where it’s free) and I’m vegetarian).  Fourth, we cook from scratch – if it comes in a box or a jar, we don’t buy it.  That last one has a few notable exceptions: hellmann’s mayo (no other kind will do), canned tomatoes, bread, tortilla chips for Chris, organic cereal, peanut butter, jelly (if we’re out of homemade jelly/jam), salad dressing or tomato sauce (if I want to get in trouble with Chris), and ice cream (my weakness – if we’re splurging).    What that means is, on a regular basis, we buy milk, butter, bread, vanilla yogurt, tortilla chips, cheese, eggs, and vegetables.  Sometimes we buy rice, dried beans, and tofu.  Everything else we either don’t eat or make ourselves.

These rules seemed to work really well with our budget in New York.  We spent more money on some things (like dairy from the best local dairy ever and local free-range eggs) than most people, but a lot less in general, because we didn’t buy all of the pre-processed junk.  Here, it’s not going to be so easy.  Our first trip out with Chris was $100, but we bought a bunch of things we needed for a new house, too.  Today with Nora, I shopped as close to normal as I could in a new grocery store.  Shopping in a new store means picking new brands and choosing vegetables without the benefit of Adam’s “local food” signs.  It was hard work.

For both of us.

After all that hard work, our three bags of groceries ended up costing $71.52.  And we were mad!

So, the first obstacle I have to tackle is figuring out how to get the grocery bill down.  A lot.  I knew things would be more expensive here (being shipped on a ferry tends to do that), but I didn’t realize just how expensive.  My plan of attack is to sign up for a CSA, which will give us a larger amount of local, organic vegetables for our money (plus, it allows me to not have to think in the produce section).  Then, after analyzing the grocery bill, every week we will be able to buy: one loaf of bread, one dozen eggs, one half gallon of milk, one block of cheese,and  eight ounces of butter, then we’ll have $5 left for floating wants – like yogurt, chips, ice cream, and juice.  This is going to take self control.  I’ll let you know how it works out.

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10 responses

  1. alcorazon Avatar

    We have a square downtown where locals roll in with produce and plants – I am trying to convince Matt it’s a great place to buy fruits and veggies, but I’m not sure he is up for it. I’ll have to pay attention to see if anyone is buying Krogers and marking up… because I don’t know if bananas really grow in the Roanoke Valley…

    1. Amber Avatar

      Yeah, don’t buy the bananas. But, a lot of stuff could be grown there. More than here, anyway. I think the best way to get good local produce is to join a CSA, if there’s one around you. Here’s a good place to start if you’re interested:

  2. audioearth Avatar

    the baby is so cute, i like her. hehe how old is she?

    1. She’s nine months.

      1. audioearth Avatar

        wow, i love her so much, hehe i am Chinese, you can come to you my blog, hehe. i really love her,.

  3. Report Card « Au Coeur

    […] Get (and keep) the grocery bill under budget [read original post] […]

  4. I love the pictures in this one!

  5. it’s so tough, I’ve recently started baking bread myself to avoid the cost of store bought organic. We are pretty happy with the results:)

  6. Can I ask a question? How did your family decide to move to Nantucket?

    1. We were living in New York before Nantucket and not content with our life as it was. Chris worked 45 minutes south of our house and I worked 45 minutes north, on top of the commute I worked more traditional hours and he was on restaurant hours + some as an incredibly underpaid, over-worked sous chef, so we rarely saw one another. We had one day off together each week and that was it. He hardly saw Nora, too. We knew that we didn’t want our family life to be like that, so he started looking for jobs. At first he was just looking at restaurants closer to my work so we could move and cut out the commutes, but then he applied to this job on a whim. Chris had done his culinary school internship on Nantucket and lived here for 5 months (I stayed in NY but visited), so we were familiar with the island. He had two phone interviews and an in person interview. We decided that we would only accept the job if it would match or exceed my salary in NY, and if I could not work out of the house. It did, so we took a big leap and moved here. I’ll admit, it was really, really scary at first. We took a big total income cut plus the added cost of living on island, so I do work from home and try to supplement when I can, but it’s been the best thing that could have happened to us.

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