Food budgeting

fresh organic fruitThis week, over at Reduce Footprints, we’ve been given an interesting ‘Change the world Wednesday’ challenge.

I have to say right from the start that I will not be taking part!

Food budget

We’ve been challenged to spend no more than $25 (£17) per person on food for the week. According to Small Footprints, one of the cornerstones of green living is to reduce. The idea is that if we use less, fewer “things” will need to be produced, and that means that fewer natural resources will be used up. One of the easiest ways to use less is to budget ourselves. So that’s what we’ve been challenged to do.

The 3 Rs

I agree wholeheartedly that reducing is an essential part of sustainable living. However, the fact I have no food waste most weeks means I’m already buying only the food I consume.

In addition, I don’t feel that spending less on food is necessarily a ‘green lifestyle’ choice. On the contrary I prioritise good food, which to me means local, organic and fairtrade where possible. These choices are nearly always more expensive than so-called ‘convenience’ foods and foods which are processed. It seems that the less something has in it and the less processed it is, the more it costs!

Organic food

This morning I went to my organic farm shop and spent £23 ($33), so I’m already over budget for this challenge! I need to add some rice, oats, soya milk and yogurt to that, which will probably cost the same again. This is pretty much the amount I spend on myself for food each week.

Pesticides and other nasties

I could join in with this challenge and buy pesticide laden fruits and vegetables, highly packaged from the other side of the world, crisps, cheap white bread and some processed meals from a supermarket, but I choose not to. None of these choices are good for me, the local economy, my health or the environment. I could join in by eating cheaper foods for the week such as potatoes and root vegetables with lentils, but I choose not to. These choices are ok, and show that perhaps you can eat well on a budget, but I run the risk of getting bored with my food.

Cost of food

I prioritise my health which to me means eating and enjoying whole foods. I am very interested in this challenge however, and I’m wondering if the costs of foods is widely different between the UK and US (Small Footprints is in the US I believe). For £23 I got:

1 lb (4 large) beetroot
1 cauliflower
1 courgette
1 lb onions
2 lb broccoli
200 gms (8 oz) spinach
1 lb carrots
1 lb broad beans
1 bag alfalfa sprouts
bunch celery
180 gms (6oz) large tomatoes
4 avocados
1 lb (5 fruits) bananas
1 lb (4 fruits) apples
1 peach
small bunch grapes
1 bag organic breadsticks

Spending money on food

Unless I was having a ‘use it up’ week, I don’t see how I could manage to spend just $25 on food for a week – I usually spend more than that on fresh fruit and vegetables alone, as you can see from my organic box.

What about you – how much do you spend on food per week and do you think that spending less on food is a green choice?


  1. Small Footprints on June 8, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Wow … I think that you got a lot of food for the money … and truthfully, I don’t know if I could beat it.

    I do think that reducing one’s food budget can be a green choice if all green-living precepts are followed … and if health is also a factor. In other words, if we reduce our budget only to buy processed foods … then it isn’t green or healthy. But if we make smart choices and only buy local, organic, non-processed foods … and only buy what we need … then reducing may be green. Most people buy and consume way more than their bodies need so, in those cases, reducing can be both healthy & green. On the other hand, there are people who have already adjusted their food intake for maximum health (both personal and environmental) … and for those people, reducing food budgets isn’t necessary.

    Wonderful post, Ms. Green … it got me thinking! 🙂

  2. Mrs Green on June 18, 2010 at 8:17 am

    @Small Footprints: Good to hear! I’m never sure how much people get in different countries.
    Thanks for your comment; like most things in life there is no one answer and it’s great that you challenged me to think about this – thank you so much!

  3. Ethnic Natural Skin Care on June 21, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    $25 per person? I guess if I did that on a regular, I’d be thin as I need to be! That’s about $3 a day. I’d be eating Ramen Noodles 🙂

  4. Mrs Green on July 6, 2010 at 6:42 am

    @Ethnic Natural Skin Care: Hi 🙂 Thanks for your comment. Yes, I too would find it impossible, but I guess anything’s possible if your budget is extremely limited… I guess writing about this challenge bought it home to me how lucky I am 😉

  5. Lauren @ Hobo Mama on July 12, 2010 at 6:17 am

    I imagine you could spend less if you grew more of your own food and then canned or froze extra for use in the winter, and that would all be green. Of course, this is dependent on having land as well as the time and resources to grow and preserve food.

    I know when we were at our poorest (well, so far!), we had to stop prioritizing food, and it was sad. We would buy the cheapest of everything we could find, and lived on one type of pasta (expired, bought for pennies at a discount shop) for about six months. Buying fresh fruits and veggies was out of our price range, to say nothing of organic produce.

    Now that we have some more money, I’ve had to remind myself not to feel guilty spending money on good food. Because I agree with you that it’s so worth it.

  6. Mrs Green on August 7, 2010 at 6:54 am

    @Lauren @ Hobo Mama: Home preservation is a great way to reduce both carbon footprint and expenses. I’ve just written an inspiring story about a family who set themselves a challenge to live on £10 for a week; it was amazing what they did, but yes, they ended up eating pretty much refined carbs – ethical and nutritious choices was not an option