Real Food on a Real Budget

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Happy New Year!

It’s been quiet around here.  The quietest, longest blogging break I’ve ever taken.  While I’ve missed talking with you all, it’s been a wonderful ten days reflecting on the past year– blogging, life, my family, and the future. A time to focus and plan.

First, the blog. A lot has changed around the blog. During my break I was busy with a huge undertaking, a redesign. Live Simply got a face-lift. A big girl look, for the big new year. My wonderful designer and husband graciously met every request and continues to perfect the blog on a weekly basis. Thank you, Dustin.


The dishes were piled high in my kitchen as I worked hard to photograph many old recipes. Some of my favorite recipes in need of new photos to show off their yumminess. I promise, same beloved recipes, just new photos. It was a hard ten days, butter, waffles, ice cream, kale chips, granola bars, guacamole, muffins. Someone had to eat it all. If you are interested in learning more about the camera and lens I use, I share the details here.

pancake comparison
same delicious recipes, new photos

My ten day break was also spent reflecting on my personal life and the year ahead.

One area of life I’ve let slip is my food budget. Actually, that’s a joke. I haven’t been budgeting at all.  I sat down and bravely calculated out exactly what I’ve spent the last several months, I’m a bit ashamed. I know we are all here to support each other on this journey of real food and simple living, so I’m going to share my numbers with you. Here we go:

October 2013: $1200

November 2013: $1100

December 2013: $1200

My food budget was $600. When we established that budget, I was feeding two adults, one toddler/preschooler, and one baby (10 months old). I did well on that budget for months, but as the year came to a close, I slipped. So, what went wrong?

  • Too many choices: I love sourcing great food, visiting farms, shopping new co-ops and health food stores, and finding great markets. There is nothing wrong with sourcing food from a multitude of places, but it can also cause major budget woes. At one point, I was shopping at three different co-ops, two health food stores, a produce stand, and one farmer’s market. I know, crazy. And my budget reflected the craziness.
  • Lack of a plan: I publish a weekly meal plan here at Live Simply, but my own personal meal planning began to suffer. I had an idea each week of our meals, but actually writing down the plan, shopping accordingly, and executing those meals didn’t happen. We ate real food everyday, just not always well-planned. Without proper planning, the food bill went up.
  • Tracking: Keeping track of where I spent our food money is exactly what I was doing earlier in 2013, but my record keeping slipped as well. Instead of allotting my myself a set amount weekly or monthly and sticking to it, I stopped keeping tracking. Not knowing where our food money was going, I mindlessly spent more money than I needed.

There it is.

The honest truth.

One of my goals for 2014 is to get back on track with my real food budget. Here’s how I plan to stay on track:

  • Limited shopping: I have decided to narrow my food shopping down to just three sources: local health food store, farmer’s market, and food co-op. There may be other fabulous sources for food, but I am going to limit myself, for the sake of tracking my expenses and keeping things simple.
  • Meal planning: I’ve started to sit down weekly (Friday), to plan our family’s meals in detail. A list of what we will be eating, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. This list will help guide my shopping.  There will be room for spontaneity, just in case the market has a new fabulous find, but 95% of our food will be planned.
  • Tracking: I’ve set a budget of $800 for our family of four, two adults and two hungry toddler/preschoolers.  $800 also includes feeding our eight laying hens. It’s not the smallest budget or the biggest. It’s reasonable for our family. We’ve cut back in areas such as entertainment to afford good nourishing food with this amount. I plan to track my spending every two weeks.
  • Accountability: Accountability is key when setting a goal. And that’s where you all come in. You, my readers, are going to be accountability. Thank you for volunteering. I knew you’d be up for the challenge. Every two weeks, I plan to post a breakdown of what I spent on food, where I shopped, and what I bought, even what we ate. If I overspend, it will be known.

I’m not alone in my desire to feed my family real food on a real budget. It’s a challenge in today’s processed world, but one that I believe is 100% doable. I also know many of you are already effectively implementing a real food lifestyle on a real budget.

I want you!

Evey month I’d like to feature a reader here at Live Simply who is living a real food lifestyle on a real budget. You may be new to all this–real food, a budget, even Live Simply. You may be getting back on track in the budget area. Or may already have an effective plan for feeding your family real food on a budget.

Your budget may be $200 a month or $1000. Each family and budget is different. The only two qualitficiations are:

1. Feed your family real food (no processed food). I encourage you to stop by and read our definition of real food. Your definition may vary, but as long as it doesn’t involve coke, processed chips, and boxed pizza, you qualify.

2. Have a budget and stick with it or making the very best effort possible.

If you fit the two criteria, I’d love to interview and feature your family. If you are interested, please contact me.

I raise my glass of kombucha to you, my readers, a new budget, and a new year. It’s going to be a great one.

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  1. says:

    I loved the honesty of this! I really need to take hard look at what I’m spending. I also feed 2 adults and 2 toddlers with big appetites. If I can get my act together I’d love to be featured…let me see how I do for a month or so first 🙂

    1. says: Kristin Marr

      Thank you, Laura. I’d love to feature you! I plan to feature one family each month, the last week of that month. When you are ready, just send me an email and we will set it up. I’d love to hear from another mom with hungry little kiddos :).

  2. Love your transparency here and the great tips for better managing a real food budget. What a great post and I completely agree if I don’t meal plan, I not only can get way off track on our food budget, but I also get completely off track in making sure we have balanced nourishing meals. And what a great idea to encourage us by featuring reader success stories! Awesome! I will be sharing this post via social media this week. Blessings, sweet friend! 🙂 Kelly

  3. says: Lorie

    This is the first time I have been to your blog. I like it and can’t wait to see your success. I am also trying to figure out what budget will work for our family of 5. I always fee like I estimating/budgeting too low. Thanks for the encouragement for me to really get down to the nitty gritty 🙂

    1. says: Kristin Marr

      Thank you, Lorie, for sharing. I’m so encouraged to hear that. I look forward to sharing my journey to getting back on a budget and would love to hear how yours is going in the months ahead too :).

  4. says: Danielle McCarville

    Starting February 1st, we are going all real. I got hit over the head with a hammer when my 2 year old wouldn’t eat my home made macaroni & cheese. He just kept saying, “No mommy. No roni cheese. Box, mommy! Box!” My head about exploded. Time for a change!

  5. says: Tamika

    I swear I go over my budget every month! We are ok if we stay home, but the second we schedule a day away from home, budget is blown! We eat organic, dfgf and a lot of game meats, even that way we go over our budget! My budget is way lower than yours! We have a 17 month Old(still nursing) , a. 6 year old and a 7.5 year old…they eat a ton! 5 people total…out budget was $600/ month, but the new car payment has me wanting it lower…

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