It’s become an annual tradition for me to review our grocery budget around New Year’s. At first, it was about gauging whether our garden was really saving us money. What I’ve come to realize is that our gardens (especially our fruits) allow us to eat really grandly (and healthfully), on a budget. It’s all a matter of perspective of what you want to put in your body and how much effort you’re willing to make, in the kitchen and the garden.
Anyway! There’s a major difference about our 2012 grocery budget. One year ago, we started using mint.com to track all of our expenses. IT ROCKS. Pulling the stats for this post took approximately 45 seconds:
There you have it, a simple pie chart showing that groceries are, far and away, where our food-related spending happens. When I first started looking at the stats, it looked like we had spent about $300 more in 2012 than 2011. But on closer inspection, I realized that if I just looked at Seward co-op, where we get almost all our groceries, we actually spent a tiny bit ($100) less. The other $400 or so was from other grocery stores around the states of MN and South Dakota, where we traveled in 2012.
I think it’s safe to say that, more or less, we held the line on grocery spending for 2013. Mint was a big part of making that possible—it tracks your spending automatically, and you can sign up for text messages when you exceed any of your set budgets in any given month.
My only criticism of Mint is that neither my credit union nor my 401(k) provider hook up well with it, eliminating some of the convenience factor. But for the most part, I like it. It’s helped us set up our monthly budget and now we’re using it to help achieve some financial goals (made possible by the kids being in full-day Kindergarten instead of daycare).
I should note: we spend a MUCH greater percentage of our income on groceries than average Americans. It’s a conscious decision and I have no regrets about it—on the contrary I feel lucky to have the option.
Enough about budgets, let’s talk about food. Adam’s been watching The Mind of a Chef on PBS, and the kids and I have been reaping the benefits, including this homemade ramen. He didn’t use a recipe, but based it loosely on David Chang’s descriptions of authentic Japanese ramen. It involved cooking pork and chicken bones, and some oxtail for good measure, for 24 hours, along with some onions and other random veggie trimmings. He removed the bones, then boiled it on the stove to reduce it by half, and also cooked some kombu in there for a while. We poured the finished stock over cooked Japanese noodles, and enjoyed it. Immensely.