Sunday, March 25, 2007

How much do you Spend on Food?

And Does Your Shopping List Look Anything Like Mine?

picture photograph or animated gif 2007 copyright of sam breach

I have been conducting a study for a while of how much I spend on food ingredients. It is #2 on my list of Food Resolutions for 2007. Every week since February 10th I have been keeping track of how much I spend on my weekly shop. Below is a copy of my latest shopping list for last Saturday. I am wondering how it compares to yours? Perhaps you think I am not eating locally enough (Yes, I have an insatiable weakness for Gruyere cheese)? Here in San Francisco we think of anything within 100 miles as local, but when I lived in London I would never have considered my home town of Bristol, 100 miles from London, to be local which raises an interesting point about what local actually is. Perhaps you think I spend too much money on food? Perhaps you think I am cheap? Perhaps you wonder how I get by without any processed foods in my basket? (It's easy, I like to cook.) Perhaps you wonder about staples - my pantry is always well stocked with flours, sugars, spices, grains, vinegars and oils which I will use to complement the fresh produce. If you care to share, I would be interested in your thoughts or comments about how your own shopping lists compare to mine.

The Eat Local Challenge
have just announced their Penny Wise Challenge for April which encourages participants to try and eat locally on an average American food budget. (For us that would apparently be $144 per week which seems a reasonable amount to me.) For more details of how to join in check here.

My Shopping List Saturday March 24th, 2007
$03.50 LOCAL 70 Miles 2 bunches green onions | Everything Under the Sun
$03.00 LOCAL 80 Miles bunch asparagus | Zuckerman
$06.50 LOCAL 90 Miles 1 lb of walnuts | Alfieri
$12.00 LOCAL ARTISAN 0.2 Miles bacon and tolouse sausages | Fatted Calf
$08.00 LOCAL 40 Miles 1 dozen eggs | Marin Sun Farms
$06.00 LOCAL 70 Miles 3 x Plain Yogurt | St Benoit
$03.75 LOCAL 60 Miles mixed arugula rapini, green garlic, pea shoots | Knoll
$03.00 SEMI-LOCAL 125+ MILES bag of four Wills Avocados
$05.00 LOCAL 40 Miles Freshly Churned Jersey Butter | Spring Hill
$01.00 LOCAL 100 Miles bag of pepper cress | Heirloom Organics
$03.00 LOCAL 25 Miles three romaine hearts | Star Route
$01.50 LOCAL 90 Miles bunch of slender leeks | Dirty Girl
$06.00 LOCAL 60 Miles | Straus Butter
$06.87 NOT LOCAL Swiss Cave Aged Gruyere
$04.25 LOCAL 40 MILES Fromage Blanc | CowGirl
$02.50 LOCAL ARTISAN 2.3 Miles Plain Chocolate ClairesSquare | La Cocina
$18.50 LOCAL 100 Miles Olive Oil | Bariani
$02.90 LOCAL ARTISAN 2.7 Miles Pain Au Levain | Acme
$01.90 LOCAL ARTISAN 2.7 Miles Epi | Acme
$05.00 LOCAL ARTISAN 2.7 Miles *NEW* from Acme - Fra'mani Salami sandwich with butter and cornichons to take home for Fred's lunch. He was raving about this sandwich! He didn't even let me try it. He told me it far surpasses their croissant which until today was the weekly treat he was more than happy with. Darn it, the sandwich costs $3 more than the croissant. Oh well..


PS For further reference, prior shopping lists can be viewed on my food calendar here. (Check under 'Food Spends', generally posted on Saturdays)

2005 | Hot Cross Buns - Funny that two years to the day later, I was making my own Hot Cross Buns!

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How much do you Spend on Food?


  • At 26/3/07 07:45, Blogger Erin S. said…

    If anyone thinks you don't eat local enough, he/she's on crack! That's a quite impressive list. I am surprised by the cost of the green onions though--I buy mine local here in LA too, and that seems quite high!

  • At 26/3/07 08:11, Blogger Jaye Joseph said…

    Just curious, will that feed both of you b/l/d for a week? If so, color me very impressed. My average food spending per month, including groceries and eating out amounts to about $600. As for local, well...I do my best and I'm getting better every day.

  • At 26/3/07 08:23, Blogger Amy Sherman said…

    Impressive list. What's the average number of meals you eat at home during the week? Also do you only shop once per week?

  • At 26/3/07 08:27, Anonymous Julie said…

    I think you do a great job! Mmm...toulouse sausages -- what I wouldn't give for some of THAT! I'm curious too -- does this feed you and Fred without eating out? I know G and I eat more meat/protein in a week, partly because of an actual medical condition on my part.

    I've made an effort to eat more locally over the past few years -- but in NYC it's quite difficult until almost midsummer. And I have to say, I'm pretty loath to try to figure out a diet that doesn't include chocolate, citrus, avocadoes, sugar, mangoes, coffee...

  • At 26/3/07 10:12, Blogger Jennifer Maiser said…

    S -

    You are a rockstar. I love that this list shows local goods, but also a mix of temperance with things like Gruyere ... I would say that your list this week is more local than mine -- mine this week also has Total Greek Yogurt, Blue Bottle Coffee, and onions that I bought at Andronico's yest because I forgot them on Sat.

    Where is Acme selling the sandwich? Inside? I could go for one of those right now.

  • At 26/3/07 11:09, Blogger nicole said…

    I think I probably spend about the same, but unfortunately I can't do all local -- my downfall is tofu, or beans, because I haven't seen any locally made tofu around here (yet?). My brother made tofu from scratch last year, so if I could find some local soybeans I could give it a try ... V. impressed with the local shopping/eating!

  • At 26/3/07 11:36, Blogger LolaPistola said…

    Do you cook everyday? Do you plan your meals ahead of time? If you do cook everyday, What time do you get home from work and what time do you eat dinner?
    I am trying to buy local and cook more, but time involved is hard, esp, when you can eat out so easily.
    p.s. you blog is great.

  • At 26/3/07 12:50, Blogger Michelle said…

    I also wonder how many meals you eat home vs. out with this (skimpy! lol!) shopping list ;) It seems to be lacking in proteins aside from eggs and sausage (thanks for turning me on to Fatted Calf - forever indebted for that one).

    Living in the Bay Area makes shopping local so easy - I am so grateful for that!

  • At 26/3/07 13:08, Anonymous Serge Lescouarnec said…

    I wish my Food Spending was so small.
    I guess during the week you both eat at work.
    I spent around $200.00 yesterday between Shoprite and Whole Foods.

    I have to say that this is food for 5 people (3 kids).

    I have to check the Eat Local challenge.
    For us it works better in that regard from late April to early October when the Farmers Market takes place.

    'The French Guy from New Jersey'

  • At 26/3/07 13:13, Anonymous Tana said…

    This is an excellent post, Sam. I do have a question: Fatted Calf products aren't really .2 miles away, but I assume that's where their shop is. Unless there is a ranch a few blocks from your house, wouldn't Fatted Calf's meat come from a variety of sources, some more local than others? I understand from my butcher friend here in Santa Cruz that this is the case.

    Not trying to nitpick: maybe Fatted Calf could let you know where their meats come from.

    I admire your commitment to local foods, which you fulfill without a loss to creativity or fabulous taste. You are an inspiration to so many people.

  • At 26/3/07 13:30, Blogger 'm' said…

    I've been thinking about the whole 'eat local' movement. Take for example those of us in the peninsula. If we drive to the Ferry Building, and the food comes from 100 miles away, are we really eating local?

    And yes, I usually buy from Farmer's Markets local to me.

  • At 26/3/07 18:43, Anonymous Eric said…

    Oh, how lucky you are. I have been contemplating the 100 mile rule. Right now in Ohio that would include some milk (if you can get around the herd-share rule),some cheese (if I drove close to 100 miles to Amish country to pick it up), some beets that a friend of mine grew, and possibly some cellared apples. I admire what you are doing. I wish I could do the same (although I admittedly could do better). I think that people (not you Sam, I think you're great) should remember when they propose notions like 100-mile or 250-mile rules, that the majority of the country does not live near San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland or even New York. We don't have readily available local food at year-round farmers markets. The overwhelming majority of farming done near most of us is industrial corn and soybean production. We shop at Kroger, Albertsons, and Cub Foods. Ahh...I can't wait for summer...and local food. Seriously, I love your blog...I'm just a little bitter...and jealous. Oh..$500 a of three.

  • At 26/3/07 19:21, Anonymous Diane said…

    Great list - yummy and healthy! I think $104 for two is great. I've been on a "menu planning" kick to get myself to be more frugal, and it has helped bring costs down. I spend about $40 - $45/wk for one person (exludes eating out), and buy mostly local except for stuff from the Indian store (dals, rice, spices). I buy less dairy than you and more vegies. All is as local as I can find. Even the wierd Asian vegies from Oakland Chinatown are mostly grown in the central valley, I think.

    Great post!

  • At 26/3/07 19:46, Anonymous Fatemeh said…

    How on earth do you find the time for this kind of important examination of your food habits???

    That said, I'm going to play devil's advocate a bit.

    I know you guys eat out a fair bit, which probably puts your $104 a little over-budget on a relative basis.

    Also, it really bums me out that the Bureau of Labor didn't more finely break out their numbers. They say, "2+ persons" is $144, but that's so unfair -- that number, I'm guessing, includes an awful lot of families who spend an average of $144.

  • At 27/3/07 06:03, Blogger Charise said…

    I live in Ohio, so I also can only do mostly local from May-October when the farmer's markets are open. I am getting reallllyyy antsy for that time of year and am jealous of those who get to do it all the time!

    As far as groceries, I spend about $250-$300/month for two people, but we also spend about that on eating out/drinks on a months worth of weekends (I usually cook 4-5 nights a week).

  • At 27/3/07 13:34, Blogger ChrisB said…

    Sam I found your shopping list fascinating. There is no way I could source things locally or within 100m of here come to that. So you are very lucky and I have a lot of fruit in my weekly shop which double the amount you spend. (I did find potatoes, apples,carrots, lettuce and strawberries this week all UK grown) but that's not much. I'm going to a farmers market on Thurs so I'm wondering what I will find there.

  • At 27/3/07 13:48, Anonymous chuckeats said…

    my list looks very familiar to yours (mainly b/c i live close to the Ferry Bldg.)

    however, and this might sound silly coming from someone who spends $300-400 on a Parisian dinner, how do you justify the $8/dozen eggs?

    I buy my eggs from the people (sorry, forget name) at the end of the same row and they're only $3.50/dozen or so. I haven't paid attention where they come from but why is there such a price discrepancy?

    (perhaps something for me to investigate next weekend.)

  • At 27/3/07 17:05, Anonymous Bonnie/Dairy Queen said…

    Oh this is too funny. I've been making notes and taking photo of my farmers market and Berkeley Bowl hauls for about a month now, but haven't got round to getting them ready for posting. I was also a bit afraid of what people might think of our profligate food buying habits! Now that you've blazed the trail I can be braver and fess up to the fact that I spend more on Fatted Calf per week than the USDA does on feeding a schoolchild lunch for a year.

  • At 27/3/07 19:33, Blogger Cate said…

    Wow. I'm amazed by how many great lcoal sources you have for produce and other items. Maybe it's time to do a bit more digging around here...

  • At 28/3/07 02:58, Blogger cal said…

    I've been keeping track of my spending during Lent so amazingly I have some figures to hand. This is a week where I only ate out once, though it does include a take away which is quite unusual.

    (I'm in London)

    £3.29 - yogurt & bread (the yogurt was Yeo Valley organic - so British, the bread pumpernickel - I think probably from Germany)
    £4.05 - herbal tea & sushi at the British Library
    £15 - Pizza Express pizza
    £0.45 - kale from farmer's market
    £1.50 - veggie pasty from farmer's market
    £1 - Turkish stuffed spinach wrap from local Turkish cafe
    £1.35 - fruit & veg from local greengrocer (I've been trying to buy only UK veggies - so was probably cabbage; fruit was probably either English apples or Spanish clementines)
    £0.40 - crisps (my addiction!)
    £1.10 - bread from local bakery (probably English flour but I don't know)
    £10 - supermarket(can't remember exactly what this was - possibly tins of things)

    So a total of £18.89 on groceries and £25.05 on eating food out.

    But there's only me in my household and I have a lot of basics in the cupboard (rice, couscous, oil, herbs, spices....)

  • At 28/3/07 02:59, Blogger cal said…

    Forgot to include the takeway (although it's already included in the final total amount) which was £3.50 on fish'n'chips and was delicious!

  • At 4/4/07 15:24, Blogger barbie2be said…

    good god, $3.50 for two bunches of green onions?

    at my local farmers market i can get two bunches of organic green onions for $1.00... maybe you should come down to the campbell farmers market on sundays!


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