Saturday, March 6, 2021

How Much Money Did I Spend on Food in 2020?

 "How much money can this really save you anyways?
How much money do you spend on food?"

Takehome Brunch
Take home brunch COVID collaboration.  Veggies were from Ollin Farms with the meal made by Chef Paul from Beast + Bottle.  I just picked it up from the farm, took it home and put the finishing touches on it in November of 2020.  It tasted much better than it looks, and it looks pretty damn good!

Whoever's reading this blog has quite the assortment of great questions for me, keep them coming.  As questions arise, just send them on over and perhaps I'll make an article out of your very own question!

Lucky for you I kept track of exactly how much I spent on food in 2020 and we're going to take a look at those numbers shortly!  I strive to grow all of the food that I eat, however I'm not quite there.  Each year I inch closer and closer to this goal and this year it appears that I was able to preserve enough food to last me until I grow more food in 2021.  Even with this though I still have grocery store expenses such as: rice, noodles, quinoa, couscous, coconut aminos (basically soy sauce but better), ingredients for my current and beloved breakfast routine along with anything else that I may want from the grocery store which would be luxurious expenses such as:  cheese, ice cream, chocolate, fish etc.

Once you master the arts of growing your own food, cooking with fresh ingredients, and then preserving your own food you can cut down as much of your food expenses as you'd like or none of them at all.  It opens up the door to literally everything from buying absolutely nothing at the store or you can keep buying as much from the store as you want.  What it really does though is it gives you food security, it makes going to the grocery store a luxury instead of a necessity.  It frees you from the awful food system that is in place in the US (this food system is based mostly on processed foods which have also spread like wildfire throughout the world).  If there's a disaster in your area and you can't go to the grocery store then it's no big deal as you have all of the food that you need and you'll be just fine without going to the grocery store or even stepping outside of your house.  Furthermore, it allows you to know exactly where your food comes from and what all went into the food that you're eating.  I strongly believe that this is a perfect solution for giving all communities access to fresh food while also sequestering carbon from the atmosphere and putting it back into the soil thus helping with climate change plus the potential to earn extra money by selling excess food.  Instead of subsidizing ingredients for processed foods that don't provide proper nutrition, we should be subsidizing individuals directly so everyone can grow their own fresh food with the initial cost being as low as possible (or non-existent).  But those are different topics for different days, today we're looking at my food expenses!

As you'll soon see, I still have a fair amount of food expenses.  Before we dive into the nuts and bolts of my food expenses there are a few important things to point out first:  

1) I am on my very own journey and my expenses are currently not as low as they could or should be.

2) My current food bill now pales in comparison to what it was several years ago.

3) I never want myself to feel deprived so I do still spend money on "luxury" food items when I feel like it.

4) Processed foods in the U.S. are subsidized which is why they're so cheap at the grocery store.  These do not provide you with proper nutrition (plus the conventional growing practices for these foods destroy the earth) and I stay away from them at pretty much all costs.  I eat real food, which is not as cheap, but it's nutritious and...real.

5) My preserved food from 2019 ran out in February(ish) of 2020, so I wasn't able to have my meals be my own food until about July of 2020.  Basically 4 months my expenses below are me going to the store a normal amount.

6) 2020 was when the coronavirus pandemic started (it hit the US around March), which probably makes it a really good baseline year for looking at food expenses seeing as there was a fair amount of stress eating in 2020.

Several years ago I had a very luxurious eating habit of eating out quite a lot, and I mean... a lot.  So much so that I knew the names of just about the entire wait staff at several restaurants around town and they all knew me and what I was likely to order.  Plus I was visiting the occasional fast food joint more than I care to admit.  I still cooked with fresh veggies a fair amount, but my cooking skills weren't up to par yet and the food at restaurants was much better.  Plus at a previous job I was working 12+ hours a day, 4 days a week, which didn't leave much time for cooking and I was just exhausted after each day (and on the weekends) while still trying to make time to take care of the urban farm.

Now I rarely eat out and it is a true luxury for me instead of being a normalized luxury that I became accustomed to.  My cooking game has improved drastically.  Most of the food that I cook I would be very pleased to be served the same dishes at a five star restaurant.  I can't remember the last time that I ate at a fast food joint.  My work life changed drastically and I now work the normal 40 hours a week, leaving me with a very good work-life balance that leaves me with a lot of time to work on the urban farm and cook my own food which I'm very pleased with.

I'm done stalling, let's dive into the numbers.  

At long last here are James the Urban Farmer's Food expenses for 2020:

January of 2020 - $151.46  ($139.46 at the store + $0 at local farms + $12 for eating out once).  Here's the full breakdown:

January Food Expenses

February of 2020 - $279.81  ($219.81 at the store + $0 at local farms + $60 for eating out 4 times which is very luxurious, 2 of those were fundraiser events though, which is how I justified it).  Here's the full breakdown:

February Food Expenses

March of 2020 = $268.00  ($219 at the store + $49 at local farms + $0 eating out).  Here's the full breakdown:

March Food Expenses

April of 2020 = $325.72  ($259.22 at the store + $66.50 at local farms + $0 eating out).  This month did include a homemade, big-ass, giant pizza along with bulk ingredients for muesli and ingredients for 8 burritos, 6 of which I froze.  Here's the full breakdown:

April Food Expenses

May of 2020 = $278.38  ($217.88 at the store + $60.50 at local farms + $20 eating out once).  This month included another big-ass, giant pizza along with more bulk ingredients for muesli, enough for months!!  Here's the full breakdown:

May Food Expenses

June of 2020 = $260.52  ($187.52 at the store + $41 at local farms + $32 eating out twice).  This was a very luxurious month of eating, eek.  Here's the full breakdown:

June Food Expenses

July of 2020 = $212.99  ($126.49 at the store + $63.50 at local farms + $23 eating out once).  More pandemic pizza, mmmmmmmm.  Here's the full breakdown:

July Food Expenses

August of 2020 = $146.88  ($77.38 at the store + $34.50 at local farms + $35 eating out twice).  Let the luxurious eating continue.  Here's the full breakdown:

August Food Expenses

September of 2020 = $209.39  ($173.89 at the store + $35.50 at local farms + $0 eating out).  Here's the full breakdown:

September Food Expenses

October of 2020 = $215.24  ($70.24 at the store + $0 at local farms + $145 eating out 5 times - supporting local restaurants during the pandemic).  Crabs Legs plus a mini restaurant tour in Longmont.  Here's the full breakdown:

October Food Expenses

November of 2020 = $368.90  ($238.90 at the store + $0 at local farms + $130 eating out 4 times - supporting local restaurants during the pandemic.  Technically two of those outings were take-home brunches from a local farm made by a chef).  Here's the full breakdown:

November Food Expenses

December of 2020 = $301.65  ($131.65 at the store + $0 at local farms + $170 eating out twice - supporting local restaurants during the pandemic).  The luxurious eating continues to close out the year.  Here's the full breakdown:

December Food Expenses

Local Grass Fed Meat = $307.80 for the year (bulk buy at $615.59 for 61.21 lbs of meat total.  The plan was half for 2020 and half for 2021, the remaining meat is covered in preserved veggies so I have no idea how this is going currently.)  Buckner Family Farm Rocks!

Grand Total = $3274.74  ($2061.44 at the store, $658.30 at local farms, and $555 eating out)

My single largest expense was eating out (not a surprise).  It's important to point out how expensive of a habit eating out can become.  I ate out 22 times this year for a grand total of $555, which averages to about $25 a meal.  This is 16.95% of my food expenses for the year.  With 365 days in a year and 3 meals a day there are 1095 meals in a year.  22 meals is only 2% of my yearly meals yet I spent 16.95% of my yearly food expenses on these 22 meals, ridiculous I tell you!!!  Just imagine how these numbers would look if you ate out 3, 4, or 5 times a week, every single week.  That makes me cringe just thinking about it as I have flashbacks to one of my many prior lives!

After eating out my next largest expenses are:
  • Breakfast - $399.06 - It is the most important meal of the day after all!
  • Goat Cheese - $172.40 - I should probably just buy a goat.
  • Milk Alternative - $124.30 - Needed for my breakfast routine!
  • Avocados - $110.20 - This made a whole bunch of guacamole.
Anyone who knows me will likely tell you that sounds just about right for my current food priorities (outside of vegetables of course).  Breakfast rocks as does goat cheese and avocados.  I make a killer guacamole which causes a taste explosion in your mouth and it will knock your socks off!

Lets analyze this a little bit further, with 1095 meals a year and a food expense grand total of $3274.74 this comes out to $2.99 a meal, despite the fact that I spent $555 eating out and $307.80 solely on "expensive" (society's word choice, not mine) grass fed meat from an awesome local family ranch.  Suddenly this seems a lot more reasonable, eh?  Usually people only spend $2.99 on meals at fast food joints or those nasty pre-made frozen meals, yet I did this with real food and a crap ton of luxurious food thrown in there.  All thanks to the vegetables that I grow in my very own backyard!  Are you starting to see all of the potential advantages of growing your own food and how much freedom it can give you?  Plus if you're growing your own food in a beyond organic way, it's healthy and nutritious which will most likely result in lower health care bills, your kids will be full and they won't be jacked up on sugar and they will be able to focus in school giving them a brighter future.  You could also make money by selling the excess food or building irrigation systems in your town.  All of this by simply utilizing your existing space at your house.  The possibilities are literally limitless and are only bound by your self imposed limits that are in place in your mind.  Shatter those limits and explore your full potential!

However, like I said earlier, there's quite a lot of improvement to go here, but this is a really good baseline.  The ultimate goal would be spending $0 at the store with my spending for extra food going 100% to local farms and eating out occasionally (a few times a year) at farm to table restaurants and/or dinner events at local farms.  You'll notice that starting at about June my food expenses started dropping, this is due to my own food growing (I ran out of my preserved food around February).  You'll also notice that as the year goes on I basically made up for this by stress eating luxurious food items (the pandemic hit the US around March) and also supporting local restaurants during the pandemic by eating out more than I'd like.  While I certainly eat out a lot less than I used to, the farm to table restaurants in my town provide great food while supporting local agriculture and I really do not want them to go out of business.  When people are visiting, those are my go-to restaurants to take them to.  Now-a-days I generally try not to eat out more than once a month (everything is fair game during a pandemic though).

Out of the $3274.74 grand total, $1,494.53 of it are necessary expenses (including the meat), which comes out to only 45.64% of my food spending for the year being necessary.  Which leaves $1780.21 as a luxury expense or 54.36% of my spending.  If I were to cut out 100% of my luxurious food spending that would make my yearly food spending plummet to $1494.53 which by itself would bring my average meal expense down to $1.36.  You'd be hard pressed to get a complete meal for $1.36 anywhere, even at fast food joints, let alone on a continuous basis for each meal of the year!  For now though, that's a theoretical situation and some of the luxury spending did make up complete meals so my necessary food expenses may rise a little if I cut out the luxury.

Some of you are likely looking at my expenses and marveling at how I spend nothing on food, others are gawking at how much I spend on food, while more people are wondering why I spend the same amount on food that they do.  Remember, this is all relative to your own experience.  On my own journey that I'm currently on, this is a pretty big improvement for me with a whole lot of improvement to go.  I'll be keeping track of these same expenses in 2021 so we can see how I do in the years to come compared to this baseline year.  I'm confident I can get my food expenses down much lower without feeling deprived.

Before you call me out, I'm going to point out and blatantly ignore the fact (for now) that these numbers don't take into consideration the costs associated with growing your own food.  We're going to look at that in the next post.  This post is all about my external food expenses outside of growing my own food on the urban farm to give you a taste of what types of food I buy at the store and how much I spend at the store.  Are we done gawking at my luxurious culinary explorations during the great pandemic of 2020 yet???

In the comments below:  How does this compare to your own food expenses?  What surprises you most about my current food expenses?  What are you not surprised by?  What is your favorite kind of shark?


  1. I'm a newer reader, having heard you on the Choose FI podcast, so I'm not sure if this was covered previously, but what is your breakfast routine, and what is the milk alternative?

    1. Hi Amber, welcome aboard! Those have not been covered previously but I think I'm going to do a post in the future on my breakfast routine, I've had a few people ask about it. The short version is it's Muesli that I make myself from bulk ingredients that I buy. There's a fair amount of good stuff that goes into the version that I make and I absolutely love it. The milk alternative is usually coconut, rice, almond, or soy milk, something of that nature. My body does not like regular milk so I stick with the non-dairy versions, I switch it up depending on what's on sale since I enjoy all of them (depending on the brand).

  2. Also, to answer your questions! I haven't completely tracked my food expenses in that same way as you have (I'm not organized or patient enough), but we definitely ate out more this past year to support local restaurants throughout the pandemic. We spend approximately $500/month on food from the grocery stores, but it varies monthly depending on what we're stocking up on or not. We also purchased a quarter cow from a local farm at $2.48/lb. I'm a little surprised at the goat cheese haha. You really should just get a goat!

    Favorite shark? A tie between Spotted Wobbegong, Goblin Shark, and White Shark.

    1. Tracking your expenses is a bit weird at first but it's not too hard to do, I just keep the receipts next to my computer until I enter them into a spreadsheet and you can categorize them as you go. It was pretty eye opening for me, even though I was the one buying it all, it's amazing how quickly it all adds up. That's a slamming deal on the quarter cow, good work! If they allowed goats within the city limits then I would definitely consider it, then I could rent it out to my neighbors that have grass as a lawn mower! But my backyard is probably too small for a goat anyways. I have no idea what any of those sharks are, off to Professor Google I go...!