A Week of Food

1 Week Food

United States: The Jeffries family of Vermont
Food expenditure for one week: $65
Favorite foods: chili, soup, pork, eggs, spaghetti
Click for larger view.

Above is a weeks worth of food. Sort of. Some of the items like the flour, rice and spices are in too great a quantity but I didn’t see a good way to display them as recognizable things in the actual quantity we use in a week.

Presenting a weeks worth of food was an interesting challenge because we actually only go shopping about once every three months and buy a lot of things in bulk. There are some things we buy at a shopping trip, like one pound of fish which get eaten right away but are so small when figured weekly (1 lb / 10 weeks = 1/10th lb) that they don’t show on a table spread very well – I used a few shrimp to represent the fish. Another stumbling block is that what we eat is highly seasonal. In the winter we eat hot foods to warm us including a lot of soups, stews, chili and such that we canned in the fall and early winter, cabbage, meat, potatoes, hot cocoa, hot mint tea, etc. In the summer months we eat cooler meals including a lot of fresh veggies from our gardens, foraged berries, eggs, cold mint tea, etc. In the spring and fall it is also different.

This project was inspired by the Time Magazine article “What the World Eats” which was based on the book “Hungry Planet“. The article showed pictures from fifteen families in various countries around the world. Each picture show the family as well as all the foods they ate in a week and gave their weekly food budget.

The average weekly food expense was $180 with many of them falling in the $300 to $500 range. The variance in budgets was extradinary. That average is biased downward by two families that spend $5 and $1 per week – one of whom is in a refuge camp. Unfortunately the article did not correct for variations in local economies and buying power so the numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. It would have been interesting to have a number showing how the spending relates as a percent of income. Also, prices for things vary greatly between countries as well as between urban and rural areas. Additionally, the families they chose may or may not really be representative – the other two USA families [1, 2] eat very differently from each other and very differently than our family. Diversity is beautiful.

Still, it was a great photo essay and not meant as a scientific study. Our family had fun studying the photos in Time as well as making our own list and photo.

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Our weekly food budget is $65 for a family of five. That comes to $1.85 per person per day or 62¢ per meal per person per day – there is some variation with a summer low of about $50/wk and a late winter and early spring high of about $80/wk as we get low on foods we’ve grown. The budget includes seed we buy to grow much of our veggies. Almost all of our meat, a big expense, as well as our eggs come from animals we raise ourselves at almost no cost since we pasture raise them. I included an allotment in our budget for winter hay for the animals. Prior to raising our own animals we ate very little meat due to the cost and health concerns with factory raised meats. We also forage for berries much of the summer, canning and freezing them for the rest of the year. Dairy is our single largest expense as we drink a lot of milk, eat quite a bit of cheese and use butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, etc. Gotta get a cow – or goats!

One of the things that struck me from the photos was not how different the foods were but how similar they were from country to country. Looking through the photos in the article we noticed that it seemed most of the families were living in urban areas so that in and of itself may account for some of the uniformity of foods. I was also surprised at how many people bought water. The family from the Time article that was the closest to our family was the Batsuuri family of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Ironically their budget also came close to ours at $40/week.

Since it is rather hard to see from a photo what is there, even when clicking on the image above to the larger version, I have made a list of everything:

Item Quantity Notes
Milk 4 gallons Gotta get a cow!
Yogurt 1 quart More in summer
Butter 1 lb
Cream 2 oz
Sour Cream 4 oz
Cream Cheese 4 oz
Cottage Cheese 1 lb
Cheese 2 lbs Cheddar, Blue, Swiss, Goat, Mozzarella, etc
Eggs 48 Less in winter when hens don’t lay less
Bread 2 loaves
Corn Muffins 20
Biscuits 20
Cereal 1 lb Hot in winter, cold in summer
Spaghetti 2 lbs
Egg Noodles 2 lbs
Crackers 1/2 lb
Graham Crackers 1/8 lb Bonfire cookout smores!
Rice 8 cups
Barley 3 cups Lamb or mutton soup
Couscous 2 cups
Lentils 2 cups
Beans 4 cups Fresh in season, Dry in winter in chili or soup
Peas Dried 2 cups In soups
Bacon/Sausage 2 lbs Breakfast with eggs
Ground Pork 2 lbs Sausage, chili, stew, etc
Pork Cuts 5 lbs Ham, Loin, Ribs, etc
Chicken/Duck 1 lb Generally soup or stewed
Lamb 1 lb Leg, rack, loin, soup or stew
Bones 3 lb Soup and broth
Beef 1/4 lb Bought
Pepperoni 1/10 lb Mostly as topping on pizza
Shrimp/Squid/Fish 1/10 lb Few times a year
Berries 2 quarts Seasonal types, canned, jammed, jellied, sauced or frozen in winter
Melon 1 Seasonal type and availability
Bananas 3 Seasonal
Apples 9 Some Seasonality
Pears 2 Some Seasonality
Orange/Grapefruit 1 Seasonal
Grapes 1/4 lb Seasonal
Raisins 1/2 lb On salad, cereal or yogurt mostly
Canned Fruit 1/4 lb Winter replacement
Basil 1 cup Mostly as fresh spice or pesto
Cabbage 1 head Winter salad greens, sauerkraut, slaw
Lettuce 2 heads Seasonal
Broccoli 2 head Seasonal
Carrots 8
Beets 3 Fresh in summer, canned or soup in winter
Radishes 5 Highly seasonal
Cucumber 1 Seasonal
Onion 6
Leeks 1 Seasonal
Chives 1/8 cup Seasonal
Tomatoes 8 Fresh in season and from store or canned
Peas 2 cups Seasonal fresh, canned in soup or frozen
Corn 2 cups Seasonal fresh, canned in soup or frozen, corn bread
Squash 2 cups Seasonal – Zucchini, Summer, Pumpkin, Winter, Acorn, Butternut
Mushrooms 1/4 cup canned from store
Celery 3 stalks
Potatoes 20 Soup, Fried, Mashed, Refried, Stew, Thickener
Waterchestnuts/Bamboo 1/10 cup
Garlic 18 cloves Vampires beware
Pickles 5 Winter mostly
Relish 3 oz
Olives 1 cup
Olive Oil 2 quarts
Salt
Pepper
Cayenne
Cinnamon
Ginger
Curry
Coriander
Bay Leaves
Black Pepper Corns
Red Pepper
Rosemary
Cloves
Thyme
Dill
Parsley
Chili Peppers
Ketchup
Mustard
Hot Mustard
Mayonnaise
Horseradish
Worcestershire Sauce
Soy Sauce
Tabasco Sauce
Chili Pepper Sauce
Rhubarb
Strawberry Sauce 1 cup
Strawberry Jam 1 cup
Peanut Butter 1 cup
Nuts 1 lb
Sunflower Seeds 1/4 cup
Maple Syrup 1 cup
Honey 1/2 cup
Sugar 4 cups Baking and cooking
Molasses Baking and cooking
Baking Soda
Baking Powder
Wheat Flour 10 lbs Baking and cooking
Corn Flour 5 lbs Baking and cooking
Other Flour 2 lbs Baking and cooking
Chili 3 quarts Canned in fall and winter mostly
Soup 6 quarts Canned in fall and winter mostly
Bullion 6 cubes
Ramen 1
Jello 1
Taco Corn Chips 8 oz
Black Tea 8 cups Hot in winter or cold summer mornings
Mint Tea 3 gallons 2.5 oz dry leaves. Hot in winter, cold in summer
Lemon Aid 2 gallons (Lemon Juice) Hot in winter, cold in summer
Cocoa Powder 8 oz Winter Hot Chocolate
Coffee Powder 2 oz Winter Hot Chocolate
Juice 1/2 gallon Mostly summer
Soda 2 liters
Candy Bar 4 oz
Chocolate Chips 1 oz
Ice Cream 1/4 gallon
Smoked Oysters 1/4 tin
Marshmallows 5 Bonfire Cookouts

If you missed it see the “Kitchenwares for a Week” post which I had done just before the Time article came out. That was part of why I found their article so fascinating. If you haven’t seen the Time article do go check it out and possibly the book as well. A great homeschool session for all ages.

So, what is one week of food for your family?

Outdoors: 70°F/54°F Overcast, 5″ Rain, Thunder Storms
Farm House: 71°F/68°F
Tiny Cottage: 70°F/68°F bathroom planning

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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24 Responses to A Week of Food

  1. cat says:

    great post! you’ve proposed quite a challenge. i’ll have to go through and see what we do use. i’ve got a rough idea of what we spend and it’s right around $100/week at the moment. some weeks more, some less. but in my defense, we are still just setting up our homestead so our hens aren’t laying yet and our gardens are just getting started..hehe plus i take care of 3 other kids all week, so feeding 5 kids can get costly! hahah we are a dairy loving family too, so it will be great when we are getting our own eggs and milk from our goats we are looking at buying..:) plus i’m all for making my own cheese and yogurts too with goat milk! yum!!

    thanks for the inspiration once again!

  2. Hey Cat! I look forward to your post of A Week of Food. One of my brothers just got milk goats. Perhaps at some point he’ll share what he’s been discovering. Cheers, -Walter

  3. Katie says:

    So great! I too do a lot of buying in bulk so find these kinds of challenges, well challenging. I may try and figure something out though, thanks for the inspiration and insight.

  4. LJB says:

    I was about to urge you to buy our small herd of Dexters which we are selling, for your milk needs. However, if you factor in the winter hay needs, I’m guessing that makes for pretty expensive milk. I say go for some goats — they can produce milk while eating less hay. I admire your orientation to detail, Walter. It stimulates thoughtfulness to see the concrete evidence, or in my case, merely to IMAGINE it! :-)

  5. LBJ, we thought about Dexters. I like the small size – I find the big cattle rather intimidating although maybe now less so since I’ve been dealing with 700 to 800 lb sows and boars for several years. A matter of getting used to their size, taking it slowly.

    I’ve always had my heart set on Highlands. My cousin at Picture Mountain has a beautiful herd which I’ve loved seeing since childhood. I suspect though that may still be a bit in the future.

    We’ve also considered raising bull calf jerseys (no milk there) since we get whey daily for the pigs and the calfs are so inexpensive since they’re cast offs from the dairy industry.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how my brother’s experience with his goats goes. -WalterJ

  6. Anonymous says:

    A brother here, On goats. I don’t really expect to make out financially on the goats milk. It’s hard to compete with Hood’s $1.99 a gallon milk in the foodstop on the corner. With my two goats, I am anticipating that I can get the cost down to about $2.50 a gallon. But that assumes we can eat / use all the milk even at peak production and have minimal downtime for kidding. It also ignores our labor to milk and care for the goats. But there are other reasons to keep them.
    Walter, When you come down on the 23rd, come down early and we’ll show you what we have learned about Goats.

  7. Kelly Myers says:

    Fascinating article by Time – exciting to see what your family uses, since I feel like I “know” you. I too would have liked to see statistics based on per person and a factor for inflation.
    Reminds me of a Sociology textbook from college that showed “Toilets Around the World”. It was a sobering look at poverty and affluence across cultures.

    Then I learned something shocking…. hens don’t lay eggs in the winter?!! What? My city-girl experience with Chickens is limited to Looney Tunes and Foghorn Leghorn. No wonder I didn’t know!

  8. Kelly,

    Hens do lay in winter but they cut back quite a bit unless you push them with lighting and winter feeding of a lot of grain. In the warm months they will lay almost an egg a day just foraging for their own food of insects and plants. During the winter it might only be an egg a week or worse.

    For this reason we keep more chickens than we would need if the chickens laid consistently year round. In the warm months we get a bounty, the extra goes to weaning piglets and dogs. In the winter the eggs get scarce, we eat fewer and the dogs and piglets get almost none.

    If I were keeping hens for eggs to sell on a large scale I would spend more money on feed and they would produce more during the cold, dark months of winter.

    From what I’ve read, the benefit of pastured birds, like we do where they’re eating grass and bugs, is that their eggs are higher in CLA’s, Omega-3 Fatty Acids and other good things like that. The yokes from the home flock certainly are firmer, more upright and darker than the ones we occasionally get from the store in the winter.

    Cheers,

    -WalterJ

  9. pigfarmer 56 says:

    If your unsure about aquireing more livestock try bartering with a local dairy farmer you trust. we trade homade goodies for a gallon of milk. we also buy alot in bulk from a company in fairfax vt called Hillcrest foods.A 50# bag of King arthur flower goes for about 15 bucks They deliver all over Vt and could meet you in barre or montpeiler. They also have a website to look at.

  10. jojo says:

    Walter, You never cease to amaze me. Your posts are always so interesting and educational. :) I noticed alot of coke bottles in alot of the photos. Amazing how far reaching they are. And one family had like 16… but then ate fresh, while of course, the american clans practically ate all processed.

    Of course i’m going to recommend Nubians for you. Small enough to milk and easy enough to care for. 3 quarts a day to a gallon some can milk. I would think the kids would be easier to sell than a cow to keep you in milk all year round.

  11. posted a message,, but some how lost it so here goes again.. I live in Nh and want to know what you feed your herd in the winter time? Do you have grains you get or buy? I dont have goo dluck with them farrowing outside, in winter or any season..If you could give some advise it would be great

  12. SimpleFarmGirl, in the winter we have hay for the pigs. They eat about 0.8 lbs of hay per hundred weight of pig. Check out this article about feeding hay to pigs and this article about a good way of moving round bales. Most years we also have had whey, excess milk, cheese trim or the like as well which adds calories although sometimes we’ve not had those things. Since we are on mountain land I buy hay in from a farmer down in the valley who has much better hay fields. That is our one big annual feed expense since we don’t buy commercial feed for the pigs.

    We also grow some veggies for the pigs. Basically growing way more than we need of things we eat like corn, pumpkins, sunflowers, Jerusalem artichokes, squash, turnips, beets, etc. The excess, along with any garden gleanings, goes to the pigs starting in the very late fall and lasting as long as it goes. I would like to be able to grow enough to carry them through the winter but it hasn’t happened yet. I’m still getting the hang of that.

    On the winter farrowing the big trick I’ve found is they need protection from wind and wetness. Don’t close them in, that’s the worst thing to do because the humidity builds up and the bedding gets soaking wet, the air gets filled with ammonia, etc. Instead, have them in open sheds, more of the house end shed, dens, more dens, open greenhouses, pallet sheds or the like. Also see this post winter housing and this one. Also see these two posts Winter Piglets and Winter Farrowing Ideas.

    There are lots of ways that work. The basic idea is have a wind shield to protect them from the wind, a roof to protect them from rain and a deep bed of hay so they can snuggle down in it. The advantage of hay over straw is the hay they will eat while straw is not as nutritious or edible.

    PigFarmer56, thanks for the tip. I’ll check them out.

    JoJo, I’ll read up about Nubians. Thanks!

    Cheers,

    -WalterJ

  13. HomemakerAng says:

    good inspiration, better family photo, priceless!

  14. Hi Walter –

    Every year by November I try to put by a year’s worth of food & supplies.
    Here’s a link to my Pantry List

    http://tinyurl.com/23u977

    I have been doing it for over 20 years.

    I never have to buy anything at the store except for cheese, some fruit (citrus & bananas) and sometimes stuff for Christmas.

    I don’t keep a dairy animal at present so we fetch our milk from a neighbor.

    If I still had kids at home, I’d keep a small Jersey cow.
    It works good to let her raise her calf and “steal” a little milk every other day or so.

  15. Podchef says:

    Walter, Highland cattle are great–they deal with extremes of heat and cold really well, they survive on just about anything and can have an even disposition. However, the cows don’t make great milkers–I suppose there are exceptions, and when crossed with a Jersey they do okay–and the steers take 3 years to raise to decent quality beef size. I have had them at 18, 24 and 30 months and the longer they go the better the meat, up to a point. So that makes them a long-term and slightly costlier to raise option. But they are so cool.

    As for Jerseys. . .a jersey steer dresses out into some pretty good beef. Higher bone to meat ratio, so it’s best if you butcher a Jersey yourself, or get a sweet deal on cutting otherwise hanging weight will get you a large bill for a small pile of meat.

    Jersey bulls are to be avoided at all cost–the jersey dairy where I did quite a bit of work used AI or Highland bulls for mating because Jersey bulls are very unpredictable and often worse than a 5 year old Kerry or Highland Bull with a large rack of horns.

    Having a family dairy cow is the way to go though. . .especially with pigs to eat the surplus and whey from cheese. I like goat cheese but I like an udder I can hang on to. . . .

  16. Anonymous says:

    Great job! And what a huge project! Now comes the real challenge. Care to post your menu for that week so we can get ideas for frugal dinners?

    Barb J.
    http://www.homesteadblogger.com/findingcontentment

  17. Opal says:

    I loved your post. In fact I am a bit jealous, we live in a good sized apartment in San Antonio, Tx, but we really would love to have a house (with land would be great), a yard, and garden. We also homeschool, as well, and I agree I think that this would make a wonderful project. My grandparents raise goats, and they have really good milk, the goats that they raise (I am not sure what breed) were easy to milk and were good producers. I loved them we would go out and play with the kids when we would visit, and helping with them was a treat, not a chore. I remember getting up in the wee hours of the morning to help my grandmother milk and feed the goats. Recently we have eradicated processed food from our diet, though there are still a few things we buy, but since we started I have lost 30 lbs. We would like to start buying in bulk more often, and will probably start doing so soon. Y’all are an inspiration.

  18. M says:

    Wow! $65!

    Coincidentally, my friend Fairlie and I are trying to get our Aussie blogging friends to post their week of food. We’ve both posted ours in the last couple of days.

  19. Fairlie says:

    This project and the original book are truly fascinating. Thanks for visting my week of food pic!

    I’m very envious of your three-monthly shopping trips – mine are weekly and I detest the experience!

  20. Karen says:

    Hi Walter,I raise miniature jerseys and they are the greatest. Goats stink but so do pigs. I am not a fan of goat's milk so enjoy the jersey. They produce such wonderful milk that we make all our own cheese, sour cream, butter, yogurt, etc. We don't buy ANY dairy. And…the pigs,dogs, chickens,and cats love the left overs or ripe milk. Oh, your chickens will lay more in the winter with the protein from the milk too. I am not too sure about goat milk butter and sour cream but I have often wondered when you would get something to milk. My first litter of piglets are due next month. Very exciting. Thanks for all your advice through the blog and personal email assistance. Your family is terrific.

  21. Karen,

    I've heard that goats smell, the males, from sex hormones but pigs don't smell if you manage them well, same as with other animals. Out on pasture they don't accumulate manure. If they smell, add hay, wood chips or other carbon or simply have them on pasture instead of in stalls or pens.

    In the winter our chickens get some meat and drink whey, eat cheese and butter to help with their diet.

    Good luck with your projects,

    Cheers,

    -Walter

  22. Fiona Lagarde says:

    Your Blogs are incredibly good! My husband found your site and has spent the last week going through everything. He forwards me his favorites. This one about what the world eats and how much it costs is awesome. It is amazing to see the dominance of pre packaged and processed food. Your table is refreshingly fresh.

    My husband and I are in the process of selling my property and are looking to one more suited to what we want to do. A farm that we will be able to grow our own healthy food on. I have farmed all my life but Ralph is new to it though he has gardened a lot. We want pigs as an integral part of our mixed rotation of livestock. Your information has been an enormous help.

    sincerely

    Fiona

  23. Anna Rounseville says:

    Walter and family,
    Wow this site is so rich with information. I followed it from another site that was discussing the food for a family photo essay book.
    I homeschooled for a while (got our daughter through high school-she’s at a local college now doing online coursework over the summer) but our two boys are so challenging in different ways overall that we had to put them back in the local public school.
    I applaud your resourcefulness, and your diligence all of you.
    We live in a village with urban density, with farms all over the place.
    I am learning more about food, I’m in the reading stage right now. one of my friends and I have bought a share in a local farm co-op kindof thing. We’ll get a box of food a week from June to November. If I can’t grow it I can help support those who do. It’ll be less expensive than going to the grocery store and the variety sounds amazing. Its her 2nd or 3rd year doing this and my first. So looking forward to some fresh and local produce. You guys should be on Pinterest. Its free and there are a Lot of homeschoolers who could use new ideas for homeschooling. :D
    May God Bless all of the work of your hands.
    Sincerely, Mrs. Anna Rounseville
    Brockport, NY

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