The food budget

A while back I wrote a post in danish called the food budget (madbudgettet). I don’t eat lentils all day long like Jacob though, inside FI joke. If you want to find out how to save money, eat healthier, eat more varied and spend less time figuring out what to do when all you want is a simpler life, then by all means follow me down the rabbit hole once again.

The post, in danish, about my food budget is one of the posts that continues to get the most attention. This made me think that others outside of danish speaking people might benefit from me describing how we, me and my significant other, do in terms of getting food on the table.

I will be posting my expenses in the currency DKK as this is the native currency of Denmark. Use a simple tool such as this to convert to your local currency.

 

The short version

We eat the same healthy breakfast every day, we prepare our lunch for the workweek on Sundays and most of our evening meals are fixed in a four week rotation based on winter and summer.

 

I will be posting my expenses in the currency DKK as this is the native currency of Denmark. Use a simple tool such as this to convert to your local currency.

 

What we do

We go grocery shopping every Sunday and Friday. Sunday we buy food for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and brakfast and lunch for Friday. On Fridays we buy food for Friday night, Saturday and also Sunday mornings. This means that we don’t spend a lot of time grocery shopping. On top of this we make a complete list of what to get before we actually go to the supermarket. We very rarely deviate from this list, which again, as I have stated in other posts, is more a matter of disciplin than motivation. On top of this we have a a certain schematic plan we follow, we simply refer to it as the Food plan. The food plan comes in two versions, one for the summer and one for the winter. There is no exact timing of what is summer and what is winter in this regard, this is up for debate. The food plan is divided into four weeks and clearly states what is for dinner from Sunday through Thursday. This leaves Fridays and Saturdays open for improvisation or one of several  ‘wildcard’ dishes we like. This means that I can actually look up what I am having for dinner on Wednesday in three weeks time if I wanted to. I’ll get more into the why we do this later on. The food plan is in danish and hangs on our fridge so we can always see whats for dinner. An example og a little outdated on can be seen below:

This Foodplan was for last winter.

I don understand danish what does it say?!

Bear in mind the dishes are simply shown with a heading. Some of them we made up ourselves and those dishes might not a have name.

Week 1

Sunday: Broccoli soup

Monday: Massed potatoes with zucchini

Tuesday: Spaghetti Bolognese

Wednesday: Fish meatballs

Thursday: Chili con carne

 

Week 2

Sunday: Tomato soup

Monday: Pasta and spinach

Tuesday: Crunchy potatoes with spicy minced meat

Wednesday: Oven baked cod with a side of root crop

Thursday: Tortillas

 

Week 3

Sunday: Paprika soup

Monday: Pasta and zucchini

Tuesday: baked root crop with minced meat

Wednesday: Pasta with fried salmon and lime (My favourite of all the dishes)

Thursday: Beef patty with (I have no idea how to translate that)

 

Week 4

Sunday: Vegetable soup

Monday: Gratin with zucchini

Tuesday: Lasagne

Wednesday: Oven baked cod

Thursday: Lasagne

 

Yes we have cut down a little on the zucchini use 🙂 Also we have changed some of the dishes to make room for more variance as we have progressed our food preparing skills or discovered interesting dishes. There is also a special holiday edition for the month of september where we eat rice pudding every Sunday.

The Foodplan also incorporates certain themes in terms of dishes. For instance there is soup sunday for the winter plan and sunday salads for the summer. Meatless Mondays and we always eat a fish-dish on Wednesdays. What we prepare Tuesdays and Thursdays are closely linked so there aren’t any leftovers and Friday, which is an ‘improv’ day is referred to as fancy Friday. Fridays are typically when we eat a stake and perhaps indulge ourselves a little. Saturdays then are left for stews or other dishes that take a little longer to prepare.

There are other differences between winter and summer than what I have stated here such as which vegetables are in season and such. Besides this an important thing to note is the absence of eating  a lot of meat and instead eating as much greens as possible. We are not vegetarians but simply have what we call a plant based diet. This means we eat more greens than meat and when we make a meal, meat is not the main ingredient. This is for the most part due to wanting to eat healthier but also because the planet cannot support everyone eating as much meat as the western world is currently consuming, and this is simply us doing are part to change that.

Breakfast is the same everyday, oatmeal porridge with two types of wholemeal muesli, banana, dried apples and a bit of cinnamon. Lunch for me used to be open sandwiches on ryebread, but since I wanted to switch to a more plantbased diet we started making a salad of Bulgur, tomatoes, beans and cucumbers topped with pesto and freshly chopped onions with a side of bread.

 

Why we do this

Okay, so now we have covered how we eat but not why, and the why is usually the most important part. Not to go complete Nietzche but:

If you know the why, you can live any how

Let that one stick if you didn’t already it, it’s a pretty powerful statement. So back to the why we eat and plan this way. For one, planning meals this way ensures that we control how healthily we eat. We are not swayed by what is presented to us in the supermarket or how hungry we are when doing the shopping. This ensures that we stick to a well defined and researched plan, something that we want do to. In this sense it is a way of enforcing discipline and eliminating times of having to say ‘no to oneself’, when the unhealthy and oftentimes easier choice seems appealing. Another way of looking at it is that through trying to gain financial independence, what I am really buying is time. Time to do what I want, when I want. If I am not healthy and simply die at a young age due to poor health, then what has all the saving been for? I want to have as much time to live the kind of life I want and eating healthy is a major part of achieving that.

The second reason we plan our meals and eat this way is that we hate having to make choices all the time. My day at work is full of making choices and deciding to do one thing this way and another thing that way. If I also have to figure out what to eat at 17.00 while I’m in the supermarket tired and possibly slightly irritable, I might just have a fit. Having this plan and following it, is a massive relief to us because it simplifies things and is less stressful. We don’t have kids yet, but I can only imagine a plan such as this to be of even more importance when toddlers do come around.

Furthermore planning meals mean wasting a lot less food. The amount of food thrown out both in my country, and western countries in general, is appalling. Planning what to eat is a simple way of throwing less out through ensuring groceries can be combined through various dishes. The food we waste is very minimal.

And this brings us to reason number four, the frinances. Eating the way we do is less costly and therefore contributes to component number two in the how to get rich(er) formula: Spend less. We each contribute 1.500 DKK to a joint account each month which is only used for food and other household needs. Compared to the overall expenditure on this in the country I live in, I imagine this is probably quite low. We could definitely turn this way down if we had to, probably to about half, but what we eat is important to us and not something we want to compromise. We eat mostly organic and this is oftentimes a little more expensive. Actually we don’t use all the money so there is a little saved in this account for special occasions such as birthdays or otherwise. This means that when we want to, we can actually indulge and are not restricted by a tight budget, we just choose not to on a more regular basis.

Lastly eating this way ensures a great variety. I read once that most danses actually don’t eat, when preparing themselves, more than about 10-12 different dishes a year. We tend to rotate through a varied sample size of dishes. Eating the way we do ensures that we eat differently each day and consistently so across the various months of the year. Next time we make a switch from the summerplan to the winterplan we will probably make a few changes and this way the meal plan evolves from year to year.

There are other reasons as well, me wanting to lose weight for one, but these five are the most important ones.

 

Tracking

We don’t really track how much we spend on groceries and household items, because we can easily stay within the budget of 1.500 DKK per person per month. But at one point I wanted to figure how we spend our money in terms of grocery shopping, so I decided to track this. That lasted for three months, at which point I gave up because it was simply too boring and too much of a hassle. But those three months did give an indication of how the money was spent in our household when it comes to groceries and other household items. The results where a little surprising:

These numbers where from before we switched lunches and at a time we eat yoghurt every morning. What surprised me most was how much we spent on dairy products like milk, cheese, eggs and yoghurt. I did not expect this at all. Actually we made a couple of switches in terms of diet based on this three month tracking period. We switched breakfasts and lunches and removed or at least prohibited some of the dairy products which tend to be high on fat. Tracking what we spend our money on in terms of groceries gave a very clear picture of how we ate. Yes it was very boring for me to sit down and type all of this into a spreadsheet each time we finished the grocery shopping, but the results where really usable, so I am glad I sticked to it through the course of three months. If the receipt is ever truly digitised I would consider tracking this on a more consistent basis, but for now it is simple to annoying to do.

I can highly recommend tracking your spending when it comes to grocery shopping, at least for a short while, even though it is tedious, because it provides a very clear picture of your diet. Whether you choose to act on it and change it, is entirely up to you, but understanding it is important if you want to either eat healthier or simply cut costs.

 

Inspiration

A good source for inspiration on more systemic meal planning  is the mealprepping subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/MealPrepSunday/

 

As always comments are most welcome and I will do my best to answer all questions. You can follow or like the facebook page or follow frinans on twitter to get notified of new posts as well as interesting links and stories I stumble across. If you are interested in getting into Bitcoin you can sign up for Coinbase through my affiliate link, if you buy Bitcoin for a minimum of 100$, we both get a 10$ bonus. If you are interested in diversifying your investments further, then how about signing up for crowdlending through my Mintos affiliate link and gain an exclusive % on your investment.

May your savings rates be high and your returns be at the market average

/Sune

6 thoughts on “The food budget

  1. I think 1500 DKK pr. person is fairly low. Me and my girlfriend spend 1800 DKK each a month. We could probably spend less, but I find it hard to cut down on the food budget. Anyway, great article!

    1. Hi WWE,
      Thank you. I consider 1500 fairly low but then again we could spend less if we really wanted to, so I imagine there must be a fair deal of others spending less than we do. I suppose it is a matter of balance though and the trick is to find an acceptable ratio between spending, eating well and being satisfied with it.

  2. We do something similar but not as extensive as you guys. I only keep track of our overall food budget and not the different catagories within that budget. My girlfriend and I also plan our meals every sunday, but only for one week at a time. Our food and household budget consist of 2500 kr. (1250 each) everyone month, however we rarely use the full amount. It might sound low, but it really isn’t a issue. We tend to make use of the various discounts offer by the supermarkets and cook large batches,

    1. Hi Nickolaj. That’s an impressive routine the two of you got going there. 2.500 DKK per month for two people is really good. And I agree on the potential for saving money by planning each week separately in order to take advantage of discounts and special offers. This is s really good way of planning, if cutting costs even further is a target in and of itself. Solid advice 🙂

  3. “I think 1500 DKK pr. person is fairly low. Me and my girlfriend spend 1800 DKK each a month. We could probably spend less, but I find it hard to cut down on the food budget. Anyway, great article!”
    .
    yeah agree with it. Btw can i share it?

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