Taleisha Scott (middle in the above picture) is a Catholic Navy wife of thirteen-plus years. She spends only $200 a month on food for herself when her husband is at sea. So for July 2022, I figured The Frugal Catholic readers would want to get her secrets on this achievement with those figures since, according to the July- August 2022 AARP Bulletin, "Grocery prices have gone up 10 percent in the past year, the most significant annual rise in 40 years, according to the USDA. Here is a conversation with The Frugal Catholic (TFC) and Taleisha.
TFC---Taleisha, you shared that you grew up in an impoverished Catholic family with your three brothers in Wyoming. How would you describe those years as far as food was concerned, and how did your family make it work?
Taleisha---It was challenging but manageable. In Wyoming, there was a program where if we volunteered to pack boxes of produce for others in need, we could get a box or two, so we did that often. We also relied on the local foodbank; friends provided extras from their gardens and hunting trips. It was a community effort, and my Mother knew some amazingly generous people. What we weren't equipped with was supplied by assistance programs or family fishing and hunting trips.
TFC---What did those lean years teach you? And have you carried those lessons into your life, or have you run from them?
Taleisha-- Sticking to a budget is vital, and having a rough meal plan will help you adhere to your list. Likewise, you can supplement that list with the game during fishing and hunting season, so do so sustainably. Learning the growing seasons and buying produce at peak season is helpful too.
These lessons became very important after my husband and I married, and we had to move to his next duty station: Hawaii. The cost of living is shockingly high there, and groceries are expensive. It takes some creativity to stay within budget; I became good at knowing exactly how much protein, produce, etc. I would need for the month.
I also learned a valuable lesson in giving back to my community. As kids, we needed assistance as much as anyone, yet my Mother instilled in us to help those around us. I have volunteered frequently in the places I have lived as a result. If you donate to your local food bank, please give things you'd eat--not just the stuff hiding in the back of your pantry. Alternatively, if you need assistance, there is no shame in asking for help.
Cooking is an essential skill. I cook from scratch and have been surprised by how well that fits into keeping food costs low. Does it require a bit of a time requirement? Sometimes it does, but the ability to get creative with what you have is worth it.
TFC---What do you think families or single-person families could do to cut back on their food costs these days?
Taleisha---Start small. Have a rough idea of what you may want to have for meals for a few days or a week, and build on that. Knowing what's in season for produce can also be beneficial, especially if you buy from your local farmer's market/produce stand. Is it cheaper to buy in bulk (if you have storage space)? If so, that's great!
Cooking meals at home is worth the time investment. What to do with the leftovers? Freeze them and use them for quick meals on days you don't want to cook.
Gardening can be so helpful! I grew tomatoes, oranges, jalapenos, lettuce, chives, garlic, and rosemary. Grow what you use regularly, and you'll save a little more.
TFC---Has being a "frugal foodie" helped you save money in other ways too? What are your thoughts on this?
Taleisha--I think experience has helped save money, whether food costs or other necessities. I am not a big shopper in general. I tend to buy what I need before I think about getting something I want. Also, I like to do things for myself if I can—minor house repairs, building trim, projects, painting, etc. If I can fix something, I'll work on it.
Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.
Martha Wild King, M.Ed., Author
The Frugal Catholic: Learn to live on less to give and save more.