Author Topic: How do you people spend so little on groceries??  (Read 22504 times)

Miss Growing Green

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How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« on: March 11, 2014, 06:17:19 PM »
I see numbers about how much people are spending on food each month here and I'm astounded.  My husband and I don't even come close to a lot of the numbers people are touting, and I can't figure out why.  I know, I know, I really need to track *exactly* what is spent where.  Does anyone have a useful categorical Excel spreadsheet for such a purpose?

In general though, we spend somewhere between $300 and $350 per month for groceries, for just the two of us.  We are both vegan, so we don't buy any meat, cheese, or dairy.  We also never buy alcohol or soda.  We hardly buy any "prepared" food.  I'd say 95% of the meals I make are from scratch.  I try to avoid the more expensive produce (i.e. blueberries) and opt for things like bananas.
On the other side of things, we do buy "snacks".  A bag of chips a week, a thing of microwave popcorn a week, maybe a package of cookies.  We don't buy a ton of pre-packaged-vegan-specialty soy items (like expensive boca burgers and such).  I make all that stuff from scratch.  We do buy pricey almond milk though, which runs us about $6/week.
We purchase minimal toiletries- we use reusable tp for most bathroom stuff, we rarely buy deodorant, and I make all our cleaners from basic ingredients like vinegar and baking soda.  We do buy bar soap and a shampoo "bar" as needed.
We (ashamed to say) shop at Walmart.  I don't drive around to different stores shopping for sales, but I do buy the off-brand stuff whenever I can.  I meal plan and make a list for the week, and get groceries once a week.

Still, all things considered, I'm not seeing how our numbers come out sooo differently from people claiming their family of 4 eats on $250/month.  Unless they are eating straight rice and beans every single meal.  I'm not calling bullshit by any means, I'm just trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong!


warfreak2

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2014, 06:25:50 PM »
Dried chickpeas.

G-dog

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2014, 06:26:11 PM »
How often can you get your staple items on sale? I am not a vegan, but at face value things like nut milk, tofu, seitan, etc. seem more expensive than the omnivore corollary. They also don't go on sale or have as many coupons (as far as I can tell) at general grocery stores.
You may get better deals (sales, coupons) at a local food cooperative, or online (Amazon?).

Prepared veggie/vegan items have an even bigger price then general processed foods - but you are avoiding those, so likely not your problem.

Any idea what your biggest expense is?  Once you know that, you can plan/decide accordingly.

Miss Growing Green

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2014, 06:31:38 PM »
How often can you get your staple items on sale? I am not a vegan, but at face value things like nut milk, tofu, seitan, etc. seem more expensive than the omnivore corollary. They also don't go on sale or have as many coupons (as far as I can tell) at general grocery stores.
You may get better deals (sales, coupons) at a local food cooperative, or online (Amazon?).

Prepared veggie/vegan items have an even bigger price then general processed foods - but you are avoiding those, so likely not your problem.

Any idea what your biggest expense is?  Once you know that, you can plan/decide accordingly.

Yep, like I said, our almond milk is probably the biggest expense at $6/week (2 cartons a week).  After that, just a wild guess here, but boxed cereal might be a big one for us? Most of our protein comes from rice, beans (I do buy canned), and seitan that I make from scratch for way cheap.  When I do buy tofu it's $1.98/pound, which is less than a lot of meat (I think?).

I'm definitely going to start tracking so I can nail this down.  I'm just not seeing a glaring issue that explains our outlandish spending.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2014, 06:54:34 PM by Miss Growing Green »

HappierAtHome

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2014, 06:50:46 PM »
Start calculating the cost per serve of your most frequent meals.

That made a huge difference to my grocery spending.

KMMK

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2014, 07:20:35 PM »
I certainly wouldn't call that spending outlandish. It seems reasonable to me, but then we spend around $250/month just on fresh produce alone. I'm doing some category tracking to find out for sure. I'm also fine with our level of food spending. Unless you really need to save money I'd say you're doing fine as it is.

oldtoyota

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2014, 07:35:02 PM »
We *struggle* to keep our spending to $425, so you are not alone, OP.

My GF bread is fairly expensive, and I've cut back on it. I need to find what else we can cut.


wtjbatman

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2014, 07:37:14 PM »
You buy a bag of chips and some microwave popcorn every week? Who are you, Bill Gates? No wonder your budget is so high, richie rich!

Seriously though, we spend about $250 a month (now- it used to be higher). We only buy frozen meat because it's generally a lot cheaper than fresh, I buy a lot of rice and beans, and the girlfriend buys whatever fruits and vegetables are cheapest, and we tailor our diet to whatever is on sale or she has a bunch of coupons for.

Expensive things we "cut out" are boxed snacks, ice cream, soda, fresh meat, pre-cooked frozen meals, and most alcohol.

athomeintheworld

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2014, 07:39:36 PM »
Your grocery budget seems pretty reasonable to me, I'm not sure I would stress about it! 

Ambergris

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2014, 07:50:14 PM »
I spend about $200 dollars a month for one person, so I think you're doing fine.  I'm sort of vaguely and not very disciplined pescetarian/vegetarian who (very) occasionally eats meat and poultry.  I keep costs down by:

1) Shopping at cheap, not well regarded but actually perfectly fine grocery store (you're doing this: don't be ashamed of it.  The only reason not to shop at Walmart is their bad corporate behavior, not because they're cheap.  Embrace not keeping up with the Joneses!)
2) Buy fruit and veggie loss leaders as basis of the diet
3) Eat little or no meat, some dairy, lots of eggs, some fish and lots of legumes and grains
4) Absolutely no name brand products unless there is a screaming sale/coupon; all generics.
5) Use the Asian food market, especially for veggies, tofu and spices/curry pastes etc.  I think Asian food stores would have to be a vegan must.  Do you have one in your area?  I can get about 1 1/2 pounds of decent tofu for 1.79 at mine, and its not a particularly cheap store.

A couple of things you mentioned: I eat pounds and pounds of oats.  They are much better for you than breakfast cereals, much cheaper and can be eaten hot or cold and mixed with fruit or nuts to jazz them up.  Not everyone likes them, though, and I use the cheapo "old fashioned" kind, not the expensive groats.

peppermint

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2014, 07:50:43 PM »
Your grocery bill sounds reasonable to me too, but FWIW, I found eating oatmeal (from the canister -- quick-cook plain oats, not individual packets) way cheaper than boxed cereal! I go through that stuff quickly and it adds up.

I've heard you can make coconut milk for cheap from dried coconut. I wonder if you could do something similar, make almond milk from almonds (if you had the time/sanity to do so)

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2014, 08:02:33 PM »
Boxes of cereal really do add up! I make homemade granola for my boys to save on cereal. You're doing better than a lot of people, though!

Weedy Acres

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #13 on: March 11, 2014, 08:07:19 PM »
We spend $200/month for the two of us, and have been at $240 or less for the past 3 years or so.  This doesn't include cleaning supplies and toiletries, which add $20-25/mo. 

What we do:
Shop at Aldi primarily, filling in the gaps at the regular grocery store.
Buy the fruit and veggies that are cheapest and meal plan around that.
Buy chicken at $1.99/lb when it goes on sale, and freeze it.  Don't eat fish, only occasional beef or pork.
We rotate between eggs, oatmeal, and waffles for breakfast, with occasional cereal (doesn't fill me up).
Lunch is typically salads or sandwiches, with veggies and fruit
Dinner is a wide variety of stuff, cooked from scratch, typically meat and vegetables.
The only prepared food we buy is cereal, tortilla chips, and ice cream, none of which are used in large quantities.  No soda or alcohol. 

Aldi makes a big difference.  Avocados for .50, pieces of fruit for .29-.59 per piece, bread for $1.50.  In our previous city there were some long-running price wars leading to $1.99/gallon milk and .29/dozen eggs.  I miss that. :-)

I can't wait until the garden comes in and we get fresh veggies for free (after fixed up-front cost)!

If you share the typical prices on some items, we could probably shed some light on whether you live in a high food cost area.

There's a recent thread, I think in the "gauntlet" forum with people categorizing their grocery spending.  That might provide you some useful comparisons.

BTW, what is "reusable TP?"  Please tell me it's not what it sounds like....

Miss Growing Green

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #14 on: March 11, 2014, 08:31:38 PM »
First of all, thanks for all the suggestions!

Sadly, no, we don't have an asian grocery store anywhere nearby (small town in MT, figures)

And, I completely agree about the oatmeal- I eat 1 dry cup (like 2 cooked cups) every single day for breakfast!  Hubby can't stomach it though, so he eats boxed cereal, and we both eat boxed cereal as a snack.  Could definitely cut back there.

We spend $200/month for the two of us, and have been at $240 or less for the past 3 years or so.  This doesn't include cleaning supplies and toiletries, which add $20-25/mo. 

What we do:
Shop at Aldi primarily, filling in the gaps at the regular grocery store.
Buy the fruit and veggies that are cheapest and meal plan around that.
Buy chicken at $1.99/lb when it goes on sale, and freeze it.  Don't eat fish, only occasional beef or pork.
We rotate between eggs, oatmeal, and waffles for breakfast, with occasional cereal (doesn't fill me up).
Lunch is typically salads or sandwiches, with veggies and fruit
Dinner is a wide variety of stuff, cooked from scratch, typically meat and vegetables.
The only prepared food we buy is cereal, tortilla chips, and ice cream, none of which are used in large quantities.  No soda or alcohol. 

Aldi makes a big difference.  Avocados for .50, pieces of fruit for .29-.59 per piece, bread for $1.50.  In our previous city there were some long-running price wars leading to $1.99/gallon milk and .29/dozen eggs.  I miss that. :-)

I can't wait until the garden comes in and we get fresh veggies for free (after fixed up-front cost)!

If you share the typical prices on some items, we could probably shed some light on whether you live in a high food cost area.

There's a recent thread, I think in the "gauntlet" forum with people categorizing their grocery spending.  That might provide you some useful comparisons.

BTW, what is "reusable TP?"  Please tell me it's not what it sounds like....

Hmm, sounds like you're spending significantly less than we are.  I'll be sure to save my receipts and start tracking, and provide some costs for "standard" items.  We don't buy stuff like cow's milk and eggs, but I can look at the prices next time I'm there to shed some light on the cost of food in our area.  I know that I just bought 2 lb of brown rice for $1.56, a pound of sweet potatoes for 88 cents, a quart of Silk Almond milk for $3.00 (I think a gallon of cow's milk is $3.79 ish), and avocados are 87 cents here, but it is winter in MT right now.

As for reusable TP... yeah, it is what it sounds like :)  We only use it for #1 (so, I guess I'm the only one that uses it).  But I'm pregnant and literally have to pee about 15 times a day! And we use cloth napkins instead of paper towels/tissue.

Cassie

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #15 on: March 11, 2014, 08:35:44 PM »
It might also be the part of the country you live in. We have lived in 5 different states and groceries vary widely.  We spend about $300-350/month for 2 people and eat plenty of meat & snacks. Also I always have some prepackaged stuff in freezer because it really helps with not eating out when we are busy, tired, etc.  We shop at Winco which prices beat Walmart and there food is also a higher quality but that store is only in some parts of the country.

Ambergris

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #16 on: March 11, 2014, 08:45:28 PM »
Also I always have some prepackaged stuff in freezer because it really helps with not eating out when we are busy, tired, etc. 

I actually do this, but make the "ready meals" myself.  Whenever I cook, I make a great big pot of whatever it is and freeze the rest in little square ziploc-style boxes.  Then I can just throw one in the microwave when I'm too tired or lazy to cook.  Current favorite is Bok choi and tofu green curry with rice, which is an asian food market cheapie.

spoonman

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #17 on: March 11, 2014, 08:57:36 PM »
I'm bookmarking the hell out of this thread, really good stuff!  Grocery spending pr0n!

Aldi makes a big difference.  Avocados for .50, pieces of fruit for .29-.59 per piece, bread for $1.50.  In our previous city there were some long-running price wars leading to $1.99/gallon milk and .29/dozen eggs.  I miss that. :-)

That's very amazing.  The Whole Foods nearby sells avocados for 1.99 a piece, and Pavilions sells them for 1.50.  I've never seen them below 1.00.  It sounds to me like finding an "Aldi"  makes a big difference (I feel like a total n00b because I just found out what Aldi means).

ch12

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #18 on: March 11, 2014, 09:01:53 PM »
I think that your spending is absolutely fine, especially from the perspective of a former vegan :). I also think that making almond milk is ultra easy, but do as you like. http://everydaypaleo.com/homemade-almond-milk/

athomeintheworld

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #19 on: March 11, 2014, 09:09:58 PM »


That's very amazing.  The Whole Foods nearby sells avocados for 1.99 a piece, and Pavilions sells them for 1.50.  I've never seen them below 1.00.  It sounds to me like finding an "Aldi"  makes a big difference (I feel like a total n00b because I just found out what Aldi means).
[/quote]

Looks like you live in LA?  You're close enough to avocado country you should be able to find them cheap!  I have no problem finding them less that $1 at the farmers markets and I believe Trader Joe's has 4 packs (organic) for 2.99

mm1970

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #20 on: March 11, 2014, 10:06:25 PM »
I think your budget is probably pretty reasonable.  I've noticed that grocery prices have gone up in the last few years for sure.

If you want to decrease your bill, there are a few ways to attack it:
1.  Get the stuff you already buy for less money
2.  Eat more of the cheaper stuff and less of the expensive stuff
3.  Don't waste food

An earlier suggestion was to calculate the cost per serving of your meals.  Do that, and put the cheap ones into the rotation more.
Do a price book for what you buy regularly.  I'm not a big fan of "driving all around for sales" but the price book means I know when a sale is worth going for.
As far as an excel sheet goes, at one point I had one and had a different tab for each area - meat, dairy, fruit, veg, grain

I can calculate how cheap my meals are, but I find I spend more on snacks.  When our bill is going out of control, it's the snacks that are killing us.  If we snack on bananas, homemade muffins or bread, oranges, or bulk nuts, we are fine.

When we start snacking on individual applesauce, almond  butter, crackers, cereal - that adds up.

Greg

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #21 on: March 11, 2014, 10:33:23 PM »
While your food cost are not actually that bad, you might see if you could buy bulk cereal at a local co-op.  If not, consider making your own granola type cereal.  I don't, but it seems easy enough... oats, nuts, raisins or whatever, some honey and bake it for a bit on a cookie sheet.

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #22 on: March 11, 2014, 10:34:38 PM »
I'm bookmarking the hell out of this thread, really good stuff!  Grocery spending pr0n!

Aldi makes a big difference.  Avocados for .50, pieces of fruit for .29-.59 per piece, bread for $1.50.  In our previous city there were some long-running price wars leading to $1.99/gallon milk and .29/dozen eggs.  I miss that. :-)

That's very amazing.  The Whole Foods nearby sells avocados for 1.99 a piece, and Pavilions sells them for 1.50.  I've never seen them below 1.00.  It sounds to me like finding an "Aldi"  makes a big difference (I feel like a total n00b because I just found out what Aldi means).

Spoonman! 99 cents have avocados for 2 for 99 cents, my co worker buys all his lunch for the week at the 99 cents close to our office, he showed me his receipt earlier it was $11.88 for mushrooms, asparagus, cucumber, KALE!, spinach, 1 bottle for vinaigrette, can of tuna, cherry tomatoes and a dozen eggs! that's lunch for a week. i forgot to ask him if he was mustachian, i was so impressed! im from LA by the way too, so check out your  99 cents store

MayDay

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #23 on: March 12, 2014, 06:25:05 AM »
We are trying to stay under 500 for a family of 4. We are vegetarians.

It took years to get my H off cold cereal, but I finally converted him. Now he can't believe he ate that crap. You are right that it doesn't fill you up.

You might check the price of buying things like tofu by the case from Amazon. 

I also don't live near an Asian grocery, although I am only 45 minutes away. I am trying to get myself in the habit of stopping by if I am in the area for other things. Hasn't happened yet, though.

ketchup

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #24 on: March 12, 2014, 09:19:28 AM »
I'm bookmarking the hell out of this thread, really good stuff!  Grocery spending pr0n!

Aldi makes a big difference.  Avocados for .50, pieces of fruit for .29-.59 per piece, bread for $1.50.  In our previous city there were some long-running price wars leading to $1.99/gallon milk and .29/dozen eggs.  I miss that. :-)

That's very amazing.  The Whole Foods nearby sells avocados for 1.99 a piece, and Pavilions sells them for 1.50.  I've never seen them below 1.00.  It sounds to me like finding an "Aldi"  makes a big difference (I feel like a total n00b because I just found out what Aldi means).
If you've got one nearby, Costco typically has them at $4.49-5.49 for a bag of six.  We get most of our fats at Costco.

senecando

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #25 on: March 12, 2014, 09:31:45 AM »
We buy almond milk at Costco and I think it's cheaper than that: http://www2.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?Prodid=11897950&whse=bd_823&topnav=bd&cat=83028&hierPath=10050*&lang=en-US

Also, it might go without saying, but costco for things like rice is really the best. I read this blog for two years before I stopped buying 3 pound bags of rice. It can make a difference and also keeps you shopping less, which I like.

I dunno if you have healthcare, but many plans will give you a hundred bucks to buy a CSA share. That's definitely something to take advantage of.

vespito

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #26 on: March 12, 2014, 09:34:52 AM »
I also make most of our meals from scratch and we have a high grocery bill too.  I'm guessing this has to do with how I cook, not what I cook.  Basically, every night I/we decide what we want to eat and I cook it (some sort of veg, chicken once in a while).  Since we are bad at pre-planning meals, we often do not have leftovers so no 'economies of scale'.  I'm trying to get better at meal planning - I'd like to reduce our grocery bill by 25%. I'm sure the week we made beans in the rice cooker was a very low-cost food week.

Miss Growing Green

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #27 on: March 12, 2014, 10:05:04 AM »
We buy almond milk at Costco and I think it's cheaper than that: http://www2.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?Prodid=11897950&whse=bd_823&topnav=bd&cat=83028&hierPath=10050*&lang=en-US

Also, it might go without saying, but costco for things like rice is really the best. I read this blog for two years before I stopped buying 3 pound bags of rice. It can make a difference and also keeps you shopping less, which I like.

I dunno if you have healthcare, but many plans will give you a hundred bucks to buy a CSA share. That's definitely something to take advantage of.

Cool! I have a Costco membership through my mother, but I've always been skeptical of that place.  I definitely can't do all my shopping there because they don't carry everything I need, and the lines are *atrocious*. Plus, I can't use my credit card, which gives me 1.5% cash back, so I have shied away from them in the past.  But yeah, the almond milk is cheaper, and the rice too.  The milk is about 8% cheaper, and the rice in a 25 lb. bag is about 40% less.  It would probably equate to about $5/month in savings, but I'm sure I could find more stuff to get there.

Elaine

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #28 on: March 12, 2014, 10:46:25 AM »
I'm in the low end of food budgets on here (never over $200 a month for two adults). If you'd like, I would be happy to look at a sample list of what you buy. I do use costco to drive down prices, but that aside- I imagine I could cut quite a bit from your list/budget. There are a lot of things I simply don't ever buy. I have been sharing more about my low food costs on my blog (including how to use costco for two person families). Not trying to just publicize myself, I honestly started doing the posts because so many people on here asked how I was spending so little. Post your grocery list though, or receipt info- that would be really helpful. I have perfected my grocery system over YEARS of experimenting and I'd love to help! Oh and we used to be vegan, so I can totally work with that.

rocksinmyhead

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #29 on: March 12, 2014, 11:01:19 AM »
ahhh I love this thread. lots of good tips I hadn't thought about before, and also making me feel like I'm not an insane money waster (our spending for 2 adults is similar to yours, Miss GG!) I too am participating in the "track your grocery spending" challenge and am very excited about it!! I'm at work so I don't have a copy of my spreadsheet, but if I remember when I get home I'll post it. I just have columns for category, item, brand, quantity, quantity units, price, price per unit, date, and store. then I have a second worksheet with a PivotTable so I can break things out by item/category and see how much I'm spending in each category. or break it out in other ways... but I haven't thought of those yet.

Mama Mia

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #30 on: March 12, 2014, 11:04:32 AM »
Aldi has helped me get my groceries for less.  I've made homemade almond milk but be careful it goes bad quick in like 3-4 days! 

4alpacas

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #31 on: March 12, 2014, 11:17:06 AM »
I'm also a cereal fanatic.  Have you tried to make your own granola?  I use dried blueberries, honey, and oatmeal.  It's cheap and easy to make.  I also use it as a topping on Greek yogurt. 

First of all, thanks for all the suggestions!

Sadly, no, we don't have an asian grocery store anywhere nearby (small town in MT, figures)

And, I completely agree about the oatmeal- I eat 1 dry cup (like 2 cooked cups) every single day for breakfast!  Hubby can't stomach it though, so he eats boxed cereal, and we both eat boxed cereal as a snack.  Could definitely cut back there.

We spend $200/month for the two of us, and have been at $240 or less for the past 3 years or so.  This doesn't include cleaning supplies and toiletries, which add $20-25/mo. 

What we do:
Shop at Aldi primarily, filling in the gaps at the regular grocery store.
Buy the fruit and veggies that are cheapest and meal plan around that.
Buy chicken at $1.99/lb when it goes on sale, and freeze it.  Don't eat fish, only occasional beef or pork.
We rotate between eggs, oatmeal, and waffles for breakfast, with occasional cereal (doesn't fill me up).
Lunch is typically salads or sandwiches, with veggies and fruit
Dinner is a wide variety of stuff, cooked from scratch, typically meat and vegetables.
The only prepared food we buy is cereal, tortilla chips, and ice cream, none of which are used in large quantities.  No soda or alcohol. 

Aldi makes a big difference.  Avocados for .50, pieces of fruit for .29-.59 per piece, bread for $1.50.  In our previous city there were some long-running price wars leading to $1.99/gallon milk and .29/dozen eggs.  I miss that. :-)

I can't wait until the garden comes in and we get fresh veggies for free (after fixed up-front cost)!

If you share the typical prices on some items, we could probably shed some light on whether you live in a high food cost area.

There's a recent thread, I think in the "gauntlet" forum with people categorizing their grocery spending.  That might provide you some useful comparisons.

BTW, what is "reusable TP?"  Please tell me it's not what it sounds like....

Hmm, sounds like you're spending significantly less than we are.  I'll be sure to save my receipts and start tracking, and provide some costs for "standard" items.  We don't buy stuff like cow's milk and eggs, but I can look at the prices next time I'm there to shed some light on the cost of food in our area.  I know that I just bought 2 lb of brown rice for $1.56, a pound of sweet potatoes for 88 cents, a quart of Silk Almond milk for $3.00 (I think a gallon of cow's milk is $3.79 ish), and avocados are 87 cents here, but it is winter in MT right now.

As for reusable TP... yeah, it is what it sounds like :)  We only use it for #1 (so, I guess I'm the only one that uses it).  But I'm pregnant and literally have to pee about 15 times a day! And we use cloth napkins instead of paper towels/tissue.

RootofGood

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #32 on: March 12, 2014, 11:18:16 AM »
We shop at Aldi for most things. I read 2 other stores' circulars to see if they have any smoking good deals on loss leaders or something equally gameable like a $0.25-0.50 off anything you buy (and there are plenty of things in the $0.25-0.50 range). 

I buy meat, but 99% of the purchases are for deeply discounted meat on sale or on clearance.  Roughly speaking, $1/lb max for bone in and/or fatty cuts ($0.67 is a "great" price in my mind).  $2/lb max for lean boneless cuts of pork or chicken, and a crazy $3/lb for lean beef or lean ground beef.  That's some cheap protein, and goes a long way if used in a dish with a bunch of veggies. 

Aldi is the shizzam for veggies and fruit (which might fit your diet better than meat).  This week is mushrooms for $0.69/8 oz, baby carrots $0.69, bagged salad mix $0.59 (12 oz), onions $0.33/lb, cabbage (a not great $1.19 per head).  You can make some killer top shelf stir fry out of all those (well, except the salad mix).  I would suggest an asian store for sauces and seasoning like the other person from NC suggested, but I see you aren't near civilization ;)  Other weeks, aldi will have $1 pineapples, $2.29/3 lb apples, $0.59 mangoes and avocados, etc. 

We spend around $500 or so each month on groceries and toiletries for a family of 5.  That includes wine, beer, and champagne.  We also hit up walmart 1-2x per month to fill in where aldi falls short. 

fallstoclimb

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #33 on: March 12, 2014, 11:25:55 AM »
Here's another one jumping in to say you're not alone.  There are two of us and we struggle to spend under $450/mo at the grocery store, and that doesn't even include the $150 we drop every few months at Costco or my protein powder orders.

I'm tempted to say I have no clue where we are going wrong, although I do have some idea -- my husband eats $10 worth of apples every week, and my morning smoothie (mostly the spinach, greek yo and frozen fruit) is not cheap either.  But, we eat a TON of rice and beans - at least 70% of our dinners revolve around rice and beans. 

We are also vegetarian.  I'm beginning to wonder if being vegetarian just somehow has hidden costs.  I don't know.  I'm usually a data nerd, but the thought of tracking each item we are buying makes me want to jump out the window.  I'm probably just going to keep my head in the sand on this one.   

mollyjade

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #34 on: March 12, 2014, 11:37:11 AM »
Plant milk is one of the few vegan items that it's really easy to find coupons for. There's a lot of competition between the brands right now. It's more useful if you're not wedded to a particular brand, and even more so if you're not wedded to a kind (rice, soy, almond).

There's a facebook page Vegan Coupons that posts vegan-friendly coupons, though it hasn't been updating as often lately. You can also just check one of the major coupon websites once a month or so. There's almost always at least one plant milk with a coupon. And for the shelf stable ones, you can often stock up at a low price by combining a coupon with a store sale. I can often get qts for about a $1/each.

And if you're buying a fancy brand of cereal (Cascadian Farms as opposed to General Mills, for instance), those have coupons fairly often, too. Just looked through the coupons in my bag, and I have ones for Silk, Almond Breeze, and Cascadian Farms.

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #35 on: March 12, 2014, 11:39:32 AM »
One thing I've noticed is not everybody categorizes everything you buy from costco/sams or grocery stores as groceries/food (like detergent, alcohol, paper products, toiletries, etc).  For 2, we spend about $60/week at the normal grocery store, and about 150-200 from costco every month.

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #36 on: March 12, 2014, 11:49:14 AM »
If you haven't come across the awesomeness that is Stolen Granola http://www.bojongourmet.com/2010/06/stolen-granola.html, you should check it out! I make it every week and a half or so, amazing how easy it is to customize and it fills you up with good things. I served a vegan version for our granola bar at our wedding, and it actually went first! I just subbed coconut oil for the butter.


Elaine

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #37 on: March 12, 2014, 11:50:33 AM »
In case you don't want to post your receipts- here's some general advice. I hope I don't come across as being harsh, do what works for you- but here's where you could save if you want to get to my grocery spending level:

1. This is probably the most important part. Price out your actual meal and serving costs. You use two cartons of almond milk a week, this must mean you're just drinking it. So every glass of almond milk you drink costs about a dollar. That's the price point I aim for, for a meal serving. I would never use a high price item like that so freely- one carton of almond milk usually lasts me two weeks because I only use it for cooking. Apply this principle to all groceries and meals. A $4 block of tofu, plus $4 worth of vegetables, plus $1 worth of nuts, maybe $0.50 of oil, and $0.10 of spices, will probably make about two large servings, that's $4.80 a serving. That's not great. If you're looking to cut big, get that down. Create meals by balancing a conservative use of expensive items and a liberal use of cheap items. If you took that same meal and made it with no tofu, but with $6 worth of vegetables instead of four, and added 2 cups of rice to it ($.30 ish) then suddenly you have four large servings that cost $1.98 each.

2. Convenience foods- just don't buy them ever. That's the real key to having a super low food bill, and I get that it's not for everyone. Microwave popcorn?! You can buy a big bag of popcorn and pop it yourself on the stove, one bag will last probably 6 months. I don't buy ANY snacks. I don't buy ANY prepared foods (including jar tomato sauce, which is insane to me- all it is, is tomato puree and crushed tomatoes mixed together with some basil and garlic). Cereals? You're literally just paying for corn and sugar- what about super cheap cornmeal, make your own grits! Or oats? Super cheap! Chips are also just corn dressed up- if I buy a bag of tortilla chips for the week, it's because I am going to stretch it into three meals of nachos. I'll use a third of a bag for the chip part, then load up with cheap fresh jalapenos, beans, roasted peppers, fresh made salsa, etc. Sour cream? No way!! Bulk shredded cheese from costco that costs less than a dollar a cup, yup! That helps with the junk food cravings. Breaded mushrooms with bbq sauce dip are also delicious vegan finger food- and super cheap! 

3. Learn what is really cheaper at Costco- you're right, rice isn't cheaper there- it's always cheaper at ethnic markets. You have to dig a bit to figure out what is cheaper where. Nuts, oils, canned beans, pickles, and various condiments (ketchup is wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy cheaper) are much less expensive at costco in my area. I would never buy these things at a regular grocery store. My system is to visit costco four times a year and to never exceed $250 in a single trip. My goal after leaving costco, is to have nothing left to buy elsewhere except items that I know are cheaper at another store, and produce. The good news is that grocery stores work on a cycle- so once you figure out what is cheaper where, you're pretty much set. You won't have to do it every single time.

4. Produce markets & seasonal shopping. Stores that only or primarily sell produce are almost always cheaper than grocery stores. This is because they have to very quickly rotate merchandise to make money before things go bad. There are always massive sales, because otherwise things will rot on the shelves. I almost never buy produce at a grocery store. See if there are produce markets in your area. Also, on the produce end, buy seasonal. Am I a little tired of sweet potatoes by now? Yep. But I'm sure as hell not buying strawberries or asparagus this time of year. Expand your culinary skills, eat tons of root vegetables in the winter time.

Hope this helps, again I'm happy to look at your actual shopping list and make more specific suggestions. 
« Last Edit: March 12, 2014, 12:00:57 PM by Elaine »

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #38 on: March 12, 2014, 11:51:46 AM »
Quote
Aldi is the shizzam for veggies and fruit (which might fit your diet better than meat).  This week is mushrooms for $0.69/8 oz, baby carrots $0.69, bagged salad mix $0.59 (12 oz), onions $0.33/lb, cabbage (a not great $1.19 per head).  You can make some killer top shelf stir fry out of all those (well, except the salad mix).  I would suggest an asian store for sauces and seasoning like the other person from NC suggested, but I see you aren't near civilization ;)  Other weeks, aldi will have $1 pineapples, $2.29/3 lb apples, $0.59 mangoes and avocados, etc. 

I find the produce at Aldi really awful.  Most of the time, it's like half rotten leftovers from another store.  Just yesterday, I cut up a pineapple I bought at Aldi a few days ago and had to throw out half of it because it was rotten all over.  I had the same thing happen a few other times with other produce bought there.  So yesterday I vowed to myself to never be tempted by low priced produce at Aldi's again!

plantingourpennies

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #39 on: March 12, 2014, 11:54:57 AM »
I'd say figuring out what you can make at home for non-insane amounts of effort and knowing that cost will help a lot.  For instance, I know that I can make granola for ~$1.75 per 14 ounces.  So if I can get Cascadian Farms for ~$2 or less per box, I get that instead since at that point the effort isn't worth the savings. 

Also, I'd question the assumption that Walmart is cheap when it comes to groceries.  If you pay attention to what certain items cost, you'll probably find that there are probably some items in "expensive" stores that are actually a much better deal.  For instance, today I picked up bananas at Whole Foods for $0.59/lb.  They're $0.69/lb at Publix, and the price works out to the same as TJ's $0.19/banana price, but for bananas that look a LOT better than is TJ's typical.  Every time I've been forced to shop at Walmart, the grocery items have prices that are no better than the most competitive regular price that I have memorized from my typical stores (TJ's, Whole Foods, Publix). 

That said, we aim to spend $350/month or less on groceries for 2 adults (one vegetarian, one lazy omnivore), and I don't stress a whole lot to get it much below that as the marginal savings seems to come at a pretty high marginal effort.

RootofGood

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #40 on: March 12, 2014, 12:10:33 PM »
Quote
Aldi is the shizzam for veggies and fruit (which might fit your diet better than meat).  This week is mushrooms for $0.69/8 oz, baby carrots $0.69, bagged salad mix $0.59 (12 oz), onions $0.33/lb, cabbage (a not great $1.19 per head).  You can make some killer top shelf stir fry out of all those (well, except the salad mix).  I would suggest an asian store for sauces and seasoning like the other person from NC suggested, but I see you aren't near civilization ;)  Other weeks, aldi will have $1 pineapples, $2.29/3 lb apples, $0.59 mangoes and avocados, etc. 

I find the produce at Aldi really awful.  Most of the time, it's like half rotten leftovers from another store.  Just yesterday, I cut up a pineapple I bought at Aldi a few days ago and had to throw out half of it because it was rotten all over.  I had the same thing happen a few other times with other produce bought there.  So yesterday I vowed to myself to never be tempted by low priced produce at Aldi's again!

I know what you mean.  I always inspect the produce before I buy it.  I'll occasionally pass if the produce looks iffy.  Onions seem to be the most commonly crappy vegetable.  Many times I'll pick up a bag with a rotten onion in it.  I don't know if they didn't warehouse these properly or what.  When I keep them in the fridge, they last a long time.  So when I see 3 lbs for $1, I'll buy a couple bags if they look fresh. 

And sometimes the produce is just ugly, but tastes fine.  Grapefruits seem to be this way.  Plenty of blemishes on the outside of the peel, but the inside is delicious.  It's like grade B appearance that was rejected at the brand name grocery stores.  Since I don't eat the peel, I don't really care about the outward appearance.  And for citrus fruits, you can usually smell and feel how ripe (or unripe or rotten) they are.  Buy accordingly! 

Our aldi's also enjoy tons of business, and the produce sections can get picked clean pretty quick (large immigrant communities tend to do that!).  That probably helps ours keep fresher produce on the shelves, especially the varieties on sale that week. 

Mama Mia

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #41 on: March 12, 2014, 12:19:06 PM »
Aldi offers double money back guarantee if you are unhappy with anything!!!  Keep your receipt and hold em' to it!

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #42 on: March 12, 2014, 12:32:40 PM »
I have found that began vegan is more expensive than vegetarian. My fiance and I went vegan when we first gave meat the see ya. The challenge with vegan is lack of the protein... I like my eggs and I know cheese isn't the best for you, but whatever, I'm 27.. if I start having health issues because of dairy then I'll drop it. According to China Study you can reverse the effects anyways..

We just started really tracking our food expenses at the beginning of this year, last month we set a budget of 300 and we hit it! We were actually a little less at like 280.

This month we were shooting for it again, but we are actually on pace for a $200/month!! It's pretty crazy once you start tracking everything...

What I'd recommend is checking out this website www.budgetbytes.com. This is where we get most all of our recipes. Then what we do is select a few meals 3-5 for the week for dinner. For lunches I make a huge pot of lentil soup and mix rice in with it for more substance (and it's vegan!).

So then it's 3 eggs for breakfast for me(maybe you can substitute something for that) lentil soup for lunch then a dinner we make at night and that changes so it's not just the same thing over and over again.

Not sure if that will help, but it's definitely worked for me!

RootofGood

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #43 on: March 12, 2014, 12:34:12 PM »
That said, we aim to spend $350/month or less on groceries for 2 adults (one vegetarian, one lazy omnivore), and I don't stress a whole lot to get it much below that as the marginal savings seems to come at a pretty high marginal effort.

We have a lower per-person food expenditure than you, but come to the same conclusion.  Marginal savings aren't worth the marginal sacrifice in enjoyment and variety in our diet.  Or time spent trying to economize. 

At some point, you have to ask yourself if the sacrifice is worth it.  Something only you can answer.


lexie2000

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #44 on: March 12, 2014, 12:36:09 PM »
I do not limit my monthly spending on groceries based on a budgeted amount.  When I find great prices on products that we use, I stock up based on how often we use them and the "best if used by" dates.  I might spend a lot in a month where I find a lot of items that we use at great prices or I might spend only what it costs to buy milk, bread, and produce.

I can get a lot of produce at the 99 Cent Store.  A couple of weeks ago I got Halos @ $1 for a 2# bag.  I can always get salad makings there.  In the summer I could always get large watermelons for $1.  Other vegetables vary - lrg. artichokes, a large bunch of asparagus, squash, broccoli, green beans, etc.  They are not consistent in what they will have from one week to the next, but they always have something.  Luckily we're not picky about produce - we pretty much like it all.  Sometimes what we get is even organic.

If you are lucky enough to have a Grocery Outlet in your area, check it out.  Most people think it is for "poor" people, but I say it's for "rich" people because of how much money you can save there on groceries.  Look for items that are on clearance because they are approaching their "best if used by" or "use or freeze by" dates.  If the item can be frozen, stock up!!  If it can't, look at the date and buy according to your usage using common sense (the product inside the package has no clue what date it is "supposed to" expire).   Organic products are hit and miss, but are available.  A few weeks ago, I got 8 oz. pkgs. of organic white cheddar for < $1.  I bought all six that they had on the shelf and immediately put it in the freezer.

I also shop Costco, but for very specific items and only when I can't get those items elsewhere at a cheaper price:  flour tortillas, butter, cheese, etc.  When we want to celebrate a special occasion, we'll pick up lobster there and prepare it ourselves vs. going out and paying 5x the price at a restaurant.  We also get our contact lenses at Costco which more than makes up for the cost of the membership. 

I haven't spent money on any non-perishable item (soaps, paper products, toiletries, etc.) in over a year.  I stocked up when they were free at the drug chains so those types of items no longer go on my shopping list and won't for a very long time.  That reduces the amount that we spend on groceries considerably.

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #45 on: March 12, 2014, 12:47:00 PM »
Really good tips here Elaine.  Thank you.

But I'm sure as hell not buying strawberries or asparagus this time of year.

Good news!  It's asparagus season again!  Just got it for $.88/lb here in California, which means it's plentiful and should be heading your way soon.  It's soooooo good, one of my absolute favorite veggies.

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #46 on: March 12, 2014, 01:01:47 PM »
Really good tips here Elaine.  Thank you.

But I'm sure as hell not buying strawberries or asparagus this time of year.

Good news!  It's asparagus season again!  Just got it for $.88/lb here in California, which means it's plentiful and should be heading your way soon.  It's soooooo good, one of my absolute favorite veggies.

It's also peak of the strawberry season in FL!  I stocked up the past two weekends and made enough strawberry jam to last us through until sea grapes come into season.

Elaine

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #47 on: March 12, 2014, 01:08:49 PM »
Really good tips here Elaine.  Thank you.

But I'm sure as hell not buying strawberries or asparagus this time of year.

Good news!  It's asparagus season again!  Just got it for $.88/lb here in California, which means it's plentiful and should be heading your way soon.  It's soooooo good, one of my absolute favorite veggies.

It's also peak of the strawberry season in FL!  I stocked up the past two weekends and made enough strawberry jam to last us through until sea grapes come into season.

Yay! It hasn't quite reached us yet, but I'm looking forward to it!

eman resu

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #48 on: March 12, 2014, 05:00:32 PM »
Wow, great suggestions galore here! 

Utilization is as important as upfront cost to keep the bill down, I've found.  My wife and I portion out for the next meal first to ensure we leave full servings as leftovers. This stops us from utilizing another, new item needlessly to stretch random amounts of leftovers (and from mindlessly consuming the equivalent of two meals at once, yikes!).   

And a (friendly) angry face at all of you "it's this or that awesome crop season here now!" folks.  We are enjoying our 2nd "official blizzard" of the winter locally. 

lexie2000

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Re: How do you people spend so little on groceries??
« Reply #49 on: March 12, 2014, 05:59:43 PM »
Really good tips here Elaine.  Thank you.

But I'm sure as hell not buying strawberries or asparagus this time of year.

Good news!  It's asparagus season again!  Just got it for $.88/lb here in California, which means it's plentiful and should be heading your way soon.  It's soooooo good, one of my absolute favorite veggies.

We call asparagus "the lobster of vegetables"!!   Love it when we can get a big bunch for $1.