Author Topic: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4  (Read 10137 times)

CDBDIs

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Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« on: November 20, 2012, 07:01:38 AM »
I was shocked to read this piece on the CBC website this morning! 
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2012/11/19/ottawa-food-prices-cost-concern.html

In particular; Michelle lamenting that she regularly spent $1100-$1200 on her family's grocery bill was eye opening.  With effort and reduction of 'non-staples' the family were able to reduce to $850-$1000 - WTF! 

Interestingly Ottawa Public Health are concerned that this massive increase in the cost of 'staples' will cause people to make poor nutritional choices.  I suspect the cart is before the horse here, that is, I think people's grocery bills are high precisely because THEY ARE making unhealthy processed food choices.  I'm shocked at how few people actually know how to cook 'from scratch' anymore! 

CBC needs a follow-up article wherein some number 'N' of 4 person families in each of the 4 spending 'ranges' keeps receipts of exactly what is being purchased each month in order to dig deeper into what exactly is considered "Staples".  In fact, that would be a great MMM thread!  Spreadsheet all food items and associated costs for a one month period! 

Back to the article...I voted for the under $500 category (of course).  Unfortunately, this poll does not allow for the number of mouths being fed (3 in my case).  I would also like to see some more binning of the under $500 vote.  As Mustachians, nobody should have a grocery bill over $500 even with a family of 4!

Under $500  29.8%  (602 votes)
$500 to under $750  26.39%  (533 votes)
$750 to $1,000  24.11%  (487 votes)
More than $1,000  19.7%  (398 votes)

Total Votes: 2,020

BPA

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2012, 07:24:16 AM »
Hmmm.  I spend about $300 a month for groceries for my son and me.  He's a teenager too, but does spend two nights each week at his dad's.  When both my kids were little and living with me, I usually spent $400 a month. 

Milkman666

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2012, 08:22:08 AM »
I don't understand... I'm in Ottawa and manage to feed my wife, 2 kids and myself for less than $500 per month. This article just highlights the ongoing trend toward blaming the nasty capitalist system for relatively rich people making poor decisions.

One of the big mistakes people make is going to the grocery store to buy everything they need at once, for meals they've planned in advance. I go to different stores, several times per week, buy what's on sale (especially meat), then decide what to make with it.

The only complaint I have is that no matter how many times I go back to the liquor store, the bourbon never gets any cheaper! ;P
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Phemur

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2012, 08:57:44 AM »
I can shed some light on that massive bill. I live in Ottawa, and about a year ago (what I call my pre-MMM life), our grocery bill was about $1,100 a month, for two people.

First, we went to the big chain grocery stores rather than the smaller independent local ones, which charge a lot more for the same items.

Second, we just buy what we want. Instead of local, seasonal items, we'll buy out of season exotic fruits at $5 a half-pint. This gets to be quite expensive.

Third, we never used to buy items we eat a lot in bulk. For example, we use soya sauce daily, but we'd buy the small Kikkoman bottles you'd see in the restaurant all the time. We've started buying the big gallons, and it's made a lot of difference.

Fourth, we over-eat. That's just wasted food. And we don't eat much junk food either. We eat lots of veggies and fruit, lean meats, fish, etc. Almost no processed foods at all. We just eat very large portions.

Fifth, we waste food. This one really bothers me a lot. This wouldn't make a huge difference in our monthly grocery bill, because we're pretty aware of it, and we only end up throwing out an item or two every two weeks.

Sixth, we often buy non-food items, such as cleaning products and toiletries at the grocery store, and this is included in our grocery bill. I don't know if this is included in people's figures in this thread or in the article's figures, but it's included on ours. I'm pretty sure our bill would go down quite a bit if we bought these items in bulk at CostCo, or bought them on sale.

So those are the reasons I identified for our high grocery bill. In the past year, we made a few changes to how we eat and buy groceries, and we did go down to $750 a month. It's gone back up since then because we got into our bad habits again. But at least I know, from experience, that it's possible to eat delicious, nutritious food in Ottawa for much, much less than $1,100 a month.

My grocery bill is probably my 2nd largest monthly expense after my mortgage. It's my goal to get it down to $500 a month, and I'll be throwing down the gauntlet in the forums soon. Wish me luck!

swiper

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2012, 10:00:36 AM »
Sixth, we often buy non-food items, such as cleaning products and toiletries at the grocery store, and this is included in our grocery bill. I don't know if this is included in people's figures in this thread or in the article's figures, but it's included on ours. I'm pretty sure our bill would go down quite a bit if we bought these items in bulk at CostCo, or bought them on sale.

You can just put your cleaning/toiletries at the end of the cart ask for sub-totals on your receipt. Works great at costco.

Milkman666

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2012, 10:08:01 AM »
Fifth, we waste food. This one really bothers me a lot. This wouldn't make a huge difference in our monthly grocery bill, because we're pretty aware of it, and we only end up throwing out an item or two every two weeks.

You raise a good point here. We were wasting a relatively large amount of food too, but I've made some pretty serious adjustments and find that we are wasting very little now. Again, it comes down to seeing what we've got, then deciding what we'll have (not the other way 'round).
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Phemur

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2012, 11:04:48 AM »
You can just put your cleaning/toiletries at the end of the cart ask for sub-totals on your receipt. Works great at costco.

That's a great tip. It wouldn't work at my local grocer though, as their system sorts the receipt in alphabetical order. But I'll definitely try it everywhere else.

Also, I need to start going to CostCo. I'm sure that would have big impact on our budget.

kdms

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2012, 12:04:49 PM »
It's an interesting topic to reflect upon, after considering everything the article didn't say or include, such as detailing what the breakdown of the interviewed family actually buys each month.  Or how much they actually do in the way of cooking themselves.  We've got three mouths to feed here in Ottawa as well and our budget for everything (including non-edibles like toilet paper, diapers, etc) is $120 a week.  Occasionally we go over that with the once-in-a-blue-moon purchase of a replacement lightbulb or something like that.  That includes spending $36 a week for 18 farm eggs and 10L of raw milk (which I cringe at, but it tastes awesome and we think its healthier).  However, we bake all of our own bread, biscuits, and almost any other bakery product we'd like to eat, as well as make fresh pasta; we've got extensive gardens and do a lot of canning; and we buy meat rarely....primarily because we hunt.  DH works a very physical job and the few times we tried to go a couple of meatless meals a week, he ended up sick from lack of enough to eat and running down.  After reflecting on all of that, I'm not really surprised at how much they're spending.  If we weren't making a lot of our own food and eating from scratch as much as possible (although I have to admit I never thought I'd see a goose being cleaned on my dining room table) I'm not sure how much it would cost us to eat as healthy as we do.  I mean we're still spending $480 a month on consumables, which is a lot, and that's catching specials and using coupons.

We only shop once a week - because my toddler's got a two-store limit -- so while I do make a list for the week and make a note of what's on special, if I can't get it at Costco and one other store, I either change the meal plan or accept that I'll pay a little more to get it somewhere else (whatever the second store is.)  Costco isn't always on the list either....I'm not braving that madhouse only for a pound of butter even though it's the best price in the city if nothing else in on sale.

We used to waste a lot of food too, and we've also adjusted our cooking habits to use everything we've got so nothing's wasted, which we're pretty pleased with.  Our latest discovery was how to save freezer-burned meat....we've got a meat grinder and you know what?  When you grind up a freezer-burned roast because you forgot it was there you end up with some pretty tasty ground beef..... :)

TLV

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #8 on: November 20, 2012, 12:09:39 PM »
Quote
Our latest discovery was how to save freezer-burned meat....we've got a meat grinder and you know what?  When you grind up a freezer-burned roast because you forgot it was there you end up with some pretty tasty ground beef..... :)

Aside: if you have a food dryer, freezer-burned meat turns out just fine as jerky.

Matt K

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #9 on: November 20, 2012, 12:22:07 PM »
Also, I need to start going to CostCo. I'm sure that would have big impact on our budget.

Costco had a big impact on my budget, but in the wrong direction. It was too easy to buy a $10 whatever because it was a good deal. By the time I hit the check-out, my $50 trip was $100 ($50 of good deals). 5 years later and I'm still drinking earl grey tea from my initial bulk purchase (true story).

We are really lucky in Ottawa. Metro is always over priced, but Superstore and Sobeys can both have solid deals on a wide range of things (but are over priced on things not on sale). Farmboy is expensive, but generally high quality stuff, and Produce Depot is a god send for getting good produce, meat, and seafood inexpensively. We also have all sorts of local ethnic grocers that sell their specialties for a steal. And then there's the T&T which is halfway between a Superstore and a China Town grocery.

We don't have kids, so I can't really comment on the grocery bill for a family of four, but we feed ourselves for roughly $100/week (our average for 2012 was actually $95 per week - we include our cleaning supplies and stuff in that) and that includes a super-fancy $50 delivery of local organic produce every two weeks (see the blog in my signature if you're curious about that one).

We eat really well. We eat meat almost every night (trying to cut down on that). The biggest improvement for us was making a menu friday night (after looking through the flyers to see what is on sale). We put togther our shopping list, chose one grocery store, and hit that store first thing in the morning. We are in and out so much faster than we used to be (no more dreading grocery shopping) and we don't buy anywhere near as much "hey that looks good!" stuff. It's the opposite of what Milkman does, but having done both, it's what works for us.

The Taminator

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #10 on: November 20, 2012, 12:31:20 PM »
Also, I need to start going to CostCo. I'm sure that would have big impact on our budget.

Costco had a big impact on my budget, but in the wrong direction. It was too easy to buy a $10 whatever because it was a good deal. By the time I hit the check-out, my $50 trip was $100 ($50 of good deals). 5 years later and I'm still drinking earl grey tea from my initial bulk purchase (true story).


I can beat that. 12 years later and I'm still using the plastic wrap I bought from my first Costco purchase. And there's no end in sight.

EngGirl

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #11 on: November 20, 2012, 01:41:37 PM »
I live in Toronto right now (used to live in Ottawa, but it's so hard to get an engineering job there). Things can be even more expensive down this way, but it just provides another level of challenge!

My biggest tip is to find your grocery store's sweet spot - ie. the day they reduce stuff to replace it with the new stuff. My grocery store does this on Friday night. If I go right after work they have a lot of the old stuff reduced. I get things like almonds at 0.88 cents a pound and a bag of 6 whole wheat bagels at $0.75! I then stock up like a mad woman!

I also like to combo shop - 2 stores (Superstore and an asian market) and compare prices.

My husband and I have gone completely vegetarian, and sometimes have vegan challenge weeks to save money. With milk at $3.80 a liter and cheap cheese at $4.90 for a small block, it's just not worth it, except as a very rare treat.

Can't say enough about making your own stuff too! Hummus at $4.50 for 1 cup? Yah right! Especially when chick peas are so cheap!

kdms

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #12 on: November 20, 2012, 03:41:51 PM »
On the subject of Costco purchases:  in 2001 we purchased one of their bulk packages of paper towels.  In 2003 we moved to Nova Scotia for six months while I was training for a new career -- and we put the paper towels into storage.   Needless to say, we had no clue back then about anything even remotely fiscally responsible.  I still can't believe we paid to put paper towels into storage.....

We had the same problem as Matt K, and stopped going to Costco for awhile because of it...we were spending way too much and it contributed to the waste problem.  We've gradually incorporated it back into our shopping...carefully.  :)

strider3700

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #13 on: November 20, 2012, 06:48:47 PM »
Vancouver island here.   Which store we shop at makes a huge difference.  Superstore is our primary grocery store. We find it far less expensive then the smaller stores and the local ones are the worst.  Milk is $4.50 a gallon at superstore instead of $5.50 at places like thriftys and save on foods .   Costco is also right in the running but yes it's trivial to drop $150 without noticing there. Meat and veggies are killer expensive around here lately.  We tend to stock up on meat when it's cheap and I always look for the 30% off discounted will expire in the next day or two meat.  We then use the vacuum bagger and freeze it.

We budget $350 every two weeks for a family of 4, that includes toiletries and diapers for 1 child.   

CanuckStache

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #14 on: November 20, 2012, 07:05:46 PM »
I'm from Victoria too - thriftyy foods is such an oxymoron - they're clearly the most expensive chain, though admittedly I like their meats and produce.

One thing I would do every year is buy a hind quarter of bison from slaters meats in oak bay - costs about $550 and you get a little over 100 lbs of high quality super healthy meat - steaks, roasts, ground, etc. even bones for stewing (or for theh dog!). It easily lasts two of us for around a year, and that's trying hard tp eat it all up - it'd be perfect for a family of 4.

okits

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #15 on: November 20, 2012, 09:33:19 PM »
You can totally get your ass kicked at the mainstream grocery stores if you just buy what's on your list, not what's on sale.  Seems intuitive but there are people out there who will pay full price just because they want it now instead of waiting for it to go on sale.  Produce is the worst. Those $1+ apples and $2 oranges/grapefruits are ridiculous ($10 for a bag of grapes?!?)

My nearest grocery store is a Metro (second closest is a Sobey's, both smaller versions meant for single yuppies) and I think I do okay just trying to get things on sale.  In my old neighborhood, when I was more worried about money, I used to buy the marked down produce (cut off the bruised bits and throw out anything excessively mushy or moldy, but often it was stuff that was still in acceptable shape and just not pretty to look at anymore.) My current grocery stores don't seem to have a Reduced Produce section (guess they are keeping up appearances).

Milk from Shoppers Drug Mart. $4.19/4L (was $3.99 for years) vs. $6.49-$8.49/4L at Metro.

I know I could be doing a lot more, but even just figuring out where in the neighborhood to buy stuff and getting what's on sale makes a big difference. This really is a case of how a buck or two on every item really adds up.

Darrell

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #16 on: November 20, 2012, 10:44:35 PM »
Hi from Inuvik.

We are a family of four (two teenagers), and I started saving our grocery receipts from Oct 1st. I do all the grocery shopping and the majority of cooking as it is my favourite hobby, and I cook most everything from scratch ... I'm hoping Santa brings me a pasta maker this year so that I can make me own. Before finding MMM, I used to just buy whatever we needed without paying any attention to cost - I'd tell myself that we could afford it (we could / can) and that it was less stressful not to pay that close attention. After reading MMM, it made sense to track this expense as it is one of the major areas that we should be able to find savings in, so I needed the baseline to work from.

When I started saving the receipts I also started work on a Grocery Price-book spreadsheet. Working on the spreadsheet was fun as it was all learning - building the database tables, learning drop-down menus, etc - I have over 120 items separated out by category, and can enter info by store (there are only three grocery stores here and I really only use two), date, cost per item, by weight, by quantity, etc., and I can also tag items with sale prices / good deals, etc. So at the end of the month I started the entries. For October we spent $1344.55 on groceries. Not too bad I think, considering we feel that we eat very well - healthy foods - lots of produce, fruit, etc.

There are some other variables that I also need to take into account. Inuvik is at the end of the Dempster Highway and there are two river crossings one has to traverse on the journey up or down ... and this means that twice a year the ferry service is disrupted. Once during freeze-up (which is happening right now and which typically takes 6-8 weeks before an ice-bridge is built safe enough for the big-rigs), and once at break-up in the spring. At these times perishables are flown in so prices on these items typically double. Right now a 2 litre container of milk costs $8.89 which is the same that a 4 litre jug costs when the road is open for transport trucking. This is the major variable, the other is the access to country-foods such as moose, caribou, berries, fish, etc that we can (hopefully) use to supplement the store-bought foodstuffs.

So now that I'm tracking this expense I can work on lowering the costs - I aiming for a monthly bill of $1000.00.

Now if only I could save more on fuel - gas up here is now at $1.74 a litre which works out to about $6.60 a US gallon.




CDBDIs

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #17 on: November 21, 2012, 06:23:31 AM »
@Darrell - You're certainly living in a location where supply/demand is affecting your ability to grocery shop at the bill rates of more southern Mustachians.  A better comparison for you would be to consider your shopping bills relative to other people in your community. 

I would be quite interested in seeing your spreadsheet if you'd be willing to make a template available?  Perhaps on google docs...this might be the sort of think that (like the monthly bike challenge here: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/throw-down-the-gauntlet/november-biking-challenge!!/) each individual taking part could have a spreadsheet tab where they itemize their grocery spending!  This could lay the cornerstone for a grocery challenge, and allow for self-awareness of shopping habits/trends in addition to 'external audit and analysis' by other folks to see where the fat could be trimmed (so to speak). 

Gerard

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #18 on: November 21, 2012, 07:14:44 AM »
Ottawa has precious grocery stores catering to two-government-income families, but you can actually eat for cheap there. Places I remember liking when I lived there were the big discount greengrocers on St. Laurent and on Bank near Walkley, the middle eastern grocery on St. Laurent right next to the greengrocer, and (for some items) Bottega Nicastro in the market. Plus the market, which actually still has real farmers selling things for real prices. I guess a lot of people like the TNT store, but there is/was a cheaper Asian grocer on Montreal Road just east of the Rideau River.
I *really* don't get how groceries in that town should cost anyone a thou a month. We used to spend about $350 for a family of four.

danzabar

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #19 on: November 21, 2012, 07:47:12 AM »
In all fairness, there has been a relatively high amount of inflation in prices. I can say since moving to ottawa last September that purchasing very similar items is costing me more. I do find that Kowloon Market and other small grocery stores (Produce depot being one of the best) make a huge differences versus the cost at Superstore. I remember someone telling me that the day before government payday prices are highly discounted in most major retailers, if anyone is aware of this I'd be grateful.

Edit: I should mention I don't work for the government so I don't know when their payday is haha

Matt K

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #20 on: November 21, 2012, 07:57:23 AM »
I remember someone telling me that the day before government payday prices are highly discounted in most major retailers, if anyone is aware of this I'd be grateful.

Edit: I should mention I don't work for the government so I don't know when their payday is haha

As a government employee, I call BS on that one. Government payday is every second wednesday (today being one of them, so every two weeks from today). I don't see any sales going on Tuesdays, let alone Tuesdays every second week.

CDBDIs

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #21 on: November 21, 2012, 09:36:38 AM »
Hmmm...this is interesting!  Although it costs me $1 sometimes $2 per meal per person - it is based on a competitive food staple market.  In the case of Churchill (pop 800) look what people find the cheapest option!  Although I still think homemade would be in the $2 to $4 range (even in Churchill) if you made at home from scratch...
http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/11/21/code-cordon-bleu-with-grocery-prices-soaring-the-hospital-cafeteria-has-become-churchills-hottest-dining-destination/

danzabar

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #22 on: November 21, 2012, 12:46:16 PM »
Ah, It didn't fully make sense but i was hopefull..


I remember someone telling me that the day before government payday prices are highly discounted in most major retailers, if anyone is aware of this I'd be grateful.

Edit: I should mention I don't work for the government so I don't know when their payday is haha

As a government employee, I call BS on that one. Government payday is every second wednesday (today being one of them, so every two weeks from today). I don't see any sales going on Tuesdays, let alone Tuesdays every second week.

okits

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #23 on: November 21, 2012, 08:21:14 PM »
Ah, It didn't fully make sense but i was hopefull..

I remember hearing that the off-week (the one where people didn't get paid) had better grocery sales.  Would make a bit of sense (though do people really blow through all their money in less than a week???)

swick

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #24 on: November 21, 2012, 10:22:34 PM »


[/quote]
I can beat that. 12 years later and I'm still using the plastic wrap I bought from my first Costco purchase. And there's no end in sight.
[/quote]

I remember quite vividly the day we came to the end of the roll of our costco size cling wrap. I was nine or so and having grown up my entire life cutting film from that box - as we had lost the plastic cutter tab years before - I couldn't quite believe that we had in fact run out. I knew money trees weren't real (after many failed experiments to make my coins grow) but the never ending box of cling wrap was an illusion? I was shattered.

totoro

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #25 on: November 21, 2012, 11:26:42 PM »
One thing I would do every year is buy a hind quarter of bison from slaters meats in oak bay - costs about $550 and you get a little over 100 lbs of high quality super healthy meat - steaks, roasts, ground, etc. even bones for stewing (or for theh dog!). It easily lasts two of us for around a year, and that's trying hard tp eat it all up - it'd be perfect for a family of 4.

I never thought about buying from Slaters although we live nearby. 

I have the following local contacts for meat:
Cobble Hill Road Farm,  743-5358.  Organic chicken and cornish game hens and lamb
Amisfield farms, 733-2619. Free range turkey at 3.50/lb..   Chickens are available usually once a year in the spring/early summer as is beef once or twice a year as well.   Located in Cowichan Station, just up off Koksilah.
Cowichan Bay Farms has also been recommended to me. 

In Victoria I shop close to home at Fairways in Oak Bay or Safeway.  I walk.  I just buy what is on sale.  We also have gardens.


skandrae

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #26 on: November 22, 2012, 04:36:14 PM »

Now if only I could save more on fuel - gas up here is now at $1.74 a litre which works out to about $6.60 a US gallon.

I'll remember that when I'm crying about my $1.50 in Faro ^_^

swiper

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #27 on: November 22, 2012, 04:51:04 PM »
I remember quite vividly the day we came to the end of the roll of our costco size cling wrap. I was nine or so and having grown up my entire life cutting film from that box - as we had lost the plastic cutter tab years before -

Lost the cutter on mine too!  early on ... :(

Start business selling replacement cutters?

Bullseye

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #28 on: November 23, 2012, 11:40:40 AM »
We are a family of 4, two boys 5 and 7, and spend $850/month.  Toronto area (Burlington).  We barely eat meat, we make everything from scratch, and we can't put a dent in that grocery bill.   I blame dairy prices partly.  We drink 8 litres of milk per week, go through blocks of cheese, lots of yoghurt.  $200/month in dairy, easily. 

We drink nothing but milk and water, no juices or anything.  Loads of veggies, which can get expensive in winter.  Fruit for the kids, but always what's on sale and in season.   Eat a fair bit of fish and shrimp, but always buy when on sale and stock up.  We shop at Walmart Superstore, and Fortino's for produce.

Because we shop at Walmart, that $850 includes toiletries, cleaners, dish/hand/laundry soaps, etc, but that can't be THAT much of the bill to make it so high.  I try to separate clothes, sporting goods, etc into separate bills and classify separate in Mint. 

Maybe my project for 2012 needs to be separating non-grocery even more to see where we're at.  Frustrated!

totoro

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #29 on: November 23, 2012, 12:24:19 PM »
We drink about eight litres of milk a week in our family too because we don't drink anything but milk or water like you do.  We also eat a lot of cheese.  $200/month on dairy seems high??

Milk is $4.50 for 4L here.  Shredded cheese is 5.99 for a 380 gram bag.  Blocks of cheese are cheaper and we stock up when they are on sale.  We use 8 -10 bags of shredded cheese a month or its equivalent in home-shredded cheese. Butter is 2.99 a block and we use four a month.  We only eat about one large container of yoghurt a month at about 3.50.   This is about $100/month when you add in the feta cheese we buy.  Maybe prices are higher where you are?   

You could maybe learn to make your own yoghurt?  This is something that is not too difficult and allows you to create the type you want at a lower cost and perhaps lower sugar if you get ones with sugar in them now.  I use powdered milk for a lot of the baking and don't notice a difference in flavour.

kdms

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #30 on: November 23, 2012, 01:13:07 PM »
Maybe prices are higher where you are?   


They are.  I used to live on Vancouver Island and when I moved Ontario I was appalled at how much  more dairy and eggs cost if you're not careful where you shop. 

I'm not surprised at $200/month for dairy in Burlington for a family of four.  We go through 10L of milk a week for 3 of us ($3L - cowshare =$30/wk), at least 1lb of butter (cheapest place we've found consistantly is Costco at $3.69lb), and at least one block of cheese, which can vary in price from 7.99 to 10.99 per 907g at Costco; the stuff we like doesn't come on sale all that often at other stores and the extra gas never makes up for the savings.  We never buy the pre-shredded stuff because the cost just isn't justifiable when we've got a perfectly good shredder at home.  So, over four weeks we've got $120 for milk, $36 for cheese if you average it out to $9 a block, $15 for butter, and maybe $5 for a couple of containers of cottage cheese -- $176 per four weeks for dairy, and that's without yogurt....which we do make ourselves whenever we've got leftover milk.  Tastes awesome, but it's definitely not cheaper than buying 2 tall tubs of plain yogurt from Costco for $5.  And I don't know how cheap the Walmart is in Burlington, but my closest Walmart Superstore here definitely isn't as cheap as Costco.

If we bought milk in a bag from Costco, it'd be three bags a week, at $4.89 a bag, so we'd be able to shave $60 a month off the dairy bill, but we like the raw milk, so that's the choice for us.

8L of milk a week should be less than $12, unless it's coming from the natural health food store or something like that, so I suspect the bulk of the $200 is coming from the cheese aspect.  It's stinking expensive here in Ontario.

Bullseye - are you including the sporting goods and clothing in that $850?  Also, your comment about cleaners/dish/hand/laundry soaps etc twigged something for me.  With two little boys, how much laundry are you doing?  You might be using a lot more cleaning supplies than you suspect.  That stuff can really add up.  If that's the case, here's a tip that might work for you (it's been brilliant for us): you can use plain white vinegar for almost everything.  I use it half and half with water in a spray bottle for surface cleaning of counters, my stove, the kitchen table, spots on the floor.  I use it as a straight rinse aid in the dishwasher instead of buying a rinse-aid from the store.  The biggest savings have been using it as a liquid fabric softener....and it gets every last bit of soap out of the clothes, and there's no residual smell, and cleans the washing machine at the same time.  We do around 4-5 small loads a week, and between that and the other cleaning applications, a 4L bottle lasts between 3-4 months...for a total cost of around $1.50 at Food Basics.

I think you're on the right track about separating non-grocery items out...specifically non-edible consumable items.  If you're buying soap every week, you might want to figure out why....my toddler likes to play with the soap pump, so we fill it with water and a scrap of glycerine soap to keep him happy and it lasts a lot longer that way and still gets our hands clean.  :)
« Last Edit: November 23, 2012, 01:21:52 PM by kdms »

Bullseye

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #31 on: November 24, 2012, 05:52:31 AM »
Forgot to mention that dairy includes 36 eggs a week!  We pay extra here to get the free range organic ones.  Also, our small bit of meat we eat is grass fed organic beef, but price isn't too bad as we buy direct. 

I try to break out sporting goods and clothes as much as possible.  I'm sure small things get in there, though, hockey balls, socks, etc

Good reminder about vinegar!  We use it a bit now, but not as much as we could.  Laundry soap is probably a biggie, we do easily 10 loads a week.  Wife and I wear clothes till they really need to be washed, but we have a boy with a bowel illness...I'll spare you details, but lots of laundry because of it. 

Good point about shower soap!  Kids do dump it, and I've been meaning to only fill it a little bit every time. 

MMMdude

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #32 on: November 25, 2012, 02:45:06 PM »
There is just two of us and we spend $800 per month (average based on year to date).  Now this does include household cleaning supplies and toiletries, however we are pretty good at buying stuff on sale - never pay more than $1 for toothpaste and 50 cents per bar of soap as examples.  This also includes eating out which I assume people all include in their figures since it still is food.  We have really cut back on eating out recently so we are probably around $650 on groceries/eating out.  Still way too high but I don't see tonne of area to cut back - we don't have a Starbucks 'habit', never buy juice or pop, have very light breakfasts (bagel or oatmeal) etc.  We live in Edmonton and I think prices are very high compared to rest of Canada (although no pst here). 
« Last Edit: November 25, 2012, 02:48:03 PM by MMMdude »

strider3700

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #33 on: November 26, 2012, 01:13:17 AM »
I see numerous posts about not drinking pop.  As someone that does I just want to point out that it's cheaper then almost anything other then water.  I can get a gallon of coke for $2 if I wait for sales. It lasts effectively forever so I tend to do that.     cheap milk is more then double that.  Real juice is even more if it's OJ.  Apple and the such  is about $4/gallon depending on brand and such.  I may be able to make a gallon of juice from frozen concentrate for $2.  I'll have to check the amount those little things actually make.

Junk food may be taxed here but it's still far cheaper then equivalent amounts of healthy food.  THis added to the fact that when you're hooked  it's so damn good  is the reason the country has an obesity epidemic.

Matt K

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #34 on: November 26, 2012, 06:29:19 AM »
Strider: Another option, still less than ideal, but certainly better than sugar filled pop is Kool-Aid, Tang, or equivalent powedered drink (the type that requires you add your own sugar). You can buy a bulk container for a buck or so that will make gallons and gallons of the stuff, and you get to control how much sugar you put in it (proper sugar is pretty darned near free too, 5 pounds costs $3 here).

It's cheaper than pop, it can be healthier than pop if you so chose (I have a very hard time adding anywhere near as much sugar as pop has in it) but still gives you flavour if tap water doesn't cut it for you.

Give it a try some time.
« Last Edit: November 26, 2012, 06:34:38 AM by Matt K »

CDBDIs

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #35 on: November 26, 2012, 09:26:28 AM »
Flavoured Beverage Lovers!!

Anything other than liquid water is unecessary and indeed harmful.

Never deny what hundreds of thousands of years worth of evolution have built the human body to assimilate.  To "Suddenly" introduce any food or drink that was not available throughout the evolution of the human body is to take a gamble.  How will the body deal with ridiculous amount of synthetic sugar (i.e. pop/kool aid?)  I think we know!  It won't - i.e. obesity - which by the way is only the visual indicator of underlying health issues (so yes, you can exercise and you may not appear obese even though you drink pop...but your inner plumbings/metabolism/gene mutations etc... are ALL systems which are stressed...it's not just a visual thing.

In the case of fruit juices (not as good as the actual fruit) - even unadulterated juices which rarely go beyond apple/pineapple (orange usually adulterated) are sugar overloads.  Just because it is 'natural' fructose - does NOT mean it is 'good' for you.  Eat the whole apple, the whole orange etc. 

Real juice is an illusion of health.  Eat the fruit.

Fake juice (pop/koolaid/gatorade whatever) is totally ridiculous and is horrific for your health.  There is no justifiable reason to drink this stuff!  Now addiction is a different story! 

MMM philosophy is to gain financial independence (while simultaneously making yourself and the planet you live on healthy).  Underlying this are separating yourself from addictions and things that are not necessary (especially things that are harmful)!

Don't be addicted to consumerism!
Don't be addicted to pseudo beverages!  Throw down the gauntlet on that shit - eliminate it!  It will save your wallet and your health. 

okits

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #36 on: November 26, 2012, 07:28:18 PM »
Flavoured Beverage Lovers!!

Anything other than liquid water is unecessary and indeed harmful.

I cut my pop consumption down to almost zero (not even one a week) for health reasons. Empty sugar calories from the regular stuff, artificial sweeteners screwing with my metabolism in the diet stuff.  While it does cost less than just about any beverage other than water, it's chemical water so I remind myself that water is healthier and basically free.

I did have a Diet Pepsi yesterday (first one in... a month?  Longer?) and I feel no shame in saying that it was totally fucking delicious.  Yum, chemical water!  Oh, and it was free!

daizy744

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #37 on: November 26, 2012, 08:05:58 PM »
Places I remember liking when I lived there were the big discount greengrocers on St. Laurent and on Bank near Walkley, the middle eastern grocery on St. Laurent right next to the greengrocer, and (for some items) Bottega Nicastro in the market.

Unfortunately, the greengrocer on St-Laurent @ Industrial (St-Laurent fruits and vegetables) closed this summer. I don't know what happened to them. But the Mid East food store next door is still open and has excellent prices on staples and feta cheese.  Plus they make a mean shawarma sandwich!

I also second Produce Depot as having excellent prices and quality for fresh produce and meats.

grantmeaname

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #38 on: November 28, 2012, 03:21:06 PM »
Never deny what hundreds of thousands of years worth of evolution have built the human body to assimilate.  To "Suddenly" introduce any food or drink that was not available throughout the evolution of the human body is to take a gamble.
To the extent that we're adapted for anything, the human body is adapted for heterogeneity and variety. It's no accident we're the only ape that's not living in a tiny shadow of our lineage's original range, and that we cover more of the earth's surface than any other species I can think of. We're not picky eaters with tightrope-walking metabolisms, and our evolutionary past simply doesn't support the story that we are.

swiper

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #39 on: November 28, 2012, 08:06:37 PM »
Produce Depot  is great; any recommendations for something similar on the west quebec side? I'm looking for high turnover for basics I don't pickup at costco (fresh fruit and veg).

 

skandrae

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #40 on: November 28, 2012, 08:12:31 PM »

I did have a Diet Pepsi yesterday (first one in... a month?  Longer?) and I feel no shame in saying that it was totally fucking delicious.  Yum, chemical water!  Oh, and it was free!

I feel that way about the Coke Zero I have on my every-other-month drive into town - I only have one, and it is the best drink I have on the road ^_^

StarswirlTheMustached

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #41 on: December 05, 2012, 06:37:47 PM »
One of the big mistakes people make is going to the grocery store to buy everything they need at once, for meals they've planned in advance. I go to different stores, several times per week, buy what's on sale (especially meat), then decide what to make with it.

The only complaint I have is that no matter how many times I go back to the liquor store, the bourbon never gets any cheaper! ;P
Here we always get weekly sale flyers we can use for meal planning. If I just buy whatever's on sale I run the risk of waste; maybe I'm just not a creative enough chef, but I feel more comfortable having a plan.
Oddly enough, the LCBO (Liquor control board of ontario-- our communist liquor store) does run sales sometimes. No flyer, though.

Flavoured Beverage Lovers!!
I need the calories, and I get more than enough fibre that I'm not worried about what is lacking from pulpy orange juice. Sorry, gauntlet unthrown.

Fran

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #42 on: February 18, 2013, 02:15:27 PM »
For a family of two adults we spent under $3000 for all of 2012. Meal plan for most nights, the bread maker gets a work out about twice a week, almost all meals are from scratch. We are veg (no egg, some dairy) so maybe it's the cost of the meat-stuff that is making the bills high. I found that meal planning makes a huge difference in the amount of money we save.

chatsc

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cant get it under 850$ per month
« Reply #43 on: February 19, 2013, 12:00:38 PM »
I am in Ottawa, and shop religiously at Produce Depot.  I cannot get our groc bills under $850 (1000$ if we got to costco, for yogurt, cream cheese, sandwich bread, gluten free pasta, quinoa, etc) a month.
 
We are a family of 5 and I easily spend 75$ 2x a week at produce depot on veg/fruit/lunch stuff/bread.  I buy milk, cheese (on sale) from Shoppers Drug Mart.  and then the rest at a local butcher.  We dont eat a whole lot of meat anymore but I refuse to buy it from Loblaws (for fear of killing myself and my family). 

We have 15 meals and 15 snacks a day to provide for.  I go through probably close to 50$ a month on apples alone (one each per day, at the least), 20$ a month in broccoli, the occaisonal pack of strawberries (if they are on sale).  I am not tryig to be a "complainypants" but I just dont understand how people can get it down to 120$ a week.  We have food allergies in our family so we cant get too much at asian grocery stores because of their labelling system and use of nuts and we buy specialty milk, cheese and yogurt for one of the kids.

I dont buy crackers or muffins or pop or cookies.  I usually make all the kids baked goods from scratch. 

I am really at a loss here.

KimAB

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #44 on: February 19, 2013, 06:54:21 PM »
I am not tryig to be a "complainypants" but I just dont understand how people can get it down to 120$ a week. 

Same here chatsc.  I rarely buy anything that isn't on sale or marked down, most of our meat is wild meat.  I'm making all our meals and using very little convenience food.  I'm also feeding 5 people.  My daughter is GF/ CF and I spend $10-15 a month on her for a couple bags of pasta or a loaf of bread per shopping trip.  It's not a lot.

I could spend less but I wouldn't be buying fruit and veggies.  And we aren't buying anything ridiculous like strawberries in the winter- it's root vegetables and whatever is cheapest.

chatsc

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #45 on: February 20, 2013, 07:25:12 AM »
Kim AB,

I am glad that you agree.  I was worried that my tirade would lead me to the wall of shame or something.  I think my goal will be 200$ a week.  I will try my best to not let it creep up to 225-250$.  I cant see how it can get any lower than that without sacrificing too much variety and fresh fruit/veg.  I am fine with all other aspects of this lifestyle, one car, small house, watching electricty usage like a hawk, not getting takeout or going to restos, but I think groceries is the one place that we will not go too crazy on. 

I eat mostly gf as well, and it is a lot pricier than reg.  a 6$ loaf of small bread....

Matt K

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Re: cant get it under 850$ per month
« Reply #46 on: February 20, 2013, 08:33:19 AM »
I am in Ottawa, and shop religiously at Produce Depot.  I cannot get our groc bills under $850 (1000$ if we got to costco, for yogurt, cream cheese, sandwich bread, gluten free pasta, quinoa, etc) a month.
 
We are a family of 5 and I easily spend 75$ 2x a week at produce depot on veg/fruit/lunch stuff/bread.

I am really at a loss here.

Some ideas:

Bread costs $3+ a loaf ($2.50 was the last price I saw for crappy Wonder Bread, even at Costco I doubt it is really cheap). Go to Value village / good will / kijiji, get yourself a bread machine. Buy rice flour (or whatever gluten free flour you want) at the Sultan Market (right across the mall from the Produce Depot near South Keys), Bulk Barn, or another cheap source. Buy it in 20 pound bags and store it in a 5 gallon pail (or rubber maid or whatever you have). Using proper Strong White flour (aka Bread Flour), a loaf of bread costs me less than $0.75. I have no idea what it would be using gluten free.

Yogurt is expensive. My wife and I go through $10 (one litre) of yogurt a week right now (we buy fancy greek yogurt). I am getting ready make my own. You can do it with stuff you already have for nothing more than 1 cup of yogurt you already have an a 4L bag of homogonized milk ($5 to make one litre of thick strained stuff, or so I'm told, I haven't done it yet). If you want it to be easier, you can buy a yogurt maker (I haven't found a used one yet).

Gluten free pasta is expensive. While some people geniunely need it, it is also a health fad. As said to me by a nurse friend - "Of course you feel better eating gluten free, it doesn't have all the Shit in it that regular cheap stuff has." If you have the time, pasta isn't hard to make - but it does take more time than I am willing to put it. Look for other cheaper options that meet the requirements without being "in vogue". Failing that, the question is 'how gluten free does it need to be? Is the allergy such that you need 100% free, or are trace amounts okay? Can you buy rice pasta that isn't labelled as Gluten Free, check that it is wheat free, and then live with any trace amounts that make it through because the pasta was made in a facility that also processes wheat flour?

On the cheese front we've moved from buying national brands (or as my nurse friend calls them, "sodium bricks") for $5/lbs (when on sale) to good quality local cheese (Maple Dale) for $7.50/lbs. Because the better cheese has a much stronger taste, we use less of it. We're actually saving money.


Quote
We dont eat a whole lot of meat anymore but I refuse to buy it from Loblaws (for fear of killing myself and my family).
This gets a proper face punch from me. Any maybe it is just a poor choice of word, but I have no respect for being afraid of a grocery store.

By and large, the Canadian food inspection agency and food laws do a very good job. The whole reason meat recalls and mass food poisioning make it to the news is because they are so rare. Why are you willing to buy from Costco but not Loblaws? The food comes from the same source. I never buy meat from Loblaws simply because I get a better price for the same stuff at Produce Depot. Besides, E.Coli and many other meat related issues (Mad Cow withstanding) are entirely avoidable with proper cooking http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/ill-intox/ecoli-eng.php

BTW - I have been hospitalized for E.Coli. It isn't something I care to repeat. But when you look at how many people get sick from contaminated meat vs how many people are killed on the highways, you'd be better off eating meat from any grocery store and just not get in a car. (440 people are treated for E.Coli per year in Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/fs-sa/fs-fi/ecoli-eng.php, vs 2200 killed and 11000 seriously injured on Canadian roads http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/roadsafety/tp-tp15145-1201.htm in 2009). Since most people eat meat every day in Canada, and most people drive, this isn't that bad a statistical comparison.

CDBDIs

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #47 on: February 20, 2013, 08:57:09 AM »
I'll give folks some better numbers when I can access my spreadsheet tonight.   I must say up front that the Ottawa family (of 3) does not need a GF diet. It is my understanding that this dietary requirement can certainly add significant expense to a grocery budget.

Effective strategies to keep food costs low include:
We always buy certain staple foods (and household items) on sale.  If it is not on sale we substitute for something that is or we don't buy it.  We mitigate variable sale frequency by buying alot - enough to get us to the next sale.  For example:

We buy Tide Free (for HE front loader) at almost half price ($5.99) ALWAYS.  I find buying 6 at once is more than enough to get me to the next sale. 

We buy 1KG unsweetened yoghurt either at costco (2 for 5.79) or better - on sale for 1.99 - typcially Astro 2 or 3% Balkan Style.   Recently Loblaws had this sale on but they were out of the stuff we liked!  Luckily you can and should always take advantage of the Rain Check Policy.  I have one in my wallet now that entitles me for 6 at $1.99.  Yoghurt has a long shelf life and so it is no problem to buy this many at once!   Although we have a yoghurt maker, I have found that at 1.99 it is cheaper to buy the stuff (when you factor time, electricity, culture and dairy)!

We buy cheese on sale ALWAYS.  I recently combined .75 cent coupons with $3.77 cheese and got 6 blocks of 500g old cheddar/mozarella at $3.02 each. 

Bread.  Over the last 5 months we have TOTALLY ELIMINATED bread from our diet in all its forms.  Bread we've found is a totally unnecessary filler.  We feel much better for it too!  Guess what?  Fewer trips to the grocery store, no half loaves taking up valuable space in the freezer, no abuse of sweet toast spreads!  We don't buy jam anymore!

Meat.  Once a year we buy 1/4 cow from an organic local farmer (colleague).  This is all the red meat we eat for the year and costs around $400.  We also buy boneless skinless chicken thighs when on sale and freeze them.  We would like to eat more fish but find it too damned expensive. 

Cereal.  That nutrition-less additive laden crap?  TOTALLY ELIMINATED.  Instead - granola (1/4 cup of) on top of this throw a handful of frozen raspberries or blueberries (bought on sale of course) a banana, almonds, yoghurt and soya milk.  - oatmeal - throw in some blueberries, ground flax seeds, hemp hearts, cinnamon, raisins, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds - delicious and cheap!

I think a key to bringing the expense down is cooking Everything Yourself from Scratch.  We buy little if any processed stuff.  Luckily my wife and I both enjoy cooking and never have set menus.  We are very flexible and able to freestyle cook with what we have in the house and what is on sale, in season and available in the shops.  Some things take more time (we make these on the weekend).  Most things don't take alot of time - and we are both working parents. 

Since Jr Ottawa is 4 years old; we've come up with ingenious ways of hiding vegetables in plain sight - as well as 'games' that encourage her to outright eat salad!  For instance, the ground turkey meatloaf I made last night had corn, peas, (leftover blackbean dip made the night before), onions, garlic, a bunch of spices and she didn't question it!  The salad had a balsamic/lemon/yoghurt dressing and she gobbled it up!   

That was a bit rambly...ha ha!

CDBDIs

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Re: cant get it under 850$ per month
« Reply #48 on: February 20, 2013, 09:02:33 AM »
BTW - I have been hospitalized for E.Coli. It isn't something I care to repeat. But when you look at how many people get sick from contaminated meat vs how many people are killed on the highways, you'd be better off eating meat from any grocery store and just not get in a car. (440 people are treated for E.Coli per year in Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/fs-sa/fs-fi/ecoli-eng.php, vs 2200 killed and 11000 seriously injured on Canadian roads http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/roadsafety/tp-tp15145-1201.htm in 2009). Since most people eat meat every day in Canada, and most people drive, this isn't that bad a statistical comparison.

Yes, not pleasant - the only times I have EVER been food poisoned are when I (used to) eat at restaurants!  Since I now avoid them - I've never felt better. And yes, proper preparation and cooking will render almost anything safe!  The huge beef recall last year?  I got my money back - and then ate the minced beef in chilli con carne - delicious!!! 

chatsc

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Re: Average Ottawa Grocery Bill for 4
« Reply #49 on: February 20, 2013, 10:25:24 AM »
Matt K,

I just cant agree with you on the meat issue. E-coli and listeria are things that concerns me, but yes, proper cooking techniques should kill most bacteria.   You cannot tell me that chicken from Produce Depot tastes good.  I bought some a few weeks ago and made a stir fry and my husb asked me if it was tofu or chicken because of the texture of it.  I assume it must have been "seasoned" with saline water to add weight. Haha, I realized that maybe some of the issue could have been my cooking skills....

I will also rephrase my thought. I am not "afraid" of the grocery store, but I am afraid of the corners they cut to get the meat so cheap.  At the butcher we frequent, he is very upfront about the cost of items because of the quality and the care that he gives his product.  And where he sources the meat/eggs from are not the cheapest options, by far, but they meet his expectations as a butcher.  I cannot say that loblaws or costco (or produce depot) have the same convictions.  I really dont think that XL Foods take much pride in their product, and with the way that food inspection budgets have been cut in Canada, pride in a product is all we really have anymore.

I do like your idea of buying better quality cheese, versus a lot of cheap cheese.  I will definetly give that a try.
And I do like your idea of making bread, I have tried in the past and failed but maybe with a little more practice, I will succeed.

I dont think I can get behind the idea of KoolAid, versus pop.  I dont think they are interchangeable.  I dont think anyone should be drinking either but i would take a can of ginger ale versus a Cool Blue raspberry glass of koolaid any day.  On the other hand, if that is your "occassional weakness" than, i agree it could definetly be worse.

Your budget is 100$ for two, per week and ours is about 225$ish for 5, so we are not all that far off.  We just have a larger household. 

But again, I am going to make my challenge to get our budget down to 200$ per week, all in.