Author Topic: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?  (Read 10208 times)

Essie37

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Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« on: December 29, 2014, 06:20:22 AM »
Hi everyone- I am new here. I am trying to cut my food expense and could really use some suggestions.
I am one single woman living alone.
I lump my food, household sundries, laundry expense, and personal care into one amount of $250. Here is a rough breakdown of my budget. Here are the gritty details.

Pretty basic stuff:
Personal care-No cosmetics, just the basic personal care items deodorant, bath soap, toothpaste, dental floss
Laundry items- buy large sizes of Tide Free or Cheer whichever is cheaper, no fabric softener (only do 2 sometimes 3 loads a week)
Sundries- paper towels-just basic cheap, toilet paper- just basic Scott, dish detergent, dishwasher detergent
Food items: eat a lot of pasta and brown rice, pasta sauce, very little beef 3-4 times/year, chicken thighs 2-3 times/week, frozen fish 2-3 times/month, large packs of basic frozen veggies (rather than fresh to cut down on waste), fresh carrots and other select veggies, OJ, butter, cheese-cheddar & parmesan, baked beans, sausage. Soda- I buy the large boxes that hold 12 small cans- cheaper than buying individually and I NEED my mid-day caffeine. Lots of fresh fruit and veggies in summer in season.

I take my lunches to work- cook 1-2 times a month for that and freeze.
Prepare large batches of soup and stew to freeze.
Buy large bags of chicken legs on sale to batch cook and freeze. I don't buy whole chickens to cut up because I simply don't like chicken breast very much.
I buy very little prepared foods- maybe 4 bags/month of ready to cook/serve meals.
No crackers, cookies or other junk food EXCEPT ice cream which I am trying to cut out.

I buy at the local supermarket- haven't had good experiences with our Walmart and don't buy enough or have enough storage room to buy in bulk.

We have an Aldi's here, but I have heard the quality of their brands is touch and go, just doesn't seem worth it for something I might not like.

This summer I plan to grow my own veggies-tomatoes, cakes, beans, so that will help.

Help me please- any suggestions? I am really not sure how my spending compares; I feel like my food budget really isn't too bad since it includes brown bag lunches for work and I almost never eat out, maybe once or twice a month I will get a takeout grilled chicken salad.

All suggestions, thoughts, advice welcome. Thank you!

Gin1984

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2014, 06:32:36 AM »
Savingstar.com is great, you get the benefit of using coupons without remembering them or get ton convinced to buy more.  You just go online once a month and click the coupons to your store cards.  I spend a little less than $300/month for two adult and kid but I live in low col area.  Your food budget will be effected by that.

MoneyCat

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2014, 08:04:30 AM »
Do you have a local warehouse store?   We save a ton on food that way, especially by buying huge amounts of baking supplies for cheap and baking all our own bread and making our own pizza dough with a bread machine we bought off Craigslist for $30 (or making pancakes and cookies from scratch which is surprisingly easy and cheap).  If you have a local Target supermarket, the cartwheel app for smartphones is a great way to get instant coupon savings.  We have a coupon swap meet with some friends so we usually have lots of coupons between everybody.  You may also want to look into growing a few flower pots of veggies during growing season.  It's easy and fun and you save money on vegetables. 

Another tip I would give is to sign up for Bing Rewards online and get $5 Amazon gift cards as your rewards (if you want that instead of other stuff like Starbucks, Burger King, or Hulu memberships), which you can then use to purchase non-perishable food online from Amazon.  It's free to sign up and they reward you for just doing your web searches with Bing instead of Google.  Here's a link to sign up, if you are interested (Full Disclosure:  I get some referral reward points if you sign up): https://www.bing.com/explore/rewards?PUBL=REFERAFRIEND&CREA=RAW&rrid=_5282aaa4-7cc0-0a66-a360-e3479f8239e8

APowers

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2014, 08:30:43 AM »
I've posted this somewhere else, but here is a snapshot from our spreadsheet-- what we actually bought for a random (recent) three months, and how much we actually paid. It's no meal plan, but it might help you get a better idea what us low-budget people are spending on. Stores shopped from include Costco, national chain groceries (Kroger/Safeway/etc), the local farm/produce store, and Azure Standard (for bulk oatmeal/rice/spices mainly). In July, we were at $210.30, August was $151.17. April is high, but note that we bought a ton of ground beef, and a ginormous jar of coconut oil. Notice all the extravagant spending: turkey lunch meat and chocolate in April ($19); a ton of ice cream and more sliced turkey in May ($41); cashews in June ($15). This is not a spartan diet.

This spending level feels careless and not tight at all. We don't coupon, but we buy in bulk (oatmeal, flour, rice, beans, lentils, etc.), we shop the sales (and only the sales, unless it's absolutely necessary), and when it's a super good price on a non-perishable we buy a ton (dry pasta, ice cream, tuna, cheese, etc.). And we almost always only buy ingredients, rather than foods-- flour, yeast, salt, and oil rather than bread, for example. And we never eat out (last time we did, it was in the Costco food court to the tune of about $4.50).

My wife stays home, so we make our meals from scratch (no box mixes, etc.).

We eat oatmeal for breakfast every morning. We buy a 50lb bag of quick oats for $25, and it lasts us about 2 months. We don't use milk.

Lunches are usually leftovers or, if there aren't leftovers, fruit, veggies, popcorn, oven fried potatoes, or eggs.

Dinners:

pizza (from scratch)
rice-based dishes-- stir-fry, taco rice,
sandwiches (homemade bread)
scrambled eggs/sausage/potatoes
pasta w/veggies & meat
burritos
lentil soup
pea soup
chili
pancakes (w/nuts, fruit sauce, sometimes gravy)

My wife doesn't like to follow recipes, so most of the time she just "wings it" and things turn out pretty well. We try to make sure we eat some sort of green(ish) vegetable and a whole fruit per person every day. Bananas are a great & healthy inexpensive fruit (we get them at Costco for under $0.50/lb).

We have a big chest freezer, so when there is a good sale on meat or cheese or butter (or ice cream, as you can see in May...), we stock up.

Price-points I look for when grocery shopping (or rather, when looking through the flyers making a list):
Beef: under $3-4/lb (usually ground, or sometimes weekly specials)
Chicken: $0.88-2/lb (whole chickens will go on special for under $1/lb, boneless skinless pieces I'll find occasionally for $1.99/lb)
Pork: under $1.50/lb
Eggs: $1/doz

Fruits & veggies: under $1/lb (I can get frozen mixed veggies for under $1.50/lb at Costco; I keep those in the freezer for weeks when there isn't a good veggie sale)

Future Lazy

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2014, 08:32:08 AM »
I shop at Kroger for two people and use the same list every time, leaving out things that we have plenty of from the last trip.

Apples, Tomatos, (3rd Fruit, depending on season), Celery, Bell Peppers, Carrots, Potatoes, Onions, Garlic
Chicken breasts, frozen fish, ground beef, pepperoni
Frozen pizza (plain cheese Red Baron, keeps us from ordering it expensiiiive $$$$), frozen veggies
Bread, Bagels, Cereal
Canned green beans, canned mushrooms, canned black beans/chili beans, canned corn
Canned tomatos, spaghetti sauce chicken stock, pasta, canned ravioli (DH, quick lunch), canned spaghettios (Me, quick dinner)
Paper towels (Sparkle)
Butter, Cream cheese
Airborne, Suave shampoo/conditioner

Usually we can do this for $120-150 per trip, but sometimes upwards of $180 if we're stocking up on meat/veggies/toiletries all at once. I'd say we take 1.5 trips per month, which makes food about $200/mo... I usually cook chicken soup/spaghetti in bulk for lunches.

($1 box of pasta + $1 can Hunts spaghetti sauce)/5 2 cup containers = $0.40 cents per lunch

I find that canned veggies are usually cheaper than even frozen veggies, so if you're cooking with them (crock pot, casseroles, soups) rather than just steaming them, this may be the way to go.

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2014, 08:40:09 AM »
We buy chicken thighs from Sam's Club and freeze them until we're ready to use. It's about half as much as we would pay at the local supermarket. Sam's Club also sells cheese for about half of the price it would be at the supermarket.

Personal care stuff, paper towels, and toilet paper I try to get either at Sam's Club or Target because it's cheaper than the grocery store. Amazon subscribe and save is another good option.

Laundry and dishwasher detergent I usually get at Target for less than the supermarket price. And it's pretty easy to find coupons for detergent at coupons.com for additional savings.

merci001

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2014, 09:04:07 AM »
Not sure if you've actually been to Aldi's but you might want to give it a try (or another try if it's been awhile).  I tried Aldi's several years ago when they first showed up in our area. I was not impressed in the least. Then a couple of years ago I was at a friends' house. She was unloading some groceries and had some of the best looking produce I had seen for the time of year. She told me she got it at Aldi's and I was shocked! I decided to give it another try and I've never looked back.  I find their produce to be some of the best in town, although I do notice the earlier I get there the better (I'm a Saturday AM shopper).  They have quite a bit of organic produce and other day I noticed they had organic grass fed beef.  That said, I do typically still purchase my meat from our local coop, but almost everything else I get from Aldi. I can easily fill up 3-4 large grocery bags for around $50. I'm talking fruit & veggies (mostly fresh, some frozen), milk, eggs, cheese, crackers, cereal (oatmeal), beans, canned tomatoes, olives, spices, bacon, rice, etc. I also buy find paper products and things like dish soap, brand name toothpaste, etc, to be quite a bit cheaper. Aldi's has definitely helped me curb my grocery bill!

Bob W

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2014, 09:18:06 AM »
You appear to be on the high side.  Shoot for $2 per day for food and end up at $3.   Your other stuff should come in under $10 for a month.  So I would think you could come in around $100 per month.

Suggestions -
1. Use half the labeled suggested detergent and then half that until you find a reasonable amount.  Pro hint - use just the right amount of water, less is more.  Even if you wash you clothes with no detergent they will foam up due to residual detergent.   Do the smell test and hang your clothes after wearing.  You could get by on 1 load per week easily.  Bath towels should be hung dried and only washed after every 10-15 uses.   For personal use, soap is optional or could be used on face, underarms and privates only.
2.  Homemade pasta is easy fun and 1/5-1/2 the price of store bought.  You can add veggies and make it much healthier.  Egg noodles are easy peasy and you could make a weeks supply in less than 30 minutes. 
3.  Shop the loss leaders on meats, eggs etc.   Recent scores for me - $1 eggs (buy 10 dozen they last forever)  $2 80/20 ground beef (bought 30 rolls).  Cheap chicken - can't remember the price?  Shoot for eating around 1/3 pound of meat/fish/chicken per day.
4.  Canned mackerel is a great and cheap fish source.
5.  Hearts, livers, gizzards are cheap meats with the highest protein and mineral panels. 
6.  Add olive or grape seed oil to virtually everything.  On a cost per calorie basis oil is very cheap and good for you.   (never use canola or so called veggie oil -- they are highly chemically processed fake oils suitable for powering diesel vehicles)
7.  Cabbage is a super food that you can stock up on when on sale. 
8.  Most fruits (other than dark berries) are over priced and about the same as candy.  So I don't do any fruits at all and choose, broccoli, cabbage, brussel  sprouts, kale, greens.   Frozen is fine,  often cheaper and more retained vitamins. 
9.  My best suggestion -  I buy 100 tea bags from Walmart for $1.   I run two through the coffee maker and add 1 as needed through the week.   My cost for tea for an entire year is around $5-6.   I gave up coffee a few years ago. Tea gives me just the right amount of buzz without the shakes and I drink it all day for the fluoride benefits to my teeth and antioxidants.

If you really want to get serious google "intermittent fasting."    Basically you only eat between 6 and 9 at night.   I no longer eat breakfast and skip lunch about half the time.   Saves tons of time and is a more natural way to eat.   Your body will convert to fat burning over time and carb cravings will diminish.

Zikoris

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2014, 02:35:31 PM »
It's not ridiculously high compared to some people, but we spend around that for two people - $230/month for food, paper, and cleaning, plus another $10-ish for personal care products (shampoo, soap, feminine hygiene). We basically don't eat in restaurants - we grab fries, sushi, or a donut here and there. We had two actual restaurant meals this year - birthday lunch for me and fancy veggie burgers at a vegetarian festival.

Essie37

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2014, 05:48:38 PM »
It's no meal plan, but it might help you get a better idea what us low-budget people are spending on. 

This really helps, thank you. I see that I am not the only ice cream lover :)

And we almost always only buy ingredients, rather than foods-- flour, yeast, salt, and oil rather than bread, for example. And we never eat out (last time we did, it was in the Costco food court to the tune of about $4.50).

Yes, totally agree about buying ingredients. I make my own soups, stews, but haven't tried making pasta so I do buy that.

Price-points I look for when grocery shopping (or rather, when looking through the flyers making a list):
Beef: under $3-4/lb (usually ground, or sometimes weekly specials)
Chicken: $0.88-2/lb (whole chickens will go on special for under $1/lb, boneless skinless pieces I'll find occasionally for $1.99/lb)
Pork: under $1.50/lb
Eggs: $1/doz

Fruits & veggies: under $1/lb (I can get frozen mixed veggies for under $1.50/lb at Costco; I keep those in the freezer for weeks when there isn't a good veggie sale)

Wowza- where do you live that you get those prices? I am in the upper mid-west, and even chicken legs here are $1.99/lb. Every once in awhile there is a sale on legs or thighs for $1.29.
We have very limited shopping options here. There is a large chain Hy-Vee and a smaller independent supermarket, both of which are expensive- at least to me.
I think I will look into another Costco membership. Someone else posted that they get cheese and chicken thighs at very reasonable prices.

Thank you for all your ideas and sharing your list with me.

Essie37

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2014, 06:20:25 PM »
Do you have a local warehouse store?   We save a ton on food that way, especially by buying huge amounts of baking supplies for cheap and baking all our own bread and making our own pizza dough with a bread machine we bought off Craigslist for $30 (or making pancakes and cookies from scratch which is surprisingly easy and cheap).  If you have a local Target supermarket, the cartwheel app for smartphones is a great way to get instant coupon savings.  We have a coupon swap meet with some friends so we usually have lots of coupons between everybody.  You may also want to look into growing a few flower pots of veggies during growing season.  It's easy and fun and you save money on vegetables. 

Another tip I would give is to sign up for Bing Rewards online and get $5 Amazon gift cards as your rewards (if you want that instead of other stuff like Starbucks, Burger King, or Hulu memberships), which you can then use to purchase non-perishable food online from Amazon.  It's free to sign up and they reward you for just doing your web searches with Bing instead of Google.  Here's a link to sign up, if you are interested (Full Disclosure:  I get some referral reward points if you sign up): https://www.bing.com/explore/rewards?PUBL=REFERAFRIEND&CREA=RAW&rrid=_5282aaa4-7cc0-0a66-a360-e3479f8239e8

I don't bake or use too many baked goods, but I love your ideas and wish I did bake  :)
I tend to avoid superstores like Target, but I may need to take another look at their prices.
Thank you for sharing this information with me!

Essie37

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2014, 06:27:57 PM »
We buy chicken thighs from Sam's Club and freeze them until we're ready to use. It's about half as much as we would pay at the local supermarket. Sam's Club also sells cheese for about half of the price it would be at the supermarket.

I don't think we have a Sam's Club here, but we do have a Costco. It may be worth it if I can get good prices on meat and other staples.

Personal care stuff, paper towels, and toilet paper I try to get either at Sam's Club or Target because it's cheaper than the grocery store. Amazon subscribe and save is another good option.

I've never really liked the superstores like Target, but I may need to take another look at them. Thanks for the tip on the Amazon subscription service.

Thank you for the great info! My comments in bold. Appreciate it :)

Essie37

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2014, 06:41:53 PM »
Thank you everyone for all your great ideas and for sharing your shopping lists with me!
With so much good information I feel like I will be able to re-vamp my monthly shopping.
I will keep you updated on how my first shopping trip to Target and Costco go. I may even take another look at Aldi :)

Essie37

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2014, 06:54:29 PM »
You appear to be on the high side.  Shoot for $2 per day for food and end up at $3.   Your other stuff should come in under $10 for a month.  So I would think you could come in around $100 per month.

If you really want to get serious google "intermittent fasting."    Basically you only eat between 6 and 9 at night.   I no longer eat breakfast and skip lunch about half the time.   Saves tons of time and is a more natural way to eat.   Your body will convert to fat burning over time and carb cravings will diminish.

Bob W, thank you, great tips here. Agree on the laundry detergent. I have a recipe for making my own laundry detergent but haven't been brave enough to give it a try; I have heard mixed reviews on it.
As much as I admire your eating habits- you seem to be a very healthy disciplined eater, I am going to take a pass on the mackerel and organ meats :)
I am going to look into making my own pasta. I know you said it is easy, but I find it a little intimidating.
Intermittent fasting? Interesting! Will investigate.
Thank you for all your suggestions!

purplish

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2014, 07:07:06 PM »
Why do you do 3 loads of laundry per week for one person?  I do one load a week, and once a month do towels.  I think cutting back on that will at least cut back on detergent by a lot.  Also- try going vegetarian :)  Meat is expensive.  One can of beans is under a dollar, and lasts several meals (it's even cheaper to soak bagged beans but I don't like to do that).

Bob W

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2014, 07:39:41 PM »
Today's score at Hyvee - 8 oz shredded cheese - all types - $1.25 a bag.

Essie37

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #16 on: December 29, 2014, 08:04:07 PM »
Why do you do 3 loads of laundry per week for one person?  I do one load a week, and once a month do towels.  I think cutting back on that will at least cut back on detergent by a lot.  Also- try going vegetarian :)  Meat is expensive.  One can of beans is under a dollar, and lasts several meals (it's even cheaper to soak bagged beans but I don't like to do that).

Laundry is a small load for work clothes, a medium/large load for casual clothes depending on the season. The third load is either dog bedding/towels, sheets, or my towels. Some weeks it is only 1 load.

Agree- I think about going vegetarian every once in awhile; I didn't eat meat for several years, so I think of myself as a lapsed vegetarian :)
About the beans- I do eat some, but I'm not fond of meals that are just beans, they need to be mixed with something, e.g. chili, soups, etc. I just don't like dried beans enough to want to eat them more often- wish I did because they are healthy and cheap.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2014, 08:08:28 PM by Essie37 »

Rezdent

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #17 on: December 29, 2014, 09:01:24 PM »
Paper towels:  I really hate buying paper for the sole purpose of throwing it away (except toilet paper).  But I haven't weaned my house off them completely yet.   However, I have cut them back to a fraction of what we used to use by buying the "select a size" and then cutting the roll in half with a serrated knife. This is the equivalent of a quarter (regular size) portion. Amazing how this cut back the waste.  I've also invested in thrift store cloth napkins for meals.  We feel so fancy using them and they add nothing to our smallish loads of clothes.

Another big win for us is a garage sale food dehydrator.  Sometimes I dry leftover fruits and veggies to go into later soups and stews.  Sometimes I catch something on clearance that dries well - I only use dry celery now.  I used to have trouble using celery before it went limp but now there's no waste.  The trick for getting the most of a dehydrator is to keep it in the kitchen ready to go.  If you have to haul it out you're less likely to use it.

Buying in bulk can save tons but it's a bit tricky to tailor it for your personal habits.  I started by just buying things at a good price that I already used a lot.  If you already eat tons of oatmeal get a large amount. If you're just starting to eat it then hold off until you are sure that you'll use it.  It's not saving you anything if you buy 25 pounds of oatmeal that you don't ever want to eat.

redbirdfan

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #18 on: December 30, 2014, 12:25:23 AM »
My food budget averages around $50/month.  I'm in Seattle so I have access to WinCo and Costco (not a member, but I borrow a co-worker's card).  The average monthly breakdown is:

3 lbs oatmeal @ $.69/lb (bulk bin WinCo) = $2.07
5 lb bag of frozen blueberries from Costco = $8.99
1 gallon of Almond milk - $4 (this is a bulk buy whenever it is $1.99/half gallon.  Between Silk, Blue Diamond and Simple Truth-the Fred Meyer/QFC/Kroger brand- there will be mfr coupon that can be paired with a store discount) 

I alternate between the oatmeal and blueberries and a blueberry/almond milk/dark leafy green smoothie for breakfast.

2 whole chickens - $10 (this is a bulk buy whenever whole chickens are on sale for $.99/lb or less - generally happens once a month)
2 lbs of black beans - $1/lb (the bags, not the cans) = $2
1 lb bags of pasta and rice - generally <$1 each
$15 - combination of fresh and/or frozen vegetables
Generally frozen vegetables can be had for $1/lb or seasonal veggies will be on sale. 
Costco has bags of frozen vegetables at a reasonable price
If you have ethnic areas of town (i.e. Chinatown, Greektown, etc.) you can generally find wonderful local off-the-beaten-path grocery stores with great prices on some really good and unique sauces, spices and vegetables

Big Box Store/Bulk Bin Non-Regular Purchases

Cooking Staples:

Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, any seasonings that you use on a regular basis (garlic, red pepper, etc.) - these should last several months

Snack staples to always have on hand at home and at work:

Natural peanut butter, block of cheese (stock up whenever Tillamook 2 lb block is $4.99), almonds ( usually around $5/lb in bulk bins or at Costco), tea bags

Between these items I can prevent myself from going to the vending machine or going out to eat.

Toiletries:

Paper Towels and Toilet Paper - Highest quality/non-name brand items that are on sale - generally $5 each

Cleaning Supplies:

Dish washing detergent, rubber gloves trash bags, toothpaste (get name brand), trash bags (get name brand), sponges - Dollar Store for $1 each. 

On weekends:

Make a large salad with veggies and toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar AND
Make a large amount of pasta and/or rice and/or quinoa AND
Bake a whole chicken OR cook 1 lb bag of beans in a crock pot
Keep them in the fridge

Having the food on hand prevents you from unintentionally spending money because you don't feel like cooking.     

An occasional box of wine (keeping it classy!)- 3-5 bottles for $12.99-$18.00

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #19 on: December 30, 2014, 04:55:36 AM »
I've posted this somewhere else, but here is a snapshot from our spreadsheet-- what we actually bought for a random (recent) three months, and how much we actually paid. It's no meal plan, but it might help you get a better idea what us low-budget people are spending on. Stores shopped from include Costco, national chain groceries (Kroger/Safeway/etc), the local farm/produce store, and Azure Standard (for bulk oatmeal/rice/spices mainly). In July, we were at $210.30, August was $151.17. April is high, but note that we bought a ton of ground beef, and a ginormous jar of coconut oil. Notice all the extravagant spending: turkey lunch meat and chocolate in April ($19); a ton of ice cream and more sliced turkey in May ($41); cashews in June ($15). This is not a spartan diet.

This spending level feels careless and not tight at all. We don't coupon, but we buy in bulk (oatmeal, flour, rice, beans, lentils, etc.), we shop the sales (and only the sales, unless it's absolutely necessary), and when it's a super good price on a non-perishable we buy a ton (dry pasta, ice cream, tuna, cheese, etc.). And we almost always only buy ingredients, rather than foods-- flour, yeast, salt, and oil rather than bread, for example. And we never eat out (last time we did, it was in the Costco food court to the tune of about $4.50).

My wife stays home, so we make our meals from scratch (no box mixes, etc.).

We eat oatmeal for breakfast every morning. We buy a 50lb bag of quick oats for $25, and it lasts us about 2 months. We don't use milk.

Lunches are usually leftovers or, if there aren't leftovers, fruit, veggies, popcorn, oven fried potatoes, or eggs.

Dinners:

pizza (from scratch)
rice-based dishes-- stir-fry, taco rice,
sandwiches (homemade bread)
scrambled eggs/sausage/potatoes
pasta w/veggies & meat
burritos
lentil soup
pea soup
chili
pancakes (w/nuts, fruit sauce, sometimes gravy)

My wife doesn't like to follow recipes, so most of the time she just "wings it" and things turn out pretty well. We try to make sure we eat some sort of green(ish) vegetable and a whole fruit per person every day. Bananas are a great & healthy inexpensive fruit (we get them at Costco for under $0.50/lb).

We have a big chest freezer, so when there is a good sale on meat or cheese or butter (or ice cream, as you can see in May...), we stock up.

Price-points I look for when grocery shopping (or rather, when looking through the flyers making a list):
Beef: under $3-4/lb (usually ground, or sometimes weekly specials)
Chicken: $0.88-2/lb (whole chickens will go on special for under $1/lb, boneless skinless pieces I'll find occasionally for $1.99/lb)
Pork: under $1.50/lb
Eggs: $1/doz

Fruits & veggies: under $1/lb (I can get frozen mixed veggies for under $1.50/lb at Costco; I keep those in the freezer for weeks when there isn't a good veggie sale)

Great tracking detail.  How many adults/kids are you feeding?

Mr. Frugalwoods

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #20 on: December 30, 2014, 05:15:39 AM »
For us, the key to a frugal and enjoyable meals budget is to optimize the meals you don't care about to the nth degree.  Breakfast and lunch in our house are ridiculously cheap ($0.10/serving for oats and $0.17/serving for rice&beans, respectively)

So by the time dinner rolls around, we've only spent $0.54 total, for two people, on food.  This leaves enormous room in the budget for fancy dinners, which happens to be the only time we're sitting down for a meal and eating together anyway!

The practical benefit of this is that while we spend ~$330 / month on food and drink for two people, this allows us to eat tons of organic fruits and vegetables, have great coffee, and enjoy moderate beer and wine on the weekends.

Our goal is to spend our food dollars on the meals that matter to us and on good ingredients.

Penny Lane

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #21 on: December 30, 2014, 08:10:09 AM »
I have a similar philosophy to Mr FW; we spend on quality ingredients, but can economize because we cook. The nearest Costco is 2 states away, so this is not part of our plan; we like to buy local food as much as possible, oats and beans grown here, all our meat from folks we know, etc. 

3Mer

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #22 on: December 30, 2014, 12:10:54 PM »
Essie - I think you are doing great on your food budget!  I am embarrassed to tell you all what I budget a month for groceries for myself and my 16 year old daughter, our dog and cat.  Though I do lump alot of other things into my "food" budget category.  This would include anything bought at the grocery store or Walmart/Target, like cleaning supplies, detergent, pet food, some personal care items. Also going out to eat would come out of that category as well.

We do a pretty good job of not wasting. I try to use leftovers and also cook and freeze portions.  But still my budget amount is way out of line.

One of my goals for 2015 is to buy less junk food, maybe bake more treats, and to plan ahead more meals (reducing spur of the moment restaurant spending).

Lia-Aimee

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #23 on: December 30, 2014, 02:07:18 PM »
I very much second the "go vegetarian" comment (or just reduce the chicken and fish consumption) if at all possible.  Eggs/egg whites, lentils + brown rice, and escargots (yes, snails, if you can get past em mentally - can be added to a ton of dishes since they don't have much flavour, and while they're a bit high in sodium they're low calorie, high iron, and high protein) can be other affordable meat substitutes.

Regarding laundry, if your job is sedentary, can you use half the laundry detergent you normally would? Not only does it save money, it also helps your clothes last longer.

minimountainmustache

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #24 on: December 30, 2014, 03:43:26 PM »
We spend about $400.00 a month, for 2 adults and 1 dog. We are both endurance athletes (cyclist and ultra runner) and we both eat A LOT to keep our training up. 
This month we are doing a challenge to see if we can make it on $300.00. That includes all household items (paper goods), dog food, toiletries etc...it is going to be hard for us! We eat a lot of animal protein, and a lot of fresh vegetables. Neither of us are keen on beans, or white potatoes. We do eat a lot of sweet potatoes, and my bf loves rice and eggs.
One of our strategies for keeping our groceries as low as they are (I've definitely spent more in the past...I love to cook a lot of gourmet and fun meals) is just not eating out. If I'm craving something, or he is craving something, I find a recipe and make it. My mother was an amazing cook, and taught me everything she knows, so I can cook just about anything. I bake bread, make juice, make all of our soups from scratch made stock, etc...this is so much cheaper than buying items at the store! And in my opinion, what I make tastes better...I just don't love anything I eat when we go out to a restaurant, especially not enough to spend $30 on a meal

We shop a lot at Costco...I would say we spend about $250 a month there, and then the rest at our local grocery store (King Soopers aka Kroger). We also do cheaper meals for breakfast and lunch since neither of us really care about those meals. BF eats cereal for breakfast, and PB+J for lunch, and then we have something nice for dinner. I hate breakfast, sometimes I'll choke down eggs,  and usually have salad for lunch. This can be so inexpensive if you buy what's in season.

I think we could definitely cut back our budget if we ate less animal protein. I buy almost exclusively organic or grass fed beef/chicken, and I know that adds up. I eat mostly grain free and no dairy though, so I really feel best if I eat animal protein at least once a day.

APowers

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #25 on: December 30, 2014, 11:42:46 PM »
I've posted this somewhere else, but here is a snapshot from our spreadsheet-- what we actually bought for a random (recent) three months, and how much we actually paid. It's no meal plan, but it might help you get a better idea what us low-budget people are spending on. Stores shopped from include Costco, national chain groceries (Kroger/Safeway/etc), the local farm/produce store, and Azure Standard (for bulk oatmeal/rice/spices mainly). In July, we were at $210.30, August was $151.17. April is high, but note that we bought a ton of ground beef, and a ginormous jar of coconut oil. Notice all the extravagant spending: turkey lunch meat and chocolate in April ($19); a ton of ice cream and more sliced turkey in May ($41); cashews in June ($15). This is not a spartan diet.

This spending level feels careless and not tight at all. We don't coupon, but we buy in bulk (oatmeal, flour, rice, beans, lentils, etc.), we shop the sales (and only the sales, unless it's absolutely necessary), and when it's a super good price on a non-perishable we buy a ton (dry pasta, ice cream, tuna, cheese, etc.). And we almost always only buy ingredients, rather than foods-- flour, yeast, salt, and oil rather than bread, for example. And we never eat out (last time we did, it was in the Costco food court to the tune of about $4.50).

My wife stays home, so we make our meals from scratch (no box mixes, etc.).

We eat oatmeal for breakfast every morning. We buy a 50lb bag of quick oats for $25, and it lasts us about 2 months. We don't use milk.

Lunches are usually leftovers or, if there aren't leftovers, fruit, veggies, popcorn, oven fried potatoes, or eggs.

Dinners:

pizza (from scratch)
rice-based dishes-- stir-fry, taco rice,
sandwiches (homemade bread)
scrambled eggs/sausage/potatoes
pasta w/veggies & meat
burritos
lentil soup
pea soup
chili
pancakes (w/nuts, fruit sauce, sometimes gravy)

My wife doesn't like to follow recipes, so most of the time she just "wings it" and things turn out pretty well. We try to make sure we eat some sort of green(ish) vegetable and a whole fruit per person every day. Bananas are a great & healthy inexpensive fruit (we get them at Costco for under $0.50/lb).

We have a big chest freezer, so when there is a good sale on meat or cheese or butter (or ice cream, as you can see in May...), we stock up.

Price-points I look for when grocery shopping (or rather, when looking through the flyers making a list):
Beef: under $3-4/lb (usually ground, or sometimes weekly specials)
Chicken: $0.88-2/lb (whole chickens will go on special for under $1/lb, boneless skinless pieces I'll find occasionally for $1.99/lb)
Pork: under $1.50/lb
Eggs: $1/doz

Fruits & veggies: under $1/lb (I can get frozen mixed veggies for under $1.50/lb at Costco; I keep those in the freezer for weeks when there isn't a good veggie sale)

Great tracking detail.  How many adults/kids are you feeding?

This is for two adults and two kids (ages 2 and 3). We keep track of all the spending in our spreadsheet; it comes in handy for those times when I'm perusing the grocery store flyers and see something on special and wonder *was it cheaper for pickles at Costco?*. I can pull up the spreadsheet and look. It turns out we paid $2.97 for 64oz pickles at Costco, but they're on sale at Albertson's for $1.99/46oz, so I'll be getting pickles at Albertsons this week.

Essie37

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #26 on: January 01, 2015, 07:59:37 AM »
Thank you all for your great ideas.
I very rarely buy packaged products- so already make my own soup/stews; I do buy pasta though; will cut out the occasional prepackaged meal.
I waste very little- leftovers = bag lunches for work
My best take away is to work on comprehensively cutting back on my usage and shop smarter.

For instance:
Use less meat products- I don't eat much meat at all, but I can cut back even more to meat only 1-2 x/week
Costco membership- should save me about 10% maybe more on chicken, staples, and other odds/ends
Be smarter about doing laundry- use less detergent, get down to 1 small and 1 medium load a week, 1 large load every other week for dog items or sheets.
Look into Aldi- start test-driving their products to see which ones work for me and check out their sales
Use more legumes- there are only a few recipes I like for beans, need to find more recipes or ways to use in meals
Buy on sale or in bulk whenever possible
Target- check their website weekly to see what is on sale
Look into services like Amazon subscription services for staples

Your suggestions have all really helped- I don't feel like I am too far out of the norm for food and sundry expenses, but clearly there are areas I can tighten up on!
Much appreciated- I hope everyone has a healthy, happy, prosperous, and Mustachian New Year!

Essie37

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #27 on: January 01, 2015, 08:09:06 AM »
Essie - I think you are doing great on your food budget!  I am embarrassed to tell you all what I budget a month for groceries for myself and my 16 year old daughter, our dog and cat.  Though I do lump alot of other things into my "food" budget category.  This would include anything bought at the grocery store or Walmart/Target, like cleaning supplies, detergent, pet food, some personal care items. Also going out to eat would come out of that category as well.

We do a pretty good job of not wasting. I try to use leftovers and also cook and freeze portions.  But still my budget amount is way out of line.

One of my goals for 2015 is to buy less junk food, maybe bake more treats, and to plan ahead more meals (reducing spur of the moment restaurant spending).

Thanks BriarRose- my budget is very much a work in progress. It is hard- for me at least- but at this point very necessary to be frugal.
Yes, agree on the junk food- ice cream is my personal downfall :)
Thanks for your feedback!

pumpkinlantern

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #28 on: January 01, 2015, 10:24:15 AM »
I agree with lots of the suggestions.  I am also a single woman and spend about $150-175 a month, not including cosmetics.  I cook pretty much everything from scratch, so no mixes, etc.

Bulk shopping
I go to Costco 1-2x a year (find a friend who has a Costco card!) and stock up on non-perishables and on freezable goods.  I don't have a car, so for me I have to factor in the cost of renting a car (zipcar for 3 hours!) and the cost of gas. 

Non-perishables: toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent, shampoo, rice, tea bags, dried herbs/spices, etc. 
Freezable goods: frozen vegetables, chicken drumsticks, etc.

Weekly Grocery Shopping
I live near two major grocery stores and I religiously check the flyers for both before my weekly shopping.  I basically eat whatever is on sale that week.  It's actually great because I get variety because different things are on sale on different weeks and I get to try new recipes - creative cooking with online recipes for whatever ingredients are on sale.  If there's nothing on sale for any major food group (vegetables, meat, etc), then I have the freezable goods that I got at Costco at my disposal for the week!

If I have time that week, then I will go to the local ethnic market for my produce - in season fruits and vegetables are generally much cheaper, but you need to spend a bit of effort because you generally have to do more hand picking of everything.

A couple other things
- Try to cut down on the soda - the sugar isn't good for you and it's expensive.  If you need a caffeine boost, try tea (esp. green tea) - it's much healthier!

- Try cooking in bulk.  It usually takes less ingredients, time/effort, utilities to do it.  I usually cook a bit of extra food and freeze them for lunch or dinner later in the month (so you don't have to eat the same thing all week).

- Rice is a good option as a staple.  It's dead easy to make, really cheap, and keeps very well.  The easiest way is to buy it in bulk at Costco, but you can also get it for cheap at any ethnic grocery store.

- I do different loads of laundry for different types of clothes too, but maybe if you have really small loads you can save up and do 2 weeks of laundry at once so that it works out to about 1 load/week?

mochila

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Re: Cutting food expense- what is your food budget?
« Reply #29 on: January 01, 2015, 06:33:56 PM »
Another vegetarian coupon user here!

For 2014 I spent $973.28 on groceries. (This figure includes the food shopping I did while hiking through France and Spain for seven weeks, but it also includes stuff like toilet paper, detergent, shampoo, etc. back at home in the USA: once you've got a routine, you can economize anywhere.) That said, shampoo, dish soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc. can be had for free or almost free with coupons. They also don't have to take up much space, despite the greedy hoarders on Extreme Couponers some years ago.

My weekly shopping varies, but anything can be made of cabbage (use instead of lettuces, stays fresh forever), onions, sweet potatoes, eggs, butter, olive oil,canned tomatoes, oats, quinoa, flours (wheat, chickpea/gram/besan, corn), tortillas (corn and flour), pastas, and legumes (green, red, and French lentils; black beans; chickpeas; split peas).

With a well-stocked spice collection, such basic ingredients can become really interesting. E.g., I'm making lots of Indian and Ethiopian dishes lately. Most of my spices come from the bulk bins at a local coop and even Whole Foods, where I buy a bunch of bay leaves without the jar for just pennies. Most of my spices live in baby food jars. Keep them in a dark place so they'll last longer. E.g. my jars are held up by their lids via magnets inside my cabinet's doors.

Not for everyone is TVP, or texturized vegetable protein. I get the Bob's Red Mill brand from the bulk bins and use it to make vegan breakfast sausage or chorizo, but i can see it stretching the meat in something like chili or bolognese sauce. It's processed, so some vegans I know won't touch it.

Agree about Saving Star. I get the weekly free item, along with the 20% off produce of the week (good for one purchase as big as you like). Kroger also has a weekly free item via e-coupon. These are really quite fun, even when the freebies are crap, like candy.

I have the same sort of fun with credit card bonuses, which are actually relevant to grocery shopping. For example, I stocked up on coffee on American Express's Small Business Saturday, the day after Black Friday, when when you can get a $10 statement credit on a >=$10 purchase at participating local businesses, which included supposedly the best coffee roasters in my town. However, I buy groceries with my Sallie Mae card, which gives 5% cash back on the first $250 of groceries each month. I never reach this threshold, and my $973.28 figure actually does not account for the 5% discount.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2015, 07:25:40 PM by mochila »