Author Topic: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home  (Read 26524 times)

zephyr911

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #50 on: July 09, 2015, 01:25:32 PM »
I don't understand what you people eat when you spend less in a month than we do in a week (~$120). We buy no soda, little meat, but tons of veggies and fruits (not organic) that is the largest drag on our budget. But I don't really want to eat less healthy food to save money.
For how many people?

midweststache

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #51 on: July 09, 2015, 01:26:52 PM »
I don't understand what you people eat when you spend less in a month than we do in a week (~$120). We buy no soda, little meat, but tons of veggies and fruits (not organic) that is the largest drag on our budget. But I don't really want to eat less healthy food to save money.

Are they in-season? Berries are great for snacks and in oatmeal, but if I'm paying more than $1.50 for a carton, I'm hesitant (I'm willing to pay more for Farmers Market local stuff, FWIW). I can't find non-organic grocery store berries for cheaper than that between October and April. Buying produce out of season can be a HUGE budget drain...

Cassie

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #52 on: July 09, 2015, 02:46:56 PM »
We spend 400-500/month for 2 adults & eat meat every night.  This does not include going out to eat once per week. When I had 3 teen boys at home our food budget was big. They ate a lot because they were so active. My hubby would fill the entire car when he shopped every 2 weeks & he did not buy junk because he was cheap.

mm1970

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #53 on: July 09, 2015, 05:06:06 PM »
I don't understand what you people eat when you spend less in a month than we do in a week (~$120). We buy no soda, little meat, but tons of veggies and fruits (not organic) that is the largest drag on our budget. But I don't really want to eat less healthy food to save money.
It's so location dependent, and depends on organic, and where you shop.  For example, I've found some GREAT deals at the 99c store, including 1 lb boxes of organic strawberries, but they are hit-or-miss so I have to go there first.

And even living in CA, where much of the food is grown, doesn't help because of overhead costs.

Our CSA is $20 a week, and that's about 1/4 to 1/2 of our produce.  I'd say we eat 35-40 pounds a week (half of that is me alone).  Well, at $1 to $2 a pound, produce really adds up. Sure I buy cheaper stuff like bananas and apples. But sometimes I want peppers and cucumbers and berries.  In order to keep a budget I shop at 5 places (usually 3 in any given week), so not all people are really up for that.  Sometimes I'm not!!

NumberJohnny5

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #54 on: July 09, 2015, 06:30:32 PM »
Hrm, I'm actually wondering if we should raise our food budget. USDA says $149.70/wk for a family of four. We're a family of five (youngest is a toddler, so no high food expenses just yet) and we have $110 budgeted, including dining out. Not a good comparison, but as of right now $110 AUD is worth $82.07 USD.

I would think we need to buy more healthy food, but there's currently a chicken thawing in the fridge and veggies often go bad (so we're at least buying 'em). I think if our food budget was raised we'd eat even more junk food. I don't know.

ender

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #55 on: July 09, 2015, 06:50:39 PM »
We are below the "thrifty" budget a fair bit too and I feel have been eating luxuriously.

I kind of want to troll Facebook with this.

Ynari

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #56 on: July 09, 2015, 07:04:57 PM »
Living in Chicago, my SO and I spent around $600/mo together on grassfed meat and in-season produce. So, just under the "moderate" in the table. High quality stuff - could have probably brought it down to $500 without the nice meats, but city food isn't cheap.

Now I'm back "home" and my dad is feeding an average of 8 people at any given time. We do not eat awfully, but he doesn't buy grassfed/organic or anything. His food budget is $1000 grocery + 4 meals out per month ($300-$400/mo) so if we're just talking "foot at home", we come in under the calculated, size adjusted thrifty rate ($1180.35) but with meals out it's a bit over.

It's an interesting calculation to do, but putting this in the "antimustachian wall of shame" section is belittling the food price variation across the states, and even from county to county.

Mrs.LC

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #57 on: July 09, 2015, 10:32:09 PM »
I don't understand what you people eat when you spend less in a month than we do in a week (~$120). We buy no soda, little meat, but tons of veggies and fruits (not organic) that is the largest drag on our budget. But I don't really want to eat less healthy food to save money.
How many people for the $120? Are you buying seasonal fruits and vegetables? Are you consuming all the food purchased or do you have waste?

horsepoor

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #58 on: July 09, 2015, 10:49:17 PM »
Holy shit.  We normally cook from scratch, buy a 1/4 cow, stock up and freeze whole chickens on sale, eat tons of veg, much of which comes from the garden, etc.  I feel like we're in the lap of luxury with fancy Kerrygold butter, pastured eggs (when our own hens aren't pulling their weight) and boxes of organic baby greens.

Well, DH's family is coming to visit this weekend, and they are picky and eat total crap.  We went shopping today to cater to their tastes, and ended up doing the walk of shame to the checkout line with a cart full of chips, Snackwells, crackers and other crap.  DH had already bought some icecream and soda for them a few days ago, so as we walked out of the store, he says "well, I've spent about $100 on pure crap now."  I can see how eating this way would really eat up (no pun intended) the grocery budget.  This is just for a weekend, and we already had the meat to barbecue, and will be supplementing with veggies from the garden.  It would have been even worse with frozen pizzas, deli items, etc.  If they would just eat real food, we could have probably put on a great BBQ for them for about $25 out of pocket.

Scandium

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #59 on: July 10, 2015, 03:29:06 AM »
Holy shit.  We normally cook from scratch, buy a 1/4 cow, stock up and freeze whole chickens on sale, eat tons of veg, much of which comes from the garden, etc.  I feel like we're in the lap of luxury with fancy Kerrygold butter, pastured eggs (when our own hens aren't pulling their weight) and boxes of organic baby greens.

Well, DH's family is coming to visit this weekend, and they are picky and eat total crap.  We went shopping today to cater to their tastes, and ended up doing the walk of shame to the checkout line with a cart full of chips, Snackwells, crackers and other crap.  DH had already bought some icecream and soda for them a few days ago, so as we walked out of the store, he says "well, I've spent about $100 on pure crap now."  I can see how eating this way would really eat up (no pun intended) the grocery budget.  This is just for a weekend, and we already had the meat to barbecue, and will be supplementing with veggies from the garden.  It would have been even worse with frozen pizzas, deli items, etc.  If they would just eat real food, we could have probably put on a great BBQ for them for about $25 out of pocket.
Eh, healthy food is in general much more expensive than processed stuff. That's one of the reasons poor people are unhealthy.

Are you counting all the gardening supplies, larger land, and your time in your vegetables and egg costs?

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #60 on: July 10, 2015, 05:37:45 AM »
Eh, healthy food is in general much more expensive than processed stuff. That's one of the reasons poor people are unhealthy.

I don't think this is actually true. Beans are way cheaper than cheeseburgers.

Rufus.T.Firefly

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #61 on: July 10, 2015, 05:54:51 AM »
This chart seems skewed to the high side and excessively spendy.  I think its worth noting that this is not actually what the American family does spend, but rather what the USDA is suggesting people should spend based on a particular recommended diet.

My wife and I live in an almost exactly average area (grocery CoL index: 101). We are very close to the thrifty mark of $388 ... if you also include all household supplies, alcohol, holiday meals and cooking for guests, etc.

We used to average closer to $300/month without breaking a sweat (we targeted $275). However, this year we intentionally changed our diet knowing the cost would rise, but we could easily drop back down to $300/mo or lower if necessary.

Even if we went crazy, which we might in retirement, I don't see how we could ever spend remotely as much as shown in the moderate plans.


Scandium

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #62 on: July 10, 2015, 06:21:24 AM »
Eh, healthy food is in general much more expensive than processed stuff. That's one of the reasons poor people are unhealthy.

I don't think this is actually true. Beans are way cheaper than cheeseburgers.

1) In cost of dollars per calories?
2) If you're talking a McDonalds burger that's totally apples and oranges. You can't compare the cost of a restaurant meal with a can of unheated, unprepared food.
3) Beans is one food item. A cheeseburger contains meat, dairy, vegetables and grains. As supersize me discussed ages ago; the burger isn't really that bad, it's the fries and soda.

Prepared and processed food is cheaper and easier than vegetables and less prepared food. This is a problems as poor people first of all can't afford it, and since they often work several long jobs and/or are single parents don't have time to make healthy food. I didn't think this was up for debate. Good on you (and me) for eating healthy, but it's not so easy for everyone.

ps: i'm not saying there aren't a ton of people who make stupid decisions and have only themselves to blame, but the cost (money and time) of healthy eating for many poor people is definitely a problem.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/05/eating-healthy-vs-unhealthy_n_4383633.html

Quote
They say that healthful food is simply more expensive than unhealthful food. Now, science backs them up.

The most comprehensive study of its kind indicates that yes, unhealthy food is about $1.50 cheaper per day, or about $550 per year, than healthy food.

http://frugivoremag.com/2012/01/3-reasons-why-the-poor-cant-eat-healthy/


Scandium

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #63 on: July 10, 2015, 06:31:05 AM »
I don't understand what you people eat when you spend less in a month than we do in a week (~$120). We buy no soda, little meat, but tons of veggies and fruits (not organic) that is the largest drag on our budget. But I don't really want to eat less healthy food to save money.

Are they in-season? Berries are great for snacks and in oatmeal, but if I'm paying more than $1.50 for a carton, I'm hesitant (I'm willing to pay more for Farmers Market local stuff, FWIW). I can't find non-organic grocery store berries for cheaper than that between October and April. Buying produce out of season can be a HUGE budget drain...

Ugh, berries. We definitely don't buy berries out of season, but even in season it's at least $3-4 for pretty small box. Yeah I run away from those organic, free range berries for $7 for five of them.

We just get lots of vegetables and fruit. We both have smoothies for breakfast and my wife makes lunch salad every day. And now we buy veggies to feed the baby. Other than that we only eat chicken, no red meat and no junk. Few bucks on yogurt and eggs and that's it. So yeah, tons of money spent on greenery, but like I said I'm ok with that. I'd rather save elsewhere. We also live in one of the most expensive areas in the country, except NYC and SF I guess. Oh, and our grocery cost is all other household supplies too, those not bought at target at least.

And to whoever said they shop at 3 stores every week; holycrap that's crazy! Making it to one is a chore!

TravelJunkyQC

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #64 on: July 10, 2015, 07:46:05 AM »
We're a family of two adults in their twenties, and it tends to float between the thrifty and low-cost... however, that includes alcohol (not a lot), and meals and drinks out (even less), and it is also in CAD as opposed to USD (and the price increase that comes with living in an area where food is more expensive). So all that means that... theoretically, we would be below the thrifty line if in the US. Woot woot!

golden1

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #65 on: July 10, 2015, 08:23:24 AM »
For just food, we are a little above the low cost level for a family of 4.  I could totally see spending the liberal plan around here if you wanted to shop at Whole foods or get a ton of processed and pre-prepared stuff. 

horsepoor

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #66 on: July 10, 2015, 08:43:54 AM »
Holy shit.  We normally cook from scratch, buy a 1/4 cow, stock up and freeze whole chickens on sale, eat tons of veg, much of which comes from the garden, etc.  I feel like we're in the lap of luxury with fancy Kerrygold butter, pastured eggs (when our own hens aren't pulling their weight) and boxes of organic baby greens.

Well, DH's family is coming to visit this weekend, and they are picky and eat total crap.  We went shopping today to cater to their tastes, and ended up doing the walk of shame to the checkout line with a cart full of chips, Snackwells, crackers and other crap.  DH had already bought some icecream and soda for them a few days ago, so as we walked out of the store, he says "well, I've spent about $100 on pure crap now."  I can see how eating this way would really eat up (no pun intended) the grocery budget.  This is just for a weekend, and we already had the meat to barbecue, and will be supplementing with veggies from the garden.  It would have been even worse with frozen pizzas, deli items, etc.  If they would just eat real food, we could have probably put on a great BBQ for them for about $25 out of pocket.
Eh, healthy food is in general much more expensive than processed stuff. That's one of the reasons poor people are unhealthy.

Are you counting all the gardening supplies, larger land, and your time in your vegetables and egg costs?

It's still cheaper during winter when we're eating very little garden produce.  If I didn't grow a garden, and but downgraded from organics/grass fed/blahblah to conventional stuff, it would still be cheaper to scratch cook healthier stuff.  If we bought all our veg/eggs, we might tick over to the moderate.  We were poor when I was a kid, but we ate fairly healthy - vegetarian spaghetti, eggs, potatoes, bean burritos, peanut butter and so on.  Always had some fruit and veg.  I feel like this conversation has been had on here many, many times.  When it comes to my relatives, they are not poor, but the typical cash-strapped middle-class parents who could be much healthier, and save probably hundreds of dollars a month if they would just make scratch cooking a daily habit instead of eating processed food and going out to eat all the time.  They have a well-equipped normal kitchen and haven't had their power go out, don't live in a food desert, or any of the other arguments/excusitis that get thrown out all the time around this conversation.  I'm sure their "situation" could be multiplied by 50 million, all across the country, but since it's hard for some people, everyone should get a pass to keep doing what they're doing.

Scandium

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #67 on: July 10, 2015, 08:59:00 AM »
Holy shit.  We normally cook from scratch, buy a 1/4 cow, stock up and freeze whole chickens on sale, eat tons of veg, much of which comes from the garden, etc.  I feel like we're in the lap of luxury with fancy Kerrygold butter, pastured eggs (when our own hens aren't pulling their weight) and boxes of organic baby greens.

Well, DH's family is coming to visit this weekend, and they are picky and eat total crap.  We went shopping today to cater to their tastes, and ended up doing the walk of shame to the checkout line with a cart full of chips, Snackwells, crackers and other crap.  DH had already bought some icecream and soda for them a few days ago, so as we walked out of the store, he says "well, I've spent about $100 on pure crap now."  I can see how eating this way would really eat up (no pun intended) the grocery budget.  This is just for a weekend, and we already had the meat to barbecue, and will be supplementing with veggies from the garden.  It would have been even worse with frozen pizzas, deli items, etc.  If they would just eat real food, we could have probably put on a great BBQ for them for about $25 out of pocket.
Eh, healthy food is in general much more expensive than processed stuff. That's one of the reasons poor people are unhealthy.

Are you counting all the gardening supplies, larger land, and your time in your vegetables and egg costs?

It's still cheaper during winter when we're eating very little garden produce.  If I didn't grow a garden, and but downgraded from organics/grass fed/blahblah to conventional stuff, it would still be cheaper to scratch cook healthier stuff.  If we bought all our veg/eggs, we might tick over to the moderate.  We were poor when I was a kid, but we ate fairly healthy - vegetarian spaghetti, eggs, potatoes, bean burritos, peanut butter and so on.  Always had some fruit and veg.  I feel like this conversation has been had on here many, many times.  When it comes to my relatives, they are not poor, but the typical cash-strapped middle-class parents who could be much healthier, and save probably hundreds of dollars a month if they would just make scratch cooking a daily habit instead of eating processed food and going out to eat all the time.  They have a well-equipped normal kitchen and haven't had their power go out, don't live in a food desert, or any of the other arguments/excusitis that get thrown out all the time around this conversation.  I'm sure their "situation" could be multiplied by 50 million, all across the country, but since it's hard for some people, everyone should get a pass to keep doing what they're doing.


For the middle class no. Anyone at my grocery store with a cart full of pepsi, chips and eggo is a moron and I would laugh if there was a way I wouldn't have to pay for their insurance/medicare costs. (BMI tax anyone?)

I just took issue with the implied "poor people would eat better if they just bought a house on 2 acres, gardened their own tomatoes and cooked everything from scratch, after the single mom come home to screaming kids after a day of two minimum wage jobs"

Scratch cook every day? Are you insane? After we get the kid to bed we have about an hour to eat, clean up the house and get ready for the next day. We cook once a week and heat up leftovers the rest. Maybe some luxurious 50s life where dad makes $200k and mom can stay home and cook every day, but we at least can't do that. 

mm1970

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #68 on: July 10, 2015, 09:17:15 AM »
Eh, healthy food is in general much more expensive than processed stuff. That's one of the reasons poor people are unhealthy.

I don't think this is actually true. Beans are way cheaper than cheeseburgers.

It sort of depends on what you are eating.  You can compare per nutrient, or per calorie.  For example, a 10-lb bag of potatoes is cheaper per calorie than a bag of chips.  And beans are cheaper than cheeseburgers.

But per calorie, fruits and vegetables are often very expensive, but you need the nutrients.  Let's say you get a gallon of ice cream for $5, or a 5-lb bag of apples for $5.  Per calorie, the ice cream is a MUCH better deal.

I also know that carbohydrates, in general, are cheaper than other foods like healthy fats, proteins, and fruits and vegetables.  Yes, beans and rice are cheap, but I cannot eat that many of them anymore for weight reasons.

So I can eat 1/2 cup of beans a day, and 1/2 cup of rice.  But I still need to eat about 4 servings of protein in the form of meat, yogurt, fish, eggs, etc.  Which are more expensive than the carbs.

mm1970

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #69 on: July 10, 2015, 09:26:01 AM »
I don't understand what you people eat when you spend less in a month than we do in a week (~$120). We buy no soda, little meat, but tons of veggies and fruits (not organic) that is the largest drag on our budget. But I don't really want to eat less healthy food to save money.

Are they in-season? Berries are great for snacks and in oatmeal, but if I'm paying more than $1.50 for a carton, I'm hesitant (I'm willing to pay more for Farmers Market local stuff, FWIW). I can't find non-organic grocery store berries for cheaper than that between October and April. Buying produce out of season can be a HUGE budget drain...

Ugh, berries. We definitely don't buy berries out of season, but even in season it's at least $3-4 for pretty small box. Yeah I run away from those organic, free range berries for $7 for five of them.

We just get lots of vegetables and fruit. We both have smoothies for breakfast and my wife makes lunch salad every day. And now we buy veggies to feed the baby. Other than that we only eat chicken, no red meat and no junk. Few bucks on yogurt and eggs and that's it. So yeah, tons of money spent on greenery, but like I said I'm ok with that. I'd rather save elsewhere. We also live in one of the most expensive areas in the country, except NYC and SF I guess. Oh, and our grocery cost is all other household supplies too, those not bought at target at least.

And to whoever said they shop at 3 stores every week; holycrap that's crazy! Making it to one is a chore!
Ha ha, that was me.  Yeah, so last year I was focused only on health and weight loss, and didn't consider price at all (after years of frugal cooking and shopping).  And our grocery bill was $10,500 for four.  Not terribly bad by local standards but still higher than I'd like.  So this year I'm trying to cut that down by 1/3 to 1/2.  And unfortunately it requires shopping at multiple places.

I eat so many veggies that when I check the grocery fliers every week, I mostly just look at fruit/veg.  At most, of the 4 major chains, I will pick *one* to go to, to get the 1 or 2 loss leaders.

Then each week it is 99c store, Costco, Smart and Final, Trader Joes, Whole Foods - usually only two of those.  Costco is regular.  Smart & Final is only about once a month for certain things we get there.  Trader Joe's is my regular store.  99c store I go to about 2-3 times a month.

Generally my Saturday morning shop is first 99c store for whatever produce is there and looks good, because it's 1/2 the price of everywhere else.  (If not even less.)  Then Trader Joe's for everything else.

Costco is mid-week, and usually the husband does that run because it's near where we work.

Regular store for loss leaders might be Sunday.  It has been almost always the store 1.25 miles up the hill from us, so I often just walk up there for exercise.  But that store just changed hands, so time will tell - their prices are quite a bit higher than the old store, but I hear they have good sales.

By adding the "extra" stops this year (2 extra ones per week), I have cut our grocery bills in about 1/2 so far this year.  It does come at the expense of time, however.  Not only just the extra hour of shopping, but also the prep.  Instead of buying already cut veggies at Trader Joe's, I am buying a full head of cauliflower and a bag of peppers and a head of lettuce and I'm washing and chopping them myself.  At 35-40 pounds of produce a week, that's some time invested.

mm1970

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #70 on: July 10, 2015, 09:40:45 AM »
Quote
Scratch cook every day? Are you insane? After we get the kid to bed we have about an hour to eat, clean up the house and get ready for the next day. We cook once a week and heat up leftovers the rest. Maybe some luxurious 50s life where dad makes $200k and mom can stay home and cook every day, but we at least can't do that.

This is also something that  struggle with.  I have two kids (3 and 9) and a full time job.  I'm the shopper and the cook.

I used to be in this great habit of cooking 3 big meals on the weekend and eating leftovers all week, then using Weds as a crock pot day.

I'm out of that habit because of the types of food I am eating now.  Plus my kids eat more, and leftovers don't last as long.

One of my coworkers (who is Chinese) asked me yesterday what Americans cook.  I didn't know how to answer him.  When I was working part time (30-32 hrs a week), I cooked often.  I had extra time.  I'd make lasagna, or various kinds of pasta.  Risotto, spanish rice, macaroni and cheese.  Spaghetti and meatballs.  Roasted chicken and veggies, meat loaf, baked salmon.  Homemade hummus, falafel.  Stir-fries and curries.  Pad thai.  Soups.

But now I'm in health mode and fast mode.  I eat protein and produce, with some beans and a few carbs thrown in.  I am trying to eliminate wheat and reduce grains.  So pasta, sandwiches, rice are mostly out.

A new wrench in my life is that I now have to work until 6 pm 3x a week.  Previously, I worked 7:30 to 4:30, picked up the kids and got home at 5:30, with dinner at 6 or 6:15.  (Note, our kids go to bed at 9 or 9:30 pm, no matter how hard I try to get them to sleep earlier.)  I still do that 2x a week.  The other days I go to work at 9 and work till 6.  That means my husband has to do the cooking.  Or, it means I have to have food for him to heat up.  (Not that he cannot cook, he used to cook.  But I've been doing the cooking since 2002.  And his cooking made me fat.)

So, I do cook almost every day. Of course I have to pack lunch for my 9 year old.  Ugh. 

An example would be that I'd make beans and rice and chicken on Saturday, and boil a bunch of eggs on Sunday.
So lunches would be beans and rice for my husband, and salad for me (with some beans and eggs).

Monday, husband would do dinner:  Chicken fingers (premade from TJ's) for the kids, leftover chicken for us, plus a steamed veggie.
Tuesday, my dinner:  I might make turkey tacos, but a double batch.  Sauteed turkey and veg, shred cheese, make guac.  Plus maybe roasted cauliflower.
Weds, hubby would reheat the taco meat and make a salad or wash, peel, cut up carrot sticks.
Thursday, hubby dinner: soup and sandwiches or veggie burgers
Friday: used to be leftovers, but ha!  None anymore.  I would probably do a stir-fry or something here, with kale chips on the side
Saturday: actually make something
Sunday: neighborhood potluck, I usually make a vegetable side

What you see in this list is that mid-week, I am always making SOMETHING.  I aim to make one thing every day, but make 2-3 days worth.  So I might cook up a bunch of chicken in the oven or crockpot, but 3 days worth.  The next day I'll roast enough veggies for 2 nights.

What you *don't* see in this list is the 30-45 minutes I spend after dinner to prep lunches for the next day.  I eat 2.5-3 lbs of fruits and veggies a day.  So that's a lot of washing and chopping.

wenchsenior

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #71 on: July 10, 2015, 10:27:46 AM »
This is an area of mustachianism that has been giving me fits. We are 2 adults and 3 cats. I eat 2 meals/day, though I'm actually trying to increase the number of calories I eat (trying to add small third meal).  My husband eats ~1.5 meals at home (unless on weekends) and usually 1 meal out most days at work. Meals out and booze are entirely separate line-items that we're trying to address. Yet we still spend 500-600$ per month on average for regular food/cleaning supplies/pet stuff.

Up until very recently, it had been bafffling to me how we've been spending so much; therefore, I don't find these USDA charts at all surprising. If anything, they seem modest. Below are some reasons for our huge bill:

I was never raised to track grocery costs, only to think of health and freshness, and I grew up around foodies for whom price was way down the list of priorities.  My husband grew up poor, and being 'cheap' when it comes to food brings up bad childhood memories. So we barely register prices at all, and when we do, we immediately forget them. I mean, I automatically grab for the generic product, but I don't actually know how much cheaper it is, if that makes sense. Though I recently started keeping a price book, I still couldn't tell you the price of a gallon of milk ($2? $5?...no clue). My brain refuses to hold that info. So I've just started training myself: "cat litter, salmon, chocolate bars, are cheapest at Target"; "pork is cheapest at the store down the street" etc, and trying to structure my shopping lists that way.

We don't have access to Aldis or decent farmer's markets. Also, I just dislike grocery shopping generally and both of us hate warehouse-type stores particularly. I went once into a Walmart to price things, and got so depressed just being in it that I gave up, knowing I'd never shop there as long as there were other options. I have now compromised at the cheapest store at which I don't dread shopping: Super Target.

I have endocrine/glycemic issues, so we rarely use bread, potatoes, white pasta, or white rice as meal extenders.  We have very set eating patterns, e.g., salads of fresh veggies all year long, regardless of seasonality. We eat a ton of nuts and dried fruit. My husband is obsessed with fresh fruit and just buys whatever he sees, even if out of season and insanely expensive. We eat Lindt chocolate for dessert every day, and find cheaper chocolate bars gross, etc.

Although we only eat meat once a day, we eat relatively few kinds, very lean, and therefore not usually cheap. Very little pork (husband has to inspect farm facilities sometimes, and gets upset every time), very little dark meat (chicken breast, not wings or drumsticks), only very good cuts of lean red meat on the rare occasions we buy it (not hamburger). We eat a lot of salmon, which I only recently realized is close to 10$/meal for the two of us (that alone accounts for about 50$ of our monthly bill!!

I dislike cooking except in rare moods. Since we don't eat much preprepared food, I just set up a few recipes and rotateed them so I wouldn't have to think about it. The problem is those recipes have never (until recently) taken cost into account.

We do a lot right in terms of eating very healthy. And we don't tend to waste a lot of food. But I am so envious of you guys' super awesome food-budgeting skillz that it's really become a project for me to bring our costs down by at least 100$/month. For the first time in my life I am tracking costs and noting sales...I didn't realize that the midweek newspaper flyers that came in the mail were about grocery prices until recently. You guys kept on talking about mid-week 'loss leaders' and I had no idea what that was until a couple months ago LOL. We've made some adjustments (more brown rice, more beans (for my breakfasts, anyway), more pork, more sweet potatoes) and now trying to learn new no-brainer staple recipes that are lower-cost. Next project will be tracking produce costs and trying to eat more seasonally.

It's funny how some mustachian traits come so easily, and others have been such a surprising struggle and have taken up amazing amounts of mental energy!

wenchsenior

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #72 on: July 10, 2015, 10:29:54 AM »
Holy shit.  We normally cook from scratch, buy a 1/4 cow, stock up and freeze whole chickens on sale, eat tons of veg, much of which comes from the garden, etc.  I feel like we're in the lap of luxury with fancy Kerrygold butter, pastured eggs (when our own hens aren't pulling their weight) and boxes of organic baby greens.

Well, DH's family is coming to visit this weekend, and they are picky and eat total crap.  We went shopping today to cater to their tastes, and ended up doing the walk of shame to the checkout line with a cart full of chips, Snackwells, crackers and other crap.  DH had already bought some icecream and soda for them a few days ago, so as we walked out of the store, he says "well, I've spent about $100 on pure crap now."  I can see how eating this way would really eat up (no pun intended) the grocery budget.  This is just for a weekend, and we already had the meat to barbecue, and will be supplementing with veggies from the garden.  It would have been even worse with frozen pizzas, deli items, etc.  If they would just eat real food, we could have probably put on a great BBQ for them for about $25 out of pocket.
Eh, healthy food is in general much more expensive than processed stuff. That's one of the reasons poor people are unhealthy.

Are you counting all the gardening supplies, larger land, and your time in your vegetables and egg costs?

It's still cheaper during winter when we're eating very little garden produce.  If I didn't grow a garden, and but downgraded from organics/grass fed/blahblah to conventional stuff, it would still be cheaper to scratch cook healthier stuff.  If we bought all our veg/eggs, we might tick over to the moderate.  We were poor when I was a kid, but we ate fairly healthy - vegetarian spaghetti, eggs, potatoes, bean burritos, peanut butter and so on.  Always had some fruit and veg.  I feel like this conversation has been had on here many, many times.  When it comes to my relatives, they are not poor, but the typical cash-strapped middle-class parents who could be much healthier, and save probably hundreds of dollars a month if they would just make scratch cooking a daily habit instead of eating processed food and going out to eat all the time.  They have a well-equipped normal kitchen and haven't had their power go out, don't live in a food desert, or any of the other arguments/excusitis that get thrown out all the time around this conversation.  I'm sure their "situation" could be multiplied by 50 million, all across the country, but since it's hard for some people, everyone should get a pass to keep doing what they're doing.


For the middle class no. Anyone at my grocery store with a cart full of pepsi, chips and eggo is a moron and I would laugh if there was a way I wouldn't have to pay for their insurance/medicare costs. (BMI tax anyone?)

I just took issue with the implied "poor people would eat better if they just bought a house on 2 acres, gardened their own tomatoes and cooked everything from scratch, after the single mom come home to screaming kids after a day of two minimum wage jobs"

Scratch cook every day? Are you insane? After we get the kid to bed we have about an hour to eat, clean up the house and get ready for the next day. We cook once a week and heat up leftovers the rest. Maybe some luxurious 50s life where dad makes $200k and mom can stay home and cook every day, but we at least can't do that.

I feel you. See my post for similar hair-pulling over how people on this board manage it. Getting a handle on this is a huge focus for me right now, but I am not finding it easy.

4alpacas

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #73 on: July 10, 2015, 10:42:59 AM »
This is an area of mustachianism that has been giving me fits. We are 2 adults and 3 cats. I eat 2 meals/day, though I'm actually trying to increase the number of calories I eat (trying to add small third meal).  My husband eats ~1.5 meals at home (unless on weekends) and usually 1 meal out most days at work. Meals out and booze are entirely separate line-items that we're trying to address. Yet we still spend 500-600$ per month on average for regular food/cleaning supplies/pet stuff.

Up until very recently, it had been bafffling to me how we've been spending so much; therefore, I don't find these USDA charts at all surprising. If anything, they seem modest. Below are some reasons for our huge bill:

I was never raised to track grocery costs, only to think of health and freshness, and I grew up around foodies for whom price was way down the list of priorities.  My husband grew up poor, and being 'cheap' when it comes to food brings up bad childhood memories. So we barely register prices at all, and when we do, we immediately forget them. I mean, I automatically grab for the generic product, but I don't actually know how much cheaper it is, if that makes sense. Though I recently started keeping a price book, I still couldn't tell you the price of a gallon of milk ($2? $5?...no clue). My brain refuses to hold that info. So I've just started training myself: "cat litter, salmon, chocolate bars, are cheapest at Target"; "pork is cheapest at the store down the street" etc, and trying to structure my shopping lists that way.

We don't have access to Aldis or decent farmer's markets. Also, I just dislike grocery shopping generally and both of us hate warehouse-type stores particularly. I went once into a Walmart to price things, and got so depressed just being in it that I gave up, knowing I'd never shop there as long as there were other options. I have now compromised at the cheapest store at which I don't dread shopping: Super Target.

I have endocrine/glycemic issues, so we rarely use bread, potatoes, white pasta, or white rice as meal extenders.  We have very set eating patterns, e.g., salads of fresh veggies all year long, regardless of seasonality. We eat a ton of nuts and dried fruit. My husband is obsessed with fresh fruit and just buys whatever he sees, even if out of season and insanely expensive. We eat Lindt chocolate for dessert every day, and find cheaper chocolate bars gross, etc.

Although we only eat meat once a day, we eat relatively few kinds, very lean, and therefore not usually cheap. Very little pork (husband has to inspect farm facilities sometimes, and gets upset every time), very little dark meat (chicken breast, not wings or drumsticks), only very good cuts of lean red meat on the rare occasions we buy it (not hamburger). We eat a lot of salmon, which I only recently realized is close to 10$/meal for the two of us (that alone accounts for about 50$ of our monthly bill!!

I dislike cooking except in rare moods. Since we don't eat much preprepared food, I just set up a few recipes and rotateed them so I wouldn't have to think about it. The problem is those recipes have never (until recently) taken cost into account.

We do a lot right in terms of eating very healthy. And we don't tend to waste a lot of food. But I am so envious of you guys' super awesome food-budgeting skillz that it's really become a project for me to bring our costs down by at least 100$/month. For the first time in my life I am tracking costs and noting sales...I didn't realize that the midweek newspaper flyers that came in the mail were about grocery prices until recently. You guys kept on talking about mid-week 'loss leaders' and I had no idea what that was until a couple months ago LOL. We've made some adjustments (more brown rice, more beans (for my breakfasts, anyway), more pork, more sweet potatoes) and now trying to learn new no-brainer staple recipes that are lower-cost. Next project will be tracking produce costs and trying to eat more seasonally.

It's funny how some mustachian traits come so easily, and others have been such a surprising struggle and have taken up amazing amounts of mental energy!
Our old grocery bill makes your spending look like peanuts, so I completely understand.  My recommendation would be to look at your receipt after every trip and think about what you could improve.

Then keep your receipt on the fridge and cross out items as you prepare/eat them.  I noticed that we weren't finishing certain things, but we were running out of others. 

I've also opted for more in season produce.  It tastes so much better and costs less!  We do buy frozen fruit and vegetables frequently for out of season produce. 

Calculate the cost per weight for every item.  We found it was cheaper to buy two smaller containers of Fage instead of one larger container.  Carry around a little calculator or use the app on your phone. 


wenchsenior

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #74 on: July 10, 2015, 10:53:41 AM »
So, question I've been meaning to ask everyone, and I swear I'm not trying to be offensive and this is not trolling:


Do you find any correlation between struggle with being overweight/healthy, and cheapness of groceries? (Setting aside the fact that weight is a very complex and individual thing not completely dictated by food). But still, generally speaking, eating crap leads to weight gain. Some crappy foods are relatively cheap (corn and sugar being subsidized the way they are) and some prepackaged foods (deli foods, etc) are more expensive than cooking whole foods from scratch.

My impression is that you have to spend bigger bucks to eat nutrient dense foods (which generally also seem to be lower calorie). If we ate a lot more pasta, rice, and potatoes (like we did as poor college students), we could def cut our food budget. If we ate more hamburger in place of salmon, we could cut our budget. But I suspect our butts would grow and health deteriorate in correlation as our bill shrank.

Do you guys find that a challenge? I am actually currently underweight, but suspect that 15 years of eating expensive lean meat and produce, and very little in the way of sugar and cheap carbs, is part of the reason. For health reasons, I can't eat a lot of cheap carbs anyway, so my cost-cutting solution currently is to shift to more whole grains and beans...cheap and nutrient dense. But that is one of the only ways I can think of to deal with what I perceive to be this challenge.

RWD

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #75 on: July 10, 2015, 11:19:53 AM »
This is an area of mustachianism that has been giving me fits. We are 2 adults and 3 cats. I eat 2 meals/day, though I'm actually trying to increase the number of calories I eat (trying to add small third meal).  My husband eats ~1.5 meals at home (unless on weekends) and usually 1 meal out most days at work. Meals out and booze are entirely separate line-items that we're trying to address. Yet we still spend 500-600$ per month on average for regular food/cleaning supplies/pet stuff.

If you aren't already, you might want to consider tracking supplies and pet stuff in two separate categories from groceries to get a more accurate picture. For reference, last year we spent about $45/month on supplies, $20/month on our two cats, and $255/month on food groceries for two adults. The cost of living grocery category in my city is 99.3% of the national average. We spent an additional $45/month on dining out and $15/month on alcohol.

mm1970

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #76 on: July 10, 2015, 11:31:38 AM »
So, question I've been meaning to ask everyone, and I swear I'm not trying to be offensive and this is not trolling:


Do you find any correlation between struggle with being overweight/healthy, and cheapness of groceries? (Setting aside the fact that weight is a very complex and individual thing not completely dictated by food). But still, generally speaking, eating crap leads to weight gain. Some crappy foods are relatively cheap (corn and sugar being subsidized the way they are) and some prepackaged foods (deli foods, etc) are more expensive than cooking whole foods from scratch.

My impression is that you have to spend bigger bucks to eat nutrient dense foods (which generally also seem to be lower calorie). If we ate a lot more pasta, rice, and potatoes (like we did as poor college students), we could def cut our food budget. If we ate more hamburger in place of salmon, we could cut our budget. But I suspect our butts would grow and health deteriorate in correlation as our bill shrank.

Do you guys find that a challenge? I am actually currently underweight, but suspect that 15 years of eating expensive lean meat and produce, and very little in the way of sugar and cheap carbs, is part of the reason. For health reasons, I can't eat a lot of cheap carbs anyway, so my cost-cutting solution currently is to shift to more whole grains and beans...cheap and nutrient dense. But that is one of the only ways I can think of to deal with what I perceive to be this challenge.
Yes.

In my early 30's, I lost 57 pounds, and my weight and grocery bill went down.  But you know, it's because I was eating 1/3 less.

Now in my mid-40's, they are directly related.  To lose/ maintain weight, I need to focus on protein and produce.  I have to limit grains/ breads/ carbs to no more than two 1/2 cup servings per day.  So more of the foods I eat are the expensive foods.

libertarian4321

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #77 on: July 10, 2015, 11:46:04 AM »
Like everything else the government does, this is a FAIL!

Good God, I'm a big guy, bigger than I should be, and, as a multimillionaire, I don't try all that hard to "skimp" on food.  But we spend far less than the "moderate" level.  And with minimal effort, we could spend significantly less than the "Thrifty" plan.

This is probably government propaganda to provide rationale for an increase the payments for welfare/food stamps rather than an attempt to accurately portray food costs.






Hall11235

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #78 on: July 10, 2015, 12:08:18 PM »
Well, I'm ready to get annihilated for this, but I spend around $400 dollars a month for myself.
To me MMM is about spending on things that you are passionate on and optimizing everything else. I buy organic, grass-fed everything. I get most of my calories from from fat and protein and eat a ton of vegetables. I also love Fage yogurt, so bite me lol... 9 lbs a week might be stretching it, though. 
Is this slowing my journey to FIRE? Sure. Am I totally ok with that? Yep.

4alpacas

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #79 on: July 10, 2015, 12:15:05 PM »
Well, I'm ready to get annihilated for this, but I spend around $400 dollars a month for myself.
To me MMM is about spending on things that you are passionate on and optimizing everything else. I buy organic, grass-fed everything. I get most of my calories from from fat and protein and eat a ton of vegetables. I also love Fage yogurt, so bite me lol... 9 lbs a week might be stretching it, though. 
Is this slowing my journey to FIRE? Sure. Am I totally ok with that? Yep.
The whole point of MMM is to spend money on what you value.  If you value food, then go for it.  I spend face punching amounts of money on my dog. 

But really, how much yogurt do you eat/week?  I eat about 2 pounds/week (of Fage), which doesn't include fruit.  I might have to start a poll to figure out how much yogurt everyone is eating because I thought I ate a lot. 

wenchsenior

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #80 on: July 10, 2015, 12:29:31 PM »
Well, I'm ready to get annihilated for this, but I spend around $400 dollars a month for myself.
To me MMM is about spending on things that you are passionate on and optimizing everything else. I buy organic, grass-fed everything. I get most of my calories from from fat and protein and eat a ton of vegetables. I also love Fage yogurt, so bite me lol... 9 lbs a week might be stretching it, though. 
Is this slowing my journey to FIRE? Sure. Am I totally ok with that? Yep.

Yeah...I'm  not going to start eating fattier meat. I'm not going to stop spending 50$/month on salmon. I'm not going to stop eating Lindt chocolate in favor of Ghirardelli. I'm not going to drive to 4 different stores on Saturday to shop...too time consuming.

So I think it's going to be about finding the cheapest places to buy the things we like, substituting foods in a few places where feasible (more beans for breakfast in place of, say, eggs), and learning how to eat a little more seasonally than we have. I'm aiming to cut 100-150$ on average from the bill without changing the actual way we eat that much. Beyond that, I think I would find it not worth it. We'll see.

Hall11235

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #81 on: July 10, 2015, 12:37:35 PM »
For 4alpacas:
I do one tub of 2% Fage plain a week. I savor each spoonful as if Zeus himself placed it there. I won't allow myself to buy more because I would eat it too damn fast. That plus blueberries and almonds is a treat like none other.

For Wenchsenior:
I have Celiac's disease and a minor dairy intolerance (Though, for some reason, plain yogurt doesn't bother me too much - maybe the fermentation process?), and legumes wreak havoc on my digestion (Think nuclear bombs). I try to focus on the cheaper veggies no one else buys, like radishes, onions and cabbage. I usually buy one bag of frozen fruit every two weeks. I think I might try diversifying where I shop for groceries; there are two grocery stores on my way home from work, and I usually only go to one. Maybe I should try the other these next few weeks until I get familiar with prices between the two.

Helvegen

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #82 on: July 10, 2015, 12:58:39 PM »
For the middle class no. Anyone at my grocery store with a cart full of pepsi, chips and eggo is a moron and I would laugh if there was a way I wouldn't have to pay for their insurance/medicare costs. (BMI tax anyone?)

You wouldn't want to see me on a Fred Meyer run then. That is where I buy all my junk - diet soda, beer, candy, chips, gelato. My BMI is 20.8 and my RHR is in the 40s.  *trolololol* But really, I row 3.5km during my morning break and either row 7km more or jog between 5-6km during my lunch pretty much every workday in addition to watching my calories.

I generally buy the vast majority of fresh fruits, veggies, herbs, lean meats, dairy, bulk grains and spices at either Costco or Winco because either the quality or pricing is better. If you just looked at what I bought in one shop though at FM, you'd probably be very confused.

Eric

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #83 on: July 10, 2015, 01:25:29 PM »
And to whoever said they shop at 3 stores every week; holycrap that's crazy! Making it to one is a chore!

It probably depends on your area.  I shop at 3-4 stores per week to get the best deals.  But they're all within 3 miles (2 main stores less than a mile), so I do all of this by bike too.

For the middle class no. Anyone at my grocery store with a cart full of pepsi, chips and eggo is a moron and I would laugh if there was a way I wouldn't have to pay for their insurance/medicare costs. (BMI tax anyone?)
I agree with Helvegen above.  My basket at the grocery store is completely barren of fruit and vegetables, yet that's what I mostly eat.  Those are just cheaper and better at the dedicated produce markets around me.  You can't judge based on this.

Scratch cook every day? Are you insane? After we get the kid to bed we have about an hour to eat, clean up the house and get ready for the next day. We cook once a week and heat up leftovers the rest. Maybe some luxurious 50s life where dad makes $200k and mom can stay home and cook every day, but we at least can't do that.

My wife and I also cook from scratch (almost) everyday.  We certainly don't plan to batch cook, although sometimes we end up with leftovers that can stretch for a second day.  Cooking is fun, and a source of entertainment for us, so it's not a chore.  I'm sure both of us being great cooks and having no kids helps a lot though.

wenchsenior

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #84 on: July 10, 2015, 01:30:09 PM »
For 4alpacas:
I do one tub of 2% Fage plain a week. I savor each spoonful as if Zeus himself placed it there. I won't allow myself to buy more because I would eat it too damn fast. That plus blueberries and almonds is a treat like none other.

For Wenchsenior:
I have Celiac's disease and a minor dairy intolerance (Though, for some reason, plain yogurt doesn't bother me too much - maybe the fermentation process?), and legumes wreak havoc on my digestion (Think nuclear bombs). I try to focus on the cheaper veggies no one else buys, like radishes, onions and cabbage. I usually buy one bag of frozen fruit every two weeks. I think I might try diversifying where I shop for groceries; there are two grocery stores on my way home from work, and I usually only go to one. Maybe I should try the other these next few weeks until I get familiar with prices between the two.

I can't digest lactose well, either. I'm trying to work Greek yogurt back in, because it doesn't bother me as much either. I also seem to tolerate lactose-free milk, as long as it's cooked into rice, oatmeal or whatever.  Definitely try the price comparison thing; it does make a difference. That's one area I HAVE made progress on. I focused on the dozen or so most expensive single items in my list (meat, chocolate, etc.) and checked four different stores and followed the weekly sales flyers. After about 2 months of this, I think I have a pretty good idea of where things are cheapest. Haven't done this for produce yet, but I plan to.

ender

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #85 on: July 10, 2015, 02:10:46 PM »
So, question I've been meaning to ask everyone, and I swear I'm not trying to be offensive and this is not trolling:


Do you find any correlation between struggle with being overweight/healthy, and cheapness of groceries? (Setting aside the fact that weight is a very complex and individual thing not completely dictated by food). But still, generally speaking, eating crap leads to weight gain. Some crappy foods are relatively cheap (corn and sugar being subsidized the way they are) and some prepackaged foods (deli foods, etc) are more expensive than cooking whole foods from scratch.

My impression is that you have to spend bigger bucks to eat nutrient dense foods (which generally also seem to be lower calorie). If we ate a lot more pasta, rice, and potatoes (like we did as poor college students), we could def cut our food budget. If we ate more hamburger in place of salmon, we could cut our budget. But I suspect our butts would grow and health deteriorate in correlation as our bill shrank.

Do you guys find that a challenge? I am actually currently underweight, but suspect that 15 years of eating expensive lean meat and produce, and very little in the way of sugar and cheap carbs, is part of the reason. For health reasons, I can't eat a lot of cheap carbs anyway, so my cost-cutting solution currently is to shift to more whole grains and beans...cheap and nutrient dense. But that is one of the only ways I can think of to deal with what I perceive to be this challenge.

Yes, absolutely.

When I lived with a few guys before we would frequently be under $300 for groceries/household supplies (for 3 guys in their 20s) so we were KILLING it in terms of what we spent.

But carb heavy meals (pasta, bread, rice, etc) are so easy to overeat. It makes it a lot more difficult to moderate what I eat and frankly my self control is only so good. Having access to "easy to overeat" things meant that even if I am 90% awesome at self control, 10% of the time I still fell short.

My wife and I recently did a pseudo Paleo diet which I actually really liked a lot. Much easier to eat healthy (since you only buy healthy stuff...) but it is more expensive.

I've thought on and off about this issue and realize that for me, eating healthy is going to increase the grocery budget but keep me a healthier weight. That's just how it is for the next few years - I've been slowly transitioning my mindset to a more healthy mindset, including what I eat/exercise/etc.


neophyte

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #86 on: July 10, 2015, 03:05:19 PM »
So, question I've been meaning to ask everyone, and I swear I'm not trying to be offensive and this is not trolling:

Do you find any correlation between struggle with being overweight/healthy, and cheapness of groceries? (Setting aside the fact that weight is a very complex and individual thing not completely dictated by food). But still, generally speaking, eating crap leads to weight gain. Some crappy foods are relatively cheap (corn and sugar being subsidized the way they are) and some prepackaged foods (deli foods, etc) are more expensive than cooking whole foods from scratch.

For me they are aniticorrelated. My weight has been going down. My grocery bill has been going up.

Jakejake

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #87 on: July 10, 2015, 03:23:28 PM »
You wouldn't want to see me on a Fred Meyer run then. That is where I buy all my junk - diet soda, beer, candy, chips, gelato. My BMI is 20.8 and my RHR is in the 40s.  ...

I generally buy the vast majority of fresh fruits, veggies, herbs, lean meats, dairy, bulk grains and spices at either Costco or Winco because either the quality or pricing is better. If you just looked at what I bought in one shop though at FM, you'd probably be very confused.
This sounds so much like me! If you saw me at one store, you'd think I only eat onions, maybe 20 onions a day. See me in a different store, and you'd be thinking "Really? 54 protein bars??" But my BMI is just over 21 (5'5", 127 lbs) which is pretty good for a 51 year old woman. I used to weigh more - at one point I was nearly 170 pounds. For me, mindless shopping was the problem. Now I'm actually thinking about each thing that goes in my cart - everything gets the cost benefit analysis.

I'm posting up photos of a recent dinner - the ingredients with prices showing, and how it looked going into the oven. (Sadly my onions were freakishly unphotogenic on the way out of the oven!)

What you can't see there is how huge the original bag of spinach was before I had used most of it. The whole bag was $3. And you can't see that the ingredients were actually a bit cheaper, because I used a dollar coupon on one item, and had a $1.25 rebate on the same item (the fresh mozzarella was a tiny money maker). With the amount of the ingredients I used it cost 75¢ per person, including a homemade plum sorbet that was so good it almost made me weep.

The next night I did a variation on a theme, a spinach quiche. The last of the spinach is in my ice cream maker right now, mixed with yams, a can of coconut creme and a splash of cranberry juice. I'm taking breaks as I type to crank it.

mm1970

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #88 on: July 10, 2015, 04:17:06 PM »
Well, I'm ready to get annihilated for this, but I spend around $400 dollars a month for myself.
To me MMM is about spending on things that you are passionate on and optimizing everything else. I buy organic, grass-fed everything. I get most of my calories from from fat and protein and eat a ton of vegetables. I also love Fage yogurt, so bite me lol... 9 lbs a week might be stretching it, though. 
Is this slowing my journey to FIRE? Sure. Am I totally ok with that? Yep.

Yeah...I'm  not going to start eating fattier meat. I'm not going to stop spending 50$/month on salmon. I'm not going to stop eating Lindt chocolate in favor of Ghirardelli. I'm not going to drive to 4 different stores on Saturday to shop...too time consuming.

So I think it's going to be about finding the cheapest places to buy the things we like, substituting foods in a few places where feasible (more beans for breakfast in place of, say, eggs), and learning how to eat a little more seasonally than we have. I'm aiming to cut 100-150$ on average from the bill without changing the actual way we eat that much. Beyond that, I think I would find it not worth it. We'll see.
Lindt? Really.  Everyone has their own tastes...I'm a See's girl myself.

wenchsenior

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #89 on: July 10, 2015, 04:59:55 PM »
So, question I've been meaning to ask everyone, and I swear I'm not trying to be offensive and this is not trolling:

Do you find any correlation between struggle with being overweight/healthy, and cheapness of groceries? (Setting aside the fact that weight is a very complex and individual thing not completely dictated by food). But still, generally speaking, eating crap leads to weight gain. Some crappy foods are relatively cheap (corn and sugar being subsidized the way they are) and some prepackaged foods (deli foods, etc) are more expensive than cooking whole foods from scratch.

For me they are aniticorrelated. My weight has been going down. My grocery bill has been going up.

Right, that's actually what I meant, too. I think our weight would increase, and our health would get worse, with a significant decrease in grocery bill.

wenchsenior

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #90 on: July 10, 2015, 05:03:41 PM »
Well, I'm ready to get annihilated for this, but I spend around $400 dollars a month for myself.
To me MMM is about spending on things that you are passionate on and optimizing everything else. I buy organic, grass-fed everything. I get most of my calories from from fat and protein and eat a ton of vegetables. I also love Fage yogurt, so bite me lol... 9 lbs a week might be stretching it, though. 
Is this slowing my journey to FIRE? Sure. Am I totally ok with that? Yep.

Yeah...I'm  not going to start eating fattier meat. I'm not going to stop spending 50$/month on salmon. I'm not going to stop eating Lindt chocolate in favor of Ghirardelli. I'm not going to drive to 4 different stores on Saturday to shop...too time consuming.

So I think it's going to be about finding the cheapest places to buy the things we like, substituting foods in a few places where feasible (more beans for breakfast in place of, say, eggs), and learning how to eat a little more seasonally than we have. I'm aiming to cut 100-150$ on average from the bill without changing the actual way we eat that much. Beyond that, I think I would find it not worth it. We'll see.
Lindt? Really.  Everyone has their own tastes...I'm a See's girl myself.

Well....I've never tried See's. Dove is also pretty good. However, the only kind I've liked as much as Lindt 70% dark is that one brand that puts weird mixes, like pretzels, or s'mores, in the form of chocolate bars. Can't remember the brand, but those were amazing. Will have to try See's though!

ETA: it was Chuao Company bars....omg amazing. I need to go hunting for some again.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2015, 05:08:38 PM by wenchsenior »

sstants

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #91 on: July 20, 2015, 08:25:15 AM »
We're right between the "thrifty" and "low-cost" for a couple, including alcohol. Lots of meat/animal protein, organic, not much processed food. I'd like to get it down, but given the husbands health issues when he doesn't get enough animal protein, it doesn't seem likely.

Ditto this.  We eat ridiculously well and stay to the low end of that chart.  I can't imagine what we'd buy to get up to the Liberal Plan side.  Lots of prepared foods, I imagine, and/or buying everything at Whole Foods.

I'm right around "thrifty" and buy everything at the Whole Foods besides what I can snag at the farmers market!! It is definitely doable, just no prepacked crap! I almost feel like I can't be thrifty now at "cheaper" grocery stores because the options are all pre-packed.

The charts are absolutely insane. There are just entire categories that don't need to exist or should be viewed exclusively as treats. Fruit juice??

bb11

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #92 on: July 20, 2015, 08:58:37 AM »
I'm right at the low-cost level for a single male age 19-50. Feels about right, I think I am very conscious of my grocery spending. How some of you end up below the thrifty level on a healthy diet I don't understand, although I'm sure it's partially reflected by the fact I pay NYC grocery prices.

Sylly

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #93 on: July 20, 2015, 09:08:15 AM »
And here I was thinking we're spending too much eating out. It's not helping my motivation to know that our total food spending is under the low cost plan for two adults even with our face-punch worthy eating out spending. :-/

Well....I've never tried See's. Dove is also pretty good. However, the only kind I've liked as much as Lindt 70% dark is that one brand that puts weird mixes, like pretzels, or s'mores, in the form of chocolate bars. Can't remember the brand, but those were amazing. Will have to try See's though!

ETA: it was Chuao Company bars....omg amazing. I need to go hunting for some again.

If you like dark, I doubt you'd like See's over Lindt. I prefer dark and See's is generally way too sweet for me. The only See's I like is the dark chocolate covered marshmallow & caramel. But I'm not buying  a whole box of random stuff for 1 or 2 of those pieces.

I typically scrounge for Dove's Dark Chocolate after holidays for my regular chocolate fix. I've had Chuao's and they're pretty good too, but way too expensive for my blood. For my treat chocolate, these are pretty good and tend to go on sale much more often than Chuao's.

4alpacas

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #94 on: July 20, 2015, 09:23:16 AM »
And here I was thinking we're spending too much eating out. It's not helping my motivation to know that our total food spending is under the low cost plan for two adults even with our face-punch worthy eating out spending. :-/

Well....I've never tried See's. Dove is also pretty good. However, the only kind I've liked as much as Lindt 70% dark is that one brand that puts weird mixes, like pretzels, or s'mores, in the form of chocolate bars. Can't remember the brand, but those were amazing. Will have to try See's though!

ETA: it was Chuao Company bars....omg amazing. I need to go hunting for some again.

If you like dark, I doubt you'd like See's over Lindt. I prefer dark and See's is generally way too sweet for me. The only See's I like is the dark chocolate covered marshmallow & caramel. But I'm not buying  a whole box of random stuff for 1 or 2 of those pieces.

I typically scrounge for Dove's Dark Chocolate after holidays for my regular chocolate fix. I've had Chuao's and they're pretty good too, but way too expensive for my blood. For my treat chocolate, these are pretty good and tend to go on sale much more often than Chuao's.
I'm a Green & Black's 85% fan. 

I've had a few things from See's, but I haven't had the dark chocolate.  I might have to search some out. 

Kitsune

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #95 on: July 20, 2015, 11:43:16 AM »
I'm right at the low-cost level for a single male age 19-50. Feels about right, I think I am very conscious of my grocery spending. How some of you end up below the thrifty level on a healthy diet I don't understand, although I'm sure it's partially reflected by the fact I pay NYC grocery prices.

I've been to NYC, lived in Montreal, and now live in a small town. In NYC, if you're shopping at chains, you'll be paying a HUGE premium. Try smaller ethnic grocery stores... in Montreal, I found that smaller places in Chinatown had really interesting vegetable options for super cheap, Mexican places have tortillas and beans and spices, and middle-eastern places tend to have interesting spices and staples... You kinda have to look outside the box.

For example, today's menu:
- Breakfast (for my husband, my daughter, me): a parfait of oatmeal (bought in bulk; we use about 1/2 cup each, so 0.12$), frozen blueberries (bought in 2kg bags; breakfast portion works out to 1.25$) and yogurt (1$, either bought in bulk at Costco when I'm lazy or made at home when I'm feeling it). Total cost for 2: 3.25$
- Lunch: For me: greek salad: tomatoes (about 1$ worth, Costco), 1/2 cucumber (0.50$, Costco), and feta cheese (the good stuff, because I'm spoiled: 2$). Made with homemade vinaigrette (lemon juice, dijon olive oil. I make it in bulk ever few weeks. Maybe 0.20$ for the ingredients?) My busband isn't a fan of the salad, so he had spinach salad (1/6 of the bag of spinach, 0.50$), vinaigrette, and eggs on toast (homemade bread and store-bought eggs, roughly 0.75$, and I'm estimating high). My daughter isn't home, but add an egg and a bit of pan-fried spinach and toast and she's happy. Another 0.50$, max, if she's there. Total cost: 4.85$
- Dinner (my husband, myself, and our child) pork and green bean stir-fry on rice. The green beans are from the garden, but would cost roughly 1$ at the grocery store. The pork loin was bought on sale and sliced into stir-fry slices and frozen (3$). Rice, and fixings for the stir-fry sauce... maybe another dollar? Max? Note that we get another meal for 3 out of that stir-fry. Total cost: 5$

Total bill for the day: 13.10$, with leftovers for another meal later this week.

If you assume that that represents our everyday food budget, we're hitting 390$/month. Add an extra 110$ for "extras": coffee, tea, fruity teas (they're decaf and make great iced teas that replace juice and are much healthier...), milk (for the kid, and for my morning latte: 2 gallons/week. 6.50$/gallon, because we're in Quebec. Enough said.), drinks (wine, beer, cocktail ingredients, etc)... You're still not hitting the thrifty budget. Add another kid, and we would, though.

In all honesty, though, this is a big food day. Thee greek salad is a once-a-week luxury. Usually, I'll have a salad with some hard-boiled eggs and tomatoes (and avocado, if I'm feeling luxurious). Or leftovers from dinner. Or soups and fresh bread. The parfait happens maybe once or twice a week... usually, we'll have toast and fruit (blueberries... both my daughter and I are big fans, and in bulk and frozen they're quite affordable), or oatmeal and fruit (dirt cheap, especially if your fruit is apples and cinnamon). Also if you make oatmeal from scratch it's so much cheaper, takes 5 minutes, and you can control the amount of sugar that goes into it.

For dinners: we have a lot of omelettes (with chives and cheese) and salads. Chickpea and peach curry from A Girl Called Jack is one of our standard meals, and tastes GREAT for dirt cheap. Chilli and cornbread, soups, tacos, etc... all cheaper or as cheap as that stir-fry, and you can make them pretty healthy.

(Of course, for us, the 2$ dinners are balanced out by 10$ dinners: salmon, roast duck, steak, etc. We're not deprived. We just balance out the money over multiple meals).

Hope that helps clarify things! :)

bb11

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #96 on: July 21, 2015, 06:25:21 AM »
I'm right at the low-cost level for a single male age 19-50. Feels about right, I think I am very conscious of my grocery spending. How some of you end up below the thrifty level on a healthy diet I don't understand, although I'm sure it's partially reflected by the fact I pay NYC grocery prices.

Where are you in the city? Queens is pretty good for grocery shopping. I do a combination of Chinese, European and Indian markets, plus BJ's Wholesale and a limited number of Amazon Subscribe and Save items. Oh, and Trader Joe's for the odd specialty food.

Williamsburg, and shopping quite a bit with my girlfriend in the Upper East  Side. In Manhattan things are so crazy that Whole Foods is the cheapest place we can find. By my apartnent Key Foods is the best, and I've looked at lots of different stores.

bb11

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #97 on: July 21, 2015, 10:44:35 AM »
I'm right at the low-cost level for a single male age 19-50. Feels about right, I think I am very conscious of my grocery spending. How some of you end up below the thrifty level on a healthy diet I don't understand, although I'm sure it's partially reflected by the fact I pay NYC grocery prices.

Where are you in the city? Queens is pretty good for grocery shopping. I do a combination of Chinese, European and Indian markets, plus BJ's Wholesale and a limited number of Amazon Subscribe and Save items. Oh, and Trader Joe's for the odd specialty food.

Williamsburg, and shopping quite a bit with my girlfriend in the Upper East  Side. In Manhattan things are so crazy that Whole Foods is the cheapest place we can find. By my apartnent Key Foods is the best, and I've looked at lots of different stores.

You might try Trader Joe's in Manhattan (is there one on the UES?) and Peapod, if they deliver. Peapod matches the grocery store near me in price and if I order over $100 in a go and have some flexibility with delivery time, I get free delivery.

If you can be organized enough to do warehouse club shopping, you may find that a cab home from Costco or BJ's more than pays for itself in savings.

The problem is lack of storage. I can't really imagine spending more than $100 at the grocery store (most trips are $20-35). I'm moving to a new apartment in September so maybe there will be a bit more room there, but I doubt it.

Scubanewbie

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #98 on: July 21, 2015, 08:21:27 PM »
We're right at the thrifty level for a family of four which does include our yearly CSA but does not include eating out.  Although food is there when we eat out, I categorize it with our other "social/entertainment" categories.  I think of it like a movie, we don't need it to survive but we do enjoy it.

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Re: USDA Average Cost of Food at Home
« Reply #99 on: July 22, 2015, 12:17:46 AM »
Williamsburg, and shopping quite a bit with my girlfriend in the Upper East  Side. In Manhattan things are so crazy that Whole Foods is the cheapest place we can find. By my apartnent Key Foods is the best, and I've looked at lots of different stores.
Yeah, I live in Manhattan (Harlem specifically) and I'm about to give up trying to find cheap groceries. I'm going to make one last-ditch attempt at a grocery spreadsheet to see if one of my neighborhood groceries is workable, or if I can come up with some reasonable shopping rotation, and if not - I'm going to say "fuck it" and start going to Whole Foods every week. Several things I buy regularly are dramatically cheaper there. It would annoy me because it's not that close to me, but if the alternative is taking trips every week to each of three different stores in my neighborhood to try and shop the sales, I honestly don't have the time or energy for that. (And I don't have the space to take occasional trips to Costco or similar and stock up.)

It's depressing to pay so much for such lousy quality, too... it would be one thing if all I could get was fancy stuff (like Whole Foods) at fancy prices, but I'm paying top dollar for cauliflower that's already turning a little bit brown and potatoes that are getting soft and etc.