Author Topic: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)  (Read 13332 times)

MayDay

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Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« on: February 11, 2014, 12:49:22 PM »
We are a family of four, kids age 4 and 6, and 2 adults.  Goals are to get below 500/month and to remain healthy, and eat as much organic and local food as possible.

This week's menu:
Breakfasts:  combo of oatmeal, toast with PB, and eggs.
Lunches:  leftovers or PB sandwich, rice and beans, or bean and cheese nachos w/ salsa and a side of fruit and veggie
Dinners:
Minestrone (leftover from last summer, has been in deep freeze)
Fried rice
Curried tempeh w/brown rice
Smoothies and roasted brussels sprouts
Crockpot taco beans w/sauteed bell peppers (peppers were frozen from garden last summer)
Steamed green beans w/garlic tahini sauce and quinoa
Snacks:  fresh or canned fruit and veggies, zucchini muffins (zucchini from freezer from garden)

Costco stuff (this is a bit complicated bc I go twice a month, some stuff lasts a long time, some stuff I buy every time. This recept is 2 weeks worth of costco groceries)
Snap pea crisps 6.89 (snack-y food for kids, typically get one junk food a month, obv. i should eliminate)
2 lbs. organic butter 7.69
Pom juice 8.99 (DH drinks for health reasons, it is anti-inflammatory, makes me crazy because it is so $$$)
Tillamook cheddar 2 lb. block I think 8.39
Frozen green beans 6.69
Frozen blueberries (on top of oatmeal and for smoothies) 9.59
Salad mix 5.49
25 lbs carrots 6.99
Brussels sprouts 3.99
Cucumbers 3.99
Cherry tomatoes 5.99
Clementines 5 lb 6.99
Total approx $81

Weekly Kroger shopping trip:
Salad mix 5.99
Bananas 1.36
2 pineapples 2
Cucumber 1.25
Onion 2.24
Clementines 5 lb 5.99 (ouch apparently i overpaid at costco last week! although the costco ones tasted great and the kroger ones are terrible)
Chocolate chips, free with coupon
2 bags powdered sugar 4.49 (DD's birthday and school valentines party, need to make frosting for both, crisco and marshmallows below are for same thing)
Marshmallows 2.17
Crisco 6.49 (store brand is half price but has lard, refuse to buy)
Can of beans for bean-related emergnecies (ie I forgot to soak) 1.49
2 boxes cream cheese 3.60 (for school party treats)
Can of olives for emergency "avoid take-out" homemade pizza, not on menu this week 1.99
2 jars simply jif 2.25 (I am brand loyal to simply jif, if anyone can convince me that some other no-stir, fairly close to just peanuts PB is good, I am open to it!)
6 pack litle yogurts, will use 2 for smoothies and rest for kids snacks 2.50
Canned artichokes 2.39, for emergency pizza
Tempeh 3.39
Oat milk, 2 cartons 2.19 (organic skim milk is actually cheaper but we tend to not use a half gallon before it is wasted, so I don't know which way we would come out ahead)
Frozen broccoli, free with coupon
Wasa crisps 2.69 (snack for DH to keep somethign non-perishable in his desk at work to avoid vending machines/work cafeteria in case of working late.
3 12-packs diet coke 12$ (i drink one a day, I know it will kill me, coke is evil, blah blah blah)

Total 75$-ish

Obviously we are vegetarians, so no savings to be had by cutting meat.  Also this week we were gifted 2 dozen eggs from friends with chickens, and bought a 25lb bag of oatmeal for 26$.  We will also be using some things I canned like applesauce, peach chutney, salsa, and apples that I dried, for snacks and as recipe ingredients.  Note, the kroger trip the week before was only 35, as I didn't need all the baking supplies or the emergency canned goods last week.  So it varies somewhat wildly. 

Give me your thoughts?  WWYD to cut, cheap recipes I should put in the rotation, am I missing any glaring holes other than as noted above?

MayDay

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2014, 01:04:13 PM »
   13%   6%   6%   0%   5%   6%
                              
   Dry goods   Beverages   Alcohol   Prepared meals   Baking supplies   Convenience

Here is a summary of the last 3 months by category.  Includes Christmas, so a little heavy on the baking supplies.
Category  % of money spent
Produce    29%
Dairy        17%
Eggs         3%
Bulk staples     8%     (I buy flour, dry beans, and oatmeal in 25lb quantities)
Bread products    5%
Shelf products   13%    (rice, quinoa, smaller quanities of dried lentils/chickpeas/beans, anything canned, jarred, a bottle of ketchup, etc)
Beverages  6%
Alcohol        6%
Baking supplies       5%
Convenience      6% (snacky things, crackers, etc, basically anything that I could be making from scratch but don't)

phred

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2014, 01:04:43 PM »
Other than the widespread brainwashing, I am not 100% convinced we need organic for everything.  The chips seem a bit on the high side; I would sub popcorn popped in a cornpopper.
  Maybe you could study up on garden season extenders.  For instance, you bought carrots.  Homegrown carrots could be stored in a clamp so you'd have homegrown carrots yeararound.  Certain lettuces will grown even in winter.  Eliot Coleman's books teach how to garden year around.  If you don't mind a monthly article on guns, one of the columnists in BackWoodsHome magazine (not to be confused with BackHome magazine) frequently writes on extended season gardening.
  For cheap recipes agirlcalledjack.com frequently features vegetarian meals
  As for the beans & rice - is it the same price each month?  Maybe go long when it is cheapest and learn how to store it for the year.

MayDay

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2014, 01:12:43 PM »
I garden pretty extensively, but we eat every carrot I can grow as soon as picked.  And given how insanely cheap it is to buy carrots, that doesn't seem like a veggie worth trying to grow more of to preserve. 

I would love to someday do more high tunnels, green house boxes with old windows, etc.  At best in my climate that will give me a little lettuce all winter.  Just doesn't seem worth the initial investment so I am waiting for some old windows to fall in my lap so I can do it for free.  My town recorded the lowest temp in the lower 48 states last week.  Even intensive farms who do this full time have nothing but sweet potatoes to sell from January to May.  So I try to grow as much stuff that I can can/freeze in the summer, we don't buy apple products or tomato products, or pickles ever, for example.  We should make it all year without buying jam. 

phred

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2014, 01:24:18 PM »
yeah, that's why I'm wasting time posting.  I really don't want to go outside.  Anyway, if you sow carrots every two weeks, it should be easy peasy.  Clamping carrots is easy.  Just dump them into a well drained sand filled pit and cover the pit with two feet of straw.
Free windows: have you tried Craigslist and Freecycle?
Canning is work.  I sundry my tomatoes. I have tomatoes all year.
Spring will soon be here; I hope we have a Spring this year.  I have seeds in growing flats

MayDay

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2014, 01:29:56 PM »
I just ordered my seeds.  Went in with 2 other people so we can get better prices.  I saved about 50% doing that.  I am starting the early stuff as soon as the seeds arrive. 

I am going to dedicate one of my beds to onions and carrots this year, and dump a bunch of sand in the soil, plus organic matter, in hopes of improving carrot and onion yields.  Last year I lost all my onions to 2 weeks of solid rain.  Had to buy onions all summer, it sucked.

I also sabotage my free summer produce by doing things like buying expensive fresh mozzarella which I obviously need to accompany all those delicious tomatoes that I grew.  Oops.

Noodle

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2014, 01:36:08 PM »
I realize this is not exactly what you asked, but I have a question...

There is a lot of discussion around food budgets on this forum but I hear less often about food waste (I read a couple of blogs that pay a lot of attention to this, and I currently working on reducing waste at the moment, so it's on my mind).

Are you eating all the food that comes into the house at present? I know it is hard with the littles because they eat for three one day and then push the plate away the next so it can be difficult to predict what will be needed.

If you're tossing (or storing) more than you'd like, it might be more worthwhile to put some planning time in on that end too. Otherwise, it looks like a relatively reasonable bill given your priorities...fresh salad stuff in mid-winter is running up the bill, but that might be the right choice for your family. Were the Brussels sprouts fresh? I remember reading in the New York Times that their cooking contributor tested fresh vs. frozen Brussels sprouts for cooked dishes and thought frozen was actually tastier. I am not much of a frozen veggie person (I'm very texture sensitive and it's hard to get frozen right) but I have always used frozen sprouts since.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2014, 01:37:48 PM by Noodle »

MissStache

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2014, 01:40:54 PM »
There really isn't anything glaring on your list, but it is interesting that the most expensive things are your soda and the pome juice :)

It seems to me that there are a few staples that you could whittle down with couponing- like PB, yogurt, sodas, and a few other things.  That may help get it down some.

And ditch those tomatoes!  Expensive and probably gross in the winter time.  You know the difference being a gardener :)  I love those snap pea crisps, but they are expensive for what you get.  I'd agree with phred and switch to popcorn.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2014, 01:50:41 PM »
Nothing really jumps out at me.

Frozen fruit can be really expensive, even at Costco. I eventually just gave up buying it for smoothies and adjusted my diet. To be honest, the sugar from all the fruit was a bit too much. If you must have smoothies, make them with greens, yoghurt, and bananas. Very cheap.

Kirkland cheddar blocks are about half the price of what you're paying for cheddar. I buy Mountain High plain yoghurt and mix fruit in when needed.

Oat milk is disgusting, I couldn't stand it. Way too sweet. I'd think standard milk would be much healthier.

Make your "emergency" pizza with just cheese. Or mushrooms.

Kinda of nitpicky, I know, but I don't have any other good suggestions. Hard to believe all of that adds up to $500/month.

Elaine

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2014, 01:52:44 PM »
If you're looking for where you can cut (other than the things you pointed out that you know are expensive):

I find that:
Tillamook - is a good cheese, but isn't the absolute cheapest brand. I find that costco is NOT the cheapest for cheese- I go with grocery store brand. (This is in my area obviously, so I don't know if that's the case where you are)

Salad Mix- I never buy this, it's just overpriced lettuce in a bag. Heads of greens are always always cheaper.

Cherry Tomatoes- I love them, but they are always more expensive per pound than other types of tomatoes. In my experience plum or beefsteak tomatoes are the cheapest per pound. I never buy them for that reason (except as a treat from a farmer's market).

Clementines- I find these are cheap only for a short period of time- apples are a better deal per pound in the winter.

I think you pay a bit more for all produce at Kroger than I do in my area, $2.24 for an onion is much more than it would run me.

Yogurt- Is always expensive, the small ones are usually even more expensive. Make it yourself I'd say if you really want it.

Canned Beans- I find these are cheaper per can at Costco.

Artichokes & Tempeh- I consider these high price items reserved for special occasions.


My guess is that you comparison shop looking at item versus item (i.e. is peanut butter cheaper here or here?) but it seems like you might not look at the cost of a meal per-serving as much. For example I notice that you don't include any root vegetables on this list aside from carrots- root veggies are dirt cheap (haha) this time of year. They are our primary vegetables in winter months- potatoes, beets, radishes. Also all kinds of squash are reasonably priced right now. Instead I see lots of non-seasonal produce which is driving your costs up. My advice would be to take a week or so and actually figure out your cost of food per serving. It takes a bit of time but I think it would show you where you're losing cash. Happy cooking!

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2014, 01:58:42 PM »
Elaine gave you good advice ^

I came back to offer that I buy ZERO snack stuff for my kids (4,6,7). What they snack on is fruit, yoghurt (plain yoghurt bought in bulk, not the cups. Homemade is even better, but Mt. High is very close to what I had growing up), cereal, nuts, cheese. The occasional piece of toast (bread is homemade).

Making pancakes takes more time in the morning but is probably slightly cheaper than oatmeal plus fruit toppings.

Are there other grocers nearby, especially ethnic markets where produce could be cheaper?

PindyStache

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2014, 02:56:08 PM »
Overall it seems to me OP is doing very well and that it's hard to have a national/international yardstick for food prices, as things vary so much regionally/locally. To further optimize, you may have to reconsider some things that you have already thrown up roadblocks to in your post. It's like you already know the answer but are looking for random people on the internet to tell you that it's the right answer.

Also, nobody else has said this yet, but WTF is with the diet coke?  Also, I'm not medical expert, but the POM seems ridiculous.

If you're looking for where you can cut (other than the things you pointed out that you know are expensive):

I find that:
Tillamook - is a good cheese, but isn't the absolute cheapest brand. I find that costco is NOT the cheapest for cheese- I go with grocery store brand. (This is in my area obviously, so I don't know if that's the case where you are)

Salad Mix- I never buy this, it's just overpriced lettuce in a bag. Heads of greens are always always cheaper.

Cherry Tomatoes- I love them, but they are always more expensive per pound than other types of tomatoes. In my experience plum or beefsteak tomatoes are the cheapest per pound. I never buy them for that reason (except as a treat from a farmer's market).

Clementines- I find these are cheap only for a short period of time- apples are a better deal per pound in the winter.

I think you pay a bit more for all produce at Kroger than I do in my area, $2.24 for an onion is much more than it would run me.

Yogurt- Is always expensive, the small ones are usually even more expensive. Make it yourself I'd say if you really want it.

Canned Beans- I find these are cheaper per can at Costco.

Artichokes & Tempeh- I consider these high price items reserved for special occasions.


My guess is that you comparison shop looking at item versus item (i.e. is peanut butter cheaper here or here?) but it seems like you might not look at the cost of a meal per-serving as much. For example I notice that you don't include any root vegetables on this list aside from carrots- root veggies are dirt cheap (haha) this time of year. They are our primary vegetables in winter months- potatoes, beets, radishes. Also all kinds of squash are reasonably priced right now. Instead I see lots of non-seasonal produce which is driving your costs up. My advice would be to take a week or so and actually figure out your cost of food per serving. It takes a bit of time but I think it would show you where you're losing cash. Happy cooking!

+1 to most of this. Beans should be less than $1 per can. And why not just buy dried? You can always freeze and sounds like you do a lot of that already.

For fruit, probably makes more sense to compare per-serving costs rather than per-pound (i.e. per pound apples may be cheaper, but a single apple may weigh a lot more than a single clementine--and you'd only eat one of either at a time).

At my Costco oats are $.78/pound, so the OP's purchase above $1/pound may not have been optimal. Though of course prices vary all over...

I would extend making your own to things like Tempeh. We are also vegetarians and eat pretty similarly to the OP. If you buy wheat gluten you can make seitan and other similar products yourself much less expensively than store-bought.

OP also doesn't list quantities for several items, so hard to offer specific advice on a few things. I find that the one thing that is cheaper at a local co-op grocery vs. Costco or supermarket chains is the peanut butter. Plus it's much better with no crap in it (just peanuts + salt). It does require stirring but comes in a 5 lb. bucket so you only have to stir like once every month (I eat a lot of pb).

lhamo

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2014, 03:33:34 PM »
A price book might help you figure out what is the better reliable source for things you typically buy -- don't get why you are double buying salad mix and cucumbers at two different places.  Figure out what the best price is and buy what you need at that location (switching sources only for loss leaders).

Those little yogurt cups are ridiculously expensive.  Understand why they are convenient for snacks (my kids like them that way, too), but no need to waste them on smoothies.  Costco has great yogurt in large tubs.  Or make your own with Costco organic milk.  Costco should also have cream cheese (though stuff on sale at regular grocery stores might be cheaper)

Some of your choices are a little splurgy -- olives and artichokes for pizza.  Nice, yes, but not a way to control your budget.

If you like to bake you might try making crackers or muffins or something every week that your DH could take to work for backup snacks.  I get the Wasa thing, though -- I keep a pack in my desk, too!




MayDay

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2014, 05:00:51 PM »
A price book might help you figure out what is the better reliable source for things you typically buy -- don't get why you are double buying salad mix and cucumbers at two different places.  Figure out what the best price is and buy what you need at that location (switching sources only for loss leaders).

Those little yogurt cups are ridiculously expensive.  Understand why they are convenient for snacks (my kids like them that way, too), but no need to waste them on smoothies.  Costco has great yogurt in large tubs.  Or make your own with Costco organic milk.  Costco should also have cream cheese (though stuff on sale at regular grocery stores might be cheaper)

If you like to bake you might try making crackers or muffins or something every week that your DH could take to work for backup snacks.  I get the Wasa thing, though -- I keep a pack in my desk, too!
You guys are making me think a lot, which is exactly what I was hoping for!  I will try to address some of the comments, and outline my plan at this point.

I bought salad stuff last week at costco because it is cheaper there, but this week I just went to kroger and paid more for less lettuce.  (costco is a hike so I don't go weekly). 

I know I should stop buying the tomatoes.  The kids love them :(  They eat gallons of cherry tomatoes all summer long, and I feel bad being a scrooge all winter long.  I don't eat winter tomatoes at all (gag!  no flavor!). 

The crackers for DH will sometimes sit for months, and he doesn't have much fridge space (daily lunchbox only, can't store stuff long term) so he needs shelf stable stuff.  He also keeps a can of soup and some dried fruit at work, and maybe rice cakes.

I ended up only using one yogurt cup for smoothies tonight.  Will save the rest for kids' snacks.  I hate buying the big tub of yogurt because we aren't huge yogurt eaters, unless it is the sugary delicious kind that we try to avoid.  Has anyone ever bought a big tub of plain yogurt and froze it in smaller chunks for smoothies?  Than I wouldn't worry about it going bad before we finished it. 

I realllllllly need to do a price book, its like I have a mental block about it.  For rice/quinoa/dry beans/etc I randomly buy them at either costco or a local wholesale store, and I don't really know which is cheaper, I do it based on habit.  I feel good about it either way since I am saving a fortune over tiny boxes at Kroger, but I need to do better.

For canned beans, reading the comments here reminded me that I froze a few jars of cooked beans the last time that I made too many.  Head meet desk.  I just need to remember to thaw them and not reach for a can!  I do almost always soak and cook my own dry beans, but there are always the occasional poor planning times that come up and I didn't soak them, or didn't make enough.

We buy unsweetened oat milk.  We probably use a quart a week on average, and buying a half gallon of cow milk would be more and we would end up throwing it away before it was finished.

I think overall we waste very little except in cases of me over-serving the kids a lot of something they LOVED the week before, or in the case of trying a new recipe that ends up tasting awful. One thing I do need help with in the not wasting food arena, is what to do with frozen beets?  I love them fresh, so I froze a bunch from the garden.  They are so mushy and gross, DH and the kids won't touch them, and I am sick of choking them down.  Can anyone think of recipes that I could incorporate them into that wouldn't be as noticeable?  Or can you add them to any kinds of baked goods, etc? 

For veggies, we buy fresh salad stuff, fresh onions, fresh potatoes and sweet potatoes, carrots.  I did buy the brussels sprouts fresh but that is a rare treat.  Everything else we get frozen veggies from costco (broccoli, green beans, corn, peas, mixed veggies).  In the summer we just eat garden veggies.  For fruit, we buy bananas and usually one or 2 other fruits a week.  I try to keep that as minimal as possible, but get major revolt from the H if we run out of fruit, and then he stops at the expensive market on the way home from work and buys a 9$ bag of grapes.  Wee supplement the fresh fruit with frozen blueberries from costco (I agree the price is still high for frozen, I try to ration them) and I canned tons of applesauce, sliced apples, sliced peaches, and I dried apples.  The kids typically get 2 servings of (free from a farmer friend) apples a day and one or 2 fresh fruit servings a day.  I am trying to work on cutting their fruit, as 4 servings a day seems ridiculous. 

My plan going forward is to work on: 
1. pricing our most common dinners out per serving, and eventually doing the same for breakfast and lunch
2.  working on a price book for common purchases
3.  Trying to cut some of the frivolous purchases (diet coke, snap pea crisps, individual yogurts) without feeling deprived, which I have a feeling will be impossible, as this is already a pretty big decrease from where we have been.  But I will try to work on it more.

phred

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2014, 05:15:58 PM »
Gee, don't understand why your frozen beets turned to gak.  You did blanch or roast them before freezing?  And sliced them as well?  Oh, well; good in soup or stew

MayDay

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2014, 06:00:46 PM »
Gee, don't understand why your frozen beets turned to gak.  You did blanch or roast them before freezing?  And sliced them as well?  Oh, well; good in soup or stew

Some were boiled and diced, others frozen whole with nothing.  I think we only partially like beets to begin with (I grow tons because I got about a lb. of free seed and nothing kills them) so any texture change is a no-go. 

I was thinking maybe I could incorporate them into brownies.   Is that a terrible idea?

horsepoor

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #16 on: February 11, 2014, 07:00:39 PM »
Someone else may have mentioned, but olives are more like $1 a can at CostCo.  They are also a good stock up item when on sale.  Before Thanksgiving I found them for 25 cents per can (limit 4, but still). 

Do you have more of a warehouse/bare bones type grocery store near you?  Here we have WinCo, and canned beans are usually 68 cents (Rosarita and S&W brands).  Also, some types of lentils cook quickly without soaking, so they might be a good substitute when you don't have time to cook beans from dry.  Price might be a factor for some of the fancier ones, like beluga lentils, though, depending on your source.

Instead of the snap pea crisps, have you tried out kale chips on your kids?

I don't have any ideas for the beets other than borscht, but I have heard of putting them in brownies and heard that it works well, so it's probably worth a try.

You mentioned that the Brussels sprouts were a treat, and I can relate because we love them in our house.  Lately I'vebeen learning to love braised and roasted cabbage instead.  It's often 50 cents a pound vs. $3 for sprouts.

Keep an eye on ads for Pom and freeze it if you find a deal.  I was surprised to see the smaller bottles in the ad circular last week for $1.

ModernIncantations

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #17 on: February 11, 2014, 07:50:23 PM »
POM juice:

I've suffered from long-term inflammation-related illness. There are other (and cheaper) sources for natural anti-inflammation. Avocados,  cinnamon, and turmeric to name a few.

Yogurt:


Buy in bulk and package into smaller reusable containers for snacks.

Organic:


Try my selective approach to organic. I buy inorganic (ha ha.) produce to save money. GMOs and pesticides don't scare me half as much as non-organic meats. I buy all my meats organic. Even though you don't have the meat problem, the message here is that not all organic food is equal. Do a few hours of research and figure out where your real priorities are and then start cost cutting.

mollyjade

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #18 on: February 11, 2014, 07:56:57 PM »
You should definitely do some price comparison. I think a lot of the savings at Costco is in meat and cleaning products. As a vegan, most of the products I've priced there are either more expensive or the same price as I can get at my usual grocery store. With some exceptions: vanilla and maple syrup come to mind.

I can get tempeh for about $2, so you might look around at other stores in your area. If you find a sale, it freezes well.

If you're willing to do a bit of couponing, there are sites that focus on vegetarian/organic/health items. Cuties, for instance have coupons often.

twbird18

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #19 on: February 11, 2014, 10:26:07 PM »
I won't comment on whether or not you should be drinking diet coke :). But 3 packs for $12 seems high to me. My local target has coke and Pepsi products 4 for $11 or $12 about once a month and their cartwheel app normally has a 5% off coupon at some point ... In fact there is a coke coupon there right now which is good for the remainder of the month. So I would venture a guess that if you are going to drink soda you can do it for much cheaper with just a little effort at finding your local monthly sale.

Roses

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #20 on: February 11, 2014, 10:33:32 PM »
On the organics:  I am also a brainwashed organics lover.  But I stick to the dirty dozen for my organics and never pay more for an organic item that is in the clean fifteen list.  Check out the lists and keep them in your purse when you shop.  I have an app on my phone with the lists:  http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/health/the-dirty-dozen-and-clean-15-of-produce/616/

A few other things I noticed:

-No squashes or root vegs.  Those are super cheap and tasty so if you incorporate more budget should go down.  Use them for soups, cube and roast them, puree, use in baking, etc.  Yes, you can use pureed beets in baking.  I've seen chocolate cake recipes calling for beets so don't see why brownies wouldn't work.

-Pom juice - I also have inflammatory issues and pom is not the best cure for that.  Agree with previous person who said Turmeric.  Add Fish Oil to that as well.  Also Tart Cherry is probably the best juice that will actually produce a noticeable effect.  It is very intense so I cut it with water which also makes it last longer.  I buy it only on sale several bottles at a time.  Still about $2 less than Pom even when not on sale.  When it's on sale ask your grocer if you get a discount for buying a whole case.  Mine does that and I do this for lots of non-perishable items.

-No need to ever buy individual containers of yogurt.  It's expensive and think of all the waste in packaging.  Like someone else said, just portion out a serving in a tupperware if you need to take it on the go.  I do this for my son.  Go for the big container and look at the back of the shelf for the yogurt with the longest expiration date.  It's usually 3 weeks away.  That should be enough time for a family of 4 to consume.  If you put it in smoothies it'll go in less than a week.  Also, I routinely eat 'expired' yogurt if it smells fine.  Plain yogurt with fruit on top or a little honey is plenty sweet for kids but if you need to wean them off the sweet stuff, start by mixing plain with sweetened and gradually decreasing the sweetened.  You can also look into making your own.  Very easy and there is a thread here about that.

-Tillamook is tasty but super expensive.  My Costco has a brand called Bandon which is pretty good for much less.  Maybe yours carries it too.

-I bought an enormous bag of pinto beans at Costco several months ago that I'm still working through.  See if your Costco has them.  Can't remember the price but I did the math at the time and it was very cheap.

-And, yes, Kill that Coke Habit asap!  I used to have a juice habit that I wanted to stop so I started buying sparkling water and flavoring with a little lemon.  Now I sometimes get the kind that is already flavored with essential oils.  It's normally $1.70 for a 2 liter bottle but when it goes on sale it's 75 cents so I buy a bunch then.  Still I reserve it for special occasions when I want something fizzy.

MayDay

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #21 on: February 12, 2014, 05:31:38 AM »
Re. The inflammation and Pom, he already does fish oil.  We are theoretically trying to incorporate more turmeric into our cooking, but neither of us grew up eating it, and we suck at it.  I try to throw some in any Indian dish I cook, but that is once a week at most.  Ideas welcome for that.

I think he would be open to switching to tart Cherry juice, and I actually have 5 lbs of tart cherries in the deep freeze, too, that he could eat in his oatmeal or something. 

I will do some googling and see what I can turn up for proof that these other options are better than Pom.  H can be a bit stubborn about food, although in general he is totally on board with MMM.  So I think I can probably convince him to try some other things. 

Rural

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #22 on: February 12, 2014, 06:57:47 AM »
Gee, don't understand why your frozen beets turned to gak.  You did blanch or roast them before freezing?  And sliced them as well?  Oh, well; good in soup or stew

Some were boiled and diced, others frozen whole with nothing.  I think we only partially like beets to begin with (I grow tons because I got about a lb. of free seed and nothing kills them) so any texture change is a no-go. 

I was thinking maybe I could incorporate them into brownies.   Is that a terrible idea?

Beet greens make a fine salad, so if you have free seed and don't like the roots, maybe try using them that way? You can and should harvest much earlier, and if you take only some leaves from each plant, you can harvest more than once.

jpo

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #23 on: February 12, 2014, 07:18:57 AM »
What really helped for us is to make a list of the dinners for the week and only buy what you need to make those.

That way you can also align your meals with what's on sale.

And when a staple is on sale, stock up.

jfer_rose

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #24 on: February 12, 2014, 07:27:30 AM »
For your frozen beets, you might try beet mashed potatoes. It sounds like the main problem with the frozen is the texture and you might not notice it so much if masked. I didn't like beets at all until I had them in beet mashed potatoes, now I'm a beet-lover.

MissStache

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #25 on: February 12, 2014, 07:33:10 AM »
For your frozen beets, you might try beet mashed potatoes. It sounds like the main problem with the frozen is the texture and you might not notice it so much if masked. I didn't like beets at all until I had them in beet mashed potatoes, now I'm a beet-lover.

I really, really want to like beets but I can't stand them.  How do you make these?  Just half and half with potatoes or is there some magic ratio?

Jules13

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #26 on: February 12, 2014, 07:53:22 AM »
I LOVE beets, so any tips on growing them are much appreciated.  We juice them a lot, so you could try throwing some into your smoothies?  They are also fantastic on a burger/veggie burger.  Yummy.

Ginger is fantastic for inflammation.  Throw a chunk in your smoothie.  Or make homemade ginger-ale, it's really easy and keeps for about a week in the fridge. 

As for yogurt for my kids (I actually hat yogurt), I buy one big one and one small cup and use the small cup as a sweet mix-in, then put some berries on top of them.  I know berries are expensive, but they are very healthy so I refuse to give them up.

2nd the root veggies.  Roasted mixed veggies (potatoes/squash/onion/carrots/parsnips/green beans) are super yummy.  Also roasted spaghetti squash used instead of pasta...yum.

If you have an Aldi near you...I used it for any veggies/fruits that I usually don't buy organic.  I buy a lot of organic, but sometimes not.  Aldi always has the cheapest avocados for example.  It's right near my house so not out of the way.  I don't go there all the time....I usually shop Trader Joe's though.  It's way less expensive than Kroger on healthier items.

I'm loving this thread though as I'm always looking to lower my grocery bill.  I'm working on a price book too. 

jfer_rose

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #27 on: February 12, 2014, 08:13:36 AM »
For your frozen beets, you might try beet mashed potatoes. It sounds like the main problem with the frozen is the texture and you might not notice it so much if masked. I didn't like beets at all until I had them in beet mashed potatoes, now I'm a beet-lover.

I really, really want to like beets but I can't stand them.  How do you make these?  Just half and half with potatoes or is there some magic ratio?

Here is where I sheepishly admit that I have yet to make beet mashed potatoes myself. They are my regular order when available at the cafeteria in the Museum of the American Indian (which is my favorite place to eat food that I didn't prepare-- so, so yummy!). I do plan to make these though and I had bookmarked the recipes below as guidelines.

http://www.tastebook.com/recipes/762282-Beet-Mashed-Potatoes?full_recipe=true
http://www.food24.com/Recipes/Beetroot-mashed-potatoes-20130717

mm1970

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #28 on: February 12, 2014, 08:17:37 AM »
already have good replies here.  I'd second the following few:
Kirkland cheddar instead of Tillamook
Lettuce heads instead of mixed greens
Less frozen fruit
Large yogurt instead of small (or make your own)
Price book
don't waste food
Give up diet coke (I had a long, storied history with it, switched to homemade iced tea, for me, being pregnant turned me off it)

That said, your budget is close to ours (2 adults, a 7 year old and an 18 month old)

There are a few ways to attack your budget:
1. Don't waste food
2. Get the food you do buy cheaper (price book)
3. Change what you eat to eat cheaper foods

If you want ideas for cheaper meals, check out The Prudent Homemaker or Cook for Good (just google).

totesmahgoats

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #29 on: February 12, 2014, 08:21:02 AM »
Re: replacing POM with other anti inflammatories. Try turmeric and ginger tea :)

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-12262/anti-inflammatory-turmeric-ginger-tea.html

Elaine

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #30 on: February 12, 2014, 08:24:02 AM »
Hey! If you're looking for ways to use tumeric (I grew up eating lots of it)- try adding it to:

1. Rice- It will give it a beautiful color and won't overpower the flavor of ANYTHING it is served with- even tex mex type food.
2. Curry- Any curry can use tumeric.
3. Roasted Vegetables- I roast potatoes, carrots, and squash and sprinkle with vindaloo and tumeric.
4. Bulghr wheat is great with tumeric, as is couscous- any grain really. Pair it with some garlic green beans and tofu.
5. Chili! Tumeric isn't out of place in chili- it works beautifully with chili powder.
6. Vegetable soup- Yep, you can put it in ministrone, just use smaller quantities and balance it with oregano and basil.

Tumeric can taste bitter to some people, if you find the flavor overpowering in any dish just balance it out with some smoked paprika- it will add depth to it and you likely won't even notice the tumeric this way- you could even put it in tomato sauce. 

horsepoor

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #31 on: February 12, 2014, 08:32:11 AM »

For your frozen beets, you might try beet mashed potatoes. It sounds like the main problem with the frozen is the texture and you might not notice it so much if masked. I didn't like beets at all until I had them in beet mashed potatoes, now I'm a beet-lover.
I really, really want to like beets but I can't stand them.  How do you make these?  Just half and half with potatoes or is there some magic ratio?
You might try golden beets to training your palate.  They are milder and less earthy tasting.  Roasted beets with balsamic vinegar are great.  The acidity balances the sweetness.

greenmimama

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #32 on: February 12, 2014, 09:34:31 AM »
Have you ever tried Emeals? I think you can do a month trial for free, they have lots of plans to choose from,I'm sure they have a vegetarian plan, they give you a meal plan for the week based on the store you choose and what is on sale that week.

Meal planning will save a lot, I love filling my freezer full of meals ready to cook, it makes my life so much easier!

phred

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #33 on: February 12, 2014, 12:31:27 PM »
You can also try sprinkling some turmeric onto the scrambled eggs just before plating them

MPAVictoria

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #34 on: February 12, 2014, 01:30:16 PM »
You could save a lot of money by not buying "Organic" products.
http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2012/september/organic.html

galliver

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #35 on: February 12, 2014, 01:49:24 PM »
Beets: Borscht is pretty delicious and I find gooey veggies in soup are less bothersome (I'll let you find your own fave recipe, but make sure it has cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, veggie stock, peppercorns, dill, and bay leaves, or you're doing it wrong) If that's no go, however, my friend found a cranberry "borscht" recipe a while back that was a pureed soup and it was *delicious*. Cranberries might be out of season now, but might be something to try eventually?

Yogurt: definitely DIY! I suspect thawed-out yogurt has texture issues, but I'm certain what people say on this forum about freezing it and using as starter is true although I just tried it. :) You can make as much as you need (cup? quart? gallon?) at a time, but it should keep 1-2 weeks no problem. Small tupperware cups are almost like the small  yogurt containers, but reusable! If you want sweet, add some jam (you'll probably use less than the commercial ones). Finally, if the yogurt is really not going anywhere, make yogurt pancakes (1c yogurt, 1 egg, salt, sugar, maybe 2-3 Tbsp oil, 1tsp baking powder, and flour until it's a little thicker than regular pancake batter. I dab mine on a pan without spreading them around, cook both sides till done.) I've also found homemade tastes much better than commercial, if I use my favorite (Fage) as a starter.

Roses

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #36 on: February 12, 2014, 02:10:03 PM »
You can also try sprinkling some turmeric onto the scrambled eggs just before plating them

Yup, this is how I usually eat turmeric.  For a while I also took turmeric capsules because the amount you get in a diet is very small compared to what you can take in a pill and that really makes a difference for inflammation.  And it's pretty cheap to order online.

momo5

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #37 on: February 13, 2014, 11:02:49 PM »
I'm new here, but I had a couple of ideas for you
first, I do freeze yogurt in ice cube trays for smoothies. its fine.
I also freeze milk, so if you think you wont finish the whole container before it goes bad, just freeze half of it as soon as you open it. then allow to thaw in the fridge a day or so before you think you will need it (it takes a while). I do this when milk is on sale. I have always used it within two weeks, I dont know how long milk safely stores in the freezer.
my husband loves POM juice too, but he found a pomegranate juice concentrate that is much cheaper and makes him just as happy. he's since given it up altogether because he's trying to lose weight. I dont know if the concentrate has the same anti inflammatory qualities though.
I've been trying to add turmeric into my diet too, I roast cauliflower with some olive oil, sea salt, garlic powder, paprika and loads of tumeric. its really good.

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #38 on: February 14, 2014, 05:33:01 AM »
Try turmeric tea as a way to incorporate more turmeric in your diet. Easy and tasty. Do it with coconut milk for extra benefit http://www.marksdailyapple.com/creamy-turmeric-tea/#axzz2tIbhpPz2

Cheaper than the POM juice.

kimmarg

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #39 on: February 14, 2014, 06:23:39 AM »
Other than the widespread brainwashing, I am not 100% convinced we need organic for everything.  The chips seem a bit on the high side; I would sub popcorn popped in a cornpopper.
  Maybe you could study up on garden season extenders.  For instance, you bought carrots.  Homegrown carrots could be stored in a clamp so you'd have homegrown carrots yeararound.  Certain lettuces will grown even in winter.  Eliot Coleman's books teach how to garden year around.  If you don't mind a monthly article on guns, one of the columnists in BackWoodsHome magazine (not to be confused with BackHome magazine) frequently writes on extended season gardening.
  For cheap recipes agirlcalledjack.com frequently features vegetarian meals
  As for the beans & rice - is it the same price each month?  Maybe go long when it is cheapest and learn how to store it for the year.

Cold frames are great for season extenders (I got old storm windows free) but they do not hold enough heat to make it through midwinter. Mine are buried under snow right now. I love Elliot Coleman's book but he is talking about full tunnels - which takes more effort. Which is fine, I'm all for effort but just know that a few old windows are not enough to get you through northern winter - my ground in the cold frames under the insulating fabric is frozen.

oldtoyota

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #40 on: February 14, 2014, 07:58:04 AM »
I realize this is not exactly what you asked, but I have a question...

There is a lot of discussion around food budgets on this forum but I hear less often about food waste (I read a couple of blogs that pay a lot of attention to this, and I currently working on reducing waste at the moment, so it's on my mind).

This is a great point. I am guilty of having wasted food. I once thought buying a vegetable was the same as eating a vegetable =-) and would find them rotting in the crisper. =-(

We both became a LOT better about not wasting food and use up veggies in soups and stir fries. I also adjusted my way of prepping meals by taking a look at the fridge and thinking, "What can I make with leftovers?"

*The Everlasting Meal** is a book worth reading. It gave me a lot of ideas for how to cycle leftovers into a new dish.

That said, the spouse is away, I cleaned the fridge, and I found two different containers of pancake batter. I am going to suggest that we always, always cook up all of the batter and then freeze the pancakes we do not eat on day one. It's such a waste to do otherwise, and pancakes keep better than batter!

With some careful meal planning, we got our bill down to $425 for two adults and one kid. If we can get to $400, I'll be really happy.






Thegoblinchief

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #41 on: February 14, 2014, 11:48:28 AM »
Unless you're vegan, frittatas are also a good way to get rid of extra vegetables. Cut into 1/4" or julienne pieces, sweat them for a few minutes, then add the egg/milk/cheese mixture.

For the best results, I heat up the broiler, cook the eggs until they start to curd, then stick under the broiler for a few minutes until the top is spotty brown. Let sit for another 5 minutes, then slice. (Obviously you need an ovensafe pan, either stainless or cast-iron for this.)

If you absolutely can't use something up, cut it up and freeze it for boiling into soup stock later. I save a lot of scraps (asparagus ends, mushroom stems) for that purpose. Everything else ends up in the compost.

Noodle

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #42 on: February 14, 2014, 02:14:04 PM »
Per using up pantry items...I love this NPR-sponsored project where people share things they need to use up and others suggest ideas.


http://cookyourcupboard.tumblr.com/

tracipam

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #43 on: February 14, 2014, 07:01:25 PM »
Overall you are doing well.  Better than me!

Love (and second) the suggestions about root vegetables--you'll save some money if you buy "in season;" this is the season for roots, cabbage, squash, etc.  Your menu reads to me like a 'summer' menu.  I love summer food, but I almost love eating more eating it seasonally; it gives me something to look forward to.  I don't buy asparagus, tomatoes, etc., until they're on sale (summer!)  Salads?  In the winter?  Why? 

I also used to have a soft drink habit (pepsi!!!)  I also used to have trouble eating yogurt--never remembered to eat it.  Switched to kefir: water kefir and milk kefir.  I slowly traded out my pepsi for water kefir and started making milk kefir in exchange for yogurt for smoothies.  I find I consume more if I keep making them myself. 

Curious why you're buying a single onion at all?  I buy onions and potatoes in bags, 3-5 lbs at a time.  Onions are about $2 for 3lb, if they're not on sale.  I go through both like crazy, they are stable at (coolish) room temperature for ages. 

I know this isn't organic, but I flatly refuse to buy frozen fruit at the grocery store... too bloody expensive.   My dollar store sells all sorts of frozen fruit (including blueberries, depending on the day), $1/lb.  Can't beat the price.  Second cheapest I've seen is usually Trader Joe's, about $2-3/lb, if I remember right. 

Second the others, this might be the time to keep an eye out for good vs bad prices and keep a stock.  For instance, I have a bunch of staple foods that I eat a lot of, and I know more-or-less what's a good price on those and bulk up when they're on sale.  Some of them are not necessarily the cheapest thing to get in absolute terms, but they work for me and I use them a lot so I stock up for simplicity (pasta, canned tomatoes, beans, shredded cheese, tortillas, oatmeal, big bags of rice from the ethnic grocery store).  I hate hate hate hate hate having to run to the store for one thing, so I avoid it this way.   A bunch of the stuff you're getting seems storable and stocakble but you're getting it as a one-off: cream cheese, canned beans, olives, canned artichokes, cheese... keep an eye out and start cycling and hitting the low points when they go on sale, if you know you eat them regularly. 

For snacks I get trail mix in bulk and keep it at my desk at work.  Keeps forever. :-) Course, I also buy only the kind I like the best at Trader Joe's, which is not the cheap stuff. 

jfer_rose

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #44 on: February 15, 2014, 08:41:42 AM »

*The Everlasting Meal** is a book worth reading. It gave me a lot of ideas for how to cycle leftovers into a new dish.


+1-- This is SUCH a great book with the potential to completely change the way you think about food/cooking. I absolutely love it-- I've read it twice and I know that I will be reading it over and over again.

mollyjade

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #45 on: February 15, 2014, 02:35:59 PM »
Curious why you're buying a single onion at all?  I buy onions and potatoes in bags, 3-5 lbs at a time.  Onions are about $2 for 3lb, if they're not on sale.  I go through both like crazy, they are stable at (coolish) room temperature for ages. 
I'm not the OP, but I stopped buying bags of onions because so often half the bag is moldy/rotten. I'll still buy most fruit in bags, especially oranges, since they don't seem to have the same problem. I don't know if this is a climate issue (it's warm here) or what.

horsepoor

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #46 on: February 15, 2014, 06:19:43 PM »
Curious why you're buying a single onion at all?  I buy onions and potatoes in bags, 3-5 lbs at a time.  Onions are about $2 for 3lb, if they're not on sale.  I go through both like crazy, they are stable at (coolish) room temperature for ages. 
I'm not the OP, but I stopped buying bags of onions because so often half the bag is moldy/rotten. I'll still buy most fruit in bags, especially oranges, since they don't seem to have the same problem. I don't know if this is a climate issue (it's warm here) or what.

It must be climate or supply, or a combination.  For the past several years I've bought a 50# bag of locally grown yellow onions in October.  I keep them in the basement where it's around 50-55F and nice and dry, and only start losing a few around April/May if I haven't used them up by then.

This year I'm doing the same with potatoes, but keeping them in the crawl space, which probably stays in the 40's, and they have kept really well so far.  Hard to beat $8 for 50# of russet potatoes.  I think the onions were around $12, so less than 25 cents/#.

momo5

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #47 on: February 15, 2014, 06:43:15 PM »
Curious why you're buying a single onion at all?  I buy onions and potatoes in bags, 3-5 lbs at a time.  Onions are about $2 for 3lb, if they're not on sale.  I go through both like crazy, they are stable at (coolish) room temperature for ages. 
I'm not the OP, but I stopped buying bags of onions because so often half the bag is moldy/rotten. I'll still buy most fruit in bags, especially oranges, since they don't seem to have the same problem. I don't know if this is a climate issue (it's warm here) or what.

same here. I have the same problem with potatoes too.

mm1970

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #48 on: February 15, 2014, 06:55:59 PM »
Curious why you're buying a single onion at all?  I buy onions and potatoes in bags, 3-5 lbs at a time.  Onions are about $2 for 3lb, if they're not on sale.  I go through both like crazy, they are stable at (coolish) room temperature for ages. 
I'm not the OP, but I stopped buying bags of onions because so often half the bag is moldy/rotten. I'll still buy most fruit in bags, especially oranges, since they don't seem to have the same problem. I don't know if this is a climate issue (it's warm here) or what.
I have the same problem.  I'd buy 2# of onions and half would go bad.  So now I chop them immediately and freeze in one-onion bags.

Metta

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Re: Analyze my grocery spending (trying to get below 500/month)
« Reply #49 on: February 16, 2014, 02:33:37 PM »
One thing I do need help with in the not wasting food arena, is what to do with frozen beets?  I love them fresh, so I froze a bunch from the garden.  They are so mushy and gross, DH and the kids won't touch them, and I am sick of choking them down.  Can anyone think of recipes that I could incorporate them into that wouldn't be as noticeable?  Or can you add them to any kinds of baked goods, etc? 

Hi!

Beets are good in baked goods, especially chocolate things but also anything you want to add a vivid color to. Since it sounds like your a Lacto-Ova veg, you might want to combine it with a cream cheese frosting for a festive cake.

My favorite thing to do with beets is to make vegan beet burgers. Basically I smash up or grate a beet and combine it with the beans and grains or ground tempeh for my burger. It looks amazing and tastes quite good! My own cooking is mostly by feel at this point but here is a recipe from Isa Chandra Moscovitz (vegan goddess of amazing food) that's somewhat similar to what I do  http://www.theppk.com/2012/02/quarter-pounder-beet-burger/

There is a wonderful vegan restaurant in Jackson, MS that makes beet burgers that my husband pines for and he is something of a veggie burger gourmet, so I suspect your crowd would love them too.

One fun thing to do with fresh beets (sadly it won't work with mushy beets) is to slice them very thin on a mandolin and then sandwich nut cheese or cream cheese between the slices for a kind of raw ravioli that is stunningly beautiful.

I've also made borscht and lentil beet soup with beets that is pretty tasty.

Carolyn