Author Topic: Food expenses for hungry people  (Read 5959 times)

sliverstorm

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Food expenses for hungry people
« on: February 14, 2018, 11:11:34 PM »
My wife & I have long struggled with our grocery bill. We usually run around $800/mo, and while we don't eat like ramen-students, we don't shop at Whole Paycheck or generally buy fancy food. For a long time, there was a lot of pasta (whatever was cheapest), pasta sauce (also cheapest), and something mixed in like grilled vegetable. Also lots of frozen vegetables. There was maybe $200/mo of cheap work eat-out lunches rolled into that.

I am now cooking every meal from scratch, and shopping about as frugally as I know how. Lot of bulk dried grains, dried legumes, and fresh vegetables on sale from Sprouts. Very little meat (once a week?), and I take advantage of sales on dry goods and buy 10-20lbs. We will doubtless see savings from homemade lunches, but we're hardly on track for an incredible month- somewhere between 600-800, nowhere near the $270 for three people our patron saint quotes.

Cooking this evening, I was thinking about our appetites. I made a pound of dried beans, a pound of dried rice, with some vegetables and spices. Great! You say. Sounds cheap, maybe $2.50 in dried goods and $3.50 for the rest? But we ate most of it for dinner and it'll all be gone by tomorrow noon, and that's how it goes every day. The pricetag goes up as well when we start adding in "exotic" ingredients like mushrooms ($2-4/lb), squash ($0.88/lb), bell peppers ($0.50/ea), really anything outside basics like carrots ($0.77/lb) & celery ($0.50/lb?).

We are both tall, active, and skinny, and need a lot of calories. When I'm weight training, I need 3,500 Calories to maintain weight, and I've needed as much as 4,000 Calories to gain weight while training. My BMI is around 17 despite my best efforts to raise it- I'm not some overweight glutton.

Does anyone else with high calorie needs have experience battling their food bill? Any lessons to share? Unless shopping at Costco is really the magic key, I can't figure out how to live on $100/person/month, we're not even in the same ballpark. Maybe if you ate only rice...
« Last Edit: February 15, 2018, 12:02:19 AM by sliverstorm »

cchrissyy

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2018, 11:28:17 PM »
something sounds very "off" about this. 
does your grocery bill include household expenses like TP and shampoo? or maybe there's alcohol?

I have a family of 4 (three teens and me).  I'm smart but not not super-MMM about groceries and don't spend even half what you do.

sliverstorm

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2018, 11:38:21 PM »
There's occasionally $30/mo of alcohol, or there was sometimes $20/mo of prenatal supplements. But generally I make an effort (not always successfully) to break out household supplies like shampoo into their own category. In support of this claim, 90% of our expenses this month are at Sprouts, which stocks very little in household supplies, if anything.

Month-to-month expenses get fuzzy when we are buying 20lbs of dry goods, and once or twice a month we'll buy some house brand cheese, a bag of potato chips, a couple $2 energy bars, that kind of thing- but the big picture expense trend has held for a long time, which tells me these occasional items aren't the key.

Dried beans run $1.49/lb not on sale, rice is something like $1.29/lb. Onions between $0.50-0.77/lb. Apples $0.99/lb. We get a couple pounds of frozen fruit each month, $2.50/lb.

Our food waste is in pretty good shape, I've lost several avocados, a few potatoes, a little parsley, a little cilantro, you know the story... I think we eat easily 95%+ of what comes home.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2018, 11:42:59 PM by sliverstorm »

HappierAtHome

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2018, 11:45:24 PM »
@Bracken_Joy you might be able to help? I think you fit the description ;-)

Abe

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2018, 11:52:06 PM »
I think you just need a lot more calories than most people for whatever reason. The only clear thing I can see from the information you gave is that frozen vegetables also cost quite a bit more than regular ones. Maybe look at your last three weeks' of receipts and compile them into a spreadsheet to figure out what you're spending the most on?

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2018, 05:12:03 AM »
Hmmm, I don't really get it.

I'm a triathlete, mountain biker, and weight lifter. My fiance is a runner and weightlifter as well.

We spend ~$200-250/month on groceries and eat very well.

Eggs are $1/dozen
Aldi bread is $1.50 for a large loaf (3g protein per slice, 20+ slices a loaf)
Peanut butter is $2 a 16 serving jar (3,200 calories)
Greek Yogurt $.69/each and 12-14g protein
Chicken $99-1.99/lb depending on cut. Almost 100g protein/lb
Pasta is often less than $1/per 8 servings (64g protein and 1,600 calories)
They rotate fruit sales but we often get 3lb bags of mandarins for $2, 10 kiwis for $2, strawberries/blueberries for $1/pint, etc.
Rice/beans/etc are negligible in price. We get enough rice to last for a few months for $10-12 by buying in bulk.


Even shopping at Shop Rite and watching sales we used to spend less than $300/month and eat a lot of meat and other treats that are more expensive than basic cooking ingredients.

APowers

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2018, 06:00:37 AM »
Cooking this evening, I was thinking about our appetites. I made a pound of dried beans, a pound of dried rice, with some vegetables and spices. Great! You say. Sounds cheap, maybe $2.50 in dried goods and $3.50 for the rest? But we ate most of it for dinner and it'll all be gone by tomorrow noon, and that's how it goes every day. The pricetag goes up as well when we start adding in "exotic" ingredients like mushrooms ($2-4/lb), squash ($0.88/lb), bell peppers ($0.50/ea), really anything outside basics like carrots ($0.77/lb) & celery ($0.50/lb?).

We are both tall, active, and skinny, and need a lot of calories. When I'm weight training, I need 3,500 Calories to maintain weight, and I've needed as much as 4,000 Calories to gain weight while training. My BMI is around 17 despite my best efforts to raise it- I'm not some overweight glutton.

Does anyone else with high calorie needs have experience battling their food bill? Any lessons to share? Unless shopping at Costco is really the magic key, I can't figure out how to live on $100/person/month, we're not even in the same ballpark. Maybe if you ate only rice...

Costco isn't really a magic key, and I'm not a high-calorie need person, but given how much you say you eat (2 dry pounds of beans/rice + veggies per dinner meal).... You REALLY should be buying in bulk. For instance, take the prices you quote: $2.50 for 2lb beans/rice -- if you did buy at Costco, beans will be ~$.50/lb, and rice should be no more than ~$.80/lb; that alone will reduce your meal cost from $2.50 to $1.30-- that's almost a 50% savings. Also, I know carrots are .60/lb at Costco.

So when you're at Sprouts (I think Sprouts is great, btw), and they have oatmeal on sale for $.50/lb-- don't buy 10lb, ask a clerk to get you a 50lb bag from the back. If they have brown rice on sale for $.69/lb-- don't buy 10lb (that's only 5 days' worth for you) buy a whole 25 or 50lb bag. Or price check at Costco to see if it's actually cheaper there-- I think white rice is actually cheaper at Costco for me.

Also, frozen veggies should run $1-1.50/lb. Again, when they're on sale, buy a month's worth, or however much your freezer will hold.

I feel like there's more you can do in other areas, but I think just starting with finding a better price for beans and rice will get you a good ways. You can follow along my grocery budget this year in my thread if you want.

dycker1978

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2018, 06:53:11 AM »
There's occasionally $30/mo of alcohol, or there was sometimes $20/mo of prenatal supplements. But generally I make an effort (not always successfully) to break out household supplies like shampoo into their own category. In support of this claim, 90% of our expenses this month are at Sprouts, which stocks very little in household supplies, if anything.

Month-to-month expenses get fuzzy when we are buying 20lbs of dry goods, and once or twice a month we'll buy some house brand cheese, a bag of potato chips, a couple $2 energy bars, that kind of thing- but the big picture expense trend has held for a long time, which tells me these occasional items aren't the key.

Dried beans run $1.49/lb not on sale, rice is something like $1.29/lb. Onions between $0.50-0.77/lb. Apples $0.99/lb. We get a couple pounds of frozen fruit each month, $2.50/lb.

Our food waste is in pretty good shape, I've lost several avocados, a few potatoes, a little parsley, a little cilantro, you know the story... I think we eat easily 95%+ of what comes home.

I have highlighted some things that stand out to me. It sounds like you need to track this closer.  You may find that your $30 of alcohol is really $60, or a bag of potato chips and $2.00 energy bar actually happens 3 times a week.

Track this closely for a couple months.  You may figure out why your costs are so high and can adjust accordingly.

brion

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2018, 07:04:20 AM »
I'm a competitive bodybuilder and consume high calories and high protein every day.  I prep my meals twice a week and tend to eat about 7 meals a day typically containing 50g of protein with each meal.  My family is also competitive bodybuilders but they consume quite a bit lower calories than I do, but also high protein diets compared to normal people. 

Typically a meal is some carb source (rice, sweet potatoes, oats...etc), meat (fish, beef, chicken, pork, whey...etc) and some type of vegetables (asparagus, green beans, brussel sprouts ...etc).  Our monthly food budget is $900 right now.  To put it in perspective I personally eat 3 lbs of meat from various sources each day.  If we don't watch vegetables carefully they can easily eclipse our protein budget. Trader Joe's, our local indian market and sale items keep the veggie budget reasonable. 

Eating healthy and not watching your spending can easily bring a food budget to insane levels when you consume a large volume of food.

For people that need high calories but not necessarily high protein, remember fats are cheap and they are super calorie dense.  Peanut butter can be crazy cheap! 

If I wasn't a competitive bodybuilder it would be easy to cut this family food budget in half and still eat healthy.

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2018, 07:14:07 AM »
I'm a competitive bodybuilder and consume high calories and high protein every day.  I prep my meals twice a week and tend to eat about 7 meals a day typically containing 50g of protein with each meal.  My family is also competitive bodybuilders but they consume quite a bit lower calories than I do, but also high protein diets compared to normal people. 

Typically a meal is some carb source (rice, sweet potatoes, oats...etc), meat (fish, beef, chicken, pork, whey...etc) and some type of vegetables (asparagus, green beans, brussel sprouts ...etc).  Our monthly food budget is $900 right now.  To put it in perspective I personally eat 3 lbs of meat from various sources each day.  If we don't watch vegetables carefully they can easily eclipse our protein budget. Trader Joe's, our local indian market and sale items keep the veggie budget reasonable. 

Eating healthy and not watching your spending can easily bring a food budget to insane levels when you consume a large volume of food.

For people that need high calories but not necessarily high protein, remember fats are cheap and they are super calorie dense.  Peanut butter can be crazy cheap! 

If I wasn't a competitive bodybuilder it would be easy to cut this family food budget in half and still eat healthy.

Wow! That's really high protein intake, 350-400g/day?

I used to compete as well, but I am not enhanced so protein intake over 1g/lb of lean body mass was never required.

PoutineLover

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2018, 07:24:32 AM »
Fat is more calorie dense and will keep you full for longer, so make sure you are having enough of that. And I'd say if you are wasting some food, plan a day where you cook up all the random stuff at the end of the week before going out to buy more. Maybe try going a month without the extra stuff (chips, alcohol) or pay for it or track it separately so you know how much it really is, that stuff adds up quick and goes fast. I'm single, spend about 200/month on food. That includes meat, which is always bought on sale, and lots of fresh fruits and veggies.

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2018, 07:34:02 AM »
Sprouts may be the cause of the higher expenses. I read a cost comparison between them and Whole Foods a while back, and Sprouts actually lost because although their prices are less, their package sizes are also smaller. Is there a reason you can't shop at a non-specialty grocery store?

ketchup

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2018, 08:05:13 AM »
$1.29/lb for rice is really expensive.  I can buy chicken cheaper than that.  It's $8 for 25lbs of rice at Costco ($0.32/lb).  Even a small 3lb package at Aldi is less than $2.

brion

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2018, 08:22:14 AM »

Wow! That's really high protein intake, 350-400g/day?

I used to compete as well, but I am not enhanced so protein intake over 1g/lb of lean body mass was never required.

I'm 5'4" and compete around 200lbs on stage.  350g is pretty normal at this level.  Lets just say I don't hashtag "natty" on my posts.

I try to keep all protein sources around $1 for 50g of protein.  Fish is the best digesting and always seems to run me over that budget.  But most everything else I can manage to fit in that budget. 

sliverstorm

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2018, 08:49:47 AM »
$1.29/lb for rice is really expensive.

I do mostly buy the rice when it's on sale, $0.79-0.89/lb

Sprouts may be the cause of the higher expenses. I read a cost comparison between them and Whole Foods a while back, and Sprouts actually lost because although their prices are less, their package sizes are also smaller. Is there a reason you can't shop at a non-specialty grocery store?

I don't buy much packaged food from them. I've found their bulk items & produce is as cheap as or cheaper than Safeway & Kroger, and generally better quality. Although Safeway is better for cheese and Kroger is better for frozen fruit. Sprouts bulk spices especially are great.

For people that need high calories but not necessarily high protein, remember fats are cheap and they are super calorie dense.  Peanut butter can be crazy cheap! 

I'm actually in a bit of fat limbo right now, I love peanut butter (it's an addiction) but my cholesterol isn't great, has been going the wrong way for years despite healthy eating, and I recently realized my omega fatty acid ratio was way out of whack with the gobs of peanut butter I was eating. I decided to fix that, but once you commit to balancing your omega fatty acids, most nuts and oils go out the window as a staple.

I have highlighted some things that stand out to me. It sounds like you need to track this closer.  You may find that your $30 of alcohol is really $60, or a bag of potato chips and $2.00 energy bar actually happens 3 times a week.

It's a good idea to break down grocery receipts, I don't know why I haven't done that before. Alcohol though has been a separate category in Quicken for years and years.

I'm a triathlete, mountain biker, and weight lifter. My fiance is a runner and weightlifter as well.

We spend ~$200-250/month on groceries and eat very well.

Eggs are $1/dozen
Aldi bread is $1.50 for a large loaf (3g protein per slice, 20+ slices a loaf)
Peanut butter is $2 a 16 serving jar (3,200 calories)
...

Wow, I don't think I've ever seen prices as good as you're quoting anywhere. Then again I've never been to an Aldi.

So when you're at Sprouts (I think Sprouts is great, btw), and they have oatmeal on sale for $.50/lb-- don't buy 10lb, ask a clerk to get you a 50lb bag from the back. If they have brown rice on sale for $.69/lb-- don't buy 10lb (that's only 5 days' worth for you) buy a whole 25 or 50lb bag. Or price check at Costco to see if it's actually cheaper there-- I think white rice is actually cheaper at Costco for me.

I guess I didn't know you could do that! Here I was wondering if I could write the tare on my dry goods bins and bring them into the store :)
« Last Edit: February 15, 2018, 08:52:08 AM by sliverstorm »

mm1970

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #15 on: February 15, 2018, 10:23:03 AM »
Sprouts is pretty reasonably priced, at least around here they have the best prices on produce.

I think it's hard with the amount you need to eat.  I feed a family of 4 on that amount.

Costco is not magic.

All I can think to do is maybe break it down more -
1.  Make a list of what you buy regularly and what you pay for it and how long it lasts.
2.  Calculate the cost per meal of the meals you make regularly
3.  Figure out where the largest % of you money goes...so in a month, break down all your receipts into "fruit", "veg", "meat" (or even further if you like), and figure out how to decrease the heavy hitters.
4.  Calculate cost per calorie?

Sibley

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #16 on: February 15, 2018, 10:25:26 AM »
What are all the grocery stores you have available? Have you checked prices at all of them? Sometimes they'll surprise you with prices/quality/availability, either positive or negative.

sliverstorm

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2018, 10:52:00 AM »
What are all the grocery stores you have available? Have you checked prices at all of them? Sometimes they'll surprise you with prices/quality/availability, either positive or negative.

We've got King Soopers, Safeway, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Natural Grocer (snootier more expensive version of Whole Foods), Costco, Trader Joe's, I think a Lucky's is going in, and a few small ethnic grocers.

We used to price compare aggressively between the first three, and always buy certain items from the cheapest store. But eventually it became a real bear trying to manage that without making a lot of extra trips. In the end we just cut out a lot of the foods that aren't reasonably priced at Sprouts.

I think it's hard with the amount you need to eat.  I feed a family of 4 on that amount.

I've got extra motivation to do the best I can now, as family of 2 is now a family of 3- and the 3rd will probably eat like us.

We have some friends whose grocery bills are less than half ours, and they just shop at Safeway with no special deal-hunting or cheap-eating that I know of. They are also both a foot shorter than us.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2018, 11:43:07 AM »
$800/month eating beans, rice and pasta!?! :-O. Are they dipped in gold?

Louisville

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #19 on: February 15, 2018, 11:58:50 AM »



Make sure you're adding some fats in there. More calorie dense than carbs but cheaper than protein (generally). Good fuel for workouts. Avocados, olive oil, almonds, etc. Even dairy and meat fats are ok in moderation. If you haven't already, do some research about carb/fat/protein ratios for training athletes. I think sometimes folks don't give fat the credit it deserves.

mm1970

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #20 on: February 15, 2018, 01:50:07 PM »
What are all the grocery stores you have available? Have you checked prices at all of them? Sometimes they'll surprise you with prices/quality/availability, either positive or negative.

We've got King Soopers, Safeway, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Natural Grocer (snootier more expensive version of Whole Foods), Costco, Trader Joe's, I think a Lucky's is going in, and a few small ethnic grocers.

We used to price compare aggressively between the first three, and always buy certain items from the cheapest store. But eventually it became a real bear trying to manage that without making a lot of extra trips. In the end we just cut out a lot of the foods that aren't reasonably priced at Sprouts.

I think it's hard with the amount you need to eat.  I feed a family of 4 on that amount.

I've got extra motivation to do the best I can now, as family of 2 is now a family of 3- and the 3rd will probably eat like us.

We have some friends whose grocery bills are less than half ours, and they just shop at Safeway with no special deal-hunting or cheap-eating that I know of. They are also both a foot shorter than us.

Well I say I feed my family of 4, but my 2 boys are growing and eating a lot more.  The only thing that's helped me keep the wolves at bay is that our school district is expanding free lunch.  So both my kids get it (even though we are way not eligible) and big kid will next year too in junior high.

So the way that I can get it done for 4 is aggressively shopping at many stores.  And it sucks.  It really does.  You have to pick.  Your sanity or your bill.
I price check and shop at:
Sprouts (veg, fruit on sale, bulk foods)
Vons (sales)
Trader Joes (generally best price on yogurt, marinara, bananas, eggs)
Costco (cheese, milk, tortillas)
Smart and Final (rice, beans)
99 cent store (produce, spices, tortillas, and other random things)

On that note, Sprouts has oats on sale for 0.69/lb, so I gotta go over on my lunch break and stock up.

(FYI, I'm active, but 5'2" and 47 year old female, so I don't eat near the calories you do.  My spouse is 6' but not active, and the boys, well they can eat but they aren't teens yet.  And they are shrimpy like me so far.)

also I agree with person above on fats.  I eat a lot of fat

APowers

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #21 on: February 15, 2018, 09:23:23 PM »
So when you're at Sprouts (I think Sprouts is great, btw), and they have oatmeal on sale for $.50/lb-- don't buy 10lb, ask a clerk to get you a 50lb bag from the back. If they have brown rice on sale for $.69/lb-- don't buy 10lb (that's only 5 days' worth for you) buy a whole 25 or 50lb bag. Or price check at Costco to see if it's actually cheaper there-- I think white rice is actually cheaper at Costco for me.

I guess I didn't know you could do that! Here I was wondering if I could write the tare on my dry goods bins and bring them into the store :)

You can do that too!

former player

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #22 on: February 16, 2018, 02:44:41 AM »
One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is eating fruit and vegetables in season.  I don't know where you are, so can't offer specific advice, but it looks to me as though your expensive "exotics" are things which are out of season or not grown locally and your cheaper "basics" are the things which are grown locally and are in season.

It will take a little work to learn about adding the seasons back into your eating, but it will be cheaper and will add variety over the year to your cooking and your diet.

remizidae

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #23 on: February 16, 2018, 04:08:13 AM »
It sounds like you just recently began cooking from scratch, so I'm wondering if some of the cost is the start-up cost associated with buying a lot of spices, oils, and condiments that you need to cook but don't necessarily need when doing the pasta-and-premade sauce thing. Those things can be expensive but don't need to be replaced every month.

Do you have a sense of whether you live in a more expensive part of the country? Maybe post your next few grocery receipts to get a sense of whether the prices are higher or whether it's just the increased calories driving up your cost.

Also, think incrementalism. You're not going to go from $400/person to $100 in one month (if you even want to get to $100 per person--I think most of those at that extreme level have a source of free food, at work or gardening or hunting). But, try setting the budget at $300/person in March, keep investigating cheaper stores, and see how that feels.

sliverstorm

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #24 on: February 16, 2018, 11:01:31 AM »
It sounds like you just recently began cooking from scratch, so I'm wondering if some of the cost is the start-up cost associated with buying a lot of spices, oils, and condiments that you need to cook but don't necessarily need when doing the pasta-and-premade sauce thing. Those things can be expensive but don't need to be replaced every month.

Do you have a sense of whether you live in a more expensive part of the country?

I cooked a little here and there for years so I had most spices already, but there certainly were a few startup costs; one great big purchase of dry goods for example, and some kitchen equipment (but that is budgeted separately)

We live in the Front Range in Colorado. I think we are probably in the middle of the pack- we're not far from food like Alaska, but it's a metro area so CoL in general is a bit higher. Of course, our patron saint is in the area too, so I can hardly claim exceptional CoL when comparing to his food bills.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is eating fruit and vegetables in season.  I don't know where you are, so can't offer specific advice, but it looks to me as though your expensive "exotics" are things which are out of season or not grown locally and your cheaper "basics" are the things which are grown locally and are in season.

I definitely let price ergo seasonality be my guide on fruit (or sidestep the problem entirely with frozen). Vegetables are harder, because I plan more dishes around vegetables. Now that you mention it, my process is somewhat broken here because I pick a recipe with no particular thought to seasonality, and then my purchasing decisions are set before I even see the price. (Although the squash which I quoted at $0.88/lb are all winter squash)

I'll get a better handle on vegetable seasonality as I get better at gardening, I think. We had our first crops last year.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2018, 11:04:23 AM by sliverstorm »

partgypsy

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #25 on: February 16, 2018, 11:18:50 AM »
I am also stumped.
We have a family of 3 plus dog and cat, and our average this year has been 693/mo (including dog and cat food, booze, paper goods like tp, dollar store purchases, etc).  And we are not particularly frugal; my kids in particular go through a large amount of fresh fruit, most vegetables are purchased fresh and I like to buy bagged prerinsed specialty salads, have meat or seafood couple times a week, plus treats for the kid's lunches.  I buy frozen entrees to avoid too much eating out at work.

I ditto tracking everything you are purchasing for a month or so. Second it does seem worth it for you to bulk-buy rice, dried beans, pasta, as then the price per pound gets ridiculously cheap. Third it is worth buying a decent olive oil, also supplement with cheese, avocado, nuts (in bulk) to make meals more satiating.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2018, 11:21:39 AM by partgypsy »

SilveradoBojangles

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #26 on: February 16, 2018, 11:22:42 AM »
I don't know where you live, but is a CSA an option for veggies? I had a great one in the Bay Area that was $24 (went up last year after being 20$ for many years) for an amount of vegetables that was almost hard for us to handle each week without some serious effort. You need to eat vegetables that are in season.

Other than that, I say track your grocery expenses and see where the biggest categories are. Then try and cut by 10% the next month. Baby steps.

Also, shop around. When I was really working to get our grocery spend down, I was shopping at Target (baking supplies are cheapest here, sometime beer is on sale), Costco (bulk foods, canned goods, nuts), Grocery Outlet (wine, meats, frozen foods, bags of avocados, random stuff, always worth a look), Berkeley Bowl (bargain bin produce, bulk bins, occasional specialty items), Trader Joes (oils and vinegars are cheap here, as are dairy products), 99 ranch (asian supplies), and getting veggies from the CSA. I wasn't going to each one every week, but I would make the rounds based on what I needed.

slappy

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #27 on: February 16, 2018, 12:44:04 PM »

CestMoi

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #28 on: February 16, 2018, 01:19:17 PM »
One small suggestion to help you stretch your meals more. Instead of eating up your cooked meals from hunger at your present rate, try a big serving of something with healthy fats and high calories a certain time after dinner, like a large serving of peanut butter on wheat toast, an apple, or just out of the jar. Whatever it is, you want to hit your brain with those (healthy) satiety fats to help you feel satisfied.

clarkfan1979

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #29 on: February 18, 2018, 01:03:55 AM »
My wife and I are both active and tall and we eat more than most people. I am trying to lose 10 pounds, so I'm running about 24 miles/week, surfing and going for walks with my wife. I eat a ton.

When I am eating a lot, I need to be very conscious of the price. If I buy fancy food and crush it, it hurts the wallet. I try to save the fancy food for meals that are not immediately after a workout.

 

chasesfish

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #30 on: February 18, 2018, 05:52:01 AM »
Yeah, I'm struggling to figure out where the $800/mo is going.  My wife and I spend about half of that and she's on a careful high-protein diet as part of a recovery and we feel like we eat like royalty.

Morning:  Eggs (24 from Costco for $2.99), Oatmeal, Cereal

Dinner:  Mostly based with Costco Frozen Chicken Breasts or Ground Turkey, both run about $3/lb if you buy it right.  Grill chicken, grilled chicken for salad, chicken BBQ, chicken fajitas, then use ground turkey for pasta sauce, chili, tacos, sloppy joes, and turkey burgers.  A lot of those meals have the benefit of being able to make multiple servings and freeze for leftovers for lunch/dinner later.

Other stuff:  Greek Yogurt which you should be able to get around $0.75/6oz.   Milk is running $1.99/gal, almond milk we can find for around $2.99/half gallon.

Utilize Costco vanilla powdered protein we got on sale plus their large bag of Frozen strawberries (~$4/lb), a cup of yogurt and a banana for a meal replacement shake.  Also have a small bit of chocolate when we want to go chocolate powder, banana, almond milk, ice, and peanut butter.  That thing is delicious.

We also pickup a lot of food items on sale at the local Safeway when they're a better price and we buy our seasonal vegetables from a private-chain grocery store, HEB Central Market.  Mainly Citrus in the winter.  The local grocery store is our go-to for their most basic bagged salad.

We occasionally splurge for Frozen Pizza because we can't seem to make them cheaper than we find it on sale.  We also aren't great on chinese dishes and I'll pay $15-18 for takeout 1-2x per month.

Imma

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #31 on: February 18, 2018, 06:29:15 AM »
I think keeping receipts is important. Just take a notebook and write everything down for a month. When we were trying to save as much money as possible for a downpayment a few years back, I'd colour code purchases in my notebook. I used a separate colour for food we didn't really need, like chocolate, and I also calculated the price per kg or per liter for every item. It was a lot of work initially, but soon enough we knew where to buy which item (all stores within walking distance, so no costs for gas) and I stopped buying unnecessary food because I didn't want red purchases in my notebook. It seems really childish, but tracking shopping really works. We also fill up on cheap staples and splurge on snacks. So we'll eat eggs and oatmeal and bananas for breakfast, but maybe some homemade cake with our coffee at 11. I drink the cheaper brand of coffee and tea most of the day and the expensive brand only now and then. The expensive option is nicer, but the cheaper brand is perfectly acceptable.

Once you calculate the price per kg (or lbs, in your case) you really get to see how buying in bulk adds up. We buy 5 liter cans of olive oil now that we use to fill up a 0,5 liter bottle. That 0,5l bottle cost 2,50 in the grocery store, we now refill it for 1,10 and the oil is nicer.

PKate

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #32 on: February 18, 2018, 01:55:45 PM »
I spend a fortune on on food due to health issues  but I am seeing I have room to improve.  We currently spend about $200 a week for the 2 of us.  Part of my high cost is I can't eat corn, wheat, legumes, tapioca, and a whole bunch of other high FODMAP foods.  This includes food additives like dextrose, soy lecithin, and locust bean gum. To say the least I cook everything from scratch and eat very  healthy while keeping me off of some serious meds for the time being.  Since I can't properly digest so many low cost foods I have been finding ways to hack at the food budget. 

If you have the room to have a freezer chest or 2 look into buying your meat directly from a local farm. We get grass fed/pasture raised pork, lamb, and beef this way.   It does require some advanced planning and you need to be able cook all the various cuts but it can save you money for a family that has high protein consumption.   I also have learned to cook the the organs since I  need the extra B vitamins.  I puree liver and mix it in with ground beef when I make chili. This way I can't tell it is in there. I also always get a bunch of soup bones and make stock with them.  I pressure can my stock but freezing it is easier if you have the freezer space.
 
You can get whole, half , or quarter of an animal depending on the farmer.  They will charge you by the hang weight plus butchering costs. There is some lost in the butchering process and they can give you weight estimates.  They will give you a cut sheet to fill out and package everything in meal sized packages.   We have been doing this for years and it saves us money since food is expensive here.

I also will buy lots of butter on sale and freeze it.  I put 4 pounds in a freezer bag so it doesn't pick up freezer odors while it is waiting to be used. 

Gardening is a great way to either save money or spend a fortune on a hobby.  Some of the biggest bang for the buck are perennial foods like many herbs, asparagus, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, bunching onions.  Some veggies store well like butternut squash, spaghetti squash, garlic, potatoes, onions, and sweet potatoes.   We grow these, store them in a dark part of the basement, and eat them all winter. I will often pick up extra winter squash in the fall from local farm stands by the half bushel to store and eat over the winter.  It comes out to about $.50 a pound.

If the garden is large enough you can grow and freeze fruits and veggies.  I do this with blueberries, strawberries, rhubarb, raspberries, snap peas, kale, broccoli, green beans(the one legume I can eat), and carrots.  This year I hope to add asparagus to the list but my husband may eat it all before I get to freeze any.   I will also freeze bell peppers and tomatoes from the garden for later use in chili.  As I get better at growing food I am sure this list will grow.

I also grow baby greens indoors.  I have all the seed starting equipment for the garden so it is a no brainier to grow and sprouts when I am not growing seedlings for the garden.  It helps cut costs down if you save your own seed but is still worth it if you buy larger packs of seeds from companies that cater to market gardeners or sprout growers.

I do a bunch of canning, lacto fermenting,  and dehydrating and those are great methods to reduce your food bill once you are growing more food than the family can eat fresh. 

I love brown basmati rice and I spend the extra to get organic.  I found that getting a 25 pound bag shipped to my house is the cheapest and easiest way to do it.  I divide it up into smaller containers and store it in the basement till needed.  Other staples can easily be stored this way so shop around for the best price.   


 

 

kimmarg

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #33 on: February 18, 2018, 08:33:23 PM »
I'm just going to throw out again that your calorie counts are huge! I know from dieting I need to eat under 1600 calories/day to loose weight and even while marathon training I'll gain weight if I go over 2,000. So basically I eat 1/2 as much as you and spend half as much. 

Another point might be to look at your budget as a whole. Is food spending your biggest issue? could you economize on transportation or housing and get the same savings. The goal of FIRE isn't to eat rice and beans, it's to feel good about the choices you are making with your money. If you need to choose more calories, well maybe that costs more.

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #34 on: February 18, 2018, 09:36:31 PM »
$800 for two people? That's insane.

Do you shop in season? Or are you one of those people that just buy what they feel like eating? I'd suggest you try running your kitchen like a restaurant - work out what's cheap or in season that week, and meal plan to use that particular ingredient. Work out how much you're paying per serve. Work out the grams of protein you're counting as a serve, because you may be going way overboard with this.
 Even body builders don't need a steak as big as a plate. Buy like a restaurant would, from wholesalers. Have you got a bulk dry goods outlet in your town? The kind of place where you fill a bag with flour or beans or whatever? Those places are significantly cheaper than supermarkets, and generally from the same suppliers. Have you got butchers and fishmongers? Protein components should be small and high quality, and bulked out with cheap vegetables and starches. Use eggs and dairy as proteins. A decent lunch, even on your calorie requirements , should literally be a buck or two per serve. Think a quinoa bowl with eggs and vegetables, pasta bake with chicken and veg, a quiche with salmon accompanied by crusty bread, lentil dahl over brown rice with chutney and raita. Stay away from sandwiches - they're relatively expensive if you consider the protein to starch ratio.

mxt0133

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #35 on: February 19, 2018, 01:22:35 AM »
I'm actually in a bit of fat limbo right now, I love peanut butter (it's an addiction) but my cholesterol isn't great, has been going the wrong way for years despite healthy eating, and I recently realized my omega fatty acid ratio was way out of whack with the gobs of peanut butter I was eating. I decided to fix that, but once you commit to balancing your omega fatty acids, most nuts and oils go out the window as a staple.

This is pretty much what everyone says that made them try a low carb or ketogenic diet, healthy eating but elevated cholesterol, blood sugar, weight gain, ect.  I realize that everyone is different and response to different types of food vary, however there is just so much evidence out there that for some a low carb, high fat diet will significantly improve your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.  I have been on a low carb/keto diet for the last three months and I have never been in better metabolic shape since my first blood test after college.  I went from 22% body fat to 12% and had to increase my caloric intake overall to stop loosing weight.  However, now I only eat about 30-60 grams of net carbs a day. I get around 65-70% of my calories from fat now.  I eat 2-3 tbsp of peanut butter day, 3-4 oz of nuts, and spoon fulls of coconut oil, but my cholesterol is lower now than we I followed the recommended standard American diet (SAD) of mostly grains and starches and low fat.

I would recommend you read up on it.  The down side is your grocery bill is going to go up.

mountain mustache

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #36 on: February 19, 2018, 08:24:15 AM »
I can completely identify with this post. I am just buying for one, but regularly spend $300-400 for just me. I've had months of maybe squeezing under $300, but I was eating from the freezer mostly. I do live in a small mountain town in CO, very HCOL, very few options. I stock up at Costco, Sprouts, etc when I'm on the Front Range...but I do think prices in general are higher in CO, than maybe in coastal states such as California, Washington, etc...especially for produce!
I also don't buy the cheapest meat I can find, the cheapest milk, eggs, etc because it's important to me to know where my food is coming from. Especially in a farming heavy state like CO, it makes sense to me to purchase eggs, meat, etc from farmers that are close by, and raising animals with good practice. It's usually decently inexpensive as well, if you find small farmers who aren't selling their meat to health food stores, etc already. I realize the meat/egg quality is more of a personal issue for me, but it does keep my expenses a little higher.
On quantity of food, some of the meal posts I've seen here on MMM are pretty small. I am super active, mountain bike racing, hiking, running, skiing, etc and just a tall, fit person, and I eat a lot! Sometimes I exercise for 5-6 hours a day when I'm training. A family pack of chicken will feed me for maybe 3-4 meals...I make salads with a whole head of romaine, a whole cucumber, half an avocado, two chicken thighs, etc...which is like double of most of the meals I see quoted. It's important to me to nourish my body with enough good calories, as I've had issues with not eating enough in the past. I can't eat gluten, or dairy, and so it's not like I can just eat a bunch of Greek yogurt, or make a big sandwich. My meals are super veggie heavy, with good fats (avocados, olives, olive oil, etc).

I'll throw out my opinion, which is that I just wouldn't worry about it too much. I bet that you can reduce your grocery spending down to about $600 with some careful tracking, and less purchasing of $2.00 energy bars, etc...but beyond that, if I was feeding two of me, I think I would be right up there in the $600 range, and that is about where I need to be healthy. But, I think I'm probably a lot different than many of the MMM forum posters, in that I would rather spend the money on my food and health, than on pretty much anything else, so take my advice with a grain of salt!

wenchsenior

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Re: Food expenses for hungry people
« Reply #37 on: February 19, 2018, 09:11:28 AM »
I can completely identify with this post. I am just buying for one, but regularly spend $300-400 for just me. I've had months of maybe squeezing under $300, but I was eating from the freezer mostly. I do live in a small mountain town in CO, very HCOL, very few options. I stock up at Costco, Sprouts, etc when I'm on the Front Range...but I do think prices in general are higher in CO, than maybe in coastal states such as California, Washington, etc...especially for produce!
I also don't buy the cheapest meat I can find, the cheapest milk, eggs, etc because it's important to me to know where my food is coming from. Especially in a farming heavy state like CO, it makes sense to me to purchase eggs, meat, etc from farmers that are close by, and raising animals with good practice. It's usually decently inexpensive as well, if you find small farmers who aren't selling their meat to health food stores, etc already. I realize the meat/egg quality is more of a personal issue for me, but it does keep my expenses a little higher.

On quantity of food, some of the meal posts I've seen here on MMM are pretty small. I am super active, mountain bike racing, hiking, running, skiing, etc and just a tall, fit person, and I eat a lot! Sometimes I exercise for 5-6 hours a day when I'm training. A family pack of chicken will feed me for maybe 3-4 meals...I make salads with a whole head of romaine, a whole cucumber, half an avocado, two chicken thighs, etc...which is like double of most of the meals I see quoted. It's important to me to nourish my body with enough good calories, as I've had issues with not eating enough in the past. I can't eat gluten, or dairy, and so it's not like I can just eat a bunch of Greek yogurt, or make a big sandwich. My meals are super veggie heavy, with good fats (avocados, olives, olive oil, etc).

I'll throw out my opinion, which is that I just wouldn't worry about it too much. I bet that you can reduce your grocery spending down to about $600 with some careful tracking, and less purchasing of $2.00 energy bars, etc...but beyond that, if I was feeding two of me, I think I would be right up there in the $600 range, and that is about where I need to be healthy. But, I think I'm probably a lot different than many of the MMM forum posters, in that I would rather spend the money on my food and health, than on pretty much anything else, so take my advice with a grain of salt!

I agree with the above poster.  I am consistently shocked at how low some peoples' food bills are on this site, even though I can identify areas that we could reduce.  But not THAT much.  Consumables are the single biggest struggle in our budget. 

We are two people (one average-size and fairly active/one twig-like and moderately active), and our total grocery bills (NOT including DH eating out, which burns a lot of money; or booze, which we have managed to reduce cost on), regularly runs 500-700$ per month.  And that's with me (the twig) eating only two meals per day.

After several years of tracking, price comparing, and making some effort to shop meat sales, I did manage to reduce it a bit, so it tends to run more on the 500-600 rather than 700 range. But still, there are months where it shoots up shockingly. This December we spent 809$!! for two of us + one expensive holiday dinner for 3, not including eating out or alcohol or pet supplies (another 160$).

So I feel your pain.

In our area, Walmart and Target are the cheapest options for most things.  Walmart makes my skin crawl, so NOPE that's out.  Target is fine, but out of the way...so I go only about every 2 months.  If I go more often, we do save more money.  Sprouts is right in our regular driving line and is fine for on-sale veggies or meat, but murder on the wallet for everything else.  It's too easy for us to 'go to Sprouts for the 1.77/lb chicken breasts and sale produce', and end up also throwing in grassfed beef or bison, a few packaged items, etc., all markedly more expensive than at regular stores.

Tracking my receipts over the past few years, there are really only a few areas that act as giant money sinks...

Flash frozen Pacific salmon, about 5 meals/month at 10$ per package = 50$/month
Godiva or Lindt dark chocolate for after dinner, two squares each = 1 bar/person every 4 days = 30-50$/month FOR CHOCOLATE ALONE.

That's almost 80-100$ month spending on TWO items, neither of which we are willing to give up.

Supplements/medications.  In the past few years as I struggled with health issues, I tried a bunch of different vitamins thinking they might help.  Turns out most didn't and a few made the situation worse.  However, I do buy expensive probiotics (20$/month), and a few supplements that I do actually need (~25$ month). 

I also don't eat much gluten or dairy, but ended up subbing in slightly more expensive substitutes, which probably accounted for another 20$/month additional spending.

I struggle to gain weight as well, and had been upping protein and fat intake the past few years.  I've also been trying to increase my intake of grassfed red meat because my iron is running low.  However, I have had limited success with these strategies and am thinking I'm going to stop trying so hard. It's too damn expensive to glop nut or olive oils on everything, or make sure I eat eggs or meat with every meal, or pay for grass-fed burger every week.

Etc etc.

Essentially, what I've found is there are some spending elements that account for very large chunks of our monthly budget but that we just aren't going to to change.  There are others (meat sales) that really do make a difference when I pay attention to them.  Still others we definitely could do better on (less meat overall, eating produce according to what is on sale rather than by our rote meals of what we like).

It's a continual struggle, and I don't foresee ever approaching the low grocery costs touted on this forum. And that doesn't even take into account DH's eating out, which accounts for another 200$/month.  That I/we could definitely fix if we packed lunches or bulk-cooked. I wish I didn't dislike cooking so damn much.

Maybe this year. :sigh: