Author Topic: Getting meals below $4-5/serving  (Read 21672 times)

oldtoyota

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Re: Getting meals below $4-5/serving
« Reply #50 on: July 02, 2013, 06:48:04 PM »
Someone recommended I read the Tightwad Gazette to get ideas on how to track prices at various stores. The idea is that, after a while, you learn where the good prices are located. I would like to get my bill below $425.

Using the "Tightwad Tactic," I learned that Trader Joe's is MUCH less expensive than our local health food store for lentils, yogurt, etc. TJ's is no good as far as fresh produce.

I second allrecipes.com for giving me idea about what to make. I also stopped buying Luna and Lara bars and started to make my own. Am also making my own granola (family is verrrry happy about this). ;-)

FlorenceMcGillicutty

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Re: Getting meals below $4-5/serving
« Reply #51 on: July 02, 2013, 06:57:51 PM »
Thanks, Peeps. I was expecting some face punches and I appreciate the support.

Tokyo, your comment was more along the lines of what I expected :). And you're right--there's lots of room for improvement. For me, I'd rather improve gradually because I've taken the "crash diet" approach before and it doesn't work for me in the long run. I'm more interested in making conscious decisions and developing good habits. So far it's working and I'm ready to keep improving. Hopefully this translates to money savings in the future, but more than that I want to focus on living more simply.

As far as the rest of our spending--it's high and we're working on it. We refinanced, cut back on subscriptions and cable, travel, utilities, and shopping. We still have high expenses--largely because we spend about 44% of our take home on the mortgage and a nanny share. Depending on how you calculate it, our savings rate is roughly 30% with 401k savings, stocks, and cash.  I'm putting in a lot of thought into pulling back on the spending throttle by being more purposeful with our money.

FlorenceMcGillicutty

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Re: Getting meals below $4-5/serving
« Reply #52 on: July 02, 2013, 06:59:43 PM »
Someone recommended I read the Tightwad Gazette to get ideas on how to track prices at various stores. The idea is that, after a while, you learn where the good prices are located. I would like to get my bill below $425.

Using the "Tightwad Tactic," I learned that Trader Joe's is MUCH less expensive than our local health food store for lentils, yogurt, etc. TJ's is no good as far as fresh produce.

I second allrecipes.com for giving me idea about what to make. I also stopped buying Luna and Lara bars and started to make my own. Am also making my own granola (family is verrrry happy about this). ;-)

Whoa. I need a granola recipe. Do you have a good one? We like vanilla almond.

oldtoyota

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Re: Getting meals below $4-5/serving
« Reply #53 on: July 02, 2013, 08:52:06 PM »
Someone recommended I read the Tightwad Gazette to get ideas on how to track prices at various stores. The idea is that, after a while, you learn where the good prices are located. I would like to get my bill below $425.

Using the "Tightwad Tactic," I learned that Trader Joe's is MUCH less expensive than our local health food store for lentils, yogurt, etc. TJ's is no good as far as fresh produce.

I second allrecipes.com for giving me idea about what to make. I also stopped buying Luna and Lara bars and started to make my own. Am also making my own granola (family is verrrry happy about this). ;-)

Whoa. I need a granola recipe. Do you have a good one? We like vanilla almond.

Yes to the granola recipe. This is about 100% amazing:

http://www.bojongourmet.com/2010/06/stolen-granola.html

You might dig around her site and see if she has a vanilla almond granola recipe. I did a quick search and did not spot anything--a smoothie recipe came up instead--but I may have overlooked a recipe.



ep114

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Re: Getting meals below $4-5/serving
« Reply #54 on: July 02, 2013, 09:18:48 PM »
Mr. Minsc-

Not going to your mom's for dinner sounds kind of drastic! She probably loves to see you and I think family dinners are so nice for adults. You never know how long they'll go on for (for maudlin reasons sure, but also maybe your parents will decide to retire somewhere glamorous and exciting, or you'll get a great job offer in Shanghai or Addis Ababa)  Maybe you can go over early and she can teach you how to make what she's cooking for dinner so you can kill 2 birds with one stone.

Florence: Great job cutting down the grocery bill. Onward and upward! And don't forget breakfast for dinner. Cheap   and fun.

Rural

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Re: Getting meals below $4-5/serving
« Reply #55 on: July 03, 2013, 07:48:26 AM »
Keep working at it - you're making progress!

1. A couple of individual suggestions: if you like the homemade granola, you can streamline the process by making a giant batch in the crock pot
1.5 if you don't have a crock pot, consider it. They're readily available at thrift stores, and they have approximately a billion uses, including the fending off of the "let's just stop on the way home for supper" temptation, because it will be waiting at home.

2. Spinach keeps longer in the fridge than lettuce, and if you can find grown-up spinach instead of baby spinach, the price is comparable. Don't buy it at Whole Foods, though! :-)

R62

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Re: Getting meals below $4-5/serving
« Reply #56 on: July 03, 2013, 08:02:08 AM »
Would suggest reading a copy of Tamar Adler's "An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace".

Not so much recipes as an approach to sustainable cooking and food supply management (ie making a very little go a very long and delicious way).

N

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Re: Getting meals below $4-5/serving
« Reply #57 on: July 03, 2013, 10:55:38 PM »
for the OP, Florence,

what would you say your main obstacles are, wrt lowering the groceries, and then, separately, lowering the eating out (which you seem to have several subcatergories of, alcohol, bars, restaurant, food & dining (?), coffee)

WRT Grocery: some possibilities I can think of:

Buying too much, not using up and throwing away (due to poor meal planning or poor scheduling)
Buying a lot of premade, processed, or packaged foods
Shopping in an expensive store
Buying premium products (bison instead of ground chuck, for ex)
Buying specialty products (boutique gelatos, for ex)

Do you not know what to make? Do you default to take out or restaurants due to ....what?
Do you need recipes? Meal planning advice? Ideas for bagged lunches or quick breakfasts?

basically, identify where the breakdown is and we can specifically offer help.

FWIW, I also struggle with food spending. I have my standards. For ex. the prudent homemaker blog writer only buys meat at 1$/lb or less and says she only buys processed hams and turkeys after holiday season. I think those hams are filled with stuff that I dont want to eat, so I wouldnt buy them. Then there are taste preferences-my family is not into beans. My kids dont eat them, and I have never been a big fan. So if people told me to live on rice and beans, its not going to happen. But there are plenty of other ways to cut back and find meals that are tasty to you and can be made affordably.

If its about convenience for you, find easy, one pot recipes or crockpot recipes. Find recipes that can be made in bulk and frozen into portions.

If its about planning, research strategies about that. When I do food planning, I take into account the weeks calendar of activities, what I have in the fridge, freezer, or pantry that needs to get used, what we ate last week, what I can afford to buy this week, etc. Once you get into it, it becomes much easier. You can institute theme nights. Soup night, Salad Night, Taco Night, Pasta night, etc. Have a night where everyone eats leftovers.

If its about recipes, well, there are tons of resources, several already posted in this thread. Pinterest can be helpful to collect and save them.

hope this helps
N

Dee18

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Re: Getting meals below $4-5/serving
« Reply #58 on: July 04, 2013, 05:27:56 AM »
When Whole Foods came to my city I was thrilled...for a couple months, until I realized how quickly those "just costs a little more" prices added up to big dollars.  The milk we drink is $ .50 more per half gallon there, strawberries 3 x the Aldi's price ( and the organic ones even more expensive than that), Avocados double anywhere else. Now I limit my shopping there to bulk oatmeal, meats (when the farmers market is closed for the winter) and an occasional treat.  It might be easiest to just not go to Whole Foods, or "Whole Paycheck" as many call it, for a couple months.  Break the habit and see the savings.

happy

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Re: Getting meals below $4-5/serving
« Reply #59 on: July 04, 2013, 06:03:02 AM »
Currently we are into Indian curry recipes: which are very economical and delicious. If you have to buy all the spices at once its a bit of a shock but once you have them, its pretty good on the budget. I've got a few versions that work for a lot of veges...makes meat go far.

If you make plenty you can freeze them. I try to have a few different varieties in the freezer and thaw 2 different ones...2 different curries in one meal makes it special.

Heather

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Re: Getting meals below $4-5/serving
« Reply #60 on: July 04, 2013, 09:54:08 AM »
It is not as easy as I thought to be frugal on groceries:
I cook everything, and buy nothing pre-prepared.  I make all our bread and yogurt from scratch. We have a couple of vegetarian meals per week. I buy meat on sale 90% of the time, and freeze lots.  I stock the cupboard when our staples come on sale. Still, we average for groceries $650/mo for a family of 2 adults and 1 power burning 4 year old.  One weekly group potluck meal is quite a bit more than average cost because we like to keep our friends well fed.
One limiting factor is that one family member's digestion does not tolerate beans or oatmeal well.  Our closest store is a Sobey's which is apparently more expensive than is ideal.  I shop at Costco monthly for flour, oil, eggs, milk and nuts, but most of what they sell is too packaged, sweetened and processed for my tastes. 
Now that the whining is done, how do I plan to improve? 
- Child's swimming lesson is beside a Food Basics store. I will shop more there.
- Keep building my cost per calorie spreadsheet. It's educational. (For eg., If we ate only broccoli, we'd spend $2000/mo on food, If we ate only pasta noodles, we'd spend $70)



happy

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Re: Getting meals below $4-5/serving
« Reply #61 on: July 04, 2013, 04:59:32 PM »
Yes Heather I agree. I 've found it really hard beyond the easy wins of no eating out, takeaway and prepared foods. Beyond what you are already doing I think its just continually refining and practicing. Managing waste is important.  Not snacking/eating more than you need. Stretching meals rather than making extra just in case (unless you use the leftovers the next day). Keep examining what you buy and make sure its really not pre-prepared eg juice.

The thing thats made a difference for me this year is being more aggressive with stockpiling. Like shares, I now have a buy price in my head...it needs to be a really good special.  Then I buy a lot. To be successful with this you need to be able to keep track of what you have and not forget about it, not buy stuff you will not use, check use-by dates, and build up local knowledge of what a really good price.

You could try growing some veges. Even if you don't wish to do this in a big way growing your own herbs, and leafy greens is easy and will save. You only pick what you need, but there is a constant supply.

mahina

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Re: Getting meals below $4-5/serving
« Reply #62 on: July 04, 2013, 10:55:55 PM »
one reason we eat out, eat prepared snacks, pick up fast food or deli food, order in, etc is we're bushed and out of ideas and just don't feel like cooking. to get costs under control, we had to get excited about cooking at home, frugally. once that eagerness is attained, the rest follows easily.

for us, the eagerness came from tantalizing photos of yummy food. you can get that on the internet, and may i also recommend ordering a bunch of cookbooks through your local library. everything looks delicious, and then, they tell you how to make it! start with that inspiration, and pretty soon you're edging each other out of the kitchen so you can make that thing you saw.

the money savings is a benefit of finding out you love to eat the super delicious food you've learned to make. restaurants cannot compare, quite frankly--when we do go to one, we almost always figure out how to make the dish more to our liking. and way, way cheaper.

we got a crock pot and opened another world of ease, deliciousness, and savings. the idea of eating a lot of beans is not appealing, until you slow cook them with a bundle of herbs from your patio! suddenly, they have standing.  pureed and topped with veggies grilled in a stove-top pan and a few shavings of romano, a dollar's worth of dry beans just became the equivalent of a pricey restaurant dish.

have fun!

Frugally-raised

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Re: Getting meals below $4-5/serving
« Reply #63 on: July 06, 2013, 07:40:20 PM »
Lots of good ideas here.

I'll recommend Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Great recipes. They can be a little complex, so I tend to save them for when I have more time to cook.

During the week I tend to keep it simple. In the 1990s I got a great book called The Monday to Friday Cookbook by Michele Urvater. Sadly out of print now, but maybe you can find it at the library. It does lean more heavily on partially-prepared foods than I tend to cook now, but not overly so (unfortunately, many of the 5-ingredient cookbooks rely heavily on pre-prepared foods, and that's neither healthy nor frugal). I still live off the Manhattan salad every August (rice, fresh mozzarella, chopped tomatoes, basil, and oil and vinegar dressing—heaven! and cheap when the tomatoes are in season!).

I also like my slow cooker for bean dishes, and have found some good recipes with Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. There may be better vegetarian slow-cooker cookbooks, though.

When you need to prepare lunches, check out some of the great bento web sites. Lots of inspiration there! Justbento.com is one of my favorites.

jba302

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Re: Getting meals below $4-5/serving
« Reply #64 on: July 08, 2013, 02:18:39 PM »
That budgetbytes website has a ham and potato frittata recipe at 1700 calories. For 8 servings. These are smurf portions.

minimalist

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Re: Getting meals below $4-5/serving
« Reply #65 on: July 08, 2013, 10:48:22 PM »
I eat very well for about $5 a day. Some examples with approximate costs include:
Breakfast: organic yogurt, homemade granola, and nuts ($0.90) or cage free egg and potatoes ($0.45)
Snacks: organic apple ($0.45), orange ($0.40), banana ($0.20), organic mixed berries ($0.90)
Lunch: rice, beans/lentils, and veggies ($0.75)
Dinner: rice and organic veggies ($1.20) with organic chicken ($0.50) or wild salmon ($2.50)
I cook with salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, turmeric, olive oil, coconut oil, soy sauce, etc., and/or add condiments such as hot sauce, salsa, etc., which adds another $0.35 to the daily total

Drinks: water ($0.05 including Brita filter cost), 2 cups of organic coffee with organic milk ($0.50), craft beer ($1.25-$2.25)
« Last Edit: July 18, 2013, 12:21:24 PM by minimalist »