Author Topic: Groceries...  (Read 6232 times)

Rhoon

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Groceries...
« on: June 05, 2016, 10:51:46 PM »
Hi all,

I keep seeing everyone post that they manage to get by on $300 for a family of 3 or 4 (or somewhere in this ballpark). Being a family of 3 myself, which can't seem to keep it under $500/mo for the 3 of us. I'm wondering what you all buy on a monthly basis to keep costs here low? The wife and I are starting to itemize what we buy in a month to try and figure this out, but in the mean time, would like to see what everyone else generally does on a monthly basis.

mousebandit

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2016, 12:43:55 AM »
We are a meat eating family of 6 - with 4 littles and 2 adults.  Kids are homeschooled, so all their meals are at home.  Hubby works out of town during the week, but I try to send food with him so he isn't eating frozen TV dinners all the time, which wrecks the food budget, lol. 

We buy meat in bulk, ground beef in 40#-60# batches and chicken breasts in similar sized lots from Zaycon.  We freeze some and I pressure can the rest, but will be going to almost all pressure-canned so we don't have to run the big freezer anymore.

I grow what I can in our garden, and get good deals in bulk from farmers market and home-preserve that (canning, jellies, dehydrate, etc). 

Meal planning is crucial for us. Those three things are our biggest budget helpers. 

I also buy bulk things from azure standard, a big food coop that has drop points all over the western U.S.  40# bag of oatmeal costs about $20 and will last us a couple of months and makes cheap, filling breakfast.  I also like their bulk frozen fruits, especially if I didn't have a ton from my own garden. Some things are important to me to get organic, or. A special brand, so I buy those items from azure for way cheaper than grocery store, for example I bought a case of my favorite Celtic sea salt bags, which will last me a couple of years.

 Lots of meals with eggs, since they are cheap protein.  Soups aren't something my family has been real excited about, but they're cheap.  If you bake your own bread, then soup, bread, and salads are cheap and filling meals. 

The crockpot is your friend for making tasty bean meals.  Chili and cowboy grub are big hits around here, and great budget-stretchers.

Cabbage is Amazing for making big meals dirt cheap.  Google "egg roll in a bowl" recipe.  Lots of times I coarsely chop cabbage, put it in with some canned chicken and cream cheese (I use home canned, so there's some chicken broth in there too to thin out the cream cheese).  Add seasonings and it's a super cheap skillet meal. 

Salads with hard boiled eggs and some nuts for protein are great.  Homemade dressings are cheap and yummy. Bonus points if you grow your own greens!  Can be packed in a jar to take to work for lunch (Google "salad in a jar" for ideas and layering technique). 

Once a month shopping is also huge for me, as it eliminAtes a ton of impulse buys.  I can be way more disciplined that way. 

MouseBandit

ahoy

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2016, 03:44:11 AM »
Cook from scratch is amazing.  I walk up and down the isles (processed foods) and only a few items will make it to my cart.  You've got to ditch the $3 sauces in a jar.  Make your own pasta sauce etc.   Jam/jelly is so easy to make, buy cheap fruit in season and make it yourself, you will never buy the commercial junk again.  since I have been doing this my weekly bill has reduced greatly.

Frankies Girl

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2016, 04:45:07 AM »
I have a grocery store in my area that periodically puts chicken drumsticks on sale for 59 a pound. I stock up when that happens, and then make crockpot drumsticks, and throw the bones back in the pot with the remaining broth and add a about 3-4 more cups of water and cook that for the rest of the night to make a really rich chicken broth. I save the end pieces of all my onions and celery and carrot bits, wash and then store in a freezer bag and dump those into the crockpot when the bag is full and make a veggie broth too. I freeze the broths in half gallons, and use them to make soups and things like chicken and dumplings from scratch. Super tasty that way.

I make soup at least 2-3 times a month in the colder months. I use potatoes as a thickener most of the time and I usually throw in any veggies that are needing to be used up. I will rough chop things like onions and celery if they are wilting and throw them in the freezer (lots of things freeze well if they'll eventually end up in a soup).

I shop places like Aldi for staples - eggs, milk, bread, cheese, basic veggies like onions, potatoes, tomatoes and cabbage and bagged salad when I'm feeling especially lazy (and they are on sale for like 60/bag!). Their eggs are usually under 60 per dozen in my area, and we love eggs - breakfast tacos, scrambled, fried, fritattas... eat them practically every day. I roast my own tomatoes and red peppers (buy those on sale - recently there were 2/$1), as they freeze really well once roasted and use for topping or add-ins for burgers, eggs, tomato dishes.

I buy dried beans whenever they're on sale and we love them cooked in the crockpot or on the stove - with a ham hock (ham hocks are cheap and flavorful add-ins - cabbage or beans cooked with a ham hock is AWESOME). We also do refried, or just beans and rice (with things like tomatoes or turnip greens/spinach throw in - depends what is on hand).

We buy frozen veggies for around $1/bag and can get 4 servings out of them usually. So always have broccoli/cauliflower, green beans and peas and sometimes brussel sprouts in the fridge.

Lots of stir-fries too. Rice is cheap, use a bit of bacon grease to add a bit more flavor and light sodium soy with lots of veggies (again, usually frozen ones) and throw in some chicken or even egg for the protein.

We buy almost exclusively store brands if we're not getting the stuff at Aldi. We do about 90% of our shopping there, and then end up at someplace like Kroger or HEB for the remainder, but it's still going to be store brands.


Honestly, the biggest thing that makes the most sense for savings is to sit down and plan out your meals so you're shopping for what you are going to actually use, not willy-nilly "stocking up" on things just because they happen to be on sale. And then the other big things are cooking from scratch. Buy things when they are on sale and stock up THEN if you know the item is in regular rotation in your meal planning. I get all the sale papers and match up things I regularly buy with the store that has the best deals. So I might have 2-3 grocery trips in a week to get the best deals, but they're all in the same area (lucky to have 4 grocery stores on each corner of a street like a mile from my house) so it's quite easy to plan out my grocery run and pop into 2 in one run.


little_brown_dog

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2016, 08:19:33 AM »
We actually are not like many mustachians - we splurge on groceries. To us, part of being financially stable and cutting expenses elsewhere is to free up more money for things that keep us happy and healthy. Our diet includes a lot of organic produce, whole foods, and grassfed dairy, which all tend to be pricier than processed foods like pasta. But to us, they are worth it. Still, we spend $400/mo for 2 people.

Cooking from scratch is a big help, as is cooking simply. Generally the fewer ingredients you need in your meals, the cheaper they are. So a plain salad of greens with olive oil and vinegar is going to be less than if you load it with delicious extras. A baked potato with a little butter is less than the same potato with guac and salsa, or bacon and cheddar cheese. If you eat meat, try to find ways to marinate it with staple ingredients you always have in your pantry (spices, oil, soy sauce, etc) instead of buying processed marinades in bottles from the store. Go for easy soups and stews that use just a few spices and cheap staple veggies like carrots, celery, and onions, instead of ethnic inspired soups that will require 40 different ingredients.

The trouble is, I find that if you eat a very fresh diet, you are probably going to pay a lot more than someone who is eating alot of their meals from shelf stable/processed foods. To me, that is perfectly okay if you can afford it and enjoy the food you are consuming.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2016, 08:23:00 AM by little_brown_dog »

MandalayVA

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2016, 09:57:42 AM »
The trouble is, I find that if you eat a very fresh diet, you are probably going to pay a lot more than someone who is eating a lot of their meals from shelf stable/processed foods. To me, that is perfectly okay if you can afford it and enjoy the food you are consuming.

That's how I look at it.  Mr. Mandalay and I spend roughly $400/month on groceries, and we buy next to no processed foods unless you count frozen fruits and vegetables.  We keep our meals simple--meat, salads, vegetables and fruit for the most part.  We have a small chest freezer which is a dogsend when meat is on sale--we both love lamb and happily await Easter because that's just about the only time it goes on sale, for example.  I do a lot of bulk cooking on Sundays so we can just heat and go throughout the week.  These days we rarely eat out because my food's better.  :D

mm1970

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2016, 10:42:00 AM »
Hi all,

I keep seeing everyone post that they manage to get by on $300 for a family of 3 or 4 (or somewhere in this ballpark). Being a family of 3 myself, which can't seem to keep it under $500/mo for the 3 of us. I'm wondering what you all buy on a monthly basis to keep costs here low? The wife and I are starting to itemize what we buy in a month to try and figure this out, but in the mean time, would like to see what everyone else generally does on a monthly basis.
I'm at about $550/month for a family of four.  Nowhere near $300.  And that's after years of working hard at it.

It's going to vary a LOT by:
1.  Where you live
- Higher costs of living areas cost more because of overhead
- If you are in the middle of nowhere where there is only one store, there is no competition
- If you live where there are many stores, and Walmart or Aldi, and farmer's markets, and Asian/ Hispanic stores, and farm stands...more choices
2.  What you eat
- Beans & rice are cheap (carbs)
- Berries cost more than apples
- etc.
3.  How much time you have
- cooking everything is cheaper
- cooking from scratch is cheaper
- gardening is (usually) cheaper

...but they all take time

wenchsenior

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2016, 11:17:30 AM »
I started making an effort to cut grocery bills about 2 years ago, but I too find some of the figures reported here kind of astonishing. We had been averaging 600$/month for 2 adults and 3 cats, NOT including eating out or alcohol. And that was with very little red meat consumption and me eating only 2 meals per day!

I have been successful in cutting this by about 100$/month without much effort mainly by shopping for sales on meat and stocking up; and also by price tracking for about 3 months at different stores, whereby I discovered that most items in our town are cheapest at Target.

In order to cut our bill further, I need to cook more from scratch and meal-plan better. I'm pretty sure I could get us to 400$/month if I did that. However, to get below $400, we would have to change how we eat in a way I find unhealthy...fattier meats, less salmon, less fresh produce, more nutritionally empty carbs such as potatos, etc.

Now, the real low hanging fruit is in the eating-out category, which regularly runs us an additional $300-350/month. Nearly all of this is my husband's breakfast/lunches. We have just this past month begun to tackle this...bulk cooking and having him take lunches at least several days per week. Baby steps, as it were.

Honestly, our biggest challenge is that I don't like to cook (and I'm responsible for more of it because DH is busier), so meal planning and efficient bulk cooking seems off putting. Trying to change our mindset, though. It's particularly annoying because I am actually pretty GOOD at cooking. I just find it tiresome. Most of my family members enjoy cooking as a hobby, and I completely missed out on that 'gene' LOL.

prognastat

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2016, 11:33:23 AM »
It is possible to get cost down to about 150 per person if you make almost everything yourself or you work offers low cost meal options. However at such a figure you are not snacking or eating out at all.

A few good ideas are buying in bulk and making frozen batches either pre-cooked and frozen to make in the microwave/pan or uncooked pre-frozen for in a crockpot.

Also rice is a really cheap carb and can fill out a meal.

One could go cheaper than the $150 per person figure but in my opinion at that point you get in to unhealthy eating since you are cutting out too much in nutritious slightly more expensive ingredients. Like you could eat just oatmeal prepared with water and nothing else twice a day and a meal made mostly out of rice with some chicken with barely any vegetables and get by with under $100 per person, but it would have detrimental effects on your health in the long run.

I have to admit though I fail the $150 figure regularly myself not because it is unattainable while still eating healthy, but it is unattainable if you eat out. Just eating out once a week will probably bump it over $200 per person at least depending on what kind of places you eat at.

I would say generally my aim is to get food cost down below $5 a day per person which for me is roughly $1 breakfast, $1 lunch and $3 dinner. It is just the two of us and most of our dinners are made using a crockpot and make 4 servings covering us for 2 days.

I can get an egg for only $0.15, a slice of bread for $0.05 and a slice of bacon around $0.20. So I can make a nice breakfast or lunch of 2 slices of toast, 2 eggs and 2 slices of bacon for only $0.80 coming in well under my $1.00 figure for breakfast and at about 460 calories. You can even add an extra egg or slice of bacon if you want a little more and still be within $1.00. Another option is a grilled cheese(or an ungrilled cheese if for lunch) and a glass of milk.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2016, 11:59:31 AM by prognastat »

StartingEarly

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2016, 12:54:11 PM »
A big part of it is going to Sam's Club if you have one and buy the things that are good deals, not everything is. You have to be flexible with your meals and change them up month to month based on the sales, but you can get some steals if you know what you're doing.

forummm

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2016, 01:39:18 PM »
It is possible to get cost down to about 150 per person if you make almost everything yourself or you work offers low cost meal options. However at such a figure you are not snacking or eating out at all.

We do a bit over $300 total if you include DW's lunches and coffees. Otherwise we're $225ish on average and eat really well. We have foods that can be eaten as snacks. But I prefer to not snack so I eat them at meal times (like chips at lunch).

GuitarStv

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2016, 01:48:33 PM »
Eating less meat (one dish every other day) radically reduces your food costs, as does cooking everything from scratch, and proper meal planning (no waste).

SEAK

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2016, 01:57:49 PM »
For a family of 4 in Juneau, AK (HCOLA) we average a whopping $1,100/mo at the grocery store and $150/mo eating out. This includes a weekly ($57/wk) Organic CSA box and a monthly fresh Alaskan fish box. We cook all of our meals from scratch but do pretty much no meal planning. We really need to get into the habit of planning meals and stopping the every other day going to the store for a few things routine.

fattest_foot

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2016, 02:29:38 PM »
The trouble is, I find that if you eat a very fresh diet, you are probably going to pay a lot more than someone who is eating alot of their meals from shelf stable/processed foods. To me, that is perfectly okay if you can afford it and enjoy the food you are consuming.

We've mostly been estimating our grocery bills, but I'd say we're at $400-500 for 2 adults (I'm actually saving receipts to better track what we're spending, as of last month).

But the statement above is my short term conclusion. We eat a lot of fresh produce which drives up the cost a lot. It get supplemented by things like rice and oatmeal, but fresh produce isn't even remotely cheap; and this is living in California where it's significantly cheaper than when we lived in Illinois.

I've come to terms with it though. I'm willing to spend a lot more so that I can eat healthier, and at this point in my life, an extra $100-200 on groceries isn't going to kill me.

boarder42

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2016, 02:44:27 PM »
i buy all our produce at aldi and that keeps our costs way down we eat a diet called 4 hour body which is similar to paleo but you cna have beans but no fruit.  our food budget has gone up but we moved to a new house and entertain alot and food and booze comes in around 550 right now for us but i mean we entertain alot.

rpr

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #15 on: June 06, 2016, 02:57:17 PM »
It totally depends on your local cost of living. Where I live, milk is $6.50/gallon at the supermarket, potatoes are 1.75/lb and eggs are $4.50/dozen. It is at least twice as high as average US for most things. We spend about $650/month on groceries for two people.

Workingmomsaves

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #16 on: June 06, 2016, 08:59:02 PM »
A few easy changes:
Meal plan based on the weekly sales.
Cook from scratch (Pizza sauce, pancakes, waffles,Alfredo sauce etc)
Don't buy beverages, pop juice etc no/little nutritional value.

Good luck you can do it!

Rural

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #17 on: June 07, 2016, 07:37:20 AM »
 Fresh produce in season is cheaper per pound than virtually anything else you can buy. Sure, if you want to buy blackberries in December, you'll pay through the nose. That's why you buy storage apples or early citrus in December, plus carrots and cabbage.  Oh, and potatoes. Your body needs potassium. Bananas are always cheap, too they're an example of another systemic problem with excessive shipping, but as long as they're sitting there for $.50 a pound or less, it's hard to argue that fresh produce is always expensive.


 Now, that said, what it costs you to eat is really a function of where you live. One of the real advantages that we discovered, and that we hadn't expected, in moving to this extremely low cost of living area was the tremendously reduced cost of food. We run $350-$400 a month, but that's food for two adult humans, two great Danes, and three cats,  plus most household supplies.  The humans do eat out for two or three meals a month, and that's not included in the total.


 I do cook mostly from ingredients rather than heating up a box, but I have discovered that it's really not any more difficult or time-consuming than following the instructions on a box. It's a habit, that's all. It takes a little time to form the habit, but it's as easy as doing it any other way - it just feels different at first if it's not what you're used to. 


Also, and i think this is important, it's not an all or nothing deal. Choosing the shortcuts that actually save time or effort makes a big difference.  Many of the shortcuts don't do anything of the sort.  I often use canned beans. I never use quick-cooking rice, because I have to cook that every damn time we want to eat some rice. Instead, I put 2 pounds of rice at once into the steamer and freeze meal sized portions. Defrosting is much, much easier than cooking rice, even parboiled rice,  and that way we get healthy brown rice, which keeps us from feeling hungry quickly, for a fraction of the price, too. Better, faster, cheaper that's not a deal that comes along every day, so I take advantage of it when I find it.

GuitarStv

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #18 on: June 07, 2016, 07:47:29 AM »
Also, and i think this is important, it's not an all or nothing deal. Choosing the shortcuts that actually save time or effort makes a big difference.  Many of the shortcuts don't do anything of the sort.  I often use canned beans. I never use quick-cooking rice, because I have to cook that every damn time we want to eat some rice. Instead, I put 2 pounds of rice at once into the steamer and freeze meal sized portions. Defrosting is much, much easier than cooking rice, even parboiled rice,  and that way we get healthy brown rice, which keeps us from feeling hungry quickly, for a fraction of the price, too. Better, faster, cheaper that's not a deal that comes along every day, so I take advantage of it when I find it.

The same way you make huge batches of rice and freeze them, you can make huge batches of dried beans and then freeze them.  Dried beans cost next to nothing, and then you can just grab a bag from the freezer rather than an expensive can from the cupboard.

boarder42

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #19 on: June 07, 2016, 08:19:07 AM »
Also, and i think this is important, it's not an all or nothing deal. Choosing the shortcuts that actually save time or effort makes a big difference.  Many of the shortcuts don't do anything of the sort.  I often use canned beans. I never use quick-cooking rice, because I have to cook that every damn time we want to eat some rice. Instead, I put 2 pounds of rice at once into the steamer and freeze meal sized portions. Defrosting is much, much easier than cooking rice, even parboiled rice,  and that way we get healthy brown rice, which keeps us from feeling hungry quickly, for a fraction of the price, too. Better, faster, cheaper that's not a deal that comes along every day, so I take advantage of it when I find it.

The same way you make huge batches of rice and freeze them, you can make huge batches of dried beans and then freeze them.  Dried beans cost next to nothing, and then you can just grab a bag from the freezer rather than an expensive can from the cupboard.

i really need to get into this.  we go thru beans by the flat weekly almost.  with chili's etc. whats your estimated price per can with dry beans?  and do you use the slow cooker trick to cook them? also whats a reasonable price per pound for dry beans.

GuitarStv

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #20 on: June 07, 2016, 08:31:23 AM »
Also, and i think this is important, it's not an all or nothing deal. Choosing the shortcuts that actually save time or effort makes a big difference.  Many of the shortcuts don't do anything of the sort.  I often use canned beans. I never use quick-cooking rice, because I have to cook that every damn time we want to eat some rice. Instead, I put 2 pounds of rice at once into the steamer and freeze meal sized portions. Defrosting is much, much easier than cooking rice, even parboiled rice,  and that way we get healthy brown rice, which keeps us from feeling hungry quickly, for a fraction of the price, too. Better, faster, cheaper that's not a deal that comes along every day, so I take advantage of it when I find it.

The same way you make huge batches of rice and freeze them, you can make huge batches of dried beans and then freeze them.  Dried beans cost next to nothing, and then you can just grab a bag from the freezer rather than an expensive can from the cupboard.

i really need to get into this.  we go thru beans by the flat weekly almost.  with chili's etc. whats your estimated price per can with dry beans?  and do you use the slow cooker trick to cook them? also whats a reasonable price per pound for dry beans.

Depends on where you get the bulk dry beans and what variety, but it's really cheap.  I'd say in the range of 15-30 cents per 15 oz can.

pbkmaine

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #21 on: June 07, 2016, 08:32:29 AM »
I use dried beans exclusively, and cook them under pressure in my Instant Pot. I can get a 2lb package of white beans at Aldi for $1.99. Walmart has similar prices. You can do even better by putting "bulk dried beans" into a search engine.

Here are some conversions:
http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/04/is-there-a-ratio-for-converting-between-dried.html

mm1970

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #22 on: June 07, 2016, 09:33:04 AM »
Also, and i think this is important, it's not an all or nothing deal. Choosing the shortcuts that actually save time or effort makes a big difference.  Many of the shortcuts don't do anything of the sort.  I often use canned beans. I never use quick-cooking rice, because I have to cook that every damn time we want to eat some rice. Instead, I put 2 pounds of rice at once into the steamer and freeze meal sized portions. Defrosting is much, much easier than cooking rice, even parboiled rice,  and that way we get healthy brown rice, which keeps us from feeling hungry quickly, for a fraction of the price, too. Better, faster, cheaper that's not a deal that comes along every day, so I take advantage of it when I find it.

The same way you make huge batches of rice and freeze them, you can make huge batches of dried beans and then freeze them.  Dried beans cost next to nothing, and then you can just grab a bag from the freezer rather than an expensive can from the cupboard.

i really need to get into this.  we go thru beans by the flat weekly almost.  with chili's etc. whats your estimated price per can with dry beans?  and do you use the slow cooker trick to cook them? also whats a reasonable price per pound for dry beans.

Depends on where you live and the kind of prices you can get.  The regular price for beans here from Smart & Final (a big box-ish store):

10 lb pinto for $6
10 lb black beans for $10

I can generally get dried chickpeas for $1.30/lb

The cheapest canned beans are 0.39 to 0.79 per can, and those prices are the super duper sale prices (so when I can get them, I usually get a few to keep for mid-week emergencies).

I cook my beans either in the crockpot or in the pressure cooker.  Both work well.  Crockpot more often.

1 lb of beans makes approx 6 cups of beans.  A can of beans is about 1.5 cups to 1.75 cups.

So, 1 lb of beans makes 3-4 cans. 

Using dried pintos: 0.15 to 0.20/ can equivalent
Using dried black beans: 0.25 to 0.33/ can equivalent
Using dried garbanzos: 0.33 to 0.43/ can equivalent

GuitarStv

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #23 on: June 07, 2016, 09:37:44 AM »
Oh, very important FYI for cooking beans at home in a crock pot:

DO NOT USE YOUR CROCK POT TO COOK RED KIDNEY BEANS!

Crockpots don't get hot enough to destroy a chemical that they have in their skin, and you will make yourself very sick eating them.  They need to be brought to a roiling boil for 10 - 15 minutes to be safe to eat.  You can stick 'em in the crockpot after this.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2016, 09:56:06 AM by GuitarStv »

Kapiira

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #24 on: June 07, 2016, 09:55:16 AM »
I've been using this Frugalwoods rice and beans recipe for a few months now.  It's delicious!

http://www.frugalwoods.com/2015/01/23/our-epically-frugal-lunch-recipe/

SamIAm38

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #25 on: June 07, 2016, 09:57:45 AM »
We grow kale at the community garden and use it in a meal/day. Good for adding to meals and eating healthy.

2 adults average about $400 a month with alcohol, excluding bar/restaurant expenses.

Switched to buying cases of wine at trader joes for $3/bottle, that helps. Also grow most other produce ourselves. We rely on budget shelf (on sale for being over ripe or too old) at krogers. Not always sure what we'll find buying this way, a lot of times that shelf has nothing, last week we got a backpack full of mangos, bananas, cucumbers, tomatoes and avocados for < $10.

One thing I have had a hard time with is cooking cheaply and avoiding grain based food. It's hard to keep the cost of food down without relying on rice/pasta/bread/starch of some sort. Hard to come up with different meal ideas as well.

GuitarStv

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #26 on: June 07, 2016, 10:00:02 AM »
One thing I have had a hard time with is cooking cheaply and avoiding grain based food. It's hard to keep the cost of food down without relying on rice/pasta/bread/starch of some sort. Hard to come up with different meal ideas as well.

Do you have a medical condition that prevents you from eating any grain based foods?

boarder42

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #27 on: June 07, 2016, 10:14:15 AM »
dried garbanzo's may help me a lot i make socca dough for our pizza crust b/c we eat a 4hourbody diet.  how hard are they? would a normal food processor grind them up for flour? 

StarBright

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #28 on: June 07, 2016, 10:32:02 AM »
We are family of 4 and 1 cat and we spent $544 last month. Low months we can keep it to around $500, high months we are closer to $700.

That being said I often think back to when I had just gotten my first job (10 years ago) - I had a whopping $100 a month to spend on food and kept my budget between $20 and $25 a week. I ate eggs, plain Quaker oats or with a little jelly or peanut butter mixed in, bananas and any other seasonal fruit I could get on a good sale, frozen veggies, lentil soups (I could get two lunches out of the pre- seasoned Manischevitz soup mixes), cowboy beans (and variations thereof) and peanut butter sandwiches. I used ketchup and soy packets from the "take out" drawer at my office when times were particularly tight.

If I was seriously trying to drop my food budget I would definitely consider adopting a similar variation on this meal plan. I've spent years learning to scratch cook at this point so I could add healthy and flavorful things in fairly cheaply.



SamIAm38

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #29 on: June 07, 2016, 10:36:19 AM »
One thing I have had a hard time with is cooking cheaply and avoiding grain based food. It's hard to keep the cost of food down without relying on rice/pasta/bread/starch of some sort. Hard to come up with different meal ideas as well.

Do you have a medical condition that prevents you from eating any grain based foods?

Nope, just health choices. Some people prefer to spend extra on organic food, I prefer to spend extra money and effort on increasing vegetables, fruits and nuts portions. Based on my bodies response and research I've done, I prefer to limit my grain intake when possible.

mm1970

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #30 on: June 07, 2016, 10:44:17 AM »
Oh, very important FYI for cooking beans at home in a crock pot:

DO NOT USE YOUR CROCK POT TO COOK RED KIDNEY BEANS!

Crockpots don't get hot enough to destroy a chemical that they have in their skin, and you will make yourself very sick eating them.  They need to be brought to a roiling boil for 10 - 15 minutes to be safe to eat.  You can stick 'em in the crockpot after this.
Yes, pressure cooker for kidney beans.  (I just buy canned for kidney beans.)

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #31 on: June 07, 2016, 10:44:39 AM »
I use dried beans exclusively, and cook them under pressure in my Instant Pot. I can get a 2lb package of white beans at Aldi for $1.99. Walmart has similar prices. You can do even better by putting "bulk dried beans" into a search engine.

Here are some conversions:
http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/04/is-there-a-ratio-for-converting-between-dried.html

Very useful link, thank you!  Have you found that some beans cook better than other in the instant pot? I've had good luck with chickpeas for hummus, but keep messing up black beans. To the point that DH gently requested I stop trying haha.

Gerard

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #32 on: June 07, 2016, 12:29:25 PM »
Some useful and thoughtful responses here. My two cents:

-It's okay to vary your diet with the seasons, and also to not desperately try to get every nutrient into every meal. I'll have a lunch that's 90% corn on the cob in August (cost: maybe 50 cents?), or 70% ground pork after visiting the Chinese supermarket (cost: maybe 70 cents?).

-Some foods are just superstars in terms of filling you up, giving you nutrients, and being cheap. Dried legumes and grains, flours, in-season produce, carrots, onions, potatoes, cabbage. Buy big amounts, cook them yourself, add many flavour things, and make enough for later meals.

-Conversely, some foods offer little nutrition or flavour, but serve as some kind of symbolic "food" for people. Things like iceberg lettuce, or cucumbers, or out-of-season "fresh" tomatoes. You have my permission to not buy them.

-Almost every food culture has ingredients that cost more, but that make cheap food amazing. Things like Indian spices, parmesan, gochujang, dried mushrooms, fresh citrus, harissa. These are probably worth the investment.

-Almost everywhere is good for SOME kind of cost-cutting. The more rural you are, the more sense it makes to forage, grow your own, and direct some money or love toward neighbours who farm or hunt or fish. If you live in a big city, you must shop at large "ethnic" supermarkets.

-Almost all leftovers, trimmings, and other collateral damage can be turned into soup. Not just "oh crap, I have to eat soup to save money" soup, but good, good soup.

-Shopping well and making your own stuff does take some time, but once you get past a certain threshold, it stops being a chore and becomes a rewarding creative enterprise. I think we don't talk this up enough.

Rural

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #33 on: June 07, 2016, 12:32:29 PM »
Also, and i think this is important, it's not an all or nothing deal. Choosing the shortcuts that actually save time or effort makes a big difference.  Many of the shortcuts don't do anything of the sort.  I often use canned beans. I never use quick-cooking rice, because I have to cook that every damn time we want to eat some rice. Instead, I put 2 pounds of rice at once into the steamer and freeze meal sized portions. Defrosting is much, much easier than cooking rice, even parboiled rice,  and that way we get healthy brown rice, which keeps us from feeling hungry quickly, for a fraction of the price, too. Better, faster, cheaper that's not a deal that comes along every day, so I take advantage of it when I find it.

The same way you make huge batches of rice and freeze them, you can make huge batches of dried beans and then freeze them.  Dried beans cost next to nothing, and then you can just grab a bag from the freezer rather than an expensive can from the cupboard.


Yep, and I probably should. Now that I have the instantpot to make it ridiculously easy, it's time for me to start forming that habit, too. Have I mentioned how much I love that you can just dump frozen food straight into the instantpot?

Rural

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #34 on: June 07, 2016, 02:57:36 PM »
Okay, Guitarstv, you've inspired me. I just cooked up a couple of pounds of pinto beans from  the dregs of a 20-pound bag I should have used sooner,and , assuming they're edible, I'll be sticking them all in the freezer.

redbird

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #35 on: June 07, 2016, 03:03:46 PM »
Someone else mentioned it, but please be aware that you may not be able to get your costs that low depending on where you live. I've only been living in Atlanta, GA since September. For the 6 years before that I was living in Oahu, Hawaii and then Tokyo, Japan. Food is *much* more expensive in both Hawaii and Japan. I pay about $200-250 /month on groceries for 2 adults now, but for those 6 years I paid more than double that per month.

CmFtns

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #36 on: June 07, 2016, 03:16:47 PM »
breakfast & snacks:
trail-mix made with granola, oats, raisins, peanuts
when not crunched for time omelets, eggs, french toast, pancakes

lunch:
kale/spinach salad w/ peanuts fruit raisins cheese or whatever else is around
PB&J sandwich
Sometimes dinner leftovers

Dinner:
we make 1 large batch recipe for the week usually has rice/pasta, a meat, and vegetable ingredients

For 2 people averaged over the past year we were at $190/mo


Guava

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #37 on: June 07, 2016, 03:54:36 PM »
I average about $210 a month for 2 adults, 1 cat, and all of our household supplies. We eat a lot of breakfast burritos for breakfast and sometimes make our own muffins with overripe fruit and occasionally we eat cereal. For lunch SO always eats a lunch meat sandwich, some chips, a banana and a half pound of strawberries. I eat PBJ and a banana. Dinner varies between burritos, sausage, chicken and occasionally beef. We eat whatever vegetables are on sale and I try to use minimal amounts of meat. We will share a chicken breast and steam broccoli and make garlic toast.

pbkmaine

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Groceries...
« Reply #38 on: June 07, 2016, 06:15:21 PM »
I use dried beans exclusively, and cook them under pressure in my Instant Pot. I can get a 2lb package of white beans at Aldi for $1.99. Walmart has similar prices. You can do even better by putting "bulk dried beans" into a search engine.

Here are some conversions:
http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/04/is-there-a-ratio-for-converting-between-dried.html

Very useful link, thank you!  Have you found that some beans cook better than other in the instant pot? I've had good luck with chickpeas for hummus, but keep messing up black beans. To the point that DH gently requested I stop trying haha.

I have only made white beans, because I eat this often:
http://www.theprudenthomemaker.com/rosemary-white-bean-soup
For rehydrating the dried white beans, I adjust the Instant Pot cooking time to 40 minutes instead of the default 30.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2016, 06:24:03 PM by pbkmaine »

mousebandit

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Re: Groceries...
« Reply #39 on: June 07, 2016, 06:53:21 PM »
Oh, very important FYI for cooking beans at home in a crock pot:

DO NOT USE YOUR CROCK POT TO COOK RED KIDNEY BEANS!

Crockpots don't get hot enough to destroy a chemical that they have in their skin, and you will make yourself very sick eating them.  They need to be brought to a roiling boil for 10 - 15 minutes to be safe to eat.  You can stick 'em in the crockpot after this.
Yes, pressure cooker for kidney beans.  (I just buy canned for kidney beans.)

WOW!  That surprised me, I had never heard that.  I double-checked with the extension service (food preservation experts) and they state that it's not the temperature that is the concern, as long as the beans are fully cooked.  So, crockpot is okay, as long as they do become fully cooked.  It specifically says that when cooking in the crockpot, make sure they become fully tender.  Learn something new every day!!