Author Topic: Help me cut my grocery bill  (Read 7166 times)

MrsSpendyPants

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 70
Help me cut my grocery bill
« on: July 10, 2020, 08:29:08 PM »
Analyzing this week's grocery shopping and looking for tips.  This is not a barebones grocery trip, there is plenty of fluff.
However, I am sure that I can somehow get all of this cheaper so I am looking for suggestions such as X store has it cheaper, Y product is cheaper and tastes identical, or here's a recipe for Z that is going to be much cheaper to make than buy.

Aldi -
4.24 - cold brew coffee (I had a friend who loves coffee do the math and he said doing it from scratch would be roughly the same as you use a lot with cold brew, but I'm not sure what sort of coffee he used in his math so maybe there are cheaper alternatives.  Anyone cold brew their own coffee and can make suggestions?)
4.24 - cold brew coffee
3.79 - 2% gallon milk
3.55 - gallon skim milk
3.55 - gallon skim milk
0.75 - saltines
0.59 - mango
0.85 - pasta sauce
0.85 - pasta sauce
3.29 - frozen hash brown patties
3.21 - zucchinis at 2.49/lb
1.89 - white sliced mushrooms
1.04 - organic bananas at 1.83/lb
1.95 - wheat crackers
2.39 - pint blueberries
1.69 - two tomatoes
1.49 - strawberries
2.69 - vine tomatoes
2.39 - fresh mozzarella to go with the vine tomatoes
1.95 - chocolate donuts
2.59 - artichokes
1.29 - american sliced cheese 10.6 oz
1.29 - sliced american cheese 10.6 oz
1.19 spinach
= 53.15

Giant Eagle
18.09 - 3 lbs of Bavarian ham at 5.99/lb.  We usually go through 2-3 lbs of deli meat a week and we tried a cheaper ham at Walmart and didn't like it.  Any cheaper ham out there that might taste the same as the bavarian?  I don't know my hams very well but definitely do not like the maple/virginia variety.
= 18.09

Walmart
1.74 - 2 Liter of coke
1.74 - 2 Liter of coke
8.00 - eight 2 Liter bottles of Fresca soda
0.97 - gift wrap in an ugly pink color, all other gift wrap was like $4 a role.  Where do I find a cheap non-Christmas colored role of wrapping paper?  I usually get paper after Christmas but I didn't find any for birthdays/baby showers this year
9.96 - six pack of underwear
2.58 - 24 oz american cheese
10.37 - 80oz of frozen meatballs
3.12 -  32oz heavy whipping cream
1.00 - frozen steamable broccoli
1.00 - frozen steamable broccoli
5.56 - two frozen pizzas
1.98 - pint of blueberries
2.78 - burger onion rolls
1.24 - 2 cucumbers
8.32 - four cans of hearts of palm
2.76 - two red bell peppers
1.52 - two green bell peppers
3.01 - peaches at 1.69/lb
1.96 - rice vinegar
2.56 - salad spring mix (compared to three romaine lettuce hearts were almost $4!)
=72.17

total = 143.41

I see some incredible grocery budgets on here so help me out!  Thank you!

Edited to add -> this feeds two adults and a toddler for roughly a week
« Last Edit: July 11, 2020, 02:54:16 AM by MrsSpendyPants »

SunnyDays

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1163
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2020, 09:05:19 PM »
Those prices look pretty enviable to me.  Canít get most of those things that cheap north of the border.  For example, a 4 litre jug of 1% milk is 4.74;  700 grams (24 oz = 680 grams) of no name Farmers cheese is 7.98 on sale, normally 9.48; 2.10 for one orange pepper, 1.27 for one bunch of green onions, 4.84 for 18 eggs.

My only suggestion is to stop buying cold cuts on a regular basis (not good for you anyway) and instead buy beef and pork roasts and chicken breasts for sandwiches.  On sale of course.

MudPuppy

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 528
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2020, 01:27:16 AM »
What items and what stores have things cheaper is going to vary so much by region. In my area, for instance, Aldi doesnít save me any money since the produce is not good good quality at my local one.

How many people does this serve and for how long? What are some items (bananas) organic and others arenít (blueberries)?

My general tip is to plan meals in advance to help minimize food waste and impulse buys. We eat more legumes as a percentage of our protein since they tend to be cheaper than meat, especially deli meat. We grow some of our own produce to supplement our intake. Lots of things are easy to grow and provide a lot of bang for your buck. IIRC you live on a fair spot of land so that could really be a game changer for you. A few tomato plants, zucchini plants, pole beans, herbs, and leafy greens are easily in your reach. We also cook large batches of things and plan for leftovers.


Freedomin5

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2991
  • Location: China
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2020, 01:46:01 AM »
I donít know about your region, but in general, we keep our food costs down by:

- Not drinking soda at all (itís sugar and food coloring and generally bad for you)
- Limiting the amount of meat we eat
- Limiting the amount of milk and milk products we eat


Kyle Schuant

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1242
  • Location: Melbourne, Australia
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2020, 02:55:59 AM »
You don't need fizzy drinks at all, so that's ten bucks. Nor do you need someone to slice your cheese for you, just get more of the regular cheese. As others have said, a lot of cold cuts you can just buy the raw meat, cut and slice it yourself. Likewise you don't need things like hash browns.

Rather than going through it item-by-item, it's more productive to think of your overall approach, so to speak. We don't know your personal circumstances, whether you're buying just for you (and we only have to consider what you like) or for a whole family (who you also have to please), do you and your family have time to prepare more meals from scratch (eg make your own meatballs, etc).

Essentially, the more a person is making things from scratch rather than buying them prepared, the cheaper the overall bill will be. But then the person is trading their time for money - and they may or may not have that time.

I have my family follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines. This means that, for 2 adults and 2 children, each week we go through,

Vegetables, 9.5kg
Fruit, 7kg
Grain, 4.5kg
Meat group, which we break down into: fish 1kg, beans 0.5kg (these are dried, cooked weight is 150% more), red meat 0.5kg, chicken 0.5kg, nuts 250g, and eggs 2 doz
Dairy, milk 6lt, yoghurt 3kg, cheese 0.5kg

Miscellaneous like olive oil, coffee, etc, which we buy in bulk every few months.

The vegies and fruit include only tomatoes as tinned stuff, the rest is fresh. I used to get a lot of tinned beans but nowadays I just get the dried ones.

The grains are actually a bit less than that these days as we've had more bread and less rice, and our bread is homemade from flour and is 1/3 by weight wholegrains and seeds.

The meat is not the same each week, for example one week I might get us a chicken (1.5-2kg) and no more chicken for the next two weeks. The above is the average.

Dairy we just get regular milk, most of that is consumed by the kids. The kids have a full-fat vanilla yoghurt they like, my wife and I have chobani (low fat, high protein) yoghurt. Cheese is consumed by all of us, mostly the kids, though.

Total cost is $120-$140 depending on how strict we are about going for seasonal fruit and vegetables, for example capsicums will vary from $2-$8/kg. In practice our actual consumption is a bit less than this, but half the time we have my eldest at home making 3 adults, and outside lockdown we generally have someone over Friday night dinner.

My wife and I are both working at home at the moment and school has become homeschooling, so we almost never eat out. When my wife was out at work and my children at school, I just made extra dinner and that became tomorrow's lunch along with a piece of fruit or two.

Junk food is basically ice cream at Friday night dinner, and we have things like cooking chocolate - nice enough to satisfy the taste for chocolate, but not so nice that you'll want to eat the whole bar in one go like Cadbury's :) We get a dozen bottles of wine every 3 months. A couple of times a year someone gives me a bottle of liquor of some kind. Neither of us has more than 3 standard drinks a week.

Shopping for fresh stuff is a bit more time-consuming than shopping for prepared food, because the price varies seasonally, so you spend a bit longer thinking about what to get. And it's a lot more time cooking. I found things worked better once I developed a menu,

Monday - blended vegie soup
Tuesday - chilli & tortillas or rice
Wednesday - vegie & bean soup
Thursday - curry
Friday - rotates roast chicken, roast lamb, lasagna
Saturday - pasta & sauce
Sunday - wife's choice as she cooks that day

That's the menu, if anyone complains about having the same thing, I say, "Great! What are you making for dinner tonight, then?" and the complaints usually go quiet, if not then I get a night off, either is fine with me. Most people have 3-4 dishes which make up 80% of the dinners they eat. If you develop a menu then it's easier to buy and cook in bulk. And once you're cooking (say) 4 serves it's not a lot of extra work to make 8 serves, you just chop another onion and carrot, or whatever.

It does take extra time, you have to decide for yourself if it's worth it. I have the time spare, and I believe it has health benefits for us, so gives indirect savings long-term on medical costs, etc.

former player

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5517
  • Location: Avalon
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2020, 03:28:11 AM »
Why are you paying someone else to slice your mushrooms for you?

Why are you paying someone else to slice your cheese for you?

Why are you paying someone else to slice your meat for you?

Why aren't you growing your own salad greens and spinach?

Cranky

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2371
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2020, 06:41:51 AM »
I often find wrapping paper at yard sales and thrift stores. I'm pretty sure I have a lifetime supply. And underwear does not count as part of the grocery budget, IMO!

Spinach growing season is over for a while in our area - that's a cool weather crop.

Full disclosure - I'm not, at this point in my life, trying to cut back on groceries. We like to cook, we like to eat, these are unprecedented times, blah, blah, blah. I'm also not going into stores again, so I'm pretty much only getting GE pickup, and that is definitely the most expensive option.

I don't think your spending is terribly high for a family of 4, but yeah, you could do a bit better if it's just the 2 of you.

I'd say, yeah - comparison shop in the sense that I think that bag of spring mix will be cheaper at Aldi. My Aldi has really, really nice produce and they are always my first choice for produce.

But at some point, if you want to cut costs you need to buy different stuff. I will have to agree that that is a heck of a lot of deli ham. It doesn't keep long, so I'm guessing you eat all of that in a week? How many sandwiches are you eating? My own change would be to say "I'm buying a pound of the ham we really like for sandwiches this week. When that runs out, there's sliced turkey from Aldi, or leftovers, or peanut butter." I only shop once/week, so when that stuff is used up, people have to eat something else.

I'd buy *one* bottle of soda for Pizza Night on Friday, and after that there's, y'know... water. I do have a Soda Stream so my dh can make fizzy water. I make a pitcher of iced tea pretty often in the summer. Otherwise, there's... water. Water is good for you, and delicious.

Otherwise, it's the standard stuff - menu plan, but really, stock up on what's onsite and menu plan mostly from what you have on hand.

Malcat

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3040
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2020, 07:34:00 AM »
For those of us with very low grocery spends, it's not so much about finding cheaper options, it was largely about a full scale modification of the way we eat.

Groceries are very expensive where I live and $2000+/mo for a family of 4 here is not unusual. DH and I, on the other hand, can easily keep our groceries for two at ~$200/mo, but we're not buying meat, pop, bread, cereal, sweets, processed food, etc.

I cook everything from scratch, and prioritize dishes whose bulk ingredients are cheap, like potatoes, legumes and grains. I cook with a ton of veggies, but depend more on cheaper veggies like carrots, cabbage, etc, and a lot of canned tomatoes and frozen spinach.

I make a ton of curries, stews, pilafs, etc. I don't bake because it's not my thing, but a lot of the low food spenders here bake a ton of stuff. The only "bread" we eat is tortillas, which I make from scratch for basically pennies a batch.

So, it really depends on what your goal is. What kind of advice are you looking for exactly, because the prices for the items you've described are very good, so you really can't do much better without fundamentally changing the way you plan and prepare food.

Aunt Petunia

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1176
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #8 on: July 11, 2020, 09:16:06 AM »
This is going to be highly regional, but I can talk about Aldi at least. My Aldi has roma tomatoes for .99/lb that taste identical to the expensive vine ones. None of them are as good as real garden tomatoes, so you might as well get the cheap ones.

We buy a 10lb bag of potatoes for 2.99 instead of frozen potato products.

Where we live, Aldi is not the cheapest place for dairy products or bananas.

We grow zucchini in the garden and freeze some of it. We end up giving away a bunch too. I have never bought zucchini, they are the easiest thing to grow. OTOH I have a hard time growing salad greens, so ymmv.

In defense of the mushrooms, sometimes the sliced mushrooms are on sale cheaper than the whole ones.

You can usually get hams really cheap (less than$1/lb) right after Easter and Christmas (or recently our grocery store just ordered too many and had to sell them off at .39/lb because they were close to the expiration date). There is no reason you couldn't slice it and eat it on a sandwich. You can also stock up on clearance turkeys after Thanksgiving and make one every couple weeks for sandwich meat. Turkey and pork are the cheapest meats in my region, yours might be different.


MudPuppy

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 528
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #9 on: July 11, 2020, 09:32:54 AM »
it's not so much about finding cheaper options, it was largely about a full scale modification of the way we eat.

Excellent point

centwise

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 132
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2020, 10:19:39 AM »
So much great advice in this thread! I agree with everything Malkynn says, especially this:

For those of us with very low grocery spends, it's not so much about finding cheaper options, it was largely about a full scale modification of the way we eat.

As a reformed spendy-pants grocery buyer myself, I suggest that you not try to change everything overnight; it's a process. As you go through this thread, pick out one or two changes that you can comfortably make and then revisit it in a few weeks to see if you can do better.

A method that helped me: try to set up and maintain a price book for a couple of months. Here's how it works: Make a list (in a spreadsheet) of groceries and keep track of the best price you can find during each week. The purpose is to determine the "rock bottom" price for each item. The rock-bottom price typically reappears every month or two, and your aim is to ONLY purchase that item when it hits that price. For example if I  walk into a random grocery store today, I might find Barilla pasta for the everyday gouge price of $2.99/lb (Canada). But the same pasta regularly goes on sale for about $1/lb (and other brands are even cheaper). If I buy two months worth of pasta at the rock-bottom price, I will never have to pay the higher price for pasta. You'll notice a similar pattern for most products.

This is a bit of a project but it can be fun. It does NOT have to be an exhaustive list of every possible item you ever buy. Start with a list of staples, frequent purchases, and expensive items (e.g. coffee, cheese, meat, olive oil etc.). Also focus first on items that are non-perishable, or freezable, or keep for a long time (e.g. potatoes, cabbage) because you can buy them in bulk and store them, without having to fundamentally alter the way you approach meal planning. Later when you are more "advanced" :)  you can add produce items to the list and plan your cooking and snacking around the best deals.

To give credit where credit is due: IIRC, I learned about the price-book method years ago from a book on frugality written by Steve Economides. (A quick google search reveals that the Economides family now has an absolutely terrible web site as the "Moneysmart family".)

-------------------------

Beyond that, I gradually came to embrace an approach similar to what Kyle Schuant and Malkynn described in previous comments.

A few observations of your grocery list:

-- cut out the soft drinks and prepared drinks completely; drink simpler beverages and make coffee at home
-- scrutinize your list and think about weaning yourself away from prepared foods: make pasta sauce from scratch using canned tomatoes or tomato paste and vegetables; no hashbrown patties or sliced cheese; occasionally bake treats at home to replace the donuts and crackers.
-- mangos and berries are a lovely indulgence for this week, but next week maybe buy the big bag of apples instead (and then alternate each week, going forward)
-- the banana price seems high; organic bananas go on sale for 80 -- 90 cents a pound in my area (and I'm talking Canadian dollars in Canada).
-- pick up a bag of dried beans or lentils and learn how to make a simple curry [without running out to buy $30 worth of exotic ingredients to follow a specific recipe]; work that into your rotation every couple of weeks. Example: chickpeas, potatoes, onions and canned tomatoes with a simple curry powder on rice. YUM.
--EDIT: As others have mentioned, the ham (as a major weekly purchase) stands out as an expensive, unhealthy and perhaps unnecessary item. Is it all for sandwiches? Could you change up the sandwiches for variety, and buy less ham, less frequently? [Maybe take some of those dried chickpeas, soak 'em and cook 'em up, make hummus, for delicious veggie sandwiches, or apples dipped in hummus?]
« Last Edit: July 11, 2020, 10:47:06 AM by centwise »

K_in_the_kitchen

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 115
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2020, 10:35:30 AM »
It doesn't sound like you're asking us to dismantle your list, just about how to get the same items for less (at a different store for using a different brand) or how to make something similar.  Assuming you aren't talking about getting rid of soda, deli meats, sliced cheese, I would look at these areas:

-Meat balls are easy to make and freeze -- I like the recipe in the out-of-print book Feasts For a Farthing, but I'm sure there are other frugal recipes out there.

-Make pizza at home using a simple crust recipe (check out This Pilgrim Life), inexpensive sauce, and grated mozzarella (around here grated is cheaper than a whole piece).  Use store brands because the frozen pizza doesn't have better ingredients anyway.  You can season canned tomato sauce at home for the pizza sauce (salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, basil, oregano).

-Instead of hash brown patties, dice potatoes (we leave skins on), toss with oil and salt, and roast in the oven at 450į.  After 30 minutes, loosen them up from the bottom of baking pan, then put back in the oven until done.

-It's possible a few of the things you get at Walmart may be cheaper at Aldi.

Other ideas that may involve giving things up:

-As others have mentioned, soda/pop is an unnecessary expense.  If you're handy and you really want bubbles, you might be able to hack a SodaStream to take a large CO2 tank and make sparkling water for pennies.  Instructions on Frugalwoods.  Water is nearly free.  You could try switching to iced tea -- even sweet tea would cost less than half the price of soda/pop.

-Deli meat is one of the things to give up for health, not because it's meat, but because of the processing.  The chart in this article ranks various foods we eat too much of or not enough of https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/03/health/diet-global-deaths-study/index.html Other than that your sale price looks decent.

-I'm pretty sure Aldi has the frozen broccoli for less, still in steamable bags if that's important to you.  But if you can find it in a bigger bag and use your own container, that should also be cheaper.

-I think several of your fresh produce items would have been cheaper at Aldi.

-Along that vein, don't buy produce when it isn't in season and/or on sale.  Last time i bought zucchini at Aldi, it was under $1/#.  Colored bell peppers were $2.89 for a 3 pack.  I won't pay $2 for the little package of blueberries -- buy those frozen.  I buy the cheapest tomatoes that look good (it took years to get to this point because DH was fussy, but when we had to do it, he adjusted).  Most fruit I won't pay more than $1 a pound (and for some my target price is far lower), so that price on peaches is high.  The key is to never make a meal plan based on what you want versus what's available on sale, and to never make your grocery list with specific produce you think you'd like to have versus checking prices first and making the list that way.

-I'm convinced cold brew is just another tactic to separate people from their money.  My son enjoys it -- on his dime.  It uses so much more coffee than drip.  If it's a non-negotiable, find cheaper coffee beans and buy them in bulk.  There are some articles on The Simple Dollar about making it for less.

-Is the price on organic bananas correct?  I've never seen them that high, not even at Whole Foods.  If the choice of organic bananas is about your pesticide exposure, you're protected by the peel.  If it's about workers, I understand the choice as long as the budget supports it.  But mostly, check the dirty dozen and clean fifteen lists and don't buy 100% organic.

-Unless you're making sushi or an Asian-style cucumber salad, you might not need rice vinegar and could buy something cheaper in bulk.

-Price on the burger rolls looks high.  I would buy cheap plain buns at Aldi and put the flavor into the burger with caramelized onions.

-hearts of palm are nice, but totally unnecessary



Malcat

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3040
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2020, 10:44:15 AM »
It doesn't sound like you're asking us to dismantle your list, just about how to get the same items for less (at a different store for using a different brand) or how to make something similar.  Assuming you aren't talking about getting rid of soda, deli meats, sliced cheese, I would look at these areas:

That's exactly why I asked what type of advice OP was actually looking for. It will really depend on what they want to accomplish: just low-hanging fruit modifications, or a view into how low grocery spend people make it work?

lhamo

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 442
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2020, 11:57:17 AM »
Tip #1:  Make whatever items are the sale-priced loss leaders that week the main things you plan meals around.  In a couple of weeks people with gardens will be GIVING AWAY tons of zucchini -- makes no sense to pay $2.49/lb for it now.  Instead look for the .99/lb broccoli, or the 1.99/lb asparagus (still a splurge, but a tastier one).  Same thing for meat, actually.  I don't buy steak when it is $8.99/lb -- I stock up when it is $4-5/lb.  I get beef roasts when they are $3.50-4/lb. Chicken thighs at $.79-.99/lb.  Stores typically rotate their sales on a 4-6 week schedule so there is pretty much always something I can stock up on when it is on sale.

Tip #2:  Give Costco or Sam's a try.  Deli meats in particular are much cheaper per pound there.  Good sliced cheeses (Tillamook is great -- not sure Costco carries them nationally though) for much less per pound than you are paying for highly processed cheesefood.  Both of those items freeze well.  Might be worth investing in a chest freezer if you find stocking up at good prices works for you.

Tip #3:  If you eat a lot of non-mainstream cuisines, try to find a specialized ethnic market for the things you need for those dishes.  We never buy Asian food items at the mainstream grocery store -- they are easily 1.5-5x the price to buy them at the Asian market.  Asian market also has faster turnover so you are less likely to get stuff near the expiration date.  I get my spices for curries, etc. at the INdian market for the same reason.  I go to the Asian market 1-2x month, Indian market 1-2x year.  Probably save $20-50 each trip and get better quality stuff.  Definitely worth planning.

Aunt Petunia

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1176
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2020, 12:30:34 PM »
Where I live, Aldi is actually one of the more expensive places to buy frozen vegetables (most of the time it is still the cheapest for fresh). Target is usually the cheapest, unless the local grocery chain has a sale. Walmart is slightly cheaper than Aldi, but more expensive than Target.

If you have Sam's/Costco, you could buy large blocks of cheese and slice it yourself.

What are hearts of palm, and how do you use them? I don't think I've ever tried one, but I've seen them in the store before.

I have noticed that bell peppers and salad greens are just more expensive lately. Maybe it's the covid, or the orange one's immigration policy? Last time I went to Costco they had a 6 pack of the romaines for 3.99, the time before they only had the expensive organic ones.

Good job getting the husband to switch to 2L bottles!!!

Cassie

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6597
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #15 on: July 11, 2020, 12:40:20 PM »
I make casseroles with only a pound of hamburger. Also I slice and shred my cheese as itís cheaper in blocks.

PoutineLover

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1325
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #16 on: July 11, 2020, 12:55:03 PM »
For me the grocery goal isn't to get it as low as possible, it's to get healthy food at the best price available. Almost everything I buy is single ingredient/whole foods like fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy. I only buy fancy drinks for special occasions and I don't buy food that has been processed for me like sliced cheese or frozen pizzas. This style of eating isn't for everyone, it means that everything I eat I have to make, but it is overall a healthy and delicious way to eat. Once you get used to making stuff yourself, the store bought versions don't taste as good, and if you cook in bulk, at least half of your meals don't require much/any prep.
My advice would be to highlight things that are processed or prepared already (hashbrowns, pizza, deli meat, bread, pasta sauce, etc) and find a recipe to make a homemade version. Not all at once, but one at a time. Figure out which ones you like better homemade, and which things are worth the convenience fee.
If you are flexible about meals, only buy veggies, fruit and meat that are on sale/in season, and adapt your cooking to what's available. Also, stock up on staples when they are cheap so you don't have to buy them full price. Just make sure you only buy what you will eat before it goes bad.
I also pick up groceries as a volunteer for people who can't leave the house, and I have a budget to stick to. Before I go, I assign a price to everything on the list, and then make sure that I stick to it or that higher costs on one item are made up elsewhere. It's a bit more time consuming, but it's a good technique. Takes some pre-knowledge of standard prices though.

Cranky

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2371
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #17 on: July 11, 2020, 01:03:42 PM »
In defense of those hashed browns - itís a pretty good sized package of patties, not just shredded potatoes. My dh really likes them and they make a load of breakfasts. LOL

Malcat

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3040
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #18 on: July 11, 2020, 01:22:22 PM »
In defense of those hashed browns - itís a pretty good sized package of patties, not just shredded potatoes. My dh really likes them and they make a load of breakfasts. LOL

They're also pretty high in sodium and still mostly potato. I can shred multiple potatoes in seconds with a rotating shredder ($30 on Amazon) and make really delicious hash browns. I often throw in a bunch of ripped up kale.
Minimal sodium, and again, pennies per serving.

That's not to criticize anyone who likes them, if that's your thing, then have at it. I just wouldn't call it good value based on the markup of what really amounts to just potato.

centwise

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 132
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #19 on: July 11, 2020, 01:37:58 PM »
In defense of those hashed browns - itís a pretty good sized package of patties, not just shredded potatoes. My dh really likes them and they make a load of breakfasts. LOL

Well, yes. They are not expensive and the OP's grocery spending is overall not particularly face-punch worthy, so if they are something you love and it makes life easier, sure, why not! Buy them.

But my personal thought process goes like this: A 20-lb sack of potatoes costs $5. There are so many things I can do with those potatoes that I have no trouble using them up: baked, roasted, sauteed with mixed vegetables, mashed, fried, hash browned, gratin dauphinois; potato salads, soup, curry, croquettes; potato dumplings, potato bread, etc.

BUT if I also have hashbrown patties, shredded potatoes and pre-cut french fries in the freezer, and potato flakes and whatnot, then I will never use up the 20-lb sack of potatoes before they go bad.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2020, 01:39:29 PM by centwise »

Zikoris

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3753
  • Age: 33
  • Location: Vancouver, BC
  • Vancouverstachian
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #20 on: July 11, 2020, 01:47:13 PM »
Like other people have said, lowering the bill in any substantial way would have way less to do with saving 50 cents by going to a different store, and everything to do with changing the way you cook and eat.

One reason people with low budgets can't do too much to help you on a line-by-line basis is that we don't actually buy most of those things at all. I counted 44 items on your list, and of that I've only ever personally bought 14 of them, like literally in my entire life. I couldn't even guess where a person would find cheap Bavarian sliced meat, outside of maybe making friends with a German butcher.

If you want cheap produce, Chinese markets or places that sell seconds are the way to go. Seconds are basically produce that normal stores don't sell because it's weird looking or close to expiry, which is totally fine if you use it quickly.

Out of curiosity, what did you make with that? I'm guessing a lot of sandwiches, salad, and pasta with meatballs?
« Last Edit: July 11, 2020, 01:48:46 PM by Zikoris »

Malcat

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3040
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #21 on: July 11, 2020, 01:59:50 PM »
Like other people have said, lowering the bill in any substantial way would have way less to do with saving 50 cents by going to a different store, and everything to do with changing the way you cook and eat.

One reason people with low budgets can't do too much to help you on a line-by-line basis is that we don't actually buy most of those things at all. I counted 44 items on your list, and of that I've only ever personally bought 14 of them, like literally in my entire life. I couldn't even guess where a person would find cheap Bavarian sliced meat, outside of maybe making friends with a German butcher.

If you want cheap produce, Chinese markets or places that sell seconds are the way to go. Seconds are basically produce that normal stores don't sell because it's weird looking or close to expiry, which is totally fine if you use it quickly.

Out of curiosity, what did you make with that? I'm guessing a lot of sandwiches, salad, and pasta with meatballs?

Same, I honestly wouldn't even intuitively know how to feed ourselves with those groceries, it's so foreign to our lifestyle and diet.

Again, that's not a judgement, it's just to point out how people like you and I keep our spend low by engineering what we eat to be inexpensive.

Cranky

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2371
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #22 on: July 11, 2020, 03:29:34 PM »
In defense of those hashed browns - itís a pretty good sized package of patties, not just shredded potatoes. My dh really likes them and they make a load of breakfasts. LOL

They're also pretty high in sodium and still mostly potato. I can shred multiple potatoes in seconds with a rotating shredder ($30 on Amazon) and make really delicious hash browns. I often throw in a bunch of ripped up kale.
Minimal sodium, and again, pennies per serving.

That's not to criticize anyone who likes them, if that's your thing, then have at it. I just wouldn't call it good value based on the markup of what really amounts to just potato.

These are not the same as actually made from scratch hash browns - they are much like McDís hash browns. LOL They are their own separate thing, and the kind of thing that keeps my dh from feeling deprived because we donít eat out. Itís like buying frozen pizza because itís more like restaurant pizza than homemade pizza.

(I have low blood pressure and am always being urged by my doctor to eat more sodium, so thatís a thing, too.)


Cranky

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2371
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #23 on: July 11, 2020, 03:32:21 PM »
Like other people have said, lowering the bill in any substantial way would have way less to do with saving 50 cents by going to a different store, and everything to do with changing the way you cook and eat.

One reason people with low budgets can't do too much to help you on a line-by-line basis is that we don't actually buy most of those things at all. I counted 44 items on your list, and of that I've only ever personally bought 14 of them, like literally in my entire life. I couldn't even guess where a person would find cheap Bavarian sliced meat, outside of maybe making friends with a German butcher.

If you want cheap produce, Chinese markets or places that sell seconds are the way to go. Seconds are basically produce that normal stores don't sell because it's weird looking or close to expiry, which is totally fine if you use it quickly.

Out of curiosity, what did you make with that? I'm guessing a lot of sandwiches, salad, and pasta with meatballs?

And some of that is your market - there is no cheap Chinese grocer in my area. Iíd drive an hour to an Asian market, and thatís an expensive specialty store.


Zikoris

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3753
  • Age: 33
  • Location: Vancouver, BC
  • Vancouverstachian
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #24 on: July 11, 2020, 03:34:36 PM »
Like other people have said, lowering the bill in any substantial way would have way less to do with saving 50 cents by going to a different store, and everything to do with changing the way you cook and eat.

One reason people with low budgets can't do too much to help you on a line-by-line basis is that we don't actually buy most of those things at all. I counted 44 items on your list, and of that I've only ever personally bought 14 of them, like literally in my entire life. I couldn't even guess where a person would find cheap Bavarian sliced meat, outside of maybe making friends with a German butcher.

If you want cheap produce, Chinese markets or places that sell seconds are the way to go. Seconds are basically produce that normal stores don't sell because it's weird looking or close to expiry, which is totally fine if you use it quickly.

Out of curiosity, what did you make with that? I'm guessing a lot of sandwiches, salad, and pasta with meatballs?

And some of that is your market - there is no cheap Chinese grocer in my area. Iíd drive an hour to an Asian market, and thatís an expensive specialty store.

If you live somewhere that requires driving an hour to reach any Asian market at all, you're so far out into the sticks that everything else should cost you basically nothing, and you probably don't need to worry too much about grocery cost. Grow the vegetables on your acreage for practically free instead.

Malcat

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3040
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #25 on: July 11, 2020, 05:06:52 PM »
In defense of those hashed browns - itís a pretty good sized package of patties, not just shredded potatoes. My dh really likes them and they make a load of breakfasts. LOL

They're also pretty high in sodium and still mostly potato. I can shred multiple potatoes in seconds with a rotating shredder ($30 on Amazon) and make really delicious hash browns. I often throw in a bunch of ripped up kale.
Minimal sodium, and again, pennies per serving.

That's not to criticize anyone who likes them, if that's your thing, then have at it. I just wouldn't call it good value based on the markup of what really amounts to just potato.

These are not the same as actually made from scratch hash browns - they are much like McDís hash browns. LOL They are their own separate thing, and the kind of thing that keeps my dh from feeling deprived because we donít eat out. Itís like buying frozen pizza because itís more like restaurant pizza than homemade pizza.

(I have low blood pressure and am always being urged by my doctor to eat more sodium, so thatís a thing, too.)

Oh, I know what they are. I also take no issue with anyone liking them and choosing to buy them, as I already said before. My contention is in saying that they are a good value, when homemade hash browns are so cheap and so incredibly easy to make. I would say the exact same thing about premade McDonalds style burger patties vs making patties from ground beef. They're not the same, but if ground beef were cheaper, I wouldn't call the patties a good value.
(Note: I have no idea if patties are more expensive, I haven't bought beef in years)

If they are a good value for you because you prefer them for valid personal reasons, then cool. I was simply countering that I don't find them inherently good value.

When it comes to individual preferences and circumstances, anything can be a good value for that person if it fits their priorities and preferences.

Again, that's why OP needs to give guidance as to what they're looking for and what they're willing to change. If frozen hash browns and sandwiches with cured meats are their thing, then talking about shredding potatoes is pointless.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2020, 05:19:32 PM by Malkynn »

K_in_the_kitchen

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 115
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #26 on: July 11, 2020, 05:33:32 PM »
It doesn't sound like you're asking us to dismantle your list, just about how to get the same items for less (at a different store for using a different brand) or how to make something similar.  Assuming you aren't talking about getting rid of soda, deli meats, sliced cheese, I would look at these areas:

That's exactly why I asked what type of advice OP was actually looking for. It will really depend on what they want to accomplish: just low-hanging fruit modifications, or a view into how low grocery spend people make it work?

I totally understand, which is why I divided up my suggestions.  Years (more than a decade, for sure) ago I was on a forum where every few months one woman would ask for suggestions to lower her grocery bill.  She and her family ate meat at every meal, didn't like legumes, etc. and without fail every thread would be full of suggestions that she would shut down.  Eventually I realized that she didn't want ideas, she wanted a combination of sympathy and validation.

My last shopping trip included fizzy drinks, ice cream, and chips, all items I didn't buy when money was tight.  I'm not going to tell someone they shouldn't buy them, and right now, in the time of Covid, I'm not even going to deny my family every time.

Frankies Girl

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3221
  • Age: 82
  • Location: The laboratory
  • Ghouls Just Wanna Have Funds!
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #27 on: July 11, 2020, 05:41:44 PM »
I totally agree that one of the big deals is buying things in more whole foods form and cooking/prepping things at home. You'll eat better and save more cooking from scratch.

But the thing that stood out to me (in addition to most of the other suggestions) is that you seem to buy things in weekly quantities without regard to sales or appear to have stock up on items you do use every week. You buy small servings, convenience packaged items (frozen veggies in the packs where you can likely only split between 2-4 servings, 2 bottles of cola at full price, sliced/prepped cheeses, lunchmeat, veggies) and you don't mention really shopping the local grocery sales.

I am an soda drinker, so I have to say if you like it and are not in poor health because of it, and are not actually putting yourself into the poor house for a few glasses of cola... we all have a few vices. Yes, it isn't good for you and would be better for you both health and wallet to stop buying it. I'm not stopping myself, and I figure that balances out with the fact I don't do other unhealthy things some other people might do.  ;)

My suggestion to tag into the others is the definitely watch the various stores in your area for their loss leaders/super sales, and make your weekly shop based on that, not just what you want/always buy. If soda is on sale for 99Ę a 2 liter but you need to get it in quantities of 4... buy 4 of them and you've not only saved almost half the cost, you've just eliminated the need to pick it up again for 2 weeks instead of every week. And if you REALLY like soda (as I do) and have a bit of space, you buy 8 or 12 and don't have to worry about it for a whole month, when you'll likely see another super sale (or they'll run one on the 12 packs that is comparable). Because I WILL be drinking it (seriously - rather have a soda than coffee, beer, tea, wine...), so I may as well buy in at a discount and have it on hand.

I never buy fresh fruits and veggies full price. If you like having fruit, buy the one that is on sale that week. So in season stuff, or on sale stuff (which is usually the same thing). Berries are usually easily frozen, so you'll likely be able to find those if you really want them and they're not on sale in the freezer section now - I see them in large bags and they should be suitable for using in toppings, yogurt, smoothies, etc. Not sure about the organic bananas - I don't eat the peel so we get the regular ones on sale and you can also slice and freeze them for using in cereal, snacks and smoothies (frozen bananas slices are AMAZING on cereal or just as a snack - tastes like ice cream. Just peel, slice and put on a cookie sheet with wax paper and pop into the freezer, then an hour or two later, pop them off the wax paper and store in a freezer safe dish or freezer bag). So we buy larger amounts of them when they are on sale so we can have them any time. 

Frozen broccoli comes in giant bags for cheaper than you're paying. We eat LOTS of frozen broccoli, so we get the 5-6 pound bag at the store we know has it the cheapest - and I spent a few months making note of the items we buy/use frequently and which store carries it for the best regular price. Sure you may need to use your own container to cook it, but you're getting the same product, cheaper and cutting down a bit on needing more shopping trips and a little less packaging too.

Shredded cheese if you really like it (I do, but buy both block and shredded) is always cheaper in larger packages. Helpful hint: you can freeze shredded cheese if you are cooking with it without any real detectable loss in texture. Unless it's the uber fancy stuff, shredded cheese has been dusted with a coating to keep it from turning into a giant blob in your fridge, and it stays useable and generally tasty in the freezer. You could portion it out into smaller resealable bags if you worry about getting through a larger size (just squeeze out the excess air), but if you find it on sale, it is possible to buy and freeze a bag or two instead of buying it at full price every week.

Meat is always going to be more expensive but there's easy ways to save and eat better. I buy clearance meats all the time - best score was organic, grass fed beef for $1.59/lb. and it was freaking amazing. They just marked it down because the sell by date was the next day. I've also scored drumsticks, breasts and thighs for pennies a pound and just pop them into my freezer. Meats and other foods do not go instantly bad on their sell by dates, but stores can't sell them once it's past so you can score GREAT deals and freeze (man, I'm seeing a pattern here - but we have a square chest freezer that has more than paid for itself in food savings). I check dates and ask if they can be marked down if they're within a day or two on things. After Easter is ham, and yes it freezes! You may not like it as cooked meats especially ones close to lunchmeat like ones may have a slight texture change and be slightly wet from the moisture, but you can just let it dry a bit after it thaws and we thought it fine. But if you are really picky, don't go buying 6 hams to store, just get one and eat on that til it's gone. At Thanksgiving, I buy up whole turkeys for pennies. Have 2 left that I paid 29Ę/lb for, and I have made them every month or so as long as they last... and we eat on it for days, make sandwiches and casseroles and turkey salad and turkey quesadillas and all kinds of fun stuff. I save the bones and skin and non-eatable meat bits in a large freezer bag and then once it is full, I get my also saved bag of celery and onion ends I keep in the freezer (stuff you'd usually throw away) and toss them all into my slow cooker with enough water to cover and then strain it and I have AMAZING tasting and practically free broth for making soups and other stuff. I have jars of the stuff (you guessed it) frozen in quart containers and I pull them out all the time.

And I also check every store's clearance section every trip. I've lucked into some fantastic items that are being discounted due to age or being considered a slow mover so dumped there due to stock rotation (still well within safe eating/storage), dented cans of soups, veggies, coconut milk, protein bars, cereal we would have bought full price anyway... LOVE the hunt. 


If you haven't figured it out, I am a pantry stock-up/freezer queen. I shop about once a week, but it is generally for the things I am running low on or unable to keep shelf stable for long, so our stock up trips are about every 2 months and the weekly trips add up to under $20-30 most of the time (depending on whether I find a score on something). But the stockup trips are predicated on things we always use that are on super sale (like the soda or the turkeys after thanksgiving).

« Last Edit: July 11, 2020, 05:54:03 PM by Frankies Girl »

K_in_the_kitchen

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 115
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #28 on: July 11, 2020, 05:45:46 PM »
In defense of those hashed browns - itís a pretty good sized package of patties, not just shredded potatoes. My dh really likes them and they make a load of breakfasts. LOL

They're also pretty high in sodium and still mostly potato. I can shred multiple potatoes in seconds with a rotating shredder ($30 on Amazon) and make really delicious hash browns. I often throw in a bunch of ripped up kale.
Minimal sodium, and again, pennies per serving.

That's not to criticize anyone who likes them, if that's your thing, then have at it. I just wouldn't call it good value based on the markup of what really amounts to just potato.

These are not the same as actually made from scratch hash browns - they are much like McDís hash browns. LOL They are their own separate thing, and the kind of thing that keeps my dh from feeling deprived because we donít eat out. Itís like buying frozen pizza because itís more like restaurant pizza than homemade pizza.

(I have low blood pressure and am always being urged by my doctor to eat more sodium, so thatís a thing, too.)

My young adult child loves them, but he also loves when I make oven fried potatoes -- they always kills the craving for fast food hash browns.  Oddly, he also has permission to eat as much sodium as he wants.

As for the pizza, I haven't had frozen pizza in nearly three decades, but I definitely find my homemade pizza to be far closer to pizzeria pizza than any frozen pizza I've ever eaten.  The last frozen pizza I ate was probably Di Giorno when it first came out.  Not that I'm against people keeping frozen pizza in the freezer if it helps cut down on so-called "emergency" take out nights.  My "emergency"meal of choice is to scramble some eggs, but even the Frugalwoods buy frozen pizza (I believe they get theirs from Costco).

I'll be honest here -- Covid-19 is the longest we've ever gone without eating at a restaurant.  Our last restaurant meal was 3/11.  We brought in a rotisserie chicken last weekend, and we were all disappointed.  We've gone 4-6 weeks not eating restaurant food in the past, but only now do we feel like we've 100% beaten any attraction to restaurants.

K_in_the_kitchen

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 115
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #29 on: July 11, 2020, 05:48:55 PM »

And some of that is your market - there is no cheap Chinese grocer in my area. Iíd drive an hour to an Asian market, and thatís an expensive specialty store.

Do you have a Hispanic/Mexican/Latinx market near you?  They often have cheap produce as well, along with good prices on rice and beans.  Personally, I'd rather just shop at Aldi and buy the produce that's on sale or that I know is at a good price, because I don't want one more store to have to go to.

K_in_the_kitchen

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 115
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #30 on: July 11, 2020, 06:02:53 PM »
For me the grocery goal isn't to get it as low as possible, it's to get healthy food at the best price available. Almost everything I buy is single ingredient/whole foods like fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy. I only buy fancy drinks for special occasions and I don't buy food that has been processed for me like sliced cheese or frozen pizzas. This style of eating isn't for everyone, it means that everything I eat I have to make, but it is overall a healthy and delicious way to eat. Once you get used to making stuff yourself, the store bought versions don't taste as good, and if you cook in bulk, at least half of your meals don't require much/any prep.
My advice would be to highlight things that are processed or prepared already (hashbrowns, pizza, deli meat, bread, pasta sauce, etc) and find a recipe to make a homemade version. Not all at once, but one at a time. Figure out which ones you like better homemade, and which things are worth the convenience fee.
If you are flexible about meals, only buy veggies, fruit and meat that are on sale/in season, and adapt your cooking to what's available. Also, stock up on staples when they are cheap so you don't have to buy them full price. Just make sure you only buy what you will eat before it goes bad.
I also pick up groceries as a volunteer for people who can't leave the house, and I have a budget to stick to. Before I go, I assign a price to everything on the list, and then make sure that I stick to it or that higher costs on one item are made up elsewhere. It's a bit more time consuming, but it's a good technique. Takes some pre-knowledge of standard prices though.

This is how we shop and eat as well.  Before Covid-19, you wouldn't even have found canned beans or chicken stock in my pantry.  I cook from food -- dry grains and beans, flour, fruits and vegetables, meats, etc.  Soups and stews, pizza, bread, casseroles, granola, cookies, etc. are all made from scratch.  I make exceptions for things like salsa and other condiments, peanut butter and organic jam, gluten free bread, tortillas and tortilla chips, and the occasional treat of ice cream, soda pop, chocolate, and potato chips.  I do buy bulk bags of frozen produce, although pre-Covid it was only fruits, not vegetables.  And now that my kids are young adults I buy ridiculous packaged cereal (in bulk) for them because they eat tons of it and complain that it takes too long to eat granola.  It's not worth the fuss -- I have to pick my battles.

But not everyone wants to work so hard to make food (and clean up the mess of making it).  Not everyone even likes how it tastes.  My mother, rest her soul, once told my husband that his homemade minestrone was pretty good but that she preferred Campbell's.  My grandparents liked sliced American cheese.  No one else in my extended family would ever bake their family's bread or make homemade stocks and broths.  I don't care anymore what anyone chooses to eat.  My way works best for us, but my SIL has no desire to even try it, and that's okay.

Cranky

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2371
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #31 on: July 11, 2020, 07:25:01 PM »
Like other people have said, lowering the bill in any substantial way would have way less to do with saving 50 cents by going to a different store, and everything to do with changing the way you cook and eat.

One reason people with low budgets can't do too much to help you on a line-by-line basis is that we don't actually buy most of those things at all. I counted 44 items on your list, and of that I've only ever personally bought 14 of them, like literally in my entire life. I couldn't even guess where a person would find cheap Bavarian sliced meat, outside of maybe making friends with a German butcher.

If you want cheap produce, Chinese markets or places that sell seconds are the way to go. Seconds are basically produce that normal stores don't sell because it's weird looking or close to expiry, which is totally fine if you use it quickly.

Out of curiosity, what did you make with that? I'm guessing a lot of sandwiches, salad, and pasta with meatballs?

And some of that is your market - there is no cheap Chinese grocer in my area. Iíd drive an hour to an Asian market, and thatís an expensive specialty store.

If you live somewhere that requires driving an hour to reach any Asian market at all, you're so far out into the sticks that everything else should cost you basically nothing, and you probably don't need to worry too much about grocery cost. Grow the vegetables on your acreage for practically free instead.

Um, I live in a small rust belt city. I donít have acreage, or cows. LOL. I do grow vegetables but the growing season is pretty short.

Iím pretty sure that Iím in roughly the same area as the OP because we have the same chains available. What my area does have is a lot of Italian markets, but they are not cheaper than any other grocery store and often more expensive for a lot of stuff.

But itís a good illustration that grocery shopping issues can be pretty regional. I know my local prices inside and out, but in a different area it takes me a while to source things at prices Iím willing to pay.

Cranky

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2371
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #32 on: July 11, 2020, 07:33:41 PM »
In defense of those hashed browns - itís a pretty good sized package of patties, not just shredded potatoes. My dh really likes them and they make a load of breakfasts. LOL

They're also pretty high in sodium and still mostly potato. I can shred multiple potatoes in seconds with a rotating shredder ($30 on Amazon) and make really delicious hash browns. I often throw in a bunch of ripped up kale.
Minimal sodium, and again, pennies per serving.

That's not to criticize anyone who likes them, if that's your thing, then have at it. I just wouldn't call it good value based on the markup of what really amounts to just potato.

These are not the same as actually made from scratch hash browns - they are much like McDís hash browns. LOL They are their own separate thing, and the kind of thing that keeps my dh from feeling deprived because we donít eat out. Itís like buying frozen pizza because itís more like restaurant pizza than homemade pizza.

(I have low blood pressure and am always being urged by my doctor to eat more sodium, so thatís a thing, too.)

My young adult child loves them, but he also loves when I make oven fried potatoes -- they always kills the craving for fast food hash browns.  Oddly, he also has permission to eat as much sodium as he wants.

As for the pizza, I haven't had frozen pizza in nearly three decades, but I definitely find my homemade pizza to be far closer to pizzeria pizza than any frozen pizza I've ever eaten.  The last frozen pizza I ate was probably Di Giorno when it first came out.  Not that I'm against people keeping frozen pizza in the freezer if it helps cut down on so-called "emergency" take out nights.  My "emergency"meal of choice is to scramble some eggs, but even the Frugalwoods buy frozen pizza (I believe they get theirs from Costco).

I'll be honest here -- Covid-19 is the longest we've ever gone without eating at a restaurant.  Our last restaurant meal was 3/11.  We brought in a rotisserie chicken last weekend, and we were all disappointed.  We've gone 4-6 weeks not eating restaurant food in the past, but only now do we feel like we've 100% beaten any attraction to restaurants.

Iím not much on restaurants - I donít miss eating out at ALL. LOL My dh is pretty gregarious, though, and would happily go out. Also itís easier to ignore vegetables in restaurants which he finds a plus. ;-)

I looked up the nutritional info on Aldi hashbrowns and Iíve gotta say - I donít think youíll save much money, calories or sodium by grating your own potatoes! Itís not like you eat 10 of them at a time! (Maybe some people do?)

ysette9

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6819
  • Location: Bay Area, CA
    • The Best Is Yet To Come
Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #33 on: July 11, 2020, 11:26:55 PM »
Iíll be honest, I find the advice of tracking prices for everything and shopping specials and going to multiple stores daunting. It exhausts me just looking at it. One of the many things I love about Trader Joeís is they donít have specials or coupons or club cards: you just buy what you like and be done with it. It is a lot less mental work to grocery shop there.

That said, I find it helpful to meal plan in advance and then make my grocery list from the recipes I have pre-selected. Budget Bytes has lots of recipes worth checking out. I have started a Google docs spreadsheet with recipes that I rate, along with notes on anything I substituted when cooking. My hope is to create a go-to list we can easily choose from in the future. I then add in staples to my list like bread, eggs, cheese, full-fat Greek yogurt, fruit, etc.

Personally Iíd cut out soda (already talked about a lot), American ďcheeseĒ (food), and non-fat milk. I much prefer real cheese with flavor, pre-sliced or not. I spent a year in France and while I didnít fully develop an appreciate for all good cheeses, I wonít waste the calories on something that doesnít taste good (Iím looking at you, Kraft!). Non-fat milk seems like you are paying a lot of money for water. Overall I would rather buy less of a higher-quality food than its cheaper step-cousin. So full-fat dairy, 100% whole grain pasta/bread/crackers/etc.

Many people talk about the beauty of dried beans in bulk. I have tried them many different ways, pre-soaked overnight, stove top, instant pot, Crock Pot, salt, no salt, tomatoes, no tomatoes, and I canít get the damn things to ever cook fully. So I buy them in cans. I can can get lentils and split peas to cook properly so I buy them dry.

Tofu is great for a stand-in for meat. I like dicing a firm block of tofu into small pieces and pan frying in avocado oil and spices until crispy. You can throw that into all sorts of things or just munch on as a snack (often it doesnít make it until the next meal). If you have Asian markets nearby then fried tofu puffs can be bought and frozen. They are delightful little balls of fried fat that can be used in place of meat in all sorts of recipes and are especially good in broth-y soups. Stock up on coconut milk while in cans there also. Coconut milk is versatile and a great way to add fat and flavor and mouth feel to dishes to make them hearty without adding meat.

Yum. Iím hungry now.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2020, 11:29:04 PM by ysette9 »

mm1970

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8009
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #34 on: July 13, 2020, 06:06:49 PM »
For those of us with very low grocery spends, it's not so much about finding cheaper options, it was largely about a full scale modification of the way we eat.

Groceries are very expensive where I live and $2000+/mo for a family of 4 here is not unusual. DH and I, on the other hand, can easily keep our groceries for two at ~$200/mo, but we're not buying meat, pop, bread, cereal, sweets, processed food, etc.

I cook everything from scratch, and prioritize dishes whose bulk ingredients are cheap, like potatoes, legumes and grains. I cook with a ton of veggies, but depend more on cheaper veggies like carrots, cabbage, etc, and a lot of canned tomatoes and frozen spinach.

I make a ton of curries, stews, pilafs, etc. I don't bake because it's not my thing, but a lot of the low food spenders here bake a ton of stuff. The only "bread" we eat is tortillas, which I make from scratch for basically pennies a batch.

So, it really depends on what your goal is. What kind of advice are you looking for exactly, because the prices for the items you've described are very good, so you really can't do much better without fundamentally changing the way you plan and prepare food.
Yup.  I spent a few years carefully getting my grocery bill way way down.  It involved many things.
1. Price book to find the best prices for all the things that I buy.  Thing is, eventually I learned that my staples were cheapest at certain stores, and then it was easy.  Cheese: Costco.  Chicken: only on sale at Vons.  Brown rice: Trader Joe's.  Dairy besides plain cheese: trader joe's.

2.  Do not waste food.

3.  Buy food ONLY when it's at the lowest price.  Buy enough until the next sale.

4.  Eat food in season. 

5.  But mostly, what several people have said - change what you eat.  Calculate the cost per meal for various meals, and increase the frequency of the cheaper meals.


------
A note:  I do not do this right now.  Pre-COVID, I kept an eye on the Sprouts sales, and I bought my grains and beans and some veggies from there, because they have killer sales.  BUT now I haven't been shopping there because they are close to work and I don't drive out there.  Also, we are trying to shop infrequently.

All that aside - we eat a lot of vegetables.  We get TWO CSA boxes a week ($32 and $35 per week) and we buy additional produce too.  It's not uncommon for us to be down to an apple and a few carrots on Thursday morning (the first box comes Thursday).  This stuff is fresh, and local and YES if I shopped the sales and at multiple stores I could get it cheaper.  It would not taste as good.  So I happily spend a good 1/3 to 1/2 of my budget on produce.

Cassie

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6597
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #35 on: July 13, 2020, 07:13:16 PM »
I have never found it worthwhile to shop at more than one store. I shop where overall the prices are the best for quality food.

jim555

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2373
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #36 on: July 13, 2020, 07:43:09 PM »
I am close to a supermarket and visit it often.  They mark down meats and chicken now and then, so I grab some and freeze them.  Look for sale items and use the store app for coupons.  Look for specials like spend $15 get $5 off category X.  Some things are cheaper in Walmart so be aware of pricing of other stores.

Malcat

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3040
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #37 on: July 14, 2020, 06:28:01 AM »
For those of us with very low grocery spends, it's not so much about finding cheaper options, it was largely about a full scale modification of the way we eat.

Groceries are very expensive where I live and $2000+/mo for a family of 4 here is not unusual. DH and I, on the other hand, can easily keep our groceries for two at ~$200/mo, but we're not buying meat, pop, bread, cereal, sweets, processed food, etc.

I cook everything from scratch, and prioritize dishes whose bulk ingredients are cheap, like potatoes, legumes and grains. I cook with a ton of veggies, but depend more on cheaper veggies like carrots, cabbage, etc, and a lot of canned tomatoes and frozen spinach.

I make a ton of curries, stews, pilafs, etc. I don't bake because it's not my thing, but a lot of the low food spenders here bake a ton of stuff. The only "bread" we eat is tortillas, which I make from scratch for basically pennies a batch.

So, it really depends on what your goal is. What kind of advice are you looking for exactly, because the prices for the items you've described are very good, so you really can't do much better without fundamentally changing the way you plan and prepare food.
Yup.  I spent a few years carefully getting my grocery bill way way down.  It involved many things.
1. Price book to find the best prices for all the things that I buy.  Thing is, eventually I learned that my staples were cheapest at certain stores, and then it was easy.  Cheese: Costco.  Chicken: only on sale at Vons.  Brown rice: Trader Joe's.  Dairy besides plain cheese: trader joe's.

2.  Do not waste food.

3.  Buy food ONLY when it's at the lowest price.  Buy enough until the next sale.

4.  Eat food in season. 

5.  But mostly, what several people have said - change what you eat.  Calculate the cost per meal for various meals, and increase the frequency of the cheaper meals.


------
A note:  I do not do this right now.  Pre-COVID, I kept an eye on the Sprouts sales, and I bought my grains and beans and some veggies from there, because they have killer sales.  BUT now I haven't been shopping there because they are close to work and I don't drive out there.  Also, we are trying to shop infrequently.

All that aside - we eat a lot of vegetables.  We get TWO CSA boxes a week ($32 and $35 per week) and we buy additional produce too.  It's not uncommon for us to be down to an apple and a few carrots on Thursday morning (the first box comes Thursday).  This stuff is fresh, and local and YES if I shopped the sales and at multiple stores I could get it cheaper.  It would not taste as good.  So I happily spend a good 1/3 to 1/2 of my budget on produce.

I don't do much of the above aside from not wasting food and modifying diet.
I don't shop pay any attention to sales. I may buy an extra one or two of an item if it is on sale, but we're minimalists with a small apartment, and very little storage, so we're not stocking up on anything.

My strategy is entirely based upon collecting, curating, and systemizing a compendium of amazing recipes based on ingredients that are generally always cheap. That way I don't ever have to give it much thought. I can pick a recipe at whim, and then the software is cross-referenced so that I can coordinate perishable ingredients with other recipes to prevent waste, and then it prints out a shopping list.

I'm far, far too lazy to want to think much about meal planning and sales. For me, I need a system that is essentially mindless and takes less than 10 minutes to organize an entire week's worth or groceries before I run out the door.

We all have or strengths, mine is efficient systems, not really classic organization, which planning according to sales requires.

pbkmaine

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8335
  • Age: 63
  • Location: The Villages, Florida
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #38 on: July 14, 2020, 06:30:06 AM »
I have never found it worthwhile to shop at more than one store. I shop where overall the prices are the best for quality food.
We shop at one store at a time but rotate stores, depending on our needs and whatís on special. When Aldi has great prices on produce we love, thatís our store for the week. If we need to stock up on meats and staples, itís Samís Club. Lots of miscellaneous items and BOGOs? Publix.

former player

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5517
  • Location: Avalon
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #39 on: July 14, 2020, 06:50:07 AM »
Various people seem to think that OP is getting decent prices for what they buy, which means that the problem is not the price it's what is bought.

I don't think there is any actual cooking going on in OP's household, most of what goes on seems to be an assembly of ready to eat items with the inclusion of some ready to heat up items.  There is no making of pasta sauce, no making of hash browns, no cooking their own ham, no making their own meatballs, no making their own pizza.  There are no "ingredients" bought: no flour, no oil or fats, no pulses, no onions, no spices.

Rather than expecting a wholesale change of lifestyle and what they eat, I would like to suggest that OP could make some relatively easy changes to change the bottom line.  Given that this is a meat-eating household I would suggest that they look at changing the way they buy meat:

Buy a whole chicken and roast it in the oven (I'm assuming an oven here).  Very easy, provides lots of meat that can be parcelled up and frozen in meal-sized servings when not eaten immediately, should be a lot cheaper than buying ready sliced from the deli counter

Buy a whole ham and either boil or bake according to taste, freeze in meal-sized servings.  Again, should be much cheaper than buying ready sliced from the deli.

Buy ground beef and make own meatballs and hamburger patties.

Each of those is not very time consuming (for the chicken and ham it's the oven does all the work) and allows OP and family to continue with a diet that suits them but should also save money.

ChickenStash

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 120
  • Location: Midwest US
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #40 on: July 14, 2020, 07:49:37 AM »
...

Buy a whole chicken and roast it in the oven (I'm assuming an oven here).  Very easy, provides lots of meat that can be parcelled up and frozen in meal-sized servings when not eaten immediately, should be a lot cheaper than buying ready sliced from the deli counter

Buy a whole ham and either boil or bake according to taste, freeze in meal-sized servings.  Again, should be much cheaper than buying ready sliced from the deli.

Buy ground beef and make own meatballs and hamburger patties.

...

I agree with this approach. It's a straightforward way to save some money without completely upending the whole family.

I'll add that with the roasted chicken, check if the grocery store has roasted/rotisserie pre-cooked chicken available and compare the cost with a raw one of the same weight. I've noticed that some stores charge less for the pre-cooked than they do for a raw one. The local Costco has huge rotisserie chickens for $5 where the raw ones would be $9+. The local grocery store is similar except the chickens are a little smaller - similar pricing, though.

Also, if freezer space is available, watch for holidays to pick up reduced priced meats. Locally, Easter had ham at $0.49/lb, I think. Thanksgiving had turkey at $0.89/lb.  The Fourth had brats and burgers marked down. A little time spent cooking, portioning, and freezing goes a long way, particularly with meats.

I'm a little surprised at the high milk prices. I don't drink much of it, but usually a gallon is <$3 here. As mentioned, cutting back on the soda and doing DIY coffee would help clear out some big ticket items.

Malcat

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3040
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #41 on: July 14, 2020, 08:13:08 AM »
Various people seem to think that OP is getting decent prices for what they buy, which means that the problem is not the price it's what is bought.

I don't think there is any actual cooking going on in OP's household, most of what goes on seems to be an assembly of ready to eat items with the inclusion of some ready to heat up items.  There is no making of pasta sauce, no making of hash browns, no cooking their own ham, no making their own meatballs, no making their own pizza.  There are no "ingredients" bought: no flour, no oil or fats, no pulses, no onions, no spices.

Rather than expecting a wholesale change of lifestyle and what they eat, I would like to suggest that OP could make some relatively easy changes to change the bottom line.  Given that this is a meat-eating household I would suggest that they look at changing the way they buy meat:

Buy a whole chicken and roast it in the oven (I'm assuming an oven here).  Very easy, provides lots of meat that can be parcelled up and frozen in meal-sized servings when not eaten immediately, should be a lot cheaper than buying ready sliced from the deli counter

Buy a whole ham and either boil or bake according to taste, freeze in meal-sized servings.  Again, should be much cheaper than buying ready sliced from the deli.

Buy ground beef and make own meatballs and hamburger patties.

Each of those is not very time consuming (for the chicken and ham it's the oven does all the work) and allows OP and family to continue with a diet that suits them but should also save money.

Well, we still don't know what kind of advice the OP actually wants or what magnitude of savings they're actually looking for, so I think we're all just sharing what we do so maybe OP can get some ideas and maybe give a little more guidance as to what they are seeking.

Laura33

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2760
  • Location: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #42 on: July 14, 2020, 08:54:28 AM »
Can you give us some suggestions of what kinds of meals you make with those ingredients?  It seems to be like a lot of snack foods (multiple versions of crackers) and sandwiches (over 3 lbs of American cheese) and then a lot of relatively miscellaneous fruits and vegetables.

The reality is, as others have noted, that there isn't some easy way to buy the same thing at half the price.  Your list suggests a lot of convenience foods and not a lot of cooking.  Convenience foods are always going to cost more, because you're paying someone to do the cooking for you. 

That means that the first question is whether you are interested in/willing to change some of your eating/cooking habits, knowing that the cost of that is extra effort on your part.  And if so, what degree of change and effort are you willing to put into it?  There are all sorts of ways to go about it:

- If you want to eat the exact same foods and optimize pricing, put the effort into your shopping -- track prices at different stores, clip coupons, watch for sales where you can stock up.

- If you want to go one step further and try to improve the healthfulness of your diet, start making a few things from scratch or partial-scratch.  Your meatballs and pizzas are excellent options for that kind of experiment -- and the best part is if you make a whole big batch of pizza dough or meatballs, you can portion out and freeze the extras for an easy dinner next week or the week after.  [Side note here:  this doesn't have to be all-or-nothing.  For ex., when I make pizzas, I used jarred sauce, because it costs something like $0.89 and saves me a couple of hours of work.  So you can ease yourself in by taking one step at a time -- heck, even buying frozen pizza dough, jarred sauce, and pre-shredded cheese helps you train yourself into new habits.]

- The most efficient way to manage your groceries is meal planning and portion control.  So, say, if it's chicken week, that one chicken can be the primary meat for one meal one night, then the leftovers can be the filling for enchiladas on a second night, and the bones can be the base for soup on a third.  The problem is that that takes effort and planning and in some cases knowledge and experience that people don't have if they weren't brought up that way.  So if you are interested in that idea but intimidated, it might be worth your while to pay for a service like Cooksmarts for a few months to get your feet under you -- I've used that one, and I like it because they re-use ingredients in different ways, give you a grocery list, and tell you how much of each thing to buy for all of the meals for that week.  For me, that both lifted the mental effort of planning and helped minimize food waste (since my family absolutely hates leftovers).  But there are also free websites and a lot of other services that can do that.  But, again, that means actually cooking many nights -- yes, the recipes are very easy and usually quick, but it's still a step beyond cooking pasta and adding jarred sauce and premade meatballs.  So be realistic about the amount of work you're willing to put into food prep every day before you decide what option fits you best.

slappy

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1054
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #43 on: July 14, 2020, 10:07:17 AM »
I don't think it makes sense to include underwear in your grocery bill. Others have mentioned meal planning. If your walmart does pick up, maybe consider that? It helps you keep track of the total as you go and it can be helpful for meal planning purposes. I especially like that I can add things up until the last day. So whatever you forget, you can add it pretty easily. I actually don't use it much, because i have found Market Basket to be cheaper in general, so that's my other advice. If there is a store that has consistently decent prices, just shop there. Unless you have an errand in another area that coincides with a sale on an item you need, it doesn't really make sense to shop at multiple stores. At least not for me. I guess it does for some people, but that's where you have to actually think about whether it's worth it and not just do it on autopilot.

K_in_the_kitchen

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 115
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #44 on: July 14, 2020, 02:45:37 PM »

I don't do much of the above aside from not wasting food and modifying diet.
I don't shop pay any attention to sales. I may buy an extra one or two of an item if it is on sale, but we're minimalists with a small apartment, and very little storage, so we're not stocking up on anything.

My strategy is entirely based upon collecting, curating, and systemizing a compendium of amazing recipes based on ingredients that are generally always cheap. That way I don't ever have to give it much thought. I can pick a recipe at whim, and then the software is cross-referenced so that I can coordinate perishable ingredients with other recipes to prevent waste, and then it prints out a shopping list.

I'm far, far too lazy to want to think much about meal planning and sales. For me, I need a system that is essentially mindless and takes less than 10 minutes to organize an entire week's worth or groceries before I run out the door.

We all have or strengths, mine is efficient systems, not really classic organization, which planning according to sales requires.

This is pretty much what I do, except I do have a basic meal plan (currently planned out through December but I do make changes as necessary).  The meal plan is based on meals we enjoy, with enough flexibility to keep it from getting boring.  Making a grocery list takes 5 minutes, plugging in vegetables to the meal plan takes maybe 2 minutes.  The only thing I look at in the grocery ad is loss leader produce.  I refuse to go from store to store anymore, and gave it up well before Covid.  I check the produce sales in the Sprouts and Aldi ads and that decides which store I go choose.

Covid tightened up the system even more.  I shop a warehouse store once every 2 months, and do a thorough Aldi stock up every 2 months, alternating, so month 1 warehouse store, month 2 Aldi, etc.  Mid-month I do a 15 minute produce and milk stock up.  (If we are under stay at home orders I don't do any in person shopping at all, and instead I order non-perishables from a warehouse store and perishables from a local business for curbside pick up.)  This twice a month system, alternating the warehouse store and Aldi from month-to-month and then doing the mid month produce run, is so much more efficient than anything I've done in the past.  I have printable shopping lists (something I've done for decades now) and I just print one out and highlight what I need.

mm1970

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8009
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #45 on: July 14, 2020, 04:52:39 PM »
Quote
We all have or strengths, mine is efficient systems, not really classic organization, which planning according to sales requires.

This is why you are so awesome.  I may get there.  Someday.

Although I'd like to add - I don't so much plan my meals according to sales, or I didn't back when I looked at sales fliers.  I would just pay attention to things like: we need a fruit, and grapes are on sale.  Oh look!  Brussels sprouts on sale!  I love them, my family hates them, so I only buy them occasionally. I would really pay attention to sales on things like rice or pasta, meats, beans...generally ingredients that "keep" that we eat regularly.  So it was looking at sales to stock the pantry.  It saves *some* money, but only on certain items.  It's not really a big deal if I can get beans for $1/lb instead of $1.29.

These days, my meal planning really only comes because of the produce delivery.  I base my meals around the vegetables we get, which is seasonal.  Except: I no longer worry about lunches - we eat salad for lunch every day, or plain raw veg if we have run out of lettuce.  It's like soup, for summer.

Quote
Various people seem to think that OP is getting decent prices for what they buy, which means that the problem is not the price it's what is bought.

I don't think there is any actual cooking going on in OP's household, most of what goes on seems to be an assembly of ready to eat items with the inclusion of some ready to heat up items.  There is no making of pasta sauce, no making of hash browns, no cooking their own ham, no making their own meatballs, no making their own pizza.  There are no "ingredients" bought: no flour, no oil or fats, no pulses, no onions, no spices.

That may just be because of this particular week.  Also, I'd like to add - I look at that list and it's mostly ingredients.  Fruits, vegetables, etc.  I'd put 27 of those items as ingredients.  Maybe they buy gallons of olive oil (I do) and don't like onions.

I consider pasta sauce and rolls to be minimally processed.

The soda has GOT to go.

And meat, well, it really depends on how much you eat it.  We tend to eat "not that much".  I'm fine buying pre-made meatballs (except, good luck finding gluten free) because we eat probably 1.5 lbs of meatballs a month.  We probably eat the same amount of sausage, all in our pasta dishes.

If, however, you are eating ham sandwiches for lunch every day, then it's worth a little effort to save money on bread, cheese, and ham.  (Although I'd probably switch it out to bean burritos.)

I went through a big phase between kids where I made my own bread, yogurt, pasta sauce, meatballs...forget it.  I don't really need to do that anymore.  I still make bread for the non-GF people in my house (though today, it was a brick...I think my yeast is finally dead). 

Unrelated to this post, I think this particular poster asked a month ago or so how to lose weight before going back to work.  In my own experience, if you are recently post partum (2-4 years) and you are trying to lose weight - you have to "pick one".  You can watch your waistline, or watch your budget - but the amount of time needed to do BOTH if you have a full time job and kids - it's really not going to happen.  Because they both require quite a bit of attention and math.  You are either counting calories of everything that goes in your face, or you are counting costs of everything that goes in your face.

Malcat

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3040
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #46 on: July 14, 2020, 06:18:54 PM »

I don't do much of the above aside from not wasting food and modifying diet.
I don't shop pay any attention to sales. I may buy an extra one or two of an item if it is on sale, but we're minimalists with a small apartment, and very little storage, so we're not stocking up on anything.

My strategy is entirely based upon collecting, curating, and systemizing a compendium of amazing recipes based on ingredients that are generally always cheap. That way I don't ever have to give it much thought. I can pick a recipe at whim, and then the software is cross-referenced so that I can coordinate perishable ingredients with other recipes to prevent waste, and then it prints out a shopping list.

I'm far, far too lazy to want to think much about meal planning and sales. For me, I need a system that is essentially mindless and takes less than 10 minutes to organize an entire week's worth or groceries before I run out the door.

We all have or strengths, mine is efficient systems, not really classic organization, which planning according to sales requires.

This is pretty much what I do, except I do have a basic meal plan (currently planned out through December but I do make changes as necessary).  The meal plan is based on meals we enjoy, with enough flexibility to keep it from getting boring.  Making a grocery list takes 5 minutes, plugging in vegetables to the meal plan takes maybe 2 minutes.  The only thing I look at in the grocery ad is loss leader produce.  I refuse to go from store to store anymore, and gave it up well before Covid.  I check the produce sales in the Sprouts and Aldi ads and that decides which store I go choose.

Covid tightened up the system even more.  I shop a warehouse store once every 2 months, and do a thorough Aldi stock up every 2 months, alternating, so month 1 warehouse store, month 2 Aldi, etc.  Mid-month I do a 15 minute produce and milk stock up.  (If we are under stay at home orders I don't do any in person shopping at all, and instead I order non-perishables from a warehouse store and perishables from a local business for curbside pick up.)  This twice a month system, alternating the warehouse store and Aldi from month-to-month and then doing the mid month produce run, is so much more efficient than anything I've done in the past.  I have printable shopping lists (something I've done for decades now) and I just print one out and highlight what I need.

Oh, I always have a meal plan, it's just that the plan takes only minutes to organize and create a shopping list for because I use Paprika software and have organized my recipes so that I can cross reference ingredients that are perishable and inconvenient or impossible to buy in small enough quantities, like fresh herbs, or cheese.

So if I want a meal that has cheddar and cilantro, I can quickly look up additional recipes that will also use those ingredients. Then if that additional recipe calls for half a head of cabbage, I can lookup a recipe that will use up the second half.

I have upwards of 120 fantastic, low cost recipes, so there's very little repetition. Also within many of those recipes there are variations I can make, so closer to 200 really.

ysette9

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6819
  • Location: Bay Area, CA
    • The Best Is Yet To Come
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #47 on: July 14, 2020, 08:55:59 PM »
I adore the internet for recipes. When I was tying to eat down our pantry before our move I would just google a handful of random ingredients + recipe and see what popped up. So much easier than trying to creatively invent how to use lentils and coconut milk and canned tomatoes together.

SailingOnASmallSailboat

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 225
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #48 on: July 15, 2020, 05:53:34 AM »
I adore the internet for recipes. When I was tying to eat down our pantry before our move I would just google a handful of random ingredients + recipe and see what popped up. So much easier than trying to creatively invent how to use lentils and coconut milk and canned tomatoes together.

OMG this combo of ingredients immediately made my mouth water thinking of a curried lentil stew of sorts, served over rice. I like using Indian curry blend spices with tomatoes and coconut milk. Yum.

ysette9

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6819
  • Location: Bay Area, CA
    • The Best Is Yet To Come
Re: Help me cut my grocery bill
« Reply #49 on: July 15, 2020, 10:16:56 AM »
Something on the order of this, but I use more lentils and cook it in the instant pot. https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/curried-lentil-tomato-and-coconut-soup