Author Topic: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?  (Read 22391 times)

Trebek

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How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« on: February 27, 2013, 06:38:36 PM »
Hey Everyone,
Iíve read (and re-read) MMMís food budget cutting posts and Iím still having trouble cutting this expense down to size. Iím aiming for about $80/week as MMM suggests or around $350/month but just canít get anywhere near it, even if we cut back really harshly. According to the post, we have 2 mouths to feed, each consuming three meals a day makes 180 meals per month all up. If we want to hit the $80/week mark that's about $1.92 per meal (about double what MMM says in his post so it shouldn't be THAT hard right?)

Currently the wife and I spend around $100-$125/week ($400-$500/month) on food for the home which equals about $3.00/meal. This DOESNíT include any going out to dinners (not that we do that much anyway) as itís in a separate expense category. Itís only from like the butchers and supermarkets. We currently eat very well with lots of fruits, veg, moderate amounts of meat (maybe 1kg of chicken/mince/whatever per week or so for both of us) and rarely buy cleaning products or bathroom stuffs (except for deodorant/toothpaste which we always try and buy on special). We mostly shop at Woolworths/Safeway/Coles so I'm guessing one way to cut a bit of cost is to start going to Aldi instead. Costco is available but it's a like 40 minute drive each way which kind of makes it pointless in my view.

I could probably buy more no-name products like no-named toilet paper or no-named tissues but I get the impression that our high cost is more due to an underlying fundamental issue that Iím just missing rather than these $1-$2 savers. Maybe we suck at cooking the right meals or something I donít know. The wife does have Fructose Malabsorption though which makes certain meals impossible (for instance thereís no onion full stop allowed). It also means some of her foods are more expensive such as $6 loaves of bread or $2 for a litre of milk. On the plus side though we don't drink alcohol ever so that's a big fat $0. We don't drink coffee ever so that's a big fat $0. Any soft drinks I buy might be at most one $0.88 no name brand 1.25Lt bottle a week if that.

We currently rely heavily on salads, potatoes, risottoís, burritoís and a few other repeat dishes we like and are easy to cook. Another thought is that Australia (where we live) is just more expensive than America is for the same foods and us trying to get to $80/week isnít possible because of this fact but I want to see what other Mustacians have to say. If youíre from Australia, whatís your food budget like? Are we doing fantastic or am I right in wanting to cut it down more?

If you're not from Australia how do you shop and what are the main meals you cook (assuming you do hit this $80/week or so target).

GermanMom

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2013, 07:55:06 PM »
Hi, if your wife needs special foods for her diet, she might be able to bake the bread and other things herself. Aldi is a good store for savings. I shop at Safeway as well, but it is Safeway in the US. I only buy groceries at Safeway and buy noname brand paper stuff at Sams, Aldi or Walmart would be a good one for you. I don't think you are supposed to have toiletries and paper in your grocerie budget anyway. I have a $80 budget a week and am doing ok on it so far. I have reduced my protein intake from meat significantly to a cup of meat (if I eat meat that day) and cook more rice and beans. I am also baking my own bread now. I will pick the cheapest meat, such as a whole chicken (99c/LB). I will cook the chicken to get the broth for soups and divide the meat up for other meals (chicken noodle alfredo, chinese veggies chicken and rice etc.). If I don't want to eat chicken all week, I throw a day with ground beef (1.99/LB on sale) in the middle. I buy my veggies and salads at Sprouts, which is a store that is almost like a farmers market. Only the veggies are cheap at Sprouts, the rest is very spendy. Get a book going with notes on what is cheap where and what is a good deal. Make sure you check local ads for sales, they have them on Aps now too. Plan your shopping trip well. Eat what is on sale and get creative with that food on what to cook. This time of the year is a little more difficult. When your local produce come on the market it will be easier. However, frozen veggies can be a good alternative right now.

Kriegsspiel

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2013, 08:00:47 PM »
MMM deals with American dollars, not Australian.  The conversion was even higher back when he wrote that article.

KMMK

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2013, 08:09:42 PM »
Do you need to cut your food expenditures? In some situations it is important, but I'd prefer to spend what I need to to get the food I want to eat. I don't waste food and don't purposely over pay, but I don't believe in skimping or buying processed food or from big chains just for the sake of cost cutting. Just because others spend a particular amount doesn't mean that is mandatory. We spent $600 CAN per month last year and I am perfectly fine with that number because we can afford it and like the way we eat. We save in other areas.

girly mustache

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2013, 08:21:32 PM »
Do you plan menus then shop to fill those menus? If you menu plan (including snacks, etc..) and just shop for what you need that may help. Purchasing whole foods and avoiding processed food helps. The food budget should only be food - so paper, cleaners, etc.. should not be included...

Do you need to cut your food budget? If you don't need to cut your budget - quality food is a worthwhile expenditure - if you can afford it and are satisfied with what you are purchasing...

KimAB

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2013, 08:31:07 PM »
I looked up the article and at $1/ meal we'd be spending $450/ month.  There is NO way.  Maybe for two adults and three little kids...  but not for 5 adults.  My budgeted amount is $800, but it is not terribly unusual to get to $1000 or more.  I do what I can, but sometimes it is high.

My only tips for keeping food costs down would be- shop with a list, but don't be married to it.  If you get to the store and something on your list is higher than it was last week don't buy it.  It is not unusual for me to find things double.  I might want rutabaga, but sometimes there is no rutabaga...  or sometimes rutabaga is 75 cents/ lb instead of .59 or .65.  If it is higher I just don't buy it.  That took some getting used to. 

Two shopping trips ago all the fruit and veg were twice the price or more.  I bought less, bought a little bit of frozen and shopped the sale racks heavily.  Still - it wasn't a great couple of weeks for the start of February.  It goes like that sometimes.

I've also got digestive issues, but I've got a list of things I can eat and I just rotate through that list based on what I can get for the least amount that week.  I usually buy for two weeks at a time, but will sometimes go longer between trips to eat down the supply and save a little that month.

You can MAYBE cut it a little by using everything- every scrap.  I've always got a scrap pail in the freezer for bones and peels to make soup stock.  Any little amount of leftovers gets used for lunches or soup. 

mm1970

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2013, 08:40:15 PM »
A couple of blogs and websites that I find to be useful for saving money on food are these

Penniless Parenting
The Prudent Homemaker
Cook for Good

There are ideas on these sites that can be really "out there".  Two are US based, other is not.  May be helpful.

Ozstache

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2013, 11:40:36 PM »
I too struggle to get my food budget down here in Oz, although in the last couple of months I have been doing a lot better than I used to. In short, our food shopping comprises:
- Buy as much as we can of our grocery list from Aldi and Costco, the rest from Coles and Woolies.
- Cheap cuts of meat and much less meat than we used to have.
- Homemade soup once a week, which usually lasts one dinner and lunch for two or three days.
- Plenty of fruit and veges. Very small portions of meat.
- Junk food very rarely. Chips and icecream once a month at most.
- Make meals from scratch. No prepackaged meals.
- Vegetarian meal once a week. We're actually looking forward to these meals now.
- Simple lunches for work eg. soup, baked beans on toast, home made sandwich.
- Analyse the grocery catalogs (online - no junk mail sticker on my mail box) and seek out items on mega special.
- Buy what is on special and plan meals around that rather than religiously sticking to family favourite meals.
- No name brands unless they taste horrid (eg. Woolies home brand peas - Aldi ones are fine however)
- Buy in bulk. eg. 3kg porridge, 1kg butter stick, mega tins of tuna and baked beans when they go on sale for $1 a tin, etc.
- Small portion sizes in general. We've lost so much weight in recent months that people think we are on a diet.
- Main shop once a week and only buy essentials or missed items from the main shop in between.

Even with all this, we struggle to keep our food bill below $750 a month for three of us adults. It was over $1100 a month a few months ago so we are doing much better but not to MMM standards. The general rule of thumb I have found is to aim for $1, $2 and $3 per person for breakfast, lunch and dinner respectively here in the great (expensive) land of Oz.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2013, 12:06:42 AM by Ozstache »

marty998

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2013, 12:11:27 AM »

- Small portion sizes in general. We've lost so much weight in recent months that people think we are on a diet.


Glad I'm not the only one. Cut my portion sizes by about 20% last year and the excess flab has dropped off and stayed off

N.

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2013, 01:50:17 AM »
Do you need to cut your food expenditures? In some situations it is important, but I'd prefer to spend what I need to to get the food I want to eat. I don't waste food and don't purposely over pay, but I don't believe in skimping or buying processed food or from big chains just for the sake of cost cutting. Just because others spend a particular amount doesn't mean that is mandatory. We spent $600 CAN per month last year and I am perfectly fine with that number because we can afford it and like the way we eat. We save in other areas.

May I ask... do you have kids? We have two hungry teenagers at home and spend roughly $900, including kitchen supplies (paper towels, cheap dish soap, freezer bags, etc.) and toiletries (toilet paper, razors, eye care products, etc.). Others in this forum have raised their eyebrows at our number.

As a (fellow) Canadian comparing numbers with those in the US, the numbers are shockingly different. We shop the flyer, cook from scratch around meals planned around on sale items, take leftovers, freeze and keep a hawk-eye on waste (broth from veggie scraps). Coupons aren't available on fresh produce and meat up here.

$1 a meal... unless you're eating Mr. Noodles and on-sale KD, it just ain't happening in Canada.


tmac

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2013, 05:19:28 AM »
Regarding the 40-minute drive to Costco: We live about that far from our Costco and the Aldi, and I do make the drive about once a month. I buy everything I'm going to need for the month.

I did the math at one point, and if I drive to the Costco and buy a bottle of wine, a couple of loaves of bread, and some frozen veggies, the savings over our local Walmart will pay for the gas to get there. Everything else is money in my pocket. :)

KMMK

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2013, 05:56:56 AM »
Do you need to cut your food expenditures? In some situations it is important, but I'd prefer to spend what I need to to get the food I want to eat. I don't waste food and don't purposely over pay, but I don't believe in skimping or buying processed food or from big chains just for the sake of cost cutting. Just because others spend a particular amount doesn't mean that is mandatory. We spent $600 CAN per month last year and I am perfectly fine with that number because we can afford it and like the way we eat. We save in other areas.

May I ask... do you have kids? We have two hungry teenagers at home and spend roughly $900, including kitchen supplies (paper towels, cheap dish soap, freezer bags, etc.) and toiletries (toilet paper, razors, eye care products, etc.). Others in this forum have raised their eyebrows at our number.

As a (fellow) Canadian comparing numbers with those in the US, the numbers are shockingly different. We shop the flyer, cook from scratch around meals planned around on sale items, take leftovers, freeze and keep a hawk-eye on waste (broth from veggie scraps). Coupons aren't available on fresh produce and meat up here.

$1 a meal... unless you're eating Mr. Noodles and on-sale KD, it just ain't happening in Canada.

Nope, no kids. Just 2 adults.  I agree that comparisons between the US and Canada don't work. Like you note there aren't coupons on most of what I buy.
Lots of things are much more expensive in Canada. Ways I spend more money: local organic delivery service for a lot of my produce, cause I want to support a business I like as well as local farmers, shopping at a non-chain store that I really like (local business), tons of fresh produce purchases, some gluten-free products for my health, some convenience food like canned soups as I have more money than time and don't tell my husband how to cook or eat.
I save money by never wasting food. And buying certain things at Superstore. We also don't eat out much. On top of the $600 we probably average about $20/month on eating out. Of course if your restaurant budget is higher your groceries will be lower.

I really like food and as we can't save 50% of our money by what we're doing, I don't worry about cost cutting. You should see my budget for clothes, shoes and my hair - virtually nothing, because I don't care about those things. I care about food.

N.

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2013, 06:09:14 AM »
Ditto.

Once a year haircuts (it's up nearly 100% of the time). High-quality, classic clothing that lasts forever (purchased at deep discounts roughly once every year or two as required). Same for footwear. I've been wearing the same (expensive) winter boots for a dozen years. I finally might need to have them re-soled next year.

But food?

Food.

Fooooooooooood. I love food. Good, fresh, lovely food.

It's our only indulgence.

anastrophe

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2013, 07:23:54 AM »
Well...my household (2 adults) spends about $300/month. Everything in bulk, beans/rice/oats/barley with vegetables and the occasional cheese or milk. For example, today's meals: steel cut oats with raisins and nuts for breakfast, salad and canned tuna for lunch, barley soup with kale for dinner. We're moderately active but relatively small people (our combined weight is under 300 lbs/136kg) so we probably don't need to eat as much as some people.

I think this is probably the absolute lowest I could pay for food, and sometimes it is so boring that I have to buy an expensive bunch of herbs or a fancy cheese or something just to make my dinner more interesting. I don't bike commute in the winter so my food costs are lower than in the summer when I'm riding 50 miles/80 km a week just to get to work.

Given your dietary constraints and the fact that you live in Australia I'd say you're doing pretty well. I think there is a certain point at which you can't cut back more, and you might be near that point.

Togoshiman

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2013, 07:33:31 AM »
Remember food is crazy cheap in the US compared to many other western countries.  I personally focus on making similar choices as MMM if I can and letting my market dictate what that works out to.  Picking an aribtrary number just won't work well, not that I'm not up for a challenge.  We buy healthy ingrediants and cook our food; we look for the best prices on good quality ingredients and plan meals;  we balance finding the best possible deal with wasting time and gas and energy finding them.  And our grocery bills are way higher than MMMs.  I'm just accepting this as a fact of my market being significant more expensice.

Ottawa

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #15 on: February 28, 2013, 07:41:59 AM »

mustachecat

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2013, 08:37:46 AM »
I think it's going to be too hard for people to give you good advice without drilling down into the specifics. Why don't you keep a log of what you eat and what you throw out, then post that with an itemized grocery list?

kolorado

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #17 on: February 28, 2013, 09:16:39 AM »
Ok, no help to the OP but I just wanted to comment on the thing I see so often on threads like this and it goes something like this: Kids cost less than adults to feed/Feeding adults is more expensive. Baloney! Check out this chart: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/wecan/downloads/calreqtips.pdf Feeding adults is only more expensive when "wants" are mistakenly categorized as "needs". It's adults who use food expenditure as a way to treat themselves, even if it is on perceived healthy foods,  that run up high spending.
Because my 2.5 year old, 8 year old and 10 year old are in the very active category, they need more calories than I, a grown and slim woman in the moderately active category, need. In many cases, the children have similar or higher caloric needs than the adults in the house so the assumed grocery savings of children over adults isn't based on fact. When you look just at caloric needs and nutritional balance you will see that there is little to no savings with children in a household.
In our family of 5, we need about 10000 calories daily. I spend $300 per month on groceries(American, just food). It comes down to Flexitarian eating, nearly all scratch cooking, shopping sales and keeping the staples on hand, buying in season and preserving, and meticulous planning.
Today's menu includes: Scratch made low-fat whole grain pancakes with homemade maple syrup and chocolate chips as preferred w/bananas and decaf coffee
Homemade minestrone soup and natural pbj's on wheat
leftover roast turkey, fat free mashed potatoes, low-fat gravy, steamed asparagus, fresh cranberry & orange relish
Daily snack options include but are not limited to air-popped popcorn, fruit, carrot sticks, leftovers, and homemade cheese wheat pizza that I keep in slices in the freezer for easy microwaving.

N.

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #18 on: February 28, 2013, 09:24:27 AM »
Oooooo! I like the numbers.

I'm a hardcore number-cruncher, so regardless of overall budget, our two teenagers collectively average 66.7% of our monthly food budget (EVEN WITH them visiting their mother several days out of each month). We're going to wonder what the hell to do with our money once they're out on their own.

N.

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #19 on: February 28, 2013, 09:26:33 AM »
Also, kolorado, may I join you? I like your menu.  :)

Bakari

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #20 on: February 28, 2013, 09:56:04 AM »
I could probably buy more no-name products like no-named toilet paper or no-named tissues but I get the impression that our high cost is more due to an underlying fundamental issue that Iím just missing rather than these $1-$2 savers.

$1 savers, over 40 items in a shopping trip, would be around half your total bill!
Really, no name brands are more like 25 cents cheaper, but that still adds up to a good $50 or so over a month.
Exact same stuff, in different packaging.  And not just paper products - look at the labels, the store/generic brand food is identical to the brand-name stuff on the shelf above it.

If you really want to figure out how to lower the bill the most, after a shopping trip bust out the computer, and make a spreadsheet that lists the calories per serving (on the labels) and the cost per serving (on the receipt) so you can figure the cost per calorie of different types of food.  Buy more of what's cheap and less of what's expensive (but don't forget about nutritional density!)
« Last Edit: February 28, 2013, 10:34:58 AM by Bakari »

anastrophe

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #21 on: February 28, 2013, 10:03:12 AM »
I could probably buy more no-name products like no-named toilet paper or no-named tissues but I get the impression that our high cost is more due to an underlying fundamental issue that Iím just missing rather than these $1-$2 savers.

$1 savers, over 40 items in a shopping trip, would be around half your total bill!
Really, no name brands are more like 25 cents cheaper, but that still adds up over a month to a good $50 or so over a month.
Exact same stuff, in different packaging.  And no just paper products - look at the labels, the store/generic brand food is identical to the brand-name stuff on the shelf above it.

If you really want to figure out how to lower the bill the most, after a shopping trip bust out the computer, and make a spreadsheet that lists the calories per serving (on the labels) and the cost per serving (on the receipt) so you can figure the cost per calorie of different types of food.  Buy more of what's cheap and less of what's expensive (but don't forget about nutritional density!)

This might belong in the "how you know you're crazy" thread, but it was the day that I found myself whipping out the phone in the store to calculate the price per square meter of toilet paper...

babysteps

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #22 on: February 28, 2013, 10:05:40 AM »
...The wife does have Fructose Malabsorption though which makes certain meals impossible (for instance thereís no onion full stop allowed). It also means some of her foods are more expensive such as $6 loaves of bread or $2 for a litre of milk.

Full disclosure: we do spend more than $80/month/person on food, but that is a choice of how to spend on our part.  We still try to be efficient in our food spending, though!  I have fed myself for $20/week in the past (in the US).  It may come down to balancing time/effort with $ for you.

Special diets
Something to consider - could the DW skip the "special" bread, etc?  I am gluten-free and mostly avoid products that are trying to make something 'gluten free' that usually has lots of gluten in it.  They tend to be very expensive and not taste very good.

Obviously fructose malabsorption is a completely different list of okay/makes-me-sick foods than gluten, but maybe this perspective will help.

I don't buy gluten-free bread, costs a lot more than regular bread and doesn't taste (or feel) that good to me (DH thinks it tastes even worse than I do).  I use asian rice-based wrappers or big kale or collard green leaves when I want a wrap.  Mostly I have rice as a part of a 'salad' or as a side dish instead of making a sandwich.  We try to stick to things that don't have gluten anyway, so we eat plenty of rice, potatoes, squash, beans, etc. 

I do splurge on gluten-free crackers sometimes, at least these look like real food to me (eg "rice, water, salt" as ingredients).  We do buy some gluten-free pasta, but are lucky to have a store brand that isn't much different in price from regular pasta.  And there are some prepared items, like soy sauce, that you can find with or without gluten for about the same price (just have to read the ingredients).

Networking
Know anyone with a garden or backyard chickens?  You can get free stuff or barter!  Seek such folks out - it may take a while, but getting to know folks is a great low/no cost activity even if it takes several links in a chain before you find someone with more produce than they can handle.

KimAB

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #23 on: February 28, 2013, 02:59:03 PM »
I do splurge on gluten-free crackers sometimes, at least these look like real food to me (eg "rice, water, salt" as ingredients).  We do buy some gluten-free pasta

We do that kind of thing, too.  The GF pasta is not at all cheaper for me, but I put a measuring cup in the pot and everyone gets ONE serving not a bowl of pasta.  Whatever your treat item is you just use it more sparingly, I think, and it works out the same dollar-wise.  We've found that if we are eating food we can digest we don't need as much, either.  Bread and pastas aren't cheap fillers for us.  It's something else- usually roasted vegetables...

ch12

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #24 on: February 28, 2013, 03:48:48 PM »
MMM aimed for $250 in grocery spending during Maximum Mustache March, which is better than I could do. http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/02/29/challenge-who-is-up-for-a-maximum-mustache-march/. All things strive, but seriously very few of us can feed 3 people on $250. You, in Australia, cannot try to compete with ridiculously low American food prices. Our government subsidizes food production and really it's probably impossible to get to $250/3 people in Australia.

The lowest that I've ever spent on groceries was $106 last September, when I was mostly buying orange juice, carrots, dried fruit, hummus, peanut butter, and sunflower seeds. (My parents were giving me other vegetables and fruits from the backyard.) It was during my vegan/paleo/gluten free experiment, so I definitely understand dietary restrictions.

No one has said this yet, so I wanted to add a link to one of MMM's articles on shopping for groceries: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/29/killing-your-1000-grocery-bill/. In that article, he points out that oil is a cheap way to get calories. You may not want to ingest oil straight up like MMM does ("Iíve even been known to bring containers of pure olive oil in my backpack, taking spoonfuls straight from the jar to supplement calories on an extreme hike or high-energy work day."), but it's definitely worth incorporating healthy fats into your diet for better health: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/26/health/mediterranean-diet-can-cut-heart-disease-study-finds.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

I looked up fructose malabsorption and I think that a good book for you to look at is The Four Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss. It's about cooking paleo and he has tons of experience with avoiding fructose and wheat like the plague. He does sometimes use onions (sorry!), but I know that you can substitute other things in those recipes. I hate onions, so I use a lot more garlic and pepper for food - plus stuff like tamari (gluten free soy sauce) and lime/lemon juice.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that protein intake does not have to be expensive if you eat eggs. My aunt told me that meat is generally more expensive in Australia than the US.

Nudelkopf

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #25 on: February 28, 2013, 11:58:38 PM »
You, in Australia, cannot try to compete with ridiculously low American food prices. Our government subsidizes food production and really it's probably impossible to get to $250/3 people in Australia.
.My aunt told me that meat is generally more expensive in Australia than the US.
I was travelling with some Americans while in Europe over Xmas, and they kept complaining about how expensive food was.. the Aussies, on the other hand, thought things were pretty great.

I spend $50 on groceries and toiletries per week, so for 2 of you at $100/wk, you're very similar to me. I like to think I do pretty well and eat well, But simple. The only expensive thing for me is junk food. I'm happy to buy local meat from the butcher (tends to be cheaper than my city-ish central Coles). It depends where you live though.

Trebek

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #26 on: March 01, 2013, 12:59:44 AM »
OK sorry I haven't been replying much in my own thread, I've been damn busy but I have been reading along. So..

"Do you need to cut your food expenditures?"
No. We save over 70% of our after tax money and are hammering our mortgage. After that's gone we'll be saving for FI ASAP. If I shave off $100/month we're not exactly going to get to either of those goals years ahead of schedule but it's really just about being efficient. If I don't have to spend $10 to buy something then I'd rather learn now and pay $5 for the rest of our lives :-) That being said I have no intention of lowering our eating standard. I'm happy to buy "just as good" toilet paper for half the price or learn how to cook better etc.

- I avoid processed foods like the plague for the most part. No Tim Tams or ice cream or chocolates or Coco-pops or muesli bars or potato chips. We do have one or two vices (potato gems and soft drink for instance) but that's about it.
- We've reduced meat intake a lot (as I said about 500g each per week)
- We have pretty standard meals and generally buy the same thing week after week. I'm guessing we need to get more recipes under our belt so we can shop what's on special not what we want
- We cook all our meals from pretty much scratch. Might throw in a stock cube but other than that it's mostly basic ingredients
- I'd like to buy in bulk but honestly we don't eat a huge amount so even potatoes I think would go off before we'd finish a 3kg bag
- We eat quite a bit smaller portions than most other friends/family (around 70%-60% of their meals I'd say?) and yes, it does help not only keep the weight off, but apparently prolongs your life both because you suffer less from weight related health issues as well as the fact that eating less prolongs cell life according to research.
- The wife can't eat beans/onions/oats/barley/wheat/fructose/various fruits/various veg/many other things. This makes it quite hard as lots of cheaper meals are straight out not an option
- We rarely throw out food that's gone off. Maybe 1 meal every 2-3 weeks if that

This might belong in the "how you know you're crazy" thread, but it was the day that I found myself whipping out the phone in the store to calculate the price per square meter of toilet paper...
In Australia most places have a "$x.xx / 100g" tag auto calculated on ALL the items which makes it really awesome to straight out compare every similar item on the shelf.

"Could the DW skip the "special" bread?"
She could, but she loves it and as she is restricted from so many OTHER foods due to her FM it's a bit unfair to take that away too.

How about I throw out some common things we buy and what we pay for them (ish) and you can all tell me how much cheaper the USA is so I can adjust :-) Also if you're in Australia maybe shout out any cheaper alternatives?

Meats:
4 Star Lean Mince: $7/kg
Chicken Breast (Skin On): $8-9/kg

Randoms:
Rice Crackers: $1.50-$2/ 100g packet
Cheese: $7/kg
Soft drink: $0.90 per 1.25 Litre
Toilet paper: $10/24 rolls (double ply)
Lactose Free Low Fat Milk: $2 per Litre
Shaved Ham: around the $16-20/kg mark
Gluten Free Bread: $6/loaf

Fruit/Veg:
Bananas: $3.90/kg
Oranges: $2.50/kg
Grapes: only buy when like $4/kg or less
Cucumber: $0.80 - $1.50 each
Lettuce: only buy them when there about $2 or less
Mushrooms: $10/kg
Kiwi Fruit: $0.60 each
Can Of Corn: $1 / 150g Can
Kent Pumpkin: $2.50/kg

stigto

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #27 on: March 01, 2013, 05:17:15 AM »
It's difficult to compare prices between countries, but some suggestions may apply:

The ham seems awfully expensive. I buy ham (and other luncheon meats) as whole pieces, cook them and slice them myself. The last time I bought pork for slicing I paid about 5 AUD a Kg. I slice the entire thing, divide it up and put it in the freezer. Chicken breasts work well for this too.

I also buy an entire chicken and cut it up. One chicken lasts me four or five dinners. Use the carcass for soup stock.

You can grow a lot of vegetables yourself, even if you live in an apartment. Put tomatoes, peppers, chilies in your kitchen window.

$3.90 for bananas? They're $1.50/Kg here (sometimes less). I thought I lived in the most expensive country on earth!
« Last Edit: March 01, 2013, 05:32:04 AM by stigto »

Nudelkopf

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #28 on: March 01, 2013, 05:25:05 AM »
Wow, $1.50? Maybe if cyclones didnt keep'wrecking our crops :-P  But i definitely would reconsider bananas on weeks where they're above $3/kg, because you can do better than that. But hey, fruit is great so it's up to yiu :-)  Have you ever seen those ads for bananas? They're on the back of our buses, and i think is great someone is bothering to advertise the best fruit in the world.

stigto

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #29 on: March 01, 2013, 05:39:59 AM »
Wow, $1.50? Maybe if cyclones didnt keep'wrecking our crops :-P  But i definitely would reconsider bananas on weeks where they're above $3/kg, because you can do better than that. But hey, fruit is great so it's up to yiu :-)  Have you ever seen those ads for bananas? They're on the back of our buses, and i think is great someone is bothering to advertise the best fruit in the world.

On a good day they're $1.20, and this is with 15% VAT included. Yes, bananas are awesome. I also use them for sandwiches, banana slices with a dab of strawberry jam on top. Mmmm...

happy

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #30 on: March 01, 2013, 06:12:23 AM »
OP,  after a fair bit of trying I now spend $200AUD p week for 3 people for food and groceries. We don't eat out so (?once a month) this is all meals.  So you're ahead of us.  I'm slowly inching it down but its hard work. On your prices you listed I couldn't beat any of them, except the toilet paper.  I have to use Coles: closest Aldi is about 10-15km away and doesn't stock a full range of times. Costco is way too far. Recently I've used groceryrun.com.au online: they mainly sell junk we don't buy but I've cobbled together a good order a couple of times. Currently I think I'm making ground by stockpiling and only buying non-perishables on special.  I don't go and buy what I need for the week, I go round checking all the items we regularly use and wait until they are on special. I am also growing some veges. The cost effective ones have been leafy greens: a couple of punnets of silverbeet planted last August has given us copious amount of silver beet, just starting to die back now. A free pack of rocket seeds has us with a lot of rocket. Lettuce grown in a polystyrene container has given an ongoing supply of leaves: a $1 tin of tuna and fresh lettuce/rocket/basil and a few cherry tomatoes = lunch. The thing about the leafy greens is you only pick what you need.

mustachecat

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #31 on: March 01, 2013, 06:44:54 AM »
Well, about six of the 17 food items you posted are processed foods. Maybe this isn't representative of your eating, but yes, you're eating quite a bit of processed foods! IMO, nothing wrong with that, but I did laugh when I read "avoid processed foods like the plague" and then "shaved ham." :)

From purely a financial standpoint, processed foods are often cheaper per calorie than non-processed ones, but in your case, your processed foods are more specialty foods, so you're almost certainly paying a premium for them. If that's what it takes to make sure your wife is well-fed and happy, I dunno, that seems fine to me! In January, I did a no-dairy, no-alcohol, no-wheat, no-soy, and no-legume diet, and our food costs shot up like a rocket, so I sympathize with her daily reality.

I'm curious as to where all your calories are coming from. You limit meat, and you seem to opt for low-fat products, so I assume that your diet is skewed towards carbs over protein or fat. Was this a conscious decision? Personally, I tend to overeat when my food options are carb-heavy, but not with fat or protein. Fat is calorie-dense, but incredibly satiating. I'm one of those freaks that thinks fears over dietary fat are way overblown, so if you're up for it, I'd say go regular-fat ground beef and full fat milk and see if that makes any difference in your satiety levels and thus grocery spending.

Going to Costco is still worth it for non-produce items. We never made it through a full bag of potatoes either... but we go once a month to stock up on meat (the ground beef here comes in 3lb/1.3kg packs here, so very manageable portions for freezing), canned anchovies, toilet paper, eggs, etc. Their prices on olive oil alone could justify our membership.

Are there ethnic markets by you? Here, it's impossible to beat prices on produce from Chinatown, so that's where we go, along with some no-frills fruit and vegetable places.

As to expanding your repertoire, if your wife tolerates soy, look into Asian cooking. But even without soy, I happily ate a ton of coconut curries and stir fries, which were cheap, easy, and fructose-free.

unpolloloco

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #32 on: March 01, 2013, 07:39:33 AM »
Wow- bananas are expensive there.  I regularly see them at $0.39/lb (~$0.86/kg) in the US.

ThatGuyFromCanada

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #33 on: March 01, 2013, 09:31:03 AM »
Do you need to cut your food expenditures? In some situations it is important, but I'd prefer to spend what I need to to get the food I want to eat. I don't waste food and don't purposely over pay, but I don't believe in skimping or buying processed food or from big chains just for the sake of cost cutting. Just because others spend a particular amount doesn't mean that is mandatory. We spent $600 CAN per month last year and I am perfectly fine with that number because we can afford it and like the way we eat. We save in other areas.

May I ask... do you have kids? We have two hungry teenagers at home and spend roughly $900, including kitchen supplies (paper towels, cheap dish soap, freezer bags, etc.) and toiletries (toilet paper, razors, eye care products, etc.). Others in this forum have raised their eyebrows at our number.

As a (fellow) Canadian comparing numbers with those in the US, the numbers are shockingly different. We shop the flyer, cook from scratch around meals planned around on sale items, take leftovers, freeze and keep a hawk-eye on waste (broth from veggie scraps). Coupons aren't available on fresh produce and meat up here.

$1 a meal... unless you're eating Mr. Noodles and on-sale KD, it just ain't happening in Canada.

Agreed! I'm a Canadian that spent a few years living in the US; when we moved back to Calgary I was astonished at the price difference for most things, especially food. I'm glad to hear that other Canadians have a similar amount budgeted for groceries and household items

babysteps

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #34 on: March 01, 2013, 09:32:16 AM »

"Could the DW skip the "special" bread?"
She could, but she loves it and as she is restricted from so many OTHER foods due to her FM it's a bit unfair to take that away too.
Understood!

How about I throw out some common things we buy and what we pay for them (ish) and you can all tell me how much cheaper the USA is so I can adjust :-) Also if you're in Australia maybe shout out any cheaper alternatives?

Meats:
4 Star Lean Mince: $7/kg
Chicken Breast (Skin On): $8-9/kg

These are prices for Wegman's, a regional grocery chain.  We used to live in a more urban area where the main grocery brand was Stop & Shop, their prices usually 10-20% higher than these.  If you are curious, both stores have searchable online product lists with prices (in "shopping" for W and "shopping list" for S&S).  There are certainly other, fancier non-MMM stores in the US with much higher prices to match.

We get our ground beef as part of a 1/4 or 1/6 cow we buy locally (humanely raised, not certified organic but very close), works out to about $3.50 per pound for everything (from steak to stew meat) - that's about 7.75US$/kilo. 
Ground beef in the store, large package (usually about 4 lbs) is US$2.19/lb=US$4.82/kg for 80% lean (would be US$3.69/lb in smaller packages) and US$2.99/lb=US$6.59/kg for 90% lean (smaller packages US$4.19/lb=US$9.24/kg).  95% lean is US$4.19/lb=US$9.24/kg in large packages (US$5.39/lb for small packages).  Organic grass-fed ground beef in store US$5.69/lb=US$12.54/kg.

Chicken breast is that bone-in?  bone-in chicken breast (with attached rib) US$1.79/lb or US$3.94/kilo if you buy a large (4lb or so) package.  Boneless chicken breasts come skinless at our store, large package US$1.99/lb=US$4.39/kg.  We buy whole chicken on sale US$0.79/lb=US$1.74/kg or or bone-in skin-on chicken thighs lg package, US$0.99/lb=US$2.18/kg or bone-in whole turkey breast on sale US$0.69/lb=US$1.52/kg.


Randoms:
Rice Crackers: $1.50-$2/ 100g packet
Cheese: $7/kg
Soft drink: $0.90 per 1.25 Litre
Toilet paper: $10/24 rolls (double ply)
Lactose Free Low Fat Milk: $2 per Litre
Shaved Ham: around the $16-20/kg mark
Gluten Free Bread: $6/loaf
Rice crackers, the plain kind US$2.49/3.5 oz or US$2.50/100gr.  More highly processed, US$2.79/4.25oz or US$2.32/100gr

toilet paper, $5 for 24 rolls (at liquidator Big Lots)

Lactose free low fat milk - find a friend with a goat! (or switch to water) - here, lactose free low fat cow's milk US$3.49/64fl oz or about US$1.84/liter

shaved ham, we get our ham whole as part of 1/2 pig we buy frozen locally, works out to about US$3/lb (for bacon, pork chops, ham, loin roast, etc) or US$6.61/kilo.  packaged sliced ham, US$5.99/lb or US$13.21/kilo

gluten free bread, loaf sizes range widely, best buy seems to be US$4.49/16oz loaf or US$4.95/500gr

Fruit/Veg:
Bananas: $3.90/kg
Oranges: $2.50/kg
Grapes: only buy when like $4/kg or less
Cucumber: $0.80 - $1.50 each
Lettuce: only buy them when there about $2 or less
Mushrooms: $10/kg
Kiwi Fruit: $0.60 each
Can Of Corn: $1 / 150g Can
Kent Pumpkin: $2.50/kg

We are in an apple-growing region, so apples tend to be the best fruit buy.  Depending on year, if you buy in season they are US$0.79-1.29/lb or YS$1.74-2.84/kilo.  Right now they are as low as US$4.69/3lbs or US$3.45/kilo

bananas US$0.79/lb or US$1.74/kilo
oranges if you buy 8 lbs you can get US$4.99/8lbs or US$1.38/kilo.  Otherwise Navel oranges are 5 oranges for US$3
grapes not in season now, best is US$1.99/lb or US$4.39/kilo (we don't usually buy table grapes, not sure of in-season price)
cucumber, large US$0.99/each
lettuce, varies widely (note: lettuce is very easy to grow yourself), US$1.79 each is best current price
mushrooms, vary widely, best current US$2.50/12oz or US$7.35/kilo
kiwi fruit US$0.60/each
can of corn $0.49/15.25oz or US$0.17/150gr (note: corn highly subsidized in US)
kent pumpkin - this variety not widely available where I live, similar squash might be butternut, US$1.49/lb or US$3.28/kilo now (not in season, in season closer to US$1/lb or US$2.20/kilo)

mm31

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #35 on: March 01, 2013, 10:49:54 AM »
As other as pointed out, buying meat in bulk is almost always a better choice price and quality-wise. Last year we went crazy and spent ~ $900 on 1/2 a pig, 2 goats, 2 dozen chickens. We still have meat for the next 6 months at least. You don't have to spend nearly as much, but you get the idea.

anastrophe

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #36 on: March 01, 2013, 11:15:44 AM »
As other as pointed out, buying meat in bulk is almost always a better choice price and quality-wise. Last year we went crazy and spent ~ $900 on 1/2 a pig, 2 goats, 2 dozen chickens. We still have meat for the next 6 months at least. You don't have to spend nearly as much, but you get the idea.

How would you do this if you lived in a small apartment? That is, if you did not have an extra freezer and could not get one?

mustachecat

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #37 on: March 01, 2013, 11:38:02 AM »
As other as pointed out, buying meat in bulk is almost always a better choice price and quality-wise. Last year we went crazy and spent ~ $900 on 1/2 a pig, 2 goats, 2 dozen chickens. We still have meat for the next 6 months at least. You don't have to spend nearly as much, but you get the idea.

How would you do this if you lived in a small apartment? That is, if you did not have an extra freezer and could not get one?

I can cram a 1/4 of a pig into my regular freezer with plenty of room for ice cubes and frozen fruit. And freezers work more efficiently the more tightly packed they are, so it's good all around. You can buy a new 5-cubic-foot chest freezer (enough for a 1/4 of a cow, aka LOTS OF MEAT) for under $200. Used ones pop up on craigslist all the time, too.

Also worth mentioning, in case you didn't know: when you buy meat from farmers, you're not (usually) buying an unbutchered animal, although it's cheaper to do so. Most of the time, the animal gets butchered pretty much as if it were going to retail: you get chops, roasts, ribs, shanks, etc., usually cryo-vacced in convenient portion sizes.

Edit: Forgot a word!

Iron Mike Sharpe

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #38 on: March 01, 2013, 11:39:25 AM »
Didn't read the whole thread.

But keep a food journal.  I have a spreadsheet in my Dropbox account that I can open on my iPhone.  I record the prices of all of the foods I buy, location, date, unit cost, etc.  So I now know how much food costs, and which stores have the best prices.  Because of that, I know that I need to buy most of my groceries at Aldi. 

I also know that if I need peanut butter, and it is on sale for $.30 less per pound than the usual price, I'm going to buy a lot of jars and just stock up.

Also, cook meals in bulk.  Here's a good site to start with:

http://budgetbytes.blogspot.com/

mm31

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #39 on: March 01, 2013, 11:51:52 AM »
As other as pointed out, buying meat in bulk is almost always a better choice price and quality-wise. Last year we went crazy and spent ~ $900 on 1/2 a pig, 2 goats, 2 dozen chickens. We still have meat for the next 6 months at least. You don't have to spend nearly as much, but you get the idea.

How would you do this if you lived in a small apartment? That is, if you did not have an extra freezer and could not get one?

I can cram a 1/4 of a pig into my regular freezer with plenty of room for ice cubes and frozen fruit. And freezers work more efficiently the more tightly packed they are, so it's good all around. You can buy a new 5-cubic-foot chest freezer (enough for a 1/4 of a cow, aka LOTS OF MEAT) for under $200. Used ones pop up on craigslist all the time, too.

Also worth mentioning, in case you didn't know: when you buy meat from farmers, you're not (usually) buying an unbutchered animal, although it's cheaper to do so. Most of the time, the animal gets butchered pretty much as if it were going to retail: you get chops, roasts, ribs, shanks, etc., usually cryo-vacced in convenient portion sizes.

Edit: Forgot a word!

Couldn't have given a better response!

One thing I wish I could do is choose how I want the meat cut. For example, we didn't get any pork shoulder with our pig, we got pork steaks: the shoulder divided into 4-5 pork chop-like parts. I also wish I could have kept our goats' heads, for cooking, but there  are very sound regulations why this is dangerous.

I think my only choice at this point is that I'll have to be a farmer myself so that I can do as a I please :)

mustachecat

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #40 on: March 01, 2013, 12:41:56 PM »
Aw, thanks, mm31!

Have you asked your farmer if you can fill out the processor's cut list yourself? Mine lets me for 1/2 animals or more (it's SO MUCH FUN). I don't think I pay more, either. In your case, I'd imagine that it'd be faster/cheaper to do one shoulder than several shoulder steaks, right?

mm31

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #41 on: March 01, 2013, 01:53:16 PM »
Aw, thanks, mm31!

Have you asked your farmer if you can fill out the processor's cut list yourself? Mine lets me for 1/2 animals or more (it's SO MUCH FUN). I don't think I pay more, either. In your case, I'd imagine that it'd be faster/cheaper to do one shoulder than several shoulder steaks, right?

I didn't know you could do that! we may do another pork buy at the end of the year so I'll definitely keep this in mind

anastrophe

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #42 on: March 01, 2013, 02:08:48 PM »
I can cram a 1/4 of a pig into my regular freezer with plenty of room for ice cubes and frozen fruit. And freezers work more efficiently the more tightly packed they are, so it's good all around. You can buy a new 5-cubic-foot chest freezer (enough for a 1/4 of a cow, aka LOTS OF MEAT) for under $200. Used ones pop up on craigslist all the time, too.

Also worth mentioning, in case you didn't know: when you buy meat from farmers, you're not (usually) buying an unbutchered animal, although it's cheaper to do so. Most of the time, the animal gets butchered pretty much as if it were going to retail: you get chops, roasts, ribs, shanks, etc., usually cryo-vacced in convenient portion sizes.

I did know that you don't just get a whole dead pig;) My freezer is almost always packed full of pre-made meals, but I've been thinking about getting a chest freezer and just putting it in the living room. Throw a tablecloth over it and you have a place to play board games. My only hesitation is that we often lose power during storms and there have been a few times we had extended power outages (e.g. Hurricane Sandy).

Though, we really don't eat much meat. We're mostly vegan, actually, it's sort of just a treat. But if we start eating more I'll just do this.

mlipps

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #43 on: March 01, 2013, 03:16:46 PM »
Lots of good posts here, but having been in Oz just last year for a few months, and being a champion bargain grocery shopper here in the US, I'd say, quite simply, food costs are very nearly double there.

Bakari

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #44 on: March 01, 2013, 03:28:22 PM »
How would you do this if you lived in a small apartment? That is, if you did not have an extra freezer and could not get one?

I live in a 250 sq ft RV, so our chest freezer goes outside, next to the dry food pantry, both right beside the front door, under the awning.
Although, it hasn't been plugged in for months, because I noticed we almost never filled it up, so it made more sense to get everything into the freezer above the fridge...

Stachsquatch

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #45 on: March 01, 2013, 04:21:13 PM »
I was just in NZ the other month and met some Aussie travelers. That neck of the world is crazy expensive and if you are down to $400 a month I salute you!

c

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #46 on: March 01, 2013, 04:56:44 PM »
The $1-$2 savers add up really quickly. I also thought it wasn't worth the effort, but I've really been watching the grocery bill. I started a price book (which is what they call them here, it's basically a list of stuff you buy regularly and what it costs at various locations), I have an app on my phone but after a while you get to know. On things that I buy regularly, e.g. tinned tomatoes or frozen spinach, the prices vary wildly FOR THE SAME BRAND! It's a bit of a pain going to different places to get the stuff, but it's shaved off a huge amount from our grocery bill.

I live in an area where I can walk to many places, so this may not be as easy if you have a car or live somewhere things are spread out. I'm a firm believer that it's the $1, $2 that adds up, for example taking money from your bank's cash point rather than paying a fee else where etc. These are the changes that made the most impact on my spending with almost no effort or sacrifice.

Also, yes food in America can be cheaper, but it's the lower quality food that's cheaper. I find that good quality, fresh, local, organic in England is cheaper than it is in the US, but cheap cuts, processed foods, artificially ripened tomatoes etc are much cheaper here.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2013, 04:59:52 PM by c »

Crash87

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #47 on: March 01, 2013, 05:01:07 PM »
Maybe you'll find some cheap meals you enjoy on this website: http://budgetbytes.blogspot.com/

KimAB

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #48 on: March 01, 2013, 09:45:24 PM »

Cheese: $7/kg
Soft drink: $0.90 per 1.25 Litre
Gluten Free Bread: $6/loaf
Cucumber: $0.80 - $1.50 each
Lettuce: only buy them when there about $2 or less

Can Of Corn: $1 / 150g Can

I feel your pain.  We are paying more or less the same prices for things.  I picked out the ones that are pretty close.  We pay the same price for chicken, but I'm pretty sure I can get ground beef for a little less.  Sometimes I can get cheese for $7-8/ kg if I buy it in a 4 kg block.  Usually it is more like $11 +/ kg  Just no-name, store brand, nothing fancy cheese in case anyone is wondering. 

Some of those prices were a little higher and some were a little lower, but I bet it shakes out about the same at the till.

I'm going to check out the budget bytes blog.  Thank you, crash.

teresa

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Re: How Do I Cut Our Food Budget?
« Reply #49 on: March 02, 2013, 05:51:28 AM »
If you have not already seen it:

http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com/

She saves quite a lot on her groceries by making most things from scratch, growing a garden, raising chooks, and I believe she shops at IGA and Aldi.  It is the most well written and informative website I have ever seen when it comes down to the mechanics of "how to" simple living.

She lives in Australia too.