Author Topic: How do you guys get such a low food budget?  (Read 29851 times)

greaper007

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How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« on: February 07, 2014, 09:55:53 PM »
I make my own bread, mayo, bbq sauce, peanut butter etc.   I never eat out and almost nothing I buy comes in a package.   I cook every meal from scratch.   I buy produce with the seasons, and most of my meat comes from Costco.    I do buy free range, organic, grass fed...for my meat, dairy and the dirty dozen (our lips won't touch a conventional apple).   

Yet, I'm still spending somewhere in the $120-$200 range a week on groceries, depending on what staples I have to buy at Costco that week.   Granted, we do about a box of wine every 8-9 days (moderate drinkers outlive teetotalers in every study, and even Dr Agus advocates daily wine consumption in his new book) but that's only $75 a month.   How do you guys do a $300 budget without sacrificing the source and quality of your food?

mxt0133

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2014, 10:22:15 PM »
I have to admit I have been giving myself face punches because my family of four cannot get our budget down to less than $250 a week.  I will tell you where most of our money goes, it goes into meats and packaged foods, like cheese sticks, apple sauce, for the kids.

We have been successful at getting the costs down, by at least reducing the potions of meat and increasing veggies and beans.  I don't like too much carbs like pasta and bread.  We also live next to a expensive Whole Foods type of market and get a lot of organic fruits and vegetables, not necessarily by choice.  So I figure that gives it a 10-15% premium.  I have also noticed that when we plan out what we are going to cook for a week or two buying bulk will also lower the cost.  I just got four pieces of tilapia for $20, i'm seriously thinking of becoming a vegetarian.

I know where the leaks are it's just a matter of time before I plug them all.  Good luck!

windawake

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2014, 10:26:17 PM »
I can't help answer your question but I can give you my experience. I spend about $250-$300/month for one person since I shop at a natural foods co-op for all my groceries, household, and personal items. I just really value buying organic and/or locally produced food from a community institution, plus I try to reduce waste as much as possible and my co-op has a great bulk section. I cook from scratch, rarely eat meat, and don't eat out much to make up for the heightened expense. I invite people over for dinner with abandon because I love cooking for others; I've just decided not to worry about the additional grocery expense of these dinners.

I think grocery bills are hard to compare because it comes down to a basic assessment of what your values are. For example, it's hard for me to imagine spending less than $200/month even if I did shop someplace cheaper because of how much produce I eat. Some people might be okay with eating less produce, but they make me feel great. I don't want to skimp on how many I'm allowed to eat so I can stay within budget.

greaper007

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2014, 10:29:38 PM »
San Francisco is a tough town for cheap food.    Have you considered making the pre-packaged food items?   Cheese is cheaper in bulk, and you could do a huge batch of applesauce in the slow cooker when apples are season, that would be a great thing to can.

I was in your food cost range when I lived in CT.   Food was expensive and I would shop multiple times a week.   Now I'm a once a week shopper for everything but milk and my wife's daily kale shake ingredients.

greaper007

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2014, 10:31:11 PM »
Thanks winda, we're a family of four so that's pretty much in line with our spending.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2014, 10:45:12 PM by greaper007 »

Zikoris

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2014, 10:50:39 PM »
We're a vegan couple and spend $230/month on groceries/cleaning supplies. You get your bill low by thinking about your entire grocery shopping system as a whole - what stores you go to (we have about eight), what products you buy at each place, how you get everywhere without wasting time, gas, or energy, and how that shopping system translates into meals with minimal waste.

If you posted, say, a week's worth of grocery receipts, as well a a description of the grocery shopping system you use now, you could get some much more specific advice.

rocklebock

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2014, 11:09:03 PM »
I'm at about $280 a month for groceries for 2 people, so I don't think you're doing bad for a family of 4 - especially if you're doing organic/free-range, which I only do for certain things. In my pre-MMM days I was spending twice that.

homehandymum

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2014, 12:18:28 AM »
We've just re-assessed our grocery spending.  By doing the following, we've managed to cut our spend down by 1/3 to 1/2.  We had gotten quite stupid with our grocery spending, so if you're already careful then you probably don't have nearly as much fat to cut from the spend as we did.  Exact amounts will be meaningless because of the different country thing, and the family size difference, but I found that the biggest 3 changes were:

1. Menu plan.  It really does work.  I look in my cupboards and plan to use what I already have first, then add any needed item to the shopping list.  If it isn't on the list, it doesn't get bought.  If I leave off anything major then it gets added to next week's list.  Over time, my list making is getting better.  Leave yourself some wriggle room to make the most of seasonal specials.  If planning on a stir-fry, for instance, I'd write "carrots, bell peppers if cheap, something green and leafy (cabbage/spinach/broccoli etc), something for crunch - green beans?".  That way you're not locking yourself into buying expensive spinach if cauliflower is half the price.

2.  Chocolate (or whatever your weak point is - wine? excellent coffee?) is a luxury item.  I put myself back in time and pretend that this one purchase needs to do me for 3 months until the next boat comes in.  Either eat it all in one hit or spread it out in tiny morsels, but either way, once it is gone, it is gone.  And don't bulk buy just to get around it :)  We buy 85% cocoa organic dark chocolate, and in our stupid days were eating more than 2 big blocks per week.  Now that 2 blocks is 3 months supply.  It is a treasure to be hoarded and gloated over for special occasions. 

3. Food shopping is a once per week activity.  Full stop.  No excuses.  If I run out of coffee then (after having a minor tantrum), I drink tea or cocoa until the end of the week.  If we run out of potatoes, we eat rice.  If we run out of onions and garlic, we have less interesting food for a couple of days.  And next week's shopping list is better.

Oh, and in general I plan one soup (bone plus leftovers) and one meatless meal per week (we're semi-paleo.  I know, I look back on my semi-vegetarian college student self and can hear her scoffing from here, but there you go.  Life is a funny thing.)  Planning it means I remember to soak (and sprout) the chickpeas ahead of time, etc.  The semi-paleo thing also means we just don't ever buy things that are pre-mixed or highly processed.  If we want snacks it is fruit, nuts, popcorn (not the microwave stuff), or we bake it ourselves.

The longer I menu-plan the better I'm getting.  I can now plan a roast chicken for Monday, make chicken stock in the slow-cooker overnight and have chicken soup on Tuesday.  Or cook a double lot of spaghetti sauce one week (eaten on sweet potatoes), and plan to use it again the following week with potato wedges or steamed veges.

If you want grass-fed meat, look into buying it by the half-beast.  May or may not be cheaper, depending on where you are etc but definitely worth exploring if you have room for a big freezer.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2014, 12:24:49 AM by homehandymum »

dragoncar

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2014, 12:27:13 AM »
Please post an itemized list of food purchases for the past month -- otherwise it will be very hard to discuss (i.e. speculate).

Calories are super cheap in this day and age.  I'm guessing you are paying more for high-nutrition items?

Even if I eat a pound of grass fed steak every day, plus a pound of lentils (dry) that's only like $100/week.

Ian

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2014, 12:35:14 AM »
If you want to cut down your bill, I'd recommend stopping comparing prices to items of the same kind: only think in terms of cost/serving. Doing this made me realize that some things that seemed fairly inexpensive were costing me three or four times other items I liked just as much.

Of course, some of this is to be expected. Meat is never going to be as cheap per serving as local vegetables. But the exercise might provide you with insight about how your dietary choices relate to the overall cost.

Kaminoge

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2014, 01:04:34 AM »
I make my own bread, mayo, bbq sauce, peanut butter etc.   I never eat out and almost nothing I buy comes in a package.   I cook every meal from scratch.   I buy produce with the seasons, and most of my meat comes from Costco.    I do buy free range, organic, grass fed...for my meat, dairy and the dirty dozen (our lips won't touch a conventional apple).   

I also make pretty much everything from scratch and don't buy packaged food. I make all my own meals and eat out maybe once or twice a month at most. I don't eat meat and at home don't eat dairy (but will when I'm out). I don't drink at all (anything apart from water - I'm weird like that!) and I'm only one person.

I still spend a lot more than some of the budgets I see on here. I don't think making things from scratch necessarily saves money. Certainly I could buy shop bought peanut butter (for example) much more cheaply than what I make myself but I don't consider the two comparable. I like to know what's in what I'm eating.

Obviously my case is a little different (I don't live in the US - no Costco's here) and actually meals out are cheaper than cooking at home but I don't begrudge the food budget because I think it's worth it to have control over what I'm eating.

Quote
Calories are super cheap in this day and age.  I'm guessing you are paying more for high-nutrition items? 

Only if you're living somewhere that unhealthy calories and large scale production are heavily government subsidised.

dragoncar

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2014, 01:33:32 AM »


Quote
Calories are super cheap in this day and age.  I'm guessing you are paying more for high-nutrition items? 

Only if you're living somewhere that unhealthy calories and large scale production are heavily government subsidised.

So how much is a pound of lentils in your part of the world?

soccerluvof4

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2014, 04:38:02 AM »
we are an active family of 6 (alot of sports) and have cut or food costs to under 200$ a week including all paper products, cleaning supplies, detergents etc...For us We bulk shop at Sams Club or Sams I do all the shopping and only buy meats that are on sale and we then freeze it. Find we save usually 25-30% on this.  Most of our staple we get at Aldis as they are by far the cheapest and have a fit-active line (private label) that is very inexpensive. So basically on Sundays I go to Aldis first then down the street to Sams and we meal plan off of what i was able to buy on sale. Get all the must haves for the week. I then on Wednesdays or thursdays swing back to ALdis and buy what is needed to get through Sunday. We pack lunches for all 4 kids for school or they would starve to death on the school lunch programs. It took me about 3 months to figure out how to really buy/save and when to buy in bulk but I have gotten pretty damn good at it and shelves are always stocked but only with stuff we will use. If you buy the stuff you always know you will use in bulk you can find meals to make with it. Fruits and veggies you never can have enough with a family of 6 so again our kids have learned to love them and its there snacks.  Also putting in some raised gardens this spring.

Kaminoge

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2014, 06:01:03 AM »

Quote
So how much is a pound of lentils in your part of the world?

Dirt cheap. But then they'd have to be because the average monthly after tax salary here is around $550 USD.  I'm not claiming I couldn't spend a lot less on food. I most obviously could - I choose not to because I choose to eat loads of fresh produce, nuts and food that I consider healthy (and pay a lot for, eg chia seeds, organic stuff etc). The average local would spend no where near as much as me but I'm not about to start eating dairy in large quantities or massive amounts of bread which would be a pretty typical diet.

I'm pretty sure though (you can google if you want data) that it's easier for Americans to spend a smaller percentage of their income on food than for people in the vast majority of the rest of the world. Whenever I travel there I'm blown away by how cheap food seems compared to Australia (clearly I don't compare it to here, that would be stupid given the difference in cost of living).

Albert

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2014, 06:43:36 AM »

Quote
So how much is a pound of lentils in your part of the world?

Dirt cheap. But then they'd have to be because the average monthly after tax salary here is around $550 USD.  I'm not claiming I couldn't spend a lot less on food. I most obviously could - I choose not to because I choose to eat loads of fresh produce, nuts and food that I consider healthy (and pay a lot for, eg chia seeds, organic stuff etc). The average local would spend no where near as much as me but I'm not about to start eating dairy in large quantities or massive amounts of bread which would be a pretty typical diet.

Somewhere in Eastern Europe? Sounds about right given the average income and typical diet.

Kaminoge

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #15 on: February 08, 2014, 06:56:04 AM »
Well spotted. Bulgaria. Fantastic place to live by the way - as an expat anyway.

mm1970

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2014, 08:21:36 AM »
Where do you live?  That is going to have a big effect.

When I was really into frugality (a few years ago when I only had one child and he was about 3 years old), I made it a year spending only about $4000, and that included the CSA.  I tried to alternate one really cheap month and one less cheap month ($160 and $320).  I only made it till September, then I got tired.

Anyway, fast forward and now we have two kids. I live in Coastal So. Cal.  Despite most things being GROWN here, it's  not a cheap place to eat.  I would say that we spend close to what you do (but since our last computer crashed, I really haven't looked to see what we spent last year - I'm  just going on the $25/week CSA plus usually about $80 in groceries and then the Costco trips every 2 weeks).

So, here's what you need to consider:
If you are buying organic/ grass fed - unless you have your own cow or live in an area where it is cheap to live and buy a half cow, you are NOT going to get your budget that low.  Same with organic dairy.  My neighbors eat organic/ local/ grass fed, and they spend $1800 a MONTH on food (family of 5).

How much meat are you eating? Everyone has different dietary needs (paleo vs. vegetarian, etc.)  If you want to cut your food bill, you need to consider substituting your grass fed meats with lentils, beans, rice, soup, homemade bread, etc.

You should consider a price book.  I love Costco but you can get better deals elsewhere sometimes.  Occasionally Whole Foods in my area will have grass fed ground beef for $3-4 a pound and I stock up.

In addition to eating "in season" consider eating "cheap".  Oranges in my area are cheaper than apples.  Organic apples are $3-4 a pound.  I LOVE pink ladies.  When I can find a bag of organic for <$2 a pound, I buy two.  But this season I just haven't found them more than 3 times.  Potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage are cheaper than asparagus.

Consider reading other blogs/ websites.  Gleaning, bulk-buying, etc. can be helpful if you have the time/ inclination.

The Prudent Homemaker is an example of someone who feeds her family for $0.40 a day per person.  She doesn't do organic and she has a big garden (in Las Vegas!!)  I've gotten some good tips on her website - if nothing else, if  you find a few recipes you like and use them regularly, you will save some money.  Baby steps.

For example:
1.  I  make bean burritos every couple of weeks and we eat them for lunches when I haven't planned anything.  I use the crockpot refried bean recipe from 100 days of real food. 
2.  I have a great lentil soup recipe that is good with homemade bread or corn bread
3.  Carrot ginger soup and bread
4.  Make your own salad dressings (The Prudent Homemaker has great recipes)

Every once in awhile I sit down and calculate the cost of various regular meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and I'll make the effort to increase the frequency of the cheap ones.

ender

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2014, 08:32:35 AM »
Here are my household (3 guys in their 20s) itemized expenses over a six month period of time, I keep all our receipts to split expenses and thought it'd be interesting to actually itemize them for a period of time.

http://pastebin.com/R2B5897k

Looks like we're at about $90/person per month.

We basically buy some staples at Sams Club and then almost all our perishable types of things are stuff which is on sale. We frequently get bread in the "about to expire" bin and then freeze it until we need it, this is how our bread cost is so low. Lots of pasta/rice based meals primarily using chicken (or other meat when it's on sale for ~$2/lb).

Emilyngh

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #18 on: February 08, 2014, 08:37:19 AM »

I think grocery bills are hard to compare because it comes down to a basic assessment of what your values are. For example, it's hard for me to imagine spending less than $200/month even if I did shop someplace cheaper because of how much produce I eat. Some people might be okay with eating less produce, but they make me feel great. I don't want to skimp on how many I'm allowed to eat so I can stay within budget.

This.   We are currently spending $500 a month for a family of three (plus a teen every other weekend), including bath/cleaning products.   We don't eat out (almost never), so this does cover all of our meals every day.   Buuuut, we make almost all of our own bath/cleaning out of cheap ingredients, so it's pretty close to $500 a mo on food.

We menu plan every week, we eat tons of dried beans from the crockpot, we make bread from scratch every week and eat very little processed foods. (And like I said make our own cleaning/bath to at least keep this expense low).

But, we eat a whole plant-based diet (have our own chickens for eggs but otherwise don't buy meat/dairy/eggs and eat whole grains).   The trick to maintaining this, IME, is buying a ton a fresh produce and nuts every week.   So, we literally fill our fridge once a week with fresh veggies (and 2-3 fruit baskets on the counters) and it's empty by the end of the week.   We also buy some organic products, fair trade chocolate, and other more expensive items based on our values.   We could spend less eating frozen vegetables and more refined carbs, but I do not think we could maintain our healthy diet in the long term this way.

So, I know we could have a lower grocery budget.   But, I've decided even as I constantly try to shave down the rest of our budget, this is one area I'm not touching.   I value the diet this affords and I don't want to change it.   If anything, as DD gets older (she's 2.5), I plan on upping it if needed if she eats more, for a variety of healthy school lunch items, etc.   

If one is confident that they are spending more to buy higher quality healthy foods (vs convenience processed foods) and/or eating in a way more in-line with their values, IMO the automatic "you're spending too much on food" that I often see on here can be short-sighted (eg, health and values are price-less).

« Last Edit: February 08, 2014, 08:42:40 AM by Emilyngh »

ender

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #19 on: February 08, 2014, 08:41:44 AM »
Also related to fresh produce, the main point here is how insistent you are on what fresh produce.

The only stuff we consistently get are onions, carrots, and bananas - we get a ton of fresh stuff but generally when it's on sale. Produce has huge price swings and we just get stuff for cheap when it's cheap. Green peppers for example are often nearly 50% off their normal price, same with all manner of apples, lettuce/spinach/greens, broccoli/cauliflower, etc.

You can still eat a ton of fresh stuff even in winter as long as you are "ok" with this sort of approach. My roommates and I save a TON of money by being aware what stuff normally costs and then basically just eating what's on sale at the grocery store, especially in fresh food and meat (some days I wish we had a deep freeze! We had pork steak on sale for $1/lb a while ago and I would have bought like 50 pounds if I could have :D).

mm1970

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #20 on: February 08, 2014, 08:43:23 AM »
One more thing - the wine!

I love wine.  I have a case and a half.

But...it's expensive, even if you buy it by the (good) box.  And I find that if it's open, I'll drink it.

Now I'm at an age (and stage) where I need to work on weight loss so wine does NOT help.  First thing I did is limit to one bottle per week (my husband doesn't really drink at all).  But then I realized, that's still 5 glasses a week (lotta calories, and about $5-10).

So I cut back to zero-2 glasses a week.  Meaning, if I'm at an event (rare) where there is wine, I'll have a glass ($0 to $8, probably once/month). 

I'm not sure if that will fit in your lifestyle, but if you cut your drinking back.  You know, with the box it keeps longer (but then, if it's open, I'll drink it).  So maybe cut yourself down to "Fridays and Saturdays only" or "1/2 glass only".


thepokercab

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #21 on: February 08, 2014, 09:14:58 AM »
This is a big issue in our household as well.  Last month, we spent over $800 on groceries for a family of 4 (two small kids though). We also tend to buy only grass fed meats and fresh produce, as well as other more expensive staples (almond flour instead of white flour, etc..) Last minute eating out trips are also an issue for us.  Sometimes my wife and I look at each other after a long Thursday say fuck it and order a pizza.

A few things we're working on:

1) Better meal planning:  Often times I feel like we just go to the store and buy stuff we know we'll eat, as opposed to having a plan.  When we actually have a grocery lists that is tied to meals we plan on making for the week, I feel like we spend less.  I feel like better meal planning we'll also fend off those last minute eating out cravings that we end up getting. 

2) More veggies/beans:  Or in other words, less meat.  Meat is definitely the expensive item, so we're working on incorporating at least 1 or 2 meat free dinners a week. 

3) Crock pot meals:  I find it really helps to make big batch meals that can last for a couple of days.  I think this also stretches out meats.

4) Avoid mid-week grocery trips:  This has been a big issue for us.  We'll go half way through the week and decide that we need to go back to the store to pick up more things.  So, we end up dropping $30-$50 dollars on more food, even though we probably could have made due with what we had in our house. 

We tried to implement all of these changes the first week in February and had ok results.  We ended up spending $153 dollars for the week, which is an improvement over the $200+ we spent each week in January. 

Food is by far our biggest obstacle to FIRE.  We're on the cheap cell phone plans, no cable, no car, little spending everywhere else. But when I look at our annual food spending and multiple by 25 FIRE seems like light years away.

Albert

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #22 on: February 08, 2014, 09:42:47 AM »
So how much is a pound of lentils in your part of the world?

Your question intrigued me because I had no idea how much lentils cost here. It's not what I usually eat, but since  I was going to grocery store today anyway I decided to buy some just for fun (used to eat them in US). I paid 2.2 CHF per 500 g which converting to your units and money would be about 2.27 $/pound. Not expensive, but you probably get them cheaper than we do. It's bit of an exotic ingredient here (imported from US)... If you don't want to eat like locals do you usually end up paying more (like Kaminoge in Bulgaria). Here the cheapest diet would probably be based on potatoes and pasta.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2014, 11:32:22 AM by Albert »

greaper007

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #23 on: February 08, 2014, 12:30:37 PM »
Thanks for the replys everyone.  I expected lots of chest thumping about how people price match at wal-mart and only spend $40 a week for a family of 6.    I'm happy to see that there's other frugal people who also care about the source and type of their food.  By the way, we're a family of 4 (5 and 2.5 for the kids) and we live in the Denver area.

I've considered a deep freeze for buying larger quantities of meat, but there are the acquisition costs and the monthly electrical costs.   I'm not sure I'd come ahead in the end.

I consider wine and coffee in moderation, essential for a healthy diet (along with my daily baby aspirin).   Every long term study I've read put coffee and wine drinkers ahead in length of life and incidents of chronic conditions.   So my twice daily servings of coffee and wine are non-negotiable for me.

Otherwise, I find that with my body type (meso/ slight ectomorph) I need a fair amount of animal based protein to keep a decent amount of muscle.    That's generally organic chicken and eggs (cheapest at costco) 3 servings of cold water fish a week (I have an aversion to canned seafood, so I just buy what's sustainable and under $10 a pound, Colorado prices) and a little bit of grass fed beef (I do conventional when I have a hard time finding certain grass fed cuts).

I do try to buy whats on sale for produce as opposed to what I want to eat that week.   I'm flexible with our fruits and vegetables.   But most of what the kids will eat are things that have to be organic.   Broccoli, apples, hot dogs etc.    My wife does a kale, protein powder, frozen berry, banana shake every morning which is probably $2 a pop on the average.  But she works 70 hours a week and this is one of the things that keeps her healthy.

I don't keep a price book, but I pretty much know the price of everything I buy and stock up when it's in my favor.   I also love the bulk bins at sprouts.

greaper007

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #24 on: February 08, 2014, 12:34:29 PM »
Also, I've looked and looked at coupons, and I don't get the cost savings.    They're generally for products that I consider ridiculously unhealthy.   Are you really saving money in the end?

NV Teacher

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #25 on: February 08, 2014, 01:10:54 PM »
If you want grass-fed meat, look into buying it by the half-beast.  May or may not be cheaper, depending on where you are etc but definitely worth exploring if you have room for a big freezer.

I bought half a beef last month.  I paid $912 for 340 lbs of meat.  That's about $2.70 a pound.  I checked at my local market the other day and the extra lean hamburger is $6.19 a pound. 

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #26 on: February 08, 2014, 01:51:05 PM »
Here's a recent post of mine from another thread.  We spend $150/mo.  They're young, but we have 2 kids. 

"It's hard to think of a particular reason we eat so well on so little, but here are a few things we did recently.

1.  My wife canned some things.  The major change with the latest batch is that we got some new reusable canning lids.  They worked great!  No more recurring costs when canning food.  As an example, she cans spaghetti and pizza sauce.  A $3 #10 can will make 6 jars.  So that's 50 cents per jar instead of the $3-$6 that's usually in the store.  We received dozens of jars for free from people who no longer used them.  We know some people with an old pear orchard on their property and picked several totes worth then canned them.   - FREE! - Also ground apples into applesauce and canned it.  (Also free)
2.  Pork was on sale the other day - for 99 cents per lb.  We bought 40 lbs.
3.  Boneless, skinless chicken breast was on a sale at a wholesaler (cash 'n carry) for $1.24/lb.  We bought 40 lbs.  (Took 3 days for the box to thaw out so we could put it away, haha!)  It's not uncommon to pay 4 times that around here.
4.  Our 2 year old really likes the little pouches that have applesauce and other veggies, yogurt, etc.  At $2-$3 each they're not cheap.  We found some reusable pouches online.  They're about $1 each.  With our first use we filled them with a large container of yogurt that cost $2.  Cost including pouch - $1.20.  Cost next time we fill them - 20 cents.  We're working on making home made yogurt however to bring the cost down even further.  The home made applesauce could also go in these.
5.  We bought a bulk package of turkey designed for deli meat and sliced it ourselves.  I borrowed a meat slicer this time around, but we'll be looking for a more commercial one.  The cheaper slicers don't quite "cut it".
6.  As cheap as rice and beans may be, we bought a 50lb bag of rice.  I saw it on sale the other day for $16.  50lbs of rice will easily last us anywhere from 6 months to a year, while using it in many meals.  We simply put it into food safe buckets that seal really well.  Bulk beans are used to make large batches of refried beans in a crockpot for mexican food which is a favorite of ours.
7.  We have a food saver to individually rewrap food.  (For anyone wondering about this costing more - it's included as a grocery expense. - as well as bathroom products, etc that tend to get purchased at the same stores.)  The food saver helps particularly with preventing freezer burn, but generally just helps things last longer. 
8.  We shop at Winco, Sam's club, Costco, etc.  Some of the best sales however can be at the local grocery store.  Watch out and stock up.
9.  Tortillas are also a staple with gluten free food.  They're ridiculously cheap, and can be used for quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, etc.   Tortilla chips are another great one.  We buy a large bag (4-5lbs) from Costco from something less than $4 if I remember correctly.
10.  Potatoes.  I think it was just over $10 for a 50lb bag.

I'm a snob with certain things - like cheese.  I will only eat Tillamook cheddar cheese for example.  It's far more expensive than the others, but it tastes so much better!  I once bought a cheap block not wanting to spend the money.  It was so disgusting I could not bring myself to eat it!  Gluten free bread also must taste good.  Homemade or the UDI's brand are currently my favorites.  UDI's is expensive - usually $5 on sale - and it's a VERY small loaf.  I've learned to live without as much bread as I used to eat.

I can't wait until we start a garden this year.  Everything I've researched shows that it's possible to grow A LOT of food for very cheap.  With a dehydrator, food saver, and canning, I think we can make the food last a long time too.  Too often I see food go to waste because people grow more than they can possible give away.

All of the positive responses make me think I need to create a "Cheap Gluten Free Food" blog or something.


Yes, we have an extra freezer in the garage.  I have a killawatt meter to check how much electricity it uses.  It only costs us about $6/mo.  Considering it was $20 to start with - that's well worth it.  We can store a lot of bulk items in there."


totesmahgoats

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #27 on: February 08, 2014, 02:17:17 PM »
I spend more than what is considered mustachian, but I also consider my grocery bill a vote in ethics and health, so I'll concede the dollars.

We, too, are in the Denver area and for an active family of five (two adults, kids 6, 4, 3) we spend 800-900/mo on groceries when I am very careful. I source meat locally and pay a premium for grassfed/pasture raised and generally buy sides/whole animals, it's a good exercise in creative cooking and more economical. We raise our own chickens for eggs, which cuts back on eggs purchased (but truthfully I'm not sure it's economic because the feed we use in corn/soy free and organic; but this is also partially a lesson in teaching our kids about the food system). We have been working steadily at expanding our own personal garden but also make good use of the plentitude of local farmers markets during the season, where organic produce is worlds cheaper than can be found in stores. Local CSAs are also a great value during summer months (by my calcs to purchase what is in my shares would be close to double in store). We don't buy "kid" food, i.e. no applesauce packets/string cheese or anything else marketed for children as convenience  food.

ETA: My pointless meandering is mostly a commiseration about grocery bills that may never be a mustachian-police worthy. I just work to be a little smarter every month. :)

« Last Edit: February 08, 2014, 02:23:59 PM by totesmahgoats »

mm1970

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #28 on: February 08, 2014, 02:22:32 PM »
Quote
my twice daily servings of coffee and wine are non-negotiable for me
Well, here's your first problem, the term "non-negotiable". NOTHING is non-negotiable.  You may decide to keep it, but don't make it non-negotiable.

If you end up with a condition where you are on a drug that you cannot have alcohol with - will it then be non-negotiable?  (I ask because I have an alarming number of family members who mix alcohol with drugs they are not supposed to).  Can you have a 1/2 glass?  Do you feel like developing a skill and making your own?

If you eat enough meat, then it may be worth a small deep freeze.  They don't use that much power.  Also, there are bodybuilding vegetarians.  But like I said before, you food choices will affect your budget.  If you aren't willing to eat more vegetarian foods, or substitute the occasional piece of non-organic meat, or cut your wine intake, or keep a price book, then you aren't going to make any progress.

I haven't kept a price book in years but the two or three years I did I saved a LOT of money.  Once the kiddos arrived I went with the price book in my head - I stopped chasing sales and went with the places that had generally good prices.

Oh, and coupons are a waste of time. I found that I spent WAY more time looking for them than I actually used them because SO FEW are for real foods.  Although they can be useful for TP and such.

centwise

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #29 on: February 08, 2014, 02:23:11 PM »
Like others have said, it looks like your choices and preferences will keep you in a slightly higher price category. Given those choices (organic meats, etc.) it sounds like you are doing pretty well!

You've received a lot of good advice. I was going to offer suggestions, but mm1970 said EVERYTHING I was going to say, and said it much better. I would especially emphasize these points:


How much meat are you eating? Everyone has different dietary needs (paleo vs. vegetarian, etc.)  If you want to cut your food bill, you need to consider substituting your grass fed meats with lentils, beans, rice, soup, homemade bread, etc.

You should consider a price book.  I love Costco but you can get better deals elsewhere sometimes.

In my experience, Costco prices for most foods are not the best (with some exceptions). The Costco price is lower than the "regular" grocery store price, but a good sale price at the store is usually MUCH cheaper than Costco, and those sale prices recur regularly (maybe every month or two, or more often if you have multiple grocery store options).

I first read about the price-book idea in a book written by the Economides family. You could see if your public library has a copy of "America's Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money" or "Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America's Cheapest Family". The idea of creating a "rock-bottom price list" is nice in theory, but the books give a detailed, concrete explanation of how to implement it. I found the Economides method to be very helpful. Of all the changes I've made over the last few years, I think this is the single most effective thing I've done to chop my grocery bill.

Otherwise, I find that with my body type (meso/ slight ectomorph) I need a fair amount of animal based protein to keep a decent amount of muscle.    That's generally organic chicken and eggs (cheapest at costco) 3 servings of cold water fish a week (I have an aversion to canned seafood, so I just buy what's sustainable and under $10 a pound, Colorado prices) and a little bit of grass fed beef (I do conventional when I have a hard time finding certain grass fed cuts).

This sounds delicious and healthy, but it's very high-priced eating. We also buy organic humanely-raised eggs and meat; we just don't eat it every day. I have to admit that I question the assumption that you require so much animal based protein. Are you sure it's not just what you're accustomed to, rather than what your "body type" requires? Of course, if that's the way you prefer to eat, there's nothing wrong with that (and you are already pretty frugal about it). But I personally love home cooked Indian food and cook lots of highly varied dishes with dried beans and lentils. We buy them organic, locally grown and they are dirt cheap compared to any kind of organic meat. Also, chickpeas or lentils can turn any salad, or even a baked potato, into a satisfying meal. And I have an "ecto" spouse (a marathon runner and competitive tennis player) who totally thrives on a diet that is more often vegetarian than not.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2014, 06:25:32 PM by centwise »

horsepoor

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #30 on: February 08, 2014, 03:36:21 PM »
I'm still working on my food budget.  I was pretty loose with it whilst patting myself on the back for growing veggies and canning and so on, and the truth was that it was still much too high.

I also tend towards paleo type eating, but am thinking that I will start baking bread 1x per week and having a tofu or lentil-based meal 1x per week to reduce costs.

Pretty much nothing is cheaper that russet potatoes when it comes to whole foods with fair amounts of calories.  Also, I've found that winter squash is pretty easy to grow and stores really well.  I've been eating it more as a staple this winter and hope to grow more next year.

One tip I haven't seen on this thread, which I've just started implementing myself, is to get online before your weekly shop and look at the ads for each store you might reasonably get to that week.  Then you can see what the best deals are, hone your meal plan for the week around those, and avoid paying more for the convenience of doing all your shopping at one store.  I don't usually find coupons to be useful either, but the weekly store fliers tell you where to find the deals on meat and produce that week. 

Faith2014

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #31 on: February 08, 2014, 08:12:18 PM »
Also, I've looked and looked at coupons, and I don't get the cost savings.    They're generally for products that I consider ridiculously unhealthy.   Are you really saving money in the end?

Depends on the week.  One of my personal activities is cutting coupons for military families overseas, so I go through mine and my mother's coupons twice - once cutting them out, the 2nd time when I sort/tally.  There are many more non-food coupons than food coupons.  I may go weeks without cutting anything out for personal use, then end up with a huge stack.  So if you casually skim over a week or two, you may find absolutely nothing you're interested in.

If you use make-up or color your hair, then you will find coupons every week.   Toothpaste and yogurt - never pay full price.  P&G items usually have coupons out in a special coupon insert every 6 or 7 weeks.  Laundry related items, contact solutions, vitamins, etc - turn up a lot.

In order to maximize my use of my coupons, I've started tracking them (amount and exp date) in excel, and printing it out when I review the sales papers.  This way I can use most of them.  I currently have about $65 in coupons that I will use.  I buy without need since I stock up - in other words, if I see detergent on sale with a coupon, I will buy it and add it to my pantry.  It is rare that I run out of anything. 

So, TL;DR - yes, but it takes a little work.

nikki

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #32 on: February 08, 2014, 08:26:24 PM »
But most of what the kids will eat are things that have to be organic.   Broccoli, apples, hot dogs etc.   

organic... hot dogs...? What? I don't even...

WHAT?

greaper007

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #33 on: February 08, 2014, 08:50:20 PM »
But most of what the kids will eat are things that have to be organic.   Broccoli, apples, hot dogs etc.   

organic... hot dogs...? What? I don't even...

WHAT?

Applegate Farms Grass Fed Organic all Beef Hotdogs http://www.applegate.com/products/the-great-organic-beef-hot-dog-12oz

Yes, uncured is pure bullshit.   Instead of artificial nitrate sources they use massive amounts of things like celery juice.   Still, I'm of the opinion that the real problem with cured meats is the source of the meat.   All mammals store toxins in their fat, an animal like a cow that's a ruminant and is not even equipped to process corn is going to store a ton of toxins in their fatty tissue.    It's the reason you can't buy liver from non-grassfed beef.   It's pure poison once they end their stay at the feed lot.

My kids love hotdogs, I limit their intake but in order to appease their desires I settle on an occasional grassfed option.

nikki

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #34 on: February 08, 2014, 08:53:38 PM »
But most of what the kids will eat are things that have to be organic.   Broccoli, apples, hot dogs etc.   

organic... hot dogs...? What? I don't even...

WHAT?

Applegate Farms Grass Fed Organic all Beef Hotdogs http://www.applegate.com/products/the-great-organic-beef-hot-dog-12oz

Yes, uncured is pure bullshit.   Instead of artificial nitrate sources they use massive amounts of things like celery juice.   Still, I'm of the opinion that the real problem with cured meats is the source of the meat.   All mammals store toxins in their fat, an animal like a cow that's a ruminant and is not even equipped to process corn is going to store a ton of toxins in their fatty tissue.    It's the reason you can't buy liver from non-grassfed beef.   It's pure poison once they end their stay at the feed lot.

My kids love hotdogs, I limit their intake but in order to appease their desires I settle on an occasional grassfed option.

Wow. I'm just surprised these even exist! Thanks for the hot dog lesson ;-)

greaper007

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #35 on: February 08, 2014, 08:58:44 PM »
Also, I've looked and looked at coupons, and I don't get the cost savings.    They're generally for products that I consider ridiculously unhealthy.   Are you really saving money in the end?

Depends on the week.  One of my personal activities is cutting coupons for military families overseas, so I go through mine and my mother's coupons twice - once cutting them out, the 2nd time when I sort/tally.  There are many more non-food coupons than food coupons.  I may go weeks without cutting anything out for personal use, then end up with a huge stack.  So if you casually skim over a week or two, you may find absolutely nothing you're interested in.

If you use make-up or color your hair, then you will find coupons every week.   Toothpaste and yogurt - never pay full price.  P&G items usually have coupons out in a special coupon insert every 6 or 7 weeks.  Laundry related items, contact solutions, vitamins, etc - turn up a lot.

In order to maximize my use of my coupons, I've started tracking them (amount and exp date) in excel, and printing it out when I review the sales papers.  This way I can use most of them.  I currently have about $65 in coupons that I will use.  I buy without need since I stock up - in other words, if I see detergent on sale with a coupon, I will buy it and add it to my pantry.  It is rare that I run out of anything. 

So, TL;DR - yes, but it takes a little work.

Yeah, I never really buy any of that stuff.   I haven't colored my hair since an ill fated experiment in college.   Once I run out of my stash of costco toothpaste I'm making my own.   I make my own cleaning supplies and costco has the cheapest, environmentally friendly detergent I can find, about the same price as diy.   I don't do vitamins (hence my expensive animal and produce products). 

I've yet to see any coupons for products I actually use.   Dr. Bronners, white vinegar, non petroleum based dish detergent etc.  YMMV

greaper007

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #36 on: February 08, 2014, 09:12:31 PM »
Thanks for the reply's everyone.   It looks like the only big change I could do is buying meat in bulk.   I'm not opposed to that, I just have to find a decent source.    I was full on into the paleo thing 3 or 4 years ago and I tried to find a place I could buy a quarter cow, but it seemed like there wasn't as much available at that time.   Even the sellers at the Boulder Farmers Market gave me a head shake.   Does anyone have a good, affordable source of pastured chicken or grass finished beef on the front range?

As for wine making, I'm a home brewer and I find I can save a lot of money brewing beer.   But, I can't seem to make homebrewed wine work out to less than a bota box, which is less than $5 a bottle after taxes.   I know I could make something equivalent to a $20 bottle of wine for about 5-10 dollars a bottle, but I just want a glass with dinner and don't really want to take up another carboy for wine I can't drink for a year and a half.

greaper007

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #37 on: February 08, 2014, 09:16:23 PM »
But most of what the kids will eat are things that have to be organic.   Broccoli, apples, hot dogs etc.   

organic... hot dogs...? What? I don't even...

WHAT?

Applegate Farms Grass Fed Organic all Beef Hotdogs http://www.applegate.com/products/the-great-organic-beef-hot-dog-12oz

Yes, uncured is pure bullshit.   Instead of artificial nitrate sources they use massive amounts of things like celery juice.   Still, I'm of the opinion that the real problem with cured meats is the source of the meat.   All mammals store toxins in their fat, an animal like a cow that's a ruminant and is not even equipped to process corn is going to store a ton of toxins in their fatty tissue.    It's the reason you can't buy liver from non-grassfed beef.   It's pure poison once they end their stay at the feed lot.

My kids love hotdogs, I limit their intake but in order to appease their desires I settle on an occasional grassfed option.

Wow. I'm just surprised these even exist! Thanks for the hot dog lesson ;-)

Anytime, I'll also rant about farm raised fish if you're ever bored.

greaper007

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #38 on: February 08, 2014, 09:58:47 PM »
Quote
my twice daily servings of coffee and wine are non-negotiable for me
Well, here's your first problem, the term "non-negotiable". NOTHING is non-negotiable.  You may decide to keep it, but don't make it non-negotiable.

If you end up with a condition where you are on a drug that you cannot have alcohol with - will it then be non-negotiable?  (I ask because I have an alarming number of family members who mix alcohol with drugs they are not supposed to).  Can you have a 1/2 glass?  Do you feel like developing a skill and making your own?

If you eat enough meat, then it may be worth a small deep freeze.  They don't use that much power.  Also, there are bodybuilding vegetarians.  But like I said before, you food choices will affect your budget.  If you aren't willing to eat more vegetarian foods, or substitute the occasional piece of non-organic meat, or cut your wine intake, or keep a price book, then you aren't going to make any progress.

I haven't kept a price book in years but the two or three years I did I saved a LOT of money.  Once the kiddos arrived I went with the price book in my head - I stopped chasing sales and went with the places that had generally good prices.

Oh, and coupons are a waste of time. I found that I spent WAY more time looking for them than I actually used them because SO FEW are for real foods.  Although they can be useful for TP and such.

No, nothing is non-negotiable, but you have to show me the research that says something I'm doing is less likely to result in a longer life without suffering from a chronic disease.   Right now eating trans-fats, candy, soda (ok, I do enjoy a rare mexican coke) processed cheese, or conventionally grown produce on the dirty dozen is non-negotiable.   Not drinking wine or coffee is non-negotiable.    I just read "A Short Guide to a Long Life" by Dr. Agus who's a top cancer researcher.  One chapter was entitled "Drink Wine" and the other was "Drink Caffeine."   So I source these products as cheap as I can.   $4.60 ish a bottle for wine, and $3.98 a lbs for whole bean arabica.

I have a large extended family, 7 kids in my mom's family and 4 in my dad's.   The people who suffer from chronic conditions and have to take daily drug regiments are the same ones that are obese, smokers, alcoholics or teetotalers and/or non-active.   Their disorders run the gambit from auto-immune diseases like crohns, type 2 diatbetes, heart disease and cancer.   Yet, in my experience the family members that maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and drink moderately live a long healthy life where they generally die in their sleep without suffering from any chronic conditions.   I'm in better shape at 33 than I was at 13 and I expect to be in even better shape at 43.   My dad is 63, does a hard 1-2 hour workout a day and is in great shape.

So no, I'm not really worried about having to take a drug that I can't mix with alcohol, at least not long term.   The point of my diet is to prevent something like that (knocking on wood).

Also, as I said above it's pretty tough to make wine for less than bota box.   I did an experiment with a concord grape wine, let's just say that I discovered that my MD 20/20 days are long behind me.   Besides, I was only saving 2 dollars a bottle by using welches grape juice.   For beer I can do a 5 gallon batch of bavarian hefe for less than $20 which is a huge savings, it just doesn't work for wine.

I could see keeping a price book if I wasn't passionate about food.  But food is my life, one of my favorite things to do when I'm bored is open a random page of The Joy of Cooking or The Fannie Farmer cookbook (got to love old school cookbooks).  I almost always know the price of products I regularly buy, and when I see a drop I'll stock up.   Keeping a book of prices seems redundant.

homehandymum

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #39 on: February 09, 2014, 12:24:12 AM »
Well, it sounds to me that for your situation and food choices, the only way to spend less is to go for bulk meat (if you can get it) or plant a huge garden.

Getting food costs rock bottom is not the goal - long healthy life is the goal.  Best look somewhere else to trim the budget!

chasesfish

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #40 on: February 09, 2014, 04:32:23 AM »
I'm at $400 for two people and that includes a few ridiculously nice meals out a month. 

I second the menu plan based on the extra food in the pantry.

We also find that meticulously combing through the weekly ads of the full price grocery stores is beneficial, as well as figuring out what products are just as good as generic and get those from the discounters (Aldi, Walmart, Costco).

Also, consider your protein costs really hard.   Beef is pretty expensive right now, but pork is very cheap.  Ground turkey can also be kept frozen for months.

Albert

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #41 on: February 09, 2014, 11:32:36 AM »
The biggest thing I totally forgot - and others have mentioned - pre-plan your meals a week in advance and standardize your meals.  You can't plan and stock up if you have a different breakfast and lunch every day.

My breakfasts are the same every weekday, ditto lunches and cost less than a dollar per meal, cooked in advance on Sundays, packed in Rubbermaid food containers.

That's a fast track to frugality fatigue... For me at least it would be, perhaps others are more resilient to that kind of thing. I'm happy to pay a lot more for my variety :)

Tyler

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #42 on: February 09, 2014, 11:56:47 AM »
I do buy free range, organic, grass fed...for my meat, dairy and the dirty dozen (our lips won't touch a conventional apple).   

Yet, I'm still spending somewhere in the $120-$200 range a week on groceries

Could be a little bit of simple cause & effect right there.  It's just fine to have food preferences, but spending more on "premium" food is a choice.  The more requirements you add, the more expensive it gets.  I'm personally skeptical of a lot of what passes as "green" food marketing these days, but that's a topic for another thread.

When we were in the Bay Area there were lots of great farmers markets every weekend.  That was a great way to supplement our shopping trips with cheap, fresh produce.  One trick is to go there in the last hour -- many stands would mark down prices simply so they wouldn't have to truck the food elsewhere. 

stevesteve

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #43 on: February 09, 2014, 12:12:11 PM »
That's a fast track to frugality fatigue... For me at least it would be, perhaps others are more resilient to that kind of thing. I'm happy to pay a lot more for my variety :)

Well, I think there's controlled variety vs. random variety.  If you know your breakfast ratio is something like 2 days of oatmeal, 2 days of yogurt and granola, 2 days of bread and jam, 1 day or pancakes/eggs then it's much easier to plan for (and much less likely you'll end up getting something out).  If you do that then you just manage what's perishable and keep non-perishable foods on hand.  You get variety and it's cheap.


Rural

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #44 on: February 09, 2014, 12:16:10 PM »
That's a fast track to frugality fatigue... For me at least it would be, perhaps others are more resilient to that kind of thing. I'm happy to pay a lot more for my variety :)

Well, I think there's controlled variety vs. random variety.  If you know your breakfast ratio is something like 2 days of oatmeal, 2 days of yogurt and granola, 2 days of bread and jam, 1 day or pancakes/eggs then it's much easier to plan for (and much less likely you'll end up getting something out).  If you do that then you just manage what's perishable and keep non-perishable foods on hand.  You get variety and it's cheap.

Eating the same thing for breakfast every day for us is about sanity, not frugality. It's hard enough to plan one meal a day. Having to plan three would be a nightmare. Instead we eat the same thing for breakfast and supper leftovers from the freezer for lunch. We still have to figure out and shop for seven meals (those suppers) every week, but at least it's not 21 meals!

Albert

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #45 on: February 09, 2014, 12:28:13 PM »
Actually I meant only lunch, for breakfast I also eat pretty much the same every day. Particularly since my usual workday breakfast is only a banana/orange plus a cup of tea.

cats

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #46 on: February 09, 2014, 12:53:07 PM »
It's pretty obvious (to me) that the cause of your "high" grocery bills probably is meat consumption and the choice to buy more organics.  How big of a deal is the cost to you?  For us, our spending is somewhat higher than it "has" to be, because we do prioritize buying organic meat and a LOT of fruit and vegetables.  We eat a mostly vegetarian diet but I do purchase some things like rice/pea protein powder that are more expensive per calorie than just buying straight up legumes or rice (though still cheaper than organic chicken!).  Personally, I've found that I feel much healthier/stronger/more energetic when I'm eating plenty of produce and getting a little more than the bare minimum of protein my body needs (I think the USDA recommended protein intake for my size is about 55 g/day, but I notice a BIG difference in how I feel around the 65 g/day threshold).  In the past (when money was tighter) I have eaten a more "poor vegetarian" style diet, which was also very low in junk food but relied a little more on carbs and was a little more limited on the produce (more repetition of super cheap items like cabbage, for example).  That diet was pretty healthy too, but it was definitely not quite as optimal for me.

We were discussing our grocery bill recently and I would guess that the "premium" we currently pay for a little more protein and a little more produce variety is adding 3-6 months to our FI date.  Personally, we feel that's worth it.  Even in the short term, I see benefits that I'm pretty sure are at least partially tied to our diet that will (hopefully) accelerate our FI date.  For example, I just generally have to take a lot less sick leave than most of my co-workers (even ones who are a similar age and overall healthy).  Also, the difference in energy levels I feel between my current diet and my cheaper-but-still-healthy diet is HUGE, which means I'm way more productive at work.  At the very least, that contributes to my job security, and hopefully also will contribute to future raises, promotions, etc.  I figure we're probably also saving a few hundred dollars a year right now with fewer doctor's co-pays, prescriptions, and OTC meds as well.  Short version: unless it is seriously delaying your FI time, your grocery budget may not be worth stressing over *too* much.

greaper007

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #47 on: February 09, 2014, 01:40:59 PM »
Yup, I spend about an hour on sunday going through circulars, my cook books and meticulously planning our meals for the week around the freezer, pantry and sales.   I'm currently making stock in the crock pot with my leftover chicken carcasses from the freezer.

I do at the very least 3 days of weight training in addition to plenty of cardio every week.   I aim for 1-1.3 grams of protein per pound of lean body weight and I mix plenty of good fats and carbs into the diet.  Before I ate like this I had a very hard time getting rid of fat on my stomach and gaining muscle.   I was a prototypical "skinny fat" person.  It's hard to hit these numbers going strictly veggie without supplements and you miss out on essential amino acids.

I agree that terms like "organic" "free range" or "natural" are dubious.   Which is why I try to go further than the labels and research which products are worth the premium for the labels.   Grass fed beef is absolutely worth it.   As is organic chicken.   Cows are ruminates and fattening them up on gmo corn in feed lots is a great way of giving us poopy (literally) meat with a horrible omega-3 omega-6 balance that leads to things like heart disease and systematic inflammation.   I do organic for chicken and eggs because I don't want meat that's full of antibiotics.   That's bad for me, and bad for creating antibiotic resistant diseases.

When it comes to produce you also have to do research.   Certain crops like apples rely heavily on pesticides.   Beyond that, I don't peel my apples so I'm not gaining the protection of a fruit like an avocado that has a thick skin you peel off before eating.   I have no problem with going conventional on sweet corn, onions, pineapple etc.   I also buy frozen food for periods when fresh foods are trucked long distances from their source.

I think I pretty much got what I expected from this thread.   The people who have ridiculously low food budgets are eating differently than I do.   That's not a value judgement, I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing out on some massive food savings that allows you to eat like I do.   I think it's time to buy a freezer (right when I'm in the middle of a kwh slash...).

randomstring

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #48 on: February 09, 2014, 01:48:51 PM »
I don't manage to stick to low food budget at all. And I don't think that buying meat in bulk will be much cheaper. That said, you can get un-conventional cuts, and these may be cheaper. http://www.eatwild.com has local farmers listed; you can email a few and see what the prices are (I find that smaller operations don't always have web presence -- the farmer I buy from does not).

Faith2014

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #49 on: February 09, 2014, 01:58:24 PM »
Also, I've looked and looked at coupons, and I don't get the cost savings.    They're generally for products that I consider ridiculously unhealthy.   Are you really saving money in the end?

Depends on the week.  One of my personal activities is cutting coupons for military families overseas, so I go through mine and my mother's coupons twice - once cutting them out, the 2nd time when I sort/tally. 

So, TL;DR - yes, but it takes a little work.

I've yet to see any coupons for products I actually use.   Dr. Bronners, white vinegar, non petroleum based dish detergent etc.  YMMV

As of last week, I've sent over $75K (yes, 75, not 7.5) in coupons since August 2010.  I have NEVER seen coupons for what you have listed, so you can skip the coupon inserts completely!  I know Whole Foods has its own coupon fold out in their stores if you ever shop there.