Author Topic: How do you guys get such a low food budget?  (Read 31256 times)

Faith2014

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #50 on: February 09, 2014, 02:11:00 PM »
I recommend eatwild as well.  I found my farmer through a veggie CSA (found at localharvest).  They are not certified organic, but follow those practices.  There's a difference between what you can get as grass fed at Whole Foods versus grass finished with small farmers.  Every year, 'my farmer' posts a picture of the new baby piglets.  All the beef, pork and chicken are pastured.  They have work days where one can go assist at the farm as a volunteer and get a free lunch.  I might do that some time.

Is it healthier for the consumer?  I'm not really sure, but there are a lot of differences overall, and I prefer to vote with my dollar.

Noodle

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #51 on: February 09, 2014, 04:55:40 PM »
The other thing you might ask yourself is, can you shop in your own pantry at all?

When I read "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School" by Kathleen Flinn (which I learned about here on MMM), where the author interviews nine non-cooks about why they don't cook and then gives them cooking lessons, one of the things that struck me was how much food a lot of people had stored away. Then I went into my own kitchen and started looking around, and realized that I had quite the tidy sum of cash tied up in groceries. I am getting ready to move in about a year so my project now is to actually enjoy all that food instead of having to move/toss it.

I will fully admit that food is in fact entertainment for me, not just fuel, and I am fully happy with it that way...and will never have the bare-bones grocery budget of some. But you might just make sure that you are getting the full value out of what you are buying.

CanuckExpat

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #52 on: February 10, 2014, 03:25:21 AM »
This has been a very insightful thread, and as you mentioned, you got the responses you expected you would.
For what it's worth, our food budget for two adults is about $250/month, and it seems in the past year we've averaged about $230/month in practice; it's inconsistent if alcohol is included in those numbers or not.
If we really wanted to, there would be room to cut in those numbers, but food is something we enjoy, and we can afford it, so we don't really worry much. Like you, we try to eat as much fresh, local produce as possible, try to get naturally raised meat (we aren't always strict about this unfortunately). Since meat raised the way I want it will be expensive, I try to use that as incentive to eat meat less often: I prefer to think of it as a choice between eating too much cheap meat, or eating a moderate amount of good meat on occasion.

The other thing you mentioned that jumped out at me was that you try to make as much as possible yourself. That's great if you are doing it for taste, health, fun or other reasons, but depending on the item it isn't always the cheapest. Something like mayonnaise for example is dirt cheap in bulk from Costco (their own brand). Maybe you've run the numbers and found different, but I can imagine the economies of scale in commercial mayonnaise production and that they get eggs and oil much cheaper than I ever would if I was to make it myself. I was also reminded of this the other day when I was in the grocery store and noticed the tortilla chips were on sale for a cheaper unit price (per ounce) than tortilla's themselves that I would make them from.  This isn't only about cost, but this book dives into that idea of what you should make yourself, and what you should consider buying: http://amzn.to/1jpnVVf
I think you can find excerpts from it online.

jba302

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #53 on: February 10, 2014, 02:58:23 PM »
I always go into these threads thinking "I can't wait to learn something" and leave thinking "these people have to be starving all the time." Our family of 4 goes through 15 dozen eggs a month, maybe we are just bigger eaters.

foobar

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #54 on: February 10, 2014, 03:04:52 PM »
People eat different things. If you have 2/eggs per day for breakfast, your numbers are going to be different than the person that uses 1/week for baking. . If you want a low food budget, make sure your eating cheap stuff. Compare what 20 bucks worth of rice, pasta, potatoes buys versus 20 bucks of lets say fish. Shopping on sale and the like can cut some prices but you are not going to have a low food budget if your eating 8 oz of filet mignon every night compared to the person eating beans, rice and a tiny amount of ground beef..

I always go into these threads thinking "I can't wait to learn something" and leave thinking "these people have to be starving all the time." Our family of 4 goes through 15 dozen eggs a month, maybe we are just bigger eaters.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #55 on: February 10, 2014, 06:58:25 PM »
I would probably be close to your food budget if we were dedicated organic/grassfed/etc and ate a heavier animal protein diet.

As it stands, I buy wild caught fish and pastured beef/pork, organic chicken, but that's maybe 1-2 meals a week.

Everything else is vegetarian. Curries, rice+bean burritos are a big favorite since it's kid and parent approved, veggie soup with whatever's in season. Pizza. Spinach lasagna. Frittatas.

I go back and forth on organic produce. Mostly I don't bother with it because we literally can't afford it in most cases. I'd rather take a small risk than not get the nutrients. I used to handle pesticides daily. Trace amounts can't harm you. In most cases, you'd be surprised at how many common chemicals aren't even that dangerous in undiluted form. (Not that I'd recommend it.)

The biggest danger is conventionally-raised animals, which I DO avoid, with the exception of eggs since research that I've read says they're basically the same.

For us, family of 5, that works out to under $500/month (this includes any household items and about $50 of alcohol).

sol

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #56 on: February 11, 2014, 12:55:40 AM »
It looks like the only big change I could do is buying meat in bulk.

Not to argue against buying your meat in bulk, but a healthier choice to reduce costs is to just reduce your meat consumption.  We cut at least 20% off our grocery bill by eating about half as much meat, and we don't miss it, and we'll live longer, and it takes up less freezer space.

The other killer we used to have in our grocery bill was cardboard boxes.  Any food that comes in a cardboard box is not really food, and is woefully overpriced.  Want to spend less money on food?  Stop buying cardboard.


phred

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #57 on: February 11, 2014, 07:22:33 AM »
If you have kids, snacks such as chips and cookies and soda pop and ice cream will blow any budget out of the water.  As for meat, it is whatever is in the freezer - period.  Otherwise, it is whatever is on sale that week.  If the sale item is a roast, then that is what we have, followed by hot roast sandwiches, shredded meat tacos, casseroles until it is all gone.  Hint: when making casseroles, make two or three and freeze two.  One can be for when you're feeling lazy, the mini-casserole can be microwaved for lunch at work.
  Cheaper dining is to cook ethnic.  You can learn this.  Choose Indian, Mexican, whatever where meat is more a condiment or flavoring than the main plate filler.
  Whenever your favorite canned goods are on sale, stock up if the price is really a bargain.  A can of peaches at 50 cents beats a can of peaches at $1.50
  It helps to have a garden.  During the summer we can have tomatoes most every day (whatever the DW hasn't given to the neighbors).  Need some herbs?  Just pick them from your garden or windowsill.
  Farmers' Markets aren't always cheaper that supermarkets -- take care.  Never buy just a few things at a convenience store just because you happen to be there getting gas
  Having  hobbies helps.  If you're really engrossed in something enjoyable, you don't snack as much as you would if you're just sitting around watching HBO
  A recent article claimed buying stuff such as a new flat-screen wasn't the problem in reaching FI, it was the constant buying of convenience foods

4alpacas

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #58 on: February 11, 2014, 08:52:53 AM »
It looks like the only big change I could do is buying meat in bulk.

Not to argue against buying your meat in bulk, but a healthier choice to reduce costs is to just reduce your meat consumption.  We cut at least 20% off our grocery bill by eating about half as much meat, and we don't miss it, and we'll live longer, and it takes up less freezer space.

The other killer we used to have in our grocery bill was cardboard boxes.  Any food that comes in a cardboard box is not really food, and is woefully overpriced.  Want to spend less money on food?  Stop buying cardboard.
+1 

We've slowly decreased our grocery budget by reducing the amount of meat we consume.  If I make Chicken Taco Bowl (http://www.budgetbytes.com/2011/07/taco-chicken-bowls/), I double the amount of black beans and use a 1.5 times the amount of corn.  We've also started to use eggs and beans as protein sources in dishes that we previously used meat.  We're eating a lot more vegetables than before, which has really helped our grocery bills fall. 

The cardboard box statement is right on.  We're slowly moving away from buying boxes, but we've seen a HUGE reduction in our grocery bill from our progress so far.

We've reduced our grocery bill (for two adults) from about $800/month to ~$300-$350/month.  During that time, we dramatically increased the amount of meals that we eat at home.  Another big cost killer for us was wasted food.  We would have food go bad because we were too lazy to prepare it.  Now, I use our freezer a lot more and track what we throw away (and cut back the purchase on the next trip). 

samburger

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #59 on: February 11, 2014, 09:58:06 AM »
Question for you all: When you say that you spend $xxx/mo on groceries, are you only counting food, or are you counting non-food consumables, too? (E.g., OTC drugs, personal care items, cleaning supplies, etc.)

For two adults, we spend about $400/mo on consumables. My wife is having her first serious mustachian itch (!!!), and she wants to know how much of that 400 is for food and how much is for soap and etc. so she can optimize the food budget. I'm curious how others handle this category.

Gin1984

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #60 on: February 11, 2014, 10:46:44 AM »
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?
I do, but I don't buy the newspaper.  I use savingstar and get about $5/month and use online matching websites for my grocery store/cvs.  I save another $5-10/week using coupons.  Granted I save about $25/week by just watching sales though.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 04:14:31 PM by Gin1984 »

greaper007

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #61 on: February 11, 2014, 11:02:00 AM »
It looks like the only big change I could do is buying meat in bulk.

Not to argue against buying your meat in bulk, but a healthier choice to reduce costs is to just reduce your meat consumption.  We cut at least 20% off our grocery bill by eating about half as much meat, and we don't miss it, and we'll live longer, and it takes up less freezer space.

The other killer we used to have in our grocery bill was cardboard boxes.  Any food that comes in a cardboard box is not really food, and is woefully overpriced.  Want to spend less money on food?  Stop buying cardboard.

Yeah, I only buy cardboard when it's a real savings.   $.70 a lbs for rolled oats yesterday at costco, that beats the bins by $.20 cents and I can make my own granola with olive oil and just a bit of honey for about a dollar less a pound than the bins.

I don't buy the stop eating meat argument for health.   I eat meat for one meal a day and my cholesterol and all my other numbers are fine.   I used to know a group of Jain Indians (vegetarian to the point that they don't eat root vegetables) who's population was lousy with heart disease.   Way more than the healthy meat eaters I know.   Granted, I was full on paleo for a bit and I still lean that direction.   Our bodies evolved on a diet heavy with animal based proteins, we didn't get enormous brains by eating vegetables.

If you want to make an environmental argument for going vegetarian, I'll tend to agree with you.   However, that's where the source of the meat comes in.   If you can find pastured animals that lived on farms that exist in a more classic sense of farming (no monoculture crops, chickens that are able to forage and fertilize the grounds, animals that are fed grass and leftovers) you can alleviate a lot of the environmental problems associated with eating meat.   Same goes with eating wild fish from healthy fisheries.    Look at pacific salmon, their numbers are better now than they were 100 years ago.

phred

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #62 on: February 11, 2014, 11:11:19 AM »
Someone asked about buying grass-fed beef near Boulder.  I Googled Boulder colorado grass fed beef; lots of hits.  Some even offer neighborhood pickup points.
  I found mine by reading the classifieds of local paper & calling county extension agent

Tennis Maniac

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #63 on: February 11, 2014, 11:50:55 AM »
I just posted my categorized food spending for the past year with some tips.  Hopefully it will help someone.
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/share-your-badassity/food-spending-categorized-for-the-past-11-months/

It was inspired by this thread, so I thought I would mention it here.

Quark

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #64 on: February 11, 2014, 12:57:16 PM »
Stop buying paper products, cleaning supplies, and toiletries. Use rags, baking soda, distilled vinegar. coconut oil and baking soda for all toiletries (hair, teeth, deodorant, lotion, etc).

MayDay

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #65 on: February 11, 2014, 01:07:49 PM »
Question for you all: When you say that you spend $xxx/mo on groceries, are you only counting food, or are you counting non-food consumables, too? (E.g., OTC drugs, personal care items, cleaning supplies, etc.)

For two adults, we spend about $400/mo on consumables. My wife is having her first serious mustachian itch (!!!), and she wants to know how much of that 400 is for food and how much is for soap and etc. so she can optimize the food budget. I'm curious how others handle this category.

I put food and drinks in our grocery budget.  Anything else goes in a different category that I call "household misc" and basically stands for Target.  OTC meds sometimes get thrown in household or sometimes get put in the health/medical category, depends on how lazy I am being about divying up a target receipt. 

Thegoblinchief

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #66 on: February 11, 2014, 01:38:32 PM »
Question for you all: When you say that you spend $xxx/mo on groceries, are you only counting food, or are you counting non-food consumables, too? (E.g., OTC drugs, personal care items, cleaning supplies, etc.)

For two adults, we spend about $400/mo on consumables. My wife is having her first serious mustachian itch (!!!), and she wants to know how much of that 400 is for food and how much is for soap and etc. so she can optimize the food budget. I'm curious how others handle this category.

Probably about $25/month tops for non-food items but I find it easier to keep it all together, since I buy 99% of it at the same stores (Costco and a local grocer that also has dirt-cheap personal care stuff). Otherwise I'd have to itemize each receipt and that's just a PITA for my budget.

I would add that a GENEROUS budget would be $150/person/month food+consumables.

Elaine

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #67 on: February 11, 2014, 02:33:30 PM »
We spend 100-200 (depending on what we want to spend) for two people. I see so many questions on how this is possible that I think I may start a blog- but here are my basic tips/rules, obviously we indulge on special occasions but these hold true in general:

-No meat. I can't afford free range grass fed blah de blah- so I just don't eat it.
-Seafood- only in bulk from costco- and only if the price is right. If the price isn't right I go without.
-Nuts- In bulk from costco- great deal. I do not use them as a snack, that's inefficient- I use them in cooking to protein up an otherwise meatless meal.
-Eat vegetables. Lots and lots, and in season. (so many budgets get busted by buying oranges in February- enjoy a sweet potato instead!)
-Eat fruit, but only in season.
-No convenience foods- pre-made sauces, crackers, sandwich bread, pb&j, are all expensive to me.
-Almost no dairy- I buy some hard cheese (very little, and this gets cut if we need to get the number down) and butter and eggs. No yogurt or milk.
- No cereals or snack foods, candies, condiments, etc. They are a total ripoff.
-Bulk Rice & beans if you eat them.
-Cook Internationally- I cook lots of Asian, Middle Eastern, and Indian food. It tends to be inexpensive in ingredients and instead reliant on fragrant spices for flavor. Spices and herbs are one area where I will spend. 

CanuckExpat

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #68 on: February 11, 2014, 02:57:59 PM »
If you want to make an environmental argument for going vegetarian, I'll tend to agree with you.   However, that's where the source of the meat comes in.   If you can find pastured animals that lived on farms that exist in a more classic sense of farming (no monoculture crops, chickens that are able to forage and fertilize the grounds, animals that are fed grass and leftovers) you can alleviate a lot of the environmental problems associated with eating meat.   Same goes with eating wild fish from healthy fisheries.    Look at pacific salmon, their numbers are better now than they were 100 years ago.
I don't mean to derail this thread, but it's unfortunately not that simple (IMO). Like you, I'm someone who prefers to "naturally" raised meat, and wild fish (species specific), but I don't think it is the environmental panacea that people think it is. It may certainly be less humane, but you can produce a lot more beef for a given amount of land in a feedlot setting than you can if they are pasteurized. All over the world, de-forestation occurs because of the need to create more grazing room for animals. If the whole world ate the way North Americans do, you couldn't sustain those levels of meat production with-out large scale industrial farming.
Like I said.. it is complicated, one solution is to eat less meat (at least by North American standards), which is too bad since it is tasty. Of course this is a simple answer, and it is a complicated problem with lots of interacting players and considerations.

A couple of interesting articles on the topic:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/12/16/251611230/big-meat-bad-small-farm-good-it-s-not-so-simple
http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesmcwilliams/2013/12/26/local-meat-production-wont-solve-global-food-woes/
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/13/opinion/the-myth-of-sustainable-meat.html


Anyways, this is tangential, and my shopping habits probably align with yours more than they don't. Just some food for thought.

greaper007

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #69 on: February 11, 2014, 05:08:20 PM »
If you want to make an environmental argument for going vegetarian, I'll tend to agree with you.   However, that's where the source of the meat comes in.   If you can find pastured animals that lived on farms that exist in a more classic sense of farming (no monoculture crops, chickens that are able to forage and fertilize the grounds, animals that are fed grass and leftovers) you can alleviate a lot of the environmental problems associated with eating meat.   Same goes with eating wild fish from healthy fisheries.    Look at pacific salmon, their numbers are better now than they were 100 years ago.
I don't mean to derail this thread, but it's unfortunately not that simple (IMO). Like you, I'm someone who prefers to "naturally" raised meat, and wild fish (species specific), but I don't think it is the environmental panacea that people think it is. It may certainly be less humane, but you can produce a lot more beef for a given amount of land in a feedlot setting than you can if they are pasteurized. All over the world, de-forestation occurs because of the need to create more grazing room for animals. If the whole world ate the way North Americans do, you couldn't sustain those levels of meat production with-out large scale industrial farming.
Like I said.. it is complicated, one solution is to eat less meat (at least by North American standards), which is too bad since it is tasty. Of course this is a simple answer, and it is a complicated problem with lots of interacting players and considerations.

A couple of interesting articles on the topic:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/12/16/251611230/big-meat-bad-small-farm-good-it-s-not-so-simple
http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesmcwilliams/2013/12/26/local-meat-production-wont-solve-global-food-woes/
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/13/opinion/the-myth-of-sustainable-meat.html


Anyways, this is tangential, and my shopping habits probably align with yours more than they don't. Just some food for thought.

True, but that also gets into a lot of overpopulation arguements ( if you have more than two children you're contributing to growing an unsustainable population).    And the fact that people should eat local.    I live at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, buffalo are native to this area so cattle isn't really a stretch.    I don't eat nearly as much seafood here as I did when in I lived in CT or FL.

I think the problem goes back to eating locally.    What did the great great grandparents of the deforesters eat?   

phred

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Re: How do you guys get such a low food budget?
« Reply #70 on: February 11, 2014, 05:21:03 PM »
Overpopulation is not a simple topic.  The last time it was on the bandwagon (1970s), the more intelligent stopped having kids while the stupids kept chucking them out.  You can see where that has gotten us.
  If you produce intelligent children, the world will be better off if you have 5 or 6 of them