Author Topic: How to save on my grocery bill  (Read 23594 times)

Cowtown2011

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How to save on my grocery bill
« on: August 15, 2013, 11:23:57 AM »
Does anyone have any website they can recommend for frugal recipes? We are having trouble getting our grocery bill down, currently we are running at about $1,200 to $1,500 a month for two adults and a 22 mth old, not very badassity. We shop at costco for meat, etc, but our meals must really be on the expensive side. Any tips would be helpful.

Thanks

amyable

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2013, 11:44:40 AM »
It might be helpful if you described the kind of things you eat on a normal day?  Or your normal grocery shopping list?

bevathome

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2013, 11:47:45 AM »
Check out the book "Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America's Cheapest Family".  It is filled with helpful tips.

http://www.amazon.com/Your-Grocery-Americas-Cheapest-Family/dp/B005B19XF6/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1376588764&sr=1-2&keywords=cheapest+family+in+america

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2013, 11:51:28 AM »
Less on the side of frugal recipes, I tend toward knocking down the price of the things that we already buy, by pairing coupons with sales and only cooking what is in the current sales cycle.

I recommend The CouponMom's Guide to Cutting your Grocery Bill in Half, by Stephanie Nelson.

MissStache

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2013, 12:07:34 PM »
currently we are running at about $1,200 to $1,500 a month for two adults and a 22 mth old

That is an astonishing amount for groceries.  I'm staggered.  Does this include eating out and household good/toiletries or is it just good old fashioned groceries?

Riceman

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2013, 12:22:15 PM »
Here's what we're cooking tonight. This makes 4 servings, so two meals each for two adults.

http://www.templeofthai.com/recipes/lemongrass_chicken.php

Here are the ingredients with my estimated cost:

1/2 head of lettuce: 50 cents
1 cucumber: 50 cents
1 pound of chicken thighs (not organic): 2.50?
Everything else, combined: 50 cents
Jasmine Rice: 50 cents

Total:  4.50

That covers dinner and lunch for two adults for one day.  For breakfast, let's say we each have a banana (25 cents x2 = 50 cents), a greek yogurt (1 dollar x 2 = 2 dollars), and some coffee (50 cents). 

For snacks, an apple each ( 50 cents x 2 = 1 dollar) and we split a bar of nice chocolate (1.50).

The total for this fairly average day would be 10 dollars for two adults.  Multiply by 30 and you get 300 per month.

I have no idea what babies cost, so I won't address that.

Spudd

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2013, 12:24:14 PM »
budgetbytes.com

Iron Mike Sharpe

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2013, 12:51:13 PM »

Iron Mike Sharpe

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2013, 12:59:10 PM »
Also, start keeping a food cost journal. 

Make a spreadsheet at home.  Log every food item you buy.  List the date, the store, location, the product, the size/weight of the product, the cost, and the unit cost in that spreadsheet.

Anytime an item reaches its lowest unit cost, highlight that row in Yellow.  You now have a list of everything you buy, with the lowest unit cost highlighted.

Shop at different stores to see if there are cheaper options.  Over time, you will figure out which store you need to be shopping at more often.

If you have a smartphone, download the Dropbox application.  Store your spreadsheet in your Dropbox account.  You can now look at your spreadsheet when you go shopping.

When you are shopping, and you see items you need that are cheap, buy a lot of them and stock up.  If you see items you normally buy, but they are expensive, skip them.  Buy them at another time.  Eat something else. 


Buy in bulk.  Cook in bulk.  Learn how to freeze foods.  Menu plan ahead of time.  Use http://www.budgetbytes.com/ and learn how to cook good meals for less.

Cowtown2011

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2013, 01:24:31 PM »
I like the idea of a food cost journal and will incorporate that going forward. Also, thanks for all the book recommendations, etc. I will put those on my reading list.

We tend to buy all organic food (so Costco shopping isn't as effective for us, although I'm now trying to buy only organic for the dirty dozen), we eat lots of eggs, we don't eat a lot of meat, maybe meat once every two days but we tend to eat a lot of vegetables, fruit, seeds and nuts.

I'd like to start increasing our consumption of foods like rice, pasta and other inexpensive filler types foods in order to reduce our bill.

The monthly food bill number I quoted above does include toilettries and such but it's maybe $100 a month or so.

This is the one area that I've really been struggling to reduce but I will start applying some of the tips from everyones comment. Thanks

EK

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2013, 01:38:20 PM »
At the low end of your budget ($1200/month) you are spending more than $13.00 per meal!!  That is crazy!!!!  Even if you live in a high COL area, the good news is that you can probably bring that number down A LOT.  Does that number include lots of restaurant meals?  A hefty alcohol allowance?  Is a chunk of the money going toward other things besides just real groceries (I'm talking veggies, starches, meats, fruit)?  Copious amounts of prepared and packaged foods? It would be hard to spend that much per meal on groceries alone unless your family dines on an exclusive diet of gold-plated, baby, albino peacocks.

If it's restaurant eating that's driving up your food cost, then your solution is pretty simple.  Limit eating out to a handful of meals per month.

In general, you will be able to cook for less money by stretching out more expensive foods (usually meats) by combining them with less expensive foods like starches and beans.

You could get some more specific suggestions if you post up a typical grocery list and indicate whether the number includes restaurants or if it is only groceries.  What does your typical week of meals look like?

Good luck!! :)

Cowtown2011

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2013, 02:03:38 PM »
We use mint.com, so all our costs are categories fairly well, no alcohol, eating out or other costs are included in grocery number.

I'm based in Canada, so food costs are typically higher although I still think mine is way to high. Also, we shop at a local grocery store which sources their supply locally, so it's likely expensive compared to Safeway, etc. I need to start tracking it so I know when I'm paying way too much for something.
Typical meals are as follows:
 - Homemade burgers, sweat potato fries, side vegies, salad
 - eat lots of eggs, seeds and nuts
 - Eat meat about once every second day
 - Typically don't eat any processed foods
I've got some work to do to narrow this down but the tips will help.

Jamesqf

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #12 on: August 15, 2013, 02:14:46 PM »
We tend to buy all organic food...

Could explain a lot, in which case you have to look at the incremental cost of organic vs similar non-organic items as a religious/political/charitable donation.

But we're all shooting in the dark here, until we have some idea of what you actually do buy.

rollie

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #13 on: August 15, 2013, 02:17:23 PM »
If you like roasted nuts (these can be expensive), buy raw nuts in bulk and then roast in the oven yourself. Super-duper easy. Just put them on a cookie sheet or aluminum foil, in the over for 5-10 minutes at 350 and voila, nuts that are tastier than anything you can buy, and a lot cheaper by the pound.

If you like veggies a lot, I suggest for next year starting to grow a few at home. Fresh veggies are very expensive to buy, but not so much to grow. Even if you have a brown thumb or don't have a yard, you can probably pull off tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and with a yard some salad leaves (lettuce or arugula).

Jimbo

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #14 on: August 15, 2013, 02:20:45 PM »
We're in Canada, and we tend to buy between 400 to 500$ of food per month. I do describe it as our luxury though... I feel like we eat like kings and my wife cooks for a hobby. A delicious, glorious hobby. (I have a tendency to eat for a hobby...)

I can see two things:

1) All organic. Definitely, that is expensive. I would rather focus on eating less meat and more vedgies, organic or not...

2) Single source of food : If you always buy the same things, at the same place, you are bound to overpay. Shop different groceries (near work, near home,  any place you might go) and go for their loss leaders/sales this week. This automatically gives you variety for meals, a clear positive.

Calgary IS expensive for food, I will give you that. But you can halve this if you focus.

Myrmida

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #15 on: August 15, 2013, 02:30:39 PM »
Hi, Cowtown!  Based on your name, you may live in the same city as me.  We are a family of 3 adults and a 2-year-old (although one of the adults appears to subsist largely on instant coffee and creamer that she buys herself, so she doesn't cost much to feed).  We have managed to get our groceries (food and toiletries) below $1000, and plan to get it down further, partly by using the following strategies:

1. We buy meat on sale at Superstore and we've started getting some cheaper cuts on sale (who knew a picnic pork roast was so delicious!) and buying large cuts on sale and cutting them down to size at home (e.g., a pork half loin becomes a couple of roasts and a bunch of steaks), although we still splurge on the occasional steak or lamb.  I know that meat is one of our budget-killers.  I've asked my spouse to start cooking some less meat-intense stuff, and I think that will help get the budget down, too.
2. For 2 months, we tracked how much we spent in various categories of food.  We discovered that we spent a ridiculous amount on baked goods.  We bought a bread machine off Kijiji and now bake our own bread - this reduces how much we pay for bread, ensures that it only has stuff we want in it and keeps us out of bakeries and bakery sections where we usually end up buying some treats along with the bread. 
3. I found keeping a price book/journal really hard, but it did make me notice how much cheaper some produce was than others. 
4. Using the price book/journal, I would like to calculate the costs of various meals that we make often to see which ones are worth the cost.
5. We buy conventional, largely imported produce.  If you want to compare your usual prices to conventional, imported produce, just go to Superstore and take some pictures of the foods with their prices (or write them down - I found taking pictures made me feel more like I was on a spy adventure).  Then, you can decide if the price difference is worth the value you have in buying organic and local.

The grocery budget is definitely a work in progress for us, but we are slowly getting to a less crazy grocery budget.

Cowtown2011

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #16 on: August 15, 2013, 02:55:16 PM »
Looks like we are living in the same city, glad to hear others are trying to grow their stash in cowtown.

I think my main issue is not knowing what produce should cost and mainly shopping at one overpriced store. I will incorporate the food journal/photo journal in order to get a sense of how to trim the fat from our budget.

Thanks

seattlecyclone

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #17 on: August 15, 2013, 03:18:14 PM »
Try checking if there's an organic CSA program available in your area. My wife and I subscribe to one that gives us a box full of organic vegetables every week for about $20. Those veggies form a large portion of our dinners, cost a whole lot less than buying the same type of stuff at the local food co-op, and we get to feel good about supporting a local farm with our commitment to buy a certain amount throughout the growing season. We cook the veggies with inexpensive staples such as rice, pasta, beans, oil, and more to round out the meals.

StarryC

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #18 on: August 15, 2013, 05:54:29 PM »
Why do you buy all organic?  Is it because you are concerned for your health, or because you are concerned for the environment?  If it is for your own health, I think you can buy the "dirty dozen" organic, and the rest conventional.  See: http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-214 

Also, at least in the US, I've heard it is expensive to "certify" organic.  If there are local farms/ farmers markets you might ask around for some non-certified organic farms.  It might be just as healthy, but cheaper. 

Second, are you wasting food?  Either throwing away ingredients when they go bad before they are cooked or throwing away a lot of leftovers?  Every $2 cucumber and $4 tomato you throw away is money!  Meal planning helps you avoid throwing things away because they went bad before you needed them.  If you don't want to plan, when you decide what to cook think: "What needs to be eaten soon?" instead of "What do I feel like eating today?" If it's leftovers, start making less!  Also, make time to prepare your produce for a long shelf life.  Wash it and dry it before storage, remove leaves off carrots.  Get some storage containers that prolong life (I have both Rubbermaid produce savers and Chico Bag "Produce stand" bags that preserve different veggies and fruits.



KMMK

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #19 on: August 15, 2013, 07:28:03 PM »
We use mint.com, so all our costs are categories fairly well, no alcohol, eating out or other costs are included in grocery number.

I'm based in Canada, so food costs are typically higher although I still think mine is way to high. Also, we shop at a local grocery store which sources their supply locally, so it's likely expensive compared to Safeway, etc. I need to start tracking it so I know when I'm paying way too much for something.
Typical meals are as follows:
 - Homemade burgers, sweat potato fries, side vegies, salad
 - eat lots of eggs, seeds and nuts
 - Eat meat about once every second day
 - Typically don't eat any processed foods
I've got some work to do to narrow this down but the tips will help.

I'm in Winnipeg, so our prices are probably similar.
We buy tons of produce and nuts, at least half organic, often local. We don't scrimp on food. I'm vegetarian and gluten-free. My husband eats meat and gluten.
For two adults we spend $600/month and another $40/month on restaurant food. And that is without eating a lot of carbs or processed foods (at least for me. I don't control DH's eating or buying.)

So, I think you should be able to spend quite a bit less without increasing your carbs that much. But being in Canada and eating like that, don't worry about getting down to the very cheap amounts that other people post.

Since we don't cheap out much on food, I don't have that many money saving tips. But we do find Superstore the cheapest, so we try to get a lot of non-perishables there, rather than Safeway, which is quite a bit pricier. I also recommend the Superstore ethnic aisle as well as buying rice and legumes at ethnic grocers.  I try to usually buy beans dried, rather than canned.
And I definitely avoid wasting as much as possible. Are you throwing much out?

mm1970

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #20 on: August 15, 2013, 09:04:14 PM »
http://www.cookforgood.com/

http://theprudenthomemaker.com/

http://www.pennilessparenting.com/

http://frugalhealthysimple.blogspot.com/  (I've been somewhat inactive the last year or so, but there's still some good stuff on there from years past)

http://casualkitchen.blogspot.com/

http://cheaphealthygood.blogspot.com/ (also no new posts, but still great stuff there)

James81

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #21 on: August 15, 2013, 09:13:01 PM »
I actually wrote an article about this on my website the other day. (Here if you're interested: http://livelikeaboss.com/my-100-per-month-grocery-bill/)

But essentially, here's the cliffs on that:

Basically I figured out a master list of groceries that I had to buy each month and I set the limit at $100 per month. I wanted to eat healthy but also eat healthy on a budget. I based the grocery list off of the food pyramid for the various elements of nutrition I needed to take in for a 2000 calorie diet and this is what I came up with:

4 whole chickens
4 bags of spinach
2-3 reams of broccoli
2 heads of cauliflower
1 bag of whole carrots
2 whole watermelons
2 bags of apples
2 bunches of bananas
2 gallons of milk
3 loaves of bread
2 cartons of eggs
2 sacks of potatoes
1 bag of popcorn kernels
1 bag of brown rice
1 bag of dry beans

Essentially, chicken is about the cheapest meat you can buy. You can get a whole chicken at the market for $6. I reasoned that 4 whole chickens a month would be all the meat I would ever need and that I could get the rest of my protein from beans and/or peanut butter.

Beans and potatoes carry the most bang for their buck in terms of making you feel full. I think of things like milk and eggs as ingredients moreso than something to consume.

Also, bear in mind that that is not a master list of the ONLY things I eat in a month. It's just the core of the "healthiest" part of my diet. I supplement those foods by making stuff from scratch.

For you, with 3 people to feed, I see no reason why you couldn't modify this list a little bit and perhaps get your grocery bill to even $300 a month.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #22 on: August 15, 2013, 09:26:31 PM »
You mention eggs a lot, and they are very cheap. We buy hormone-free eggs and always use coupons, so they're about $2-$2.60/dozen, depending on whether they're on sale. I recommend you know what brands you'll eat (based on whatever your guidelines are) and search for coupons for those brands on a coupon clipping site. That's an easy way to cut out $5/week. (I know, it's hardly a silver bullet!)

Roses

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #23 on: August 15, 2013, 10:16:55 PM »
Try checking if there's an organic CSA program available in your area. My wife and I subscribe to one that gives us a box full of organic vegetables every week for about $20. Those veggies form a large portion of our dinners, cost a whole lot less than buying the same type of stuff at the local food co-op, and we get to feel good about supporting a local farm with our commitment to buy a certain amount throughout the growing season. We cook the veggies with inexpensive staples such as rice, pasta, beans, oil, and more to round out the meals.

+1 to this.  I also have a CSA which helps cut down on trips to the store (the more you go to the store the more you buy things that aren't strictly necessary).  It's also very healthy and lets you discover new items that you might not normally buy.

Hey, SeattleCyclone, do you mind telling me what CSA you subscribe to?  I'm in Seattle too and I've tried 3 different CSA's but none have been as cheap as $20.  Most seem to be $30 and up.  Thanks!

Roses

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #24 on: August 15, 2013, 11:11:23 PM »
I was in a very similar position a few months ago.  We still have room for improvement but a few changes have made a significant difference.  I was inspired by Jacob of ERE's weekly lentil soup and I liked the idea of cooking ahead for the week.  I usually make Sunday my cooking day and get several things prepared for the week ahead.  I find that having a fridge full of things ready to eat cuts down on impromptu trips to the store when "there's nothing to eat".  And all the planning allows me to really think about the health and cost of each dish.  So here's what we're doing:

Breakfast: In winter we eat oatmeal (steel cut oats in bulk) which I soak overnight and cook a week's supply at a time.  Add some seasonal fruit on top or during cooking (apples and pears are great cooked right into the oatmeal).

Breakfast: In summer we eat yogurt with homemade granola (rolled oats in bulk).  I make about a 10 day supply of granola at a time and store in airtight container.  This saves a ton since granola is super expensive and we no longer buy any boxed cereals.  Also much healthier.  We also eat the granola on yogurt & fruit year-round as a dessert or midnight snack.  My next step will be to make my own yogurt since that can sometimes get expensive when not on sale.

Lunch: I make a big batch of soup or stew (like Jacob's lentil soup) for our lunches during the week, and occasionally for dinner as well.  Soup is filling and can be very healthy and cheap.  I like pureed vegetable soups like broccoli soup made from the broccoli stalks that I would previously have composted.  Squash & apple soup is economical and delicious.  Also, whenever I roast a chicken I save the bones and make my own stock to freeze, so this often goes into my soups. 

Dinner: I also make some kind of legume and maybe a grain to go with it that can be the bulk of our dinners.  Rice and beans are a favorite.  I buy those 25lb bags of pinto beans at Costco and the smaller bag of brown rice.  We often eat just that for dinner with some kind of vegetable (whatever came in the CSA).  But sometimes we add meat on the side.  Another favorite is lentils cooked with plenty of garlic or onions.  We top that with veggies from the CSA, maybe some feta and/or avocado and a side salad.  I find that having these high protein 'filler' foods means we don't miss having meat with every meal.  Meat is usually an accent (i.e. pork in the lentils).  We do have a grass-fed steak now and then, or a roast chicken or fresh fish when in season (I just look out for sales on those and freeze if I get a great deal).  And speaking of fish, Costco has great wild salmon burgers which we top with cheese and eat as a patty, without a bun, alongside a salad.

Snacks:  Hard boiled eggs, nuts (I second the idea above of roasting your own), peanut butter from Costco on toast (bread from Costco), quesadillas filled with our homemade beans and Costco cheddar, fruit, raw veggies.

Treats: We used to spend a lot on pre-made cookies and desserts from bakeries.  Now we've mostly banned those unless we make them ourselves.  I love to bake and it's way cheaper and healthier than buying.

We are also lucky to have several fruit trees in our small yard so we make lots of jams and compotes which we can to have throughout the year.  One thing some people do is pick fruit from around the neighborhood.  This time of year you can go out and pick lots of blackberries at public parks to make jam, syrup, pies, etc.  Another way is to go to your farmer's market and buy 'seconds'.  You can get great peaches, tomatoes and other produce for canning pretty cheaply.

Another thing we cut out was juice.  We were buying insanely expensive orange and apple juice (organic).  Now we buy cheap unsweetened sparkling water and sometimes add a homemade syrup or juice to it.  I personally think plain tap water is just fine but sometimes you want something different.

I'm also a sucker for organic, which is why I have an all-organic CSA.  However, I have found lots of options at Costco for things that either they have organic or that don't need to be organic.  I get huge bags of onions, garlic and avocados.  They often have big boxes of organic apples and pears, peaches in summer and salad mix.

Bottom line, I think cooking as much from scratch as you can and having a meal plan really helps the budget.

Good luck!

BoulderTC

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #25 on: August 16, 2013, 12:28:42 AM »
If you're willing to go on blind faith a little for what you'll eat, I would suggest checking out Fresh 20 (thefresh20.com). It is a meal planning service for which you pay $5 per month, and they send you a list every week of 5 dinners to make. It includes the entire grocery list which has a maximum of 20 fresh, in season ingredients. They make sure the ingredients are used in more than one of the recipes so you're not wasting any food. I am not actually a subscriber, but my sister sent me a copy of one of the lists. They have classic, gluten free, and vegetarian options. I see this as an effective way to cut grocery bills as well as cutting the time it takes to plan meals well.

Cowtown2011

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #26 on: August 16, 2013, 10:37:30 AM »
Some more really good tips, I will be printing this string off and using it as a guide going forward.

Overall, we don't waste any food as leftovers become my lunch. We do buy some supplements which is included in my grocery number but that is not a big number.

Although I feel that buying organic is important to me, I will focus on buying convential for any items not on the dirty dozen list and compromise in this area in order to build our stash.

Can't wait to put these tips into practice. Also, I'm going to track every item we buy for the next two months and see exactly where all the money is going, I may post it in this forum to get more detailed feedback from everyone.

Thanks again

gecko10x

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #27 on: August 16, 2013, 10:49:26 AM »
You mention eggs a lot, and they are very cheap. We buy hormone-free eggs and always use coupons, so they're about $2-$2.60/dozen, depending on whether they're on sale. I recommend you know what brands you'll eat (based on whatever your guidelines are) and search for coupons for those brands on a coupon clipping site. That's an easy way to cut out $5/week. (I know, it's hardly a silver bullet!)

They may not be cheap if he is buying, say, local eggs from an expensive store.
I can get local eggs from the farmer's market for $3/dozen, but those exact eggs from my co-op range from $3.50-$6/dozen depending on the time of year and demand.

Cowtown2011

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #28 on: August 16, 2013, 11:24:05 AM »
We just stared buying our eggs from costco, you can get 18 organic eggs for about $8, so not bad compared to the $7 per dozen I'm paying now at our local grocery store. Still not as cheap as the local farmers market per the last comment.

Rebecca Stapler

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #29 on: August 16, 2013, 11:30:51 AM »
We just stared buying our eggs from costco, you can get 18 organic eggs for about $8, so not bad compared to the $7 per dozen I'm paying now at our local grocery store. Still not as cheap as the local farmers market per the last comment.

That is really expensive! For the co-op eggs and the Costco eggs!

Jamesqf

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #30 on: August 16, 2013, 11:51:28 AM »
We just stared buying our eggs from costco, you can get 18 organic eggs for about $8, so not bad compared to the $7 per dozen I'm paying now at our local grocery store.

OK, $7/dozen for organic eggs, about $1.20/dozen for plain old eggs at the local WinCo.  That's 6.36 times as much.  Now assuming that there is a similar "organic" premium on all your groceries, your $1200 monthly bill would reduce to $188.57.

cats

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #31 on: August 16, 2013, 12:42:21 PM »
Definitely start prioritizing a bit on what you will buy organic vs. not.  I suspect that's going to cut you down a lot.

Personally, we prioritize buying organic meat because anything that's in the feed (say pesticides) will concentrate in the meat.  We also eat meat very infrequently, maybe once a week.

We eat a lot of beans/lentils and vegetables, basing more meals around legumes is a great way to cut your grocery bill way down.  I'd also suggest trying to do fewer trips to the grocery store (depending on how often you go now).  I do one trip to the local produce market per week and then a larger "stock up" run to Costco, specialty stores, etc. less often (no more than 1x per month, working on getting down to every 6 weeks or 2 months).  Fewer trips to the store means you're more likely to use up what is already in your house and have fewer opportunities to impulse buy items at the store.

Also, start making a meal plan and perhaps making some large batches of food to freeze and have on hand.  We do a big batch cook every 6 weeks or so and fill up the freezer (I did a little blog post on our last batch cook here, if you want some ideas of what we make), which helps avoid evenings of "oh shit, no food, have to buy something that's quick to prepare!" (which is invariably expensive).

Motovated

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #32 on: August 16, 2013, 02:16:30 PM »
Yep, that is a big grocery bill.

I find the easiest way to save on groceries is through meal planning. When I first started looking at our grocery situation with a Mustachian eye, I was not impressed with the large amount of money we were spending, the amount of times we ate out because there was nothing we were interested in eating or we were too lazy to cook, and the food that would go to waste. Now we pick various meals for the week, and go and buy the necessary ingredients. This way, there is always something to eat, we feel more motivated to cook these meals and follow the plan, and there is very little food going to waste. Lunches and breakfasts are planned too, although these tend to follow a basic pattern so not a lot of thought has to go into them. We don't eat out anywhere near as much because we don't have those 'What do you want to do for dinner?' nights anymore.

Not buying organic is another easy way to save money. Especially as there aren't any proven health benefits http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/no-health-benefits-from-organic-food/

From the article:
Quote
The recent review is therefore in agreement with previous reviews organic produce is not more nutritious or healthful, but it is more expensive.

2unwind

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #33 on: August 16, 2013, 03:41:26 PM »
Www.poorgirleatswell.com.  Love this site.  Breaks it down on a per serving cost which is nice. 

seattlecyclone

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #34 on: August 16, 2013, 05:18:05 PM »
Try checking if there's an organic CSA program available in your area. My wife and I subscribe to one that gives us a box full of organic vegetables every week for about $20. Those veggies form a large portion of our dinners, cost a whole lot less than buying the same type of stuff at the local food co-op, and we get to feel good about supporting a local farm with our commitment to buy a certain amount throughout the growing season. We cook the veggies with inexpensive staples such as rice, pasta, beans, oil, and more to round out the meals.

+1 to this.  I also have a CSA which helps cut down on trips to the store (the more you go to the store the more you buy things that aren't strictly necessary).  It's also very healthy and lets you discover new items that you might not normally buy.

Hey, SeattleCyclone, do you mind telling me what CSA you subscribe to?  I'm in Seattle too and I've tried 3 different CSA's but none have been as cheap as $20.  Most seem to be $30 and up.  Thanks!


Roses, we go with the veggie box from Tiny's Organic. Their advertised price is $20.95/week. They also have a few different sizes of mixed boxes if you want to get veggies and fruits together. We've done that in the past, but decided to go with veggies only this year because we had a hard time keeping up with the fruits last year especially when our apple tree was producing.

We have found that the veggie box gives us (two adults) just enough each week that we find it hard to go out for dinner much during CSA season without wasting some of the veggies we already bought (which is a great incentive to limit dinners out!). The selection is variable though. At the beginning of the summer we got massive quantities of salad greens and not much else. That got old after a while, since I've never been a big enough fan of salad to want to eat a large one every night. Now they're giving us lots of summer squash, peppers, potatoes, and more. That's much better in my opinion!

Roses

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #35 on: August 16, 2013, 11:21:44 PM »
Try checking if there's an organic CSA program available in your area. My wife and I subscribe to one that gives us a box full of organic vegetables every week for about $20. Those veggies form a large portion of our dinners, cost a whole lot less than buying the same type of stuff at the local food co-op, and we get to feel good about supporting a local farm with our commitment to buy a certain amount throughout the growing season. We cook the veggies with inexpensive staples such as rice, pasta, beans, oil, and more to round out the meals.

+1 to this.  I also have a CSA which helps cut down on trips to the store (the more you go to the store the more you buy things that aren't strictly necessary).  It's also very healthy and lets you discover new items that you might not normally buy.

Hey, SeattleCyclone, do you mind telling me what CSA you subscribe to?  I'm in Seattle too and I've tried 3 different CSA's but none have been as cheap as $20.  Most seem to be $30 and up.  Thanks!


Roses, we go with the veggie box from Tiny's Organic. Their advertised price is $20.95/week. They also have a few different sizes of mixed boxes if you want to get veggies and fruits together. We've done that in the past, but decided to go with veggies only this year because we had a hard time keeping up with the fruits last year especially when our apple tree was producing.

We have found that the veggie box gives us (two adults) just enough each week that we find it hard to go out for dinner much during CSA season without wasting some of the veggies we already bought (which is a great incentive to limit dinners out!). The selection is variable though. At the beginning of the summer we got massive quantities of salad greens and not much else. That got old after a while, since I've never been a big enough fan of salad to want to eat a large one every night. Now they're giving us lots of summer squash, peppers, potatoes, and more. That's much better in my opinion!

That sounds great.  I've purchased from them at the farmer's markets and their stuff is tasty.  I'll check out the CSA.  Thanks for the info! 

oldtoyota

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #36 on: August 18, 2013, 05:10:50 PM »
I started a price book.

During a recent shopping trip to buy kid's toothpaste, I learned that dental rinse is a lot cheaper if you buy the children's version of it. So, I purchased 4 bottles of bubble gum flavored rinse for two adults and one kid to use. I don't care about the flavor; I just want healthy teeth.

Also, buy spices in the "ethnic" aisle. (That word bothers me for some reason.) The spices are often more expensive in the "non-ethnic" aisle.




oldtoyota

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #37 on: August 18, 2013, 05:11:16 PM »
I actually wrote an article about this on my website the other day. (Here if you're interested: http://livelikeaboss.com/my-100-per-month-grocery-bill/)

But essentially, here's the cliffs on that:

Basically I figured out a master list of groceries that I had to buy each month and I set the limit at $100 per month. I wanted to eat healthy but also eat healthy on a budget. I based the grocery list off of the food pyramid for the various elements of nutrition I needed to take in for a 2000 calorie diet and this is what I came up with:

4 whole chickens
4 bags of spinach
2-3 reams of broccoli
2 heads of cauliflower
1 bag of whole carrots
2 whole watermelons
2 bags of apples
2 bunches of bananas
2 gallons of milk
3 loaves of bread
2 cartons of eggs
2 sacks of potatoes
1 bag of popcorn kernels
1 bag of brown rice
1 bag of dry beans

Essentially, chicken is about the cheapest meat you can buy. You can get a whole chicken at the market for $6. I reasoned that 4 whole chickens a month would be all the meat I would ever need and that I could get the rest of my protein from beans and/or peanut butter.

Beans and potatoes carry the most bang for their buck in terms of making you feel full. I think of things like milk and eggs as ingredients moreso than something to consume.

Also, bear in mind that that is not a master list of the ONLY things I eat in a month. It's just the core of the "healthiest" part of my diet. I supplement those foods by making stuff from scratch.

For you, with 3 people to feed, I see no reason why you couldn't modify this list a little bit and perhaps get your grocery bill to even $300 a month.

+1

farmstache

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #38 on: October 20, 2013, 10:57:04 PM »
I started a price book.

During a recent shopping trip to buy kid's toothpaste, I learned that dental rinse is a lot cheaper if you buy the children's version of it. So, I purchased 4 bottles of bubble gum flavored rinse for two adults and one kid to use. I don't care about the flavor; I just want healthy teeth.

Also, buy spices in the "ethnic" aisle. (That word bothers me for some reason.) The spices are often more expensive in the "non-ethnic" aisle.

Guys, many of you mentioned price books.

I was starting my own today and was wondering:
1. Anyone have a screenshot to give me for a spreadsheet example?
2. I'll use Google Drive for consulting on the go
3. Thinking about this, aren't there any APPs that can do this for us? I did find some apps that scan products and save your purchase, while comparing with prices from other stores consulted online real-time (sounds great, but I don't trust it 100%). What I think I couldn't find is an APP with the ability for comparing your previous purchases (which I much prefer to the ability to see current prices elsewhere), or development over time, etc. Any ideas on this front?

MrsPete

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #39 on: October 21, 2013, 08:34:53 AM »
How is it possible to spend that much?  Without eating out twice a day, I just don't see how it could be true.

Regardless, here are my suggestions:

- Start a price book.  I did this years ago using the method described in The TightWad Gazette.  This isn't a project you can complete in a week, or even a month, but it is very worthwhile.  As you gather data, you will know which stores sell which products most cheaply (for example, I always buy dried beans and canned goods at Walmart, but I buy paper products at Target, and I go to Harris Teeter only for their loss-leader sales), and you will be able to predict when certain staples will go on sale again, allowing you to buy the right amount for your family. 

- Search out non-grocery store food sources.  The grocery store is the most convenient place to shop because you can get everything you need in one spot; however, you will pay for that convenience.  In addition to the grocery store, I also shop at

     An oriental grocery
     A salvage store called -- yes, really -- The Yard Sale of Groceries; always a surprise
     A beef co-op -- we buy 1/4 of a cow about every 7-8 months; price is the same, quality is better
     A very expensive health food store that sells bulk spices super-cheap
     A farmer's market during the summer months
     The day-old bread store; 3 loaves of good bread for $1.25
     And various places on the internet, though this tends to be for unique items rather than sale prices 
     
Note that we don't visit each of these stores every week.  The oriental grocery and the health food store, for example, are in a big city a good hour's drive from us.  So when we're going that direction anyway, we make a list and buy all we're likely to need for a while. 

- Pay close attention to your beverages.  I read years ago that the average grocery bill is 30% beverages, most of which adds no nutrition to the diet.  Water is free; iced tea and Koolaid are almost free.

- Similarly, avoid anything individually wrapped.  Lunch-pack chips or cookies are outrageously expensive. 

- Consider meatless meals.  Similarly, consider meat-reduced meals; for example, instead of cooking a chicken breast for each person, cook ONE chicken breast, slice it thinly, and serve it over noodles and vegetables.   

- Cut out packaged convenience foods like Hamburger Helper and canned spaghetti sauce; they save minutes, yet they're packed full of who knows what.  Instead, use plain old macaroni noodles and canned tomatoes. 

- Have 1/4 cup of vegetables and one slice of meat left over?  You should have a container in your freezer for such things.  When it's full, you make soup -- for free.  Just add some chicken stock, perhaps a can of petite-diced tomatoes, depending upon what's in the concoction.  Free soup.  OR you keep the stuff thick and serve it over noodles or big, fat baked potatoes.  Leftovers don't have to look like they did the first time around. 

- Similarly, you should have a bag of bits of bread in your freezer.  When it's full, you make stuffing.

- Buy a freezer (ours was $75 from ebay, or was it Craigslist?) and develop a space in your house to store sale-purchased dry goods.  This will allow you to take advantage of sales.  Eventually you'll want to work your way up to canning and drying foods. 

- Don't try to do ALL these things at once.  You'll be overwhelmed and will give up; instead, pick out one thing to improve upon this  month -- beverages would be a good one -- and then add another good habit next month.   

oldtoyota

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #40 on: October 21, 2013, 08:54:20 AM »
Are you throwing out a lot of food because it goes bad?

Cinder

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #41 on: October 22, 2013, 02:49:35 PM »
3. Thinking about this, aren't there any APPs that can do this for us? I did find some apps that scan products and save your purchase, while comparing with prices from other stores consulted online real-time (sounds great, but I don't trust it 100%). What I think I couldn't find is an APP with the ability for comparing your previous purchases (which I much prefer to the ability to see current prices elsewhere), or development over time, etc. Any ideas on this front?

I'm working on learning how to program for android right now, and I'd like to make an app that can do just what you are wanting for it to do.  You scan the barcode, enter the info (price, price after 'discounts', units, store) to generate a history for that item.  I'd also want to work in the ability for you to make your grocery list, show what you expect the total cost to be, etc...

If/when I get it off the ground, I'll see if I can get a few people around here to try it out/give me feedback.  The only thing that I think would be hard is that you would have to populate the history.  the DW and I have a spreadsheet with a few datapoints in it that I would use to backfill our own personal database, but it seems like it would be to daunting for the majority of users...


farmstache

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Re: How to save on my grocery bill
« Reply #42 on: October 22, 2013, 05:04:39 PM »
I'm working on learning how to program for android right now, and I'd like to make an app that can do just what you are wanting for it to do.  You scan the barcode, enter the info (price, price after 'discounts', units, store) to generate a history for that item.  I'd also want to work in the ability for you to make your grocery list, show what you expect the total cost to be, etc...

If/when I get it off the ground, I'll see if I can get a few people around here to try it out/give me feedback.  The only thing that I think would be hard is that you would have to populate the history.  the DW and I have a spreadsheet with a few datapoints in it that I would use to backfill our own personal database, but it seems like it would be to daunting for the majority of users...

Cool!

Maybe you could make a mix of both, then? If you get partnerships with major shops or coupon sites, you can give this starter idea to the costumer (like what I saw in the two apps I downloaded): there's cheap food today here and here. I suppose shops are always into having more people buying, so it shouldn't be a problem... :)

If you don't mind building a translated version, I could go out looking for the same partnerships here in Brazil. :)