Author Topic: Is food just more expensive in NC?  (Read 15369 times)

spruce

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Is food just more expensive in NC?
« on: January 27, 2015, 01:00:38 PM »
Hi folks,

DH and I have been trying for months to whittle down our grocery budget but it seems like it's not budging any farther...we spend around $450 a month for the two of us, including toiletries/cleaning products and beer.  In good months we've gotten as low as $340, and in bad as high as $560 (summer, when we spend more at the Farmers' Market).

We meal plan every week, DH is a great cook and we take dinner's leftovers for lunch the next day. We buy bulk items like rice, black beans, olive oil, toilet paper, etc. at Costco (only go once a month), we buy craft beer by the case once a month, and just about everything else we get at our local grocery store which generally has local produce at great prices. We eat a lot of one pot meals, with rice, beans, or pasta, a bunch of veggies, and a protein. We do eat meat several times a week, but we also generally buy it in bulk, such as buy a pork loin at Costco and cut it into chops or grind it up and freeze it.  We had a good sized garden last year and hope to expand it this year, so a lot of veggies came from the garden. We buy mostly fresh meats, veggies, and fruits, and very little processed food.  We are picking up a 1/4 cow to put in our freezer next month, so that may help a little too.

But even with all this, our average monthly budget in 2014 is $450.  I've seen other posters on here get it down to $250 for two people, and I'm trying to figure out what we can do differently. Two of my coworkers recently moved here from Michigan and commented that food is more expensive in NC than back in Michigan.  So, I'm wondering, is food just more expensive here in NC? Any other NC folks want to share their grocery budgets, or does anyone have tips or tricks for getting it lower while still eating fresh, healthy food? Thanks!

JLee

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2015, 01:15:06 PM »
What are some prices you're paying for stuff?

Gerard

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2015, 06:23:21 PM »
It sounds like you're doing a lot of things right, but I'm pretty sure NC food prices are lower than in Canada, where it's pretty easy to get lower than that. You might need to track spending for a month or two and see where the big leaks are. Possibly "fresh" produce in the non-local produce months? Amount of beer? Proportional amount of meat on the plate?

Other thoughts: Do you have a big Mexican grocery nearby? Are there non-twee farmer's markets that you can get to?

Jesus Christ

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2015, 06:56:40 PM »
I live in Wilmington and shop at either Piggly Wiggly or Bo's foods. I try to only speed a dollar a pound or less. Never have a problem.

undercover

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2015, 07:06:13 PM »
It's no more expensive than anywhere else. As if you were anywhere else, it obviously depends on what you buy and where you buy it. There are plenty of discount grocers in NC. There are plenty of "boutique" grocers in NC. Just like anywhere else.

I personally wouldn't flinch at $450 for the two of you. That's incredibly good. Especially considering that's including toiletries/cleaning products. I spend nearly $300 I'm sure or more just for myself. I don't cook much and don't care. I'd rather be doing other things.

r3dt4rget

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2015, 08:00:56 PM »
Restrict your meat to chicken, turkey, tuna, etc. Beef is like 3-4x more expensive per pound.

$450 is not bad. The 2 of us spend around $400/month. You can obviously eat cheaper by cutting out all luxury foods and going strictly rice/beans/veggies but just like every other spending decision it's up to your own priorities. I don't mind spending $400/month on food as it's one of the essential things for life, and I rather enjoy cooking/eating.

geekette

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2015, 09:33:26 PM »
I don't know where in NC you are, but in the Triangle there's so much competition...  I shop the sales and stock up.  Maybe you should start a price book?

dantownehall

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2015, 06:19:00 AM »
I'm in NC, and find cheap food.

If there's an ALDI near you that's your answer.

Ingles, Harris Teeter, and Food Lion are all usually more expensive than I'd like.

purplepants

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2015, 06:37:42 AM »
When I moved here from Upstate NY 10 years ago I was shocked at the cost of groceries.  I definitely think food is more expensive, but not TWICE as expensive.

For the most part though, food prices are comparable as long as you are shopping at a less-fancy store.

Lowes Foods and Harris Teeter are pricey.  Food Lion and Piggly Wiggly are a little more reasonable.  Aldi is awesome, and Trader Joe's is great for certain things. 

spruce

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2015, 07:01:24 AM »
What are some prices you're paying for stuff?

I can't find a recent itemized receipt, but here are some of the prices I could find...

milk, quart: $1.99
18 eggs: $2.79
bacon: $4.99
spinach: $1.19/lb.
sweet potatoes: $0.69/lb.
onions: $0.89/lb.
pasta: $1.79 (I think for a lb.)
rice: $0.67/lb. (25lb. bag)
chicken: $1.29/lb.
grapefruit: $1/lb.
apples: $1.79/lb.

I am in the Triangle. There is no ALDI near us. We don't shop at Harris Teeter, we literally get culture shock every time we go in there.  We try to stick to in season fruits and veggies. There is a latino grocery down the street, which we go to for some things every now and then, but I think our neighborhood grocery is cheaper. Most of the things above are from the neighborhood grocery.  We don't eat beef often because it is pricier, but the 1/4 cow we're getting should be around $2.50-3/lb. 

I would have thought that food prices here would be the same as anywhere else, or perhaps cheaper since we can grow so many things throughout the year, but my coworkers' comments made me wonder.

I haven't shopped sales or kept close track of prices of things in awhile...but like you all say maybe I'll try that for awhile to see if anything seems extra pricey.  Like some of you have said, eating good food is important to us and we don't mind spending some money on it, but I have wondered how other couples on here get down to $250-300 a month.  Maybe it's all beans and rice!

Schaefer Light

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2015, 07:12:33 AM »
I think you're doing well with your grocery spending.  I also live in NC, and my wife and I budget $700 per month for groceries.  We usually come in around $600-650 when it's all said and done, but we do eat steak once a week and I'm sure we also spend more than you on beer and wine.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2015, 07:22:10 AM »
$250 for two, and plenty of fancy pants things. When it was just me, it was closer to $100.

Milk is usually $3.50 per gallon, why the hell are you buying quarts? I find lunchbox size apples for $.99/lb regularly, same for pasta.

spruce

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2015, 07:25:48 AM »
$250 for two, and plenty of fancy pants things. When it was just me, it was closer to $100.

Milk is usually $3.50 per gallon, why the hell are you buying quarts? I find lunchbox size apples for $.99/lb regularly, same for pasta.

We only use milk for coffee and a gallon will go bad before we get through it.  What kinds of things are you eating/buying to stay around $250? Where do you typically shop? Do you eat out at all?

I think you're doing well with your grocery spending.  I also live in NC, and my wife and I budget $700 per month for groceries.  We usually come in around $600-650 when it's all said and done, but we do eat steak once a week and I'm sure we also spend more than you on beer and wine.

I forgot to mention the beer...we spend ~$35/month on beer, and we (I, really, DH doesn't care for it) drink wine very rarely, maybe a bottle every 4-6 months.

Thanks for chiming in with your monthly budget as a fellow NC-ian.  Maybe we're not doing that bad.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2015, 07:29:47 AM by spruce »

Heart of Tin

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2015, 07:34:48 AM »
What are some prices you're paying for stuff?

I can't find a recent itemized receipt, but here are some of the prices I could find...

milk, quart: $1.99
18 eggs: $2.79
bacon: $4.99
spinach: $1.19/lb.
sweet potatoes: $0.69/lb.
onions: $0.89/lb.
pasta: $1.79 (I think for a lb.)
rice: $0.67/lb. (25lb. bag)
chicken: $1.29/lb.
grapefruit: $1/lb.
apples: $1.79/lb.

These prices look pretty normal. How much of your money goes towards household supplies and toiletries? Do you eat everything you buy or do you throw out food every week including both unprepared food and leftovers?

Your prices and food habits sound simillar to mine, but I only spend about $130 per month for one person, so I'm kind of baffled.

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2015, 07:40:16 AM »
I can EASILY feed a family of 4 on that budget, usually less.

Some people love Costco, but I found I could do significantly better at Aldi, especially when you consider the Costco membership fees.  For example: Apples are regularly 3lbs for $2.99.  I got 5 lbs of grapefruit for $1.99 this week. 

At those prices it would be worth a little road trip to Aldi once a month to stock up.  There are 8 of them in the Triangle:  https://maps.google.com/maps?rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&oe&safe=active&gws_rd=ssl&um=1&ie=UTF-8&fb=1&gl=us&q=raleigh+aldi&hq=aldi&hnear=0x89ac5a2f9f51e0f7:0x6790b6528a11f0ad,raleigh&sa=X&ei=FO_IVIX5Gse9ggSSjITgBw&ved=0CB4QtQM&output=classic&dg=brw

Can you use an entire gallon of milk before it goes bad?  It reduces the cost by 25%.

Bacon is a luxury food, are you buying it more than 1x a month?  When you buy it you should be able to get down to around $3-$4 a lb.

I like meat. Chicken (whole, leg quarters), Turkey (whole) and Pork (usually hams) can all be had for less than $1 per lb if you scout sales and stock up. I bought 45 lbs of ham this week at Foodlion for $.99/lb.  Leg quarters are $6.90 for 10 lbs at Walmart.   

Do you have a yard?  If so, plant a garden! (We can do another thread on how to do that frugally!) 

Paul der Krake

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2015, 07:47:16 AM »
$250 for two, and plenty of fancy pants things. When it was just me, it was closer to $100.

Milk is usually $3.50 per gallon, why the hell are you buying quarts? I find lunchbox size apples for $.99/lb regularly, same for pasta.

We only use milk for coffee and a gallon will go bad before we get through it.  What kinds of things are you eating/buying to stay around $250? Where do you typically shop? Do you eat out at all?
Mostly Kroger, but also Harris Teeter, although that's more for "oh crap I need an onion and a 6-pack right now", because it's walking distance from us. The key is knowing what's cheap in which store, and making your meals around those. Also whole foods occasionally because their meat is supposedly better and happier. Maybe $20 out of those $250 is booze, and another $15 for random stuff. Eating out is considered "burn money" and we eat out at a fancy restaurant once or twice a month max. Very little other eating out aside from that. It averages less than $100/month.

As for the actual type of food, it's lots of vegetables and crock pot type meals that give us leftovers. I also eat cereal like it's going out of style so we go through two gallons of milk per week. Kroger recently had cereal on super sale and we bought boxes by the dozen.

spruce

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #16 on: January 28, 2015, 07:53:06 AM »
These prices look pretty normal. How much of your money goes towards household supplies and toiletries? Do you eat everything you buy or do you throw out food every week including both unprepared food and leftovers?

Your prices and food habits sound simillar to mine, but I only spend about $130 per month for one person, so I'm kind of baffled.

It's hard to say how much goes towards household supplies...we buy them so infrequently. Generally this just includes toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, dish soap, sponges, Dr. Bronner's and toothpaste. We buy most of those at Costco...TP and paper towels last us quite awhile, everything else we probably replace every 3-4 months? Hard to say for sure. 

We do eat the vast majority of what we buy and prepare. We don't snack much or have dessert. Dinner is typically a one-pot kind of meal like I mentioned, breakfast is eggs and bacon, lunch is leftovers, yogurt, and a piece of fruit. Beverages are generally water, coffee, orange juice, and beer. I like to have a grapefruit every night in the winter as "dessert." We feel like we're doing pretty good food-wise, but the price tag seems high....this is why I'm baffled too.

Mr. Frugalwoods

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #17 on: January 28, 2015, 07:56:53 AM »
Our strategy is to make breakfasts and lunches as cheap (and still healthy) as possible so we can spend profligately on dinners.  To that end we eat oats for breakfast and rice&beans for lunch.  Bought in bulk, this means we spend about $1 per day (total, for 2 people) before dinner.  This leaves a ton of room for delicious dinners.

We also don't eat much meat.  Ethical and healthy meat is super expensive.  Nothing much you can do about that, other than reduce your intake.

Gone Fishing

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #18 on: January 28, 2015, 07:58:31 AM »

We only use milk for coffee and a gallon will go bad before we get through it.  What kinds of things are you eating/buying to stay around $250? Where do you typically shop? Do you eat out at all?


Extra milk can be added to soups and stews instead of water for extra richness!


Heart of Tin

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #19 on: January 28, 2015, 08:22:09 AM »
One strategy that I use to keep my food spending in check day to day is to give myself a per meal budget. For example, my food budget is $100 per month. $10 is for breakfast items like oatmeal. $30 is for replacing staple items like flour, eggs, and soy sauce. That leaves me with $60 for day to day spending on lunch and dinner, or about $1 per meal. When I'm at the grocery store I make sure not to exceed that $1 per meal on non-breakfast or -staple items. A $7 grocery trip better last me 3 dinners and 4 lunches or I know that I have exceeded my budget, and I'll have to scrimp for a few meals.

purplepants

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #20 on: January 28, 2015, 08:35:02 AM »
I think your trouble is what you're eating (and possibly throwing away), more than the local food prices.  My budget is $150/month for one person (around $100) and ingredients for care packages for DH (around $50).  Wine and beer come out of my personal spending money, not the grocery budget.

Bacon and Eggs for two people for breakfast every day would get expensive.  I eat oatmeal (plain, from the canister) every day and usually stir in a little sugar or some dried fruit.

A grapefruit every day would get expensive (but I totally get it, I probably spent $40 on citrus fruits myself this month).  I'm not saying you shouldn't have it, I'm just saying it would drive your grocery prices up. 

Also, are either of you really active?  My SIL is an avid runner year round, but whenever she is training for a marathon their grocery bill skyrockets for about six weeks because she just has to eat so much food to keep up with the calories she's burning.

spruce

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #21 on: January 28, 2015, 11:08:41 AM »

We only use milk for coffee and a gallon will go bad before we get through it.  What kinds of things are you eating/buying to stay around $250? Where do you typically shop? Do you eat out at all?


Extra milk can be added to soups and stews instead of water for extra richness!

but water is cheaper than milk....and why spend money on extra milk if we don't need it?

I think your trouble is what you're eating (and possibly throwing away), more than the local food prices.  My budget is $150/month for one person (around $100) and ingredients for care packages for DH (around $50).  Wine and beer come out of my personal spending money, not the grocery budget.

Bacon and Eggs for two people for breakfast every day would get expensive.  I eat oatmeal (plain, from the canister) every day and usually stir in a little sugar or some dried fruit.

A grapefruit every day would get expensive (but I totally get it, I probably spent $40 on citrus fruits myself this month).  I'm not saying you shouldn't have it, I'm just saying it would drive your grocery prices up. 

Also, are either of you really active?  My SIL is an avid runner year round, but whenever she is training for a marathon their grocery bill skyrockets for about six weeks because she just has to eat so much food to keep up with the calories she's burning.

I'm the only one eating bacon and eggs...DH typically skips breakfast or eats leftovers. I used to be an avid cereal fan but high cholesterol runs in the family and when I switched to eggs and bacon my cholesterol went down, plus I feel full for a lot longer. Sometimes I do a kale and sausage scramble, sometimes I make a little breakfast sandwich with spinach and tomato. I've tried just having eggs but get hungry too quickly. Bacon is expensive though so I'll look into other protein-rich ideas.

As for the Costco/Aldi comment...we live near Costco, we don't pay membership fees (on parents' account), and we buy gas there. If we had to buy a membership we probably would for the savings on gas and tires alone.  The closest Aldi is 15 miles away...so, we'll check it out and see if it's worth making a monthly trip.


Big thanks to all of you for all the comments and ideas...it looks like we should be able to shave at least another hundred off that budget, so we've got work to do!

rujancified

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #22 on: January 28, 2015, 12:08:11 PM »
You aren't doing bady if that includes beer/wine/household items.

FWIW, I'm in CLT and don't track our grocery items that closely. I do Teeter & Food Lion with Costco trips as frequently as I can stomach them (so, maybe 3-4x a year).

Whenever any of my family/friends visit (From Boston, mostly) they're always open mouthed at how cheap everything is, especially produce. And most of the Boston people shop at Market Basket which is cheap as hell.

We also don't use a ton of milk, either (occasional coffee, cereal, oatmeal), so I get the cheapest I can get. I'm not drinking much of it, so organic doesn't really matter to me. Conversely, I spend buckets of money on fancypants orange juice (prob $5-6/gallon) whenever I feel like a vitamin C kick.

$1.79/lb for pasta seems high though. I always stock up on sales and rarely pay more than .99/lb.

NCGal

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #23 on: January 28, 2015, 12:10:56 PM »
When we first moved from NY I found food to be more expensive here, especially fruits and vegetables. I used to spend probably close to $600 for food, paper goods, pet food and cleaning materials - for 2 adults and 1-3 cats (2 are gone since we've moved).

Edit: I'm closer to $300/month now.

I mainly shop at Aldi now - I know you said there's none near you but I've noticed a few things that help me:
Use cash not debit or credit
Make a list and stick to it except if you see a great bargain on something you regularly use -- stock up.
And this is a big one for me --- stay away from Walmart. Debit card + Walmart = lots more spending. Now I try to go in there only for specific items and I do not get a cart! I only get what I can carry.

Try dollar stores for pasta. They're typically a dollar or less, sometimes they have brands too. Also I've seen Delmnte canned goods cheap there. I'm not too into canned anything except for tomato sauce and corn.

For cleaning supplies I'm using up what I have and switching to homemade. No more Swiffer and all those supplies. No more store bought laundry detergent.

geekette

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #24 on: January 28, 2015, 12:27:37 PM »
To lower your costs, you can shop the sales.  Today's the day the new flyers come out - see what's on sale this week and plan. 

Yesterday I went Kroger for milk ($1.25 half gallon - bought extra to freeze).   Their produce is usually good and well priced, at least here. This week I'm sure I'll hit Food Lion for 8oz. Cabot cheddar for $2 (my favorite!) and a 5lb bag of potatoes for $2. Harris Teeter always has boneless chicken breast in the meat case (by the seafood) for $2/lb.  Their half and half in quarts (tastier in coffee!) are under $2. Plus they're UHT, so they last a long time. They also have very good buy 2 get 3 free sales pretty often (pasta!), and buy one get one free sales almost every week. This week the build up to some football game (;-) means most of the specials are for junk food, though.

Shopping around takes time.  You may be trading money for time - nothing wrong with that.

Bob W

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #25 on: January 28, 2015, 01:23:00 PM »
I think your doing well and spending way too little on beer.  You costs appear in line with the Midwest.

Here are some strategies I use  ---

Loss leaders on protein foods ---- For example -  Chicken breasts were $1 a pound this week.   I bought 30lbs.   Beef is off the table for now since it is so high.   Pork cycles and can often be had for 1-1.25 lb.  We always seem to be able to wait until eggs are $1 a dozen and buy like 12 dozen.  (they keep for over 6 months)

Potatoes were 5lb for 88 cents this week.

So let's just look at chicken and potatoes --- If we bought 50 lbs of chicken and 90 lbs of potatoes our cost would be around $60.   If we added 3 bottles of olive oil our total would be $70. 

Add $3 in veggies per day and we are at $160 pretty quickly. Add your beer and paper ect and we are at $225.

Here might be a typical day

Brk - 2 eggs, fried potatoes -  25 cents person
Lunch -  Homemade Chunky Chicken Veggie noodle soup - 40 cents person
Dinner -  chicken stir fry over noodles -  $1 person
Total = $3.25 a day or just $100 for 2 people per month.    Adjust and add fancy pants shit however you like.

Here is my big tip though
Break your budget into much smaller parts.  Categories should include:
1.  Real whole foods (fish, meat, eggs, veggies, potatoes, butter, olive/grape seed oil)
2.  Fake food -  anything processed or premade (milk fits here as it is not designed for human consumption)This includes veggie oil, corn oil and canola, processed flour, sugar, margarine.
3.  alcohol
4.  paper products
5.  coffee tea
6.  Juice, soy milk, soda, bottled water,  and other non nutritious beverages
7.  Makeup
8.  soap, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.

You may be amazed at how much you actually spend on "real" food.  It is probably 1/2 of your stated "food" budget. 

Regardless -- I think we could cut your budget in half and  have you eating healthier if you are open to it?

* Pro Tip - If you want to reduce your beer cost from 35 to 10 switch to vodka.

mm1970

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #26 on: January 28, 2015, 01:45:43 PM »
What are some prices you're paying for stuff?

I can't find a recent itemized receipt, but here are some of the prices I could find...

milk, quart: $1.99
18 eggs: $2.79
bacon: $4.99
spinach: $1.19/lb.
sweet potatoes: $0.69/lb.
onions: $0.89/lb.
pasta: $1.79 (I think for a lb.)
rice: $0.67/lb. (25lb. bag)
chicken: $1.29/lb.
grapefruit: $1/lb.
apples: $1.79/lb.

I am in the Triangle. There is no ALDI near us. We don't shop at Harris Teeter, we literally get culture shock every time we go in there.  We try to stick to in season fruits and veggies. There is a latino grocery down the street, which we go to for some things every now and then, but I think our neighborhood grocery is cheaper. Most of the things above are from the neighborhood grocery.  We don't eat beef often because it is pricier, but the 1/4 cow we're getting should be around $2.50-3/lb. 

I would have thought that food prices here would be the same as anywhere else, or perhaps cheaper since we can grow so many things throughout the year, but my coworkers' comments made me wonder.

I haven't shopped sales or kept close track of prices of things in awhile...but like you all say maybe I'll try that for awhile to see if anything seems extra pricey.  Like some of you have said, eating good food is important to us and we don't mind spending some money on it, but I have wondered how other couples on here get down to $250-300 a month.  Maybe it's all beans and rice!
I think you are doing pretty good based on those prices.  And please read Bob W's post on how to get better.  And don't take "I can easily do better!!" too seriously because two things REALLY affect how well you do:

1.  What you eat
2.  Where you live

Carbs are cheap, meat is not, so there you are.  Certain things just flat out cost more.  I make a choice to eat fewer cheap carby foods, and more protein and fresh vegetables.  They cost more.  Even though I stick to cheaper veggies, they cost more.  Carrots are cheap.  Strangely?  Cabbage is not.  It's $1.00 a pound here, 2x the cost of carrots.

So my strategies for how to bring down your grocery bill involve some serious data crunching.  Because, you know, engineer.

1.  Don't waste food. You buy it, you make it, you eat it.  Don't care if you are tired of it, put it in the freezer then.  (I have a great book on this.  An Everlasting Meal.  Things like saving all scraps for broths.
2.  Figure out how to get what you currently eat for less.  That, my friend, is a price book.  To make one is somewhat labor intensive.  It means for a few months you check the price of all your staples at every freaking store you go to.  And ones you don't.  So I know, for example, that pinto beans dried are $1.00 a pound, but they go on sale every once in awhile for $6 for a 10 lb bag.  I ONLY buy them at their cheapest.  So, every thing you eat regularly, find the CHEAPEST price, and ONLY buy it then.
If you eat canned diced tomatoes, buy them in the #10 can at Costco.  Portion out and freeze.
3.  Figure out how to MAKE what you currently eat, if you can.  Buy yogurt in 32 oz tubs instead of 8 oz.  Or better yet, make your own.  Learn to bake bread if you eat bread.  Make your own refried beans.  Make your own hummus.
4.  Calculate the cost per meal of your regular meals, and increase the frequency of the cheaper meals. So, for a month, write down all that you eat, and guesstimate the portion sizes.  Calculate how much you spend for each meal: beans and rice, versus chicken stir-fry.  Bagels and cream cheese vs. oatmeal.  Turkey sandwich vs egg sandwich vs bean burrito.  Do you need to lose weight?  This would be a time to figure out if you can decrease your portion size.

After this exercise, then you know that beans and rice are cheaper than chicken.  Or whatever.  Eat more of the cheaper stuff.
Do the same for fruits and veggies.
Do the same for snacks.  Do you eat snacks?  You know, a banana is cheaper than crackers.

5.  Finally, find cheaper alternatives to what you DO eat.  There are probably recipes that you'd like that would be cheaper.  The Prudent Homemaker, and Cook for Good, are two very good sites.  A google search of "food stamp" challenges may be another way to find other recipes.

Also, with the paper products, figure out how to reduce these too.  Napkins and paper towels?  Probably can do without.

For example, here in Coastal So cal, with the type of food that I eat, I would *never* *ever* be able to hit $250 a month for two.   Unless I learned to garden, or had a source of free food.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #27 on: January 28, 2015, 02:22:10 PM »
* Pro Tip - If you want to reduce your beer cost from 35 to 10 switch to vodka.


be

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #28 on: January 28, 2015, 02:29:16 PM »
I realize you buy milk only for coffee, but milk can be frozen.  I use skim, but I have a friend who uses whole and we both have milk in our freezers as I type type this.  I primarily use milk in a recipe, so I currently have my milk in containers filled with 2 cups of milk all ready to defrost and use in my recipe.

Had to laugh when I read the comment about making yogurt.  There's a thread currently up about that. 

I say, stock up on the loss leaders and not just the meat loss leaders.  You can stock up on fruits and veggies, too.

Good job on cooking and not eating out.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2015, 04:56:44 PM by be »

eccdogg

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #29 on: January 28, 2015, 03:16:00 PM »
One way to get cheap fruit/veg if you live in Raleigh and have some other frugal minded friends is to buy in bulk at the Farmer's Market.  There is a separate building where where vendors sell stuff wholesale (not organic or local) you can buy cases of all types of stuff.  Recently we were in a neighborhood Co-op where every other week we would give our neighbor $15 that she would pool together and then go buy cases of fruit and veg.  Then we would all meet at her house to split the stuff up.  For $15 you would get a big box overflowing with produce.  In addition to the wholesale stuff you can also buy local stuff in bulk.

Here is a listing of what is available now and at what price.

http://www.ncagr.gov/markets/mktnews/RA_FV001.txt


Gone Fishing

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #30 on: January 29, 2015, 08:01:14 AM »
The closest Aldi is 15 miles away...so, we'll check it out and see if it's worth making a monthly trip.

Not sure if you can get them on the phone or not, but if you can, ask what day the truck comes in.  Otherwise ask when you make your first trip.  Most things are pretty well stocked but produce can run low if you show up the day or two before the truck comes in.

Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #31 on: January 29, 2015, 08:27:53 AM »
$250 for two, and plenty of fancy pants things. When it was just me, it was closer to $100.

Milk is usually $3.50 per gallon, why the hell are you buying quarts? I find lunchbox size apples for $.99/lb regularly, same for pasta.

I agree. I would buy the gallon, pour half in a pitcher and freeze the rest. Milk can be frozen just fine. look at the size of what you're buying. Can you get a better price if you buy something in a larger size and freeze/store the extras?

Megma

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #32 on: January 29, 2015, 08:50:36 AM »
You said you live in the Triangle but there is no Aldi nearby? There is an Aldi near Southpoint in Durham (across from the target in Southpoint), I shop there regularly. I realize the "triangle" is big if that is a bit far you could go occasionally and stock up. I have really found it to be worth it, much cheaper than the slightly closer Harris Teeter. They often even have organic and natural items for a good price.

For two people in NC we're spending around 300 on a high month, 200 on a low month but I don't include toiletries, as they have their own category.

Regarding milk for coffee, have you tried almond milk in coffee? It doesn't go bad as fast and is around the same price (depending where you shop). We like sweetened vanilla almond milk for coffee. It works for us since we don't use milk for anything else regularly.

I have also found the NC farmer's markets to be very reasonable. We had an individual share in a CSA from Brinkely Farms (deliver to both Durham and Carrboro, maybe elsewhere) last summer and it was more food than we could eat for two of us at times! It was $250 for a 16-week session. They also sell pork, flour and eggs, which are options for the CSA - produced locally from small farmers. It was much higher quality for the same price as harris teeter (less sometimes).

Unique User

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #33 on: January 29, 2015, 10:53:17 AM »
It looks like there are several Aldi's in Raleigh, try this to find the closest one.  https://www.aldi.us/en/services/store-locator/    This week, a three pack of red/yellow/orange peppers is $1.19, 1lb baby carrots is 49 cents, avocados are 49 cents, mushrooms are 59 cents for an 8 ounce package and celery is 59 cents.  We build our meals around what produce is on sale at Aldi and other stores.  The prices on everyday items at Aldi also cannot be beat, better than Costco, Walmart, etc. 

I used to live in NC hours from the nearest Aldi so shopped at HT and Food Dog, depending on what was on sale.  Marked down meats, produce and bread from Harris Teeter were always abundant.  You might also want to think about what you buy.  A package of bacon at $5 is a luxury, not a staple.   Maybe look at canadian bacon or ham?  We found spiral spiced hams for 99 cents a pound on clearance and bought two 10 pound hams.  We regularly found whole chickens on sale or mark down for 69 cents a pound at both stores, we would stock up then.  Good luck, buying things at the lowest price and planning what you eat around what you got at the lowest price has been how we lowered our food cost, no matter where we lived.     

ohana

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #34 on: January 29, 2015, 11:53:25 AM »
I think you're doing great at $450.

I often hear people on forums (not just this one) saying they spend very small amounts on food.  I'm also not sure how they do it.  Here's why.  In the summer, I run a remote field station with my husband.  It's located on a tiny island in Canada, and food is very, very expensive there compared to in the US.  Especially in the region where we are working.  We bring a giant truck of staples with us (pasta, beans, canned goods, etc) and then buy produce and meats up there, on the next island over (we have to take a boat, when conditions are good, which isn't every day).  Most weeks we have fresh produce only for 3-4 days, since we run out before the next boat trip.  This is limited to the basics -- apples, oranges, bananas, carrots, cabbage.  Mostly things that don't need refrigeration, nothing fancypants whatsoever.  Although we have inexpensive meat many days, we also have a large number of vegetarians.  We have a garden but it's so cold that we are limited to growing lettuce given the season the station is open.  We do provide coffee, which is very pricey but worth it for people addicted to it.  We eat very simple meals, all prepared from scratch (very little processed food, except maybe tortillas and the like) by a devoted cook, me, and sometimes our field researchers.  I would estimate about 13 person-hours a day go into food preparation, albeit we often are feeding 20 people, not including cleaning, which would increase the effort a ton.  We make almost all our bread from scratch, soak beans, bake desserts, make our own yogurt, etc.  We put a ton of time into feeding ourselves; much more than I put into it when I'm back in the states and working 8-9 hours a day. 

In other words, it's about as cheap as it gets, but labor-intensive.  We spend about $10 a day per person (this is from 6 years' worth of budgets).  That's $310 a month, living as simply as possible while still eating some meat, cheese, and fresh produce bought from a grocery or warehouse club.  A portion of this is very expensive due to our location, so let's be conservative and say it's twice as expensive as it would be here (or in NC).  That suggests that if I had the time, and could bake bread, soak beans, and cook from scratch everyday, but still had produce and meat and coffee (ew) sometimes, I could live on $155 a month. 

The reality is, I'll never do that -- my priorities are elsewhere while I'm home.  Maybe when I stop working I can do some of those things, but not now.  The labor-intensity of eating that way, and the lack of produce, aren't something I want to live with.

So I'm also really surprised when I hear people actually spend that amount on groceries.  If they can, good for them, they must be really disciplined to be able to live on that.  I certainly won't do it.  Heck, we spent $40 on grapes alone last month.  Not even the fermented kind.  So I think you should be happy with $450!  Can it be less?  Maybe.  Is it worth your time to fret over?  Probably not.  You're doing great.

RootofGood

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #35 on: January 29, 2015, 02:49:18 PM »
It looks like there are several Aldi's in Raleigh, try this to find the closest one.  https://www.aldi.us/en/services/store-locator/    This week, a three pack of red/yellow/orange peppers is $1.19, 1lb baby carrots is 49 cents, avocados are 49 cents, mushrooms are 59 cents for an 8 ounce package and celery is 59 cents.  We build our meals around what produce is on sale at Aldi and other stores.  The prices on everyday items at Aldi also cannot be beat, better than Costco, Walmart, etc. 

You must not be in the Triangle.  :)  Our sales this week are all slightly more expensive than what you mentioned (same items though, plus grape tomatoes).  Still way better than the regular grocery store or walmart prices. 


RootofGood

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #36 on: January 29, 2015, 03:04:54 PM »
We average just over $500/mo for a family of five including household cleaning items, paper products, personal hygiene, toiletries etc. 

Mostly Aldi, some Food Lion and Kroger for sale items, and Walmart for stuff aldi doesn't carry.  Some produce and lots of ethnic stuff at the Asian store and sometimes Latino grocery. 

Here's all the groceries we bought for an entire month (with pictures and detailed prices for everything!) to give you an idea of what ends up on our table.

Summary of general spending areas:
Dairy   49.76               
Grains   38.59               
Produce   133.41               
Protein   89.82               
Seasoning   10.52               
BASICS SUBTOTAL   322.10               
Drinks   11.11               
Alcohol   28.21               
Junk   67.01               
"SMALL LUXURIES" SUBTOTAL   106.33
Household goods   107.81               
Tax   19.58               
TOTAL GROCERIES FOR 1 MONTH   555.82

This month was slightly above our average and included stocking up on some things and buying some fruit bushes that should yield this year and into the future. 







« Last Edit: January 29, 2015, 06:38:56 PM by RootofGood »

RootofGood

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #37 on: January 29, 2015, 03:07:49 PM »
Here is a listing of what is available now and at what price.

http://www.ncagr.gov/markets/mktnews/RA_FV001.txt

Thanks for the link.  I might have to check it out for our personal family consumption.  Lots of family living in the area.  Some prices look better than Aldi (which sources a lot of stuff locally anyway), others aren't as good.  Unfortunately the farmer's market is on the other side of Raleigh from us (like 15 minutes away instead of 1-5 minutes for most grocery stores). 

Unique User

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #38 on: January 29, 2015, 03:37:47 PM »
It looks like there are several Aldi's in Raleigh, try this to find the closest one.  https://www.aldi.us/en/services/store-locator/    This week, a three pack of red/yellow/orange peppers is $1.19, 1lb baby carrots is 49 cents, avocados are 49 cents, mushrooms are 59 cents for an 8 ounce package and celery is 59 cents.  We build our meals around what produce is on sale at Aldi and other stores.  The prices on everyday items at Aldi also cannot be beat, better than Costco, Walmart, etc. 

You must not be in the Triangle.  :)  Our sales this week are all slightly more expensive than what you mentioned (same items though, plus grape tomatoes).  Still way better than the regular grocery store or walmart prices.

Not anymore, but I yearn to be back in NC!

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #39 on: February 01, 2015, 03:48:54 PM »
Just thought I would add something about Harris Teeter that I haven't seen mentioned -- any of their "10 for $10" or buy-2-get-3 kind of sales also apply to individual sales. You don't have to buy all five, in a 2-for-3, to get the sale price. Knowing this made Harris Teeter much cheaper for me, especially because I don't have much space to stock up on food.

Also, if you are a student, go to the service desk in HT and ask for the student discount. It is 5% off your entire order every time you shop. It normally takes a few days to apply but it has always worked for me. Renew it yearly.

geekette

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #40 on: February 01, 2015, 04:22:00 PM »
The buy one get one free sales ring up at half price each no matter how many or few you buy.

The buy 2 get 3 free require the purchase of all 5, at least according to the rules in my area.

caliq

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #41 on: February 01, 2015, 04:26:56 PM »
The buy one get one free sales ring up at half price each no matter how many or few you buy.

The buy 2 get 3 free require the purchase of all 5, at least according to the rules in my area.

It depends on your state laws, if the sale price is applied to each individual item or if it only applies when you buy the total # of items (ie. 10 in a 10 for $10).

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #42 on: February 01, 2015, 04:46:43 PM »
In the Boston area, last year I averaged $192.99/month on food and household items per month for a single person on a close to vegan diet high in fruit, vegetables, grains, beans, tofu, and nuts.  I shop at a lower cost produce store, get my nuts at Trader Joes, and cook dried beans and buy 25 lb. bags of rice.  I keep my average cost per pound of produce under $1.50, and cook all my meals.  I'd love to get my food costs down lower, but like the OP, don't see how I can do it without reducing the quantity of produce that I eat, i.e. diet quality.  (The above cost does not include a once a week modest restaurant expense.)

The nearest Costco is 5 miles away which means I need to run my car 10 miles for a round trip  I can walk to my local grocery stores and that represents a modest savings, as well as beneficial exercise.

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #43 on: February 01, 2015, 05:25:56 PM »
I second the idea of starting a price book.  Once you've established what the rock bottom prices are for the items you typically buy, when you see them at that price or lower, stock up based on your usage and the expiration date stamped on the package.  This does not work well for produce, but works great for anything that you can freeze, non-perishables, and grocery items that have a long shelf life.


soontoberichteacher

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #44 on: February 01, 2015, 05:37:27 PM »
The buy one get one free sales ring up at half price each no matter how many or few you buy.

The buy 2 get 3 free require the purchase of all 5, at least according to the rules in my area.

Weird. I'll make sure to double check my receipt next time I try to take advantage of this. If my thinking is right, I'll update the thread. The most common example of when I can think of it working has been with frozen vegetables. But I am in Carrboro, so maybe there is a regional difference. (Though I think Chapel Hill-Carrboro would be similar to Cary.)

RootofGood

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #45 on: February 01, 2015, 06:37:10 PM »
The buy one get one free sales ring up at half price each no matter how many or few you buy.

The buy 2 get 3 free require the purchase of all 5, at least according to the rules in my area.

It depends on your state laws, if the sale price is applied to each individual item or if it only applies when you buy the total # of items (ie. 10 in a 10 for $10).

It varies by store and also varies by promotion.  Kroger is tricky and has some where "BOGO items ring at half price" but some sales are "$3 off 6, must buy in increments of 6 items to get $3 discount".  Food lion here in Raleigh has "BOGO items ring at half price" I know.

chasesfish

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #46 on: February 02, 2015, 04:56:05 AM »
There's some good advice in here, I'll only add two things:

Hit the loss leaders at Kroger hard - We make an almost weekly trip to Kroger and buy the products that get cheaper there than anywhere else on sale.   I'm in my fourth city and the results are the same.  The only thing that stinks about Kroger is their stores are really hit and miss in quality.

Have you looked into utilizing more (non-bacon) pork?  East of Raleigh is hog farming country and meat like pork roasts can drop your protein costs.

RootofGood

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #47 on: February 02, 2015, 07:33:26 AM »
Hit the loss leaders at Kroger hard - We make an almost weekly trip to Kroger and buy the products that get cheaper there than anywhere else on sale.   I'm in my fourth city and the results are the same.  The only thing that stinks about Kroger is their stores are really hit and miss in quality.

Have you looked into utilizing more (non-bacon) pork?  East of Raleigh is hog farming country and meat like pork roasts can drop your protein costs.

I find pork to be a great value around here (Raleigh).  And especially at Kroger.  They run $1.99/lb boneless pork loin specials all the time.  Like right now. 

As for bacon, buy a spiral sliced ham.  Skip the honey glaze and you have basically smoked salty ham.  Bake it till crispy or pan fry it and it's pretty close to lean thick sliced bacon at 10% of the cost. 

spruce

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #48 on: February 03, 2015, 02:36:28 PM »
You said you live in the Triangle but there is no Aldi nearby? There is an Aldi near Southpoint in Durham (across from the target in Southpoint), I shop there regularly. I realize the "triangle" is big if that is a bit far you could go occasionally and stock up. I have really found it to be worth it, much cheaper than the slightly closer Harris Teeter. They often even have organic and natural items for a good price.

For two people in NC we're spending around 300 on a high month, 200 on a low month but I don't include toiletries, as they have their own category.

Regarding milk for coffee, have you tried almond milk in coffee? It doesn't go bad as fast and is around the same price (depending where you shop). We like sweetened vanilla almond milk for coffee. It works for us since we don't use milk for anything else regularly.

I have also found the NC farmer's markets to be very reasonable. We had an individual share in a CSA from Brinkely Farms (deliver to both Durham and Carrboro, maybe elsewhere) last summer and it was more food than we could eat for two of us at times! It was $250 for a 16-week session. They also sell pork, flour and eggs, which are options for the CSA - produced locally from small farmers. It was much higher quality for the same price as harris teeter (less sometimes).

We live north of downtown Durham...Costco is 2 miles away and that's about as far as we generally go for groceries, our other regular stores are just a half mile or less away.  We had a Brinkley CSA share for several years and loved it! We didn't do it last year because our garden kicked out enough produce for us to plow through. I do miss their pork though!


I was talking to DH about all the responses on here. He is completely comfortable with our grocery spending. I think it could go a little lower, but like a few other posters have mentioned here, I think it will stay above $300 because of what we choose to eat and where we choose to shop. We prioritize good fresh food, preferably from local producers. We also prioritize shopping at good businesses that are important to the community. Costco and King's Red & White fall into that category, and from what I read Aldi probably does too.  We do not shop at Wal-Mart or Dollar General or other similar stores.  I like variety in my food - I couldn't eat oatmeal for breakfast and beans & rice for lunch every day.  That said, bacon is a luxury food, as are grapefruits and some other items we like, and we should probably cut those out.  On the bacon front, I made a pan of baked oatmeal this week with apples and cranberries, which I eat with yogurt every morning (http://gnowfglins.com/2011/04/18/apple-cinnamon-baked-oatmeal-soaked/). It's been keeping me full enough and it's cheaper than bacon and eggs!

I like the idea of doing an occasional "co-op" trip to the Raleigh Farmers' Market to split among family and friends.  And it's nice you can see the weekly ad on Aldi's website, so I can plan a trip there when the prices are good. 


So I'm also really surprised when I hear people actually spend that amount on groceries.  If they can, good for them, they must be really disciplined to be able to live on that.  I certainly won't do it.  Heck, we spent $40 on grapes alone last month.  Not even the fermented kind.  So I think you should be happy with $450!  Can it be less?  Maybe.  Is it worth your time to fret over?  Probably not.  You're doing great.

As usual with FI, it's about picking your priorities, and it looks like many of the folks who do have lower budgets have different priorities than we do.  We're on track with our saving overall, so while I'd like to make some small changes to get the grocery spending a little lower, on the whole I'm going to stop fretting about it.  Thanks for the perspective ohana!

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Re: Is food just more expensive in NC?
« Reply #49 on: February 04, 2015, 08:58:49 AM »
Food Lion has ham on sale this week for .79/lb.  I think I may add another 20-30 lbs to the stockpile...