Author Topic: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space  (Read 20108 times)

lielec11

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Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« on: December 10, 2014, 12:36:52 PM »
My case study related to groceries... don't all line up at once to read another one of these ;-)

Besides rent, groceries are the highest expense for my fiance and I. Below is a breakdown of our last few month totals (since I have began to track our expenses aggressively),  and below that is what we typically buy weekly. FYI we live in Long Island, New York.

September - $491.89
October - $537.32
November - $682.44

That last month is just so ugly. It is only the 2 of us living together so this HAS to stop. At our typical grocery store (Stop&Shop), we typically buy the following:

  • Frozen organic berries for juicingsmoothies - $3.5/bag
  • Bananas - $.6-.99/lb.
  • Organic milk - $3.5/half gallon
  • Organic eggs - $4.99/18 eggs
  • iced tea - $2.50/gallon
  • cheese sticks - $3.00/bag
  • rice cakes - $2.00/bag
  • bread - $3.00/loaf
  • frozen purdue chicken strips - $7.00-$9.00/bag depending on the week
  • turkey for sandwiches - $3.00-$4.00 depending on the week
  • cheese for sandwiches - $3.99/lb.
  • pita chips - $2.50/bag
  • hummus - $3.5/container
  • snack bars (natures valley) - 2 boxes @ $3.00/box
  • bottled water - #3.00-$4.00/24 pack
  • organic popcorn - $2.5/bag
  • peanut butter (smart balance) - $3.5/container
  • organic jelly - $3.00/container
  • soup - $1.00-2.00/can
  • spinach for juicingsmoothies - $3.00-$4.00/container
  • frozen veggies - $1.00-$1.50/bag
  • kale for juicingsmoothies - $3.00-$4.00/container
  • yogurt - 5 @ $1.00/container
  • lettuce for salads - $3.00/container
  • ground beef for tacos - $5.00-$6.00/lb.
  • taco kit - $2.00
  • chicken - $6.00-$8.00/lb.
  • chicken sausage (aidels brand) - $5.00-$6.00/package
  • cous cous - $1.00/box

That is just an idea. There are other things we buy (pasta, sauce, etc.) not listed. We also do not buy everything listed on a weekly basis. A lot of these things last us 2-4 weeks like the peanut butter/jelly and some of the snacks.

We like to eat as healthy as possible within reason, which is why we juice with mostly organic ingredients. However, we strive to buy whatever is on sale as well. I bring my lunch every day to work, and she brings 3-5 days a week as well. I have a juiced smoothie every morning for breakfast, then a yogurt and snack bar mid morning. Lunch is either a sandwich and soup, or some leftover chicken, etc. We plan dinner on most days, and on days we don't its usually frozen chicken strips with a veggie.

I would love to be able to make use of Costco, however, we live in a tiny 1BR apartment with limited kitchen storage space as it is. So we don't really have the extra room for bulk items.

I look forward to your insight. Thanks in advance.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2014, 02:55:34 PM by lielec11 »

Tick-Tock

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2014, 01:07:41 PM »
Some of what you list could be made at home, likely cheaper and healthier (ice tea, bread, hummus, snack bars, even soup and jelly).  I used to eat Nature's Valley bars too, but have grown to greatly prefer my own granola. 

Buying larger containers instead of individual servings likely will be cheaper - e.g., a hunk of cheddar instead of both cheese sticks and cheese for sandwiches, a large container of yogurt instead of individual cups.  And these types of things probably won't take up more room than the bunch of individual servings.     

Why bottled water, regularly?  I can see having a few bottles around for an emergency, but other than that . . .  If water quality is an issue, maybe a Brita filter or something similar would help?

Even with limited space, you could probably still get some bulk items if you get creative.  I store cases of canned goods under beds, for example.


lielec11

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2014, 01:17:31 PM »
Some of what you list could be made at home, likely cheaper and healthier (ice tea, bread, hummus, snack bars, even soup and jelly).  I used to eat Nature's Valley bars too, but have grown to greatly prefer my own granola. 

Buying larger containers instead of individual servings likely will be cheaper - e.g., a hunk of cheddar instead of both cheese sticks and cheese for sandwiches, a large container of yogurt instead of individual cups.  And these types of things probably won't take up more room than the bunch of individual servings.     

Why bottled water, regularly?  I can see having a few bottles around for an emergency, but other than that . . .  If water quality is an issue, maybe a Brita filter or something similar would help?

Even with limited space, you could probably still get some bulk items if you get creative.  I store cases of canned goods under beds, for example.


Thanks for your input.

I have thought of purchasing a water filter, and probably will do so soon, as it will pay for itself in a month. I have made my own hummus before and it usually is more tasty than the store bought. I'm just not too sure how long it last since I always eat it so quickly :-). As far as granola bars and jelly, I'd have to do more research on that but I can't imagine it is too hard either.

1967mama

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2014, 01:26:14 PM »


  • Frozen organic berries for juicing - $3.5/bag
  • Bananas - $.6-.99/lb.
  • Organic milk - $3.5/half gallon
  • Organic eggs - $4.99/18 eggs
  • iced tea - $2.50/gallon
  • cheese sticks - $3.00/bag
  • rice cakes - $2.00/bag
  • bread - $3.00/loaf
  • frozen purdue chicken strips - $7.00-$9.00/bag depending on the week
  • turkey for sandwiches - $3.00-$4.00 depending on the week
  • cheese for sandwiches - $3.99/lb.
  • pita chips - $2.50/bag
  • hummus - $3.5/container
  • snack bars (natures valley) - 2 boxes @ $3.00/box
  • bottled water - #3.00-$4.00/24 pack
  • organic popcorn - $2.5/bag
  • peanut butter (smart balance) - $3.5/container
  • organic jelly - $3.00/container
  • soup - $1.00-2.00/can
  • spinach for juicing - $3.00-$4.00/container
  • frozen veggies - $1.00-$1.50/bag
  • kale for juicing - $3.00-$4.00/container
  • yogurt - 5 @ $1.00/container
  • lettuce for salads - $3.00/container
  • ground beef for tacos - $5.00-$6.00/lb.
  • taco kit - $2.00
  • chicken - $6.00-$8.00/lb.
  • chicken sausage (aidels brand) - $5.00-$6.00/package
  • cous cous - $1.00/box


With a small apartment sized freezer, you could visit an organic farmer in summer and buy your berries at the lowest possibly price to freeze.  Sometimes people can put a freezer in their storage locker in the basement of the building. I freeze hundreds of pounds of berries every year, but we have a large family. The quality is excellent and the process is easy-peasy.

You can easily make your own iced tea with hot water, orange pekoe tea bags and sweetener! For a big jug, I put in about 5 tea bags, steep for 10 minutes, and then slowly add your sweetener of choice until it tastes suitable to you.

You can pick up a bread machine for a few dollars at a thrift store and start making your own healthy loaves of bread. This would be so easy for you with just the 2 of you.

Its super easy to make your own hummus! A can of chickpeas, parsley, some tahini, lemon juice, cumin, garlic, pepper, salt. The Moosewood Cookbook has my favourite recipe.

You can definitely make your own granola bars. There are lots of good recipes floating around online, including homemade Lara Bars and Clif Bars.

Bottled water is pricey. Filter your own with a Brita.

Make your own soup. So many good recipes on BudgetBytes.com.

What is a taco kit? Can you buy wraps and spices and do it yourself. Its almost always more expensive to have someone else assemble a kit for you ;-)


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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2014, 01:29:16 PM »
We like to eat as healthy as possible within reason, which is why we juice with mostly organic ingredients.

Honestly, you're eating A LOT of processed foods, and not a lot of vegetables. Making your own pita chips and hummus is very very easy. Ninja up to the next level and use dried chickpeas. Level up again by making your own pita bread.

Same thing with the popcorn. Buy some bulk kernels and coconut oil, not the premade, or even microwave crap. Cutting out the preservatives in your foods will go a long way towards the goal of eating 'healthy'.

Make your own soup once a week. Eat for dinner, then portion it off into the container of your choice and stick in the fridge for work lunches. It's not realistic to immediately start making everything from scratch, but just start with one grocery item and work up from there. It's a skill that you need to develop. Some are easier than others. Soup? Mad easy. Bread? Meh I'm not very good at it so I buy it.

Also, the bottled water is asinine. Just stop that BS right now.

J'onn J'onzz

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2014, 01:33:55 PM »
Good suggestions so far.

One thing I have to mention is chicken at $6-$8/lb? This seems crazy high to me. We regularly buy out check at $.99-$2.49/lb. I can not remember the last time we paid more than that.

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2014, 02:06:13 PM »
  • Frozen organic berries for juicing - $3.5/bag
  • Bananas - $.6-.99/lb.
  • Organic milk - $3.5/half gallon
  • Organic eggs - $4.99/18 eggs
  • iced tea - $2.50/gallon
  • cheese sticks - $3.00/bag
  • rice cakes - $2.00/bag
  • bread - $3.00/loaf
  • frozen purdue chicken strips - $7.00-$9.00/bag depending on the week
  • turkey for sandwiches - $3.00-$4.00 depending on the week
  • cheese for sandwiches - $3.99/lb.
  • pita chips - $2.50/bag
  • hummus - $3.5/container
  • snack bars (natures valley) - 2 boxes @ $3.00/box
  • bottled water - #3.00-$4.00/24 pack
  • organic popcorn - $2.5/bag
  • peanut butter (smart balance) - $3.5/container
  • organic jelly - $3.00/container
  • soup - $1.00-2.00/can
  • spinach for juicing - $3.00-$4.00/container
  • frozen veggies - $1.00-$1.50/bag
  • kale for juicing - $3.00-$4.00/container
  • yogurt - 5 @ $1.00/container
  • lettuce for salads - $3.00/container
  • ground beef for tacos - $5.00-$6.00/lb.
  • taco kit - $2.00
  • chicken - $6.00-$8.00/lb.
  • chicken sausage (aidels brand) - $5.00-$6.00/package
  • cous cous - $1.00/box


My 2 cents:
  • Chicken is usually cheaper bought whole; then you can carve it up and get sections that you need (breasts, thighs, drumsticks, etc.). Added bonus- you can use the leftovers for stock, which is useful for a ton of other recipes
  • Instead of ground beef tacos, maybe switch to ground turkey? I don't know the price difference offhand, but it could be a dollar or 2 cheaper per lb.
  • Hummus is super easy to make; my wife and I make a batch using just 1 can of chickpeas, some tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and garlic. Lasts a week for an average cost per week of maybe $2

Happy cooking!

The_path_less_taken

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2014, 02:08:39 PM »
I get you're in a small apartment. Storage can be done though: I have oats in the linen closet and coconut oil in the spare bedroom closet. The top of my fridge is full of cereal and chia seeds and stuff. I'm about to put up some shelves in the kitchen for spices to clear up a tiny countertop near the fridge...

Costco might still pay you, and make some things easier. Organic pre washed spinach is super cheap, the organic carrots are super cheap, oats, some fruit, some veggies, when they have coupon drives the detergent and toilet paper are dirt cheap...and if you drive, gasoline.

lielec11

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2014, 02:09:23 PM »
What is a taco kit? Can you buy wraps and spices and do it yourself. Its almost always more expensive to have someone else assemble a kit for you ;-)

We have bought wraps and always have plenty of spices, however, the kits aren't much of a cost increase at all.

Good suggestions so far.

One thing I have to mention is chicken at $6-$8/lb? This seems crazy high to me. We regularly buy out check at $.99-$2.49/lb. I can not remember the last time we paid more than that.

Could be a NY thing. We try to eat chicken with less crap (hormones etc.) in them so that definitely raises the cost, however, I've never seen any chicken that cheap in my area.

We like to eat as healthy as possible within reason, which is why we juice with mostly organic ingredients.

Honestly, you're eating A LOT of processed foods, and not a lot of vegetables. Making your own pita chips and hummus is very very easy. Ninja up to the next level and use dried chickpeas. Level up again by making your own pita bread.

Same thing with the popcorn. Buy some bulk kernels and coconut oil, not the premade, or even microwave crap. Cutting out the preservatives in your foods will go a long way towards the goal of eating 'healthy'.

Make your own soup once a week. Eat for dinner, then portion it off into the container of your choice and stick in the fridge for work lunches. It's not realistic to immediately start making everything from scratch, but just start with one grocery item and work up from there. It's a skill that you need to develop. Some are easier than others. Soup? Mad easy. Bread? Meh I'm not very good at it so I buy it.

Also, the bottled water is asinine. Just stop that BS right now.

We actually eat more veggies than I indicated. Every morning I have a cup or more of spinach/kale in my smoothie along with berries and carrots usually. At dinner we always have a veggie.I will try to do the hummus at home more often and maybe move up and attempt the chips as well. As far as the popcorn goes we don't eat it very much, that $2.50 bag will last a month.

The water comment made me chuckle :) I knew that would be one of the things commented on most.

I'll try and focus on bulk ingredients from now on.

lielec11

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2014, 02:12:49 PM »

My 2 cents:
  • Chicken is usually cheaper bought whole; then you can carve it up and get sections that you need (breasts, thighs, drumsticks, etc.). Added bonus- you can use the leftovers for stock, which is useful for a ton of other recipes
  • Instead of ground beef tacos, maybe switch to ground turkey? I don't know the price difference offhand, but it could be a dollar or 2 cheaper per lb.
  • Hummus is super easy to make; my wife and I make a batch using just 1 can of chickpeas, some tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and garlic. Lasts a week for an average cost per week of maybe $2

Happy cooking!

We do indeed sub ground turkey or chicken, whichever is cheapest at the time.  I'll look into buying a whole chicken and roasting it and then using the carcass for stock :)

Thanks.

I get you're in a small apartment. Storage can be done though: I have oats in the linen closet and coconut oil in the spare bedroom closet. The top of my fridge is full of cereal and chia seeds and stuff. I'm about to put up some shelves in the kitchen for spices to clear up a tiny countertop near the fridge...

Costco might still pay you, and make some things easier. Organic pre washed spinach is super cheap, the organic carrots are super cheap, oats, some fruit, some veggies, when they have coupon drives the detergent and toilet paper are dirt cheap...and if you drive, gasoline.
I get you're in a small apartment. Storage can be done though: I have oats in the linen closet and coconut oil in the spare bedroom closet. The top of my fridge is full of cereal and chia seeds and stuff. I'm about to put up some shelves in the kitchen for spices to clear up a tiny countertop near the fridge...

Costco might still pay you, and make some things easier. Organic pre washed spinach is super cheap, the organic carrots are super cheap, oats, some fruit, some veggies, when they have coupon drives the detergent and toilet paper are dirt cheap...and if you drive, gasoline.

I'll have to check out Costco's organic options, this may be a good starting point if we can be more efficient storage wise. Thanks.

1967mama

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2014, 02:26:26 PM »


We have bought wraps and always have plenty of spices, however, the kits aren't much of a cost increase at all.



But lets say its only 50 cents a week more per week to buy the kit. Seems like no big deal. But that is $26 a year -- and that is just one ONE ITEM! What if you could knock a few cents or dollars off everything you buy? (by making your own, finding a cheaper source, buying and storing under beds, tetris-like freezer packing, etc) How much would that be a year?

Also, I'm wondering how many bags of frozen berries you are buying per week, and how much each bag weighs? If you are buying 5 of them or something, its no wonder your grocery bills are so high! Could it be cheaper (and just as healthy) to be eating seasonal fruits that are so much less expensive and saving the berries as a special treat? Apples and oranges (along with their vegetable partners, carrots and potatoes) are dirt cheap at this time of year.

Just a few thoughts!

Oh, and check out Zikoris here on the forums -- a couple living in Vancouver very cheaply! and healthily! They have a blog, too, called incomingassets.com Very inspiring!

lielec11

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2014, 02:33:11 PM »


We have bought wraps and always have plenty of spices, however, the kits aren't much of a cost increase at all.



But lets say its only 50 cents a week more per week to buy the kit. Seems like no big deal. But that is $26 a year -- and that is just one ONE ITEM! What if you could knock a few cents or dollars off everything you buy? (by making your own, finding a cheaper source, buying and storing under beds, tetris-like freezer packing, etc) How much would that be a year?

Also, I'm wondering how many bags of frozen berries you are buying per week, and how much each bag weighs? If you are buying 5 of them or something, its no wonder your grocery bills are so high! Could it be cheaper (and just as healthy) to be eating seasonal fruits that are so much less expensive and saving the berries as a special treat? Apples and oranges (along with their vegetable partners, carrots and potatoes) are dirt cheap at this time of year.

Just a few thoughts!

Oh, and check out Zikoris here on the forums -- a couple living in Vancouver very cheaply! and healthily! They have a blog, too, called incomingassets.com Very inspiring!

mama thanks for your input. You are absolutely right, I need to cut cost across the board on all my items to truly bring down my budget.

We typically buy 2 bags a week and rotate between strawberries blueberries and raspberries. They are 10oz. per bag http://www.cascadianfarm.com/products/frozen-fruit

I'll definitely check out their forums, thanks!

starbuck

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2014, 02:33:21 PM »
We actually eat more veggies than I indicated. Every morning I have a cup or more of spinach/kale in my smoothie along with berries and carrots usually. At dinner we always have a veggie.I will try to do the hummus at home more often and maybe move up and attempt the chips as well. As far as the popcorn goes we don't eat it very much, that $2.50 bag will last a month.

Pita chips are even simpler to make than hummus, if you need more convincing. If you add nutritional yeast to your homemade popcorn, you might eat it more regularly. Very very tasty! Obviously I'm a big popcorn fan. :)

There's a great cookbook called 'Almost Meatless' that helped me flip my thinking about cooking with meat. It's an accent in a dish, not the chief ingredient. In our own meal planning, meat is an ingredient in *maybe* 1/3 of the dinners. (And dinner leftovers are universally made into lunch the following day.)

There's also a recipe thread somewhere on the forum that might be helpful. Mint says we've averaged $340/month on groceries for two adults just outside of Boston, as a comparison. I've found a Costco membership infinitely useful, as well. Good luck!

MustachianAccountant

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2014, 02:38:12 PM »
Also, instead of juicing, you could just eat the fruit and veggies.
How many carrots go into that cup of juice? 8?
Eat 8 carrots instead.
Or 6 oranges, whatever you're juicing.

lielec11

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2014, 02:45:28 PM »
Also, instead of juicing, you could just eat the fruit and veggies.
How many carrots go into that cup of juice? 8?
Eat 8 carrots instead.
Or 6 oranges, whatever you're juicing.

That is a good point, but we use a NutriBullet so you actually don't need as much as a typical juicer. I probably only use 1/8-1/4 cup blue berries, maybe 4-5 strawberries, cup of spinach/kale, and 1 full size carrot, or a few baby carrots, and a banana. The rest is water.

kiblebuka

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #15 on: December 10, 2014, 02:46:51 PM »
Popping my head in to say I like the information in this thread a lot :) Though I live in a lower cost area than NYC and have probably a larger apartment in comparison, I still want to cut down my grocery bill as much as I can. Starting with getting the old breadmaker from my mom's house!

MustachianAccountant

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #16 on: December 10, 2014, 02:47:30 PM »
Also, instead of juicing, you could just eat the fruit and veggies.
How many carrots go into that cup of juice? 8?
Eat 8 carrots instead.
Or 6 oranges, whatever you're juicing.

That is a good point, but we use a NutriBullet so you actually don't need as much as a typical juicer. I probably only use 1/8-1/4 cup blue berries, maybe 4-5 strawberries, cup of spinach/kale, and 1 full size carrot, or a few baby carrots, and a banana. The rest is water.

Ah, ok, you're making smoothies, not juicing. I retract my comment.

lielec11

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #17 on: December 10, 2014, 02:54:33 PM »
Also, instead of juicing, you could just eat the fruit and veggies.
How many carrots go into that cup of juice? 8?
Eat 8 carrots instead.
Or 6 oranges, whatever you're juicing.

That is a good point, but we use a NutriBullet so you actually don't need as much as a typical juicer. I probably only use 1/8-1/4 cup blue berries, maybe 4-5 strawberries, cup of spinach/kale, and 1 full size carrot, or a few baby carrots, and a banana. The rest is water.

Ah, ok, you're making smoothies, not juicing. I retract my comment.

Should have been more clear, my fault! I'll revise my OP..

1967mama

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #18 on: December 10, 2014, 02:56:16 PM »
So if I'm doing the math correctly, you are paint $5.60 a pound for frozen organic berries! ACK!

I paid $2.00 a pound for berries this summer fresh from the field!

Apples are currently 75 cents a pound in my area.

Massive savings!

lielec11

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #19 on: December 10, 2014, 02:58:37 PM »
So if I'm doing the math correctly, you are paint $5.60 a pound for frozen organic berries! ACK!

I paid $2.00 a pound for berries this summer fresh from the field!

Apples are currently 75 cents a pound in my area.

Massive savings!

You know, I never actually looked at the per pound cost of the berries. Usually they're cheaper than the "fresh" ones at the front of the store. Bad assumption on my part huh? On the eastern part of long island in the wine region there are a ton of farms that yield fresh produce/berries/etc. in the summer, however cause of their location the prices aren't all that great anyway. Part of the reason I want to move after we get married next year!

MustachianAccountant

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #20 on: December 10, 2014, 03:00:38 PM »
Popping my head in to say I like the information in this thread a lot :) Though I live in a lower cost area than NYC and have probably a larger apartment in comparison, I still want to cut down my grocery bill as much as I can. Starting with getting the old breadmaker from my mom's house!

NONONO! Those things are huge and take up counter space, which is at a premium in a small apartment. Learn to make your own bread without the machine!
Here's a great starting point
It does literally take 5 minutes, once you get the hang of it.

cityfolks

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #21 on: December 10, 2014, 03:09:18 PM »
My guess is that if you eat tacos as regularly as you indicate, you could do better than a boxed taco kit with tortillas of your choice (on sale) and a jar of taco seasoning (or even better DIY). We freeze tortillas bought on sale and pull out a few as we need them, and we have a jar of taco seasoning from a local spice shop. A main benefit of the latter is that a lot of spice mixes, especially for tacos and dips, can be really high in sodium

I also know our local chain supermarket often has "buy one get one free" sales on fresh berries you could freeze for later, and frozen vegetables and berries (or the latter are 10/$10). Those are priced for conventional produce, but even so, could represent a dollar or two over the long run.

Also, couscous and grains can sometimes be cheaper in bulk - but freshness depends on turnover so eyeball that! Couscous, oatmeal, and rice turn over a lot at our local supermarket, but the specialty flours do not and are often sad and stale looking.

Zikoris

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #22 on: December 10, 2014, 03:26:54 PM »
Quote
Oh, and check out Zikoris here on the forums -- a couple living in Vancouver very cheaply! and healthily! They have a blog, too, called incomingassets.com Very inspiring!

Yay!

Zikoris

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #23 on: December 10, 2014, 05:20:19 PM »
So, we're in a fairly similar situation - limited storage space, small apartment. We live in a 400 square foot bachelor suite now, after downsizing in the summer from a 600 square foot 1 bedroom apartment two floors above us where we lived for several years. Here's what our place looks like to give you an idea of the layout: http://imgur.com/a/gljfT The thing that looks like a big brown cabinet is our Murphy bed.

We have two closets in our apartment. We share one for clothing and use the other one for storage. The storage one has things like our fan, heater, suitcases, and Christmas tree, but also has a shelf that we use to store bulk dry things - toilet paper, cat litter, paper towels, napkins, etc.

We found that by doing a big random-kitchen-appliance purge, we were able to make way more space for bulk items. The large food items we buy right now are sacks of rice, sacks of flour (two types), nuts, and soy milk.

Here's what we eat in a month: http://incomingassets.com/2014/03/30/grocery-tracking-one-month-results/ We eat organic soy milk and organic jam, but that's it for organics.

Rezdent

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #24 on: December 10, 2014, 06:06:17 PM »
Lots of great advice here already.
I see a couple of themes in your breakdown - lack of storage and using pre made items, coupled with a desire to eat healthily.

I highly recommend the book named "Independence Days " by Sharon Astyk.  She discusses from a sustainable viewpoint but her advice leads to healthier meals and lower costs.  She leads readers through stocking a pantry based on the foods they actually eat, gradually moving from where they are to where they want to be.  She also discusses storage - how to and finding space for stuff.
I learned a lot from that book.  My favorite discovery is that you can use the space under your bed to store stuff.  Honestly this never occurred to me before.

lielec11

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #25 on: December 10, 2014, 08:46:33 PM »
So, we're in a fairly similar situation - limited storage space, small apartment. We live in a 400 square foot bachelor suite now, after downsizing in the summer from a 600 square foot 1 bedroom apartment two floors above us where we lived for several years. Here's what our place looks like to give you an idea of the layout: http://imgur.com/a/gljfT The thing that looks like a big brown cabinet is our Murphy bed.

We have two closets in our apartment. We share one for clothing and use the other one for storage. The storage one has things like our fan, heater, suitcases, and Christmas tree, but also has a shelf that we use to store bulk dry things - toilet paper, cat litter, paper towels, napkins, etc.

We found that by doing a big random-kitchen-appliance purge, we were able to make way more space for bulk items. The large food items we buy right now are sacks of rice, sacks of flour (two types), nuts, and soy milk.

Here's what we eat in a month: http://incomingassets.com/2014/03/30/grocery-tracking-one-month-results/ We eat organic soy milk and organic jam, but that's it for organics.

Looking at your apartment makes our apartment look like a mansion. I must say it is very inspiring to listen and read what you have done with your limited space. Thanks for the link as well!

Lots of great advice here already.
I see a couple of themes in your breakdown - lack of storage and using pre made items, coupled with a desire to eat healthily.

I highly recommend the book named "Independence Days " by Sharon Astyk.  She discusses from a sustainable viewpoint but her advice leads to healthier meals and lower costs.  She leads readers through stocking a pantry based on the foods they actually eat, gradually moving from where they are to where they want to be.  She also discusses storage - how to and finding space for stuff.
I learned a lot from that book.  My favorite discovery is that you can use the space under your bed to store stuff.  Honestly this never occurred to me before.

I'll look into the book, thanks!

DollarBill

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #26 on: December 10, 2014, 09:28:03 PM »
It's true they can sell anything to women. ;)

How do you get organic eggs??
Organic popcorn? Organic Jelly? Really??
Don’t really need cheese for sandwiches…I don’t miss it. I think it’s funny when I order a sandwich and they say mayo/cheese? No thanks and they stare at me strangely.

lielec11

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #27 on: December 11, 2014, 07:02:39 AM »
It's true they can sell anything to women. ;)

How do you get organic eggs??
Organic popcorn? Organic Jelly? Really??
Don’t really need cheese for sandwiches…I don’t miss it. I think it’s funny when I order a sandwich and they say mayo/cheese? No thanks and they stare at me strangely.

I find it amusing you think I'm a woman. Is it because I try to eat organic? You can make almost anything organic by simply not injecting a shitload of crap ingredients in it like the majority of our overly obese american nation seems to love to eat.

....says the guy who loves his cheese :-)

kimmarg

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #28 on: December 11, 2014, 08:20:18 AM »
I think you need to shift your mindset more than worry about the cost of the items. For example focus on making good dinners... And bring the leftovers for lunch. This eliminates your turkey and cheese and bread for sandwiches and uses up leftovers. Especially if you put say, chicken in pasta, adding a few more servings for lunch does not add very much to the cost.  Pre plan your meals and avoid food for a specific meal. E.g. Buy cheese but put it on eggs for  breakfast sandwiches at Lunch and dinner. Get out of the mindset that lunch food is different than dinner.  Also be honest with yourself and target one area to improve at a time. For example I've managed to cut processed snacks... Except when I work the overnight shift when a bit of cheese stick and a repackage yogurt can keep me from hitting up the ubiquitous vending machine.

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #29 on: December 11, 2014, 08:46:11 AM »

NONONO! Those things are huge and take up counter space, which is at a premium in a small apartment. Learn to make your own bread without the machine!
Here's a great starting point
It does literally take 5 minutes, once you get the hang of it.

I'll look that up sometime after the holiday rush :) For now, giving the bread machine a use will be good. My apartment isn't studio-small and the kitchen has enough table space to put more machines up. Thank you though!

SuperSaver

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #30 on: December 11, 2014, 08:50:16 AM »
http://www.budgetbytes.com/2010/05/hummus-four-flavors/ 
      A couple tips: If you want to substitute canelini beans for chickpeas you get an amazing creamy mild hummus. If you cannot find tahini  in stores Amazon sells some for a reasonable price. Peanut butter can be substituted for tahini if you make a sweet hummus and halve the amount of nut butter.     
      Also how big is your apartment? My fiance and I live in 615 sq feet and I stockpile, coupon, bulk shop, bulk cook and it doesn't take up much space at all. I do have a tiny kitchen so one of the storage/coat closets in the hallway is a "pantry" by putting two short cheap bookshelves on the bottom half and all of my kitchen appliances on the top shelf of the closet (rice cooker, slow cooker, wok, etc don't fit in our kitchen cabinets and I have only a few feet of counter space). Is there any way you can do something similar in your set up? Even a cheap bookshelf against a wall in a rarely used spot would help if you want to buy in bulk. Also store bulk items in plastic/ glass air tight jars to keep them fresh/bugs out.

Bob W

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #31 on: December 11, 2014, 08:56:26 AM »
Good Lord that is a hefty monthly grocery bill!

There are many posts here for you to review so I won't go on and on as is my fashion.

Instead here is the short list IMHO-

Organic -- no
Buy all your meats/fish/fowl on loss leaders and buy lots of it when it is on sale.  We also often buy our eggs as loss leaders for $1 and buy 10 dozen.  (they never spoil) Can score 80/20 ground beef for $2.
Skip the fruit (just another sugar buzz)
Buy lots of veggies,  Lots!  Kale is supper but so is cabbage, spinach, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.  Iceberg lettuce has little nutritional value.
Canned halibut and mackerel are cheap
If you insist on white carbs (ick wheat is deadly!) go with potatoes and some rice.

Shoot for $2 per person per day PPPD and fail and end up at $3 and a monthly bill of $180 for an annual savings of close to $4,000!

purplepear

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #32 on: December 11, 2014, 08:59:32 AM »
So, we're in a fairly similar situation - limited storage space, small apartment. We live in a 400 square foot bachelor suite now, after downsizing in the summer from a 600 square foot 1 bedroom apartment two floors above us where we lived for several years. Here's what our place looks like to give you an idea of the layout: http://imgur.com/a/gljfT The thing that looks like a big brown cabinet is our Murphy bed.

We have two closets in our apartment. We share one for clothing and use the other one for storage. The storage one has things like our fan, heater, suitcases, and Christmas tree, but also has a shelf that we use to store bulk dry things - toilet paper, cat litter, paper towels, napkins, etc.

We found that by doing a big random-kitchen-appliance purge, we were able to make way more space for bulk items. The large food items we buy right now are sacks of rice, sacks of flour (two types), nuts, and soy milk.

Here's what we eat in a month: http://incomingassets.com/2014/03/30/grocery-tracking-one-month-results/ We eat organic soy milk and organic jam, but that's it for organics.

Zikoris your blog is great. I'm in a similar situation as a vegetarian 20-something moving into a tiny apartment with my SO and working towards FIRE. I especially love the hardcore grocery tracking. I might try that for a few months.

As for the OP, ditto what everyone else said. Making hummus is super easy. If you're worried about running out of it, make a double batch! I've found that hummus will stay fresh in the fridge for about 2 weeks. For next level hummus frugality, make your own tahini to make the hummus. http://www.budgetbytes.com/2014/05/how-to-make-tahini/

I don't know what a taco-kit is, but I'm curious. Tacos are a staple in my diet (as a Texan), and they usually consist of tortillas (always stocked in the freezer) and whatever beans/veggies/salsa/eggs/whatever I have in my fridge. Nom.

Also, consider more vegetarian meals if meat is a big-budget item on your list. Lentils are amazingly cheap and can be used in a variety of dishes.

SuperSaver

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #33 on: December 11, 2014, 09:34:16 AM »
I do have a tiny kitchen so one of the storage/coat closets in the hallway is a "pantry" by putting two short cheap bookshelves on the bottom half and all of my kitchen appliances on the top shelf of the closet (rice cooker, slow cooker, wok, etc don't fit in our kitchen cabinets and I have only a few feet of counter space). Is there any way you can do something similar in your set up? Even a cheap bookshelf against a wall in a rarely used spot would help if you want to buy in bulk. Also store bulk items in plastic/ glass air tight jars to keep them fresh/bugs out.

I am trying to post a picture of my pantry.

ketchup

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #34 on: December 11, 2014, 09:34:49 AM »
What gets tracked, gets changed, so you're already at the first step.

Make your own tea.  It's really easy and it tastes better.  Also cheaper.  The trifecta.
Don't buy bottled water.  Get a Brita pitcher and a pack of 6 filters.  Lasts a year.  Saves money, less waste, less space in your house, less to haul in from the grocery store.
Be wary of anything with the Smart Balance logo on it.  It tends to be a bunch of bullshit, and marked up to boot.  My mom cooks with their "butter."  It's nasty stuff.
I don't eat cous cous, but that's the sort of thing that could probably found in bulk.
"Snack bars" tend to be awful value unless bought in super-bulk.  Eat fruit (or other real food) instead for a snack, or make your own bars.

If you care about organic, focus first on organic (research the brand too; "organic" on a label means very little here, and they know it's a great way to separate you from your money) meats, eggs, and dairy (yogurt too) before produce or processed food.  You're wasting your money on organic jelly and popcorn if you're still eating shitty meat like 99% of sandwich meat or anything Perdue.  That's by and large where the largest difference in quality and nutrition is.

Imustacheyouaquestion

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #35 on: December 11, 2014, 10:15:17 AM »
How big is your fridge, freezer and storage space for dry foods?
« Last Edit: April 09, 2016, 07:56:20 PM by Imustacheyouaquestion »

MicroRN

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #36 on: December 11, 2014, 10:36:18 AM »
I'm not going to jump all over you for buying convenience foods, because goodness knows I do that enough myself.  However, if you buy convenience foods, it should be a calculated decision.  It sounds like you tend to buy them just because you aren't sure what else to do.

- Organic is overhyped.  Look instead at less-processed.  It will generally be cheaper and better for you.  Try to find a store with a bulk bin section - even some of the big chains have this now.  I do buy organic milk because it's usually ultra-pasteurized and in a cardboard carton, so it lasts a lot longer than the cheap plastic cartoned milk.
- Instead of Smart Balance PB (which has tons of added sugar), look for a PB that is just peanuts and salt.  Some grocery stores even have a peanut butter grinder in the organic/bulk food section. 
 - Cut blocks of cheese into sticks.  It will be cheaper and cause less trash than individually plastic-wrapped sticks.
- Iced tea is super cheap and easy to make at home.  I just put the bags, cover them with cold water, and stick it in the fridge. 
- If you already have all those frozen berries, you could make a fruit sauce instead of buying jelly.  It's so easy - just simmer mashed fruit with some sugar on the stove until it thickens, and keep in the fridge.  I make this a lot, and it's great on PB&J, though not as tidy as jelly.
- I make the 5 minute no-knead bread all the time.  It costs about 0.50 to make a fantastic loaf of bread.
- You're paying a high premium for the frozen chicken strips and Aidell's sausages.  You can do homemade sausage patties very easily with ground chicken or turkey.  Just use plain chicken in place of the strips.  If you really need it breaded, you can do that yourself easily.     
- Buy yogurt in big containers and portion it out as needed.  Bonus:  Buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit.  Double bonus:  Make your own yogurt!
- Hummus is really easy to make at home, and way cheaper than the store stuff.  Snack bars, rice cakes, and pita chips are all readily replaceable.  How about homemade trail mix?  The Internet has tons of recipes for snack bars.
- Canned soup - make a big batch of soup on a weekend and portion it into individual servings, then freeze.

Bob W

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #37 on: December 11, 2014, 10:45:59 AM »
On the "tea" front -- I buy 100 bags for $1 at Walmart.  Don't know how the hell they do it.  I'm not a tea, coffee, beer or wine snob so this tea taste like tea to me.   

I put two bags in the coffee maker and brew a half pot.   The next day I may run it through with the used bags again or add a bag or two.   I think the average number of bags per month is something like 50.  So I'm spending maybe 50 cents per month on tea.   So yeah,  like 5 dollars per year on non alcohol beverages.   I'm still mastering my homemade "halfka" to reduce my vodka budget to like 30 bucks a year. 

Too lazy and cheap to buy the immersion heater I desire for the distilling I desire. 

lielec11

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #38 on: December 11, 2014, 12:32:29 PM »
Thanks to all for your responses, it is a nice wake-up call/face punch/gut check... whatever you'd like to call it.

What I am taking away from this is less convenience (overly processed) food, start buying in bulk at Costco, and making my own (insert item here).


To start, I went shopping last night and got ingredients for making my own granola bars, so that will be my starting point. Will let you all know how I make out.

lhamo

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #39 on: December 11, 2014, 03:18:43 PM »
Are there any ethnic markets in Long Island City? If not, you could still save a ton of money by popping over to Woodside or Jackson Heights.  The Indian markets in Jackson Heights are AMAZING -- check out Patel Brothers, which is one of the best. 

See if you can find a halal butcher for your meat -- I recall there was an episode of Bizarre Foods that profiled one in LIC.  Saying you care about quality meat while buying bags of Perdue chicken strips is a bit of a disconnect. 


lielec11

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #40 on: December 11, 2014, 04:31:27 PM »
Are there any ethnic markets in Long Island City? If not, you could still save a ton of money by popping over to Woodside or Jackson Heights.  The Indian markets in Jackson Heights are AMAZING -- check out Patel Brothers, which is one of the best. 

See if you can find a halal butcher for your meat -- I recall there was an episode of Bizarre Foods that profiled one in LIC.  Saying you care about quality meat while buying bags of Perdue chicken strips is a bit of a disconnect.

I'm actually in Suffolk County, which is the eastern part of the island. LIC is probably about 45 minutes away from me so this isn't very plausible. However, there is a Turkish store up the block from my house that I've been thinking about venturing into.

Thanks for the info though.

Kwill

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #41 on: December 11, 2014, 04:51:47 PM »
I think a lot of the main points have been covered already, but here's a few extra thoughts. I don't go to Costco because I don't go through enough food, but I buy whatever's on sale and make things from scratch when I can.

Right around now, a lot of supermarkets have post-Thanksgiving sales on spiral sliced ham and frozen turkeys. These will go on sale again after Christmas. I love spiral sliced ham for sandwiches because it tastes more like actual food than lunchmeat does, but it's also cheaper. The ham is already cooked, but it's nice heated up or even fried alongside eggs in the morning. When you get to the end, you can make soup with the bone. Once turkey is thawed, it's not much of a bother to cook as long as you plan for a day when you are going to be home anyway. You can freeze small portions of meat (turkey or ham or whatever) so as to have the convenience later. Turkey bones and the turkey neck are also good for making broth.

Someone suggested getting rid of kitchen appliances, but I think you should hold onto everything until you've had some time to adjust to new cooking patterns. There may be things you use more if you start cooking from scratch more often. Instead, you might try going through your cupboards and making an inventory of all the spices and staples and ingredients you have currently. Also check what condiments and other various things may be hiding in the fridge and freezer. See if you can find ways to build meals around things you already have and then just buy the ingredients you need to finish the recipes.

Your local library probably has tons of cookbooks that could help inspire you. I like The More with Less Cookbook, Cooking for Dummies, and Betty Crocker/Better Homes and Gardens.

Here are a couple things I found recently and liked:
Popcorn: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/m/recipes/perfect_popcorn/
Hot cocoa: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/hot-cocoa-recipe.html

MrsPete

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #42 on: December 11, 2014, 05:34:39 PM »
On the one hand, you’re buying organic stuff . . . and on the other, you’re buying frozen chicken strips and sandwich meat.  This is something of a disconnect. I agree with the poster who says forget “organic” and instead go for “less processed”. 

Bottled water is an easy STOP, and you don’t really need a water filter.  Just a container. 
What type of spinach and kale are you buying?  They’re cheaper if you choose the type that you bag up yourself. 

You can definitely make some of these things at home for a lower price.  Granola bars and hummus are easy starts. 

Whole chickens are sometimes cheaper than pieces, but it varies widely.  Sometimes I see them for $4-5, but I have seen them as high as $17.  I can almost always pick up rotisserie chickens at Harris Teeter – if I shop late in the day like 8:00. 

Do you have Aldi’s?  They consistently have chicken for the best price I can find – usually $2.50-ish for boneless skinless breasts.  Their vegetables are often cheaper too.

When the weather grows warmer, consider growing some vegetables.  Don’t bother with the less expensive stuff like onions and carrots; instead, focus on things like peppers that are expensive to buy.

Could you increase your ability to store food if you invested in shelves or other one-time cost items?  Do some online searching for storage in small spaces.  You'll find some things that'll help you.

Search for new places to buy food.  The supermarket is -- by far -- the most expensive option.  I shop at a farmer's market in the summer, buy meat from a co-op, buy canned and frozen goods at a scratch-and-dent place, buy spices from a health food store (think .25 for what would cost $5-6 at the grocery store, but everything else is overpriced), and buy some things at large discount stores like BJs.  Look at online options too. 

Start a price book.  Write down all the things you buy on a regular basis and their prices at various stores.  And sales too.  This'll help you pick up on patterns, and after a while you'll be able to buy at the lowest price with confidence. 

lielec11

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #43 on: December 15, 2014, 01:29:23 PM »
You can definitely make some of these things at home for a lower price.  Granola bars and hummus are easy starts. 

Whole chickens are sometimes cheaper than pieces, but it varies widely.  Sometimes I see them for $4-5, but I have seen them as high as $17.  I can almost always pick up rotisserie chickens at Harris Teeter – if I shop late in the day like 8:00. 

Do you have Aldi’s?  They consistently have chicken for the best price I can find – usually $2.50-ish for boneless skinless breasts.  Their vegetables are often cheaper too.

When the weather grows warmer, consider growing some vegetables.  Don’t bother with the less expensive stuff like onions and carrots; instead, focus on things like peppers that are expensive to buy.

Could you increase your ability to store food if you invested in shelves or other one-time cost items?  Do some online searching for storage in small spaces.  You'll find some things that'll help you.

Search for new places to buy food.  The supermarket is -- by far -- the most expensive option.  I shop at a farmer's market in the summer, buy meat from a co-op, buy canned and frozen goods at a scratch-and-dent place, buy spices from a health food store (think .25 for what would cost $5-6 at the grocery store, but everything else is overpriced), and buy some things at large discount stores like BJs.  Look at online options too. 

Start a price book.  Write down all the things you buy on a regular basis and their prices at various stores.  And sales too.  This'll help you pick up on patterns, and after a while you'll be able to buy at the lowest price with confidence.

-Made granola bars for the first time last week, they came out great! I am definitely going to keep up with this, and try different varieties.

-Also visited an Aldi fairly close and found cheap chicken/veggies like you mentioned. Will keep getting my staple food here in the future.

-Growing vegetables isn't an option in our apartment. Since we rent out of a house, we don't have any land we can utilize, and the windows don't provide the light necessary to grow. If our landlord was nicer we might ask to "borrow" some land and share the veggies but they aren't nice people.

-Farmers markets by me are generally as high, if not higher priced than supermarkets. Even when in season, all berries are ridiculously priced at the farmers market. I guess they feel they can charge higher because of the "quality"?


Thanks for your input though, I will follow the ones that are feasible in my situation!

Chranstronaut

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #44 on: December 15, 2014, 02:00:02 PM »
Popping my head in to say I like the information in this thread a lot :) Though I live in a lower cost area than NYC and have probably a larger apartment in comparison, I still want to cut down my grocery bill as much as I can. Starting with getting the old breadmaker from my mom's house!

NONONO! Those things are huge and take up counter space, which is at a premium in a small apartment. Learn to make your own bread without the machine!
Here's a great starting point
It does literally take 5 minutes, once you get the hang of it.

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/classic-100-whole-wheat-bread-recipe
I use this for sandwich bread.  It's a little crumbly compared to store bought, but so much softer and less bitter than other 100%whole wheat recipes.

Do any of your stores have a bulk bin section?  You don't have to actually buy a large quantity to take advantage of these bulk prices, you just scoop out what you want into a bag and pay by weight -- perfect for small kitchens.  BUT I've found the pasta in my store is not always cheaper bulk compared to the boxed stuff, so it's good to double check.  Flour, rice, cous cous, nuts, quinoa and spices are all much cheaper from the bulk bins at my local store.


MicroRN

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #45 on: December 15, 2014, 02:13:52 PM »
Good work on the granola bars!  It's hard to make a lot of changes at once for most people, so just keep adding little changes and you'll get there.  A thought on storage space... You can get bed risers at most home goods stores.  They're 6-8" pyramids that you use to raise up the legs of your bed, and that will give you extra storage space for very little money ($10-$20 for a set, though you could make your own for less).  Get a couple plastic bins that fully take advantage of the available space.  You could also check yard sales for small bookshelves or dressers.  I've found the cheap particle board ones usually for $5 apiece in good condition. 

If you have any windowsill space at all, you can grow a tiny herb garden.  If you use green onions, stick the root portion in a small cup of water, and they'll keep sprouting.  Other herbs can be maintained in small pots with minimal effort.  I had herbs (green onions, thyme, chives, mint, and rosemary) on a 6" x 16" windowsill.             

lielec11

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #46 on: December 15, 2014, 02:32:27 PM »
Do any of your stores have a bulk bin section?  You don't have to actually buy a large quantity to take advantage of these bulk prices, you just scoop out what you want into a bag and pay by weight -- perfect for small kitchens.  BUT I've found the pasta in my store is not always cheaper bulk compared to the boxed stuff, so it's good to double check.  Flour, rice, cous cous, nuts, quinoa and spices are all much cheaper from the bulk bins at my local store.

WholeFoods is the only store with this option. And most of us know how they're prices are so I haven't even thought to check them out.

Good work on the granola bars!  It's hard to make a lot of changes at once for most people, so just keep adding little changes and you'll get there.  A thought on storage space... You can get bed risers at most home goods stores.  They're 6-8" pyramids that you use to raise up the legs of your bed, and that will give you extra storage space for very little money ($10-$20 for a set, though you could make your own for less).  Get a couple plastic bins that fully take advantage of the available space.  You could also check yard sales for small bookshelves or dressers.  I've found the cheap particle board ones usually for $5 apiece in good condition. 

If you have any windowsill space at all, you can grow a tiny herb garden.  If you use green onions, stick the root portion in a small cup of water, and they'll keep sprouting.  Other herbs can be maintained in small pots with minimal effort.  I had herbs (green onions, thyme, chives, mint, and rosemary) on a 6" x 16" windowsill.             

Regarding the green onions, I have tried putting them in a cup of water and they simply wilt away :-(.

mm1970

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #47 on: December 15, 2014, 02:34:37 PM »
My case study related to groceries... don't all line up at once to read another one of these ;-)

Besides rent, groceries are the highest expense for my fiance and I. Below is a breakdown of our last few month totals (since I have began to track our expenses aggressively),  and below that is what we typically buy weekly. FYI we live in Long Island, New York.

September - $491.89
October - $537.32
November - $682.44

That last month is just so ugly. It is only the 2 of us living together so this HAS to stop. At our typical grocery store (Stop&Shop), we typically buy the following:

  • Frozen organic berries for juicingsmoothies - $3.5/bag
  • Bananas - $.6-.99/lb.
  • Organic milk - $3.5/half gallon
  • Organic eggs - $4.99/18 eggs
  • iced tea - $2.50/gallon
  • cheese sticks - $3.00/bag
  • rice cakes - $2.00/bag
  • bread - $3.00/loaf
  • frozen purdue chicken strips - $7.00-$9.00/bag depending on the week
  • turkey for sandwiches - $3.00-$4.00 depending on the week
  • cheese for sandwiches - $3.99/lb.
  • pita chips - $2.50/bag
  • hummus - $3.5/container
  • snack bars (natures valley) - 2 boxes @ $3.00/box
  • bottled water - #3.00-$4.00/24 pack
  • organic popcorn - $2.5/bag
  • peanut butter (smart balance) - $3.5/container
  • organic jelly - $3.00/container
  • soup - $1.00-2.00/can
  • spinach for juicingsmoothies - $3.00-$4.00/container
  • frozen veggies - $1.00-$1.50/bag
  • kale for juicingsmoothies - $3.00-$4.00/container
  • yogurt - 5 @ $1.00/container
  • lettuce for salads - $3.00/container
  • ground beef for tacos - $5.00-$6.00/lb.
  • taco kit - $2.00
  • chicken - $6.00-$8.00/lb.
  • chicken sausage (aidels brand) - $5.00-$6.00/package
  • cous cous - $1.00/box

That is just an idea. There are other things we buy (pasta, sauce, etc.) not listed. We also do not buy everything listed on a weekly basis. A lot of these things last us 2-4 weeks like the peanut butter/jelly and some of the snacks.

We like to eat as healthy as possible within reason, which is why we juice with mostly organic ingredients. However, we strive to buy whatever is on sale as well. I bring my lunch every day to work, and she brings 3-5 days a week as well. I have a juiced smoothie every morning for breakfast, then a yogurt and snack bar mid morning. Lunch is either a sandwich and soup, or some leftover chicken, etc. We plan dinner on most days, and on days we don't its usually frozen chicken strips with a veggie.

I would love to be able to make use of Costco, however, we live in a tiny 1BR apartment with limited kitchen storage space as it is. So we don't really have the extra room for bulk items.

I look forward to your insight. Thanks in advance.
You've already gotten some good tips.  Mine come down to three things:
1.  Figure out how to buy what you currently buy for less (bulk shopping, Costco, sales)
2.  Figure out how to MAKE things that you currently buy (hummus from dried beans, bread, yogurt, etc.)
3. Figure out how to SUBSTITUTE cheaper meals/ foods for what you are currently eating.  <--  This is a big one that Bob W touched on (I really wish he'd gone "on and on" more!)  I cannot even come close to his figure of $2 or $3 per person per day.

Good sources of ideas for cheaper meals:
The Prudent Homemaker
Cook for Good

You can buy a big tub of yogurt for way less than the small containers. 

The key is space - you may not have as much variety.  If you have 5 lb of frozen berries in your freezer, and 5 lb of frozen veggies, you may only have room for chicken OR beef (bought in bulk), but not both.

ioseftavi

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #48 on: December 15, 2014, 03:32:35 PM »
600 sq foot apt here in Astoria.  We buy probably 70%+ of our groceries at Costco.  It can be done.  Focus on the most dense stuff with high value / weight ratios (think: meat) or the stuff that you will always, always need that doesn't go bad/is freezable.  For us, we buy:

-Flour
-Rice
-Eggs
-Butter
-Chicken
-Beef
-Sugar
-Coffee
-Bacon
-Sausage
-Frozen fruit
-Frozen veg
-Toilet paper/paper towels
-Olive oil
-Vinegar
-Vegetable oil
-Canned vegetables
-Pasta sauces
-Cheese
-Pasta
-Honey
-Nuts
-Movie Tickets
-Toothpaste/Shampoo/Conditioner/shaving cream in the bathroom

We figured out that we save something on the order of about 50% by shopping at costco for these categories, or several thousand bucks a year.  Also, having a fully stocked fridge/freezer/pantry has drastically reduced our urge to eat at restaurants.

The easiest thing to start with things that definitely will not go bad: freezable stuff or non-perishables.  Then phase in stuff that is perishable but you will go through quickly enough for it not to spoil.  Buy all the other stuff (where you need small amounts, or fresh ingredients) at Stop & Shop or whatever.

Doing our system has seriously saved us probably $2,000 or so over NYC grocery prices (we have stopped keeping track, but $2,000 would be the minimum we save).  As far as storage, get lots of nice re-usable containers/bottles for stuff you use often.  Refill them from your huge ass costco supplies periodically.  Keep your huge ass costco stuff in the least accessible parts of your apartment and only use them when replenishing your daily use containers. 

Trying to grind coffee from a bag this big will make you feel like an asshole, and you will hate costco every time you use their stuff.  Grinding coffee from a jar like this makes you feel civilized.  Use re-fillable jars/bottles like this for all the basics: sugar, flour, rice, coffee, olive oil, vinegar, etc.

Meat is by far (for us in NYC) the biggest savings.  Go completely apeshit in the meat department at Costco.  Invite your friends, have a party, take selfies and put them on instagram.  Clear out your freezer and tetris the hell out of it with all the stuff you get at Costco.  Whenever you come home from Costco, just divide up the huge amounts of costco crap into ziplocs with enough for a recipe, wrap them nicely, and freeze them.  We wrap a 6 pack of steaks individually, divide ground beef into 2 pound "pucks", etc.  Only takes about 10 minutes when we get home from Costco, and then just take a single serving of whatever you want to cook and put it in the fridge one day prior to cooking.

Hope this helps.

EDIT:  We are a 2 person couple as well, just the two of us.  Seriously.  You will save crazy fucking Oprah money in NYC.  Get on board with this!
« Last Edit: December 15, 2014, 03:37:52 PM by ioseftavi »

julez916

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Re: Mini Case Study: Grocery Expenses vs. Available Storage Space
« Reply #49 on: December 15, 2014, 03:37:33 PM »
Okay, I haven't read through all of the previous posts yet, so forgive me if I'm repeating what others have said, but here goes. The single change with the biggest impact on our food budget that we've made so far is to stop doing smoothies for breakfast. Smoothies are pretty much my husband's favorite breakfast; they're the one thing that he will eat day after day without getting bored. We were buying almost all of our ingredients at Costco (still organic, though), and it was still a huge chunk of our grocery budget.

Since my husband doesn't like to eat the same thing for breakfast day after day (except smoothies), here's how we switch it up: some days we do oatmeal (or quinoa) with frozen berries, nuts, coconut flakes, nutritional yeast... whatever we feel like throwing in there; some days we do some variation of eggs and veggies. My favorite breakfast right now is a couple of fried eggs with sweet potato hash (a la Nom Nom Paleo). I don't feel like my health has taken a hit even though technically I'm eating fewer veggies; we make an effort to fit more veggies in with our other meals and snacks. Plus, there's some debate about how much nutritional value you actually get from smoothies since you are skipping the whole step of chewing and limiting the food's exposure to the digestive enzyme amylase that is present in your saliva.

I also wanted to say don't be afraid of Costco. I used to think that, as a single person living in a small apartment, there was no way that Costco could work for me. The thing is, though, that many of the items they sell are not as crazy huge as you would think; the big box of organic spinach, for example, is the same size as the biggest box of spinach at our regular grocery store and several dollars cheaper. I really like to buy coffee there, as well as nuts, Cholula, and Kerry Gold grass fed butter. These things come in slightly bigger packages, or in two or three packs, and they are significantly cheaper than what I'd pay at our grocery store. Just had to throw that in there.