Author Topic: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs  (Read 5541 times)

Rionoskae

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 21
Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« on: October 04, 2016, 01:09:19 PM »
So I think I've done a fairly reasonable job lately at slashing our re-occuring monthly bills, but there is one area where I just can't figure out for the life of me. Groceries.

My wife and I like to buy a lot of fresh produce and we aren't afraid of buying ingredients to prepare our own meals. (No Frozen Dinners) But somehow we still manage to spend about 400.00 per month on Groceries every month between the 2 of us. (And that doesn't include take-out or going out to lunch on Fridays at work)

Any wisdom from the MMM community on general advice to slash our Food costs would be awesome. For whatever reason...I'm rubbish in this department.

norabird

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8101
  • Location: Brooklyn NY
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2016, 01:12:30 PM »
Is there a particular reason you want to get below $400? If you are still under a lot of debt, that's one thing; if you aren't servicing debt, I would say that $400 is a reasonable monthly number. Do try Aldi if there's one near you.

Bracken_Joy

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8897
  • Location: Oregon
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2016, 01:15:57 PM »
A couple links for you!

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/post-fire/how-can-i-spend-less-on-groceries/
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/i-need-help-from-fellow-frugal-healthy-eaters-groceries-are-killing-us!/150/
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/need-help-to-reduce-my-grocery-bill/

Specific recommendations will depend on if you have any dietary restrictions, difficult scheduling concerns, etc. Otherwise, the key recommendations tend to center around: 1- know the cost of your recipes. 2- Pick *where* you shop carefully. 3- Develop a system. Whether it's meal planning, or batch cooking, etc. This will help prevent a key problem most people have, which is food waste. 4- No snacks or convenience foods.

Budget Bytes is a great blog for recipes, but the system is the hardest to help with, since it will be the most individual.

KCM5

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 869
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2016, 01:17:03 PM »
I second Aldi. Their produce is downright cheap.

TexasRunner

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 927
  • Age: 28
  • Location: Somewhere in Tejas
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2016, 01:20:11 PM »
I'm not sure you need to go lower...

We brought ours down to a comparable point (but we also have 2 kids).  http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/cut-food-spending-in-half!/msg1212854/#msg1212854

Here was how we largely did it:

Nice job!  Was there any one thing that stood out as the biggest change, or just a bunch of little things?

The fridge-at-work lifehack was the source of the junk food spending cut (still need to get better there with the family).

We absolutely quit buying pre-made grocery store items.  If we see something that looks good, we google the recipe and make it ourselves.  So far I have made [dozens of meals at home and] three different meals that are better than anything I have ever gotten at a restaurant (with a one-time restaurant exception).  I'm pretty sure that is what accounts for the reduction in grocery store spending since we eat the same number of meals and are the same size household.
...

Rionoskae

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 21
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2016, 01:32:49 PM »
Wow, That was quick! Thanks for all the replies everyone.

@Norabird & KCM5
We do have an aldis that is about 20 minutes away, but it's not in a great neighborhood and their selection is aweful. (at least in that location)

We do have access to a Myers & Woodmans which might be a good alternative. They have a ton of stuff in bulk and have good prices compared to our local Pick n' Save.

@Bracken_Joy
Thanks for the links - Going to read them as soon as i'm done posting here.

No dietary restrictions. But we have started doing a lot of fruit + vegetable smoothies which can get a bit expensive at x1 - x2 per day. Not sure that one is negotiable though :)

@PreistTheRunner & norabird
Well we don't necessarily need to go lower I guess, But we are trying to tighten the purse strings to wipe out debt and save up for a rental property. An extra 200 bucks per month would be great, but..well you need to eat! So not necessary, but it would be nice.

We could definitely cut out pre-packaged snack foods, but I think we do pretty good at only buying qauntities of food that we will actually use. (Very little thrown away)

TexasRunner

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 927
  • Age: 28
  • Location: Somewhere in Tejas
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2016, 01:38:48 PM »
I see.  My main point was addressing the usage of ingredients rather than buying premade or prepackaged foods of any type.

Examples:
Tyson chicken breasts,
potato salad,
mashed potatoes,
steamed veggie bags,
salad bags,
many canned goods,
etc, etc.

Making all of these "from scratch" saved us at least 30% and often higher, and making them from scratch resulted in quality original ingredients that were fresh.  The food we made was significantly better than the 'lazy' food we were eating before.

Edit: 
I think it may be useful to collect 1 or 2 months of receipts and break down the cost by meal and category.  It also may be a TON easier to do this going forward rather than backward, so analyze the next four weeks of grocery shopping and I feel you will have your answer.

Two lists:
The first is the chronological order of each total cost of each meal divided by the number of people, and the second is the different categories (IE meats, bread, veggies, fruits, etc).  After these two lists have significant data, you can analyze the costs of your meals compared to how much they are worth to you, and see if you have any categories that you aren't comfortable with.  Just my 2cents.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2016, 01:43:50 PM by PriestTheRunner »

ZiziPB

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3274
  • Location: The Other Side
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2016, 01:39:49 PM »
I think $400 per month for 2 adult people is fairly frugal - you can eat a well balanced diet and not feel deprived for that amount.   My goal is $200 as a single person.   

Bracken_Joy

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8897
  • Location: Oregon
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2016, 01:40:26 PM »
Wow, That was quick! Thanks for all the replies everyone.

@Norabird & KCM5
We do have an aldis that is about 20 minutes away, but it's not in a great neighborhood and their selection is aweful. (at least in that location)

We do have access to a Myers & Woodmans which might be a good alternative. They have a ton of stuff in bulk and have good prices compared to our local Pick n' Save.

@Bracken_Joy
Thanks for the links - Going to read them as soon as i'm done posting here.

No dietary restrictions. But we have started doing a lot of fruit + vegetable smoothies which can get a bit expensive at x1 - x2 per day. Not sure that one is negotiable though :)

@PreistTheRunner & norabird
Well we don't necessarily need to go lower I guess, But we are trying to tighten the purse strings to wipe out debt and save up for a rental property. An extra 200 bucks per month would be great, but..well you need to eat! So not necessary, but it would be nice.

We could definitely cut out pre-packaged snack foods, but I think we do pretty good at only buying qauntities of food that we will actually use. (Very little thrown away)

If you're doing smoothies, I highly recommend Costco to save on the cost. Berries from frozen (they retain their nutrition exceptionally well while frozen, often better than fresh actually once they get to the store) and the bulk greens. The cost of that sort of stuff can add up very quickly.

Admittedly, my grocery costs are higher than yours ;) So I'm not really one to talk I guess...

Tay_CPA

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 61
  • Age: 28
  • Location: Portland, OR
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2016, 01:53:28 PM »
Try buying in bulk when things are on sale and freezing them for later. This has been especially helpful for our two-person household when it comes to meat, but we've started doing it with leafy greens and fruit (for protein shakes/smoothies) as well. Spinach in a large Ziploc bag freezes surprisingly well! And I agree with Bracken_Joy about buying certain things at Costco if you can (like frozen berries). We buy banana bunches there too and then cut them up to freeze for protein shakes later.

If we see something like ground beef or chicken on sale at a great price, we buy several pounds of it and freeze in 1 or 2 lb portions. Makes for pretty easy meal planning during the week!

Rionoskae

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 21
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2016, 02:15:46 PM »
@Bracken_Joy & Tay_CPA
That's great advice. While we don't have a Costco near us, I think either Woodmans or Myers would be better options for produce and bulk goods. Think I'll do an experiment to see how our current food costs compares from going to Pick N' Save for x1 month VS. Either of these places.

I've heard that about frozen fruits, but I never considered buying fresh bananas and freezing them for some reason... We go through ton of bananas :)

@ZiziPB
That is reassuring to hear! For some reason I thought we were way out of line, but we don't really make any sacrifices in terms of what we eat or limiting ourselves to seasonal only fruits & vegetables.

PriestTheRunner
Ah, Gotchya. Sorry I missed that in your original post. Yea that is solid advice too, I'll try to keep tabs on that more moving forward.

Keeping track of our cost per meal and separating it by ingredient type is an interesting idea as well. To be honest I don't know if I have the willpower to commit to something like that long term, but perhaps even doing it for a month or so would still prove useful.


« Last Edit: October 04, 2016, 02:18:20 PM by Rionoskae »

With This Herring

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1208
  • Location: New York STATE, not city
  • TANSTAAFL!
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2016, 02:18:57 PM »
Do give Aldi another shot.  Even if you get only a portion of your food there, you can save a lot.  It is NOT meant to be a one-stop grocery store.  They expect that you will get many basics at Aldi, but you will get odd items and fancier food at a normal grocery.

If you don't bake your own bread, look around for a Freihofer's or other day-old bread outlet nearby.  You can get some bread for less than half the price in a (non-Aldi) grocery store.

Never again buy McCormick's spices.  They are ridiculously expensive for the quantity.  You can get many common spices for $1 per jar (around an ounce) at Aldi, Freihofer's (I was surprised, too!), and other places.  If you use some in large quantities, check out as many ethnic groceries as you can.  Ethnic groceries can also get you some great deals on certain vegetables.

Start a price book (idea is by Amy Dacyczyn, author of The Tightwad Gazette).  You can probably hold a good dozen items in your head to know what is a good per-unit deal, but keeping a price book will probably really change your ideas of what is a good deal for other items.  You need something with removable pages that is small enough to carry with you.  Amy used a small binder, but I have a little case of lined index cards.  Example:

Baking Soda - Unit is per Lb
DateStoreRegular/saleBrandSizePriceUnit Price
2016.06.12Aldiregular pricestore brand1 lb box$0.49$0.49
2016.06.19Hannafordregular pricestore brand4 lb box$2.39$0.598
2016.08.15Price ChoppersaleArm & Hammer3 lb box$1.80$0.60

Gradually building up this book will let you know with a quick look whether the 3-lb box of baking soda at Price Chopper for "A BARGAIN SALE PRICE OF $1.80!!!" is actually a good deal compared to other places (Hint: It's not).  This book will help you keep track of REAL bargains so you know how often they occur and when you need to stock up.  My price book

If you eat meat and if your smoothie ingredients are all frozen and you occasionally encounter excellent deals, consider whether it makes sense to buy a chest freezer.  If you do, you could buy 20 - 50 lbs of strawberries when they go on sale in the summer and then eat them through the winter.

Also, eat more dried beans.  Dried beans are awesome.  They are more delicious than canned beans.  They cost less than canned beans.  You can mix some into ground meat to stretch it.  They are healthy and can be mixed with rice for a great meal.  You can cook big batches and freeze them.

Tris Prior

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2984
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2016, 03:01:22 PM »
Seconding Aldi, even though they likely won't carry everything you need. We now go there for dairy (great prices on cheese), eggs, almond milk (way cheaper than anywhere else), spices, oats, nuts, beans, and other basics. They also have inexpensive gluten-free products if you're into that - we are not GF but Boyfriend really likes brown rice pasta and it costs half of what it does elsewhere.

At ours, you have to wade through a LOT of processed crap before you find what you need, the store's poorly organized, the produce is hit or miss (you just have to look at it carefully before buying as sometimes it's perfectly fine), according to Boyfriend who is a carnivore their meat is not good, and the neighborhood is kind of seedy. But honestly, getting our basics there is the only way we're staying under our grocery budget. The "regular" food stores have just gotten too pricey around here.

robartsd

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2426
  • Location: Sacramento, CA
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2016, 04:43:43 PM »
I've heard that about frozen fruits, but I never considered buying fresh bananas and freezing them for some reason... We go through ton of bananas :)
We buy bananas when they are on sale and freeze for our smoothies as well. Usually we put pealed banana chucks in a gallon sized freezer bag and freeze flat. Sometimes when we buy organic bananas we have frozen whole and broken the frozen banana into chunks before putting in the Vitamix (only removing the very ends of the peal first). Some smoothie greens are remarkably easy to grow in our moderate climate, so one of our garden goals is to grow all our smoothie greens at home. We'll also add stone fruit trees and berries to further reduce our expenditures on this major component of our diet. We'll probably continue to purchase tropical fruits (bananas, pineapple, and mango).

seattlecyclone

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4979
  • Age: 34
  • Location: Seattle, WA
    • My blog
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2016, 05:04:32 PM »
Your existing spending isn't at all terrible. To get it lower, shop around a bit. Buy things that are in season to keep produce costs down. Buy in bulk when you know you'll be able to use that quantity. Monitor your food waste. Ideally it will be zero. Use less meat. Try to increase your usage of ingredients with a high calorie per dollar ratio, and reduce usage of ingredients with a low calorie to dollar ratio.

Cassie

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 5739
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #15 on: October 04, 2016, 05:41:45 PM »
We spend the same for 2 people and shop at Winco which is the cheapest store around here. I make some casseroles with only a pound of meat and that saves $.

Shor

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 480
  • Location: Orange County, CA, USA
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2016, 05:48:53 PM »
If you want general advice...
Salad, carrots, cucumbers. Super cheap. You can't eat enough of these in a sitting to make it cost ineffective. This is your Main staple, the largest amount on your plate. This is your snack part way through the day. This is your morning breakfast on your way out. This covers all the bases.

Fruit? Sure, you can have 1-2 pieces of fruit for the entire day (1 apple, or 1 hand of berries),
and I don't mean 2-3 lbs of berries + 2 bananas + whey protein powder + juice. That's not a smoothie, that's 2 meals in a cup!

Rice, beans, onions: also very cheap, but this is a side dish at dinner, a single serving. This assists the flavor of your meat.
If you were on a strict diet, the meal ends there. Spice it up, nothing else needed. Clap your hands, sub $100 budget.

If you want/need more, there's no limit to what you could spend, but you can get your meat without breaking the bank.
Meat: chicken, $2 /lb meat, one sausage if you're feeling lazy, 1-2 eggs. Again, this is a side for the dinner meal. As in One serving,

not 3-5 large handfuls of meat per person.
Most people go way overboard on the meat, make it the centerpiece of the plate, large amounts of rice, 2-3 glasses of milk, a little bit of salad and a snowstorm of dressing on top, oh yeah don't forget dessert! Don't do that, you're doing it wrong. That isn't a balanced meal, and it's not an efficient meal.

FLBiker

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 985
  • Age: 43
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #17 on: October 05, 2016, 09:01:32 AM »
We're big Aldi fans as well.  We're also vegetarian and we don't drink booze, which keeps the costs down (but may not be for everyone).

As folks have said, you can't necessarily get everything at Aldi, so we also do a lot of grocery shopping at Publix.  DW has found a website that matches coupons with Publix sales, and that has been a significant savings for us.  She'll stack manufacturer coupons w/ store coupons or sale prices to get some things really cheap.  My amateur opinion is that you do better with coupons if you eat a lot of processed stuff (which we don't) but it still seems worthwhile, especially if you can find a site that does the research for you.

redbird

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 535
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #18 on: October 05, 2016, 09:27:28 AM »
If you want an alternative to Aldi, try looking for Asian grocery stores in your area. They tend to have much wider variety of produce and meat, for cheaper than regular grocery stores. You probably won't be able to do 100% of your shopping at Asian grocery stores, even if yours are large, though. They tend to have higher prices on everything that isn't meat, produce, or Asian specialty items.

You also might want to try shopping around. The closest grocery store to you may not have good prices. Try another chain that's near you. The savings might be worth driving a bit farther. When I moved recently, I tried going to the local Giant. They were not bad, but the prices felt a little high. I reluctantly tried Food Lion, a chain I never trusted in the past because the stores I tried in the past were dirty and the produce/meat wasn't great. Well, the one near me is actually very clean and the produce and meat are fresh and good. Plus the prices are a lot better than Giant. So I go there now.

des999

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 189
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #19 on: October 05, 2016, 09:33:56 AM »
I agree with the others, I think $400/month is pretty darn good.  We area family of 3 and we spend $600. 

Does anyone else buy organic?  My wife is on this health kick recently and buys almost everything organic.  I don't know if it's all worth it or not, I'm sure it has to be healthier, but I just wonder if some things you maybe don't need to buy organic.  I'd love to get our spending down to around $500. 

To add, this includes alcohol (most of it) and pet supplies/house supplies.  Not sure if everyone else includes those things in their 'grocery' shopping.   But I would be interested to know.

redbird

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 535
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #20 on: October 05, 2016, 09:43:23 AM »
I agree with the others, I think $400/month is pretty darn good.  We area family of 3 and we spend $600. 

Does anyone else buy organic?  My wife is on this health kick recently and buys almost everything organic.  I don't know if it's all worth it or not, I'm sure it has to be healthier, but I just wonder if some things you maybe don't need to buy organic.  I'd love to get our spending down to around $500. 

To add, this includes alcohol (most of it) and pet supplies/house supplies.  Not sure if everyone else includes those things in their 'grocery' shopping.   But I would be interested to know.

I don't buy organic anything, unless the organic one happens to be on sale and somehow is the same price or cheaper than the regular version. I'm honestly not convinced that organic is any healthier, and you're paying a higher price. It's up to you though. There's certainly people here that buy organic.

I don't count pet supplies or house supplies in my grocery budget. Even if I buy a pack of paper towels when I'm at the grocery store (I try to avoid that, since it's usually cheaper elsewhere), I don't count that particular item. I track it separately as household consumables. Pet supplies are even easier to track for me, since the food my cockatiel likes most (and therefore actually eats all of - sometimes she won't eat certain parts of the mix with other brands) is not usually sold at non-pet stores, so it's always on a different receipt. My cockatiel only needs ~$60/year for food anyway. Small birds obviously don't eat as much as a cat or dog. :)

boarder42

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7849
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #21 on: October 05, 2016, 09:46:19 AM »
400 a month is very reasonable ... thats where we're at. with 2 people. and we throw a lot of parties and but lots of booze. - booze brings our 400 up to around 550.

des999

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 189
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #22 on: October 05, 2016, 09:47:19 AM »
I agree with the others, I think $400/month is pretty darn good.  We area family of 3 and we spend $600. 

Does anyone else buy organic?  My wife is on this health kick recently and buys almost everything organic.  I don't know if it's all worth it or not, I'm sure it has to be healthier, but I just wonder if some things you maybe don't need to buy organic.  I'd love to get our spending down to around $500. 

To add, this includes alcohol (most of it) and pet supplies/house supplies.  Not sure if everyone else includes those things in their 'grocery' shopping.   But I would be interested to know.

I don't buy organic anything, unless the organic one happens to be on sale and somehow is the same price or cheaper than the regular version. I'm honestly not convinced that organic is any healthier, and you're paying a higher price. It's up to you though. There's certainly people here that buy organic.

I don't count pet supplies or house supplies in my grocery budget. Even if I buy a pack of paper towels when I'm at the grocery store (I try to avoid that, since it's usually cheaper elsewhere), I don't count that particular item. I track it separately as household consumables. Pet supplies are even easier to track for me, since the food my cockatiel likes most (and therefore actually eats all of - sometimes she won't eat certain parts of the mix with other brands) is not usually sold at non-pet stores, so it's always on a different receipt. My cockatiel only needs ~$60/year for food anyway. Small birds obviously don't eat as much as a cat or dog. :)

interesting, maybe I'm not doing as bad as I thought.  I may start to take out house supplies and pet supplies and see what my monthly expense looks like for just food.  Good point about buying paper towels cheaper else where, that is one thing I've thought about doing, but have not.  We buy everything at our local Kroger (grocery store).  I wonder how much we could save buying household items elsewhere. 

Bracken_Joy

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8897
  • Location: Oregon
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #23 on: October 05, 2016, 09:55:11 AM »
For household items, I do one of two things:

1. I have amazon prime. I use the subscribe and save option to get 15% off. I also look for the coupons that come up and base my purchases around that. This is especially handy for tooth brushes, soap, cosmetics, and deodorant I have found.

2. Costco. Their generic paper towels and toilet paper can't be beat, IME. If you have the space, it's worth doing. It's $32 for me to get a 6+ month supply of TP and paper towels.

ooeei

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1143
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #24 on: October 05, 2016, 10:08:06 AM »
I agree with the others, I think $400/month is pretty darn good.  We area family of 3 and we spend $600. 

Does anyone else buy organic?  My wife is on this health kick recently and buys almost everything organic.  I don't know if it's all worth it or not, I'm sure it has to be healthier, but I just wonder if some things you maybe don't need to buy organic.  I'd love to get our spending down to around $500. 

To add, this includes alcohol (most of it) and pet supplies/house supplies.  Not sure if everyone else includes those things in their 'grocery' shopping.   But I would be interested to know.

I did organic for awhile, don't anymore.  I haven't seen any convincing evidence that organic food is healthier.  There are a few studies that show higher nutrients, but there are also studies showing conventional being higher in nutrients.  Basically there are other factors that affect nutrient density more than organic/non organic.  Not to mention, "organic" is now a commodity item, and there is a huge list of pesticides and fertilizers that are allowed that don't fit with what the typical person thinks of when they think organic.

https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/12/07/myth-busting-on-pesticides-despite-demonization-organic-farmers-widely-use-them/

My main view is similar to my view on "naturally cured" bacon.  For those of you who don't know, that's bacon cured using celery juice instead of synthetic nitrates/nitrites (spooky!).  The thing they don't list on the packages is that celery juice contains naturally occurring nitrates/nitrites, but is unable to be dosed as easily/accurately as synthetic.  So in exchange for having your nitrates/nitrites being non-synthetic, you risk over/under dosing them due to the differences in batches of celery juice, which can be a significant health risk.  Not to mention, I have yet to eat "naturally cured" bacon that tastes anywhere close to as good as the real deal.

I'll take the properly dosed synthetics over the spray and pray natural products any day.  There are plenty of dangerous things in nature, and safe things that are synthetic.  I don't see a convincing reason to completely cut out a huge portion of your tool box when growing plants. 

kathrynd

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 413
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #25 on: October 05, 2016, 10:39:55 AM »
You have received a lot of really great replies.
My husband and I spend about $50 wk on average.
For us, we keep our costs down by stocking up when items are on sale. Most, if not all, of our fruit and veg purchases are 'reduced' for quick sale, which gives us a variety we normally wouldn't have. The trick is, to actually eat it before it goes bad. Here is where you need discipline.
Have a few meals in mind that will take advantage of this produce.
If needed, cook or freeze them, to extend shelf life. (or both)

We literally have enough food in our house, we wouldn't need to buy anything except milk for at least a month. Some people would say why keep on buying? Because products for our pantry continue to go on sale, and we keep expanding our inventory. We rotate...to keep it current.

We don't own a separate freezer to our fridge. We debated whether we wanted to buy one, and have decided not to. We still buy a variety of meats when the freezer is low, eat down, and fill back up (with reduced or on sale meats / fish )

We eat meat every day. A whole chicken will provide us with 5 meals, at least....the last one, being chicken soup :)
Potatoes can be prepared a variety of ways, served with different side vegetables, to keep the meals different.
A stew with dumplings.

We never go grocery shopping. ...except for milk. It never goes on sale here. That is when we look around the store for the reduced foods, managers sales, etc. One store will not provide you with the best price for everything. You also don't need to run to every store, to save a few pennies. If you detest shopping....pick your battles. My husband and I both love  looking for food deals...where ever they may be.....and most are unexpected.

For me, eating fresh fruit was a struggle. So I found it was easier to eat, as a side to my breakfast. Or add  peaches, apples, blueberries to my homemade cooked porridge. I limit juice or dilute, because of the high sugar content.

We still buy snacks and treats...but they must be on sale, and limit them.

Right now in our fridge we have 6 doz eggs, 10 lbs onions, and about 15 (400g) packages of cheddar cheese, 3- 3lbs margarine etc.

We make our own bread with our bread machine.

FLBiker

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 985
  • Age: 43
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #26 on: October 05, 2016, 11:36:25 AM »
We do some organic.  We do organic eggs because it includes some (admittedly limited and imperfect) provisions for animal treatment.  And some of the more absorbtive fruits (soft berries, peaches).  We pay more attention to whole / real foods, though, than organic.

Rionoskae

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 21
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #27 on: October 06, 2016, 07:09:46 AM »
Wow - You guys are awesome! I never expected to get so many great responses. I really appreciate it!

I'll keep track of the next 4 weeks grocery costs and see how it compares to last month.

I'll make sure to follow-up here and share the details with everyone :)

~Cheers
« Last Edit: October 06, 2016, 09:19:24 AM by Rionoskae »

Bracken_Joy

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8897
  • Location: Oregon
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #28 on: October 06, 2016, 07:46:15 AM »
When I was really intensely focused on where my grocery spending was coming from, I tracked by category.

From as best as I recall, these were my categories:
Meat
Dairy
Vegetables
Fruit
Pantry (ie, rice, flours, canned goods, etc)
Pre-made pantry (ie, BBQ sauce)
Snacks
Alcohol
Non-alcohol drinks

One of the things I found has been mentioned on here, but it struck me majorly: even though we eat relatively little fruit, and we eat a TON of veggies, the fruit was as or more expensive. Nutritionally, that just doesn't pan out. Vegetables are powerhouses, and you get way more micronutrients that most people get no nutritional exposure to than you do with fruits. If you like berries for the anti-cancer benefits, just know that broccoli/cabbage/bok choy (brassica), dark leafy greens (collards/turnip/spinach), garlic/shallots/onion (alliums), beets, and young sprouts like broccolini/microgreens/etc should be your cheaper first stop before the berries. Stack those liberally into your diet for huge nutritional benefits and way less cost.

The other thing I (obviously) found is that we were spending a huge amount on alcohol, thanks to our wine habit. Even if it's a $7 bottle, 2 per week add up.

The last thing that I found that surprised me was how much rice added up. We eat a fair amount, and we had been buying smaller bags. You don't notice much at $3-5 here or there, but it added up to a fair bit over the month. We switched to bulk buying 25lb bags of jasmine rice at costco ($17!), and dividing them into containers.

Goldielocks

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6436
  • Location: BC
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #29 on: October 06, 2016, 08:20:46 AM »
A couple links for you!

http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/post-fire/how-can-i-spend-less-on-groceries/
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/i-need-help-from-fellow-frugal-healthy-eaters-groceries-are-killing-us!/150/
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/need-help-to-reduce-my-grocery-bill/

Specific recommendations will depend on if you have any dietary restrictions, difficult scheduling concerns, etc. Otherwise, the key recommendations tend to center around: 1- know the cost of your recipes. 2- Pick *where* you shop carefully. 3- Develop a system. Whether it's meal planning, or batch cooking, etc. This will help prevent a key problem most people have, which is food waste. 4- No snacks or convenience foods.

Budget Bytes is a great blog for recipes, but the system is the hardest to help with, since it will be the most individual.

Unless you are light eaters or have a lot of meals with rice and oatmeal as a base,  this is a good spend level which allows a lot of high quality, variety foods.

I second the know your recipe or meal costs. Price out your favorite 10 meals, by ingredient.  You will quickly find which items are adding the costs, and can choose to reduce three pricey toppers (avocado and blueberries and nuts on a salad) to just one or two per meal, filling in with less expensive ingredients( carrots and apples).

Other quick cuts are to bake bread instead of buy, eggs for dinner, make yogurt or buy plain in large quantity, reduce tossed foods.

You may already be doing theses.



ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3057
  • Location: Emmaus, PA
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #30 on: October 06, 2016, 09:18:23 AM »
There is no evidence that organic foods are healthier.

robartsd

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2426
  • Location: Sacramento, CA
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #31 on: October 06, 2016, 09:31:59 AM »
Industrial Organic vs. conventional: there is very little difference. Organic can sometimes even be the less environmental friendly choice based on the sourcing and transport of the Organic inputs. Your local organic farmer who uses no pesticides (rotating poly-cultures to minimize pest problems rather than treating large mono-cultures with pesticides) and fertilizes only with compost is certainly better for the environment and in my opinion healthier food. I still tend to select organic produce where I will eat the skin of the produce or I prefer to be sure I'm avoiding GMO's.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2016, 12:11:25 PM by robartsd »

little_brown_dog

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 915
Re: Need Help Slashing Monthly Food Costs
« Reply #32 on: October 06, 2016, 10:58:58 AM »
The thing about food…at some point, you get what you pay for. Sure there are healthy, cheap dry goods like beans/lentils/brown rice, but in general the healthier you eat the more you pay. $400/mo is a good budget for 2 people eating a whole foods, unprocessed diet and eating in almost every meal. If you wanted to swap in pasta and ramen a few nights a week, your costs would reduce but so would your health in the long term.

Generally, my recommendation with food is to go pastured/humane certified/organic/etc on the animal products and don’t worry too much about the produce. We splurge on higher quality dairy and eggs because pasture raised animal products tend to be far more humane and environmentally sustainable, and they are also higher in omega 3s than caged/100% grain fed animal foods. Most of us could use more healthy fats in our diets, particularly the omega 3s, so if you have the money, pastured animal products can be worth it.

For produce, I try to buy local and seasonal before organic, as local/seasonal is more likely to be fresher and have retained more nutrients than any produce (organic or not) that spent days or weeks traveling to my grocery store from across the country or planet. It also has the added benefit of supporting our local farmers and ensuring that small farms stay in business. The only scientifically proven benefit of organic label produce is lower exposure to certain pesticide residues in the short term, but there is absolutely no mainstream scientific evidence to show that eating a diet high in organic labeled foods prevents cancer or other diseases. So basically, yes eating organic does reduce (but not eliminate) your exposure to certain classes of pesticides, but we have no available evidence as of yet to say if that matters at all. The only evidence linking pesticide exposure to poor health tends to be in populations that are exposed to extremely high doses for long periods of time, like agricultural workers or people who live right next to farmland that is routinely sprayed. The public takes these findings and extrapolates it to their own circumstances, thinking that if large amounts of pesticides are toxic, then even extremely small amounts must also be very toxic and must be avoided religiously. There is a massive difference between getting covered in this stuff or breathing it in, and picking up extremely small trace amounts that are left over.

If you are anxious about conventional produce, focus your organic dollars on the dirty dozen (foods that tend to have higher pesticide residues than others) or those foods that aren’t protected by an inedible peel (ex: buy berries and salad greens organic, but avocados and bananas conventional). Wash your food, and forget about it. Seriously, there are so many bigger concerns out there in terms of exposures - like drinking water quality, lead, etc. I find it silly when people insist on eating only organic but have never had their tap water tested in their old homes for lead, copper, etc. Lead has been shown to severely damage children's brains, and yet too many people choose to freak out instead over trace amounts of pesticides that have never been shown to directly hurt anyone.

For someone who doesn’t have the extra cash to just blow on the questionable returns associated with organic label foods, I would not be splurging on a ton of organics given the current state of the evidence.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2016, 11:03:20 AM by little_brown_dog »