Author Topic: Need help to reduce my grocery bill  (Read 11389 times)

Frugal Convert

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Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« on: October 18, 2015, 07:20:28 AM »
I'm new to the board and am working to become more of a frugalist.  I was was raised as a consumerist so this is a work in progress for me but I feel living a more simple life is the best way which includes dialing in on finances.  One of the areas I need help in is the grocery bill.  We are a family of four and eat out only a couple times a week, shop at Costco and cook at home but still manage to spend $1000 a month or more on food.  In reading how to kill your $1000 grocery bill I'm still perplexed how everyone spends under $500 a month and still purchases organic, etc. 

Does anyone have a detailed shopping list and meal plan they are willing to share?  You can email me if you don't want to post.

Thanks in advance for your time and looking forward to future chats with everyone.

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Living in Southeast US

Bucksandreds

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2015, 07:40:04 AM »
To really cut the cost you have to base meals on cheap 'filler' like oatmeal at breakfast and beans, lentils and rice for lunch and dinner. Less meat. Cook so that you have leftovers, use coupons, etc.  I spend more than average for here but not quite your level. Start coupon ing at Kroger or their equivalent and only buy stuff that's on sale. If you want chips then buy whichever of the 5-10 brands is cheapest that week and repeat with other products.

Argyle

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2015, 07:54:47 AM »
I eat organic and keep my bill pretty low — $200 per month for two (one of them a teenage boy) if I'm really on top of it, $350 per month if I'm lax.  There's no one-size-fits-all list, because you adjust for local conditions.  Some of the tricks:

* Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables, not stuff out of season.  So right now apples will be cheap, blueberries expensive. 
* Keep an eye on the sales, and know the standard price for your staples.  When rice or bread or whatever is cheap, stock up in bulk.  (You can freeze the bread.)  Aim to buy your staples when on sale, not full price.  Build your meals around what's on sale.
* Use beans, lentils, etc. from dried, not from cans.  Similarly, grate your own cheese, make your own salad dressing, etc.
* Use up all the food.  Around one-third of the food in an average household goes to waste.  If you use it up, you've saved 1/3 right there.  Be especially vigilant about stuff that spoils fast, like lettuce - plan your meals so you use those up.
* Eat lower on the food chain.  More beans, less meat.  Meat is a flavor garnish, not the heart of the meal.
* Have some easy go-to meals for busy nights, so you're never tempted to go out or to get takeout just because you're tired and don't want to cook an elaborate meal.  I always have some homemade soup in the freezer, so there's always a quick dinner available.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2015, 08:04:24 AM by Argyle »

Retired To Win

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2015, 08:03:10 AM »
To really cut the cost you have to base meals on cheap 'filler' like oatmeal at breakfast and beans, lentils and rice for lunch and dinner. Less meat...

I can't really agree with this.  Or I should say, I don't agree that you have to go that far (even though oatmeal with fruit is one of my favorite breakfasts and snacks).

I also don't see the Original Poster as being that grocery spendy.  The grocery bill in question is $250 per month per person.  We run $400 a month for 2 with no limits on meats and fresh stuff (and including pet and household items).  So for the OP to get from $250 to $200 a month per person I do not believe would actually involve outright sacrifice.

2ndTimer

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2015, 08:09:25 AM »
eat out only a couple times a week  I recommend you attack this first.  It will generate big savings since there are four of you.  Start by asking yourself some questions about why you eat out.

1.  Do I find myself with nothing to cook?  Then work at planning so that you have ingredients available
2.  Do I find myself with no time to cook?  Then take advantage of time saving appliances like the slow cooker, the pressure cooker, the bread machine and the freezer.
3.  Do we go out for special things that I can't make at home?  Then devote yourself to learning how to make those things.  In the past couple of years I have conquered pizza, Thai and Indian curry, Chinese roast pork, Lebanese flat bread and steamed dumplings because those are the things we used to go out for.  I am proud to share that recently we were driving through Portland, OR and we discussed stopping at our favorite Lebanese restaurant.  We decided that since we weren't that hungry and my version of their food was better anyway, there was not point in having to sit in a crowded restaurant.

Seppia

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2015, 08:10:24 AM »
First things I would recommend without having the typical list of stuff that the OP buys is:

1- eliminate as much as possible packaged foods like snacks, bars, candy, chips, etc.
they are extremely unhealthy and also expensive
2- cut the meat, substitute most of it with eggs or vegetable protein (lentils beans chickpeas) and steer towards cheaper cuts. I can't remember the last time I ate filet. Skirt steak is fantastic and costs 1/3, for example.

These two changes alone could cut your bill by a significant amount

Seppia

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2015, 08:13:12 AM »

eat out only a couple times a week  I recommend you attack this first.  It will generate big savings since there are four of you. 
OMG I completely missed this. My brain processed it as "a couple times per month" as if it were absolutely impossible to eat out twice per week.
How dare the OP say "only"? :)
I see a storm of face punches flying southeast :)

Definitely cut this first.

Singularity

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2015, 08:30:28 AM »

Agreed Planning is the key to avoid eating out which by itself will save the most money.  Do quick meal plan for the week and focus on using what you already have and what is on sale this week.

Look at the cost per meal per person.  Meat should be a garnish and not 30-50% of your plate as often happens.  Use Rices, beans, salads and fruits on sale and in season like the apples already mentioned.  Apple slices with pancake batter on each side, just yummy. 

Here is a website that does grocery lists for a week and shows you inexpensive it can be.  She also calculates the cost per meal.  If you don't know your meal costs how do you know if it is a wise decision?

http://www.budgetbytes.com/

Frugal Convert

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2015, 12:04:15 PM »
Thanks everyone for responding, it's good to see what the rest of the group is doing.  Does anyone have any good quick to fix recipes using beans as the main staple?  One we do around our house is a burrito bowl using rice cooked with chicken stock, black beans, salsa, Greek yogurt, avocado and cheese.

Rezdent

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2015, 01:01:16 PM »
I didn't purposefully cook dishes with beans at first.
I just started putting a bowl of beans on the table every night.  Leftovers went to the fridge, and reappeared at the next meal.

My kids refused to eat them at first.  I ignored that, and continued setting the beans out on the table.  Over time, as they learned to like them, I realized they were eating less meat.  Meat still offered, but reduced portions and more combined dishes.  It just happened.  No one has really noticed.

Fast forward 7 years, and the family notices and complains if beans are missing from the fridge or table. (Hey!  Are out of beans?  Should I start some?)

Beans are now our go-to quick bowl for a snack and our first grab at the table.

Pintos are the favorite here.  These can be offered along side cheese, salsa, lettuce, chips, avocados...whatever you have on hand and everyone fixes them as they like.

Bean and cheese quesadillas take minutes for someone to throw together.

Retired To Win

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2015, 02:05:15 PM »

eat out only a couple times a week  I recommend you attack this first.  It will generate big savings since there are four of you. 
OMG I completely missed this. My brain processed it as "a couple times per month" as if it were absolutely impossible to eat out twice per week.
How dare the OP say "only"? :)
I see a storm of face punches flying southeast :)

Definitely cut this first.

Dang! I did the same thing!  Taking 4 people out to eat twice a week is A LOT... unless you're taking them all to Subway and staying away from the chips and cookies!  :O

jengod

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2015, 03:41:54 PM »
In re beans, this crispy spiced chickpeas is a favorite with absolutely everyone in the family:

http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1014756-crisp-spiced-chickpeas

Here's an interesting list of what one frugal grocery shopper goes without:

http://theprudenthomemaker.com/blog/entry/doing-without-what-i-don-t-buy

Last but not least, get The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyzyn out of the library if you can find it. She does this amazing thing where she calculates the cost per serving of like 25 different breakfast foods, and you start to see how boxed cereal compares to, say, bulk oats. It's a great way to shift your mindset.

icemodeled

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2015, 05:16:20 PM »
We have a strict budget of $200 per month for us two. I track it and watch it through the month. Once the money is used, we just eat what we have left and it always works out. Im vegetarian but my husband isnt. We just purchased $70 worth of bulk meats from a great store(its similar to GFS but better quality) that will last him 2 months. Chicken, pork, burgers ect. My favorite things are potatoes (lots of uses), celery which is fairly inexpensive and when good prices bananas (a local store has them .25 per lb on thursdays) also strawberries,  apples, oranges, grapes when on sale. We buy bread when it goes on sale for a $1 per loaf and stock up (freeze them)

My husband does tend to buy frozen meals and pizza on occasion. Otherwise, mainy deli meat for quick lunch. Most items we get are off brand unless name brands on sale. Also just got cereal for a good price. Hubby likes chili and soups to. One recipe we have for chili (actually a wendys copycat) makes a very good portion so it lasts awhile.

I would say the #1 thing we do to stay on budget is only buy whats on sale for any catagory like meats, fruits, boxed, desserts (we dont buy sweets to often), snacks ect. Look for deals, coupons, or promos. Also, also consider an off brand name, usually just as good.

Frugal Convert

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2015, 08:09:44 AM »
Thanks for pointers everyone I really appreciate the time!!


Bob W

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2015, 01:43:58 PM »
There are tons of threads on this subject here.  Peck around a bit.

Encouragement though ---- Not only can you be sub $500 a month,  you could be sub $300. 

Good Luck!

MsPeacock

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2015, 06:25:07 PM »
How much of that $1000 is spent eating out? I couple times per week??? Agree w/ PP who said cut this first - like to no times per week and maybe 1x per month. It should be a rare occasion to purchase food in a restaurant.

I suggest meal planning (to help you avoid eating out and to cut cost). I personally love the Budget Bytes website and tend to plan almost all my meals from there. I make a shopping list for things I need to make the meals for the week (I have it written out on a dry erase board) and buy only what I need. I cut way down on food waste this way, also.

I suggest also making a price book of commonly purchased items and their prices from a couple stores. In my area I find Aldi's and sale prices at Shoprite to often be lower than Costco. Costco is cheaper for household stuff (e.g. toilet paper) and pet supplies. Aldi's is cheaper for almost all food items, and Shoprite beats them on sale prices. Know what is a "good" price for things you buy regularly and stock up a bit when sales occur (e.g. box of paste = $1 typically at all three stores, sometimes on sale for $.90 or $.88).

But really - cut way back on the eating out. You'll get the most bang for your buck, so to speak, with that course of action.

Sibley

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #16 on: October 20, 2015, 02:05:05 PM »
In addition to the above...

Attack food waste. You shouldn't be throwing something out because it went bad/stale.

Eat what you already have. I have a roommate, and one thing that drives me nuts about her is how much stuff she has in the pantry. Easily 60% is hers, probably more like 70%. Same with fridge and freezer. There's so much that it's a mess, and I'm worried about the shelf integrity.

Get recipes into the rotation that use a common set of ingredients. Mexican food is the perfect example. Just about everything in Mexican food uses the same 10 (I'm guessing there) ingredients. That's all they had available, so all the foods use combinations of those 10 things. You don't need to go that extreme, but my roommate has a zillion recipes that use a zillion different things, and there's no overlap (thus the pantry issues...which wouldn't be so bad if things didn't fall and hit my feet).

Leanthree

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #17 on: October 20, 2015, 06:31:39 PM »
I've been doing soups for lunch based generally on this idea: http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/09/diy-instant-noodle-cups-food-lab.html

I have branched out a lot, with the starch being instant rice, ramen noodle or rice noodle. Chicken or Beef broth, a plop of sauteed veggies (mushroom, onion, carrot, celery, random leftover veg like spinach or broc or whatever). Good with a couple fried eggs or a couple pinches of meat. I just add hot water from the water cooler at work, walk to the park nearby and lunch is ready. Somewhere between 90 cents and $1.50 per lunch depending on what I add.

justajane

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #18 on: October 20, 2015, 06:56:52 PM »
Soups, stews and one pot meals tend to be the cheapest, in large part because they can be done meatless or with very little meat.

Some examples: chili, beef vegetable soup, pasta fagioli, minestrone, chicken soup, spaghetti bolognese, macaroni and cheese, etc.

You can pair it with a salad or bread, but you don't have to.

I just made this recipe for cream of mushroom soup from Sweet Tomatoes/Souplantation and was surprised by how filling it was -- http://www.accessatlanta.com/news/entertainment/dining/from-the-menu-of-sweet-tomatoes/nQynQ/. It cost around $8 to make and lasted us for four meals.


Tyson

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #19 on: October 20, 2015, 07:15:08 PM »
I make large batches of rice using chicken stock or beef stock.  Very tasty.  Then for meals I just need a meat and a sauce.  I'll usually throw my veggies in with the sauce, too.  The organic frozen "normandy" vegetables at Costco work really well like this.  When you are doing a sauce, stew, chili, etc.... you can get away with good quality frozen vegetables.  Fresh veggies are most important if you are steaming them or roasting them in the oven.  And I agree with the others - price varies a LOT with the seasons.  Start looking at EVERYTHING you buy on a cost-per-pound basis. 

Also, potatoes are your friend - scalloped, shredded, mashed, oven roasted - you get a lot of tasty food for not a lot of money.

Beans are good too.  My recipes for beans are not that great right now because I am still learning, so in the meantime I've been buying the big batches of Bush's Baked Beans at Costco (which my daughter loves) and the refried beans from Costco.  Yes, it will be even cheaper once I learn to make them myself with some good recipes and practice, but for now they are VERY cheap compared to what we used to eat. 

Goldielocks

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #20 on: October 20, 2015, 11:31:29 PM »
Thanks everyone for responding, it's good to see what the rest of the group is doing.  Does anyone have any good quick to fix recipes using beans as the main staple?  One we do around our house is a burrito bowl using rice cooked with chicken stock, black beans, salsa, Greek yogurt, avocado and cheese.

If you are serious,  Greek yogurt, chicken stock and maybe salsa should be homemade ( start salsa from can of tomatoes instead of $3 jar..  Black beans from dried.  All that is easy and much much cheaper, tastes very good.-same or better.

Avocado is a 'treat', cut it out or reduce costs elsewhere in your daily menu...and cheese is home shredded bought on a big sale (every 12 weeks) and put in freezer supply.

Good luck

Watch out for sauces, tinned peppers, sundries tomatoes, etc.  These are also treats and very pricey.

Bucksandreds

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #21 on: October 22, 2015, 08:56:32 AM »
Thanks everyone for responding, it's good to see what the rest of the group is doing.  Does anyone have any good quick to fix recipes using beans as the main staple?  One we do around our house is a burrito bowl using rice cooked with chicken stock, black beans, salsa, Greek yogurt, avocado and cheese.

If you are serious,  Greek yogurt, chicken stock and maybe salsa should be homemade ( start salsa from can of tomatoes instead of $3 jar..  Black beans from dried.  All that is easy and much much cheaper, tastes very good.-same or better.

Avocado is a 'treat', cut it out or reduce costs elsewhere in your daily menu...and cheese is home shredded bought on a big sale (every 12 weeks) and put in freezer supply.

Good luck

Watch out for sauces, tinned peppers, sundries tomatoes, etc.  These are also treats and very pricey.

Avocado is so healthy that I would not severely limit or exclude it.  Eat a lot when it's on sale and less when it's not.  Better to spend a little more and get the health benefits.  Mediterranean diet is so healthy that you will have a longer healthier life by eating well.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/21/health/mediterranean-diet-healthier-brain/index.html
« Last Edit: October 22, 2015, 08:58:41 AM by Bucksandreds »

jaye_p

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #22 on: October 22, 2015, 09:05:45 AM »
Look at some of the recipes on Budget Bytes.

http://www.budgetbytes.com/

Not only does Beth use staples to create very tasty recipes, she calculates out the cost of each recipe to the penny.  And she has hundreds of recipes on her site.

The best way to reduce your food costs is to make eating out a truly special occasion (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) that occurs very infrequently; to plan your meals according to the week's loss leaders at your local grocery stores; to cook your food from scratch (no hamburger helper for you!); to eat whole foods (fruits, veg, grains, legumes, etc.) as much as possible; and to buy as few processed items as possible - you're paying a premium for the convenience of having a factory do your cooking for you.

alexrcraig

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #23 on: October 22, 2015, 09:31:14 AM »
I think it is about not going out to eat.

The next thing you need to evaluate is how much food do you throw away in any given week from leftovers or food that has spoiled?

My wife and I have one child and we spend under $300 per month on our grocery bill. Here are some of the food and drink items that could be adding to your grocery bill:

- Any drinks (beer, wine, juice, milk, apple juice, and gatorade and more).

A girl I date back in high school, her parents always had a supply of Gatorade. I have no idea how much it probably cost them, but I would say there was at least 3 of them drank per day. This results in probably almost $100 on a drink that is not better than water and fills you with empty calories, meaning you consume calories but do not get any nutritional value from it.

- K-Cups, though this is related to drinks I wanted to keep it separate because I wanted to go on a rant.

First off, K-cups are terrible for the environment. The cups are not bio degradeable and you cannot recycle them.

Next the cheapest you can find them is about $0.28 per cup. Even if you bought the most expensive starbucks brand at the store it would still be cheaper and around $0.22. This seems like a small amount, but can add up over the course of a year.

- Wasted Food

I grew up in a family where leftovers was for dinner like three times a week. I never understand families who cook all of this food and if there is any leftover they throw it out!

What about the kids in Africa I always shout? Anyways, to each his own, but I never throw food away.

The next place food is wasted, especially if you buy fresh food. People buy fresh food, but do not really plan their meals. They end up cooking and realize they have an extra pepper, but most people, unless you are weird like me, do not eat peppers plain often.

Wasted food is probably the biggest area people waste food.

- Overeating

The other thing is some people buy more food than their body even needs. It is amazing how fast calories and stuff add up.

Here is an example of my grocery bill on a weekly basis (I live in the Midwest so my prices may be cheaper):

5 lbs of Chicken - fresh: $15.00
2 lbs of fish - fresh but farm raised :(  (Salmon, Swordfish, Cod, etc): $15.00
Fruits (Apples, pears, etc and varies exactly but average): $15
Vegetables (Lettuce, parsnips, and more): $20
Bag of Coffee (once per month averaged over four weeks): $5

This results in a bill of about $70 per grocery trip, which normally it is only around $60 but I wanted to estimate on the high end. The fish and chicken are exact though :)

This total bill comes to $280 per month to feed three of us.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #24 on: October 22, 2015, 09:32:12 AM »
If you don't have an ingredient for a recipe you're trying, don't immediately assume you need to go and buy it. Ex- I've found hummus is still quite tasty without tahini (very $$$), particularly if you add a pepper and make it spicy. A lot of recipes are forgiving on specific quantities of veggies- ex, my cottage pie tastes just as good with half an onion and 2 stalks of celery, rather than the 1 onion called for, and it lets me used leftovers.

Rather than buy chinese five spice for a recent recipe, I blended my own with the closest ingredients I could- I didn't have anise, but I added some turmeric instead- still a delicious and vibrant taste.

Like Sibley said, keeping a common set of ingredients helps a ton. DH and I have found that Thai and Mexican food involve a lot of the same flavors. We get a pretty good diversity of food with a common set of ingredients. And our cilantro never goes bad before we use all of it, because all our recipes call for it.

If you can manage it, though, a smaller set of meals on rotation ends up being cheaper. You can buy the ingredients in bulk, or batch cook, and everything will get used. Fewer ingredients bought in bulk is going to be a cheaper way to go.

Track all your grocery spending for a couple weeks, a month if you can manage. Break it out by category. "Proteins, Dairy, Fruits, Veggies, Snacks, Drinks, Alcohol, Household goods". People usually have a hidden budget killer. For a lot of people it's breakfast cereal, fruit, or drinks.

Bucksandreds

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #25 on: October 22, 2015, 09:45:45 AM »
- K-Cups, though this is related to drinks I wanted to keep it separate because I wanted to go on a rant.

First off, K-cups are terrible for the environment. The cups are not bio degradeable and you cannot recycle them.

Next the cheapest you can find them is about $0.28 per cup. Even if you bought the most expensive starbucks brand at the store it would still be cheaper and around $0.22. This seems like a small amount, but can add up over the course of a year.


My wife and I use k cups because we wake up at very different times.  We buy the cheap ones and the biggest difference I've noted (besides being insanely more convenient) is that we never waste coffee.  Some days I want one cup and some days 3.  Before we would make a pot of about 5 cups and often throw out half.  If you are using exact measurements and never wasting then yes, traditional is cheaper.  When you aren't sure how much you want until you've had your first cup, then I'm not sure if traditional is cheaper. Also San Francisco bay one cups (works the same as k cups) have no plastic and are 98% biodegradeable.  We probably average $1 per day in coffee total and I am a far more productive person because of it.  Also coffee is overall very healthy so it is not worth cutting out of the diet. 

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #26 on: October 22, 2015, 10:05:37 AM »
- K-Cups, though this is related to drinks I wanted to keep it separate because I wanted to go on a rant.

First off, K-cups are terrible for the environment. The cups are not bio degradeable and you cannot recycle them.

Next the cheapest you can find them is about $0.28 per cup. Even if you bought the most expensive starbucks brand at the store it would still be cheaper and around $0.22. This seems like a small amount, but can add up over the course of a year.


My wife and I use k cups because we wake up at very different times.  We buy the cheap ones and the biggest difference I've noted (besides being insanely more convenient) is that we never waste coffee.  Some days I want one cup and some days 3.  Before we would make a pot of about 5 cups and often throw out half.  If you are using exact measurements and never wasting then yes, traditional is cheaper.  When you aren't sure how much you want until you've had your first cup, then I'm not sure if traditional is cheaper. Also San Francisco bay one cups (works the same as k cups) have no plastic and are 98% biodegradeable.  We probably average $1 per day in coffee total and I am a far more productive person because of it.  Also coffee is overall very healthy so it is not worth cutting out of the diet.

You can buy reusable K-cup filter baskets. Best of both worlds then. Or do a pour over. Biodegradable items tend not to biodegrade when added to a dump... so it's kind of a "feel good, but not actually better" factor in a lot of cases.

HappyHoya

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #27 on: October 22, 2015, 10:46:29 AM »
After several attempts involving long-term meal planning and effort-intensive changes, I found that the most successful way to reduce grocery cost for me was to start with smaller stuff, not the big overall plan. I started by incorporating inexpensive recipes that were appealing to me into our regular rotation and by coming up with simple recipes that used inexpensive healthy food that we usually had around. Be ruthless about not throwing food away or letting it get freezerburnt or spoiled. it's not rocket science but I found that these smaller changes are easier to implement and quickly become automatic, which helps avoid temptation to go out to eat when you don't have the time or energy to think about the big picture plan.

Last night I made braised chickpeas and spinach served over sweet potatoes (http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-braised-coconut-spinach-chickpeas-with-lemon-recipes-from-the-kitchn-164551 I used tomato paste instead of sundried tomatoes and powdered instead of fresh ginger).

Another favorite is faux bibimbap bowls--basically rice, a mixture of veggies (grated carrot, zucchini rounds, spinach, etc), an egg, and an optional added protein (I like to use chicken or tofu in an easy sauce of tomato paste, OJ, sesame oil, tamari or soy sauce, and honey).
« Last Edit: October 22, 2015, 11:02:16 AM by HappyHoya »

mm1970

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #28 on: October 22, 2015, 10:58:39 AM »
I'm new to the board and am working to become more of a frugalist.  I was was raised as a consumerist so this is a work in progress for me but I feel living a more simple life is the best way which includes dialing in on finances.  One of the areas I need help in is the grocery bill.  We are a family of four and eat out only a couple times a week, shop at Costco and cook at home but still manage to spend $1000 a month or more on food.  In reading how to kill your $1000 grocery bill I'm still perplexed how everyone spends under $500 a month and still purchases organic, etc. 

Does anyone have a detailed shopping list and meal plan they are willing to share?  You can email me if you don't want to post.

Thanks in advance for your time and looking forward to future chats with everyone.

Frugal Convert
Living in Southeast US
Well, there are a couple of ways to attack this - one is "tell me what to eat", which will work on the short term.  The Prudent Homemaker is a good site for that, plus Cook for Good, plus Budget Bytes.

The other way is to chip away at it in various ways:
1.  Figure  out how to get what you current eat - cheaper.  This means a price book.  Write down what you eat each week and keep track of what you pay for it.  Find it cheaper.  You may buy yogurt at Costco but find that you can buy it in the big tubs at a different store for cheaper.  Or that grocery sales will beat it.  Or buy in bulk - 10 lbs of rice instead of 2 lbs.

2.  Make your own instead of buying.  Cook dried beans instead of canned.  Make your own salad dressings, your own bread, etc.

3.  Substitute. This means calculate the cost per serving of the foods that you make regularly.  And calculate the cost per serving of your typical fruits and veggies.  And increase the frequency of the cheaper meals, and use ideas from other sites (Prudent Homemaker) to substitute.

4. Judiciously choose where you will eat organic.  Eat organic for dirty dozen, not the rest.  If you want organic meat, eat less meat and more beans.

5.  Don't waste food.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2015, 11:18:38 AM by mm1970 »

norabird

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #29 on: October 22, 2015, 11:08:10 AM »
As others have said, you are eating out a lot--start there.

Cheap, easy dinners include pasta of all kinds, soups/chilis/stews, quiches, casseroles, tacos, pizza....but first you have to alter the lifestyle so that eating at home is the default. Rely on leftovers, don't throw out food and shop strategically--that's the next step.

mm1970

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #30 on: October 22, 2015, 11:27:30 AM »
Quote
Avocado is a 'treat', cut it out or reduce costs elsewhere in your daily menu...and cheese is home shredded bought on a big sale (every 12 weeks) and put in freezer supply.

Ha, no!  Avocado is healthy.  You can pry it from my cold, dead hands.  Despite living in avo country (my poor baby tree has never produced one), and having friends with trees, I find it mightily hard to get great "deals" on avos.  Generally I still spend $1 to $1.50 each.  I make room in my budget for avocados, nuts, and wild caught salmon.

Still at about $100 to $125 a week or so for 4.

mm1970

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #31 on: October 22, 2015, 11:29:51 AM »
- K-Cups, though this is related to drinks I wanted to keep it separate because I wanted to go on a rant.

First off, K-cups are terrible for the environment. The cups are not bio degradeable and you cannot recycle them.

Next the cheapest you can find them is about $0.28 per cup. Even if you bought the most expensive starbucks brand at the store it would still be cheaper and around $0.22. This seems like a small amount, but can add up over the course of a year.


My wife and I use k cups because we wake up at very different times.  We buy the cheap ones and the biggest difference I've noted (besides being insanely more convenient) is that we never waste coffee.  Some days I want one cup and some days 3.  Before we would make a pot of about 5 cups and often throw out half.  If you are using exact measurements and never wasting then yes, traditional is cheaper.  When you aren't sure how much you want until you've had your first cup, then I'm not sure if traditional is cheaper. Also San Francisco bay one cups (works the same as k cups) have no plastic and are 98% biodegradeable.  We probably average $1 per day in coffee total and I am a far more productive person because of it.  Also coffee is overall very healthy so it is not worth cutting out of the diet.
I make coffee and if I don't drink it all I drink it "iced" the next day, or my husband will microwave it.  Have to learn to not be a coffee snob.  Cold or reheated is fine!

use2betrix

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #32 on: October 22, 2015, 11:49:23 AM »
My grocery budget for just my fiancé and I is around $800/mo.

I eat roughly 300g protein, 50g carbs, and 100g fat/day. You can't get those macro ratios off most foods suggested here. My fiancé eats about half of what I do, in the same ratios. I'm also a pretty firm advocate of "you get what you pay for" when it comes to meat. I don't get grass fed/organic, but I'm also not buying the 70/30 ground beef or the $1.50/lb chicken breast that's pumped full of crap.

We could cut that in half easily if we didn't care about our fitness/physique levels, but we're pretty intense. I've tried adjusting and tracking my macro levels for different periods all over the place.

One thing that is important to remember is the difference between simple and complex carbs in your diet and the benefits of each (including cost wise) as well as the amount of sugar in fruit and to eat it sparingly.  50g of carbs in oatmeal will go a lot further than 50g carbs in fruits, in nearly all aspects. The sugars in fruit will cause a blood glucose spike, followed by a harsh drop, thus making you more hungry again. Oatmeal and other complex carbs are much more gradual, keeping you full longer.

4alpacas

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #33 on: October 22, 2015, 11:51:02 AM »
Quote
Avocado is a 'treat', cut it out or reduce costs elsewhere in your daily menu...and cheese is home shredded bought on a big sale (every 12 weeks) and put in freezer supply.

Ha, no!  Avocado is healthy.  You can pry it from my cold, dead hands.  Despite living in avo country (my poor baby tree has never produced one), and having friends with trees, I find it mightily hard to get great "deals" on avos.  Generally I still spend $1 to $1.50 each.  I make room in my budget for avocados, nuts, and wild caught salmon.

Still at about $100 to $125 a week or so for 4.
WHAT?!  We spent $0.38/avocado last week. 

Bucksandreds

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #34 on: October 22, 2015, 11:56:28 AM »
Quote
Avocado is a 'treat', cut it out or reduce costs elsewhere in your daily menu...and cheese is home shredded bought on a big sale (every 12 weeks) and put in freezer supply.

Ha, no!  Avocado is healthy.  You can pry it from my cold, dead hands.  Despite living in avo country (my poor baby tree has never produced one), and having friends with trees, I find it mightily hard to get great "deals" on avos.  Generally I still spend $1 to $1.50 each.  I make room in my budget for avocados, nuts, and wild caught salmon.

Still at about $100 to $125 a week or so for 4.

You are correct.  The nutritional benefits of the mediterranean diet far outweigh the added cost.  Wild caught Alaskan Sockeye Salmon is $8-$9 per pound in a 3 lb flash frozen bag at Costco.  That is VERY VERY expensive compared to chicken but you cannot get better value than that salmon when you consider relative cost/ scientifically proven brain/health benefits.  Don't avoid foods that offer so much health benefit.  Cut out sugar, meat, dairy, processed junk, etc.  Buy cheap veggies and healthy cheap grains.  DO NOT go without avocados, nuts, wild caught salmon, line caught tuna, olive oil, sunflower seed oil, etc.  Its too healthy.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2015, 12:01:28 PM by Bucksandreds »

justajane

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #35 on: October 22, 2015, 12:32:33 PM »
I make coffee and if I don't drink it all I drink it "iced" the next day, or my husband will microwave it.  Have to learn to not be a coffee snob.  Cold or reheated is fine!

Yeah, we re-heat coffee almost daily. I don't really notice that much of a difference. You can save a ton of money if you find a way not to be a coffee snob. Having said that, I can't tolerate "brown water" that my parents and grandparents drink. I don't like it as strong as Starbucks or coffee shops make it, but there is a happy medium between super strong and hot water that barely tastes like coffee.

mm1970

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #36 on: October 22, 2015, 12:46:28 PM »
Quote
Avocado is a 'treat', cut it out or reduce costs elsewhere in your daily menu...and cheese is home shredded bought on a big sale (every 12 weeks) and put in freezer supply.

Ha, no!  Avocado is healthy.  You can pry it from my cold, dead hands.  Despite living in avo country (my poor baby tree has never produced one), and having friends with trees, I find it mightily hard to get great "deals" on avos.  Generally I still spend $1 to $1.50 each.  I make room in my budget for avocados, nuts, and wild caught salmon.

Still at about $100 to $125 a week or so for 4.
WHAT?!  We spent $0.38/avocado last week.

I know! I'm in So Cal. My neighbor has a tree, my friend has a tree, I cannot walk a mile without running into a few trees.  Yet farmer's markets, roadside stands, everything is $1 each.  Down the road a bit (15-20 miles) they will sell for 5 for $1 or 10 for $1, but seriously, I'm not driving that.  My new neighbor shares with his huge family, not us.  My friend will share hers when she can.

A few people in the hood will sell theirs in front of their house, but at $1 each.

And then there's the quality issue. 

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #37 on: October 22, 2015, 12:48:40 PM »
I make coffee and if I don't drink it all I drink it "iced" the next day, or my husband will microwave it.  Have to learn to not be a coffee snob.  Cold or reheated is fine!

Yeah, we re-heat coffee almost daily. I don't really notice that much of a difference. You can save a ton of money if you find a way not to be a coffee snob. Having said that, I can't tolerate "brown water" that my parents and grandparents drink. I don't like it as strong as Starbucks or coffee shops make it, but there is a happy medium between super strong and hot water that barely tastes like coffee.

I don't like reheated coffee, but we do enjoy it iced. In fact, we do it ON PURPOSE. DH prefers the cold coffee. So each day we make a pot, I drink half hot, and the other half goes into a carafe in the fridge for him to drink the next day. Works out quite well.

alexrcraig

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #38 on: October 22, 2015, 12:54:22 PM »
- K-Cups, though this is related to drinks I wanted to keep it separate because I wanted to go on a rant.

First off, K-cups are terrible for the environment. The cups are not bio degradeable and you cannot recycle them.

Next the cheapest you can find them is about $0.28 per cup. Even if you bought the most expensive starbucks brand at the store it would still be cheaper and around $0.22. This seems like a small amount, but can add up over the course of a year.


Yeah you can by the reusable filters. That is what my wife and I use. She buys Starbucks and uses a single scoop or something like that and brews coffee. It does not wast any of the coffee like you said, but she can still make it cheaper than using a K-cup

My wife and I use k cups because we wake up at very different times.  We buy the cheap ones and the biggest difference I've noted (besides being insanely more convenient) is that we never waste coffee.  Some days I want one cup and some days 3.  Before we would make a pot of about 5 cups and often throw out half.  If you are using exact measurements and never wasting then yes, traditional is cheaper.  When you aren't sure how much you want until you've had your first cup, then I'm not sure if traditional is cheaper. Also San Francisco bay one cups (works the same as k cups) have no plastic and are 98% biodegradeable.  We probably average $1 per day in coffee total and I am a far more productive person because of it.  Also coffee is overall very healthy so it is not worth cutting out of the diet.

FLBiker

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #39 on: October 22, 2015, 12:59:16 PM »
I have to admit the K-cup thing is a total mystery to me.  As is a coffee machine.  I've used a ceramic cone w/ a paper filter (after upgrading from a plastic one) for years.  I love it and it's easy to clean.  Plus, I get great compost!

And iced coffee is awesome.  I cheat, though, and use instant.  So I'll boil a bit of water, put in a ton of instant coffee, then thin it out w/ ice and cold water.  Great stuff!

alexrcraig

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #40 on: October 22, 2015, 01:04:16 PM »
Quote
We probably average $1 per day in coffee total and I am a far more productive person because of it.  Also coffee is overall very healthy so it is not worth cutting out of the diet.

It is actually very debatable if coffee is healthy for you and to what extent. I am not suggesting coffee to be cut out, but it is an option. There are cheaper alternatives to K-Cups.

My wife and I use a filter where we can scoop regular coffee into it and use the Keurig machine to brew one cup of coffee.

But coffee is not that healthy for you especially when you start adding creamer and sugar like most people do. It leads to dehydration in the body and can cause you to feel more fatigued and can cause you to develop withdrawls because you become "addicted".

I still drink coffee because I like the taste and the warmth, especially on a colder winter day.

Here is an article all about the negatives of drinking coffee: http://nextshark.com/why-you-sometimes-feel-so-tired-after-drinking-coffee/

wenchsenior

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #41 on: October 22, 2015, 01:58:33 PM »
Quote
Avocado is a 'treat', cut it out or reduce costs elsewhere in your daily menu...and cheese is home shredded bought on a big sale (every 12 weeks) and put in freezer supply.

Ha, no!  Avocado is healthy.  You can pry it from my cold, dead hands.  Despite living in avo country (my poor baby tree has never produced one), and having friends with trees, I find it mightily hard to get great "deals" on avos.  Generally I still spend $1 to $1.50 each.  I make room in my budget for avocados, nuts, and wild caught salmon.

Still at about $100 to $125 a week or so for 4.



You are correct.  The nutritional benefits of the mediterranean diet far outweigh the added cost.  Wild caught Alaskan Sockeye Salmon is $8-$9 per pound in a 3 lb flash frozen bag at Costco.  That is VERY VERY expensive compared to chicken but you cannot get better value than that salmon when you consider relative cost/ scientifically proven brain/health benefits.  Don't avoid foods that offer so much health benefit.  Cut out sugar, meat, dairy, processed junk, etc.  Buy cheap veggies and healthy cheap grains.  DO NOT go without avocados, nuts, wild caught salmon, line caught tuna, olive oil, sunflower seed oil, etc.  Its too healthy.

MY PEOPLE!...one of my concerns with a lot of grocery budget advice on this board is tendency to cut nutritional content at the same time you are eating cheaper and feeling fuller (i.e., lots of reliance on simple carbs like potatoes and rice).
« Last Edit: October 22, 2015, 02:01:10 PM by wenchsenior »

Bucksandreds

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #42 on: October 22, 2015, 03:16:13 PM »
Quote
We probably average $1 per day in coffee total and I am a far more productive person because of it.  Also coffee is overall very healthy so it is not worth cutting out of the diet.

It is actually very debatable if coffee is healthy for you and to what extent. I am not suggesting coffee to be cut out, but it is an option. There are cheaper alternatives to K-Cups.

My wife and I use a filter where we can scoop regular coffee into it and use the Keurig machine to brew one cup of coffee.

But coffee is not that healthy for you especially when you start adding creamer and sugar like most people do. It leads to dehydration in the body and can cause you to feel more fatigued and can cause you to develop withdrawls because you become "addicted".

I still drink coffee because I like the taste and the warmth, especially on a colder winter day.

Here is an article all about the negatives of drinking coffee: http://nextshark.com/why-you-sometimes-feel-so-tired-after-drinking-coffee/

It is undebateable that coffee lowers your risk of death if you drink in the range of 2-4 cups per day. It is a diuretic so drink lots of water.  It is less healthy if you add sugar so don't.  Anything that time and time again is shown to extend life I tend to consider healthy but I agree coffee can have its downfalls.

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/may/16/science/la-sci-coffee-death-20120517

Allie

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #43 on: October 22, 2015, 03:40:00 PM »
I went to work on the grocery budget last year.  It's gotten down to being pretty lean - $500 for 2 toddlers and 2 adults including all household supplies and diapers for one of the kids.  We spend around $100 for the household stuff, personal care, and diapers; $100 for non essential treats and alcohol; and $300 for the actual food. 

Just by shopping sales, keeping a price book, stocking up on clearance deals, using coupons, and sticking to cheaper meals, I was able to cut it from over $1,000 to below $800.  I'm a stay at home and aspiring kitchen magician, so I find it fun to do things like make dehydrator trays to fit over our heating vents or make bagels with the kids or convert an excess of clearance whole milk into pounds of ricotta cheese. 

Obviously, if you don't like cooking or don't have time, this won't be helpful.  But after the basics of using the circular and coupons, I started to break down our meals and figure out how to prep ahead of time different parts to be less expensive and make things from scratch.  Just looking around our neighborhood, we are able to get some great food for nothing. 

I started a garden and planted our backyard full of fruit.  There was an initial outlay of funds for some of the plants and seeds, but using propagation techniques and free listings on Craigslist, I have been able to expand what we have.  If I had known about it before, I wouldn't have bought anything.  There are berry patches close by we gather from during the summer.  Our neighbor has chickens and is happy to part with some eggs in exchange for kitchen scraps to feed them.  We fish in the summer and my husband hunts in the fall, which I recognize isn't an option for everyone, but it leads to a supply of protein that reduces our bill by a bit.  I picked up a mystery shopping trip every few weeks to our local grocery store for reimbursed food. 

I think it really depends on where you live.  We are in Alaska, so $500 feels really cheap.  However, I'm not going to be asking neighbors if I can pick their oranges and avocados (if only!) for a portion or planting an extensive, year long garden.  I listed out some of how we construct our meals in my journal, but again, what is available to us will be different than what is available to you.

Goldielocks

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #44 on: October 22, 2015, 11:42:39 PM »
Thanks everyone for responding, it's good to see what the rest of the group is doing.  Does anyone have any good quick to fix recipes using beans as the main staple?  One we do around our house is a burrito bowl using rice cooked with chicken stock, black beans, salsa, Greek yogurt, avocado and cheese.

If you are serious,  Greek yogurt, chicken stock and maybe salsa should be homemade ( start salsa from can of tomatoes instead of $3 jar..  Black beans from dried.  All that is easy and much much cheaper, tastes very good.-same or better.

Avocado is a 'treat', cut it out or reduce costs elsewhere in your daily menu...and cheese is home shredded bought on a big sale (every 12 weeks) and put in freezer supply.

Good luck

Watch out for sauces, tinned peppers, sundries tomatoes, etc.  These are also treats and very pricey.

Avocado is so healthy that I would not severely limit or exclude it.  Eat a lot when it's on sale and less when it's not.  Better to spend a little more and get the health benefits.  Mediterranean diet is so healthy that you will have a longer healthier life by eating well.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/21/health/mediterranean-diet-healthier-brain/index.html
Avocados here are $1.50 each, on sale. $2 normally.  That is a lot when you eat them regularly.  Definitely a purchase that you scrimp on other items to include.

My point is that you can't just throw high cost per serving items into your basket, then ask why it costs so much.  Enjoy the pricier items with respect that they deserve.

Avocados or ice cream..or sun dried tomatoes,  or extra cheese, or blueberries, or grapes,  that sort of thing.  OR. not AND.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2015, 11:50:52 PM by goldielocks »

justajane

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #45 on: October 23, 2015, 06:21:13 AM »
Thanks everyone for responding, it's good to see what the rest of the group is doing.  Does anyone have any good quick to fix recipes using beans as the main staple?  One we do around our house is a burrito bowl using rice cooked with chicken stock, black beans, salsa, Greek yogurt, avocado and cheese.

If you are serious,  Greek yogurt, chicken stock and maybe salsa should be homemade ( start salsa from can of tomatoes instead of $3 jar..  Black beans from dried.  All that is easy and much much cheaper, tastes very good.-same or better.

Avocado is a 'treat', cut it out or reduce costs elsewhere in your daily menu...and cheese is home shredded bought on a big sale (every 12 weeks) and put in freezer supply.

Good luck

Watch out for sauces, tinned peppers, sundries tomatoes, etc.  These are also treats and very pricey.

Avocado is so healthy that I would not severely limit or exclude it.  Eat a lot when it's on sale and less when it's not.  Better to spend a little more and get the health benefits.  Mediterranean diet is so healthy that you will have a longer healthier life by eating well.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/21/health/mediterranean-diet-healthier-brain/index.html
Avocados here are $1.50 each, on sale. $2 normally.  That is a lot when you eat them regularly.  Definitely a purchase that you scrimp on other items to include.

My point is that you can't just throw high cost per serving items into your basket, then ask why it costs so much.  Enjoy the pricier items with respect that they deserve.

Avocados or ice cream..or sun dried tomatoes,  or extra cheese, or blueberries, or grapes,  that sort of thing.  OR. not AND.

Yeah, this is the problem with grocery budgets in general. A lack of flexibility is going to be a problem, unless you are saying things like, "I must have my oatmeal every morning." Usually when someone is adamant about something in their budget, it's something much more expensive like a type of fruit or vegetable or cheese or meat. You absolutely cannot make headway on a food budget if you don't eat based on sales or seasons. Or if you're not willing to budge on the organic thing.

2ndTimer

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #46 on: October 23, 2015, 07:29:13 AM »
Came back to see what everybody was saying and realized that you are getting so much good advice you will be lucky if you don't suffer a brain explosion.  So here is some advice on how to handle the advice.

1.  Read through and pick something that looks easy to you.  That will depend on who you are. 
2.  Concentrate on making that one piece of advice part of your regular food routine.
3.  When you feel confident that it really is part of your life pick another piece and do the same thing
4.  Repeat ad infinitum.

Warning.  Don't pick something that looks huge and hard until you've got your food frugality muscles built up.  Pick the low hanging fruit first.

olivia

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #47 on: October 23, 2015, 02:28:42 PM »
Following because food costs remain our biggest area for improvement! 

Catbert

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Re: Need help to reduce my grocery bill
« Reply #48 on: October 23, 2015, 02:53:32 PM »
This is a recent discussion about reducing grocery bills while still eating very healthy:


http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/i-need-help-from-fellow-frugal-healthy-eaters-groceries-are-killing-us!/

Everything won't apply to you (unless you live in Maine) but there are lots of good ideas.  If you post more about what you eat now you might get more specific ideas for substitutions.

edit: fixed ink