Author Topic: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...  (Read 14653 times)

ms_misfit

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Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« on: June 27, 2017, 05:16:59 PM »
Hi everyone, new to the forum. I've recently decided to get serious about finances and part of that is setting a monthly budget for groceries. I've set my goal (for a 2 person household) as $520/month ($CAD - equivalent to just under $400 USD). For June, my first month doing this, I'm coming in at roughly $250 over. I've learned a lot and I think I can bring it down somewhat next month, but I'm wondering if my budgeted amount is realistic. We've already started making a meal plan, cooking mostly from scratch, shopping primarily at the discount grocery store, checking out the store flyers to find sales, etc. and not eating much meat. So I'm wondering if I'm missing something, because I routinely see people posting that their monthly grocery budget is $300-$400, for a four person (or more!) household. For those who are hitting this amount, my question for you is - how?

Do your budgets include household supply items? If I take that out, I think I can get a lot closer to my goal, for example. Do you ever eat convenience foods (e.g frozen pizza, rotisserie chickens), or is everything cooked from scratch? Do you have any splurge items (for example, we are still buying a few pricier/organic items where we think it makes a difference in taste, do you do anything like this or do you always buy the cheapest items)? How much are you using your freezer? We are in a condo and so don't have too much space in there to stock up. What types of meals do you eat? Any help or tips are appreciated!

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2017, 05:48:28 PM »
We average $250/month for a household of two adults.

That includes HH products like TP, paper towels, dish soap, detergent, deodorant, etc.

I look at it like this. For $25, shopping at stores like Aldi, Shoprite, Trader Joe's....here is what $25 can potentially get you.

3lbs of chicken breast ($6)
4 dozen eggs ($4)
1 Gallon Milk ($4)
2 loaves of whole grain bread ($4)
1 16oz Jar of PB ($2)
1 16oz Jar of Jam ($3)
1 Pint of Blueberries ($1)
1 Quart of Strawberries ($1)

That's 1000+ grams of protein and enough calories to feed an active adult for 5-7 days.

plainjane

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2017, 06:00:42 PM »
Where in Toronto are you located? I am Leslieville & SLM.  You may find the first while is a bit more expensive because you haven't had a chance to start stocking up on the lower cost items.  We are 2 people, on a semi-low carb diet. We spend 70-80/week on grocery and there is a lot of space to cut if we need to. This includes things like laundry detergent, but not light bulbs. We don't buy much convenience food.

For flyers, are you checking 3-4 stores every week and planning against those? E.g. 1 kg Kraft peanut butter has ranged in price from 2.49 to 4.99 in the past two months just in the few flyers I follow. You don't need to buy a lot, but when you open one container, pick up the next one when it comes on sale so you are ready. (Except for butter, we always stock up on the max for butter.)

Loblaws often has meat at 50% off if you are buying the last sellable day. Being flexible on the shop day saves us loads. I much prefer their Free From chickens, so we make sure to take advantage when they are available for 2.49/lb instead of the regular 3.99/lb or more (alas, I've never seen a whole FF chicken at half price).

Have you started a price guide for the things you buy so you know what is a good value? Bell peppers were 1.97 at No Frills this week, and like 3.99 elsewhere. Do you buy to the season? Do you look to see if frozen will be cheaper than fresh?

It used to be easier when we ate pasta, rice, potato. Taking those out of the allowed meals increased our costs by probably $15/week.

Based on my recollection, in the freezer right now is:
a few packages of bacon (a mix of sale and 50% off and some bacon ends from the butcher)
6x1 cup containers of pulled pork (found the pork shoulder at 50% off)
3x2 cup containers home made chicken stock
a bag of frozen brussel sprouts
a bag of frozen broccoli
a bag of frozen edamame
a bag of frozen pearl onions
frozen roast tomato (bought on sale, roasted and frozen in ice cubes)
frozen chicken thighs, chicken breasts, pork medallions, fast fry steak (bought at 50% and frozen on a cookie sheet pan and moved to a ziplock bag)
butter (probably 6 or so, there was a great sale)
2x3 cups of beef stew or beef curry
and a large container for chicken carcasses for the next round of stock.  It likely has two carcasses atm.

What do you like to eat? What counts as a splurge?

JLee

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2017, 06:02:17 PM »
We average $250/month for a household of two adults.

That includes HH products like TP, paper towels, dish soap, detergent, deodorant, etc.

I look at it like this. For $25, shopping at stores like Aldi, Shoprite, Trader Joe's....here is what $25 can potentially get you.

3lbs of chicken breast ($6)
4 dozen eggs ($4)
1 Gallon Milk ($4)
2 loaves of whole grain bread ($4)
1 16oz Jar of PB ($2)
1 16oz Jar of Jam ($3)
1 Pint of Blueberries ($1)
1 Quart of Strawberries ($1)

That's 1000+ grams of protein and enough calories to feed an active adult for 5-7 days.

You can get a pint of blueberries for $1?  Holy crap.

Workingmomsaves

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2017, 06:17:02 PM »
I wish I still had my receipt from Aldi for the week.  Spent $55 for a family of four.  We do have a short week due to vacation but our meal plan is:
Enchiladas ( ground beef) make the sauce from scratch cheaper and tastes better
Chicken with angel hair pasta sauce made with a can of stewed tomatoes and spices
Grilled chicken with roasted veggies
Homemade pizza dough in the bread machine
Leftovers or breakfast for dinner
Lunches leftovers or sandwiches kids eat at the sitters 3 days/week
Snacks fruit, popcorn, left over trail mix from vacay

Hope this helps

CmFtns

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2017, 06:19:38 PM »
over last 12 months for 2 adults $200-250 a month for all food and household items but that's probably about as low as anyone can get without extreme planning.

Also it can be as high as $300 or as low as $100 depending on what items we have left over and number of shopping days in the month (we go every sunday).

We use a combination of wholesale store (sam's club) and normal grocery chain (publix)
« Last Edit: June 27, 2017, 06:21:40 PM by CmFtns »

brooklynmoney

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2017, 07:23:02 PM »
Ha I pay like $4 for 1 dozen eggs not 4 dozen! Wow.

forumname123

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2017, 07:29:55 PM »
Ha I pay like $4 for 1 dozen eggs not 4 dozen! Wow.

Where? When I first moved to the bay area I too thought eggs cost $4/dozen, but in reality I was just going to the wrong stores. Have you shopped around?
« Last Edit: June 27, 2017, 07:32:51 PM by forumname123 »

brooklynmoney

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2017, 08:49:35 PM »
Ha I pay like $4 for 1 dozen eggs not 4 dozen! Wow.

Where? When I first moved to the bay area I too thought eggs cost $4/dozen, but in reality I was just going to the wrong stores. Have you shopped around?

In Brooklyn. The grocery store is cheaper than the bodega of course so call it $3. And I don't even buy organic.

backyardfeast

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2017, 08:53:43 PM »
I have found that grocery budgets are a process.  The earlier poster is right that it can cost a little more at first if you are transitioning to buying in bulk, cooking from scratch, etc.  One approach is to start with recipes and meal plans, and this is useful if you're new to cooking and need to build a repetoire.  I suspect you'd find that most here after a while shop to stock the pantry and then cook from what they have on hand, supplementing with fresh food or items on sale as necessary each week. 

Here on expensive Vancouver Island, we spend $350 ish? a month for two.  We have a well stocked freezer, a rotation of simple meals with pretty basic ingredients, and a strong sense of what the best price is on our staples.  We know what to only buy at Costco, what to by direct from the farmer, what to find u-pick for in the summer and freeze, or how to spot the best deal on peanut butter and buy 3.  But all of this takes time.

Grocery shopping is often a journey into your priorities and values, too.  Some change their diets, some prioritize price over everything else, others decide they are ok with spending a little more each month for what they see as a more ethical choice.  It's very personal. 

Some good websites you might enjoy include budgetbytes.com and the Prudent Homemaker.  There are some really excellent discussions on the forums on these topics too.  The forum search is terrible, but try googling mr money mustache forum grocery budget or something similar.  Enjoy the journey!

Freedomin5

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2017, 03:10:48 AM »
Groceries were WAAAAAAAY cheaper when I lived in the US (Los Angeles) than in Toronto.

OP, I think it depends where in TO you live. We are out in York Region, and shop at No Frills and Walmart. Total bill after grocery shopping yesterday for feeding a family of six for the week was $115 (5 adults 1 kid)so if you eat simply, you should be able to go lower than $520. We don't include household items.

We tend to buy what's in season -- have been eating a lot of delicious sweet Ontario corn lately -- and we tend to skip the prepackaged and frozen foods. We also tend to gravitate towards things on sale -- this week we're eating a lot more yogurt because it was $1.50 for one of those big tubs. Oh, and dried beans are always a good purchase. We buy them in the big family size packages since they last a long time.

We could probably get the $115 price tag lower, but we splurged on Ontario cherries yesterday. Given  that we're in China most of the year where imported Ontario cherries go for $16/lb, we stuff ourselves when we come back for the summers even when they're $3.97/lb.

YoungInvestor

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2017, 05:09:25 AM »
We average $250/month for a household of two adults.

That includes HH products like TP, paper towels, dish soap, detergent, deodorant, etc.

I look at it like this. For $25, shopping at stores like Aldi, Shoprite, Trader Joe's....here is what $25 can potentially get you.

3lbs of chicken breast ($6)
4 dozen eggs ($4)
1 Gallon Milk ($4)
2 loaves of whole grain bread ($4)
1 16oz Jar of PB ($2)
1 16oz Jar of Jam ($3)
1 Pint of Blueberries ($1)
1 Quart of Strawberries ($1)

That's 1000+ grams of protein and enough calories to feed an active adult for 5-7 days.

That's what I don't get when I read messages here talking about groceries. Buying that stuff would be, for me, roughly 40$, with fruits, milk, eggs and meat roughly 2.5-3x as expensive

StacheyStache

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2017, 05:39:36 AM »
Meal planning with cheap meals is step 1.  Budget bytes is out favorite website for cheap meal ideas but we've found as long as you don't need a lot of wasteful ingredients (example:  one teaspoon of mango lard which you'll only use once and only comes in a 10 dollar gallon jug.  May have been stolen from The Oatmeal).  Our budget (which we don't really pay much attention to until checkout but this is aboht average) is 400 for two adults and a kitty (pet and cleaning supplies included) and we don't feel like we are in the least bit deprived.  Last week's haul included a pound of snapper at 13/pound.  We served it with a kale salad with heirloom tomatoes and roasted corn.  This was fine though because the rest of our meals were chicken breasts with veggies over rice, chicken ceaser salad (using leftover chicken) ground beef tacos (usinnng leftover lettuce from salad night) spagetti (leftover ground beef from taco night) and sesame noodles with ground pork and spinach (we had some frozen ground pork we needed to use up).   Snacks are fresh fruit or no sugar applesauce.  Not buying a lot
Of junk and using up all your food via leftovers or freezing  is a great way to stretch your budget.  The bill was around 85 bucks that week despite the $$$$ snapper

chemistk

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2017, 05:41:57 AM »
We average $250/month for a household of two adults.

That includes HH products like TP, paper towels, dish soap, detergent, deodorant, etc.

I look at it like this. For $25, shopping at stores like Aldi, Shoprite, Trader Joe's....here is what $25 can potentially get you.

3lbs of chicken breast ($6)
4 dozen eggs ($4)
1 Gallon Milk ($4)
2 loaves of whole grain bread ($4)
1 16oz Jar of PB ($2)
1 16oz Jar of Jam ($3)
1 Pint of Blueberries ($1)
1 Quart of Strawberries ($1)

That's 1000+ grams of protein and enough calories to feed an active adult for 5-7 days.

That's what I don't get when I read messages here talking about groceries. Buying that stuff would be, for me, roughly 40$, with fruits, milk, eggs and meat roughly 2.5-3x as expensive

I was reading through this and I thought the same thing (sort of). Where i live, all that totals out to ~$33 depending on whether any of that is on sale on a given week.

There are definitely regional price differences on a lot of meat/dairy/produce. I don't know about you, but right now I can get 6 ears of corn for $1 and a large watermelon for $2. There's other stuff that's way more expensive. Last month, asparagus was running $3.50 a pound for me, but for my parents it was $0.79 a pound (!!!!). This is at major grocery chains, too.

chemistk

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2017, 05:56:23 AM »
There's something that's completely shifted my mindset on budgeting for meals, and planning for meals, that I think could work for others. Historically, for a family of 2 adults and 1 toddler, we have spent $350~ a month on groceries (including household supplies and toiletries). My wife is pregnant, and back in early may she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. She's not overweight and we already ate well but the doctors have her diet controlled right now, and she has to monitor her blood sugar throughout the day.

Previously, I would build meals around the typical meat/starch/vegetable plate - so, rice/beans/etc. were significant portions of the meal that helped to stretch out our budget. Well, the same starches had started to cause my wife's blood sugar to seriously spike, so our meals could no longer have significant starch portions. Right now, she can only handle about half a serving of carbohydrate heavy foods before it affects her. So, I've had to massively shift how I shop and cook to build meals with enough calories that don't cause major sugar spikes.

It's resulted in me still shopping within our regular budget, but not buying rice/beans/pasta/etc. to save money. It's hard. So far I've been able to increase the amount of meat/dairy (cheese is a staple for diabetics, gestational or otherwise) and produce while cutting out most starch purchases as well as any other non-essential "middle of the store" stuff.

Why is this great? After our son comes, we can slowly shift back into our previous grocery list for less $$. I'll be able to stretch our budget further because of the increased starch we can have, but knowing where to look for better cost per calorie in the rest of the store.

TL;DR Try cutting way back on the cheapest part of your meals (rice/beans/pasta/etc.) if you can for a month, while still sticking to your 'usual' grocery budget.

doublethinkmoney

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #15 on: June 28, 2017, 05:58:16 AM »
We average $250/month for a household of two adults.

That includes HH products like TP, paper towels, dish soap, detergent, deodorant, etc.

I look at it like this. For $25, shopping at stores like Aldi, Shoprite, Trader Joe's....here is what $25 can potentially get you.

3lbs of chicken breast ($6)
4 dozen eggs ($4)
1 Gallon Milk ($4)
2 loaves of whole grain bread ($4)
1 16oz Jar of PB ($2)
1 16oz Jar of Jam ($3)
1 Pint of Blueberries ($1)
1 Quart of Strawberries ($1)

That's 1000+ grams of protein and enough calories to feed an active adult for 5-7 days.
What I don't get is, what are your meals like? These all look like random foods. Are you making PB&J fruit sandwiches? Chicken for dinner and eggs for breakfast?


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Cranky

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #16 on: June 28, 2017, 06:03:07 AM »
I haven't seen any $1 blueberries yet this year, but when I do - probably in the next couple of weeks - I will buy a bunch and freeze them.

Eggs are a startling .31/dozen at my local Aldi's of late, although we splurge on the eggs at the FM because they do actually taste better.

slappy

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #17 on: June 28, 2017, 06:11:19 AM »
We average $250/month for a household of two adults.

That includes HH products like TP, paper towels, dish soap, detergent, deodorant, etc.

I look at it like this. For $25, shopping at stores like Aldi, Shoprite, Trader Joe's....here is what $25 can potentially get you.

3lbs of chicken breast ($6)
4 dozen eggs ($4)
1 Gallon Milk ($4)
2 loaves of whole grain bread ($4)
1 16oz Jar of PB ($2)
1 16oz Jar of Jam ($3)
1 Pint of Blueberries ($1)
1 Quart of Strawberries ($1)

That's 1000+ grams of protein and enough calories to feed an active adult for 5-7 days.
What I don't get is, what are your meals like? These all look like random foods. Are you making PB&J fruit sandwiches? Chicken for dinner and eggs for breakfast?


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My guess would be chicken for dinner. PB and J for lunch with fruit on the side.  Eggs and fruit for breakfast. Maybe toast with breakfast too.

That list wouldn't last 5-7 days in my house.

Rightflyer

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #18 on: June 28, 2017, 06:12:13 AM »
Under $400 a month is very doable without scrimping, but that is challenging if you are buying convenience food.

Problem:
I think you'll find that animal protein is the most expensive part of your groceries.

Solution:
Buy a chest freezer.
If you really want to save, you'll just need to find room for it.

-Only buy protein when it is on sale at the discount chains (No Frills/Food Basics etc).
-Only buy protein when it is on deep discount from the major chains (Loblaws/Metro etc)

Otherwise find out where the nearest Oceans Food Market is.
Go there religiously.
Don't spend more than your budget for groceries.
Don't buy convenience foods.

Simple really. Just needs discipline.


TaraB

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #19 on: June 28, 2017, 06:25:57 AM »
I spend about $300 (US)/month for 1 adult. (I carve out cat food). This includes some pretty pricey items, but I'm cutting back on some of them. I don't buy/cook meat (i don't particularly like it). I've been trying to stock up on fruits that are in season and freeze them to use in smoothies or with yogurt. I drink keurig/k-cup coffee (facepunch me), so whenever there's a sale, I buy as many as allowed. So my pantry is full of cat food and coffee.

I'm converting from canned beans to dry beans. I currently buy individually packaged (and flavored) oatmeal and yogurt, but once I get my fridge fixed I plan to buy more in bulk.

Keep an eye on your pantry. Do you have a ton of pasta but you're not in the mood for it? Try some different sauce! There's a definite shift from "what do I want to eat" to "what do I have that I can throw together". I'm learning this as I learn to cook this year.

Two weeks ago I went to the Indian grocery store to see if they had better prices on produce. They didn't, but I learned where I can buy a metric boatload of rice. I'll check the supermarket price per ounce, then I plan to stop there this weekend because I'm out of grains.

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #20 on: June 28, 2017, 06:30:53 AM »
Sorry guys, I wasn't trying to insinuate that this list would be what I eat exclusively in a given period.

The chicken I might cook and have with pasta ($.88/8 serving box) or rice.

I do whole grain toast and eggs in the morning.

Lunch is usually a protein shake and some fruit.

We use rice, pasta, and potatoes for starch in meals. Meat is probably consumed on average about 1lb per day between two adults.

We do stock up on sales and adjust our menu based on what sounds tasty and cheap. Even for those of you who say that list would cost $30-35 with higher local prices on some of the items, I challenge you to stick to simple meals and you will be surprised how cheap and tasty you can eat.

I live on Long Island, NY so not exactly the cheapest place to buy groceries.

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #21 on: June 28, 2017, 06:56:48 AM »
We spend a bit more than $400 counting restaurants between two of us, but groceries don't have to be expensive.  I'd recommend you actually look at your receipts for a month or two and really tally it all up.  There are often a few seemingly small things that add up big time.

Organic or grass fed meat can be 2x or more the cost of regular meat, which is already relatively expensive.  That can easily add $20 to your grocery trip, x4 trips a month = $80 right there.  Organic veggies or fancy canned produce gets expensive as well.  You can buy a can of crushed tomatoes for $1.50, or you can buy the paper box or glass jar from Italy that talks all about can liners and how bad they are for you for $3-4.  Yeah it's only an extra $2-3, but multiply that out over a few items and it all adds up quick. A $1.50 organic cucumber instead of a $0.50 regular one (Only an extra $1.00, but 3x the price!)  I'd recommend spending a month buying the cheapest versions of whatever thing you are getting. I don't care how unappetizing the package is, or how you only eat organic blah blah.  Just get the cheap version and cook from scratch, you might be pleasantly surprised.  I went from eating only stuff from whole foods to eating the super cheap versions of just about everything, and I can't tell a difference.  If anything I'm a better cook now so everything tastes better.  I can tell you that whatever restaurant you go to isn't buying $4 boxes of Italian tomatoes.  They're buying giant cans that say "TOMATOES" in black letters on the front of them, and cooking/seasoning them properly.

Not using leftovers and buying premade stuff gets expensive as well. Maybe you have some leftover pasta sauce, but don't really want it again so you buy a premade pizza or something.  You get the gourmet one that's $10, which you remind yourself is way less than delivery, but probably 5x more expensive than the pasta sauce you already had at home. You're in a rush so you get the premade salad too, it's only $5 for the two of you and salad is good for you.  If you bought the lettuce and everything to go in the salad it'd be more than $5 (although you'd have waaaay more salad and the overall cost would be less)  You don't really like the dressing it comes with so you get a bottle of that as well.  When you get home you remember you already had a bottle of that dressing.  You don't remember how old it is, so better toss it just in case.  Damn it's almost full...  Now you're up to a $20+ meal for two people when you could've had leftovers.  You do this maybe 1-3x a week when you're in a rush, and it's an extra $80-240 a month.

Making everything from scratch is so much cheaper than the premade stuff.  Also something I'd recommend trying for a month.  A can of tomatoes is cheaper than a jar of pasta sauce, and pasta sauce is super easy to make from a can of tomatoes and will taste better.  A chest freezer and "reditainers" are your friends.  We save tons of leftovers from virtually everything we cook, and eat them over time.  Eventually you'll get to where you have 3-4 options in the freezer at any given moment.  Making tacos?  Do 3-4x the meat and freeze it in individual containers.

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #22 on: June 28, 2017, 07:30:30 AM »
We average $250/month for a household of two adults.

That includes HH products like TP, paper towels, dish soap, detergent, deodorant, etc.

I look at it like this. For $25, shopping at stores like Aldi, Shoprite, Trader Joe's....here is what $25 can potentially get you.

3lbs of chicken breast ($6)
4 dozen eggs ($4)
1 Gallon Milk ($4)
2 loaves of whole grain bread ($4)
1 16oz Jar of PB ($2)
1 16oz Jar of Jam ($3)
1 Pint of Blueberries ($1)
1 Quart of Strawberries ($1)

That's 1000+ grams of protein and enough calories to feed an active adult for 5-7 days.

So you don't eat any vegetables?

I do, this was an example of what I might buy for $25 of my $200-250/month spent on food.

I get mixed greens at Aldi for $.79/bag which makes 2 salads. We buy corn, brussel sprouts, carrots, hummus, spinach, beans, peas, peppers, onions, etc. Very often for less than $1/lb.

In the winter I tend to buy flash frozen veggies on sale, easy to microwave and have along side some kind of protein I bring from home.

Heroes821

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #23 on: June 28, 2017, 07:30:54 AM »
There's something that's completely shifted my mindset on budgeting for meals, and planning for meals, that I think could work for others. Historically, for a family of 2 adults and 1 toddler, we have spent $350~ a month on groceries (including household supplies and toiletries). My wife is pregnant, and back in early may she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. She's not overweight and we already ate well but the doctors have her diet controlled right now, and she has to monitor her blood sugar throughout the day.

Previously, I would build meals around the typical meat/starch/vegetable plate - so, rice/beans/etc. were significant portions of the meal that helped to stretch out our budget. Well, the same starches had started to cause my wife's blood sugar to seriously spike, so our meals could no longer have significant starch portions. Right now, she can only handle about half a serving of carbohydrate heavy foods before it affects her. So, I've had to massively shift how I shop and cook to build meals with enough calories that don't cause major sugar spikes.

It's resulted in me still shopping within our regular budget, but not buying rice/beans/pasta/etc. to save money. It's hard. So far I've been able to increase the amount of meat/dairy (cheese is a staple for diabetics, gestational or otherwise) and produce while cutting out most starch purchases as well as any other non-essential "middle of the store" stuff.

Why is this great? After our son comes, we can slowly shift back into our previous grocery list for less $$. I'll be able to stretch our budget further because of the increased starch we can have, but knowing where to look for better cost per calorie in the rest of the store.

TL;DR Try cutting way back on the cheapest part of your meals (rice/beans/pasta/etc.) if you can for a month, while still sticking to your 'usual' grocery budget.

Dude are you me? My wife got that diagnosis in May as well. We budget around $200 a month for a family of 4 about to be 5.  Hopefully we will be fine on that continuing but we occasionally go over, but then we can go under so it's pretty much a wash.  Aldi's helps, though my wife doesn't like shopping there by herself.

ohsnap

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #24 on: June 28, 2017, 08:33:11 AM »
My grocery spend (not counting cleaning & household stuff) is typically $425/mo in a HCOL area for 3 adults.  We eat mostly from scratch, but I do purchase some convenience foods (multi-pack of Kirkland brand frozen pizzas for my son, for example).  I think what keeps our spend down is that most of our proteins are low-cost: $1.29/doz eggs, $1/lb chicken, $2/lb pork loin, and sometimes $4/lb grass-fed ground beef.  Because beef is so much more expensive (even the conventionally-raised is not much cheaper) we don't eat a lot of it, although once every few weeks I will buy steaks.  Also a couple of times a month we will have shrimp or salmon.

As far as shopping, we don't have an Aldis nearby, although we do have a local ethnic grocery store where I like to shop (why can they sell a bunch of cilantro for $.20 when Vons charges $.99!?)  I am at Costco about 2x/month, Trader Joes 2x/week, and the grocery store 1x/week.  If I had to buy everything at a standard grocer (Albertsons, Kroger etc) I think my grocery spend would double. 
« Last Edit: June 29, 2017, 08:47:56 AM by ohsnap »

TravelJunkyQC

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #25 on: June 28, 2017, 08:35:43 AM »
OP, as someone else mentioned, groceries are way cheaper in the states. Whenever I visit my family in Massachusetts, I'm always blown away by 1) the amount of choices there are in US groceries stores for a particular item (brands, etc), and 2) the prices compared to Canada.

I'd never really bothered to see how much we spend on food in a month - food, household expenses, gas, car repairs, and shared activities all come out of our joint account, and it usually comes out to 1000$ a month. However, I just did a quick 3-month average, and it seems that we spend approximately 475$ CAD per month on food and household goods (cleaning supplies, toilet paper, shampoo, etc). This includes any time we eat out, as well as alcohol at the SAQ.

The way we get this to be so low, even for Québec, is firstly, by shopping Costco approximately every 2 months. I understand not having room, we also live in a condo (loft-style) and don't have room for (nor do we want) a chest freezer. However, I'm able to store about a month's worth of meat/fish in my freezer.  I cook every night, a 4-person meal (2-person dinner + 2-person lunches for the next day), so I don't take up room in my freezer with any pre-made meals. That's the biggest help I've found - not taking up room in my freezer with tuperware.

Other than that, we buy 10 kg bags of rice (easy to store in the pantry), and eat a ton of vegetables (in-season mostly). My partner is a carnivore, so there has to be meat or fish, but I make it stretch by putting a lot of veggies mixed in, and I buy sale meat (mostly pork, chicken, and a lot of fish). We haven't had seafood in a while because it's so expensive, and beef is a rarity since it spiked in price. The slow-cooker is your friend in terms of buying crappier pieces of cheap meat - an ugly piece of pork will be delicious after spending a day in the slow-cooker.

The only "quick" meals we have are 4-packs of costco frozen cheese pizza (removed from the box to take up less room in the freezer) that we fancify with whatever is in the fridge on those nights I don't feel like cooking. Cans of tuna, 700 g containers of feta cheese from costco, eggs, veggies and some pita bread or tortillas are great for those rare times I didn't make enough for two lunches.

I'll be honest, I don't meal-plan before going to the grocery store. I make sure I have a stocked spice rack and pantry with necessities (oil, vinegars, soy sauce, coconut milk, whatever else you like). I shop my three grocery stores (bulk dry goods store, bulk fruit and vegetable store - or small ethnic stores are great to replace both of these, and a low-cost grocery store - Super C in my case), and then Costco every few months. Whatever is on sale or not too expensive, I buy, making sure that I have enough ingredients for each category (veggies, fruits, proteins, starches, etc). Then, I combine whatever I have throughout the week. This way, the prices dictate what I eat, instead of forcing myself to buy something just because a recipe calls for it.

I buy whatever is cheapest in the protein and middle aisle categories (dry goods), and I find the middle ground between whatever is cheapest and whatever is local in terms of fruits and vegetables. Also, especially for non perishable items, I always look at cost per kg, not cheapest overall.

It takes time to get the hang of it, but eventually you'll get to your chosen budget!

Saskatchewstachian

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #26 on: June 28, 2017, 08:39:17 AM »
We average $250/month for a household of two adults.

That includes HH products like TP, paper towels, dish soap, detergent, deodorant, etc.

I look at it like this. For $25, shopping at stores like Aldi, Shoprite, Trader Joe's....here is what $25 can potentially get you.

3lbs of chicken breast ($6) ($11 for bone in chicken breast on sale)
4 dozen eggs ($4) ($8-$10 as you can sometimes find them on sale for $2/dozen)
1 Gallon Milk ($4) (Not sure as I only buy lactose free milk now)
2 loaves of whole grain bread ($4) ($4)
1 16oz Jar of PB ($2) ($5-$6.50, on sale 1kg)
1 16oz Jar of Jam ($3)
1 Pint of Blueberries ($1)
1 Quart of Strawberries ($1) ($5)

That's 1000+ grams of protein and enough calories to feed an active adult for 5-7 days.

Seeing some of these prices really makes me realize how much of a difference there is from US to CAN. All of these price are straight from my local flyers from a couple different stores this week.

For reference we stick to ~$550/month CAD with 99% home cooked meals but still eat meat almost every meal. That $550 also includes home products like soaps, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2017, 08:41:48 AM by Saskatchewstachian »

ms_misfit

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #27 on: June 28, 2017, 09:00:02 AM »
Thanks for the responses everyone!

I am going to cut myself a (small) bit of slack as it does seem like there is a lot of variation in grocery prices between different regions and between Canada and the US. Aldi sounds like a magical place…

I am in the St Lawrence Market area. We moved here in January and had been doing all our shopping at Metro and SLM itself. We’re now aiming to do the bulk of our shopping at No Frills, but I am also looking at the flyers from Metro, Shoppers and Rexall. I will start checking out Loblaw’s flyer too, as it’s not too far away. We didn’t shop at SLM at all this month but probably still will sometimes – but I’m considering making that part of our entertainment budget rather than our grocery budget. There probably are some good deals at SLM though – I have read that stuff gets marked down on Saturday evenings – I still need to check this out.

In terms of what we are eating, the new meal planning methodology I came up with that seems to be working this month is to pick one salad/grain bowl-type recipe and one slow cooker recipe per week, prep it all on Sunday, and make enough to have it several times during the week (salad/bowl for lunches, slow cooker for dinner). I am also doubling the slow cooker recipes and freezing the ingredients together, so on weeks we are away on the weekend, I can pull one of those out and only have to worry about the salad. This week the bowl was quinoa, spiced chickpeas, greens and shredded carrots with homemade tahini dressing, and the slow cooker meal was stuffed peppers with quinoa, chickpeas and beans (using the peppers on sale from No Frills that plainjane mentioned :) ). We are supplementing this with quick & easy meals like PB&J sandwiches, omelette, stir fry with frozen veggies and chicken, etc. I did buy some frozen pizzas and chicken pot pies on sale this month, for times when we have run out of the leftovers and don’t have the time or inclination to cook something else. Reading the responses, I think there are a lot of opportunities here to simplify our meals further and do some additional scratch cooking. Also using cheaper starches than quinoa probably helps. :)

For splurges, I would say it’s really just rotisserie chicken, and organic coffee and yogurt. However, next month I’ll be keeping the all the receipts and will go through it to look for other “pain points” as ooeei mentioned, and start building a price guide as plainjane suggested. For the rotisserie chicken, we usually buy one per week for $8.99 at Metro and cut it up to be used in salads/bowls and sandwiches. This is usually our only meat purchase. I’ve looked at buying raw whole chickens and cooking it myself but it doesn’t seem like the cost savings are really worth it unless the chicken is on a deep sale.

Which brings me to the chest freezer issue. I thought about it and I could potentially fit one in, however it would likely involve getting an electrician in to add an outlet for it in the hall closet. Between that cost, the cost of the freezer itself, and the electrical cost to run it, do you think it would be worth the potential savings?

Question for plainjane about freezing butter – once you defrost it do you have to use it quickly? Or would frozen butter only be good for baking/pie crust-type uses?

Also for those in Toronto/Canada, do you ever shop at Bulk Barn? Are there good cost savings there? Storage space is an issue as mentioned but I thought it might be worth looking into for frequently used grains and such.

TravelJunkyQC

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #28 on: June 28, 2017, 09:23:14 AM »
Also for those in Toronto/Canada, do you ever shop at Bulk Barn? Are there good cost savings there? Storage space is an issue as mentioned but I thought it might be worth looking into for frequently used grains and such.

Bulk Barn is the "bulk dry good store" I mentioned. I love it for rice, pasta, coffee, tea, oats, etc. Especially now that you can bring your own containers!

MrsDinero

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #29 on: June 28, 2017, 09:49:48 AM »
I'm finally working on reducing our grocery budget and have been having a hard time.  It is much easier to accomplish in the summer time because we buy a lot of vegetables from local farm stands.  This past week we had out lowest grocery/farmstand bill ever at $190 (not counting baby formula).

We buy organic meat from local farms.  This meat is more expensive than in the grocery store but tastes better.  We feel supporting local farmers rather than corporate factory farm is doing our part for the local economy.  Because it is more expensive we have found we eat LESS meat, either smaller portions or more vegetarian meals.  Eating meatless meals greatly reduces food costs.

We have also started gardening to produce our own food.  I'm learning to can in order to store and reduce food costs throughout the winter.

I also eat Whole30 complaint, but my husband does not. This has been a struggle because I cannot fill meals with cheap rice and beans, but I have found veggie alternatives.  When I see veggies on sale (yellow peppers for $1.99/lb instead of $3.99/lbs) I buy a few pounds, slice then freeze them.

If you have the ability to create a cold storage space this will prolong the life of potatoes, sqaush,  onions, etc.  The goal is to not throw food into the trash.

For household supplies, we do buy things like laundry detergent and soap, but a lot of the household cleaner I make myself. 

We don't buy paper napkins, but we do buy paper towels, however 1 roll will last a while because we use washcloths to wipe up messes.

What I try to do to reduce costs is buy non-perishables in bulk.  Meal planning is a must.
 We try to ensure nothing goes to waste.  Sometimes this means eating the same veggie for days because I was not able to buy a smaller amount.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2017, 09:52:06 AM by MrsDinero »

backyardfeast

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #30 on: June 28, 2017, 10:16:43 AM »
OP, it sounds like you are totally on the eight track.  In fact, those meals sound delicious! :-) Over time, recognizing the best prices for those staples you're buying will bring your costs down a bit more.  It's absolutely worth doing the granular evaluation of how much your meals cost.  So, do the math on the quinoa and the specific veg you're using.  How much would brown rice be instead?   Some nuts are way more expensive than others; some veggies are too.  An avocado here can be $3 each,which adds $3 to the cost of one dinner! Shredded cabbage would be nutritious and tasty, but way cheaper, just as an example.

Once you have priced out your meals, then figure out where the cheapest place to buy them is.  Costco prices on cheese, quinoa, butter, etc, are often worth a special trip once every few months. 

We have a chest freezer and use it a lot.  But it may not be worth it in the short term.  I think it depends on what you eat and how much you want to shop and cook.  I would wait a few months and then evaluate.

englishteacheralex

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #31 on: June 28, 2017, 10:37:58 AM »
I've wanted a chest freezer for years but my husband says it's not necessary. We organize our freezer carefully and it's working for us.

If it makes you feel any better, our grocery budget for two adults, a 3 year old, and a 6 month old is $650/month. We don't include household goods in that. That's Hawaii for you. The list of groceries mentioned in a post upthread would be around $50-$60 here.

I'm a student of the grocery circulars and a Costco devotee, but there are only so many grocery tricks one can pull off in Hawaii. I once started a thread about it and people had all sorts of unworkable ideas such as buying "in season" (nothing is ever in season here. Locally grown produce is often more expensive than produce that has been shipped in. That includes tropical fruit. A mango is generally $2. I saw them for $.50 each on a recent trip to the mainland. Sigh.).

Our grocery budget when we started with all this two years ago was $850/month, plus $200/month for restaurants. We managed to whittle it down by $300.

I cook mainly from scratch and do a lot of double batch/freezing of meals to help us out on busy nights. Got an Instant Pot (amazing appliance) and a bread machine (a loaf of store bought sandwich bread is $5-$6 here). I'm very clever with leftovers.

One thing that some people would find expendable is that we do have people over for dinner quite often. Usually around once/twice per week we make a meal to share with others. So if we stopped doing that we could probably trim $100/month. But we love people!

John123

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #32 on: June 28, 2017, 10:52:40 AM »
Our "food" budget is $700 for a family of 3.  I use quotes because that includes alcohol ($50-$100 per month), eating out, household items, basically all Costco purchases (many aren't food related). The actual money spend on food is closer to $500. I like to cook and buy whatever protein I want and it's usually not chicken.     

plainjane

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #33 on: June 28, 2017, 11:03:15 AM »
Question for plainjane about freezing butter – once you defrost it do you have to use it quickly? Or would frozen butter only be good for baking/pie crust-type uses?

Also for those in Toronto/Canada, do you ever shop at Bulk Barn? Are there good cost savings there? Storage space is an issue as mentioned but I thought it might be worth looking into for frequently used grains and such.

We defrost butter in the fridge and cut about a half cup at a time to sit in the cupboard at room temp, when the last piece goes into the cupboard, we start defrosting the next one.  If we used butter more quickly I might keep two defrosted butters in the fridge.  We do not have A/C, and this has only been a problem once (I was doing a baking marathon in 33C weather - not smart).

Bulk barn is good for some things, but you are at the SLM, so be sure to price check vs. Dominos & Rubes in the basement.  The basement is also great for end of life produce - just cut it up, cook if appropriate, and freeze. Bulk Barn often does flyers with 3 coupons of $3 for a $10 purchase on sequential weekends, so keep an eye out for them. You'll find every 3-4 months one of the big brands puts the 10kg bag of flour on a real sale. Keep an eye out if you are a baker.

SLM is also good for the cheaper "weird" cuts of meat that take longer to cook (lamb shoulder, beef shank). Since you have a slow cooker, you're in great shape to take advantage. And these things freeze well in 1 cup containers for a quick meal later.

Oh, and check out the Cherry St T&T once you have your price book. It is a bit of a trek for you, but often worth it.

Jrr85

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #34 on: June 28, 2017, 11:03:39 AM »
3lbs of chicken breast ($6) ($8 )
4 dozen eggs ($4) ($4 for the cheapest, >$2 per dozen for anything else)
1 Gallon Milk ($4) ($4.50)
2 loaves of whole grain bread ($4) ($6 (could do two french rolls for $2;
 probably could find a better deal on bread
)
1 16oz Jar of PB ($2) (not sure)
1 16oz Jar of Jam ($3) (not sure)
1 Pint of Blueberries ($1)  (>$4 last time I looked, but I do know blueberry prices have been dropping)
1 Quart of Strawberries ($1) ($not sure)


Seeing some of these prices really makes me realize how much of a difference there is from US to CAN. All of these price are straight from my local flyers from a couple different stores this week.

For reference we stick to ~$550/month CAD with 99% home cooked meals but still eat meat almost every meal. That $550 also includes home products like soaps, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.

It's not just U.S., it's apparently particular portions of the U.S.  I live in a relatively low cost area and those prices are low to me.  Even though our prices are reasonably close to those, that still looks like it could account for a 10-15% difference. 

Acastus

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #35 on: June 28, 2017, 11:30:11 AM »
Our grocery bill for 2 adults and 1 male teen is about $ 600 per month, and it is an item we are trying to reduce some. It includes HBA's, cleaning supplies, and beer, but eating out is separate. We signed up for a CSA farm share to get organic produce from a local farmer at more of a commodity price. I feel physically better when we are eating these, so they are worth it.

Going vegetarian is cheaper, and this is a slider, not an on/off switch. You can add a few vegetarian meals and bring the price down some. A quiche is 3-4 eggs + 1/3 lb cheese + vegetable + cheap ingredients = $3-4 for 6 servings. Sweat equity works, too. Bread is 3 cups flour per pound of loaf, or $1 for artisan bread. The bakery section charges a lot for labor.

Also, if you are ramping up cooking from scratch, you may have spent a big slug on cooking supplies that will last a while. See what month 2 looks like.








TrMama

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #36 on: June 28, 2017, 12:16:31 PM »
You're on the right track. Grocery spending is a challenge to cut because the total bill is the result of dozens of different decisions. And you have to make those decisions every. single. week. So much easier to cut the cell phone bill when you can decide once and then put it on autopay for a year.

I'm currently spending about $750/mo to feed a family of 4. We rarely eat out and the kids have to take lunch everyday. Many US schoolkids get lunch at school and I strongly suspect if their parents post online about their grocery budget, they have a separate line item for school lunches. My budget includes lots of scratch cooking and some overpriced specialty items for my dairy/egg intolerant kid.

Butter defrosts just fine. I've never noticed any change in taste or texture.

If you live near a Loblaws owned store, check out their PC Mastercard. It's not the most lucrative rewards card, but it does discount something you use every week, food. I've had one for years and it saves me a small, but significant portion of my grocery bill every month. Helps now that my kids have grown into a small plague of locusts. If you get one, also sign up for the PC point account. It creepily tracks your purchases and then offers you extra points periodically on the things you buy.

My version of a price book is my grocery list app, Out of Milk. When I add an item to the list, I also add it's price. Sometimes the price comes from the flyer, sometimes it's from my receipt.

Freedomin5

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #37 on: June 28, 2017, 12:57:54 PM »
Also for those in Toronto/Canada, do you ever shop at Bulk Barn? Are there good cost savings there? Storage space is an issue as mentioned but I thought it might be worth looking into for frequently used grains and such.

Bulk Barn is the "bulk dry good store" I mentioned. I love it for rice, pasta, coffee, tea, oats, etc. Especially now that you can bring your own containers!

You need to price it out per lb or per 100g or whatever measure they use. I purchased flour last year from Bulk Barn and it wasn't significantly cheaper than buying the family-size pack from Walmart/No Frills. The good thing about Bulk Barn is that I don't have to buy 10 lbs of flour if I only need a lb or two or if I don't have enough storage space.

Freedomin5

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #38 on: June 28, 2017, 01:01:23 PM »
Also, if you're in the St Lawrence Market area, you could check out the grocery stores in Chinatown. The ethnic grocery stores are sometimes cheaper.

nouveauRiche

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #39 on: June 28, 2017, 05:47:06 PM »
Enchiladas ( ground beef) make the sauce from scratch cheaper and tastes better

Could you post the enchilada sauce recipe (or a link)?

ElleFiji

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #40 on: June 28, 2017, 06:05:22 PM »
Also, if you're in the St Lawrence Market area, you could check out the grocery stores in Chinatown. The ethnic grocery stores are sometimes cheaper.
Yes, along spadina. And also the fruit markets in Kensington market. And someone can tell you where the good farmer's markets are, because st. Lawrence market is weird.

I'm in the suburbs, and I also love no frills and bulk barn. And we have a variety of ethnic supermarkets like starsky and oceans and nation's and t and t. All delicious, and with food that looks smells and tastes like food. It sounds like you recently moved - I find that ups prices for almost a year while you stock up and learn your local options

mm1970

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #41 on: June 28, 2017, 06:45:52 PM »
We average $250/month for a household of two adults.

That includes HH products like TP, paper towels, dish soap, detergent, deodorant, etc.

I look at it like this. For $25, shopping at stores like Aldi, Shoprite, Trader Joe's....here is what $25 can potentially get you.

3lbs of chicken breast ($6) ($11 for bone in chicken breast on sale)
4 dozen eggs ($4) ($8-$10 as you can sometimes find them on sale for $2/dozen)
1 Gallon Milk ($4) (Not sure as I only buy lactose free milk now)
2 loaves of whole grain bread ($4) ($4)
1 16oz Jar of PB ($2) ($5-$6.50, on sale 1kg)
1 16oz Jar of Jam ($3)
1 Pint of Blueberries ($1)
1 Quart of Strawberries ($1) ($5)

That's 1000+ grams of protein and enough calories to feed an active adult for 5-7 days.

Seeing some of these prices really makes me realize how much of a difference there is from US to CAN. All of these price are straight from my local flyers from a couple different stores this week.

For reference we stick to ~$550/month CAD with 99% home cooked meals but still eat meat almost every meal. That $550 also includes home products like soaps, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.
Not just US to Canada, but also within the US.  I shop around a lot, and my area of California is pretty hard.  I do a good job, but there are budgets on here that I could never hit.  Ever.

Workingmomsaves

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #42 on: June 28, 2017, 09:46:09 PM »
Enchiladas ( ground beef) make the sauce from scratch cheaper and tastes better

Could you post the enchilada sauce recipe (or a link)?
http://allrecipes.com/recipe/61727/ten-minute-enchilada-sauce/

I hope the link works.  Also, I double the amount of cumin, onion salt and garlic powder, actually I believe I use onion powder and garlic salt b/c that's what's in the pantry😃



okits

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #43 on: June 28, 2017, 09:52:46 PM »
I tracked for half a year and we averaged around $625 for two adults, a toddler, and an infant (no household items, food only but before loyalty or credit card rebates) in Toronto.

Tracking by category was eye-opening.  We spent way too much on junk food.  Also expensive: meat, cheese, breads.  We now spend less on junk and more on produce.  Bread consumption is creeping up again, so we could try again to bake at home a bit more often.

We have a chest freezer and stock up on deeply discounted items.  We don't trek out to discount grocery places but buy what's on sale or on clearance at the mainstream stores.

Keep a big picture view on your grocery spending.  Ours is higher than before because we buy so much less take out and go to restaurants much more infrequently.  I'm not troubled about the expense if it's for good value, nutritious food.  Also, compare grocery prices to other Canadians, in $Cdn. 

Bulk Barn is good for obscure items or if you only need an amount that doesn't match standard packaging.  You have to have the discipline to walk out without a zillion impulse purchases or unnecessary items (DH always asks for candy if I'm going there.  Candy he would not otherwise buy except that I'm going down that magical aisle of hundreds of kinds of chocolate.  I used to be terrible for this, too.)

ETA: I saw a Rate Supermarket e-mail giving a 20,000 PC points ($20) and $150 e-gift card sign up bonus for PC Financial MasterCard.  Stunningly good offer for a grocery store credit card in Canada!
« Last Edit: June 28, 2017, 09:55:12 PM by okits »

Unique User

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #44 on: June 29, 2017, 07:14:42 AM »
We spend about $400 per month on food spending averaged out throughout the year.  This includes restaurants, take out, any school lunches, basically all food spending for two adults and a teenager.  We eat simple meals, with lots of produce.  I have a couple general guidelines I follow and we have a chest freezer to help me. 

Meat - I buy whatever meat is on a deep sale or marked down.  Last week Kroger had boneless chicken breasts on sale for $1.69 a pound, I bought about 20 lbs and froze them.  A couple weeks before that I noticed several packages of ground beef had a sell by date of that day, but were not marked down.  I asked a meat guy if he could mark them down and mentioned I'd like to buy a lot if the price was right.  He asked me what price I wanted, so I ended up purchasing 15 pounds of 90% at $1 a pound, plus I had 4 coupons for $1 off any beef. 

Produce - we buy what is on sale or what is marked down.  I have no issues with ugly or bruised produce and we go through it fast enough that our waste is very minimal. 

Convenience/packaged foods - mostly I only purchase when close to freebies or really low with a coupon, otherwise we just don't eat those items, we eat what I can get for really low prices or we just eat something else.  I was able to get pasta for 17c a box about a month ago, I purchased 10 boxes. I'll buy any variety of canned beans I can get for less than 25c a can. 

Basically I build our meals off what we have or what is on sale, instead of planning meals then purchasing for those meals.  I was able to get whole turkeys for $4-$6 in Nov/Dec, we ate a ton of turkey.  We end up with enough variety and I'm constantly googling new recipes. 
« Last Edit: June 29, 2017, 07:20:25 AM by Unique User »

englishteacheralex

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #45 on: June 29, 2017, 10:20:52 AM »
^Hat's off to you! And very good advice: plan meals around what's on sale and what's already in your pantry, freezer, and refrigerator. Don't be afraid to sub ingredients. Google/pinterest are your friends for using up food in interesting ways!


SilveradoBojangles

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #46 on: June 29, 2017, 11:00:15 AM »
I had our grocery budget dialed in, and now we've moved and I need to figure out the best places to get stuff all over again.

Pre MMM we were spending 6-900/month on groceries for 2 people, but we got it down to about 400/month, and that included organic fruits and veggies (most from a local CSA, which I loved dearly) and organic dairy products. It did not include alcohol or house hold things.  We eat very little meat (1-2x week, usually as a flavoring addition rather than the main event, but do eat fish occasionally. I mostly shopped at costco (beans, nuts, canned goods, dry goods, eggs, tofu), Trader Joes (dairy products, oils, some canned goods), Target (good prices for baking goods and condiments, plus whatever else seemed on sale), Grocery Outlet (odds and ends, never knew what they would have), and a specialty grocery for everything else (exotic dry goods from their bulk bins, ethnic foods, the occasional extra vegetable to make a specific recipe, something from the butcher counter, etc). I only went to Costco and Target once every 3 months, and stocked up. Grocery outlet was more like once a month, and Trader Joes was every week. Specialty store was as needed, but I tried to stay out of there because it was pricey.

The core of our menu was vegetables from the CSA. We almost never purchase convenience foods, and I cook from scratch every day. I love to cook, and this included the occasional splurge on something fancy for a dinner party (say, king salmon during the season, or a pork shoulder to make carnitas, or some fancy mushroom, or whatever). It did take a while to figure out what was the best thing to get where, and now I have to learn it all over again in a new place. Sigh.

Unique User

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #47 on: June 29, 2017, 11:46:25 AM »
A lot of people have mentioned CSAs, in my hipster area, they are PRICY.  I keep hoping Hungry Harvest (http://www.hungryharvest.net/) will set up shop here.  They "recover" ugly produce from farms and grocery stores and distributors and distribute similar to a CSA.  You can order organic boxes or non-organic boxes.  You can place on hold, etc.  If you live in the MidAtlantic or Southeast, even if your location is not listed, you can put your name and location as interested.  They use those stats to figure out where to expand next. 

ms_misfit

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #48 on: June 30, 2017, 09:33:13 AM »
Thanks again everyone for the replies. I'll report back after a couple of months on how it's going.

SilveradoBojangles

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Re: Question about $300-$400 Grocery Budgets...
« Reply #49 on: June 30, 2017, 09:45:03 AM »
A lot of people have mentioned CSAs, in my hipster area, they are PRICY.  I keep hoping Hungry Harvest (http://www.hungryharvest.net/) will set up shop here.  They "recover" ugly produce from farms and grocery stores and distributors and distribute similar to a CSA.  You can order organic boxes or non-organic boxes.  You can place on hold, etc.  If you live in the MidAtlantic or Southeast, even if your location is not listed, you can put your name and location as interested.  They use those stats to figure out where to expand next.

CSAs can vary wildly in price. My old one was $20 a week for 8-10 items of the most delicious produce I had ever had. In my new area it's $34 (and theoretically the cost of living is lower here, but I guess growing things is harder). But I'm willing to give it a try if the quality is good and the pick up is convenient, because vegetables are the core of our diet, and I want to support local farmers with good growing practices. We were invited out to the farm for our first pick up, and it was cool to meet the people who are growing your food and see how it all happens. And the vegetables we had for dinner last night were very tasty - we made a pesto out of basil and garlic scapes, and a giant kale salad, and the kale was some of the most tender I've had.