Author Topic: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill  (Read 11674 times)

joe189man

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The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« on: December 04, 2019, 04:27:39 PM »
My family spends a lot on food. i have read the how to kill your $1k grocery bill post (here for a refresher https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/29/killing-your-1000-grocery-bill/) and several other posts about it here in the forums. i am having a hard time reconciling how healthy (or unhealthy) food options are when so little money is being spent. Not that quality food has to be expensive but quality has a price. Food is medicine, and i want to be healthy now, ensuring a long and happy life not just retirement.

I guess my question is how do folks with small grocery budgets feel about the food they eat?  Do foods with labels saying organic, grass fed, pasture raised appear on the foods you buy? Are some foods eliminated from your diets like wheat, white potatoes, white rice, pasta, industrial and processed meats and dairy? Are you following a specific diet like Keto, Mediterranean, Low Carb, Gluten Free, Vegetarian or Vegan, how does that affect your grocery bill?
 
Personally we buy organic grass fed meats, free range organic eggs, grass fed milk, lots of salads, and vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds and fruit. i tend toward the lower carb  and gluten free diets. i think our average monthly grocery bill is nearly $900 (from personal capital) for a family of 4 - 2 adults and two small kids. 

i am not trying to kick the hornets nest with this post, just wondering how others think about food

socaso

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2019, 04:46:27 PM »
We spend $600 a month to feed three. I don't bother much with organic produce. I aim to serve 2 vegetarian dinners a week and keep all lunches mostly plant based. We have a big garden in the summer and freeze/can a bunch from that.

Daley

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2019, 05:21:01 PM »
As a house that leans towards food is medicine, with a person who has Celiac Disease, and a house that only eats kosher meat (we try to be aware of how we treat the animals that sustain us) and skews a bit paleo themselves? We're spending about a third of your budget for two adults. Processed food, no matter how "organic", is still processed food and expensive. Trying to replicate the Standard American Diet, especially within the constraints of organic gluten free gets expensive; especially if you don't actually have, you know, Celiac Disease - though I can't get angry at the fad dieters, they help our budget through volume and helped advance labeling. Just try to avoid processed foods.

Organic as a label is a bit of a marketing boondoggle and not worth much, honestly, and sometimes the "organic" pesticides and fertilizers can be worse than the chemical. I want to encourage you to do your own research on this front.

Concerned about pesticides? Be aware of EWG's full list and their Dirty Dozen, and don't sweat the rest.

I'm personally fine with natural selective breeding, but not over the moon with GMO vegetation where we actively alter and splice in foreign DNA to further help sustain practices that aren't inherently sustainable, as I'm a student of observing the effects of unintended consequences and as such, it raises an eyebrow. It's not fear, just cautious skepticism. It's like the long and dirty hidden tailpipe of renewable energy for me. Talk to me again about the technology and the fruits yielded from it in 50 to 100 years if we're both still around. YMMV. All this said, if you really want to avoid the stuff? Know what vegetation actually is/is not/could be GMO instead of shopping by NON GMO Project labels. There's plenty of stuff out there that has that label solely to charge a premium, like peanut butter. All peanut butter is NON GMO, because there's no such thing as any viably created or legally certified GMO peanuts being produced anywhere in the world... but funny how all the NON GMO Project 100% peanut butters charge a premium.

Learn what egg labels actually mean in relation to the birds. For example, what good are organic eggs from a chicken that lives in a one foot box its entire life?

Unless you have a diagnosed auto-immune issue with the proteins in wheat, don't sweat eating GF... live a little, don't worry about PPM counts of cross contamination like I do, and enjoy some real bread for a change.

Learn to understand the food you're buying instead of shopping purely by labels and unregulated definitions. Do that, and your budget will improve.


Edited to clarify and add some nuance to a couple points.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2019, 07:46:19 PM by Daley »

Bernard

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2019, 05:35:25 PM »
My wife and I are vegetarians. I eat a healthy breakfast at home, while she just grabs something to eat on the way to work. We take our microwave lunch to work, same for a fruit snack at coffee time I usually eat a $4 dinner at night, while my wife rarely eats dinner. We do drink Trader Joe's box wine at dinner ($16.99 for 4 liters).

I first buy cans at the 99 cent store. What I don't get on the super cheap I buy at Vons, if possible at a huge discount. What I can't get at Vons I buy at Trader Joe's. Only the few items I can't get at Trader Joe's I buy at Lassen's or Sprouts. About once a month we shop at Costco. We buy the dirty dozen organic (for health reasons), buy free roam eggs and organic milk (for ethical reasons), but otherwise I'm a penny pincher.

I can't really separate food from personal items and pet food for our two small dogs and lonely cat, but we too spend about $1K per month on that stuff. About $150 of that is the box wine. I've tried hard to reduce that bill, but it didn't make a noticeable dent.

Cassie

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2019, 05:46:14 PM »
300 for 2 people.

Villanelle

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2019, 05:50:56 PM »
My wife and I are vegetarians. I eat a healthy breakfast at home, while she just grabs something to eat on the way to work. We take our microwave lunch to work, same for a fruit snack at coffee time I usually eat a $4 dinner at night, while my wife rarely eats dinner. We do drink Trader Joe's box wine at dinner ($16.99 for 4 liters).

I first buy cans at the 99 cent store. What I don't get on the super cheap I buy at Vons, if possible at a huge discount. What I can't get at Vons I buy at Trader Joe's. Only the few items I can't get at Trader Joe's I buy at Lassen's or Sprouts. About once a month we shop at Costco. We buy the dirty dozen organic (for health reasons), buy free roam eggs and organic milk (for ethical reasons), but otherwise I'm a penny pincher.

I can't really separate food from personal items and pet food for our two small dogs and lonely cat, but we too spend about $1K per month on that stuff. About $150 of that is the box wine. I've tried hard to reduce that bill, but it didn't make a noticeable dent.

You drink 35 liters of wine every month?

MaybeBabyMustache

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2019, 06:02:27 PM »
We are feeding two adults, and two teen boys. We spend around $650/month, and think we spend generously on groceries. We buy organic milk, eggs & organic fruit/veggies (dirty dozen). We eat a significant amount of produce each week, and my husband eats Keto friendly due to an allergy.

What helps?
-Menu planning
-Ensuring zero waste
-Repurposing leftovers
-Shopping around for things that make up the majority of your grocery bill. When it's on sale, stock up (using reasonable consumption rules)
-Making our own snacks & meal options whenever possible, vs buying prepackaged ready to eat meals. We do have some in the freezer for emergencies, in the spirit of transparency (and, teenage boys), but we try to keep the ration of 90/10 (90% homemade, 10% not).
« Last Edit: December 04, 2019, 06:33:46 PM by MaybeBabyMustache »

Cranky

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2019, 06:03:26 PM »
I spend about $600/month on food for 3 adults, one of whom is a vegetarian. (Cat food and wine are in different budget categories.)

I buy pretty much whatever anyone wants to eat. I think we eat pretty well - I do buy free range eggs from the Farmers Market, and organic milk (because it keeps longer and we donít go through it all that fast.) I just split a grass fed lamb package with a friend. We eat lots of fruits and vegetables, but stick to whatís in season, so not a lot of lettuce and strawberries in December.

I like to cook. We eat almost every meal at home - Iím generally disappointed when we eat out. It always seems like a bad value.

I mostly shop at Aldi.


aloevera

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2019, 06:29:56 PM »
About $270 for me over the last month and the one before, just looked it up. I have an adult son who I occasionally feed but mostly that's me.

Keto, so sadly (for budget, health is great tho) no cheap stuff like grains, beans and pasta. Lots of veggies (it's been farmer's market season so they've been pretty cheap), meat, greek yogurt, chia seed/almond milk "pudding", wine, cheese, eggs, coffee...these are my staples.  I don't really eat any packaged food - my cabinet stores things like spices and oils., not bread or crackers or cookies.

And because of keto I wind up making a lot of things myself I'd never make if not, like my own chocolate and coconut flour bagels and stuff like that.

I could spend less if I made an effort to, and I could spend a lot less if I ate more carbs. But i feel too good eating what I do now to change it much.

OtherJen

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2019, 06:46:23 PM »
I have celiac disease. We probably spend $350 on food groceries (not including pet supplies, paper/cleaning products, or alcohol) per month for two adults (me and husband). Most of our meals are from scratch or use a few convenience ingredients (canned tomatoes, occasional canned beans, occasional gluten-free bread, occasional store-bought corn tortillas, frozen broccoli).

We eat very well, with as much veg as I can pack into meals. E.g., tonight was homemade red sauce made from canned tomatoes and tomato paste (Aldi), organic grass-fed ground beef (Costco), and mushrooms/bell pepper/onion/garlic, served over spaghetti squash (local produce market). Last night was the other 2/3 lb of ground beef (Costco sells it in packs of 3 x1.3 lbs so I try to schedule two meals per smaller pack) with various veg and homemade taco seasoning, served over brown rice (Costco). We now have enough leftovers for the next couple of days of lunches and tomorrow's dinner.

About 95% of our food comes from Aldi, Costco, and the local produce market. We eat fruit in season and try to meal plan so we don't waste ingredients. Good-quality meat is purchased in bulk and frozen. If we want cookies or cake, I bake them from scratch (and stock up on King Arthur GF flour when it's on sale).

Edit to add: with alcohol, cleaning and paper products, healthcare/hygiene, and pet supplies, we're probably at $500Ė$550 per month. Maybe my 2020 resolution will be to tally this more closely.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2019, 05:54:16 PM by OtherJen »

Zikoris

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2019, 07:36:16 PM »
We're a vegan couple and usually spend somewhere around $250/month for groceries and household supplies. There's some organic stuff there by accident - the brand of soy milk Costco sells happens to be organic, and we mostly shop at a grocery store that sells stuff nearing expiry that other shops wouldn't sell (which keeps a lot of food out of the landfill - yay for the environment!), which is sometimes organic. In particular, we very frequently end up with organic cauliflower, because it happens to be the type of cheap cauliflower for sale that week. I think most of our veggie meats and some tofu are also organic, again, by accident, not design.

If we spent more than that, it would mean one or more of the following would have happened:

a) I got super lazy and stopped cooking all our food
b) We got scammed into some sort of dubious health claims
c) We stopped caring about food waste and just started throwing stuff out and letting food go bad
d) I forgot how to meal plan and cook creatively
e) My boyfriend forgot how unit cost math works, and also forgot which stores to buy which items at
f) We started eating a pile of junk food
g) We switched to gross WASPy food instead of delicious international cuisine
h) We decided to forgo our cool neighbourhood markets in favor of shitty big box stores
i) "Fuck the planet, let's just fill a bunch of landfills up with useless plastic food packaging"
j) We decided we'd rather eat restaurant/prepared food than home cooked meals and feel sick and shitty all the time
...and so on.

Obviously those are all things we want to avoid, and luckily for us just not doing those things is all it takes to have low food spending.

ontheway2

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2019, 08:05:16 AM »
We are in the middle.  I've noticed the very low grocery budgets are very cheap carb based. I do not buy organic with some exceptions, and I don't worry about grass fed meats or free range as I've heard it improves taste, but I don't see how it would improve quality as it relates to one's health. I do buy "quality" meats though on sale. Perdue chicken breasts when they are $1.99/lb vs $4.99. $3.99 ground beef instead of the $1.99 or $6.99 varieties, etc. We eat healthy, but the "best of everything" being healthier is a gimmick
« Last Edit: December 05, 2019, 08:07:04 AM by ontheway2 »

Malcat

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2019, 08:31:26 AM »
We spend $200-300 on food each month for two active adults, and we do not eat cheap or crappy food.

I'm a former chef, my meals are very nutritious, incredibly flavourful and people regularly invite themselves over to raid my fridge.

I very rarely use bread, pasta, or flour. I use a lot of legumes, rice, potatoes, carrots, and cabbage as inexpensive bulk. I don't cook with meat, I moderately cook with cheese, and we go through a ton of eggs.

Where I splurge is fresh herbs and high quality spices. Some Persian dishes require me to spend more in fresh herbs than on all other ingredients combined.
Totally worth it, plus I can grow them myself in the summer.

MaybeBabyMustache

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2019, 09:13:53 AM »
unrelated to the main thread, but @Malkynn , do tell. What Persian meals are you making? I'd love suggestions. My husband is Persian, and I've tried a few but can never replicate his mom's cooking :-)

Malcat

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2019, 09:36:29 AM »
unrelated to the main thread, but @Malkynn , do tell. What Persian meals are you making? I'd love suggestions. My husband is Persian, and I've tried a few but can never replicate his mom's cooking :-)

All vegetarian stuff, so a lot of classic dishes without the meat, like celery stew (khoreshte karafs), which is usually made with beef, but can be done with kidney beans.

I make one chickpea and spinach stew that I serve with rice. The flavour comes from good quality broth, turmeric, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, and a ton of cilantro, Italian parsley, dill, and chives. The smell is unreal. 

I find the key is to really overdo it on the fresh herbs.

AMandM

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #15 on: December 05, 2019, 09:42:48 AM »
We spent about $850 per month to feed two adults, three teenagers, and frequent guests. Besides actual food, that number includes alcohol, paper goods, and drugstore-type items (toiletries, OTC meds).

I'll echo those who say that the key to keeping grocery costs down is buying ingredients and doing the work yourself--both the work of cooking and all the prep work of chopping, measuring, assembling, mixing, etc. We buy some high-end foods such as free-range eggs and grass-fed meat for ethical reasons, but we get them relatively inexpensively compared to grocery-store prices. We buy meat from a couple of farmers, sharing a whole beef or hog with friends. Our eggs come through a company that collects food overstocks and sells them to reduce food waste--fun fact, people who buy free-range eggs in grocery stores prefer brown ones, so the farmers end up with lots of extra white ones that end up in my fridge at $2/dozen.

I shop the flyers pretty carefully to stock up on the grocery-store foods we do buy when they're on a good sale. I don't use many coupons, because they're mostly for processed food, but I'll watch and buy some things when I have a coupon and they're on sale.  I buy spices in bulk at the local co-op, which alone probably saves $10 a month. We have a small garden. My husband brews beer. I can jams, relish, and stock.

OP, if you want to lower your grocery bill, I would not focus on how close or far you are to others. This thread shows it can be done, so choose some area where you can and want to improve, and start there. One of my first cost-conscious changes was home-cooked oatmeal instead of cold cereal. My next is to make home-baked bread a routine instead of a treat. Both of those show that a low grocery bill takes work, which means time, so you have to figure out what is feasible in your life.

Sanitary Engineer

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #16 on: December 05, 2019, 10:13:55 AM »
My wife is a chef and we benefit from taking bulk food home from her kitchen.  I estimate our grocery budget if we included the food we take home from her work is close to $550/month for three adults and three young children (including some formula for the infant).  We spend $250 outside of what we take home.

I feel like we could buy better milk, but otherwise it is all very high quality food mostly from sources we are personally familiar with.

We eat 1-2 meals with meat in them each week.  The meat is locally raised by people we know and isn't cheap, but is probably cheaper than a city grocery store (~$11/lb).  Each meat meal has 0.5 - 1 lbs of meat total for 4 eaters.  It is usually all the kids eat if its on the table.
Food we take home from work is generally cheese and pantry items: oats, various kinds of flour, coffee, dried fruits, peanut butter, maple syrup, various kinds of beans, spices, oils, sauces/seasonings (we have a beautiful wall of half gallon mason jars full of food that doesn't go bad).
Vegetables come from a local CSA.  We have a winter farm nearby who distributes CSA shares for hundreds of miles around. In the summer we freeze extra veggies from the farm CSA, where we can harvest extra food ourselves.
We supplement with grocery store items like pizza crusts, red sauce, milk, and sometimes super convenient/not good for you foods like boxes of pasta and rotisserie chicken (my wife can't bring herself to bring home high quality roast chicken she sells at her work).

I think it is worth while to understand how much food is being thrown away.  We have a 5 gallon pail we fill up about every 2 weeks.  I think my wife's main Thanksgiving goal was to not throw away any food at all.  I was surprised to find the pail still only half full this morning and there are no thanksgiving foods left in the fridge. 

A mostly empty fridge.  A mostly full freezer. And jars and jars of unlabeled dry foods is her ideal situation.  Precious treasure and oil and it's all going to be consumed.

wellactually

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #17 on: December 05, 2019, 01:32:06 PM »
My line item is $430 for two adults and includes toiletries, OTC meds, and any alcohol. We don't eat out much either.

When we were in the debt-payoff mode, we did $60 less than that, but we eat way better now. Mostly because I've accumulated a lot better recipes and skills and kitchen management. Admittedly, right now due to temporary health constraints, we're eating lean cuisines for work lunches frequently. But aside from that, we eat a lower-GI diet with a lot of vegetables and not much processed foods. I care more about hormone-free than organic and I avoid the cheaper canned foods that have BPA liners. I buy almond milk. We do have low-carb tortillas and whole wheat bread occasionally. When I'm feeling better, I usually do curried lentils or chickpeas over brown rice for lunch meal preps. If I had the freezer space, I'd look into getting a half or quarter cow. We've cut down a lot of our meat eating in the past several years, so that helps too.

It's certainly possible to eat very healthily and even somewhat eco-consciously on less. But it does take extra time and effort and possibly taking advantage of farmers markets or changing stores. If you really want to investigate, I'd recommend just saving your receipts for a month and then categorizing every item into categories: fresh produce / meat / rice&beans / canned goods / alcohol / frozen / children / toiletries / dairy / processed or prepared. Maybe you'll find that you are actually just buying really fancy meat, dairy, and produce. But you might find that you're spending a lot more on organic squeezy pouches for the kids or wine or pre-prepared convenience items than you realized. You also might be going to a more expensive store than you realize. It might be worth price checking a few items at other places to see if you want to cut costs.

pegleglolita

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #18 on: December 05, 2019, 02:05:04 PM »
unrelated to the main thread, but @Malkynn , do tell. What Persian meals are you making? I'd love suggestions. My husband is Persian, and I've tried a few but can never replicate his mom's cooking :-)

All vegetarian stuff, so a lot of classic dishes without the meat, like celery stew (khoreshte karafs), which is usually made with beef, but can be done with kidney beans.

I make one chickpea and spinach stew that I serve with rice. The flavour comes from good quality broth, turmeric, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, and a ton of cilantro, Italian parsley, dill, and chives. The smell is unreal. 

I find the key is to really overdo it on the fresh herbs.

OOOH!  I just discovered Naz Deravian's Bottom of the Pot Persian cookbook.  So, so, yummy!  I am a great lover of Lebanese, Greek, "middle eastern" food but somehow had not really been exposed too much to Persian cuisine.  I love the sour flavors incorporated into so many things.  Her vegetarian carrot and apple stew has become an instant favorite at our house.

Malcat

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #19 on: December 05, 2019, 02:35:42 PM »
unrelated to the main thread, but @Malkynn , do tell. What Persian meals are you making? I'd love suggestions. My husband is Persian, and I've tried a few but can never replicate his mom's cooking :-)

All vegetarian stuff, so a lot of classic dishes without the meat, like celery stew (khoreshte karafs), which is usually made with beef, but can be done with kidney beans.

I make one chickpea and spinach stew that I serve with rice. The flavour comes from good quality broth, turmeric, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, and a ton of cilantro, Italian parsley, dill, and chives. The smell is unreal. 

I find the key is to really overdo it on the fresh herbs.

OOOH!  I just discovered Naz Deravian's Bottom of the Pot Persian cookbook.  So, so, yummy!  I am a great lover of Lebanese, Greek, "middle eastern" food but somehow had not really been exposed too much to Persian cuisine.  I love the sour flavors incorporated into so many things.  Her vegetarian carrot and apple stew has become an instant favorite at our house.

I find Persian to be a pretty distinct flavour palate from a lot of other middle Eastern food, especially the prevalence of mint in recipes.

I'll admit I'm not actually a huge fan of Lebanese or Greek food, but I love the aromatics of Persian dishes.

Goldielocks

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #20 on: December 05, 2019, 05:58:23 PM »
My family spends a lot on food.
I guess my question is how do folks with small grocery budgets feel about the food they eat?
I live up north, in the middle of winter (starting around now, definitely mid January to  April, I find that I am quite bored of the 8 "staple" fruit and veggies that I buy "in season" because the price is reasonable,   I would like more produce in my food.  I do buy frozen veggies and fruit and freeze a lot myself from local produce for this time... but it isn't the same and even what is in the stores is often inferior taste and quality during these months
Quote
 

Do foods with labels saying organic, grass fed, pasture raised appear on the foods you buy?

Rarely.  By accident or if they are same price.   Or if I buy grass fed beef from my cousin's herd. 
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Are some foods eliminated from your diets like wheat, white potatoes, white rice, pasta, industrial and processed meats and dairy?
YES!  My husband cuts back on starchy anything quite a bit, "beef and broccoli and salad with lots of fixings" is his favorite meal... and I have a special diet every 4 moths or so that lasts about 2 months, and is low carbs and high on nuts and fancy cheese.
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Are you following a specific diet like Keto, Mediterranean, Low Carb, Gluten Free, Vegetarian or Vegan, how does that affect your grocery bill?
  I find I have a lower grocery bill now than when we bought "normal" foods...  We eliminated almost everything that came in a package / processed. I buy in a lot of bulk.   I buy things like amaranth, chia, millet for starches.  I even finally got rid of buying yogurt unless on low sale or bought in large bulk...  I don't buy baked goods (I will bake occassionally)
 The fancy cheese month for my diet does spike a bit, but normally we don't eat beans, lentils, pasta.  I do serve rice once or twice a week because it is easy to make and I get lazy.

Honestly, if I could eliminate the cans of iced tea  / soda and 1L juice and make granola bars  for what  the teens take for lunch, I could cut another $70 off my grocery bill...so it is not about cutting good food, it is about cutting junk, or typical packaged / prepared foods for us.
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Personally we buy organic grass fed meats, free range organic eggs, grass fed milk, lots of salads, and vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds and fruit. i tend toward the lower carb  and gluten free diets. i think our average monthly grocery bill is nearly $900 (from personal capital) for a family of 4 - 2 adults and two small kids. 
  I grow organic, because I like fresh yummy foods, too.   We buy a lot of nuts, too. I need to ration them to a reasonable daily amount or they get eaten up.  I keep popcorn for the air popper on hand to move people to another food after a plentiful amount of pricey nuts are eaten.  I know my prices and buy nuts at 65% regular price when on sale.   We eat a lot of seeds and meat and dairy, but nearly zero beans.. Fruit in season and apples bananas and oranges year round, plus my frozen / canned peaches, pears, strawberries, blueberries.

If you are buying gluten free baked goods, that is a $$$ pit.  All baked goods are, but especially gluten free, processed vegan foods, etc.  When there is a food that we can't eat, we just cut it out and choose something else in its "regular" form that we can eat.   so -- sweet potatoes instead of GF bread with dinner.  Leftover stir fry or oatmeal with fixing for lunch instead of a sandwich, that sort of thing.

Similar to that, I priced out about 20 meals that we regularly eat at the normal portion size for us.   Recipe meals as well as fast foods like yogurt and cereal.   Based on that I was able to create a stable list of a variety of foods for our pantry, that work for us, that don't break my budget.

If you choose to buy organic, grass fed etc etc., no problem with that, we all get to choose what we want.  For a few years, I chose skiing trips with the family, for example.  And I am still FIRE.

Oh - BTW -- all that "cook from whole foods" and "buy in bulk" that I do now?  It only really paid off after I was at home and able to start prepping food (bulk foods, roasts) a few hours before dinner.   I also have time to can and freeze produce.  This takes TIME.   But I cut our grocery budget by 40% by doing so.

seattlecyclone

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #21 on: December 06, 2019, 11:43:06 AM »
My family spends a lot on food. i have read the how to kill your $1k grocery bill post (here for a refresher https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/29/killing-your-1000-grocery-bill/) and several other posts about it here in the forums. i am having a hard time reconciling how healthy (or unhealthy) food options are when so little money is being spent. Not that quality food has to be expensive but quality has a price.

We have five people in our household (me, my wife, two young kids, and an au pair). We average a hair over $400/month on groceries. For reference, I lump alcohol and anything else we might typically buy at a grocery store or Costco, including soap and toilet paper, into the "grocery" category. I know that's not a universal thing.

We buy a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables with this money, quite a few grain-based foods (we love our carbs), dairy, and plant-based proteins. I'm the only omnivore in our house so we cook almost entirely vegetarian as I can't be bothered to buy and cook meat just for myself. Pepperoni for homemade pizza and the occasional pack of lunch meat are basically the only meat I recall buying in recent memory.

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Food is medicine, and i want to be healthy now, ensuring a long and happy life not just retirement.

I'd say we eat pretty healthy on this amount of spend. We have a pretty balanced diet. My wife has a baking hobby so we perhaps have a few more desserts than we should, but otherwise I don't feel as though we're sacrificing our health in any way to save money on food. We could afford to spend more and would certainly do that if we had any specific health concerns that could be addressed by doing so.

Quote
I guess my question is how do folks with small grocery budgets feel about the food they eat?  Do foods with labels saying organic, grass fed, pasture raised appear on the foods you buy? Are some foods eliminated from your diets like wheat, white potatoes, white rice, pasta, industrial and processed meats and dairy? Are you following a specific diet like Keto, Mediterranean, Low Carb, Gluten Free, Vegetarian or Vegan, how does that affect your grocery bill?

I don't pay any attention to organic labeling. I am far from convinced that an organic piece of food is healthier in any significant way than the same thing grown by other means. I think some aspects of organic farming can have definite environmental benefits, but I also think that rich people voluntarily deciding to spend more on groceries is not the most effective way we can spend money for environmental benefit, nor is it likely to lead to the types of systemic changes we need to keep this planet livable for our grandchildren.

I also have not gotten on the "carbs bad, fats and proteins good" bandwagon. I remember the exact opposite advice being touted as gospel in my youth. I fully expect the pendulum to swing back toward the middle before long. We strive for balance: some carbs, some proteins, some fats. We do eat mostly vegetarian as I mentioned above and this does have a positive impact on our spending. I also think that gluten free is not something that any of us need to worry about unless we have diagnosed medical conditions that require such a diet.

GreenSheep

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #22 on: December 06, 2019, 01:06:49 PM »
I agree -- I don't want to compromise "healthiness" for the sake of savings. We are one whole food, plant-based eater and one omnivore who leans toward plant-based.

We buy organic from the Dirty Dozen list, and my husband gets the "more humane" versions of the chicken and eggs he buys. He occasionally gets eggs from a neighbor. I don't eat white flour/rice/pasta, or any sugar/oil/salt, but my husband does. I occasionally put a bit of molasses or maple syrup into something I'm baking, but that's it for me for sugary things. I spend a bit more on brown rice and pasta (rarely eat pasta anyway), but I save on the oil and sugar. You can water-saute things instead of using oil -- better for both the wallet and the waistline.

I shop first at a discount grocery store, and then I go to the fancy-pants local answer to Whole Foods for things I can't find at the discount place -- using gift cards we buy once a year for 25% off. We have a free Costco membership through my husband's job, and we go there every few weeks. We also have a garden/greenhouse, which are handy for greens, herbs, and heirloom tomatoes in particular.

The places where we don't compromise on health and/or taste, and therefore end up spending more:
-good spices
-good dates from Arizona/California when they're in season
-Hawaiian sweet potatoes shipped directly from Hawaii
-Japanese sweet potatoes
-good matcha tea
-infused balsamic vinegars (they get me to eat more greens!)
-My husband eats meat alternatives (Beyond Meat, etc.), which are expensive but a handy transition, and I can't complain if it's keeping him from eating cows

It takes time to eat both frugally and healthfully, but I don't think that means it's incompatible with an otherwise busy life. Things that I find helpful:

-rice cooker, not only for rice but also set to have oatmeal ready and waiting every morning
-huge separate freezer for leftovers, fruit picked by us over the summer, staples bought on sale, etc.
-from-scratch preparation of staples whenever possible (dry beans rather than canned, homemade soy and almond milk, rice, homemade sauces, grains ground up in our blender to make flour)
-from-scratch preparation of meals --> make 3-4 times what you need today/tomorrow and freeze the rest
-bread made from scratch using a no-knead recipe that takes just a few minutes of active time
-would consider an Instant Pot if I were still working and had less time
-buying whole spices and grinding them myself, which only takes a couple of minutes (they last longer whole, so you can buy more at a time, thereby saving money, and they taste better freshly ground)
-look at the ingredients whenever tempted to buy a pre-packaged food -- often it's very easy to make the same thing yourself cheaper and healthier
-enjoy foods from other countries -- I make a lot of Indian, Mexican, and Thai foods. Beans and rice are cheap and can be dressed up in all sorts of delicious ways!
-planning -- I have a meal plan and write reminders for myself to soak the beans overnight or defrost the okara or whatever so that I'll be ready to go the next day

Bernard

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #23 on: December 06, 2019, 05:19:13 PM »
You drink 35 liters of wine every month?

We consume about 10 boxes per month. That's actually 40 liters.
Guilty as charged.
But I don't drink water!

AccidentialMustache

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #24 on: December 06, 2019, 06:53:43 PM »
Concerned about pesticides? Be aware of EWG's full list and their Dirty Dozen, and don't sweat the rest.

I'm having all sorts of issues with sweet corn on the pesticide free list. At least in the corn belt, you aren't growing sweet corn without pesticides, because the bugs don't care what variety of corn you planted. The only thing I can think here is that the husk is the saving grace and when you pull it off you pull of the pesticides. Or its all about timing, the last spray might be long enough before setting ears of corn that the ears themselves miss it? Or, lacking much details on the methodology, maybe they managed to test only sweet corn from non-midwest states where they'd have less bug problems.

SimpleCycle

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #25 on: December 06, 2019, 09:06:22 PM »
You drink 35 liters of wine every month?

We consume about 10 boxes per month. That's actually 40 liters.
Guilty as charged.
But I don't drink water!

Not to derail, but Iím truly concerned by this.  Assuming a 2 adult household, thatís 4.4 standard drinks per person per day.  Thatís double the cutoff for heavy drinking for men and quadruple for women.  Itís well outside a healthy amount to drink.

Michael in ABQ

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #26 on: December 06, 2019, 11:34:03 PM »
Our grocery bill (including diapers, other paper products, toiletries, etc.) is about $1,400 a month for a household of eight. My wife eats gluten free so sometimes we might all end up eating gluten free pasta so she's not making two separate things and worrying about cross contamination. So that definitely increases the costs. In general we eat a fair amount of meat but mostly chicken and ground beef, not a lot of steak. Pretty much every meal is prepared from scratch. We do the bulk of our shopping at the commissary on base which is generally 20-30% cheaper than most stores as they sell everything at cost +5%. We've got a lot of kids so some of this is buying snack-type items for school lunches or things like launchables if we know we're going to be out all day running errands. Peanut butter sandwiches and cut up apples slices are cheaper but more time-intensive. We've made that decision that although we could save money on groceries, it would be at the cost of more time. So the extra dollar for a bag of shredded cheese is an acceptable trade-off for the 5-10 minutes it saves in shredding the cheese, cleaning up from the shredding, and washing the cheese shredder.

pk_aeryn

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #27 on: December 06, 2019, 11:40:26 PM »
You drink 35 liters of wine every month?

We consume about 10 boxes per month. That's actually 40 liters.
Guilty as charged.
But I don't drink water!

I also donít want to derail on this, but ... you absolutely need to drink A LOT of water for the amount of alcohol youíre consuming.  A lot of my family including myself was in the ďproblem drinkerĒ category and so if youíd like any resources for non-AAA help that works, feel free to PM me... with certain medication Iíve been able to dramatically cut back my drinking. otherwise I wonít go on as Iím sure you know this is a lot of wine and we donít need to lecture you on that.

cchrissyy

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #28 on: December 06, 2019, 11:40:37 PM »
you don't need to go organic on every single thing.
I do it for milk and some produce.
I care about local or whole grain more than about organic.
I feed 1 adult and 3 teenagers on less than half of your monthly number.

norajean

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #29 on: December 07, 2019, 07:37:57 AM »
$250-300 per month per adult on grocery store items (including toiletries, dog food, alcohol, etc)  is about average in the US&A.  It's what we spend without even buying "inner aisle" canned, boxed or frozen items nor fancy organics or spendy  meats.  We eat it all and don't throw much away.

mistymoney

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #30 on: December 07, 2019, 07:48:49 AM »
My family spends a lot on food. i have read the how to kill your $1k grocery bill post (here for a refresher https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/29/killing-your-1000-grocery-bill/) and several other posts about it here in the forums. i am having a hard time reconciling how healthy (or unhealthy) food options are when so little money is being spent. Not that quality food has to be expensive but quality has a price. Food is medicine, and i want to be healthy now, ensuring a long and happy life not just retirement.

I guess my question is how do folks with small grocery budgets feel about the food they eat?  Do foods with labels saying organic, grass fed, pasture raised appear on the foods you buy? Are some foods eliminated from your diets like wheat, white potatoes, white rice, pasta, industrial and processed meats and dairy? Are you following a specific diet like Keto, Mediterranean, Low Carb, Gluten Free, Vegetarian or Vegan, how does that affect your grocery bill?
 
Personally we buy organic grass fed meats, free range organic eggs, grass fed milk, lots of salads, and vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds and fruit. i tend toward the lower carb  and gluten free diets. i think our average monthly grocery bill is nearly $900 (from personal capital) for a family of 4 - 2 adults and two small kids. 

i am not trying to kick the hornets nest with this post, just wondering how others think about food

well - this is awkward.......

When I first joined the forum, I got a lot of grief for my finances in general and food budget in particular. I made some changes saved a good percentage of the food budget.....and quickly gained about 5 pounds in one month. I did a complain thread and was essentially poopooed!

I secretly went back to my usual eating/budget, and I never fessed up to that. :|     I have not lost those 5 pounds, but I haven't gained any more either.

Being a busy professional who is a middle-aged woman with a stable weight that I don't have to do anything about is a really important, quality of life issue for me. I don't currently have time or money for any real exercise routine - which is super bad, I know, but I am super busy and don't have any extra money floating around either! I'll have some down time (hopefully!) at year's end and I can try to figure out something better/exercise routine, plan to lose those 5 pounds, etc.

But! I'm never giving up my organic produce again!

MaybeBabyMustache

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #31 on: December 07, 2019, 07:59:18 AM »
@Malkynn - thanks for the tips. I will try some of the recipes again with higher quality fresh herbs & spices.

My son randomly asked for lubia polo (has meat, so likely not of interest) last night. He loves the flavor of cinnamon that really stands out. I'll have to try some other options as well.

Daley

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #32 on: December 07, 2019, 10:03:34 PM »
Concerned about pesticides? Be aware of EWG's full list and their Dirty Dozen, and don't sweat the rest.

I'm having all sorts of issues with sweet corn on the pesticide free list. At least in the corn belt, you aren't growing sweet corn without pesticides, because the bugs don't care what variety of corn you planted. The only thing I can think here is that the husk is the saving grace and when you pull it off you pull of the pesticides. Or its all about timing, the last spray might be long enough before setting ears of corn that the ears themselves miss it? Or, lacking much details on the methodology, maybe they managed to test only sweet corn from non-midwest states where they'd have less bug problems.

From the EWG FAQ (relevant parts bolded for emphasis):
Quote
What about genetically engineered crops? Why is sweet corn on the Clean Fifteen list?

A small percentage of sweet corn, zucchini and yellow squash sold in the U.S. is genetically modified. Most Hawaiian papaya is GMO. In 2016, the Department of Agriculture estimated that 8 percent of sweet corn, 12 percent of squash and about two-thirds of papaya grown in the U.S. was GMO. Of these, only GMO sweet corn is bred to withstand direct use of herbicides. Americans who want to avoid eating any GMO produce should buy organic fruits and vegetables.

Most starchy ďfield cornĒ and soy grown in this country are genetically modified to withstand direct applications of Roundup and sometimes also 2,4-D, a lesser-known toxic herbicide with known health risks. These crops are processed into oils, corn syrup and other common ingredients in processed foods. If you want to avoid genetically modified foods, look for items that are organic or that bear the ďNon-GMO Project VerifiedĒ label. We recommend that people use EWG's Shopper's Guide To Avoiding GMO Food, Food Scores database and Healthy Living app, which can help shoppers identify foods likely to contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Granted, that only addresses the herbicide end of the issue, which makes perfect sense as without genetic modification, corn can't survive direct application of herbicides which can be taken up by the plant. However, that's only the herbicide end of pesticide usage, and their explanation is a little... incomplete as to why the non-GMO is on the clean list beyond just the 8% GMO sweet corn statistic, and doesn't address your observation about the insecticide end of the topic. After digging a little though through their own website and the referenced FDA studies, your guess appears to be correct. It's all about the thick husk. Non-GM corn can't survive direct herbicide application, and insecticide/fungicide sprays apparently don't penetrate the husk very well. On the flip-side, most Bt corn that's herbicide resistant typically includes its own insecticidal proteins baked in.

So, it's not so much that sweet corn isn't raised without pesticides, it's just that the pesticides that can be used on non-Bt corn typically isn't detected post-shucking, making it a statistically clean and safe food "free" of digestible pesticides in the end product, which is a different animal than "100% free of any pesticide usage". Good guess, and it makes sense... so the lesson is that we shouldn't cook our corn until after we've shucked and washed it.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2019, 10:06:05 PM by Daley »

EvenSteven

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #33 on: December 08, 2019, 08:07:37 AM »
Concerned about pesticides? Be aware of EWG's full list and their Dirty Dozen, and don't sweat the rest.

I'm having all sorts of issues with sweet corn on the pesticide free list. At least in the corn belt, you aren't growing sweet corn without pesticides, because the bugs don't care what variety of corn you planted. The only thing I can think here is that the husk is the saving grace and when you pull it off you pull of the pesticides. Or its all about timing, the last spray might be long enough before setting ears of corn that the ears themselves miss it? Or, lacking much details on the methodology, maybe they managed to test only sweet corn from non-midwest states where they'd have less bug problems.

From the EWG FAQ (relevant parts bolded for emphasis):
Quote
What about genetically engineered crops? Why is sweet corn on the Clean Fifteen list?

A small percentage of sweet corn, zucchini and yellow squash sold in the U.S. is genetically modified. Most Hawaiian papaya is GMO. In 2016, the Department of Agriculture estimated that 8 percent of sweet corn, 12 percent of squash and about two-thirds of papaya grown in the U.S. was GMO. Of these, only GMO sweet corn is bred to withstand direct use of herbicides. Americans who want to avoid eating any GMO produce should buy organic fruits and vegetables.

Most starchy ďfield cornĒ and soy grown in this country are genetically modified to withstand direct applications of Roundup and sometimes also 2,4-D, a lesser-known toxic herbicide with known health risks. These crops are processed into oils, corn syrup and other common ingredients in processed foods. If you want to avoid genetically modified foods, look for items that are organic or that bear the ďNon-GMO Project VerifiedĒ label. We recommend that people use EWG's Shopper's Guide To Avoiding GMO Food, Food Scores database and Healthy Living app, which can help shoppers identify foods likely to contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Granted, that only addresses the herbicide end of the issue, which makes perfect sense as without genetic modification, corn can't survive direct application of herbicides which can be taken up by the plant. However, that's only the herbicide end of pesticide usage, and their explanation is a little... incomplete as to why the non-GMO is on the clean list beyond just the 8% GMO sweet corn statistic, and doesn't address your observation about the insecticide end of the topic. After digging a little though through their own website and the referenced FDA studies, your guess appears to be correct. It's all about the thick husk. Non-GM corn can't survive direct herbicide application, and insecticide/fungicide sprays apparently don't penetrate the husk very well. On the flip-side, most Bt corn that's herbicide resistant typically includes its own insecticidal proteins baked in.

So, it's not so much that sweet corn isn't raised without pesticides, it's just that the pesticides that can be used on non-Bt corn typically isn't detected post-shucking, making it a statistically clean and safe food "free" of digestible pesticides in the end product, which is a different animal than "100% free of any pesticide usage". Good guess, and it makes sense... so the lesson is that we shouldn't cook our corn until after we've shucked and washed it.

I think you are getting some terms mixed up. Corn that has been genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate is called roundup ready (or glyphosate resistant) and is able to tolerate the application of roundup (glyphosate).

Bt Maize, on the other hand has been modified to be insect resistant. Bt corn has been engineered with proteins from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that kill insects that feed on the corn.

I would also add that all corn, GMO or not, is resistant to direct application of some herbicides. Before glyphosate resistant corn existed, it was sprayed with atrazine to control weeds. I'll take todays modern farming methods with GMOs over the methods used 40 years ago any day of the week.

CrustyBadger

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #34 on: December 08, 2019, 09:02:36 AM »
I am a bad mustacian and our food expenses for four people are off the chart so I'm not the person you want to hear from. (-:

My husband and are are (or really were) on the Wahl's Protocol for about 6 months - this is a diet people call Paleo Plus sometimes and it is being used as an anti-inflammatory diet.   I think it is pretty similar to something call the AIP (AutoImmune Protocol)  It was extremely beneficial for both of us but I have had to stop as it was too hard for me to feed my family, work full time, and also care for my husband while doing this diet.  But I very much hope to go back on it as it was a very healthy diet for us.

I haven't had a great deal of time to fully investigate the scientific basis of this diet. But my general understanding is that the recommendation to eat organic produce as much as possible isn't *just* to avoid pesticides.  It is because plants grown without pesticides will have to develop natural defenses against insects.  These compounds are beneficial to us. When we buy produce we aren't just looking for vitamins and minerals (which might be about the same in organic versus conventional) but also antioxidants (which might be more in organically grown produce).

The same thing for grass fed meats and wild caught fish: it's not so much to avoid contaminants in the feed although that is important -- it's that the composition of fats found in wild caught or grass fed meats (and free range pastured eggs) is a better balance of fat.

Before switching to the Wahls Protocol, we had been sadly eating a very expensive mostly take out and prepared foods diet. When I made the switch, I had to stop buying all processed foods and start cooking everything from scratch at home.  It was expensive to buy all organic and grass fed/wild caught, but no more expensive than eating a lot of takeout and prepared foods.  So my food expenses for four people were still off the chart, but no worse than before.  (I did lose 10 pounds on the protocol which made me VERY happy.)

There are ways to research antioxident and other nutrient levels of foods to be sure you are getting the best value for your money.  When people compare the cost of food, I find they often are only looking at calories, protein and maybe a few macronutrients.  On that basis, foods like mushrooms will come out looking like poor value.  Yet mushrooms may have immense nutritional benefit, they just aren't high in calories or protein.

Saving money while eating what I consider to be the most healthy food will require time to cook at home. It is hard to find this time while working full time and (in my case) being my husband's caregiver.  But if someone was single or part of a healthy two parent family, I think it would not be that difficult.  Avoid food waste, grow your own (microgreens, grow your own mushrooms, kitchen garden); buy in bulk and freeze; use up leftovers etc.  Use a blender to make smoothies from all your leftover produce that would otherwise go bad.



CrustyBadger

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #35 on: December 08, 2019, 09:10:50 AM »
One more thing:

I spent a lot of time reading this database of antioxident levels for various foods.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2841576/

You will see that "berries and berry products" has far more antioxidents than any other group, including vegetables.   Berries might cost a lot more than apples, calorie for calorie, but I believe they provide a lot more nutrition.   

Another category very high in antioxidents are dried herbs and spices.  Again, if you are only considering macronutrients like protein, calories, and vitamins and minerals, herbs might not seem to give you anything valuable and if you are on a budget you might cut back on the expense.  But I think its better to find cheap sources of these herbs and use them frequently.

Daley

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #36 on: December 08, 2019, 09:28:30 AM »
I think you are getting some terms mixed up. Corn that has been genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate is called roundup ready (or glyphosate resistant) and is able to tolerate the application of roundup (glyphosate).

Bt Maize, on the other hand has been modified to be insect resistant. Bt corn has been engineered with proteins from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that kill insects that feed on the corn.

Nope, I think you're getting confused between the quote from EWG and my own commentary, which I'll admit could have been phrased a bit better in a couple spots from my end. (Specifically the sentence, "On the flip-side, most Bt corn that's herbicide resistant typically includes its own insecticidal proteins baked in." I clearly squirreled something, there, with a couple unedited vestiges of "most" and "typically"... and that sentence had gone through a couple three edits in my brain last night, and I didn't clean it up well.)  Please forgive me for apparently confusing you. @AccidentialMustache and I are talking GM sweet corn here, specifically Aspire (being the dominant GMO sweet corn product approved in the US), which is both herbicide resistant and includes Bt protein production. If it produces its own insecticide, then no amount of shucking will technically rid the corn of all pesticides, as the insecticide is literally present and produced in the kernels themselves.

It's also worth noting that glyphosate isn't the only major herbicide that's always included for resistance. In the case of Aspire, it's also Liberty (glufosinate ammonium) resistant.

I would also add that all corn, GMO or not, is resistant to direct application of some herbicides. Before glyphosate resistant corn existed, it was sprayed with atrazine to control weeds. I'll take todays modern farming methods with GMOs over the methods used 40 years ago any day of the week.

And I would skew towards the idea that it's the monolithic monoculture approach that's both destructive and unsustainable long term... just as much today as it was 40 years ago. Yesterday's atrazine is today's glyphosate. It always looks like a good idea and an improvement over the old methods in the eternal present to the people actively using it trying to maximize their own profit over the charge of stewarding life. Industrial scale farming is its own worst enemy, as it's difficult to sustain and nourish life in a culture designed around propagating death to everything but...
« Last Edit: December 08, 2019, 12:45:10 PM by Daley »

MicroRN

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #37 on: December 08, 2019, 10:18:33 AM »
We are 2 adults & 2 small kids (6 & 8) as well.  No allergies, no special diets, though our autistic child will only eat ground meat & has some other food aversions.  We try to eat lots of veggies, fresh fruit, beans, and whole grains.   I don't stress about organic/GMO, but I do try to buy minimally processed, and local when possible.  I feel like we eat a pretty healthful diet.  We don't eat out much (once a month?), and eating out means spending a lot of money at a nice restaurant, so I factor that under entertainment rather than food spending.  I make a lot of vegetarian & low-meat dishes (~2oz of meat/person, or uses chicken stock but no pieces of meat).  I make tons of chicken & vegetable stock, and use it all the time for extra flavor.  Weekday food is pretty basic.  On weekends I like to make something more interesting, like homemade sushi or pizza, or something from one of my specialty cookbooks.  That's more expensive, but I think variety is important.  In terms of lifestyle, the kids are in school, and both of the adults work full time.  We bring our coffee, breakfasts, and lunches from home to work, and pack lunches for the kids.   
   
Looking just at our grocery store bill, most weeks we spend $50/week on groceries, but that's hardly everything.  Every 3-4 months I spend $200 at one time when I'm restocking on a good sale & pantry items.  My best estimate for total monthly grocery spend is $450 for our family of 2 adults, 2 kids.  That factors in grocery store, farmer's market, chicken feed, bulk meat purchases, and the electricity for our two deep freezers, but not the extra I spend for parties (Average ~$75/mo).  I buy coffee from an independent roastery.   

At the grocery store I normally buy milk, butter, cheese, dried beans/lentils of all kinds, canned beans on sale, rice in bulk, pasta, canned tomatoes, baking supplies, plain rolled oats, nuts, and condiments.  I'll usually buy 1-2 specialty items per trip - pepperoni, really good cheese, nori, sushi rice, etc.  During the school year I buy sandwich bread, deli ham & cheese, PB, and jelly, plus occasional treats.  We regularly get carrots, baking potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers, apples, snap peas, bell peppers, onions, garlic, shallots, ginger, and bananas.  I stock up on frozen produce when it goes on sale, especially corn, peas, spinach, lima beans, and broccoli.

At the farmer's market or one of the nearby farmstands, I get produce, specialty meats like sausages/bacon, eggs if I need extra, and local cheeses.  We have our own chickens, from which we get eggs and occasional meat & chicken broth.  I can factor in chicken feed, but it's harder to factor in time & effort.  We buy our beef and most of our chicken from local farms.  We bought half a steer about a year ago and still have plenty left.  The steer averaged to 6.75/lb.  Chicken is 4.50/lb, and we go through about 2 whole chickens/month.  Definitely not cheap, but these are from very-local farms, everything is pastured, though not certified organic, and I know the people raising the animals personally.  We garden, so might eat tons of zucchini & tomatoes in the summer, and greens in the fall.  It's hard to factor in gardening costs as well since most of it is time & effort. 

Looking back on the menu for the past week, a pretty typical day was:
Breakfast: Kids - Oatmeal (plain oats/cinnamon/brown sugar), Adults - coffee, 2 eggs with a big pile of sauteed frozen spinach     
Lunch: Kids - sandwiches, apples, raw vegetables, & pretzels.  Adults - Leftovers from the night before
Dinner: Red beans & rice - Made about 16 servings for a total of ~$5.  We ate it for lunch 2x, we had it for dinner 2x, and I froze a few single servings for later lunches.         
Snacks: Fruit, raw veggies, cheese, yogurt, popcorn (plain kernels popped on the stove with butter & salt)

I have 2 Instant Pots and I use them all the time.  They are great for making chicken/vegetable stock, homemade yogurt, braised meats, rice, and cooking dry beans.  We eat TONS of beans & rice based dishes.  The reason I have 2 is so on a weekday I can set rice in one, beans in the other, then walk away and work on other stuff for 45 minutes.  Come back, and dinner is ready with almost no dishes to do.
Some have meat, but it's a low amount per person.   
- Red beans & rice
- Red chili & white chili
- Southwest style black beans
- Several Indian dishes made with chickpeas or lentils
- French-style lentils

mistymoney

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #38 on: December 08, 2019, 11:01:51 AM »
We are 2 adults & 2 small kids (6 & 8) as well.  No allergies, no special diets, though our autistic child will only eat ground meat & has some other food aversions.  We try to eat lots of veggies, fresh fruit, beans, and whole grains.   I don't stress about organic/GMO, but I do try to buy minimally processed, and local when possible.  I feel like we eat a pretty healthful diet.  We don't eat out much (once a month?), and eating out means spending a lot of money at a nice restaurant, so I factor that under entertainment rather than food spending.  I make a lot of vegetarian & low-meat dishes (~2oz of meat/person, or uses chicken stock but no pieces of meat).  I make tons of chicken & vegetable stock, and use it all the time for extra flavor.  Weekday food is pretty basic.  On weekends I like to make something more interesting, like homemade sushi or pizza, or something from one of my specialty cookbooks.  That's more expensive, but I think variety is important.  In terms of lifestyle, the kids are in school, and both of the adults work full time.  We bring our coffee, breakfasts, and lunches from home to work, and pack lunches for the kids.   
   
Looking just at our grocery store bill, most weeks we spend $50/week on groceries, but that's hardly everything.  Every 3-4 months I spend $200 at one time when I'm restocking on a good sale & pantry items.  My best estimate for total monthly grocery spend is $450 for our family of 2 adults, 2 kids.  That factors in grocery store, farmer's market, chicken feed, bulk meat purchases, and the electricity for our two deep freezers, but not the extra I spend for parties (Average ~$75/mo).  I buy coffee from an independent roastery.   

At the grocery store I normally buy milk, butter, cheese, dried beans/lentils of all kinds, canned beans on sale, rice in bulk, pasta, canned tomatoes, baking supplies, plain rolled oats, nuts, and condiments.  I'll usually buy 1-2 specialty items per trip - pepperoni, really good cheese, nori, sushi rice, etc.  During the school year I buy sandwich bread, deli ham & cheese, PB, and jelly, plus occasional treats.  We regularly get carrots, baking potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers, apples, snap peas, bell peppers, onions, garlic, shallots, ginger, and bananas.  I stock up on frozen produce when it goes on sale, especially corn, peas, spinach, lima beans, and broccoli.

At the farmer's market or one of the nearby farmstands, I get produce, specialty meats like sausages/bacon, eggs if I need extra, and local cheeses.  We have our own chickens, from which we get eggs and occasional meat & chicken broth.  I can factor in chicken feed, but it's harder to factor in time & effort.  We buy our beef and most of our chicken from local farms.  We bought half a steer about a year ago and still have plenty left.  The steer averaged to 6.75/lb.  Chicken is 4.50/lb, and we go through about 2 whole chickens/month.  Definitely not cheap, but these are from very-local farms, everything is pastured, though not certified organic, and I know the people raising the animals personally.  We garden, so might eat tons of zucchini & tomatoes in the summer, and greens in the fall.  It's hard to factor in gardening costs as well since most of it is time & effort. 

Looking back on the menu for the past week, a pretty typical day was:
Breakfast: Kids - Oatmeal (plain oats/cinnamon/brown sugar), Adults - coffee, 2 eggs with a big pile of sauteed frozen spinach     
Lunch: Kids - sandwiches, apples, raw vegetables, & pretzels.  Adults - Leftovers from the night before
Dinner: Red beans & rice - Made about 16 servings for a total of ~$5.  We ate it for lunch 2x, we had it for dinner 2x, and I froze a few single servings for later lunches.         
Snacks: Fruit, raw veggies, cheese, yogurt, popcorn (plain kernels popped on the stove with butter & salt)

I have 2 Instant Pots and I use them all the time.  They are great for making chicken/vegetable stock, homemade yogurt, braised meats, rice, and cooking dry beans.  We eat TONS of beans & rice based dishes.  The reason I have 2 is so on a weekday I can set rice in one, beans in the other, then walk away and work on other stuff for 45 minutes.  Come back, and dinner is ready with almost no dishes to do.
Some have meat, but it's a low amount per person.   
- Red beans & rice
- Red chili & white chili
- Southwest style black beans
- Several Indian dishes made with chickpeas or lentils
- French-style lentils

what do you mean by french-style lentils? Is that a recipe, or just using the blue/green type lentil? I've heard those called french.

MicroRN

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #39 on: December 08, 2019, 01:33:12 PM »

what do you mean by french-style lentils? Is that a recipe, or just using the blue/green type lentil? I've heard those called french.

Both - I usually have Puy and red lentils on hand.  For this, I use Puy lentils, which are the small greenish ones, and it's a recipe from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table.  Pretty basic though, just lentils cooked with onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaf, chicken stock, and shallots.  She suggests a splash of cognac, but I've never actually added that.  It's also good with a little lemon juice, olive oil, and some lemon zest, or rosemary & thyme instead of bay leaf and there are a million other variations you could do.  Once I got the base recipe, I just made it using whatever I had on hand.   

Hula Hoop

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #40 on: December 08, 2019, 02:36:16 PM »
Could you post some good bean based dishes for the instant pot?  I have one and would like to use it more but so many of the recipes I've found online are meat based.  We're not vegetarians but we try to eat a lot of non-meat meals for both budget and environmental reasons.  Since we live in Italy, this is often pasta or risotto but we also eat beans and lentils but I'd love to start using the IP a lot more.

Malcat

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #41 on: December 08, 2019, 03:09:30 PM »
Could you post some good bean based dishes for the instant pot?  I have one and would like to use it more but so many of the recipes I've found online are meat based.  We're not vegetarians but we try to eat a lot of non-meat meals for both budget and environmental reasons.  Since we live in Italy, this is often pasta or risotto but we also eat beans and lentils but I'd love to start using the IP a lot more.

Pinterest is great for this, do a search for IP lentils or beans and you will find a TON of recipes

EvenSteven

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #42 on: December 08, 2019, 04:08:48 PM »
Quote
Nope, I think you're getting confused between the quote from EWG and my own commentary, which I'll admit could have been phrased a bit better in a couple spots from my end. (Specifically the sentence, "On the flip-side, most Bt corn that's herbicide resistant typically includes its own insecticidal proteins baked in." I clearly squirreled something, there, with a couple unedited vestiges of "most" and "typically"... and that sentence had gone through a couple three edits in my brain last night, and I didn't clean it up well.)  Please forgive me for apparently confusing you

Yes, that seems to be where the miscommunications lies.

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If it produces its own insecticide, then no amount of shucking will technically rid the corn of all pesticides, as the insecticide is literally present and produced in the kernels themselves.

Yeap, you wonít be able to wash off any Bt proteins that act as insecticides. But that is true of conventional non-GMO and organic too, because both produce plenty of defense compounds to protect themselves from her herbivory, bacteria and viruses. If Bt toxin or CRY proteins where harmful to humans, that would concern me, but they arenít so Iím not.

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It's also worth noting that glyphosate isn't the only major herbicide that's always included for resistance. In the case of Aspire, it's also Liberty (glufosinate ammonium) resistant.

This is a good point. There are also conventional non-organic like clearfield, and organic certified pesticides, too.

Quote
And I would skew towards the idea that it's the monolithic monoculture approach that's both destructive and unsustainable long term... just as much today as it was 40 years ago. Yesterday's atrazine is today's gryphosate. It always looks like a good idea and an improvement over the old methods in the eternal present to the people actively using it trying to maximize their own profit over the charge of stewarding life. Industrial scale farming is its own worst enemy, as it's difficult to sustain and nourish life in a culture designed around propagating death to everything but...

A crop rotation of 3 crops and a cover crop are good enough for my grocery shopping, but I donít know of any labels that indicate anything about the concerns you lay out here. I think glyphosate is an improvement over atrazine because it is better for farming profits, better for the environment, and less toxic to people. I think it is uncharitable in the extreme to call modern farming a culture of death.

Malcat

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #43 on: December 08, 2019, 04:19:48 PM »
Could you post some good bean based dishes for the instant pot?  I have one and would like to use it more but so many of the recipes I've found online are meat based.  We're not vegetarians but we try to eat a lot of non-meat meals for both budget and environmental reasons.  Since we live in Italy, this is often pasta or risotto but we also eat beans and lentils but I'd love to start using the IP a lot more.


Experiment with adding extra peppers, celery and spices, but this soup is divine as is
https://www.apinchofhealthy.com/instant-pot-black-bean-soup/

Another great recipe as is, but I increase the hot sauce
https://www.chefdehome.com/recipes/735/cabbage-lentil-soup

For this one, I use a lot more cheese than is called for because if I'm going to cook with cheese, in going to cook with cheese
https://www.platingsandpairings.com/instant-pot-cheesy-southwestern-lentils-brown-rice/

Great as is
https://www.melskitchencafe.com/smoky-lentil-and-potato-soup/

Probably my favourite recipe, again though, I increase the celery, carrots, and sometimes the spices, but try it as is first.
https://instantpoteats.com/turkish-split-pea-soup-instant-pot-recipe/

https://www.kitchentreaty.com/instant-pot-vegan-golden-lentil-spinach-soup/


MicroRN

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #44 on: December 08, 2019, 04:58:53 PM »
I don't use many real recipes, though this one is good:

Cuban-style black beans - https://www.cookinglight.com/recipes/instant-pot-cuban-black-beans

Most of what I do is variations on a theme - saute my aromatics/herbs/vegetables in the IP, pour in stock/water/canned tomatoes & beans, close it up & cook!  Don't add too much liquid, just enough to cover the beans.  If it's too watery, mash up some of the beans & put it back on saute until it thickens up.  I add delicate ingredients like fresh herbs, sweet corn, and coconut milk after pressure cooking, and again use saute for a few minutes to bring it all together.   If you remember to soak your beans overnight beforehand, you can cut 10-15 minutes off the pressure cooking time.   

GreenSheep

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #45 on: December 08, 2019, 06:07:42 PM »
Could you post some good bean based dishes for the instant pot?  I have one and would like to use it more but so many of the recipes I've found online are meat based.  We're not vegetarians but we try to eat a lot of non-meat meals for both budget and environmental reasons.  Since we live in Italy, this is often pasta or risotto but we also eat beans and lentils but I'd love to start using the IP a lot more.


If you like Indian food, Richa is amazing, and she has a whole Instant Pot section:
https://www.veganricha.com/category/instant-pot

I don't have an Instant Pot, but I've made many of these recipes on the stove, since she provides options. I'm not as big a fan of her non-Indian recipes, but her Indian ones are quite impressive, and almost all of them are beans + rice + some combination of spices and vegetables.

Daley

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #46 on: December 08, 2019, 08:01:54 PM »
A crop rotation of 3 crops and a cover crop are good enough for my grocery shopping, but I donít know of any labels that indicate anything about the concerns you lay out here. I think glyphosate is an improvement over atrazine because it is better for farming profits, better for the environment, and less toxic to people. I think it is uncharitable in the extreme to call modern farming a culture of death.

I have no desire to derail the discussion any further, and I'll state that this'll be my last post on this particular topic point in this thread.

I know you think I'm being extremely uncharitable in my pointing out that modern industrial monoculture farming is shaped by a culture of death... but I'm not invested in it emotionally, I'm only looking at the reality of the culture.

It is an industry centered around keeping a single plant type alive on a massive scale by killing everything else off that either competes for or poses a risk to that life, and within that framework, they use the widest and cheapest spectrum forms of destroying that competing life possible to maximize the profit margin on sustaining a crop that would otherwise die and fail to survive itself under any condition other than through the extreme artificial means required to let it survive. As I said in my first post in this thread, I'm a student of unintended consequences. Big Ag is a perpetual posterchild of unintended consequences, and those consequences go far beyond just pesticide issues, and the problems found never get addressed until the damage is already done.

But, this is more of a symptom of human nature and greed, than a scathing indictment of one specific industry. All industry and technology has this problem... and it's the way this imperfect and fallen world works. There can always be better ways, but we have to be willing to do them and often the much harder work that comes with them than we want to do. I've mostly made my peace with this and recognize the need to forgive them the harm (direct or otherwise) they inflict upon me, for they know not what they do... but I also can't pretend that our efforts as a species to play god in an imperfect state frequently and often has long term detrimental and deadly consequences to ourselves and one another. And yet, there is gratitude for what is in my life that sustains me. But that itself is the seed of hope in my own faith, and a philosophical topic far too detached from how to eat reasonably well on a budget in the United States.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2019, 08:04:07 PM by Daley »

Homestead_Fire

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #47 on: December 09, 2019, 07:47:58 AM »
This is an interesting thread.

Our grocery bill for a family of 3 is about $250/ month which includes buying a lot of quality foods and a few 'preps' (we have a bit of a survival/preparedness bent)... we don't buy any processed foods. 

We are homesteaders as well (103 acres in Northern Ontario).  We raise a handful of dairy goats for milk and some meat, 50ish meat chickens, meat rabbits, a dozen+ laying hens.  This year we also shot 2 deer.  We keep expanding our garden and orchard.  Last year we put in a slew of hazelnut trees and hope to be able to start making our own hazelnut butter and oil in years to come. In the spring we tap a couple hundred trees and make gallons of maple syrup that we use as our primary sweetener for cooking/baking etc. Over the course of the winter we grow micro greens (currently peas) and lettuce under grow lights and sprouts (kale, brocolli and raddish) on our counter. We buy lots of bulk... ie. wheat berries, that we grind to make flour to make breads/baking that we bake 2/3ds of year on wood cookstove.

 My next project is to build a grow room in a section of our basement to hopefully produce mushrooms.


There is a ton of 'homesteading' food producing options that anyone can do even if you are in an apartment that will enable you to save lots of money, learn some skills, teach your kids, and produce some amazing food.

Just my two cents.  I definitely don't have it all figured out (got a lot to learn) but if anyone wants to chat further let me know.




« Last Edit: December 09, 2019, 07:54:09 AM by Homestead_Fire »

OtherJen

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #48 on: December 09, 2019, 08:29:14 AM »
This is an interesting thread.

Our grocery bill for a family of 3 is about $250/ month which includes buying a lot of quality foods and a few 'preps' (we have a bit of a survival/preparedness bent)... we don't buy any processed foods. 

We are homesteaders as well (103 acres in Northern Ontario).  We raise a handful of dairy goats for milk and some meat, 50ish meat chickens, meat rabbits, a dozen+ laying hens.  This year we also shot 2 deer.  We keep expanding our garden and orchard.  Last year we put in a slew of hazelnut trees and hope to be able to start making our own hazelnut butter and oil in years to come. In the spring we tap a couple hundred trees and make gallons of maple syrup that we use as our primary sweetener for cooking/baking etc. Over the course of the winter we grow micro greens (currently peas) and lettuce under grow lights and sprouts (kale, brocolli and raddish) on our counter. We buy lots of bulk... ie. wheat berries, that we grind to make flour to make breads/baking that we bake 2/3ds of year on wood cookstove.

 My next project is to build a grow room in a section of our basement to hopefully produce mushrooms.


There is a ton of 'homesteading' food producing options that anyone can do even if you are in an apartment that will enable you to save lots of money, learn some skills, teach your kids, and produce some amazing food.

Just my two cents.  I definitely don't have it all figured out (got a lot to learn) but if anyone wants to chat further let me know.

Out of curiosity (since my suburb doesn't allow livestock): what are the feed costs for the animals? I certainly understand the many benefits of raising your own animals for meat, dairy, and eggs but wonder if the resources to grow them should be factored into the household food budget.

We certainly hope to grow more produce in future. I'm impressed by your setup! Husband has started experimenting with indoor herb gardening, and we've had a couple of gorgeous batches of pesto.

Homestead_Fire

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Re: The $1,000 Monthly Grocery Bill
« Reply #49 on: December 09, 2019, 08:44:11 AM »
Thanks for the awesome question!

There are definitely feed costs...but some can definitely be mitigated.

For instance: Our rabbits eat rabbits pellets but we also offset their diet with hay, weeds from the garden, kitchen produce scraps.  I also sell rabbits and especially in the spring/early summer sell a couple hundred worth of dollars of rabbits per year which easily pay for our feed for the rest of the year...netting a small profit and giving us free rabbit meat.  With the laying hens we just about break even for the roughly 4-5 dozen eggs we eat per week by selling a couple dozen eggs at work.   Similarly with goats, there is a ready market for young kids that last year made us just shy of $2000 after covering feed costs.    We can further reduce feed costs by sprouting barley fodder for all of livestock and feeding our chickens red wriggler worms from our composting system.   The biggest costs are the initial infrastructure costs.

Kudos to you for doing what you can in the burbs.  I have heard of people bending the rules in the burbs and getting away with raising quail and meat rabbits very successfully.