Author Topic: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget  (Read 97131 times)

APowers

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Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« on: December 03, 2017, 11:05:48 PM »
What I buy for groceries, and what meals I make for my family of 4 (two adults, two kids under 10). A documentary of sorts, if you will, on how to spend (on average) less than $200/month for food. Kind of like a SNAP challenge, except... the SNAP challenge isn't a very hard challenge, and this thread is about how we ace it every month by miles.

Note: When I say "groceries", I mean food only. This is not about paper towels, hand soap, or anything inedible.

Not really a how-to, but kind of. More like a single place I can link to when someone inevitably exclaims over "Wow, how can you possibly manage such a low food budget!?!???!?" Right now, I have a couple posts/threads, but no really complete single place. I'd post it in the Journals section, but I want it to be accessible to non-forum members too, that way I can link to it from facebook/etc.

The general plan is to report back here after every grocery errand with a list of what I got and what I paid, starting january of 2018.
Also, will be reporting on what I've been fixing for meals, so there may be a recipe or two tossed in.

Please chime in, if there's specific questions that you always wonder about other people's grocery shopping.


We live in Colorado. Groceries are about the same here as they were when we lived in rural Washington state. I've stalked online grocery flyers in So. California, Montana, and Minnesota, and they're all very closely comparable. My currently supported hypothesis is that is doesn't matter much where in the lower 48 you live-- you can do this too, or be really close. Location does affect what sorts of staple fresh foods you may find on sale regularly; for instance, in WA it was apples (we could get them for $.50-.70/lb), while here in CO it seems to be peaches ($.77/lb when they're in season). Simply adjust to what your area is efficient at producing.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2017, 08:43:39 PM by APowers »

APowers

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2017, 11:06:23 PM »
I don't really have a menu exactly, because it varies with what's in season and what's on sale. But. We do have some staples and regular features...


Breakfast: (quick-cut or whole rolled) oats, brown sugar, milk-- as if it's cold cereal (or, when milk isn't less than $2/gal, cooked w/hot water). Whole grain, relatively high protein, and generally keeps me full until well past lunchtime.

Oats we buy in bulk when they go on sale for $0.70/lb or less. I buy a 50lb bag, and that usually lasts us 2-3 months. It fits nicely in three 5-gal buckets.

I try to allow a whole fruit per person per day. Bananas and apples tend to be the price leaders, but depending on the season, we'll also have grapes, peaches, or nectarines. I look for prices under $1/lb. Usually there's at least one variety of fruit that meets that price point-- I generally go with whichever one is the best price, and let the grocery ad rotation provide us with the variety.

Lunch is almost always leftovers from the previous dinner, or PBJ sandwiches.

Dinner is generally pretty basic, but nutritious. I tend to follow the formula of "carb"+"protein"+"veg"=whole meal. I've found it easiest to start with the carb ingredient, and then plan a way to use it with the meat/veg. My carbs are: brown rice, potatoes, pasta, beans, lentils, bread/flour. I've assigned each of them a day of the week (sunday is leftovers day), and that helps keep the I-have-no-idea-what-to-make-for-dinner at bay. Often, there are leftovers for a couple days afterward, and then I just pick up with whichever ingredient base is on the next day. I try to use equal amounts of carbs and vegetables, and use about 2oz of meat per person, give or take-- I'm more generous with chicken and pork (as they're cheaper) than I am with beef (which is more expensive).

So with rice, I might do a stir-fry/fried rice with a small amount of meat and lots of veggies; or I might do a savory rice soup (rich chicken broth, rice, carrots, onions/garlic); or I might make it with some ground beef and taco seasonings/vegetables.

With potatoes, I might make hashbrowns (serve with some sausage and veggies); or I might do baked potatoes, or I might make oven fries and then top them with taco filling as if they're deluxe nachos (serve with green salad).

With pasta, I might do something like: ground beef sauteed with onions/garlic, add in a bag of frozen green beans, salt and pepper and more garlic to taste, serve over the pasta. Not a standard combination, but it sure tasted good. One box of pasta makes just enough to feed the four of us; in this recipe, I used ~1/3lb of ground beef, 1/3 of a large onion, a handful of garlic, and 1lb of frozen green beans. Other nights, I'll do spaghetti, or a loaded pasta salad, or some variation of pasta stir-fry.

With beans, I tend to do a lot of burritos/tacos; sometimes I'll do baked beans with sausage; sometimes I'll make them into some kind of dip we'll eat with corn chips.

With lentils, I might season them as if they're beans and use them in burritos, or I might do a lentil stew with all manner of veggies hidden in it. I kind of count lentils as green veggies, and they go well with onions and carrots, so I'll often slack on including an actual green vegetable with lentil meals. It is EASY to make a week's worth of lentil stew! More than once we have had lentil-leftover based meals for three or four days in a week, because I made too much. Oh well.

With bread, we'll do sandwiches of some sort; or I'll bake a loaf of homemade and we'll eat it with our lentil stew; or I'll do pancakes for dinner (because that's fun!), or we'll make pizza.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2017, 10:44:34 PM by APowers »

APowers

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2017, 11:06:42 PM »
Resource list.

I'm in Colorado along the I-25 corridor. Here are the grocery stores that we have access to, and what I generally tend to buy at each.

I most often go to Safeway and Sprouts-- probably on a weekly basis, or if I need to make an emergency grocery run. King Soopers is on the way to the thrift stores, so I'll generally try to combine it with a Goodwill trip. Costco, even though it's close, is probably once-a-month. The close discount store I probably go to every couple weeks, the far one I rarely go to unless I'm going past it for some other reason. Walmart has a grocery store directly adjacent to Goodwill, so if we need something food-wise, I will usually combine it with a thrift store run; the full Walmart store we probably go once per month on average.

Safeway (2.5 miles away)
Generally loss leaders. They often have the best sale price on beef (under $3/lb for fresh-ground), sometimes they run a good sale on pork sausage ($2/lb), I can often get chicken (usually leg-quarters, but sometimes split breasts) for under $1/lb, and the best deals are often on their 3-day weekend sale. Also, I linked my safeway card (free) to their website (free) and they send me coupons based on what I buy. These coupons generally make pasta easy to get for under $0.80/box, and often there is a "save $2 off $20" or a "save $4 off $30", so when there's a good sale, I'll often try to bulk buy just enough to hit the mark for that discount.

King Soopers (Kroger) (3.1 miles away)
Generally a bit more expensive than Safeway, but sometimes has a good loss-leader. Sour cream goes on sale reasonably often for $1/16oz, and they often run a "buy 6, save $3" or a "buy 4, save $4" sale, and sometimes something good will be part of that sale. Meat markdowns (close-dated/expiring soon) are generally better than Safeway, but not always a good price even after the markdown. Also, I get a free thing once a week by downloading the "Free Friday" coupon; these aren't usually anything substantive, but it's often a soda or other snack food that makes a good treat.

Sprouts Farmer's Market (4.1 miles away)
Generally an emphasis on "natural"/Organic/"crunchy", so most of the dry goods and dairy and meat is way expensive. But produce is almost always the best price that I can find, and the loss leaders are usually even better. Also they have bulk bins of grains/beans/etc. This is where I buy oatmeal in bulk and almost all our fruits & vegetables. I'm probably here weekly for fresh produce.

Costco (1.9 miles away)
It's easy to overspend at Costco, no joke. But regardless, I find tortillas, garlic, bananas, pinto beans, spices/seasonings, and gasoline (though gas isn't part of the food budget) to be consistently better priced than most anywhere else. I find some other things here on occasion; the rotisserie chicken is reasonably priced, as are the big blocks of cheese, and sugar. Canned goods are usually more expensive than grocery store sales, and produce usually follows the same routine.

"The Discount Store" (2.7 miles, 6.6 miles)
There are actually two of these-- one nearby, and one on the other end of town. I usually buy close-dated loaves of bread for $1, and always check around for gluten-free bread or other steals. Once, I found CASES of shelf-stable packaged gluten free bread for $0.99/loaf. Another time, I found a 50lb bag of whole wheat flour for $8. Wheat bread is almost always in stock for $1/loaf, everything else is pretty hit or miss. Often I find the prices are the same or higher than Safeway or Sprouts, which just amazes me-- seriously, I'm not buying stale marshmallows for $1.59 when I can get fresh ones for $1.25 at Safeway.

Wal Mart (3.6 miles to "Neighbourhood Market", 5.8 miles to Supercenter)
I don't buy much in the way of groceries here, but there are a few things. Lime juice, peanut butter (when I can't find it on a loss-leader sale), big jars of pickles, and an odd item here and there. Walmart produce is surprisingly expensive, and I don't really trust their meat to be good quality (and it's not actually cheaper than Safeway or King Soopers), so I generally stick to pre-packaged/shelf-stable items and dry goods.

Trader Joe's
I've never actually been here, even though it's right next to Costco. I get their ad flyer in the mail, and they never seem to have anything I need for a good price, so I haven't bothered to go in.

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Prices: Generally, I shop for

Meat: under $1/lb. This usually means chicken, sometimes pork. Chicken usually rotates on sale at Safeway for $0.88/lb. We splurge on ground beef when it's under $3/lb, and I'll stock up when I can get it for $2.50/lb or less.

Veggies: under $1/lb. Onions and carrots I can usually find for $.50-.60/lb, most everything else varies just barely under $1-- tomatoes, celery, lettuce, etc. I generally buy cucumbers, avocados, and bell peppers if I can find them 2/$1.

Fruit: under $1/lb. Bananas usually come in around $0.50/lb, while most other fruit tends toward $.80-.90/lb. Again, I buy what's in season based on what the loss-leaders are. Here in CO, it's often apples, grapes, or peaches. Sometimes we'll get strawberries or pineapple, but not as often. I'll buy avocados when they are on sale for 2/$1, otherwise, they're just too expensive.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2018, 08:58:23 PM by APowers »

APowers

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2017, 11:11:18 PM »
I present to you: The Pantry. All my secrets are now revealed. LOL. Here's what I'm starting out the year with. Obviously, I have a supply of staples (bought on sale, of course), plus a bunch of other odds and ends that I've picked up here and there. There is no other food in the house.

I don't have a chest freezer (I wish I did). I don't have a giant pantry room; it's 2'x2' next to the fridge, plus the stack of buckets along the wall.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

2 boxes cake mix
1lb. raw almonds
3 packages of gluten-free "Oreos"
1.5 bags of marshmallows
3/4 box of lasagna noodles
1 box rice crispies
1 bag potato chips
13oz bag of flavoured rice
6 shakers of sanding/decorating sugar (2oz each)

14.5lb dry pasta
8oz pack of rice noodles
2lb gluten free dry pasta
1/2lb dry chickpeas

3lb popcorn
~8lb baking soda
4 cans garbanzo beans
2 cans kidney beans
2 cans black beans
14 cans corn

~17lbs peanut butter
3lb strawberry jam
4 cans olives
2 cans tuna
20 cans tomato sauce (8oz cans)
16oz jar peperoncini

5lb honey
2 tubs frosting
~4lb chocolate chips
54oz salsa
~1/2 cup coconut oil
2 big squeeze bottles mustard (60oz total)
16oz plain gelatin
20lb potatoes
2lb pistachios

8oz jellybeans
2oz Sour Patch Kids (candy)
~5oz Smarties (candy)
96oz canola oil
2.5 bags white chocolate chips
~8oz peanut butter chips
16oz xanthan gum
4oz pretzel salt
1oz alfalfa seeds
2oz dried dandelion root
12oz psyllium seed husk powder
12oz macadamia nuts
10 individual packets of salad croutons
Assorted parmesan/red pepper/sugar packets
1 single box of raisins

4oz cornstarch
4oz vanilla extract
~6oz cream of tartar
8oz xanthan gum
12oz baking soda
1tbsp nutmeg
~6oz liquid lecithin
1/4 cup baking cocoa

8oz smoked paprika
4oz black pepper
24oz sea salt
~9oz garlic granules
11oz cinnamon
14oz cumin
2oz ginger
16oz turmeric
2.5oz italian seasoning
15oz coriander
14oz allspice
17oz cayenne
8oz chili powder
11oz mustard
4oz dill

5.75lb white all-purpose flour
10.5lb brown rice
~9lb white sugar
~16oz canola oil
~1.5lb dried lentils
~10.5lb gluten-free flour mix (giant christmas tin is GF flour)

1 pint raspberry sorbet
19 gluten-free chocolate chip cookies
5lb ground beef
2.5lb breakfast sausage links
4lb bratwurst links
3.5lb pulled pork
2.5lb batch of lentil stew
1lb pecans
8oz cheese tortellini
3lb frozen peas
10oz pepperoni

1 pack giant tortillas
2lb butter
3 packages of sliced cheese (6oz each)
1.25lb dried mission figs
14oz dried pears
1lb sliced ham

4lb mozzarella
1lb cheddar
1lb sliced roast beef

3 sticks butter
1 knob of ginger root
20oz parmesan cheese
~32oz mayonnaise
~16oz mustard
20oz ranch
~20oz homemade (dairy-free) ranch
4oz lemon juice
8oz nutritional yeast flakes
14 string cheese sticks
20oz chocolate syrup
~36oz salsa
~2oz BBQ sauce
~20oz ketchup
~22oz sriracha
6oz beef bouillon base
~3lb minced garlic
10oz worcestershire sauce
10oz tahini
~24oz balsamic vinegar
10oz soy sauce
Ziploc of assorted condiment packets

1lb walnuts
8 eggs
5 bottles Powerade
~28oz yeast
4oz strawberry jam
8 corn tortillas
1 batch of sugar cookie dough
A couple fridge experiments...lol

1/2 gallon whole milk
12oz almond milk
1 bottle water
~24oz molasses
1 pint rendered pork fat (in two separate jars)
~1 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 loaf bread
~20oz apple cider vinegar

2 cucumbers
3 beets
1/4 bunch of celery
7 roma tomatoes

16oz breakfast sausage links
2 heads broccoli
~40oz pancake syrup
1 pack flour tortillas
3oz cheddar cheese
~4 whole dill pickles

11 onions (~8oz each, on average)

2.75lb carrots

4 avocados
~2lb honey
[not pictured: 9lb navel oranges]

~50lb whole wheat flour (2 buckets)
~50lb of quick rolled oats (3 buckets)
~10lb brown sugar (1/3 bucket)
~25lb dried pinto beans (1 bucket)
11lbs dried lentils (1/3 bucket)
~2.5lbs popcorn (1/10 bucket...now in a jar, lol)

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This is what I have on hand, as of December 29. There will be a few things that get used from the fridge before Jan 1, and I think I'm going to make one last errand to King Soopers tomorrow. [I'll edit later to include the few items-- planning to get pineapple, some chips that are a saturday-only sale, collect all my free-friday items, see if they have anything good in markdown.]

||[EDIT to add purchases made 12/30]||

1 head iceberg lettuce
2 whole pineapples
16oz lime juice
2 fruit cups (freebie)
1 package flavoured rice (freebie)
1 package instant pasta (freebie)
4 bags potato chips
4 dozen eggs ($.88/dozen! How could I resist?)
[not pictured, because derp: 1 gallon Mazola canola oil]

As a note: this is not I'm-gonna-write-a-series-on-how-to-eat-cheap-so-stock-up-extra-beforehand-so-I-can-make-it-through. This is all stuff I buy along the way, as we need it, and ~99% of it was purchased in 2017, in which I averaged ~$180/month on food.

The most important of all these, I'd say, are the staples-- oatmeal, pasta, potatoes, rice, beans, lentils, gluten-free flour, and meat. Those are hard to do without, and expensive to pick up when they're not on sale.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2018, 09:02:43 PM by APowers »

ACyclist

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2017, 09:21:52 AM »
Shopping local for us would be difficult.  It is a frozen tundra here.  If I want any variety at all, I have to eat some imported goods.  Potatoes and root veg would become rather boring after a while.

 :)

I am rather proud of the shopping this week.  We only spent $77 this weekend on food. 

soccerluvof4

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2017, 09:43:25 AM »
This will be interesting, informative. I was proud to get down to 750$ a month for a family of 6. 3 Teenagers one a year shy. And that includes all paper products , cleaners etc..BUT most importantly a Healthy diet not just beans and potatoes.  Sounds fun./Good thread

acroy

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2017, 10:37:33 AM »
Interesting -
We're at 600-700 for 'groceries': food + household consumables, fam of 9. Sub 200 for food only for fam of 4 sounds doable - look forward to the breakdown.

oldtoyota

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2017, 06:28:23 PM »
I gave up on having a low grocery bill. That was my solution. LOL.

We could lower everything else--but that is hard since we have allergies and special diets.


APowers

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #8 on: December 04, 2017, 06:57:15 PM »
I gave up on having a low grocery bill. That was my solution. LOL.

We could lower everything else--but that is hard since we have allergies and special diets.

We don't have much in the way of allergies, but we do have one kiddo who is sensitive to both milk/derivatives and gluten, so that does add a couple wrinkles into the spending and menu equations.

headwinds

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2017, 08:07:19 PM »
PTF.

This is a tough challenge. I struggle with food budgeting. It is so hard to tell how to balance health and frugality in this area. Obviously things which are expensive and unhealthy should be avoided. But I am of the opinion that unhealthy and cheap should also be avoided. But how best to eat healthy and cheap and still get all the protein, good fats, vitamins and nutrients that you need?

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2017, 12:00:10 AM »
I will follow with interest. My efforts at cutting the food budget are just beginning, but I am worried about cooking/meal planning burnout. Right now I am dutifully making my own bread, but I can see this wearing me down. We spend a lot on tasty bread, and it's a main staple for lunches for the kids.
Right now, I spend most of my time after returning home from work either cooking, cleaning up after cooking, or menu planning. Or looking at this forum for ideas.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2017, 01:11:02 AM by Sunnysof »

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2017, 12:31:39 AM »
ptf

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2017, 03:26:20 PM »
One thing that has helped me was breaking my budget down by the days in the month. So if my budget is $750 is 25$ a day. So since I can walk to local store or when I go to Gym there is an Aldis I can go everyday or buy 3-4 or days. I always try to start out the month ahead in the game in case something comes up and usually each trip buy a big item like Salt for the water softener or Pack of paper towel etc... I prefer to buy 3 days at a time and I do what I call backward spend.  I shop around for meats and produce first that are on sale and plan my meals around that since thats the biggest expense. I hardly ever buy something unless its on sale but then again I am at 750$ a month for 6 so looks like I have some work to do BUT my kids are almost all teenagers and big eaters. We do have a home made fruit Salad every night and usually a veggie loaded Salad and or Pasta Salad plus we make all there own lunches. I also only make things that I know the leftovers will be eaten. We were probably spending at least double if not 1.5 x's more but now I feel even more challenged! love it. And one thing I dont do is coupons. I dont find the deal in them and there are plenty of deals going on every week if you work it. Found getting to know your butcher is smart too. I see him all the time at the store I can walk to and say the same thing " He boss what you price cutting for me today".

lizzzi

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2017, 03:49:21 PM »
PTF. I shop and cook for one person and one small dog, and am amazed sometimes at how much I spend. (Holy facepunch, Batman). Batch cook, cook from scratch, don't eat out, shop at Aldi--still seems expensive. Looking forward to following this thread.

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #14 on: December 05, 2017, 03:59:07 PM »
Very interested in this recently. We are aiming to reduce costs as we get closer to FI.

Currently SO and I spend ~$200-250/month on groceries for a household of two.

We do eat some pre made/packaged stuff. Steamfresh veggies, microwavable entrees from Trader Joe's, Reese's PB cups, etc etc. But I've found the key is cooking truly from scratch.

Would love to see a weekly sample menu.

FWIW we are in HCOL Long Island NY, so price even at Aldi = $1.50/dozen eggs today!

jc4

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #15 on: December 07, 2017, 06:16:53 PM »
Excited to see this. MY spend was 50/mo in college. I'm now (married) and at 175 for all groceries, cleaning products, etc included for 2. We also host a group of 20 for dinner once a month and share about 10 dinners with people a month And I feel like I eat excessively well now. I eat meat and veggies/ fruits everyday. Not much processed either.

I was blown away to see all the spendypants food budgets on this forum. Glad to see someone else who thinks it's doable!

remizidae

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #16 on: December 07, 2017, 06:48:05 PM »
Good post! I'm always amazed by the variation in what people spend on food. You list 7 different grocery stores. Do you actually go to all 7 regularly? If so, isn't that a big cost in time and effort? Plus the effort of monitoring coupons.

I've tried Aldi several times, but I think they are overrated for frugal shoppers. Lots of their cheap stuff is processed food, chips and candy and so forth. Produce is just as expensive as at other stores. Meat can be cheaper or can be more expensive. And then, you're always going to be stuck going somewhere else to get all the stuff they don't sell at Aldi--basic stuff like tea and tofu is just not there in my area. Ultimately only worth it if you are willing to spend a lot of time going to multiple grocery stores or if you are very un-picky about what you eat.

freya

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #17 on: December 07, 2017, 07:29:59 PM »
I've been struggling with getting my food budget under control too, so I'm adding this thread to my list!  I'm ashamed to say what my grocery bill had been, but...well ok, here it is:
Average monthly for 2017 to date (THE BAD):  $399
First 3 months of 2017 (THE UGLY):  $420
Last 3 months (BETTER):  $340

In my defense, I'm in NYC, don't own a car, and like to support neighborhood shops which have eye-popping prices compared to what is being reported in this thread.  Like, it's $5-7/dozen for eggs.  I had tried to make Costco runs but found that this only made things worse, because I felt like I had to buy lots of maybe-I'll-use-this stuff given the effort & time involved.  Here's my list of cost-cutting measures:

- Alternate meat meals with vegetarian dishes like kale and pinto beans, chana masala, bruschetta or other things on toast

- Order non-perishables from Costco without a membership via Google Express.  Online shopping and limited inventory limits the risk of overbuying.

- Since I'm in an apartment with no outdoor access, I got an Aerogarden (secondhand off Craigslist) and have it growing lettuces and other greens.  I get a big salad bowl out of it once or twice a week.  No more buying greens and throwing half of them away.

- Shop one meal at a time.   Nothing gets bought unless it's a general-purpose staple (like olive oil) or I know exactly what I'm going to use it for and when.  Right now I'm still using up Thanksgiving leftovers (turkey soup, extra potatoes that didn't get used) so I only spent about $30 this past week.

- Bake my own bread.  This is super easy using my Kitchen Aid mixer, and takes ~3 hours start to finish if I use my oven's warming drawer, so I can do this on a weeknight.

Things I could do better:  Meat prices at local shops are crazy.  Buying in bulk from Fresh Direct or Fairway (via Instacart) might help a lot.  I like getting grass-fed ground beef for chili, but not paying $15/lb for it.


Lkxe

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #18 on: December 07, 2017, 08:38:05 PM »
PTF as well. Sounded like you lived across the street till you commented on discount stores. I haven’t found a good one yet. The ethnic stores can be good for somethings though.


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Gin1984

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #19 on: December 07, 2017, 09:04:03 PM »
PTF, we just moved from the east coast to the Midwest and have found it more expensive so we are looking to cut down.

drudgep

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #20 on: December 07, 2017, 09:51:43 PM »
ptf as well, $400 for a family of 4... we have some work to do.

Maya

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #21 on: December 07, 2017, 10:29:55 PM »
Definitely curious. We're a family of four eaters and  baby and sit around $650 in Canada.

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #22 on: December 07, 2017, 10:55:30 PM »
Im trying to imagine my family of 4 eating for less than 200$ a month. we almost spend that much per person per month.
Im definitely interested in how you do it!

APowers

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #23 on: December 08, 2017, 08:18:38 AM »
Good post! I'm always amazed by the variation in what people spend on food. You list 7 different grocery stores. Do you actually go to all 7 regularly? If so, isn't that a big cost in time and effort? Plus the effort of monitoring coupons.

I updated my store list with a rough idea of how frequently I visit them.

I don't find it a huge time/effort cost. I look at the weekly ad flyers when they come out on Wednesdays, and I don't really clip coupons. I've found that coupons usually aren't for things that we buy-- they're mostly pre-packaged not-so-healthy foods. Almost all the coupons I do use are in the weekly ad, and I usually just download them to my Safeway/Soopers card, because that's easy and I don't have to worry about forgetting them. I also have my email linked to my store cards, and get emails a couple times a week with a link to the latest store coupons-- I just click through and add the ones I might use to my card-- this way, I don't have any mental effort in trying to remember to check for coupons online.

Goldielocks

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #24 on: December 09, 2017, 09:32:29 PM »
Ah!  Thanks for posting a general menu plan.

If I read it right. Per person per day:

Starches and bean/lentils (bread / rice / pasta  / oatmeal/ lentils /potatoes) forms the bulk.  Lots of variety in the week.
2oz of meat per day per person (more or less).
1/2 lb of green vegetable (e.g., green beans), plus other vegetables (onions, carrots, etc) plus 1 fruit per person per day.
Oil, spices, modest amount of fluid dairy, sugar as needed, peanut butter and jam for sandwiches if no leftovers from dinner.

Can you estimate how many lbs/person of vegetables (not potatoes) per day you eat, milk, eggs, cheese, dried fruits and any other food staple not listed?
Thanks!



APowers

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #25 on: December 09, 2017, 11:17:50 PM »
Ah!  Thanks for posting a general menu plan.

If I read it right. Per person per day:

Starches and bean/lentils (bread / rice / pasta  / oatmeal/ lentils /potatoes) forms the bulk.  Lots of variety in the week.
2oz of meat per day per person (more or less).
1/2 lb of green vegetable (e.g., green beans), plus other vegetables (onions, carrots, etc) plus 1 fruit per person per day.
Oil, spices, modest amount of fluid dairy, sugar as needed, peanut butter and jam for sandwiches if no leftovers from dinner.

Can you estimate how many lbs/person of vegetables (not potatoes) per day you eat, milk, eggs, cheese, dried fruits and any other food staple not listed?
Thanks!

Uhhhh.... maybe? It's not like I measure out my portions. One head of broccoli/cauliflower is a dinner's portion; I'll often add three celery stalks to my onion/garlic/meat frying mixture; we'll sometimes have a cucumber as a veggie (1/4 cucumber/person); half of a head of lettuce is a dinner's portion; do tomatoes count as veggies? I'll often serve one or two roma-sized with dinner. That's about as detailed as I can be at the moment. I'll try to keep these questions in mind as I post in 2018.

Based on my spreadsheet, I probably buy a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs every 2-3 weeks (on average). I don't usually buy dried fruit; craisins occasionally go on super sale at Costco, and then I'll mix a few in my breakfast oatmeal-- but even that happens maybe once or twice a year, and it's like $4 for a giant bag of them. We do use cheese regularly (though one kiddo can't have it), but I have no good estimate for how much per day is eaten; certainly we don't have it on a daily basis-- maybe two or three times a week, and then more as a condiment/ingredient than as a material element of a main dish.

I'm sure there are other staples I haven't listed. I plan on doing a complete inventory of the pantry as of the end of the year, so that it's clear what I have to work with. As I post here, you'll also get to see what actual meals I'm making, and what I'm buying as I buy it.

Goldielocks

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #26 on: December 09, 2017, 11:58:41 PM »
Thanks... I hope to calculate costs for similar shopping list  / menu locally.   I look forward to more of your posts as we move into 2018.  This is quite interesting.   

MaybeBabyMustache

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #27 on: December 10, 2017, 09:34:32 AM »
Wow - super impressed, & personally nowhere near that number. Looking forward to learning more about how you do it! In 2016, I tracked every grocery purchase by category, and it was quite eye opening. Based on those learnings, I was able to cut 10% off of our spend in 2017 (tracking to this, with a few weeks left). We have greatly reduced waste, but there's always room for improvement. We buy our meat at Costco due to the simplicity of not going to another store, but clearly there are better prices to be had for the time investment. We also go through significantly more milk/eggs than you do, both of which are pricey.

sequoia

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #28 on: December 10, 2017, 08:26:58 PM »
When one say $xxx/month grocery, I think it helps to mentioned for whom exactly to give a bit more apple to apple comparison. 4 people = 1 adult and 3 hungry teenagers is a lot different than 1 adult and 3 little kids :)

I am following and interested in learning. We (2 adults and 1 kid) spent ~$300/month - this includes paper towels, tissues, shampoo, etc so not just food. Our strategy been we buy a lot of things when it is on sale. We have good size freezer to take advantage when meats, fish, etc are on sale. We also go thru milk and eggs more than OP. 

APowers

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #29 on: December 10, 2017, 09:02:10 PM »
When one say $xxx/month grocery, I think it helps to mentioned for whom exactly to give a bit more apple to apple comparison. 4 people = 1 adult and 3 hungry teenagers is a lot different than 1 adult and 3 little kids :)

I am following and interested in learning. We (2 adults and 1 kid) spent ~$300/month - this includes paper towels, tissues, shampoo, etc so not just food. Our strategy been we buy a lot of things when it is on sale. We have good size freezer to take advantage when meats, fish, etc are on sale. We also go thru milk and eggs more than OP.
Our four is two adults and two elementary schoolers. Your $300/mo seems pretty reasonable, if that includes household supplies too. Good work! I wish I had a bigger freezer. I'm currently working with just a standard fridge/freezer. Buying when things are on sale is definitely key.

ohsnap

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #30 on: December 11, 2017, 02:48:52 PM »
I'm not sure if I understand this - is $200 your spend for 2017?  And you'll be doing the same in 2018 but documenting it?

APowers

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #31 on: December 11, 2017, 08:26:51 PM »
I'm not sure if I understand this - is $200 your spend for 2017?  And you'll be doing the same in 2018 but documenting it?
I think you've got it. I haven't tallied up December yet, obviously, but my monthly average spend in 2017 is $178.

ohsnap

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #32 on: December 12, 2017, 10:13:29 AM »
I'm not sure if I understand this - is $200 your spend for 2017?  And you'll be doing the same in 2018 but documenting it?
I think you've got it. I haven't tallied up December yet, obviously, but my monthly average spend in 2017 is $178.

Wow, I'll be following with interest. I consider myself a good grocery shopper (I've been an Amy Dacyczyn devotee for over 20 years) but we are at about the SNAP level - $400 for 3 adults.

APowers

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #33 on: December 12, 2017, 10:24:44 AM »
I'm not sure if I understand this - is $200 your spend for 2017?  And you'll be doing the same in 2018 but documenting it?
I think you've got it. I haven't tallied up December yet, obviously, but my monthly average spend in 2017 is $178.

Wow, I'll be following with interest. I consider myself a good grocery shopper (I've been an Amy Dacyczyn devotee for over 20 years) but we are at about the SNAP level - $400 for 3 adults.
Don't forget that this is food only. I.e., if you were on SNAP, you could still do this. Basically, what you could purchase with the EBT card they give you-- no paper towels, no dog food, and no shampoo, dish soap, or plastic knives. (I don't spend a lot on those either, but they are a separate budget category, and I mention it because some folks lump that stuff in with "groceries", and I want to be clear what I'm doing here.)

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #34 on: December 12, 2017, 05:53:52 PM »
Great thread. Following along.  Thanks!

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #35 on: December 13, 2017, 07:06:26 AM »
Posting to follow.  I like food.

Walsh1122

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #36 on: December 13, 2017, 07:44:02 AM »
PTF

Livingthedream55

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #37 on: December 13, 2017, 08:11:36 AM »
I've been struggling with getting my food budget under control too, so I'm adding this thread to my list!  I'm ashamed to say what my grocery bill had been, but...well ok, here it is:
Average monthly for 2017 to date (THE BAD):  $399
First 3 months of 2017 (THE UGLY):  $420
Last 3 months (BETTER):  $340

In my defense, I'm in NYC, don't own a car, and like to support neighborhood shops which have eye-popping prices compared to what is being reported in this thread.  Like, it's $5-7/dozen for eggs.  I had tried to make Costco runs but found that this only made things worse, because I felt like I had to buy lots of maybe-I'll-use-this stuff given the effort & time involved.  Here's my list of cost-cutting measures:

- Alternate meat meals with vegetarian dishes like kale and pinto beans, chana masala, bruschetta or other things on toast

- Order non-perishables from Costco without a membership via Google Express.  Online shopping and limited inventory limits the risk of overbuying.

- Since I'm in an apartment with no outdoor access, I got an Aerogarden (secondhand off Craigslist) and have it growing lettuces and other greens.  I get a big salad bowl out of it once or twice a week.  No more buying greens and throwing half of them away.

- Shop one meal at a time.   Nothing gets bought unless it's a general-purpose staple (like olive oil) or I know exactly what I'm going to use it for and when.  Right now I'm still using up Thanksgiving leftovers (turkey soup, extra potatoes that didn't get used) so I only spent about $30 this past week.

- Bake my own bread.  This is super easy using my Kitchen Aid mixer, and takes ~3 hours start to finish if I use my oven's warming drawer, so I can do this on a weeknight.

Things I could do better:  Meat prices at local shops are crazy.  Buying in bulk from Fresh Direct or Fairway (via Instacart) might help a lot.  I like getting grass-fed ground beef for chili, but not paying $15/lb for it.

Freya - my daughter just moved to NYC and she plans on using Peapod (Stop and Shop) - you just enter your zip code and the website will confirm if they will deliver to you. Maybe another option?

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #38 on: December 14, 2017, 09:36:35 PM »
LTD55, thank you!  I just checked their prices.  Some things are half the cost of city shops...wow.  I completely forgot about them.

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #39 on: December 15, 2017, 03:42:53 PM »
Thank you for starting this thread! I'm excited to follow.

big_slacker

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #40 on: December 16, 2017, 06:43:24 AM »
This is an awesome post. I live in WA state though and I'm wondering where you got those ultra cheap apples??? The best I do here is there are several folks who buy the less than perfect apples from growers and sell by the side of the road regularly. We also have a permanent farmer's stand that sells direct from farm. Neither of them get close to .50c-.70c a lb though. Were the red delicious or something that is kinda out of vogue?

APowers

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #41 on: December 16, 2017, 08:49:00 AM »
This is an awesome post. I live in WA state though and I'm wondering where you got those ultra cheap apples??? The best I do here is there are several folks who buy the less than perfect apples from growers and sell by the side of the road regularly. We also have a permanent farmer's stand that sells direct from farm. Neither of them get close to .50c-.70c a lb though. Were the red delicious or something that is kinda out of vogue?
We usually got them at the farm/natural food store. They generally had the cheapest nonorganic produce. When apples were in season, i.e., winter, they would sell a 20# half-case for 0.80/lb or less. Apples keep really well, so we would just buy the big box (like 40-60 apples), and with us eating 3-4 apples/day, it'd last us a good couple weeks. Then I'd look to see what was on sale next. Looking at their ad right now, they have Fuji apples for 98/lb, and likely they have the cases in the store for 10/lb less.

MBot

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #42 on: December 16, 2017, 09:20:23 AM »
FWIW, I find it's easier to have a limit for my weekly shop instead of a monthly limit. Monthly we've cut down to $240 (Canadian) recently because it was possible with a little discipline for 2 adults and a toddler. We were at $300 before and I wasn't really sweating it. But that extra $15 a week adds up.

I personally find it's MUCH easier to make the 2-3 "put it back or get it next week" decisions to keep it to $60 a week, instead of tracking a total $240 number for the month.

big_slacker

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #43 on: December 16, 2017, 02:46:32 PM »
This is an awesome post. I live in WA state though and I'm wondering where you got those ultra cheap apples??? The best I do here is there are several folks who buy the less than perfect apples from growers and sell by the side of the road regularly. We also have a permanent farmer's stand that sells direct from farm. Neither of them get close to .50c-.70c a lb though. Were the red delicious or something that is kinda out of vogue?
We usually got them at the farm/natural food store. They generally had the cheapest nonorganic produce. When apples were in season, i.e., winter, they would sell a 20# half-case for 0.80/lb or less. Apples keep really well, so we would just buy the big box (like 40-60 apples), and with us eating 3-4 apples/day, it'd last us a good couple weeks. Then I'd look to see what was on sale next. Looking at their ad right now, they have Fuji apples for 98/lb, and likely they have the cases in the store for 10/lb less.

Which store specifically are you looking at?

APowers

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #44 on: December 16, 2017, 04:23:27 PM »
This is an awesome post. I live in WA state though and I'm wondering where you got those ultra cheap apples??? The best I do here is there are several folks who buy the less than perfect apples from growers and sell by the side of the road regularly. We also have a permanent farmer's stand that sells direct from farm. Neither of them get close to .50c-.70c a lb though. Were the red delicious or something that is kinda out of vogue?
We usually got them at the farm/natural food store. They generally had the cheapest nonorganic produce. When apples were in season, i.e., winter, they would sell a 20# half-case for 0.80/lb or less. Apples keep really well, so we would just buy the big box (like 40-60 apples), and with us eating 3-4 apples/day, it'd last us a good couple weeks. Then I'd look to see what was on sale next. Looking at their ad right now, they have Fuji apples for 98/lb, and likely they have the cases in the store for 10/lb less.

Which store specifically are you looking at?
It's called Sunny Farms. Pretty rural WA, and not even actually located in Eastern WA where all the apple orchards are.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2017, 09:30:26 PM by APowers »

Bicycle_B

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #45 on: December 16, 2017, 04:29:39 PM »
The specifics here are inspiring to mediocre shoppers such as myself, as is the intent to summarize actuals next year.  Posting to follow and encourage. 

big_slacker

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #46 on: December 19, 2017, 07:00:26 PM »
This is an awesome post. I live in WA state though and I'm wondering where you got those ultra cheap apples??? The best I do here is there are several folks who buy the less than perfect apples from growers and sell by the side of the road regularly. We also have a permanent farmer's stand that sells direct from farm. Neither of them get close to .50c-.70c a lb though. Were the red delicious or something that is kinda out of vogue?
We usually got them at the farm/natural food store. They generally had the cheapest nonorganic produce. When apples were in season, i.e., winter, they would sell a 20# half-case for 0.80/lb or less. Apples keep really well, so we would just buy the big box (like 40-60 apples), and with us eating 3-4 apples/day, it'd last us a good couple weeks. Then I'd look to see what was on sale next. Looking at their ad right now, they have Fuji apples for 98/lb, and likely they have the cases in the store for 10/lb less.

Which store specifically are you looking at?
It's called Sunny Farms. Pretty rural WA, and not even actually located in Eastern WA where all the apple orchards are.

Thanks for posting. A bit out of my way for sure, haha! Although I love Bellevue's location and proximity to work and the mountains, there is a premium for living here no doubt. :D

APowers

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #47 on: December 19, 2017, 07:33:50 PM »
This is an awesome post. I live in WA state though and I'm wondering where you got those ultra cheap apples??? The best I do here is there are several folks who buy the less than perfect apples from growers and sell by the side of the road regularly. We also have a permanent farmer's stand that sells direct from farm. Neither of them get close to .50c-.70c a lb though. Were the red delicious or something that is kinda out of vogue?
We usually got them at the farm/natural food store. They generally had the cheapest nonorganic produce. When apples were in season, i.e., winter, they would sell a 20# half-case for 0.80/lb or less. Apples keep really well, so we would just buy the big box (like 40-60 apples), and with us eating 3-4 apples/day, it'd last us a good couple weeks. Then I'd look to see what was on sale next. Looking at their ad right now, they have Fuji apples for 98/lb, and likely they have the cases in the store for 10/lb less.

Which store specifically are you looking at?
It's called Sunny Farms. Pretty rural WA, and not even actually located in Eastern WA where all the apple orchards are.

Thanks for posting. A bit out of my way for sure, haha! Although I love Bellevue's location and proximity to work and the mountains, there is a premium for living here no doubt. :D
But you have access to a Winco. I have only dreamt of having a Winco or an Aldi in any kind of reasonable distance.

oldladystache

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #48 on: December 19, 2017, 07:39:18 PM »
Following. This looks good.

I haven't figured out lately what I'm spending on food. I just know I'm naturally thrifty. Or cheap.

mm1970

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #49 on: December 20, 2017, 04:00:18 PM »
Quote
Sprouts Farmer's Market (4.1 miles away)
Generally an emphasis on "natural"/Organic/"crunchy", so most of the dry goods and dairy and meat is way expensive. But produce is almost always the best price that I can find, and the loss leaders are usually even better. Also they have bulk bins of grains/beans/etc. This is where I buy oatmeal in bulk and almost all our fruits & vegetables. I'm probably here weekly for fresh produce.

Costco (1.9 miles away)
It's easy to overspend at Costco, no joke. But regardless, I find tortillas, garlic, bananas, pinto beans, spices/seasonings, and gasoline (though gas isn't part of the food budget) to be consistently better priced than most anywhere else. I find some other things here on occasion; the rotisserie chicken is reasonably priced, as are the big blocks of cheese, and sugar. Canned goods are usually more expensive than grocery store sales, and produce usually follows the same routine.

"The Discount Store" (2.7 miles, 6.6 miles)
There are actually two of these-- one nearby, and one on the other end of town. I usually buy close-dated loaves of bread for $1, and always check around for gluten-free bread or other steals. Once, I found CASES of shelf-stable packaged gluten free bread for $0.99/loaf. Another time, I found a 50lb bag of whole wheat flour for $8. Wheat bread is almost always in stock for $1/loaf, everything else is pretty hit or miss. Often I find the prices are the same or higher than Safeway or Sprouts, which just amazes me-- seriously, I'm not buying stale marshmallows for $1.59 when I can get fresh ones for $1.25 at Safeway.

Wal Mart (3.6 miles to "Neighbourhood Market", 5.8 miles to Supercenter)
I don't buy much in the way of groceries here, but there are a few things. Lime juice, peanut butter (when I can't find it on a loss-leader sale), big jars of pickles, and an odd item here and there. Walmart produce is surprisingly expensive, and I don't really trust their meat to be good quality (and it's not actually cheaper than Safeway or King Soopers), so I generally stick to pre-packaged/shelf-stable items and dry goods.

Trader Joe's
I've never actually been here, even though it's right next to Costco. I get their ad flyer in the mail, and they never seem to have anything I need for a good price, so I haven't bothered to go in.

This is interesting, because it goes to show that where you live makes a huge difference, as well as what you eat.

I shop regularly at Trader Joe's and Costco because much of what we eat is cheapest there.  We have Vons/ Albertsons (same as Safeway), and their loss leaders aren't that great here.

I do love Sprouts, and in fact their bulk grains and beans, when on sale, are the best prices I can find per pound.

Finally the "what you eat" makes a big difference.  I once was able to keep our annual grocery bill at about $3500, for a family of 3.  Now we are a family of 4, ad coming in a $7000.

It got to be too hard to keep it much below that, for the following reasons and choices:
- We eat a LOT of produce
- About half of our produce is local (I live in So Cal, it would be a shame to eat stuff shipped in from elsewhere.  It lasts longer and tastes way better.)
- At my age, I can no longer eat a carb-heavy diet.  I used to eat about 5-6 servings a day.  Now down to 2-3.
- Just this year, I started having a problem with wheat.  I can still eat oatmeal, but I can only eat that so many days per week. 

So no more homemade bread, or regular pasta.  I have been making do with rice, oatmeal, but occasionally I want a damned sandwich and will buy GF bread.  Will also buy GF pasta, but it is 3x the price.