Author Topic: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget  (Read 285199 times)

seattlecyclone

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #1000 on: May 04, 2020, 05:42:46 PM »
I posted about this last year, but the end of Safeway's Monopoly promotion is coming around again. In the past three months that this has been going on, I have spent $517 at Safeway. My winnings from this promotion have included:
* $57 in grocery gift cards
* Two cans of green beans
* Four pounds of pasta
* One package of animal cookies
* One pound of macaroni salad
* One 10-count package of frozen waffles
* One bottle of salad dressing
* Two loaves of french bread
* Eight hot dog buns
* Eight hamburger buns
* Four AA batteries
* One quart of vinegar
* Two Icelandic-style yogurt
* One container of panko crumbs
* One bottle of Powerade
* One pound of sour cream
* Four boxes of facial tissues
* Two seasoning mixes
* One packet of gravy mix
* One pound of cream cheese
* Two sticks of lip balm
* One can of tomato sauce
* One can of cooking spray
* One small package of peanut M&M's
* Two theoretical bottles of hand sanitizer (I have the winning coupons, but they'll need to actually have some in stock by the end of May)
* Nine theoretical doughnuts or bagels (they've stopped selling these individually due to COVID-19, so I'll have to ask the person at the bakery counter if they can help me out)
* Several theoretical bottles of water (bottled water is not a product I will typically get, even for free).
* Numerous "free" (still have to pay shipping) photo-printed items from Shutterfly.

Tomorrow is the last day they're giving away the game pieces. Just like last year, they're really giving away a ton right now so they get rid of them all in time. I did our family's normal shopping on Friday, earned a pile of tickets, and went back again today to redeem some freebies and pick up a few things that were out of stock on Friday. Got another even larger pile of tickets today. I'd say at least half of my winnings have come from those two trips. I might go back tomorrow to redeem the freebies from today's trip and maybe earn another pile of tickets. We'll see.

seattlecyclone

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #1001 on: May 05, 2020, 11:08:19 PM »
Yep, went back again today. Redeemed some freebies, spent $3 on fruit. Won the following:
* $2 in grocery credit,
* 1 roll of aluminum foil
* 2 loaves of French bread
* 4 more theoretical doughnuts or bagels
* 2 cans of cooking spray
* 1 8-ounce container of sour cream
* 1 pound pasta
* 1 box animal cookies
* 1 pint of vinegar
* 1 bottle of liquid hand soap
* 1 packet of taco seasoning
* 1 can of vegetables

Trifele

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #1002 on: May 06, 2020, 05:02:11 AM »
This is great @seattlecyclone!  Thanks for sharing.  You are definitely scoring by playing the grocery store game.  Wish we had a chain like that around here.   

seattlecyclone

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #1003 on: May 06, 2020, 12:38:04 PM »
Before this pandemic hit I had totally been planning to make a weekend out of going to the store, opening the tickets, going back to redeem freebies, and repeating. As is I felt three trips in one week was probably pushing my luck a bit. Next year!

Chris@TTL

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #1004 on: May 22, 2020, 10:39:05 PM »
I might suggest this 3,500+ word guide:
How to Save Money On Groceries: Our Expert Guide, Beyond the Basics

Ultimately, it's $170/month average per person (two people) and doesn't force folks into rice and beans. Instead, it gets creative on changing how we think about food, meals, and ingredients while staying healthy. Technology comes to the rescue with wild stacking discounts, too!

It goes deep, way beyond the common sense basics - I bet you'll find some new ideas!

Linea_Norway

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #1005 on: May 23, 2020, 05:20:45 AM »
I might suggest this 3,500+ word guide:
How to Save Money On Groceries: Our Expert Guide, Beyond the Basics

Ultimately, it's $170/month average per person (two people) and doesn't force folks into rice and beans. Instead, it gets creative on changing how we think about food, meals, and ingredients while staying healthy. Technology comes to the rescue with wild stacking discounts, too!

It goes deep, way beyond the common sense basics - I bet you'll find some new ideas!

I read through it and installed all the Norwegian shop apps that I didn't have yet. Turns out that not all shops have them and that only two of them give coupons. But all in all, I do get cashback from the bonus systems, more cashback from paying with a grocery credit card and some bonus on frequently purchased goods. And I always buy a goods that I usually eat in large quantities when they are on discount. I also shop at different shops (on different times, not driving extra), trying to maximize sales in each shop. I also buy on the monthly dollar market when it appears. But these electronic coupons will be added to all of this.

For years, I have reduced our food waste. I buy fewer fresh vegetables, as our vegetables tend to last for several meals. Like one big cabbage is 3-4 meals. And an iceberg salad 2-3 meals. Earlier I didn't realize that and bought 7 vegetables for a week. I also freeze vegetables if I think they might perish before I can eat it. Like bags of carrots. I usually eat some for 2 meals, but there is still half a bag left. Then I cut them into slices and freeze them. And use those later in a stew or soup. I also make more soups nowadays, using wild plants and leftover vegetables from the freezer, like broccoli stilks or those carrot slices.

Like the article suggests, I have also eaten leftover dinner portions for lunch the next day. Otherwise, the are frozen if possible. Last night I made two portions of fish soup from one leftover single portion of fish soup, leftover rouille, fresh fish and some fresh herbs, as well as some leftover vegetable from a pot. Combined with bread, it was a dinner meal.

What the website didn't mention is baking your own bread. Since a few years I buy cheaper (but still healthy) bread than I used to. But nowadays I bake about 1/3 of our bread myself with sourdough, so not using bought yeast. One bag of flour gives my two breads. And the small (1 kg) bag of flour costs less than one cheap, healthy bread. My bread is also healthy.

I forage a lot of plants. But so far it hasn't made a big impact on replacement of our vegetables. I use it more as an addition. We hope that in a better season, we will be able to fill the freezer drawers with self caught fish. Maybe the coming week when we will go hiking and camping around some forest lakes.

And the other important thing is that I am not affraid of expired best before dates. I just use my nose and otherwise good judgement before I throw anything away. Powdered foods last almost forever.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2020, 06:25:49 AM by Linea_Norway »

APowers

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #1006 on: May 23, 2020, 07:30:09 AM »
I might suggest this 3,500+ word guide:
How to Save Money On Groceries: Our Expert Guide, Beyond the Basics

Ultimately, it's $170/month average per person (two people) and doesn't force folks into rice and beans. Instead, it gets creative on changing how we think about food, meals, and ingredients while staying healthy. Technology comes to the rescue with wild stacking discounts, too!

It goes deep, way beyond the common sense basics - I bet you'll find some new ideas!

That looks like a great guide, and likely it is stuff I mostly do. But $170/month per person is a HUGE difference from what I've done here, which is ~$190/month for four people. If I were to spend [$170x4=$680] per month on food, of course I wouldn't "be forced into rice and beans"-- I could be eating burgers or pizza or roast beef most nights, with fancy salad on the side.

Chris@TTL

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #1007 on: May 23, 2020, 08:40:35 AM »
@APowers ~$48/month per person is crazy, great job bud! Yea, that article goes less LeanFIRE, more FatFIRE for sure - trying to hit the ways to reduce waste/save money without more direct food-specific changes (like shopping manager's specials, eating store brand only, cutting meat, etc).

marty998

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #1008 on: May 24, 2020, 04:44:23 AM »
And the other important thing is that I am not affraid of expired best before dates. I just use my nose and otherwise good judgement before I throw anything away. Powdered foods last almost forever.

Can confirm. Chocolates are good for well after best before dates :)

StarBright

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #1009 on: May 24, 2020, 06:18:45 AM »
Since this thread is back: I was pretty incredulous that we could get our groceries lower (we were around $600 a month for four). But I was wrong! We have moved entirely to online shopping/curbside pick up during the pandemic and our grocery spending has dropped by over $100! That includes take out once a week - which is way more than we were doing pre-pandemic.

I think this comes down to two things:
 
  • I was doing more impulse buying in the grocery store that I realized
  • and also since we are constantly home I find myself caring about food less. Do kids get a fruit and veggie at every meal? Then great! the rest of it can be toast or a cup of yogurt because I'm done :)


So thanks Apowers - I definitely thought I was doing the best I could (and maybe I was doing the best I could for where we were at the time), but I thought of this thread when I tallied up our April groceries and realized I could do better.

APowers

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #1010 on: May 24, 2020, 07:36:28 AM »
Since this thread is back: I was pretty incredulous that we could get our groceries lower (we were around $600 a month for four). But I was wrong! We have moved entirely to online shopping/curbside pick up during the pandemic and our grocery spending has dropped by over $100! That includes take out once a week - which is way more than we were doing pre-pandemic.

I think this comes down to two things:
 
  • I was doing more impulse buying in the grocery store that I realized
  • and also since we are constantly home I find myself caring about food less. Do kids get a fruit and veggie at every meal? Then great! the rest of it can be toast or a cup of yogurt because I'm done :)


So thanks Apowers - I definitely thought I was doing the best I could (and maybe I was doing the best I could for where we were at the time), but I thought of this thread when I tallied up our April groceries and realized I could do better.

Way to go! I'm glad I could be an inspiration.

robartsd

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #1011 on: May 27, 2020, 09:16:00 AM »
And the other important thing is that I am not afraid of expired best before dates. I just use my nose and otherwise good judgement before I throw anything away. Powdered foods last almost forever.
Especially true if you have knowledge of the storage conditions for most of the storage life of the item.

Most dry goods that are kept dry, cool, and dark degrade very slowly. Keeping it dry is pretty much all that is required to prevent the growth of dangerous microorganism, but heat and light can degrade the nutritional quality of many foods.

Most frozen foods that are well sealed and never subject to partial thaw have very little degradation over time as well.

Refrigerated foods are the riskiest. Kept below 40 F (2 C) microorganisms that cause bad odor/taste should out compete microorganisms that would be harmful to ingest, but even reaching room temperature for relatively short periods of time can change the risks significantly.

dizzy

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #1012 on: June 18, 2020, 04:08:52 PM »
This is next area that I am trying to really pin down.  I've done a little better financially the last year and food is something I splurge on a little.  I am trying to keep better records here.

My main spending is for my CSA box.  It's $65 for 2 boxes a month.  One has 3lbs of grassfed ground beef in it
Both boxes have either a cake of tofu or carton of eggs, and 7 to 10 veggies and 1 fruit

I am trying to get back towards paleo ish again.  My boyfriend is used to living frugally but eating things that are instant or out of cans.  He eats a lot of carbs, no bueno.  Beans are a compromise I'm willing to make.  He doesn't like meat but I feel it's important to eat.

Been doing intermittent fasting again the last 2 weeks and it's a big help.  What would people suggest to supplement this for two people, or where you are spending to get a good deal.  Suburban area, can get to all sorts of stores.


Chris@TTL

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #1013 on: June 19, 2020, 08:45:11 AM »
@dizzy - that's a tough one since it sounds like it's more dietary concerns than money concerns you're working with.

In terms of money, the most important aspect is probably both of you gaining some more flexibility. There's a lot on flexibility and rethinking your meals, consumption here:

I might suggest this 3,500+ word guide:
How to Save Money On Groceries: Our Expert Guide, Beyond the Basics

Ultimately, it's $170/month average per person (two people) and doesn't force folks into rice and beans. Instead, it gets creative on changing how we think about food, meals, and ingredients while staying healthy. Technology comes to the rescue with wild stacking discounts, too!

It goes deep, way beyond the common sense basics - I bet you'll find some new ideas!

However, that may not work with your ideals or nutritional needs, so you'll have to strike a balance. The CSA sounds like a great place to work from to build your meals around.

K_in_Florida

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #1014 on: June 24, 2020, 04:30:31 PM »
This is next area that I am trying to really pin down.  I've done a little better financially the last year and food is something I splurge on a little.  I am trying to keep better records here.

My main spending is for my CSA box.  It's $65 for 2 boxes a month.  One has 3lbs of grassfed ground beef in it
Both boxes have either a cake of tofu or carton of eggs, and 7 to 10 veggies and 1 fruit

I am trying to get back towards paleo ish again.  My boyfriend is used to living frugally but eating things that are instant or out of cans.  He eats a lot of carbs, no bueno.  Beans are a compromise I'm willing to make.  He doesn't like meat but I feel it's important to eat.

Been doing intermittent fasting again the last 2 weeks and it's a big help.  What would people suggest to supplement this for two people, or where you are spending to get a good deal.  Suburban area, can get to all sorts of stores.

I hear you on the splurging, especially now during Covid-19!  This week my adult sons wanted to come with me to Aldi, and they were tossing in potatoes chips, Frito-type corn chips, candy, ice cream, Aldi brand cola, etc.  I figured out I spent about $30 extra just on the treats they wanted, plus I bought lunch meat and seltzer water because DH wanted them.  I don't feel too badly because we're spending much less overall due to Covid, but at the same time they can't get used to this.

I've done CSA boxes several times, sometimes for a couple of years at a time, and without doubt I end up thinking I'd rather get the produce I want, when I want it, and not full of bugs.  Even shopping at the farmers market ends up costing less.  But even more than this, choosing to eat the less expensive produce will cut major money from the grocery bill.  I feed my family with the inexpensive basics of cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes, bananas, and apples (but not in summer when they cost more and aren't as fresh), and then fill in with whatever is on sale that week, at loss leader type prices.  This week we're having zucchini and bell peppers, because they were on sale.  I also buy lettuce and tomatoes regularly, and cucumbers if they're on sale.  Right now we have cantaloupe because they were 99 each (I won't buy if they're priced higher), and a pineapple because it was also 99.

I don't know where you live, but I buy grass-fed beef for $6.99/# from a small rancher in my state, with free shipping (free shipping is available for CA, WA, and AZ).  Stores such as Sprouts and Aldi often sell it for less than that.  I know some people will suggest not buying grass-fed beef, but 12 years ago we went from not eating meat at all to eating grass-fed, and we really prefer it.

I don't follow a paleo diet, but because of food allergies I also don't eat legumes, so often my meals skew paleo/primal.  For example, tonight I'll be eating pork, potatoes, and zucchini.  I also eat some dairy, and I don't eschew wheat because it would be too limiting with my multiple food allergies (all legumes, all nuts, most fruits, many vegetables, some grains like barley and rye, and many other foods) and also eating to control kidney stones.  I make my own sourdough sandwich/toasting bread.

The good thing for you is that white potatoes are allowed on most paleo diets now, and even Mark's Daily Apple considers white rice a safe starch for most people.  Those are two really inexpensive sources for carbs.  50# of white calrose rice is usually under $25.  Rinse it well to remove any enrichment if you prefer.  Sam's Club sells 50# of long grain rice for $17.  I haven't seen sales on potatoes in months, but they're still inexpensive.  I think I pay $3 for 10#.

Chicken pieces have been hard to find lately, but whole chickens are less expensive most of the time, and you get the bones to make stock with.  Sometimes Aldi puts chicken quarters (leg and thigh) on sale for 49/#, in a 10# bag.  I'll do that to make stock, although I prefer Foster Farms chicken and only buy FF for whole chickens and split breasts.  I'm not super picky about b/s chicken breast, as long as I can get it for under $1.50/#.  If I can, I buy as much as possible and freeze it (after salting) in individual portions.  If I can't, we don't eat b/s chicken breast.  For us, it's a cheap convenience food.

Eggs are inexpensive and work for paleo.  Fish does too, but it isn't inexpensive unless you buy canned tuna.

Two years ago we decided we wanted to be FI more than we wanted to buy organic produce or pastured eggs.  This month we paid off our mortgage, the last step in making sure we're FI.  I'm RE, my husband doesn't want to retire yet, but we also want him to be able to walk away at any time.

Despite achieving this, we're not going to change the kinds of food we buy, or up the grocery budget, because it won't be sustainable once we FIRE, and because at the same time I last cut our grocery budget (I've done it many times), I realized I would rather send extra grocery money to hunger relief than spend it on ourselves.

ETA:  I meant to mention bulk cooking of meat to save money while eating paleo.  Today I've been slow cooking pork shoulder (butt) from Costco.  14# of meat was $28.  This makes at least 9 generous meals for our family of four adults, two of whom are highly active young adult males.  If it were just DH and I, I estimate we'd get 20+ meals.  Plus I save the cooking liquid as broth, and skim off the fat for cooking.  You can cook it with a rub of paleo approved spices, along with chicken broth, or even leftover pork broth from the previous batch (frozen and defrosted).  I'm using one slow cooker and one Instant Pot on slow cooker mode (not my favorite, but this week I didn't feel like cooking it on two separate days).  I don't cook it with BBQ sauce because I want it to be versatile for several different meals, including tacos tomorrow night.  But DH and our oldest will mix BBQ sauce into theirs tonight.

I do the same with beef, using brisket or chuck roast.  Basically, I try to find the least expensive cuts of meat, buy them in bulk, slow cook them, and then portion out and freeze.  Then it's basically convenience food, since it only takes about 45 minutes to defrost a bag of cooked pork or beef in a bowl of water.

And finally, check out The Cheapskate Cook on IG and Facebook.  She cooks budget friendly meals with basic ingredients.  I disagree with labeling food "real" or "clean", but if you can get past that she has great ideas and recipes.  We really like her homemade salad dressings, and I make her seasoned ground beef almost weekly.
« Last Edit: June 24, 2020, 06:35:13 PM by K_in_SoCal »

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Re: Have a sub-$200/month Grocery Budget
« Reply #1015 on: June 24, 2020, 04:34:09 PM »
Before this pandemic hit I had totally been planning to make a weekend out of going to the store, opening the tickets, going back to redeem freebies, and repeating. As is I felt three trips in one week was probably pushing my luck a bit. Next year!

I remember doing this at Albertsons at about 10 pm on the last night. The key is to camp out in the parking lot and open them all, otherwise you always miss out on that last round!