Author Topic: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!  (Read 66835 times)

PFHC

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 617
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Midcoast Maine
  • Busy doing.
OK, we're a family of four with two little kiddos, age 3 and 5. We spend a metric fuckton on groceries/household goods. Here's the breakdown:

                                 2012           2013           2014                2015 (to date)
Trips                            98                  128             135                95
Trips/Wk                      1.88             2.46             2.60               2.84
Avg cost/trip               $66.26          $98.20         $125.94          $105.58
Grocery cost/wk         $124.87        $241.72        $326.95         $300.04
Driving cost/wk          $6.22            $8.12            $8.57              $9.38
True cost/week          $131.09         $249.84        $335.51         $309.42
Yearly cost                  $6,493.03    $12,569.41   $17,001.24     $10,030.02
Yearly driving cost       $323.40       $422.40          $445.50        $313.50
True Yearly cost    $6,816.43    $12,991.81   $17,446.74   $10,343.52

It is a lot, and we all want to get better. That said, we are health nuts and plan to stay that way as we are all have no issues with weight or other health problems. We think of our way of eating as our insurance plan. For instance, we spend less than $50/yr at the doctor. So, on to the problem:

Here's what we don't eat.
    - Most meat (only organic, grassfed, ethically raised meat and wild caught fish -- all of which are rarely eaten)
    - Wheat (all of us are glutards)
    - Non-organic produce in the dirty dozen
    - Milk, yogurt, or kefir that is not grassfed
    - Cheese
    - Processed, pre-made, packaged food of any kind

    What we've done so far to improve our grocery spending is to:

    - Reduce our trips to 1/wk. Saves $350/yr on fuel.
    - Start shopping at Sam's. We're estimating a 30%-50% savings on certain items (greens, frozen fruit, snacks, etc.). Should amount to a $300 savings/month.
    - Doing a prep day each week where we chop veggies and make bulk rice/quinoa a head of time (basmati rice, $19 for 25 lbs).

    So, we're aiming for a 10% reduction in food costs for the first 6 months of 2016, and over all to eventually get to somewhere close to $1000/month in 2015 dollars. I'm optimistic we can get there. That said, we need your help.

    All you healthy eaters, how do you do it on a budget? Looking for any pointers from meal planning, to recipes, to secret healthy nutrient and calorie dense foods, etc.

    Food is our one thing we spend exorbitantly on. Everything else, we do pretty darn well at.

    Thanks in advance!
« Last Edit: August 30, 2015, 01:17:33 AM by PFHC »

zephyr911

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3620
  • Age: 43
  • Location: Northern Alabama
  • I'm just happy to be here. \m/ ^_^ \m/
    • Pinhook Development LLC
Working ahead is a great start. I do a lot of bulk cooking, mostly for work lunches.
Other things I do, that may or may not work:
Shop often - more chances to spot deals, and stay head on stock.
Adjust ratios - a little more rice, a little less meat, etc. Since your list includes some high-cost items, this could make a difference. Think third-world... enough meat for flavor, on top of enough greens for nutrition, on top of cheap calories and proteins.
Make more things from scratch.

Other than that... I'd just look at total expenditures and reduce consumption of anything whose nutritional value doesn't justify the price. With a five-figure total (holy shit) there must be a category that sticks out.

PFHC

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 617
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Midcoast Maine
  • Busy doing.
Other than that... I'd just look at total expenditures and reduce consumption of anything whose nutritional value doesn't justify the price. With a five-figure total (holy shit) there must be a category that sticks out.

Just going to have to give everything the ol' eyeball for nutrient density. Chunk anything that doesn't fit the bill out.

Ya, five figures. Been trying to figure it out for years. My brother has 9 kids and they get in under $800/mo. They eat a ton of unhealthy crap, so it's easier that way. Just blows my mind that we spend more on food than many do on housing.

1967mama

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2165
  • Age: 54
  • Location: Canada
Maybe you're already doing this, but are you getting your meat direct from a farm? And are you buying up/growing  and freezing/drying/canning the summer's bounty of fruits and vegetables, which can also be bought more cheaply directly from our friendly farmers?

I have been known to freeze hundreds of pounds of organic berries from the farm to get us through the winter ;-) I buy and freeze 50 organic chickens a year (also a large family, like your brother) and a side or two of grass-fed, ethically raised beef. 

I'm looking forward to hearing tips from others as well!

pbkmaine

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8626
  • Age: 65
  • Location: The Villages, Florida
I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2015, 03:16:19 AM »
A typical shopping list would help bring suggestions.

PFHC

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 617
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Midcoast Maine
  • Busy doing.
A typical shopping list would help bring suggestions.

pbkmaine... not sure if your name indicates you're a Mainer. Hope so, as I am and some advice from a fellow Mainer would certainly help.

OK. We have three trips. Weekly trip to Hannaford's and a local market specializing in local/organic stuff. We used spend around $300 between the two trips. Then every three weeks, we go to Sam's and get bulk items. Depending on what we have to get, that runs between $150 - $250.

I am a lot of miles from home on a ship and I don't have access to a recent slip. My wife plans to do a small trip Monday, then go slightly bigger Wednesday or Thursday. We just implemented the once a week schedule (with the one day being W/Th) and we are out of fresh fruit and veggies, thus the small trip Monday.

So, if you can wait until Thursday night, I can get you our shopping list exactly. Otherwise it will just be a crappy guess.

Monkey Uncle

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1687
  • Location: West-by-god-Virginia
Maybe you're already doing this, but are you getting your meat direct from a farm? And are you buying up/growing  and freezing/drying/canning the summer's bounty of fruits and vegetables, which can also be bought more cheaply directly from our friendly farmers?

I have been known to freeze hundreds of pounds of organic berries from the farm to get us through the winter ;-) I buy and freeze 50 organic chickens a year (also a large family, like your brother) and a side or two of grass-fed, ethically raised beef. 

I'm looking forward to hearing tips from others as well!

Compare prices to be sure - local farmers are not necessarily less expensive.  In my area, it costs considerably more to buy direct from the local farmer vs. the grocery store.  We do it anyway, because the food is much higher quality.

alsoknownasDean

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2537
  • Age: 37
  • Location: Melbourne, Australia
Yeah it sounds like you're paying excessive prices for food.

Maybe do the maths on organic and decide if it's worth it. It might be if it's only 10-20% more, but not if it's double-triple the cost.

Have you considered growing your own fruit and veg?

Are you buying some excessively overpriced items? I remember being in a grocery store a few months ago and seeing 'paleo muesli' for $20 for a ~500g bag. Honestly I thought if someone's prepared to spend that much on a bag of muesli because it's got 'paleo' or whatever the latest dietary fashion is written on it, then I've got a bridge to sell them. :)

lakemom

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 401
Have you internet sourced your dried goods/packaged goods?  I often see that folks can buy nuts/seeds/dried beans substantially cheaper online than locally.  This might be a good supplement to the Sam's run.

MsPeacock

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1571
  • Location: High COL
Can you give a run down of what is on your typical shopping list and weekly menu plan? This may help,posters give you some more specific ideas rather than general advice like buy and cook in bulk.


pbkmaine

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8626
  • Age: 65
  • Location: The Villages, Florida
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2015, 07:38:20 AM »

A typical shopping list would help bring suggestions.

pbkmaine... not sure if your name indicates you're a Mainer. Hope so, as I am and some advice from a fellow Mainer would certainly help.



I used to live in Maine,  so I know the stores. Hannaford's and Shaw's were my chief haunts. Is there a Market Basket near you? The blog Frugalwoods (they are in Cambridge, Mass) uses Market Basket for their big shop each week.

pbkmaine

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8626
  • Age: 65
  • Location: The Villages, Florida
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2015, 07:39:19 AM »
Looking forward to Thursday and your grocery list.

needmyfi

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 213
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2015, 08:10:18 AM »
My best plan is not to plan (too much at least).  Take advantage of sales, markdowns and loss leaders. The best deals on meats and veggies are sometimes in store and not advertised.    I cook on the fly and don't stick strictly to recipes unless I bake so that helps.  When you find really good prices on an item stock up and/or freeze. 

 

benjenn

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 283
  • Age: 57
  • Location: Gulf Shores, AL
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2015, 08:42:08 AM »
I'd like to see a shopping list, too, to help figure out what it is that's costing so much.  Wow. DH and I eat a healthy plant-based diet... no meat, dairy, or eggs at all.  We have green smoothies for breakfast every day so we buy lots of fruits and veggies for that.  We don't have to watch gluten at all so I'm sure that helps.  Before finding MMM, we were spending $800 per month on groceries (not including wine) but since then, we've dropped our monthly budget to $500 and we've been spending less than that every month.

One of the things I did was to go through my pantry, fridge and freezer and figure out what I could make using what we already had and from that, start a menu list for the week.  We always took leftovers for our lunches so that was easy.  Then, after having the menu list (I'd always put 8 meals on the list so I could pick and choose each night what to make and feel like I had options), I'd go through my recipes to figure out exactly what I needed and only buy those ingredients.

This seemed to really cut down on the buying... I didn't buy things that I thought we'd eventually use or that looked good at the time... I only buy the items that I know I'll need and use for the meals I'm making that week.  Plus the fruits and veggies needed for our smoothies.

The grocery bills dropped considerably at first since we had so much food already in the house that I had to try to use up.  Now we've got considerably more space in our pantry and the weekly grocery bills are still way less than they used to be just because I'm mindful.

Hope that helps!

Indio

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 413
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #15 on: August 30, 2015, 08:52:34 AM »
Gas prices are cheaper in ME than other parts of the east coast, except NJ, so you have an advantage there. I try to keep my costs low by shopping at Amazon prime. Toilet paper and a few other products are cheaper at Amazon than my local Costco and I don't have to wait in line for 45 mins or end up with impulse purchases. I grow a lot of food which is either frozen or canned for use later in Winter when fresh is expensive. I also recently noticed that the frozen organic strawberries are cheaper than the fresh organic ones. In a smoothie the taste is comparable. My kids don't eat beans but I do and they are very affordable.

If you think you might want to go the growing food route, it would be worth a trip to see Eliot Coleman's 4 Season farm in Blue Hill. He has a great setup with sliding hoop houses that produce a lot of fresh greens in Winter. ME soil is much richer than mine in CT and even though the growing season is shorter, production would require less inputs.

seemsright

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 407
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #16 on: August 30, 2015, 08:56:01 AM »
I think we eat pretty healthy.

The last time I was at the store I wanted to get some Quinoa from the bulk section...it was $5.69 a pound!!!! That is CRAZY! So I grabbed some millet (which has a similar nutritional profile) for $.69 a pound...saved me a huge amount of money. And my little does not care and will eat it just fine. (she is 5) Just tell her it is 'fancy' rice and she is all over it.

I also have a seasonal CSA that for 17 weeks the guy brings me a box of fruits and veggies. It ends up being $27 a week. But it also comes with 3 flats of berries and 50# of tomatoes. Buy the end of the season my freezer is full of organic local fruits and veggies to use all winter. This weeks haul I am making salsa and corn chowder and tomato basil soup. I do not have to go to the store during the height of the season.

big_slacker

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1350
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #17 on: August 30, 2015, 09:08:41 AM »
I had the exact same problem and posted about it here when I joined the forum. I was going over $1k/month pretty much every month and have cut it back to $800/month most months.

Here is what helped:

Look at where the 'bleeding' occurs. Hint, it's organic fruits and veggies. If you're like me you'll have a big problem here because you know that's the good stuff where health happens. I'm with you, but we had a tendency to have a set shopping list and get mostly the same stuff every week regardless of price. Good for consistent healthy eating, bad for the wallet.

No sacred cows. Set a ballpark target for each category. When you've got $50 for fruits and $50 for veggies for the week and you're looking at $3/lb apple display or a $4 bell pepper (why are those F'ers so expensive??) you might opt out and go for something of great volume that you'll get more than one meal out of.

On volume, be looking for a sale and stock up. Tomatoes on sale? Get 'em! Go crazy. Make pasta sauce, soups and freeze. Apples, eat a bunch that week, make some compotes, etc. Now when there is nothing but $3/lb apples garnish oatmeal with that instead of buying fresh.

Frozen fruits/veggies are another option. If you do a lot of greens shakes you can grab stuff on sale, pre-pack smoothie servings and you're good to go for a few weeks or longer.

And some weeks you just might not buy the stuff. You aren't gonna die if you don't have apples one week. You're not even gonna be less healthy if you have to eat more potatoes or rice n' beans. Since cutting my budget in this way my bloodwork and body comp hasn't changed a bit. :)


MrMoneyMaxwell

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 65
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Colorado
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #18 on: August 30, 2015, 09:51:33 AM »
Purchasing bulk beef/pork from a farm is a viable option. You can get a half cow from some places for ~$400. They are generally butchered into individual steaks/chops, etc. and vacuum sealed. All you need is a deep freezer. This is the best option for grass fed meat. A deep freezer will run you about $200 new at the store, but cheaper on Craigslist.

Bulk chicken, eggs, rice, some things like onions, potatoes and spinach come from Cost-co. Every now and then they will have wild caught fish or grass fed beef, bison, etc. and I will occasionally buy some of that.

We started getting our weeks worth of veggies for $10 at the local farmers market, supplementing what they don't have (bananas, etc) from whichever grocery store has the best deal going on (the 4 in our area send out a circular with the sales for the week).

Our monthly budget is ~$350. We're both very active, so sometimes we'll need to buy bulk snacks for our hikes (nuts, cliff bars, stuff like that), so occasionally this will go up depending on the weather.

Also, my fiance is celiac so I can't remember the last time I had bread.

If you're like me, you aren't really eating anything that comes pre-made and out of a box. So this tends to be slightly more expensive, but not as much as most people think it is.

Bracken_Joy

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8937
  • Location: Oregon
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #19 on: August 30, 2015, 10:45:57 AM »
A couple things were key budget killers for us:

Fruit and spendy veggies. Go for cabbage and broccoli over asparagus and artichokes.
Pre-made sauces and dressings. Ketchup, BBQ sauce, dressings are all VERY expensive to get well made- unless you make your own.
Not being flexible with meat. Right now, pork is far cheaper than beef. Chicken thighs are getting popular out here so they've spiked in price. Go against the trends and buy what's cheap at the time.

ender

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6849
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #20 on: August 30, 2015, 10:49:03 AM »
My suggestion would be to itemize your receipts for a month or two.

You might realize that a few items/categories are costing you the bulk of your expenses.


My wife and I spend about $300 a month and eat very luxuriously - fresh produce constantly, many meals are meat based, etc.

tallen

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 158
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #21 on: August 30, 2015, 11:04:07 AM »
My grocery bill is bigger than I'd like it to be, but other than shopping around for better prices I'm not willing to sacrifice my health to save a few bucks. I've been considering ordering meat in bulk lately myself too.

Edit-grammer

Jakejake

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 720
  • FIRE: June 17, 2016
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #22 on: August 30, 2015, 11:13:23 AM »
One more vote for a CSA and for showing us an itemized list of, say, the last week's groceries and cost.

SilveradoBojangles

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 317
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #23 on: August 30, 2015, 12:46:02 PM »
Hi, We eat similarly to you, and our budget is 600 for the month for 2 adults (which includes alcohol). We live in a HCOL area, so our grocery prices are pretty high comparatively (though we don't have to drive to the store). It's a little bit hard to stay within that budget because, although we rarely go out, we love to cook fancy meals and entertain friends, but we work hard to stay within this. We are lucky in that we have a year round CSA, which helps keep the cost of veggies pretty close to 20$ a week, and they are organic. For protein we eat lots of beans, lentils, nuts, tempeh, tofu, eggs, yogurt, some cheese, and meat/fish about 1-2 times a week. We buy organic, grass-fed, etc. as much as possible. Some questions for you:

  • Are you eating beans? As previously mentioned, we eat a lot of lentils/beans, which we buy in bulk. These take the form of bean sprout salads, indian curries, soups, burritos, chilis, stews, white beans and kale, etc.  They are versatile, cheap, filling, and have protein.
  • Are you eating seasonal vegetables, or do you pick up the same standards week after week? For example, now that it's summer, we are mainly eating tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplants, green beans, and melons. I kind of miss leafy greens, but I know they'll be back before we know it, and come winter that and root vegetables is all we'll eat. But it is much cheaper to eat what is in season.
  • Do you throw food out? If things are going bad before you get to them, if you toss old leftovers, etc., you are throwing away money. We waste almost no food. Like, we threw out a moldy peach a couple of weeks ago, and I still remember it because that is how rare it is for us to not eat everything we buy.
  • Do you plan meals in advance? This is a big part of not wasting food and keeping your costs and number of trips to the grocery store down. Also, going in with a list makes it easier to stick to a budget.
  • Do you track your spending in real time? I would track our spending at the end of each month, and for a while we were routinely going over our food budget. Since we started using YNAB, which has an excellent phone app, it has been much easier to see where we are in relation to our food budget each time we go shopping.
  • Do you have a Trader Joe's near you? They have the best prices on nuts that I've found.

You mentioned that you were looking for help on meal planning and recipes. If you want to see an example of a week of meals for us, or want any recipes, I'm happy to share. But these are just some issues that may be contributing to your high grocery costs.

mohawkbrah

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 272
  • Age: 26
  • Location: Herefordshire, UK
  • every day they see me hustling those pennies away
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #24 on: August 30, 2015, 02:14:54 PM »
im confused as to why your bills are so high considering you don't eat meat. which is the most expensive thing to buy

Jakejake

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 720
  • FIRE: June 17, 2016
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #25 on: August 30, 2015, 02:56:08 PM »
One thing I just noticed - you list milk and yogurt as separate items. Are you buying cups of yogurt, or making it?

Also - what are the "snacks" from Sams exactly?
« Last Edit: August 30, 2015, 03:59:01 PM by Jakejake »

Bajadoc

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 212
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #26 on: August 30, 2015, 03:10:20 PM »
Forget about the "organic" and gluten thing. Those fads will be over and the money spent on "special healthy foods" will be forever gone.

Cassie

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 7064
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #27 on: August 30, 2015, 03:33:28 PM »
The less you shop the less you will buy. We we were a family of 5 we went 2x/month for major shop. Then picked up fruits, veggies, milk etc in between but did not browse when we went to pick these up. Just got them & left. Now that there are only 2 of  us our big shop is 1x/month.

herbgeek

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 176
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #28 on: August 30, 2015, 05:26:32 PM »
Sprouts are a cheap addition- I can make a batch for 4 cents a pint.  I buy sprouting seeds in bulk on line or sometimes for mung bean (aka bean sprouts) at an Indian market.  All it takes is a jar, some cloth and a rubber band over the top and twice a day rinsing.

I second the recommendation for eating seaonally.  Much much cheaper.  If you have access to sun, even lettuce and herbs in pots are a huge money saver.

2ndTimer

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4610
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #29 on: August 30, 2015, 05:38:38 PM »
Don't know where you live but I find in the Seattle area, certain fruit stands will have irregular apples and pears because we are so near fruit growing country.  When Honey Crisp Apples and Commice Pears come through I buy them.  They taste just as good as the perfect ones.  Both can be scrubbed with dish soap (what I do) or pealed for cleaner eating.

PFHC

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 617
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Midcoast Maine
  • Busy doing.
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #30 on: August 30, 2015, 07:06:21 PM »
Can you give a run down of what is on your typical shopping list and weekly menu plan? This may help,posters give you some more specific ideas rather than general advice like buy and cook in bulk.

Here is the list from Sam's when we last went (14 Aug):
  • Basmati rice   1   $19.98 - (25 lbs)
  • Vinegar    1   $3.98 – 2 gallons
  • Black pepper   1   $8.48  - enough for a year
  • Chia Seeds   1   $10.98 – 32 oz. Enough for several months.
  • Quinoa   1   $8.78 – 32 oz. Will last at least a month.
  • OG Pasta Sauce   2   $5.98 – 24 oz jars
  • OG EVOO   1   $11.98 – 1.5 L. Will last us several months.
  • OG Coconut oil (54 oz)   1   $16.98 – Several months worth.
  • OG frozen Island mix   1   $10.94 – 3 lbs. At least a month’s worth.
  • OG frozen berry mix   1   $9.38 – 3 lbs. Same as above.
  • OG frozen cherries   1   $10.48 – 3 lbs. Ditto.
  • OG mini carrots   1   $3.98 – 5lbs. Lasted 6 days.
  • OG kale greens mix   1   $3.98  - 16 oz. Lasted 4 days.
  • OG spring greens mix   1   $4.47 – 16 oz. lasted 6 days.
  • McCann's Oatmeal   1   $8.98 – 2 - 28 oz cans. Have since found a much better deal on Amazon.
  • Pistachios   1   $15.98 – 3 lbs. A months worth.
  • Tortilla Chips   1   $5.98 – Good sized bag. A waste as it lasted two days.
  • Maple syrup   1   $10.78 – 32 oz. This is a great deal and will last us months.
  • Lemons   1   $6.98 – 3 lbs. Enough for a couple weeks.
  • Clementines   1   $8.98 – 3 lbs. Lasted ten days.
  • Almonds   1   $16.88 – 3 lbs. A months worth.

For a total of $210.91

**Edited to add item size and duraction or anticipated duration and to remove non-food items.**
« Last Edit: August 31, 2015, 12:35:53 AM by PFHC »

PFHC

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 617
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Midcoast Maine
  • Busy doing.
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #31 on: August 30, 2015, 07:10:15 PM »
Maybe you're already doing this, but are you getting your meat direct from a farm? And are you buying up/growing  and freezing/drying/canning the summer's bounty of fruits and vegetables, which can also be bought more cheaply directly from our friendly farmers?

I have been known to freeze hundreds of pounds of organic berries from the farm to get us through the winter ;-) I buy and freeze 50 organic chickens a year (also a large family, like your brother) and a side or two of grass-fed, ethically raised beef. 

I'm looking forward to hearing tips from others as well!

Compare prices to be sure - local farmers are not necessarily less expensive.  In my area, it costs considerably more to buy direct from the local farmer vs. the grocery store.  We do it anyway, because the food is much higher quality.

This is exactly the issue we have run into. The prices at our farmer's markets, which are extremely popular in Maine, are equivalent or higher than the stores. $10 will get you a loaf of bread or a couple bundles of greens. No way in hell you can get a weeks worth of groceries like a poster suggested here.

PFHC

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 617
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Midcoast Maine
  • Busy doing.
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #32 on: August 30, 2015, 07:20:50 PM »
Maybe do the maths on organic and decide if it's worth it. It might be if it's only 10-20% more, but not if it's double-triple the cost.

Organic is certianly more expensive in our area, but not triple. Depending on the produce, could be double. We tend to avoid those items.

Have you considered growing your own fruit and veg?

YES! We turned our entire yard into an organic garden the last two summers. Ended up spending about $500/yr and got very little produce. My yard is on a north facing slope and does not get good sun. :( Tried our damnedest, but could not make it productive. Did grow a badass 6' braid of garlic and 80 lbs of sweet potatoes!

Are you buying some excessively overpriced items? I remember being in a grocery store a few months ago and seeing 'paleo muesli' for $20 for a ~500g bag. Honestly I thought if someone's prepared to spend that much on a bag of muesli because it's got 'paleo' or whatever the latest dietary fashion is written on it, then I've got a bridge to sell them. :)

No. No gimmicky shit. No packages goods, period. Just food in it's purest form, i.e. minimal processing.

Jakejake

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 720
  • FIRE: June 17, 2016
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #33 on: August 30, 2015, 07:40:54 PM »
I know  this is a PITA question, but on that shopping list, I can't tell if you've gotten great deals or awful ones because the sizes aren't listed for most things. Any change of editing that in? (decent price for the basmati, though!)
« Last Edit: August 30, 2015, 07:50:56 PM by Jakejake »

1967mama

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2165
  • Age: 54
  • Location: Canada
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #34 on: August 30, 2015, 07:42:37 PM »
Are you making your own bread? grinding organic wheat bought in 50lb bags?

Faraday

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1191
  • Age: 59
  • Location: NC
  • Solar Powered Slice
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #35 on: August 30, 2015, 08:03:37 PM »
PFHC:

First, congrats that you even KNOW what you are spending. Most people can't track. Second, congrats again that you want to trim those costs. I'm with you 100% on regarding healthy eating as a kind of insurance policy. Our sons grew up this way and even as adults, those habits persist. THey are both 6ft 3 inch monsters with low body fat and textbook physiques. Believe me, what you are doing will pay off handsome dividends for everyone in the house.

All I've got to add in the way of advice, many have already said:

+1 to the idea of getting a freezer and buying in bulk - whether it's meat, vegs, seasonals, whatever.  This will be my own next step, but when I do, I'm planning to get one of those freezers that run off DC and can be powered by a solar panel. I live in the southeast US and a bad hurricane can knock out power for a week or more. I don't want to be forced to use up an entire freezer of food to keep it from spoiling.

I don't know if you guys have Aldi up there, but I find certain items from Aldi to be good bargains and good quality. I buy almond milk, frozen vegs and seafood there if it's on sale.

One other comment that may-or-may-not be applicable: if you have other places you can cut expenses to a greater magnitude, it might be better to focus on that rather than on food. I got pretty worried about my household's grocery budget (I've blabbed in several threads about it and started one of my own about it) but then I realized there were other places I could change how we live and it didn't matter one bit and didn't diminish our living standard one bit.

Examples of what I mean here are: getting rid of cell phone contracts, getting rid of pay tv, fixing my own vehicles, riding the bike more, hacking my power bill, paying off all debt (besides mortgage) and jacking up my pre-tax 401k contributions.

Example of what I mean about jacking up the 401k:
http://www.madfientist.com/millionaire-educator-interview/

madFI and the millionaire educators essentially taught me that if I'm not sheltering enough income via pre-tax deduction because I can't AFFORD to or don't have the cash flow to do so, I've turned my fed and state income taxes into a kind of CONSUMPTION TAX and I'm being a consuma sucka.

Good luck man. Total props to you and how you make your living! Rock on man!

MsPeacock

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1571
  • Location: High COL
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #36 on: August 30, 2015, 08:11:30 PM »
Generally, the prices of household items such as toilet paper and garbage bags are not included in the grocery budgets that you see folks using.

So, this is everything you eat for a couple weeks (like nothing else that you pick-up at other stores)? I ask, as someone who doesn't like much fruit - but I am not really seeing the makings of many meals here.

Do you have a weekly meal/menu plan? 

kite

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 768
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #37 on: August 30, 2015, 08:48:52 PM »
Couple thoughts....
Organic is a luxury, and not necessary for health.  It doesn't mean what marketers have led you to believe.  Don't take my word for it.  Read what Joe Schwarcz has to say on the matter:  http://www.artsandopinion.com/2005_v4_n3/schwarcz-3.htm

Next is that the SNAP challenge or Living Below the Line is great for slashing the food bill.  Best writing on how to do this is by someone who lived it because she had no other choice, not a posturing celebrity or politician.  Google "A Girl Called Jack" and see how to do it deliciously.  Set a fixed budget for the four of you for the coming week and don't go above it.  Next weekly trip, take only  $80 in cash.  Our household was 2, so we could spend half that and make do with what is lying around in the pantry. 

We've done because we had no other choice (we had a sudden shift to zero income when the market had tanked), too and these are some of the things we had to learn:

Don't buy snacks.  Don't buy something because it's healthy, on sale, in bulk or whatever other rationalizations you've used to tip something in the cart.  Only buy that which is part of the meals you have planned.  You are planning meals right?  Oatmeal, split pea soup, homemade bread are filling and cheap.  Fruits and vegetables are not equal.  Veggies must be eaten daily. Fruit is dessert, and you don't need dessert at every meal or even every day.  Beef is the most expensive protein we eat, so it's a rare to have and served as a condiment.  Whole chicken is cheaper than boneless skinless parts.  Roast whole birds, eat over the course of the week.  Herbs make everything better, are expensive to buy yet easy to grow.  In addition to the above thoughts on fruit/desser, we used to have to much sugar in out diets.  Cut it & save a bundle.

Bendigirl

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 57
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #38 on: August 30, 2015, 08:52:16 PM »
I think you are doing great.  Spending money on good food is a great investment!
The only thing I noticed was a lot of nuts for a few weeks!  Hubby and I eat almonds every day but it takes us a month, at least, to get through a costco bag.
How great are you to be nourishing your kids so well.   Love that commitment!

You would roll over and die if you were to buy the same items here in Canada.....it is so much more expensive here.

We eat like you, only grain free also....cannot even say how much our lives have improved!
« Last Edit: August 30, 2015, 08:54:24 PM by Bendigirl »

alsoknownasDean

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2537
  • Age: 37
  • Location: Melbourne, Australia
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #39 on: August 30, 2015, 08:53:10 PM »
Maybe do the maths on organic and decide if it's worth it. It might be if it's only 10-20% more, but not if it's double-triple the cost.

Organic is certianly more expensive in our area, but not triple. Depending on the produce, could be double. We tend to avoid those items.

Have you considered growing your own fruit and veg?

YES! We turned our entire yard into an organic garden the last two summers. Ended up spending about $500/yr and got very little produce. My yard is on a north facing slope and does not get good sun. :( Tried our damnedest, but could not make it productive. Did grow a badass 6' braid of garlic and 80 lbs of sweet potatoes!

Are you buying some excessively overpriced items? I remember being in a grocery store a few months ago and seeing 'paleo muesli' for $20 for a ~500g bag. Honestly I thought if someone's prepared to spend that much on a bag of muesli because it's got 'paleo' or whatever the latest dietary fashion is written on it, then I've got a bridge to sell them. :)

No. No gimmicky shit. No packages goods, period. Just food in it's purest form, i.e. minimal processing.
There's still some expensive trendy foods there (quinoa, chia seeds, kale, coconut oil, etc).

Sent from my LG-D855 using Tapatalk


kimmarg

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 750
  • Location: Northern New England
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #40 on: August 30, 2015, 09:05:18 PM »
A typical shopping list would help bring suggestions.

pbkmaine... not sure if your name indicates you're a Mainer. Hope so, as I am and some advice from a fellow Mainer would certainly help.

OK. We have three trips. Weekly trip to Hannaford's and a local market specializing in local/organic stuff. We used spend around $300 between the two trips. Then every three weeks, we go to Sam's and get bulk items. Depending on what we have to get, that runs between $150 - $250.


Mainer here! Hannaford is definitely the best of the main grocery stores. Loss leaders are cheaper at Shaws but everything else is much more expensive. Trader Joes is cheapest for peanut butter and coffee though. I get my produce and fancy farm raised meat through a CSA at Wolf Pine Farm in Alfred (they deliver all over southern Maine) ww.wolfpine farm.com $500/6 months of yummy organic veggies.

If you shop Whole Foods, know your prices! For example, tofu is actually cheaper at Hannaford.  For veggies there is also the Crown of Maine organic cooperative which delivers. Portland food coop was ordering from them before they got all fancy and built a store. I never joined as that coop model didn't work for me but coops are nice in general.

Also PYO for berries. $2.49/lb organic blueberries in Cornish, also picked strawberries. Goss Berry Farm in Poland has raspberries although don't think they are organic. Tons of apples in fall.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2015, 09:10:58 PM by kimmarg »

backyardfeast

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 867
  • Location: Vancouver Island, BC
    • My journal
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #41 on: August 30, 2015, 09:09:16 PM »
Your wife might benefit from the thread on eating what's in your pantry.  It looks from your list like you're used to cooking from scratch and buying in bulk, and that means keeping the pantry stocked.  But are you actually eating everything that's there in a systematic way designed to make the most of the money you've spent?

For instance, you've got a LOT of food on that list.  We do a shop like that every 6 weeks or so.  Then each week, we are at the grocery store only for the very few extra things we would need to flesh out the specific meals we're going to eat.  In other words, now that you've stocked up, make a meal plan for the specific meals you're going to make out of those ingredients (and other things in your pantry and freezer).  Don't fall into the trap of saying, ok, I've got quinoa and rice, but I feel like potatoes, so off I go to the grocery store, and while I'm there I'll just pick up...x,y,z. Look at the contents of your shelves, decide how you're going to use those ingredients, make a small list of other things you will need to complete those recipes, and then go and do one more shop this week for just those things on the list.  Stay out of the grocery store the rest of the week!  If you run out of something, substitute!  Make it a challenge!

Lots of us fall into the trap of liking to have lots of food on hand, and then just deciding each day what we feel like eating.  It's all yummy and healthy, so it's all good, right?!  But it doesn't make efficient use of our money or of the food.

It can also be eye opening to think about the costs of the meals that you have in regular rotation. In our case, there was a big difference between the cost of eggs, potatoes, and veggies, or rice and beans and veggies, or chicken and quinoa and veggies.  I realized that we could (as someone else here already said) eat variations of the cheaper ones more often and just that would make a difference to how much we spent.  We did the same costing with snacks--those nuts were costing a fortune!  We stopped eating them by the big handful, and I started making (way cheaper) muffins instead.  More hard-boiled eggs, less bacon, etc.  Looking around for the best price on frozen berries is one thing, but deciding to buy the cheapest organic frozen fruit, or just the cheapest local fruit (apples!) instead will make a difference too.


Bendigirl

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 57
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #42 on: August 30, 2015, 09:09:37 PM »
Some recipes

http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2013/06/30/baked-beans-recipe-healthy-homemade/
These are good....next time I make these I will use maple syrup instead of the coconut sugar I used...

http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2012/10/26/super-healthy-lentil-sloppy-joes/
I add a bit of garum masala to this to give it a curry taste and serve it over cauliflower rice and I do add a pile of caramelized onions.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/vegetarian-chili-recipe.html
We keep individual servings of this in the freezer for lunches, freezes great

http://paleomg.com/paleo-curried-twice-baked-sweet-potatoes/
Love these....and you can really stuff anything into a sweet potato.


http://paleomg.com/almost-5-ingredient-pizza-spaghetti-pie/
How could I have forgotten this!  It is so good, and adding cheese is really good...even though I saw you don't eat it.



« Last Edit: August 30, 2015, 09:23:54 PM by Bendigirl »

Tyson

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2518
  • Age: 49
  • Location: Denver, Colorado
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #43 on: August 30, 2015, 09:25:48 PM »
I find Costco a good place to get organic frozen mixed veggies for a good price.  Toss them in to a curry or a butter sauce and you've got a lot of organic goodness for not a lot of money.

kimmarg

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 750
  • Location: Northern New England
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #44 on: August 30, 2015, 09:27:07 PM »
Can you give a run down of what is on your typical shopping list and weekly menu plan? This may help,posters give you some more specific ideas rather than general advice like buy and cook in bulk.

Here is the list from Sam's when we last went (14 Aug):

Basmati rice (25 lbs)   1   $19.98
POM toilet paper   1   $19.98
Vinegar (1 box = 2 gallons)   1   $3.98
Black pepper   1   $8.48
Chia Seeds   1   $10.98
Quinoa   1   $8.78
OG Pasta Sauce (2 pk)   2   $5.98
OG EVOO   1   $11.98
42 G contractor bags   1   $12.48
13 G trash bags   1   $11.96
OG Coconut oil (54 oz)   1   $16.98
OG frozen Island mix   1   $10.94
OG frozen berry mix   1   $9.38
OG forzen cherries   1   $10.48
OG mini carrots   1   $3.98
OG kale greens mix   1   $3.98
OG spring greens mix   1   $4.47
McCann's Oatmeal (2 cans)   1   $8.98
Pistachios   1   $15.98
Tortilla Chips   1   $5.98
Maple syrup   1   $10.78
Lemons (3 lbs)   1   $6.98
Clementines   1   $8.98
Almonds   1   $16.88

For a total of $255.33

This is enough bulk food to last several weeks, toilet paper and garbage bags to last several months, and fresh produce for about 1.5 weeks.

My wife is going shopping tomorrow. I will post the results then.
Frozen berries - Pick your own seasonally
kale - garden. Try the red Russian variety. Grows well in cold conditions
Oatmeal - switch to bulk bin at whole foods or order from Amazon
Maple Syrup - you have no maple trees?? You know organic maple syrup is a scam, right? There is no legal thing you can do to maple trees to make it not organic. Virtually all syrup is organic, just local places don't pay the fee to get the organic sticker.

PFHC

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 617
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Midcoast Maine
  • Busy doing.
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #45 on: August 30, 2015, 09:47:06 PM »
Have you internet sourced your dried goods/packaged goods?  I often see that folks can buy nuts/seeds/dried beans substantially cheaper online than locally.  This might be a good supplement to the Sam's run.

Great idea! We'll look into it.

PFHC

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 617
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Midcoast Maine
  • Busy doing.
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #46 on: August 30, 2015, 09:51:28 PM »
Hope that helps!

Yes it does! Thanks! Grocery list pending tomorrow and Thursday.

mm1970

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9350
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #47 on: August 30, 2015, 09:54:08 PM »
I haven't read all the responses (but I will later!).  A few comments:

1.  Second frugalwoods blog.  In many ways "keeping it simple" really helps (but can be boring)
2.  You need to separate "eating healthy" with "organic/ local/ grassfed" because they aren't exactly the same.  You can eat healthfully in a way that is not as "ethical" but is cheaper.  So much of your cost here is due to ethics and not health.
3.  On that, I go back and forth.  I try to eat ethically and get grassfed/ local when I can (go in on a pig or a cow with a friend, etc).  I belong to a CSA for veggies (which is a killer deal).  BUT I don't make 100% hard and fast rules, so I eat regular chicken and turkey burgers and non-organic berries on occasion.

4.  There are a few ways to reduce overall food costs:
- find out how to source the food you DO eat more cheaply.  For this, you have to dig into what you eat, make a price book, and figure out how to get each thing cheaper.  That means if store A has basmatic rice on sale for 1/3 off 2x a year, that is when and where you buy it.
- figure out what you can make yourself - like cooking dried beans from scratch, making your own hummus, making your own marinara, baking your own bread, etc.
- calculate the cost per serving of your regular meals, and snacks, and servings of fruit/ veg, etc (we tend to eat a LOT of fruit/veg and protein) and increase the frequency of the rotation of the cheaper things
- find cheaper foods to eat

So on these last two, it means I buy 5 lb bags of carrots, not baby carrots, and peel them myself.  I eat cauliflower and cabbage because they are cheaper. I eat bananas and oranges because they are cheaper than strawberries (not that I never eat strawberries - we got 1 pt of them this week from the CSA and 2 pt of figs!)

5.  Set a budget and stick to it, and spend no more money until your next week.  I've never run out of food.

I took a page from frugalwoods book and made a big batch of beans and rice, enough for over a week (because I cannot eat many carbs)

All in all, last year, when I was only focused on health, we spent $10,500 on food for a family of four.  My neighbors, who have a family of five and shop local/ organic/ grassfed at the farmer's market, spent about $24k.

This year, I'm making a serious effort to set a budget.   So far I'm at $2800 for the year plus CSA.  I expect that I'll end up under $6000, including the CSA.  It means I shop at a LOT more stores, and we just don't eat as much variety.

PFHC

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 617
  • Age: 41
  • Location: Midcoast Maine
  • Busy doing.
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #48 on: August 30, 2015, 09:59:52 PM »
Frozen berries - Pick your own seasonally
kale - garden. Try the red Russian variety. Grows well in cold conditions
Oatmeal - switch to bulk bin at whole foods or order from Amazon
Maple Syrup - you have no maple trees?? You know organic maple syrup is a scam, right? There is no legal thing you can do to maple trees to make it not organic. Virtually all syrup is organic, just local places don't pay the fee to get the organic sticker.

Love the idea for frozen berries. We tried for two years to grow red russian. They grew in stumpy and thin. Not enough sun and our yard is on a north facing slope in a cold climate. Even spent a whole fall and winter felling trees to improve our sun. The next year (last year) it did not work.

We do have one psuedo-sunny area of the yard that grew garlic and sweet potatoes well. I hate to be a complainypants here, but it's tough because I'm a merchant mariner and am away from home for 3-4 weeks at a time. My wife is a single mother during that time period. It is hard for her to have enough time to raise the kids, run the house, cook three meals a day, and do the garden. :/ She is a regular bad ass, but that is a lot to ask. Maybe next year, as both kids are now getting much more independent, we can do a little kitchen garden up there.

We have two maple trees. We do not buy organic maple syrup. I can't imagine that even with doing my own maple syrup, I could come anywhere close to $10 for 32 oz of maple syrup. With a 50 to 1 reduction ratio, the cost of fuel alone to cook off the water would wipe that out. And, that much syrup lasts us several months. We eat virtually no sugar in our diet other than fruit.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2015, 04:26:04 AM by PFHC »

cchrissyy

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 977
  • Location: SF Bay Area
Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #49 on: August 30, 2015, 10:24:21 PM »
I'm surprised not just by your dollars but by the trips!

 I just logged in to Mint and confirmed what I thought I knew, which is that my grocery shopping is just over once per week, and that feeds 1 adult and 3 big kids.

my YTD # of trips
26 Trader Joes
5 farmer's market
8 produce stand
12 bakery


As far as your expenses, yes please post more receipts, all I can suggest from Sams Club is maybe don't buy their frozen fruits but rather, if space allows, freeze your own when they are in season and cheapest.