Author Topic: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!  (Read 66714 times)

PFHC

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #50 on: August 30, 2015, 11:20:36 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

What do you spend per year?

PFHC

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #51 on: August 30, 2015, 11:34:41 PM »
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.

Glad to hear from someone on the same path as me. I would love to get to $800/mo!

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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.

This is great advice. That is definitely what we do. We get the same stuff mostly, and buy it regardless of price. Much smarter to buy for price and season. Eating seasonally is better for you anyhow.

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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.

Word. The short of the long is look at the damn price. Understood.

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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.

This is done by us on organic bananas. We wait until they are going bad, buy the lot for them for less than non-organic, then peel and freeze them all. They act as the base for the smoothies we eat regularly. Thanks for punching me in the face with the idea that you can do it elsewhere! Duh. This is now on our "Getting better at groceries action plan". ;)

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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.

This. This will help us a lot. Thanks big_slacker. Solid advice here.

PFHC

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #52 on: August 30, 2015, 11:41:30 PM »
Fruit and spendy veggies. Go for cabbage and broccoli over asparagus and artichokes.

This is what gets us. A few other commenters suggested shopping for price, not item. Don't go in planning to get apples, go in planning to get the cheapest fruit. It's on the action plan. :)

PFHC

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #53 on: August 30, 2015, 11:45:09 PM »
My suggestion would be to itemize your receipts for a month or two.

Good plan, ender. I put it on the action plan.

Honestly feel that $300/month with the way we chose to eat is a pipe dream. It's a goal, but I feel a very far out of reach goal.

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #54 on: August 30, 2015, 11:45:59 PM »
As others have said, very difficult to improve something without first measuring it. Figure out what you're spending the money on and then look at what is out of proportion to its benefit.

PFHC

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #55 on: August 30, 2015, 11:49:23 PM »
One more vote for a CSA and for showing us an itemized list of, say, the last week's groceries and cost.

Hey, jakejake. Doing the CSA. Already priced two out... going to do some comparison shopping.

Unfortunately, I do not have access to last week grocery receipt. I 100 miles from land out on a ship for the next 10 days. But, my wife plans to send me the list from tomorrow's grocery trip and Thursday (she's doing a small one Monday to get us by until Thursday, so we can get on a once per week rotation on a good day). I promise to post the list ASAP!

PFHC

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #56 on: August 31, 2015, 12:06:56 AM »
  • 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.

Yep. Not all dried as sometimes my wife needs a quicker meal (as mentioned in a previous comment, I work out to sea for 3-4 weeks at a time, so my wife is a single mom during that time). But, we do eat dried beans, lentils. That said, not often enough. Your suggestions sound awesome! They're on our action list.

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  • 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.

We need to get way better at this. We pick the same stand-bys every week. On the action list. :)

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  • 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.

No. We are awesome with leftovers. We can get better at eating everything we buy. We occasionally over shoot our needs and end up with bad food.

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  • 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.

No. We do a list, but not with a meal plan in mind. We seem to not be able to get our shit together enough to make one happen. We've been up to our ears in young kids, a house to renovate, travel, my work, living life, having fun, reading, playing, and other stuff to shoehorn in the time to make the list. Long story short, we know we need to do a list, but have been suck at it.

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  • 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.

Yes, with Mint. And I have been bugged by our grocery spending for years as I have watched it crawl up. My wife and I have been dismayed and it wasn't until we discovered MMM and finally this forum that we have started to develop a direction on how to change this. What happened before was we would just arbitrarily set a budget, blow it to smithereens, and just shake our head as to what happened. We needed things to do. We're doers. And thanks to the bright folks here, we have a some real things to do.

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  • Do you have a Trader Joe's near you? They have the best prices on nuts that I've found.

Yes, we do. In the same town as Sam's. This is great to know. Thanks! On the action list. :)

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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.

I would absolutely love that. Can you PM it to me, or better yet, PM me your email and we can exchange that way? You sound like you eat very similar to us, and we would love some pointers.

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #57 on: August 31, 2015, 12:11:41 AM »
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?

Buying a quart jar of kefir, quart of yogurt, and a 1/2 gallon of  raw milk once per week. We drink half the milk and make more yogurt and kefir with the rest.

Ya, I know... raw milk. Basically drinking gold. But, everyone in my family does not react well to processed milk. We all get snotty and phlegmy. We gave it up for years entirely. We read a few books and online articles about trying raw milk, and we felt we need to up our healthy fat intake and calcium (especially for our kids), so we forayed into raw milk. It has worked wonderfully. And, it only amounts to a $20/wk habit, so we're going to likely stick with it.

PFHC

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #58 on: August 31, 2015, 12:13:11 AM »
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.

Agreed. The trends I developed show this pretty clearly. That is why we have instituted a 1/wk rule, with the potential to go less often.

PFHC

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #59 on: August 31, 2015, 12:16:22 AM »
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.

We have done a fair share of sprouting and growing veggies. As for sprouts, we had a hard time seeing the savings as they are nutritious, but not calorie dense.

Growing veggies is highlighted in several of my previous comments.

PFHC

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #60 on: August 31, 2015, 12:36:05 AM »
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!)

Done. :)

PFHC

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #61 on: August 31, 2015, 12:52:33 AM »
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.

Thanks, man. Nice to hear some support for how we eat. We catch a lot of flack, but honestly we feel awesome, our kids are awesome, and our health couldn't be better. :)

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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.

We use republic wireless (avg $38/mo); have never owned a TV nor payed for any service; I'm a Marine Engineer which is car mechanic for 10,000 hp engines and their support systems, so ya, I fix everything; embarking upon walking and riding bikes much more; we hang dry everything and do pretty well with power. I can't jack my 401k because I am looking at 7 years until FI, so I have to fund my taxable accounts/real estate pretty aggressively so I will have the money to make it to 59.5.

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

Thanks, dude. This was the feel good comment of the thread. :)

PFHC

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #62 on: August 31, 2015, 04:22:41 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.

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.

Thanks so much for the pointers for CSA and PYO berries. Unfortunately, both are much too far away to be practical for us. I am looking into something closer. Again, thank you!

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I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #63 on: August 31, 2015, 07:26:12 AM »
1) Skip the baby carrots - they are turned on a lathe and many are dipped in ammonia. Buy regular-sized organic at Sam's Club. Do not peel - scrub with a scrubber pad.
2) For gardens, the best bang for your buck in Maine, IMHO, is herbs, onions and fruit. You can start a windowsill herb garden now, but come May, plant chives, oregano, thyme, parsley, sage and whatever else takes your fancy. Mint will grow like wildfire - you will need to corral it. As you doubtless know, blueberries grow wonderfully there. So do raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. And it is a great climate for many varieties of apples. Find your local cooperative extension and ask for advice. Test your soil. It should be rich like chocolate cake and full of worms. Compost!

Jakejake

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #64 on: August 31, 2015, 07:45:45 AM »
Buying a quart jar of kefir, quart of yogurt, and a 1/2 gallon of  raw milk once per week. We drink half the milk and make more yogurt and kefir with the rest.

Ya, I know... raw milk. Basically drinking gold. But, everyone in my family does not react well to processed milk. We all get snotty and phlegmy. We gave it up for years entirely. We read a few books and online articles about trying raw milk, and we felt we need to up our healthy fat intake and calcium (especially for our kids), so we forayed into raw milk. It has worked wonderfully. And, it only amounts to a $20/wk habit, so we're going to likely stick with it.
I'm confused about all this. If you are making kefir and yogurt, why are you also buying a quart of each every week, instead of what using what you made last week as starter?

Me, I would skip the raw milk entirely. I'm somewhat lactose intolerant and don't drink regular milk, but once it's turned into yogurt I can eat it fine - the bacteria breaks down the lactose. You definitely don't need milk as a calcium source - vegans manage to get calcium just fine through legumes and leafy greens, and it sounds like you have at least the greens covered well in your diet. Making or buying a quart a week of almond or rice milk or some similar nondairy option if you want it for drinking is probably way cheaper than raw milk, and if regular milk turned into yogurt doesn't disagree with you all, you could buy milk from nonhormone cows probably a lot cheaper than raw milk.

I think you have a lot of $20 per week items that you write off as no big deal, what's $20 dollars? Each one of those items is $1000 per year though. Just cutting out that half gallon of liquid per week could fund your kids' college:
https://web.extension.illinois.edu/money/saving_twentyperweek.cfm

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #65 on: August 31, 2015, 08:02:49 AM »
Has to be a way you can improve your gardening situation and take advantage of that.
If not, buy local produce items when in season cheap, then dry, can or freeze for later use.   This will be much better stuff than you will buy at any market.
From my experience, these markets that label everything "organic" are just overpriced groceries.

Learn to harvest and process wild fish and game.  Seems like that stuff would be abundant in Maine?
We catch lots of fish and usually put an elk and a couple deer in the freezer every year.

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #66 on: August 31, 2015, 08:07:44 AM »
I meant to add also, that I work differently than the people who advocate writing a list and sticking to it without browsing the store, and making as few trips as possible. It depends on your stores, but if they have a markdown section, you'll do better making more trips and not being confined to a list at all. That's my strategy, I let the grocery gods dictate what I should stock up on, and if something's not a deal and not a basic necessity, I will do without.

I went years without flax seeds even though I kind of wanted them. Then kroger marked down their ground flax seeds to $1.29 a pound, and I stocked up. Same with chia seeds. They are a luxury item, not a necessity, so I'm not going to put them on a shopping list. But at one point walgreens had one pound jars for $10 or something, but when you bought one, it printed register coupon for $10 off your next order. And you could use that for some other product that generated $10, and flip it on another chia container, back and forth. I got about 10 lbs of chia seeds for free that week and stocked up, and I am enjoying the heck out of them, but when they run out I am not going to start paying $10/lb for them. That's insane.

Shopping that way, groceries for my husband and I (including toilet paper, shampoo, nonfood stuff) has totaled under $1300 for the entire last year. I don't shop based on planned menus - I shop based on sales and markdowns, and have a general idea that I need veggies or fruit and plan my menu based on what I acquire.

One other gardening note too - purslane. That crap grows like weeds no matter what the conditions, and it's crazy healthy. I've never planted it in my yard, it just grows anywhere it can grab hold - you might even have some already and not know it. 

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #67 on: August 31, 2015, 08:18:40 AM »
Forget about the "organic" and gluten thing. Those fads will be over and the money spent on "special healthy foods" will be forever gone.

TRUTH

OP I don't know how you manage to burn $1200/mo (did I read that right?), not eating meat and cheese & such! amazing. We feed 8 people on $650-700 per month, and we eat well. Quality, in bulk, on sale.

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #68 on: August 31, 2015, 08:25:00 AM »
As for organic-

only buy the "dirty dozen" organic, but better yet? Don't buy things off the dirty dozen often. Buy things that don't need to be organic in the first place. This gets back to what previous posters have said about fruit being essentially a very expensive desert. Veggies is where it is at- lower sugar, higher nutrient density, cheaper, lower pesticide load on many.

Now you can keep that sacred cow but not spend money on it =)

Ie- Apples tested very dirty, but organic are incredibly expensive. Okay, skip the apples. Eat conventional pears instead if you insist on a similar fruit. Bell peppers and nectarines are incredibly expensive anyway, so it shouldn't make a big difference that they should be organic. There are plenty of very healthy and cheap items that aren't on the dirty dozen- cabbage and sweet potatoes and avocados (can be cheap in season, and make a big bang in a dish, so relative to quantity needed they're cheap). In season, asparagus is cheap and it doesn't need to be organic. Grapefruits are the same deal. Expensive out of season, cheap in season.

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #69 on: August 31, 2015, 08:53:49 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. :)

We have a similar issue that is an ongoing area of improvement...we run around 1000$ per month for two adults and three cats as well (which includes eating out and alcohol), eating extremely high quality food (no simple carb 'extenders', no hamburger, etc.). I've accepted that I'm never going to eat as cheaply as many do on this board, but my goal has been to reduce our average by 200-300/month by just shopping smarter, as opposed to changing specifics of what we eat too much (e.g., we're going to keep eating salmon 4-5 times per month, so we just have to suck up that ~50$). I picked some obvious high cost areas (meat, toiletries, pet supplies, alcohol, etc.) and focused on those to learn where the best deals are in town. I also am trying to switch to more cheap whole grains/beans.

Tentatively, this seems to be working, though seeing hard data in terms of dropping averages hasn't shown up in the 4 months we've been working hard at this...but I think that is partly because 2 of those months were aberrant (one month we had a houseguest for two weeks, so more $ plus a lot more eating out, and one month we were gone for two weeks that meals were handled for us, but ate out a lot more because of traveling.)

Still, I'm confident this will pay off over the long term. It took about two months of focused effort from me...picking items to work on, tracking loss leaders of local stores, checking at different stores for price comparisons. Not too bad in terms of effort.

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #70 on: August 31, 2015, 09:29:08 AM »
I'm gonna buck the trend on the gluten thing. I don't think there's any problem in deciding not to eat wheat at all - and I get that it's currently popular to avoid it, but I think that's because research has made people more aware of how it affects people.

The budget problems aren't from avoiding wheat; there are other grains (rice, oats) that are relatively cheap and gluten free. We don't need to eat bread. The budget problems aren't from what you're opting out of, it seems to be more a problem with what you are opting into. I would look at, for example, the price of quinoa vs. brown rice, and decide if there really are nutrients in quinoa that you guys are lacking, or whether you're getting its strong points through other foods already in your diet. Here's a chart comparing their relative strengths and weaknesses. http://www.prevention.com/content/whats-healthier-quinoa-or-brown-rice

You can see brown rice is higher in manganese, for example, but quinoa beats it in folate. But if you are getting enough folate through broccoli or spinach, why pay extra to have it specifically in quinoa? From a quick online search, it looks like brown rice generally runs half the cost or less.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2015, 10:03:46 AM by Jakejake »

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #71 on: August 31, 2015, 09:39:33 AM »
I'm gonna buck the trend on the gluten thing. I don't think there's any problem in deciding not to eat wheat at all - and I get that it's currently popular to avoid it, but I think that's because research has made people more aware of how it affects people.

The budget problems aren't from avoiding wheat; there are other grains (rice, oats) that are relatively cheap and gluten free. We don't need to eat bread. The budget problems are from what you're opting out of, it seems to be more a problem with what you are opting into. I would look at, for example, the price of quinoa vs. brown rice, and decide if there really are nutrients in quinoa that you guys are lacking, or whether you're getting its strong points through other foods already in your diet. Here's a chart comparing their relative strengths and weaknesses. http://www.prevention.com/content/whats-healthier-quinoa-or-brown-rice

You can see brown rice is higher in manganese, for example, but quinoa beats it in folate. But if you are getting enough folate through broccoli or spinach, why pay extra to have it specifically in quinoa? From a quick online search, it looks like brown rice generally runs half the cost or less.

Yes, for gluten-free carbs I eat mostly brown rice, corn, and potatoes, which are all cheap. Buckwheat and millet are options too. I eat quinoa, but a lot less frequently because of the price.

I'd also probably skip the milk, which really isn't necessary for health.

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #72 on: August 31, 2015, 10:50:43 AM »
My suggestion would be to itemize your receipts for a month or two.

Good plan, ender. I put it on the action plan.

Honestly feel that $300/month with the way we chose to eat is a pipe dream. It's a goal, but I feel a very far out of reach goal.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'd have a super hard time hitting $300/ month.  Our kids are 9 and 3, and we come in more like $500 a month - and I've been eating/cooking frugally for years (it's where I put my focus), and it's a TON of work.

On meal planning - it can be super hard to manage that with a crazy life and little kids.  My  meal planning seems to have evolved into a more "general" thing:

First, I list what I got from the CSA on Thursday and list the "loss leader" veggies I bought elsewhere.

1.  figure out what I'm eating for lunch (45 year old woman trying to lose 5 lbs) - so that means a lot of veggies and some protein.
- 2 cups of veggies a day (one lunch/ one snack)
- one fruit
- two proteins

2.  Make a big batch of "something" for the family for the week:  Beans and rice, chili, pasta, crockpot chicken, roasted chicken and veggies, soup, frittata, whatever

3.  Prep other stuff for lunches for the family - wash and cut raw veggies and fruits, hard boil some eggs.  Make sure I've got lunches covered for my husband (either sandwiches or leftovers)

4.  Make sure I have enough veggies for dinner.  Loosely plan dinners for 1/2 the week (too hard to plan further than that):
- Monday - chicken and a veg
- Tuesday - tacos and a veg (sometimes bean tacos, sometimes meat tacos)
- Wednesday - usually the leftovers from the weekend
- Thursday - honestly I wing it.  Baked salmon and veg, or stir-fry, or sandwiches, or turkey/ veggie burgers
- Friday - pizza night

When I was really "on it" I'd make 2 big meals on the weekend - one for lunches for M-F, one for dinner Su-M-Tue.  Then Wednesday was "crock pot day", so chicken in the crockpot, or lasagna, or pinto beans, or stew or...  That was enough for dinner through Friday.

You have to play around with different kinds of meal plans, and recognize that what works now might not always work.  I've gone from planning a month ahead, to a week in advance, to just winging it every night, to a plan where we ate specific things on specific nights, to planning two days ahead... These days I work late Monday and Wednesday, so Sunday and Tuesday nights I figure out what we are going to have that my husband can make. And if nothing is prepped, then I prep it before bed.

Just take small steps and you'll get there!

NeverLost

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #73 on: August 31, 2015, 11:22:40 AM »
I realized about 2 years ago that my family of 4 (2 kids - 6 and 8) was spending around $950/month on groceries as well.  Now we consistently spend $500 on average/month.  That does include toilet paper, cleaning supplies and all other household expenses.  We eat little meat and virtually no processed food.  Here were my changes:

1.  I bought less alcohol.  Not only do I love wine and my husband loves beer, but we were having friends and/or family over weekly.  I would always insist they didn't bring anything and would load up on beer and white and red wine, so I had options.  This was unnecessary and now I have no problem responding to "what can we bring?" with "how about some beer/wine/other?"  Additionally, we quit drinking (mostly) on weekdays.   

2.  I became completely price conscious.  I started really looking and internalizing what things actually cost so that I was better able to notice when things were actually a good deal.  When they are, I stack up!

3.  I bought a dozen glass containers and started buying all my staples in bulk - lentils, rice, beans, panko, noodles, etc.

4.  I quit buying ALL my produce organic.  Instead, I stick to the dirty dozen list.  Also, I always make sure I am USING the produce by making either fried rice or stir fry once a week.  This way, the tiny bit of broccoli, green onions, etc that are on their way out are used in a meal that is a weekly family favorite. 

5.  I changed my kids snack habits.  This one was huge. When my kids get home from school every day they want a snack.  I used to give them a Lara bar or yogurt cup or whatever they asked for.  Now, the kids know that snack time means fruits or veggies only.  This was an adjustment but now it's second nature.  So  they come home and go straight to the fruit basket and grab a plum or ask me to cut up an apple with some peanut butter or give them a couple carrot or cucumber sticks.  This change has also made them get totally used to having some sliced cucumbers in their lunches where they used to be a bar, string cheese, or other more costly option.

6.  I meal plan religiously with prices.  I have a weekly menu that I base off of what I have currently coupled with what I'm buying.  For instance, if I am buying greek yogurt for one recipe, I will try and base a second night's cooking off of finishing that off.  If I know that I want to budget $250 for the next two weeks but I need a more expensive item right now, then I will accommodate for it by having a curry lentil soup or grilled veggies with a garlic yogurt sauce and bread (or other really inexpensive item) one night.  I have gotten great about knowing what things cost so that if I estimate my groceries will be $75, I am always in the ballpark.   

7.  We eat less meat.  We buy whole organic frozen chickens from a farm and we split organic beef and pork with another family.  We eat meat probably 2-3 times/week. 

8.  I started growing some basics.  I have a small herb garden that saves me a ton on making our meals flavorful as well as a small raised bed that I grow zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and cucumbers.  We eat a shit-ton of those items when they are ripe and freeze the rest for later!  I am in Idaho and have a 4x10 raised bed on the side of my house with marginally good sun. 

9.  I got a bread-maker for my birthday.  I make a loaf of bread (or two) every weekend which saves us a ton since we pack our kids' lunch daily for school and sandwiches are a part of it at least a couple days. 

10.  If I am over budget, I quit buying things and rummage through the pantry and freezer, period. 

Hope this helps!  I think just being conscious of what you are spending your money on is the first step! 

sunnyca

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #74 on: August 31, 2015, 12:25:34 PM »
What kind of meals are you preparing?

Since trying to eat more plant-based, I've found my Instant Pot to be my best friend.  It makes cooking dried beans a snap (20 min!), and I can throw in beans with rice, veggies, etc. and have enough for meals for a week. 

Kind of boring, food wise, but that's not necessarily a bad thing for me, as I'd like to lose a few pounds.

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #75 on: August 31, 2015, 12:37:46 PM »
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.
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.

My husband makes maple syrup as a hobby.  I agree - can't do it that cheaply!  I think we go through one propane tank for every 32oz of syrup, so it's about $10.  Add in the time, and... yeah, totally worth buying it. 

Cpa Cat

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #76 on: August 31, 2015, 01:00:27 PM »
Regarding the garden: I suggest taking up the space with a couple of fruit trees and perennial berries.

I'm not a Maine-ite, but your local County Extension Master Gardeners or Extension Office can probably provide you with a list of best cultivars for your area.

Then drop in 5-6 raspberry bushes (I like Heritage, if it will grow in Maine, I highly suggest it for raspberries) and a couple of blackberry bushes. Maybe drop in some asparagus.

Focus on things that will be easy care and mostly pest and disease free. Think outside the box a little. If apples suffer from a lot of disease/pest pressure, then maybe try asian pears. The point is to avoid crops that are going to require your attention, or worse - chemicals.

I recommend fruiting-age trees, they are worth the extra investment. You can go two ways with fruit trees - super cheap, like buying on clearance at Home Depot; or pay a premium price to get a warranty. I have learned, through trial and error, that the cheap comes out expensive. I always buy my trees at the local Earl May now, because they offer a standard 1 year warranty. And you can usually get free planting/delivery. Last year, at the end of Summer, I grabbed two apples and two plums on clearance with a two-year warranty from them, delivery/planting included.

Keep your annual veggie garden small and confined to your full sun area. Gardens are a lot of work.

jooles

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #77 on: August 31, 2015, 01:05:28 PM »
I set the budget first and then find things I am willing to eat that fit the budget. 

I bought and read cover to cover - The Complete Tightwad Gazette

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=tightwad+gazette

It is an old book, and some ideas/advice is a bit over the top, but it helped me expand my thinking and feel much less deprived. 

seemsright

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #78 on: August 31, 2015, 01:36:53 PM »
Your food budget and the way you eat and not being home and your wife not having time will not all fit in the box you are trying to make it fit into.

You cannot have it all. At least one thing has to give. Either you accept that you food bill is high because of the way you like to eat and feed your family and there is not time. Or you change the way you eat and spend more time getting and making food. I do not believe you can have it both ways.

Friday afternoon I cooked for a few hours (most of the time was cooking time that I was not actively doing something). I made pork shoulder, refried beans, salsa and spanish rice. We at that as tacos Friday night, Sat night we took the leftovers and made burritos. Then with the little bit of pork that was leftover we made brunch omelets Sunday morning with a slice of homemade toasted with homemade strawberry jam. So for $5 I got 8 meals out of the pork. 

I am trying to get our food bill down. I am not willing to change the way I eat but I am willing to spend more time cooking and finding food. The other week I figured out how to make tofu from dry soy beans (it is easy) it took me 2 days to soak the beans, and make tofu. It saved me about $1.50 but it gave me a new skill and the texture of the tofu was amazing.

sstants

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #79 on: August 31, 2015, 03:03:05 PM »
There's a lot of great advice on this thread!

Here's a new way to think about things: look at your normal weekly menu and identify one or two frequent meals/recipes that you make that use expensive ingredients. Come up with a less expensive alternative recipe or meal and let your grocery list adjust. For example, when I feel like I need to cut back on my grocery expenses, I will replace an egg-based breakfast with oatmeal+peanut butter. Replace meat in a recipe with chickpeas e.g. do veggie lettuce wraps instead of using ground chicken. If your plans and your habits change, your grocery list and bill will follow!

Good luck, and don't drink your calories!! A little milk is fine, but free water is the best!

Bob W

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #80 on: August 31, 2015, 03:38:18 PM »
You have a rather narrow definition of "healthy" but so do I.  Mine just happens to contain lots of meat and unethically obtained fish.

So here is the dealio --

Organic produce is a bitch ---  as you know uber expensive.   

I'm thinking base your meals on beans (although most paleo "healthy" eaters would say that is a sure route to an early grave) and rice (once again Healthy?  Unhealthy?)

Then just throw in a few veggies here and there.  Avoid low caloric low nutrient veggies like green beans and lettuce.  Stick with kale, cruciferous,  and colored veggies.   You don't need many.  Fruit?  Not in lots of people's current definition of healthy.  Stick with some dark berries. 

Then the real save is the oils --- I don't pretend to know your definition of healthy but I'll go with olive and coconut.   On a cost per calorie basis that shit rocks. 
Definitely never canola or veggie oil.

You can also get you some carbs from potatoes if those are on your healthy list.  Just be sure to peel the skin.   

You may also want to grow your own,  can and find local growers. 

17K per year is considered off the chart shitton high. 
We eat a "healthy" diet for about $3 per person per day.  Yours is more like $11.50.   

So yeah,  if I'm you --- I'm googling a few sites that say "Is organic really worth it?"      So let's say that they guestimate that you get 2 years extra life with organics.  So what else might get you 2 years?   Well then you could just be more social which should easily add 2 years to your life.  You could have a baby after age 40 which we did and that adds 4 years.    You could take up drinking 2 shots per day which should be good for a couple of years.    You could do a little walking to add 3 years.   Pets add a couple.  Google "odd things that add years to your life"

So yeah there are some free and cheap ways to add years to your life and enjoyment to your years. 

By the way -- Did you include the full vehicle cost and not just gas in your calculations?   

It is admirable that you are all organic by the way.  If everyone did that food would be both healthy and cheap.   If you can grow it yourself you should be able to grow about 3,000 pound in a quarter acre per year.   That is a long term plan I think you should consider.  If you grow an entire acre you could net a heavy chunk of change marketing the extra to local organic food junkies. 


projekt

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #81 on: August 31, 2015, 04:30:14 PM »
I didn't see this link posted when I skimmed, but it's always good to refer back to MMM on these questions.

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/08/23/grocery-shopping-with-your-middle-finger/


Faraday

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #82 on: August 31, 2015, 04:39:41 PM »
I didn't see this link posted when I skimmed, but it's always good to refer back to MMM on these questions.

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/08/23/grocery-shopping-with-your-middle-finger/

Beautiful back-to-basics link. Thanks projekt, I missed that one!

merci001

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #83 on: August 31, 2015, 05:35:47 PM »
I'm a Single mom with two kids (11 and 15 yrs old). No doubt about it-if I menu plan it can make a huge impact on our budget. I tend to go in spurts with this, however. Trying to get better. I've found many great recipes on the internet. One of my favorite sites is Budget Bytes.  Tons of recipes that and the majority are  quick, easy, healthy and cheap.  Recipes are broken down into cost overall and per serving. Plus step by step recipe instructions with pictures.  Last night I made the sweet potato tacos recipe-yum!

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #84 on: August 31, 2015, 06:39:48 PM »
If you average $300 per week and you are out to sea a lot of the time, your price per person per day is very high.  Even with four people eating, that is over $40 per day. If you are eating oatmeal for breakfast, the rest of your meals must be super expensive. Maybe Lobstah.  (Maine joke.)

Maybe your wife could write down what each person eats in the house for a week and some people here could come up with cheaper alternatives.
Another idea is to explore cheaper meals and have them every few days.  Vegetarian recipes are everywhere on the major recipe sites like allrecipes and the food network.

You have gotten some great advice. We always buy what is in season. Right now watermelon is less then .50 for a big serving. Good idea about the carrots. Also, envision throwing food away like throwing cash in the trash. Would you toss $5 bill?  Only a few spoiled veggies and fruits and you are there.

Good for you for trying to eat right but also realizing what it is costing you and evaluating alternatives.

mm1970

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #85 on: August 31, 2015, 06:55:45 PM »
Quote
You cannot have it all. At least one thing has to give. Either you accept that you food bill is high because of the way you like to eat and feed your family and there is not time. Or you change the way you eat and spend more time getting and making food. I do not believe you can have it both ways.

Basic truth right there.

lucky-girl

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #86 on: August 31, 2015, 07:00:29 PM »
Yay Maine!

Thanks for starting this thread. We are in a similar place- wondering how much we need/want to cut our food spending. My sense is that there are other places we could cut first, like another poster said before. And we have already cut our spending on food immensely since finding this forum- just being mindful makes a big difference. I think we were probably spending 1000 or more every month, and now we're in the 600-800 range.

We do grow a lot, which helps in the summer. And we have a chest freezer, which helps all year round-- Its great to be able to buy bigger amounts when things really are a great deal.

What I am hoping to try next is more meal planning. And I like the advice of pricing out our favorite meals and adjusting the frequency slightly based on that cost. We'll see how that goes! I'm hoping that soon we'll be spending closer to 500-600 per month.

For what it's worth, we shop almost exclusively at Whole Foods in Portland. I am a big fan of the 365 brand and find it to be a great value, especially compared to Trader Joes (not a fan). Whole Foods also will take 10% off anything you buy in case quantities, even if it is on sale. Anytime I see something I buy regularly on sale, I order a case and get a rain check at the customer service desk so I can get the sale price on the case when it comes in.


PFHC

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #87 on: August 31, 2015, 07:18:58 PM »
Today's grocery list, designed to supplement pantry items and to last about a week:
  • Nori   10 sheets    $2.29
  • Sushi rice   32 oz    $3.29
  • Tortilla chips   11 oz    $2.00
  • Bulk Cumin   7 oz    $3.49
  • Bulk Oregano   5.5 oz    $3.29
  • King Arthur GF Pancake mix   15 oz    $4.89
  • Bananas   2.68 lbs    $1.31
  • Watermelon   1    $4.99
  • Avacados   6    $5.94
  • OG Bananas   2.4 lbs    $1.90
  • OG peaches   1.87 lbs    $7.46
  • Red grapefruit   5 lbs    $4.99
  • Italia lime juice   4.2 oz    $1.29
  • OG Red bell peppers   2    $4.49
  • OG greens mix   11 oz    $5.99
  • Free range eggs   12    $5.00
  • Apples - non-organic   2.3 lbs    $1.49
  •    total    $64.10

OK, OK, before you all eviscerate us, I know! Some major problems. But, this is cool.  I have been researching ways to get better at this while I'm out on the ship and haven't had a chance to convey my learnings fully to my wife. So, this is a normal shopping trip that we make. This WILL NOT be a normal trip in the future. Since reading all your comments, it is glaringly obvious the problems here. Fruit and shopping for product, not price.

I have the start of a game plan, folks. I have it typed up, going to clarify and and condense tonight, then the old lady and I plan to sit down and hammer it out until this is part of our life.

Would any of you be interested to see our plan? Would anyone be interested to see our next months results?

fishnfool

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #88 on: August 31, 2015, 07:22:13 PM »
Buying in bulk along with a good vacuum sealer is a great way to save. Cooking stretch meals at least once a week, pot of stew or beans saves money too.

KMMK

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #89 on: August 31, 2015, 07:38:42 PM »
Those are close to the prices I pay in central Canada, so I can relate. I also eat gluten-free, with tons of produce (often organic) as I'm vegetarian except for fish maybe once a month at the most. Like others have said, in your situation you'll never get food costs super low, and I agree that health is more important than costs.

To help with comparison, when I was part of a couple we spend $600/month for two adults. On my own I spend about $220 a month on food. And I'm certainly not above buying some expensive treat foods. So, yes, you should be able to get it below $1000/month with a few changes.

For me when I'm deciding on organic vs. convention, I buy organic if there isn't a big price difference between the two types. Fresh produce is so expensive anyhow - if convention apples are $1.60/lb and organic is $1.89 I might as well buy organic. I don't want to pay double or triple the price for organic.

BikeFanatic

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #90 on: August 31, 2015, 07:49:26 PM »
Quote
Would any of you be interested to see our plan? Would anyone be interested to see our next months results?

I for one would be interested in plan and results.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #91 on: August 31, 2015, 07:58:00 PM »
When price is absolute, eat seasonally. Buy what is cheapest, not what is on your list (until you know how the seasons roll). These two feedback on each other. Meal planning can avoid food waste, but using recipes that ignore seasonality can be a recipe for outsize grocery bills.

1. Meat: for ethically-raised meat, pork is by far the cheapest in my area when purchased as a half or whole. Chicken is another $1/lb more and beef $1-2/lb further more. Factory raised meat is disgusting and cruel. I would give up organic produce before giving up this.

2. Organic, non-organic, dirty dozen.... As an avid gardener and someone  who reads agronomy books for fun, the organic label is utterly meaningless when it comes to pesticide residue on food. It could be more, it could be less. It all depends on the farm. Some of my favorite farms here are not organic, but they grow according to IPM principles and so have miniscule pesticide usage compared to industry standard for their crops.

If you're only going to be buying at the supermarket and not from any trusted local sources, I'd give up the label personally.

3. CSA - These can vary widely in terms of being a deal. We looked for the best deal in our area. I've weighed and logged every box in a spreadsheet and we're behind what going to the farmers market would have cost, let alone a supermarket. They can be convenient(ish) but I would NOT recommend it as a money saving measure. I'm not going to buy a CSA share ever again, at least not in this area.

Family of 5 (kids 9,8,5) and our budget is $700/mo. We do have an extensive garden but not as a cost-saver - it's more of a hobby. It only shaves a few hundred dollars off per year versus the inputs. At least until our fruit-bearers mature.

backyardfeast

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #92 on: August 31, 2015, 08:17:35 PM »
Quote
I have the start of a game plan, folks. I have it typed up, going to clarify and and condense tonight, then the old lady and I plan to sit down and hammer it out until this is part of our life.

Would any of you be interested to see our plan? Would anyone be interested to see our next months results?

This is awesome PFHC!  I for one would love to see your plan and your next month's results.  As this is a perennial topic on these forums, I think other future readers would benefit too.  And the twist of seeing realistically what your very busy wife can manage is important to see too.  I do agree with the earlier poster who said it is ok to cut yourselves some slack when life circumstances are not ideal.  Try out some strategies and find a balance that you and your family will be comfortable with.

That said, I hope you and your wife can really see the difference between shopping for quinoa, sushi rice, pancake mix, and avocadoes, vs your prices on healthy, seasonal basics like apples and eggs.  I'm hoping that your wife will find what I did, which is that my stress levels about both healthy eating AND budget came way down when I went from being a foodie who wanted to follow every health trend to going back to basic, healthy, fairly simply prepared food.  Like someone said earlier, find maybe 10 meals that are simple, cheap, easy to adapt, and that everyone likes.  There's a reason our grandparents had meatloaf mondays, pork chop tuesdays, etc! :) 

We definitely have a rotation: eggs + potatoes + veg, pasta with veg (and maybe a can of tuna added), stir-fry, soup/stew, pizza, burritos, pork roast... any of these can be made with whatever variety of ingredients are priced well that week, and those differences make up the variety in the diet.  All will provide tasty lunch leftovers, and all take the pressure off your wife worrying about what to make for dinner each day.

BTW--I hear people getting great deals on the bulk baking supplies online.  Pancake mix is a bit silly, IMHO.  It's just flour, baking powder/soda, sugar and salt; you still have to add the milk, eggs, and oil...Find a reliable recipe and make up a batch yourselves for the cupboard if it's that much of a hassle to do each time.

Good luck!  Your attitude is awesome and I'd love to see the results!

PFHC

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #93 on: August 31, 2015, 08:19:20 PM »
So yeah,  if I'm you --- I'm googling a few sites that say "Is organic really worth it?"      So let's say that they guestimate that you get 2 years extra life with organics.  So what else might get you 2 years?   Well then you could just be more social which should easily add 2 years to your life.  You could have a baby after age 40 which we did and that adds 4 years.    You could take up drinking 2 shots per day which should be good for a couple of years.    You could do a little walking to add 3 years.   Pets add a couple.  Google "odd things that add years to your life"

This is a bit of a side track and probably fodder for another topic, but we are not aiming for adding years by eating organic. We are aiming to improve the quality and intensity of years I get. I want to be chopping wood at age 122 and say, you know what, I've had enough living. Time to sew it up.

Quote
By the way -- Did you include the full vehicle cost and not just gas in your calculations?   

Yep. Used $.55/mile, which includes fuel and wear and tear.

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It is admirable that you are all organic by the way.  If everyone did that food would be both healthy and cheap.

Thanks, but we're going to look at it harder. Unfortunately, it becomes a bit of a Catch 22. Again, fodder for another post, but there are some nasty shit several of the big name organic growers, especially those doing it in Latin America, are doing, including over farming and damaging the soil.

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If you can grow it yourself you should be able to grow about 3,000 pound in a quarter acre per year.   That is a long term plan I think you should consider.  If you grow an entire acre you could net a heavy chunk of change marketing the extra to local organic food junkies.

Ya, that is under ideal conditions. We gave it a very very earnest try to past two years to grow our yard. We compost all our food scraps, used goat droppings and bedding, seaweed, planted clover and winter rye, and on and on. The soil has gotten richer, but unfortunately, all our land is a north-facing shaded slope. No good for growing much of anything. Like I mentioned earlier in the thread, there is a small patch that grows well which we grow garlic and have grown sweet potatoes (80 lbs!!). We'd like to do a small garden there this coming year.

Workingmomsaves

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #94 on: August 31, 2015, 08:31:27 PM »
I am going to repeat a few tips already listed.  My 2 cents fwiw. Eat what is on sale.  For example, there is no way I would be buying peaches for 3 bucks a pound.  Also I second the make your own pancake mix, waffle mix, biscuit mix.  You can do this gluten free and save over the premade mixes.  When you are home maybe take a couple hours and make a few freezer recipes wth your wife and kids.  That way when you go back out she can just pull dinner out of the freezer if she is too tired too cook or the kids have an activity that night.  I would try and cut the budget back slowly.  Make a few changes and cut out 25-30 bucks a week.  I don't think you would notice much difference in the way you eat. For example, if you lost your job would you still need to buy the chia seeds?  I think eliminating a few items each week that are not 100% necessary would improve your budget with no negative health implications.

PFHC

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #95 on: August 31, 2015, 08:39:46 PM »
Buying a quart jar of kefir, quart of yogurt, and a 1/2 gallon of  raw milk once per week. We drink half the milk and make more yogurt and kefir with the rest.

Ya, I know... raw milk. Basically drinking gold. But, everyone in my family does not react well to processed milk. We all get snotty and phlegmy. We gave it up for years entirely. We read a few books and online articles about trying raw milk, and we felt we need to up our healthy fat intake and calcium (especially for our kids), so we forayed into raw milk. It has worked wonderfully. And, it only amounts to a $20/wk habit, so we're going to likely stick with it.
I'm confused about all this. If you are making kefir and yogurt, why are you also buying a quart of each every week, instead of what using what you made last week as starter?

Me, I would skip the raw milk entirely. I'm somewhat lactose intolerant and don't drink regular milk, but once it's turned into yogurt I can eat it fine - the bacteria breaks down the lactose. You definitely don't need milk as a calcium source - vegans manage to get calcium just fine through legumes and leafy greens, and it sounds like you have at least the greens covered well in your diet. Making or buying a quart a week of almond or rice milk or some similar nondairy option if you want it for drinking is probably way cheaper than raw milk, and if regular milk turned into yogurt doesn't disagree with you all, you could buy milk from nonhormone cows probably a lot cheaper than raw milk.

I think you have a lot of $20 per week items that you write off as no big deal, what's $20 dollars? Each one of those items is $1000 per year though. Just cutting out that half gallon of liquid per week could fund your kids' college:
https://web.extension.illinois.edu/money/saving_twentyperweek.cfm

Ya. After posting that, before I racked out last night, I had a little moment about raw milk. We have been entirely milk free for the last 7 years. Until last month when I read a book extolling the virtues of raw milk, this one in particular was about its purported benefit in combating tooth decay. The book was largely evidence free and full of wild allegations, but the intuitive arguments rung true with me. So, we went with it. The kids absolutely love the raw, no sweetener added, yogurt. Love it. And I think it is very healthy. But, we can go without. They get plenty of nutrients elsewhere, and plenty of good fats in the form of olive oil and coconut oil.

And, trust me, I know the virtue of saving $20. I am just trying to adjust myself into what luxuries we should allow ourselves. Food takes the place as our highest expense by far. More than 4 times the next highest. It will stay our main luxury, we just want to trim anything obvious. Thanks to you all, we're going to be able to do that.

I am so damn psyched to get rolling with this. The MMM community is awesome!

PFHC

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #96 on: August 31, 2015, 08:47:28 PM »
Has to be a way you can improve your gardening situation and take advantage of that.
If not, buy local produce items when in season cheap, then dry, can or freeze for later use.   This will be much better stuff than you will buy at any market.
From my experience, these markets that label everything "organic" are just overpriced groceries.

Learn to harvest and process wild fish and game.  Seems like that stuff would be abundant in Maine?
We catch lots of fish and usually put an elk and a couple deer in the freezer every year.

This last time home, fishing became a part of our life and it is here to stay. As far as hunting goes, I'm interested in it for the cheap meat, but not interested in it for the upfront costs and the investment in time away from my family.

I truly wish there was a way to improve our gardening. We live in the perfect house, though. 75% of my annual pay, awesome neighborhood, it was undervalued so there is a solid amount of equity, it is small (970 sq ft) so maintenance costs are minimal, and it is a 1 mile walk from town. Pretty tough to compete with that in my area.  Honestly, the one and only downside is that the growing potential is crap.

PFHC

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #97 on: August 31, 2015, 08:53:14 PM »
I meant to add also, that I work differently than the people who advocate writing a list and sticking to it without browsing the store, and making as few trips as possible. It depends on your stores, but if they have a markdown section, you'll do better making more trips and not being confined to a list at all. That's my strategy, I let the grocery gods dictate what I should stock up on, and if something's not a deal and not a basic necessity, I will do without.

Minus the more trips part, this sounds like what were more likely to do. We don't do so well with "lists" and "planning things" and "sticking to them". We're much better and being spontaneous and creative with our food, so letting the grocery gods take the wheel sounds like a blast to me.

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Shopping that way, groceries for my husband and I (including toilet paper, shampoo, nonfood stuff) has totaled under $1300 for the entire last year.

$1300 for the YEAR!! How in the shit do you do that?! I honestly can't believe you eat healthy at that cost. It blows my mind. If that's the case, then I have SO much to learn.

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One other gardening note too - purslane.

Consider it looked into.

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I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #98 on: August 31, 2015, 09:06:07 PM »
My house in Brunswick was part shade. Berries, herbs and lettuces did quite well there. But again, talk to the cooperative extension people for specific recommendations for your site.

PFHC

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Re: I need help from fellow frugal healthy eaters. Groceries are killing us!
« Reply #99 on: August 31, 2015, 09:12:02 PM »
I'm gonna buck the trend on the gluten thing. I don't think there's any problem in deciding not to eat wheat at all - and I get that it's currently popular to avoid it, but I think that's because research has made people more aware of how it affects people.

Agreed. Just because something is popular, doesn't mean its not worthwhile. Working out is popular these days... and guess what? It's great for you. Cutting crappy food and eating less sugar is popular... good for ya. Simplifying, de-cluttering, minimalism, reading, being a dork, engineers, guitar music, being open minded and accepting, gay marriage, Legos, MMM, etc... all popular and trendy, all good things. :)

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There are other grains (rice, oats) that are relatively cheap and gluten free. -- The budget problems aren't from what you're opting out of, it seems to be more a problem with what you are opting into. I would look at, for example, the price of quinoa vs. brown rice, and decide if there really are nutrients in quinoa that you guys are lacking, or whether you're getting its strong points through other foods already in your diet.

This is good advice. We are looking into it, right now. BTW, that link is broken.