Food Costs

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Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 5:45 pm

So I've been working on tightening up the budget for the last few years and we've made a lot of progress. At the moment there isn't much excess left to squeeze out and about the only thing that seems outsized is our food bill. Here are our averages for the last twelve months (for two people):

Grocery Store $820/mo (Includes toiletries and such bought at the grocery store plus pet stuff for two dogs)
Restaurants $165/mo (Generally works out to going out about once a week to a reasonably priced place)
Fast Food $65/mo (For the rare occasions we get caught out and about but didn't bring anything)
Coffee Shops $25/mo (This is pure splurge, but hardly the biggest expense)
Alcohol $15/mo (We have a drink now and then but not much)

Total $1090/mo

The eating out costs and splurging seems to be reasonable considering our income level and they're less than the trend here in Portland, OR so I'm not too worried about that. From what I can tell a lot of people online are claiming that their grocery costs for two people are half that amount, so it makes me wonder if we're missing something big. Here is some information about our shopping habits:

1) Do nearly all of our grocery and sundry shopping at WinCo, which is the local low price chain. They're cheaper than Walmart, Fred Meyers, Albertsons, Costco and anything else I've checked. It's a warehouse store where you bag your own groceries.
2) Buy off brand or store brand items where possible
3) Compare unit prices to make sure we're getting the best deal
4) Buy in bulk when it makes sense
5) Own a deep freezer so we can take advantage of sales and buy a half cow once a year
6) They don't really do much in the way of sales or coupons, but when I compare to other stores that do they end up ahead the vast majority of the time anyways
7) Don't buy anything that has sugar or white flour in the first three ingredients (We use whole wheat, rolled oats and Basmati rice all bought in bulk which is pretty cheap so it's not like we're skipping carbs)
8) Do buy plenty of vegetables and fruit
9) Choose healthier options where it's affordable
10) Cook the vast majority of our meals at home from scratch
11) Eat breakfast at home and take lunch to work
12) Make sure to use up our leftovers and store things properly so that we don't throw much food away

So I know that 7,8 & 9 cost me extra, but it still seems like our bill is higher than it should be. It's not like we shop at Whole Foods or demand Organic everything so I'm a bit puzzled as to why our bill is so large. Would anyone else like to share their information or offer some advice?
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Re: Food Costs

Postby barnaclebob » Tue Aug 14, 2012 6:16 pm

Do you feed your dogs beef tenderloin, lol? $820 a month at the grocery store seems way too high, thats 200/week! My wife and I spend probably $50-60/week at the grocery store plus a costco run of maybe $150/month on average for meat and other bulk food items that we take to work for lunch. We eat plenty good and live in the Seattle area. We don't have 2 dogs so im not sure how much they eat.

Since most of our meat comes from costco (never eating a winco steak again) we usually end up with only fruits/veggies, frozen juice, bread, lunch meat, milk, and eggs from the grocery store. We buy rice in a 20lb bag for about $15 that lasts about 4 months.

How much of your food comes prepackaged in a box or something like that? Do you stick to the outside ring of the grocery store except to get baking ingredients, spices etc?
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Re: Food Costs

Postby z3r0c00l » Tue Aug 14, 2012 6:22 pm

How about posting the exact bill from your last 4 shopping trips?

As a single person I spend about $105 per week on food and beer, in NYC no less, so I think two people could do better than $200 a week if they shop at a store that is cheaper(!) than walmart and rarely eat out.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 6:31 pm

barnaclebob wrote:Do you feed your dogs beef tenderloin, lol?


Nope, we feed atta boy at $9.98 a bag. Probably $30 a month on that, maybe another $15/mo on some canned food and dog bones.


barnaclebob wrote:$820 a month at the grocery store seems way too high, thats 200/week! My wife and I spend probably $50-60/week at the grocery store plus a costco run of maybe $150/month on average for meat and other bulk food items that we take to work for lunch. We eat plenty good and live in the Seattle area.


Seems like your costs should be comparable, but obviously they're not. Are you splitting out sundries as a separate line item?

barnaclebob wrote:We buy rice in a 20lb bag for about $15 that lasts about 4 months.


Sounds about right. We've got some large sealed containers in the garage with whole wheat flour, rolled oats and Basmati rice that we buy in bulk.

barnaclebob wrote:How much of your food comes prepackaged in a box or something like that?


Very little, we cook most things from scratch.

barnaclebob wrote:Do you stick to the outside ring of the grocery store except to get baking ingredients, spices etc?


To some extent, which is healthier but more expensive.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Tim_in_GA » Tue Aug 14, 2012 6:33 pm

That does seem like a lot. We are averaging $550/month for the two of us and that includes a lot of organic food but we eat probably 3/4 veggies and 1/4 meat. Every weekend we load up the shopping cart with veggies at the Korean supermarket and only spend $50 at the most. Then we stop at Kroger for a few non-Asian things. We hit Whole Foods about once a month for organic grains & beans to mix with our organic brown rice. We also make a monthly trip to Costco and usually spend $150 each time. But I don't include our pets in that budget - it is tracked separately and averages $80/month for 4 cats and one dog.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby livesoft » Tue Aug 14, 2012 6:40 pm

Portion size. You are simply eating too much at each meal.

Here's what I ate in the last few days.

Today:
Breakfast: bowl of cereal and milk. Probably a dollars worth.
Lunch: Homemade spinach salad with a few grape tomatoes, carrots, blueberries, walnuts. Probably $2 worth
Dinner: 2 slices of leftover pizza: That's $1.25

Yesterday:
Dinner: 2 slices of fresh Domino's pizza. It was $10 for 2 pies, so about 1/8 of $10 is $1.25
Lunch: Leftover Mexican food: $5
Breakfast: Bowl of cereal and milk.

Day before:
Dinner: Mexican restaurant $10 for meal, but brought home more than half to eat next day.
....


We don't buy in bulk and we don't have a big freezer. That's false economy because folks feel they need to eat lots more if they buy in bulk.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby barnaclebob » Tue Aug 14, 2012 6:44 pm

We hardly spend anything on toiletries so I'm not sure what the average is, maybe $10/month? A 12 pack of paper towel rolls (get the ones you can tear half sheets) lasts several months because we wipe the kitchen down and clean up spills with dish rags that get washed. We also get the cheapest shampoo/soap/conditioner. A tube of toothpaste lasts several months (yes i brush 2 times a day). Contrary to what the Colgate commercials would like you to think you only need to use a dab of toothpaste and not an inch long ribbon. I mainly only use toilet paper at work so that way I am getting paid to go to do my business. Kitchen cleaning spray is a homemade mix of vinegar, water, and, lemon juice and hell i could probably spray some on chicken for extra flavor. No need for fancy anti bacterial chemicals, they don't help anyway. Dishwashing powder comes from the dollar store, one box lasts about a month.

I promise I'm not crazy.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Tim_in_GA » Tue Aug 14, 2012 6:47 pm

livesoft wrote:Portion size. You are simply eating too much at each meal.


Wow, I couldn't eat like that every day. I'm eating 5-7 times/day, getting close to 3000kcals daily intake just to keep myself from losing weight and trying to gain some muscle.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby HornedToad » Tue Aug 14, 2012 7:09 pm

Everything looked reasonable except the grocery bill. I would check your receipts to see what's costing you so much? Perhaps you are spending more on dog food, toiletries, makeup, etc as part of the grocery bill?

We(2 people) generally are around 250-300/mo for restaurants and then ~350/mo for groceries shopping at Costco and Safeway. Eat alot of chicken, rice, fruit, etc. 800 for 2 people seems really high unless embedded in that is ~200-250 for non-food items (pills, etc?).
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Re: Food Costs

Postby brad_g » Tue Aug 14, 2012 7:12 pm

USDA estimates $600 for a family of 2 on a "moderate cost plan". Food only.

http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2012/CostofFoodJun2012.pdf
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 7:20 pm

z3r0c00l wrote:How about posting the exact bill from your last 4 shopping trips?


Here are the totals, hopefully you don't mean the line items:

Date Description Category Amount
Aug 7 WinCo Foods Groceries –$304.25
Jul 30 Wal-Mart Groceries –$52.44
Jul 20 WinCo Foods Groceries –$267.40
Jul 9 WinCo Foods Groceries –$266.18
Jul 3 WinCo Foods Groceries –$82.95
Jul 2 Wal-Mart Groceries –$65.34
Jun 26 WinCo Foods Groceries –$192.33
Jun 25 Wal-Mart Groceries –$30.41
Jun 25 Fred Meyer Groceries –$17.98
Jun 19 Wal-Mart Groceries –$34.98
Jun 18 WinCo Foods Groceries –$300.42

z3r0c00l wrote:As a single person I spend about $105 per week on food and beer, in NYC no less, so I think two people could do better than $200 a week if they shop at a store that is cheaper(!) than walmart and rarely eat out.


At 4.33 weeks per month and times two people that would be $910/mo so not that far off.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 7:22 pm

livesoft wrote:Portion size. You are simply eating too much at each meal.


It's possible I suppose, but currently I'm weight stable and she's losing weight. We both workout so obviously that burns some extra calories.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby mlipps » Tue Aug 14, 2012 7:25 pm

I'm as baffled as everyone else honestly. We spend almost the exact same amount as you in every category except the actual groceries. For the two of us, we pay about $400-$450/month, and I think that's really high! I haven't made much effort to get it down because I feel like we already save a lot by cooking almost every meal at home, so I don't want to add to the effort by making things really cheaply etc. Here are my suggestions:

I don't know what drugstores you have near you, but here CVS is the most common. I haven't paid for toothpaste in months, and also get toothbrushes and razors for really cheap very often. Shampoo too I have some luck with. Oh, and every few months they randomly give me a "$x off Physician's Formula", never less than $10, which is makeup brand. I haven't paid for any makeup in years. Everything else I buy at Target, for convenience sake as that's where we do our grocery shopping. Pretty sure I could get everything another 10% cheaper if I went to a "dollar store" type establishment.

Maybe that "Half a cow" is where you're spending a lot. Is it grass fed/high quality? To me, that'd be worth the money, I just don't have the space for it. Not saying cut it, but that might be a bit of the discrepancy. We very rarely eat beef anymore because I can get chicken for $2/lb and beef is rarely on sale for less than $4.

If you buy a lot of Veggies/Fruits, might be worth finding a local ethnic market. I haven't had much success on this one here in the DC burbs yet, but when I lived in Chicago, I shopped at this little Mexican place on my way home every day and found ridiculous deals like plums for 10 cents, avacados for 75 cents, mangos for 50 cents, etc. etc. Worth exploring at least.

What about cleaning supplies? These can be a HUGE ripoff at the grocery store just like toiletries. Again, Target, CVS, Dollar Stores.

Finally, sounds like you cook a lot, but just thought I'd share my favorite recipe site: budgetbytes.blogspot.com She prices out every recipe and shares good tips on how to save money. Most of what I know I learned from her and my momma (who swears she never spends more than $2 on a meal!).
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Re: Food Costs

Postby sbay » Tue Aug 14, 2012 7:27 pm

I think it would help if you disaggregate your purchases and break them down into categories (and maybe even compute per lb prices). $800 for two seems very high. We are averaging somewhere in $300-$400 for two in high COL area.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby shmidds » Tue Aug 14, 2012 7:28 pm

I agree with Livesoft, portion size is important.

My typical three meals a day, no snacks, nothing after 6 pm:

Breakfast - one cup of cereal, one cup of milk, one ounce of orange juice.
Lunch - six potato chips, a very, very, small portion of chicken salad on lettuce, two pickles, a small piece of chocolate.
Dinner - Whatever I feel like until I feel full (my wife is a wonderful cook).

I'm 6', 175 lbs. If I gain or lose weight I adjust my dinner portion accordingly. If we go out to eat, I usually can get two more dinners from the meal since restaurant portions are so big.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 7:28 pm

HornedToad wrote:Everything looked reasonable except the grocery bill. I would check your receipts to see what's costing you so much? Perhaps you are spending more on dog food, toiletries, makeup, etc as part of the grocery bill?

We(2 people) generally are around 250-300/mo for restaurants and then ~350/mo for groceries shopping at Costco and Safeway. Eat alot of chicken, rice, fruit, etc. 800 for 2 people seems really high unless embedded in that is ~200-250 for non-food items (pills, etc?).


It does include the sundries (anything bought at the grocery store that isn't groceries). Perhaps we need to spend a few hours analyzing receipts, not the most fun thing but worth it if we find something. Some of that money is for shampoo, toothpaste, cleaners, garbage bags etc.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 7:31 pm

mlipps wrote:Maybe that "Half a cow" is where you're spending a lot. Is it grass fed/high quality? To me, that'd be worth the money, I just don't have the space for it. Not saying cut it, but that might be a bit of the discrepancy. We very rarely eat beef anymore because I can get chicken for $2/lb and beef is rarely on sale for less than $4.


That beef runs us about $3.25/lb which is pretty good considering it's not just hamburger.

mlipps wrote:What about cleaning supplies? These can be a HUGE ripoff at the grocery store just like toiletries. Again, Target, CVS, Dollar Stores.


Hmm, maybe I need to look at that more seriously.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 7:33 pm

shmidds wrote:I agree with Livesoft, portion size is important.

My typical three meals a day, no snacks, nothing after 6 pm:

Breakfast - one cup of cereal, one cup of milk, one ounce of orange juice.
Lunch - six potato chips, a very, very, small portion of chicken salad on lettuce, two pickles, a small piece of chocolate.
Dinner - Whatever I feel like until I feel full (my wife is a wonderful cook).

I'm 6', 175 lbs. If I gain or lose weight I adjust my dinner portion accordingly. If we go out to eat, I usually can get two more dinners from the meal since restaurant portions are so big.


Typical day for me:

Breakfast - Oatmeal
Lunch - Leftovers, today was two burritos (we had Mexican last night)
Dinner - Vegetable beef soup and a salad
Snacks - Some cherries
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Re: Food Costs

Postby livesoft » Tue Aug 14, 2012 7:43 pm

^ LOL!

Cherries are the budget killer. Even on sale they are $8 a pound. :)

Two burritos! My goodness! Even my teenage son only eats half a Chipotle burrito at a meal.

I confess we have a lot of beef in our freezer because a friend bid on a steer at the Houston Rodeo and won. We got lots of beef in vacuum-packed portions for free when he couldn't fit it in his freezer.
It's all about short-term opportunistic rebalancing due to a short-term change in one's asset allocation, uh, I mean opportunistic rebalancing, uh I mean rebalancing, uh I mean market timing.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:11 pm

livesoft wrote:Cherries are the budget killer. Even on sale they are $8 a pound. :)


That I agree with, even in season the prices are crazy. If it's just that fruit is expensive then we'll just choose to live with it, but I doubt we're eating enough fruit to double our bill.

FYI, it's not that we can't afford our grocery bill, it's just that I want to make sure we're not spending money in ways we didn't intend.

livesoft wrote:Two burritos! My goodness! Even my teenage son only eats half a Chipotle burrito at a meal.


What kind of mutant teenager are we talking about here? My fiance's son is 19 and he eats like a starving mountain lion when he visits.

Yesterday for lunch I had a Peanut butter and jelly sandwhich and a banana, hardly extravagant.

livesoft wrote:We got lots of beef in vacuum-packed portions for free when he couldn't fit it in his freezer.


That's awesome. We do get free eggs from a friend with chickens at times, but that's not on the same scale cost wise.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby shmidds » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:18 pm

I love cherries, but not at the typical $5/lb in my area. We just bought a lb for $2 on sale. I'll have maybe two or three at lunch.
Seriously, these little things add up. We we're spending about the same as you until several years ago when we really started to track costs and cut portion sizes.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby livesoft » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:20 pm

OK, based on what you reported you ate, the problem is clearly that your spouse is getting cash-back at the grocery store and spending the cash without accounting for it.
It's all about short-term opportunistic rebalancing due to a short-term change in one's asset allocation, uh, I mean opportunistic rebalancing, uh I mean rebalancing, uh I mean market timing.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Curlyq » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:23 pm

I recently bought a 1/4 cow and expect it will take 2-3 years to consume for two people. How are you and one other person eating 1/2 cow every year? Perhaps you are the types to eat beef for lunch and dinner every day?
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:24 pm

shmidds wrote:I love cherries, but not at the typical $5/lb in my area. We just bought a lb for $2 on sale. I'll have maybe two or three at lunch.
Seriously, these little things add up. We we're spending about the same as you until several years ago when we really started to track costs and cut portion sizes.


If we're strictly talking portion sizes, I was on a cutting cycle last year and lost 35 lbs, but my grocery bill was virtually identical.

Some foods are more expensive than others regardless if you get a good deal on them or not, so it is possible that our selection is just higher cost. I'm not sure that's necessarily something I want to "fix" if that's the only problem though. Looks like we better get out the receipts and dig down a bit further into the details.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby harikaried » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:29 pm

Clearly_Irrational wrote:Here are the totals, hopefully you don't mean the line items:
Aug 7 WinCo Foods Groceries –$304.25

Do you have this receipt from last week? What are the big $ purchases on there?
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:33 pm

Curlyq wrote:I recently bought a 1/4 cow and expect it will take 2-3 years to consume for two people. How are you and one other person eating 1/2 cow every year? Perhaps you are the types to eat beef for lunch and dinner every day?


Well, we're not eating paleo but we probably do eat a higher proportion of meat than average. We both lift weights so I think it's a reasonable was to get the necessary protein. It sounds like you eat less meat than average (or it was a darn big cow), which is aok everyone has their own style food wise. Obviously if we switched to a more vegetarian diet that was heavy in cheap foods like pasta that would definitely lower our bill, but that's not a kind of savings we're interested in.

If it's just that beef isn't cheap we'll just live with it. We do have some roasts and steaks left from the last cow but the hamburger is gone, so it may be closer to a year and a half. I haven't measured that precisely.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Muchtolearn » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:36 pm

I am vegetarian and eat a lot of pasta, frozen vegetables, cabbage salads and buy very little fresh as I believe frozen is actually healthier and it stays longer of course. I spend on myself only maybe $200 a month max. I rarely eat out. The biggest "scam" right now is the push for fruit. Fruit is PURE fructose which is handled like glucose but probably worse. Note that high fructose corn syrup is the extreme of fructose and probably unhealthier than trans fat or saturated fat.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:37 pm

harikaried wrote:
Clearly_Irrational wrote:Here are the totals, hopefully you don't mean the line items:
Aug 7 WinCo Foods Groceries –$304.25

Do you have this receipt from last week? What are the big $ purchases on there?


The largest single item was bacon at $22.83. Of course that's about a month's worth. Generally we have some with breakfast on the weekend, and once in a while I have a recipe that uses it.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:41 pm

Muchtolearn wrote:I am vegetarian and eat a lot of pasta, frozen vegetables, cabbage salads and buy very little fresh as I believe frozen is actually healthier and it stays longer of course. I spend on myself only maybe $200 a month max. I rarely eat out. The biggest "scam" right now is the push for fruit. Fruit is PURE fructose which is handled like glucose but probably worse. Note that high fructose corn syrup is the extreme of fructose and probably unhealthier than trans fat or saturated fat.


Eating vegetarian is cheaper no question about it. It's extremely difficult to do correctly (even if you know the food combo system) and most vegetarians I've known were both weak and prone to illness. I'm sure there are exceptions, but that's not a route we're looking to take.

Whole fruit that includes fiber isn't too terrible, fruit juice is not so great though. Overall we try to manager our insulin levels through diet. (no, we're not diabetic but we'd like to stay that way)
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Re: Food Costs

Postby centrifuge41 » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:42 pm

Yea, figure out what to buy where. Even if Winco is cheapest on aggregate, you might have certain things that you buy from a given store.

Here, for instance, Kroger is generally the best place for the produce that shows up on the flyer, the $10 for 10 sale items, bread, milk, tortilla chips, pizza sauce, and some other very specific items. For you, your Kroger is QFC or Fred Meyer. Read the flyer, then swing in and take a look.

If you want to play the drugstore game, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and CVS often have cheap items after their store rewards credits. Do it right, and you will have a good amount of shampoo, floss, toothpaste, toothbrushes etc for free or very close to it.

Unfortunately, it looks like Winco doesn't take credit cards (sounds a lot like Aldi!). If your grocery spend was mostly at other stores, you may need to go get yourself an Amex blue cash preferred card so that you can get 6% cashback. The annual fee is worth it if you're spending > 2500 a year on groceries (at stores that take Amex). There do exist reward debit cards, but they won't really save you much, even with the high grocery spend.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:44 pm

Muchtolearn wrote:I am vegetarian and eat a lot of pasta, frozen vegetables, cabbage salads and buy very little fresh as I believe frozen is actually healthier and it stays longer of course. I spend on myself only maybe $200 a month max. I rarely eat out. The biggest "scam" right now is the push for fruit. Fruit is PURE fructose which is handled like glucose but probably worse. Note that high fructose corn syrup is the extreme of fructose and probably unhealthier than trans fat or saturated fat.


Eating vegetarian is cheaper no question about it. It's extremely difficult to do correctly (even if you know the food combo system) and most vegetarians I've known were both weak and prone to illness. (excluding those that "cheat" by eating eggs and fish) I'm sure there are exceptions, but that's not a route we're looking to take.

Whole fruit that includes fiber isn't too terrible, fruit juice is not so great though. Overall we try to manager our insulin levels through diet. (no, we're not diabetic but we'd like to stay that way)
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:47 pm

jenny345 wrote:Portion size isn't the main issue in terms of calories or money spent. You can buy a pound of rice and a pound of dried beans for $1.50 and gain weight. Fruits and veggies are some of the most expensive foods on a per calorie basis. I have a list of how much different foods cost per calorie and a couple of the most expensive are celery and mushrooms.


Hmm, that's an interesting angle. I'm not sure we're shooting for cheapest possible calories, but it might help us make good decisions if we calculated the cost per our standard serving to see if we still want it enough.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:50 pm

By the way, we had already cut our grocery bill nearly 30% by shopping smarter, but then food costs rose again.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:56 pm

jenny345 wrote:What is the price per pound? We eat bacon but we mix it up with other meats that cost 50 cents to $2 a pound. Sometimes whole chickens go on sale for 50 cents and I use the bones to make stock. Chicken stock even at Trader Joe's is $2 a carton, or almost $3 at my local retail store. Around the holidays turkey can sell for even less than 50 cents a pound. If you have a freezer you can stock up.


Yeah, we made a killing on turkey for about 50-60 cents a pound right after Thanksgiving.

We both work and go to school so time is at a premium, there are some things I end up just have to pay for. For example, if we had a home garden we could cut our vegetable costs considerably.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Toons » Tue Aug 14, 2012 8:59 pm

Lots of chicken
Rice
Beans
Vegetables
Water
Salsa
more chicken
turkey burgers,,,,,,,and almost forgot,,,,Small bags of Ol Roy dogfood for the pooch :happy

few hundred bucks a month(maybe)
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Re: Food Costs

Postby mike143 » Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:01 pm

Retain a months worth of grocery receipts and scan and post them.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby stan1 » Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:02 pm

If you don't want to break out the whole bill, just circle the 10 most expensive things on each bill so you understand the cost drivers. My guess is that you'll discover many of those items are "nice to haves" that taste good, offer variety, and maybe some convenience. Bacon is an example of something that tastes good and offers variety, but my guess is few people eat it regularly (less healthy, expensive). Another item that can really add up is containers of yogurt (especially if you are buying 20 single serving containers at a time). Instead you can buy a quart of plain yogurt and add in some raisins, craisins, nuts, or berries and it will still be cheaper than individual containers. Another approach is to eat meatless every other night.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby dx41 » Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:15 pm

I just wanted to chime in about costs and a plant-based diet, based on information I have come across.

Here is an interesting discussion for a $4-$6 per day meal plan, complete with a nutritional analysis.

http://www.drmcdougall.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=10519

Also a newsletter discussing a similar topic: http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2008nl/mar/foodcost.htm

I hope you find the information at least as worthwhile as I have. Thank you for the amazing discussions on this forum. I have learned a great deal, and I continue to do so. Please have a great day.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby roymeo » Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:19 pm

How much protein are you getting?

I've just been reading "Nutrition for Serious Athletes" http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0880118334/roymeosreadinglo and he makes the point time and again that most athletic types are getting far more protein than they need and probably not enough carbs. One of his chapter opening anecdotes of someone 'doing it wrong' was a body-builder in his graduate level sports nutrition class who was still following the gym "gotta have more protein" rules and not what he was learning in class...and he was always tired because he wasn't getting enough carbs so his body was using all that extra protein he was dumping in his system as fuel rather than building muscle with it. Once the guy finally got on the program, he stopped being tired all the time, etc. As long as you're not a vegetarian/vegan, you're probably getting more than enough protein. His rule is 60-70% carb, 10-15% protein, 20-25% fat.

I got the book for $0.19 plus $3.99 shipping, am 1/2 way through, and already see things that I may have stumbled upon and make more sense now that I know a bit more of the science behind it, as well as several things I'd been doing that are probably not doing me much good (like going for a run/bike-ride first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and likely burning protein instead of the carb+fat I could be burning if I were to eat some high-carb food that my stomach will tolerate before going out).

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Re: Food Costs

Postby Grt2bOutdoors » Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:24 pm

livesoft wrote:Portion size. You are simply eating too much at each meal.

Here's what I ate in the last few days.

Today:
Breakfast: bowl of cereal and milk. Probably a dollars worth.
Lunch: Homemade spinach salad with a few grape tomatoes, carrots, blueberries, walnuts. Probably $2 worth
Dinner: 2 slices of leftover pizza: That's $1.25

Yesterday:
Dinner: 2 slices of fresh Domino's pizza. It was $10 for 2 pies, so about 1/8 of $10 is $1.25
Lunch: Leftover Mexican food: $5
Breakfast: Bowl of cereal and milk.

Day before:
Dinner: Mexican restaurant $10 for meal, but brought home more than half to eat next day.
....


We don't buy in bulk and we don't have a big freezer. That's false economy because folks feel they need to eat lots more if they buy in bulk.


How's your cholesterol? Cheese, more cheese, and meat to top it off! :shock:
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Re: Food Costs

Postby livesoft » Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:34 pm

GRT2BOUTDOORS wrote:How's your cholesterol? Cheese, more cheese, and meat to top it off! :shock:

Ha! My LDL cholesterol is untreated and stable at 113 mg/dL for last decade. I weigh under 165 lb at almost 6 ft tall. I exercise a lot with resting HR in the lower 40s. I will probably die of heart attack tomorrow now that I've written this.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 9:54 pm

stan1 wrote:Another item that can really add up is containers of yogurt (especially if you are buying 20 single serving containers at a time). Instead you can buy a quart of plain yogurt and add in some raisins, craisins, nuts, or berries and it will still be cheaper than individual containers.


Definitely, pretty much anything convenience packaged carries a heavy premium. We already buy yoghurt by the quart.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:09 pm

roymeo wrote:How much protein are you getting?

I've just been reading "Nutrition for Serious Athletes" http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0880118334/roymeosreadinglo and he makes the point time and again that most athletic types are getting far more protein than they need and probably not enough carbs.


Most of that data is for endurance athletes which doesn't translate well for strength or physique goals.

roymeo wrote:His rule is 60-70% carb, 10-15% protein, 20-25% fat.


That's a terrible rule as many of those things don't scale linearly. Optimizing for muscle gain and maximum leanness (not the goal for everyone) a minimum calorie cutting diet would be 1.25g protein per pound of lean body mass, just enough carbs to keep you out of ketosis (usually around 40g or so though this varies per person) and enough fat to keep you from rabbit starvation (which is usually around 10% of total calories). For a maintenance diet I'd double the carbs and increase the fat. I have budget and workout time constraints so my diet doesn't look quite that aggressive as I couldn't take full advantage of that much protein. I get closer to the RDA amount for physically active adults which is around 1g per kg of bodyweight. (or perhaps a bit more)
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Grt2bOutdoors » Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:09 pm

Clearly_Irrational wrote:By the way, we had already cut our grocery bill nearly 30% by shopping smarter, but then food costs rose again.


Disclaimer: Just in case this is an informal survery for a shopping chain, prices are what I expect, not what may actually be. :P


Food is up, it isn't up that much! My entertaining yet informative response on a month in the life of food shopping here in the Northeast right now. This ought to keep you busy. :D

Buy on sale: Cherries when in season can be anywhere between $2 and $3 on sale. Who's paying $8 a pound for Washington State cherries?
Peaches - 99 cents to $1.79 a pound
Apples - 99 cents to $1.99 a pound
Meat - 85% lean chop meat - $3.49 a pound
Steak from the loin, boneless - on average $5.99 a pound, on sale
Ribeye steak - $4.99/lb on sale
Turkey, whole - $1.29/lb - 11 pound average
Sausage, pork/sweet or hot - $2.99 lb
Prime rib roast - $7.99 lb on sale

Bananas - $.49 cents a pound to $0.79 cents a pound
Mango - 99 cents each.
Strawberries - $1.99 a box
Blueberries - 2 pints for $4
Case of 24 bottled spring water - pick your name brand - $3.33
Multi-grain individually sliced bread -$4.29
Asparagus - $1.99 - $3.99 a bunch
Broccoli - 99 cents a pound
Romaine Lettuce - $1.49 pound
Box of mixed greens $4.99, lasts a week

What kind of coffee do you brew at home? Tea?
$25 a month bought outside is the equivalent of cart-bought coffee, can't get much cheaper than that.

Big drivers of grocery bills:

Clothing detergent - get off of Tide, go with All Free and Clear ($12.49 vs. $5.99 32 or 48oz size)
Lysol - buy on sale in bulk
Tissues - buy on sale - Kleenex or Scotties 99c a box
Paper towels - an 8 or 12 pak of Sparkle - $6 on sale
Tissue Paper - get the cheaper brand, not advocating use of "scratch paper" :P
Shampoo/Conditioner - are you using salon label/high end fru-fru stuff?
Toothpaste - come on, even the pricey stuff is like $6 for 4oz, unless you are brushing 6x a day (not good for your enamel), should last you a month.
Toothbrush - buy on sale for 99c to $2 (full, soft, save your enamel), if not on sale $3.50 a brush.
Softsoap - $2.50 a refill bottle on sale, $5 if not on sale - should last you a month, if not more, unless you are OCD with cleanliness.
Dish soap - 99 cents on sale, 12 oz.
Dishwasher detergent - $4.99 a bottle on sale, lasts a month, if not more, run it 2-3x a week.

Milk - $3.69 a gallon, non-fat
Orange Juice - $1.99 to $2.50 a half gallon on sale, Floridas nature or Tropicana
Meat - buy tenderloin in bulk. How handy are you with a knife? Must be pretty good if you're buying half the cow.
Make your own steaks.
Chicken - buy the breasts whole. Use shears to trim and a knife to slice horizontally in half. Pound, wala - chicken breast.
Vegetables - own a home with a 10 x 10 plot of land - next spring, break ground, start planting your chard, spinach, tomatoes, zucchini. Check out the vegetable garden thread on the forum.
Vegetables - buy fresh corn when cheap - like 19 cents each or buy frozen corn by the pound $1.50
Canned beans - 3 16oz cans for 75 cents, how many beans can you eat in a month? Beano?
Fish - what are you buying? Salmon should be inexpensive in the Pacific Northwest, heck it's pretty cheap on sale here in the northeast - anywhere from $4.99/lb to $7.99 a pound. Tuna - can be pricey, same with swordfish and shark.
Shrimp - buy frozen, deveined and peeled - anywhere from $14.99 to $19.99 for two pounds.
Lobster - $5.99 to $9.99 lb, pick the one you want live in the tank - watch the pincers!
Cheese - buy what ever is on sale, you can get some for 99 cents per 12 oz of block cheese, cheddar, monterey jack.
Tortillas - 10 for $1.99 - ChiChi's brand
Salsa - Newmans own $2.49 a jar (we prefer Mango)
Taco spice - $2 for $2 - Ortega or whatever the brand is on sale
Pasta - 99 cents a pound on sale - stock up when on sale - 10 pounds ought to last you 2 months or more
Tomato sauce in a can (large) - $1 a can on sale, lightly seasoned - pureed tomato, basil, salt.

Baking aisle - 5 lbs unbleached flour - pick your brand, $2.50
Spices - this can be pricey, especially if you are a frequent user of saffron/vanilla bean. Fresh herbs should not cost more than $3 a bunch. I doubt you will be using this every day during the month.
All others are reasonable from $1.99 to $5, and each should last you at least several months.
Cooking oil - again, buy on sale $6.99 a gallon for Wesson Corn/Vegetable/Canola, otherwise will run closer to $11 a gallon
Olive oil - regular virgin will run around $10 - $12 bucks a gallon on sale.

Cereal - oatmeal - $4.39 for 48oz of Quaker Oats whole rolled oats
All other boxed cereal on sale, generally from $1.99 to $2.99 a 12oz to 16oz box of whole grain, low sugar cereal
Nuts - 3 lbs of almonds, whole - $10.50 a bag - will last for 4 months if not longer.

Discretionary and/or not:
Disposable batteries - 6 AA alkaline batteries (energizer or duracell) $6.99 maybe $5.99 if on sale
Womens, ah hem, toiletries - ask your significant other or wife, not going there!
Razors - disposable Mach 3 Turbo blades - 8 for $17, never on sale
Shaving cream - gel $1.99 a can, if you use the fru-fy stuff like Jack Black tube - $15 a tube for 6oz.
Vitamins - $17 for 250 tablets of Womens or Mens One a Day
Advil - $14 for 200 gel capsules

Discretionary fun junk stuff:
Candy, chocolate (american or more expensive Swiss/Belgian?)
Gum
Licorice
Ice cream - generic or Haagan Daaz. On sale or not?
Toss in like $4 for toddler nutritional, fun treats (doctor approved :wink: )

Restaurant - hardly with a young toddler in tow. Eventually.


Dog(s) - sorry, wife says she has enough animals in the home. :P

Now, go through your list, see how you compare for the major items. I shop for 4 plus a toddler, bills are running around $350 - $400 a month, all inclusive, maybe a bit cheaper some months during summer months - who eats when its hot?
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:11 pm

jenny345 wrote:
Clearly_Irrational wrote:We both work and go to school so time is at a premium, there are some things I end up just have to pay for.


Do you make any crock pot meals? You can just dump vegetables, meat and wine or some kind of sauce in the morning, go to work and and come home to dinner. There is a cool recipe book for crock pot meals called Fix It and Forget It.


You can pry my crock pot from my cold dead fingers! I meant that we generally don't make things like our own soup stock, though I considered it.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Grt2bOutdoors » Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:17 pm

Clearly_Irrational wrote:
jenny345 wrote:
Clearly_Irrational wrote:We both work and go to school so time is at a premium, there are some things I end up just have to pay for.


Do you make any crock pot meals? You can just dump vegetables, meat and wine or some kind of sauce in the morning, go to work and and come home to dinner. There is a cool recipe book for crock pot meals called Fix It and Forget It.


You can pry my crock pot from my cold dead fingers! I meant that we generally don't make things like our own soup stock, though I considered it.


Pound of potatoes, 4 washed and peeled carrots, chopped, one celery stalk, half a chicken, quartered, 2 quarts of water, season to taste. Put it on a boil, simmer for a couple of hours, strain - now you have broth. Eat the vegetables, potatoes and chicken.

This isn't where the fat in the budget is, it's the processed stuff and detergents and/or (heaven's no!) cold cuts. Get rid of the bacon - cardiologist special.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Robert44 » Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:47 pm

I have never checked how much we spent on food. Decided to check the month of June. I do shop sales and use coupons. But we go out a lot and never hold back and we do drink alcohol. We do eat heart healthy and most of our meals are home cooked.
We are two senior citizens in the Midwest.


Restaurants: $327.00 (eating out 7 times, which also gave us leftovers for 7 meals)
Costco: $145
Grocery stores: $226
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Re: Food Costs

Postby dianna » Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:48 pm

Is high net worth synonymous with low net girth?!? :D
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Re: Food Costs

Postby z3r0c00l » Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:52 pm

Clearly_Irrational wrote:
Here are the totals, hopefully you don't mean the line items:


Of course I do mean list the individual items from a few shopping trips, or just scan the receipt here. I am clearly not the only penny pincher, and if you give us specific information about your shopping, we can find out why you are spending too much and give specific advice. The numbers above give us no new information.

CI wrote:At 4.33 weeks per month and times two people that would be $910/mo so not that far off.


Yes but I am a single person, who eats out often, and lives in New York City. You can do better than me, probably spending little more than I do total, for two people. Certainly we can get it down to 600 or so. Economy of scale, and all that.

Post your shopping receipts and I bet we can reduce the bill by at least 25%
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Re: Food Costs

Postby livesoft » Tue Aug 14, 2012 10:56 pm

I'm not so sure buying yogurt by the quart is helpful. The reason is that one might dollop out twice the portion that one would eat if using the individual cartons of 4 to 6 oz.
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