Food Costs

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities

Re: Food Costs

Postby Mudpuppy » Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:47 am

It may not be fun, but until you analyze your receipts and break down your spending further, we're all just spinning our wheels and tossing out random suggestions. I would recommend categorizing your purchases into: meat/dairy, produce, other groceries, pet food/supplies, toiletries/sundries. Until you know where your money is going, you can't know how to cut back.

I'd recommend putting each line item of the recent receipts into a spreadsheet/database. If you have a smartphone, you can probably find an app that will do this for you from a picture. Then categorize each item, sort by category, and calculate your category totals (again, there might be an app for this). Then bring up the details for the high cost categories and see if there's a way to pare those back.

This involves quite a bit of work, but it's really the only way to get an accurate picture of where the money is going.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Mudpuppy » Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:53 am

livesoft wrote: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.

Small containers counter this tendency. Humans tend to measure not by actual size, but by relative size (e.g. the portion size relative to the container size). So a half cup container filled to the brim with yogurt seems "bigger" than a cup sized container that is half full of yogurt, even though they both contain half a cup of yogurt. I've got a whole range of small containers (quarter cup, half cup, one cup) for this reason, and because they pack more compactly in my lunch tote.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:54 am

Mudpuppy wrote:It may not be fun, but until you analyze your receipts and break down your spending further, we're all just spinning our wheels and tossing out random suggestions. I would recommend categorizing your purchases into: meat/dairy, produce, other groceries, pet food/supplies, toiletries/sundries. Until you know where your money is going, you can't know how to cut back.

I'd recommend putting each line item of the recent receipts into a spreadsheet/database. If you have a smartphone, you can probably find an app that will do this for you from a picture. Then categorize each item, sort by category, and calculate your category totals (again, there might be an app for this). Then bring up the details for the high cost categories and see if there's a way to pare those back.

This involves quite a bit of work, but it's really the only way to get an accurate picture of where the money is going.


That's pretty much the conclusion I drew from this thread. I want to thank everyone for taking the time to offer their suggestions.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby MWCA » Wed Aug 15, 2012 1:01 am

Spent 12349 last year or two people. Includes wine and cleaning supplies. I'm sure if we bought rice and beans plus got rid of wine we could reduce that...but nahhh :D
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Re: Food Costs

Postby roymeo » Wed Aug 15, 2012 1:06 am

Clearly_Irrational wrote:
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.


Well, the chapter that started out with the bodybuilder was definitely talking about bodybuilders and anaerobic exercise.


Clearly_Irrational wrote:
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)


Funny, he was stating that the body's ability to use protein topped out at ~1.5g protein per kg of weight (maybe 2 for something with lots of muscle damage like a newb working up to something), and noting that those athletes (like the body builder) who were protein conscious were doing something more like 4g/kg with their protein powders. So that's 1.5g/2.2 pounds or .68/pound.
But you're talking only pounds of lean muscle mass, so I'm lost on the math there, especially since there's multiple ways of measuring that that result in different numbers. But still that may be pretty close. You're saying 1.25g/pound which would be 2.75g/kg-lean. His number may be higher than yours in the end.
Neither number seems all that crazy, long as you're getting enough carbs to burn as pure carbs (anaerobic) or carbs+fat (aerobic) and not just burning all your protein as fuel.
As far as what you're saying above, I'm not a nutritionist, and I'm just reading this book the first time through. (Course I'm also not listening to the guys at the gym.) But I don't really see anything there that say "OMG HE'S SO WRONG" when talking about people pursuing athletic goals.

But I'm just paraphrasing a book I'm reading--if you have any other arguments with my quick summary, you'll need to take it up with the author. :)

---

later edit: And further on he states that it's ENDURANCE athletes that need more protein, but of course it's the body-builders who are convinced they need more and consume vast quantities (including powders). So assuming his data and understanding of human biology hasn't been changed since this was written, it looks like he's got you pegged.


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Re: Food Costs

Postby hemingway » Wed Aug 15, 2012 2:21 am

I don't know Win-co but you may want to check out Trader Joe's, I see yoou have three in the Portland area. 90% is their own brand so they can control the costs and ingredients. If's it's their brand, they don't have prservatives, GMO's, high fructose cornsyurp, hydradanated oils, etc. The prices are very reasonalble. It'l take about a month to educate yourself on the Trader joe's stuff. We found it was well worth it and there are plenty of people to help.

As you can tell, my wife and I shop there all the time. Plus, anythig you don't like, you can get an exchange or your money back .... hassle free.

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PS...they have good wines at great prices.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby og15F1 » Wed Aug 15, 2012 3:07 am

Clearly_Irrational wrote:
Mudpuppy wrote:It may not be fun, but until you analyze your receipts and break down your spending further, we're all just spinning our wheels and tossing out random suggestions. I would recommend categorizing your purchases into: meat/dairy, produce, other groceries, pet food/supplies, toiletries/sundries. Until you know where your money is going, you can't know how to cut back.

I'd recommend putting each line item of the recent receipts into a spreadsheet/database. If you have a smartphone, you can probably find an app that will do this for you from a picture. Then categorize each item, sort by category, and calculate your category totals (again, there might be an app for this). Then bring up the details for the high cost categories and see if there's a way to pare those back.

This involves quite a bit of work, but it's really the only way to get an accurate picture of where the money is going.


That's pretty much the conclusion I drew from this thread. I want to thank everyone for taking the time to offer their suggestions.


I'd agree with that. Please report back if you do it. My wife and I also live in the Portland area and food has been the one part of our budget that seems to stick out. We average around $575/mo for us and 2 kids. One toddler and one just starting to taste food. I suspect their contribution to the bill is small.

We have actually been saving every Fred Meyer, Safeway, etc. receipt and entering them weekly into Mint.com splitting out the diapers, home supplies, etc. to get a picture of food versus non-food. That's how we got to $575/mo average. That doesn't tell us where to cut so we have been talking about slicing further into categories like junk food, kids food, meat, etc.

If we gather a few months of data and I remember this thread I'll report back
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Re: Food Costs

Postby hsv_climber » Wed Aug 15, 2012 3:28 pm

jenny345 wrote:high cost of living area.


If you live in the lower 48 states then I think it is a myth that grocery prices in your area are more expensive than in other parts of the country. It is easy to verify - go to kroger.com, click "Weekly Ads" and specify a few cities of your choice. Then go to the appropriate sites of the stores in the kroger family, click on "weekly ads" and you'll see that prices are different from what you would've expected, but most likely your area is not too expensive in comparison to other parts. And average prices over 1-2 years, most likely are IDENTICAL all over the 48 States.
I did this for fun yesterday... 1 gallon of milk this week... Los Angeles, CA - $2.75, North Alabama - $2.99, Denver, CO - $1.99.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby hsv_climber » Wed Aug 15, 2012 3:33 pm

livesoft wrote: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.


I've never seen plain yogurt in less than 1 quart containers...
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Re: Food Costs

Postby mlipps » Wed Aug 15, 2012 3:35 pm

hsv_climber wrote:
jenny345 wrote:high cost of living area.


If you live in the lower 48 states then I think it is a myth that grocery prices in your area are more expensive than in other parts of the country. It is easy to verify - go to kroger.com, click "Weekly Ads" and specify a few cities of your choice. Then go to the appropriate sites of the stores in the kroger family, click on "weekly ads" and you'll see that prices are different from what you would've expected, but most likely your area is not too expensive in comparison to other parts. And average prices over 1-2 years, most likely are IDENTICAL all over the 48 States.
I did this for fun yesterday... 1 gallon of milk this week... Los Angeles, CA - $2.75, North Alabama - $2.99, Denver, CO - $1.99.


No, they're not. Everytime I tell my mom about a sale I got in DC (or when I lived in Chicago for that matter) she tells me it's just under their normal prices. I'm a good grocery shopper and so is she, but food costs vary a lot. I see the biggest difference in meat.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby hsv_climber » Wed Aug 15, 2012 3:39 pm

mlipps wrote:No, they're not. Everytime I tell my mom about a sale I got in DC (or when I lived in Chicago for that matter) she tells me it's just under their normal prices. I'm a good grocery shopper and so is she, but food costs vary a lot. I see the biggest difference in meat.


What stores are you trying to compare? Prices between different stores in the same city vary much more than between different cities of the same chain.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Confused » Wed Aug 15, 2012 3:47 pm

Clearly_Irrational wrote:
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



Holy moly, what are you eating? My spouse and I spend $35-40 every week at Walmart. And that includes our toiletries and such. We actually only go every other week and spend $70-80, so maybe that makes up some of the difference. We also spend zero on coffee and alcohol, we don't have pets, and we spend virtually zero at restaurants and fast food. Maybe $15 every few months.

You are either: 1) Eating way too expensive of food, like turkeys and steaks; 2) Eating way too much at a sitting; or 3) Letting a lot spoil.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby mlipps » Wed Aug 15, 2012 3:53 pm

hsv_climber wrote:
mlipps wrote:No, they're not. Everytime I tell my mom about a sale I got in DC (or when I lived in Chicago for that matter) she tells me it's just under their normal prices. I'm a good grocery shopper and so is she, but food costs vary a lot. I see the biggest difference in meat.


What stores are you trying to compare? Prices between different stores in the same city vary much more than between different cities of the same chain.


Well obviously, but I only mention things to her when I feel like I've found a "rock bottom" price. We don't have any stores in common to compare in that manner. But we both do shop at several different stores to get the lowest possible price on everything, which is why I like to brag on occasion when I make out like a bandit. :) But inevitably, it's still more than I would have paid back home.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Wed Aug 15, 2012 4:32 pm

Confused wrote:Holy moly, what are you eating? My spouse and I spend $35-40 every week at Walmart. And that includes our toiletries and such. We actually only go every other week and spend $70-80, so maybe that makes up some of the difference.


So you're claiming a monthly grocery bill for two people of $260? That's not impossible, but you'd have to be pretty serious about only buying the cheapest items, no hamburger for you. Are you by chance vegetarians?
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Wed Aug 15, 2012 4:40 pm

jenny345 wrote:Stores in high cost of living areas have to pay more for buildings / rent and employee wages which is built into the price of food. You can compare overall cost of living, including food costs, at sites like bestplaces.net. If all food prices were identical in the 48 states then food costs would be 100 for every city, but guess what? They are not. New York city has a 121 food cost index. Fort Smith Arkansas rates 90.


Hey, that's a neat site. Apparently my area has a food cost index of 109.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Confused » Wed Aug 15, 2012 5:04 pm

Clearly_Irrational wrote:
Confused wrote:Holy moly, what are you eating? My spouse and I spend $35-40 every week at Walmart. And that includes our toiletries and such. We actually only go every other week and spend $70-80, so maybe that makes up some of the difference.


So you're claiming a monthly grocery bill for two people of $260? That's not impossible, but you'd have to be pretty serious about only buying the cheapest items, no hamburger for you. Are you by chance vegetarians?


Where'd you get the $260? Even at $80 every other week, that's only $200 in the months with three "shopping Saturdays" as we refer to the Saturdays that we go to Walmart. I could go to Winco and save more, but it's about twice as far of a drive, so I don't know if it's worth it. I happen to have last week's receipt (and this will feed us for two weeks):

Milk (2.28 x 4): 9.12
Spaghetti sauce: 0.98
Beef ravioli (0.87 x 2): 1.74 [and these two are not for eating, they're for putting into our emergency food supply]
Crackers: 2.18
Red pepper: 0.94
Turkey (1 pound of lunch meat): 3.98
Cheddar cheese: 4.23
Mozzeralla cheese: 2.18
Frozen blueberries: 3.23
Frozen blackberries: 3.88
Half and half: 3.88
Lemon: 0.58
Pretzel M&Ms: 8.98
Vanilla: 3.48
Cereal: 5.98
Bread: 1.18

Grocery total: $56.54

Liquid Plumber: 3.98
Hair heat protection: 3.16
Water bottle: 3.97
Birthday present: 5.94
Yarn (2.77 x 2): 5.54

Non-grocery total: $22.59

Total: $79.13 before sales tax. And this was with us splurging on a giant bag of Pretzel M&Ms because my spouse really wanted it. Otherwise our grocery part of the bill would've been $47.56 for the two weeks. Now, to be all-inclusive, we usually spend a little more than that to get some vegetables but we didn't do that this time because my spouse picked up a basket of miscellaneous vegetables at the farmer's market for $13. But, on the other hand, that's also unusually high for our non-grocery portion. And this reminds to ask my spouse what the deal is with the half and half - we don't drink coffee.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby livesoft » Wed Aug 15, 2012 5:29 pm

^OK, so for two weeks your meals will consist of pretzel M&Ms dipped in spaghetti sauce.

That receipt has nothing green on it. It's not a real food list for 2 weeks of meals.

Tonight for dinner: grilled Atlantic salmon (0.8 lbs for 3 people), edamame, and roasted new potatoes.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Confused » Wed Aug 15, 2012 5:36 pm

livesoft wrote:^OK, so for two weeks your meals will consist of pretzel M&Ms dipped in spaghetti sauce.

That receipt has nothing green on it. It's not a real food list for 2 weeks of meals.

Tonight for dinner: grilled Atlantic salmon (0.8 lbs for 3 people), edamame, and roasted new potatoes.


Breakfast is always a bowl of cereal, so that's the cereal and milk. Lunch is always a sandwich and crackers, so that's the bread, turkey, and crackers. Dinner is always something my spouse whips up. He/she does the cooking and I do the dishes. I don't know how he/she makes dinner, but it's usually some kind of noodle thing or something, like maybe a pasta side with some peas in it or spaghetti. Perhaps we already had enough pasta sides, but those are only $1.00 each and one will feed the two of use for a meal (after we add some frozen peas). There's nothing green on that list because my spouse picked up some vegetables from the farmer's market this week instead. It was $13 for a basket of vegetables (many of which I can't identify). We never eat dessert, so the M&Ms was a rare treat.

Even with what appears to be a low grocery bill, it is still annoyingly high. Before I was married, I ate cereal for every meal every day. Each week was two bags of cereal and three gallons of milk. That was it. My weekly grocery bill was under $20.
Last edited by Confused on Wed Aug 15, 2012 5:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Sidney » Wed Aug 15, 2012 5:37 pm

livesoft wrote:OK, so for two weeks your meals will consist of pretzel M&Ms dipped in spaghetti sauce.

With a half and half chaser.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Wed Aug 15, 2012 5:48 pm

Confused wrote:Where'd you get the $260? Even at $80 every other week, that's only $200 in the months with three "shopping Saturdays" as we refer to the Saturdays that we go to Walmart.


(40+80)/2 * 4.33 = 260 (just an estimate based on what you said)

I happen to have last week's receipt (and this will feed us for two weeks):

Confused wrote:Milk (2.28 x 4): 9.12
Spaghetti sauce: 0.98
Beef ravioli (0.87 x 2): 1.74 [and these two are not for eating, they're for putting into our emergency food supply]
Crackers: 2.18
Red pepper: 0.94
Turkey (1 pound of lunch meat): 3.98
Cheddar cheese: 4.23
Mozzeralla cheese: 2.18
Frozen blueberries: 3.23
Frozen blackberries: 3.88
Half and half: 3.88
Lemon: 0.58
Pretzel M&Ms: 8.98
Vanilla: 3.48
Cereal: 5.98
Bread: 1.18

Grocery total: $56.54

Now, to be all-inclusive, we usually spend a little more than that to get some vegetables but we didn't do that this time because my spouse picked up a basket of miscellaneous vegetables at the farmer's market for $13.


Ok, I'll bite, how the heck are you making 42 meals for two people out of that? No way is that 28,000 calories. (2000 x 2 x7)

Do you raise your own food at home and you're just not counting that? Possibly you have a large amount of bulk foods already at home at you're leaving that out?

I see how you could possibly squeeze a weeks worth of breakfast (cereal + milk + fruit) and lunch (bread + cheese + turkey) out of that if you're both on a diet, but where's dinner (crackers dipped in spaghetti sauce with a side of organic celery sounds a bit light) and what do you eat for the other week?
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Wed Aug 15, 2012 5:58 pm

Confused wrote:I don't know how he/she makes dinner, but it's usually some kind of noodle thing or something, like maybe a pasta side with some peas in it or spaghetti. Perhaps we already had enough pasta sides, but those are only $1.00 each and one will feed the two of use for a meal (after we add some frozen peas).


Ok, so you're mostly eating pasta, sure that's doable for pretty cheap though I still think your numbers look pretty low. Any diet that consists mostly of the fillers (pasta, rice, potatoes) is going to stretch a dollar pretty far especially if you don't use hardly any meat.

Confused wrote:Even with what appears to be a low grocery bill, it is still annoyingly high. Before I was married, I ate cereal for every meal every day. Each week was two bags of cereal and three gallons of milk. That was it. My weekly grocery bill was under $20.


I can't even believe you said that let alone imagining someone doing it. I hope you took a multi-vitamin and aren't prone to diabetes.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby hsv_climber » Wed Aug 15, 2012 6:02 pm

jenny345 wrote:Stores in high cost of living areas have to pay more for buildings / rent and employee wages which is built into the price of food. You can compare overall cost of living, including food costs, at sites like bestplace.net. If all food prices were identical in the 48 states then food costs would be 100 for every city, but guess what? They are not. New York city has a 121 food cost index. Fort Smith Arkansas rates 90.


I am sure that you can trust any Internet site that you like. But Denver, CO shows food index of 103 and has milk for $1.99 at kroger stores this week and my hometown has an index of 95 and gallon of milk costs $2.99 in kroger stores.
Like I wrote, see real prices for yourself - go to kroger.com and click on weekly ads for the kroger family stores that you want to compare.
Speaking of NY, prices that GRT2BOUTDOORS, who lives somewhere there, has posted almost identical to prices in my North Alabama area.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby livesoft » Wed Aug 15, 2012 6:03 pm

I once survived only on expired Twinkies and Hostess chocolate cupcakes for 2 weeks. Useful tidbit: Twinkies do get moldy.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby barnaclebob » Wed Aug 15, 2012 6:04 pm

Clearly_Irrational wrote:I can't even believe you said that let alone imagining someone doing it. I hope you took a multi-vitamin and aren't prone to diabetes.


A lot of cereals are fairly fortified with a lot of vitamins. I don't know if they have everything required but they have a pretty long list.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby livesoft » Wed Aug 15, 2012 6:05 pm

^ Consumer Reports tested cereals by feeding them to rats. The only tested cereal where the rats thrived and gained weight was Cheerios. That's good because Cheerios is a staple of the American toddler diet.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Wed Aug 15, 2012 6:11 pm

livesoft wrote:^ Consumer Reports tested cereals by feeding them to rats. The only tested cereal where the rats thrived and gained weight was Cheerios. That's good because Cheerios is a staple of the American toddler diet.


I used to love Honey Nut Cheerios as a kid. Nowadays I eat Fiber One Honey Clusters since it's somewhat less bad than the other choices but I'm trying to wean myself off of cereal completely despite it's convenience factor. My replacements so far include oatmeal (which as a bonus is cheaper and healther) and Crustless quiche.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby hsv_climber » Wed Aug 15, 2012 6:12 pm

Honey Nut Cheerios cereal is my favorite. I eat it every morning. Not sure either above finding about rats is good or bad for me.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Confused » Wed Aug 15, 2012 7:20 pm

Clearly_Irrational wrote:
Confused wrote:Where'd you get the $260? Even at $80 every other week, that's only $200 in the months with three "shopping Saturdays" as we refer to the Saturdays that we go to Walmart.


(40+80)/2 * 4.33 = 260 (just an estimate based on what you said)

I happen to have last week's receipt (and this will feed us for two weeks):

Confused wrote:Milk (2.28 x 4): 9.12
Spaghetti sauce: 0.98
Beef ravioli (0.87 x 2): 1.74 [and these two are not for eating, they're for putting into our emergency food supply]
Crackers: 2.18
Red pepper: 0.94
Turkey (1 pound of lunch meat): 3.98
Cheddar cheese: 4.23
Mozzeralla cheese: 2.18
Frozen blueberries: 3.23
Frozen blackberries: 3.88
Half and half: 3.88
Lemon: 0.58
Pretzel M&Ms: 8.98
Vanilla: 3.48
Cereal: 5.98
Bread: 1.18

Grocery total: $56.54

Now, to be all-inclusive, we usually spend a little more than that to get some vegetables but we didn't do that this time because my spouse picked up a basket of miscellaneous vegetables at the farmer's market for $13.


Ok, I'll bite, how the heck are you making 42 meals for two people out of that? No way is that 28,000 calories. (2000 x 2 x7)

Do you raise your own food at home and you're just not counting that? Possibly you have a large amount of bulk foods already at home at you're leaving that out?

I see how you could possibly squeeze a weeks worth of breakfast (cereal + milk + fruit) and lunch (bread + cheese + turkey) out of that if you're both on a diet, but where's dinner (crackers dipped in spaghetti sauce with a side of organic celery sounds a bit light) and what do you eat for the other week?


I tracked down my spouse's list of dinner plans for this week.

1. Salad
2. Pasta sides
3. Mac and cheese
4. Rice and beans
5. Pasta sides
6. Spaghetti
7. Pizza

How my spouse coordinates the grocery shopping with his/her cooking, I don't know. I found the previous shopping trip's grocery list, but I didn't find the receipt so I don't know the prices of each, but I checked my online account and that bill was $80.35 on 7/31. The first grocery list I mentioned is dated 8/13.

4 milks
Cream cheese
Butter
Eggs
Mozzarella cheese
Bread
Whipped topping
Frozen pizza
Honey
Mint extract
Pinto beans
Pasta sides
Black beans
Corn
Pepperoni
Lunch meat

Pam spray
Parchment paper
Toilet paper

But, when I checked online, apparently my spouse also spent $16.04 on something at a different grocery store in between those two. So we spent over the last month:

7/16: $47.77 (Walmart)
7/16: $39.76 (Costco)
7/31: $80.35 (Walmart)
8/7: $13.00 (Farmer's Market)
8/9: $16.04 (Allen's Grocery) [upon discussion with my spouse, this was a bunch of useless stuff like Otter Pops)
8/13: $81.83 (Walmart)

So that makes about $275 for a month, but since we just went shopping we should be good for the next 10 days as well.

We definitely don't have a large amount of bulk food already at home, but it appears, based on the last shopping list versus the meals this week, that there is still some stuff lying around from the previous trip. I know we have a bread maker, so we sometimes have homemade bread.

But I highly doubt I consume 2,000 calories a day.
Last edited by Confused on Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Sidney » Wed Aug 15, 2012 8:52 pm

I probably average about 2,200 a day and I am moderately active. Gym three days a week. Every once in a while I lose it and eat some peanut m&ms and have to put in more time on the treadmill.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Mudpuppy » Wed Aug 15, 2012 9:36 pm

Obviously, personal food choices are going to account for quite a bit of variance between the grocery bills of the different posters here. Since the OP has chosen the Paleo diet, that will incur a higher meat/dairy price premium over someone who has chosen a vegetarian diet or an omnivore diet. I personally know my costs will not compare well to the average single American because I can't digest a thing that comes from cattle and have difficulty with pork, which radically shifts my dietary options from the "norm" (I like to call myself a poultrarian since I have difficulty digesting non-poultry meats).

This is not the place to argue diets or quibble over how we each choose to feed ourselves. That is a highly personal choice that should not really become a cause for debate. However, one should be cognizant of the effects one's personal choices has on ones costs. Since Paleo means having a more meat-centric diet, this will drive up costs since meat is fairly expensive compared to beans or rice. What the OP needs to ask is if these costs are being too excessively driven up, e.g. are there less extravagant choices that will still support the dietary choice while not so strongly hitting the wallet. Again, the answer to that question won't come without a thorough inspection of what exactly is being purchased.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby LadyGeek » Wed Aug 15, 2012 9:37 pm

As a reminder, the topic is food costs. Discussions about diet and exercise are off-topic. See: Forum Policy

Medical Issues

Questions on medical issues are beyond the scope of the forum. If you are looking for medical information online, I'd like to suggest you start with the Top 100 List: Health Websites You Can Trust maintained by the Consumer and Patient Health Information section of the Medical Library Association.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Wed Aug 15, 2012 10:47 pm

Mudpuppy wrote:Obviously, personal food choices are going to account for quite a bit of variance between the grocery bills of the different posters here. Since the OP has chosen the Paleo diet, that will incur a higher meat/dairy price premium over someone who has chosen a vegetarian diet or an omnivore diet. I personally know my costs will not compare well to the average single American because I can't digest a thing that comes from cattle and have difficulty with pork, which radically shifts my dietary options from the "norm" (I like to call myself a poultrarian since I have difficulty digesting non-poultry meats).

This is not the place to argue diets or quibble over how we each choose to feed ourselves. That is a highly personal choice that should not really become a cause for debate. However, one should be cognizant of the effects one's personal choices has on ones costs. Since Paleo means having a more meat-centric diet, this will drive up costs since meat is fairly expensive compared to beans or rice. What the OP needs to ask is if these costs are being too excessively driven up, e.g. are there less extravagant choices that will still support the dietary choice while not so strongly hitting the wallet. Again, the answer to that question won't come without a thorough inspection of what exactly is being purchased.


Just FYI, I actually mentioned specifically that we're not doing the Paleo diet. (We eat rolled oats, whole wheat, Basmati rice and other cheap but healthy carb sources) We do however probably eat more protein than an average sedentary American couple, and I agree that is going to cost extra. We also eat a more than average amount of fruits & vegetables and avoid white flour and corn syrup; those choices cost extra as well and we're aware of that.

Thanks for everyone's feedback, it looks like our next step is to whip out the receipts and the spreadsheet and do some analysis. One of the better points mentioned above is that "sundries" tend to be overpriced at the grocery store, and we're going to take a hard look at that.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Mon Apr 22, 2013 3:50 pm

We've managed to bring our monthly grocery bill down another $100 by paying more attention to what cuts of meat we were buying, keeping a better eye on price cycles and making sure to ask if we should be buying an item at all given it's cost rather than just if it's a good price for that item.

Our restaurant bill has come down a bit as well since we often order one entree and split it now. Even when you add appetizers or a side salad that usually ends up being cheaper.

Right now I'm starting to break out the non-food items we buy at the grocery store to see if that's a significant cost source.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby reggiesimpson » Mon Apr 22, 2013 4:45 pm

$1090 just about covers our alcohol and the Coffee shops.
So who needs food?
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Re: Food Costs

Postby mlipps » Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:31 pm

Clearly_Irrational wrote:We've managed to bring our monthly grocery bill down another $100 by paying more attention to what cuts of meat we were buying, keeping a better eye on price cycles and making sure to ask if we should be buying an item at all given it's cost rather than just if it's a good price for that item.

Our restaurant bill has come down a bit as well since we often order one entree and split it now. Even when you add appetizers or a side salad that usually ends up being cheaper.

Right now I'm starting to break out the non-food items we buy at the grocery store to see if that's a significant cost source.


Thanks for reporting back! :) Looking forward to seeing what you find out. Our spending crept up a bit in December so for Jan & Feb we kept all our receipts and just quickly glanced through them. A lot of stores actually break out the things you buy into sections for you, so it's not as bad as I expected. Honestly, just keeping your mind focused on a target amount for the month seems to help us a lot. Plus, reviewing our receipts helped me realize where our money goes the most, so I really keep an eye for sales on those items. For us, it's cheese, cheese, and more cheese, so I stocked up at the BOGO sale this week!
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Re: Food Costs

Postby jay22 » Tue Apr 23, 2013 8:56 am

What is your ratio of fruits and vegetables vs meat every month? On a monthly basis, we spend 80% on fruits and vegetables and rarely go over $175 every month for 2 adults. That includes only food and not cleaning supplies, toiletries and such.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby MikeWillRetire » Tue Apr 23, 2013 10:20 am

I've tracked our food and sundries spending for the last few months, and it averages close to $1900 per month for a family of 4! That should make the OP feel better! Our problem comes down to convenience foods, eating out, and not bargain shopping.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby 123 » Tue Apr 23, 2013 3:46 pm

From my years of grocery shopping the two product lines that really up the "food" bill are tobacco products and alcohol (liquor, wine, beer) in the "food" bill. If you do any entertaining at home the items you purchase to accommodate that can up the bill even thought it's not part of "your" daily regimen.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby tuckeverlasting » Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:19 pm

$250-300 a month for groceries only, one person. No sundries included, rarely eat out. Almost everything is organic including the non-vegetable items. Food is one of the few areas where I do not stint on costs (within reason) as I believe food is directly related to health. I did not find a vegan diet which I did for 3 years was significantly cheaper, and the high carbs sent my blood sugars soaring for the first time in my life, so no more of that.

I could save a little money by eating what I consider inferior foods, but why would I want to? YMMV!
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Re: Food Costs

Postby lightheir » Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:08 pm

I think a lot of folks here are not fairly comparing your bills to theirs - you are including more that just consumable groceries in your bill, and are including household items. Depending on what those household items are, they can really inflate your grocery bill so it looks abnormally large compared to a pure food bill. I did see your listed ones above, but I suspect in other weeks those sundries cost more than that. I know that whenever I walk into my Rite-Aid to pick up nonfood accessories like toilet paper, etc. , (or order them from Soap.com), the total is always surprisingly high, often nearly equaling the grocery bill despite being very few items.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby frugaltype » Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:43 pm

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


Yes, I'm saving an astounding amount of money since I went on a diet.

For me, no fast food places, no coffee shops, a reasonably priced restaurant about once a month, no meat. That saves a lot.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby lightheir » Thu Apr 25, 2013 12:27 pm

Actually, the single biggest way to save on food costs is to cut out eating out. Even compared to fast food, it's almost always cheaper to cook your own food - even if you're not skimping on grocery quality. $7-8 for fast food per person is pretty typical nowadays, and $10-$20 for a low-end sitdown place. Make it a family of 3, and you're talking $24 just for low-quality fast food. That same $24 would get you rice, TENDERLOIN steak, and greens/carrots, all at excellent quality.

I can easily afford eating out at fine restaurants whenever I please now, even every day if I want, but I now take a long hard thought before I do that, as one outing for two at the same caliber that I can cook will cost me minimum $50 for two, as well as the hassles of going out. For that much, I can buy the most premium of meats,vegetables, and spices, and still come out way ahead.

Even the time savings is nullified when you're talking a family.

The only circumstance where it's a closer gap is if you're living single, but even then, the quality of the food you'll get from making your own vs eating fast food calories is worth avoiding it.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Savvy » Thu Apr 25, 2013 1:01 pm

Just wanted to post by saying that you are spending ~$27+ per day on groceries!

Plus, if you eat out sometimes, that sometimes doesn't include dinner! If you add up the costs of each item in a day that you ate (estimates) I cannot imagine how it comes to $27. Granted, there are a few toiletry items but still.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Thu Apr 25, 2013 1:33 pm

We're well aware that a vegetarian lifestyle is cheaper, thanks to all who recommended that but we're not going to switch to a meatless diet.

I think our eating out costs are reasonable. In general we eat our about once a week for dinner (together) and probably about once a week for lunch (separately). We're happy with that level of spending though we of course acknowledge that never eating out would be cheaper.

Currently I'm focusing my efforts on figuring out how much spending is on "non-food" items we buy at the grocery store. (Dog food, toiletries, cleaning products, etc.) I suspect that's a reasonably large number, say $100 a month or more and may be distorting the comparisons. After subtracting that from our now reduced average compared to the original posting we're probably looking at something like $10 per day per person.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby guitarguy » Thu Apr 25, 2013 3:34 pm

First off...$65/m on fast food?? :oops: Come on now. How contradictory is that to buying whole grains, buying lots of veggies and fruit, and choosing healthier options?? I think we maybe spend $65 a year on fast food (not including pizza and Chinese food...those are our vices.)

Secondly...half a cow?? :shock: All that red meat is also very contradictory to eating healthy.

Third...coming from someone with 2 dogs: knock out the canned food and bones. They don't need canned food at all. We buy new toys/bones about twice a year. Nylabones are great and last a long time. Second, the ingredients on that Atta Boy dog food are horrible. FWIW, Costco has Kirkland dog food which is about $27 for a 40lb bag. No byproducts or other junk in there either. Extremely well priced for the quality of the ingredients.

EDIT: No disrespect...I'm just sort of a stickler for what I feed my dogs.

Do you buy a lot of pre-packed or frozen foods? Those can be crazy expensive. So can cereal. $4+ for (most of the time) a box of sugary [stuff - admin LadyGeek]? No thanks.

Other than that I'm kinda stumped. Our bill for 2 adults and 2 dogs is between $450-600 per month for food/toiletries/supplies/etc, and we even buy relatively expensive stuff like Greek Yogurt, egg whites, berries, some organic stuff, etc, regularly. What contributes to the months where we're above $500 is needing tissues, laundry detergent, etc. We buy that in bulk every couple months or whatever and it ramps up the bill quickly.

Our restaurant (including takeout) bills are around $100/m. That's maybe twice eating out at reasonably priced restaurants and twice having takeout per month.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Thu Apr 25, 2013 4:23 pm

guitarguy wrote:First off...$65/m on fast food?? :oops: Come on now. How contradictory is that to buying whole grains, buying lots of veggies and fruit, and choosing healthier options?? I think we maybe spend $65 a year on fast food (not including pizza and Chinese food...those are our vices.)


Well, I categorize anything that isn't a sit down restaurant as "fast food" even if it's something reasonable like a won ton noodle soup or chicken wraps. For two people for a month that means that we're spending about $7.55 each a week on that, essentially one on the go lunch. Given our schedules I don't think that's out of line.

guitarguy wrote:Secondly...half a cow?? :shock: All that red meat is also very contradictory to eating healthy.


Well, I don't have a good estimate on exactly how long that lasted us last time. We pretty much always have some sort of meat at dinner but generally rotate between chicken, pork, beef and seafood. We bought our last half in 2010 and while the hamburger and most steaks are long gone some of the roasts are still available. We're scheduled to buy another half in August. It didn't really change our beef consumption levels any from what we were buying in the store though I like to think it was somewhat healthier and we did get some nicer cuts than usual. Overall cost was roughly the same.

guitarguy wrote:Third...coming from someone with 2 dogs: knock out the canned food and bones. They don't need canned food at all. We buy new toys/bones about twice a year. Nylabones are great and last a long time.


We feed one can of wet food a week as a treat and buy enough toys/bones so that the basket is full and the younger dog never has to chew up the furniture but that doesn't really run us that much money. We buy the toys at thrift stores for the most part.

guitarguy wrote:Second, the ingredients on that Atta Boy dog food are horrible. FWIW, Costco has Kirkland dog food which is about $27 for a 40lb bag. No byproducts or other junk in there either. Extremely well priced for the quality of the ingredients.


We pay about $10 a bag for Atta Boy so I don't think switching to Kirkland is in the cards right now though you're probably right about it being better ingredients.

guitarguy wrote:Do you buy a lot of pre-packed or frozen foods? Those can be crazy expensive. So can cereal. $4+ for (most of the time) a box of sugary [stuff - admin LadyGeek]? No thanks.


No, most pre-packed stuff doesn't meet our health requirements (No white flour or sugars in the first three ingredients). We do buy some frozen vegetables but that's not bad cost wise. We don't buy cereal, I switched to rolled oats about two years ago which is crazy cheap.

guitarguy wrote:Other than that I'm kinda stumped. Our bill for 2 adults and 2 dogs is between $450-600 per month for food/toiletries/supplies/etc, and we even buy relatively expensive stuff like Greek Yogurt, egg whites, berries, some organic stuff, etc, regularly. What contributes to the months where we're above $500 is needing tissues, laundry detergent, etc. We buy that in bulk every couple months or whatever and it ramps up the bill quickly.


Well, I suspect part of the reason is that our bulk carb intake is lower than normal. We eat very little pasta or rice (maybe once a month each), and a moderate amount of potatoes and whole wheat grain products.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby guitarguy » Thu Apr 25, 2013 4:53 pm

Clearly_Irrational wrote:
guitarguy wrote:First off...$65/m on fast food?? :oops: Come on now. How contradictory is that to buying whole grains, buying lots of veggies and fruit, and choosing healthier options?? I think we maybe spend $65 a year on fast food (not including pizza and Chinese food...those are our vices.)


Well, I categorize anything that isn't a sit down restaurant as "fast food" even if it's something reasonable like a won ton noodle soup or chicken wraps. For two people for a month that means that we're spending about $7.55 each a week on that, essentially one on the go lunch. Given our schedules I don't think that's out of line.


I'm not saying anything you're doing is "out of line." You wanted to know how to cut spending here...this one is a big (and obvious) one. :wink:

Clearly_Irrational wrote:
guitarguy wrote:Secondly...half a cow?? :shock: All that red meat is also very contradictory to eating healthy.


Well, I don't have a good estimate on exactly how long that lasted us last time. We pretty much always have some sort of meat at dinner but generally rotate between chicken, pork, beef and seafood. We bought our last half in 2010 and while the hamburger and most steaks are long gone some of the roasts are still available. We're scheduled to buy another half in August. It didn't really change our beef consumption levels any from what we were buying in the store though I like to think it was somewhat healthier and we did get some nicer cuts than usual. Overall cost was roughly the same.


Wow...I had no idea meat would even last that long. What is the shelf life on frozen meat anyway?? A half cow just sounds...yikes...to me. I don't really know why. We only eat red meat a few times a month, but to each their own.

Clearly_Irrational wrote:
guitarguy wrote:Third...coming from someone with 2 dogs: knock out the canned food and bones. They don't need canned food at all. We buy new toys/bones about twice a year. Nylabones are great and last a long time.


We feed one can of wet food a week as a treat and buy enough toys/bones so that the basket is full and the younger dog never has to chew up the furniture but that doesn't really run us that much money. We buy the toys at thrift stores for the most part.


Again you wanted to know how to cut the bills...cut the canned food. A small dent I know, but an easy one. For a "treat", try mixing in some hot water with the dry food. Dogs will love it as much as canned food.

Regarding the toys, you don't need a whole bucket of new toys every month to keep Jr. from eating the couch or the table legs. Keep about 4-5 toys out at a time, and switch them out for different ones every day or 2. This will keep them from being bored with what they have, and you certainly won't need to buy new toys every month. They can get bored with 100 toys if they have access to all of them all the time.

P.S. If you're seriously/literally having a chewing problem, some more exercise and activity combined with crate training will solve your problem much better and more permanently than new toys.

Clearly_Irrational wrote:
guitarguy wrote:Second, the ingredients on that Atta Boy dog food are horrible. FWIW, Costco has Kirkland dog food which is about $27 for a 40lb bag. No byproducts or other junk in there either. Extremely well priced for the quality of the ingredients.


We pay about $10 a bag for Atta Boy so I don't think switching to Kirkland is in the cards right now though you're probably right about it being better ingredients.


No probably about it!! :mrgreen: But...if your dogs are healthy, have healthy coats, and (forgive the grossness of this) have good solid stools, then they're getting by fine on it.

Clearly_Irrational wrote:
guitarguy wrote:Other than that I'm kinda stumped. Our bill for 2 adults and 2 dogs is between $450-600 per month for food/toiletries/supplies/etc, and we even buy relatively expensive stuff like Greek Yogurt, egg whites, berries, some organic stuff, etc, regularly. What contributes to the months where we're above $500 is needing tissues, laundry detergent, etc. We buy that in bulk every couple months or whatever and it ramps up the bill quickly.


Well, I suspect part of the reason is that our bulk carb intake is lower than normal. We eat very little pasta or rice (maybe once a month each), and a moderate amount of potatoes and whole wheat grain products.


Maybe part of it. We eat pasta or rice regularly, but it's not like we're living on it to keep the bills down. So I suspect there is still something more at play to yield an $800/m grocery bill.

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Re: Food Costs

Postby frugaltype » Thu Apr 25, 2013 5:02 pm

Clearly_Irrational wrote:We're well aware that a vegetarian lifestyle is cheaper, thanks to all who recommended that but we're not going to switch to a meatless diet.


You might try one dinner a month meatless. I think you will be surprised at how good this can taste.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Thu Apr 25, 2013 5:14 pm

guitarguy wrote:Wow...I had no idea meat would even last that long. What is the shelf life on frozen meat anyway?? A half cow just sounds...yikes...to me. I don't really know why. We only eat red meat a few times a month, but to each their own.


It depends on how well it's wrapped. In plastic plus butcher paper it seems to last a long time.

guitarguy wrote:Regarding the toys, you don't need a whole bucket of new toys every month to keep Jr. from eating the couch or the table legs.


Wow, no that's not what we're doing. We have a small basket that is essentially the dog's toybox. We only buy new toys when the old ones are so chewed to shreds there isn't much left. It depends on the toy, we have some now that are several years old, and some that are destroyed the same night. In general we spend less than $10 a month on this though I haven't bothered tracking exactly how much since it was such a small amount.

guitarguy wrote:Maybe part of it. We eat pasta or rice regularly, but it's not like we're living on it to keep the bills down. So I suspect there is still something more at play to yield an $800/m grocery bill.


Well, as I mentioned in my update we're down to about $725/mo now and that includes probably $100+ of sundries. I'm still breaking down the numbers on that one.
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Re: Food Costs

Postby Clearly_Irrational » Thu Apr 25, 2013 5:20 pm

frugaltype wrote:
Clearly_Irrational wrote:We're well aware that a vegetarian lifestyle is cheaper, thanks to all who recommended that but we're not going to switch to a meatless diet.


You might try one dinner a month meatless. I think you will be surprised at how good this can taste.


Well, I'd rather eat more than just a large bowl of vegetables and I'm not interested in increasing my empty carb calorie count so I'm not seeing how that's going to end up very well but thanks for the suggestion. I freely acknowledge that if we consumed a lot more pasta and rice our bill would go down. Given that we both have metabolisms that love carbs our waistlines would also expand to match. If it was just me I'd probably eat more rice but she hates the stuff since they had a ton of it growing up. That said we eat some pretty hefty portions of vegetables now, which is part of the reason our bill is higher than average. (healthy vegetables are more expensive than wheat or corn based carbs)
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