We have a grocery problem... [Household budget]

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mojave
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We have a grocery problem... [Household budget]

Post by mojave » Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:06 am

We need some help and the first step is admitting we have a problem. :-(

There are two of us in a household, no kids or pets. We are frugal with everything except groceries and food. We live in the Chicago area so somewhat HCOL. Looking at mint.com, we average over the last 12 months:

- $230 a week on groceries (food and anything else from a grocery store - makeup, personal hygiene items, cleaning supplies, pharmacy/Walgreens stops)
- $90 a week on fast food (cafeteria, coffee, subway, etc)
- $60 a week on restaurants (some months we don't go out, others we go out a few times, also some of this may be miscategorized and should be with fast food)

The cause of this is we both work full-time and commute 2+ hours each day. I usually make dinner every night or every other night with leftovers in between, but if it is something he doesn't want he will make something else which leads to waste and then a lost meal for another day, so often I'll have to go back to the grocery store. Additionally, he will make a few stops a week at the grocery store and grab snacks or anything else he wants. I am guilty of doing this every once in a while, but he does it more frequently than I do.

For a while I was shopping at Aldi which helped, but my husband refuses to eat their meat and produce and I don't care to shop at two grocery stores each week, especially since meat and produce is most of the grocery bill.

My husband's job is very active with long days and he has the appetite of a hungry bear (he doesn't gain weight so he is not over eating) so he eats A LOT.

We live totally fine on our income and are able to save every week - but we want to start a family soon with me either being home or working part time. I may do PeaPod if that is the case, it might be more expensive prices but it will also help with planning and avoid impulse buying which seems to be our biggest issue.

So my questions are - how do our averages look for 2 people in a somewhat HCOL, and how does it compare to your household? Also, any nuggets of wisdom in tackling this problem would be welcome, but convenience is hard to dodge with our long days.

crake
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by crake » Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:18 am

It sounds like you've got a good handle on what the problem is. You just need the motivation to be able to fix it. I am also in a family of two and our grocery bill probably hovers around 100 dollars a month and we rarely eat out. This is less than half of yours but I still consider it somewhat high and we often splurge on good produce, cheese, etc.

The best advice I can give you is plan in advance. On Sunday plan your meals for the rest of the week including breakfast and lunch. Buy the food you need for those meals and stick to the plan. If you can manage this one task I wouldn't be surprised if you can cut your costs in half with little effort.

dolphinsaremammals
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by dolphinsaremammals » Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:20 am

Those frequent pit stops in the grocery stores eat up money. I am trying to stay at one grocery store visit a week.

It sounds like your husband is a significant factor in the extra costs. How serious is he about controlling costs?

How about offloading some of the work onto him? Why isn't he making dinner half the time?

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by dolphinsaremammals » Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:22 am

crake wrote:I am also in a family of two and our grocery bill probably hovers around 100 dollars a month and we rarely eat out.
She said $230 a week, not month. Are you guys seriously eating on $12 a week per person?

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mojave
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by mojave » Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:28 am

dolphinsaremammals wrote:Those frequent pit stops in the grocery stores eat up money. I am trying to stay at one grocery store visit a week.

It sounds like your husband is a significant factor in the extra costs. How serious is he about controlling costs?

How about offloading some of the work onto him? Why isn't he making dinner half the time?
He's not a cooker - he can do easy things like things from a box and can grill, but he does not know how to make big meals (his dinner almost every night when he was a bachelor was hamburger helper) and we cannot grill at our apartment. He makes breakfast though.

Rupert
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by Rupert » Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:32 am

It's hard for two people who work and have long commutes to prepare home-cooked meals. I wouldn't stress about it unless it is causing you actual financial problems. That being said, you could save a lot of money by just brown-bagging lunch and cutting out the fast food. You'd also be healthier. Alternatively, go out for a nicer lunch and bring leftovers home each night to eat for dinner. That's what I did when I was a young professional with no kids. I just ordered more lunch than I could possibly eat, and I ate it again for dinner. Never cooked at home.

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by davebo » Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:34 am

I also live in the Chicago suburbs and recently came to the conclusion that our grocery bills are WAY too high. We primarily shop at Marianos, which I guess would be considered kinda middle of the road in terms of price. As I started to analyze things, I realized that I need to shop a little bit smarter. Marianos is the type of place where you can get a good deal on Grapes one day and then totally overpay on ziplock bags (I'm assuming most grocery stores are like that).

We spend around $215/week at grocery stores and $50/week at restaurants, but we also have 5 in our family (3 young kids, so not 5 big eaters). If your husband eats as much as you say, then you should be shopping at Costco and try to trim the bill down by buying in bulk. And if your grocery bills are so high, then why are you still spending $90/week on fast food?

I used to poke fun at people that went to multiple stores per month, but I do it now. I shop at Aldi for frozen fruit, I buy household items/meat/produce at Costco, and I buy odds/ends at Marianos.

Gill
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by Gill » Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:42 am

Your figures come to nearly $20,000 a year. Its's hard to tell much from your figures because you lump everything together from prescriptions to snacks. Regardless, the total seems extremely high. We are also a couple who live quite well and we don't spend half of what you are spending. You just need to plug the leaks.
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The Wizard
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by The Wizard » Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:43 am

Step one is to separate out all the non-food items in that $230, along with alcoholic beverages as well.
That could get it down to $180 a week for two, which is still a bit high.
I buy a fair amount of SEAFOOD at my grocery store: lobsters @ $5/lb; steamer clams @ $4/lb; swordfish @ $9/lb most recently. But I've passed on the scallops and halibut around $18/lb for right now. So I look for comparative bargains.

In reality, I'm not too concerned about what I spend on groceries since it's quite less than eating similar food in a restaurant. But I think it varies between $50 and $80 a week for one depending on:
1) whether I'm eating up stuff from my freezer/pantry vs restocking it
2) whether I'm eating lunch out more that week
3) whether I'm at the GF's place for a few days vs she at mine...
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anonforthis
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by anonforthis » Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:44 am

We are family of 4 (2 toddlers) and we spend $420 a month. I shop at Asian markets for veggies and fruits. For meat, cheese, and milk I shop at Kroger or Costco. I shop for groceries Friday night. Saturday morning, I wash/chop the fruits and veggies. Then I label them with a marker like this: Monday: broccoli and beef stir fry, Tuesday: lasagna and so on. I marinate all the meat and label them also. I have a menu on the refrigerator for that week for each day. If my husband doesn’t like lasagna on Tuesday, then I will make something else on the menu and cook lasagna on Thursday or Friday. I found this system works well for us. We don’t do take out or go out to eat because of it.

Gill
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by Gill » Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:45 am

In an earlier post you talked about your husband smoking. Does this include cigarettes also?
Gill

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by jlawrence01 » Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:50 am

I think that Chicagoans is one of the most competitive grocery markets in the United States. I am paying a LOT MORE in Ohio and Tucson since the markets I am in have very limited competition.

In Chicago, I do nearly all my shopping in Aldi and local independents like Eurofresh and Joe Caputo's. Aldi gets most of my business EXCEPT meats and produce. The ONLY meat I buy at Aldi is the German-sourced sausages that are in the stores this week.

The local independents sell great produce that is a fraction of the price of Jewel and the latest reincarnation of Dominick's (Mariano's). They also sell some great baked goods from smaller bakeries.

If you can't hit two or three markets a week, you won't get the best deals. And selection.

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by Gropes & Ray » Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:53 am

I eat a lot of meat, and Sam's Club has really helped me keep those costs down. The meat is pretty good, and it costs about half of what it does in the grocery store, partially because I buy large cuts and cut them down myself. Also, I enjoy cabbage, and it is cheap. But I don't eat rice, beans or pasta and I rarely eat potatoes, so my vegetable bills can get high because I'm not eating starchy fillers. Things that drive up my grocery bill: soda, precooked foods, fancy cheeses. Convenience items tend to cost more per meal than fresh foods. For example, a microwavable bowl of creamed spinach at my local store costs $7. For $7, I could buy a mountain of fresh spinach and a quart of cream.

The Wizard
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by The Wizard » Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:53 am

dolphinsaremammals wrote:Those frequent pit stops in the grocery stores eat up money. I am trying to stay at one grocery store visit a week...
Oh come now, you know that's not really true.
It could be true in my case that I'd spend more on GASOLINE for the (six mile?) RT to my favorite supermarket, but I usually combine trips to the other end of town. If I really NEEDED to limit my food shopping to once per week, I could probably do it, but that would require me to do abnormal things, like plan ahead for the week and make lists.
And some people might shop the bargains at two separate supermarkets...
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mojave
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by mojave » Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:57 am

davebo wrote:I also live in the Chicago suburbs and recently came to the conclusion that our grocery bills are WAY too high. We primarily shop at Marianos, which I guess would be considered kinda middle of the road in terms of price. As I started to analyze things, I realized that I need to shop a little bit smarter. Marianos is the type of place where you can get a good deal on Grapes one day and then totally overpay on ziplock bags (I'm assuming most grocery stores are like that).

We spend around $215/week at grocery stores and $50/week at restaurants, but we also have 5 in our family (3 young kids, so not 5 big eaters). If your husband eats as much as you say, then you should be shopping at Costco and try to trim the bill down by buying in bulk. And if your grocery bills are so high, then why are you still spending $90/week on fast food?

I used to poke fun at people that went to multiple stores per month, but I do it now. I shop at Aldi for frozen fruit, I buy household items/meat/produce at Costco, and I buy odds/ends at Marianos.
Yes. We live in a rural area and only have a Jewel and an Aldi nearby. I have a Marianos and a Joe Caputos by work though, which is where I try to go during the week after work. Jewel's prices are terrible.

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gardemanger
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by gardemanger » Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:57 am

The obvious point to be got out of the way is that the two partners in the household need to get on the same page about controlling these costs, the first step being acknowledging that there is a problem.

Grocery delivery services can be very useful in a situation like yours...if you are careful about fees and charges and use the delivery process as an opportunity to shop in a more systematic way. No question you will pay a premium for groceries being delivered, but it could still be an improvement over your current situation if it reduces waste (of time, money and food) and allows you to shop in a more systematic and planned way. Sitting in your kitchen with a laptop and taking your time can be a remarkably sane way to shop, but it can enable impulse purchases and overspending too.

Delivery services vary in how much they charge you. If you want stuff delivered in an hour or two you'll likely pay the maximum. The type of service where you place the order a day or two before and select a delivery window tends to run cheaper. If you use a service regularly you'll likely get "free delivery" offers whenever they need to make sure their trucks are filled, which can be quite often.

If you use a grocery delivery service for fresh produce, proceed with caution. Results here can be very mixed. I've had excellent fresh produce from delivery services and I've had the opposite - sometimes from the same company. Do NOT hesitate to write and demand a refund if you ever get anything really subpar. If there's a "What's good right now" feature for produce on the site you use, take advantage of it. (I finally started paying attention to the star ratings for produce on FreshDirect and it turns out they actually mean something.)

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prudent
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by prudent » Fri Sep 19, 2014 11:58 am

Just have two people in our home also. Our cure for overspending on food was to (almost) always make enough for two meals. That means leftovers a lot of the time. Our meals are simple, though. No 3- or 4-course meals. Meat or pasta plus a veg is pretty typical for dinner.

I don't cook and she doesn't enjoy cooking, so the deal is I will eat whatever she makes and will eat leftovers without complaint. But she doesn't make things I don't like, because she's wonderful like that. A couple times a month we might be out of leftovers and she didn't have time to make something, and I'll go for fast food or a pizza. I do not stop and buy snacks ever and I don't come home at dinnertime and say I've already eaten fast food somewhere.

Even allowing 20% for a HCOL area and subtracting $30/week from your grocery bill to compensate for the non-food items you buy there, I'd say were spending about 60% less than you are. Aldi's vs. another supermarket isn't going to make that much of a dent for your situation, I think. She shops once or twice a week at most, I do not do any shopping unless she asks me to run out and buy something she needs right away.

I would sooner acquire control over impulse spending rather than paying more for someone to bring my food so I don't have to be in a store. Do any of your supermarkets allow online ordering for later pickup? One near us does and all you have to do is call when you arrive and they bring it to your car and you pay right there. They charge a flat $5.

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by midareff » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:00 pm

Two here as well.... average $450 a month at the grocery store which probably includes a half dozen bottles of wine. Both retired and a couple of lunches and dinners out a week, so we spend more on meals out than the grocery store. Seafood is a regular, and lot's of veggies. She doesn't eat red meat, once or twice a month for me if that often.

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by sramina » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:01 pm

A great way to save money during the week would be to cook large meals on Sunday and then take them for lunch or eat them for dinner throughout the week. Some people like to use a slowcooker because they are pretty low maintenance and easy to use. Pick some things that you really like (discuss it with your significant other). It is important to note that you may be very unhappy cooking and it may be worth the money to you to eat out and get fast food regularly; everyone is different.

Trader Joe's has some pretty good frozen meals as well. These would be good to take for lunches or have for quick dinners at home. Sometimes when we don't feel like cooking we will make those bags of Indian food that take 1 minute to eat up and pour it over rice or Cous Cous.
Last edited by sramina on Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

The Wizard
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by The Wizard » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:03 pm

Mojave, I'm wondering if there's much WASTE in your food consumption.
Do you use leftovers efficiently either as snacks or in another meal? Or do they sit for a few days and then get tossed?
That can add up...
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by playtothebeat » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:16 pm

I'm in the exact same boat
I live in Orange County, and we have a family of 3, including my wife and a near-one month old son. We are spending around $1200/month on all food expenses (groceries, baby food, restaurants, etc). I've tried my hardest to cut it down, but really couldn't shave off more than 100 or 200 tops. I could definitely eliminate all restaurants, but that's not fun. I enjoy cooking, but once or twice a week we get sushi or pizza - with a toddler in the house, we don't always have the time to cook..
I buy some organic stuff, but not a lot. I eat a lot of seafood, but generally buy it at costco.
I'm pretty good about not wasting food, but have noticed that I have a habit of having a revolving amount of food in the freezer - I.e. it seems like before I run out of what I currently have, I'm back in the grocery store buying something else. Eliminating that could help save some money.

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BL
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by BL » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:19 pm

There are good suggestions here, but I suggest you study what you are considering food. If in addition to snacks, fast food, and eating out, you are buying lots of non-food items including cigarettes, liquor, beauty, cleaning, and the like, you do need to be aware of that and perhaps separate it out in analyzing what you are spending for food. Hopefully when you stay at home you can spend the time to make good basic foods, and maybe brown bag lunches that might be more healthful as well as cheaper and tastier.

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by runner9 » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:20 pm

I find going to the grocery store multiple times a week helps us keep our food waste down, as we don't have uncooked food going bad. It does help to have a local discount chain, a regional supermarket chain, and Aldi within 2 miles of our house and 1 mile of each other.

Last night I went to the local discount chain and bough 4 bananas for 38 cents a pound and a bag of Dole iceberg lettuce for 99 cents. Total bill: $1.65 and for sure going to get used.

We do most of the weekly shopping on the weekend, hitting at least 2 and sometimes 3 of the three stores named above.

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by nelson1015 » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:22 pm

We're in the same boat. I can never get my total food costs under $1,000-$1,200 per month for a family of 2, now 3. This past year that has included diapers, formula, baby food, etc but still seems high to me. We eat out a fair amount, eat some fast food, drink a lot of coffee and also order delivery. =x

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by The Wizard » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:26 pm

One way to deal with this problem is to fly to Maui for a couple weeks in a rented condo. Buy groceries at the local Foodland supermarket for half of your meals or so.
Then when you get back home, SMILE at how much more reasonable food prices are here.
(Sidenote: I'm aware that the Costco in Kahalui is where many locals bargain shop, but it's not a feasible 10-minute excursion from many parts of the island...)
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by The Wizard » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:31 pm

runner9 wrote:I find going to the grocery store multiple times a week helps us keep our food waste down, as we don't have uncooked food going bad...
Good point.
Whenever I get live lobster or clams, they hit the cooking pot that same evening. Corn on the cob is better without aging also...
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:39 pm

Family of 4 here - a year we were running about $280 mth, now we're running close to $400 - prices have definitely gone up for milk, meat, fish, chicken, cheese. Eggs are about the same, so is bread. Fresh fruits and vegetables, cooking oils have gone up as well. We don't shop processed foods too much - value isn't there unless we are in a real time pinch. Paper goods are up, health and beauty aids are also up in price. We rarely go out - so toss in $300 a year there. I don't patronize outside food places at work - we brown bag it when we can. Some days it gets old, but it's a small sacrifice in the grand scheme of things.
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mojave
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by mojave » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:40 pm

Thanks everyone, so many very helpful tips and suggestions. I think showing the annual spend will be a shock to my husband and hopefully will get him more on board with fixing this.

It will be different when I'm home more, whether it be part time or full time. I don't mind cooking, I hate the planning but that is because I work full time and am gone 10 hours a day. Plus, I buy lunch more than my husband does, he usually brings his lunch.

Just this weekend we were at a wedding and I was the DD. The following day was a Bears game. The bartender joked to me with my husband standing there "so when he's laying on the couch watching the Bears game you'll have dinner for him at 6:30 for the game?" or something along those lines. My husband got a little huffy and said to him "I don't EXPECT her to make dinner for me".

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by barnaclebob » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:45 pm

how much of your shopping occurs around the perimeter of the grocery store vs down the aisles? Thats a big cost indicator.

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mojave
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by mojave » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:55 pm

barnaclebob wrote:how much of your shopping occurs around the perimeter of the grocery store vs down the aisles? Thats a big cost indicator.
Mostly in the perimeter. The only thing I buy in the aisle is frozen pizza, bread, coffee and mac & cheese :)

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Clearly_Irrational
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by Clearly_Irrational » Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:59 pm

Grocery prices vary quite a bit from region to region. A cost of living calculator shows that the Chicago, IL area is about 6% cheaper than the Portland, OR area where we live. We're both active working adults so our numbers should be somewhat comparable (weekly numbers for direct comparison purposes):

Groceries $147
Home Supplies $22
Restaurants $47
Fast Food $34
Farm Food $8
Alcohol $6
Coffee Shops $7

We mostly shop at Winco (a low price grocery chain) with a bit of Walmart and Fred Meyers as necessary. We follow a low glycemic index diet so that raises costs.

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by Philociraptor » Fri Sep 19, 2014 1:14 pm

My wife and I spend a bit under $500 per month, almost entirely shopping the perimeter of the store (non-starchy produce, meat, eggs). We don't snack, we just make meals big enough so that we only eat a brought-from-home lunch and made-at-home dinner. Every meal has 2+ servings of protein and veggies in it. What was on your last few grocery receipts? It sounds like there may be a lot of junk you don't need on there.

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by newbie001 » Fri Sep 19, 2014 1:37 pm

I second sramina's suggestion of a slow cooker. You can spend less than 5 minutes putting a meal in the slow cooker, let it cook while you are at work, and come home to an inexpensive, delicious, healthy meal. I make large portions in mine and just eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. Rinse repeat.

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mojave
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by mojave » Fri Sep 19, 2014 1:45 pm

newbie001 wrote:I second sramina's suggestion of a slow cooker. You can spend less than 5 minutes putting a meal in the slow cooker, let it cook while you are at work, and come home to an inexpensive, delicious, healthy meal. I make large portions in mine and just eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. Rinse repeat.
I might seriously consider this one more, especially with fall and winter impending - my husband loves the slow cooker (so no issue getting him to want to eat it) and I'm trying to get more meat and less carbs in my diet.

One problem I find I have is keeping meat fresh, that is part of why I find myself having to make multiple stops during the week. Because of my husband's appetite and activity level we (or, he) have meat every day.

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by TSR » Fri Sep 19, 2014 1:47 pm

mojave wrote:
barnaclebob wrote:how much of your shopping occurs around the perimeter of the grocery store vs down the aisles? Thats a big cost indicator.
Mostly in the perimeter. The only thing I buy in the aisle is frozen pizza, bread, coffee and mac & cheese :)
The "perimeter rule" is often cited for healthy eating, but I'd encourage you to rethink this just a little. You can make a delicious meal for two with just a can of diced tomatoes, an onion, some whole-wheat pasta, and some spices -- most of this would come from the "aisles." The slow-cooker suggestion is great as well. If you slow-cook chick peas or black beans, they taste infinitely better than they do in a can, and it's a hearty form of protein and fiber. Make up some Cuban beans and rice and you guys will have lunch for a week.

Good luck!

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by investor1 » Fri Sep 19, 2014 1:49 pm

Switch to cash. Split the cash up between the two of you each week. If you are watching your roll shrink as the week goes by, you will likely change your behavior and spend less.

I also go to the grocery store frequently since I'm bad about letting food go to waste (I tend to eat out a lot). Watching the sales flyers lowered my grocery bill. I usually just download them on my phone before I decide to go to the store so I know what to buy there versus what can wait a day or two when I'm at another store.

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by epitomist » Fri Sep 19, 2014 2:03 pm

We are a family of 5 that includes three kids that are 10 and under. For a while our grocery bill ran about $1,500 per month but we've gotten that down to about $1,100 per month. I've stopped trying to get my wife to get it any lower - doesn't seem worth the effort or the trade-offs. After a certain point, I'd rather focus on salary growth than expense reduction.

We buy little meat, but we do buy things like organic milk ($7 per gallon instead of $4) because we don't want to load our kids up on added hormones, antibiotics and other things that are not in organic milk.

We also buy a lot of fresh ingredients and try to avoid canned goods that tend to have a whole day's supply of sodium in one or two servings.

Who knows what the net effect on life expectancy and quality of life will be long term? I don't know for sure, but it seems like a worthy and reasonable investment to me.

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by Gropes & Ray » Fri Sep 19, 2014 2:15 pm

mojave wrote:One problem I find I have is keeping meat fresh, that is part of why I find myself having to make multiple stops during the week. Because of my husband's appetite and activity level we (or, he) have meat every day.
I know I said this already, but I really think Sam's Club (probably Costco would be just as good) is a big part of the answer for you. I could easily add $200 to my monthly bill by buying meat in the regular grocery store. Coffee is cheaper there; probably frozen pizzas too. The only downside is that a lot of the produce isn't as good. You should also price compare household items. They are often marked up in regular grocery stores, but in club stores the prices are more like Wal-Mart or other house wares retailers.

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by dolphinsaremammals » Fri Sep 19, 2014 2:16 pm

mojave wrote: He's not a cooker - he can do easy things like things from a box and can grill, but he does not know how to make big meals (his dinner almost every night when he was a bachelor was hamburger helper) and we cannot grill at our apartment. He makes breakfast though.
Borrowing from some comic whose name I can't remember, Och, sweetie, I can't figure out how to run that complicated vacuum cleaner. It hurts me wee head just to think about it. You'll have to do all the house cleaning. It's just beyond me.

p.s. Wizard, multiple trips to the grocery store per week do eat up money if you have to go through the deli section to get to the rest of the store :P

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by Andyrunner » Fri Sep 19, 2014 2:20 pm

Family of 3, spend about $100 a week at most.

Few steps I can see right away
1) bring lunch. My wife and I eat a PP&J, yogert, fruit, granola bar. Sometimes its leftovers but mostly this lunch for about 6 years.
2) coffee, buy a nice mug for coffee. I have a MoJo Mug that keeps the coffee hot for 3-4 hours. Get a pot that can time the brewing so its done the night before
3) Rice & beans, learn to love it (my wife makes a good meatless meatloaf with lentals)
4) Meal plans, each Sunday morning before shopping the wife and I list what we will cook for the week. It allows us to know exactly what to buy.
5) Meat: go to a farmers market, find a farmer and buy in bulk. I have a guy who sells 12x1lbs of 95% lean grassfed ground meat for 65 bucks. It lasts us 3-4 months.

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kenyan
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by kenyan » Fri Sep 19, 2014 4:01 pm

Family of 4 in a HCOLA. We are averaging about $700/month for groceries, and $125/month for restaurants. That's 100% food, though; I break out household sundries separately. Kids are young and don't eat that much, but still cost a fair amount due to the amount of fresh produce/fruit they consume. We try to be efficient with our food purchases, but value having good quality home cooked meals and fresh produce despite the cost. We don't do Whole Foods or other more expensive/specialty grocery stores. I recently switched to bringing my 'lunch' for work, though the lunch consists of a post-workout protein shake and supplemental items such as nuts and granola bars from Sam's club (total cost ~$2-2.50/day).

Getting cheaper would probably require forgoing the produce and meat. The restaurant meals are almost always of the inexpensive variety.
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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by Dutch » Fri Sep 19, 2014 4:27 pm

Have a vegetarian day, one day a week.

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by rayout » Fri Sep 19, 2014 6:18 pm

davebo wrote:I also live in the Chicago suburbs and recently came to the conclusion that our grocery bills are WAY too high. We primarily shop at Marianos, which I guess would be considered kinda middle of the road in terms of price. As I started to analyze things, I realized that I need to shop a little bit smarter. Marianos is the type of place where you can get a good deal on Grapes one day and then totally overpay on ziplock bags (I'm assuming most grocery stores are like that).

We spend around $215/week at grocery stores and $50/week at restaurants, but we also have 5 in our family (3 young kids, so not 5 big eaters). If your husband eats as much as you say, then you should be shopping at Costco and try to trim the bill down by buying in bulk. And if your grocery bills are so high, then why are you still spending $90/week on fast food?

I used to poke fun at people that went to multiple stores per month, but I do it now. I shop at Aldi for frozen fruit, I buy household items/meat/produce at Costco, and I buy odds/ends at Marianos.
Mariano's is not middle of the road...I see it as high end. I live in the northern suburbs and there are several independent grocers (Superfresh Market and Lewis Fresh Market) with prices for meat and produce that nobody can beat. Box of 17 mangoes for $4.99 when they are in season. Giant watermelon for $2.99. Frozen wild caught skin on salmon - $5 for a 2lb bag.

I don't buy any processed food though and that makes a HUGE difference on the grocery bill. It does take some time but making a big meal for lunch each week is usually what I do. I usually only eat one or two meals a day so that simplifies things alot also.

Easiest thing to do is to make a large amount of a single item to mix in with every meal. Rice is a good idea - I use parboiled/converted rice (lower glycemic index than brown rice with a similar vitamin profile) cooked with chicken or beef broth as a base. You can stir fry it, serve it with a stew or curry, stuff a vegetable with it, etc.

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by dgdevil » Fri Sep 19, 2014 7:10 pm

mojave wrote:
For a while I was shopping at Aldi which helped, but my husband refuses to eat their meat and produce and I don't care to shop at two grocery stores each week, especially since meat and produce is most of the grocery bill.
Why is he averse to Aldi meat and produce? Just asking, because I've only been to overseas branches. Since Aldi is a corporate sibling of Trader Joe's, which has a great selection of real meat and produce (ie grassfed, organic, etc) at reasonable prices, I would have assumed Aldi would be the same.

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by Trell Dogody » Fri Sep 19, 2014 7:10 pm

A common issue is that the fridge has too high a temperature with the result that food spoils much quicker, in particular meat, poultry and fish. A good fridge thermometer is very helpful to determine a proper temperature.

Putting too much food in the fridge is not that helpful. Eggs, tomatoes and vegetables often can be stored outside the fridge.

Keeping food cooled from the store to the fridge is essential for stuff like meat. At summer I take with me an isolated light-weight bag with a couple of cooling elements when I go shopping for the easily perishable stuff.

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Re: We have a grocery problem... [Household budget]

Post by telemark » Fri Sep 19, 2014 7:17 pm

mojave wrote:He's not a cooker - he can do easy things like things from a box and can grill, but he does not know how to make big meals (his dinner almost every night when he was a bachelor was hamburger helper) and we cannot grill at our apartment. He makes breakfast though.
Sounds a lot like me :happy One suggestion: a George Foreman grill works nicely in an apartment. Mine is a nuisance to clean, but I hear the newer models have improved on that.

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Re: We have a grocery problem...

Post by denovo » Fri Sep 19, 2014 7:20 pm

mojave wrote:One problem I find I have is keeping meat fresh, that is part of why I find myself having to make multiple stops during the week. Because of my husband's appetite and activity level we (or, he) have meat every day.
Oh, is he kidding? Meat doesn't taste any different if it's fresh or if you leave it in the freezer for a couple of days or even a week. Next time, cook two steaks , one frozen, one fresh. He won't notice a difference, I guarantee it. I eat steak only once a week, but I get 4 pieces from Costco, and toss the balance in the freezer. Getting stuff bulk saves change.
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Re: We have a grocery problem... [Household budget]

Post by LadyGeek » Fri Sep 19, 2014 7:30 pm

This thread is now in the Personal Consumer Issues forum (food budget).
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Re: We have a grocery problem... [Household budget]

Post by adam1712 » Fri Sep 19, 2014 7:45 pm

My two suggestions are:

1) Be realistic. I find it easy to be overly optimistic at the grocery store and then life gets busy and I want a quicker prepared meal and things go to waste.

2) I apologize if I'm reading too much into this but it sounds like there may be some friction over deciding on meals each night. Have you considered going to a couple nights a week where you plan to be responsible for your own food? Then other nights definitely plan to eat together with no excuses. It sounds like having independent meals already happens some now so why not just plan on it to give you each a little more freedom to not worry about the other one.

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Re: We have a grocery problem... [Household budget]

Post by livesoft » Fri Sep 19, 2014 7:57 pm

Maybe you should go out to eat more often? Or do take out. It might be cheaper. For us, Chinese takeout is about $30, but we don't eat everything at one meal. The $30 would be 6 adult meals. We dine in our favorite Tex-Mex place and not counting margaritas, $30 with a to-go box would be $30 and also 6 adult meals.

So $60 would cover 6 lunches and 6 dinners (and no cooking except using a microwave). Cereal & milk for breakfast is $5.50 for the week. That leaves one day of lunch and dinner to either go out, take out, or cook.

I have cheap salad recipes in this thread: http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtop ... 2#p2124332
or this thread: http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtop ... 6#p1009146
or this thread: http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtop ... 98#p664898
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