Lowering My Grocery Bill

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
southpaw328
Posts: 14
Joined: Wed May 10, 2017 11:33 am
Location: Pasadena, CA

Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by southpaw328 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 11:52 am

Hey everyone, I'm struggling to figure out how exactly I can lower my grocery bill. My family consists of two people, me and my wife (also 3 cats, I know, I know, way too many cats. But cat food I track separately from our groceries).

We live in Los Angeles and on average, we spend approximately $500/month on groceries. We do the vast majority of our shopping at Aldi and Costco. Sometimes I go to Trader Joe's and Vons/Ralphs but those places are pretty expensive so we try to avoid them. However, from a lot of the reading I've done over at the MrMoneyMustache Forums we appear to be in the higher tier of spending whereas other families of two are spending half as much as we do. We almost never buy red meat usually just chicken breast/thighs and ground turkey. Otherwise, it's mostly vegetables and a limited amount of dairy. We also never buy grains because my wife is GF and I don't mind not eating it (so when we do buy pasta it is always GF). However, we do eat a lot of bacon (1 slice/day purchased from Costco) and we both eat 2 eggs each every breakfast.

Any recommendations? What do your grocery bills look like?

EDIT: our grocery bills do not included eating out. sometimes household things that grocery stores/costco sells gets lumped in but for the majority it is only food we are going to eat. Also, we are pretty health conscious so we do not buy soft drinks, juice or "junk" food. We very rarely buy alcohol.
Last edited by southpaw328 on Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:10 pm, edited 4 times in total.

User avatar
dm200
Posts: 14080
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:21 pm
Location: Washington DC area

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by dm200 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:00 pm

southpaw328 wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 11:52 am
Hey everyone, I'm struggling to figure out how exactly I can lower my grocery bill. My family consists of two people, me and my wife (also 3 cats, I know, I know, way too many cats. But cat food I track separately from our groceries).
We live in Los Angeles and on average, we spend approximately $500/month on groceries. We do the vast majority of our shopping at Aldi and Costco. Sometimes I go to Trader Joe's and Vons/Ralphs but those places are pretty expensive so we try to avoid them. However, from a lot of the reading I've done over at the MrMoneyMustache Forums we appear to be in the higher tier of spending whereas other families of two are spending half as much as we do. We almost never buy red meat usually just chicken breast/thighs and ground turkey. Otherwise, it's mostly vegetables and a limited amount of dairy. We also never buy grains because my wife is GF and I don't mind not eating it (so when we do buy pasta it is always GF). However, we do eat a lot of bacon (1 slice/day purchased from Costco) and we both eat 2 eggs each every breakfast.
Any recommendations? What do your grocery bills look like?
My food spending went down when I (for health reasons) moved more towards "Whole Food Plant Based" eating. Frozen (bag) vegetables are good because you only use what you eat - and there is no waste. Sweet potatoes are both nutritious and inexpensive. Regular Oatmeal at Cotco is less than $1 per pound and healthful. Nuts (while the cost per pound is high) at Costco (almonds, walnuts, pecans) are good value because of high nutrition content. Bacon is both expensive and not healthful. Canned beans are good value as well. Cabbage is very inexpensive and nutritious - and does not spoil quickly. I consume close to zero soft drinks and juices. I drink plain water, black coffee and tea (including green tea). Almost no eggs. Plain shredded wheat and raisin bran are also inexpensive.

johnz1001
Posts: 132
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 7:41 am

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by johnz1001 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:03 pm

Where I live in Florida we have lower priced grocery stories -- such as WalMart and higher priced stores, such as Publix. The higher priced stores often have 2 for 1 specials, and I load up at Publix on my often consumed items, including chicken and other protein rich items. For the other food items, I use WalMart. I also look for coupons though I'm no longer a coupon cutter. But if you can find a good coupon and a 2 for 1 special, you can save on groceries. Another way is to use dollar stores for food items but I find WalMart often has low prices its own brand. If you really want to save you have to be willing to use different stores at different times regularly. Good luck!

Rupert
Posts: 2731
Joined: Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:01 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by Rupert » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:04 pm

The folks over at MMM generally are outliers, and I wouldn't measure myself against their standards. I also find that it's important to define what you mean by "groceries." Some people would include non-food household items such as detergent and cleaning supplies in that number, others wouldn't. It's also important to consider how much you spend eating out. If you spend $200 a month on "groceries," that's not terribly impressive if you also eat out two meals a day. Even if your number doesn't include non-food items, I don't think $500/month for two people to eat reasonably healthy in a large urban area is high. It's probably about average for meat eaters who consume alcohol occasionally.

Brace yourself for about one thousand posts by people who only eat organic homegrown beans and spinach and have drastically reduced their "grocery" budget by doing so.
Last edited by Rupert on Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

miamivice
Posts: 627
Joined: Tue Jun 11, 2013 11:46 am

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by miamivice » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:05 pm

I suggest shopping for name brand products at Wal-Mart, online using their store pickup option. Then you drive to Wal-Mart and they load the groceries in your car. Grocery prices are the same as in-store and there is no pickup surcharge.

Essentially, this allows you to get Wal-Mart pricing (which is 20% less than other grocery chains) without having to suffer from the ick factor of comingling with Wal-Mart shoppers. We don't buy Great Value (Wal-Mart brand) we only buy the name brand which is the same product as anywhere else. We also avoid produce at Wal-Mart and buy that from the other grocery chains.

User avatar
dm200
Posts: 14080
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:21 pm
Location: Washington DC area

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by dm200 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:09 pm

My wife spends the time and effort to use "coupons", specials, online discounts, two for one and 5% off on Thursdays for seniors at Harris Teeter.

While I generally believe eating healthier does not have to be more expensive (I believe it to be less expensive), there may be a few things that are healthful - but not always as "cheap" as unhealthful junk. Do not risk your health and save a few dollars on food by eating inexpensive "junk"

livesoft
Posts: 57305
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:00 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by livesoft » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:17 pm

Here is something neat: The book "Finance for Normal People" by Meir Statman actually has a short section on grocery bills. Here is a link to the page with the discussion of Nobel Laureate George Stigler on the nutrition cost frontier (like the efficient frontier for an investment portfolio) which was a rational solution to having inexpensive yet nutritious meals.

Of course, people are normal and would rather eat what they want, so their groceries are on the behavioral wants frontier which is going to be more expensive. And normal people are going to tell you about all their groceries on their personal behavioral wants frontiers in this thread.

I already see things in the OP's post about things I would not buy: grains, bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, bacon, red meat, .... I will eat those things if given to me, but they would not be things I would buy. Yes, I know the OP does not buy many of those things. OTOH, I am happy to eat chocolate every single day and oatmeal, too.
Last edited by livesoft on Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.
This signature message sponsored by sscritic: Learn to fish.

User avatar
baconavocado
Posts: 82
Joined: Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:03 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by baconavocado » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:18 pm

We spend about $550/month on groceries for 2 people. This calculation is also affected by how much we eat out (relatively infrequently), how much we're on vacation or traveling, and how much we get from our garden because those costs go under a different category. We buy most of our groceries at the local grocery store and some at Costco, and eat little red meat but probably spend more than average on fish and fresh fruit and vegetables.

By the way, do you know what fleshy fat-filled fruit goes well with bacon?

thangngo
Posts: 441
Joined: Sun Feb 26, 2017 2:08 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by thangngo » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:19 pm

southpaw328 wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 11:52 am
Hey everyone, I'm struggling to figure out how exactly I can lower my grocery bill. My family consists of two people, me and my wife (also 3 cats, I know, I know, way too many cats. But cat food I track separately from our groceries).

We live in Los Angeles and on average, we spend approximately $500/month on groceries. We do the vast majority of our shopping at Aldi and Costco. Sometimes I go to Trader Joe's and Vons/Ralphs but those places are pretty expensive so we try to avoid them. However, from a lot of the reading I've done over at the MrMoneyMustache Forums we appear to be in the higher tier of spending whereas other families of two are spending half as much as we do. We almost never buy red meat usually just chicken breast/thighs and ground turkey. Otherwise, it's mostly vegetables and a limited amount of dairy. We also never buy grains because my wife is GF and I don't mind not eating it (so when we do buy pasta it is always GF). However, we do eat a lot of bacon (1 slice/day purchased from Costco) and we both eat 2 eggs each every breakfast.

Any recommendations? What do your grocery bills look like?
If you live in HCOL areas like LA, there's so much you can do. $500 per month is reasonable in my opinion. My family (of two) lives in LCOL area but still gets an average of $400 monthly expense on groceries this year. We make breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and rarely dine out. My wife plans meals for the week and generates groceries list from there. She also collects and utilizes all coupons available to us. I keep track of the groceries budget and inventory make sure to we're being efficient and not wasteful. I also use AMEX blue cash preferred to get 6% cashback for groceries.

Earlier in the year, we went through the exercise to get the groceries spending down. We identified the following things and were able to get the expense trimmed down:
1) Buy meat/fish, coffee, other household items in bulk at Costco.
2) Buy produce, fruits, fresh groceries at HEB (local groceries).
3) Favor chicken over red meat; favor tilapia/cat fish over salmon.
4) Only buy things when we need. This involves planning meals for one week and then generate groceries list for things we need to buy.

So after we got to a certain point that we feel like we're being very efficient and not wasteful, we feel good about groceries budget and does not pay much attention to the dollars threshold (i.e. $300, $400, etc.).

runner540
Posts: 439
Joined: Sun Feb 26, 2017 5:43 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by runner540 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:22 pm

dm200 wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:09 pm
My wife spends the time and effort to use "coupons", specials, online discounts, two for one and 5% off on Thursdays for seniors at Harris Teeter.

While I generally believe eating healthier does not have to be more expensive (I believe it to be less expensive), there may be a few things that are healthful - but not always as "cheap" as unhealthful junk. Do not risk your health and save a few dollars on food by eating inexpensive "junk"
+1
What is your objective to free up money for?
Are groceries subject to sales tax? That could be a difference with some locales.
Do you buy coffee or tea?

You are in a HCOL area, and in the "low cost" plan from USDA. https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default ... ct2017.pdf

Edit: $500/month for 2 adults seems reasonable. That's about what our household spends, and we do buy meat, organic, treats, etc and feel like we eat really well, and entertain guests on that as well.
Last edited by runner540 on Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.

livesoft
Posts: 57305
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:00 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by livesoft » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:22 pm

Another money saver: Don't buy organic if you can help it.
This signature message sponsored by sscritic: Learn to fish.

thangngo
Posts: 441
Joined: Sun Feb 26, 2017 2:08 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by thangngo » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:26 pm

livesoft wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:22 pm
Another money saver: Don't buy organic if you can help it.
^ this. We don't buy organic and we don't pay for brand name. We don't drink wine or liquor, we only drink water and occasional bottle of beer <-- this is also a money saver here.

livesoft
Posts: 57305
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:00 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by livesoft » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:28 pm

Another money saver: Eat less.

For dinner, one can have an apple and some Greek yogurt. Done.
This signature message sponsored by sscritic: Learn to fish.

Shallowpockets
Posts: 298
Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:26 am

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by Shallowpockets » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:30 pm

We allot $250 month for groceries. We seldom go,over. We are two adults. We eat well. We have no food restrictions on our diet. We shop Safeway, King Soopers, Dollar Store, and Costco.
This $250 does not include household - detergent, paper towels, etc.
Does not include beer or wine.
We never go and buy more than about $30 at a time. We could afford a lot more overall but I don't know what we would buy to be big spenders.
We do not buy any soft drinks. But we buy a lot of milk and dairy products.
I will say that we do not waste any food. Nothing. From what I read there is a lot of bought and wasted food in America. I was not raised that way. Most of my life I did not have the luxury of throwing out food.
We eat out maybe once a week. Usually a happy hour for reduced price appetizers and drinks. Maybe $25-35.
This has been a discussion on here frequently. I am baffled by the huge amounts some people spend on food. Then again, I also see people spending much less than we do. Much less. But, I am hard pressed to understand how someone eats one chicken for an entire week. Or makes one can of vegetables last three days.

User avatar
MikeWillRetire
Posts: 274
Joined: Fri Jun 29, 2012 12:36 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by MikeWillRetire » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:34 pm

Well, I can't help you out. My wife and I spend $860 per month for groceries, cleaning products, paper products, hygiene, etc. In our defense, we both work full time with long commutes, so we don't want to spend time clipping coupons, or driving to multiple stores for bargains.

User avatar
Earl Lemongrab
Posts: 3124
Joined: Tue Jun 10, 2014 1:14 am

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by Earl Lemongrab » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:36 pm

If you mostly buy raw ingredients and are flexible in your meal choices, then pay close attention to sales. There's a significant difference between boneless skinless chicken breasts at $1.99 and regular price of $4+. On some things, Aldi can save quite a bit.

Making multiple trips to different stores though means that you're trading time for money. How much is the pain of the grocery bill important with respect to your or your spouse's time?
This week's fortune cookie: "Your financial life will be secure and beneficial." So I got that going for me, which is nice.

victw
Posts: 52
Joined: Sat Feb 20, 2016 4:07 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by victw » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:54 pm

livesoft wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:17 pm
Here is something neat: The book "Finance for Normal People" by Meir Statman actually has a short section on grocery bills. Here is a link to the page with the discussion of Nobel Laureate George Stigler on the nutrition cost frontier (like the efficient frontier for an investment portfolio) which was a rational solution to having inexpensive yet nutritious meals.
Wow - $40 bucks a year in 1939 dollars. What is that in todays dollars?

This is looking like an interesting rabbit hole. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stigler_diet

Wants vs. needs. I'm willing to make a WAG that at least 75% of my grocery budget is wants not needs.

Vic

User avatar
dm200
Posts: 14080
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:21 pm
Location: Washington DC area

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by dm200 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:57 pm

Reducing or eliminating "food waste" can be an important way to save money. This can be leftovers from meals where too much is prepared or things gone bad before being eaten. Sometimes, folks throw out perfectly good food because the "best used by" date is passed -- but the food is perfectly ok.

Eating less (depending on the details) can be both healthful and save money. Perhaps call it "Intermittent fasting"

livesoft
Posts: 57305
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:00 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by livesoft » Tue Dec 05, 2017 1:01 pm

In the next day or so, I will go out to dinner and photograph my meal and the bill, then post it in this thread. I could spend less than $250 a month never cooking nor shopping and going out to eat like that, then eating leftovers from the restaurant meal for a few more meals. I did this once before on bogleheads.org in a previous grocery bill thread: viewtopic.php?p=2574932#p2574932
This signature message sponsored by sscritic: Learn to fish.

MI_bogle
Posts: 275
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2016 3:56 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by MI_bogle » Tue Dec 05, 2017 1:09 pm

southpaw328 wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 11:52 am


We live in Los Angeles and on average, we spend approximately $500/month on groceries. We do the vast majority of our shopping at Aldi and Costco.

We almost never buy red meat usually just chicken breast/thighs and ground turkey. Otherwise, it's mostly vegetables and a limited amount of dairy. We also never buy grains because my wife is GF and I don't mind not eating it (so when we do buy pasta it is always GF). However, we do eat a lot of bacon (1 slice/day purchased from Costco) and we both eat 2 eggs each every breakfast.

Any recommendations? What do your grocery bills look like?

EDIT: our grocery bills do not included eating out. sometimes household things that grocery stores/costco sells gets lumped in but for the majority it is only food we are going to eat. Also, we are pretty health conscious so we do not buy soft drinks, juice or "junk" food. We very rarely buy alcohol.
Hmm. The usual suspects (alcohol, red meat, household supplies lumped into groceries, going out to eat included in food costs) are not there. Given your description, it does sound like things are a tad high, especially if you are doing most of your shopping at costco/aldi

Are you buying lots of organic food? Lots of prepared dishes? Do you throw out leftovers routinely?

Do you have a freezer and utilize sales to take advantage of good meat prices?

livesoft
Posts: 57305
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:00 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by livesoft » Tue Dec 05, 2017 1:12 pm

dm200 wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:57 pm
Reducing or eliminating "food waste" can be an important way to save money. ....
This is so true. One way to see waste is to look at your garbage and composting for the week.
This signature message sponsored by sscritic: Learn to fish.

cadreamer2015
Posts: 535
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 1:52 pm
Location: North County San Diego

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by cadreamer2015 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 1:17 pm

The retirement budget I put together 2 years ago has $580 per month for groceries, along with a pretty generous amount for eating out. The groceries category includes everything we buy at grocery stores, including cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc. but excluding wine. We live in SoCal also, so I think your $500/month is entirely reasonable.

To me the question is not whether or not $500/month is reasonable, but can you afford it? If you you can afford it, that's great. If not, you will need to make budget adjustments somewhere.
De gustibus non est disputandum

User avatar
dm200
Posts: 14080
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 2:21 pm
Location: Washington DC area

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by dm200 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 1:18 pm

livesoft wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 1:12 pm
dm200 wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:57 pm
Reducing or eliminating "food waste" can be an important way to save money. ....
This is so true. One way to see waste is to look at your garbage and composting for the week.
I grew up on a family farm and food was never wasted. Anything left from one meal was eaten at a subsequent one.

One (of many) great shocks as I grew up was that many families just threw out perfectly good food because it was not eaten at that meal...

TravelGeek
Posts: 1246
Joined: Sat Oct 25, 2014 3:23 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by TravelGeek » Tue Dec 05, 2017 1:30 pm

southpaw328 wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 11:52 am

Any recommendations? What do your grocery bills look like?

EDIT: our grocery bills do not included eating out.
Does it make sense to look at them independently? I know our grocery bill went "through the roof" when we cut back on eating out. But the combined total of "stuff we eat" cost dropped significantly.

Maya1234
Posts: 73
Joined: Mon Jun 19, 2017 11:10 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by Maya1234 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 1:38 pm

Well if it makes you feel any better my bill is higher than your for 2 people about $575/month . That does not include eating out once a week.

But this is because we don’t care at all what we spend on food. That’s what we have money for . We buy whatever we want. Shop mostly at the local big chain, occasionally at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Never shop sales or look at prices

So if we are here not doing anything to save money, you could probably pinch a little. We do buy mostly fish ( it’s very cheap at the local chain) and eat a lot of things like sweet potatoes and squash. We don’t drink at all at home ( just not into it).

Maybe you should keep receipts for a month and look at what your big expenses are.

N10sive
Posts: 328
Joined: Thu May 05, 2016 6:22 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by N10sive » Tue Dec 05, 2017 1:46 pm

I spend anywhere from 300-500 a month on groceries/eating out. I haven't separated them. So your 500 a month for two people seems reasonable. I eat out maybe 2-3 times a month with friends.

As one other poster said, buying fruits and vegetables in frozen bags reduces a lot of waste. I just started doing that as I notice I waste a lot of produce because I usually only shop once a week and it spoils. Otherwise you could shop every day for fresh produce but that's a hassle.

You could shop in bulk more and with food that will last a long time if not eaten. I bought a pack of pasta and sauce at Costco for 12 dollars total and for me it will pry last 16 meals but I will also probably put some sort of protein in it. But overall that's probably less than 2.50 a meal for me. So 40 bucks for 5 days for meals. Just going by that standard though I am already at 240 for the month. So again your 500 a month seems reasonable. What is your eating out budget? Maybe cut back on that?

It also depends on how healthy you want to be. I could live off of 100 dollars a month just eating pb and js and top ramen etc. But you aren't going to get all the nutrients you should especially if you are an active person.

User avatar
vitaflo
Posts: 818
Joined: Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:02 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by vitaflo » Tue Dec 05, 2017 1:51 pm

Of course the easiest way to save money on food is to grow your own. Not everyone can do this, but in the summer months our food bills are drastically reduced because probably 80% of the food on our plate came out of the ground in our back yard. Plus it tastes so much better than the bland garbage you get at the store. Only downside is there comes a point where I just don't want green beans for dinner again.

livesoft
Posts: 57305
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:00 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by livesoft » Tue Dec 05, 2017 1:54 pm

vitaflo wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 1:51 pm
Of course the easiest way to save money on food is to grow your own. Not everyone can do this, ....
Or wants to do this even if they can. This is just another point on the behavioral wants efficient frontier: Sacrificing labor and time for money with a gain of expressive and emotional (I grew my own food!) benefits.
This signature message sponsored by sscritic: Learn to fish.

gluskap
Posts: 10
Joined: Mon Nov 13, 2017 2:07 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by gluskap » Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:14 pm

The most expensive grocery cost is usually meat/seafood so I only buy this when it's on sale. Being flexible with your menus will help to drive cost down. It's a huge difference in cost between regular price vs. sales. So even though I shop at Ralphs and it's generally more expensive than Costco/Aldi, the sale prices are pretty good so I only buy enough and have less waste.

So for example, chicken like someone said is usually $3-4/lb. On sale it's about $2/lb so I only buy when on sale. Steaks are usually >$10/lb but I only buy on sale for $6-8/lb. Same with Salmon and other seafood.

Fruits and veggies also tend to have certain items on sale so as long as you are flexible it helps with the grocery costs a lot. Makes it much more difficult to meal plan though so that's where I still need to work on. Ideally you could check out the ads online to see what will be on sale. Then look up recipes on line to see what you can make with those items and then go in and buy it but this requires a lot more work. Since we both work long hours and have long commutes we usually don't always have time to do this. I'm working on finding ways to be more efficient.

I like the idea of buying groceries online and then buying in bulk when on sale and then doing meal prep and freezing stuff that can then be put in the slow cooker to make the day of. Still working on finding the best recipes to do this.

User avatar
Pajamas
Posts: 2838
Joined: Sun Jun 03, 2012 6:32 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by Pajamas » Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:21 pm

If you are already doing most of your shopping at Aldi, then the only normal way you are going to lower your grocery costs significantly is to change what you eat, particularly avoiding prepared foods and moving towards less expensive animal protein sources and more non-animal protein sources. You already eat a lot of eggs, which are a cheap source of high quality protein, but maybe you could incorporate more plant foods like beans, lentils, whole grains, tofu, etc.

Costco is not cheap compared to sale prices at other markets and neither Costco nor Walmart is cheaper than Aldi. There may be a WinCo or similar store near you that is less expensive than Aldi, but you have probably already looked at the available places to shop. Trader Joe's is one of the least expensive stores readily available to me for fresh foods.

Growing some of your own food may be a possibility, too.

If you are eating a varied, healthy diet, what you are spending is not at all unreasonable. Americans spend much less of their income on food than people in most other countries and even compared to previous generations. I am a careful shopper and spend about what you do.

Wellfleet
Posts: 397
Joined: Sun Jan 26, 2014 8:18 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by Wellfleet » Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:33 pm

I'm interested in this topic as well because it's a pretty big piece of the family spending. We are fortunate to buy anything we want.

I am hypothesizing that part of the issue for my family is that when we hit multiple stores to take advantage of sales we just cannot avoid buying things we don't need. This MAY be worse since we started going to Costco 2 years ago and have to go to other stores to get items that Costco doesn't carry.

Including restaurants, our family food budget averages the USDA "moderate" food plan guidance: https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default ... ct2017.pdf

User avatar
Earl Lemongrab
Posts: 3124
Joined: Tue Jun 10, 2014 1:14 am

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by Earl Lemongrab » Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:41 pm

I shop at Aldi, but I rarely buy fresh meat there. That's because most of it is adulterated with "solution". I don't like what that does to the texture and flavor.
This week's fortune cookie: "Your financial life will be secure and beneficial." So I got that going for me, which is nice.

squirm
Posts: 1088
Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 11:53 am

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by squirm » Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:59 pm

Sounds like your doing well. I don't listen to what others say we should spend on groceries since most people eat crap (ever look in their carts?). We generally buy fresh produce and quality foods, if we spend another $200 a month, so be it.

(You really keep track of cat food spending?)

Carl53
Posts: 1443
Joined: Sun Mar 07, 2010 8:26 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by Carl53 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:04 pm

Our local grocery chain closed early this year where we typically bought half of our groceries. Now we probably buy 60% at Kroger primarily buying items 'on sale' and load their free coupons each Friday and other desired coupons when otherwise offered. Got 3 13 oz jars of Nutella for 29 cents each after applying 3 $2 coupons (2 paper and one electronic). Besides the Nutella, spouse often finds her favorite brand of yogurt marked down to half off a week before the use by date. She is not adverse to eating that yogurt even after the date. The balance comes from a nearby Aldi's and a small one store discount grocery. The discount grocery offers closeouts, overstocks, salvage and some out of date products. Got 6# boneless pork sirloin for $6, 93% grassfed organic ground beef for $3.99/lb (only had two pkgs), organic whole chicken for $1.15/lb, 6 12oz pkgs of all natural chicken/apple sausages at 99 cents each, all frozen. I like to see what they might have, always different but will often buy a significant quantity when we see something we like. Did not buy but saw 12 count cases of slightly out of date Kraft organic mac and cheese for $2. We commented to each other that had we had kids at home, the product would have been in the cart.

Chip
Posts: 1654
Joined: Wed Feb 21, 2007 4:57 am

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by Chip » Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:05 pm

squirm wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:59 pm
(You really keep track of cat food spending?)
You don't??? :D

$527 so far this year and counting....

winterfan
Posts: 25
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2015 11:06 am

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by winterfan » Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:11 pm

Our grocery/household spending for our family of three plus a cat is around $700/month. My goal is to keep it around $600/mo. Sometimes, I make it, but I am a total impulse shopper when it comes to groceries. I make a list and don't go to the store hungry, but extra things seem to land it my cart.

I would do best to just keep my shopping to once or twice a month, but I find myself popping in the store for salad ingredients (or whatever) and spend $20 or $30 bucks more. I mostly cook from scratch, keep a stocked freezer and don't waste food. It's our biggest expense each month! Oh well, it doesn't really keep us from our goals. So far, I've just kind of accepted it. I like to cook and my family is healthy and enjoys our meals.

Jags4186
Posts: 1469
Joined: Wed Jun 18, 2014 7:12 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by Jags4186 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:15 pm

You lower your bill by changing what you eat or strategically shopping. It’s tough to do with 2 people to be honest. We spend around $500/mo on groceries as well but that includes things like detergent, paper towels, etc. Anything we buy at the super market.

Strategically shopping could mean buying 10lbs of chicken when it’s on sale for $0.99/lb. Strategically buying could mean only buying in season produce to reduce costs.

Changing what you eat could be as simple as switching from fresh to frozen vegetables to giving up red meat.

In general though I don’t get worked up over my grocery budget. If you get the big things right you don’t need to stress about the small stuff.

chisey
Posts: 147
Joined: Mon Apr 16, 2007 10:47 am

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by chisey » Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:16 pm

I find this to be a topic that is very specific to the individual. If it's important to you to save money by reducing your food cost, you've gotten some pretty good advice in this thread already. My biggest one is not to buy pre-prepared foods for the most part.

The enjoyment of food is important enough to us that unless our financial situation degrades significantly, it is NOT an area we look to cut. I value shop for some items, but mostly my idea of being budget-conscious in food is to buy the cut of steak that's the most on sale, and to stock up on and freeze premium bacon when it's on sale. I won't stop buying or cut back on eating steak or good bacon, though. Beans and tofu are not suitable replacements in my universe. The grocery bill for the two of us is ~$600 per month and we eat out ~2 dinners per week.

Far and away the easiest way to cut back on food costs overall is to eat out less and instead learn to cook a variety of meals at home. We still fail on this point too frequently.

squirm
Posts: 1088
Joined: Sat Mar 19, 2011 11:53 am

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by squirm » Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:17 pm

Chip wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:05 pm
squirm wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:59 pm
(You really keep track of cat food spending?)
You don't??? :D

$527 so far this year and counting....
Two of our cats eat half food and half critter. Meaning they'll eat the rodents outside, one even catches the jack rabbits around here (came home the other month to find a half eaten rabbit on the driveway), etc. Our indoor cat eats plan cat food.

thangngo
Posts: 441
Joined: Sun Feb 26, 2017 2:08 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by thangngo » Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:24 pm

squirm wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:59 pm
since most people eat crap (ever look in their carts?).
and you don't? that must be some quality crap you have in your cart.

My wife and I put a lot of thoughts and efforts in getting good quality food and maintain our healths in top condition. You might be doing the same thing, but please stop looking at other people' shopping carts and passing your judgments everywhere.
Last edited by thangngo on Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

warner25
Posts: 179
Joined: Wed Oct 29, 2014 4:38 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by warner25 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:24 pm

My wife and I have always been around $500/month for groceries. That includes some household cleaning/paper products, but 0 alcohol. We have two little kids now, but they don't eat much, and I haven't seen them impact our grocery bill yet. We're also very physically active, so we eat a lot, and cooking is my wife's creative outlet, so she's always trying new recipes and making impressive meals. I'm sure we (and you) could save some money by just eating rice and beans purchased in bulk, along with cheap highly processed foods (for which there are always abundant sales and coupons, compared to, say, fresh vegetables), but consider the impact to daily quality of life. I really think that trying to save much more on food just isn't worthwhile, and we could cut back more easily and save more money in lots of other areas.

The hard-core users at MMM spend way less on everything, and sometimes I find that inspirational, but it's a radical lifestyle that I wouldn't fully adopt for myself (e.g. choosing to retire and live in a Sprinter van, which has its own 5-page thread on the MMM forum) let alone for my wife and kids.

rxtra8
Posts: 54
Joined: Wed Jun 10, 2015 1:12 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by rxtra8 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:54 pm

At $500 per month for food, the OP is doing very good and reasonable for Los Angeles. We (my wife and I) live in Long Beach, just a few miles down the 405 and average $700 but that includes buying a lot of wild salmon from Costco, June through September (this include almost all sundries such as TP, cleaned and such). The last two months we spend $569 and $520 respectively. It would be hard for the OP to do better, unless you accept lower quality food. We buy from the farmers market, Trader Joes, Ralphs and Whole foods; the bulk is Farmers Marker and TJs. We buy quality and for taste (Fuji apples from the farmers market are amazing; from a family farm). We buy mostly organic and cook at home and rarely eat out ( maybe once a month-none last month ).

You are doing good. Don't sweat it unless you cannot afford your current food expenditures.
“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” | — Robertson Davies

User avatar
bottlecap
Posts: 5066
Joined: Tue Mar 06, 2007 11:21 pm
Location: Tennessee

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by bottlecap » Tue Dec 05, 2017 4:19 pm

$250 per person per month in California doesn’t seem bad to me.

If you want to save, go for the low hanging fruit. Or move out of California. Or both. But shaving 5 or even 10% off your $3,000 on food bill isn’t going to go very far.

JT

bloom2708
Posts: 2939
Joined: Wed Apr 02, 2014 2:08 pm
Location: Fargo, ND

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by bloom2708 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:04 pm

$500 seems quite reasonable for CA. If you want to lower the bill, then you have to look at what you are buying.

Eat less meat. Don't pay for things you drink (soda, water, beer). Don't buy it if it is not something that is in your healthy zone of foods. Buy in bulk more. Cook from scratch. You can find substitutes for cream of chicken soups and related.

It really comes down to how much more you want to lower it when the amount is probably already reasonable. Now, if your dining out budget is also $500/month, then you may have other directions to look.
"We are here not to please but to provoke thoughtfulness" Unknown Boglehead

HongKonger
Posts: 882
Joined: Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:35 am
Location: Deep in the Balkans

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by HongKonger » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:10 pm

Chip wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:05 pm
squirm wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:59 pm
(You really keep track of cat food spending?)
You don't??? :D

$527 so far this year and counting....
I spend slightly more than that per month on cat food.
My human food spend per month is around $80.

mouses
Posts: 2467
Joined: Sat Oct 24, 2015 12:24 am

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by mouses » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:11 pm

Cooking from scratch is normally a lot cheaper than buying more processed items.

stoptothink
Posts: 3782
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:53 am

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by stoptothink » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:11 pm

chisey wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:16 pm
I find this to be a topic that is very specific to the individual.
This. I guarantee that in OP's situation I could (and would) spend half as much on groceries, but I can also all but guarantee they wouldn't want to do what I do. Unless OP dictates exactly what they eat and is open to drastically changing their habits, these threads tend to be pretty fruitless. There is no shopping secrets to eating cheap and "healthy".

DrGoogle2017
Posts: 679
Joined: Mon Aug 14, 2017 12:31 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by DrGoogle2017 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:38 pm

My grocery bill is about $500. My husband eats gluten free, but he also eats a lot of red meat, white meat, and in between. We buy lots of fresh produce from Sprouts and a Persian store, but the key thing is eat in season. When Apple is .69c on sale from Sprouts, we load them up. Same with Satsumas from the Persian store. Whole chicken on sale, we buy them and roast to heat up the house as well. Check the weekly sales ad. I think Costco is always on the high price. But I think it’s reasonable budget for LA area, especially for 4.there is not much you can squeeze out.

User avatar
DaftInvestor
Posts: 3220
Joined: Wed Feb 19, 2014 10:11 am

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by DaftInvestor » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:42 pm

Los Angeles plus the GF-Requirement will mean that you will only be able to lower it by so much.
When we found out that my daughter; and then later my wife; required a Gluten-Free diet our grocery bills went up substantially - Gluten-Free foods cost more - I've just learned to accept it.
We spend about $850 monthly for a family of 4.

livesoft
Posts: 57305
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2007 8:00 pm

Re: Lowering My Grocery Bill

Post by livesoft » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:46 pm

thangngo wrote:
Tue Dec 05, 2017 3:24 pm
..., but please stop looking at other people' shopping carts and passing your judgments everywhere.
The OP is essentially asking us to look in their shopping cart and pass judgment on them.
This signature message sponsored by sscritic: Learn to fish.

Post Reply