Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

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imsomeguy
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Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by imsomeguy » Fri Nov 11, 2016 10:01 pm

Just looking over some recent credit card bills and realized we are spending $600-700/month on groceries. We are a family of 4 and the majority of our meals are cooked at home, wife brings lunch to work but I usually eat out, kids get lunch at their daycare. Don't shop at a fancy supermarket and while we try to give the kids healthy food almost none of the food we buy is 'organic'. Wife makes sure to buy stuff on sale but we don't really have the space to buy in bulk (ie Costco).

I dunno just seems like a lot of money but we gotta eat and we never waste food.

What do you spend on groceries? How do you save money?

momvesting
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Re: What is your monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by momvesting » Fri Nov 11, 2016 10:24 pm

First, if you are looking at credit card statements, there is a good chance that those dollar amounts include more than just food. Does your family buy items like toiletries, pet food and supplies, cleaning supplies, paper products, laundry products, etc. at the grocery store? If so, then $600-700/month isn't too bad, especially if your wife works so she doesn't have a lot of time to comparison shop, put together deals at Target, print coupons, etc.

Second, you say that you "don't have a lot of space" but are you only referring to space in the kitchen? One of the ways we save money is by buying all our non-food items by combining coupons and deals, picking up markdowns, etc. I actually do pretty well at this at Target. When I do put together a deal, I buy a lot of it to stock up. For example, just recently Target had the large bottles of Pantene shampoos and conditioners (which are probably around $6 normally) for about $3 each on clearance. Then there was a 25% off Cartwheel offer and a $5 giftcard with $15 in purchases. So now we have 14 bottles of shampoo and conditioner and 2 bodywashes (to get to $15) in the basement. I have done that with toilet paper, paper towels, kleenex, sunscreen, baby wipes, laundry shampoo, etc. as deals come up.

We also plan our meals around sales and markdowns. We buy lots of produce that is either short-dated (which we use immediately) or on sale and in season. This way we can get fresh stuff for as cheap as frozen and it tastes so much better! We also avoid pre-prepared foods unless they are extremely marked down. The fruits and veggies that are already cut up for you in the store cost a lot more than if you cut them up yourself.

Hope that helps, but really I'd say your current spending isn't too horrible. Good luck!

imsomeguy
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by imsomeguy » Fri Nov 11, 2016 10:35 pm

@momvesting - yes this is primarily food items. Paper goods, toiletries etc are purchased at Target so I wasn't looking at that store. And I would love to be able to store paper goods and extra items in a basement, but we live in an apartment and space is tight and being fully maximized.

Dilbydog
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by Dilbydog » Fri Nov 11, 2016 10:39 pm

I'd also look at the AMEX Blue Cash Preferred card. You'll 6% cash back for your grocery purchases, so long as they're not from the warehouse stores.

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by jrtexas » Fri Nov 11, 2016 10:48 pm

Trader Joes

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PhysicianOnFIRE
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by PhysicianOnFIRE » Fri Nov 11, 2016 10:56 pm

That doesn't seem out of line at all. I think a family of four that qualifies would receive something close to that in food stamps.

We shop mostly at Costco and Aldi, and pick up sale items from a regional chain at times, and we spend at least as much as you for a family of four. We buy plenty of fresh fruits, veggies, and seafood. Some junk food, too. :)

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by jlawrence01 » Sat Nov 12, 2016 1:34 am

We spend $250 a month on average for two people.

We shop at salvage markets, especially for produce.
We shop at ethnic markets for meats and vegetables.
We shop at discounters like 99 Only, Aldi and Winco Foods, the latter being the cheapest on store brands, certain meats and spices.
Fry's (Kroger's) for loss leaders, sale items and digital coupon items.

Most of the time, we cook from scratch. We avoid prepared items and generally make our own salad dressings, soak beans instead canned and the like.

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HuckFinn
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by HuckFinn » Sat Nov 12, 2016 2:31 am

My wife and I occasionally go on what we term a "fiscal fast." We do not spend any money for a month other than the utility bills that come in and the gas in the tanks (or emergency necessities)

Exceptions are milk, yogurt and fresh vegetables but very little else.

It forces us to use everything in the cupboards. In many ways it becomes more than just an exercise in frugality but also one of appreciation.

Aligning our nutrition is also important too. I began begrudgingly eating more salad and she began eating more Greek Yogurt. Sounds unimportant but because we eat more of the same foods now it allows us to purchase larger (cheaper per ounce) containers that do not spoil. I know some families that allow each family member to eat what they prefer but healthy casseroles and larger meals that carry over to left overs that can be packed also reduce cost.

Another crazy idea, especially if the family is trying to eat healthy is to develop a "Kitchen close" time with the exception of a piece of fruit. There's no health benefit to eating after dinner unless a medical condition requires it. Kitchen closes at 8pm - open at 6am. Crazy idea...

Author Michael Polan wrote a great book called "In Defense of Food" which also combines value and nutrition information. It's about eating healthy, real food.

Good luck.

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by asset_chaos » Sat Nov 12, 2016 3:16 am

$650 divided by 30 days divided by 4 people is $5.42 per person per day. That doesn't sound like too much to me. For what it's worth our family is closer to $8 per person per day for everything, not just food, that comes from a grocery store. I'm not aware of data on the distribution of per person daily grocery spending in the US, without which it's hard to put your own spending into context. Unless you're financially stressed and looking at all expenses for ways to reduce, I'd guess that your grocery spending is not excessive.

Ok, a quick google finds this Kaiser Foundation site http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/av ... 2asc%22%7D that says the average monthly per person food stamp amount is $126 in 2014, or (divide by 30) $4.20 per person per day in 2014. That seems a reasonable estimate of the bottom of the distribution, and I'd guess that your family is closer to the bottom than to the top.
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ofcmetz
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by ofcmetz » Sat Nov 12, 2016 4:42 am

Family of 4 here and we budget $550 a month for groceries. I eat out a lot of time during my police shifts, but I get a lot of half off deals at local restaurants. My kids have a cafeteria meal plan at school so our groceries only half to cover breakfast and dinner for them plus snacks. We shop at Trader Joe's, Target, and a local family owned grocery store we can walk to. We sometimes go over the budget a little bit. We could probably go a bit cheaper if we had to but cooking and eating are one of life's great pleasures. OP, I don't know your income, but you aren't spending much out of line with most of America in my opinion.
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by itstoomuch » Sat Nov 12, 2016 5:25 am

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Buy vegetables, meats, seafood at Asian high volume grocers. Some Hispanic grocers do OK.
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by EXH » Sat Nov 12, 2016 6:19 am

We spend around $500 for two people although this is mostly organic. I get lunches at work and my partner brings leftovers. We buy whatever veggies are in season and reasonably priced rather than shopping from a list, often at the farmers market. We buy things like rice and beans in bulk. We try to buy things when on sale (we have a very small pantry cabinet). Obviously avoid prepared foods as much as possible - even things like salad dressing are cheaper to make. We also shop at several stores and know which has the best price for what - that saves a lot of money. Overall sounds like you aren't doing too badly. We would spend a lot more for organic if we didn't live in California.

livesoft
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by livesoft » Sat Nov 12, 2016 6:34 am

Look at your grocery store receipts and tell us what you buy. Breakfast food is often a place where one can save lots of money.

Without you telling us what you buy, we cannot tell you what you shouldn't buy.

I wonder if you can buy only things that have one single ingredient in them and never anything with 2 or more ingredients? Exanples of one ingredreient purchases:

milk
eggs
oatmeal
yoghurt
spinach
tomatoes
carrots
apples
chicken
ground beef
fish
rice
beans

Things with more than one ingredient
bacon, cookies, crackers, cereal, soda, ice cream, candy

I went to the grocery store yesterday and had a coupon for everything I bought. In the end, I got one of those 2 feet long receipts, but my total cost was $0.00. That was a first for me though.
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by BrklynMike » Sat Nov 12, 2016 7:21 am

This thread was really eye opening. My wife and I spend about $800 a month just for the two of us, although this includes some toiletries. And we shop at trader Joe's and Costco, buy some organic but by no means all. I always suspected this was high but we live in the Northeast and when I questioned a very frugal relative about this she said it was exactly what they spent as well. Time to rethink this...
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tic
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by tic » Sat Nov 12, 2016 8:37 am

Family of 4, but one still getting calories indirectly from momma. We spend about $350/month right now. We eat a pretty decent food pyramid diet and almost all produce is fresh, some frozen (none canned). The big difference for us is using Aldi for most things. We have run the numbers and it saves us about 35-40% vs Kroger, more vs higher-end grocery stores. We also have a small chest freezer and load up on pork loin when it's $1.49/lb, chicken breasts at $1.69, ground beef <$2, etc. Splurges are based on what's on an especially good sale (had both filet and lobster last week!). Seasonal produce is cheapest, so it's been lots of squash, sweet potatoes, and apples lately.

But, mostly it's just the Aldi effect.

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by stoptothink » Sat Nov 12, 2016 8:45 am

Family of 4, we are <$300/month and how we do it has been discussed many many times on this board. Just a few major factors:

1. Shop around. The price differential between stores can be very significant. We do most of our shopping at one regional store which has prices so low that I'm called a liar every time I post them, but two items we buy regularly are much cheaper at another store (eggs and Adams natural PB). So, on my usual every-other-week trip, I stop by the other store on the way back. Yes, the cost difference is significant ($4 vs. $8 for 5dz eggs, $4.50 vs $7 for PB) and this trip is done 95% of the time on my bike (putting everything in our bike trailer) and the "other store" is literally directly on the way so it's not like I'm spending more on gas.

2. We eat the same things. Every. Single. Day. We are very into health and nutrition (it is my career) and both my wife and I are competitive athletes. The list of what we eat is short and doesn't change. And, the majority of our food is prepared on Sunday then placed in the refrigerator in tupperware to eat throughout the week. Zero food is wasted and I know exactly where and when to get it the cheapest. And yes, even our 18-month old eats what we do. This also allows us to stock up when there are sales; and boy does our regional store have sales. A sample trip to the store:

-Kale, spinach, other greens (kale stays "fresh" in the refrigerator much longer than most other greens)
-Random sale fresh produce
-Lots (as in 15lbs total) of frozen broccoli and green beans
-10dz eggs - yes we eat that in 2wks
-Bulk bin oat groats
-Bulk bin brown rice (or quinoa if I am feeling fancy)
-Adams PB
-Vitamin D milk for my monster 32lbs. 18-month old son

-We always have 50lbs.+ of meat in our garage deep freezer, bought whenever our grocery has (ridiculous) sales; ie. chicken breast or pork roasts $1.29/lb, whole chickens $.69/lbs., recently got beef top round roasts for $1.89/lb. Spices and hot sauce (which I put on everything) is purchased as needed - maybe a few dollars a month.

3. We never eat out. My wife has to often because she travels a lot for work (and they cover the cost), otherwise maybe once a year for our anniversary. It's simply not something we really enjoy.

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dm200
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by dm200 » Sat Nov 12, 2016 10:20 am

For health reasons, I have moved to whole food plant based eating, cutting meat. It really helps the "bottom line" financially as well.

One common big cost for many is food waste. I would look for how much of the food budget is thrown out for various reasons and figure out how to prevent it.

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by Loik098 » Sat Nov 12, 2016 11:28 am

asset_chaos wrote:Unless you're financially stressed and looking at all expenses for ways to reduce, I'd guess that your grocery spending is not excessive.
This is the best answer, and can be applied regardless of how "high" or "low" your monthly grocery expense is.

Eating habits are among the hardest of habits to change. Changing yours because you read here that others are getting by consuming only kale and water (and you think you could too) isn't very likely to last. Changing your diet because you need or desire to save money is much more likely to last. Getting news of a health scare will also do the trick.

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dm200
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by dm200 » Sat Nov 12, 2016 11:34 am

Since, probably, meat is the most expensive part of your food budget, reducing the amount/percentage of meat in the diet can significantly cut costs (in addition to better health, IMO). Look for ways of substituting things like beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, etc. for some meat. "Meatless Mondays", for example, could be a start. Many kinds of cooking do not use large amounts of meat. Many dishes from India (and similar) emphasize beans (like chickpeas), eggplant, spinach, lentils, etc.

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by SamB » Sat Nov 12, 2016 12:15 pm

If you are cooking most of your food, I would not be concerned about the grocery bill. Take a keen interest in nutrition, and it will pay off financially in the long run, especially for your children. In fact, I would monitor what your children eat outside of the house. It may not be as healthy as you assume it is.

As far as what constitutes nutritious food, you are pretty much on your own. I would spend more time trying to figure this out than you spend with your investments, which, if you subscribe to the philosophy on this forum should be pretty close to zero. If you think a particular dietary/food mix is better, then verify it with your own blood tests. We are all different.

There are many ways to be frugal, but if you are preparing your own food, it is the last thing you should be cutting back on.

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Sat Nov 12, 2016 12:25 pm

Carry a little notebook with you, next time you go out to lunch write down what the total of the bill was. At the end of the week, add it up, I guarantee you the hole in your budget comes from you eating out, and not from shopping at the grocery store. Your wife brings her lunch to work? - she is a saint, count your lucky stars. You could easily be blowing 200 bucks a month on you eating out for lunch each day. For a family of 4 - $600-700 a month is normal, it's more important to eat nutritiously and you do not want to be eating bean soup each day of the week, as nutritious as it may be.
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by INDUBITABLY » Sat Nov 12, 2016 12:34 pm

imsomeguy wrote:Just looking over some recent credit card bills and realized we are spending $600-700/month on groceries. We are a family of 4 and the majority of our meals are cooked at home, wife brings lunch to work but I usually eat out, kids get lunch at their daycare. Don't shop at a fancy supermarket and while we try to give the kids healthy food almost none of the food we buy is 'organic'. Wife makes sure to buy stuff on sale but we don't really have the space to buy in bulk (ie Costco).

I dunno just seems like a lot of money but we gotta eat and we never waste food.

What do you spend on groceries? How do you save money?
I'm a single guy, I usually eat out for lunch on weekdays, my grocery spending is consistently between $300-$400 every month. I shop at a regular grocery store (no CostCo), I eat a moderate amount of meat, I buy good beer. If you haven't gone the extra step to shop at a discount club (the savings over grocery stores can be truly staggering sometimes), then I think that you're doing alright.

If you want to pick at the edges of the problem, American Express' Blue Cash Preferred card offers 6% cash back for the first $6k of grocery spending every year.
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by retire57 » Sat Nov 12, 2016 12:45 pm

We look at the local sale papers each week and plan our meals around the meat offerings. (We also have a small chest freezer and stock up on particularly good sales). We shop the farmer's market for produce, the discount bread store for bread/buns/tortillas, and all other ingredients are bought at Wal-Mart. This is a bit more time-consuming than one-stop shopping, but we have the time.

We are two and rarely, if ever, throw food out. With all this, we average $390/month. This still seems high (and makes me think we aren't using our freezer effectively enough). Great thread!

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by livesoft » Sat Nov 12, 2016 12:53 pm

For those that stock up meat and other things in a freezer, do you ever eat that meat?

What is the oldest item in your freezer? I found some mahi-mahi from 2011 in our freezer this week. Should I still eat it?
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by dm200 » Sat Nov 12, 2016 12:58 pm

SamB wrote:If you are cooking most of your food, I would not be concerned about the grocery bill. Take a keen interest in nutrition, and it will pay off financially in the long run, especially for your children. In fact, I would monitor what your children eat outside of the house. It may not be as healthy as you assume it is.
As far as what constitutes nutritious food, you are pretty much on your own. I would spend more time trying to figure this out than you spend with your investments, which, if you subscribe to the philosophy on this forum should be pretty close to zero. If you think a particular dietary/food mix is better, then verify it with your own blood tests. We are all different.
There are many ways to be frugal, but if you are preparing your own food, it is the last thing you should be cutting back on.
In my opinion, just about the same nutritional content for your own cooked meals can vary a LOT in cost. Buying a head of cabbage and having steamed cabbage vs. Broccoli is less expensive. Buying a 10 lb box of Quaker Oatmeal at Costco for 80 cent a pound is less expensive than just about any equivalent whole grain breakfast. ... and so on.

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by stoptothink » Sat Nov 12, 2016 1:02 pm

livesoft wrote:For those that stock up meat and other things in a freezer, do you ever eat that meat?

What is the oldest item in your freezer? I found some mahi-mahi from 2011 in our freezer this week. Should I still eat it?
There is nothing in our freezer more than a few months old. Generally we'll crockpot a huge (~8lbs) portion of whatever (pork or beef roast, chicken thighs) in the crockpot on Sunday and that will be our protein for the week, along with eggs. Also, we get frozen veggies for $1/lb and occasionally they'll drop down to like $.77/lbs. and I'll get 20+ lbs. We go through at least 2lbs. of frozen broccoli and green beans a day. The key is the fact that we're fine eating the same things every day.

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by KSOC » Sat Nov 12, 2016 2:14 pm

Family of 4 here. $700 to $800 a month about right for us too. That includes non-food stuffs as well. We shop Aldi first, then Publix. I am very frugal, and take advantage of BOGO's. I have a lot of food on hand. I like having a stocked pantry so I can go off menu occasionally.Very little goes to waste. I plan meals for the week, and all of us take leftovers or something from our stock for lunches.

We eat well, but I could easily trim it back some if finances were tight. I just choose to buy on sale.
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by KSOC » Sat Nov 12, 2016 2:20 pm

tic wrote:Family of 4, but one still getting calories indirectly from momma. We spend about $350/month right now. We eat a pretty decent food pyramid diet and almost all produce is fresh, some frozen (none canned). The big difference for us is using Aldi for most things. We have run the numbers and it saves us about 35-40% vs Kroger, more vs higher-end grocery stores. We also have a small chest freezer and load up on pork loin when it's $1.49/lb, chicken breasts at $1.69, ground beef <$2, etc. Splurges are based on what's on an especially good sale (had both filet and lobster last week!). Seasonal produce is cheapest, so it's been lots of squash, sweet potatoes, and apples lately.

But, mostly it's just the Aldi effect.

Same here with Aldi's. I track my expenses and we save about $30 a week compared other grocers.
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by LeisureLee » Sat Nov 12, 2016 2:36 pm

We're another family of four, all get lunches at work/school, and spend around $400/mo on groceries.

The biggest things which keep our grocery costs down:
  • We plan a week of meals and shop once a week.
  • We try not to buy things which aren't on the list.
  • We use the weekly deals from our grocery store to help pick our meals (Pork on sale? How about Pork Teriyaki this week?)
  • We stock up on things on sale ($0.88/lb chicken? Buy two and freeze one!)
I remember being shocked to find out the food stamps reimbursement for a family our size is more than we spend. Of course, if you can't afford to stock up and don't have the tools or time to cook at home, you can't eat as cheaply.

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by dm200 » Sat Nov 12, 2016 2:48 pm

LeisureLee wrote:We're another family of four, all get lunches at work/school, and spend around $400/mo on groceries.

The biggest things which keep our grocery costs down:
  • We plan a week of meals and shop once a week.
  • We try not to buy things which aren't on the list.
  • We use the weekly deals from our grocery store to help pick our meals (Pork on sale? How about Pork Teriyaki this week?)
  • We stock up on things on sale ($0.88/lb chicken? Buy two and freeze one!)
I remember being shocked to find out the food stamps reimbursement for a family our size is more than we spend. Of course, if you can't afford to stock up and don't have the tools or time to cook at home, you can't eat as cheaply.
Seems to me that you are doing very, very well - as long as you all get sufficient nutrition - seems like you do.

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by dm200 » Sat Nov 12, 2016 2:52 pm

I remember being shocked to find out the food stamps reimbursement for a family our size is more than we spend. Of course, if you can't afford to stock up and don't have the tools or time to cook at home, you can't eat as cheaply.
That is a whole other topic, and it can get both unfair (in both directions). i will just leave it that, in my opinion, there are multiple aspects to "food stamps" (or whatever the current name is). These include (but not limited to) education, availability of types of food and the "structure" of the program.

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by likegarden » Sat Nov 12, 2016 2:52 pm

Every few years we go comparison shopping, that is go to two different grocers with exactly the same shopping list. Afterwards we decide to do all our shopping at the lowest priced grocer. Quality is usually not much different, we get the same brands at both grocers and store brands are usually equivalent. We also pass on grocers which appeal to upscale taste = expensive. We have no stamina to buy with coupons, usually other products in such stores then have prices higher. We spend usually above $1000 per month for food, paper and cleaning products for 3 adults and a teenager, takeout food is extra.

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by dm200 » Sat Nov 12, 2016 3:09 pm

Most Coupons for for more expensive items that I rarely buy. I do use some for basics (like frozen vegetables) - always for things I buy anyway. My wife enters things in online so I get some discounts when I shop.

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by joe3411 » Sat Nov 12, 2016 4:20 pm

$275-300 in Eastern MA for two people here who get $20 in takeout per week. I think the biggest thing that saves me money is shopping at a lower priced, but less convenient supermarket. I also only very rarely buy meats that are not on sale. If there's a good price I stock up. Always going with a meal plan and a good list helps; very rarely do I make impulse buys.

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by mmmodem » Sat Nov 12, 2016 4:30 pm

We budget ourselves $250 a week for food, groceries, toiletries, lunch out, everything. We are also a family of four with children in daycare. We don't separate food from shampoo or etc. We use one credit card at the grocery store and it covers just about everything.

Budgeting and keeping it simple is how we keep track. Should I go out for lunch today with the coworkers? Hmm, how much of the $250 is remaining for the week?

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by LeisureLee » Sat Nov 12, 2016 5:05 pm

dm200 wrote:Seems to me that you are doing very, very well - as long as you all get sufficient nutrition - seems like you do.
Thanks. Yes, I'm comfortable with how healthy our diet is. It's not perfect - we eat a fair amount of carbs - but it's a balance between things we like and things which keep us acceptably healthy.

I tallied up our dinners for the year recently, which was a neat view of what we like. Baked Chicken, Spaghetti and Meat Sauce, and Slow Cooker pork were our top dishes.

retire57
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by retire57 » Sat Nov 12, 2016 5:31 pm

livesoft wrote:For those that stock up meat and other things in a freezer, do you ever eat that meat?

What is the oldest item in your freezer? I found some mahi-mahi from 2011 in our freezer this week. Should I still eat it?
Oh yes. (That is - yes, we eat what's in the freezer, not yes on the mahi-mahi question).

The first step in our meal-planning for the week is to look in the freezer and the pantry. Based on those contents, we decide on a menu. That step goes a long way toward not throwing out uneaten food.

Twood
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by Twood » Sat Nov 12, 2016 7:51 pm

4 people, three have packed lunches every day, one fed lunch at daycare. $800/month for all groceries and eating out (typically one cheap fast food meal a week on the way to a kid class), but toiletries do not come from that budget. If we stay under, we get to carry over the rest to the next month for food splurges (maybe going out to eat at our favorite restaurant for lunch for $30, or apply the extra to whatever is currently underfunded in the budget (eg rebuilding a sinking fund that's needing to grow faster than expected).

First I make a sales list for Aldi and our two more reasonably priced grocery stores. Then I look at what's in the freezer that needs using, or best meat prices from the sale lists. Meat is bought for $2/pound or less (usually dark boneless pork or ground beef, BLSL chicken), except the very rare $4/pound beef roast; a fair amount of $0.75-$1/dz eggs, and some $2.50/pound bacon. From the meat of the week I meal plan the entire week. We cook from scratch, eat leftovers for lunches, use a crockpot for stewing down meats on weeknights, and we are working on learning to add an InstantPot (electric pressure cooker) to our cooking repertoire. I do mentally track the 12 week sale cycles (requires time and mental energy to learn your locale), and so only buy cyclical sale items at the bottom price. Staples that don't go on sale get bought wherever they are cheapest, typically Adli if it's something Aldi carries.

In order to do the meal plan, I have a meal planning pick list - meals we like sorted by the type and cut of meat (for main dishes), plus veggies, fruits, sides, bring to a potluck, etc. Saves a lot of mental energy vs trying to brainstorm from scratch. We got to Aldi first, because they are often out of stuff or the produce is bad quality; fortunately the other grocery stores are nearby so no need to make separate trips or temptation to drive across town.

I don't do coupons except for what the three grocery stores offer/require in their fliers, and what printed out for me from the Catalina coupon dispenser that's useful.
Last edited by Twood on Sat Nov 12, 2016 7:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

fpr4
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by fpr4 » Sat Nov 12, 2016 7:55 pm

imsomeguy wrote:Just looking over some recent credit card bills and realized we are spending $600-700/month on groceries. We are a family of 4 and the majority of our meals are cooked at home, wife brings lunch to work but I usually eat out, kids get lunch at their daycare. Don't shop at a fancy supermarket and while we try to give the kids healthy food almost none of the food we buy is 'organic'. Wife makes sure to buy stuff on sale but we don't really have the space to buy in bulk (ie Costco).

I dunno just seems like a lot of money but we gotta eat and we never waste food.

What do you spend on groceries? How do you save money?
We have a family of 4 and shop primarily at aldi and i budget $600 a month for food. It's just hard to eat for under $150 per person per month these days.

Me and my wife eat lunch out 2 or 3 fridays a month (usually $10-$15) but virtually every other meal is homecooked or packed.

SixAlpha
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by SixAlpha » Sat Nov 12, 2016 8:36 pm

2 of us, and we spend around $700 a month, including toiletries and an embarrassing amount of wine. We shop pretty much exclusively at Kroger and Trader Joe's, pack all of our lunches for work, and have a rotating menu of maybe a half dozen dishes that we prepare on the weekend and eat throughout the week. We do use coupons fairly aggressively, and stock up on items we routinely use when they go on sale.

We're Paleo, so most of what we buy is fresh produce, meat, eggs, nuts and high-quality dairy. Wine is our one soft spot (I can blame working in the wine business for that) to the tune of around $100 a month.

jsapiandante
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by jsapiandante » Sat Nov 12, 2016 8:52 pm

For 4 people that's not too bad at all. For me and my wife we spend anywhere between $250-300 a month. We buy our meats in bulk at Costco such as frozen chicken breast and thighs, frozen shrimp, ground turkey, and beef. We have a food saver that we vacuum seal the meats so we can separate and freeze the beef. Meats usually lasts us 1-2 months. We buy groceries from Asian markets and aldi on a weekly basis. We cook our lunch and dinner meals. For breakfast we either have cereal or oatmeal during weekdays, then weekends we cook. We eat out 1-2 times a week but we always share meals since we don't eat much.

cutehumor
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by cutehumor » Sat Nov 12, 2016 9:38 pm

I have gotten to the point where I am eating two meals a day. I eat a big lunch and normal dinner. Yeah, I know "breakfast is the most important meal of the day", but I have found I am not as hungry when I wake up in the mornings. I do snack on unsalted peanuts though and drink too much diet soda though. :mrgreen:

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dm200
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by dm200 » Sat Nov 12, 2016 10:07 pm

cutehumor wrote:I have gotten to the point where I am eating two meals a day. I eat a big lunch and normal dinner. Yeah, I know "breakfast is the most important meal of the day", but I have found I am not as hungry when I wake up in the mornings. I do snack on unsalted peanuts though and drink too much diet soda though. :mrgreen:
Turns out this is a "myth"

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Sun Nov 13, 2016 6:30 am

livesoft wrote:For those that stock up meat and other things in a freezer, do you ever eat that meat?

What is the oldest item in your freezer? I found some mahi-mahi from 2011 in our freezer this week. Should I still eat it?
Frozen filet mignon roast, vacuum packed dated January 2016, consumed in September - still good. I would toss food that is 5 years old, unless you had no other food in house and neighbors were not sharing this time around. :)
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by jlawrence01 » Mon Nov 14, 2016 11:35 am

livesoft wrote:For those that stock up meat and other things in a freezer, do you ever eat that meat?

What is the oldest item in your freezer? I found some mahi-mahi from 2011 in our freezer this week. Should I still eat it?

We take a trip of two weeks every three or four months. In the weeks before we leave, we work out all of the items in the refrigerator and freezer. I think that the only things we had left before our last trip was 8 oz of frozen cod in the freezer and a dozen lemons. My wife juiced the lemons and froze the juice.

I will admit that toward the end, we may be eating the same thing for a few days, but we don't want to lose anything should we lose power while we are gone.

The one thing that we will absolutely NOT do is purchase a small freezer in addition to the one in our refrigerator. If we did, I would have that thing filled up in about three days as I come across a LOT of food bargains in this area. I would be having the same problems with two-three year old food.

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by randomguy » Mon Nov 14, 2016 11:53 am

dm200 wrote:Most Coupons for for more expensive items that I rarely buy. I do use some for basics (like frozen vegetables) - always for things I buy anyway. My wife enters things in online so I get some discounts when I shop.
Coupons are really hit and miss. Often times you are still more expensive than the store brand but sometimes combos of sales and things like double coupons can make using them a great deal.


Food bills vary a lot in a couple of ways
a) Some people include toiletries, cleaning supplies, diapers, and the like that can really add up
b) Some people like to drink. A case a beer a week is going to add 100/month to your budget
c) the big one is what you eat. Fill up on potatoes, beans, rice, pasta,... and have the right amount of meat (4oz of say chicken not 8) you are going to end up in a vastly different spot than the person eating 12 oz of meat every meal.
d) shopping effort. Coupons and sales and easily make a 30% difference. Some people shop to the sales (either by hoarding or adapting menus to what is on sale) while other people buy what they want to eat.

Can you go cheaper? Probably. Is it worth while? Who knows. Bring lunches to work (ignoring any social benefit you may or may not get by going out) is probably the easiest place to save in the food budget. Same thing about going out to eat with the family. Changing diet to meet a montary limit is something I would only do if money was an issue. And how much time to spend shopping (i.e. cutting coupons and looking through 4 flyers to find the best deals isn't free) is up to you.

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by Andyrunner » Mon Nov 14, 2016 11:57 am

My family does not eat a lot of meat which helps. We stock up on canned beans, lentils (great ground meat replacement) and veggies. I think the biggest one is utilizing lentils. We make tacos, meat loaf, and meatballs with the lentils.

Another factor I should point out is most of my meat is venison. I picked up hunting a few years ago, got most of my gear used and hunt on friends/co-workers land for free. The deer I got this year provided me with ~60lbs of different types of meat (steaks, brats, sausage, ground meat) which butcher charged me roughly $3.50 a pound to cut & process. This will last my family about a year. Your issue would be the storage.

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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by corysold » Mon Nov 14, 2016 12:10 pm

livesoft wrote:For those that stock up meat and other things in a freezer, do you ever eat that meat?

What is the oldest item in your freezer? I found some mahi-mahi from 2011 in our freezer this week. Should I still eat it?
You can still eat it yes, but you may not like it.

Frozen food lasts years without becoming inedible. However, the quality will begin to suffer after 6-8 months for most things. So the mahi-mahi is safe to eat, it just likely won't taste like you thought it should.

livesoft
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by livesoft » Mon Nov 14, 2016 12:21 pm

Mahi-mahi for dinner tonight at my place! :)
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bradshaw1965
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Re: Monthly grocery costs? How do you keep it low?

Post by bradshaw1965 » Mon Nov 14, 2016 12:26 pm

jlawrence01 wrote:We spend $250 a month on average for two people.

We shop at salvage markets, especially for produce.
We shop at ethnic markets for meats and vegetables.
We shop at discounters like 99 Only, Aldi and Winco Foods, the latter being the cheapest on store brands, certain meats and spices.
Fry's (Kroger's) for loss leaders, sale items and digital coupon items.

Most of the time, we cook from scratch. We avoid prepared items and generally make our own salad dressings, soak beans instead canned and the like.
Good work. I think in this case I'm likely to not work as hard as it looks like you do and just avoid the big ticket items like housing and transportation, but much respect for the outline of how it's done.

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