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yet another grocery question

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 
My grocery bill averages about $600 a month for a family of 4 and that's way too much. Our budget really only allows for $300-$400 a month, but when it gets to the end of the month and that money has already been spent how do you say "ok, there's no more grocery money so my children can't eat!"? I've tried cutting it in everyway I can think. We do eat healthy foods like lots of fruits and veggies (fresh or frozen). We don't eat organic but we have cut out partially hygrogenated fats, high fructose corn syrup, and buy very little processed food. Our fruits and veggies come from aldi or the local prodcue stand. The rest I buy all that I can from aldi and the rest at walmart or a local grocery store. We only eat meat 4 nights a week although I'm sometimes making it 3 nights to save more. We do go through 3 gallons of milk a week at $2.79/gallon. I'm trying to cut the kiddos back a little, but I don't complain too much because all they drink is milk and water. I try coupons, but when it's not something we use I don't see buying something we don't eat to save $.25. I even get online looking for coupons for the things we do use... usually without much luck. I look for things on sale, etc. I just don't understand why we're hearing so much about Americans being obese and unhealthy yet it's so expensive to eat healthy. Also with the economy the way it is I can only imagine it will get worse because people will have to eat what they can afford (which is what I'm afraid it will come to for us). Does anyone else feel the same? How do you just not buy food when the money is gone? Any suggestions?
post #2 of 36
I stockpile food when it is cheap/free so that we can afford organics, more fresh produce, etc.

There is a trick to coupons. Check out the sticky at the top of this forum and www.hotcouponworld.com. The idea is to join a coupon with a deep loss leader sale to get shelf stable things for free -- thus freeing up the rest of your money to buy fresh produce. Free mustard. Free oatmeal. Free rice. Free frozen veggies. Free tea.

This week I got frozen veggies for free. I had 11 coupons so I got 11 bags.

I feed our family of 4 on about $50 a week + $13 a week CSA if it helps to have a frame of reference. We eat about 25% organic in the winter and about 50% in the spring/summer/fall.
post #3 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by spoony View Post
My grocery bill averages about $600 a month for a family of 4 and that's way too much. Our budget really only allows for $300-$400 a month, but when it gets to the end of the month and that money has already been spent how do you say "ok, there's no more grocery money so my children can't eat!"? I've tried cutting it in everyway I can think. We do eat healthy foods like lots of fruits and veggies (fresh or frozen). We don't eat organic but we have cut out partially hygrogenated fats, high fructose corn syrup, and buy very little processed food. Our fruits and veggies come from aldi or the local prodcue stand. The rest I buy all that I can from aldi and the rest at walmart or a local grocery store. We only eat meat 4 nights a week although I'm sometimes making it 3 nights to save more. We do go through 3 gallons of milk a week at $2.79/gallon. I'm trying to cut the kiddos back a little, but I don't complain too much because all they drink is milk and water. I try coupons, but when it's not something we use I don't see buying something we don't eat to save $.25. I even get online looking for coupons for the things we do use... usually without much luck. I look for things on sale, etc. I just don't understand why we're hearing so much about Americans being obese and unhealthy yet it's so expensive to eat healthy. Also with the economy the way it is I can only imagine it will get worse because people will have to eat what they can afford (which is what I'm afraid it will come to for us). Does anyone else feel the same? How do you just not buy food when the money is gone? Any suggestions?

We're in the same boat. I spend $550 a month on groceries for my family of four but we need to get that down to $350-400. I'll admit I do buy Organic Valley milk but in the 2 gallon size to save money, and we go through one of those every 4-5 days. Obviously I am learning as I go and still could use more tips. I live in an area with limited coupon deals, and we don't have any stores that double coupons here. One thing I do is the old rice and beans budget stretching method, but I cook three meals a day and that's a lot of groceries. The rice and beans thing is good for us because we all like it, and we can combine leftovers to make breakfast and also as sides for other meals. I also look at the discount meat section of our store. If some meat is about to expire, you can get it for 50% off. Once in awhile I'll score a tenderloin for $5. Whole chickens are a lot cheaper than pieces and can stretch into 2-3 meals. First it makes a great chicken and root veggie soup, then we shred the rest and either have chicken burritos, or chicken salad or enchiladas, etc.

One thing I've really taken to doing is just buying whatever produce is cheap and also make sure I have a well-stocked pantry with spices, condiments and basics like white and brown rice, dried and canned beans, canned soups, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, broths, etc. Then I will go to recipezaar.com for ideas and inspiration. For example, I have a butternut squash because it was cheap so I searched that on recipezaar and found several recipes that I could make even though I *thought* I had no food left. Same thing with radishes. Had a bunch, looked for radish recipes and found several for which I had all the ingredients. So instead of running out for fast food last night, which we almost did, I looked around and utilized what little I had left and we ended up having chicken marinated in lemon juice and goddess dressing, roasted butternut squash, and radish-carrot salad. I would NEVER have come up with that on my own, so the recipezaar site really helps open my mind, and I feel really proud when I am being resourceful and trying out new dishes using whatever I have. So I'm definitely going to open my mind next time I go shopping and buy whatever is on sale and learn how to fix it using other ingredients that I have lying around.

We always run out of food and money the last week of the month. I am still trying not to charge any food until the 31st when we get paid. We have only canned refried beans, frozen corn and peas, 1 box mac and cheese, frozen chicken, frozen salmon patties, noodles, quinoa, rice and beans. That's it, other than the condiments and spices. My cupboards have never looked so bare, lol. My husband and I could make it, we are pretty tough, but I worry about my kids not eating because they don't have their usual meals avaiable right now. Then again, I think it's very good for kids to learn to eat what is available. You never know when it might come in handy (like now!).

Hoping to read more tips!
post #4 of 36
Do you meal plan? If you don't already do this, I'd give it a shot. Planning my meals ahead of time (and sticking to the plan ) helps me to keep my grocery bill managable.

I'll also add that sometimes at the end of the month, we end up eating odds and ends and things that we may not prefer to eat. For example, this is the last week of the month. Today my kids took peanut butter sandwiches to school (not PB&J like usual) because we ran out of jelly. DH took leftovers to work today insteading of making a sandwich (for the same reason). Rather than having a big lunch on Sunday, I made pancakes and used my last bag of frozen cherries to make a fruit sauce for the pancakes. We're not out of food, but I'm being creative. I only had a small amount of $ left in my budget for the month, so I bought fresh fruits for the kids and I'm improvising the rest.
post #5 of 36
We eat relatively healthy, and I usually can do it for about $400 a month-that also includes feeding 2 dogs, 3 cats and our household supplies. I agree with Seeking Joy there is a trick to using coupons, it's not just like oh, that's .25 off so I must buy it. I look for the loss leaders also, and I stock up then.

For example a few weeks ago at Safeway they had "super coupons" with unlimited amounts, plus I had a few coupons for the items that were on the super specials. We go through a lot of peanut butter in our house and I will buy it by the case if necessary(of course only on sale). So I purchased 10 jars of Skippy Natural Peanut butter, which is non-hydro oil, just peanuts, salt, oil for $1.41 a jar, that is about a 70% savings. It was 1.49 with the Safeway coupon, plus I used some coupons for Skippy p.b I had. They also had bogo on Tostitos chips, so I got us tortilla chips for the month. Cheese sticks were 5.99 a 32 pack, I bought 2. We just did a similar trip on Sat. and granted we bought a bunch of "snacky" items, chips, granola bars, some cookies-these are all items that we buy for DH's lunches, he likes his snacks, and he likes them even more if we get much of them for cheap or free.

Where I'd start is creating a working pantry, look at what you have, what you really eat and what is getting tossed. I started really going for it after learning so much from this forum-a year ago I was a totally different woman, lol. We were in a fairly bad place financially and so I had to figure out how to make things more efficient for my family, while still enjoying the things we do. I am so glad I found this board, it really has helped me see things in a different light, and has contributed to us actually saving money. I also recommend couponmom..com-I use that site to match coupons with sales, I look at store fliers and make note of prices. I don't do a price book, but I do know what the lowest price is at my local store usually, so when I see it I jump on it. Having a freezer is helpful also, that way when things like meat are on sale, you can stock up. Stock up is the key for us.
post #6 of 36
honestly, only take as much money with you per wekk as you have available. The trick is to buy more frequently, so you are only going a day or so without a lot of food, not a while week...like, if you spend all your money and have a full week of teh month left, of course you are going to buy more food..you can't go a week without food...but if you are shopping every week, then the last coupld days before you shop again, maybe it gets lean, but it's not like you are starving.
So, if you want to spend $400/month, plan a weekly shopping trip, and take $100 with you. you can spend THAT much. I agree with the planning. Break that $100 down into your 7 days worth of meals. for example, I might buy a container of oatmeal for $3, and 2 cartons eggs($4), that is breakfast for the whole week. $7. Or a dollar a day.
Then lunches...here, that might be lunchmeat, bread, soup. I don't homemake a lot, so i pay more for things like soup. for my family, that works. So, $3 for bread(2 loaves),maybe $12 total on lunchmeat and cheese, and $5 for 3 cans of soup. total, $20. Then, I have $73 left for dinners, snacks and beverages. minus $8 for milk, leaves $65...take $10 out for snacks, you have $55 for 7 dinners, or about 7.50 per meal.
I personally would have a couple of uber-cheap meals and a couple nicer meals...like, spend $2 on one spaghetti meal, and then have $14 to spend on a different dinner.
post #7 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobandjess99 View Post
honestly, only take as much money with you per wekk as you have available. The trick is to buy more frequently, so you are only going a day or so without a lot of food, not a while week...like, if you spend all your money and have a full week of teh month left, of course you are going to buy more food..you can't go a week without food...but if you are shopping every week, then the last coupld days before you shop again, maybe it gets lean, but it's not like you are starving.
So, if you want to spend $400/month, plan a weekly shopping trip, and take $100 with you. you can spend THAT much. I agree with the planning. Break that $100 down into your 7 days worth of meals. for example, I might buy a container of oatmeal for $3, and 2 cartons eggs($4), that is breakfast for the whole week. $7. Or a dollar a day.
Then lunches...here, that might be lunchmeat, bread, soup. I don't homemake a lot, so i pay more for things like soup. for my family, that works. So, $3 for bread(2 loaves),maybe $12 total on lunchmeat and cheese, and $5 for 3 cans of soup. total, $20. Then, I have $73 left for dinners, snacks and beverages. minus $8 for milk, leaves $65...take $10 out for snacks, you have $55 for 7 dinners, or about 7.50 per meal.
I personally would have a couple of uber-cheap meals and a couple nicer meals...like, spend $2 on one spaghetti meal, and then have $14 to spend on a different dinner.
That is the BEST grocery budgeting post I have ever read!! :
post #8 of 36
Thread Starter 
Yes, I do plan a menu a week at a time and make my grocery list based on that and I do good to stick to that very seldomly buying anything not on it. I also will stock up on meat if it's a really good deal and we have the money to buy extra.

Thanks for all the input. I'll check out those websites and just keep trying.
post #9 of 36
bobandjess99 that was the BEST post I have seen! It's so cut and dry when you put it like that!

I have done this just this last week with our budget! We are fortunate to have a beef in the freezer, so I don't have to budget beef, but I figured if we eat a pound of meat, 5-6 days a week, and 3 are beef so lets say 3 are pork or chicken, and I won't spend more than $2/lb. That means $6 a week for our meat which comes to $24/month. Milk for us is organic and expensive...$6/gallon 1.5 gallons/week, = $36/month + cheese and yogurt and you would have $45/month for dairy. Produce is a bag of apples and a bunch of bananas a week + a bag of carrots for fresh which would be about $10/week = $40/week probably adding some lettuce and minus a bag or two of apples.

We do a frozen bag of vegees most night for supper which are $1/bag meaning 20 bags a month or $20

Coffee is $20/month and diapers are $30/month.

So that is about: $180 giving us $220 for snacks, soda (our caveat), paper products, and staples.

I try to bake a batch of cookies on the weekend for snacks and yes I do buy some candy like a big ol bag of gummy bears (what's the diff between those and fruitsnacks!) and I make popcorn on the stove.

I try to make some kind of biscuit or cornbread a couple of times a week to fill us up a little as well.

We have a $500/month budget for food/paper/diapers. I am trying to put $100 of that a month into an envelope for Costco and then at the end of three months I will make a huge Costco run and have $300...so technically I am trying to do $400/month.

It's possible here in the south. I shop at Walmart, Target, and Sprouts. I have to say I love Walmart for accepting other places ads and not limiting the deals you can get.

Last weekend I spent $55 and bought 17 bags of green giant frozen vegees, 10 cans of Rotel tomatoes, 2 Velveta, 4 loaves of 100% Whole Wheat bread, 4 bags of Kraft shredded cheese, 5 blocks of Kraft cream cheese, 2 dozen brown eggs, and tortillas. Now, those are kind of random, except that I have a pantry and freezer pretty stocked to make these work...they were all from the Kroger ad. Oh plus 2 bunches of bananas

Sorry for the rambling but wanted to share how breaking it down works for us.
post #10 of 36
I suggest looking up food servings. It's eye opening. As adults, we only need 3 servings of dairy a day; that's 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of yogurt, or 1.5 oz of cheese. If you're going through 3 gallons a week, see how much everyone is actually drinking and what other dairy is in the diet. Portion out what a serving of each food looks like so you're not caught unawares and overserving the more expensive food groups.

We spend around $500/mo on groceries, but to give you an idea of prices here, one gallon of milk costs $7-10. That's per gallon. I filled up a cart for my MIL and it came to $50 vs. the $125 I can spend on the same food here. (and trust me, I felt sick when I realize how much we spend here).


Plan for a dinner of at least 4 items. It sounds like a lot, but your food will go so much further! If you can put together a pork roast, baked apples, biscuits and salad, you'll feel more sated than having just three items. It lets you cut back on the meat and take it from being the focus.
post #11 of 36
I recommend more meal planning like some of the other posters have mentioned.

I really like this woman's blog
http://www.moneysavingmom.com/

Now, you might not be able to feed your family as low as she can, averaging $35-$60 a week (family of 5+), but she gives a great run down on what she is meal planning. You can check out the specific meal plans here:
http://www.moneysavingmom.com/money_...nus/index.html
post #12 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobandjess99 View Post
honestly, only take as much money with you per wekk as you have available. The trick is to buy more frequently, so you are only going a day or so without a lot of food, not a while week...like, if you spend all your money and have a full week of teh month left, of course you are going to buy more food..you can't go a week without food...but if you are shopping every week, then the last coupld days before you shop again, maybe it gets lean, but it's not like you are starving.
So, if you want to spend $400/month, plan a weekly shopping trip, and take $100 with you. you can spend THAT much. I agree with the planning. Break that $100 down into your 7 days worth of meals. for example, I might buy a container of oatmeal for $3, and 2 cartons eggs($4), that is breakfast for the whole week. $7. Or a dollar a day.
Then lunches...here, that might be lunchmeat, bread, soup. I don't homemake a lot, so i pay more for things like soup. for my family, that works. So, $3 for bread(2 loaves),maybe $12 total on lunchmeat and cheese, and $5 for 3 cans of soup. total, $20. Then, I have $73 left for dinners, snacks and beverages. minus $8 for milk, leaves $65...take $10 out for snacks, you have $55 for 7 dinners, or about 7.50 per meal.
I personally would have a couple of uber-cheap meals and a couple nicer meals...like, spend $2 on one spaghetti meal, and then have $14 to spend on a different dinner.

this is exactly how i grocery budget! it's really very simple.

we too spend anywhere from $300-$400 per month for family of 4, 1 cat, 1 dog and all household supplies. our dinners consist of a rotation of more "expensive" meals like shrimp risotto and seafood to our "cheapie" meals like spaghetti/salad or tomato soup and grilled ham/swiss or turkey/provolone sandwiches. we do atleast 2-3 "cheapie" meals per week. the bulk of my budget goes to fresh fruit and veggies as both of my children and my dh take their lunches to school and work. and these are my kid's snacks as well. i do pick up some granola bars and individual bags of sun chips for the kid's lunches though both for convenience and because that's their only request.

and i rarely use coupons unless i can combine it with a loss leader and get it for next to nothing.
post #13 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobandjess99 View Post
honestly, only take as much money with you per wekk as you have available. The trick is to buy more frequently, so you are only going a day or so without a lot of food, not a while week...like, if you spend all your money and have a full week of teh month left, of course you are going to buy more food..you can't go a week without food...but if you are shopping every week, then the last coupld days before you shop again, maybe it gets lean, but it's not like you are starving.
So, if you want to spend $400/month, plan a weekly shopping trip, and take $100 with you. you can spend THAT much. I agree with the planning. Break that $100 down into your 7 days worth of meals. for example, I might buy a container of oatmeal for $3, and 2 cartons eggs($4), that is breakfast for the whole week. $7. Or a dollar a day.
Then lunches...here, that might be lunchmeat, bread, soup. I don't homemake a lot, so i pay more for things like soup. for my family, that works. So, $3 for bread(2 loaves),maybe $12 total on lunchmeat and cheese, and $5 for 3 cans of soup. total, $20. Then, I have $73 left for dinners, snacks and beverages. minus $8 for milk, leaves $65...take $10 out for snacks, you have $55 for 7 dinners, or about 7.50 per meal.
I personally would have a couple of uber-cheap meals and a couple nicer meals...like, spend $2 on one spaghetti meal, and then have $14 to spend on a different dinner.
For whatever reason, that system has never worked for me - at the end of the month I've ended up spending a lot more (not to mention the extra gas that comes from all the trips to the store, time spent, etc.). Not to say it won't work great for others, just doesn't work well for me.

A few years ago we were in a tight spot and ended up going on food stamps. I saw quickly how easy it was for that money to be gone with month still left to cover! What I started doing was at the first of the month I'd get the grocery ads and any coupons I had. Then I'd take a full inventory of my freezers. Using all that, I'd devise a menu for the month, checking the stock of the pantry as I went to see what was "missing". I did one big run at the start of the month, supplemented only with milk, bread and fresh fruit the rest of the month. That first month I was not only able to feed our family better but we had snacks, knew what was for dinner each night (so much easier) and our food expense dropped. By the 2nd - 3rd month we'd cut our food expense by about $200 just by planning our meals out that way. We didn't always stick to the meal for the day, but I tried to stick to the meals planned for the week. Unfortunately if you don't have $500 at once, it's hard to do this, but it can be done every 2 weeks as well.

A lot of the expense also depends on where you live (in FL the food was about 20% higher than here, in WI it was about 10% less - I can't do a thing about that!) and what your family's specific needs are. In our house the kids go through a gallon of milk every 1-2 days. Organic milk at $6+ a gallon is out of our budget because of that, but we can get hormone free non-organic for about $3.33/gal. Keep in mind too that with food costs rising like they are, there's only going to be so much you can trim unfortunately. Last summer I realized I was paying on average 20% more for things than I had been the summer before, so if I had a $400/mth budget, it was then costing me $480 for the exact same items. For a family of 4 it runs us between $400 and $500 a month for food. If I put my mind to it I could probably trim that closer to $350 - $400, but there also comes a point where the effort involved that could be spent on something else just isn't worth the few pennies savings if you could be doing something else that saves/pays more in that same amount of time.
post #14 of 36

First off, feeding your family on $300-400 a month is probably not a reasonable goal. There was a thread recently that had a link for the USDA table on the cost of feeding a family, and that is way under the "frugal" estimate. Way under.

I spend just about bang on the frugal estimate, about $125 per week.

If you are really running out of money for food, could you qualify for wic?

ETA:
I have been trying to stick with recipes that have ingredients I'd typically find in my pantry. For example, when I cook out of my Rachel Ray cookbooks, I usually have to buy special things that only get used once.

Some of my favorite frugal foods:

-Roasts. Seems expensive, but I make stock and use the leftovers for lunch meat. Delicious, and much cheaper. An eye-of-the round roast beef on sale for $4/lb can go a long way. Whole chicken on sale for less than a dollar a pound can go a really long way!

-Clean-out-the-fridge soups. Use stock, crushed toms (less than $1 per can on sale), and whatever I can find in the veggie drawer, freezer, or cupboard.

-Pancakes/crepes. Super cheap, easy, and everyone likes them. Fill with whatever leftovers are in the fridge, or splurge on some mushrooms and cheese.
post #15 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by Denvergirlie View Post
I recommend more meal planning like some of the other posters have mentioned.

I really like this woman's blog
http://www.moneysavingmom.com/

Now, you might not be able to feed your family as low as she can, averaging $35-$60 a week (family of 5+), but she gives a great run down on what she is meal planning. You can check out the specific meal plans here:
http://www.moneysavingmom.com/money_...nus/index.html
:

I read this blog regularly for her tips, freebie alerts, meal planning, and drugstore deals. Great source of information.

To the pp who took the Kroger flyer to Wal-mart for price matching: If you took the same coupons to Kroger instead, those that were $.50 and under (or $1 and under in some areas) would have doubled. Plus, they had a deal where you got $5 back if you bought 10 items.

Wal-mart will match advertised prices, but won't double coupons, rebates, or "deals." Sometimes it isn't worth the trip -- but sometimes it is.
post #16 of 36
Hmm, family of 4 and we spend about $250 a month (that is food, not household or hygiene) I don't do anything special really. I buy fruits that are on sale (like bags of apples for $2 at aldi's, etc) I buy ground turkey instead of beef which is a lot cheaper. I don't buy junk food or soda. I make a lot of simple meals.

I can spend $5 making spaghetti and make it stretch for 3 dinners (I freeze the sauce) I make oatmeal, french toast, eggs etc for breakfasts. Homemade soups and sandwiches for lunch (the occasional mac n cheese) For snacks I make things like peanut butter cookies, macaroons, muffins (all from scratch which is dirt cheap)
post #17 of 36
A blog I like is "grocery cart challenge." She aims for $60 a week for the 6 people in her family. She shops at some places we don't have in my neck of the woods (discounted grocery stores, etc.) so I don't think I can get that low. But I find her suggestions really helpful, and I enjoy reading her blog.

She often links to recipes, several of which have become favorites of mine.

http://grocerycartchallenge.blogspot.com/
post #18 of 36

free stuff at supermarket

Hi, not sure if your market has this policy but try......

I got so mad everytime I'd find expired stuff on the grocery store shevles....just foudn out a policy about if you bring up the expired one plus a good one to the customer service desk, you get the good one for free.......I got about six free things last week (mostly organic bars and stuff) it's their store policy, but it's not posted..(next time you don't have the kids, spend ten minutes checking out the shelves......).......same with the scanning in at the wrong price.......most stores should give you that item for free, so checkit out......
post #19 of 36
I like moneysavingmom too, she does very well. Plus you can look at other people's blog from links on her's. I cannot believe some of the stuff people get for super cheap or free.

I became a member of hotcouponworld.com and I have to say I already have a plan for this next week to save us some green. There are quite a few items that are on good sales, combined with coupons that I have. I figured I am going to spend around $50, and save at least $70 this next week at Safeway. I'll probably spend less, but I know what I am getting.
post #20 of 36
I'm just reading this over for ideas. DH and I recently (new year's) got back on meal planning, so I'm not shopping 3-4 times a week the way I used to. I spent way too much doing that, because I'd run to the store for 2-3 things I needed to make dinner...and end up picking up 4-5 more in the way of impulse buys. Now, even if I do happen to impulse buy, it's once a week, tops.

However, something in a couple of posts caught my eye. A couple of people mentioned making spaghetti for $2 or $3? Is that a meatless sauce, and does it include the pasta? If you do use meat, how much? I make spaghetti from scratch (well, I do use canned tomatoes, but I usually buy them on sale) and it costs me much more than $2 or $3.
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