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HELP ME!!! I spend nearly $900... - Page 2

post #21 of 117
I can totally relate...we usually spend between $800 and $900 on food, and we rarely eat out, maybe once or twice a month. So that's ALL groceries. However, eating delicious, healthy food is our only splurge and it's important to us, so I don't worry about it too much. If I had to slash the budget, I could easily reduce it, but we definitely wouldn't eat as well!
post #22 of 117
Originally Posted by Smithie View Post

I think the USDA's averages are total bs, frankly. They assume that you are eating a whole bunch of processed food, which in addition to being very $$$ is very, very bad for you. Why not let each member of your family pick ONE convenience-type food per week, and other than that you shop for ingredients rather than already-prepared meals?
They don't assume anything. They are based on surveys of what people actually buy.
post #23 of 117
Thread Starter 
whoever talked about the 14 meals: could you share with me the 14 meals you rotate? I can't even come up with 14 different ones...maybe that's one of my problems.

Btw I'm 22 & was not taught well how to cook. So I have ALOT to learn ...been married 4 years and I can't tell you how long it took me to make a pizza that cooked correctly!
post #24 of 117
Try replacing the eat-out meals with quick meals. $900 a month is more than my family of 11 kids spent on foods.

But the part that is getting you (and it gets me too) is making a meal 3xs a day every day. Ugh I hate cooking.

So I asked my mom how she does/did it. (Don't we all arrive at the point of asking our mom how in the world she did it? lol)

Anyways, she pointed out that she varies her meals so that only 1 meal is made from scratch, big and hearty...typically dinner every night. Breakfast is fruit, then oatmeal. A late lunch is something light and easy such as frozen pizza, tossed lettuce and cottage cheese. The kids can even get these things themselves and clean up is easy.

Then for dinner, she does the big shebang...hormone free steak, whole wheat pasta, mashed potatoes, garlic bread..just an example.

I adopted her idea and it really helps. Especially b/c we are always on the go.
post #25 of 117
Speaking of breakfast, you can also cook and freeze waffles and pancakes.
post #26 of 117
I didn't read the whole thread so forgive me if these have been addressed already:

Do you have a local food co-op or CSA? - we can buy a share at a local CSA for about $250 a share to feed a family of 4 with fresh organic veggies spring through fall.

Can you plant a garden?

Can you make extras and eat leftovers the next day for lunch instead of "cooking" lunch all the time?
post #27 of 117
I totally relate to the "everyone's stuck in the house syndrome" and wanting to just have a meal without two under two making it a near impossible task!

I wouldn't ask your dh to give up his coffee either, if it's his escape. That's just me though.

As far as feeling like you are cooking cooking cooking all the time, we do stuff like muffins and granola in big batches that last the week. Dh coralls the boys while I bake (sometimes ds "helps") and then we have healthy yummy grabable (is that a word? ) breakfast/snacks.

As for your two year old asking to eat all the time, this is my two year old ds. When I grocery shop, I chop veggies and fruit and stick them into ziplock baggies. Then they are easy to grab for snack. I also keep some healthy cracker type thingies on hand, and cheese sliced up. We are grazers, and these snacks being on hand at all times helps so much.

Soups are another great time saver. Throw everything together and it's easy to re-heat, thicken into a stew etc.
post #28 of 117
I was not taught to cook either. It's hard to learn without a teacher. So I think you might want to recognize this is going to be an evolution. You will need to acquire some skills, over time, in order to cut your bill, so expect to continue to rely on takeout. Expect mistakes. Maybe start with eliminating one takeout run each week and work your way up.

Try Taste of Home magazines, recipes are submitted by people like you and me and tested. I also like Cook's Illustrated and Bon Appetit although they are more advanced.

Taste of home and Cook's Illustrated have websites with a certain amount of free content. Once you are more proficient, allrecipes.com is a good place to continue to expand your repertoire. You need experience to evaluate the recipes on allrecipes.com, even the five starred ones can backfire.

Here are 2 of my fave slow cooker recipes.

Slow Cooker Pepper Steak

* 2 pounds beef sirloin, cut into 2 inch strips (I use super cheap round steak sliced across the grain to maximize tenderness)
* garlic powder to taste
* 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 1 cube beef bouillon (I usually use chicken or beef broth in a can instead)
* 1/4 cup hot water
* 1 tablespoon cornstarch
* 1/2 cup chopped onion
* 2 large green bell peppers, roughly chopped
* 1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, with liquid (I use diced tomatoes as the stewed ones are kind of big)
* 3 tablespoons soy sauce
* 1 teaspoon white sugar (I omit this)
* 1 teaspoon salt (I omit this)

You could also add mushrooms to this recipe.


1. Sprinkle strips of sirloin with garlic powder to taste. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the vegetable oil and brown the seasoned beef strips. Transfer to a slow cooker.
2. Add stock OR Mix bouillon cube with hot water until dissolved, then mix in cornstarch until dissolved. (NOTE: I find adding the cornstarch at the end is much better for thickening, I spoon out some of the hot liquid and mix in some cornstarch and then pour back into the pot.) Pour into the slow cooker with meat. Stir in onion, green peppers, stewed tomatoes, soy sauce, sugar, and salt.
3. Cover, and cook on High for 3 to 4 hours, or on Low for 6 to 8 hours. (add some peppers later to keep crisp)
4. Serve over rice.

Unstuffed cabbage casserole

1. Brown diced onions in a skillet and then cook ground turkey or beef in skillet (add some garlic powder).
2.While meat is cooking, chop and dice a green cabbage and toss into the slow cooker.
3. In a bowl, mix 2 cans tomato paste with 1cup of hot water. Add 1/2 cup ketchup. 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce and 1 tbsp. sugar (I often skip these last two).
4. Dump a can or two of undrained diced tomatoes into the slow cooker.
5.Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and cook for 6 hours. (If it seems really watery, scoop out some of the liquid and discard.You can also thicken with flour or cornstarch if necessary at the end.)
6.Serve over rice or this also really good on top of toasted and buttered rustic bread.


post #29 of 117
Learning to cook: In raising me, my mom was rebelling against her own upbringing. She declared that she would not force me to learn homemaking skills; I was a smart capable woman who would learn when I wanted. So when I moved into my first apartment, my mom gave me copies of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook and The Joy of Cooking. I also collected some other "fast, easy, and healthy" cookbooks. (I currently really like Saving Dinner for a great combination of simple ingredients and a wide variety of healthful meals!) I think I watched some Martha Stewart for techniques, like how to chop veggies. LOL. Ten years later I am a pretty capable cook with lots of no-recipe meals and complicated recipes under my belt. You can do it! (As an aside, my grandmother got married in the 1930s or so without knowing how to cook. That was a huge embarrassment for her! She taught herself with the Fannie Farmer Cookbook which is why my mom chose that one for me!)

We have the same budgeting problem. Last month our food budget (for two adults and a toddler) was about the same as yours, and that was WITH my making an effort to shop sales, meal plan, and avoid impulse purchases! Admittedly I did put up a lot of freezer meals.

This month I had a baby. So DH is in charge of food. I was certain our bill would skyrocket, but do you know, his bachelor-days buying habits are standing us in good stead. He buys generic store brand foods and cooks simple meals, we're eating from the freezer or getting pizza pretty inexpensively, and I'm not going to the farmer's market. Our grocery bill is going to end up almost HALF of last month. We're not eating *that* badly either. Not organic or local, but fresh and homemade, you know? Sometimes you just have to compromise when times are tight.
post #30 of 117
I have to laugh at your reasoning for eating out so much because you SAHM. I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing at human nature. We all can come up with the most interesting reasons for why we do what we do.

I work out of the home full time and have two kids. I make 3 meals a day for all of us on top of working. We never eat out. (My house, however, normally looks like a bomb went off, for which my excuse is that I WOH. )

Freezer cooking is your friend. The crockpot, if you can hack it, is your friend. (I can't, as everything I cook in it comes out watery and tasteless.) If you have something in the freezer that you can slap on the table in less than half an hour flat, you will be much less likely to eat out.

You don't have to do the whole once a month nothing but cooking thing, unless you want to. When you cook, make a triple batch and package up the extras. If you are home on a lazy day, throw something extra, like a pot roast or soup over to simmer while you are hanging around. You'll have a freezer stash before you know it.
post #31 of 117
I second the idea of making breakfast and lunch easy, and getting more complicated for dinner. For breakfasts I make something early in the week, like muffins, a loaf of banana bread, or a pan of baked oatmeal (all of which are pretty easy and require basic ingredients), and we eat it all week and supplement it with purchased yogurt, scrambled eggs, or fresh fruit, or frozen organic waffles. If you can get the hang of pizza, that also lasts us several days and really reheats well; also you can make batches of pasta salad with all kinds of goodies in it for lunches. I totally understand about cooking all those meals and cleaning it up. My kitchen would be a permanent disaster, and I'd feel crazy if I had to cook that many meals and be endlessly creative.

It is a learning curve....and not easy when chasing kids. Good luck. Are you much of a gardener? Have you thought about growing some really easy stuff like lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, herbs, or kale?
post #32 of 117
Check out the MDC Feed the Freezer thread for recipies you can cook and freeze to replace take out.

Eat and shop seasonally. For us, that means eating oranges, pears and apples for snacks right now. Greens and root veggies, too.

Try cascading your ingredients. Cook a whole chicken in the crockpot. Strip the meat. Use half for a quick and easy chicken pot pie. Use the other half with beans for burritos the next night. Boil the carcass with carrots, wine, celery, and onion for stock. Use the stock to cook greens, rice, and beans for a soup.

Join a CSA! Yum!

There are coupons at Whole Foods. Check near the front door.

I also wasn't taught to meal plan, cook, or shop. It can be challenging, but you can do this, and your family will be better off financially and health-wise for it.
post #33 of 117
-Visit Hillbilly Housewife. Parts of it are weird, I'll admit, like the whole margarine vs. butter explaination (butter all the way, baby!), but seriously, read through it- the essays are even better than the recipes. And the recipes are well worth reading- yogurt and curds & whey especially. Also make sure you read about lunches, pizza, and meal planning.

-Meal plan, meal plan, meal plan. It sucks. It's hard. BUT it gets so much easier after you've been at while. If it's too hard, try Saving Dinner- I've heard good things. I downloaded (for free) Shopping List from Home Plan Software, and though that's not per se meal planning, it helped me a ton.

-Budget. With DH, agree that he can spend, IDK, $100 a month or whatever at Dunkin' Donuts and that's it.

-Pick your battles. Organics are great. But so is eating locally. So is eating in season. So is buying food that your family will actually eat, rather than rotting in the crisper. Decide what your priorities are. If you want to eat lots of organic convience food, you're not going to shave much off your grocery bills.

-Eat out for lunch, 1-2 a week. Pick your day/s. Toddlers seem to do better at lunch, the menu is cheaper, after heavy restaurant meals, people are still full come dinner, so if you serve cottage cheese, cucumbers, lunch meat and crackers, they are less likely to complain.

-Pick a junk food night. Ours is Thursday. We either have pancakes from homemade mix and Morningstar Farms Veggie Sausage or frozen stuff- tater tots, peas, and jalapeno poppers are popular around here. Easy on the cook and the cleanup. Maybe you could even get DH to cook on junkfood night to give you a night off.

-Do more from scratch. We do a once a month baking day. We freeze bread, pie dough, and pizza dough. This has cut our grocery bills WAY down. We buy cheese several pounds at a time and IQF it- shred it all, spread it on sheet trays to freeze, then bag it. Stock up on (or make your own and can, it's easy) canned pizza sauce. Then you know you have stuff on hand to make pizza quickly. If you have eggs, too, and leftover or frozen veggies, you can easily make quiche.

-Do one thing at a time. Say that you are going to do one thing this month- like budget for Dunkin' Donuts or establish a junk food night. Get the habit integrated before moving on to the next one. It's a process. Be patient with yourself.

Good Luck!
post #34 of 117
Thread Starter 
thank you thank you everyone!

how do I cook a whole chicken in a crockpot? I just happened to buy one today, and haven't cooked one in like 3 years and when I did it was in the oven.

great ideas, keep them coming!
post #35 of 117
Originally Posted by lovebeingamomma View Post
thank you thank you everyone!

how do I cook a whole chicken in a crockpot? I just happened to buy one today, and haven't cooked one in like 3 years and when I did it was in the oven.

great ideas, keep them coming!
You can do it in the oven and just save the left overs for stock the next day. I don't do mine in a crock pot, but I do use my pressure cooker...
post #36 of 117
I make cooking easier by freezing ingredients. Chopping half a dozen oininons and freezing them is a lifesaver because every meal starts with chopping an onion.

My freezer is my friend. Whenever I have even half a cup of something left over I freeze it so on a bad day I can pull two or three different things out of the freezer and call it tapas.

I also prep as many things as I can if I have the urge to cook. Yesterday while I was cooking I also threw in some beans to soak and roasted a butternut squash and chopped an extra onion. Today I used the squash and the onion in mac and cheese.

Originally Posted by lovebeingamomma View Post
whoever talked about the 14 meals: could you share with me the 14 meals you rotate? I can't even come up with 14 different ones...maybe that's one of my problems.

Btw I'm 22 & was not taught well how to cook. So I have ALOT to learn ...been married 4 years and I can't tell you how long it took me to make a pizza that cooked correctly!
My standards are:

-pasta with tomato/vegetable sauce (sauce can be frozen) or with butternut squash/sage/pine nuts/goats cheese or with pesto

-mexican (tortillas, sour cream, tomatoey mix with onions, garlic, tomatoes, grated carrot, frozen corn, coriander and cumin, can be frozen)

-home made mac'n' cheese, with either roasted butternut squash or fresh tomatoes, depending on the season

-Shepherd's/cottage pie (can be frozen)

-roast chicken

-pizza, either on pita bread or real bases on weekends

-soups (either bought or frozen)

-curry (usually with a bought sauce or paste, and either indian with yoghurt or Thai with coconut milk)

-something eggy, from scrambled eggs to quiche to souffle, depending on how tired I am

and I'm bored! So I've started going through my cookbooks, testing recipes that use ingredients I often have (like roasted chicken thighs with mustard marmalade glaze), and writing them on index cards which live in the kitchen. I've also started buying interesting marinades and sauces which I can whack on meat and serve with vegetables.
post #37 of 117
I make nearly everything a double/triple/quadruple batch and then freeze the leftovers. Right now in my freezer I have lasagna, chicken and rice soup, creamy chicken soup, stew, quiches, chicken strips (cooked and ready for the oven), cooked brown rice, browned ground beef, cooked meatballs, spaghetti sauce, uncooked meatloaf, pizza sauce. There's probably others too - that's off the top of my head.These are all made from scratch, so cheap.

It takes just a bit more time to double things, and then it's so easy throw a meal together. Having an extra freezer is key for us.
post #38 of 117
OK- so I don't want to thread hijack- but we have our own meat, and milk and I still probably spend at least $600 in groceries and eating out. At least that much! When I go grocery shopping I spend about $100. when DH goes with me- which is most of the time- it is $150 + he wants to eat out (but what leaks me off is he will buy like $10 worth of avacados just for him and then they all go to waste- grr). That is about the only time we eat out though. I buy all ingredients and rarely buy anything prepared. But I do buy organic when possible.

Can you help me?
post #39 of 117
Originally Posted by lovebeingamomma View Post
kitten in the shade if I knew how to do easy replacement meals I wouldn't be going out to eat! (saying I go out to eat ALOT in caps doesn't make me feel good I'm just going to be honest...I don't need any more shame here) This is why I'm posting, for help! I make my own pizza don't like frozen.
I apologize, I honestly wasn't trying to make you feel badly.

For pizza - I don't buy frozen pizza, either. I make my own, usually a dozen personal sized ones at a time, topped and everything, then baked. THen, I freeze them, so when I want a quick dinner I just pull several out, pop them in the oven for 15 minutes, add a bagged salad and presto - instant dinner You can also just do the crusts, prebake them and freeze untopped, then thaw and top the night you want to use them.

Other quick freezer meals you can do ahead and use on those nights you don't want to cook are chili, lasagna (I especially love to freeze roasted veggie lasagna), veggie soup, tomato sauce and meatballs, and chicken pot pie or chicken soup.

For easy breakfast meals, I like to make up a bunch of "egg cups" on sunday - a slice of lean ham smushed into a cupcake tin (lined with cupcake papers to amke cleanup easier), a chunk of cheese (cheddar, about 1/2 oz or so) and then crack an egg over top of it. Bake on 350 for 15 minutes or so until the egg is cooked through. I do two cupcake trays at a time (to make 24 cups) and they last my family of 6 several days, with fruit or toast. To reheat, I pop them under the broiler in my toaster oven for a few minutes. Or - do a huge batch of pancakes on the weekend, then lay them flat on a cookie sheet int he freezer until frozen, then pop them in freezer bags. A few in the toaster in the morning *instant breakfast* and way better for you than Eggos, especially if you make whole wheat or buckwheat pancakes
post #40 of 117
One thing I do is buy a roasted chicken from the deli, shred it and divide that into baggies. Then through the week we can eat chicken tacos, chicken wraps, chicken salad, chicken curry, anything that takes chicken and it goes a lot faster because the chicken is already cooked and shredded. Plus I make stock with the bones. I find it only a little bit more expensive than buying a raw whole chicken, and it saves me a lot of time.
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