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Help me trim my grocery budget

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
DH started a new job a few months ago, and while the earning potential a few years down the road is great, it's going to be tough for the first few years. We've reviewed our budget, and one of the only/biggest areas with any flexibility is groceries. We've also recently started going organic, plus I've been produce-crazy, so I've been going over budget quite a bit. My kids don't eat a whole lot of solids so I feel like the money/food is mostly for DH and me. Here's what I usually buy, help me figure out where to trim it:

Milk - we recently switched to organic at $2.79/half-gallon. I usually buy 4 half-gallons of 2% per week which is mostly for DH, plus I use it in coffee and smoothies, I also buy one half-gallon of whole milk most weeks for my homemade yogurt

Cheese - DS1 only likes white American from the deli, which is $6/lb, one pound lasts a bit over a week. This isn't organic and I'd like to switch. I tried getting Organic Valley cheddar and he didn't like it, but I might try one with a milder flavor like Monterey Jack or Muenster. DH and I don't eat a whole lot of cheese, but DS1 is very picky and it's one of the few things he'll eat consistently. We also buy Mexican shredded cheese for beans and rice or DH's concoction "cheesy egg rice". DS1 likes the shredded cheese too. This is Kraft we buy from Sam's Club, and I'd like to switch to organic for that too, which will also up the cost.

Meat - we don't buy much. I'm a vegetarian and the kids don't eat meat either (DS1 just doesn't seem to like it, and DS2 we haven't offered yet). DH would like to go organic for meat but the cost is putting him off. The only thing we buy on a regular basis is 10lb bags of frozen chicken breasts from Sam's Club for ~$23. Organic chicken breasts from Wegmans (fresh) are ~$8/lb. He only likes the white meat so buying a whole chicken wouldn't be economical for us.

Eggs - we recently switched to free-range organic, which are $2.50/dozen. We go through about 3 dozen every 2 weeks. We were paying half as much at Sam's Club before switching, but I still feel like eggs are a pretty inexpensive food even for organic free-range.

Organic brown rice and quinoa I get in the bulk section at Wegmans, and I'm pretty sure that's the cheapest way to do it locally.


Just about every week I buy an 11-oz package of organic ready-to-eat baby spinach for $5. I could buy it bulk and wash it myself for $5/lb, so I know I could save money there.

Most weeks I buy a huge 1-lb bag of non-organic ready-to-eat kale. I know kale is something that I should be buying organic, and I know I could probably get it in bulk and just have to cut/tear and wash it myself.

Most weeks I buy a 2-lb bag of organic baby carrots. They are $1.30/lb compared to $0.99/lb for the non-organic. I know I could buy whole carrots and wash/peel/cut, but I feel like they're pretty inexpensive as-is.

DH is picky with fruit, and his favorite is Granny Smith apples. I usually buy non-organic. They are expensive, but he won't eat any other kind of apple so I usually just buy them for him. DH also likes grapes, which I'd like to buy organic, but organic is much pricier.

We go through bananas like crazy, but they're cheap and I don't feel the need to buy organic.

I buy a melon of some sort each week in the summer, usually cantaloupe because it's the cheapest.

Avocados. They're 3 for $5 at Wegmans and 5 for $5 at Sam's Club, and I'll go through 3-5 per week.

I've been doing a lot of frozen fruit for smoothies. I like pineapple and mango, especially because they're not important to go organic. We also buy big bags of frozen strawberries and blueberries from Sam's Club, but I feel guilty that they're not organic.

Some weeks I'll add in random stuff like red peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, nectarines, kiwis, yams, but not all at once and not every week.

Big bags of frozen broccoli at Sam's Club.

Canned beans. We regularly use chickpeas, black beans, and canellini beans. I make my own hummus. I've been buying whole wheat mini-pitas at Wegmans for me and the boys to eat with hummus and veggies at lunch. I also buy dried lentils and have a few lentil dishes in our regular rotation.

A couple boxes per week of Annie's Whole Wheat Bunny crackers, and about one box per week of Newman-O cookies.

We buy big bags of non-organic non-whole-wheat pasta at Sam's Club.

Big bags of quick oats at Sam's.

Big bags of white rice at Sam's (we do brown rice about half the time and white about half the time).

Canned diced tomatoes in bulk at Sam's.

Coffee is the Wegmans brand, not organic but I know it should be. DH and I go through 8 "cups" every morning.

OK, so that's most of the stuff we buy on a regular basis, I think. I do try to go to the farmers market when I can, but can't always make it every week. I want to trim the budget a little but not sacrifice healthy eating! Can anyone see areas where I can save that will make a difference? I think my problem is that when it seems like just a small difference, I choose convenience (like with the ready-to-eat spinach) but all the small differences could add up if I shopped more wisely. Thanks in advance for any replies.
post #2 of 14
Try to catch the crackers, coffee, and other non-perishables on sale. Then get as much as you can eat before it expires. You can save a lot of money this way!

You can possibly get ethically raised meat, but not necessarily organic for a lot cheaper if you look around.
post #3 of 14
Check out some of the threads under Frugality and Finances. Great resources for help with this issue
post #4 of 14
look into the cost difference for buying 2 gallons of milk vs 4 half gallons. it's cheaper for me to buy a gallon jug if I know I'm going to use it all.
post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies!

Originally Posted by texaspeach View Post
look into the cost difference for buying 2 gallons of milk vs 4 half gallons. it's cheaper for me to buy a gallon jug if I know I'm going to use it all.
The brand we buy only makes 1/2 gallons, but it's still the least expensive organic option I've found.
post #6 of 14
Could you grow any of the produce yourself? Maybe even just part of the year? Or find local sources of farm-raised meat/eggs/milk that may be cheaper than store bought? It looks like the milk especially is something you could try to work with. Is there a similar brand that comes in whole gallons for cheaper?
post #7 of 14
It seems like the produce is costing you a lot--

we have Wegman's too and I find that "other" grocery stores do much better cost wise and we don't deal with Sam's club- have you checked around?

I would do local for most of the produce and (we save a ton that way) I would ditch the convince items (buying carrots in bulk and cutting them even at Wegman's organic prices are cheaper and I found last longer too)- I would stock up and freeze all that you can.

We don't do Wegman's organic meats because of their policies and the carbon feet they leave, again, we do better at other grocery stores for organic meats (US raised) but I would look into your area to see what local is to be found.
post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the replies!

The milk we're buying is our best option; I've checked. The only cheaper options are one kind I can get at the farmers market for $4.50/gallon, but I don't always make it to the farmers market every week and my husband didn't like the taste of this one as much. We also can get raw milk for $4.50/gallon, but we'd have to go pick it up at someone's house which is much less convenient than picking it up at Wegmans (she doesn't live near anywhere else I regularly go), and DH is on the fence about raw milk anyway. Our answer to the increased cost of milk when switching to organic was supposed to be that we would drink less of it. We used to drink A LOT! DH would have a pint at breakfast every morning, at least a pint of chocolate milk after his workout, and then at dinner we'd pour a pint glass to share and keep refilling it as we finished. I drink practically none now, just use a little in my coffee and in smoothies, but DH says the kind I've been buying is the best he's ever tasted and has been drinking more and more of it lately. ETA: I forgot to mention the other reason he's been drinking more milk is because he's been eating less meat. Whereas he used to almost always have some chicken with whatever I was making for dinner, most nights now he's not doing that and just drinking milk for the extra protein/calories.

Growing our own produce, at least some, is a great idea and I think I'm going to propose it to DH for next year (unless it's not too late to start a garden for fall?). I don't think I'd be good at or enjoy gardening but DH loves working outside. We've even discussed moving to a farm when he retires 20-30 years from now, so I guess a garden would be a good start!

Wegmans' prices are actually better than our other local grocery store (P&C, which was recently bought out by Tops). I haven't checked the third (Price Chopper) but it's not as conveniently located. Plus, I feel like I can't beat Wegmans quality or natural food section. The milk I buy there is from a local organic dairy farm. We don't buy as much at Sam's anymore (milk used to be the big one) but the things we do buy there, I've compared the prices with Wegmans and it is in fact cheaper. However, a friend recently told me that BJ's has some meat that is not organic, but is hormone- and antibiotic-free (which are the biggest factors for DH) so maybe we will switch from Sam's to BJ's for that purpose.

Thanks again!
post #9 of 14
I definitely second the advice of growing your own produce. It is such a wonderful experience for the children, too. Are you in a position to have a few chickens in your backyard (do you have a backyard?) or would you consider raising domestic rabbits for your meat (they are all white meat from head to tail, and they are higher in protein and lower in fat and calories than chicken breast)? Lots of people who live in town raise rabbits! Or maybe you could find a local source? I would check out the nearest farms for milk and produce, too. Sometimes if you offer to clean out a stall or two, you can get a good discount.

Definitely buy your staples when they are on sale and stock up, stock up, stock up!
post #10 of 14
Check other places besides the grocery stores. You can find sides of meat for decent prices on craigslist, farmer's markets or even butcher shops.

Definitely start a garden. I didn't think I would be very good at it since I tend to kill all plants, but my garden flourishes every year while I kill flowers 10 feet away. U-pick farms are great places too or you could check for any CSAs in your area.
post #11 of 14
Switch out the canned beans for dried. That could well help. I just picked up a 20 lb sack of pintos for $13 which is a lot more beans than $13 of cans. You also listed a lot of veg that travel a long way. Try to plan your meals around seasonal vegetables; those are usually on sale. For my household, a tight budget means falling back to beans, rice, potatoes, onions, and seasonal vegetables.
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post #12 of 14
Hey there Mama! I've been trying my best to cut our food bill too. I agree that Wegman's is a cheaper, better solution than going to tops, or other stores around the area. I always thought the opposite.

What brand of milk do you get? You can find Organic Valley/Horizon milk coupons online sometimes, as well as cheese and other dairy products. Eggland's best often has coupons in the Sunday paper, as well as online for their regular and organic varieties.

I would switch to dry beans over canned beans, but keep a few cans on hand in case you don't have time to soak. That's what I do. Wegmans organic dry beans are reasonable and you get way more bang for your buck...you just have to remember to give yourself time to soak and cook. Goya dry beans are often on sale at Wegmans too. I recently stocked up on dry black beans and lentils in that brand.

For pitas, I'm not sure if you are particularly attached to the mini-pitas, but getting the full size ones you actually get 2 oz more per package.

I would cut out the ready to eat packages of spinach and kale. Maybe do just one? Organic kale at wegmans is actually quite reasonable. For produce, I would only buy seasonally and def. check out some u-pick farms so you can stock up on things. Do you buy bags of apples or bulk? The bags are much cheaper, even organic varieties.

We buy Wegmans brand coffee too. Have you checked out the gigantic bags they have? You do save a few dollars, especially if you both drink a lot of it.

Good luck Mama. I know it is hard to cut down on the grocery budget, especially when trying to keep eating healthy.
post #13 of 14
I second the garden idea as well as dried beans in place of canned.

Check out Square Foot Gardening. It's a great way to get a lot out of a small space. There is significant planning up front however you reap the rewards of the initial work load once harvest time rolls around. Also, you can have fall, spring, and summer produce if you plan well.

I save money in a few ways I haven't seen mentioned yet.
One thing in particular that saves me quite a lot per batch is marinara sauce. I can get HUGE 106oz cans of tomato sauce/puree/crushed/whole at Costco for just a little more than a 32oz can at the grocery store. I then make two large stock pots of marinara sauce and freeze them in meal size portions. This can last us a couple of months so while I'm saving money I'm also saving myself some work throughout the month by being able to grab the sauce out of the freezer, let it thaw, maybe add a ground meat, and some pasta. Dinner is done in a snap. I also do this with soups/stocks.

Do you have a produce delivery service in your area? It's slightly more than going to the farmer's market but it's still local and organic. Being local keeps the cost down and you get it delivered to your door.

OH! And, I second checking Frugality and Finances.
post #14 of 14
I know Wegman's puts the deli cheese on sale occasionally. You might want to buy several lbs when that happens, and freeze them in 1 lb packages (you might even get the deli person to put paper in-between each lb of cheese so you don't have to measure it yourself)
Of course, you will want to do this with a few pieces of cheese first to see if the texture is the same when it is thawed and if DS will eat it. No sense stocking up if it thaws weird and DS won't touch it!
Does your Sams/BJ's sell the white american cheese? If so, you could do the same thing.

As for the beans. My dad did something similar with rice, and "put it up" with dry ice. This sealed the buckets against nasties. If that method works with beans, it might be worth it. Or in mason jars with a foodsaver.

How is the Wegman's organic milk compared to the brand you buy? I switched to the Wegman's brand and I save a few dollars.

Of course, my downfall is sushi and not produce/milk/meat
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