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Can any former food splurgers help us?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Tell me how you changed! We are three (to be 4 in March) with DH, myself, and dd (almost 2). I feel like we are smart financially in most ways except food. I shudder to type this, but last month we spent more than 900 on food alone.

Here is my list of excuses/challenges:

1- I am an extremely busy work at home/student/stay at home mom- often convenience takes an expensive role in the form of take-out or easy somewhat prepared food.

2- DH is a BIG eater. He is slender, but does physical work and often puts away what I had planned would be 2 or three meals with leftovers in one sitting. (Maybe it's genetic, but, for a 2 year old DD is a big eater too... I need to plan for her to have her own portions!) DH also loves meat and seems to crave it daily.

3- I love to provide the family with organic and high quality fruit, veggies, and meat.

4- We live in a very high COL area with way too many tempting options for good healthy takeout.


I don't know how to get started doing meal planning and other things that would help us in this budget area... Right now I really want to free up a few hundred in our budget... Help me reform? How do I start this change and make it stick? TIA!
post #2 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by snuggly View Post
Tell me how you changed! We are three (to be 4 in March) with DH, myself, and dd (almost 2). I feel like we are smart financially in most ways except food. I shudder to type this, but last month we spent more than 900 on food alone.

Here is my list of excuses/challenges:

1- I am an extremely busy work at home/student/stay at home mom- often convenience takes an expensive role in the form of take-out or easy somewhat prepared food. Crockpot. Breadmaker. Rice steamer. Those items will allow you to throw everything in in the morning and have a healthy dinner by dinnertime.

2- DH is a BIG eater. He is slender, but does physical work and often puts away what I had planned would be 2 or three meals with leftovers in one sitting. (Maybe it's genetic, but, for a 2 year old DD is a big eater too... I need to plan for her to have her own portions!) DH also loves meat and seems to crave it daily. You know they are big eaters. So, is what happens you plan the meals to include leftovers and when they eat it all, you guys end up getting takeout/going out. We do that sometimes. It helps to have a few "extra pantry meals" on hand. Simple stuff like spaghetti with meat sauce or something.

3- I love to provide the family with organic and high quality fruit, veggies, and meat. I'd love to be able to do that, too. But right now, we are back to conventional everything. Decide what is most important to you in that regard. (For us, the wallet was the deciding factor.) Make only one serving of meat per person per meal. If they are still hungry, they can fill up on sides. Or, use meat as a flavoring, rather than the main dish ie stir fries, creole dishes, casseroles, stews, chilis.

4- We live in a very high COL area with way too many tempting options for good healthy takeout. Set aside a budget for takeout on occasion--say every other Friday, you have a date night in and order takeout.


I don't know how to get started doing meal planning and other things that would help us in this budget area... Right now I really want to free up a few hundred in our budget... Help me reform? How do I start this change and make it stick? TIA!
Meal planning can be done a few ways. More to follow, but I have to go for a bit.
post #3 of 23
You've already done the first step: you know about what you spend. What helped us the most was going to cash for groceries and food. We put the cash in an envelope that dh and I share: any food costs come out of there. Without the envelope, it was very easy for each of us to buy stuff and not realize until later that we had spent a lot.

Sometimes we eat out or buy stuff (at Costco) on a credit card (which is paid off monthly). When we do that, we immediately move the cash amount from the food envelope to ANOTHER envelope, and put it in the bank next time we go.

I suggest you figure out a weekly food budget that (for now) is just a little bit lower than what you are spending. As other people give you great meal planning tips (something I'm still working on) you can lower the budget even more.

I also used to think that we'd get leftovers from most meals, but now we rarely do. 11 year old boys can eat a lot! If I really think I ought be able to get lunch for me out of a dinner, I put a portion in the fridge before we serve ourselves dinner.
post #4 of 23
meal plan based on the sale flyer for the grocery store you use. look at the sales and see what's cheap that you enjoy. base your meals for that week off the sale items. stock up on sale items when they come around so you don't have to pay full price another week.
post #5 of 23
Another vote for meal planning and using technology (crockpots, rice cookers, bread machines, etc) to help you.

Also, might be time to try and do some more prep work on a night or weekend day. Even cutting up veggies, or pre cooking some meat can help. Look at resources like OAMC (Once a month cooking) on how you can prep items. Or it might be as easy as cooking 2 of whatever you are making and putting one in the freezer.

Also, some of these blogs might help, they are "cheap eating" but good food sites:
http://brokeassgourmet.com/
http://www.poorgirleatswell.com/
post #6 of 23
Your post sounds so familiar - I could have written it!! You can easily shave off a few hundred from your food budget with a little planning ahead, probably enough money to keep buying organic foods. Here's what I started doing a few years ago and it does make a difference.

The paper comes out on Wednesday with the grocery ads so I sit down that night or Thursday and try to plan menus depending on what is on sale. I usually end up shopping at 2 different grocery stores since the major supermarket has good sales and generally lower prices on most staples and the other I use for great organic local produce and sometimes better sales on certain specialty items. I usually grocery shop Friday evening or Sat. morning and when I bring the groceries home and spend a bit of time washing produce, cutting up melons, meats etc so that everything is ready to use. This saves a TON of time later in the week and really makes the whole process so much easier.

I plan crock-pot or easy meals the nights I know I will be home late or have a bust day at work and will not feel like cooking. Even if the meal is a bit more involved (I love to cook) the prep time is non-existent since everything is cut up already. If easy-options are on sale, I usually stock up on those to have on hand to prevent eating out since there are nights I do not feel like cooking at all. Things like stouffers lasagna or other freezer-ready meals. I also always have a few boboli pizza crusts and a costco size bag of mozzarella cheese in the freezer since home-made pizza is another quick and relatively healthy convenience meal which uses whatever things you can find in the fridge for toppings.

If you can get into this routine (it's hard at first!) you will find yourself eating out less. Set a limit on eating out/take out to something like once every two weeks or whatever works for you.
post #7 of 23
I agree with the others it sounds like planning is whats getting you (with take out,convenience foods,etc) That was also what would eat our budget, I simply just wanted to sit down to dinner at the end of the day not get the kitchen dirty so we often relied on take out.

I ended up cutting out a lot of convenience stuff the occassional frozen pizza here and there because I figured it was cheaper when I simply neede to feed everyone as opposed to take out here (we live in a ery high col area in ca)

I started to use things like my pressure cooker, crock pot and rice steamer. I would take staples taht I used often and pre cut them up as most my time was wasted on prep. For example I would take large gallon ziplocs and dice up 2-3 onions for the week, 2-3 carrots, etc. That way all I had to do was dump the meat in the crock pot season and add veggies as needed.

I also really looked at what was most important in terms of organic groceries for us. Yes, I would love to buy all natural green soap but really buying organic milk was higher for us so I did some cutting in our budget here and there.

I also started feeding more veggies/sides and then being a little stingy with the meat (which we buy organic as well) and really stretching it out with things like bread (which is organic and homemade) I found that DH, who is also a big meat eater, was just as satisfied just that he got full off of our sides/bread rather thatn on the meat alone.
post #8 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by luv-my-boys View Post
I agree with the others it sounds like planning is whats getting you (with take out,convenience foods,etc) That was also what would eat our budget, I simply just wanted to sit down to dinner at the end of the day not get the kitchen dirty so we often relied on take out.

I ended up cutting out a lot of convenience stuff the occassional frozen pizza here and there because I figured it was cheaper when I simply neede to feed everyone as opposed to take out here (we live in a ery high col area in ca)

I started to use things like my pressure cooker, crock pot and rice steamer. I would take staples taht I used often and pre cut them up as most my time was wasted on prep. For example I would take large gallon ziplocs and dice up 2-3 onions for the week, 2-3 carrots, etc. That way all I had to do was dump the meat in the crock pot season and add veggies as needed.

I also really looked at what was most important in terms of organic groceries for us. Yes, I would love to buy all natural green soap but really buying organic milk was higher for us so I did some cutting in our budget here and there.

I also started feeding more veggies/sides and then being a little stingy with the meat (which we buy organic as well) and really stretching it out with things like bread (which is organic and homemade) I found that DH, who is also a big meat eater, was just as satisfied just that he got full off of our sides/bread rather thatn on the meat alone.
I've solved this problem by buying fewer 'products' rather than more expensive ones. I have radically cut back on the number and kind of toiletries I buy. For example, 18yos likes Axe body wash. I cannot afford the less toxic, nice smelling body wash so he uses soap like us now. Same w/his ProActive. He uses tea tree oil soap and witch hazel now. I buy good detergent but only use half the amount. I stopped buying paper products and we use all cloth now.

As far as the OP ... try cooking a big pot of brown rice and a couple of varieties of beans on the weekend. You'll have easy 'convenience' foods that are healthy. You'll be able to throw together a stir fry or casserole in just a few minutes.
post #9 of 23
I think about $300 of my recent savings was from dd marrying and another $200 has been saved by changing my habits. I do not go out of the house often and refuse to 'run to the store for just one thing'. I make do w/a lot of recipes. Very rarely will I follow a recipe to the letter w/out substituting something on hand.
post #10 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by snuggly View Post
1- I am an extremely busy work at home/student/stay at home mom- often convenience takes an expensive role in the form of take-out or easy somewhat prepared food.

2- DH is a BIG eater. He is slender, but does physical work and often puts away what I had planned would be 2 or three meals with leftovers in one sitting. (Maybe it's genetic, but, for a 2 year old DD is a big eater too... I need to plan for her to have her own portions!) DH also loves meat and seems to crave it daily.
What kinds of meat cuts are you purchasing? It sounds like moving more towards doing some sort of roasts would help you here--you might get leftovers from them, you might not. But say, a pork loin roast is often cheaper than that same amount of meat cut into pork chops.

Also, I find roasts to be easy especially after our "investment" (it was about $25 I believe) in a remote thermometer. I believe I have the cheaper version of this one: http://www.amazon.com/Oregon-Scienti.../dp/B0006G2WYK

I take the roast out of the fridge, let it sit to warm up a bit on the counter while the oven is preheating, put olive oil, pepper and salt on it, stick in the probe and stick it into the oven. The remote receiver works most places in our house, so I can go off and do other things while it's cooking.

I'll also chop up potatoes and toss them in olive oil+spices and stick them in with the roast. When the roast is done and resting, I turn up the oven temp to put a little brown on the potatoes and steam or saute some veggies. Carve up the roast, take out the potatoes, and you have dinner.
post #11 of 23
I think a successful transition from "anything goes" to something more budget friendly has to not feel restrictive. At least, that's what it takes for me, personally. I can't shop from the sale circular and still feel like I'm not being restricted. But, I can give myself other boundaries which are working for my family and me. We participate in a meat CSA. I do not choose the cuts. That would be too much work for me. This way, I get what I get and work with it. I have meals that my husband and I can prepare for our family from what is usually in the CSA order that we know we all like. We have also decided institute a sort of rhythm to our meals. Sunday is an ethnic/cultural night (dh is PR and I'm AA, so, it's a meal featuring foods typical of either of our cultures); Monday is leftovers, Tuesday is a casserole dish, Wed dh and dd make soup, Thursday is leftovers and Friday is family night out. Saturday is eat it, freeze it, toss it, or mommy cooks!

Because I am busy with WOH and other home maintenance stuff, this already feels like relief to me. I know for sure I have dh's buy in, we know who is responsible for preparing it and we know we're going to have something we like to eat and we haven't broken the budget to have it. We're also switching off on grocery duty. I'll tend to buy additional stuff as I have more ideas in my head about what I can do with it. Dh will pretty much stick to the list I give him or we've created together. His trip last night was only $74. And that should be it for the week (unless I hit up the farmer's market) because our CSA pick up is this Saturday. That is unheard of for me. I did spend about $54 on a visit last week. But, I also had 2 additional visits!
post #12 of 23
I've been thinking about this... I'm here. What my biggest attachment to is - I like the experience of going into a coffee shop and getting coffee. Or even if I have bagels and cream cheese at home, I like going into the bagel shop and getting it.
I seem to really ENJOY the act of buying food more than eating whatever I have at home.
I'm really working on this now - and eating up what is in my house... but every morning when I drop my daughter off, I just want to go buy a coffee instead of coming home and making it... and it is more about the experience of going in and getting it.

I've been (over) thinking about it and wonder if it has to do with me working from home? I don't even know... but this is definitely my food splurge. Would love - if such a thing exists - if another recovered addict has suggestions!
post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for your ideas and support. I (OP) really appreciate it!

Someone wrote that the first step is just knowing how much you spend... This month that is proving to be true for us. I know the month isn't over yet, but just thinking "900 last month" is often enough to get me to step away from the takeout menus and into the kitchen. We'll see how it goes!

This is off topic, but one thing that is bugging me financially is DH and his beer. He loooves microbrews and usually has one or two a night. That adds up to 50 a month or so of our food expense... I have tried to bring this to his attention but no change. Honestly, it isn't the drinking itself that bothers me since that is fairly minimal, it's the expense and the idea that if I'm making changes to help our family financially so should he.

Excuse the off-topic vent- I'm a pregnant and grouchy/moody mama right now.
post #14 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by YinYang View Post
I've been thinking about this... I'm here. What my biggest attachment to is - I like the experience of going into a coffee shop and getting coffee. Or even if I have bagels and cream cheese at home, I like going into the bagel shop and getting it.
I seem to really ENJOY the act of buying food more than eating whatever I have at home.
I'm really working on this now - and eating up what is in my house... but every morning when I drop my daughter off, I just want to go buy a coffee instead of coming home and making it... and it is more about the experience of going in and getting it.

I've been (over) thinking about it and wonder if it has to do with me working from home? I don't even know... but this is definitely my food splurge. Would love - if such a thing exists - if another recovered addict has suggestions!
I buy really nice premium coffee (they have ethical bean at our Costco) and organic milk when I can afford it and I have a stovetop espresso maker. This beats a plain coffee anyday.
Quote:
Originally Posted by snuggly View Post
This is off topic, but one thing that is bugging me financially is DH and his beer. He loooves microbrews and usually has one or two a night. That adds up to 50 a month or so of our food expense... I have tried to bring this to his attention but no change. Honestly, it isn't the drinking itself that bothers me since that is fairly minimal, it's the expense and the idea that if I'm making changes to help our family financially so should he.
Do you guys each have your own spending money or is everything out of one account? DH and I have a set total that we contribute into our joint account and the rest is "allowance." That's how I tolerate his DVD habit.
post #15 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by snuggly View Post
.
This is off topic, but one thing that is bugging me financially is DH and his beer. He loooves microbrews and usually has one or two a night. That adds up to 50 a month or so of our food expense... I have tried to bring this to his attention but no change. Honestly, it isn't the drinking itself that bothers me since that is fairly minimal, it's the expense and the idea that if I'm making changes to help our family financially so should he.

Excuse the off-topic vent- I'm a pregnant and grouchy/moody mama right now.
I had a spreadsheet and kept very accurate records on all food/drink expenditures for a months couple last winter. At the time DH was laid off and I only worked part time, we also had a well stocked freezer and pantry, and we religiously cooked at home (we both enjoy cooking). Anyway we ate lots of pantry foods, homemade bread and soup. We continued to buy about 3 lbs of organic coffee a month and 1 1/2 to 2 cases of beer a month. While we could afford this expense and I find it very within my value system to spend money on locally roasted FTO coffee and local yummy beer at the time it represented a huge percentage of the total food budget.

Anyway I have a point in here somewhere and I think that line between food and entertainment can get kind of blurry at times that is part of the reason why I prefer more of a one pot approach to food, clothing, household expenses. I feel completely okay buying $8 six packs when we made bread for months out of a bushel of wheat DH bought for $8. Putting the effort into the bread made the beer affordable kwim?
post #16 of 23
I am a reformed food splurger. The only thing that ever "stuck" and did the trick with me to cut out convenience foods was to start cooking one day ahead. Each night I cook dinner for the next night. When I get home after a long work day, dinner is there, just needs to be warmed up. Then once we have eaten and relaxed for a while I usually feel recharged enough to go in and make dinner for the next day. I could never start cooking late in the evening to eat the same night, but it's no big deal to go in there at 8 when things are calmer and go ahead and cook off pasta or whatever for the next day. Nobody is hungry at that point and I have had a chance to unwind from the day.
post #17 of 23
I always bring at least coffee, water, granola bars, and crackers with us when we are out and about. That way, we don't have to stop and buy something. For longer planned trips, I add cheese, sandwiches, etc. My husband now agrees that this saves us a ton, and the kids don't know any different.

I shop Trader Joe's for freezer convenience foods. Their meals are healthier and cheaper than eating out. They have lots to choose from, so it is easy to find 3 or 4 that everyone likes.

I love the idea above about cutting onions/carrots/celery and freezing it for the weekly meals. I also buy frozen chopped onions, for convenience.

Planned leftovers help with the budget and the time factor. A roast one night becomes a casserole the next night. (chicken/brocolli/rice, pork quesadillas, beef french dips, etc.)

I get a giant bag of chicken tenders at BJ's. They aren't nasty processed chicken, and easily cook for a quick weeknight meal. Everyone likes them.

Don't go to the store!! Try to go 3 more days once you feel the urge to shop. Or I send DH out for just milk (gotta have my coffee with milk). If I go, I will stock up on the sales, but he can buy just one thing.

Even my DH can cook out of the panty & freezer now! He used to be one of those that would go to the store to buy all the ingredients for one specific meal. And it would be more than a restaurant! We both pride ourselves on getting one more dinner w/o shopping.

I always have rice and noodles in the pantry. I always have frozen and canned veg. That way if we are out of fresh potatoes or veggies, we can at least have a full dinner with whatever meat is in the freezer.

Here is my latest favorite: Cook 1/2 pound of bacon in a large pan. Add all the veggies you have in the fridge (onions, peppers, carrots, celery, squash, green beans, grape tomatoes, etc.) and cook in the bacon grease with a little butter. Add a box of noodles (cooked) and you have stretched a little meat into a delicious dinner. Uses up lots of veggies!
post #18 of 23
I'm not sure what your store selection is like but I am so lucky to live in a town w/3 Wholefoods and 2 other competing natural grocery stores. I also have a huge tempting selection of great carry out and restaurant options so I know what you're up against.
I am committed to buying/eating organic as well.
We eat out/carry out once a week for dinner. Occasionally DH and I will meet for a lunch date.
So, I plan my meals around sale fliers. I only but what's organic and on sale. I also shop at our farmers' market.
I recently stocked up on organic chickens that went on sale at one store, grass-fed beef at another. I have lots of friends with chickens and get plenty of free range eggs cheap. You can sometimes find back yard eggs on craigslist!
It takes some time and planning but it's worth it.
Also, do you enjoy cooking? I think that's a big factor. We are a family of 5 and everyone loves to cook. It makes not eating out a lot of fun!
post #19 of 23
Rice and lentils are saving us! You can buy brown rice in bulk and cook up a whole bunch of it and freeze it in individual dinner portions. Lentils are quick cooking (buy those in bulk too) and don't need to be soaked. I used to use the lentils to make different Indian dishes until my husband had to go on a special diet with no tomatoes or citrus. Now I just spice them as best I can. Warm up your rice and put some lentils on in the meantime. I think you can cook and heat different kinds of beans too to make things like burritos.
post #20 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by montlake View Post
I am a reformed food splurger. The only thing that ever "stuck" and did the trick with me to cut out convenience foods was to start cooking one day ahead. Each night I cook dinner for the next night. When I get home after a long work day, dinner is there, just needs to be warmed up. Then once we have eaten and relaxed for a while I usually feel recharged enough to go in and make dinner for the next day. I could never start cooking late in the evening to eat the same night, but it's no big deal to go in there at 8 when things are calmer and go ahead and cook off pasta or whatever for the next day. Nobody is hungry at that point and I have had a chance to unwind from the day.
This is such a good idea!
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