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Grocery budgeting

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 

I'm not sure if this is the best place to post but my main concern here is cutting down the amount of money I spend on food each month.

 

So I recently took charge of the finances from my DH who was slacking a little and I'm trying to get us on a budget.  I've been tracking our finances with Quicken since October and so am starting to get a picture of what we spend.

 

We are 2 adults and 2 DC ages 3 and 1.  It seems we average about $750 a month on regular groceries plus another $300 on dining out.  This is embarrassing for me to admit because I am a SAHM and I think I can do much better!  Some of the dining out money is for my DH's lunches at work and coffees.  Needless to say I think this is way too much.  I want to get an idea of what is a realistic budget for our family.  We do buy mostly organic and higher quality (read:expensive) food.  I am working on that (like buying generic applesauce instead of organic locally made for half the price).  I am also working on getting my DH to eat out less at work.  Once I get our budget all figured out we will each have a monthly spending allowance which he can use to buy lunch at work if he chooses.

 

I am really bad at meal planning (working on that too) but I do like simple foods.  One major challenge is my 2 picky eaters, that's a whole other post!

 

Please share your ideas and what has worked for you or not worked.

  Thanks!

post #2 of 32

I think there are ways to make eating well less expensive but it takes work.

For example I can make local organic apple sauce for much cheaper than I can buy generic stuff in the grocery store by buying bushels of seconds from our local apple guy at our farmer's market.  I can some and we eat some fresh so I am bad at knowing what the yield is but its in the neighbourhood of 12 quarts a bushel meaning I pay about $1 a quart.

 

Same deal with tomatoes - we eat a lot so I can at least 100 quarts a year. They cost me about $0.75 a quart.  I just made tomato soup for lunch for my 4 kids using a quart of tomatoes, an onion and garlic and some cheese toasts. Lunch for 5 of us probably cost me about $0.50 each.

 

Buying clubs or buying in bulk, canning, gardening, meal planning, buying direct (ie a side of beef direct from the farmer), stocking a pantry all help keep the costs of eating well down.

 

Another big thing is eliminating waste which is one of my new year's resolutions. 

hth

Karen

post #3 of 32

Well, you're doing better than us, which is why I'm reading your post and looking through this section. My husband does a lot of his work at cafes which costs a good deal of money. It is a major issue between us and I cannot get him to accept any homemade food. My kids are roughly your kids ages too. Do you bake bread? My sister recently gifted us a breadmaker and that definitely adds to our quality of life and reduces our food budget. I eat a lot of leftovers with the kids at lunch, make my own muesli, bake bread and cook all our food. Only recently, when I signed up for Mint.com, did I see what he is actually spending. Will your husband accept a homemade lunch? There is always the issue of where to eat it, right? For the record, we buy mostly organic too. It costs more, but I think it's worth it. I like to go out sometimes too, but I always feel too guilty.

post #4 of 32

One way that we try to cut down costs is that I 'always' make enough to have leftovers for my DH to eat at work the next day.  If I have enough to make two lunches, then either I freeze one or the next night I make something that does not do well for leftover lunch and don't make leftovers that night.

 

Reducing waste is a big area for us.  I do spend about 750 a month (I try to keep it under 700) and get mostly organic, local and raw dairy.  I do this by buying in bulk, meal planning, keeping snacking to a minimum (only things planned as snacks) and not eating out.  If we eat out even a few meals in a month - the budget easily expands by a couple hundred and this just does not bode well for the rest of the budget, kwim.  Where we live I feel good about this amount, and honestly if I was buying packaged stuff at the grocery store it would not be 'that' much cheaper for us.

post #5 of 32

Our realistic food budget is around $1000.  We are about the same as you except that our kids are 5 and 1.5.  I was budgeting $620 and spending closer to $1000.

 

My dh is the SAHP and we share cooking responsibilities.

 

We have been purchasing from a meat CSA for about 8 or 9 mos and that has been going well.  We recently added a produce and fruit CSA.  We do eat organic and my main grocery store is WF.  Our main budget busters are eggs, bread and snacks.  We go through our 4 doz CSA eggs within 2 weeks.  So, we're back to the grocery store buying more to get us to the next month.  We also go through 2 loaves of bread a week and our WF is finally stocking a brand that is a large loaf and comes in at around $2.59 vs. the $4.00+ I was spending before.  We are planning to puchase a bread machine this year.  I think it really makes sense for our family.

 

We have been expanding our dinner menu.  The CSA forces this a bit, too.

 

All that to say you have to identify your budget busters.  What are the things that you have to have that are costly and those you want to have that are costly?  Once you isolate those items, its easier to figure out where you can cut back.  And, you might be surprised at what your kids will eat when they 1) are invited to participate in preparing the food (I know this can be a royal pain) and/or 2) are indulged if they ask to taste something while you're preparing.  I now know that my son will eat cabbage - which I thought he wouldn't and my daughter will eat roasted eggplant and roasted butternut squash right off of the roasting pan!  They'll also both eat raw broccoli which I find blech!  Wouldn't have known unless I was preparing it to steam and gave in when they asked for a bite off of the chopping board.

 

Then, if you can commit to trying a new recipe once a week or once every other week, you may be able to eliminate some costly items.  For us, I tried a few energy bar recipes and found one that we all like to replace the $6.99/lb version that my dh likes and claims to buy for our little guy!  I also got rid of the cookie purchases by finding a great recipe.  Now, if I could only make potato chips!

post #6 of 32

We are a family of four as well, ds's are 5.5 yrs and 1yr. I budget and typically spend $500 a month. We are pretty tight on one teachers income right now though and so I have to keep it to $500. We don't have a budget for eating out and therefore don't unless dh gets a giftcard from a parent.

 

What helps me is not buying much processed food. I buy dry beans, bulk grains, flours, spices, fresh produce

 

I used to make my own bread, but haven't been able to get in that routine lately, but I will only purchase the organic bread I buy when on sale. Same with some packaged items like crackers and cereals.

 

We are pretty consistent with eating in "season". It is rare for me to buy fresh tomatoes, avocadoes, mangoes, fresh berries during the winter. Occasionally with a good sale, but otherwise we eat a lot of seasonal meals. Salads are rare for us come winter, but warm root vegetable stews are abundant. I actually appreciate being forced to do this because of finances as it does put us more in tune with the season.

 

I will admit we've sacrificed some of the organic products we used to buy, like milk, yogurt, eggs, applesauce. But we try to find as natural products and/or local, as we can that are cheaper and profess not to use added hormones etc.

 

I don't do much in the way of coupons, but I will stock up on sales or keep coupons for items we use frequently. Like right now I have about 6 lbs of butter in my freezer because of holiday sales and coupons.

post #7 of 32
Thread Starter 

thanks for all the great tips so far!  It's nice to know that maybe what I have been spending is not quite as over the top as I thought but also a little discouraging that it might be harder to get it down.

 

Karen, I have never canned tomatoes or applesauce but my MIL does it all the time so I think I just have to make it a priority to get together with her and learn it.

 

Maggie, I have tried baking bread a couple of times and it has not turned out well :( so I've been pretty discouraged about that.  I haven't tried a breadmaker though because I've always heard it's not worth it because it's easy enough to bake without it.........hmmmm......not so sure!  And did I mention I have a picky DH too?  He will rarely eat leftovers and is often on the road for lunch.  I think I just have to put my foot down though and give him a tight budget.

 

honeybunmom, I often include my oldest in preparing food, for that same reason, hoping he will like it more.  Sometimes it works and others he'll be so into it when we're cooking then when it's time to eat he doesn't want it shrug.gif

 

I did have success tonight!  I made a cheddar broccoli frittata with whole wheat toast and everybody loved it except DS 1.5 who fed his to the dog.

 

 

post #8 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by AustinAmber 

 

I did have success tonight!  I made a cheddar broccoli frittata with whole wheat toast and everybody loved it except DS 1.5 who fed his to the dog.

 

 



Yay for success!!  You have gotten some great ideas from the pp's.  But I didn't see anyone talk about the 'coffees' that your dh gets.  Mine use to do this too - stop every workday for coffee - and it really starts to add up over time.  For us, we already had a coffee maker that you can program, so I just started setting it up every night.  We bought bulk whole bean coffee from Sams Club (although they no longer have the Organic coffee we loved greensad.gif ) and creamer/organic milk is a very small expense compared to buying multiple coffees every day.  We also had/purchased a travel mug and thermos-type deal - so that if dh wants he has coffee on the way to work and hot coffee later on as well.  idk if that's something your dh would be interested in doing - but for us it worked out really well - especially because organic coffee ground that morning is way yummier than the stuff you can get at the local gas station/coffee shop.  For us, I get up every morning with dh to mix his coffee while he's getting ready for work - and we get to spend some time together which we didn't get to before.  He loves it, feels special AND it helps us stay within our budget.  hth.

post #9 of 32

I found a blog recently that you might like.  Last year, she did a challenge to eat real food for 100 days (organic meats, veggies, dairy, low processed foods), and this year, she's doing 100 days of real food on a budget.  She's showing the ups and downs that come with that.  http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/

post #10 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by fierrbugg View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by AustinAmber 

 

I did have success tonight!  I made a cheddar broccoli frittata with whole wheat toast and everybody loved it except DS 1.5 who fed his to the dog.

 

 



Yay for success!!  You have gotten some great ideas from the pp's.  But I didn't see anyone talk about the 'coffees' that your dh gets.  Mine use to do this too - stop every workday for coffee - and it really starts to add up over time.  For us, we already had a coffee maker that you can program, so I just started setting it up every night.  We bought bulk whole bean coffee from Sams Club (although they no longer have the Organic coffee we loved greensad.gif ) and creamer/organic milk is a very small expense compared to buying multiple coffees every day.  We also had/purchased a travel mug and thermos-type deal - so that if dh wants he has coffee on the way to work and hot coffee later on as well.  idk if that's something your dh would be interested in doing - but for us it worked out really well - especially because organic coffee ground that morning is way yummier than the stuff you can get at the local gas station/coffee shop. ; For us, I get up every morning with dh to mix his coffee while he's getting ready for work - and we get to spend some time together which we didn't get to before.  He loves it, feels special AND it helps us stay within our budget.  hth.


I love that idea! I wish my DH would go for it. He makes coffee at home already but I would love to have breakfast with him and spend some time with him before he goes to work but he is like a zombie in the morning and would never go for it. He wakes up at the last possible second, skips breakfast, and doesn't say anything more than "I love you, have a good day" on his way out the door!
post #11 of 32

We are a family of 6 (5 adult-sized appetites!) and lately we've been spending around $1000-$1200/month.  Ouch.  And that is with my making most things from scratch.  I came to a realization that there are things that I was considering a staple item that just wasn't.  Like bread.  Why did I feel we need to have bread daily?  So now we don't.  Just an example, but maybe reevaluating your idea of staple items may help?

 

Soup.  I am swearing by soup as a budget reducer now.  I make 2 big pots of soup a week.  Just a basic soup.  Like last week was deer stock (made from bones), carrots, celery, onion, garlic, sweet potatoes.  Then I'd take some soup one night and flavor it to go w/the meal.  Mexican?  So I add cumin, oregano, and some tomatoes.  Serve w/sour cream and a bit of grated cheese.  Asian?  Add some soaked shitake mushrooms, some oyster sauce, mushroom soy sauce, a dash of hot sauce, some cabbage sliced thinly, and lots of ginger!  Serve this soup as an appetizer for each meal.  Cheap, nutritious as can be, and very versatile.  Last night I made turkey stock soup w/carrots, celery, butternut squash cubes, onion, garlic, bell pepper, mushrooms and kale.  I added some leftover frozen ham from Christmas, and some brown lentils.  Oh my it was so good!  I served w/a spoon of rice and there was only enough left for my dh's lunch!  Note to self: make bigger batch next time.  So now I'm making a soup w/goat stock and again will vary the seasonings each meal.

 

I garden, can, dehydrate things on sale.  We also get in on wild pig butchering in the late Winter, and raise chickens, rabbits, guineas, goats and bees.  We forage for berries and fish, too, when we can.  Get creative!

post #12 of 32

Here are some of our tips, not that we always manage to implement them:

 

#1 budget helper: A meal plan based on that week's sales. I pick the store that matches our needs the best and go there, rather than driving all around, but depending on how close your stores are to you or each other you could probably save more. If chicken's a great deal, then I gather up my chicken recipes and go to. It is a balancing act but with practice it helps, especially added to...

 

#2 budget helper: Learning the sale cycles for pantry/frozen (depending on freezer size) items. Canned tomatoes, for example, go on sale about every 8 weeks, so I try to pick up 8-10 cans when they do (depending on what I have left). Cheese blocks are about every 6 weeks. Flour goes on sale in the 8 weeks before the holidays. I used to budget 10% of our food budget for amazing sales, so as not to go crazy.

 

#3 budget helper: A bunch of what I think of as "peasant food" recipes. Soups are amazing as a PP noted - you can pair them with so many other things if you feel the need, based on what's inexpensive, and if you either make your own stock or look for deep sales, it's basically made of bits that didn't make it into the main meals. Pea soup is a constant wonder to me - split peas are so inexpensive, throw in one carrot and one potato and one onion and some thyme + stock and you have a hearty tasty massive pot for like, $1.25. A lot depends on your tastes but we enjoy, matched against sales, lentil/onion/rice and other beans + rice recipes, cassoulet-type casseroles, goulash, chili, etc. We adapt them so that the most expensive ingredient (usually the meat) has less and the other vegetables and legumes have a little more. I try to do at least two lower-cost meals a week to keep in practice.

 

I also have a slew of "effort not cost" recipes for weekends, sort of luxury items that don't cost a lot but time - risotto is the best example, but making fresh pasta or your own stuffed dumplings would qualify.  I think of these as recreation to make.

 

Any recipe that starts with something like "take 6 skinless boneless chicken breasts" is reserved for a luxury meal, which I also try to plan in too, especially when there's a (is this getting boring) sale or we happen to have extra budget that week.

 

#4 budget helper: Know which days you tend to order in/eat out, find fast & easy alternatives and see if you can implement those. For example, even though I know that whatever they put in them to make them keep is probably horrible, I keep some of the pizza shells you can find (the vacuum sealed ones) around for when it would be a pizza night. Another example is we love to eat Greek food out, so one of our "splurges" is to hit the store on the way home for fresh bread and feta cheese and salad fixings and add in from the pantry good olives, roasted red pepper &/or eggplant, hummus (we make our own usually but sometimes we buy this fresh as well), olive oil, dressing, and then we have a "picnic" with all that greek-inspired stuff, just cold where we top the bread with the veggies and cheese or dip in the oil, have a salad. It is pricier than a more humble/planned meal but way way less than picking it up.

post #13 of 32

I wanted to add:  Feed your freezer!

post #14 of 32

Don't feel discouraged about narrowing your food budget - I promise you it *can* be done...and I don' t personally know *any* family of 4 that spends $1000 on food...so I don't think it's the "norm".

 

Or maybe it is...and I'm just weird? I'm just trying to give you hope ;)

 

We're a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 DC - 6yo, 1.5yo) and we spend $350 every 4 weeks on food (soooo - $175/2 weeks). And that's with my new revamped budget. I was previously budgeting $130/2 weeks, but it was totally unrealistic, so I decided to give myself a little wiggle room. So far, so good ;)

 

My tips are the following -

 

no organics unless they're cheaper

bulk bins are my friend (I buy bulk spices, beans, nuts, flour, etc).

ugly stores are my friend - ie: winco style...hard concrete floors...not pretty shiny fancy stores, lol!

vegan meals...okay, we're not vegan. In fact, we're not even vegetarian, but I LOVE vegan cooking. I have a jazillion cookbooks and most of our meals our grain or legume based, with the occasional meaty meal (even a big-arse steak, hehe!)

always pack a lunch

make your own dang coffee

nix most of the prepackaged crap - your own dressings and treats are easy as heck to make - bread and yogurt are a lil' tougher IMO, but I'm currently attempting to figure them out ;)

 

Anyway, that's all I got for now - and I feel you on the pick kid! My babe hardly eats ANYTHING. Well, except "boobies", which is honestly starting to drive me a little batty!

 

Good luck :D

post #15 of 32

We're a family of three, but one of us is still pretty small. winky.gif We spend about $350 a month on food and household supplies (toilet paper, etc). We are gluten free, which makes it a lot harder to keep costs down, I find. Before, I used to keep our grocery and supply budget under $300 pretty easily. I do it by using a lot of the strategies PP have listed: not buying packaged/processed/convenience foods, canning our own jams and preserves, eating soups a lot, basing meals on things like beans and grains bought in bulk, feeding the freezer, making our own bread (using a breadmaker--totally worth it IMO), stocking up when things are on sale, being conscious of what items are less expensive at what stores.

post #16 of 32
I Spend 300 to 350 a month. I Have discovered that buying frozen veggies , cooking more ethnic meals and buying things like dried mushrooms at the asian grocery all help cut costs. I also don't make meat the main part of the meal. More A side dish
post #17 of 32
Thread Starter 

Wow, I am inspired!  The problem is, well, I don't like to cook.  I wouldn't know what to do with a whole chicken if it walked up and slapped me in the face.  I would LOVE to be able to make my own bread/jam/yogurt/sauce and everything else and maybe someday I will.  I am a little overwhelmed with all these great ideas.  Keep em coming!

I'm going to try to plan some meals now................ ;)

post #18 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by AustinAmber View Post

Wow, I am inspired!  The problem is, well, I don't like to cook.  I wouldn't know what to do with a whole chicken if it walked up and slapped me in the face.  I would LOVE to be able to make my own bread/jam/yogurt/sauce and everything else and maybe someday I will.  I am a little overwhelmed with all these great ideas.  Keep em coming!

I'm going to try to plan some meals now................ ;)



If you really hate it, it probably won't work but I was not a natural cook when I started doing the cooking. I just tried to master one or two new things a month, on days we weren't stressed out. I laughed at the chicken comment because I was totally intimidated by chicken, roasts, etc.  It turns out those things are really easy once you've done them once or twice (and the internet helps; there are instructions and often videos for everything) and if you plan them as leftovers, can be very economical (depending on your area).  Beans and grains also tend to be really forgiving.

post #19 of 32
2 adults & 1 toddler here and my dad comes over to eat a lot. I spend about $35 a week, sometimes more if I pick a few goodies, plus about $50-70 every month or two to stock up at Costco. So at most $200 a month for 50-75% organic. We do lots of rice/quinoa, beans/lentils, soup/stew, meat is only the main course on Sundays, otherwise it's a side dish. We love burritos, quinoa burgers, pasta, and minestrone or spaghetti squash soup*.

For breakfasts I'll make muffins, baked oatmeal, pancakes (save the extras and they make a nice easy breakfast that you can just grab and go. My huband doesn't like eggs otherwise I'd make some hard-boiled eggs to take. In the summertime I'll put all the ingredients for a smoothie into the blender and all he has to do is blend it in the morning. For lunch he takes leftovers and a piece of fruit and/or muffin.

* Spaghetti squash soup -- cheap, easy, not fast but not a lot of effort either.
Bake a 3-lb spaghetti squash for 45 min at 475 degrees. Cut in half, remove seeds, scoop flesh into a blender with a splash of water and liquefy.
Sautee a diced onion and a few garlic cloves in olive oil until fragrant. Add to the onion/garlic: 2 cups broth, 1/2 - 2/3 cup brown rice, spaghetti squash, 2 tbsp cumin, a few dashes salt, pepper, and chili powder and 1 cup shredded chicken if you want. Simmer until rice is fully cooked. Serve with grated cheese and slices of avocado.
post #20 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by JessicaRenee View Post

* Spaghetti squash soup -- cheap, easy, not fast but not a lot of effort either.
Bake a 3-lb spaghetti squash for 45 min at 475 degrees. Cut in half, remove seeds, scoop flesh into a blender with a splash of water and liquefy.
Sautee a diced onion and a few garlic cloves in olive oil until fragrant. Add to the onion/garlic: 2 cups broth, 1/2 - 2/3 cup brown rice, spaghetti squash, 2 tbsp cumin, a few dashes salt, pepper, and chili powder and 1 cup shredded chicken if you want. Simmer until rice is fully cooked. Serve with grated cheese and slices of avocado.


This sounds so good. I have a squash in my pantry and leftover chicken. I am going to make this tomorrow. Thanks for sharing!

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