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Grocery budgeting - Page 2

post #21 of 32



Originally Posted by JessicaRenee View Post
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.

This is such a great idea.  I have a banana bread/cake recipe that dh loves as muffins - and you can really adapt any from scratch cake recipe (my mom did one w/ apples and oatmeal that would also make really great muffins).  From what I've read online granola bars are super easy to make and personalize - plus they are great for eating on the go. 


I also agree with the 'feed the freezer' sentiment - I got tired of throwing away leftovers, so I decided to start freezing them for those days when I don't feel like cooking anything, but don't want to waste $ on fast food.  This week I have stocked away 2 helpings of veggie/beef stew and 2 helpings of shepherd's pie and leftover spaghetti sauce that would have otherwise gone bad in my fridge.  I also took the remnants of a chicken I roasted and made some homemade stock.  Yummy!! 

post #22 of 32

I do many of the same things as previous posters.  Last year I spent $600-700/month on groceries for my family of 6.  I know it could be lower if I bought less processed foods.


We buy grass-fed beef directly from the farmer- this is MUCH cheaper.  We also raise meat chickens.  I have 4 kids and find that it does pay to buy some items in bulk. 


Breakfast is generally fruit, occasionally oatmeal, toast or eggs. I don't buy boxed cereals.  Lunch is usually sandwiches/salad/leftovers, fruit, veggies, nuts & raisins.  Everyone takes a packed lunch to work/school (although DH and I go out for a lunch date a few times/month).  Unlike other posters, we do eat a fair amount of meat, and can afford to do this because we buy in bulk directly from the farmer.  We don't eat a lot of beans, and try to moderate our intake of grains.  Dinner is usually meat and veggies. 

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.

I made this tonight and it was so yummy.  I used a smaller acorn squash and 3 cups of chicken stock.  I think I let it simmer too long because it turned out as more of a casserole than a soup, but it was still good.  And it was a super way to use up the leftover chicken & half of an onion I had sitting in the fridge. 

post #23 of 32

We're a family of 5 and budgeting $800/mo on groceries, not factoring in any dining out which we do a few times a week (for lunch). I think it's way too high considering I feed our family home-prepared vegetarian meals everyday. I'm not sure why it's so high... I eat leftovers all the time.. :/ I only let the kids eat organic, humane milk & eggs... which are super expensive.. but we mostly eat fresh or frozen veggies, beans, rice, pasta.. cheap stuff. we also don't drink any soda or coffee, and have bought maybe 3 alcoholic drinks in the last six months. 





Edited by imakecutebabies - 3/23/12 at 1:02pm
post #24 of 32

We have a family of 5 (2 adults, 5 yo, 3 yo and 1 yo but the kids sometimes eat more than the adults!) and we budget 400/month for everything bought at a grocery store and eating out. Things I do to make things easier/cheaper:

- crockpot meals, I LOVE LOVE LOVE my crockpot. Its hard to find the time sometimes to cook while chasing after the kids so being able to throw dinner in the crockpot before they are even awake helps alot.

- make almost everything from scratch, I want to learn to can but have no clue where to start! I think I need to e-mail my grandma-in-law since she loves to can

- buy in bulk when possible and when it makes sense. Its only good to buy in bulk if you will USE it. It makes no sense to buy things in bulk when they will sit for months/years without being used. It just wastes money and takes up space.

- use less meat than is called for, serve so the meat is more a side dish than the main attraction. Usually our plates are: 1/4 meat, 1/4 carbs and 1/2 veggies. Its healthier and cheaper

- shop sells.


Something that helps me though is I can shop at the commissary. We save a ton on taxes but it is kind of cheating since most people don't have that option.

post #25 of 32

Okimom, totally not cheating that you get to use the commissary, because your dh is serving his country!  You do with out him alot, I'm assuming, so you deserve it!


I looked at this thread and a bit over a year ago I posted that we were spending $1000-$1200/month for a family of 6.  Well, very happy to say I've gotten it down to around half that now!  I disovered Aldi, and that helps supplement my gardening/livestock raising.  It's a good thing I got it down, too, with how much feed for said livestock costs.  Also, just stocking up on veggies when they are on sale helps.  I've been dehydrating like mad and it's nice to know I can eat cabbage on sale later on when it's not...Or onions, or cranberries, etc.

post #26 of 32
Originally Posted by Chicky2 View Post

I looked at this thread and a bit over a year ago I posted that we were spending $1000-$1200/month for a family of 6.  Well, very happy to say I've gotten it down to around half that now! 

Chicky, that is fabulous.  I had similar progress but my family went from 6 to 5 and I have a well-stocked pantry in rotation now, which helps.


There are good ideas in this thread.  I am constantly trying harder to eliminate food waste, and I think we have gotten pretty good at it.  Wish we had chickens so I could turn the scraps we do have into eggs!


One thing that helps me a lot is to meal-plan based on what is in the pantry or what needs using up in the fridge/freezer.  I try to figure out how little I can buy to get by with the things we already have each month.  I also make soup once a week, and something I call "rice-and-stuff" which is basically brown rice plus tamari plus something protein plus something veggie.  It stretches leftovers kind of like soup does.


We are not big legume eaters but I try for a bean or lentil meal at least once a week, with the goal of increasing this over time as we find recipes we all like.  One of my kids is a) a teen boy and b) picky picky picky so that hurts the budget but he eats a lot of peanut butter, eggs, and popcorn to fill in.  Homemade popcorn, for us, is THE go-to snack because it is so cheap and yummy.


I do not know how I manage to feed my family mostly local/organic whole foods on my budget, but I guess it has come from things like eating in season, creative arrangements with farmers, growing as much as I can (which is not a ton, but it helps), using leftovers instead of letting them go to waste (whenever I can), buying in bulk (having an extra fridge and freezer helps a ton), and having a short list of spendy foods (favorites so we don't feel deprived, like meats) to supplement a long list of cheap foods. 


I polled my kids to find out what their favorite meals are and try to make those at least once a month -- then they feel less deprived.  Also on birthdays they can choose their meal and it can be extravagant, like broiled salmon or bacon-wrapped shrimp or steak.  So we splurge on fancy food for birthdays and it is still cheaper than eating out.


Also, if you don't keep expensive or nutritionally devoid food in your house, your kids can't burn through it.  I do keep a "secret stash" of things I want to ration.  If we have chips, I put out individual bowls instead of one big bowl or bag.  They eat less and still feel like it's a full serving.  I guess I consider portion control part of my job.  If we make sausages I tell them how many they can have, my 13yo pouts, and I point him towards raw veggies and bread to fill up after he's eaten his share (or else he would eat the entire package himself).


My kids have gotten used to asking, "How much can I have?" 


Also -- drink water, not juice, or if you're worried about vit C or need a boost, make fruit tea or homemade lemonade (can be made with stevia or something other than white sugar if you prefer).  We make maybe a gallon of lemonade a week, more or less.  We are all just used to drinking water.


I also save all my meat drippings and use them for pan grease or flavoring.  Small trimmings or leftovers that would be good in soup go in a bag in the freezer until I'm ready to toss them in the soup pot.


I guess one thing is to be really honest with yourself about which things you buy for convenience or because you prefer the store-bought or more expensive item.  It's not bad to buy these things if your budget can handle it!  But simply being aware that it's a trade-off helps you trim out the things in this category that you can do without.  I buy one tub of hummus a month for myself because I love one particular brand and my kids generally don't eat it.  Could I make my own?  Sure, and cheaper, but it's not worth it, and I just love the kind I buy and it feels decadent. Could I make my own condiments?  Yes, but I don't want to, and we use them moderately not heavily.


We also eat very little dairy but I buy a pound or two of cheese a month for dressing up ordinary leftovers or pasta.  One thing I have found is that if some dish already has flavorful meat in it, the cheese is often overkill.  Cheese and meat I use sparingly to enhance flavor, not as the main focus of the meal.  Cutting out dairy and cutting down on meat has helped our budget a lot.


There is a discount grocery near here (a bang-and-dent store) and I find good deals there on naturals/organics, but it's always hit-or-miss.  Buy in bulk on sale.  I also have a list of specific items that are cheaper/better at a certain store an hour away, and I make a pilgrimage there every 2 months or so to stock up on those.


I don't know if you're counting household stuff in your grocery budget, but I use reusables whenever possible (handkerchiefs, kitchen cloths, washcloths, mama pads/Keeper, some family cloth (we also use TP), etc.) so hardly buy paper goods except TP. Also, installing a cat door (so no need for kitty litter - we live rurally) and cutting back from "free-choice" to feeding my cats measured amounts 2x/day has done wonders for the cat part of the budget.  For personal care we use simple shampoo, soap, and lotion, and pretty much nothing else (and you can cut out lotion and use olive oil).  I have a front-loader washer so I use only a small amount of laundry powder; for the dishwasher I use one Tbsp powder instead of filling the whole recepticle. For me, keeping it simple and being conservative with use = spending less.


Also we hardly ever eat out, and when we "have to" I buy a big loaf of crusty bread and three slices of deli meat per kid, plus some kind of fresh veg or fruit (usually a small serving at a salad bar or something -- greens are super-cheap, LOL).  I can feed all four kids for $15 or less, and they love it because it is special.


Oh, I grow windowsill sprouts, very easy and cheap and my picky kid loves them.


Hope that is not too many ideas!

post #27 of 32
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................ ;)

 Hey, I totally sympathize with this.  It took us a long time to get our budget under control, because I didn't like cooking and also wouldn't have known what to do with a whole turkey if it slapped me in the face.  Honestly, raw meat still skives me out!  Anyway, what we did about it was got cook's illustrated.  Their articles are really educational and interesting, and honestly cooking has become a fun family time for us.  One of us reads a book to whoever is doing the manual labor, plus we really enjoy picking out the new recipies.



post #28 of 32

Such good ideas in this thread!


My family used to eat out more often. Nothing extravagant, but even a quick casual restaurant can be $25-$30 for 3 of us. That's a budget-buster since we aim for $120 a week for food. So I allow myself to buy pre-made meals even if I could cook that from scratch for less. If a premade meal (from Costco, for example) costs $10-$15, but it keeps us from going out to a restaurant, it's a better deal for us that day.


Even better if it's a pre-made meal I made from scratch and froze on a day that I wasn't so busy. Some things I make double and freeze half: baked ziti (mix it up, add cheese on top, but don't bake until it's time to serve), chili (even a small amount makes a good pasta sauce), french toast.

post #29 of 32
Originally Posted by GirlBoyGirl View Post

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!

I used to make muffins for my dh so he could grab them and go. Otherwise he'd just skip breakfast. Muffins are pretty easy and you can make different kinds for variety. And kids frequently like them, especially if you make them in the mini muffin tins.

post #30 of 32

Another easy pre-made breakfast idea is breakfast burritos. I make them for my husband when he workout in the morning. That way he eats something after working out, otherwise hes a bear to deal with. I'm sure his co-workers appreciate not having to deal with him in a bad mood orngbiggrin.gif. Ive done muffins before but he will usually "forget" to take them but the kids love them winky.gif. Breakfast sandwiches go over well for him as well, I can make a couple and hes set until middle of the week. Im forgetting what else Ive done for him, Ill ask DH when he gets home.

post #31 of 32

Don't be scared of cooking a whole chicken! If roasting it in the oven is intimidating, then use the Crock Pot. Here's a helpful site that has pictures http://thehappyhousewife.com/cooking/whole-chicken-in-a-crock-pot/ I always make stock with the bones and extra skin, you can use it not just for soup, but I also make wild rice in my small rice cooker using stock instead of water to up the flavor and nutrition. 


I live in one of the most expensive areas of the country and try to keep my grocery budget at $500/month for mostly gluten free me, a super active dh that eats like a teenage boy, an active skinny somewhat picky 5.5 year old that needs lots of calories and a 2 year old that never seems to stop moving and will eat anything and everything. On months where I need to restock lots of the basics, like butter, flour, sugar, peanut butter, laundry detergent, dog and cat food, etc, I probably spend closer to $600, but those items won't need to bought again for a couple months.


I limit processed/prepared foods, we do not eat any trans fats or corn syrup, and only eat whole grain bread, wheat pasta and wild and brown rice. I buy the highest quality meat/fish I can afford, usually in bulk from Costco, and use less meat in meals (we also follow the 1/4 protein, 1/4 starch, 1/2 veggie rule and I add beans and extra veggies to dishes to stretch it). I get an organic produce delivery every other week that is mostly fruit, salad greens, cooking greens, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots and celery. I fill in with mostly conventional fresh produce for everything else. My kids alone each eat almost 3 pieces of fruit each day, I buy a lot of fruit. I buy dry beans and make them in the CP. We do not drink juice, only milk, water, coffee, tea and sparkling water and buy very few snack foods, my kids are big fans of homemade muffins, cookies and popcorn. I do buy Costco packs of conventional eggs as we go through about 18 each week and regular milk (but we are in CA, so no growth hormone). We use hand towels for almost everything and simple cleaning products (smaller amounts of eco detergents, no fabric softener or wipes, make my own bleach cleaner).


I keep my grocery costs down by eating simply and using a lot of the same ingredients in different ways so I can buy in bulk without being wasteful. Yes, sometimes it would technically be cheaper to wait until a sale at the regular grocery and then stockpile, but buying bulk at Costco twice a month helps keep me out of the stores and limits impulse buying. I usually only need to go to Trader Joe's once a week to pick up what I can't get at Costco or to fill in until the next trip. It also challenges me to use up everything in creative ways, food waste drives me crazy.


Breakfast: early morning cheerios and banana, late morning toast/waffle/bagel with scrambled egg and fruit, I have an egg and coffee

Lunch: pb&j or turkey sandwich/bagel/quesadilla/crackers,cheese and turkey, fruit, tortilla chips, carrots/celery, dh always has leftovers, I have leftovers or something like egg or chicken salad in lettuce leaves and fruit

Snack: string cheese, wheat pretzels/muffin/cookie/popcorn, sometimes a frozen yogurt tube

Dinner: I always post my dinners in the meal planning threads, helps keep me on track. I sit down on Saturday morning and make a menu for the coming week, using what I still have and adding what I need to my grocery list. I plan at least 7 meals, some super easy and some more time consuming, and post them in the kitchen, then I choose each morning what to make that day. My kids always have fruit with dinner and if they don't like the vegetable that is served, they have broccoli or carrots and celery instead. We rarely have an official dessert, but on some days we have ice cream or the kids will have a whole milk yogurt before bed.

Edited by colemom - 3/26/12 at 4:25pm
post #32 of 32
Yum, muffins sound like a good catch all morning recipe. Anyone have a good one ?

I am working on lowering our budget too. I sort of panic when fridge & pantry aren't stocked, but as a result I don't buy things as needed, I buy them " in case"
As a result we have 2 carton of eggs in fridge, which we will use, but don't need 2 at the time, Kwim?
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