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Tell me about your grocery budget!

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 

We are lacto-ovo vegetarians, and I'm struggling with keeping everything in budget.  We currently spend about $120/week on groceries, and I know that it's too much for a family the size of ours (me, DH, 18mo who eats about 2-3 cups of food each day, 9mo who mainly breastfeeds but also does some table food as we do baby-led weaning), even in a high cost-of-living area.  I don't know how much is reasonable, but I know that we are spending too much right now.  I blame my addiction to avocados and goat cheese :)

 

So, how much does your family spend on groceries in an average week?

 

What accounts for the bulk of your grocery spending--- fresh herbs/produce?  Dairy products?  That last kind of prepackaged food you simply can't quit?  Desserts/sweets?  Basic staples?

 

What measures have you taken to control your grocery spending?

 

Any and all ideas and input would be helpful--- I don't have much experience in this area and I'm in a pretty staunchly meat-and-potatoes community.

post #2 of 35

we seem to spend less in the summer because we are going to farms etc and avoiding impulse buys - and the hefty cost of organic produce not in  season - at the grocery store.  Id guess our family of 3 spends $200 a week on average !

post #3 of 35

I think we spend at least 200 a week, and DH works for a natural food store where we get 20% off. We have two adults, a 4 year old and a 2 year old. I would guess we spend about $1000 a month on food, if you figure in Costco and Trader Joes, which are once a month for us. We spend a lot on produce. A lot. We juice. My kids drink a lot of goat kefir, at $6 a quart, and eat a lot of yogurt and some cheese. Dairy would be our second biggest expense. Next would be packaged foods. DH and I eat these rarely, but even when I try to make my own, I find the convenience of cheddar bunnies worth the extra cost. Rolling out and cutting the crackers is such a pain. My kids also eat a loaf of bread every 3 days, and we get the sprouted grain kind. We try to get a lot of cheese from Costco, since it is so much cheaper. Here in CA they have the same organic options we find at Whole Foods. Our CSA is $17 a week, but it only lasts about 3 days. We do it more for fun and taking the kids to the farm, so they see where food comes from. 

post #4 of 35

$100 a week was what my mother spent to feed our family of four 30 years ago, so I feel really good about our ~$150 for a family of four today.

post #5 of 35

We spend 150-200 a week most of the time, there's me, dh and dd. The bulk of that is produce, especially since we try to buy organic since dd is eating solid food now. It's amazing how fast she can tank three bucks worth of blueberries or pineapple. We don't do milk at all, and use cheese sparingly. dh's ice cream, packaged cereal (that's really the only packaged food we do consistently), nuts, dried fruit, and bath and kitchen products are what stood out on my last grocery tape. I need to find cheaper household cleaners, shampoo, lotion etc. Oh yeah, and my yogurt habit is a bad one.

post #6 of 35

Well we're not vegetarian, but I thought I'd throw my two cents in and say 120 sounds fine for a family of 3 to be eating healthy. Spending less would involve decreasing the quality of your diet- something dh and I argue about! In 20 years you'll be glad you spend the extra 20-30 dollars a week on good food instead of saving that little bit by filling up on cheap white rice and potatoes, or w/e :) Our budget looks a bit like this:

30-50 dollars a week on produce at the farmer's market- closer to 50 if I am canning/preserving or closer to 30 if not

25 or so on 'dairy'- namely almond milk for ds, kefir, yogurt for dh and ds and eggs

40-50 on staples and household goods like flour, brown rice, dried fruit, spices, cleaning supplies, diapers

plus 40 or so a month on organic meat (we make it stretch :) )

 

We also occasionally buy things like flax oil, chia/flax seeds, protein powder for dh, etc, but we don't generally count them into the actual grocery budget. I also bake a lot, which is why flour is included so often.

post #7 of 35
Thread Starter 

Suddenly my $120/week doesn't look so bad :)

 

DH makes $24k/year...so we can't spend frivolously.  There are no bulk stores here, but I will try to avail myself of the farmer's market and farm stands more often.

 

I've been phasing out just about all of our prepared foods and finding ways to use EVERY bit of what we do buy...hopefully when I'm done I'll have brought it down a bit more.

 

Thanks for the help!

 

 

post #8 of 35

We seem to spend about $550 a month for a family of 5 (kids are 7 1/2, 5, and 1), which works out to be about $126 a week. I was feeling bad that I spend too much, but I guess it isn't so bad anymore. Gosh the cost of food has gone up! It makes me sick to my stomach to think about it. 

 

ETA: That doesn't count what we get from WIC so I guess it would really be about $600-$625 a month. 

post #9 of 35

I'm supposed to spend $150 a week for 2 adults, a 5 year old and a 3 year old. I never make it anywhere near budget. I easily spend an extra $50 to $100 a week over that (I fear to say even more.) I even stopped buying organic and it didn't help. We do spend a lot on fruit. Then we had to put our daughter gluten free. Now I'm buying tinkyada pasta, which is amazing, but it's almost $4 a pound. And almond flour is about $7 a pound and I use it to make bread and other baked goods. Tonight I made gluten free brownies for our daughter's (3rd) birthday party at homeschool park day tomorrow. $5 for the almond butter, $6 for the chocolate sweetened with beet sugar (we think cane sugar gives her diarrhea.) 

 

I need to get our spending under control, but I don't know how. We can't use anything with cane sugar, gluten, tomatoes, or dairy for our daughter. I love how healthy the diet is, but I spend way too much.

post #10 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by SundayCrepes View Post

I'm supposed to spend $150 a week for 2 adults, a 5 year old and a 3 year old. I never make it anywhere near budget. I easily spend an extra $50 to $100 a week over that (I fear to say even more.) I even stopped buying organic and it didn't help. We do spend a lot on fruit. Then we had to put our daughter gluten free. Now I'm buying tinkyada pasta, which is amazing, but it's almost $4 a pound. And almond flour is about $7 a pound and I use it to make bread and other baked goods. Tonight I made gluten free brownies for our daughter's (3rd) birthday party at homeschool park day tomorrow. $5 for the almond butter, $6 for the chocolate sweetened with beet sugar (we think cane sugar gives her diarrhea.) 

 

I need to get our spending under control, but I don't know how. We can't use anything with cane sugar, gluten, tomatoes, or dairy for our daughter. I love how healthy the diet is, but I spend way too much.


I am sure you have tried everything, but I just thought I'd throw it out there. Have you tried Amazon.com's grocery for some of this stuff? They tend to have good prices on the subscribe and save but you generally have to buy in bulk. Also I know that Trader Joe's have Almond meal for about $4 a pound.  

 

post #11 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by maciascl View Post

I am sure you have tried everything, but I just thought I'd throw it out there. Have you tried Amazon.com's grocery for some of this stuff? They tend to have good prices on the subscribe and save but you generally have to buy in bulk. Also I know that Trader Joe's have Almond meal for about $4 a pound.  

 


 

Thanks for the tip. I do get stuff from amazon--just ordered 12 boxes of gluten free cereal that is not sweetened with cane sugar (I have only found two basic cereals that meet those guidelines.) I buy TONS of lara bars there. Tapioca flour was really cheap. I also buy baby wipes and such.

 

I bought some Trader Joe's almond meal, but need to be careful which recipes to use it in. It was fine in cookies, but I'm not sure how it would be in bread. I also learned that Whole Foods sells bulk coconut flour for $4 a pound. That's cheaper than amazon.

post #12 of 35

I spend about $225-250 a week. There are 4 of us that eat like adults (we have a 17 and 13 year old), a 7 year old and a 2 year old. This includes dog and cat food, cleaning stuff, etc.

 

We eat a lot of organic. We get a CSA box weekly and 3 dozen local eggs delivered weekly, I buy through a bulk natural foods club every other month, we hit Costco and Trader Joe's once a month, as well as a grocery outlet. I have food storage in the garage.

 

I cook from scratch most of the time. I can our own jam, pickles, etc. I make our almond milk (I have a nifty soymilk maker that has paid for itself many times over) or soymilk (from organic soybeans). I use the crockpot many times a week, making beans in it is a snap ( for burritos, taco salad, whatever) or soup or... menu planning breakfast and dinner saves us a lot. I recycle leftovers that don't get used for lunches.

post #13 of 35

I just picked up this book yesterday and started reading it because my DH and I need to get our food budget under control.  We are ovo-lacto vegetarians that tend toward vegan with not too much dairy in our diet.  We spend about $75 for the two of us.

 

Wildly affordable organic : eat fabulous food, get healthy, and save the planet--all on $5 a day or less by Linda Watson.  She actually was using the amount of money that a person on food stamps would be given.  So far it is really cool and it has seasonal recipes to use the organic food when it is in season.  The more I read it the more excited I become to cut our food budget to something that would overdraw our bank account.

post #14 of 35

Wow, I guess we're doing better than I realized!  We spend about $350/month, or about $85-90/week, for groceries for 3 of us: me, DH, and our 2 yo.  (The baby is EBF.)  That bill also includes household items like toothpaste, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, cat food/litter, etc.  It jumps a bit higher on the rare occasion we buy disposable diapers (those things are just stupid expensive), since we don't normally budget for those. 

 

We've had to work REALLY hard to get the bill this low.  We also live in a fairly low COL region; in another area this might not be possible.  Also, a couple of caveats.  One, we do not count beer and wine in our grocery budget; I keep that as a separate line item so that I can use the cost to convince DH to consume a bit less.  It's not excessive, IMO -- I usually have one beer or glass of wine a night, and DH usually has 2 -- but it still adds up.  We still need to work on this.  If we tallied this in with our grocery budget it would probably add another $50-75 a month.  Two, we have a restaurant budget (this includes take-out, like pizza) of about $100/month, so that's usually a few meals for which we would otherwise need to buy groceries.   

 

Here's what we do to keep it low (and it's been a LOT of work to figure all this out):

- We split a CSA share with our next-door neighbors.  This costs us $15/week and provides enough produce for about 3-4 meals.  We still have to supplement with store-bought produce, though. 

- We stopped buying organic (besides the CSA share).  The organic produce in our stores is usually too old and goes bad too quickly to justify spending the extra money on it. 

- We don't buy or eat any meat. 

- We mooch off our parents!  At least two nights a month, we eat dinner at my parents' or my MIL's house. 

- We mostly stay away from packaged foods, though we spring for a few things: graham crackers, generic bran flakes and cheerios, tortillas, bread, Goldfish crackers, frozen veggie burgers, etc.  I make my own tortilla chips, tomato sauce (from canned tomato purees), salsa, etc.  We often get excellent bread for free from friends who pick up and distribute out-of-date stuff from fancy bakeries. 

- Besides grains, beans, spices and flour, we don't buy in bulk.  I don't find that it saves us money (on most things) and we end up overconsuming some items because we have so much of them that the supply seems endless.  Having smaller amounts of things seems to keep us from 'pigging out' on them. 

- We treat expensive items (olives, nice cheeses, avocados, fancy crackers, frozen fake-meat items, etc) as occasional treats and luxuries.  Cheap food is for everyday consumption.  I use very little of the expensive stuff, adding cheaper things when possible to make it 'stretch.' 

- I buy the cheapest versions of things if it doesn't make much difference in the end product, i.e., dried TVP rather than the frozen 'designer' variety, dry beans rather than canned, frozen spinach rather than fresh, etc. 

- I nearly always buy generics. 

- Besides the aforementioned beer and wine expenditures, we generally only drink water.  Juice, milk, soy/rice milks, and soda (ick) are way too expensive.  DH gets store-brand carbonated water and splashes lemon juice into it as a "soda" treat. 

- I shop at our local discount supermarket for everything I can get there, and then go to the expensive supermarket for only the things I can't get at the first place.

- I try to be careful with coupons, and only clip coupons for things I already buy.  Otherwise I find it's just a ploy to get me to buy more-expensive varieties of things. 

- For ethnic-food items, I seek out the local food import stores and buy in bulk there.  I would never ever ever buy spices, rice, cornmeal, tamari, hot sauce, etc. at the supermarket.  These are often also good places to buy things like vegetable/olive oil, flour, tofu, fresh herbs, and canned/jarred items like olives, pickles, etc.  I've figured out what items are cheaper at our local Indian, Lebanese, and Vietnamese markets.  We're lucky that we live in a big city with easy access to so many small ethnic markets. 

 

Probably the single most important cost-saving thing I do is plan our menus about 2 weeks at a time.  I plan around what we already have and what we're getting in our CSA share for the week, and then I make the shopping list to reflect ONLY what I need for those meals.  That way I'm not overbuying (especially produce, which will go bad).  More importantly, I have what I need for those meals, necessitating fewer "last-minute" or "only a couple of items" trips to the store (which tend to be the kind of trips where I buy expensive treats we don't really need).  I was finding that when I was planning meals on the fly every day, I often needed to run to the convenient store at the corner to pick up some item I needed, and paying an enormous premium for the privilege of grocery-shopping within sight of my front door. 

 

We've also identified the things that really matter to us in terms of getting a 'premium' product, and we've made compromises to make sure they fit in the budget.  For example: it is important to us to support fair-trade coffee production, so we will not buy any coffee that is not fair trade.  In order to accommodate this in our budget, we compromise by drawing a hard line about "off-limits" expenditures: no fancy coffee creamers, no coffee at coffee shops, etc.  I've also had to reduce the amount of coffee I drink in a day in order to keep this budget line item within reason.  We have made similar compromises to allow for organic yogurt and organic, cage-free eggs.  (We buy the better product, but we agree that we will use less of it.  This seems to work for us.) 

 

 

post #15 of 35

this is an inspiring thread. we are a family of 2 adults, and a 19 month old.. I've always felt like we spent too much money on groceries, but I have also never worked out the dollar amount we spend. uh oh.. : )  For those of you who meal plan.. did it take a while to get motivated to do this? I talk about meal planning a lot, but never seem to get around to doing it.. I would love to be more aware of our spending & do it in a responsible way.

 

post #16 of 35

Yikes! I knew we spent a lot on groceries but am almost embarrassed to say we spend around $800/month on groceries for a family of 4 (DD is 3, DS is 1). BUT, we are probably 90% organic and not willing to compromise on that. We are slowly making the switch to vegan and mostly eat vegetarian. DH still likes his deli meats and bacon (again, organic/no hormone so pretty expensive!). DD likes to have cheese and we have allowed it but we have pretty much replaced that expense with Daiya (also pretty expensive and a luxury for DH who has been lactose intolerant for nearly 3 years after a 35 year love affair with cheese). I would say that the majority of our grocery bill is produce...oh and hummus (I keep saying we need to learn how to make our own but the stuff we buy @ Whole Foods is amazing!) and avocados.

Some cost saving ideas we are working on now to try and bring this cost down are utilizing a local organic produce delivery service that we would be able to pick a basket with a set price and we get the freshest, local, organic produce and we know how much we are spending each week, and can fill in the gaps at Natural Grocers ( A LOT cheaper than Whole foods). Also, we have been using more natural cleaners (vinegar, baking soda, lemon, etc.) instead of popping for the 'green' low-toxins cleaners. Next on my list is our own laundry detergent and deoderant. It is constantly evolving since we are a 1 income family, I hope we will be able to take some of our cost saving ways with us when DH starts working again!

post #17 of 35

We make our own hummus all the time -- DH practically lives on the stuff.  It's ridiculously easy, and very cheap to make.  Hummus manufacturers make a truly enormous profit on their stuff!!!  I'd figure it costs us less than a dollar's worth of ingredients to make a mixing bowl full -- maybe 32 oz. or so.  PM me if you'd like our recipe. 

 

As far as meal planning goes, yes, it took us a long time to get motivated to make a plan and stick with it.  When I started doing the Motivated Moms lists to help keep my house clean, I found that meal planning fit in well that, so they tend to go together for me.  "Plan meals" is one of the task items on the MM list.  It helps to have that reminder. 

 

I would have said, a year ago, that having meals planned in advance for the entire week would be too limiting on my creativity.  Or I might have said that it would restrict us too much in terms of making last-minute plans (restaurants, etc.).  But now that I'm doing it regularly, I would recommend it for everyone.  It truly saves us a ton of money, as I said in my PP, and it also saves a ton of time/energy/stress for me, which is valuable with two very small children at home. 

 

I still get to be creative -- and I get to be more creative, in fact, because I can plan the meals ahead of time and shop to the menu, so I can come up with all sorts of interesting ideas.  If I find myself planning too much of the same stuff, I'll flip through a cookbook and come up with something new.  I never used to be able to use my cookbooks that way, because I was always cooking at the last minute (and you never have all the ingredients on hand for a new recipe, after all). 

 

Having a plan in place for the week can also help me plan good ways to use leftovers -- I'll make a double batch of rice to go with a curry, then the next day I'll use the leftover rice as the base for fried rice and stir fry.  Or if I'm making baked potatoes, I'll make extra, then slice and fry them the next day to go with omelettes.  You get the idea.  If I have a plan ahead of time, I know how much of each thing to make to reduce energy use, time, and food waste.  We almost never throw any food away at our house anymore.  (We also plan one meal a week as "leftovers" to be sure we've used everything up.)

 

Here's my advice about how to get started with meal planninhg.  First, use up as much of the food in your house as you possibly can.  Be creative.  Be unusual.  But start with a fairly empty pantry/refrigerator.  Then, look at the handful of things you have left, and come up with 5 or 6 creative meal ideas to use them up.  Write down all the ingredients you will need to purchase for those meals.  Go buy them all at once.  Then (and this is important) DO NOT GO TO THE STORE AGAIN until you have prepared all of the meals on your plan.  In the meantime, if you find yourself running low on something you didn't count on, be creative with substitutes, or just do without it.  I find that about half of our grocery purchases are "extras" -- items we don't really need for our meals, but things we just like to have around the house.  Getting them off the list really trims our grocery bill, esp. because many of them are more expensive packaged things.  If I buy only what I need for planned meals, then I have to eat leftovers for lunch instead of heating up a can of soup, or eating cheese and crackers, for example. 

 

Good luck!  This has made a big difference in our food expenditures, and I highly recommend it!

post #18 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Comtessa View Post

Wow, I guess we're doing better than I realized!  We spend about $350/month, or about $85-90/week, for groceries for 3 of us: me, DH, and our 2 yo.  (The baby is EBF.)  That bill also includes household items like toothpaste, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, cat food/litter, etc.  It jumps a bit higher on the rare occasion we buy disposable diapers (those things are just stupid expensive), since we don't normally budget for those. 

 

We've had to work REALLY hard to get the bill this low.  We also live in a fairly low COL region; in another area this might not be possible.  Also, a couple of caveats.  One, we do not count beer and wine in our grocery budget; I keep that as a separate line item so that I can use the cost to convince DH to consume a bit less.  It's not excessive, IMO -- I usually have one beer or glass of wine a night, and DH usually has 2 -- but it still adds up.  We still need to work on this.  If we tallied this in with our grocery budget it would probably add another $50-75 a month.  Two, we have a restaurant budget (this includes take-out, like pizza) of about $100/month, so that's usually a few meals for which we would otherwise need to buy groceries.   

 

Here's what we do to keep it low (and it's been a LOT of work to figure all this out):

- We split a CSA share with our next-door neighbors.  This costs us $15/week and provides enough produce for about 3-4 meals.  We still have to supplement with store-bought produce, though. 

- We stopped buying organic (besides the CSA share).  The organic produce in our stores is usually too old and goes bad too quickly to justify spending the extra money on it. 

- We don't buy or eat any meat. 

- We mooch off our parents!  At least two nights a month, we eat dinner at my parents' or my MIL's house. 

- We mostly stay away from packaged foods, though we spring for a few things: graham crackers, generic bran flakes and cheerios, tortillas, bread, Goldfish crackers, frozen veggie burgers, etc.  I make my own tortilla chips, tomato sauce (from canned tomato purees), salsa, etc.  We often get excellent bread for free from friends who pick up and distribute out-of-date stuff from fancy bakeries. 

- Besides grains, beans, spices and flour, we don't buy in bulk.  I don't find that it saves us money (on most things) and we end up overconsuming some items because we have so much of them that the supply seems endless.  Having smaller amounts of things seems to keep us from 'pigging out' on them. 

- We treat expensive items (olives, nice cheeses, avocados, fancy crackers, frozen fake-meat items, etc) as occasional treats and luxuries.  Cheap food is for everyday consumption.  I use very little of the expensive stuff, adding cheaper things when possible to make it 'stretch.' 

- I buy the cheapest versions of things if it doesn't make much difference in the end product, i.e., dried TVP rather than the frozen 'designer' variety, dry beans rather than canned, frozen spinach rather than fresh, etc. 

- I nearly always buy generics. 

- Besides the aforementioned beer and wine expenditures, we generally only drink water.  Juice, milk, soy/rice milks, and soda (ick) are way too expensive.  DH gets store-brand carbonated water and splashes lemon juice into it as a "soda" treat. 

- I shop at our local discount supermarket for everything I can get there, and then go to the expensive supermarket for only the things I can't get at the first place.

- I try to be careful with coupons, and only clip coupons for things I already buy.  Otherwise I find it's just a ploy to get me to buy more-expensive varieties of things. 

- For ethnic-food items, I seek out the local food import stores and buy in bulk there.  I would never ever ever buy spices, rice, cornmeal, tamari, hot sauce, etc. at the supermarket.  These are often also good places to buy things like vegetable/olive oil, flour, tofu, fresh herbs, and canned/jarred items like olives, pickles, etc.  I've figured out what items are cheaper at our local Indian, Lebanese, and Vietnamese markets.  We're lucky that we live in a big city with easy access to so many small ethnic markets. 

 

Probably the single most important cost-saving thing I do is plan our menus about 2 weeks at a time.  I plan around what we already have and what we're getting in our CSA share for the week, and then I make the shopping list to reflect ONLY what I need for those meals.  That way I'm not overbuying (especially produce, which will go bad).  More importantly, I have what I need for those meals, necessitating fewer "last-minute" or "only a couple of items" trips to the store (which tend to be the kind of trips where I buy expensive treats we don't really need).  I was finding that when I was planning meals on the fly every day, I often needed to run to the convenient store at the corner to pick up some item I needed, and paying an enormous premium for the privilege of grocery-shopping within sight of my front door. 

 

We've also identified the things that really matter to us in terms of getting a 'premium' product, and we've made compromises to make sure they fit in the budget.  For example: it is important to us to support fair-trade coffee production, so we will not buy any coffee that is not fair trade.  In order to accommodate this in our budget, we compromise by drawing a hard line about "off-limits" expenditures: no fancy coffee creamers, no coffee at coffee shops, etc.  I've also had to reduce the amount of coffee I drink in a day in order to keep this budget line item within reason.  We have made similar compromises to allow for organic yogurt and organic, cage-free eggs.  (We buy the better product, but we agree that we will use less of it.  This seems to work for us.) 

 

 




This is totally my ideal for my shopping strategy, however I have a DH who is constantly telling me, "There's nothing to eat and I'm starving!" even though there's ALWAYS food in our house.  It's just not not the food he WANTS.  I also have not been able to get him to give up on his juice habit, and as a necessity of money savings, I've had to start buying drink mixes for him so he doesn't drink all of the little juice we have and/or go to the store on his own and spend more on it!  Anyone have any advice for a picky husband problem preventing their budget from working?!!

 

We should really only be spending about $80 a week on food but always spend at least $100.  So we either end up spending more than we should or we end up eating really boring/bland food at the end of the month since we have already expended our budget!

post #19 of 35

We spend about $150/week for a family of three (me, dh, and 11 year old son who eats like an adult!).  We are vegan, I make a lot from scratch, and we don't eat a lot of processed foods (but there are some).  I try to buy organic whenever possible (but it's not always possible), and in bulk when it makes sense.  

post #20 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Comtessa View Post

Here's my advice about how to get started with meal planninhg.  First, use up as much of the food in your house as you possibly can.  Be creative.  Be unusual.  But start with a fairly empty pantry/refrigerator.  Then, look at the handful of things you have left, and come up with 5 or 6 creative meal ideas to use them up.  Write down all the ingredients you will need to purchase for those meals.  Go buy them all at once.  Then (and this is important) DO NOT GO TO THE STORE AGAIN until you have prepared all of the meals on your plan.  In the meantime, if you find yourself running low on something you didn't count on, be creative with substitutes, or just do without it.  I find that about half of our grocery purchases are "extras" -- items we don't really need for our meals, but things we just like to have around the house.  Getting them off the list really trims our grocery bill, esp. because many of them are more expensive packaged things.  If I buy only what I need for planned meals, then I have to eat leftovers for lunch instead of heating up a can of soup, or eating cheese and crackers, for example. 

 

 


I think this is really great advice! I am guilty of LOVING to stroll down each and every aisle of the grocery store but just recently, we're trying to change our ways.  I realized this week (as we're cooking mostly from things we already had in the house) that I actually PREFER to cook creatively--using what I have in different ways--rather than run out to the grocery store for things I think I "need."  Besides, when I actually took stock of what we had in our pantry and freezer, we easily had a week and a half of dinners sitting around.

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