Thanks for sharing your approaches - I am always trying to get the total down.
We used to spend about $150 per month on groceries and items like shampoo, toothpaste, dogfood, etc. but we are spending more now (probably about $200) as my younger son is allergic to milk, eggs & tomatoes so I have to buy some pricey items as subsitutes and had to eliminate several of our favorite thrifty meals from our menu. We only eat out once a month and my hubby brown bags it to work each day so I feel like this is a good investment...
Here is how we keep our bills low...
I make alot of soup
We eat lots of beans, rice, and cornbread
I shop at a local Asian market about once a month where the produce is
MUCH less expensive (as are some "non mainstream" foods like tofu, spices, etc.
We also batch cook and this includes breakfast items like eggless/milkless pancakes and muffins I can heat up during the week
We do eat meat once or twice a week but usually just as an ingredient in a meal (ie. I throw a piece of chicken into soup or a cutup chicken breast into stirfry)
I buy items like shampoo and toothpaste at a local supermarket chain that doubles coupons up to $1.00 so if I combine them with a sale they are usually free
The staples of our diet are cheap....rice, potatoes, bananas, oatmeals, pasta (and formerly eggs...before allergies we used to eat a bunch of homemade quiche and lots of fried rice and egg drop soup)
I frequently check cookbooks out of the library - that way I can experiment with new recipes and keep our meals interesting without spending any money
We drink water with meals
Our luxury items are coffee/hot chocolate and sometimes soda/beer/wine - I just can't give up the treat drinks
Barney & Ben