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$1,000 a month on groceries! HELP!!

post #1 of 112
Thread Starter 
I joined the no-spend challenge and while posting today I realized I could be spending $1,000 a month on groceries.

The spending I've done in 7 days is pretty normal for us, I just never put all my receipts together. Now it does seem to make sense. I think more realistically if not counting household things and soda it's $800-$900 a month but that's a lot!

I mean, how is that even possible!!!!????

My mom came to visit from upstate NY and she was amazed at the cost of living here. So maybe it is our area, but how to overcome that???

-- I buy some things on sale (trying harder this month)
-- I buy mostly only necessities and we bring in very little junk food
-- I don't buy tons of processed stuff
-- I don't buy a ton of meat but don't buy the cheapest stuff either
-- I don't buy all name brands.

-- I am feeding my husband one meal and a snack a day M-F and three meals and snacks Sat/Sun. He's got Celiac's Disease so he can't eat just anything.
-- Mon thru Sun I am feeding two boys (6 and 9) three meals and snacks
-- M-F one son (12 years) 2 meals and snacks (I pay for school lunches), three meals and snacks on weekends
-- Of course I eat 2-3 meals and snacks per day and my youngest is exclusively breastfed

Here are some of the prices we pay on items we use a lot of:

* $6.99 large bag of real cheddar cheese (comparable to buying a block and shredding it myself, so I buy the bag)
* $2 per avacado or sale for $1.50
* Peanut butter from Costco.. not sure of price
* $2.99 (?) boxes of cereal (organic from Trader Joes)
* Grape jelly jar $3.54
* $3.19-$3.50 for 16oz margarine
* $4.49 half gallon Lactaid
* $3.49 to $4.49 gallon of milk
* $5.99 a pound chicken and turkey in the package
* $7.99 a pound Deli turkey
* Oatmeal pouches I buy generic on sale but usually $3.49 a box
* $4.49 for 32oz cottage cheese
* Bread $2.79 to $4.19 a loaf
* Oranges $0.71 each
* $3.69 for 6oz bagged salad
* $1.69 lbs sweet potatoes
* $0.25 to $1.00 each potato depending on kind
* Apples $0.60-$1.00 each *gulp!*

Also buying lots of fruit cups lately, pico de guillo, tortillas (must have corn because DH uses them as bread), carrots, frozen veggies, non-meat corn dogs from Trader Joes, kosher hot dogs , yogurt, tortilla chips, naan breads and pizza sauce, frozen pineapple from Trader Joes, focacia bread and some rolls once in a while, Irish oatmeal for DH with steel cut oats (due to his gluten allergies), rice, fresh asparagus and other veggies, tomatoes, ears of corn once in a while, raspberries once in a while.... etc etc etc etc

Looking at this, I wonder if it would be cheaper to hold off on milk and cereal and push more fresh fruits and oatmeal in the morning. I don't see us going more towards the big boxes of oatmeal vs the microwave pouches until the baby gets into the groove of a morning routine without screaming.

And wow, no idea one of the loaves of bread we buy was so expenive. Guess I need to use the Safeway website for making my shopping lists in advance.

I was also trying to figure out how I could buy a bushel of apples this fall and actually use them up before they go bad.

Do you have any advice for us?
post #2 of 112
I was given a box of apples this year, and I was worried about how to use them up. My back up plan was to make freezable applesauce, but we actually ended up using them all well before they went bad.
post #3 of 112
Maybe give up the cereal and packaged oatmeal, making rolled or steel cut oats from scratch instead. Also, instead of buying sliced turkey or turkey sausages, try buying a whole chicken and roasting it then you can use the meat throughout the week. Instead of buying bagged salad, see if you can buy it in bulk or see if you can just buy heads of lettuce and shred it into bite-sized pieces yourself. Can you buy the apples in the bag? At my store if I get a bag of apples it costs $6.99 but there's easily 12+ apples in there as opposed to buying them one by one at a cost of $.89 - $1.09 each.
post #4 of 112
Also, we don't have Trader Joe's here, but do they have a bulk department? If there's anything you use a lot, see if you can get a case and get a 10% discount (I used to work at Whole Foods and that's something we'd do).

Also, if you really want to cut back, stick to organis for your produce, but use conventional for some of the other stuff. I used powdered milk for baking. These days soy milk is cheaper than cow's milk. Would anyone try that? I buy organic when I can, but I have to keep our financial heads above water too. Sometimes it's the big bag o' rice and big bag o' beans!
post #5 of 112
WOW! Those prices seem really high to me. I don't know if that's just CA vs. MO.

* $6.99 large bag of real cheddar cheese - I think ours runs about $4/lb that's the point at which I will buy.
* $2 per avacado or sale for $1.50 - We never buy unless they are $1* Grape jelly jar $3.54
* Oatmeal pouches I buy generic on sale but usually $3.49 a box - I would really try to use regular oatmeal. We get huge boxes at Costco. Experiment with cooking it in the microwave or crockpot. I think ours will microwave on level 2 of 10 for 5 minutes. We add our own bonuses - raisins/craisins, applesauce, cinnamon sugar, etc. Could the bigger boys take care of that?
* $4.49 for 32oz cottage cheese - I buy it when it's $2.49 or less
* Bread $2.79 to $4.19 a loaf - Do you have a 'bread thrift store' where you could stock up and freeze a few loaves
* Oranges $0.71 each - I will only by if they are 4/$1 or better
* $3.69 for 6oz bagged salad - Check out Costco for their salad. I think we get 1 to 3 pounds of salad or spinach for about $4

With $1000/month, I would track every expenditure, like you have here.

Also, start a price book, that lists the item and the prices you pay for them. You might find that certain items are on sale every three weeks, and maybe can hold off on buying them/stock up when they are on sale. For example, I know that avacodos will go on sale for $1 at some point. I just don't buy them unless they are cheap (or DH is planning a special menu that requires them.) You might find that Costco is the way to go for certain items, like the peanut butter and salad, but not the cheese. We do a LOT of our shopping at Costco. For the most part we do better there, but it's not a hard and fast rule.

When I was a little girl, my mom would plan the menu for one or two weeks based on the grocery ad. If chicken was on sale, that's what we had. If cans of tuna were cheap, we were going to eat tuna salad.

I'm more likely to stock up when it's on sale and try to use it later. But that can also be expensive if you have to go out for a 'few' ingredients that aren't already in the pantry.

Do you have any option to 'grow your own' when it comes to salad, herbs or veggies?

I shop at regular groceries, Big Lots, Costco and the 'bread store.' We also have a small vegetable garden and belong to a U-pick-it CSA. When we were budgeting, it was about $250/month for food, not including the CSA. We frequently went over the food budget, but it was under $300.
post #6 of 112
Here are some tips that might help:

1) buy instant oatmeal (generic version of Quaker Instant Oats). NOT the kind in the pouches, just the kind in the cannister. You can microwave this and it is just like the packets. Add brown sugar, raisins honey, or some fruit and away you go. Or, I really like mine mixed with some applesauce or fruit flavored yogurt. It takes the same amt of time/effort for the most part you just have to measure it out. I just estimate how much water to add too. We like it with those cinnamon red-hot candies too for a special treat.

2) The cheese sounds expensive. I can buy a 2 lb brick of Tillamook cheddar for $4.99 on sale - it is regularly 6.99 or 8.99. It freezes well too. If you still want to buy pre-shredded stuff to save time, watch for sales and freeze it. Costco often have really good prices on cheese too.

3) Do you have a bread outlet? We have an orowheat outlet that I can't go to often because it's only open from 9-4 m-f when I'm at work, but it has loaves that are regularly $4-5 for only 99c. When I do get to go there I stock up because it freezes well. I also get english muffins, bagels, and other random things (Pacific organic boxed soups, peanut butter, jam, pretzels, etc) there too.

4) One store near me (I have two to choose from) usually has milk on sale for $2.89 or $3.19 per gallon. I usually buy two at a time for this special price. Costco usually has milk at 2/$6 also.

5) We get corn tortillas at our Costco, they freeze well too. See if yours has these. Also our Costco has 2/$4-5 reasonably good quality loaves of bread.

6) Instead of buying the small 6 oz bagged salads, our store has these big 1lb plastic boxes of salad greens. They work out to be less expensive and they are often on sale BOGO. They don't keep for long but they are cheaper than the bagged salads. THe bagged salads also go on BOGO often and I will buy them then.

The chicken, turkey sound expensive - do you mean deli slices, or things like boneless/skinless breasts and ground turkey?
post #7 of 112
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ary99 View Post
Also, we don't have Trader Joe's here, but do they have a bulk department? Also... stick to organis for your produce, but use conventional for some of the other stuff. These days soy milk is cheaper than cow's milk. Would anyone try that? Sometimes it's the big bag o' rice and big bag o' beans!
Rice and beans here too!

No bulk I've found except nuts. Not at Safeway or Trader Joes.

I can barely buy organics at this point. Not even produce and milk . I get the organic cereals for the boys at Trader Joes because they're cheaper than any cereals anywhere. The bonus is that they're not crap.

Hadn't thought of trying soy milks again. The boys were less than thrilled with anything but the chocolate or the very vanilla. We don't drink milk except for cereals, so I don't think that will work either.

Quote:
Originally Posted by snowbunny View Post
Maybe give up the cereal and packaged oatmeal, making rolled or steel cut oats from scratch instead. Also, instead of buying sliced turkey or turkey sausages, try buying a whole chicken and roasting it then you can use the meat throughout the week. Instead of buying bagged salad, see if you can buy it in bulk... Can you buy the apples in the bag?
We can try the bulk oatmeal again once I have a free hand to make it. Hard to do with the baby right now, but will try!

I don't think bulk lettuce heads are cheaper than the bags.Maybe they are. But we don't use iceburg lettuce because it's got little nutrition. So I wonder if the bulk Romaine or butter lettuce is cheaper?

A whole chicken would definitely be cheaper but we don't buy them. Embarassingly if I see bones or tendons or veins I will vomit So we buy clean thighs or breasts when we buy it. Can't help myself.

Bagged apples are cheaper and I will see what I can find. Our problem is that if they're not yummy apples, they don't get eaten. Apples are great for the body, so I like to push them on the boys (and myself) but a lot of kinds I am finding around here just aren't great. I'll try!
post #8 of 112
Also, why don't you simply bake your bread? You can make great bread for under 75 cents.

ETA: You can also make oatmeal in the slowcooker or do baked oatmeal so you don't have to watch it.
post #9 of 112
Try Steel Cut Oats in the crockpot overnight - YUM!

Here's the recipe I use:
2 C. Oats
5 C. Water
1-2 tsp. Cinnamon
1-2 peeled apples, cut in chunks
1/2 C. raisins (I add in the morning, I don't like bloated raisins.)

In the morning, add brown sugar, butter, milk, whatever you like. Makes plenty and reheats well, too.

Do you meal plan?

Can you buy more in bulk at costco? I get almost all of my produce, milk, eggs, cheese, meat, bread, baking supplies, coffee... etc., etc., etc. there. If you plan meals and stick to it, freeze portions if need be, it can really add up.

With a new babe, sometimes we have to sacrifice $ for convenience, though. I totally understand that, and fully expect the budget to go up a bit for us in the next bit.
post #10 of 112
Thread Starter 
I wish I could get those prices HydeParkB and crayola! Guess that's what mom was talking about. In two years here I've never seen an avacado for $1 or a container of cottage cheese for $2.49. It just doesn't happen even with sales.

I've got to wait on the oatmeal until I can cook it myself. The kids microwave their own pouches... If I let them at the canister oatmeal and all the things they want to put in it, I would have a HUGE mess on my hands even if you can microwave it.

We do some shopping at Costco for things like peanut butter, but they don't have a lot of what we use and it's 20-30 minutes away from here. The last time I boughty avacados there I don't think they ever left the hard as a rock stage.

No bread stores locally and in CA a few miles can mean tons of minutes of traffic. The next closest towns are 20-45 minutes away because of traffic.

I will be checking out the local farm markets though.

We're trying to figure out if we can grow things in containers because there's no where else we can do a garden. U-pick-it I have never heard of!

We're looking for a freezer so we can start freezing breads. We don't have the space now (apartment sized fridge).

We buy Foster Farms ground turkey or chicken breasts. Thighs are a little cheaper. We also buy $7.99 a pound deli turkey sliced.
post #11 of 112
Quick cook oats are super easy to make. My 9 y/o can do it.
1/2 cup oats (instant bulk) with 3/4 cup water in a coffee cup in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir and cook for 30 more seconds, add frozen blueberries, honey, whatever.
I remember mornings being rough too when my baby was younger. You could even put the oatmeal in cups the night before and leave them and the measuring cup of water out on the counter. I bet your kids would love it!
post #12 of 112
Thread Starter 
Snowbunny, TattooedMama and Shanna,

I've asked about baking bread before but I think it would end up not working for us. I would have to make it fresh all the time and I have a huge crunch of time already with the babe (who won't let me put him down!) and the chores like laundry and diapers for the six of us.

Thanks for that recipe and oatmeal ideas!!!!!!!! I am going to try that ASAP!
post #13 of 112
Quote:
Originally Posted by GinaRae View Post
Thanks for that recipe and oatmeal ideas!!!!!!!! I am going to try that ASAP!
Forgot to mention that it's best at about 8 hours on low. You can let it go up to 10 hours, but it gets a bit overdone, imo. So dump it all in the crock right before bed.
post #14 of 112
I have an awesome no knead bread recipe too. It is IDIOT proof I swear!
(We have babies about the same age. I understand about time management! I used to poo-poo the suggestions of "make your own bread! You'll save time AND money." Yeah right.) I swear this bread is less trouble than using my old bread maker. It's one of those artisan European crusty breads... you could easily make your own foccacia and rolls and such. I was wondering if this was the kind of bread you were spending $4-5 a loaf on.
Let me know and I'll send you the recipe if you are interested.
post #15 of 112
I live in the PNW, and noticed a few months ago that my grocery bill was similar. We're vegetarians, so no meat, but we do like our vino and fancy cheese. I'm preggo now, so one of those is cut out, but I found our grocery list went way down with not too much effort when I tried these:

- eat more seasonally. Some of the veggies you mention are out of season, and so will cost a lot more and not be as good for you anyway. This also helps you eat locally, which is all warm and fuzzy earth wise.

- cut down the fancy breads. I see you are spending a lot of your money on specialty breads. Occaisionally make drop biscuits for dinner, buy the specialty breads frozen.

- and when you buy regular bread, buy on sale and in bulk, and then freeze.

I give myself a pass on some of the convenience items- we buy those boxes of greens, too, and it's 4 times the cost of a head of lettuce. But because of that I eat salad every single day, which would not be true if it involved washing lettuce and restocking the lettuce heads more often. Still, though, bagged salad, fruit cups, specialty bread, and out of season produce adds up in a hurry. If it were me I'd try cutting all that out one week, see how much it saved you, and whether it was worth it for the way you eat without some of that convenience.
post #16 of 112
Quote:
Originally Posted by GinaRae View Post
I wish I could get those prices HydeParkB and crayola! Guess that's what mom was talking about. In two years here I've never seen an avacado for $1 or a container of cottage cheese for $2.49. It just doesn't happen even with sales.

I've got to wait on the oatmeal until I can cook it myself. The kids microwave their own pouches... If I let them at the canister oatmeal and all the things they want to put in it, I would have a HUGE mess on my hands even if you can microwave it.

We do some shopping at Costco for things like peanut butter, but they don't have a lot of what we use and it's 20-30 minutes away from here. The last time I boughty avacados there I don't think they ever left the hard as a rock stage.

No bread stores locally and in CA a few miles can mean tons of minutes of traffic. The next closest towns are 20-45 minutes away because of traffic.

We're trying to figure out if we can grow things in containers because there's no where else we can do a garden. U-pick-it I have never heard of!

We're looking for a freezer so we can start freezing breads. We don't have the space now (apartment sized fridge).

We buy Foster Farms ground turkey or chicken breasts. Thighs are a little cheaper. We also buy $7.99 a pound deli turkey sliced.

If you can get a freezer, look at Costco for chicken - I get boneless/skinless chicken breasts at costco, Foster Farms, and they come in pre-sealed packs of two breasts each perfect for freezing. It is about $2.99-3.99/lb. That is a lot less than you are paying now. I can get ground turkey that way too. I am in the Seattle area and food is kind of expensive here too compared to other parts of the country (my mom from NH is always shocked when she visits) so I am really surprised you cannot find prices lower even where you are. Wow. I can't get as low as a lot of people on here but I can't imagine paying what you pay all the time! 7.99 for deli meat is reasonable I guess although I pay about 4.99/lb, I don't buy the good for you kind :

My mom just got a small chest freezer, it is the same size as an under-counter fridge (dorm fridge size), and it cost her $50. It is really worth it for her to be able to stock up on things when they are on sale. Good luck.

For the oatmeal - I buy the cannisters of instant, and then measure it out into baggies in the right proportion for one serving and add a bit of brown sugar. I take these to work so I always have a snack when I need one. If you could take a little time when you get home from the grocery store to do this I am sure your kids would adapt and it ends up being just as easy as the prepackaged kinds. Even still if you want to stick with the prepackaged kinds - they go on HUGE sale 2x/year or so and if you can get some coupons around that time you can get it really, really inexpensively. SOmeone on here got something like 20 boxes for $1.00 or something like that.
post #17 of 112
Quote:
Originally Posted by TattooedMama View Post
I have an awesome no knead bread recipe too. It is IDIOT proof I swear!
(We have babies about the same age. I understand about time management! I used to poo-poo the suggestions of "make your own bread! You'll save time AND money." Yeah right.) I swear this bread is less trouble than using my old bread maker. It's one of those artisan European crusty breads... you could easily make your own foccacia and rolls and such. I was wondering if this was the kind of bread you were spending $4-5 a loaf on.
Let me know and I'll send you the recipe if you are interested.
I would love this recipe if you don't mind sharing! I have recently started baking bread. It's hard to slice a loaf properly for sandwiches at home I find so I am trying to make more artisan breads because they don't need to be sliced "properly"
post #18 of 112
Quote:
Originally Posted by GinaRae View Post
* $6.99 large bag of real cheddar cheese (comparable to buying a block and shredding it myself, so I buy the bag)
* $2 per avacado or sale for $1.50
* Peanut butter from Costco.. not sure of price
* $2.99 (?) boxes of cereal (organic from Trader Joes)
* Grape jelly jar $3.54
* $3.19-$3.50 for 16oz margarine
* $4.49 half gallon Lactaid
* $3.49 to $4.49 gallon of milk
* $5.99 a pound chicken and turkey in the package
* $7.99 a pound Deli turkey
* Oatmeal pouches I buy generic on sale but usually $3.49 a box
* $4.49 for 32oz cottage cheese
* Bread $2.79 to $4.19 a loaf
* Oranges $0.71 each
* $3.69 for 6oz bagged salad
* $1.69 lbs sweet potatoes
* $0.25 to $1.00 each potato depending on kind
* Apples $0.60-$1.00 each *gulp!*

Do you have any advice for us?
As I was looking over your list I noticed quite a few things that *I* would cut, but only you will know if it's reasonable for your family.

I'd eliminate all convenient cereals and cook up whole grain cereals (like real oatmeal) or have alternative foods for breakfast (eggs, leftovers, whatever works for you guys).

I'd cut out the packaged foods. Leaf lettuce in a bunch is far cheaper than bagged salads usually. I'd also eliminate buying vegetables individually. You should be able to buy them by the pound or in multi-pound bags far cheaper.

I'd cut out the deli meats and cheeses and instead cook up meat and use that if your family really demands meat on sandwiches. There are far cheaper meals than sandwiches, though.

I do know your prices are quite a bit higher than in my locale, but I feed a family of four (and I'm pregnant, too) for under $400/month. We eat a lot and usually have meat twice a day now that I'm pregnant. I homeschool so both of the kids are here for all meals and DH only eats once a day with us except weekends.

For us the best way to reduce grocery expenses was to buy whole foods in bulk and cook from scratch. Tonight's dinner, for instance is beef stew (beef, broth, onions, potatoes, celery, carrots) and home baked bread. It took me about a 1/2 hour to prepare (with my 3 y/o's help) and about 40 minutes to cook. We baked the bread last night because we like a hard crust and it helps to leave it out a day or so before slicing.
post #19 of 112
Quote:
Originally Posted by GinaRae View Post
I've asked about baking bread before but I think it would end up not working for us. I would have to make it fresh all the time and I have a huge crunch of time already with the babe (who won't let me put him down!) and the chores like laundry and diapers for the six of us.
Get a bread maker, then!!!

I had an extremely colicky dairy allergic DD and got our bread machine because I couldn't afford dairy free bread. I just dump the ingredients in the machine and push a few buttons. The machine does the rest!!

I held my DD in my left arm or in a sling while I assembled the ingredients. If that's not possible for you, then do it when someone else is home to hold the baby.
post #20 of 112
Would you mind posting what region of California you live in? I am also in California and may have some specific recommendations.

How many people are you feeding?

Let me read back through the thread to make sure I'm not duplicating...
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