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Stretch your food budget tribe

post #1 of 109
Thread Starter 
All the talk in the media and of course a lot of talk here is about how much we are spending each month. So I want to form a tribe where we can share ideas, experiences, mistakes, successes about stretching your dollar. I call it food budget because grocery could also include other things such as sposie diapers, detergent, cleaning supplies etc and we can get those things in several different places.

So lets talk about getting food on the table and what is working with keeping within a budget or fixed amount etc.

Include drive thru, take out, dining out, and what you cook in the format.

If its organic where do you get it? Delivered by CSA, etc.
post #2 of 109
Making your own stuff. I've been making my own bread, salad dressing, almond milk (avoiding dairy for now). You could tailor it based on what you usually use that comes premade.

We have almost totally stopped going out to dinner, it seems. It is a little more difficult with the kids at their ages, but even when we do go, it doesn't seem to taste that good. So, I try to make most things we would want to eat at home, and save special things, like sushi (don't know where to get sushi grade fish, and could never eat it all even if I did) for going out. It's so easy to pack snacks to avoid stopping at fast food places. About anything is cheaper at home than it is to get out. And you can find a recipe for nearly everything online.

I belong to a co-op and get organic food for pretty good prices there. But, the prices are still the best when the food is in season. We also have a farmer's market in the summer and produce is SO inexpensive there. I often plan meals around my favorite store's sale flyer. I was able to get butter (not organic) for $1 per pound so I got 10 pounds and put it all in the freezer.

I've gotten those green produce bags and it has really kept me from throwing away produce. They are wonderful!

I buy meat from a farm and got 1/8 this fall. It was about $3 per pound, but that also included quite a few steaks and roasts and that's an awesome price for steak!

At this time of year, chickens start laying like crazy once it warms up a bit. Drive around in the country and you'll see lots of "eggs" signs in yards. If you stop, they will be really happy because chances are, they've got way more than they can use!

Try to use everything - I have chicken drippings from the chicken I baked last and it will wind up in soup. You can do the same with roast. Keep the bones and use them for stock. All you need is water, the bones and some seasonings. Old veggies are great for soups too.

Hope that gives you some ideas!
post #3 of 109
I buy all my household goodies from Frontier (except the sposies I use at night, seventh gen. is still to expensive for us even at co-op prices.) This seems to help a lot. I got detergent on sale this month through Frontier which was awesome.

Organic and natural food wise..I try to shop the mark-downs at Kroger. Not to many people in my area eat organic so Kroger always tends to have great mark-downs. The catch is we have to eat it within a few days because they mark it down close to expiration.

Kroger also has a meat mark down section that I have started to frequent. I just freeze what we won't use in the next few days.

I looking at ordering a few recipe books that I read about in the Tightwad gazette. I am just trying to find them used first before I use my allowance on them.

Looking forward to reading ideas:
post #4 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by *andiflipping* View Post
Kroger also has a meat mark down section that I have started to frequent. I just freeze what we won't use in the next few days.
How do you freeze your meat? We have a small deep freezer which I love to fill up, but it seems like everything I pull from there has ice all over it. I use ziploc freezer bags, try to squeeze as much air out as possible, etc.

I actually don't mind it that much, but DP complains sometimes about it. I'm just not sure if there's anything else I can do.
post #5 of 109
I don't go grocery shopping. My hubby does. Once a week for us. It has been a good deal. I don't have to drag the kids with me and he has a sharp eye for good buys.

I have a magnetic list on the fridge and write down things we might need. Mostly though, I cook with what is on sale. That has helped alot.

This week groceries might be a bit more..I am planning a party for my little one and need some extras*.

I guess my biggest downfall is just plain tiredness or if we are out and about to just grab a bite to eat. I need to always be prepared and think ahead.
So, I have been doubling up on meal making. Last week I thawed a huge package of ground beef and made two meatloaves and alot of breakfast sausage (to save us from running out to breakfast on the weekends).

we have a deep freeze and my hubby who is a carnivore down to his core can find good deals. We always buy organic meat (part of a co-op) and have that frozen. I always have meat on hand.

I usually make things from scratch. We rarely buy package foods...save for cereal and a bag of pretzels.
post #6 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by timneh_mom View Post
So, I try to make most things we would want to eat at home, and save special things, like sushi (don't know where to get sushi grade fish, and could never eat it all even if I did) for going out.
I actually scored some sushi grade ahi at Trader Joes this week. $13 for 2 steaks. That may seem like a lot of money, but that's enough fish for several meals worth of sushi. Since sushi tends to run us $50/visit, it's a steal. I brought it home and it went immediately into the freezer. It's much easier to get thin slices when it's frozen. I'll slice up maybe half a steak this weekend, since we're having company and serve sushi for appetizers. Don't forget that raw fish is not the only kind of sushi you can make... smoked salmon, cooked shrimp or crab, even egg or veggie, just add rice. I can get a package of 50 sheets of nori for $20, and it lasts years. Nori + rice + a little ingenuity = cheap sushi. If you really must have raw fish, and can't find it in a store, go to your local sushi restaurant and ask them for a mixed sashimi platter. I can get one for about $15, it has 3-4 different kinds of fish on it, take it home and use that to make your own sushi. Reslice it, and put it in rolls with veggies and rice, that $15 will go quite a ways.

I'll second the vote for the green produce bags. I always thought they were just a gimmick, but a 6 week old head of lettuce spoke volumes to me.
post #7 of 109
Subscribing to this!

I am trying to figure out the most effective ways to feed my family and become better at stretching the food budget. My employment will end this week and I won't be with any additional income until the baby to be is who knows how old.

We had a large deep freeze in our house, but when we sold it and moved to a smaller apartment, there wasn't any room. I am really considering the purchase of a smaller sized one from Costco that may be able to go into our closet. The small freezer on top of the fridge really doesn't hold much.

I want to be able to double recipes and freeze things. We've also, in the past, done huge batches of various types of burritos to freeze, some breakfast types and others. I want to be able to puchase 1/8 of beef from a local source soon, too. My mom always buys about 100lbs of Gulf shrimp fresh off of the boat every year, and I would love to get in on that. I usually grab 2 or 3 pounds from her when I go to visit, but that's about all I can fit. Same with deer meat my step father hunts and processes.

We do a lot of dried beans and lentils. I love making dal, it's simple and quick.

I love the farmer's markets, but I end up spending more than I feel I could be elsewhere. I am going to stick to eggs and goat cheese, and some produce like strawberries. I want to buy a flat or two of strawberries to freeze since I try to make a like of fruit smoothies with veggies thrown in.

I also love Costco for the produce, like the 1lb organic baby spinach and the salad mix. Great prices and the packaging really keeps them good for a while.

We end up eating out a lot more lately because I am so tired and feel overwhelmed with the house in it's current state, etc. I need to finish my massive spring cleaning and purging, and making it all more user friendly again. That's one of the drawbacks of a smaller apartment, it feels cluttered much faster and I can't deal with things falling out of the pantry and the dining table being a mess, etc.

I am trying to get into couponing, but we buy so little processed foods that it's hard to find coupons for much of what I buy.

Anyway, really like the idea of this thread and looking forward to reading all of the input.
post #8 of 109
I'm loving these ideas!!

Cristeen, we'll have to make sushi. Our favorite place is usually $50 a visit, too.. So that will help tide us over between visits. Is there any particular sauces that you use? DH is a fool for Eel..

Gwendolyn's babies, I'm bad about eating out too. DH can't cook to save his life and we have a newborn on top of having a two year old. I'm T-I-R-E-D and DO NOT want to cook most nights. I've found that getting frozen dinners that are unprocessed (for the most part) and all natural/organic is better than going out for food that is either not healthy or expensive. An Amy's frozen dinner might be $4, but that's cheaper than a $8+ plate at a restaurant. I'm doing baby steps. Frozen pizza has saved is in the last few weeks. I also get the bagged salads and eat those. Fruits, cereal, granola bars, cheddar bunnies (Target has them for $2 a box all the time, the cheapest place that I've found), yogurt, cheese and breakfast tacos have been our primary diets around here in addition to the other things I've mentioned.

Another thing I've learned is to eat out when it's cheap if you're going to. Lunch specials are great. Breakfast is the least expensive meal to buy in a restaurant.. And we've found a wonderful place to eat breakfast. We can get tacos for $1.50 each, which is what you'll pay anywhere, but they're vegetarian with tofu or local pasture roaming eggs. I also love coupons if you're going to eat dinner.

I do want to start doing double and triple batches of things like Enchiladas, Pizza Dough, Lasagna, Wheat Gluten, Chili, Stews and Soups, Beans, Salsa, Baked Goods, and whatnot.. I buy these things ready made all too often and end up making our food budget not stretch as far as it could. Alas, I do not have a deep freeze. Just my humble little fridge.. But I think that by organizing things well and storing efficiently that you can fit quite a bit.

A huge money saver for us is our Cell Phone. It's only $50 a month and it's unlimited everything. It also doesn't have a contract, so if we can't pay it this month we just don't have use of it until we do pay it. Service is restored as soon as it's paid.. We use Cricket for our service.

We only drive one car. We're going to start CDing our boys soon. Until then I'm a coupon fanatic when it comes to diapers. I get the Whole Foods brand ones as often as I can (they're not cheap) but I did snag them on sale once for the same price as Pampers.

I save money by watering down my cleaners that I use, using soap and water when I can, and only using the A/C and Heat if I really need to. We live in an old building so the insulation is really good in most of the house, save the bedroom.

I'm going to be getting a membership to Frontier and running Co-Ops through them, so I will be getting all that I can from them in the future.

I'll be thrilled to see what other suggestions pop up.
post #9 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by Septagram View Post
Cristeen, we'll have to make sushi. Our favorite place is usually $50 a visit, too.. So that will help tide us over between visits. Is there any particular sauces that you use? DH is a fool for Eel..
The only sauce I use is wasabi, which you can buy in a tube or a little can (powdered). I sometimes see it in the spice section in a spice jar... I don't recommend buying it there, it's usually nasty. The little can is pretty good, you just mix it with a bit of water, but I usually just buy the tube. Fresh ginger is pretty cheap, and if you can get it to sprout, you can put it in the ground and after about a year you'll have a great source of fresh ginger. The others are mayo and sriracha or another spicy sauce like chili garlic. Although if you order a sashimi plate, it will come with wasabi and ginger usually. For the eel, you can usually order an eel dinner, or ask if you can get it a la carte. It's the same stuff you get in the sushi, only a large portion. And again, that chunk will go a long way once you get it home.
post #10 of 109
We currently average $650 a month for our family for everything - well $700 if you add some incidentals and going out to eat at our favorite Vietamese restaurant, once a month. We're trying to drop it to $600 (dropping $50).
DH thinks that once we hit the mark we should just stop buying. I am willing to try to see.

Will add what we are doing at a later time. I want to read more now.
post #11 of 109
With the new baby we're a bit off budget this month and relying on some conveniences we usually don't partake of.

But this is what we have been doing to keep on budget:

- making a menu and sticking with it. We limit our grocery shopping to the planned meals and one "special" food request per person.

- cooking from scratch and not buying convenience foods

- cooking in bulk and using our pressure canner to can our own soups, beans, etc.

- buying raw ingredients in bulk whenever possible and a good value

- eating to live. For us that means re-evaluating our food needs and trying to prepare foods that nourish us. They might not be the most succulent foods or the most exotic, etc., but they nourish our bodies.

- exploring more non-meat proteins and planning some more meals that use alternatives.

- planning to expand our garden this season and exploring the option of using a CSA.
post #12 of 109
1. Trying to eat mostly vegetarian

2. Trying to plan one month's worth of meals...the fewer trips I make to the store, the less I spend

3. We've stopped eating out until our debt is paid off

4. Aiming for ~~high nutrition~~ foods...hoping that eating healthier will equal eating less

5. Our CSA starts in May...Yahoo!!!
post #13 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by timneh_mom View Post
Making your own stuff....
I make my own spaghetti sauce, enchilada sauce, stir-fry sauce and chicken soup/chicken stock. I like it better anyway, and I know what's in it.

Quote:
We have almost totally stopped going out to dinner, it seems.
We actually stopped that some time ago. It was a major milestone in my opinion, since in the past (when DH controlled the purse-strings) we'd eat out sometimes two or three times a week. He'd even come home and tell me to stop cooking if I was in the middle of dinner. Now, it's a major treat, once every 6 wks - 2 months, if then. Last time we went, it's because a friend invited us... and she paid.

Quote:
It's so easy to pack snacks to avoid stopping at fast food places. About anything is cheaper at home than it is to get out. And you can find a recipe for nearly everything online.
I also try to make my kids excited about eating snacks we brought from home, like letting them pick which ones to take, help pack stuff up in a lunch bag, etc.

I do need some inexpensive recipe sites, though. Mostly when I am looking for something specific, I will go to allrecipes, but you can't always find exactly what you want and they're not ALWAYS tailor-made to a budget.

Quote:
We also have a farmer's market in the summer and produce is SO inexpensive there. I often plan meals around my favorite store's sale flyer. I was able to get butter (not organic) for $1 per pound so I got 10 pounds and put it all in the freezer.
Unfortunately, the farmer's markets here in the city are not always cheaper, though sometimes you can luck out and find some deals. WIC also gives you a $20 credit to a farmer's market for fresh fruit during the summer months. I'd love to buy more organic, but in this area it's "trendy" to "go green" so that equals expensive.

I also can't afford the luxury of a grocery store - I pretty much have to do everything at the evil Walmart. I think there's a Sack & Save closer to where I will be living, so that's finally going to be an option. Up until now, it wasn't worth it to drive all the way to the nearest location.

Quote:
I've gotten those green produce bags and it has really kept me from throwing away produce. They are wonderful!
I keep hearing about that... where do you find them? I am so tired of throwing out lettuce or spinach or other produce that DH forgot was down there or that got covered up and then forgotten.

Quote:
I buy meat from a farm and got 1/8 this fall. It was about $3 per pound, but that also included quite a few steaks and roasts and that's an awesome price for steak!
I can't remember the last time I had steak. The only beef I've touched is hamburger and cheap stew meat.

Quote:
At this time of year, chickens start laying like crazy once it warms up a bit. Drive around in the country and you'll see lots of "eggs" signs in yards
There's an awesome idea. Lots of open countryside in this area... then again, there's the gas... but it might be worth it in the long run!

Quote:
Try to use everything - I have chicken drippings from the chicken I baked last and it will wind up in soup. You can do the same with roast. Keep the bones and use them for stock. All you need is water, the bones and some seasonings. Old veggies are great for soups too.
Yep, ! I have a bag of frozen chicken backs and bones in my freezer to use in stock! I buy whole chickens on sale and cut them up myself at home - WAY cheaper than paying for cut up chicken at the store. Since they charge per pound, you're paying for the bones anyway.

Quote:
Originally Posted by *andiflipping* View Post
Organic and natural food wise..I try to shop the mark-downs at Kroger. Not to many people in my area eat organic so Kroger always tends to have great mark-downs. The catch is we have to eat it within a few days because they mark it down close to expiration.
Kroger over-charges for organic here. They don't do many markdowns because it's in high demand in this area.

Quote:
Kroger also has a meat mark down section that I have started to frequent. I just freeze what we won't use in the next few days.
Now this IS one section worth looking at. I go here even if I usually do meat shopping at Walmart. I can get more meat at better prices, and just freeze it. It's the only way I can get pork.

This sounds like an awesome thread. I wish I didn't have to rely so much on pre-packaged or preservative-laden food. I also can't cook in bulk because whatever I make, DH will eat right then. I can make an extra-large casserole and I feel lucky if I have enough to take half a serving for lunch the next day. OR on the flip side, I can freeze something and later he will throw it out without thawing or using it - says it doesn't taste as good once it's been frozen. He threw out almost three gallons of frozen chicken stock I'd made not long ago - said it took up too much room in the freezer and we'd just buy more at the store. As a result I haven't had stock in weeks (because I can't afford the store-bought stuff!).

Anyway, I can't wait to see more suggestions!
post #14 of 109
Subbing. This is an excellent thread. We allot $140 every two weeks for groceries and gas and eating out if we want to. That's not much, so DH also gives plasma twice a week and makes an additional $65 per week that we can add to the food/gas/eating out fund. I've noticed, though, since we've been adhering to a stricter budget that we really aren't eating out that much. We used to eat out several times a week, but that's not feasible anymore. We save eating out when we know we have a little extra money or when someone else is paying.
I'm also going to start looking through the Sun paper for coupons; however, we don't do too many packaged things or brand names, so I'm not sure how much that will benefit us, kwim?
post #15 of 109
I shop manager's specials first. They are always the best deal at my store. Next, I shop the sales from the flyer that I know are good deals. Next, I shop things that are always a good deal (and usually buy generic).

We make our own bread and do sourdough, since that means we don't pay for yeast.

We have provisions for when we don't feel like doing any heavy cooking. For us, that is usually canned tamales or packaged pasta with a cheap jar of sauce. We also have tricks for using up leftovers or veggies that are on the verge of going bad, putting them in a soup or putting them over rice mostly.

If it is the dishes that are overwhelming me and making me not want to cook, I'll break open a package of paper plates. Not the most environmentally friendly thing to do, but every once in a while, I give myself a break.

We don't worry about variety in our food so much. Since the dishes we prepare are so familiar to us, we don't tend to get overwhelmed in our cooking, plus the kids seem to like routines.

We "eat out" every Sunday at lunch. We walk or bike to a nice grocery store in the area with a patio for eating on and have bagels, a loaf of bread, and some good cheese. It's cheap, pleasant, and very good food. The kids really love it. It makes me feel like I've eaten out (and I have) but it's a lot cheaper than almost all restaurants.

And, occassionally, we eat out at cheap places because I don't want to cook or do dishes or I want to get out of the house. I know Little Caesar's always has cheap pizzas, and that's what we normally do.
post #16 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by SeekingSerenity View Post
I also can't cook in bulk because whatever I make, DH will eat right then. I can make an extra-large casserole and I feel lucky if I have enough to take half a serving for lunch the next day. OR on the flip side, I can freeze something and later he will throw it out without thawing or using it - says it doesn't taste as good once it's been frozen. He threw out almost three gallons of frozen chicken stock I'd made not long ago - said it took up too much room in the freezer and we'd just buy more at the store. As a result I haven't had stock in weeks (because I can't afford the store-bought stuff!).


Is he aware of how much 3 gallons of store-bought stock costs? Here it's over $3/qt, which makes that $36 in the garbage can! I'd be

My DH doesn't get to question what I keep in the freezer... he knows it's in the freezer because it's better for the budget that way. Seriously, I'd have a long talk with your DH about the cost these kinds of behaviours have on the family budget, not to mention your own personal frustration.
post #17 of 109
I'm cutting way back on pre-packaged stuff. I've been making our bread for the past few weeks. Dd and I made soft pretzels, she likes them for snacks, but the frozen ones seemed so expensive once I really thought about how much we were really getting. I've got to do some bagels, pancakes etc for the freezer.

We are using our extra tax $ thingie, to get a freezer. Right now we just have the little one on top of the fridge which I pack every 2 weeks when I go shopping and then we eat out of till it's empty then pack it back up again. I'm looking forward to this summer when I can get cheap food at the farmer's market and freezing it all to eat out of for the winter.
post #18 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by rosie_plus_one View Post
How do you freeze your meat? We have a small deep freezer which I love to fill up, but it seems like everything I pull from there has ice all over it. I use ziploc freezer bags, try to squeeze as much air out as possible, etc.

I actually don't mind it that much, but DP complains sometimes about it. I'm just not sure if there's anything else I can do.
Butcher paper....Anything I have frozen in that doesn't get freezer burnt. I have had stuff wrapped in that for over a year that looks great.
post #19 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by cristeen View Post
Seriously, I'd have a long talk with your DH about the cost these kinds of behaviours have on the family budget, not to mention your own personal frustration.
A big fat YEAH THAT. My DH doesn't cook.. So you know what? He doesn't have any say in what I buy at the store.

He can give his input because I love him and value what he has to say.. But if he gets too brave with me when I'm making the list (i.e. "Do you really need that?") he gets the silent treatment. He may make the paycheck but he does not make the dinners in this house..
post #20 of 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by Septagram View Post
A big fat YEAH THAT. My DH doesn't cook.. So you know what? He doesn't have any say in what I buy at the store.

He can give his input because I love him and value what he has to say.. But if he gets too brave with me when I'm making the list (i.e. "Do you really need that?") he gets the silent treatment. He may make the paycheck but he does not make the dinners in this house..
Well said!!
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