How little can you spend on groceries? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 22 Old 12-26-2010, 06:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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One of the things I'd like to do in the New Year is trim down our grocery budget.  Right now, we really don't have any.  I make multiple trips a week to the grocery store & basically buy whatever I wantredface.gif  We can afford to do that, but there's really no need for it.  And I'd like to try to replenish our savings a bit (we just spent quite a large amount on some home renovations).  So, for a family of 3 (one being a toddler who eats like a bird most days), how little can you spend on groceries?  I live in Canada where food is a fair bit more expensive than in the US (ie. milk is $6 a gallon, ground beef is $4 a pound, yogurt is $4 a tub, loaf of bread is $2.50, bananas are $1 a pound).  I'm thinking of starting out trying to do it on $100 a week and seeing where I can go from there.  I'm also going to limit myself to one trip to the store/week.  Anyone else trying to cut down the food budget these days?  Helpful hints?  Coupons suck here...best I probably could do is 50 cents off 2-3 items per week.


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#2 of 22 Old 12-26-2010, 06:59 PM
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I don't know about numbers, but baking your own bread is an easy start... and you can make it much healthier bread, too! I'd cut way back on the meat - it's expensive - and buy fruits and veggies in season. If you have a store that caters to international customers, it may be cheaper, too... I find that fruits and veggies are, and all sorts of spices and bulk stuff. Eggs and beans are cheaper protein sources, or use meat to flavor a dish.


 
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#3 of 22 Old 12-27-2010, 05:37 AM
 
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I spend $100 a week,but there are times I only have $40.Can you substitute some things? Like make oat milk to replace the cow milk.Or when cow milk is on sale boil up a gallon,then when warm add some yogurt and let the pot ferment for a day under blankets.Cheap yogurt!

 

I buy things when they are on sale.If oranges are $3 a bag one week I will wait till they are $1.50 the next week. I know everyone has their *must have* things,but it won't kill us to wait a week or 2 till they are on sale.

 

I use less meat in dishes to add the flavor.Like say a pound of stew beef in the green bean stew is the norm,but I cut it back to half a pound and make 2 stews.Dh is the meat man,but he has survived the cut backs!

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#4 of 22 Old 12-27-2010, 06:20 AM
 
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We're a family of 5-baby is EBF. When money is flowin', we will spend $100/week. Though, since baby was born, money has been tight as I'm not working. I recently made a 2 week list and spent $70. I was so proud of myself!

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#5 of 22 Old 12-27-2010, 06:47 AM
 
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Wow NB is expensive.

I am in Ontario and our groceries aren't that expensive. We spend between $100 - $150 a week for groceries for a family of 6 - and it varies depending on what I am stocking up on. There have been tight weeks when I can spend $20-30 for fresh fruit and veggies and some dairy and live out of the freezer and the pantry.

 

I would suggest starting to build a pantry/freezer so that you can move to shopping sales only.  You can save a huge amount by planning your meals around what is on sale. I also agree with the PPs to start making more of your own things from scratch. I have 4 kids and they can polish off a tub of yogurt for one meal. I started making my own and that cut down dramatically on that expense.  I can get almost 3 litres from two bags of milk so it costs a little over a $1 a litre for better quality yougurt.  I make our own bread, granola, and baked goods which also saves a lot. In the summer I can a fair amount and next year I hope to freeze more.

 

There are some things I only buy on sale now - most meats, hard cheese, crackers, flour, frozen fruits, rice, almonds, toilet paper, olive oil,  juice boxes for my diabetic daughter.  Before Christmas is a great time to stock up on baking stuff on sale.   I buy bulk for a lot of pantry items and agree with Dar to check out internatioinal/ethnic grocery stores.

 

WE try to eat meatless twice a week and at least three times a week use meat as a "side" rather than the main part of the meal. Stirfry, chicken pot pie, pasta dishes, soups, salads etc make it easy to feed a family of 6 using only 2 or 3 chicken breasts for example.

 

good luck!

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#6 of 22 Old 12-27-2010, 11:29 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the suggestions, ladies!  I'm taking notes!


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#7 of 22 Old 12-27-2010, 11:35 AM
 
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We always spent a lot on groceries but mostly because we were unorganized and undisciplined.  We signed up for E-Mealz which gives us a week's worth of meals and an organized shopping list that makes dinner time really, really simple.  (We have the vegetarian option so I can only speak of that, but it's generally full of healthy meals and lots of fresh fruits and veggies.)  The idea is that a week's worth of groceries should cost about $80 and feed a family of four.  Since it's just my husband, my 3-month old son (who eats free through me) and me, we spend about $80 for groceries and have both dinners and lunches for the week taken care of.

 

Other suggestions:  I go to the grocery store early in the mornings on weekends to check out the reduced produce racks.  I can generally dehydrate or freeze whatever is there and it costs next to nothing.  I also have started ordering groceries online to be picked up later.  Though there's a $5 fee, it's much less than what I would probably end up purchasing if I roamed around the grocery store trying to stick to a list.  Online shopping is easy, too, because it's simple to shop by price or unit price.


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#8 of 22 Old 12-27-2010, 09:54 PM
 
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Wow, how on EARTH do you spend only $80 per week on groceries, let alone that amount for TWO weeks??  Our bill is $150 for one week.  I have talked to many of my friends, and their bills are all v v close in total to mine.  I do cook all of our meals at home and many of our snacky foods, too.


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#9 of 22 Old 12-27-2010, 11:52 PM
 
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I think $100 a week is doable for three people.  I've never had a family of three.  Grandma and my first babe came at the same time.  If I try to be frugal I can do about $150 a week for 3 adults and 2 boys, if I don't watch carefully it's up to $200 a week.  I'm in Canada, too.  My #1 tip is to plan carefully and check inventory regularly, to reduce wasted food.

 

My parents in California (lots of cheap fresh food there) spend $100 per week for two people.  I know they waste about 1/3 of their food with over-buying and over-cooking and not eating them before they spoil.


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#10 of 22 Old 12-28-2010, 08:03 AM
 
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Originally Posted by dogretro View Post

Wow, how on EARTH do you spend only $80 per week on groceries, let alone that amount for TWO weeks??  Our bill is $150 for one week.  I have talked to many of my friends, and their bills are all v v close in total to mine.  I do cook all of our meals at home and many of our snacky foods, too.


I pay about $160 every 2 weeks for 5 people.

a lot has to do with the area.  we live in the midwest where everything seems cheaper.  But aside from that here are some tips we use:

we make almost everything from scratch - yogurt, bread and all meals.  For snacks we eat fruit or popcorn, we don't buy chips etc.  For breakfast we have oatmeal, yogurt or toast, we don't buy boxed cereal.  Lunch is leftovers.  Dinners are usually a bean dish, pasta, or soup.  We buy seasonal fruits and veggies, but we also pick things like blueberries in the summer and freeze them.  When we buy more expensive specialty foods like artichokes we get them at Big Lots or a scratch and dent store.  We buy most of our foods in bulk at the co-op.  We only eat meat rarely and in small amounts.  the teens are expected to eat lunch at school, where they get free lunches.  Also, if they want oreos or doritos or ice cream (I make dessert most nights) they buy those with their money.  In the fall I bought 2 80lb boxes of "deer apples" for $10 each and they are the basis of most of our desserts as well as a good addition to oatmeal and I make apple sauce for a snack and fried apples for pancakes.

 

Here is a typical week of dinners"

M - pasta and broccoli and garlic bread  T - bean and veggie enchiladas  W - "jambalaya" (spicy rice with lots of vegs and beans) Th - homemade tomato soup and tuna sandwiches Fri - homemade pizza  Sa - chili and cornbread Sun - baked potato bar (baked potatoes served with cheese, veggies and assorted leftovers)

 


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#11 of 22 Old 12-28-2010, 08:30 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Attila the Honey View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by dogretro View Post

Wow, how on EARTH do you spend only $80 per week on groceries, let alone that amount for TWO weeks??  Our bill is $150 for one week.  I have talked to many of my friends, and their bills are all v v close in total to mine.  I do cook all of our meals at home and many of our snacky foods, too.


I pay about $160 every 2 weeks for 5 people.

a lot has to do with the area.  we live in the midwest where everything seems cheaper.  But aside from that here are some tips we use:

we make almost everything from scratch - yogurt, bread and all meals.  For snacks we eat fruit or popcorn, we don't buy chips etc.  For breakfast we have oatmeal, yogurt or toast, we don't buy boxed cereal.  Lunch is leftovers.  Dinners are usually a bean dish, pasta, or soup.  We buy seasonal fruits and veggies, but we also pick things like blueberries in the summer and freeze them.  When we buy more expensive specialty foods like artichokes we get them at Big Lots or a scratch and dent store.  We buy most of our foods in bulk at the co-op.  We only eat meat rarely and in small amounts.  the teens are expected to eat lunch at school, where they get free lunches.  Also, if they want oreos or doritos or ice cream (I make dessert most nights) they buy those with their money.  In the fall I bought 2 80lb boxes of "deer apples" for $10 each and they are the basis of most of our desserts as well as a good addition to oatmeal and I make apple sauce for a snack and fried apples for pancakes.

 

Here is a typical week of dinners"

M - pasta and broccoli and garlic bread  T - bean and veggie enchiladas  W - "jambalaya" (spicy rice with lots of vegs and beans) Th - homemade tomato soup and tuna sandwiches Fri - homemade pizza  Sa - chili and cornbread Sun - baked potato bar (baked potatoes served with cheese, veggies and assorted leftovers)

 



I always look at these threads even though I know I'm always going to feel inadequate. I would be over the moon if I could feed 5 people on $80 a week. We are 3 people and I struggle mightily to keep it to $100 a week (and it's usually more).

 

But this list just makes me wonder even more. I don't bake all our own bread but some. We don't eat yoghurt. But I cook everything. DH and I drink nothing but water (DD drinks milk mostly, but sometimes water). Since September, the only meat we bought was our Thanksgiving turkey (which we're still eating out of the freezer). We eat vegetables and fruits only in season. Our meals are homemade and built around a vegetable. The list of meals seems somewhat similar to ours - it varies on season but there's usually a pasta dish each week (with in-season vegetables, and I don't even buy tomato  sauce anymore because of the expense, I usually either make a creamy sauce from milk and butter and cheap parmesan, or mix a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar - I don't even serve bread with this dish), a rice and beans dish, a rice and chickpeas (with curry) dish, a burrito meal, homemade pizza. I love soup but my husband has not been in a soup mood for a long time, but sometimes I make it for myself and he just eats PB&J. Another frequent meal in winter is baked potatos. And..? Nope, just baked potatoes. Last week on Christmas Eve I made it special and added a winter salad. Lunches are leftovers or maybe egg salad sandwich. Breakfast is usually skipped but it's oatmeal (or maybe toast) if there's a reason to have breakfast. Boxed cereal is banned. Maybe I could save another dollar or two by making all our bread, but I'm not even sure (and it's honestly a lot of effort, plus I have to run the wood stove all day because my yeast just will not rise in our 58F kitchen). If we get a yen for dessert, I make it from scratch, and the fruit or vegetable I use is always in season. Snacks are either not done or are carrot sticks (I'm eating some right now) or PB&J if we need extra energy. Believe me, no Doritos here, ever.

 

So anyway, I'm always trying to find answers but I can never figure out how everyone else can eat for so little.


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#12 of 22 Old 12-28-2010, 10:49 AM
 
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No need to feel inadequate, Laohaire.  If I COULD spend more than $80 a week I would.  The reason I know it's that amount is because that is the amount we get on our food stamps.  There's nothing that can make someone feel as inadequate as not being able to afford to feed their family. :/  It's $158 a month and I can't afford to supplement it at all.

 

But in the beginning of my post I stated that I feel the main reason we are able to feed our family on that amount is because of the part of the country we live in.  Someone in a bigger city probably wouldn't be able to do it no matter what steps they take. I don't want a special merit badge because I am poor and live in a low cost of living area of the country, believe me.  lol

 


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#13 of 22 Old 12-28-2010, 12:13 PM
 
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I think the answer to this will vary wildly. Also, how much I could spend for groceries and how much I should spend are two different things, as well as how much I am able to spend.  I could spend as much as $250 a week for a family of three, almost four, with 100% organic, local, free-range, high dollar whatever...but we don't have the budget for that right now. On the other side, if we absolutely had to, I could spend as little as $20 to feed us for a week -- although it would be oatmeal for breakfast with nothing on it, beans (dry) and rice (white) for dinner every night, with nasty 89c white bread sandwiches with whatever we could scramble up for lunch -- maybe a rogue canned vegetable here and there.  It would be seriously lacking in nutritional value but would keep us alive and I acknowledge it's more than what many people in the world are getting, sadly. One week in our leanest times a few years back I spent $17 to feed us for a week (with a few pantry items we already had) I still have that receipt to keep me honest and remember where we came from lol

 

For me to feel like all our nutritional needs are met, for me to feel comfortable ethically (organic dairy and free roaming eggs), and for us to not feel deprived, the lowest I am able to spend per week on a family of three (I'm pregnant too) is about $65 -- that's with shopping sales almost exclusively (bogos and so on), couponing, maybe going to more than one store (Aldi for dried beans or whole grain pasta, for example). I prefer to use a budget of around $100 though. That includes all household needs as well (tp and such).

 

I live in a moderate area for cost of living.

 

Edit: We are 99% vegetarian with the occasional wild salmon if it's at a decent price, with no dietary restrictions (thank God) so that helps with the cost as well.


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#14 of 22 Old 12-28-2010, 08:11 PM
 
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Wow, you guys are making me feel spendy redface.gif The least I could probably spend without someone getting hungry or running around of food is 100ish a week. Its approx because I never shop by week, I shop once a month for non perishables and once every 2 weeks for perishables. Food here is expensive (DH splurged on potatoes at the store, 10.00 for a 5 lb bag dizzy.gif MIL can pick up a 5 lb bag for 2.50 or 1.50 if its on sale) so its hard. We are a family of 4, DH (BIG appetite and works out a lot, starting to train for a marathon), DD1 (outeats me), DD2 (comes close to eating as much as her sister) and me (I'm pregnant). We don't eat a special diet, just whatever I can make that doesn't break the bank. For example this morning I used: 7 eggs, 10 pieces of sausage, 7 pieces of toast for breakfast, 5 bananas, lunch was half a baked ziti and salad I had in the fridge, dinner will probably be most of a large pot of taco soup and so far the girls have had 4 snacks (grapes, celery, string cheese and crackers). I doubled the taco soup recipe though so I can freeze the rest for after the baby comes. This is actually a slow day food wise for my kids, they definitely follow after their follow, they can eat all day and STILL be hungry most of the time. Oh well, they are healthy, happy and active so I can't complain much!


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#15 of 22 Old 12-28-2010, 09:25 PM
 
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There's only dh and I - so we can manage for about $60 a week.  I tend to plan meals around whatever is on sale - and I will run to every store in the area - up to 6 different grocery stores in about a 5 mile radius.  I also have "buy" prices - where I will stock up on items I can throw in my pantry, freeze, can etc.  That way when we have lean weeks or months, we can eat from our food storage.  I make alot of things from scratch - just bought myself a pasta maker and am astonished at how easy/fun/economical it is to make it @ home.  Dog food is about another $80 a month, but I'm working on making their food from scratch too - just have to find the right balance.  Hopefully that will help us cut down on that food budget too. 


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#16 of 22 Old 12-29-2010, 07:19 AM
 
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Agh...this thread is stressing me out, LOL. My goal this year is to get the bulk of our food basics from a farm a couple hours away that comes to our city weekly to deliver food orders. It is all organic produce and meats, raw milk/butter/cheeses, etc. It is important because our diet really took a step back this year and it upsets me a lot and even contributes to my anxiety. I'm hoping the things we can't get there will come from a local health food store nearby...trying to keep things healthy/pure AND local. The quality and peace of mind will be very much worth it, but darn will that be expensive. :(


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#17 of 22 Old 12-29-2010, 03:45 PM
 
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we have less expensive grocery stores to choose from where I live. I shop at Aldi for a lot of our groceries and spend about $70 a week there. I usually have to buy milk twice a week at about $3 a gallon. I also try to go to trader joe's for mape syrup, multi grain baking mix and a few other pantry staples at about $60 once a month. On a month I usually spend about $400  on groceries (sometimes a little more). I plan a menu and reuse almost all of our leftovers-it really helps to have a meal plan. We are a family of 5 with three adults in the family-one of those is my bottomless pit 19yo!!

sometimes people think they are spending more on food than they are if they also purchase household items at the grocery store--sometimes they are more expensive at the grocery store than at a dollar store. Things like toilet paper and cleaners etc..

 

for snacks the kids get popcorn or fruit mostly. If there are cookies or anything like that they are made from scratch/


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#18 of 22 Old 12-30-2010, 11:13 AM
 
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I'll admit that I do have a hard time finding a good balance between healthy, convenient, and frugal.  I seem to be able to hit 2 out of the 3 pretty consistently, but it's rare for me to have a month where I feel I meet all 3 of those benchmarks. 

 

I have a family of 6- 2 adults and 4 children (ages 7-11).  Breakfasts are usually fruit, cheese, occasionally oatmeal, eggs, bacon (we don't eat boxed cereals).  During the week all of us bring a packed lunch to work/school- it usually consists of a sandwich/salad/leftovers, piece of fruit, veg, nuts & raisins, cheese.  Dinners and weekend lunches are often a meat dish and veggies.  We eat meat most days and try to avoid too many grains (with the exception of the sandwiches for lunch).  Snacks are usually fruit and veggies.  We enjoy entertaining and have friends or family over for (non-fancy) dinners a couple times/month.  I buy a lot of our groceries from Costco.  We buy grass-fed beef directly from a local farmer once a year.  We raise meat chickens and keep hens for eggs- which turns out to be much more expensive than buying from a store ;) 

 

In 2009, including beef/chicken/eggs, I spent on food and groceries:

6927.99 = 577.33/month = 133.23/week = 18.98/day

 

In 2010, including beef/chicken/eggs, I spent on food and groceries:

8118.10 = 676.51/month = 156.12/month = 22.24/day

 

I'm not happy with the increase this past year.  I think that much of the increase is due to me buying more convenience foods.  I'm working part-time instead of being a SAHM, and I'm running around a lot (all of my kids are in sports/activities and take music lessons), and I just haven't been as vigilant about the grocery budget as I could be.  I do think that I should be able to feed my family healthy foods for less than I've been spending.  This year I'm going to plan to budget about $7000 for food.  I'll budget $500/month for the grocery store, and the the rest will go to bulk meat.

 

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We don't eat a special diet, just whatever I can make that doesn't break the bank. For example this morning I used: 7 eggs, 10 pieces of sausage, 7 pieces of toast for breakfast, 5 bananas, lunch was half a baked ziti and salad I had in the fridge, dinner will probably be most of a large pot of taco soup and so far the girls have had 4 snacks (grapes, celery, string cheese and crackers).



One thing jumped out at me here- my kids are quite similar with regards to snacking.  I don't buy crackers, but if I'll let them they will eat all day long.  They mostly eat fruit and cheese, occasionally nuts or a grain product.  My children are healthy, lean and active.... but I know they eat more than they need to.  And honestly, sometimes they do eat out of boredom or just because the food tastes good.  I limit them to eating at meals and 1 afternoon snack.  They eat less total, but don't complain about being hungry or running out of energy. 


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#19 of 22 Old 12-30-2010, 03:00 PM
 
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I have 6 children all picky eaters.  H and I are pretty picky too.  I have managed to get it down to $175 a week for family of 8, sometimes it's more if we have non-food expenses, like drain cleaner or pharmacy items.  We are in a high COL area.  I keep it simple and do all the cooking myself, even bread.

 

Every night I make dough for three large french bread boules-- just flour, water, yeast, salt.  I cook it the next morning and the kids eat it for lunch.  I buy on sale.  We bought a rotisserie oven for $80 and I use it almost every day for the kids, chicken is inexpensive compared to other meats.  I buy tons of frozen veggies instead of fresh, though I do buy inexpensive things fresh like bananas, carrots, potatoes, or things that don't freeze well, like onions and garlic.  I don't buy organic-- just too expensive.  I eat lots of legumes since they are so healthy and inexpensive.  I make pizza a lot for the kids.  I buy generic unless the name brand is on sale for less than the generic.  I have a Costco nearby but haven't joined yet, I'm considering.

 

Here is what we had today (please forgive all the bad food, like I said my kids are VERY picky):

 

breakfast-- pancakes, yesterday's bread, juice, milk

lunch-- homemade bread with various toppings, juice, milk

snacks-- sugar cookies (homemade leftover from yesterday) or leftover bread, canned pineapple

dinner-- broccoli, roasted chicken, beans, pizza, spinach calzones (there will be leftover pizza and calzones tomorrow), juice, milk

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#20 of 22 Old 12-30-2010, 04:22 PM
 
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We spend around $400 a month for a family of 4 and eat hearty. We coupon shop, buy in bulk on good sales, and shop scratch and dent grocery stores.

 

I've done it on as little as $100 a month, but it's tight. I've even done it on as little as $50, but that was emergency and we had a fully stocked pantry.


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#21 of 22 Old 12-31-2010, 10:55 AM
 
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 I need to learn from you ladies. We live in a very expensive area (portland, or) and I struggle to feed our family of 4 (soon to be 5) on $100 a week. I would like to cut back even  more and need to learn how. We are vegetarians so no meat,egg or milk expense but the veg food seems just as expensive to me as meat food. We make everything at home, including our bread, ect. We don't eat any processed grains - just whole wheat, brown rice ect, no snack foods bought and my Dh lives off of ramen for his meals at work (not healthy but he's willing to make that sacrifice for us).

Ughhhh what else can we do? How do we stock the pantry??


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#22 of 22 Old 12-31-2010, 11:42 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by counterGOPI View Post

 I need to learn from you ladies. We live in a very expensive area (portland, or) and I struggle to feed our family of 4 (soon to be 5) on $100 a week. I would like to cut back even  more and need to learn how. We are vegetarians so no meat,egg or milk expense but the veg food seems just as expensive to me as meat food. We make everything at home, including our bread, ect. We don't eat any processed grains - just whole wheat, brown rice ect, no snack foods bought and my Dh lives off of ramen for his meals at work (not healthy but he's willing to make that sacrifice for us).

Ughhhh what else can we do? How do we stock the pantry??



Feel smug, because I struggle feeding a family of 3 in a lower COL area for more like $112 a week. We're effectively vegetarian too, and I agree that cheap grocery store meat is actually not expensive. If I was willing to buy it, I think we'd actually feel fuller for less money. Even pasta is $0.99 a pound only when it's on sale, yet it seems like hamburger or turkey or whatever is that cheap (sure, maybe that's sale prices too, but still), and surely it provides a lot more bang for your buck than pasta.

 

You may just have to stock the pantry slowly, like I am. When something is on sale I try to buy 3 or 4 of it instead of 1 for that week. Even just 1 extra one helps. Since I don't have the money to spend an extra $80 a week filling my pantry, I usually allocate $5 or less. It's slow, but I do see progress. Once I get a certain amount stocked, I can then wait for a sale before buying it again without wiping out my pantry, so the savings accelerate a little bit at that point. Canned red beans, for example - I've built up about a dozen cans, and lately I've just been using 1 can a week. So even if it's 4 more weeks until the next sale, I'm in good shape, and I will be sure to snag the next sale even if I still have 8 cans left.

 

Store what you eat, eat what you store.

 

Rotate - when you buy new, make sure you spend the extra effort putting your new items in the back so you're not dealing with expired foods later.

 

It's slow for me but I'm actually pretty enthused. In a short time my pantry has gone from pretty much bare (buying everything week to week) to having a bit of a stock in there. I've focused on canned and dried beans (dried much more economical but I insist on having some cans to use in a pinch), brown rice, flour (I use whole wheat to bake with but also use white unbleached just for preparing pans or rolling dough out on the counter or whatever, it's a little cheaper), sugar, salt, leavenings, pasta, tuna, black olives and broth. My pantry is also naturally cold enough for me to store fresh potatoes, carrots, beets, onions and squashes. Speaking of which, shop for produce seasonally, it makes a big difference. Well, there's your advice from someone who has no business giving advice on this topic.


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