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#1 of 32 Old 01-05-2011, 09:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not sure if this is the best place to post but my main concern here is cutting down the amount of money I spend on food each month.

 

So I recently took charge of the finances from my DH who was slacking a little and I'm trying to get us on a budget.  I've been tracking our finances with Quicken since October and so am starting to get a picture of what we spend.

 

We are 2 adults and 2 DC ages 3 and 1.  It seems we average about $750 a month on regular groceries plus another $300 on dining out.  This is embarrassing for me to admit because I am a SAHM and I think I can do much better!  Some of the dining out money is for my DH's lunches at work and coffees.  Needless to say I think this is way too much.  I want to get an idea of what is a realistic budget for our family.  We do buy mostly organic and higher quality (read:expensive) food.  I am working on that (like buying generic applesauce instead of organic locally made for half the price).  I am also working on getting my DH to eat out less at work.  Once I get our budget all figured out we will each have a monthly spending allowance which he can use to buy lunch at work if he chooses.

 

I am really bad at meal planning (working on that too) but I do like simple foods.  One major challenge is my 2 picky eaters, that's a whole other post!

 

Please share your ideas and what has worked for you or not worked.

  Thanks!

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#2 of 32 Old 01-05-2011, 11:08 AM
 
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I think there are ways to make eating well less expensive but it takes work.

For example I can make local organic apple sauce for much cheaper than I can buy generic stuff in the grocery store by buying bushels of seconds from our local apple guy at our farmer's market.  I can some and we eat some fresh so I am bad at knowing what the yield is but its in the neighbourhood of 12 quarts a bushel meaning I pay about $1 a quart.

 

Same deal with tomatoes - we eat a lot so I can at least 100 quarts a year. They cost me about $0.75 a quart.  I just made tomato soup for lunch for my 4 kids using a quart of tomatoes, an onion and garlic and some cheese toasts. Lunch for 5 of us probably cost me about $0.50 each.

 

Buying clubs or buying in bulk, canning, gardening, meal planning, buying direct (ie a side of beef direct from the farmer), stocking a pantry all help keep the costs of eating well down.

 

Another big thing is eliminating waste which is one of my new year's resolutions. 

hth

Karen


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#3 of 32 Old 01-05-2011, 11:15 AM
 
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Well, you're doing better than us, which is why I'm reading your post and looking through this section. My husband does a lot of his work at cafes which costs a good deal of money. It is a major issue between us and I cannot get him to accept any homemade food. My kids are roughly your kids ages too. Do you bake bread? My sister recently gifted us a breadmaker and that definitely adds to our quality of life and reduces our food budget. I eat a lot of leftovers with the kids at lunch, make my own muesli, bake bread and cook all our food. Only recently, when I signed up for Mint.com, did I see what he is actually spending. Will your husband accept a homemade lunch? There is always the issue of where to eat it, right? For the record, we buy mostly organic too. It costs more, but I think it's worth it. I like to go out sometimes too, but I always feel too guilty.


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#4 of 32 Old 01-05-2011, 11:40 AM
 
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One way that we try to cut down costs is that I 'always' make enough to have leftovers for my DH to eat at work the next day.  If I have enough to make two lunches, then either I freeze one or the next night I make something that does not do well for leftover lunch and don't make leftovers that night.

 

Reducing waste is a big area for us.  I do spend about 750 a month (I try to keep it under 700) and get mostly organic, local and raw dairy.  I do this by buying in bulk, meal planning, keeping snacking to a minimum (only things planned as snacks) and not eating out.  If we eat out even a few meals in a month - the budget easily expands by a couple hundred and this just does not bode well for the rest of the budget, kwim.  Where we live I feel good about this amount, and honestly if I was buying packaged stuff at the grocery store it would not be 'that' much cheaper for us.


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#5 of 32 Old 01-05-2011, 01:22 PM
 
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Our realistic food budget is around $1000.  We are about the same as you except that our kids are 5 and 1.5.  I was budgeting $620 and spending closer to $1000.

 

My dh is the SAHP and we share cooking responsibilities.

 

We have been purchasing from a meat CSA for about 8 or 9 mos and that has been going well.  We recently added a produce and fruit CSA.  We do eat organic and my main grocery store is WF.  Our main budget busters are eggs, bread and snacks.  We go through our 4 doz CSA eggs within 2 weeks.  So, we're back to the grocery store buying more to get us to the next month.  We also go through 2 loaves of bread a week and our WF is finally stocking a brand that is a large loaf and comes in at around $2.59 vs. the $4.00+ I was spending before.  We are planning to puchase a bread machine this year.  I think it really makes sense for our family.

 

We have been expanding our dinner menu.  The CSA forces this a bit, too.

 

All that to say you have to identify your budget busters.  What are the things that you have to have that are costly and those you want to have that are costly?  Once you isolate those items, its easier to figure out where you can cut back.  And, you might be surprised at what your kids will eat when they 1) are invited to participate in preparing the food (I know this can be a royal pain) and/or 2) are indulged if they ask to taste something while you're preparing.  I now know that my son will eat cabbage - which I thought he wouldn't and my daughter will eat roasted eggplant and roasted butternut squash right off of the roasting pan!  They'll also both eat raw broccoli which I find blech!  Wouldn't have known unless I was preparing it to steam and gave in when they asked for a bite off of the chopping board.

 

Then, if you can commit to trying a new recipe once a week or once every other week, you may be able to eliminate some costly items.  For us, I tried a few energy bar recipes and found one that we all like to replace the $6.99/lb version that my dh likes and claims to buy for our little guy!  I also got rid of the cookie purchases by finding a great recipe.  Now, if I could only make potato chips!


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#6 of 32 Old 01-05-2011, 02:18 PM
 
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We are a family of four as well, ds's are 5.5 yrs and 1yr. I budget and typically spend $500 a month. We are pretty tight on one teachers income right now though and so I have to keep it to $500. We don't have a budget for eating out and therefore don't unless dh gets a giftcard from a parent.

 

What helps me is not buying much processed food. I buy dry beans, bulk grains, flours, spices, fresh produce

 

I used to make my own bread, but haven't been able to get in that routine lately, but I will only purchase the organic bread I buy when on sale. Same with some packaged items like crackers and cereals.

 

We are pretty consistent with eating in "season". It is rare for me to buy fresh tomatoes, avocadoes, mangoes, fresh berries during the winter. Occasionally with a good sale, but otherwise we eat a lot of seasonal meals. Salads are rare for us come winter, but warm root vegetable stews are abundant. I actually appreciate being forced to do this because of finances as it does put us more in tune with the season.

 

I will admit we've sacrificed some of the organic products we used to buy, like milk, yogurt, eggs, applesauce. But we try to find as natural products and/or local, as we can that are cheaper and profess not to use added hormones etc.

 

I don't do much in the way of coupons, but I will stock up on sales or keep coupons for items we use frequently. Like right now I have about 6 lbs of butter in my freezer because of holiday sales and coupons.

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#7 of 32 Old 01-05-2011, 03:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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thanks for all the great tips so far!  It's nice to know that maybe what I have been spending is not quite as over the top as I thought but also a little discouraging that it might be harder to get it down.

 

Karen, I have never canned tomatoes or applesauce but my MIL does it all the time so I think I just have to make it a priority to get together with her and learn it.

 

Maggie, I have tried baking bread a couple of times and it has not turned out well :( so I've been pretty discouraged about that.  I haven't tried a breadmaker though because I've always heard it's not worth it because it's easy enough to bake without it.........hmmmm......not so sure!  And did I mention I have a picky DH too?  He will rarely eat leftovers and is often on the road for lunch.  I think I just have to put my foot down though and give him a tight budget.

 

honeybunmom, I often include my oldest in preparing food, for that same reason, hoping he will like it more.  Sometimes it works and others he'll be so into it when we're cooking then when it's time to eat he doesn't want it shrug.gif

 

I did have success tonight!  I made a cheddar broccoli frittata with whole wheat toast and everybody loved it except DS 1.5 who fed his to the dog.

 

 

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#8 of 32 Old 01-05-2011, 07:23 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AustinAmber 

 

I did have success tonight!  I made a cheddar broccoli frittata with whole wheat toast and everybody loved it except DS 1.5 who fed his to the dog.

 

 



Yay for success!!  You have gotten some great ideas from the pp's.  But I didn't see anyone talk about the 'coffees' that your dh gets.  Mine use to do this too - stop every workday for coffee - and it really starts to add up over time.  For us, we already had a coffee maker that you can program, so I just started setting it up every night.  We bought bulk whole bean coffee from Sams Club (although they no longer have the Organic coffee we loved greensad.gif ) and creamer/organic milk is a very small expense compared to buying multiple coffees every day.  We also had/purchased a travel mug and thermos-type deal - so that if dh wants he has coffee on the way to work and hot coffee later on as well.  idk if that's something your dh would be interested in doing - but for us it worked out really well - especially because organic coffee ground that morning is way yummier than the stuff you can get at the local gas station/coffee shop.  For us, I get up every morning with dh to mix his coffee while he's getting ready for work - and we get to spend some time together which we didn't get to before.  He loves it, feels special AND it helps us stay within our budget.  hth.


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#9 of 32 Old 01-06-2011, 05:13 AM
 
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I found a blog recently that you might like.  Last year, she did a challenge to eat real food for 100 days (organic meats, veggies, dairy, low processed foods), and this year, she's doing 100 days of real food on a budget.  She's showing the ups and downs that come with that.  http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/

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#10 of 32 Old 01-06-2011, 10:19 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fierrbugg View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by AustinAmber 

 

I did have success tonight!  I made a cheddar broccoli frittata with whole wheat toast and everybody loved it except DS 1.5 who fed his to the dog.

 

 



Yay for success!!  You have gotten some great ideas from the pp's.  But I didn't see anyone talk about the 'coffees' that your dh gets.  Mine use to do this too - stop every workday for coffee - and it really starts to add up over time.  For us, we already had a coffee maker that you can program, so I just started setting it up every night.  We bought bulk whole bean coffee from Sams Club (although they no longer have the Organic coffee we loved greensad.gif ) and creamer/organic milk is a very small expense compared to buying multiple coffees every day.  We also had/purchased a travel mug and thermos-type deal - so that if dh wants he has coffee on the way to work and hot coffee later on as well.  idk if that's something your dh would be interested in doing - but for us it worked out really well - especially because organic coffee ground that morning is way yummier than the stuff you can get at the local gas station/coffee shop. ; For us, I get up every morning with dh to mix his coffee while he's getting ready for work - and we get to spend some time together which we didn't get to before.  He loves it, feels special AND it helps us stay within our budget.  hth.


I love that idea! I wish my DH would go for it. He makes coffee at home already but I would love to have breakfast with him and spend some time with him before he goes to work but he is like a zombie in the morning and would never go for it. He wakes up at the last possible second, skips breakfast, and doesn't say anything more than "I love you, have a good day" on his way out the door!

Proud Mama to Abigail Noelle and Brady Phoenix (August 29, 2009) and Claire Zoe (October 26, 2010)  love.gif
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#11 of 32 Old 01-06-2011, 12:42 PM
 
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We are a family of 6 (5 adult-sized appetites!) and lately we've been spending around $1000-$1200/month.  Ouch.  And that is with my making most things from scratch.  I came to a realization that there are things that I was considering a staple item that just wasn't.  Like bread.  Why did I feel we need to have bread daily?  So now we don't.  Just an example, but maybe reevaluating your idea of staple items may help?

 

Soup.  I am swearing by soup as a budget reducer now.  I make 2 big pots of soup a week.  Just a basic soup.  Like last week was deer stock (made from bones), carrots, celery, onion, garlic, sweet potatoes.  Then I'd take some soup one night and flavor it to go w/the meal.  Mexican?  So I add cumin, oregano, and some tomatoes.  Serve w/sour cream and a bit of grated cheese.  Asian?  Add some soaked shitake mushrooms, some oyster sauce, mushroom soy sauce, a dash of hot sauce, some cabbage sliced thinly, and lots of ginger!  Serve this soup as an appetizer for each meal.  Cheap, nutritious as can be, and very versatile.  Last night I made turkey stock soup w/carrots, celery, butternut squash cubes, onion, garlic, bell pepper, mushrooms and kale.  I added some leftover frozen ham from Christmas, and some brown lentils.  Oh my it was so good!  I served w/a spoon of rice and there was only enough left for my dh's lunch!  Note to self: make bigger batch next time.  So now I'm making a soup w/goat stock and again will vary the seasonings each meal.

 

I garden, can, dehydrate things on sale.  We also get in on wild pig butchering in the late Winter, and raise chickens, rabbits, guineas, goats and bees.  We forage for berries and fish, too, when we can.  Get creative!


Happy Homesteading Homeschooling Homebirthing Beekeeping Dready (& a bit redneck even) Mama to 4 fab kids :  dd (23), dd (13), ds (11), dd (5)

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#12 of 32 Old 01-06-2011, 02:03 PM
 
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Here are some of our tips, not that we always manage to implement them:

 

#1 budget helper: A meal plan based on that week's sales. I pick the store that matches our needs the best and go there, rather than driving all around, but depending on how close your stores are to you or each other you could probably save more. If chicken's a great deal, then I gather up my chicken recipes and go to. It is a balancing act but with practice it helps, especially added to...

 

#2 budget helper: Learning the sale cycles for pantry/frozen (depending on freezer size) items. Canned tomatoes, for example, go on sale about every 8 weeks, so I try to pick up 8-10 cans when they do (depending on what I have left). Cheese blocks are about every 6 weeks. Flour goes on sale in the 8 weeks before the holidays. I used to budget 10% of our food budget for amazing sales, so as not to go crazy.

 

#3 budget helper: A bunch of what I think of as "peasant food" recipes. Soups are amazing as a PP noted - you can pair them with so many other things if you feel the need, based on what's inexpensive, and if you either make your own stock or look for deep sales, it's basically made of bits that didn't make it into the main meals. Pea soup is a constant wonder to me - split peas are so inexpensive, throw in one carrot and one potato and one onion and some thyme + stock and you have a hearty tasty massive pot for like, $1.25. A lot depends on your tastes but we enjoy, matched against sales, lentil/onion/rice and other beans + rice recipes, cassoulet-type casseroles, goulash, chili, etc. We adapt them so that the most expensive ingredient (usually the meat) has less and the other vegetables and legumes have a little more. I try to do at least two lower-cost meals a week to keep in practice.

 

I also have a slew of "effort not cost" recipes for weekends, sort of luxury items that don't cost a lot but time - risotto is the best example, but making fresh pasta or your own stuffed dumplings would qualify.  I think of these as recreation to make.

 

Any recipe that starts with something like "take 6 skinless boneless chicken breasts" is reserved for a luxury meal, which I also try to plan in too, especially when there's a (is this getting boring) sale or we happen to have extra budget that week.

 

#4 budget helper: Know which days you tend to order in/eat out, find fast & easy alternatives and see if you can implement those. For example, even though I know that whatever they put in them to make them keep is probably horrible, I keep some of the pizza shells you can find (the vacuum sealed ones) around for when it would be a pizza night. Another example is we love to eat Greek food out, so one of our "splurges" is to hit the store on the way home for fresh bread and feta cheese and salad fixings and add in from the pantry good olives, roasted red pepper &/or eggplant, hummus (we make our own usually but sometimes we buy this fresh as well), olive oil, dressing, and then we have a "picnic" with all that greek-inspired stuff, just cold where we top the bread with the veggies and cheese or dip in the oil, have a salad. It is pricier than a more humble/planned meal but way way less than picking it up.


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#13 of 32 Old 01-06-2011, 02:17 PM
 
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I wanted to add:  Feed your freezer!


Happy Homesteading Homeschooling Homebirthing Beekeeping Dready (& a bit redneck even) Mama to 4 fab kids :  dd (23), dd (13), ds (11), dd (5)

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#14 of 32 Old 01-06-2011, 03:34 PM
 
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Don't feel discouraged about narrowing your food budget - I promise you it *can* be done...and I don' t personally know *any* family of 4 that spends $1000 on food...so I don't think it's the "norm".

 

Or maybe it is...and I'm just weird? I'm just trying to give you hope ;)

 

We're a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 DC - 6yo, 1.5yo) and we spend $350 every 4 weeks on food (soooo - $175/2 weeks). And that's with my new revamped budget. I was previously budgeting $130/2 weeks, but it was totally unrealistic, so I decided to give myself a little wiggle room. So far, so good ;)

 

My tips are the following -

 

no organics unless they're cheaper

bulk bins are my friend (I buy bulk spices, beans, nuts, flour, etc).

ugly stores are my friend - ie: winco style...hard concrete floors...not pretty shiny fancy stores, lol!

vegan meals...okay, we're not vegan. In fact, we're not even vegetarian, but I LOVE vegan cooking. I have a jazillion cookbooks and most of our meals our grain or legume based, with the occasional meaty meal (even a big-arse steak, hehe!)

always pack a lunch

make your own dang coffee

nix most of the prepackaged crap - your own dressings and treats are easy as heck to make - bread and yogurt are a lil' tougher IMO, but I'm currently attempting to figure them out ;)

 

Anyway, that's all I got for now - and I feel you on the pick kid! My babe hardly eats ANYTHING. Well, except "boobies", which is honestly starting to drive me a little batty!

 

Good luck :D

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#15 of 32 Old 01-06-2011, 05:00 PM
 
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We're a family of three, but one of us is still pretty small. winky.gif We spend about $350 a month on food and household supplies (toilet paper, etc). We are gluten free, which makes it a lot harder to keep costs down, I find. Before, I used to keep our grocery and supply budget under $300 pretty easily. I do it by using a lot of the strategies PP have listed: not buying packaged/processed/convenience foods, canning our own jams and preserves, eating soups a lot, basing meals on things like beans and grains bought in bulk, feeding the freezer, making our own bread (using a breadmaker--totally worth it IMO), stocking up when things are on sale, being conscious of what items are less expensive at what stores.


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#16 of 32 Old 01-06-2011, 05:58 PM
 
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I Spend 300 to 350 a month. I Have discovered that buying frozen veggies , cooking more ethnic meals and buying things like dried mushrooms at the asian grocery all help cut costs. I also don't make meat the main part of the meal. More A side dish
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#17 of 32 Old 01-07-2011, 11:00 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow, I am inspired!  The problem is, well, I don't like to cook.  I wouldn't know what to do with a whole chicken if it walked up and slapped me in the face.  I would LOVE to be able to make my own bread/jam/yogurt/sauce and everything else and maybe someday I will.  I am a little overwhelmed with all these great ideas.  Keep em coming!

I'm going to try to plan some meals now................ ;)

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Wow, I am inspired!  The problem is, well, I don't like to cook.  I wouldn't know what to do with a whole chicken if it walked up and slapped me in the face.  I would LOVE to be able to make my own bread/jam/yogurt/sauce and everything else and maybe someday I will.  I am a little overwhelmed with all these great ideas.  Keep em coming!

I'm going to try to plan some meals now................ ;)



If you really hate it, it probably won't work but I was not a natural cook when I started doing the cooking. I just tried to master one or two new things a month, on days we weren't stressed out. I laughed at the chicken comment because I was totally intimidated by chicken, roasts, etc.  It turns out those things are really easy once you've done them once or twice (and the internet helps; there are instructions and often videos for everything) and if you plan them as leftovers, can be very economical (depending on your area).  Beans and grains also tend to be really forgiving.


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#19 of 32 Old 01-07-2011, 02:08 PM
 
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2 adults & 1 toddler here and my dad comes over to eat a lot. I spend about $35 a week, sometimes more if I pick a few goodies, plus about $50-70 every month or two to stock up at Costco. So at most $200 a month for 50-75% organic. We do lots of rice/quinoa, beans/lentils, soup/stew, meat is only the main course on Sundays, otherwise it's a side dish. We love burritos, quinoa burgers, pasta, and minestrone or spaghetti squash soup*.

For breakfasts I'll make muffins, baked oatmeal, pancakes (save the extras and they make a nice easy breakfast that you can just grab and go. My huband doesn't like eggs otherwise I'd make some hard-boiled eggs to take. In the summertime I'll put all the ingredients for a smoothie into the blender and all he has to do is blend it in the morning. For lunch he takes leftovers and a piece of fruit and/or muffin.

* Spaghetti squash soup -- cheap, easy, not fast but not a lot of effort either.
Bake a 3-lb spaghetti squash for 45 min at 475 degrees. Cut in half, remove seeds, scoop flesh into a blender with a splash of water and liquefy.
Sautee a diced onion and a few garlic cloves in olive oil until fragrant. Add to the onion/garlic: 2 cups broth, 1/2 - 2/3 cup brown rice, spaghetti squash, 2 tbsp cumin, a few dashes salt, pepper, and chili powder and 1 cup shredded chicken if you want. Simmer until rice is fully cooked. Serve with grated cheese and slices of avocado.

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#20 of 32 Old 01-07-2011, 05:33 PM
 
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* Spaghetti squash soup -- cheap, easy, not fast but not a lot of effort either.
Bake a 3-lb spaghetti squash for 45 min at 475 degrees. Cut in half, remove seeds, scoop flesh into a blender with a splash of water and liquefy.
Sautee a diced onion and a few garlic cloves in olive oil until fragrant. Add to the onion/garlic: 2 cups broth, 1/2 - 2/3 cup brown rice, spaghetti squash, 2 tbsp cumin, a few dashes salt, pepper, and chili powder and 1 cup shredded chicken if you want. Simmer until rice is fully cooked. Serve with grated cheese and slices of avocado.


This sounds so good. I have a squash in my pantry and leftover chicken. I am going to make this tomorrow. Thanks for sharing!

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#21 of 32 Old 01-07-2011, 10:38 PM
 
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Originally Posted by JessicaRenee View Post
For breakfasts I'll make muffins, baked oatmeal, pancakes (save the extras and they make a nice easy breakfast that you can just grab and go. My huband doesn't like eggs otherwise I'd make some hard-boiled eggs to take. In the summertime I'll put all the ingredients for a smoothie into the blender and all he has to do is blend it in the morning. For lunch he takes leftovers and a piece of fruit and/or muffin.

This is such a great idea.  I have a banana bread/cake recipe that dh loves as muffins - and you can really adapt any from scratch cake recipe (my mom did one w/ apples and oatmeal that would also make really great muffins).  From what I've read online granola bars are super easy to make and personalize - plus they are great for eating on the go. 

 

I also agree with the 'feed the freezer' sentiment - I got tired of throwing away leftovers, so I decided to start freezing them for those days when I don't feel like cooking anything, but don't want to waste $ on fast food.  This week I have stocked away 2 helpings of veggie/beef stew and 2 helpings of shepherd's pie and leftover spaghetti sauce that would have otherwise gone bad in my fridge.  I also took the remnants of a chicken I roasted and made some homemade stock.  Yummy!! 


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#22 of 32 Old 01-08-2011, 05:24 PM
 
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I do many of the same things as previous posters.  Last year I spent $600-700/month on groceries for my family of 6.  I know it could be lower if I bought less processed foods.

 

We buy grass-fed beef directly from the farmer- this is MUCH cheaper.  We also raise meat chickens.  I have 4 kids and find that it does pay to buy some items in bulk. 

 

Breakfast is generally fruit, occasionally oatmeal, toast or eggs. I don't buy boxed cereals.  Lunch is usually sandwiches/salad/leftovers, fruit, veggies, nuts & raisins.  Everyone takes a packed lunch to work/school (although DH and I go out for a lunch date a few times/month).  Unlike other posters, we do eat a fair amount of meat, and can afford to do this because we buy in bulk directly from the farmer.  We don't eat a lot of beans, and try to moderate our intake of grains.  Dinner is usually meat and veggies. 
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JessicaRenee View Post
* Spaghetti squash soup -- cheap, easy, not fast but not a lot of effort either.
Bake a 3-lb spaghetti squash for 45 min at 475 degrees. Cut in half, remove seeds, scoop flesh into a blender with a splash of water and liquefy.
Sautee a diced onion and a few garlic cloves in olive oil until fragrant. Add to the onion/garlic: 2 cups broth, 1/2 - 2/3 cup brown rice, spaghetti squash, 2 tbsp cumin, a few dashes salt, pepper, and chili powder and 1 cup shredded chicken if you want. Simmer until rice is fully cooked. Serve with grated cheese and slices of avocado.


I made this tonight and it was so yummy.  I used a smaller acorn squash and 3 cups of chicken stock.  I think I let it simmer too long because it turned out as more of a casserole than a soup, but it was still good.  And it was a super way to use up the leftover chicken & half of an onion I had sitting in the fridge. 


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#23 of 32 Old 03-23-2012, 12:45 PM
 
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We're a family of 5 and budgeting $800/mo on groceries, not factoring in any dining out which we do a few times a week (for lunch). I think it's way too high considering I feed our family home-prepared vegetarian meals everyday. I'm not sure why it's so high... I eat leftovers all the time.. :/ I only let the kids eat organic, humane milk & eggs... which are super expensive.. but we mostly eat fresh or frozen veggies, beans, rice, pasta.. cheap stuff. we also don't drink any soda or coffee, and have bought maybe 3 alcoholic drinks in the last six months. 

 

hrmp!

 

 

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#24 of 32 Old 03-23-2012, 04:18 PM
 
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We have a family of 5 (2 adults, 5 yo, 3 yo and 1 yo but the kids sometimes eat more than the adults!) and we budget 400/month for everything bought at a grocery store and eating out. Things I do to make things easier/cheaper:

- crockpot meals, I LOVE LOVE LOVE my crockpot. Its hard to find the time sometimes to cook while chasing after the kids so being able to throw dinner in the crockpot before they are even awake helps alot.

- make almost everything from scratch, I want to learn to can but have no clue where to start! I think I need to e-mail my grandma-in-law since she loves to can

- buy in bulk when possible and when it makes sense. Its only good to buy in bulk if you will USE it. It makes no sense to buy things in bulk when they will sit for months/years without being used. It just wastes money and takes up space.

- use less meat than is called for, serve so the meat is more a side dish than the main attraction. Usually our plates are: 1/4 meat, 1/4 carbs and 1/2 veggies. Its healthier and cheaper

- shop sells.

 

Something that helps me though is I can shop at the commissary. We save a ton on taxes but it is kind of cheating since most people don't have that option.


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#25 of 32 Old 03-23-2012, 04:51 PM
 
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Okimom, totally not cheating that you get to use the commissary, because your dh is serving his country!  You do with out him alot, I'm assuming, so you deserve it!

 

I looked at this thread and a bit over a year ago I posted that we were spending $1000-$1200/month for a family of 6.  Well, very happy to say I've gotten it down to around half that now!  I disovered Aldi, and that helps supplement my gardening/livestock raising.  It's a good thing I got it down, too, with how much feed for said livestock costs.  Also, just stocking up on veggies when they are on sale helps.  I've been dehydrating like mad and it's nice to know I can eat cabbage on sale later on when it's not...Or onions, or cranberries, etc.


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#26 of 32 Old 03-23-2012, 11:56 PM
 
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I looked at this thread and a bit over a year ago I posted that we were spending $1000-$1200/month for a family of 6.  Well, very happy to say I've gotten it down to around half that now! 


Chicky, that is fabulous.  I had similar progress but my family went from 6 to 5 and I have a well-stocked pantry in rotation now, which helps.

 

There are good ideas in this thread.  I am constantly trying harder to eliminate food waste, and I think we have gotten pretty good at it.  Wish we had chickens so I could turn the scraps we do have into eggs!

 

One thing that helps me a lot is to meal-plan based on what is in the pantry or what needs using up in the fridge/freezer.  I try to figure out how little I can buy to get by with the things we already have each month.  I also make soup once a week, and something I call "rice-and-stuff" which is basically brown rice plus tamari plus something protein plus something veggie.  It stretches leftovers kind of like soup does.

 

We are not big legume eaters but I try for a bean or lentil meal at least once a week, with the goal of increasing this over time as we find recipes we all like.  One of my kids is a) a teen boy and b) picky picky picky so that hurts the budget but he eats a lot of peanut butter, eggs, and popcorn to fill in.  Homemade popcorn, for us, is THE go-to snack because it is so cheap and yummy.

 

I do not know how I manage to feed my family mostly local/organic whole foods on my budget, but I guess it has come from things like eating in season, creative arrangements with farmers, growing as much as I can (which is not a ton, but it helps), using leftovers instead of letting them go to waste (whenever I can), buying in bulk (having an extra fridge and freezer helps a ton), and having a short list of spendy foods (favorites so we don't feel deprived, like meats) to supplement a long list of cheap foods. 

 

I polled my kids to find out what their favorite meals are and try to make those at least once a month -- then they feel less deprived.  Also on birthdays they can choose their meal and it can be extravagant, like broiled salmon or bacon-wrapped shrimp or steak.  So we splurge on fancy food for birthdays and it is still cheaper than eating out.

 

Also, if you don't keep expensive or nutritionally devoid food in your house, your kids can't burn through it.  I do keep a "secret stash" of things I want to ration.  If we have chips, I put out individual bowls instead of one big bowl or bag.  They eat less and still feel like it's a full serving.  I guess I consider portion control part of my job.  If we make sausages I tell them how many they can have, my 13yo pouts, and I point him towards raw veggies and bread to fill up after he's eaten his share (or else he would eat the entire package himself).

 

My kids have gotten used to asking, "How much can I have?" 

 

Also -- drink water, not juice, or if you're worried about vit C or need a boost, make fruit tea or homemade lemonade (can be made with stevia or something other than white sugar if you prefer).  We make maybe a gallon of lemonade a week, more or less.  We are all just used to drinking water.

 

I also save all my meat drippings and use them for pan grease or flavoring.  Small trimmings or leftovers that would be good in soup go in a bag in the freezer until I'm ready to toss them in the soup pot.

 

I guess one thing is to be really honest with yourself about which things you buy for convenience or because you prefer the store-bought or more expensive item.  It's not bad to buy these things if your budget can handle it!  But simply being aware that it's a trade-off helps you trim out the things in this category that you can do without.  I buy one tub of hummus a month for myself because I love one particular brand and my kids generally don't eat it.  Could I make my own?  Sure, and cheaper, but it's not worth it, and I just love the kind I buy and it feels decadent. Could I make my own condiments?  Yes, but I don't want to, and we use them moderately not heavily.

 

We also eat very little dairy but I buy a pound or two of cheese a month for dressing up ordinary leftovers or pasta.  One thing I have found is that if some dish already has flavorful meat in it, the cheese is often overkill.  Cheese and meat I use sparingly to enhance flavor, not as the main focus of the meal.  Cutting out dairy and cutting down on meat has helped our budget a lot.

 

There is a discount grocery near here (a bang-and-dent store) and I find good deals there on naturals/organics, but it's always hit-or-miss.  Buy in bulk on sale.  I also have a list of specific items that are cheaper/better at a certain store an hour away, and I make a pilgrimage there every 2 months or so to stock up on those.

 

I don't know if you're counting household stuff in your grocery budget, but I use reusables whenever possible (handkerchiefs, kitchen cloths, washcloths, mama pads/Keeper, some family cloth (we also use TP), etc.) so hardly buy paper goods except TP. Also, installing a cat door (so no need for kitty litter - we live rurally) and cutting back from "free-choice" to feeding my cats measured amounts 2x/day has done wonders for the cat part of the budget.  For personal care we use simple shampoo, soap, and lotion, and pretty much nothing else (and you can cut out lotion and use olive oil).  I have a front-loader washer so I use only a small amount of laundry powder; for the dishwasher I use one Tbsp powder instead of filling the whole recepticle. For me, keeping it simple and being conservative with use = spending less.

 

Also we hardly ever eat out, and when we "have to" I buy a big loaf of crusty bread and three slices of deli meat per kid, plus some kind of fresh veg or fruit (usually a small serving at a salad bar or something -- greens are super-cheap, LOL).  I can feed all four kids for $15 or less, and they love it because it is special.

 

Oh, I grow windowsill sprouts, very easy and cheap and my picky kid loves them.

 

Hope that is not too many ideas!


- single homeschooling mom to 16, 14, almost-12, and 10
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#27 of 32 Old 03-25-2012, 07:32 PM
 
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Wow, I am inspired!  The problem is, well, I don't like to cook.  I wouldn't know what to do with a whole chicken if it walked up and slapped me in the face.  I would LOVE to be able to make my own bread/jam/yogurt/sauce and everything else and maybe someday I will.  I am a little overwhelmed with all these great ideas.  Keep em coming!

I'm going to try to plan some meals now................ ;)



 Hey, I totally sympathize with this.  It took us a long time to get our budget under control, because I didn't like cooking and also wouldn't have known what to do with a whole turkey if it slapped me in the face.  Honestly, raw meat still skives me out!  Anyway, what we did about it was got cook's illustrated.  Their articles are really educational and interesting, and honestly cooking has become a fun family time for us.  One of us reads a book to whoever is doing the manual labor, plus we really enjoy picking out the new recipies.

 

Anka


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#28 of 32 Old 03-26-2012, 07:17 AM
 
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Such good ideas in this thread!

 

My family used to eat out more often. Nothing extravagant, but even a quick casual restaurant can be $25-$30 for 3 of us. That's a budget-buster since we aim for $120 a week for food. So I allow myself to buy pre-made meals even if I could cook that from scratch for less. If a premade meal (from Costco, for example) costs $10-$15, but it keeps us from going out to a restaurant, it's a better deal for us that day.

 

Even better if it's a pre-made meal I made from scratch and froze on a day that I wasn't so busy. Some things I make double and freeze half: baked ziti (mix it up, add cheese on top, but don't bake until it's time to serve), chili (even a small amount makes a good pasta sauce), french toast.

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#29 of 32 Old 03-26-2012, 10:03 AM
 
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I love that idea! I wish my DH would go for it. He makes coffee at home already but I would love to have breakfast with him and spend some time with him before he goes to work but he is like a zombie in the morning and would never go for it. He wakes up at the last possible second, skips breakfast, and doesn't say anything more than "I love you, have a good day" on his way out the door!


I used to make muffins for my dh so he could grab them and go. Otherwise he'd just skip breakfast. Muffins are pretty easy and you can make different kinds for variety. And kids frequently like them, especially if you make them in the mini muffin tins.


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#30 of 32 Old 03-26-2012, 10:33 AM
 
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Another easy pre-made breakfast idea is breakfast burritos. I make them for my husband when he workout in the morning. That way he eats something after working out, otherwise hes a bear to deal with. I'm sure his co-workers appreciate not having to deal with him in a bad mood orngbiggrin.gif. Ive done muffins before but he will usually "forget" to take them but the kids love them winky.gif. Breakfast sandwiches go over well for him as well, I can make a couple and hes set until middle of the week. Im forgetting what else Ive done for him, Ill ask DH when he gets home.


~Heather~ Mama to Miss E (1/07), Miss A (11/08), Mr.T (2/11) and Miss A (10/12) Expecting our newest blessing sometime late Sept/early Oct.. Wife to my Marine since 11/2005
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