Is $800/mo on groceries too much...? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 33 Old 08-12-2014, 11:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Is $800/mo on groceries too much...?

We spend $700 a month on food 2 adults, a four year old and one year old. Is this reasonable or too much? We used to spend $600/mo and thought that was too much. Would love to know what's reasonable. :S

* We buy bulk items: rice, legumes, salt, non-white sugar, chia, etc.
* Maple syrup (expensive)
* Packaged, we buy only those with real food ingredients, no GMO soy, no GMO corn, no GMO sugar, and no GMO/GE. So, most of the time, it's organic. Cereals, crackers, breads, chips, granola, cookies, tortillas, salsa, oats.
*Eggs from organically fed chickens. However, rare.
* Non-bromated wheat flour.
* Fresh fruit and frozen veggies.
* Nut milks. We have to cut back on buying juice.
* Oil is olive or coconut.
* Nut butters and jam
* one year old is on organic formula... tons of it... and this mama doesn't make enough so I've long since quite the difficult battle. and no donors.
* I make a lot from scratch, too.

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#2 of 33 Old 08-12-2014, 11:16 PM
 
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That's within the normal range for my area. (CA Bay Area). We spend around $250 per week for 2 adults, 1 teen, a nine year old and one year old... plus whatever friend or family member might be visiting. I order olive oil, organic flour, legumes and rice in large quantities through a co-op and cook mostly from scratch. We are dairy free omnivores and eat as much organic as we can afford, but that means we often buy the "clean fifteen" and avoid the "dirty dozen" rather than eating all organic.
I often feel like we are spending too much but the reality is that we do pretty well for our high cost of living area.
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#3 of 33 Old 08-12-2014, 11:24 PM
 
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Initially, i may think that's too much to spend. However considering other points, that may be not as high as we think. First we need to ensure the quality of the foods that we intake. Like OrmEmbar said about 'high cost living AREA', one's expenditure may depend on the area as well. Then we'll have to see about our insurances, more insured is better, but the payment you make monthly needs to be considered. Besides these points, no matter how much or how less you spend, if you and your family is happy and well fed, that matter most

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#4 of 33 Old 08-13-2014, 07:40 AM
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You could save money on the packaged items by making your own--bread, cookies, salsa, etc.

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#5 of 33 Old 08-13-2014, 06:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hmmm. Bummed I can't save more. Yes, we should make our cookies and bread. COokies are easy. Bread, not so easy for me. Salsa… haha, I'm Latin and don't even make my own. I think it's more expensive to buy the fresh ingredients. Salsa up here in the remote areas of the pacific northeast is over $5 a jar. Down in chile-country (southwest), it's under $2 a jar! Same salsa.

Well, I started making my own laundry soap today… 66% off my usual price.

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#6 of 33 Old 08-13-2014, 10:08 PM
 
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I would guess the formula is one of your biggest expenses. Can your one year old be eating more foods, and less formula? Just asking - not meaning to open a big debate over nutrition...


Fresh fruit and veggies in season at farm stands (I mean at the real farms, not fancy farmer's markets); they generally have great prices on one or 2 items in season at a time. I buy flats or cases of tomatoes, peaches, apples, corn, and whatever else each year, and can or freeze as much as I can. Onions and potatoes are also much cheaper this way. I buy about 25 pounds of pumpkins after Halloween each year, bake then puree and freeze it, and it lasts all year for all the pies, bread, and muffins we can stand, as well as the occasional soup, curry or sauce. Try pumpkin risotto - amazing with parmesan!


I grow fresh herbs all year - outside in summer, inside in winter. Sage, thyme, cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley, mint and basil are what I use the most of. Fresh herbs can make the most frugal soup or casserole seem special. I also grow sprouts (we prefer cabbage, alfalfa, and radish mixed) to replace lettuce on sandwiches. I take sandwiches for lunch to work every day, so this is a real savings for me.


Consider buying a bread machine (look at thrift stores!). With good bread at $5 or more a loaf here, I find it is worth it!


Do you have Bountiful Baskets in your area? It is a produce (mostly) buying co-op that has an organic option that is still very affordable. They also have breads and seasonal extras.

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#7 of 33 Old 08-14-2014, 09:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I think bread making is a good idea. We are off-grid so anything you plug in won't work well. And we have small freezer space due to being off-grid. And, Bountiful Baskets is here, but we are Sabbath keepers and they deliver on the Sabbath (Friday sunset to Saturday sunset).

And YES, formula is my biggest expense!!! This kid is barely starting to really eat. He is my pickiest eater. I am wondering if switching him to goat's milk (not formula) would be a bad idea for kid that won't eat anything but 6 things (bread, chia oatmeal, cheese crackers, cookies, bananas, and smoothies... and I cannot vary it by changing the shape of the cracker or the ingredients of the oats b/c he won't eat it).
I am afraid he wont' be getting the nutrition he needs that is in formula. We did this with DC#1 and in retrospect, it might of been a bad idea... too much non-formula milk, not enough food/nutrition.

I should grow more herbs, for sure. We will be starting a garden but was wanting to reap benefits now.... just as we enter winter.

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#8 of 33 Old 08-19-2014, 05:48 AM
 
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This is interesting. I too wonder how much I "should" be spending. We spend less than that for 2 adults and 4 kids ages 7-14 but I also grow much of our food during this time of the year and try to save some for into the winter months (potatoes, winter squashes, frozen herbs, tomatoes, beans, etc.)

We will also be eligible for reduced lunches at school this year and I feel mixed on having my kids eat the (gross) lunches just because they only cost $.40. And I hate packing school lunches too!

I don't think making bread saves money. Possibly if you are buying the crusty "artisan" breads but not if you are buying sandwich bread. And crusty bread is so simple to make, whereas sandwich bread is not. I pay just $1.25 for decent enough sandwich bread.

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#9 of 33 Old 08-19-2014, 09:06 AM
 
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These charts are supposed to tell a range of normal weekly or monthly costs for families of various sizes. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/usdafoodcost-home.htm

I find I'm at their thrifty plan, sometimes up nearer the low cost plan, I'm cutting costs by making from scratch but could be buying cheaper ingredients if i had to, we don't really limit meats and fruits. If we upped the grains and beans and eggs and bought cheap whole milk, lowered the meat and fruit, cut out all the healthy treats (nuts, dark chocolate, gf snacks, premium in season fruit, avocados), I could do $350/month for my family of 5 for a while. That would be a last resort because good food is a priority.
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#10 of 33 Old 08-19-2014, 09:43 AM
 
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I would love for our grocery bill to be down to $800 per month! We buy organic, we have allergies that preclude a lot of good, less expensive vegetarian protein. Our meat is either organic or free range uncertified for beef. It includes organic, fair trade coffee and sugar, and the organic "pasture butter" that I love so much. (Eggs are our own and the "gals" raised organically-- I'd love for my family to eat more eggs. I'm intolerant.)

I think if you are doing all those things you want to do with good ingredients, you can afford the expense, then yes, it is reasonable to spend $800 per month on groceries. If it's robbing your bank account, you are spending on short cuts and splurges and feeling guilty about the food that winds up on the table, then it is too high.

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#11 of 33 Old 08-19-2014, 10:12 PM
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I don't think making bread saves money. Possibly if you are buying the crusty "artisan" breads but not if you are buying sandwich bread. And crusty bread is so simple to make, whereas sandwich bread is not. I pay just $1.25 for decent enough sandwich bread.

It also depends on if you like to make bread or not. I'm not saying everyone should, just throwing it out there. With buying flour in bulk (25lb or 50 lb bags), you could actually get the price of a loaf lower than the $1.25 you are currently paying, especially if you made sourdough bread, which doesn't require yeast. (But then you have to factor in electricity, and I'm never sure how to factor that in.) And then you end up with better tasting bread, too. Just a thought.

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#12 of 33 Old 08-20-2014, 08:52 AM
 
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Not sure what "decent enough" means. No bread I deem "decent enough" costs $1.25. The cheaper breads are filled with additives, and if you consider cost by *weight*, I would say that if you are frugal with ingredients in the bread, you could match that price by weight easily by making it yourself.

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#13 of 33 Old 08-20-2014, 10:31 AM
 
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Originally Posted by JamieCatheryn View Post
These charts are supposed to tell a range of normal weekly or monthly costs for families of various sizes. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/usdafoodcost-home.htm

I use this as a guideline as well, and we are at the thrifty level for a family of 4, which is right around $800. That includes some organic, little meat (protein is mostly eggs, beans, tofu, homemade seitan, cheese), some milk/milk alternatives, plus some prepared stuff. We are in a fairly expensive urban area and don't garden or hunt, no backyard chickens or anything. Both adults work in paid employment, so I don't have much time for baking, etc., but honestly I can get a pack of tortillas for less than $1.00, pasta for $1.00, bread for between $2.00-$4.00 (which we don't eat much of anyway), so I don't make my own. Occasionally when we are out in the country we can get a deal on berries or other fruit and freeze them, but it's not something that happens often enough to matter. I try to buy school lunch stuff/snacks at Costco when I can along with their bulk organic ground beef/chicken (otherwise I don't buy meat much currently). To really get that number down significantly I would have to look at what to cut - probably snacks and treats mostly. Also, this doesn't include pet food.

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#14 of 33 Old 08-20-2014, 11:30 AM
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We do it at less than $600 per month. 2 adults, 3 kids (7.4.2) Farmers market almost everything. We eat meat once or twice per week, no cow milk (almond).
We pressure cook alot. We also dont dont any special diets or different foods for the kids.
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#15 of 33 Old 08-20-2014, 02:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We do it at less than $600 per month. 2 adults, 3 kids (7.4.2) Farmers market almost everything. We eat meat once or twice per week, no cow milk (almond).
We pressure cook alot. We also dont dont any special diets or different foods for the kids.
Under $600 is nice. Sounds like our sort of food.
It must me my location! Population 8,000... middle of "nowhere". :S

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#16 of 33 Old 08-20-2014, 03:32 PM
 
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Under $600 is nice. Sounds like our sort of food.
It must me my location! Population 8,000... middle of "nowhere". :S
Yes! Location helps. In our city, farmers' markets are actually more expensive than some grocery stores, but then I go out to the country and get 5 lbs. of blueberries for a fraction per pound of what I am paying in the city.


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#17 of 33 Old 08-20-2014, 03:53 PM
 
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These charts are supposed to tell a range of normal weekly or monthly costs for families of various sizes. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/usdafoodcost-home.htm

.
Interesting. Also remember this is brought to us by the people who made the food pyramid.

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Not sure what "decent enough" means. No bread I deem "decent enough" costs $1.25. The cheaper breads are filled with additives, and if you consider cost by *weight*, I would say that if you are frugal with ingredients in the bread, you could match that price by weight easily by making it yourself.
You're probably right! We don't eat much sandwich bread, but when we do I buy the day old stuff for $1.25 and it is better than the sandwich bread I could make. So for us it is decent enough! I also hate to make bread (or use the oven at all) during the summer months.

We have a great local food coop that you could never find on google. Set up by a christian homeschool prepper gun-owning family (we are none of those) and we can get so much in bulk through them- grains, legumes, honey, sugar, cleaning products, soy, dairy, chocolate, seeds, nuts, oils etc. That is where I get flours (white, wheat, soy, spelt), oats, sugar, honey and sometimes olive and sesame oil. It is hit or miss when they'll place orders. Sometime very often, sometimes not for a year it seems. The family is uber-nice, responsible and slightly too perfect, but the quality and prices are great.

Ask around and you might find something like that. Also i know my LDS (mormon) friends stockpile a years worth of food and they let nonmembers in on those deals to increase the order size. Not sure of the quality.

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#18 of 33 Old 08-20-2014, 04:19 PM
 
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Wow, $1.25 per loaf of bread!! Even our cheap breads are $3 per loaf around here. Even Costco and Safeway are expensive for bread. Maybe Grocery Outlet has better prices but it would mean driving to a completely different town and paying for another gallon of gas . . . so, not really cheaper.
Luckily, I like to bake and try to make at least half the bread we eat. I buy organic ingredients in bulk and have figured the cost to be about $0.80 per loaf plus whatever the electricity cost for running the oven.

I have watched so many prices double (yet again) this year. Prices that are not doubling are going up significantly, or the quality is dropping. Hard to find onions that don't have at least a few areas of black mold hiding under the skin. Never used to see that before a couple years ago, then some crept in, and now I am elated whenever I find one or two organic onions that are mold free. Maybe I need to gopher proof the garden and grow some myself! (the gophers ate all my onions and garlic the first few years, so I gave up growing them for a while)
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#19 of 33 Old 08-20-2014, 06:11 PM
 
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Hard to find onions that don't have at least a few areas of black mold hiding under the skin. Never used to see that before a couple years ago, then some crept in, and now I am elated whenever I find one or two organic onions that are mold free.

Right? It seems like they peel most of the skins off of the onions they sell these days, and they mold much faster.

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#20 of 33 Old 08-21-2014, 09:34 AM
 
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Ugh, these threads always depress me. We spend around $400 a month on food for our family of 6. I wish we could spend more but the funds just aren't there.

ETA: According to the USDA chart we would be spending $974 a month on the thrifty plan. Is that realistic?

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#21 of 33 Old 08-21-2014, 10:02 AM
 
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Ugh, these threads always depress me. We spend around $400 a month on food for our family of 6. I wish we could spend more but the funds just aren't there.

ETA: According to the USDA chart we would be spending $974 a month on the thrifty plan. Is that realistic?
It's realistic if you aren't being frugal about it, by cooking from scratch buying at discount stores skipping pricey treats I'd say you can keep a family well with half the usda thrifty plan if you're super careful and do without a few things. I like to enter my weekly shopping list into http://caloriecount.about.com/cc/recipe_analysis.php and put servings at 28 (for our family I figure 4 adult servings of food a meal, the 5 and 1 yr sharing one portion) to see what we're eating every day, see that it's enough protien and calories and vitamins. I just did a grocery trip for 2/3 my usual cost today, inspired by this thread. We used to keep paleo and felt great but the grains have crept in anyway so I thought I'd give up on it for a while and save some money. Still staying lower in gluten though.
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#22 of 33 Old 08-21-2014, 11:30 AM
 
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Maybe instead of sharing a monthly budget we could share the price of some common items? It might give a better window into the way local cost of living affects a monthly budget.

For Example:

Peaches (in season) are $3.99 per pound at the grocery store with an occasional sale at $1.99 per pound. They are $3.79 per pound at the lesser expensive stall at the farmers market. (because of these prices, we only get peaches from friends and are looking forward to fruit production from our baby tree)

Bread $3.99 - $4.59 per loaf of organic whole wheat sandwich bread, non organic is $3.29 - $4.39, Sourdough is $2.99 - $6 depending on size and style.

Organic Rice - local grocery and Whole Foods bulk sections: $2.79 per pound, Trader Joe's is $4 for a 2 pound bag

Chicken meat - the least expensive decently healthy chicken I can get goes on sale every couple months for $1.79 per pound for a whole bird. Organic whole chicken is $3.29 per pound. With a toddler I haven't had a spare moment to cut up whole birds, so I get thighs for $4.99 a lb and occasionally I get breast meat when it goes on sale for $5.99 per pound. (this is not organic) Costco and Trader Joe's prices are no better.
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#23 of 33 Old 08-21-2014, 01:19 PM
 
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Ouch OrmEmber that is tough! I live rurally so we haven't got traderjoes and cosco, we drive 20 minutes to town for walmart and aldi, some local mennonite stores and farms around too. I'll list the best deals I tend to get.

Peaches $1/lb sale in season or by the can in juice
Berries, cherries, grapes $1.30 to $2/lb in season
Bulk Apples 50c/lb from the orchard, 90c/lb from the store, applesauce 70c/lb
Frozen Broccoli Florets $2/lb, other frozen veg about $1.25/lb
Bread I don't buy it but cheap sandwich is $1.39, good stuff is over $3
Whole wheat flour is under $1/lb, Cornmeal like 50c/lb, regular rice is 40c/lb
Chicken leg 1/4s 74c/lb, whole $1.09/lb, Breast $2/lb, canned $1.75/12oz
Ground Beef just went over $4/lb
Tilapia and wild salmon are $4-$5/lb
Honey or Maple syrup are $35-40/gal
Cage Free Eggs $2.50/doz, regular chicken feed is $14/50lbs (producing eggs at $2/doz or meat at $2/lb)
Milk is $4.50/gal, almond milk is $2.50/half gal, coconut milk is $1.50/15oz can
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#24 of 33 Old 08-21-2014, 02:33 PM
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Under $600 is nice. Sounds like our sort of food.
It must me my location! Population 8,000... middle of "nowhere". :S
Nah... Nashville, metro pop 1.5 million...
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#25 of 33 Old 08-21-2014, 02:48 PM
 
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It sounds like you've got your priorities figured out and are doing a great job!
While it seems like a lot of money, in the scheme of things, I believe food is a good
thing to spend money on. What you are buying -- all of that whole and organic food --
is not subsidized by the taxpayer, so your farmers are getting fair prices and you
are paying fairer prices.

For what it's worth, our groceries are delivered by a CSA who brings vegetables, fruits,
and anything else we need -- not unlike your list. That's $200/week for us on average,
and then I still spend $100 per week at the grocery store for extra items that I didn't have
delivered, such as yoghurt for my husband. We're a family of 4, including two large, over 6'
teen boys.

I didn't know there was organic formula, and I'm glad. I had preemies, so I donated to the
Mother's Milk Bank for 6 years. I wish I could carry a baby to full term. That said, we all
have our circumstances, and I hope you don't ever feel that you have to explain why you buy
formula. It sounds like you're really conscientious and doing a great job!

peace,
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#26 of 33 Old 08-21-2014, 02:57 PM
 
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Sounds about right!
We live in TX.
Try to purchase organic local farm raised as much as possible.
We spend anywhere from $600-800 2 adults
2 small children (2 and 6)
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#27 of 33 Old 08-23-2014, 07:56 AM
 
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Originally Posted by KatherineNaomi View Post
Ugh, these threads always depress me. We spend around $400 a month on food for our family of 6. I wish we could spend more but the funds just aren't there.

ETA: According to the USDA chart we would be spending $974 a month on the thrifty plan. Is that realistic?
I'm sorry you're in that position and hope things get better soon. Do you have other resources in your area that you can tap into if you need it?

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#28 of 33 Old 08-23-2014, 08:03 AM
 
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Ouch OrmEmber that is tough! I live rurally so we haven't got traderjoes and cosco, we drive 20 minutes to town for walmart and aldi, some local mennonite stores and farms around too. I'll list the best deals I tend to get.

Peaches $1/lb sale in season or by the can in juice
Berries, cherries, grapes $1.30 to $2/lb in season
Bulk Apples 50c/lb from the orchard, 90c/lb from the store, applesauce 70c/lb
Frozen Broccoli Florets $2/lb, other frozen veg about $1.25/lb
Bread I don't buy it but cheap sandwich is $1.39, good stuff is over $3
Whole wheat flour is under $1/lb, Cornmeal like 50c/lb, regular rice is 40c/lb
Chicken leg 1/4s 74c/lb, whole $1.09/lb, Breast $2/lb, canned $1.75/12oz
Ground Beef just went over $4/lb
Tilapia and wild salmon are $4-$5/lb
Honey or Maple syrup are $35-40/gal
Cage Free Eggs $2.50/doz, regular chicken feed is $14/50lbs (producing eggs at $2/doz or meat at $2/lb)
Milk is $4.50/gal, almond milk is $2.50/half gal, coconut milk is $1.50/15oz can
My prices are more like OrmEmbar's.
Grass-fed ground beef is about $5.49/lb. at Costco, and I buy the 3-pack of 1.5 lb. packages. The least expensive, least yucky eggs I can get are about $3.50. Apples anywhere between $1.99 to $2.99/lb. Peaches maybe around $1.50/lb. in season and cherries in season about $2.99 (otherwise $5.99/lb. and up). One-liter bottle of maple syrup up to around $18.00 - $20.00 now. Need to get out to the country more!!

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#29 of 33 Old 08-23-2014, 11:38 AM
 
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Originally Posted by KatherineNaomi View Post
Ugh, these threads always depress me. We spend around $400 a month on food for our family of 6. I wish we could spend more but the funds just aren't there.

ETA: According to the USDA chart we would be spending $974 a month on the thrifty plan. Is that realistic?
If you go to csa.org, you might find an organic farm in your area that would let you and your children help on the farm in exchange for produce, eggs, etc. We did that for several years. It really inspired my children who now grow kale and beets in our very small yard year-round.

peace,
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#30 of 33 Old 08-28-2014, 12:31 AM
 
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I don't think it's too much at all, about average really. My family spend about that much in $cdn each month, though I can probably cut back if I want to. Food is important to health, and a pleasure of life. I'd rather cut back other things and use the money for good food.

Our area has high cost of living, though food price isn't too bad. We're pretty close to various farms so fresh seasonal produce are always reasonably priced, things like meat and dairy and imported food are more expensive. Wine is very expensive due to taxes and state monopoly.

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