Lets cut our monthly grocery bill - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 110 Old 01-04-2006, 05:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have managed to cut my grocery bill to average in 2005 under $400 monthly. That giving or taking a stock up one month, party etc. We cooked whole and scratch foods 99% of the time and ate really well this year. We also cut our dine out budget a lot. I also participated in pantry challenges and it helped a lot too. But now the pantry challenge is a way of life a year later.

I want to cut it to average around $350 per month this year. One thing we are going to do starting in Feb is pay cash for groceries. Last year we put them all on our credit card (paid in full monthly) to receive the bonus points.
I think using the card would cause you to spend at least 15-20% more than you would if you had cash.

Anyone on board to help each other with ideas and support to cut the bill down and stick to it?

"The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly out distances us."
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#2 of 110 Old 01-04-2006, 06:04 PM
 
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I buy almost everything on sale. those 10/$10 sales are the best. I stock up on things and we store the extra food in the garage until we need it. Our weekly grocery bill is about $80, give or take as I stock up on sale items or live off what we already have at home. When I was pumping milk for dd2 we bought a small freezer that I put extra bulk stuff in, too, or cook a double batch of dinner and freeze half for later. You can buy onions and other veggies at Costco, cut and freeze them for later. Same with shredded cheese and milk.

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#3 of 110 Old 01-04-2006, 06:12 PM
 
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Subscribing... :

I would love to have our grocery bill under $400. I like to make a lot of meals from scratch but I still end up buying more than we need dispite the use of a list and meal planning...

Sooo I am up for ideas!
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#4 of 110 Old 01-04-2006, 06:21 PM
 
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oops
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#5 of 110 Old 01-04-2006, 08:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So far this is what we do:

-we buy mozzella on bigtime sale in a large block. Shred it ourselves and freeze it on a baking sheet and when frozen put it in bags for pizza or italian dishes later. We shred all of our cheese actually but this freezes the best imo.

-I use soup base from penszy spices. We have beef and chicken. Add a teaspoon to hot water and you have a stock for cooking. They cost about $8 dollars each and they last for several months. Its better than buying about $5 worth of stock every month or making my own (used to do)

-since we are meat eaters we buy chicken breast and ground beef only on sale and stock up. DH cuts up chicken and takes fat off etc and puts each chicken breast into little sandwich baggies (also buy on supersale) and makes up burger patties as a serving. We have two seperate containers in the freezer for both of these. So if we are having chicken, I pull out 2 or whatever. If a beef recipe, pull out how many needed. We buy pork, fish etc on sale since we do not like it froze as much.

I have a large bag of basil and other spices pulled from our garden last fall, a large bag of sliced peppers from the garden (take what I need).

canned the tomatos too!

We "feed the freezer" at least once a week sometimes more if its needed. I double or even triple a batch of whatever I am making that freezes well- lasagna, enchiladas, chicken (add dumplings later) taco meat, chili, etc. Then we have a ready made meal for a few weeks later if we for some reason do not cook or its just one of us that night etc. This week I fed the freezer 3 times.
The idea being there are 5 meals ready to go at any time. Also if another family needs a meal- I already have it ready to go.

We roast our own fair trade coffee beans. DH orders in bulk and roasts about once every 9-10 days or so.

One thing I will not budge on is organic milk but it seems dd's milk consumption is going down so thats a savings.

buy fruit and veggies on sale only.

I think the biggest thing I have/want to do is keep this budgeted amount and stick to it. Then we will use what we have first before getting more and not spend as much.

"The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly out distances us."
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#6 of 110 Old 01-04-2006, 09:08 PM
 
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for our monthly expenses (not bills) we use the envelope system. this works well for sticking to your budget. every week or month or paycheck you take out how much cash is budgeted for a certain expense and put it in that envelope. when its gone its gone.

we budget 50 dollars a week on groceries. me my husband, and my 14 mo. old and some weekends my dh's seven year old. we rarely go over 50. we only eat one meat meal a week (and kosher is more expensive than non). right now we dont pay for most of our dairy becuz im on WIC but if we werent we wouldnt be buying much dairy anyway. i guess it just all depends on your diet as well. i rarely buy packaged/processed foods either.
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#7 of 110 Old 01-04-2006, 11:56 PM
 
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for our monthly expenses (not bills) we use the envelope system. this works well for sticking to your budget. every week or month or paycheck you take out how much cash is budgeted for a certain expense and put it in that envelope. when its gone its gone.
We've started doing this and it works SO well. I totally underestimated how much better I stick to a budget when I am dealing in cash only.

Weighing produce and counting every quarter on my grocery trip helps me keep the bill down more than any other method has. I get the most essential items first, then wait to see if I have money left over for the less essential items, and go pick those up. So far, I've been able to keep it to $50 per week. We don't often eat meat, limit convenience foods, and almost all of our meals are based around a cheap grain/legume/pasta (tonight, we had barley and split pea soup).

Good thread!
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#8 of 110 Old 01-05-2006, 12:03 PM
 
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We buy whole chickens and break them down. The I freeze the leftover bones after cooking until I have a good pile and make chicken stock that way. Whole chickens tend to be cheaper than buying parts and can be used for 2-3 meals when you consider the stock.

I think I'm going to try the envelope system this year as well. I know charging groceries, even using the debit card I buy more than I would if I only had so much cash in my pocket.
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#9 of 110 Old 01-05-2006, 05:04 PM
 
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I did NOT know you could freeze cheese! What other stuff can you freeze well? I'm intrigued. I think I've been underestimating the value of my trusty ole' freezer.



Meg

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#10 of 110 Old 01-06-2006, 10:02 AM
 
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ohh, I am SO up for this! We use the envelope system and I have our grocery expense currently at $500/ month. This is for dh, ds, me, a dog and 2 cats This also includes any health/ personal items (vitamins, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, dipaers : , etc). I cut this from 600 about a month ago and am doing well so far. But as I am not working now outside the home, I would REALLY like to cut this down to about 450/ month. Is it possible?????

I am going to check out Costco this weekend and start buying in bulk (hopefully). I will only buy organic milk/ eggs as well. This kills our budget so I hope Costco will help in this area. I really try to limit our paper towel consumption, but still find them indispensible for things like cat puke. But am considering just going to rags made from old tee-shirts.

I am intrigued by the freezing your freezer idea - this sounds really useful for the post partum ahead

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#11 of 110 Old 01-06-2006, 10:39 AM
 
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For those with kids, what do you do for snacks. I know that part of grocery bill is from trying different things whether is something i need to make from scratch or whatever.
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#12 of 110 Old 01-06-2006, 11:53 AM - Thread Starter
 
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The only thing about costco- watch you money they are full of inpulse buys and thats where they make their money.

Feeding the freezer has helped us a lot this past year. Esp cut down on take out. When you are making something like lasagna, cassorole, meatballs etc. Double batch and freeze the rest. So on that day when the last thing you can think of doing is cooking dinner or any meal- take it out of the freezer and save $15-$20 from taking out.

I really think the envelope system might work here too. We are also going to track cash spending as well so we can track groceries and what we spent. Then when the cash comes up in quicken, I can change it to whatever it is.

"The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly out distances us."
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#13 of 110 Old 01-06-2006, 01:49 PM
 
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I've been shopping with cash only for a little over a year, and it does help. Dh does the bills/budgeting, and we worked out how much I would need for grocery/personal items and gas, and that is what I take in cash each week when I deposit his check.

The envelope system works REALLY well, I used to budget for gas, hair cuts (just me, I cut the boys and dh's at home), grocery, and a little slush. I have to get back to that, a few things changed and I got out of the habit.

As far as kids, I think people overestimate the amount of snacks kids really need. If you are making nutritious meals, the amount of snacks they need really shouldn't be much. My kids usually just snack on a piece of cheese or fruit or carrot sticks. I buy very few crackers and no chips. There's a lot of healthy "cookies" or muffins that you can make and freeze. Anything that I can't find a certain degree of nutrition in, I consider a dessert, and my motivation to buy it is low. I won't even buy cold cereal, with a couple small exceptions (holiday chex mix....yum).

Also, other than frozen orange juice and lemonade, I don't buy juice either. And my kids only get those at breakfast. I see people load up on that stuff when I'm shopping and it blows my mind. I've seen kids functions where the snack served consists of Hi-C and brownies. Ick.
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#14 of 110 Old 01-06-2006, 02:59 PM
 
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Mallori -I totally agree with you about juice/ snacks! We do the same here - frozen OJ only. Every once in a while I will buy some apple juice (I have craved it this pg ) and ds enjoys it - but we drinnk qater throughout the day and haev milk with dinner - OJ with b'fast and that's about it.

I buy a large thing of raisins and sometimes other dried fruit, yougurt and usually some crackers. Granola Bars are a staple for us too (dh takes em to work) but we also make large batches of homemade granola for snacking. Oh yeah and popcorn. But it is amazing at how much you spend on snackfood and how little of it you/ the kids really need IMO. We also will bake muffins, cookies, etc from scratch when the yearn arises for something sweet. I NEVER buy storemade stuff like that.

My ds (2 yrs) snacks on cheese, fruit, granola, crackers, popcorn....and is a bread and butter fiend. But we really do not buy that many "snacks." Well, being pg it's hard

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#15 of 110 Old 01-07-2006, 12:00 AM
 
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Originally Posted by mrzmeg
Weighing produce and counting every quarter on my grocery trip helps me keep the bill down more than any other method has. I get the most essential items first, then wait to see if I have money left over for the less essential items, and go pick those up. So far, I've been able to keep it to $50 per week. We don't often eat meat, limit convenience foods, and almost all of our meals are based around a cheap grain/legume/pasta (tonight, we had barley and split pea soup).
I use a debit card rather than cash, but I do keep a running total in my head, go for the most important items first, and stop shopping when I've reached my limit.

I've been doing this for 3 months, and it's been working out very well for us.

We do eat meat fairly often (ham in sandwiches for lunch many days, hamburger or chicken in dinner at least 3-4 times a week), but I keep costs down by shopping at Costco. We really like their frozen chicken breasts, less expensive and at least as good as fresh, and less work for me, since I don't have to package them up and freeze them myself. :-)

We also usually have frozen veggies instead of fresh, because they're so much less expensive.

I'd love to be able to buy organic meat, but it's just not in my budget. DH really hates beans, so there's a limit to the number of times a month we have bean-based meals.

Sonja , 40, married to DH (42) since 5-29-93, DD born 11-3-2004, DS born 1-18-2007.
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#16 of 110 Old 01-09-2006, 02:36 AM
 
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Yes, homemade is best. Make your own yogurt, ice cream, breads (if cheaper than buying from bread thrift store), and snack items. This saves $$$ especially if you have kids.

Eat more vegetarian meals. Recipes from vegsource and vegweb are good.

Use your crockpot more.

Have a soup night or breakfast-for-dinner night.

Buy from ethnic grocery stores which usually cost less than major stores.

hillbillyhousewife.com and savingdinner.com are good websites
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#17 of 110 Old 01-09-2006, 08:42 AM
 
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We spend around 180 GBP per month for 4 of us.
1) I don't buy crap. Cakes, biscuits, crisps, whatever, it just doesn't get bought. We have pudding two or three times a week (homemade) and the fruitbowl is fair game.
2) Milk gets delivered to the doorstep (which is an expensive way of doing it, but keeps me out of the shops. We could save 3 pounds a month if we switched- but then, I'd probably spend more than that on one trip to Tesco.) Bread comes from the breadmaker, which keeps me out of the shops. We recently cancelled our organic vegetable box, because I found a really good greengrocer near us which avoids pesticides and means I can buy exactly what I want each week.
3) Every other month I'll buy 3 whole chickens and 4 lbs of chicken thigh fillets: that's between 12 and 20 meals, depending on how much time I get, for roast chicken and stews. I can't justify buying chicken breast fillets any more- they cost twice as much as a whole chicken and don't fill us up. 4lb of braising steak, because beef casserole/ stew is a favourite around here, 4 lb bacon (frozen in half pound packs) and 8lbs of sausages- toad in the hole is a staple and a treat around here.
Vegetables- I buy what's in season. It works out at about 8 per week.
The rest- beans, pasta, dried goods- come from our local co-op supermarket because it has a comfortable area on the shopping side of the checkout where I can breastfeed if I need to, and toilets on the shopping side as well. We also get back 6p for every 1 gbp we spend there, which is nice.

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#18 of 110 Old 01-09-2006, 08:47 AM
 
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Whole chickens. I'll need to look into that. I've always waited for chicken to go on sale and purchase that way...
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#19 of 110 Old 01-09-2006, 11:25 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I agree w the snacks, they can add up. We do not do much "snack food" here. We buy popping corn in the big bag for about $2.50 on sale and pop it on the stove in a small pot leftover from college. (its now officially the popcorn pot!) The bag lasts for months sometimes. Much better tasting than the microwave popcorn and better for you as well as the cost.

Occasionally we used to buy "fruit snacks" on sale which were refered to as "treats" but dd has not asked for them for a long time and the last box sat there for a while. the local market day has frozen fruit pops that are pure strwberries or peaches and she loves them. She will ask for those first and then fruit or cheese. Never cookies. But she loves chocolate and ice cream as much as her Daddy does. So we buy the natural ice cream with 3-5 ingredients.

If there is a playdate its more cost effective to have cheese slices and orange slices/apple slices out or a fresh bannana bread and it always gets eaten!

I am hoping to also get an organic box of anything delivered which is out of our price range at this moment w the current budget. But if I am able to trim another $50 off, we would be able to do that. I also think it would really make up some more creative meals too.

"The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly out distances us."
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#20 of 110 Old 01-09-2006, 12:00 PM
 
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Could you please tell me more about how you pop corn in the oven???
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#21 of 110 Old 01-09-2006, 12:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Could you please tell me more about how you pop corn in the oven???
oops thans for telling me- I changed that to STOVE!!

"The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly out distances us."
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#22 of 110 Old 01-09-2006, 03:22 PM
 
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I take a calculator to the store with me and add up the prices as I go along. I don't go over my budget. If there isn't enough money left for non-essentials, I don't buy them, unless there is some sort of super-duper-hooper-hyper sale on non-perishables.

I only buy store brand, unless a particular item doesn't come in store brand. Then I buy the least expensive brand. I am not brand-loyal!

I do not buy juice. We make our own "lemonade" occasionally from lemon juice, water, and sugar.

I buy my cheese at a restaurant supply store, 2-lb blocks for $4.99. I save over $9 a month on cheese this way. I just discovered today that their frozen peas and corn are a better deal, too.

I shop around. I go to five different stores every time I do my "big" shopping (twice a month). I know which items are cheapest at which stores.

Just this weekend we bought a 50-lb bag of flour for $15. Now I will be making our own bread (in fact, I just stuck my first loaf in the oven not five minutes ago).

I will only buy fresh fruit and veggies when they are below certain prices. For example, the grocery where I do most of my shooping normally sells apples for between $1.29-1.49/lb. Every few weeks they sell them for 99 cents/lb. I stock up then. I also take advantage of buy one/get one free sales on bagged carrots, bagged apples, broccoli, etc. I weigh bagged produce to make sure I am getting my money's worth.

I buy a lot of frozen produce because it's such a better deal.

For the kids' snacks, we do yogurt (which I am going to try making at home), carrot/celery sticks, fresh fruit, toast, peanuts or walnuts, raisins, frozen peas and corn, etc. We do not buy "snack foods." Well, with one exception, we do buy granola bars, but those are a "treat" (read: once in a while), not a snack. And I am going to try making my own granola bars after I have gotten the bread and yogurt down.

I don't buy boxed or bagged cereal. My kids eat oatmeal or toast for breakfast.

My meal plan consists of 3-4 meals per week. I make enough to have leftovers.

We go to Trader Joe's every two weeks, and I buy my kids one each of the "fruit leathers" that TJ's sells for 27 cents a piece. They are 100% fruit and they count as "treats" for the kids. I can get a lot of mileage out of at 54 cents!

I don't go to the store unless it's grocery day (the 15th and the last days of the month). If we run out, we're out.

Our one major budget-buster is Ovaltine. My kids stumble around in the morning groaning "Ovaltine!" like some adults do before they've had their morning coffee. It's $5.99 for a tub of it, which always shocks me whenever I buy it (about once every six weeks) and I feel like a schmuck for doing it, but they love it so much. A serving size of Ovaltine is FOUR TABLESPOONS and has 18 GRAMS OF SUGAR! I give my kids 1 tsp each in a cup of milk. Once a day.

Namaste!

Ps. My other budget buster is Total, which I buy at the discount store for $2.99 a box. My husband has eaten Total for breakfast every day for the past 10 years and he refuses to give it up, even when I told him I would use the extra money to buy organic, shade-grown coffee. I spend $15 a month on that friggin' Total!! :
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#23 of 110 Old 01-09-2006, 06:55 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mommamin
For those with kids, what do you do for snacks. I know that part of grocery bill is from trying different things whether is something i need to make from scratch or whatever.
I make muffins 2 dozen at a time and store them in the fridge for my kids to eat as snacks. They are really easy to make, and appeal to even my pickiest child. There are so many variations, and they are cheap and filling! (I usually make muffins once a week, and I very rarely have leftovers.)

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#24 of 110 Old 01-09-2006, 09:03 PM
 
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For snacks we do:

air popped popcorn
fruit - apples, bananas, oranges, grapefruit now, more melons, grapes, etc. come summer
whole wheat pita bread (cheap from TJs, but we're going to make our own)
raisins
fruit leather (only when we need an easy, small snack to take with us)
homemade whole wheat bread
baby carrots
anything we bake (vegan lowfat whole grain low sugar baked goods)
applesauce (jarred or homemade)
canned pineapple in pineapple juice
raw nuts
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#25 of 110 Old 01-09-2006, 10:43 PM
 
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Amy i have to say your threads ROCK!!! Between this on and the decluttering i'm going to be keeping myself very busy!!! LOL
I like to call my self an GREAT shoper when it comes to my familys meals!!! I save us so so so much $$!!! We are a family of 5 and only spend $200 a month on food, bathroom stuff, cleaning stuff. I also spend about $40 on dog food.... I'll add some stuff later when my kids are all sleeping... need me now!
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#26 of 110 Old 01-09-2006, 11:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Amy i have to say your threads ROCK!!! !
Thanks Becky- but anything worth doing, is worth doing right! Esp threads.

I figure is I can clear out 500 pieces, I can clear out $600 a year from the grocery bill kwim?

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#27 of 110 Old 01-10-2006, 12:25 AM
 
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For snacks we eat:

Home baked cookies (use 1/2 the recipe sugar)

Home baked muffins (made with honey)

Fresh veggies

Sunflower seeds

Nuts

Raisins

Popcorn

Fruit


Major savings on groceries for us came from:

1. Limiting serving sizes - check to see how much you really *need* to eat in order to stay healthy - most of us would be surprised to see how we're overeating

2. Cooking from scratch

3. Eating less meat - we added in a veggie night and also cook soup once a week. We also started cooking more dishes where meat wasn't the centerpiece of the meal

4. Buying what's in season

5. Buying the food in its most natural, least processed state - usually it's the cheapest this way - it's definitely more nutritious

6. Suprisingly, we saved money by NOT shopping around. I found that the extra gas cost was eating up the small savings I was getting. We even cut out our monthly drive to the nearest buying club store because once we ran the numbers, the membership and gas costs negated any savings.

7. We started buying from the source - we order meat and eggs from local farmers rather than paying retail. This year we bought 15 chickens and a whole hog. Next year we're increasing the amount of both.
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#28 of 110 Old 01-10-2006, 11:58 AM
 
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This week I put together a 2 week menu of dinners plus a couple of alternative meals and based the grocery list on that. We were really bad about groceries, ie $250+ per week almost. I added the stuff we'd need for breakfast and lunch and stuck to the list. I spent $237 for basically 2 weeks worth of groceries. We might have to go and get a few perishables over the weekend but even if we spend $40 we're still spending significantly less than we have been. And no I have no idea what we spent all of that money on.

I was worried I'd feel restricted by having meals planned out but really it's kind of a relief not to have to look in the freezer and wonder what to make for dinner. And in doing two weeks I have the flexibility to switch around a little if I want to.

We still have a ways to go but at least I feel like we took a significant first step.
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#29 of 110 Old 01-10-2006, 12:35 PM
 
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lisalou - I felt the same way, concerned about being restricted, but also just too lazy to plan it out. I wanted to eat what I wanted when I wanted. I'm doing the same thing except week to week. It works great and I too, really like just looking at the calendar and pulling the stuff out. I have one "special" meal a week that we all look forward to. Not that we don't like our meals, but this meal is the more expensive meal. It works well. I don't have to go to the grocery between stops at all and we make do with what we've got.

Snacks - homemade fruit bars, popcorn, cheese, fruit

everything is made from scratch.
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#30 of 110 Old 01-10-2006, 12:41 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KariM
6. Suprisingly, we saved money by NOT shopping around. I found that the extra gas cost was eating up the small savings I was getting. We even cut out our monthly drive to the nearest buying club store because once we ran the numbers, the membership and gas costs negated any savings.
I think that the reason this works for us is because all of the stores are within a five-mile radius of our home. In fact, four of the stores are on the same street. If we were driving long distances, it wouldn't be cost-effective, but a 7-minute drive to Trader Joe's saves us about $12-15 on the (much healthier) items we buy there over what we would be able to find or have to pay for at the local grocery.

Namaste!
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