$1,000 a month on groceries! HELP!! - Mothering Forums

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Old 01-07-2008, 07:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I joined the no-spend challenge and while posting today I realized I could be spending $1,000 a month on groceries.

The spending I've done in 7 days is pretty normal for us, I just never put all my receipts together. Now it does seem to make sense. I think more realistically if not counting household things and soda it's $800-$900 a month but that's a lot!

I mean, how is that even possible!!!!????

My mom came to visit from upstate NY and she was amazed at the cost of living here. So maybe it is our area, but how to overcome that???

-- I buy some things on sale (trying harder this month)
-- I buy mostly only necessities and we bring in very little junk food
-- I don't buy tons of processed stuff
-- I don't buy a ton of meat but don't buy the cheapest stuff either
-- I don't buy all name brands.

-- I am feeding my husband one meal and a snack a day M-F and three meals and snacks Sat/Sun. He's got Celiac's Disease so he can't eat just anything.
-- Mon thru Sun I am feeding two boys (6 and 9) three meals and snacks
-- M-F one son (12 years) 2 meals and snacks (I pay for school lunches), three meals and snacks on weekends
-- Of course I eat 2-3 meals and snacks per day and my youngest is exclusively breastfed

Here are some of the prices we pay on items we use a lot of:

* $6.99 large bag of real cheddar cheese (comparable to buying a block and shredding it myself, so I buy the bag)
* $2 per avacado or sale for $1.50
* Peanut butter from Costco.. not sure of price
* $2.99 (?) boxes of cereal (organic from Trader Joes)
* Grape jelly jar $3.54
* $3.19-$3.50 for 16oz margarine
* $4.49 half gallon Lactaid
* $3.49 to $4.49 gallon of milk
* $5.99 a pound chicken and turkey in the package
* $7.99 a pound Deli turkey
* Oatmeal pouches I buy generic on sale but usually $3.49 a box
* $4.49 for 32oz cottage cheese
* Bread $2.79 to $4.19 a loaf
* Oranges $0.71 each
* $3.69 for 6oz bagged salad
* $1.69 lbs sweet potatoes
* $0.25 to $1.00 each potato depending on kind
* Apples $0.60-$1.00 each *gulp!*

Also buying lots of fruit cups lately, pico de guillo, tortillas (must have corn because DH uses them as bread), carrots, frozen veggies, non-meat corn dogs from Trader Joes, kosher hot dogs , yogurt, tortilla chips, naan breads and pizza sauce, frozen pineapple from Trader Joes, focacia bread and some rolls once in a while, Irish oatmeal for DH with steel cut oats (due to his gluten allergies), rice, fresh asparagus and other veggies, tomatoes, ears of corn once in a while, raspberries once in a while.... etc etc etc etc

Looking at this, I wonder if it would be cheaper to hold off on milk and cereal and push more fresh fruits and oatmeal in the morning. I don't see us going more towards the big boxes of oatmeal vs the microwave pouches until the baby gets into the groove of a morning routine without screaming.

And wow, no idea one of the loaves of bread we buy was so expenive. Guess I need to use the Safeway website for making my shopping lists in advance.

I was also trying to figure out how I could buy a bushel of apples this fall and actually use them up before they go bad.

Do you have any advice for us?

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Old 01-07-2008, 07:33 PM
 
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I was given a box of apples this year, and I was worried about how to use them up. My back up plan was to make freezable applesauce, but we actually ended up using them all well before they went bad.
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Old 01-07-2008, 07:40 PM
 
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Maybe give up the cereal and packaged oatmeal, making rolled or steel cut oats from scratch instead. Also, instead of buying sliced turkey or turkey sausages, try buying a whole chicken and roasting it then you can use the meat throughout the week. Instead of buying bagged salad, see if you can buy it in bulk or see if you can just buy heads of lettuce and shred it into bite-sized pieces yourself. Can you buy the apples in the bag? At my store if I get a bag of apples it costs $6.99 but there's easily 12+ apples in there as opposed to buying them one by one at a cost of $.89 - $1.09 each.

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Old 01-07-2008, 07:53 PM
 
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Also, we don't have Trader Joe's here, but do they have a bulk department? If there's anything you use a lot, see if you can get a case and get a 10% discount (I used to work at Whole Foods and that's something we'd do).

Also, if you really want to cut back, stick to organis for your produce, but use conventional for some of the other stuff. I used powdered milk for baking. These days soy milk is cheaper than cow's milk. Would anyone try that? I buy organic when I can, but I have to keep our financial heads above water too. Sometimes it's the big bag o' rice and big bag o' beans!
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Old 01-07-2008, 08:05 PM
 
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WOW! Those prices seem really high to me. I don't know if that's just CA vs. MO.

* $6.99 large bag of real cheddar cheese - I think ours runs about $4/lb that's the point at which I will buy.
* $2 per avacado or sale for $1.50 - We never buy unless they are $1* Grape jelly jar $3.54
* Oatmeal pouches I buy generic on sale but usually $3.49 a box - I would really try to use regular oatmeal. We get huge boxes at Costco. Experiment with cooking it in the microwave or crockpot. I think ours will microwave on level 2 of 10 for 5 minutes. We add our own bonuses - raisins/craisins, applesauce, cinnamon sugar, etc. Could the bigger boys take care of that?
* $4.49 for 32oz cottage cheese - I buy it when it's $2.49 or less
* Bread $2.79 to $4.19 a loaf - Do you have a 'bread thrift store' where you could stock up and freeze a few loaves
* Oranges $0.71 each - I will only by if they are 4/$1 or better
* $3.69 for 6oz bagged salad - Check out Costco for their salad. I think we get 1 to 3 pounds of salad or spinach for about $4

With $1000/month, I would track every expenditure, like you have here.

Also, start a price book, that lists the item and the prices you pay for them. You might find that certain items are on sale every three weeks, and maybe can hold off on buying them/stock up when they are on sale. For example, I know that avacodos will go on sale for $1 at some point. I just don't buy them unless they are cheap (or DH is planning a special menu that requires them.) You might find that Costco is the way to go for certain items, like the peanut butter and salad, but not the cheese. We do a LOT of our shopping at Costco. For the most part we do better there, but it's not a hard and fast rule.

When I was a little girl, my mom would plan the menu for one or two weeks based on the grocery ad. If chicken was on sale, that's what we had. If cans of tuna were cheap, we were going to eat tuna salad.

I'm more likely to stock up when it's on sale and try to use it later. But that can also be expensive if you have to go out for a 'few' ingredients that aren't already in the pantry.

Do you have any option to 'grow your own' when it comes to salad, herbs or veggies?

I shop at regular groceries, Big Lots, Costco and the 'bread store.' We also have a small vegetable garden and belong to a U-pick-it CSA. When we were budgeting, it was about $250/month for food, not including the CSA. We frequently went over the food budget, but it was under $300.

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Old 01-07-2008, 08:13 PM
 
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Here are some tips that might help:

1) buy instant oatmeal (generic version of Quaker Instant Oats). NOT the kind in the pouches, just the kind in the cannister. You can microwave this and it is just like the packets. Add brown sugar, raisins honey, or some fruit and away you go. Or, I really like mine mixed with some applesauce or fruit flavored yogurt. It takes the same amt of time/effort for the most part you just have to measure it out. I just estimate how much water to add too. We like it with those cinnamon red-hot candies too for a special treat.

2) The cheese sounds expensive. I can buy a 2 lb brick of Tillamook cheddar for $4.99 on sale - it is regularly 6.99 or 8.99. It freezes well too. If you still want to buy pre-shredded stuff to save time, watch for sales and freeze it. Costco often have really good prices on cheese too.

3) Do you have a bread outlet? We have an orowheat outlet that I can't go to often because it's only open from 9-4 m-f when I'm at work, but it has loaves that are regularly $4-5 for only 99c. When I do get to go there I stock up because it freezes well. I also get english muffins, bagels, and other random things (Pacific organic boxed soups, peanut butter, jam, pretzels, etc) there too.

4) One store near me (I have two to choose from) usually has milk on sale for $2.89 or $3.19 per gallon. I usually buy two at a time for this special price. Costco usually has milk at 2/$6 also.

5) We get corn tortillas at our Costco, they freeze well too. See if yours has these. Also our Costco has 2/$4-5 reasonably good quality loaves of bread.

6) Instead of buying the small 6 oz bagged salads, our store has these big 1lb plastic boxes of salad greens. They work out to be less expensive and they are often on sale BOGO. They don't keep for long but they are cheaper than the bagged salads. THe bagged salads also go on BOGO often and I will buy them then.

The chicken, turkey sound expensive - do you mean deli slices, or things like boneless/skinless breasts and ground turkey?

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Old 01-07-2008, 08:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Also, we don't have Trader Joe's here, but do they have a bulk department? Also... stick to organis for your produce, but use conventional for some of the other stuff. These days soy milk is cheaper than cow's milk. Would anyone try that? Sometimes it's the big bag o' rice and big bag o' beans!
Rice and beans here too!

No bulk I've found except nuts. Not at Safeway or Trader Joes.

I can barely buy organics at this point. Not even produce and milk . I get the organic cereals for the boys at Trader Joes because they're cheaper than any cereals anywhere. The bonus is that they're not crap.

Hadn't thought of trying soy milks again. The boys were less than thrilled with anything but the chocolate or the very vanilla. We don't drink milk except for cereals, so I don't think that will work either.

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Maybe give up the cereal and packaged oatmeal, making rolled or steel cut oats from scratch instead. Also, instead of buying sliced turkey or turkey sausages, try buying a whole chicken and roasting it then you can use the meat throughout the week. Instead of buying bagged salad, see if you can buy it in bulk... Can you buy the apples in the bag?
We can try the bulk oatmeal again once I have a free hand to make it. Hard to do with the baby right now, but will try!

I don't think bulk lettuce heads are cheaper than the bags.Maybe they are. But we don't use iceburg lettuce because it's got little nutrition. So I wonder if the bulk Romaine or butter lettuce is cheaper?

A whole chicken would definitely be cheaper but we don't buy them. Embarassingly if I see bones or tendons or veins I will vomit So we buy clean thighs or breasts when we buy it. Can't help myself.

Bagged apples are cheaper and I will see what I can find. Our problem is that if they're not yummy apples, they don't get eaten. Apples are great for the body, so I like to push them on the boys (and myself) but a lot of kinds I am finding around here just aren't great. I'll try!

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Old 01-07-2008, 08:26 PM
 
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Also, why don't you simply bake your bread? You can make great bread for under 75 cents.

ETA: You can also make oatmeal in the slowcooker or do baked oatmeal so you don't have to watch it.

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Old 01-07-2008, 08:40 PM
 
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Try Steel Cut Oats in the crockpot overnight - YUM!

Here's the recipe I use:
2 C. Oats
5 C. Water
1-2 tsp. Cinnamon
1-2 peeled apples, cut in chunks
1/2 C. raisins (I add in the morning, I don't like bloated raisins.)

In the morning, add brown sugar, butter, milk, whatever you like. Makes plenty and reheats well, too.

Do you meal plan?

Can you buy more in bulk at costco? I get almost all of my produce, milk, eggs, cheese, meat, bread, baking supplies, coffee... etc., etc., etc. there. If you plan meals and stick to it, freeze portions if need be, it can really add up.

With a new babe, sometimes we have to sacrifice $ for convenience, though. I totally understand that, and fully expect the budget to go up a bit for us in the next bit.
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Old 01-07-2008, 08:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I wish I could get those prices HydeParkB and crayola! Guess that's what mom was talking about. In two years here I've never seen an avacado for $1 or a container of cottage cheese for $2.49. It just doesn't happen even with sales.

I've got to wait on the oatmeal until I can cook it myself. The kids microwave their own pouches... If I let them at the canister oatmeal and all the things they want to put in it, I would have a HUGE mess on my hands even if you can microwave it.

We do some shopping at Costco for things like peanut butter, but they don't have a lot of what we use and it's 20-30 minutes away from here. The last time I boughty avacados there I don't think they ever left the hard as a rock stage.

No bread stores locally and in CA a few miles can mean tons of minutes of traffic. The next closest towns are 20-45 minutes away because of traffic.

I will be checking out the local farm markets though.

We're trying to figure out if we can grow things in containers because there's no where else we can do a garden. U-pick-it I have never heard of!

We're looking for a freezer so we can start freezing breads. We don't have the space now (apartment sized fridge).

We buy Foster Farms ground turkey or chicken breasts. Thighs are a little cheaper. We also buy $7.99 a pound deli turkey sliced.

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Old 01-07-2008, 08:41 PM
 
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Quick cook oats are super easy to make. My 9 y/o can do it.
1/2 cup oats (instant bulk) with 3/4 cup water in a coffee cup in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir and cook for 30 more seconds, add frozen blueberries, honey, whatever.
I remember mornings being rough too when my baby was younger. You could even put the oatmeal in cups the night before and leave them and the measuring cup of water out on the counter. I bet your kids would love it!
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Old 01-07-2008, 08:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Snowbunny, TattooedMama and Shanna,

I've asked about baking bread before but I think it would end up not working for us. I would have to make it fresh all the time and I have a huge crunch of time already with the babe (who won't let me put him down!) and the chores like laundry and diapers for the six of us.

Thanks for that recipe and oatmeal ideas!!!!!!!! I am going to try that ASAP!

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Old 01-07-2008, 08:49 PM
 
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Thanks for that recipe and oatmeal ideas!!!!!!!! I am going to try that ASAP!
Forgot to mention that it's best at about 8 hours on low. You can let it go up to 10 hours, but it gets a bit overdone, imo. So dump it all in the crock right before bed.
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Old 01-07-2008, 08:55 PM
 
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I have an awesome no knead bread recipe too. It is IDIOT proof I swear!
(We have babies about the same age. I understand about time management! I used to poo-poo the suggestions of "make your own bread! You'll save time AND money." Yeah right.) I swear this bread is less trouble than using my old bread maker. It's one of those artisan European crusty breads... you could easily make your own foccacia and rolls and such. I was wondering if this was the kind of bread you were spending $4-5 a loaf on.
Let me know and I'll send you the recipe if you are interested.
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Old 01-07-2008, 09:04 PM
 
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I live in the PNW, and noticed a few months ago that my grocery bill was similar. We're vegetarians, so no meat, but we do like our vino and fancy cheese. I'm preggo now, so one of those is cut out, but I found our grocery list went way down with not too much effort when I tried these:

- eat more seasonally. Some of the veggies you mention are out of season, and so will cost a lot more and not be as good for you anyway. This also helps you eat locally, which is all warm and fuzzy earth wise.

- cut down the fancy breads. I see you are spending a lot of your money on specialty breads. Occaisionally make drop biscuits for dinner, buy the specialty breads frozen.

- and when you buy regular bread, buy on sale and in bulk, and then freeze.

I give myself a pass on some of the convenience items- we buy those boxes of greens, too, and it's 4 times the cost of a head of lettuce. But because of that I eat salad every single day, which would not be true if it involved washing lettuce and restocking the lettuce heads more often. Still, though, bagged salad, fruit cups, specialty bread, and out of season produce adds up in a hurry. If it were me I'd try cutting all that out one week, see how much it saved you, and whether it was worth it for the way you eat without some of that convenience.
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Old 01-07-2008, 09:10 PM
 
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I wish I could get those prices HydeParkB and crayola! Guess that's what mom was talking about. In two years here I've never seen an avacado for $1 or a container of cottage cheese for $2.49. It just doesn't happen even with sales.

I've got to wait on the oatmeal until I can cook it myself. The kids microwave their own pouches... If I let them at the canister oatmeal and all the things they want to put in it, I would have a HUGE mess on my hands even if you can microwave it.

We do some shopping at Costco for things like peanut butter, but they don't have a lot of what we use and it's 20-30 minutes away from here. The last time I boughty avacados there I don't think they ever left the hard as a rock stage.

No bread stores locally and in CA a few miles can mean tons of minutes of traffic. The next closest towns are 20-45 minutes away because of traffic.

We're trying to figure out if we can grow things in containers because there's no where else we can do a garden. U-pick-it I have never heard of!

We're looking for a freezer so we can start freezing breads. We don't have the space now (apartment sized fridge).

We buy Foster Farms ground turkey or chicken breasts. Thighs are a little cheaper. We also buy $7.99 a pound deli turkey sliced.

If you can get a freezer, look at Costco for chicken - I get boneless/skinless chicken breasts at costco, Foster Farms, and they come in pre-sealed packs of two breasts each perfect for freezing. It is about $2.99-3.99/lb. That is a lot less than you are paying now. I can get ground turkey that way too. I am in the Seattle area and food is kind of expensive here too compared to other parts of the country (my mom from NH is always shocked when she visits) so I am really surprised you cannot find prices lower even where you are. Wow. I can't get as low as a lot of people on here but I can't imagine paying what you pay all the time! 7.99 for deli meat is reasonable I guess although I pay about 4.99/lb, I don't buy the good for you kind :

My mom just got a small chest freezer, it is the same size as an under-counter fridge (dorm fridge size), and it cost her $50. It is really worth it for her to be able to stock up on things when they are on sale. Good luck.

For the oatmeal - I buy the cannisters of instant, and then measure it out into baggies in the right proportion for one serving and add a bit of brown sugar. I take these to work so I always have a snack when I need one. If you could take a little time when you get home from the grocery store to do this I am sure your kids would adapt and it ends up being just as easy as the prepackaged kinds. Even still if you want to stick with the prepackaged kinds - they go on HUGE sale 2x/year or so and if you can get some coupons around that time you can get it really, really inexpensively. SOmeone on here got something like 20 boxes for $1.00 or something like that.

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Old 01-07-2008, 09:11 PM
 
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I have an awesome no knead bread recipe too. It is IDIOT proof I swear!
(We have babies about the same age. I understand about time management! I used to poo-poo the suggestions of "make your own bread! You'll save time AND money." Yeah right.) I swear this bread is less trouble than using my old bread maker. It's one of those artisan European crusty breads... you could easily make your own foccacia and rolls and such. I was wondering if this was the kind of bread you were spending $4-5 a loaf on.
Let me know and I'll send you the recipe if you are interested.
I would love this recipe if you don't mind sharing! I have recently started baking bread. It's hard to slice a loaf properly for sandwiches at home I find so I am trying to make more artisan breads because they don't need to be sliced "properly"

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Old 01-07-2008, 09:16 PM
 
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* $6.99 large bag of real cheddar cheese (comparable to buying a block and shredding it myself, so I buy the bag)
* $2 per avacado or sale for $1.50
* Peanut butter from Costco.. not sure of price
* $2.99 (?) boxes of cereal (organic from Trader Joes)
* Grape jelly jar $3.54
* $3.19-$3.50 for 16oz margarine
* $4.49 half gallon Lactaid
* $3.49 to $4.49 gallon of milk
* $5.99 a pound chicken and turkey in the package
* $7.99 a pound Deli turkey
* Oatmeal pouches I buy generic on sale but usually $3.49 a box
* $4.49 for 32oz cottage cheese
* Bread $2.79 to $4.19 a loaf
* Oranges $0.71 each
* $3.69 for 6oz bagged salad
* $1.69 lbs sweet potatoes
* $0.25 to $1.00 each potato depending on kind
* Apples $0.60-$1.00 each *gulp!*

Do you have any advice for us?
As I was looking over your list I noticed quite a few things that *I* would cut, but only you will know if it's reasonable for your family.

I'd eliminate all convenient cereals and cook up whole grain cereals (like real oatmeal) or have alternative foods for breakfast (eggs, leftovers, whatever works for you guys).

I'd cut out the packaged foods. Leaf lettuce in a bunch is far cheaper than bagged salads usually. I'd also eliminate buying vegetables individually. You should be able to buy them by the pound or in multi-pound bags far cheaper.

I'd cut out the deli meats and cheeses and instead cook up meat and use that if your family really demands meat on sandwiches. There are far cheaper meals than sandwiches, though.

I do know your prices are quite a bit higher than in my locale, but I feed a family of four (and I'm pregnant, too) for under $400/month. We eat a lot and usually have meat twice a day now that I'm pregnant. I homeschool so both of the kids are here for all meals and DH only eats once a day with us except weekends.

For us the best way to reduce grocery expenses was to buy whole foods in bulk and cook from scratch. Tonight's dinner, for instance is beef stew (beef, broth, onions, potatoes, celery, carrots) and home baked bread. It took me about a 1/2 hour to prepare (with my 3 y/o's help) and about 40 minutes to cook. We baked the bread last night because we like a hard crust and it helps to leave it out a day or so before slicing.
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Old 01-07-2008, 09:20 PM
 
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I've asked about baking bread before but I think it would end up not working for us. I would have to make it fresh all the time and I have a huge crunch of time already with the babe (who won't let me put him down!) and the chores like laundry and diapers for the six of us.
Get a bread maker, then!!!

I had an extremely colicky dairy allergic DD and got our bread machine because I couldn't afford dairy free bread. I just dump the ingredients in the machine and push a few buttons. The machine does the rest!!

I held my DD in my left arm or in a sling while I assembled the ingredients. If that's not possible for you, then do it when someone else is home to hold the baby.
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Old 01-07-2008, 09:23 PM
 
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Would you mind posting what region of California you live in? I am also in California and may have some specific recommendations.

How many people are you feeding?

Let me read back through the thread to make sure I'm not duplicating...
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Old 01-07-2008, 09:34 PM
 
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* $6.99 large bag of real cheddar cheese (comparable to buying a block and shredding it myself, so I buy the bag)
How big is the bag? I prefer to get my own blocks of cheese and grate them myself - no weird white powder and such to keep the cheese from chunking back together or preservatives. I buy a big 1.5lb wheel of Romano from Costco for $8-$9 every 4-6mo, grate it all in one evening with a rotary hand grater and freeze in separate little packages. I also buy 32oz loaves of Tillamook cheddar for $4 on sale (I currently have 4 in the fridge - they don't freeze well for me). One of our best investments was a $6 grater from Ikea - a plastic oval bowl with two grating dealies that just fasten on - so easy to grate; much better than those annoying stand-up grating things.
* $2 per avocado or sale for $1.50
* Peanut butter from Costco.. not sure of price
Here it's $6-$7/2-pack of organic peanut butter - same price as Jif, honestly.
* $2.99 (?) boxes of cereal (organic from Trader Joes)
* Grape jelly jar $3.54
Look into making your own when grapes are in season in your area or something - tastes better, and no high fructose corn syrup! You can do freezer jam and not have to mess with canning, too. I can't stand store-bought jams or jellies - I got spoiled on my grandma's homemade stuff, and since we ran out of stuff (she died in 2001), I had to start making my own or do without.
* $3.19-$3.50 for 16oz margarine
* $4.49 half gallon Lactaid
* $3.49 to $4.49 gallon of milk
* $5.99 a pound chicken and turkey in the package
* $7.99 a pound Deli turkey
Look into buying bone-in turkey breasts or whole chickens on sale - roast yoruself, pick off the meat for dinner/lunchmeats, and use the carcass for broth if desired (I do a bunch of canning, so I pressure can broth when I make some, my freezer is teeny). Before Thanksgiving I got a bunch of turkeys, roasted, and just froze the meat itself for lunchmeat use later on. I make hubby cut up raw meat or the roasted beasts - I just don't like the feel of messing around with raw chicken right now.
* Oatmeal pouches I buy generic on sale but usually $3.49 a box
If you can find instant oatmeal canisters (I assume instant's what you're talking about) for relatively cheap, you can totally make your own instant oatmeal. I found some recipes somewhere... allrecipes.com or something, I forget. Works pretty well if you actually use 'em, too. It's just like instant oatmeal, you just need a measuring cup or something in the canister.
* $4.49 for 32oz cottage cheese
* Bread $2.79 to $4.19 a loaf
* Oranges $0.71 each
* $3.69 for 6oz bagged salad
This week an entire head of lettuce is $.68 from my grocery store. Sure, you have to rinse and cut or rip, but really... To save later prep time, just wash and cut right when you bring home, stick in a ziploc with a paper towel or two, and you're good for the week. Even when they're regularly $1.79/head, it's still a better deal. Even the big bag of romaine heads from Costco is probably a better deal - like 4-5 heads of romaine/leaf lettuce for like $5-$6 here.
* $1.69 lbs sweet potatoes
* $0.25 to $1.00 each potato depending on kind
Yikes. Maybe look into root cellaring next year. And maybe growing your own if you have the space/inclination.
* Apples $0.60-$1.00 each *gulp!*
Some apples can live in the fridge for a few months past picking and stay good. We've got some Granny Smiths out in the garage still. They were picked... back in October I think.

Pizza sauce - get an 8oz can of tomato sauce, mix in a teaspoon or whatever of italian spices. That's my cheap/easy version. Works fine for us.

We've also become food snobs, so we *really* eat in season nowadays. I don't touch grapes until... June I think? Don't buy a ton of apples until fall (sure, I'll buy 3-6 here and there from the grocery store, but not my half a dozen 40lb boxes from the farmer's market until August/September!). Same with strawberries and raspberries (June!), asparagus (May-June), corn (August/September), tomatoes (July-September), etc. Things tend to go on sale when there's more of a glut, you know? Or I can grow it or go pick it from a local farm or buy it at the farmers market. We're getting into more of a groove of eating slightly more local when we can. Heck, the strawberries? I go and do u-pick and it's only $1/pound or so. I only got enough for jam and fresh eating last year, this year you bet I'm picking as many as I can to stick in the freezer whole and sliced. The ones in the freezer at the store are just awful.

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Old 01-07-2008, 09:46 PM
 
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I've never seen an avacado for $1 or a container of cottage cheese for $2.49. It just doesn't happen even with sales.

I've got to wait on the oatmeal until I can cook it myself. The kids microwave their own pouches... If I let them at the canister oatmeal and all the things they want to put in it, I would have a HUGE mess on my hands even if you can microwave it.

We do some shopping at Costco for things like peanut butter, but they don't have a lot of what we use and it's 20-30 minutes away from here. The last time I boughty avacados there I don't think they ever left the hard as a rock stage.

I will be checking out the local farm markets though.

We're trying to figure out if we can grow things in containers because there's no where else we can do a garden. U-pick-it I have never heard of!

We're looking for a freezer so we can start freezing breads. We don't have the space now (apartment sized fridge).

We buy Foster Farms ground turkey or chicken breasts. Thighs are a little cheaper. We also buy $7.99 a pound deli turkey sliced.
Okay, a couple of things spring to mind:

1. EAT LOCAL & IN SEASON. Especially in California, where there is always something yummy in season! If you are looking to save money you can't be buying things like avacados and raspberries out of season. Right now we are eating a TON of mandarins because those are what is growing locally - we are not eating avacados. We eat a ton of greens during the winter, and a ton of fruit during the summer. I think that "we" (most Americans) have been lead to believe that we should buy whatever sounds good the minute it sounds good - which is hell for our wallets, our local farmers, and our environment. Eating locally and in season has changed my life for the better. It is extra fun if you use it as a chance to get to know your area.

2. Find your farmer's market, and look for a CSA. Depending on where you are this can be a huge boon.

3. Get to know your Costco. A lot of the items you posted are cheaper at Costco - for example bread is the same cost, but for TWO loaves. I buy chicken for $5.99/lb but it is ORGANIC. Cheese, oatmeal, PB & J, Soda, wine, some produce, paper products, organic canned tomato products, organic dairy are IME way cheaper at Costco.

4. You have a lot of extravagant foods in your list - deli meats, specialty breads, bagged lettuce, exotic produce. These are all high ticket items. Instead of deli meat pre-cook some chicken and slice or shred for sandwiches. Don't buy labor saving products - because you are paying for the convienence - ie. oatmeal in packets (use ziplocs to divide up bulk), bagged lettuce, naan. Not everything that sounds good can always fit in your budget. I looked at the naan in our store the other day and thought "wow, that sounds good!" But it was almost $4! That is really expensive for an extra! So either make your own (cheap!), do without, or buy it and realize that it is a TREAT.
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Old 01-07-2008, 10:13 PM
 
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Your list looks a lot like mine often is....

Lets parse it out a bit...

$6.99 large bag of real cheddar cheese (comparable to buying a block and shredding it myself, so I buy the bag)

What is "large?" I buy a large block of chedder for $3.00/pound.
With cheese, the trick is to use smaller amounts. For us, that block of cheddar lasts several weeks.

* $2 per avacado or sale for $1.50

I don't buy them at that price. I love avocado, but we really only indulge when they are 3/$5 or less, and even then, I get one at a time.

* Peanut butter from Costco.. not sure of price

I splurge a bit here, because I get the all-natural stuff. I buy it from a place where I grew up that roasts and grinds on site and I get 5-10 pounds at a time. Between visits home, I get the all-natural Smuckers or store brand, for 2.69/jar (1-pound jar). Again, we make it last by spreading it thinner.

* $2.99 (?) boxes of cereal (organic from Trader Joes)

I just don't do much prepared cereal any more. Even the organic stuff is full of corn syrup these days.

* Grape jelly jar $3.54

That seems really high, although I dont' know the size. Store brands are my friend - I get a big jar of store-brand triple-fruit spread for 1.99 --- less, on sale.

* $3.19-$3.50 for 16oz margarine

That's more expensive than butter? Wow. I get Smart Balance for 1.99/tub (1lb tub), and coupons are often available there. Or I use butter...

* $4.49 half gallon Lactaid
* $3.49 to $4.49 gallon of milk

THose prices look okay - I buy store brand milk, but organic, and I think its $5.99/gallon

* $5.99 a pound chicken and turkey in the package

For those prices, are you getting non-hormone? What cuts are you buying? That seems high to me, compared to around here. At my store this weekend, $4.99/lb got you hormone and antibiotic free boneless chicken breasts.

* $7.99 a pound Deli turkey


* Oatmeal pouches I buy generic on sale but usually $3.49 a box

Bulk is better, both for your wallet and for your body - many of the benefits of oatmeal are decreased when it is pulverized into "instant" form, and the sweetners and flavors in the little packets are not the best kinds.

* $4.49 for 32oz cottage cheese
What kind? I buy a brand, not store-brand, and don't pay that much?

* Bread $2.79 to $4.19 a loaf
We make our own... the bread machine was a splurge, but given how much of it we eat, I calculate it paid for itself pretty quickly, the bread is better, and the ingredients are a fraction of this....

Barring that, buying on sale and freezing? Or - cutting carbs and eating less of it? LOL!

* Oranges $0.71 each
This looks pretty good to me, living in upstate NY where the land of citrus is far away...

* $3.69 for 6oz bagged salad
... although that price on oranges makes me wonder why this is so pricey. I can get a huge tub of organic salad greens for $6/lb. They *grow* my greens out by you, probably, so why yours are more I would not know.

* $1.69 lbs sweet potatoes
* $0.25 to $1.00 each potato depending on kind

This looks like about what we pay for potatoes.

* Apples $0.60-$1.00 each *gulp!*
Wow.... gulp is right. Admittedly, we do live in the Land of Apples, and can buy a stunning variety of locally grown ones.

I found that tracking the sales and keeping price lists really helped me learn where the deals were and how to keep my costs down. The seasonal differences in some vegetables are really large, and eating with the seasons can make a big difference in your food budget. I love berries, but right now its $3 for a tiny little 3oz container, where that might get me a full quart in summer. So if I really want berries now, I go for frozen. Citrus, on the other hand, is coming into season -- while apples are really over their peak now.

The other thing to reduce costs is to reduce the expensive proteins. Right now, the big sticking point in my budget is dairy - it has gone up quite a bit, and so our grocery bill has climbed despite my efforts to keep it low. So while we all love it, we've chosen to scale back consumption a bit. Smaller amounts of yogurt (bought in the large tubs), smaller servings of cottage cheese, less cheese used in cooking, etc. We also do not eat meat every day. Eggs are a fabulous source of protein, good fat, and the rest, and you can mix up a mean meal with them for very little $$

savithny, 42 year old moderate mom to DS Primo (age 12) and DD Secunda (age 9).

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Old 01-07-2008, 10:14 PM
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-- I buy some things on sale (trying harder this month) -- I buy mostly only necessities and we bring in very little junk food
-- I don't buy tons of processed stuff
-- I don't buy a ton of meat but don't buy the cheapest stuff either
-- I don't buy all name brands.

-- I am feeding my husband one meal and a snack a day M-F and three meals and snacks Sat/Sun. He's got Celiac's Disease so he can't eat just anything.
-- Mon thru Sun I am feeding two boys (6 and 9) three meals and snacks
-- M-F one son (12 years) 2 meals and snacks (I pay for school lunches), three meals and snacks on weekends
-- Of course I eat 2-3 meals and snacks per day and my youngest is exclusively breastfed

Here are some of the prices we pay on items we use a lot of:

* $6.99 large bag of real cheddar cheese (comparable to buying a block and shredding it myself, so I buy the bag)I'd check that price carefully!

* $2 per avacado or sale for $1.50Only buy them on sale
* Peanut butter from Costco.. not sure of price
* $2.99 (?) boxes of cereal (organic from Trader Joes)
* Grape jelly jar $3.54 Store brand?
* $3.19-$3.50 for 16oz margarine
* $4.49 half gallon Lactaid
* $3.49 to $4.49 gallon of milk
* $5.99 a pound chicken and turkey in the package Buy only when on sale, stock up. Get it with the bones and cut it yourself. Use teh bones to make soup.
* $7.99 a pound Deli turkeyWe buy only the cold cuts on sale. No sale? Then we eat tuna, pbj, or I make meatlaof and use that for sandwiches. A roast works too.
* Oatmeal pouches I buy generic on sale but usually $3.49 a boxForget those expensive singel servings. Make a pot, add brown sugar, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon. YUM!!! And cheap.
* $4.49 for 32oz cottage cheese
* Bread $2.79 to $4.19 a loaf
* Oranges $0.71 eachBuy them by the bag
* $3.69 for 6oz bagged saladA head of lettuce is $1.50 or so, and will make twice as much salad.
* $1.69 lbs sweet potatoes
* $0.25 to $1.00 each potato depending on kindBuy them by the bag. Much cheaper
* Apples $0.60-$1.00 each *gulp!*These too

Also buying lots of fruit cups lately, make your ownpico de guillo, make your owntortillas (must have corn because DH uses them as bread), carrots, frozen veggies, non-meat corn dogs from Trader Joes, kosher hot dogs ,still bad for you. Buy them rarely. yogurt, Buy the quarttortilla chips, naan breads and pizza sauce, frozen pineapple from Trader Joes,special treat focacia bread and some rolls once in a while, Irish oatmeal for DH with steel cut oats (due to his gluten allergies),and much cheaper than the individual packs rice, fresh asparagus and other veggies, tomatoes, ears of corn once in a while, raspberries once in a whilevery, very pricey!.... etc etc etc etc

Looking at this, I wonder if it would be cheaper to hold off on milk and cereal and push more fresh fruits and oatmeal in the morning. I don't see us going more towards the big boxes of oatmeal vs the microwave pouches until the baby gets into the groove of a morning routine without screaming.Just saw this. Takes 5 minutes to make, no chopping or cutting, and your dh eats it anyway!

And wow, no idea one of the loaves of bread we buy was so expenive. Guess I need to use the Safeway website for making my shopping lists in advance.

I was also trying to figure out how I could buy a bushel of apples this fall and actually use them up before they go bad. Call an orchard. Your local state college can probably help you find one, or the CSA.

Do you have any advice for us?

Also, start by cleaning out all your cabinets. Make meals with what you have on hand.
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Old 01-07-2008, 10:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yikes, I just remembered we've been buying Safeway pizzas since the baby was born. Those have got to go. We buy them on sale 4 for $11 but they're SO not good for the kids. So that's step #1.

Quote:
Originally Posted by crayolaab View Post
If you can get a freezer, look at Costco for chicken...I can get ground turkey that way too.

For the oatmeal - I buy the cannisters of instant, and then measure it out into baggies in the right proportion for one serving and add a bit of brown sugar.
That's a great idea for the oatmeal. I will definitely check out that Foster Farms chicken at Costco. I wanted to buy some Safeway O organics chicken today but it was $8.99 a pound!!

We get the deli meat because of nmy husband's gluten allergies. He has so few things he can grab in a pinch on the way out the door, so he stuffs some turkey in a corn tortilla and off he goes. Guess he's going to have to find something else!


TattooedMama, please share your recipe! I was surprised by the $4 loaf of plain old wheat bread. I buy two different brands (whatever I find first or whatever is on sale) and when I looked up the price on the site it was $4!

Anyone can see my prices by going to www.safeway.com and putting in 94558 zip code for the home delivery/browse the store option. You don't have to set up an account to browse.

I am going to try to put him in the sling for EASY bread making and oatmeal mornings. If he doesn't scream... I need a wrap as the ring sling is not doing us any good right now.

My left arm is affected by Erbs Palsy from a birth injury (shoulder dystocia during birth 31 years ago and they yanked me out forcefully and broke my brachioplexus nerve) so it's not easy holding him with one arm and preparing with the other.

Quote:
Originally Posted by hempmama View Post
- eat more seasonally.
- cut down the fancy breads.
- and when you buy regular bread, buy on sale and in bulk, and then freeze.

... I eat salad every single day, which would not be true if it involved washing lettuce and restocking the lettuce heads more often.
The naan is like $2.60 at Trader Joes and makes the boys and I pizzas for one dinner. Once in a while a foccaccia... maybe once every 1-2 months. Otherwise nothing but wheat bread from Safeway.

Not enough room in the freezer for breads at this time. We're trying to find space and a freezer for the garage.

The bags of lettuce definitely allow me to have the boys more easily grab a healthy salad for snack or help with dinner. I do not know how other moms do this but apparently I stink at having three kids and a newborn on top.

I would love to know what's in season... no clue! DH and I were discussing a local farmer's market so we will check that out. Last time I bought from a local far stand things were MORE expensive there. We'll see what the market is like.

The fruit cups are for school lunches. Not sure how to replace peaches and pears in their lunch boxes yet. Suggestions for truly mess proof containers?

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Old 01-07-2008, 10:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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.... what region of California you live in? I am also in California and may have some specific recommendations. How many people are you feeding?
My guess is that is one of my problems... three boys who eat like crazy because they're growing. I have SO often heard and seen that GENERALLY girls cost less to feed. Right now the boys are 6, 9 and 12 and eating like crazy. They're normal weight too, so it's not a kid gone wild issue.

So, three boys and myself and my husband. My husband is gone most of the day but because we cannot afford him to eat out and he hasn't yet learned to take his food, when he is home he eats enough for 2-3 people. I call him the camel.

Anywhoo, I am in Napa, California. I assume that it's because I'm in the famed Napa Valley that prices are so huge? Travelling to a cheaper area would require a HUGE amount of travel time and gas. Where are you? Are your prices comparable? someone in my DDC is looking up co-ops in my area.

Almost a b-ball team: : Taylor -14, Alex -11, Jack -8, Lachlan born at home 11/15/07
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Old 01-07-2008, 10:54 PM
 
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* $5.99 a pound chicken and turkey in the package
Holy cow! What kind of chicken or turkey is 5.99 a pound?!
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Old 01-07-2008, 10:56 PM
 
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Yikes, I just remembered we've been buying Safeway pizzas since the baby was born. Those have got to go. We buy them on sale 4 for $11 but they're SO not good for the kids. So that's step #1.



That's a great idea for the oatmeal. I will definitely check out that Foster Farms chicken at Costco. I wanted to buy some Safeway O organics chicken today but it was $8.99 a pound!!

We get the deli meat because of nmy husband's gluten allergies. He has so few things he can grab in a pinch on the way out the door, so he stuffs some turkey in a corn tortilla and off he goes. Guess he's going to have to find something else!


TattooedMama, please share your recipe! I was surprised by the $4 loaf of plain old wheat bread. I buy two different brands (whatever I find first or whatever is on sale) and when I looked up the price on the site it was $4!

Anyone can see my prices by going to www.safeway.com and putting in 94558 zip code for the home delivery/browse the store option. You don't have to set up an account to browse.

I am going to try to put him in the sling for EASY bread making and oatmeal mornings. If he doesn't scream... I need a wrap as the ring sling is not doing us any good right now.

My left arm is affected by Erbs Palsy from a birth injury (shoulder dystocia during birth 31 years ago and they yanked me out forcefully and broke my brachioplexus nerve) so it's not easy holding him with one arm and preparing with the other.



The naan is like $2.60 at Trader Joes and makes the boys and I pizzas for one dinner. Once in a while a foccaccia... maybe once every 1-2 months. Otherwise nothing but wheat bread from Safeway.

Not enough room in the freezer for breads at this time. We're trying to find space and a freezer for the garage.

The bags of lettuce definitely allow me to have the boys more easily grab a healthy salad for snack or help with dinner. I do not know how other moms do this but apparently I stink at having three kids and a newborn on top.

I would love to know what's in season... no clue! DH and I were discussing a local farmer's market so we will check that out. Last time I bought from a local far stand things were MORE expensive there. We'll see what the market is like.

The fruit cups are for school lunches. Not sure how to replace peaches and pears in their lunch boxes yet. Suggestions for truly mess proof containers?
We get those Safeway pizzas too : They *are* expensive! We try to make our own but honestly I can't really do it cheaper with the cost of mozzarella cheese and the toppings DP likes. We have them every other week for a quick meal night.

I have a recipe for naan if you like. Are you able to set some time aside maybe 1x/week to bake? The naan recipe is easy. I have one for pita bread too. It's even easier if you have a stand mixer. I used to do it all by hand but now I have a mixer and it is easier.

For fruit cups, Tupperware make some containers that are easy to open, or the Gladware small containers if your kids can open those. I use gladware but they can be trickier to open than the tupperware. You can buy large canns of peaches and pears and then dish them up into the tupperware containers - do it once at the start of the week and it takes 5 minutes and the investment in the containers is minimal.

Definitely look into a freezer, I think that would really help you. ITA with you re: not having meat on the bone and it is a PITA but I do pay more not to deal with bones on my meat, it grosses me out. I am slowly getting better about it.

The small bags (Fresh Express, etc) style salads are expensive. The Large containers ( I forget the brand we have at our safeway but I am sure you have something similar) are a much better value for money and just as easy - prewashed, etc. Just throw in some shredded carrot (I do buy this in the bags when it is on sale, it is such a time saver for me) and you are set.

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Old 01-07-2008, 11:00 PM
 
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Have you tried a grocery outlet store? I put zip code 94558 into the search here - http://www.groceryoutlets.com/storefinder.aspx and there is one within 15 miles of your zip.

I find a lot of organics and vegetarian options at our local store. Good prices on staples and canned goods too. It isn't the fanciest store, ours is pretty bad in fact, but the prices are great.
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Old 01-07-2008, 11:05 PM
 
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Mama, with all those kids and a baby...wow, you're doing great. I can't grow my own wheat and grind it then bake it into bread, or anything similar. I do spend a lot more on food than I have to, but I remember that there are costs for NOT paying for some convenience foods, whether they be time costs, sanity costs or health costs (because for instance, I might not be able to eat salad every day if I have to wash/dry/chop my own lettuce). You have to decide for yourself whether you are able to make other sacrifices for more convenient foods.

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