USDA Food Plan Estimates $ - Where do you fall/what do you think? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 43 Old 05-09-2011, 08:03 AM - Thread Starter
 
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http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2011/CostofFoodMar2011.pdf

 

I'd love to hear discussion on this link. Are you in the thrify category? The liberal? Way below? In between? What do you think?


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#2 of 43 Old 05-09-2011, 08:42 AM
 
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“What is evil? Killing is evil, lying is evil, slandering is evil, abuse is evil, gossip is evil: envy is evil, hatred is evil, to cling to false doctrine is evil; all these things are evil. And what is the root of evil? Desire is the root of evil, illusion is the root of evil.”
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#3 of 43 Old 05-09-2011, 08:54 AM
 
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Everyone always says this chart is a huge overestimate, but I fall in the low-cost plan (not the thrifty plan). And that feels ok to me because I certainly worry about the cost of food and hardly going out and buying caviar (or even avocados - that's a treat for me). Most people say that they spend about half of the thrifty plan and don't even feel the pinch.

 

DH and I did a PB&J diet for about a year when we were saving up for a downpayment for our house (pre-DD). We spent $35 a week for the two of us (there was some cereal and rice and beans involved too). I think that if I ate that way again I'd be shortening my life by a lot. I just can't eat that way anymore.

 

Now slurping up the last of my breakfast bone broth soup (lots of good marrow in this one).


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#4 of 43 Old 05-10-2011, 09:16 PM
 
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We fall somewhere between low-cost and thrifty.  Not that I trust anything from the government but that makes me feel pretty good.  Sheepish.gif


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#5 of 43 Old 05-12-2011, 06:24 AM
 
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We're at about 2/3of the thrifty plan.  I find it hard to meet that budget, but it is what it is. 

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#6 of 43 Old 05-13-2011, 06:15 PM
 
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We are several hundred dollars below the thirfty.  We spend about $400/month for a family of 5.  We don't eat a ton of meat, I cook almost everything from scratch, we don't do organic, we don't eat out, and I shop at just one store (Winco) twice a month (less trips to the store = less money spent.)  For us, it HAS to be this way, or else mama would not be able to stay at home!!!  It may not be an ideal way to eat, but we are a very weight healthy family and we don't live in an ideal world, we make the best out of what we have!  This is a great resource for cook on the cheap: http://www.amazon.com/Family-Feasts-75-Week-Penny-wise/dp/B004WB19P8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1305335652&sr=8-1 and I was even able to check it out, and make a bunch of copies from it at my library so I didn't hardly spend on that either.


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#7 of 43 Old 05-16-2011, 07:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alvenchrst View Post

We are several hundred dollars below the thirfty.  We spend about $400/month for a family of 5.  We don't eat a ton of meat, I cook almost everything from scratch, we don't do organic, we don't eat out, and I shop at just one store (Winco) twice a month (less trips to the store = less money spent.)  For us, it HAS to be this way, or else mama would not be able to stay at home!!!



We're in the same boat. We spend $200-$250/month for a family of three. I totally agree that reducing meat consumption (fish and beans!), cooking from scratch, and shopping only twice a month saves TONS. Shopping twice a month has really helped us stay on budget. It's amazing.

 

Also, most of my food is not organic, but I do buy organic berries (I always buy the frozen, store-brand organic ones - way cheaper than fresh) and organic salad (spinach, romaine etc). I try to buy organic on the things where I feel like the pesticides are touching the actual food (not the peel) and harder to 'rinse' off. I also buy organic bananas because they're not much more than the others and they have SOOO much more flavor.

 

Glad to hear we're not the only below-thrifty household.


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#8 of 43 Old 05-17-2011, 12:11 PM
 
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We're in the thrifty plan for our family of 4 (soon-to-be five), and that includes things like cleaning supplies and toiletries.  We don't buy organic unless there is a sale.

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#9 of 43 Old 05-17-2011, 03:59 PM
 
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WHOA!!! It's just us two for now, and I spent about 200-300 a month and my S.O. eats like a HORSE! And that number includes toilet paper, paper towels, detergents of all kinds, etc etc..I shop at discount places and use coupons. Geez, how does anyone afford those prices?


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#10 of 43 Old 05-18-2011, 06:57 AM
 
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If you're asking me.... I dunno, it's really, really hard. We're sinking because of it.


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#11 of 43 Old 05-19-2011, 10:45 AM
 
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We spend a LOT on food.  I try to get all organic- especially for produce- and Im eating a ton of it these days being pregnant and all....

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#12 of 43 Old 05-20-2011, 11:00 PM
 
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There is no place on the chart for us. We spend around $200 a month total, and that is for 2 adults and one baby. And that number will drop even more over the next 3 years.
Reason being, we have chickens, goats and are working towards growing all our own veges. We also hunt and fish. And for milk and cream needs beyond what our goats provide, we coordinate a raw milk co-op for a local farmer, and get enough kickback to pay for it.
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#13 of 43 Old 05-22-2011, 06:59 AM
 
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we fall below the thrifty level even when i count the groceries i get from WIC. i'm not religious about cooking from scratch, but the pre-made food is rare. i do shop on base which means its at a discount, and we only do organic when we can afford to splurge. we eat lots of meat (though mostly poultry), and snacks. i think a huge part of eating cheaply is planning ahead. i make a list of the meals and snacks i'll make for two weeks, write the shopping list accordingly, and then stick to it. we spend about 100 every two weeks, 140 counting WIC, for two adults and a solids eating baby.


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#14 of 43 Old 05-22-2011, 03:57 PM
 
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For our family of 3--2 adults (51-70) and one 13 yo--I spend between $100 and $125 a week.  It all depends on how much I need to buy to restock the pantry.  I have spent as little as $35 and as high as $150.  But that includes everything--paper products, soaps, light bulbs, school supplies (we home school).  I also shop up to 5 stores a week--farmer's market, Costco, mainstream grocery store, alternative/health food grocery store, and 99 cent store.  Farmer's market and alternative grocery store for fresh, local produce.  Alternative grocery store for bulk items.  Costco and mainstream grocery store for meat and non-food items.  99 cent store for canned goods and non-food items.


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#15 of 43 Old 05-22-2011, 04:45 PM
 
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We're between thrifty and low cost, and that's almost entirely organic. We're a family of 3, vegan, and spend about $120 a week on groceries. That's almost no processed foods, lots of beans and grains and fruit and veggies. We buy most of our veggies from the farmer's market, we only eat produce that isn't local in March and April when I get to the point where I think I will cry if I eat another orange or kiwi. Then we splurge a little on a couple of mangos, a pineapple and a bunch of bananas.

 

We have 9 fruit trees (only 2 are fully mature and producing so far) and a small veggie garden that help a bit with food costs. It's nice to be able to go pick a dozen oranges, slice them and have a potluck contribution. The garden doesn't get enough sun for winter production, but we have generous amounts of peas coming in right now, and greens that will be ready soon.

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#16 of 43 Old 05-22-2011, 04:58 PM
 
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That chart seems crazy to me. It says our family of 7 should be spending over 700-800 per month and we spend just about 500. I can't imagine spending that much. We do not eat any organics. We eat meat roughly 5-6 times per week.


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#17 of 43 Old 05-23-2011, 07:17 PM
 
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Our grocery bill has gone up about $50 from 4 years ago.  4 years ago, Joy and family moved in with us and the food budget went from $60-$100 a month for 2 adults and one 10 yo to $600 a month for 4 adults, 3 children (10, 3, and 1).  And then we added my mil when I started taking her dinner every night.  When Joy moved out (and grandma died), I couldn't get the food budget back down to $60.  With a teenage son and the financial situation as it is now, $400 a month is as realistic as it gets.

 

One of the things that the chart doesn't take into account is regional cost of food.  I can get local, organic produce year round at a reasonable price.  But I also have about 10 farmer's markets within 10 miles of my home.  And that's not counting the farm stands.  I can go to a farmer's market every day of the week if I wanted to.  Meat I buy in bulk and store in Joy's chest freezer.  I can get eggs in the summer from my sister when her hens over produce.  She keeps her chickens in a large open chicken coop where they can eat bugs and fresh grass.  they can't be totally free range because of the coyotes.


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#18 of 43 Old 08-08-2011, 10:23 AM
 
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Does this include eating out as well as groceries? I fall in at thrify end of things but if you count in eating out we're on the moderate to higher end, depending on how many times DH has to make trips to wawa for ice tea and snacks during the workday or if we end up eating out (we live in a high COL so it seems like eating out always ends up being a lot)

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#19 of 43 Old 08-08-2011, 08:08 PM
 
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we are right between thrifty and low-cost and we eat pretty well :) I will have to show this to my husband lol he is always bugging me about over spending- we spend about 140 total a week- about 1/3 on produce, 1/3 on staples and grocery items, and the rest on random stuff during the week, like something I forgot for a baking project or something.

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#20 of 43 Old 11-30-2011, 04:28 PM
 
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These are amazing budgets you all have, you should be proud of yourselves.  I've heard many wives claim that $800 to $1000 is the norm for a 3 to 4 person house.  My DH and I spend from thrifty to low.  If I make up most meals of potatoes, rice, beans, pasta and round it off with fruit and veggies in season and buy only things on sale, we do great!  We live on the coast so Farmers market is only May to Oct. and we don't have any discount stores like Food Max, etc.  It makes it more challenging.  However, we don't eat out much, we don't buy meat or dairy but very rarely.  I make some things from scratch and that is a great money saver as you always have things left over to make next time (an example would be bread and pizza dough and having plenty of flour and such on stock).  Buying in bulk and organic in season and making my own almond milk saves pennies.  I also make my own house hold cleaners out of vinegar and dish soap and such.  We don't use paper towels or disposable rags, mops and so on.  I use cloth towels, mop bottom I can wash each time, cleaning rags out of old towels and socks.  I stock up at the store when ever something is on sale, say pasta is 10 or $10, I stock up.  I use the crock pot a lot, pack all our lunches, eat all other meals at home.  I'm also starting a compost and garden for the spring and planting what ever berries will grow here in the fog.  Chickens are also a dream of mine. 

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#21 of 43 Old 12-01-2011, 07:15 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sewchris2642 View Post
One of the things that the chart doesn't take into account is regional cost of food.  I can get local, organic produce year round at a reasonable price.  But I also have about 10 farmer's markets within 10 miles of my home.  And that's not counting the farm stands.  I can go to a farmer's market every day of the week if I wanted to.  Meat I buy in bulk and store in Joy's chest freezer.  I can get eggs in the summer from my sister when her hens over produce.  She keeps her chickens in a large open chicken coop where they can eat bugs and fresh grass.  they can't be totally free range because of the coyotes.


I totally agree with this. We are in a major metro area, no gardening or hunting/gathering, no farms nearby, farmers' markets only in the summer (and then they're not cheaper than the grocery store, just better stuff). My best price on organic eggs, for example, is $3.29/dozen, which I'm sure makes most of you cringe. Organic ground beef is $4.99/lb. at Costco, $5.99 otherwise, etc. etc. I stock up during sales, but there is no room for a major pantry in our apt. Add to that two parents working, read: I cut corners by buying packaged stuff for lunches, although I don't buy TV dinners and that sort of thing. So, nope, we don't make it under the moderate level, although I try. When my freelance work ebbs a bit I do make more snacks, granola, etc. from scratch, which helps.


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#22 of 43 Old 12-01-2011, 07:37 AM
 
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This thread was started in May.  Are most of y'all still in the thrifty category?  Prices just keep going UP!

 

I usually spend about $200 a week, but that includes wine.


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#23 of 43 Old 12-01-2011, 08:30 AM
 
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Our family is a liberal spender according to this chart. And that makes sense, because food politics are incredibly important to us. We care a lot about sustainable agriculture, local food systems, and eating in a way that is good for the planet as well as for ourselves. We only shop at our local co-op (definitely not the cheapest option in town), at local farmer's markets, and we subscribe to a CSA. We also keep a large garden at home, and we trade produce with friends who raise chickens & produce honey. Eating organic is important to us, but even more important is eating food that we're close to. We prefer to know where & how our food is grown and produced and who is producing it. We're not perfect...but that's what we're aiming for.

 

Since we do spend a lot on food ($800-$1000 per month for our family of three), we make some big compromises in other areas of our household budget to make that possible. We don't drive a car (we're avid cyclists & public transportation users) and so our monthly transportation costs are far less than average (we go months without buying a tank of gas, for example).

 

Those are the choices that make sense to our family and so we're pleased and happy to buy & eat expensive food.

 

ETA: DP started a gluten free diet about 6 months ago, and we have seen our food costs go up because of that. She eats a lot of GF specialty products that are pretty pricey, and we've had to be more careful with our planning because though we budget a lot for food, we do have to stay within that budget.

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#24 of 43 Old 12-01-2011, 08:45 AM
 
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I think we are closest to the thrifty plan most of the time. We do eat meat, are shopping at regular grocery stores and only occasionally do we buy organic items.

 

 

 


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#25 of 43 Old 12-01-2011, 09:10 AM
 
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We are a family of 6, w/3 of those appetites being adult-sized, and 2 being teen-sized (they way more than my dh or I do!), and one 5 yo girly appetite.  I just went back and looked at the last 2 months of grocery spending and we are below the thrifty plan.  I spent $517 in November, for instance, and that includes toilet paper, saran wrap, foil, sponges, and catfood.  I don't buy laundry detergent or cleaning products except very rarely (make my own).  We do eat meat every single day, more than once a day, but we get our meat for free or very cheap thru trapping and good meat connections and raising our own (we do spend $150/month on feed and buy hay once every 4 mos or so at $175--hay is awful expensive but we found a great deal on a 4'x3'x8' bale of alfalfa), so if I add that in, that's another $190/month, but not all of that goes under our food budget (like we buy our dogfood at the feed store) so not sure how to figure it....  I guess about $600/month total, which is still lower than the thrifty plan.

 

Oh, I shop Aldi and my local IGA when they have good produce sales.  I do garden, but this last year has been a bust w/the heat and drought.  I now have my first Fall garden, though, which will at least give us some beets, carrots, swiss chard, spinach, and lettuces.  We can get greens from my mom, too.  I can and freeze and dehydrate sale items.


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#26 of 43 Old 12-12-2011, 03:14 PM
 
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I read many of the responses and am really amazed at how all of you can spend just a few hundred dollars a month to feed your family. First, you are to be commended. Second, please write a book to tell all of the other mom's like me EXACTLY how you do it. I honestly have a hard time grasping that a family of 4 or 5 can be fed on 300-400 dollars a month. I have a family of 5. I also homeschool, so we make 3 meals a day. Not to mention a snack. I do use coupons and the list. We have a spending plan for everything. My food bill is usually around 200 or 250 a WEEK! I cook from scratch as well. Maybe it is where you all live? My husband goes to the store with me so he understands too. I watch the sales etc... What am I doing wrong? Any suggestions? My big thought is that it may be the difference in the meals I am making. Any thoughts? I make things like, chili, soups, pot pie, pizza. I really like the 5 ingredients or less. I also only use chicken or turkey. I would really appreciate any input to help reduce my spending. According to the USDA plan I think we would fall into the low cost-moderate for a family of 5. I also include all cleaning supplies into my food budget.

Thanks!!

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#27 of 43 Old 12-12-2011, 07:09 PM
 
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We have a family of 4, with younger kids. We spend less than $600/month on average, so about halfway between thrifty and low-cost. We really don't have the option of year-round famer's markets or the like (so ironic given we live in the Great Plains/Breadbasket of the US), but we do find other ways to get fresh food. Probably the biggest expense is ordering foods online (such as cheeses, butters and "exotic" foods).


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#28 of 43 Old 12-13-2011, 10:28 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lmrej View Post

I read many of the responses and am really amazed at how all of you can spend just a few hundred dollars a month to feed your family. First, you are to be commended. Second, please write a book to tell all of the other mom's like me EXACTLY how you do it. I honestly have a hard time grasping that a family of 4 or 5 can be fed on 300-400 dollars a month. I have a family of 5. I also homeschool, so we make 3 meals a day. Not to mention a snack. I do use coupons and the list. We have a spending plan for everything. My food bill is usually around 200 or 250 a WEEK! I cook from scratch as well. Maybe it is where you all live? My husband goes to the store with me so he understands too. I watch the sales etc... What am I doing wrong? Any suggestions? My big thought is that it may be the difference in the meals I am making. Any thoughts? I make things like, chili, soups, pot pie, pizza. I really like the 5 ingredients or less. I also only use chicken or turkey. I would really appreciate any input to help reduce my spending. According to the USDA plan I think we would fall into the low cost-moderate for a family of 5. I also include all cleaning supplies into my food budget.

Thanks!!




It could absolutely be where you live, or the meals you make, the foods you buy, or a number of other factors.  Do you buy packaged foods, or do you cook from scratch?  Where do you shop? 

 

We pay very, very little for meats.  My FIL trap wild pigs because they are a HUGE problem, and very dangerous.  But they equal almost free meat for us!  I take advantage of that but we work our butts off butchering and processing.  I never turn down a soup bone, either.  A huge part of our nutrition comes from properly prepared bone stocks.  We also raise rabbits for the table, and get our milk from our goats, and eggs from our chickens.  As I said  in my last post, we do spend on feed and hay, but that also includes our dogs, cats, and guinea pigs that are our family pets.

 

In the appropriate seasons, we forage for nuts, berries, grapes, persimmons, and plums.  I have been known to stop and ask someone if i can pick their fruit tree in exchange for bringing them back a dozen jars of jam.  On a good fruit year I can put back enough to last 2 years.  Good thing since our drought severely affected what we got this year--nothing.  But I still had berries and peaches in the freezer from the previous year and just recently ran out.  We gather cactus paddles around here and the prickly pears that grow on them. 

 

I do not plan my meals (am i still allowed here on the meal planning board, lol?) for the week.  I wing it, mostly.  I scour the ads for produce deals and don't buy expensive produce.  I rely on carrots, onions, celery, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, beets, and squash this time of year.  There is ALOT that can be made w/those items!  I make lots and lots of soups, esp. this time of year.  Just yesterday I made 2 kinds, and got pintos soaking for tonight.  I'm eating potato bacon soup right now.  So cheap and very nourishing w/the bone stock. 

 

I fell in love w/Aldi.  Do you have one near?  I can get our cheeses (we eat alot of cheese) for now (I want to be making all our cheese from goat milk next year) for cheap, coffee creamer, sour cream, 12 grain bread, produce, butter, tuna, tortilla chips, veggie chips, unsweetened cereals, coffee, peanut butter, nuts, and oats for WAY cheaper there.  I can go and spend $250 and get a basket that is overflowing and will last us 3 weeks w/other items bought at a local store on sale to fill in the gaps.  I can, freeze, or dehydrate the extras.  For instance, I buy celery this time of year when it's on sale and dehydrate it for using in soups.  Same w/carrots and potatoes. 

 

My number one tip is to stay out of the store!  Seriously, do not go every single week.  Start trying to get thru another week before you have to go.  Start buying enough NOW to last more than a week.  If you see potatoes on sale, buy twice what you'd normally buy (they store well!).  Same w/apples, carrots, celery, onions, meats, etc...If you eat beans, buy a couple extra bags to start building a stockpile.  Once you start having some stuff left over each week in your pantry/freezer, you won't have to go as often.  You don't have to buy every single item in quantity each week to get some built up.  Just a few things each week for awhile and you will start to see it building up and will see that you really don't have to go to the store each week.  If you buy things that won't store well, make something from it that WILL store well.  Like if you buy lots of potatoes and greens and you don't think you'll use them before they expire, make some enchiladas for the freezer.  Make some different soups and freeze for later.  Baking supplies are on sale now, as are turkeys and hams so buy extra. Butter and cheeses can go in the freezer.  Do you have deep freeze?  I could not live w/out one.  Actually, I have 2, plus 2 fridges w/freezers on them.

 

Feel free to post your typical shopping list, typical meals for the week, etc. for more help.

 

Oh, and stop buying cleaning supplies if that is eating into your budget.  Just use vinegar, borax, baking soda, etc...


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

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#29 of 43 Old 12-13-2011, 01:38 PM
 
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Originally Posted by lmrej View Post

I read many of the responses and am really amazed at how all of you can spend just a few hundred dollars a month to feed your family. First, you are to be commended. Second, please write a book to tell all of the other mom's like me EXACTLY how you do it. I honestly have a hard time grasping that a family of 4 or 5 can be fed on 300-400 dollars a month. I have a family of 5. I also homeschool, so we make 3 meals a day. Not to mention a snack. I do use coupons and the list. We have a spending plan for everything. My food bill is usually around 200 or 250 a WEEK! I cook from scratch as well. Maybe it is where you all live? My husband goes to the store with me so he understands too. I watch the sales etc... What am I doing wrong? Any suggestions? My big thought is that it may be the difference in the meals I am making. Any thoughts? I make things like, chili, soups, pot pie, pizza. I really like the 5 ingredients or less. I also only use chicken or turkey. I would really appreciate any input to help reduce my spending. According to the USDA plan I think we would fall into the low cost-moderate for a family of 5. I also include all cleaning supplies into my food budget.

Thanks!!


One of the things i do is buy meats when they are on sale and then buy the largest amount I can.  When roasts are on sale for under $3.00 a pound, I'll buy one that is at least 3 + pounds.  That's 3 meals + lunches for the 3 of us (2 adults and one teen boy).  Any broth left over from roasting is frozen for later use.  I buy Foster Farms chickens when they are on sale for $.79 a pound; that's 5 + pounds for under $5.  I'll roast it in the crock pot (means 1.5-2 cups of broth).  That gives us enough chicken for roast chicken and 2-3 casseroles and/or ethnic meals.  The broth is frozen for soups, casseroles, and sauces/gravies.  Meat protein is maybe a fourth of our plates.  A filling grain (rice, potatoes, pasta, other grains) and one to two vegetables make up the rest of the meal.  Seconds are of grain and vegetables, not meat.  Chili has both meat and beans with the beans 2:1 to meat which is used for flavor rather than protein.  We eat a lot of ethnic (mostly Mexican and Asian) meals which use meat as flavoring.  We have 1-2 meals a week that are vegetarian--usually egg, cheese, and/or bean based.  I make most of our breads and rolls.  Instead of honey in my whole wheat recipe, I use maple syrup.  Left over mashed potatoes goes into the potato rolls or I'll make potato pancakes.  Left overs are planned for either, being served for lunches the next day or incorporated into another meal.  We don't eat a lot of sandwiches (bread and fillings) but I do make my own hot pockets with left over cooked meats and vegetables in a roll dough then baked.  I'm not anal about being totally organic.  I buy from the farmer's market which is organic and try to keep away from the dirty dozen.  I do buy bananas year round.  Milk here is artifical hormone free even at the mainstream grocery store.  I spend more on cheese because I get Tillamook from Oregon instead of California cheese and I buy Daisy sour cream.  I buy large tubs of plain yogurt and we add our own fresh fruit to it. 

 


Chris--extended breastfeeding, cloth diapering, babywearing, co-sleeping, APing, CLW, homeschooling before any of this was a trend mom to Joy (1/78), Erica (8/80), Angela (9/84), Dylan (2/98)
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#30 of 43 Old 12-14-2011, 10:46 AM
 
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If you can afford to buy meats in a larger quantity, you will almost always save.  Around here, one could go to a farmer or homesteader and offer to help on butchering day in exchange for a discount.  Or buy your meat by the animal at a butcher, rather than at a grocery store.


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

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