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kjbrown92 09-11-2010 03:27 PM

I'm looking for ideas for reducing our food budget. For us, we're a family of 5, 3 of whom have food intolerances (and we still rotate a lot of foods). We were spending $1000-$1500/month on groceries. DH wants it cut to $600/month.

I know I'll be experimenting less, and making less treats. But I'm looking for meal ideas.

I've had to go conventional for meats and produce (though a lot of the produce right now is from my mother's garden; and she's organic). I also have frozen veggies from her, and canned tomatoes, zucchini relish, and zucchini pickles. And hopefully I'll get some pickled beets this year too. I made strawberry jam earlier this summer, and my mother made currant jelly and blueberry jam for DS with his safe sugar (palm). So we're good on those.

Some of the problems for us (but I want this thread to be more general, so more people can use it): dairy, gluten, soy, corn free. Plus DS can't have potatoes, oranges, tuna, chicken (though the rest of us can). DD2 can't have beef. We rotate turkey, rice, apples, bananas, and some other things.

Eggs are a nice cheap breakfast, but DS can't have that. He likes curried chickpeas or corned beef & sweet potatoes. I have a particular problem with breakfast for him (and he has to leave to catch the bus at 7am so it can't be something that takes a long time to make). He no longer likes hot buckwheat cereal or millet porridge.

I want general cost saving measures... c'mon, help me be frugal!

tanyalynn 09-11-2010 03:56 PM

I can't say that I've implemented my ideas yet, but I spent some time during my summer vacation putting some thought into this topic.

Since I like the cost and the nutrition of lentils, I want to include them more for us. And I tend to make large batches of something for lunch that will last us several days--we rely less on convenience of pre-packaged GF stuff when I do that. eta: specifically, last winter we ate a lentil soup that was green lentils, some bacon, herbs de provence, carrots/celery?/onions/maybe some other veggies, with homemade stock. Good taste, felt very nutritious. I have a curry-type recipe that I haven't tried yet that would work better for summer, the other recipe feels heavy and winter-y. And I am hit-and-miss about making idlis. It's the cheapest bread-like thing I've run across, and once I throw in some spices, they've got a nice aroma and taste. And I think I've seen idli recipes online that are only urad dal, no rice (you'd need a food processor)--they'd be a bit heavier and stronger in flavor, but spices would help with that.

I'm planning in leftovers night, I'm hoping all day Saturday can be leftovers. Is there any meat that you can eat two days in a row? I'm planning to cook extra Friday night, something sort of fun and special like pizza or something, and then eat leftovers for lunch Saturday, and then clean-out-the-frig leftovers Saturday night. Definitely harder with a rotation, but if you could come up with 3 meals, even 2, that could work (planning around meats/vegetables that don't have to rotate) then something like that for you?

I'm also planning to roast a chicken most Sundays, can everyone in your house eat turkey? Whatever roast bird, eat some then, then have leftover roasted veggies to use later, plus the leftover meat to add to stuff (easy to add different meats to round out different meals). And then I can get into a decent routine making stock regularly.

$600/mo for 5 people seems tough. That's what I'm aiming for for the 4 of us--I think it's doable for us, but I need to pay attention more than I am now.

tanyalynn 09-11-2010 04:32 PM

re: breakfast w/o eggs, that is tough. Right now the only things I've got on my handy-dandy list are leftovers hash (whatever meat we've got + whatever veggies, probably from the roast chicken, so something like carrots/parsnips/potatoes/maybe sweet potatoes/rutabaga/beet), and leftover chicken (from roast) + sauteed onions/peppers as a burrito (we use corn tortillas, really yummy with the fatty sauteed veggies, but clearly not an option for you).

How is he for fish? I have canned sardines that I need to use up, DS will eat them straight from the can but that can't be normal, can it? DD sure as heck won't.

And since I (too often) feed the kids comforting, yet expensive, not-very-nutritious GF convenience foods (like a lunch of pasta w/ ghee or butter lately), I wouldn't do worse to make homemade steak fries, and call it lunch. Balanced? No, but the meals they'd replace weren't either, and sometimes I trip myself up by making a great plan that's hard to achieve every day in the real world, and then I fall back on convenience foods.

mamafish9 09-11-2010 06:31 PM

We eat lots of rice & beans type meals. I know rice doesn't work every day for you, so you need a starch that would. But replacing meat with beans saves lots of money.

Using meat as a flavoring, rather than the whole meal, works too. We make a sausage & lentil stew, for example, where sausage flavors the lentils and makes them yumm, but it only takes a couple of sausages for enough for two meals. Or sweet potato chili (Kathy, you can do sweet potato, right?)

Buying meat in bulk from a local farmer was great, we got grassfed, pastured beefalo for $3/lb when we bought a quarter (prices really range, so calling around is good). is a good place to start.

For breakfast, blender batter waffles are fast, and whole grains are cheaper than GF flours, at least here.

For cost saving on GF flours you use a lot of, check out subscribe & save (15% off their prices, which are usually pretty good).

We also just canned our own salmon, bought a big chunk at costco and canned it. Yumm, and way cheaper than canned salmon (especially if you buy salmon in bulk - we're going to go to the cost when salmon fishing is in season and buy in bulk now that we've tested the idea).

ETA: I also think it's important to have realistic budget goals, though. The USDA calculates cost of food for four different levels of food spending (thrifty - liberal). Here's the 2008 numbers:

For your family (I think, not positive of the ages of all your children), even the thrifty plan is $660, and the low cost (next level up) is $850/month. And honestly, with all the restrictions, I'm thinking the thrifty level would be darned tough. So I don't see how you get to $600 a month without dramatically shifting the food you eat (see how your DH feels about beans every meal ...). Not saying it can't be done, but you might be happier figuring out how to average out at $900 - $1000 a month, say, and cutting costs somewhere else for the rest of the savings.

P.S. - what happened with the cookbook, btw? sounds like a good way to raise grocery money.

changingseasons 09-11-2010 08:08 PM

Holy crap- we spend more than the "liberal" amounts on that chart. I sure wish I could replace meat with some beans. Or that I could go to conventional meat/produce. I just can't do it. sigh.

I agree that getting to $600 is going to be darn near impossible Kathy.

One of my cheapest meals (which of course DD can't have) is bone broth with ride noodles (not like spaghetti type noodles, pad thai type noodles.) If I have a pork butt, I will put that in the crockpot and add a little to my soup too. Or a few meatballs or something. After that it's my buckwheat waffles, only because I buy the buckwheat groats in bulk and grind them myself. (And the recipe is just flour, oil, salt, water.)

changingseasons 09-11-2010 08:13 PM

Originally Posted by mamafish9 View Post
Buying meat in bulk from a local farmer was great, we got grassfed, pastured beefalo for $3/lb when we bought a quarter (prices really range, so calling around is good). is a good place to start.
Wow- that is really cheap. I wish the farm we ordered from had those kind of prices. Even if I buy a whole lamb from them, I would actually end up paying more because it's about $7/lb., and I normally only buy the cheaper cuts & ground at around $6/lb. bleh. Even their beef (which we can't do) only goes down to $6.29/lb with a WHOLE cow. Wish we had more options for grassfed lamb around here.

dannic 09-11-2010 08:28 PM

I'll be honest, we're mainly living on beans and rice these days--and it gets

There are lots of different beans that you can switch, pinto, anasazi, white, kidney, ect and then lentils, and black eye peas.

Our go-to breakfast is cooked rice with honey, cinnamon and raisins and homemade almond milk. One cup of nuts makes 1-2 quarts milk, depending how y.ou like it.

Using meat as a flavor enhancer and not the main dish helps.

I make our own pasta sauce with tons of veggies and just a bit of ground beef.

In the winter--soups, stews and chilis are great, as are baked goods that used simple ingredients like biscuits, muffins, corn/millet bread.

Buy bulk grains and invest in a grinder. Buy bulk oils. I save big by buying the 5 gallon coconut oil from mrh, esp compared with what a hfs sells a small jar of it for. Buy bulk sweeteners.

grow a garden (this can cost you more, but it gets you more variety and better quality) or shop farmers markets. Ours has cheap produce. Buy in season and whatever fruits/veggies are on sale.

tanyalynn 09-11-2010 08:30 PM

on the food chart, that specifies Food at Home. So then you'd need to add in various amounts for eating out. Eating out is a huge downfall in our budget, but for our family of 4, I think my grocery goal is reasonable.

Kathy, that looks worthy of printing out and discussing with your DH. Which doesn't change income, but maybe a re-distribution between budget categories is possible.

tanyalynn 09-11-2010 08:38 PM

Oh, that's interesting, it's a food plan based on putting together a nutritious diet (according to them), it's not a food survey. Now I'm curious how much people are actually spending.... going to look around a bit for that.

eta: the most recent survey I found was 2003-ish which seems a bit too long ago to be helpful.

kjbrown92 09-12-2010 12:33 AM

There was a thread here a while ago about budgets and what people were spending. Not sure when.

It's just one of the things in the budget that isn't fixed so we figured we could try to cut it back. DH wants a new (used) car so he wants to save some money for that, and with our health insurance, we have to pay 20% of costs, so if I go for surgery (which I'm leaning heavily toward with 42-70% risk) that will be a hefty bill.

We don't eat out (except in the summertime, and that's only DH and I, for birthdays, so there won't be any more of that until next summer).

That's a great idea to use less meat in the meatsauce. I never really thought of stretching it that way. I'm bringing more tomatoes home with me tomorrow to freeze because my mother has so many of them. So that will be good for sauces and chilis and such.

Gardening here is only June - end of September, so short growing season. My kohlrabi did well. My eggplant didn't do anything. My broccoli was pathetic. And I got 2 tomatoes out of 6 plants. And 1 pepper out of 4 plants. Even my basil plant went south on me. I just don't have a green thumb I guess.

For fish, they'll eat salmon. But right now that's $8/lb. DD2 will eat canned salmon, which is much cheaper, but DS won't. They'll also eat tilapia, so I need to look for sales on those. They won't eat anchovies, sardines, or anything like that. And DS can't have tuna.

Tanya - I'm thinking of roasting a chicken once a week too, then making leftovers with whatever meat is left, and making broth out of the bones (DD2 asked if she could have a roasted chicken leg in her lunch at school... cold... has anyone had that? is it good?). If so, that would be a nice cheap protein for her lunch.

I got powdered Dosa (just add water and baking soda) cheap at the Indian market. So I'm thinking those would be good for tacos, or even as a sandwich "bread" for school with something on it. But since it's savory I just have to think of a good filling.

I'm glad I got a case of the Hazelnut chocolate milk from Amazon before the new budget went into effect. YUM! Have you guys tried it? It's like drinking liquid Nutella? Totally not in the new budget though!

tanyalynn 09-12-2010 12:40 AM

We've done cold drumsticks a lot. I brine the chicken first (would be very tasty with a whole chicken too), then bake.

I use this recipe, sort of, without the soy sauce or oil...

I'm going to make it tomorrow, actually, we have Family Physics with a potluck afterward. Everyone who's had the chicken has seemed very happy with it and cold works fine--it's one of my basic my portable lunches for the kids.

And yeah, it's not fixed for us, and so it's been so easy for me to be lax with it for so long. And I'd really like to focus on being mindful about my spending in this area, not in the way that focuses on all the things we can't have, but on a) being responsible and prudent with what we have, and b) making deliberate choices with our spending so that we can fit in other things that long-term I do value more. I want to see if I can start regular CST with one of the kids in the new year, both would be great, but at least one.

lil_miss_understood 09-12-2010 02:25 AM

most recent "thrifty" budget for MY family of five according to that site is $572.22 (you're supposed to subtract 10% from individual costs for a family of 5). Liberal is $1109.88 while moderate is $910.17. So I'm about midway between moderate and liberal.
My family (my brothers and I) really enjoyed cold leftover roasted chicken, Kathy.
My train of thought was derailed...

Theloose 09-12-2010 12:23 PM

We're suddenly talking about budgeting too, so we can save up for a down payment on a house with a decent (not tiny) kitchen. I'm not sure how serious we'll be, though, because food is such a stress point that adding to that with a budget might be more than we can handle. And with all the food-based healing, its hard to cut back on types of food or quality. I think for us, it would translate into more homemade stuff, especially breakfast sausage, getting on top of making more veggies so that we're not eating extra meat by default ($7ish/lb here, by the whole animal) and getting better about not throwing stuff away. Eating or freezing, and then actually eating out of the freezer!

nicky85 09-12-2010 01:35 PM

There are three of us- my husband, my 7 month old son and myself. My husband has just started a specialized diet to combat his rheumatoid arthritis. His regimen is no dairy, no wheat, no soy, no citrus, no corn, no meat, no tomatoes, no potatoes, no eggplant, no sugar, no chocolate, no eggs, no peppers, no oils except flax oil, no beans except lentils, and no nuts except maybe some pumpkin seeds. We eat a lot of veggies and rice! Squash is a staple. I've learned to spice it up differently though. I found Indian food recipes on the internet and have been using those. Indian food is great for different ways to fix lentils, chickpeas and rice. We eat three green smoothies a day. We've really embraced the fruits and veggies. Yesterday, we went to the farmer's markets and a local health food store and spent about $100 total, much of which was stocking up on rice and lentils and peaches which will last us a while. We got a big box of peaches, some melons, carrots, and leafy greens. We've found farmer's markets to be a great place for finding produce that hasn't been sprayed. We got nuts and raisins for non-sugary trail mix for me. A CSA has helped some too. We don't buy flax oil, we just get flax seeds and blend them up in our smoothies.

We're really tight right now because my husband's rheumatoid arthritis prevents him from keeping up a regular job, so we are going into business for ourselves, but because of flare ups that's taking a while too. We will probably be able to bring our numbers down some more with trimming. Not eating dairy and meat has helped cut down our grocery bills a lot. We do buy meat for our dogs because it's better for them. My husband looks for 99 cents a pound meat and stocks up when he finds it. We calculated that buying meat for two American Eskimos at 99 cents a pound costs as much as a the dry dog food we were buying before, and saves us money because we don't have to keep on buying bones for the dogs.

lil_miss_understood 09-12-2010 02:39 PM

I don't know what I was thinking yesterday. Apparently somehow, in my mind, my budget yesterday increased from $800 to $1000/mth.
We feed: one gluten, dairy, egg free and soy light 11 yo boy;
: one peanut, tree nut, coconut, berry free 3 yo boy;
: one (nut due to age) dairy, soy, sunflower seed free 1 yo boy;
: one who is supposed to be gluten, dairy, banana, amaranth, sugar cane free and goitrogen light mama (but is only banana free atm along with DS2's list and soy)
: one who is supposed to be dairy free papa

We adhere to the children's diets, but totally mess up on our own.
So, we are fortunate to have legumes, rice and potatoes to cut our costs. I would like to have eggplant more often but the only things I can think of to do with it are: eggplant parm (kind of pointless without parm ), "Punjab eggplant" (Indian eggplant puree) and roasted eggplant sandwiches.
We buy rice in 50 lb bags from the Asian market, which is where we also buy most of our flour (rice, tapioca, sorghum, potato starch, sweet potato starch and others) and we also get pahd thai noodles to sub for linguine and egg noodles, as well as "rice sticks" for stir fries/soup. I have egg roll wrappers which are just rice and/or tapioca which I really should put to use more often.
We only eat fish twice in 5 weeks and have recently switched to less expensive fish (flounder) from salmon. I make mock tuna casserole (sans cheese) using my creamy garlic noodles occasionally (it's a new dish, so I'm still tweaking it and adding it to my list of "quick and easy foods" mentally).
Getting busy over here.

tanyalynn 09-12-2010 03:14 PM

This thread really is coming at a nice time for me. It's helpful to make changes as a group.

Shannon, I can see that how you're using food, it's hard to make too many changes. The only thing I can think of is that, at least for me, planning a day to eat all the miscellaneous leftovers that aren't enough for a meal but haven't gone bad yet may help. Nothing ever goes bad in my refrigerator though, never! (ignore my scary-refrigerator story from last week)

So, a quick whine (which is minor in comparison, but I need to figure out)...

--DH probably needs to be low-carb for a while, he did well like that last fall.
--DD needs more carbs and less protein, I've not been paying attention for the last week or so and her stomach aches are coming back... this is a good early sign that the new Source Naturals pancreatin digestive enzymes are just as good for DD as the pricier Yasko ones were.
--DS seems pretty flexible, just no gluten or dairy (I don't see any reaction to chocolate or cashews anymore, woo-hoo! still not going to give him soy on purpose though)
--I just need to cut back on the sugary stuff for myself.

I guess carbier lunches (when DH usually takes dinner leftovers in and we eat something else) and maybe a bit more flexibility with dinners--more carb choices for DD and a good selection of green veggies plus meat for DH. Shouldn't be that hard, right? With some planning.

/end whine

dannic 09-12-2010 07:42 PM

1 handed typing here;
Tanya, that's where I am; DH is better low protein, and since hving baby, I'm shifting that way--my gallbladder is wanting less fat, protein, and I am no longer shaky without it, yay! DS likely is similar. DD1 is high protein in needs...and dd2 is in between. Tough to cook to that, esp on a too-low (hopefully temp) budget.

My problem is, how do you fix a roast chook and have leftovers? And, as mentioned in chat, being restricted seems to mean a higher caloric intake...our entire fam eats a TON!

I do well when I plan a one dish meal, but need to do better at the sides when not serving a 1 dish meal.

mamafish9 09-12-2010 08:56 PM

Yeah, we have one vegetarian child, one carnivore child, both of whom do really well with high fat. And DH & I who don't want so much fat. And I don't like a lot of meat. We're trying to use DD's lunches this year to load her up on vegetarian stuff, and have a more meat laden lunch at home for DS. So breakfast and dinner are shared meals as much as possible, lunch is where we make several different versions to accomodate dietary preferences & needs.

mamafish9 09-13-2010 03:05 AM

Hey Kathy!!! This from a post on a blog Lisa linked to on FB today:

"A friend has started a microbusiness supplying meals to others in the area with gourmet dinners. Each week this chef-gone-mama sends out an email detailing what that week's two options are. You can have one or both."


You sooooo could do that!!! GFDF, whatever allergens you need free.... You could cook for your family and just make more volume .

Theloose 09-13-2010 03:09 AM

I've had this in the back of my mind today (farmers market day), about reducing costs without reducing quality. Numbers that seem helpful are things like the cost per calorie, or per gram protein, or per gram fat, etc. Then there's the filling factor, like how to factor in veggies and such?

Lately, we've been mid-reaction, which means my inefficient body eats for dd, who relies mostly on milk. So controlling that would help our budget significantly. But the protein/carb balance worked out at lunch today - we ate out and I got the meat and salad from my plate while she ate all the rice, and we were both totally thrilled

Theloose 09-13-2010 01:48 PM

How about some ideas for cooking the cheaper cuts of meat? Like fun chicken wing recipes, or things to do with turkey wings and backs? Those turkey cuts have quite a bit of meat on them for things like soup or turkey salad, and you get to make broth from the bones.

Crockpots and/or Dutch ovens are great for tenderizing the bony stuff. Speaking of which... Lamb neck stew for dinner tonight, methinks. Don't tell dh!

mamafish9 09-13-2010 01:52 PM

Making friends with your local butcher might be good too. When we got our 1/4 cow, we asked for any bones. Showed up and I think they gave us 3 cows worth of bones (no charge), and said to just give them a call if we wanted more.

changingseasons 09-13-2010 01:55 PM

Originally Posted by mamafish9 View Post
Making friends with your local butcher might be good too. When we got our 1/4 cow, we asked for any bones. Showed up and I think they gave us 3 cows worth of bones (no charge), and said to just give them a call if we wanted more.
No way! When I get bones from our co-op, I pay $3/lb. which adds up FAST. And from the farm we order from it's even more (and they're listed under "pet treats" )

mamafish9 09-13-2010 02:24 PM

Originally Posted by changingseasons View Post
No way! When I get bones from our co-op, I pay $3/lb. which adds up FAST. And from the farm we order from it's even more (and they're listed under "pet treats" )
Geez, that's nuts!

Theloose 09-13-2010 02:43 PM

yeah, bones go fast here, too. I like my new lamb farmer

changingseasons 09-13-2010 02:53 PM

Ok, I'm getting threads mixed up now.

I just found a local farm that charges $1.85/lb for lamb, but it's live, hanging weight (not actual meat weight.) They say to expect 40% of the animal weight in actual meat, so you end up paying much more per pound... but I'm thinking that if I was getting all the bones and stuff too, that might be a hell of a deal!

I'm finding that a lot of the farms only process lambs at a certain time of year though, and you have to order 6-12 months in advance.

Familyofmovers 09-13-2010 02:54 PM

I wonder if insurance companies can help with the cost of a real allergy? I have a friend whose insurance pays for their milk in formula, so maybe check to see if they have that option. It's just too much money to spend every month just to live to eat. We are doing gluten because my daughter has eczema. I crafted a lotion called Ebelegy for her eczema and it's working but sometimes with allergies it's about food allergies.

changingseasons 09-13-2010 04:21 PM

Ok, my pregnant brain needs some math help. I'm looking at this $1.85/lb lamb, and if I'm calculating right it actually will turn out to be about $8/lb. They say their lambs average 70 pounds (~$130), but you only get about 28 pounds of meat from a 70 pound lamb. Then you pay a butcher's fee; they don't say how much, but they say the average cost total is just over $200. So if I'm calculating for 28 pounds of meat at say $225, I'm getting just over $8/lb. Is that right?

And then I emailed another farm, who told me their lambs average 60lbs and are $3/lb. They charge a kill fee & process fee of $0.55/lb, which would make it around $4.25/lb. But of course that's the price for the whole animal (I'm assuming), which you're not actually getting. Little misleading...

So it seems like I haven't actually found anything cheaper than what I'm currently paying.

tanyalynn 09-13-2010 04:30 PM

Ask them how much "other" stuff usually comes with each lamb--are organ meats included in the 40% net weight? What about bones? Because what if it works out about the same in terms of muscle meat, but then the other stuff is free?

It's also possible that if you order, and ask about the possibility of extra bones and such, other customers will not want their bones and maybe they'll just give them to you. One place we ordered from does that--most of their customers don't want bones or organs.

I think it's easier to get an accurate weight by just measuring hanging weight, instead of trying to bundle everything up and weigh that. It IS frustrating to try to guesstimate yield though and figure out what's included and what's not.

For the first one--I'd think it would depend just how much over $200 it is, $210 makes it closer to $7.50/lb. Having everything very clearly spelled out on a website is so much easier--I wish more people would do that.

mamafish9 09-13-2010 04:30 PM

CS - that means both farms are charging a huge fee to process/package the meat, especially if they don't throw in the bones for free.

The second farm, is it $3/lb live animal, or hanging weight? Hanging weight, it might be a good deal (you lose about 10-20% from hanging weight - meat cuts).

The other way to approach this might be to call small rural butchers, explain what you want - they may be able to refer you to a smaller farmer, and then you can quiz the farmer to find out how they treat/feed their animals.

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