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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all,<br><br>
I am really struggling to stay within our grocery budget. We have $150 a week for me, my husband, our 4 year old, and our 20 month old. I shop at Trader Joe's for most of my foods. I try and buy organic unless it is totally through the roof. Anything I can't get at Trader Joe's I pick up at either Sunflower or Safeway.<br><br>
I've been trying to serve more vegetable side dishes (our main dish usually has veggies in it,) but the money hasn't been there for more veggies. Today I bought groceries and my bill was much less than I normally pay. I realized that I didn't buy any frozen foods (such as cheese curry and real macaroni and cheese) or packaged foods like noodles with satay sauce.<br><br>
I buy the convenience foods because they are convenient. If I can't come up with a lunch idea for the kids, they can split a frozen curry lunch. Or a satay. But those are $3 each and if my husband has a hankering for them, he eats 2 so his lunch alone costs $6. However, sometimes you need something fast and the money is a lesser concern.<br><br>
But, if I don't get those, I have more money for side dishes of vegetables. Frankly, my kids aren't thrilled by them and often don't eat them (and I don't force them to.) However, they are being exposed and I think that's important. Plus my husband and I benefit from eating the veggies.<br><br>
I suppose I could buy a few frozen things and a few veggies, but this is all such new thinking to me. I'm wondering what you all think/do. Our grocery budget was fine without kids. We've adjusted it since then, but we just don't have any more wiggle room in our budget.<br><br>
What are your thoughts?
 

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I have a new baby and the rest of my family eats a lot, so I splurge on veggies as my convenience foods. Always having a tub of cut up veg for my nursing snacks and their dinner sides is awesome. As for the splurge, I have been buying those frozen steamers. For me, they taste better than the cheap freezer burned mix veg I'd been buying all these years. Wal-Mart has small ones for a dollar each, which is great if I am having a meat-n-three (2-3 sides of veg). I don't feel bad about spending 1.58 on a single serve steamer anymore. To me, that is a lot of money, and 2 of them might go in to a meal if there is not rice or pasta on the table. Good luck.
 

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I would definitely go for veggies/fruit! I also have a hard time coming up w/ lunches, but I try to sit down once a month and come up w/ some good ideas. I don't mind serving the same thing 2/3x a week for lunch. The convienence meals just aren't worth it to us.<br><br>
How about soem kid friendly veggies like sweet potatoes, butternut squash etc?<br><br>
(google is your friend for lunch ideas!!)
 

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I tend to buy the veggies, too, but we really like veggies at supper. My kids prefer fruit and very simple veggie sides (carrot sticks, celery sticks, cucumber slices, lettuce salad, radishes, etc).<br><br>
One thing I did was gently encourage (LOL) my kids to eat simple stuff for lunch on days that there aren't good leftovers. So, they happilly eat peanut butter and honey sandwiches, plain cheese quesadillas, or crackers and cheese for the "main" part of their lunch. I add a veggie and a fruit, and lunch is served in 5 minutes. It makes that part of the day really easy.
 

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<div style="font-style:italic;">I tend to buy the veggies, too, but we really like veggies at supper. My kids prefer fruit and very simple veggie sides (carrot sticks, celery sticks, cucumber slices, lettuce salad, radishes, etc).<br><br>
One thing I did was gently encourage (LOL) my kids to eat simple stuff for lunch on days that there aren't good leftovers. So, they happilly eat peanut butter and honey sandwiches, plain cheese quesadillas, or crackers and cheese for the "main" part of their lunch. I add a veggie and a fruit, and lunch is served in 5 minutes. It makes that part of the day really easy.</div>
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<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/img/vbsmilies/smilies/yeahthat.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="yeah that"><br><br>
I would buy frozen veggies over other convenience foods. They are as or more nutritious as fresh veggies and are a much much better bargain.<br><br>
And I would say just cook for planned leftovers - I almost never "make" lunch for anyone, it's always reheating leftovers (except maybe for a sandwich for DS, but I'm talking something reallllly simple). You could also make a few big batches of soup and freeze in mason jars (I do this all the time). On those days when you don't have leftovers from the night before or you just want something simple, just take one out the night before or that morning and voila! Homemade convenience food.
 

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<img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/lol.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="lol"> I am having such a hard time grasping this because 85% of our groceries is fruit & veggies!! I can't visualize a grocery cart/budget that doesn't have 'room' for veggies!<br><br>
Have you tried some of the connvenience foods that have veggies in them? Like the TJ's vegetable dumplings, they are very yummy, and so are their masala veggie burgers. They also have a bunch of frozen veggie side dishes that I haven't tried but it looks like you can just microwave them, and they are already seasoned/have sauces/etc. Maybe that's one way you can sneak more veggies in, by buying convenience food with veggies?<br><br>
And as far as your DH eating 2 frozen dinners (which I understand as they aren't very filling), would he be willing to eat only 1 and have a salad or some other quick dish on the side?<br><br>
Also you could cook up a bunch of veggies and main courses and freeze them in individual servings... so you'll still have the convenience without the processed & expense.<br><br>
Anyway, like I said, 85% of our groceries is veggies/fruit, mostly fresh (whatever's cheap or in season) and a few bags of frozen. While I'd love to get all organic, I can't afford it, and it's more important to me that we eat veggies than eat 100% organic.
 

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Those $3 TJ's dishes will get you! I like to make extra stir fry noodles and put it in a tupperware. I don't like saving leftover rice though. It gets hard. I have a rice cooker so putting rice on is super easy. I also make extra soup or extra enchiladas and freeze those in serving size portions.<br>
A cheap option for kids is frozen burritos. They are quick to heat in an oven or microwave and you can get a package of 8 frozen ones for like $3 and that feeds a lot more people than a small package of food at TJ's. If you can find cheaper side dish options you can get veggies too!<br>
I sometimes think my kids are picky about veggies until I list all the things they like:<br>
spring mix lettuce or red or green leaf lettuce<br>
corn on the cob<br>
artichokes<br>
bok choy and baby bok choy in tofu soup or in noodle stir fries<br>
cabbage cooked in butter with a small amount of curry and soy sauce and veggie dog slices<br>
raw carrots or diced carrots in soups or fried rice<br>
broccoli steamed or sauteed or broiled<br>
green beans cooked in the oven with olive oil and lemon juice and garlic and sea salt<br>
potatoes in lots of different ways<br>
avocadoes in sandwiches<br>
peas fresh from the garden<br>
cucumber slices<br>
yams cut in strips and broiled or tempura or in cubes in soups or fried rice<br>
tomatoes every which way<br>
celery raw in a dip or with cream cheese or peanut butter or diced in a soup or fried rice<br>
spinach or other cooking greens in fried rice<br><br>
they don't like soft texture veggies like eggplant or squashes unless it's butternut squash soup made from scratch with apple and maple syrup and cream. and they aren't big on bell peppers of any color or asparagus.
 

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I think I would fall for those Microwave meals if we had one! Our lunches are really simple around here.<br>
We eat a lot of leftovers OR leftovers turned into something else.<br>
ex-If I made pasta for dinner I'll make extra noodles and the next day I'll make a quick veggie soup or a chickpea noodle soup using frozen veg and leftover beans frm another meal.<br><br>
we do<br>
-homemade veggie tray w hummus and pita(carrots, cukes, broccoli, celery)..its prob the kids fave lunch<br>
-throw together soups<br>
-really quick stirfries/soups-rice noodles w tofu or beans, and frozen veg<br>
-peanut butter sandwiches w carrot sticks<br>
-scrambled eggs and roasted breakfast potatoes, w tomatoes<br>
-pasta w tomato sauce-seriously it takes maybe 5 more min to make a quick pasta and tomato sauce then to heat up the tin...especially if you use vermicelle(sp) rice noodles!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for all the suggestions everyone. They're great. I'd love even more. I think you're all right that I should vote for the veggies.<br><br>
I grew up in a house where the only vegetables we ate were potatoes, tomatoes, corn on the cob, canned green beans, canned corn, and canned peas. AND for a special treat my mom and I would eat canned mushrooms sautéed in margarine. Needless to say, it has taken a lot of work for me to figure out how to incorporate veggies into our life.<br><br>
I have come a long way. Normal dinners for us might be:<br>
broccoli and cheese sandwiches<br>
spinach and mushroom soup<br>
tomatoes and artichokes over pasta<br>
cauliflower soup<br>
bean tostadas with tomatoes and avocado with tortilla soup<br>
This week I'm making an eggplant dish. It's new to me so I can't remember it.<br><br>
So we do eat veggies, I just want to increase how many we eat.<br><br>
For lunch today I fed my son and his gluten-free friend rice cakes with peanut butter and jelly. The toddler didn't want that so she had leftover soup. (I just remembered the leftover lentil bolognese sauce. Guess we'll eat that tomorrow.) When I don't have leftovers is when we've had something like gardenburgers or frozen pasta stuffed with artichokes and cheese. Also, I don't always cook to my kids' tastes. I'm happy to make them a sandwich or something for dinner and expose them to foods they don't like. So when I do that, there's no viable leftovers for lunch.<br><br>
BTW crunchy_mommy 85% of my grocery shopping was once pasta. lol Okay, not really, but I used to say that I am a vegetarian that doesn't like vegetables. I really have come a long way from how I was raised.
 

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Is there a CSA farm near you? I joined one this year, and for about $15 a week, we'll be getting a sizeable box of veggies.<br><br>
We also have our own garden... is that an option for you?<br><br>
These don't help much in the winter by me, except for what I freeze/can, but it saves a lot of money in the late spring through fall. Or, I should say, we actually can afford to <i>eat</i> lots of veggies then!
 

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I say get thee a Costco membership! Their veggies cost way less than TJ's and there are organic options. Plus you will save a ton on things like cheese.<br><br>
A CSA or farmer's market is also a much better option than TJ's. There is a much higher markup on the veggies at the store because they are shipped from who knows where and they are often cut up for you. On the other hand as far as pricing goes its often worth it to get the frozen stuff if you have the freezer space as it tends to be fresher than the stuff in the produce aisle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
My garden's been in for about a month. We'll pick the first zucchinis at the end of the week to make orzo and zucchinis. It tastes a bit like rice a roni except it's healthy (well, as healthy as white pasta is.) It's a good way to get zuccs into the kids. The rest of the garden is growing. Except that something ate all my chard and I keep buying acorn squash plants and something happens to them. Today I sat on it and broke it. Man, was I upset.<br><br>
The farmers' markets around here suck. Mainly arts and crafts. There used to be one that actually had a couple (literally a couple) veggie vendors. Maybe I'll try them this week and see if they're any better.<br><br>
Regarding the CSAs. I used to think they wouldn't work for me. I was afraid I'd get too many vegetables I don't like, wouldn't use them, and they'd rot. However, my veggie horizons have expanded. Maybe I should investigate. Anyone know a good one in Tucson? I live near the university. Same for a farmers' market?<br><br>
I don't tend to buy Costco produce because it comes in such large quantities. (Well, I do buy fruit sometimes. That we eat a lot of.) I'm afraid the veggies would all go to waste. Do you cook stuff up and freeze it or do you just eat it all?<br><br>
Thanks for all the ideas. My brain is definitely churning all this stuff.
 

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The thing that strikes me most is that you list so few markets you go to. I regularly go to 4 or 5 places. I too go to Trader Joe's and Stop'n'Shop (I think pretty equivalent to Safeway (I think I stopped in one once on a road trip.) We don't have Sunflowers around here at all, so I'm not sure what it would be equivalent to. I also go to Pathmark, Whole Foods, Costco, Fairway, Han-Yang (asian market.) Very occassionally we go to Wegman's, but not often b/c that's about a 40 minute drive, usually if we happen to be in that area anyway. As well as all these supermarkets, I visit farm stands and the farmers market during the growing season. Plus I shop in specialty food stores occasionally, like the bakery or the chocolate store. There are also some unexpected places to get interesting foods, such as Ikea has a swedish market. Every now and again if I'm in Target for something and I see a really good deal on packaged foods, I'll buy some.<br><br>
Obviously I don't visit every single one of these places each week. I visit one or maybe two a week, but by visiting a large variety of places I buy any non-perishable foods at the lowest prices in large quantities.<br><br>
For example: When I go to Stop'n'Shop I always buy all the Amy's No Chicken Noodles soup cans. I know they cost $0.60 less than at Whole Foods there. If we are totally out of them and I happen to be shopping at Whole Foods that week I will only buy one or two cans to hold us over till the next time I'm at Stop'n'Shop.<br><br><br><br>
A large part of saving money on groceries for us is having plenty of storage space. A couple of years ago we cleared out part of our basement and bought a big chest freezer and a put up a few shelves (didn't even have to buy the shelves since they were left over from our old apartment.) It has become an extra pantry that allows us to buy sale items in bulk, and freeze giant batches. You'd be surprised at how many things freeze well. They keep better in the chest freezer too, b/c it is colder and more consistent than the freezer on the fridge.<br><br>
For example on the buying in bulk: A few months ago Fairway had a big sale on Morning Star Farms stuff. I was able to buy enough that we had several months worth without having to pay the usual price (and those were a few month where we ate more of it than usual.) There was no way that the quantities I bought would have fit into a regular freezer attached to the fridge, but the chest freezer can hold a ton.<br><br>
For example with the bulk cooking: My DH loves tacos, but it's a lot of work to make up the filling. Chopping the onions alone is a huge undertaking since I'm a major cry baby with them, so I wrap plastic wrap over my glasses. Then there is the clean up mess etc. The thing is, it's not much more difficult to make 10 nights worth than it is to make one nights worth. So, I make a <i>huge</i> batch of taco filling and and freeze one or two nights worth in Pyrex storage containers. We eat one nights worth, and another nights worth goes in the fridge to be eaten later that week. The other half dozen containers go into the deep freeze with a label on them. Then when we want tacos, I just need to heat it up in the microwave, and warm up some shells and chop a few toppings. It's homemade convenience food.<br><br><br><br>
Sometimes it's actually cheaper to eat out than to rely on convenience foods. At places like Ikea and Costco I suspect they sell the food at cost just to keep you happy while you shop. When ever I go to Costco with DS I start the trip by buying him a snack or lunch. Both of us can usually eat for under $4. He will then sit in the cart very contentedly eating his lunch. He is way more likely to actually eat most of it than he does at home where he is constantly getting up to go play. Ikea is slightly more expensive, we usually spend about $9 on lunch there, but also a step up, and DS can go to Smaland (fun play area with ball pit and climbing structures) for free afterwards while I do other things, so it's part entertainment.<br><br>
Whenever we splurge on take-out from our favorite restaurants we order extras of the things that are inexpensive and keep well. For instance, the local vegetarian restaurant has wanton soups for under $2 an order (cheaper than Amy's canned soups) that keep well and come in reusable containers. So we will order 4 extra soups.<br><br><br>
The there are convenien<b>t</b> foods that aren't convenien<b>ce</b> foods. We usually boil a large batch of eggs at the start of the week, so ther are always hard boiled eggs ready to go in the fridge. Just peel (if you put ice on the eggs as soon as they finish cooking they are easy to peel,) slice in half and pour a touch of soy sauce on it and you've got the main part of lunch. You can add some left over rice or veggies to round out the meal.<br><br><br>
We do use a lot of frozen veggies. Part of this is knowing which veggies freeze well and which don't. Frozen peas are fine, but frozen string beans are awful.<br><br>
My parents were killers of veggies too. They always went on and on about how I hated vegetables and would starve as a veg*n. The reality though was I hated the way they cooked veggies. They would just boil them till they were mush. I now get to cook for my self and it's much easier to have a good veggie. I will gladly eat lightly sauted fresh string beans in olive oil with a clove of garlic served with well cooked jasmine rice, but I never would touch the frozen string beans my parents boiled for 20 minutes or the minute rice they had. It can be tricky coming to peace with veggies after an upbringing like ours, but it can be done. What really helped me was getting to know my veggies in their raw state first. It is then easier to understand cooking them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>eepster</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/15372675"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">My parents were killers of veggies too. They always went on and on about how I hated vegetables and would starve as a veg*n. The reality though was I hated the way they cooked veggies. They would just boil them till they were mush. I now get to cook for my self and it's much easier to have a good veggie. I will gladly eat lightly sauted fresh string beans in olive oil with a clove of garlic served with well cooked jasmine rice, but I never would touch the frozen string beans my parents boiled for 20 minutes or the minute rice they had. It can be tricky coming to peace with veggies after an upbringing like ours, but it can be done. What really helped me was getting to know my veggies in their raw state first. It is then easier to understand cooking them.</div>
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My mom calls her overcooked veggies "tender." Ugh. She's really into trying to help my veggie quest these days. One time she did make roasted eggplant, zucchini, and acorn squash that was quite good. Another time she made "tender" asparagus. I couldn't even eat it. It was so friggin' mushy.<br><br>
Sunflower is a chain similar to Whole Foods, but cheaper. In our town they build them 1 mile away from Trader Joe's. Actually, that's quite convenient as I shop at Trader Joe's then get whatever I still need from Sunflower. They have a bigger produce section so that's good.<br><br>
You're right that I don't go a lot of places. I HATE shopping so I make this as streamlined as possible. Since most of what I buy is gotten at Trader Joe's where they don't have sales, I don't pay much attention to sales. It's enough work for me to come up with a menu as it is. To define it by what's on sale is more than I can fathom at this stage of my life. I do stock up on some stuff-big bags of parmesan cheese I get at Costco, garden burgers that I get when I'm at Target, that type of stuff.<br><br>
I've not been into freezing stuff. With the exception of a bean soup I make, most of the stuff we freeze doesn't get eaten, for whatever reason. We do have a little upright freezer downstairs. I should probably re-examine freezing food. That could make a huge difference.
 

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Learning how *you* like veggies is a good thing, too.<br><br>
For instance, I grew up with canned green beans. I love them. I never really liked fresh, and for years, I bought the canned ones. Then, one day, it hit me! I just wasn't cooking the fresh ones long enough. I'm from the south, and 5 minutes just isn't going to do it for green beans. LOL. So, now, I simmer them for an hour, nad I love fresh green beans just as much as the canned ones. Voila....problem solved. (this was a problem, cause we grow A LOT of green beans in the summer, and it was a pain that I didn't like them).
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>SundayCrepes</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/15371424"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">BTW crunchy_mommy 85% of my grocery shopping was once pasta. lol Okay, not really, but I used to say that I am a vegetarian that doesn't like vegetables. I really have come a long way from how I was raised.</div>
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LOL before I became vegan 85% of my shopping was dairy!! Oh man... I ate soooo much yogurt and cheese...
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>SundayCrepes</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/15372316"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
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Regarding the CSAs. I used to think they wouldn't work for me. I was afraid I'd get too many vegetables I don't like, wouldn't use them, and they'd rot. However, my veggie horizons have expanded.<br><span style="color:#0000FF;"><br>
Having a seasonal veggie cookbook made all the difference for me with using the CSA box. My two favorites are Deborah Madison's <i>Local Flavors</i> and Janet Fletcher's <i>Fresh From the Farmer's Market</i>. I still can't bring myself to eat the spaghetti squash I got though...just creeps me out.</span><br><br>
I don't tend to buy Costco produce because it comes in such large quantities. (Well, I do buy fruit sometimes. That we eat a lot of.) I'm afraid the veggies would all go to waste. Do you cook stuff up and freeze it or do you just eat it all?<br><br><span style="color:#0000FF;">I just eat it all LOL! Honestly the only veggies I tend to get at Costco are onions, peppers and avocados. I really rely on them for cheese (the Kerrygold Cheddar is amazingly delicious...especially as a cheese sauce over cauliflower),bocaburgers, Amy's burritos, beer and bread. IMO the produce at TJ's is dubious as best...at least at the one by us.</span></div>
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I do tend to freeze things like homemade soups and sauces, especially pizza sauce. Homemade pizza is terribly easy and another good way to get kids to eat their veggies. The pizza crust at TJ's is yummy.<br><br>
ETA: <a href="http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/FARMERSMARKETS" target="_blank">Here</a> is a good place to start looking for local farmer's markets.
 
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