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Ktgrok

help me with my grocery budget please

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Just an FYI on "cheaper alternatives", even if something is naturally GF, the safest brand without cross-contamination might be double the cost.  Bulk bins are not safe.  Cheap lentils are not safe (I buy the Palouse brand on Amazon, but they are double the cost of the ones at Aldi - DH did react to the store brands).  Regular oatmeal is not safe (and GF-certified oats are often organic, which costs more).  Store-brand nuts usually have a cross-contamination label (Planters are okay here but others have issues, and Nuts.com is usually fine).

So keep that in mind when people recommend subbing oatmeal for cereal and lentils for meat.  Sticking to specific brands isn't going to make the cost savings as pronounced as it would with someone who doesn't have to read labels.

DH has celiac and I have a wheat allergy.  We eat every single meal at home (or bring it with us), shop at Aldi and Costco, and average about $975/month in a low-moderate COLA.  It's high, but we also can't order pizza, DH can't go out to eat at work, sometimes I have to feed extra kids who are used to gluten-filled meals (and I am NOT cleaning up tacos and rice after six kids, sorry), and we don't have relatives ever feeding us because we eat before we go (or bring it with us).  And I know GF hamburger buns are expensive, but sometimes you just need a freaking burger.  Still cheaper than a restaurant, but you can't hide it from your grocery bill in a separate category.

Edited by BarbecueMom
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Have you looked at using the Healthy Request canned soups as bases for other things, to save time?  They are not that expensive and they *work*.  Lowered salt and fat might make them decent options.

Ex.  1 can of cream of chicken plus 1 can of chicken with rice plus 1 can of milk, whey, or water makes a pretty good soup lunch that feels heartier than its calorie count would imply.

Also, what grows near you?  Can you buy it locally in season?  I'm assuming citrus is big in the area--if eaten whole, it might not be that bad (juice is high carb/hi GI of course.)  Or use it to make salads have more variety.  Does someone in your neighborhood sell fresh chicken or duck eggs that you could subscribe to?  That might be cheaper and healthier than store ones.

When my DH was low carb he at a huge bowl of greens every day, with protein on it, as one of his meals.  The protein was a rinsed can of beans, fresh shrimp or prawns, chicken chunks, a can of salmon, a can of tuna, or (rarely) steak, often with a little cheese as well.  Blue cheese crumbles are high sodium but a little goes a long way.  Ditto goat cheese.  He had a good cafeteria for these but we also kept this kind of thing at home.  

Is there anything that the kids would get a kick out of growing that would make your food budget cheaper and your meals more interesting?  Arugula self seeds like crazy, for instance, and my DD and her friends used to eat it right in the yard.  It's not your everyday lettuce either.  Practically a weed.  Key here is not making work for yourself that is beyond the value of the nutrition.  

Are there filling veggies that are not that expensive?  The other night I went out to eat and ordered a veggie plate along with dinner.   It was spears of jicama, carrots, and cukes with a small serving of mashed avocados with lime juice.  It was surprisingly filling, and I ended up bringing home over half of my entree.  It made me realize that I should keep that stuff around to fill up on.  (Again.)   Carrots are high GI if cooked but low if eaten raw.  Cukes are low as well.  And they are never entirely out of season.

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I also struggle with the amount of sodium in cheese and meat. I think there’s a tendency in our minds to think low carb = those things. We end up with large hunks of meat on our plate and a small portion of veg. In reality, our protein requirements aren’t that high, and we tend not to get enough fiber. Naturally making the shift to be veg heavy resolves a lot of the sodium and carb issues.

If tortillas aren’t your thing, a 1/2c portion of brown or basmati rice doesn’t seem to be an issue for our blood sugars if the rest of our diet is going well.

There are a lot of studies that point to those on a vegan diet having lower blood pressure and cholesterol than low-carb eaters. I am not pushing anyone to be vegan, just emphasizing the importance of veg.

A pp comment about b vitamin supplementation is spot on when you start to drop grains.

 

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Lots of great tips but ITA with keeping it realistic. We've had specialized diets for over a decade. We were gf for a decade and paleo, there is just no way to get it as cheap as a SAD. We save money by- menu planning, buying in bulk(anything I find on sale that will keep or online, I used to buy from a food co-op too but they have been perpetually out of anything I want lately), eating at home more (yes the grocery budget is more but the food is better and overall it saves money). I don't aim for perfect budget or diet. I try for pretty good most of the time. We buy some pre-made snacks and make some homemade. I usually do a leftover night about once a week, whenever my stash piles up we skip whatever we planned to eat and it is first come, first choice. Last night I planned burritos but had an unexpected dr's appointment so we did burgers that I skipped Friday in leiu of leftovers, but there wasn't enough so I finished off taco leftovers and dd3 had leftover pasta. Dh takes leftovers every day, he actually loves them. 

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Our food costs are more than housing most of the time too.  And our family is way smaller than yours.  

Many people I know, especially in families with health issues, have very high food costs. 

Quote

Is there anything that the kids would get a kick out of growing that would make your food budget cheaper and your meals more interesting?  Arugula self seeds like crazy, for instance, and my DD and her friends used to eat it right in the yard.  It's not your everyday lettuce either.  Practically a weed.  Key here is not making work for yourself that is beyond the value of the nutrition.  

 

This could be a big help.  Initially it might take extra $ to set up a vegetable/herb growing area.

But then after that it gets better.

I can buy a whole pack of seeds for what one head of lettuce costs currently in my area.

AND! IME when kids get involved in growing vegetables they are much more inclined to eat them.  Including at ages of many of yours to graze while gardening.  Plus, homegrown often taste much better.   

Plus if you are homeschooling it can be a big part of that.  

 

Quote

Are there filling veggies that are not that expensive?  The other night I went out to eat and ordered a veggie plate along with dinner.   It was spears of jicama, carrots, and cukes with a small serving of mashed avocados with lime juice.  It was surprisingly filling, and I ended up bringing home over half of my entree.  It made me realize that I should keep that stuff around to fill up on.  (Again.)   Carrots are high GI if cooked but low if eaten raw.  Cukes are low as well.  And they are never entirely out of season.

 

That sounds delicious!

Keeping essentially a vegetable plate right in home refrigerator can be a good home strategy too.  

Like spears of carrots and celery, sprigs of parsley etc in jars of water where they are up front, visible, and as attractive as possible so as to make them as easy to grab and eat as any processed food snack would have been in past.  And at the same time put processed foods where they are hard to get—try to wean off processed food as you run out of what you have. 

Apple slices (with lemon juice to keep from going brown), cantaloupe, etc can also be made into easily available snacking food. Or appetizers. Or desserts. 

I use soups a lot in winter especially, but some even in summer.  

I have been using IP for soup and stew which makes them even easier.

I made a butternut squash soup that turned out really good and was very filling, and I want to try Gordon Ramsey’s broccoli soup.

usually I make a meat base (often chicken) soup with lots of vegetables.  They can go in thermoses as a lunch

I also make a lot of stews in winter

 

Edited by Pen
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Rice cakes are a good base for snacks. At my grocery store they have really thin ones which I like a lot. You can put butter and jam on them, or peanut butter and banana, cheese, etc. I'm too cheap to buy GF bread, plus it has a lot of weird stuff in it, so I just use rice cakes when I want something carby. 

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2 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

2. being realistic. I heard someone say $100 per month per person...and that was so so so far off of where we are....but that same person I think says they eat out twice a week. 

I don't believe that is realistic for most people. I feed a household of seven people and I spend nearly twice this. That doesn't take into account takeout pizza every Friday night and happy meals for 4 kids once per week. It is 'possible' to do it that cheaply, but that requires a significant amount of work (planning, prepping, coupons, multiple stores, whatever) that I don't have the time or the mental bandwidth to be able to do. 

I have a small chest freezer in the garage and I buy multiples of things my family likes when they are on sale (meat, fish, fish sticks, vegetables, fruit, ice cream, etc) plus flour and other baking supplies at the holidays. I make an inventory of everything in the fridge/freezer/pantry once a month and post it on my cabinet so I know what I have and what I can make this week. I have a bin in each place that holds the oldest stuff, marked EAT ME, to help cut down on food waste. 

I know it's probably not helpful, but my DH and I just had this discussion about our rampaging grocery budget recently and we stepped back to look at it in relation to our other discretionary spending. Factoring in the mental effort and time costs that would be required for me to cut the grocery budget a few hundred dollars, it would be significantly easier for us to cut that elsewhere. We've reevaluated our cellphone and wifi plans, or streaming services (hellooooo!$$$), our mindless ordering off of Amazon, etc... We decided that we will keep an eye on the food budget but, for now, it is what it is. 

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27 minutes ago, Mainer said:

Rice cakes are a good base for snacks. At my grocery store they have really thin ones which I like a lot. You can put butter and jam on them, or peanut butter and banana, cheese, etc. I'm too cheap to buy GF bread, plus it has a lot of weird stuff in it, so I just use rice cakes when I want something carby. 

What a great idea! I need to double check they are gluten free, but that might be a fast easy snack or lunch, especially for DS! Peanut butter and honey on a rice cake!

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It didn't quote, but the idea of having the apples, carrots, etc cut up and at eye level is a great idea! The kids really love carrots but never eat them because they are in a drawer! And they prefer apples cut up but only one safely can do that. 

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You’re right- eating almost all your meals at home will make your grocery bill higher than if you eat several meals a week out.  I wish people would just have the category be ‘food’ instead of groceries.  It’s not helpful to see a family of four spending $300 a month in groceries and think it’s realistic for you, too- not if the fact is their kids are buying school breakfast and lunch and the dh is eating lunch out and then the family eats out on weekends. 
As for snacking, we always supplemented fresh fruit/veggie snacks with popcorn. A handful of kernels in a paper lunch bag, popped in the microwave. Usually I tossed a tiny bit of butter on it, sprinkled it w Parmesan, or sometimes made a special treat of drizzling a bit of melted chocolate on it. Super cheap, fast, and easily portable when you need to take it with you.  

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12 minutes ago, Ktgrok said:

It didn't quote, but the idea of having the apples, carrots, etc cut up and at eye level is a great idea! The kids really love carrots but never eat them because they are in a drawer! And they prefer apples cut up but only one safely can do that. 

Don't you have what we call an ":apple whacker"? 

My kids who couldn't handle a knife could use the apple whacker.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Utopia-Kitchen-Apple-Slicer-Stainless/dp/B06XCJG4K4/ref=sr_1_2_sspa?keywords=apple+slicer&qid=1579715399&sr=8-2-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEyMzFXUkxMR1MzUUo3JmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwODYwNTQzMjAyQUMySElPTE1SSSZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwOTY0Njg5R0NFMTlOTjgzT0ZOJndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfYXRmJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==

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20 minutes ago, Ktgrok said:

It didn't quote, but the idea of having the apples, carrots, etc cut up and at eye level is a great idea! The kids really love carrots but never eat them because they are in a drawer! And they prefer apples cut up but only one safely can do that. 

One thing about cut apples is making sure to keep them from turning brown.  A bit of lemon juice or I think there are sprays in the produce area.

For apples, I do keep them whole, but my one kid that eats them, she uses one of those apple slicer corer things posted above when she wants one.

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29 minutes ago, Ktgrok said:

What a great idea! I need to double check they are gluten free, but that might be a fast easy snack or lunch, especially for DS! Peanut butter and honey on a rice cake!

 There’s also bags of mini sized rice cakes in assorted flavors, Walmart and Aldi both have them, I think. You’re paying more for the cuteness of bite-size, but sometimes it’s worth it.

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17 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

🙂

Good idea. I do think I have a pretty good grasp, and part of it is food waste. 

 

 

3 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

 

1. we do not have any extra fridge/freezer space. One standard side by side for the family of 6 (3 adults, 3 kids). This is I think part of the problem. If I stock up enough to not always be a the store you can't see what is in there. I don't know that I need a chest freezer as much as just a second regular fridge/freezer combo for the garage. That would let me store extra milk, half and half, eggs as well as frozen stuff. 

 

One thing you could do is try just buying less food.  You don't have the room for a lot of food, and you said you are wasting some.  Have less in the house.  Whatever you estimate for the number of bananas you need.....buy like 3 less.  When making up your grocery list (ahead of time) really sit and think things like "ok, so we have 6 people in this house, everyone can eat apples, but really, no one is going to eat apples more than 2 days in a week."  So, that's 12 apples, but realistically, all 6 people probably aren't aren't going to eat apples 2 days in a week, so maybe only buy 10.  Now, obviously, buy whatever you need for your specific recipe plans, so if you need 2lbs of ground beef, buy 2 lbs lol.  But for the snack produce, yogurt, cheese sticks etc etc....buy less than you think you will need.  Afterall, you *can* go back and get more if you *really* need it.  This might even encourage more leftover consumption.  "Sorry honey, we don't have any apples, but I have the cooked carrots and rice leftover from last night, we could heat those up if you are hungry.  

Keep track of this stuff for a few weeks.  You might find that you really do only need 10 apples, instead of 12 or 15 or whatever you have been buying.  Or you might find that every single week, you are running out to buy more eggs, so then yeah, when you do your weekly grocery shop, you do need that extra dozen.

 

Oh, and just in general, when you are at the grocery store, before you go check out, stop.  Look over your cart, and then try to put 5 things back.  (or 3 or 8 or whatever number works for you.)  You don't have to actually put them back, you can just hand them to the cashier and tell her that you changed your mind.  

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6 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

This was super helpful, thank you!

1. we do not have any extra fridge/freezer space. One standard side by side for the family of 6 (3 adults, 3 kids). This is I think part of the problem. If I stock up enough to not always be a the store you can't see what is in there. I don't know that I need a chest freezer as much as just a second regular fridge/freezer combo for the garage. That would let me store extra milk, half and half, eggs as well as frozen stuff. 

 

If you have any csa in your area, you might check that before deciding on fridge vs freezer . I get shares of a half or quarter steer (Beef) and freeze it as both more healthy (grass fed and in rotation to manure organic farm) and usually less expensive than from supermarket 

At butcher I met people picking up csa shares from other farms with other types meat

extra own garden vegetables or csa vegetables or fruit can also often be frozen

 

and soups, stews etc can be frozen.  Leftovers or make ahead meals

 

 

Quote

2. being realistic. I heard someone say $100 per month per person...and that was so so so far off of where we are....but that same person I think says they eat out twice a week. 

 

No way could I do that in any sort of healthy way.  Not even close.  

Quote

3. Yes - I gained 10 pounds since we went gluten free from all the processed stuff. I think shifting to natural foods will help that and our budget. 

 

👍

Edited by Pen

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9 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

It didn't quote, but the idea of having the apples, carrots, etc cut up and at eye level is a great idea! The kids really love carrots but never eat them because they are in a drawer! And they prefer apples cut up but only one safely can do that. 

Would they be able to use an apple slicer/ corer like this?https://www.amazon.com/Calphalon-Easy-Apple-Corer-Slicer/dp/B000SOAT0Y

I love my apple slicer, and it’s way safer than my kids using a knife, even if the slices the get are wonky.

Edited by emba56

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6 hours ago, Carol in Cal. said:

When my DH was low carb he at a huge bowl of greens every day, with protein on it, as one of his meals. 

Is there anything that the kids would get a kick out of growing that would make your food budget cheaper and your meals more interesting?  

Are there filling veggies that are not that expensive?

I came here to post these points made by @Carol in Cal. as well. 

Salad for lunch: Both my DH and I eat salads for lunch: it is organic mixed greens (big tub from whole foods) with additions like roasted sweet potatoes, beets, carrots and fresh citrus fruits, pumpkin seeds, roasted pecans, chia seeds, cranberries etc to keep it from getting boring. I add a vegetarian protein to it and make 2 types of salad dressings for the week. I also pack 2 days worth of salad in glass lock containers so that it is easy to grab and go. It is much cheaper than buying an equivalent salad at a restaurant.

Growing your own: it makes sense if you grow the unusual or expensive items at home. Get your younger kids a herb growing kit and they can grow herbs for you! They are expensive in the store and make all your dishes delicious! You could branch out to other things if you guys enjoy growing.

Filling veggies: I always buy big bags of broccoli, green beans, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, carrots etc when I shop and they are very cheap when you amortize the cost over the number of meals for which you can stretch them out.

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4 hours ago, Tanaqui said:

The USDA does not think you should realistically aim to spend $100 per month per person on groceries.

Barring any location-specific information on the cost of living, and lacking any better data, I'm gonna go with their numbers.

So...maybe I'll stop beating myself up - our budget comes out to right about what they list for moderate, given the number of people in our home and their ages! I added the family of 4 with the older kids to the individual male and the individual 2 yr old and got $1,523. We I think are spending about 1,500. I went with the moderate one based on our prices and on the whole gluten free thing. 

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12 minutes ago, Ktgrok said:

So...maybe I'll stop beating myself up - our budget comes out to right about what they list for moderate, given the number of people in our home and their ages! I added the family of 4 with the older kids to the individual male and the individual 2 yr old and got $1,523. We I think are spending about 1,500. I went with the moderate one based on our prices and on the whole gluten free thing. 

Ok, so the first thing you might want to do is take several weeks and really track exactly what you are spending and what you are spending the money on.  Once you track that, you will have a good grasp on both your total spending and what you are spending on foods, drinks, etc etc etc and also if there are other things that are "non grocery" that are creeping into that budget regularly.  For example, when I go to the grocery store each week, DH consistently asks me to grab antifreeze, or swing buy Home Depot and pick up a piece of hardware or this or that or the other.  

Also, you mentioned in the thread about your DH that he's a little heavy on the booze....are you buying his alcohol with grocery money?  If so, split that out (and maybe make him come up with the money to buy the alki himself, that might help him cut back too.)

 

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35 minutes ago, happysmileylady said:

Ok, so the first thing you might want to do is take several weeks and really track exactly what you are spending and what you are spending the money on.  Once you track that, you will have a good grasp on both your total spending and what you are spending on foods, drinks, etc etc etc and also if there are other things that are "non grocery" that are creeping into that budget regularly.  For example, when I go to the grocery store each week, DH consistently asks me to grab antifreeze, or swing buy Home Depot and pick up a piece of hardware or this or that or the other.  

Also, you mentioned in the thread about your DH that he's a little heavy on the booze....are you buying his alcohol with grocery money?  If so, split that out (and maybe make him come up with the money to buy the alki himself, that might help him cut back too.)

 

Booze has its own budget category now 🙂 

Although, come to think of it, I did include my $9 bottle of wine in the grocery count this past week. But honestly, given the rate I drink it really won't make much of an overall difference. I may go move that into the right category though. 

I'm in the "track everything" place right now, and looking to see what we can tweak. Snacks and prepared foods are one spot, food waste is another for sure. 

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We have having a discussion in the meal planning thread about an extreme grocery budget youtube video I posted.  You might want to check it out.  Doing exactly what was done in the video would for sure not work for you guys, as the video is full of like pasta and bread.  But, I do find it inspirational and like the thought experiment of how something like it might look in our house.

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7 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

It didn't quote, but the idea of having the apples, carrots, etc cut up and at eye level is a great idea! The kids really love carrots but never eat them because they are in a drawer! And they prefer apples cut up but only one safely can do that. 

 

Having non processed real whole food-food be the easiest thing to grab, and ideally appealingly presented helps a lot.    If the carrot or apple slice etc is easier to get than the junk snack it’s likely to be eaten. 

Kale chips is another good snack.

if you’re not up to making homemade, Brad’s gluten free air dried kale chips are quite good/no gluten option.  Pricey, but it’s a lot of vegetables instead of totally empty calories 

I sometimes find frozen vegetables (like spinach) end up more cost effective than fresh because they don’t go bad and thus get wasted or get used more and thus more cost effective because so much easier.  I just got both frozen spinach and frozen butternut squash to make more soup.  

 

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10 hours ago, Ktgrok said:

2. being realistic. I heard someone say $100 per month per person...and that was so so so far off of where we are....but that same person I think says they eat out twice a week.

Jordan Page.  And, yes, that doesn’t include their regular eating out, so I feel like she should be adjusting her advice to reflect a week of all meals.

I *can* do $150/wk for us (2 adults, 2 near adults, 12 and 9yos) but only from a combination of being VERY strategic and already having a good stockpiling system in place.  And, while our family does have some types of “restrictions”, they’re definitely not difficult ones.

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Yup, we have soup as just soup, no bread with it.

or soup and salad

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Jordan Page, while I love some aspects of her, have kids that do fine eating a ton of flour.  Seriously, I bet some weeks 90% of their calories come from pasta, bread, and crackers. Since the parents are fairly slender I'm guessing they're genetically ok with that.  My kids would be both sick and fat eating that way.  We have both food allergies and MTHFR and can't eat so much processed, fortified junk.  Even if they weren't eating out at least twice a week I wouldn't take her grocery budget advice unless you spend some serious time watching her videos and seeing what they actually eat.  It would not be okay for any of us.

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There are starting to be some black interior refrigerators with lighting to make fruits and vegetables look delicious! 

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That is beautiful Pen.  But I don't think I'd do it even if it was in the budget unless everyone in the family became vegetarian.  I can't imagine how you'd be sure you'd cleaned up the leaking chicken blood with that.

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9 hours ago, happysmileylady said:

One thing about cut apples is making sure to keep them from turning brown.  A bit of lemon juice or I think there are sprays in the produce area.

For apples, I do keep them whole, but my one kid that eats them, she uses one of those apple slicer corer things posted above when she wants one.

You can also give apple slices a quick dip in sprite/7up (or whatever generic lemon lime soda) and it keeps them from browning. That's what I do and then put them in snack size ziplock bags for an easy grab. 

 

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On 1/23/2020 at 3:40 AM, Ktgrok said:

This was super helpful, thank you!

1. we do not have any extra fridge/freezer space. One standard side by side for the family of 6 (3 adults, 3 kids). This is I think part of the problem. If I stock up enough to not always be a the store you can't see what is in there. I don't know that I need a chest freezer as much as just a second regular fridge/freezer combo for the garage. That would let me store extra milk, half and half, eggs as well as frozen stuff. 

2. being realistic. I heard someone say $100 per month per person...and that was so so so far off of where we are....but that same person I think says they eat out twice a week. 

3. Yes - I gained 10 pounds since we went gluten free from all the processed stuff. I think shifting to natural foods will help that and our budget. 

I know food is cheaper in the US but the advised budget for a good but not luxurious diet her was around $100 a week per person just for food.  I don't know anyone who spends this - mine is about $60 per person including soap powder etc plus a $20 float to share.  Even not including 2 meals a week I don't see how you could feed someone for $25 a week even if it is only one meal a day.

I have one gluten free fussy eater but he can have small amounts of gluten so contamination is not an issue.  I have to buy gf bread because toast and pure peanut butter is one of the few ways I can get protein into him.

Edited by kiwik

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When you have medical dietary needs, I think the idea that you should never tailor a meal to child (or adult) is just nonsense, and can make things more difficult. I don't do short order cooking on demand, but often have frozen alternatives for the kid who is on the most specialized diet, or slightly different kid and adult meals (even though my kids are now teens). 

Some ways that works here are I might have frozen stew for one kid, and everyone else is getting a soup that she doesn't like and wouldn't work for her. 

Or I offer optional sauce or condiments to basic dishes, like a bowl of rice and stir fried meat and veggies. We do a lot of build-your-own meals, where everyone can eat the basics.

Occasionally I'll make something just to stock the freezer with some options for the trickiest diet. Hearty soups, stews, meat pies, quiche.

Standardizing things definitely helps, like writing down the meals that are quick in terms of prep and satisfy everyone, or meals where there's an easy sub, especially when you have leftovers (maybe baked potato for some and pasta for others?). I have a meal plan for busy weeks that's one easy, low prep meal after another. We wouldn't want to eat like that all the time, but it helps to be realistic about your schedule when your family's health depends on home cooking.

I also like to cook and freeze proteins. Dinner is so much easier when you're starting with cooked chicken, turkey, or steak that's defrosting in the fridge. 

Amy

Edited by Acadie

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On 1/22/2020 at 7:04 PM, Katy said:

That is beautiful Pen.  But I don't think I'd do it even if it was in the budget unless everyone in the family became vegetarian.  I can't imagine how you'd be sure you'd cleaned up the leaking chicken blood with that.

 

Good point!

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How are you in the food waste department?  If you're cleaning out your fridge and tossing a lot of stuff, that's one area where you can gain some free meals.  You have to be aware of everything that is in there and either eat it or freeze (with a plan for future use) it before it is wasted.  We've gotten a lot better at this.  I had to completely retrain myself because nobody else was motivated.  It took working a Leftover Lunch into our menu ever so often.  That's where we're all eating something different for lunch that day so none of those single servings of meals get lost in the fridge and get wasted.  Multi-serving leftovers are easier to work in as sides to other meals.  it also helps a deal to label all of the leftovers with masking tape and sharpie.  It turns out that Certain People in my house WILL eat the leftovers if they don't have to open containers to locate them.  Sometimes I do a light soup, salad, and Leftovers dinner where people choose their main dish from the fridge. Oven re-heating and plating the meals goes a long way in selling this.

To help on the shopping/budget end of the equation, I now get most of our groceries at Aldis, Trader Joes, or an ethnic market.  Going on an ethnic cooking binge can also help.  Asian recipes with lots of veg and a tiny bit of meat are nice.  Mexican recipes are great for planned leftovers because the ingredients all seem to go well with the next meal you make.  Indian food is a LOT cheaper to make than to buy.  It doesn't have to be all beans and rice.  There are lots of meat, veg, and soup recipes to explore.  If you're buying your spices in a regular grocery store, it's worth a trip to an ethnic market to stock up because the prices are so much lower. 

I know you are limiting beans, but If you are buying canned beans, switch to dried.  If you compare a pound of dried to a 15-oz can, you're going to get 4X more beans for less than half the price.  I know beans are cheap, but the canned ones have so much sodium and you have to rinse the slimy stuff off of them.  Cooking dried beans gives you an awesome rich broth that's not gross and you control the sodium.

A kitchen garden is a great help.  It can be as simple as sticking your green onion trimmings in some dirt by a window, or having a few windowsill herbs.  You can do a tiny little square foot garden for some fresh salad veggies.  You lose so much less nutrients when you pick them right before you eat them.  

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For those who store cut up fruit and veg: how long do they last?  Do you cut them up every day? Every other? I had always read not to wash produce until it's going to be used but having stuff prepped for snacks and salads sounds good.

op: There's a cookbook your library might have called Cheap, Fast, Good.  The recipes might not be specifically helpful but it has a lot of cutting costs ideas.  

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On 1/22/2020 at 12:38 PM, happysmileylady said:

 

One thing you could do is try just buying less food.  You don't have the room for a lot of food, and you said you are wasting some.  Have less in the house.  Whatever you estimate for the number of bananas you need.....buy like 3 less.  When making up your grocery list (ahead of time) really sit and think things like "ok, so we have 6 people in this house, everyone can eat apples, but really, no one is going to eat apples more than 2 days in a week." 



It's possible I live in some kind of alternative universe.... But, "... no one is going to eat apples more than 2 days in a week," literally made me LOL. I have a lot of littles/middles.  If they see anyone eating any one thing, it does occur to them that it might taste good.  Now, no one here would eat more than three apples in one day (most of the time) but they consume like locusts.   And *I* for one am terrified of hungry & cranky children, thus I try to calculate to come out ahead but close.  I don't want six trips to the grocery store in a 2 week period because that is very, very expensive.  (I pick up things or they jump in the cart - not really sure.)

:P 

The same thought occurred with spraying apples to keep them from turning brown.  I've never seen a cut apple sit that long.

Come to think of it, this thread does make me a little eager for my grocery bill when they are grown.  
We have nine at home, and eight who eat all meals at home.  The 18yo eats out a lot as she runs and works at a restaurant.  We are over that $100 mark easily.  I know we're over $150.  I'd say, in a good month, where I'm being conscious, we are under the $200 mark.  I'd guess $175 is fairly accurate but I buy heavily at Costco.  I was pretty thrilled with my Costco Visa check coming next month until I calculated what I'd spent to "earn" that little reward. 😉  This does NOT include the 20yo's dining plan at college.  Those things are RIDICULOUS.

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42 minutes ago, BlsdMama said:



It's possible I live in some kind of alternative universe.... But, "... no one is going to eat apples more than 2 days in a week," literally made me LOL. I have a lot of littles/middles.  If they see anyone eating any one thing, it does occur to them that it might taste good.  Now, no one here would eat more than three apples in one day (most of the time) but they consume like locusts.   And *I* for one am terrified of hungry & cranky children, thus I try to calculate to come out ahead but close.  I don't want six trips to the grocery store in a 2 week period because that is very, very expensive.  (I pick up things or they jump in the cart - not really sure.)

Well, it is just an example lol.  Truth is in our house, there are 5 of us, but only 3 eat apples, and at that, no one is eating even one a day.  

Now bananas, I have to buy like 10 to 15 pounds of those, we go through a lot of those, and that's with only 4 of us eating them lol.

So yeah, when talking about being realistic, it's about whatever is realistic for your house lol.  

Quote

 
😛

The same thought occurred with spraying apples to keep them from turning brown.  I've never seen a cut apple sit that long.

Come to think of it, this thread does make me a little eager for my grocery bill when they are grown.  
We have nine at home, and eight who eat all meals at home.  The 18yo eats out a lot as she runs and works at a restaurant.  We are over that $100 mark easily.  I know we're over $150.  I'd say, in a good month, where I'm being conscious, we are under the $200 mark.  I'd guess $175 is fairly accurate but I buy heavily at Costco.  I was pretty thrilled with my Costco Visa check coming next month until I calculated what I'd spent to "earn" that little reward. 😉  This does NOT include the 20yo's dining plan at college.  Those things are RIDICULOUS.

Yeah, college meal plan costs are ridiculous.  When DD24 moved out of the dorm and into her own apartment, she spent less in 1 year for all her food, than the cost of the meal plan, which of course only covered 14 meals a week, and only when they were in school.  And her food costs actually included her non food stuff like toiletries and such, which obviously the meal plan didn't cover.  

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1 hour ago, happi duck said:

For those who store cut up fruit and veg: how long do they last?  Do you cut them up every day? Every other? I had always read not to wash produce until it's going to be used but having stuff prepped for snacks and salads sounds good.

op: There's a cookbook your library might have called Cheap, Fast, Good.  The recipes might not be specifically helpful but it has a lot of cutting costs ideas.  

I keep two big trays of washed and prepared veggies in our fridge. Sliced radishes, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes, trimmed green beans, snow peas, a head of cauliflower cut into florets. I restock the trays twice a week. We have lots of fruit in the fridge, too, but the only prep I do for those is to wash grapes or cut up pineapple or melon. The others - apples, pears, citrus, pomegranates - we just wash and slice right before it is eaten.

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1 hour ago, happi duck said:

There's a cookbook your library might have called Cheap, Fast, Good.  The recipes might not be specifically helpful but it has a lot of cutting costs ideas.  

That reminded me of the book "Eat Well on $4 a Day: Good and Cheap" (free PDF download). It's about sticking to the food stamp budget of $4/day per person. She has recipes, but also lots of good ideas on keeping a stocked pantry on a budget and other things. I reread it every once in a while, when I get into a grocery rut. 

Edited by Noreen Claire
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I hope to come back later and post more, but I just wanted to commiserate. I have a celiac kid and a husband who should eat better that eats out, and it is hard.  Our grocery bill went up when we had to go gluten-free. It's just a fact that gluten free bread and pasta is more expensive than the regular kind. 

I went through my delusions of grandeur phase where I thought I would make all my own pasta and bread. That didn't last long. I do still make bread on occasion for bread crumbs which I freeze to use in various recipes.  But I buy the Aldi bread for him now. It holds up better and in general it is easier for me. 

My husband has started making smoothies for breakfast and packing a sandwich for lunch. Even smoothie ingredients can be expensive.

We do eat soup for dinner (without other sides)--usually it is a hearty soup with lots of veggies, italian sausage or other meat, and gluten-free pasta.  I also make chili (although I think you said sodium is a concern--I am not sure if chili has a lot of sodium or not). There is a (lower sodium) taco seasoning blend in the WTM recipe swap thread I can recommend. I use it all the time and it tastes tons better than the packets. My celiac kid likes tacos and fajitas. Fajita meat can be expensive by my standards--I usually buy the thin sliced steak for carne asada they sell at Aldi. We eat a lot of chicken also. 

 

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1 hour ago, Selkie said:

I keep two big trays of washed and prepared veggies in our fridge. Sliced radishes, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, grape tomatoes, trimmed green beans, snow peas, a head of cauliflower cut into florets. I restock the trays twice a week. We have lots of fruit in the fridge, too, but the only prep I do for those is to wash grapes or cut up pineapple or melon. The others - apples, pears, citrus, pomegranates - we just wash and slice right before it is eaten.

Thank you for taking the time to post! I like your list of veg.  They'd be great for snacks or salads. I feel dense asking but are your trays divided or does stuff mix?  Are the trays covered? 

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On 1/22/2020 at 12:45 PM, Annie G said:

You’re right- eating almost all your meals at home will make your grocery bill higher than if you eat several meals a week out.  I wish people would just have the category be ‘food’ instead of groceries.  It’s not helpful to see a family of four spending $300 a month in groceries and think it’s realistic for you, too- not if the fact is their kids are buying school breakfast and lunch and the dh is eating lunch out and then the family eats out on weekends. 
As for snacking, we always supplemented fresh fruit/veggie snacks with popcorn. A handful of kernels in a paper lunch bag, popped in the microwave. Usually I tossed a tiny bit of butter on it, sprinkled it w Parmesan, or sometimes made a special treat of drizzling a bit of melted chocolate on it. Super cheap, fast, and easily portable when you need to take it with you.  

 Yes, our budget is "food" and it includes both groceries and dining out. Though there is a ~$100/mo cap on dining out, so they are separate to some extent. It's heartbreaking how few lunches and coffees $100 buys in a month. 

I love the encouragement to prep fruit and veggies!

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7 hours ago, BlsdMama said:



It's possible I live in some kind of alternative universe.... But, "... no one is going to eat apples more than 2 days in a week," literally made me LOL. I have a lot of littles/middles.  If they see anyone eating any one thing, it does occur to them that it might taste good.  Now, no one here would eat more than three apples in one day (most of the time) but they consume like locusts.   And *I* for one am terrified of hungry & cranky children, thus I try to calculate to come out ahead but close.  I don't want six trips to the grocery store in a 2 week period because that is very, very expensive.  (I pick up things or they jump in the cart - not really sure.)

😛

The same thought occurred with spraying apples to keep them from turning brown.  I've never seen a cut apple sit that long.

Come to think of it, this thread does make me a little eager for my grocery bill when they are grown.  
We have nine at home, and eight who eat all meals at home.  The 18yo eats out a lot as she runs and works at a restaurant.  We are over that $100 mark easily.  I know we're over $150.  I'd say, in a good month, where I'm being conscious, we are under the $200 mark.  I'd guess $175 is fairly accurate but I buy heavily at Costco.  I was pretty thrilled with my Costco Visa check coming next month until I calculated what I'd spent to "earn" that little reward. 😉  This does NOT include the 20yo's dining plan at college.  Those things are RIDICULOUS.

Lol me too

my 7 year old will eat an entire kilo in a day single handed if I don’t stop him!

lucky we live down the road from the orchard

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5 hours ago, happi duck said:

Thank you for taking the time to post! I like your list of veg.  They'd be great for snacks or salads. I feel dense asking but are your trays divided or does stuff mix?  Are the trays covered? 

I use two of these:

https://smile.amazon.com/Sistema-Split-Storage-Container-Clips/dp/B07D18SQWG/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=sistema+quad&qid=1579919197&sr=8-1

The cauliflower goes in a big bowl and if there are veggies that don't fit in the trays, I put them in bowls, too. I don't cover any of it. We eat it all pretty fast, so it doesn't have time to go bad.🙂

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