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  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2006

    Default Seeking remedial help with food budget!

    Okay, I know this has probably been discussed before, but I really
    need some remedial help on my food budget.

    I thought I was doing pretty well, not going crazy at the grocery
    store, reading the store circulars, shopping the sales, buying in
    and making multiple meals out of things when possible, reducing our
    meat consumption . . . but I was wrong. For our family of 4, we
    $573 in the last month on groceries, and that doesn't count the $48
    DH spent on lunches out! (FYI, we live in the Chicago suburbs.
    our own meat isn't an option, and we have a postage-stamp size

    WHAT can I do?? There are a couple of things I simply cannot skimp
    my DH and DD are lactose intolerant, so I have to get them lactose-
    free milk, and we give both kids organic milk (b/c of pesticide and
    antibiotic concerns). I also have to have a good amount of fiber in

    Any solid beginner advice would be so helpful. I figure if I do
    menus, that should help. Any other baby step tips? (I checked the
    Angel Food network - none close enough to warrant the extra gas
    if you can believe it!)

    Thanks again to this wonderful list.


  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2006


    Re: Seeking remedial help with food budget!

    I'd recommend hitting farmer's markets for fresh fruits & veggies,
    and using those instead of canned. For starters, it's cheaper, but
    it's also healthier. More and more doctors are saying that because
    of all the preservatives, and the high sodium count, canned veggies
    just aren't that good for you. But either way, farmer's markets are
    usually dirt cheap.

    I'm sure living right near Lake Michigan, Chicago probably has some
    sort of a fish market, too, that you might want to look into. That
    would give you fresh fish along with the fresh fruit & veggies.

    If a lot of the food you currently buy is pre-packaged, pre-boxed
    food mixes from the grocery store, invest in a sunday paper every
    week. Clip the coupons, and match the items on sale with coupons you
    have. If it's not on sale, and you don't have a coupon, and it's
    just not a need vs want, then wait until it is on sale. Most items
    are on a 4 week cycle, meaning, it goes on sale at least once a
    month. That's not true at all stores, but 90% of grocery stores do
    this. More popular items & brands go on sale more often.

    But, keep this in mind- if it's on sale, and you have a coupon, but
    generic is still cheaper, then get generic!! More often than not,
    though, with sale & coupon combined, you can usually get the brand
    name item MUCH cheaper than generic.

    If you are sold on one brand, try other brands that might be cheaper
    at least once. For instance, if you only eat Sara Lee bread, try the
    store brand at least 1 time. It's a lot cheaper, and usually the
    taste isn't that much different, if at all.

    When you get in the habit of coupons, you can start getting more
    than one paper, or asking neighbors, family, and friends for thier
    extra coupons. That will enable you to stock up on items when they
    are on sale. I haven't bought a box of cereal for my family since
    mid-April, when I was able to get cereal on sale with a coupon for
    around $.50/box, PLUS earn a $10 off my next purchase coupon for
    getting 10 boxes. I paid $5, and then got back $10, so you can
    imagine just how many times I was at the store that week.

    You can also order coupons cheap at

    Another way to cut your bill is to cut back on the most expensive
    part of the meal- meat. As long as you are getting protein
    somewhere, you do NOT need a meat dinner every day of the week. In
    fact, in the portions most adults eat meat at a single meal, you are
    getting enough for 3 or 4 days of daily amount. Serving sizes are
    actually quite small compared to meat cuts, etc. Add Total Vegetable
    Protein to your meals via sauces, soups, etc. It's a powedered mix
    that adds more veggie protein to your diet, but you really can't
    taste it.

    Find some cheap meals to make up, and do at least 2 cheap meatless
    meals per week- spaghetti is a great on. Noodles are $1 a box, and
    the sauce is about $1 a jar. Add a loaf of garlic bread for $1.50,
    and you've fed your family of 4 for under $1/serving. And you'll
    have uncooked noodles left over. I don't use spaghetti noodles. I
    found long ago that buying the rotini noodles were a LOT easier for
    little forks, little mouths, and little hands. Add some of the TVP
    to the sauce while it's warming up, and it's even healthier.

    Below is a link to the forum on the budget 101 board that lists
    recipes for meals you can make for under $2.50.

    It's summertime, and pasta salads are cheap to make in bulk, and are
    a tasty healthy addition to any meal. Cut back on the main course,
    and bulk up the side dishes.

    Now with meat, stock up when it's on sale. Don't buy it according to
    your meal plan for the week, because you'll be paying through the
    nose for the meat when it's not on sale.

    For instance, on sale, you can get whole chickens for under $.50/#,
    or boneless skinless (my preferred type) for under $1.50/#, where as
    both, without sales, are much more. Boneless skinless can run up to
    $5-6 per pound off sale, so suddenly, my baked chicken goes from $2
    to make, up to almost $7. If it's on sale, pick up 4 packs- enough
    for 1 chicken meal a week for a month. Or more, if you have a
    freezer you can store it in. When steak is on sale, get that in
    enough packs for a month. Same with any type of meat.

    Tuna fish added to a meal, such as tuna helper, tuna casserole, tuna
    sandwiches, etc, is cheap, too.

    Your bill is astronomical to me, because we only spend around half
    that on groceries for a family of 5, and we don't have a garden, and
    don't hunt.

    I also have to add that I really don't think angel ministries is
    worth it. With coupons, I can get the same items they offer at the
    same, and sometimes cheaper, price. Plus, I get the benefit of
    having the food in my hands immediatly, and if there is something in
    the box we don't eat, we're not stuck with it. We get what we want,
    when we want it, and usually get more of it. There's really not
    enough of any 1 food in those boxes to feed my family at each meal,
    meaning I'd need to buy two boxes just to have enough for each meal
    for a week. $50 is what I spend per week, sometimes more, sometimes
    less. So, $50 on two boxes, which still isn't enough to cover all
    our food needs, is too much to me.


  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2006


    RE: : Seeking remedial help with food budget!

    There is a 99 cent store by me (in Houston) that sell some grocery
    items. Maybe there is one by you? I can't do all my grocery shopping
    there, but I can get some of it done there - and anything I can get away
    with paying 99 cents for instead of full price is worth it, to me.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2006


    RE: : Seeking remedial help with food budget!

    Some tips:

    Bring a small calculator to determine if buying a large quantity vs. a
    smaller quantity of an item is worthwhile. Even if its only a difference of
    .04 cents - this could add up to $50 over the course of a year.

    If you have a certain type of non-perishable or frozen food that you consume
    regularly then keep a look out and buy it in bulk when it's on sale, rather
    than just when you need it. If you can identify certain foods that you buy
    regularly enough to make stocking up sensible, find the sale, and buy away.

    Keep a list of the items you frequently purchase at the prices they are
    available. You'll soon identify what a good deal is, and what is just hype.

    The Sunday paper usually comes with a wealth of coupons and sale
    announcements. Plan your grocery list then, taking these deals into

    account. Collect and organize your coupons ahead of time.

    You save a lot when you don't buy all your meals out - that includes takeout
    and delivery! Don't let grabbing take out or ordering a pizza be an excuse
    for forgetting to plan ahead. Sit down and plan your week out. Then go to
    the grocery store and buy what you'll need for those meals. If you have it
    already in your house, you're much less likely to be tempted pick up the
    phone to call Dominos.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2006


    Re: : Seeking remedial help with food budget!

    I don't think that sounds bad at all. Lactaid and organice milk are very
    expensive. Sometimes you have to spend a little more for health. I often spend
    close to $600 a month for our family of four. To try and save money on other
    things you can stock up on things when they are one sale. Do you have a freezer?
    I find this saves me money because I can stock up on meat when it's on sale.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2006


    Re: : Seeking remedial help with food budget!

    Take a close look at what you're buying. Almost any prepared food is more
    expensive than making your own. If it comes in a box or is frozen or has more
    than one ingredient, with a few small exceptions, you're probably spending more
    than you need to.

    At least check out store brands, I prefer brand name for some things but for
    the most part store brands are just fine.

    Make enough so your husband can take leftovers for lunch.

    I have a budget of $80 a week for food, cleaning supplies, paper goods, etc.,
    plus whatever else we might need. I'd say $40-60 of it actually goes for food.
    We eat meat with every meal and my husband is a big man who works a physically
    demanding job so he eats a lot. I do it by making most meals from scratch. No
    boxed side dishes, no cold cereal, no snack foods, sodas are a rarity, he loves
    tater tots so I reluctantly buy those but only the store brand, and I have a
    large stock of condiments and herbs and spices. Spaghetti sauce and soups for
    cooking are about the only prepared foods I'll buy because I can't make them
    much cheaper and it's just not worth the time.

    Take it slow and start cooking more and opening boxes less and you'll see your
    spending go down.


  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2006


    Re: : Seeking remedial help with food budget!

    At 02:04 PM 6/27/2006, Lori wrote:
    >At least check out store brands, I prefer brand name for some things
    >but for the most part store brands are just fine.

    Also, check around to see if some store brands are better than
    others. Except for butter, I absolutely hate King Kullen products -
    but Stop 'n Shop's are excellent (at least, to me). So, if you don't
    like one store's brand, see if another store's are as good as brand names.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2006


    RE: : Seeking remedial help with food budget!

    Store Brands are good!

    I shop at Aldi's a lot it is store with food for less and the taste is fine
    to me.

    Life is too short!! Live a little


  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2006


    Re: : Seeking remedial help with food budget!

    Hi Amy. I am also in the Chicago burbs (near Schaumburg). I have a family of 4
    (dh,myself and dd's 8 & 6). We are in a townhome with a tiny yard as well,
    although I am experimenting with container tomatoes, red peppers, herbs and
    green onions this year. Should be interesting!

    Definitely meal plan. I find that if I have a dinner planned for each night in
    a pay period (every 2 weeks for us), and make sure I have enough breakfasts home
    for the kids we do MUCH better with our budget than if we don't. I try to cook
    a bit extra at dinner so we have lunches besides sandwiches. I like to cook up
    a batch of chicken thighs for grilled chicken salad lunches. I dice each thigh
    and bag them separately to freeze. Defrosting is 1 minute in the microwave and
    I have an instant filling lunch. Yum!

    How are you at spotting rock bottom prices? Have you tried tracking prices over
    a period of time to know what are really good deals? Unless an item that we use
    all the time is at the lowest absolute price, I will not buy it if it is not on
    my menu that pay period. Some of the things that I will buy at bottom prices
    are mayo, salad dressings and tuna.

    Our biggest expenses seem to be meat and fresh fruits/veggies. I buy most of my
    meat at Sam's club. For example, boneless/skinless breasts are $1.98/lb (I
    believe) and b/s thighs are $1.68. Breasts can go lower (to $1.39/lb) at jewel,
    dominicks and other markets so you have to watch the fliers. Thighs rarely go
    lower, although I have occassionally seen them at $1.49 as well. I also buy a
    whole pork loin at Sam's club and then slice it into chops to get 6-8 meals. I
    pay around $20 for the whole loin (I forget the per pound price but its very
    reasonable). I can get the 98% lean ground beef at Sam's much lower than the
    average prices at grocers too. Again, I cannot stress enough that I will always
    check the grocery ads just to be sure before buying, even at Sam's. We do not
    eat much seafood so I cannot say on those prices - Walmart has the best prices
    on fish sticks though LOL! 40 sticks for something like $2.50/pkg.

    Fruits and veggies can be difficult. I rarely buy them grocers like Jewel. I
    have found wonderful blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, avacodos ($2.50 for
    5!!) and lettuce at Sam's. I also like Caputos for price but they go bad very
    quickly. If you have a Valli produce around, they have excellent quality at
    rock-bottom prices. Look around at Farmers Markets too.

    If you have a Butera near you they have good prices normally. They even carry
    things like whole wheat pastas which can be difficult to find at smaller
    grocers. Don't forget about Aldis for staples as well. A lot of their can
    goods are just as good as name brands and only a fraction of the price.

    The other bulk items that I get at Sam's is yogurt, waffles, frozen veggies and
    cereal (although some cereals are cheaper at Walmart). A few school snacks too
    - that is hit or miss. Can goods and snacks can be found at Walmart very
    inexpensively too. I don't have a Super Walmart here with a full grocery but
    what we do have has great prices. Walmart doesn't carry many lite or fat-free
    products though if that is a concern.

    Is that $573 for the month including non-food items? Never buy those at the
    grocery store when you can avoid it. Make a separate run to Walmart or the like
    for paper towels, TP, cleaners etc. Also OTC medicines and beauty supplies
    (soaps, shampoos etc.) They are almost always cheaper.

    Sorry this is so long. Hope you find something helpful in my ramblings!

    Monica in IL



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