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Thread: How do you guys do it???
10-26-2005, 05:45 PM #1
How do you guys do it???
We are a family of 5 (3 boys, 2 adults) and I am lucky if I can keep my monthly grocery bill under $550.00 That doesn't even include diapers, soap, shampoo and etc. What am I doing wrong?
10-26-2005, 06:06 PM #2
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I try to buy only what's on sale & then work my menu out of that. We try alot of new recipes at our house.
I don't like to spend more than $1.50 per pound of meat, so when I see it cheap...I stock up. Meatless meals are good, too.
Use all leftovers. Use homemade alternatives to pre-packaged prepared foods....it's better for you anyway.
We rarely get pop, chips are usually tortilla chips. I can all of our tomato products. Gardening in the summer. Can and preserve your own fruits bought at wholesale or farmers markets.
These are some of my ideas right off the top of my head. Stick around....you'll find more ideas.
10-26-2005, 06:33 PM #3
You live in Mass. which if I recall is one of the higher cost of living states.
Canadians run into this problem too, as grocery costs and cost of living varies WIDELY from province to province, and from state to state.
Even when you hear a Canadian talk about a dollar, it's not an American dollar. The value is different, so is the buying power.
The tips and techniques are the same, but like the old TV saying, "your results at home may vary".
If you live in double and triple coupon land, then couponing is a strategy. I don't, and I find coupon clipping one of my least favourite methods.
Here are some things I've used over the years:
Menu planning which is just a meals list of the fixings you buy on your payday big grocery shop so you have what you need on hand for those meals. Pick what you want to make, change your mind, whatever, this is a fall back list, and it means you have 10 to 12 simple meals planned and the fixings bought and in your house for a 2 week period (my dh's pay period is 2 weeks)
When you first start, aim for a 1 week plan (6 meals, with the 7th being leftovers or soup and sandwich)
Price list or price book (know your prices on the 20 or 30 things you buy most often and try to buy on good sales and stock up)
Pantry storage (where you keep your bargains. The "pantry" includes a freezer where you stash sale meat.
Those will net you the biggest savings.
here are some more:
Try to do one or two vegetarian meals with beans per payday. Start with familiar things like baked beans, or chili (use TVP or textured veg protein to replace ground meat). branch out to lentil loaf. Find ones the family will tolerate and slot them into the menu plan, but try new ones regularly so they don't get tired of the same old beans. Bean or lentils in soups are good too.
Try using TVP to replace ground meat in things like spaghetti sauce. Don't fully replace the meat at least at first. Go for 1/4 TVP and if they don't notice, increase. If they hate it, bump back.
Do a soup and sandwich night with hm soup, and hm biscuits and cheese or peanut butter one night a week.
Get to know your crockpot, it saves energy $ too. But it's really nice to come home to a hot meal on those busy nights when you have to take the kids everywhere.
Crockpots cook beans really really easily so you can reduce the costs by buying dried beans and batch cooking them and freezing in little baggies rather than opening tins of beans which are more pricey.
Look for no name items and try some out, if the family doesn't notice, you can save BIG BUCKS. I find my savings are way better that way than brand names with a coupon. Faster and easier at the grocery store too.
Finally get to know which grocery store is cheapest overall, and shop there period. It's easiest. If you want to "cherry pick" the specials which simply means chasing down the bargains in the sale flyers, then do it, but after your big shopping is finished at the cheapy store.
How to find out? Price out the top 25 to 30 items you buy most often at the 3 or 4 nearby stores. Add up the costs (btw this is the start of your price book). The lowest one is the winner.
Even if you don't like them, and have to bring your own bags, this means you routinely bag those savings without any extra planning or effort.
When you do your big shopping (or enter ANY grocery store) make sure you've eaten first. Go in hungry you'll blow the budget every time.
Shop from a list.
I keep a magnetic pad on my fridge and write in what we are getting low on.
I add it to my menu needs and my list is born. I highlight the Costco items, and do them on the Costco part of my run, AFTER the cheapy store. By then the money is almost gone, and I'm not tempted to buy more just because it's Costco and the tempting item is in bulk.
If I see it for less at the cheapy store, I get it.
My cheapy store is kitty corner to 2 other grocery stores, and just down the highway about 5 minutes from Costco so I do a kind of circle route, ending up at Costco, then home. Saves gas.
The less you enter grocery stores, the less you spend on groceries period. So menu planning and lists and one big shop per payday really add up.
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10-26-2005, 06:34 PM #4
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Actually I still spend way too much. I budget 400 month for basically 3 adults and lots of company! LOL
My best advice to you is:
1. Compare prices of everything you buy to be sure you are getting the lowest price
2. Clip coupons and try to match them to sale items. Only buy with a coupon if it is something you will use and if it is the lowest price.
3. Shop at Aldis or Save a Lot if your area has them
4. Use ALL food you buy. Left overs can make soups or casseroles. Stretch that food!
5. Try to cook more from scratch. It takes some organization but is cheaper and healthy
6 Try some new foods. Sometimes a stir fry or a new casserole is cheap and tastes great too
7. Sometimes i have breakfast for dinner. Pancakes and eggs or the like
8 Try to build a stockpile so you always have what you need in the house. It stops those impulse trips to buy just a few items that turn into a few bags of stuff!
9 Try home made laundry soap and cleaners. I am finding out that they really do work!
10-26-2005, 06:34 PM #5
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I see you are in school.
When I was finishing up my degree last year, I found it VERY difficult to stay on the frugal bandwagon. It's so much easier to not be frugal. But it's almost more expensive!!
My biggest tips are:
make a grocery list
make a meal list
keep track of what is in your pantry/fridge/freezer
make use of leftovers (either for lunches or a revamped meal)
shop loss leaders (keeping track of prices so you know how much to stock up on to last you to the next sale)
Use coupons for items you buy (don't buy a product you don't normally buy just because you have a coupon for it, unless it's free )
Try to cut out the convenience foods like chips, sodas, cookies, pre-packaged meals, etc.
Buy in bulk when possible. But be wary, not everything that can be bought in bulk is a good deal. Keep your eye on the unit price.
10-26-2005, 06:42 PM #6
Originally posted by canadian gardener
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The less you enter grocery stores, the less you spend on groceries period.
So true, so true.
10-26-2005, 06:43 PM #7
I generally budget 150 for a grocery shopping trip, plus another 50 for odds and ends thru the month. I buy the lowest price product i can find, generally store brands if possible (and if they aren't horrid!). I use my coupons as much as possible. i try to incorporate filling but inexpensive meals a few times a week, soups, pasta meals make supplies go far. Cook from scratch, the "Master Mix" recipe for making your own bisquick is one example that has done us a huge favor! I buy soaps and stock up on them when they are on sale. i am not afraid to ask for help if i need it from our church's pantry staff. Last week we were two days from payday and in a lurch. I talked to them and they gave us enough to keep us going till then (i went grocery shopping and donated some items back...what goes around, comes around!) I can't help ya much with diapers formula, yeesh, that's a hard one here too. Call the companies who make the major brands, ask them for coupons or samples even! Soups, sandwhiches, that gets us through alot. Plus breakfasts for dinner are generally cost effective and stomach filling.
10-26-2005, 06:44 PM #8
about that pantry list and a 2 week big shop
I find that carrots, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, rutabagas all keep well in the fridge.
frozen peas, corn, beans, spinach, orange juice concentrate, and frozen strawberries, cranberries and blueberries work well in my freezer. (as do ripe bananas for baking with).
Potatoes and onions and hard squash and yams keep on the counter but the potatoes, keep them away from light and in a cool spot.
apples keep away from potatoes and other fruits as they give off ripening gases but they'll keep 2 weeks easy, as will oranges.
I buy salady stuff and eat it, and the stir fry greens at the beginning of the pay period while it's fresh, those go off fast, and use up the other veggies and fruit towards the end.
Tomatoes ripen on my counter for a few days, but like the salad, they are best eaten fast. Stir fries and red peppers go next, and I finish up with the harder fridge veggies.
Bananas, I buy loads when they go on clearance, and I feed the family their fill for a day or two then peel and toss into the freezer for future baking.
Crockpots are your best friend as I mentioned above. That goes double for working or going to school outside the home.
10-26-2005, 06:56 PM #9
avoid cold cereal except for once in a while treats
It's amazing how much you save and how much better the kids last on a hm breakfast.
On weekends I make pancakes and waffles, and freeze the extras for toaster breakfasts.
Oatmeal is simply a big tall plastic mixing bowl (taller is better as oats bubble over easily in lower bowls).
I slap 1 cup quick oats, 2 and a bit cups milk, and a pinch of salt. 3 minutes on high, stir, and another minute or two.
Stir, let sit for a minute or two, and breakfast is served.
It is so incredibly easy, and CHEAP!!!!!!! It holds the kids, it's nourishing, it's got fibre, it'll even bring down dh's cholesterol if he has troubles. What's not to like?
I've even been known to refridgerate leftover oatmeal to reheat quickly the next morning.
Toast and peanut butter is another cheap breakfast IF you get your sliced bread at a good little day old discount place. Nobody can tell if it's a tad stale once it's been frozen then toasted. But the budget will tell you!
HM french toast is another delicious way to quickly use up stale bread. Strawberry recently taught me to make it in my waffle irons for a fun texture and it works GREAT!!!!
One egg, some milk-- about 3/4 to 1 cup of milk and a spoon of pancake syrup beaten in a shallow bowl, dip the bread and fry.
Cold cereal doesn't hold them, and FAR WORSE it chews up the dollars unbelievably fast. It's ok to use it some of the time, but you will reap amazing savings from a big bag of 3 or 5 minute oats that you teach the kids to love.
(brown sugar or a little jam really make it nice!)
I do have cold cereal on hand but my kids prefer hm toaster pancakes and waffles (or they did till they grew up and left home)
The thing with cold cereal is, you buy a box of the stuff on payday, and when it's gone, it's gone. The rest of the payday cycle you make porridge or eggs or toast and peanut butter or hm toaster pancakes and waffles.
(plain waffles and pancakes freeze fine if you freeze them on a cooling rack in your freezer single layers so they stay flat and don't stick together)
10-26-2005, 07:08 PM #10
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Lest you think that we're ALL successful at this, let me tell you that I'm at $615 for the month ... with only 2 adults and 2 kids! (In justification -- I did a big ($350+) stock up run at the commissary. The 15 jars of Nutella will last till next year! AND my SHARE order didn't arrive, so I have a $125 credit with SHARE for future orders.)
#1 - It depends where you live. Double coupons, Aldis, good Farmers' Markets all can play into healthy eating without breaking the budget. In South Bend, I could get a pkg (10 oz? 1 lb?) of Aldi's triple-washed spinach for $1. Cheaper at the Farmers' Mkt in season. HERE, though, (desert Southwest), spinach at the Farmers' Market is $2 -- FOR A QUARTER-POUND!!! Yes, $8/lb.
#2 - As so many have said before, stockpiling is critical. I remember once in double-coupon land (South Bend, IN), scoring Red Gold tomatoes -- for $0.04/can after coupon! I ordered coupons from a coupon service ... and brought home 4 cases of tomatoes. For about $4.
#3 - Keep your eyes open. A year after I moved here, I read in a Homeschooling email that a local church was starting up as a SHARE distribution site. (www.sharecolorado.com for more info). As a result, I began ordering through them -- and I have built quite a surplus of frozen meats. Their produce package is quite a deal for this part of the country too!
#4 - Menu plan, with flexibility. Probably the smartest thing I ever did wrt menu planning was to plan easy/crockpot meals for busy days. Just got back from speech therapy, but no rush for dinner -- the beef stew was started at 9 a.m. I have a list of quick-fix dinners (heuvos rancherso; soup-and-sandwich; pasta; etc.) that I can make if something comes up.
#5 - When you get really, really good at menu planning, you might start freezer cooking. I'm not there yet, but every so often, I double or triple a recipe -- and freeze the leftovers for another night. It was so great to just pull out a meatloaf when a bunch of relatives came for a vist.
10-26-2005, 07:13 PM #11
No name shampoos work great, no name or house brands are wonderful savings in paper products, cleaners, toiletries.
I use no name shampoo, handlotion, generic OTC drugs, vitamins.
I buy a big jug of no name degreaser and dilute 1 in 10 in my spray bottles for a wonderful spray cleaner. but you could dilute mr clean same way for similar results.
Use cloth instead of paper where you can. I know most mums going to school wouldn't be able to do cloth but if you can get you and dh into a routine of running a load of wash in the morning, and the other one puts it in the dryer, and you fold and put away at bedtime (and I don't fold anything ,just toss) it may help. I used cloth diapers on dd when she was a baby, as dh was out on strike for months.
if the kids are older, and in diapers they might not like the cloth, but it also might encourage them to train earlier.
I used cloth sani pads, up till my hysterectomy, and it saved me a bundle.
I cut my own hair for years, another bundle of money.
I use cheap thin terry facecloths from Walmart in my Swiffer instead of the disposable swiffer cloths.
You don't have to do any of these things of course, but they will help if you do. each family's tolerance is different for stuff.
10-26-2005, 07:17 PM #12
another tip for easy menus.
Make a few menu plans and recycle them. Once you get about 3 or 4 weeks of menus that the family loves, that is your fall cycle. Save it. Re use it.
Tune it up come winter to take advantage of some family favourite winter meals.
Tune up for spring, using ham and asparagus, making another 3 or 4 week cycle.
Then summer is BBq and salads with meat or eggs and cheese.
The family won't mind seeing a food again in a month, and that way you have your own no brainer grocery list and meal plan all ready to roll.
Nothing stops you from adding in a new meal recipe or changing your mind and making the fixings into something else but it makes life much simpler.
10-26-2005, 08:46 PM #13
Thanks for all the tips. I am going to try to get my grocery bill down in November by incorporating all these great tips.
I do use my crockpot alot so that's a bonus and we have absolutely no junk food in our house. We stopped buying junk food about 6 months ago. So with these other tips I am hopeful I can lower my food bill every month
10-26-2005, 08:58 PM #14
Wow, great tips! I also take advantage of any and all rebates, especially Walgreen's and Rite-Aid. Just sent for my Oct. rebate for Walgreens, it was 61.00.
10-26-2005, 09:46 PM #15
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in addition to all of the great tips here, I also save alot on groceries by participating in "angel food ministries" they have a website...just look up angel food ministries & it should pop up....what this is...it is for everyone, regardless of income...for $25 a package, you get alot of really good food.....there are other packages that you can buy separately. I was very surprised at the amount of food that's in these packages....they give you at least 12 lbs of meat..this is the good stuff that would cost you $25 alone............we buy 4 packages for $100 a month and that had helped tremendously in combination with just trying to be as frugal as possible with our grocery shopping...we spend anywhere between $350- $450 a month, depending on if it is a holiday or birthday month....and we are a family of 11....5 boys, 4 girls , dh & myself.
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