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Attacking food costs, need ideas

June 12th, 2014 at 03:17 pm

HI all

I am attacking food/monthly household costs (toilet paper, soap and FOOD etc)

Any ideas.. and am I doing poorly now?

Per mint.com, I spend an average of $330-350 per month on food and household.. and have (this is bad) an average of a $100 of that eating out. primarily fast food (sodas and lunch)

Trying to cut back and be healthy

I never had a role model at home as to how to shop or cook or anything like that and I am not a big cooker but still thinking there has to be ways to reduce.. even if I just attack the fast food budget (primarily fountain sodas and lunch)

I had thought of doing the cash envelope route.. taking out $150 every 2 weeks .. does that seem low/average/high?

Thanks

10 Responses to “Attacking food costs, need ideas”

  1. ceejay74 Says:

    Meal planning. And, if you're not a big cooker, keep it simple. Are Lean Cuisines cheaper than fast food? Do that. Would you microwave rice, steam broccoli and saute a fish or chicken filet? That's like a 10 minute meal. Are there certain flavors you go back to again and again when eating out? Figure out a way to replicate it (teriyaki sauce to cook your chicken in, oven fries if fries are what you crave, etc.

    The way my family does it, once a week we figure out 7 dinners and a few things to take for breakfasts/lunches. We put them in a spreadsheet and on the side we type up a grocery list looking at each meal.

    If you can't break the habit completely, leave one free day where you don't cook and you order in instead.

  2. ceejay74 Says:

    Oh, and we check our menu spreadsheet against our calendar. If we know it's going to be a busy night, spaghetti and tomato sauce. If we'll be home and have leisure to cook, time to try out a new or more complicated recipe.

  3. Another Reader Says:

    I have seen worse. Your grocery budget probably includes everything from toothpaste to laundry detergent. The fast food should go, especially the sodas. You want to be healthy enough to enjoy your early retirement.

    For me, the key was having choices on hand that I would enjoy eating. I'm not a fan of most restaurant cooking anyway, as salt, sugar, and fat are often substituted for quality ingredients. The right tools - pans, dishes for the oven, the microwave, a blender, freezer containers, and sharp high quality knives - make food prep faster and easier.

    I'm a huge proponent of batch cooking and freezing individual portions. A $25 slow cooker won't use a lot of power and it won't heat up the house during the summer. Three boneless skinless chicken breasts cooked in stock with some onion, celery, and carrots for a couple of hours yields enough meat for several dishes. Everything from chicken salad to tacos and burritos. You can use the broth for gravy or simple sauces. Cook up a batch of rice and freeze it in individual portions, so it's always available to heat up in the microwave.

    If you enjoy Asian food, get a small stir fry pan and buy the chicken plus boneless pork chops when they are on sale. Keep them in the freezer and pull out what you need. You can slice a boneless pork chop into strips for stir fry. Slice a couple of onion slices and cut up some broccoli or green beans, stir fry and add a sauce. Find a recipe you like, and keep some sauce on hand or buy a commercial sauce. Pull a container of rice from the freezer to microwave and dinner is ready.

    A box of good quality pasta is often less than a dollar on sale. Make your own tomato sauce or look for sales and coupons if you like any of the commercial varieties. Brown up some ground beef and onions, add the sauce, let it simmer, and then divide into individual servings. Freeze some for later.

    Lunch can be sandwiches from home, leftovers, or the same dishes you would have for dinner. Most offices have microwaves and refrigerators which are helpful. Bring some home made iced tea or another drink to satisfy the soda craving.

    Fruit smoothies made at home are delicious and you can control the calories. Blenders are great tools. You also have access to better quality fruits and vegetables when you select them yourself at the store.

    Look around at a number of the on-line recipe sites for ideas. Allrecipes.com is a good basic place to start, although their recipes tend to rely on prepared food.

    Overall, your grocery bill may not get a lot lower, but the fast food spending line will disappear. If you pay attention to sales and buy quality food you know you will eat, you will be eating better food for the same or maybe a little less money.

  4. stefureac24 Says:

    A very simple piece of advice would be to buy in bulk. I would always go to Costco or Sams Club to buy all of my toilet paper, frozen food, or other imperishable items. That will help out a lot! There was a week where I didn't have much money, so what I did was buy 7lbs of beef at $18 at Costco and boxes of hamburger helper which was 10 for $10 at Kroger. It was the best thing in the world to eat every day, but it was what I had to do. Hope this helps!

  5. MonkeyMama Says:

    Rachael, I received basic cooking skills but never had a great food role model. What helped me was "Taste of Home" mags. You can get most their recipes for free online. Just google "Taste of Home". The great thing is they have a lot of very simple recipes. Start with that. You can search for "quick" or "few recipes" or "cheap" - those types of categories. Over time we just try more and more, buy more tools, become better cooks. We find home cooking to be infinitely cheaper, tastier and healthier.

    Instead of fountain sodas, buy soda from the grocery store. Whatever you can keep on hand to limit convenience ($$$) buys.

    I think you can lower your costs but it takes time, development of good habits, learning, etc.

  6. MonkeyMama Says:

    Er, make that "few ingredients". NOT "few recipes". Big Grin

  7. snafu Says:

    Terrific suggestions. Non edibles are the biggest profit makers for the food chains. If you don't belong to Sam's or Costco membership type big box store, try discount like W/Mart or liquidators for soap, paper goods, cleaning products etc. We make our cleaners, laundry detergent and dishwasher soaps from washing soda, borax and Fels Napa bars because they work better than brand name like Tide and Cascade and so much cheaper. Terrific details are explained on You Tube.

    Soda is so horridly unhealthy plus pounds of sugar. If you must, buy cans are way cheaper at the supermarket and take it from home. I hope you like Smoothies, healthy, filling, refreshing and delicious. Lots of recipes, combinations on any on-line sites like cooks.com.

    If you want to avoid cooking, I suggest easy peasy rotisserie chicken at the grocery, cut it in sections and freeze off the bone in ziplock baggies. If you don't have a microwave and forget to take out of freezer, pour boiling water over chicken in zipped shut baggie. One cup of frozen shrimp and some seafood sauce turns any type of an salad into a terrific entree. There are 72 common shapes of pasta. Boil 7-18 minutes in water and add the protein you prefer.

    Oatmeal has been identified as the best, healthiest breakfast food. Add a few tablespoons of tropical trail mix and it becomes edible for those who dislike oatmeal or even breakfast.

    Whatever you make for dinner needs to be a bigger portion to allow for takeaway lunch the following day.

  8. CB in the City Says:

    I'd suggest learning to cook from scratch slowly. Plan one new meal each week. Be sure to freeze the leftovers, and if you have leftover ingredients, look up new recipes that use them up. Don't get fancy -- don't buy anything you're unfamiliar with, it will probably go to waste. Really, I think eliminating waste is the real secret to keeping grocery costs down.

  9. SecretarySaving Says:

    I use the envelope system. Every payday, I swing by the bank to get cash.
    Breakfast is easy, bfast bars, cereal, smoothies, eggs. Lunch sandwiches, salads or soup. Dinner can be crock pot meals or grilled cheese, spaghetti or stir fry.
    Try this website http://www.5dollardinners.com/. Her cookbooks are my favorite! The ingredients are simple. I also like to grab pre made stuff since I'm a single mom and work and don't always have time to make things. I like to grab pre made salads from Kroger or Target and snack packs where are pre cut celery, carrots and dip. Hope this helps!

  10. Rachael777 Says:

    Thanks everyone. I am taking suggestions and will start putting into action. .like the website referrals and envelope situation and I DO have a crock pot.. easy is best.. cut out sodas and figure out somethign for lunch. also liked oatmeal suggestion. I actually like oatmeal. so will try to eat healthier and cheaper!

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