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how do you keep weekly food costs down?

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My husband and I eat well- but I am always trying to keep our weekly grocery bill down. If left unchecked- which it has been at times- I spend way,way too much on the two of us.

I shop seperately for my children- their tastes are typical for their age- so I have a handle on their food budget.

I would love to hear what others do to keep the spending in check-

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  1. I try to buy meat at Sams Club but with only 2 of us and my chest freezer gave up the ghost in November, it is hard to store much. They do sell much in large quantities. But my local grocery stores have such high prices like $10.99 for lamb chops and Sams sells them at $8.49/lb it is worth my time to go there. I wish we had a Costco closer but it is a good hour to an hour and a half away.

    I'm not replacing the freezer either. Too much stuff got put in there and forgotten. That was expensive!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Candy

      Our household is 4 adults (youngest child is 19), and we do eat well. Nothing comes out of the can (except maybe tomatoes) - very little prepared foods. We've had an 18 cu ft freezer for over 20 years. We buy just about all our meats at Costco, and separate them into smaller packages for freezing. We also buy most of our beer/wine (and everything else) there. The local supermarket is for fresh veg's, milk, eggs, etc - about 2 times per week, and the specialty shops (Japanese food store, TJ's, Whole Foods, Butcher Boy) is about 2-3 times a month (altogether - not per place) to buy butter, specialty cheeses, Japanese items, etc.

      For us, saving money is not eating out. We can drop $120 on a nice meal without going to a really extravagant place - we can drop $50+ on take-out. Every night we "fail" (too tired, too busy) in planning and executing a meal is a big kaching in the food bill.

      The freezer takes care of itself with periodic review and planning. We don't keep a list of what's in there, and we're not that formal about planning (no weekly schedule on paper, or anything like that). But we go rummaging through the freezer at least weekly (it's a chest, so you really do have to rummage), and decide what we're having as main meals for the next few days - also tells us what we need to buy and when to restock.

      I think we do quite well for the quality and quantity of what we eat. We like eating out on special occasions, and periodically with friends, and we like to try special places, and don't mind the cost. But it's the week to week trips to the same old places (out of desperation) that seem to get us so often.

      If I take out 4 nice top loin strip steaks from the freezer and my wife gasps that I'm about to cook $28 worth of meat... but then I remind her what the dinner would cost at just the local steak place, never mind Morton's (and the Costco Choice beef is closer to Morton's than the local Select cuts), and we agree that, well - we shouldn't do this every night, but it is definitely cheaper and better than going out.

      There are a lot more chicken breasts or italian sausage or pork loin or flank steak or catfish or steak tip nights (whatever we make these into) than there are porterhouse or tuna steak nights.

      1. re: applehome

        Applehome, I work around the corner from Butcher Boy, and I'm curious about where the Japanese food store is. Sometimes I go to a Korean grocery on So. Union in Lawrence, and the Whole Foods in Bedford, but I am always looking for new specialty places to shop.

        1. re: lonetree

          I answered your post on the Boston board - see link below.

          Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

    2. Well, if you handle the kids thing separately, this is what my husband and I, who are childless by choice, do. We eat extremely well - too well, really. He's very spoiled. He is British, so we got in that European habit of shopping every day...this nearly killed us. We were spending up to $400 a month on the two of us. Now we are spending half that and actually eating better. And we have a different meal every night, I don't do leftovers. This was freezer week, so the total grocery bill for the week was just under $50.

      Plan the meals ahead of time. So for example, I plan 5 meals per week. I decide on Sunday what we will eat each night, including veggies and side dishes, condiments and everything. I of course can switch them around at will.

      I make a grocery list of everything I need for the entire week. Everything. You have to plan for any baking you might do, extra butter, milk etc.

      I make one, and only one, trip to the market. I get it all and that is it. No more trips to the market. That is the key to the whole thing. One trip a week.

      I use coupons when I can, but only if it's a regular purchase anyway. I bulk buy what I can. For example, I buy family packs of meat at a discount and break them down. I take advantage of two for one deals, because I have storage space and a freezer.

      I have cut the bills in half. It's working really well and lets us to other things with the money like eat out twice a week.

      Some other things I do....once a week is a meatless night....and I make and freeze extra meals whenever I can. That way, I don't have to buy meat every week. Sometimes I don't have to buy anything. Once a month we have freezer week, where we just enjoy things from the freezer with homemade bread. Also, learn to cook with the cheaper ingredients. Chicken thighs are just as good as breasts, Top sirloin instead of Rib Steaks, that kind of thing, which you probably already to anyway. I don't buy premixed processed food of any kind. I make it all from scratch. I also skimp in one area to splurge in another...for instance, I plan a very cheap meal (pasta or something I can make with what I have on hand) so I can get the really good cheese or the portobellos or whatever. I have learned to trade off in a way that is acceptable to me as a chef and a chowhound and acceptable to my husband as the chief manager of the grocery budget (this means he adds up the reciepts at the end of the month and logs it in the database)

      I'm sure you will get plenty of feedback....looking forward to some new ideas.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Cyndy

        thanks for the input! my husband is British too- from Scotland- and I also tend to shop every day- but I work at home so it is easy to slip out- this has to change.

        1. re: edinaeats

          You will love it...I swear I am so much less stressed. And you never have to think about meals...you just open the fridge and there they are. Since you are working at home, you can spend the time you would ordinarily be shopping on yourself, which everyone needs in a big way.

          Btw...I just love your name...my best friend has a variation of it...her's is A'Dena. Every time I see Edinaeats, I think what a great title that would be for a cookbook!

          1. re: Cyndy

            Do you make lunch every day or buy it? My husband takes lunch to work- so I make extra the night before.
            - but it can be costly.

            Where is your husband from?

            1. re: edinaeats

              My husband is from Worcester...right smack in the center of the country. He takes lunch every single day. Makes it himself, too :-) I take mine most days, but I am fussier about what I eat and such. I don't like to eat sandwiches day after day. We work in a building with a heavily subsidised cafeteria system - one of the very few perks of working in technology is cheap soup, apparently, so it's about 3 dollars a day for a decent lunch.

        2. re: Cyndy

          I don't think you'll find many people in Britain who shop every day for food - that's much more Continental than it is British. Most people here tend to do a weekly shop at the supermarket. (I'm a daily shopper myself). I also don't think that $400 a month is too bad for food, but then I'm extravagant!

          1. re: greedygirl

            The thing is, this thread is from 3 1/2 years ago; I don't know anybody who can get away with $400 a month anymore if they eat a balanced diet. Back then I probably spent $200 to $300, and now it's $500 to $600, and I'm a really frugal shopper and make everything from scratch, and get a good amount of freebies from work too. It's scary how fast everything changed!

            1. re: coll

              I agree, coll. Three years ago my grocery store bill was consistently around $450 for 2 adults, 1 small child and 2 cats. I bought almost all our food at the same store as well as cleaning supplies, paper products, most personal care items etc. I'm also a somewhat frugal shopper. Buy a lot of sale stuff, cook from scratch, use coupons. Well, three years later our monthly bills at the same store are closer to $800 and the only things that have changed are that the small child has gotten bigger, and we added a little dog to the family, who doesn't eat very much. I also started buying milk and eggs without antibiotics and hormones which costs a lot more but I don't use all that much in a month's time (my son will not, absolutely not, drink milk.) It is scary how fast prices have gone up in a very short period of time. And I just read in the paper yesterday that our state's natural gas suppliers for home heating are looking for 22% rate increases for next winter. I am seriously going to have to work a lot harder at finding and making frugal but nutritious meals for my family. I wonder just how bad things are going to get...

        3. I'm one of the few people I know who doesn't have a Costco/Sam's Club membership--I hate buying in bulk, want more variety, and can find the same prices elsewhere w/ a little effort.

          It's just me and my husband, and we eat and cook like the foodies that we are. What I do to keep costs down w/o compromising our chowish needs: only buy items on sale and produce that's in season. This means not being a slave to recipes and just opening up the fridge and throwing stuff together.

          When I feel like I'm buying more than we're using and the pantry's getting full, then I play a little game w/ myself and force myself to use up what I have w/o shopping for X number of days. Some of my best creations have arisen this way...Also stay away from useless and unhealthy processed/packaged items as much as possible.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Carb Lover

            Just the two of us here and two dogs who have their 'separate' menu. We do the same thing - being a war-time baby I cannot throw out food so we always plan a couple of days ahead and often finish up leftovers for lunch (not always, sometimes we cook for lunch and have the leftovers the next day for dinner). For the most part - its high end gourmet cooking by either one of us and we have tried in recent months to make less food so there aren't any leftovers. I always keep the receipts - good to keep to have an idea of what is going out on food. Now eat more at home and less out because we travel a lot on business and I hate to eat out traveling and then eat out at home.

            1. re: Zoe

              With the exception of saving receipts, your description applies to us exactly, right down to the two dogs. We make no particular effort to constrain or keep track of our grocery bill. If we feel like economizing, we don't eat out - which is no great sacrifice because we're both traveling and eating out too much anyway, and we learned a long time ago you can make better food at home - better than all but a very short list of nationally famous restaurants - for a fraction of the price. And, because we planned properly 20 years ago, drink better wine.

              1. re: FlyFish

                Did you lay down good wine 20 years ago? In my case I used to be able to drink Plonk but as I grew older, must have a decent glass of wine/champagne to drink or would rather drink water.

                1. re: Zoe

                  I bought a substantial number of cases of classified growth Bordeaux in the mid-80s - enough to last me the rest of my life, with a bit of careful management. I really didn't appreciate at the time what a good investment it would be. For example, I still have a couple cases of '85 Ch. Gloria that I bought when it came on the market in '87 (or maybe it was '88) at a bit under $9 a bottle. It's really drinking marvelously. Not only could I not afford it now (which goes without saying) - but I really can't bring myself to pony up the $50 or so that the current vintages of Gloria are retailing for.

                  1. re: FlyFish

                    I'm envious - we just have to rely on Wallys Liquor down the street from us in Westwood (Los Angeles) - he has an unbelievable selection of wine. His annual 'tent' sale is the weekend of Feb.19th - marvellous buys in wine, champagne and all the other drinks that make our lives happier.

                    1. re: Zoe

                      YOu live in LA and have to rely on Wally's? How come--there's a zillion places to buy wine here.

            2. re: Carb Lover

              we don't have a club membership either- and avoid all processed foods.

              I do the buying whats on sale and in season- but for some reason I think the area we live - food prices expensive (I know that folks in other areas will laugh...)

              It is a challenge to eat well- and fresh- and remain on a reasonable budget. I go through phases when I also try to add 'only organic' to the criteria- but the costs just soar then...

            3. What a great thread. Thanks. I never thought about asking anyone else about this.


              1. Maybe you shoudn't be shopping separately for you and your kids? One of the lessons I learned via Chowhound and through some child rearing books is that your kids should be eating what you eat. No short order cook. My son is 19 months old and we eat as a family and all the same food. I definitely cook a bit differently - more chicken and more rice but not so different than I used to. Because of it my sons favorite meal is tandoori chicken and he loves spicy food, falafel and pasta with meatballs etc.

                Also, planning meals and shopping once a week is key, Every Sunday my husband and I plan by day what we are eating for dinner, we make the shopping lsit according to that plan and I shop based on that. If there are things on sale (we live in NYC and circulars are not common), I change the dinner plan on the spot. Weekends are for new recipes since we have more time.

                Hope this helps.

                1. Everyone in the family eats the same food. No 'special' treatment for the kids. They will only use the moment to excercise what they believe to be 'control' by insisting on certain foods, etc. Leftovers are the norm. Prepare more than needed, re-cycle in two days as a modified plate of sorts. Experiment with new tastes and food product. Expand the palate of the entire family. Waste is created by the children eating at one level and the adult at another. No control as to the adolesents taste experiments or level of consumption can be attained by the means you now employ. Better control attained by sharing the same table at the same time.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Lanny

                    We eat seperately from the kids becasue they want to eat earlier and are tired. This gives my husband and I time to connect over a good meal.

                    Occassionally when we try the family meal- it is disappointing. I sit with them while they eat, but if I make them sit through one of our meals- it is toture for everyone involved.

                    1. re: edinaeats

                      How sad! I think a family meal is absolutly vital for a family to feel connected and to establish a ritual of sharing food and news of the day. Maybe if your kids took part in the prep and cooking (even a toddler can put napkins on the table), they'd be more fun to have dinner with.

                      My kids are older teens, and my husband is a chef, but they (kids, not DH) eat absolutly everything, and can cook as well.

                      I save by buying with coupons, bulk and cooking from sctach. But frankly, good food is a big part of our family life and I'd rather save money somewhere else. We're not having lobster and Kobe beef every week, but eating well is important to us.

                  2. I know this will sound strange but I actually have my husband do most of the grocery shopping while I'm at work. He is very good at watching the sales and follows my list carefully. Turning me loose in a grocery store is like sending a kid into a candy shop. I end up buying more impulse items than he does so, I try to avoid doing much shopping-it is much better on our budget!

                    1. Not eating out is the big one for us as well. Also not throwing out foods. One of us works way too much and the other travels a lot though both love to cook. The challenge is not buying too much produce. There is a farmer's market up the street that we should shop at more on an as needed basis than loading up on produce.

                      Ignore the following and the link if a political note is not your thing: We also frequent Costco for eggs, seafood, bread, etc. Besides being cheaper than our area stores, they are also head and shoulders a better company to support than Sam's/Wal-Mart as they pay their employees a more decent wage, refuse to offshore jobs, etc. etc.. http://www.alternet.org/story/19014

                      To us it matters.

                      Link: http://www.ufcw.org/press_room/fact_s...

                      1. Some ideas:

                        I go grocery shopping 4-5 times a week. I never plan a menu as that takes too much time and commitment. I never pay a club to shop. and I do NOT clip coupons as they only seem to have coupons on the expensive stuff. I am a salvage shopper and a complete opportunist.

                        My tips:

                        1) Nearly all of the ad items in the major grocery ads are loss leaders. They take a loss so that you'll buy all your groceries there. You do not have to. Buy the sales items in quantity.

                        2) Check the salvage bins. Groceries mark down seasonal items. Buy matzohs after passover, turkeys and hams after Easter and Thanksgiving.

                        3) Look for markdowns in every section of the grocery store. You just need to use it up as soon as possible.

                        4) Here is a tip that I received from a monk. Go to the wholesale produce/cheese/meat, etc. purveyors. They always have some product that is really good that they cannot sell for one reason. We used to buy 10# chunks of 1st rate cheese for very little as there was a little mold on it. Cut the mold off and you get about 90% of the cheese for about 50% of the price.

                        5) Do NOT buy convenience foods, period.

                        6) Day old bread. In the "old" days, it was easier to find. Now many places give it to food banks (although many are overwhelmed by it).

                        7) Dollar stores - they are a crap shoot. One time, I will find $30 worth of purchases. Othertimes, I find nothing to buy. However, some of the deals are phenomenal.

                        8) Plant a garden. $10 in seeds grow $200 worth of fresh produce. Also, planting, weeding and the like provide good exercise.

                        9) Hook up with a real farmer. Eggs and the like are generally cheaper in the country. And I am **NOT** talking about the "foo-foo" farmers markets where the sellers have manicures that you see in some of the suburban areas.

                        10) Buy in larger quantities.

                        I could go twenty more easily, but that is a start.

                        1. I find myself going to more ethnic markets, e.g., Latino stores for fresh produce, bulk buy meats at Costco. If there are a number of Latino or Asian flavored greengrocers, I think it's worthwhile checking them out no matter where you live. I find I can buy a week's worth of ingredients for salads, fruit desserts, and side dishes for $6.00--$7.00. Yes, there's just hubby and me, but we are hearty eaters. Altho we have a condo, we will also buy canned goods at Costco IF the price is right and it's something that replaces a comestible in our regular diet. We find a place to squeeze it in. I also prepare lots of soups, salads and casseroles--I know I'm fortunate to have a hubby who enjoys those meals. Yes, I splurge on desserts every now and then--again, from ethnic bakeries where the prices are low.

                          1. Have you ever thought of joining a co-op or some other sort of 'straight from the farm' deal? We pay $33 bucks a week to a company that drops a big box full of fresh, organic produce on our doorstep each week. It's always loaded with greens, tubers, wonderful fruit and other yummy veggies. It's almost more than we can eat in a week. At an organic market it would cost us at least twice that much.

                            There are many co-ops, produce groups and such things people can become part of. It's a great way to get excellent produce and know it's coming straight from a farm. (I love having dirt in my sink!!)

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: krissywats

                              Be careful, though. We had a membership to a CSA and our share barely made a meal for two people, unless you like lettuce for every meal of the day for a week straight. We'd get one potato, one carrot and some mysterious herbs, if we were lucky.

                              1. re: MkeLaurie

                                Yes, perhaps the best way to go is to ask other members. Ours is a bit different from a CSA but the same idea. You're the only person I've heard of that joined a CSA that had a problem, though.....but asking is probably the best. I knew someone who got Urban Organic (on a student budget) and had more than enough. Anyone in the metropolitan NY area should give it a try. It's well worth it.

                                1. re: krissywats

                                  I never asked around before joining the CSA, which also has a pretty good reputation for the other activities the owner does (primarily as a host of alternative educational opportunities) participate in.

                                  We were very, very disappointed, particularly because we know of people who participated in other local CSAs the same year and got nice bags of produce. Not only was our share quite limited, half of the stuff was also wormy.

                                  Yet, the place is still in business. Go figure.

                            2. I have found that our daughter doesn't give a hoot if her meal is leftovers. If I'm thinking of making a meal that I know she just won't like, I make sure to make something she really likes the night before so she can take care of leftovers while we eat something on the more gourmet side.

                              But in general, unless she's truly opposed to what we're having, I don't indulge her by shopping or cooking differently. However, I will reserve "plain" ingredients (rice, meat, vegetables) and serve the sauce on the side, for example, for her rather than wasting a plate of food that she's only picked at. I've been doing this since she was a toddler and starting out with finger foods.

                              I have also found that a lot of the food marketed at children is nutritionally bankrupt and ungodly expensive. Thankfully, with the exception of an occasional box of Spongebob Cheezits, we've avoided this issue.

                              One other thing that we do is visit a local u-pick vegetable farmer in the summer. Depending on where you are, you may have to drive, but it is worth it. $10 worth of strawberries makes two batches of jam or jelly, enough to last our family all year. My mother and I picked a large grocery bag full of green beans (total cost - 39 cents a pound). We froze and canned them, neither of which is particularly hard to do. Freezing only requires specific blanching times and storage containers. Three pounds of tomatoes, some peppers, onions and spices makes about six jars of salsa.

                              Granted, you need to have storage space to do this, but even processed, the food tastes so good in the middle of winter. Some farmers will also sell to you in larger quantities at farmer's markets.

                              I never shop at Sam's Club (never found the prices or the quality to be that great and I oppose their takeover of America). The nearest Costco is in another state. We also buy some meat direct from a farmer and we found that the better the quality of meat, the less we eat. The higher cost is offset by this.

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: MkeLaurie

                                Sam's has better lamb than I can get in any local place. Also, Sam's choice grade of beef is better and less expensive than the local grocery's select grade in my area.

                                1. re: Candy

                                  Just realize that supporting Walmart sends jobs to China (and elsewhere). For example, Chinese furniture manufacture, which has been cited for dumping through Walmart, has single-handedly crippled the furniture industry in North Carolina. The same in anticipated for the US textile industry after decades old WTO quotas expired this New Year. Over a 1/3 of the industry's employees (over 200K jobs) are expected to be eliminated. The U.S manufacturing base, and its higher paying union jobs, is being wiped out.

                                  I don't judge anyone if they prefer to shop at Walmart; it's a personal choice. But everyone should at least be aware that this is happening.

                                  1. re: Pupster

                                    Pupster, thank you...I was going to say the same thing...I stand with you. Bless.

                                    1. re: Pupster

                                      I am fully aware of all of that. I just don't have much choice. Costco is close to 2 hours away and the prices for inferior meat in the local supermarkets is much higher. I am also fully aware that Sam's is a red store and Costco is blue but drive 15 minutes or almost 2 hours is a major deciding factor. If I had an alternative I would be using it.

                                      1. re: Candy

                                        Why should you apologize for shopping at a place that offers good prices? I am in both Sam's and Costco nearly everyday and the content imported from China is the same. The prices are not.

                                        Personally, I shop neither for food as the prices tend to be higher than the local than the independent grocers and Mexican markets (who have the best butchers). They are both, however, signicantly lower than our "favorite" UFCW grocers (read that as Safeway, Albertsons, Krogers, and Supervalu) for better quality meats.

                                        1. re: Candy

                                          First, I'm not quite sure what you meant about Sam's being a red store and Costco being blue; are you refering to their political slants? I wasn't suggesting that Costco was any better, though Walmart is especially egregious in their quest for world domination (and driving down the average annual salary in this country.)

                                          Second, have you considered that you don't seem to have "choice" because you (and others) shop at a Walmart company? This is Walmart's m.o.: when they open in a new area, people flock there because of the low prices, and drive smaller businesses (who can't get their huge volume discounts from suppliers) out of business. Pretty soon, there is no choice because there's Walmart and nothing else.

                                          1. re: Pupster

                                            P.S. I am not judging you, Candy, though I am judging Walmart. I am convinced they are hurting America.

                                            1. re: Pupster

                                              That process of bigger and more aggressive businesses destroying smaller ones was occuring long before Walmart came along, and it would be happening with or without Walmart. It's called free market capitalism and our society is committed and addicted to this process.

                                              (I'm neither pro-Walmart nor pro-un-mitiagated free market capitalism but simply aknowledging the reality of the society we're living in right now. It seems like Walmart is just the scapegoat for being the most successful and most visible player of this game. And yes, "playing the game" includes skirting or even breaking the law; and disingenuousness regarding what's in the best interest of the common good. Everyone from the president on down plays this game, why shouldn't Walmart?

                                              If you, I, and others don't like what Walmart does, I think that rather than blame Walmart we need to educate others that something's rotten in Amerika and reconsider the systemic imperatives regarding consumerism, capitalism, and profits that our society considers sacrosanct.)

                                          2. re: Pupster
                                            Reared on Home Cookin

                                            OK, you've veered way off of food topics. But since you raise an economic issue, let me point out that you've veered way off of economics too.

                                            Very quickly: increases in Chinese productivity will increase US wages, not decrease them, because with greater Chinese wealth will come greater Chinese spending, i.e. they'll buy more of our stuff.

                                            If what you are saying about Walmart were true, then it would also be true that Europe would be better off if America were still a backwater, and every previous innovation that put some people out of work would be a bad thing, and we'd all be engaged in subsistence agriculture... no, wait, that was an innovation too, so how about hunting and gathering.

                                            Inventing the mechanical harvester put all the manual harvesters out of work. Sweater machines put knitters out of work. But guess what? What really happened was it freed them to do other things. The same amount or greater harvesting and knitting got accomplished, but the freed up workers were able to create more goods and services, like doctors, and tivos and whatever, greater wealth all around.

                                            This really is how it works. Is your state running a trade deficit with NY, or CA? Is your barber running a trade deficit with your dry cleaner? You don't know, and you don't care, because it doesn't matter. International borders also don't matter, they are arbitrary. What matters is increasing productivity, that's what makes life better.

                                            You've already said your side of it, so you don't need to repeat it and incur the wrath of the moderators. It just seemed to me that you might not have heard the other side of it, the side that all the economists teach and learn and why they are not worried.

                                            Don't get me wrong, your heart is in the right place, I'm just trying to reassure you that trade coupled with innovation is a win-win game.

                                            1. re: Reared on Home Cookin

                                              Since I work in finance, I completely understand what you are trying to say, and in the long run some of what you say is true, but not all. Feel free to continue this discussion by emailing me. (I would do the same if your email was listed.)

                                              1. re: Reared on Home Cookin

                                                Beyond the trade and capital implications (whether you perceive them as good or bad), I dislike Wal-Mart because it makes the American consumer be content with mediocre quality.

                                                And though Wal-Marts are huge stores, they actually provide the consumer with very little choice when it comes to actual products. You're at their whim. Try buying a more unusual item at Wal-Mart - a hot water bottle, a flag pole, even an oil filter for your car - and you'll see this phenomoenon first hand. These are all items I've gone to Wal-Mart for in the past few years and found they carried one poorly made option.

                                                When Wal-Mart forces all the other competitors out of the area (and yes, that is the free market at work, I don't begrudge them of it), consumers are left with mediocrity, whether it's a poorly constructed hand mixer (the one I bought literally would not accept the beaters), a laundry basket that can't hold more than half a load of laundry before splitting (used twice before we threw it out) or bunches of grapes that look oh-so-good in the store displays but are so sour nobody can eat them (suckered again).

                                                I see this with my relatives who shop at the Super Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. They think dips are supposed to be tasteless, that all appetizers are brown and need to be reheated at 300 degrees for 20 minutes and that chicken is supposed to be absolutely tasteless. They're also the ones who now think that 90-percent shortening with food coloring is "buttercream icing" thanks to the deals they can get on birthday cakes at Sam's Club.

                                            2. re: Candy

                                              The meat I've purchased at Sam's here has been lousy - terribly greasy, watery and tasteless. I've never seen anything beyond the main three meats - pork, beef and chicken - in the case.

                                          3. It sounds simple, but just don't buy expensive food. In general, we spend between $2 and $5 per pound for meat and cheese and $1 to $2 per pound for vegetables and fruit. That means buying in season, buying on sale, and avoiding the expensive cuts of meat.

                                            We buy relatively little packaged food and when we do it's opportunistic -- for instance, the dollar stores in our area sometimes have large boxes of cereal (for the kids) for $2 each, rather than $4 or $5 as in the supermarkets. When they do, we stock up.

                                            We eat well too (the past two weeks included paella, cassoulet, guacamole, lamb tagine, etc). The cassoulet is based on a mutton recipe from a French cookbook (that is, no duck or other expensive ingredients), the paella had chicken and a cheaper fish filet, with a few scallops and shrimp thrown in. We also eat a lot of fresh fish -- whatever's on sale (usually Basa, sometime salmon fillets).

                                            With fruits and vegetables, it's a truism that the best produce at any given time is what's in season -- and therefore what's cheapest.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: LarryInNYC

                                              LarryLustig, you are absolutely right: "Just don't buy expensive food." I once got into an argument w/ someone who truly believed he was saving money by using manufacturer's coupons, which you and I know is for highly processed, over packaged food. Lunchables???? Give me a break! What's wrong w/ a cute little plastic sandwich box filled w/ veggie sticks, cheese cut into little squares, saltine crackers and ham cut into little squares? Maybe packaged food may be a timesaver, but homemade "Rice-A-Roni" is so much better tasting. I'm simply amazed at how much money people spend to save a few cents; the key is to not spend the money in the first place.

                                              1. re: MKatrinaToo

                                                Here, here! Although coupons do come in handy for things you'd be buying already, i.e. laundry detergent, dog food, whatever.

                                            2. No one's mentioned not eating meat once or twice a week. Everyone's shopping at Costco and buying lots of meat to freeze. Certainly a good strategy, but slipping in a vegetarian meal once or twice a week, can reduce your grocery bill, too. By vegetarian, I mean anything from a souffle to a meal based on dried legumes and whole grains, such as red beans and rice. And it doesn't have to be purely vegie...sausage tastes good with red beans and rice.

                                              A meal of homemade soup and homemade or high quality bread is another great way to reduce your grocery costs. Soups are a great way to use leftovers (such as a turkey or chicken carcass) and to incorporate dried beans into your diet. I can think of so many delicious soups that are easy to make that will feed you two or three dinners. If you don't want to eat the same thing 3 nights running, freeze the soup into smaller batches. How about mushroom barley, split pea, black bean, minestrone with beans and pasta, pasta e fagioli, chicken noodle, turkey vegetable, chili...

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: desert rat

                                                I agree with the advice to eat meatless occasionally. I'm a longtime vegetarian and I used to eat very well on $25/week in law school. Granted, I had the time to make my own bread and yogurt and cook beans from dried, but it was worth it. I even used to buy the bruised apples at the grocery store at deep discount and make great applesauce.

                                                Even now that I'm working full-time (and then some), I still make the time on the weekends to cook up big pots of beans and soups to eat during the week (and pack to take to work). I try not to eat anything with a brand name on it, except for occasional soy products, which can be as expensive and processed as meat.

                                                1. re: Grace

                                                  Now that I think about what we eat, it's rare to sit down to a big slab o'meat. It's usually part of a bigger recipe and therefore we eat less of it.

                                                  Good advice, though...

                                                1. I haven't read through all the posts, but agree with those that mention making soup. Left over vegetables can make a great soup. I usually saute some onions, add chicken broth (some times home made, sometimes purchased, then add the left over vegetables, cook a little bit & then puree. Adding some fresh herbs at the end always freshens things up a bit. So does curry powder - for cauliflower, zucchini and broccoli, among other vegetables. Roasted vegetables can also become a wonderful soup - try onions, fennel & celery root.

                                                  Last time I made short ribs, I turned the leftovers into a soup by shredding the remaining meat, adding chicken broth and some vegetables.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                                    I never liked veggie soup until I made my own from scratch!

                                                  2. One thing i've noticed lately at my local super stop and shop is that they have started to carry a bigger "health/all natural" section which is great, but I think there are a lot of new items that people are not used to or they just don't have the foot traffic for, so a lot of those things end of being marked as "discontinued" (i guess this could be a manufacturing thing too)) so they are usually at least 50% off. Some of the items like cereal for example, end up being a really good deal and the brands/types are pretty good. I've begun to keep my eye out for these price savers.

                                                    Otherwise I'm with you guys on the big freezer, BJ's for bulk/meat, coupons, buying ahead when things are on sale (my husband is always amazed by the amount of extra TP in our supply closet but when a big roll is $14.99 and it's on sale for $10.999 you better believe I am going to stock up and use the coupon as well!) and I don't know if this was mentioned but joining a CSA as I have tons of extra veggies, etc from the summer which we eat all winter (greens, corn, squash, pesto, etc...).

                                                    I just got a ziplock freezer pac thingy which sucks all the air out/ no freezer burn...so I am going to give that a try next!

                                                    1. 1st, we grow all our own veggies in 2 gardens and a greenhouse. Nothing better then fresh lettuce in the winter. 2nd, my kids were picky too when they were little, but I let them know that I wasnt running a restaraunt. Burger King was down the road. They learned real fast to eat what mom & dad were eating and at the time that I prepared dinner. No meals were served 2 times. As they got older, dinner was served around their schedule due to baseball, football, basketball & golf. But we all sat at the table no matter how hard it was. Lastly, picky eaters will change if they see mom & dad eating the same thing and enjoying it. Then you will be able to cut way down on grocery bills. A little snack (like apple slices or fruit of some kind) while you are making dinner. Bit it is so important to all eat as a family.