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How much do you spend? Great food at reasonable prices?

I just cam back from the grocery store, and once again I am appalled at the high price of food in Fairfield County, especially organic fruits and vegetables and of meat. How much are you willing to spend to eat well? Do you have any tips to save $$$?

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  1. I don;'t always follow this advice but I've noticed a trend (at least with the three grocery stores in Eastchester) They basically rotate their sale item. Basically if you're willing to go to three different grocery stores, you can pretty much get everything on sale. I usually go to the closest one and let's say my bill is $100 before deductions. After It's about $88. If I was willing to make a list and hit every store and get their sales, I'd probably knock that down to about $65-70. That being said, with today's gas prices, if you're not close this doesn't really work. But if you have the time and patience, it is well worth it.

    4 Replies
    1. re: jhopp217

      It really does take time and gas, but you are right. That is a way to save. I guess part of my question is: what are you willing to compromise on (by buying less of, or less often, or substituting a less expensive brand etc.) and what will you not compromise on. For example, I refuse to buy anything other than Lavazza italian coffee beans. I don't care what the price is. On the other hand, I will buy filet less often braising cuts more. I also will forego some organic produce if it is much more expensive (for example, I put back a $6 head of lettuce and replaced it with a nonorganic head for $1.50.

      1. re: lattelover

        There is someone in this world that would spend 6.00 on an organic head of lettuce? I need their name and address. Have a bridge to sell them in NY. That is the most amazing thing I have heard in about 5 years. Guess you can't blame the store. I'd gouge the town that would support something like this. I would be appalled by 1.50 head of regular lettuce too. I have paid 99 cents a head for lettuce, and 1.50 if I'm on vacation somewhere, and need it, but in my area, 99c is a stretch. 2 heads for a buck is more like it. If I didn't live where I live, I'd be spending WAY more on groceries, I guess.

        I randomly checked a website of a grocer I go to every so often. Here is their on-line weekly ad page. Someone posted that they think I live in the land of 1970's grocery prices when I mentioned that I pay 2.99/lb for choice grade skirts. This is 2008 pricing:

        1.69 boneless skinless chicken breasts. Decent price. Got them for 1.49 a few weeks ago. And not those tiny little frozen bags, eiother, these things weigh about 1lb each for the whole (boneless) breast.

        Here's another one. lettuce 79c/ head. BS chicken breast 1.59 /lb.

        1. re: gordeaux

          Those are incredibly prices compared to NYC, fwiw.

          1. re: MMRuth

            NYC grocery pricea (especially in Manhattan) reflect the incredibly high cost per square foot of commercial rents. But those prices are ridiculously low compared to the SF Bay Area as well; I suspect groceries simply cost more on the coasts.

    2. Hi:

      We've moved this thread to the General Topics board, as it seemed a topic that many hounds would have feedback on. But, if the original poster is interested in specific places in his/her area with good prices, a thread on that subject can posted on Tristate.

      Thank you.

      1. We recently instituted an envelope system at our house to help with budgeting. Because of this, I only have $100 a week for two people, typically providing 3 meals daily. This may seem reasonable to some, but previously we would spend that on produce alone. The biggest change is in planning. Now my husband and i will sit down and discuss the grocery list agreeing on things like what kind of cereal will we both eat rather than getting two kinds etc. I have also started making a lot of things myself rather than spending more on prepared foods. Canned chickpeas much less expensive than pre-made hummus and it turns out tastier too. Bags of sugar and flour last awhile and again provide a less expensive alternative to buying a $3 muffin on the way to work, a storebought cake, or boxed cookies. Produce is the one thing we won't compromise on because of budget. We love it and we eat a lot. My husband requires a mango every single day, IMO apples are oxygen, and if I do not have fresh pineapple at least weekly the world doesn't feel right. The high prices irk me, but in the case of my household, it hasn't been a total negative because it has definitely sparked creativity and led us to eating more wholesome foods and almost no processed stuff.

        1. When I retired nearly 5 years back, we had to make some cutbacks. But no way were we giving up quality food. The best savings have come from planning. We work out a week's meals and shop just for that. The only "extras" put in the trolley are when the supermarket has deal on something that we use regularly.

          We also buy mail order meat from an organic farm. It's cheaper than supermarket organic and, often , no more expensive than supermarket "standard" meat. We also buy most of our fruit and veg from the village greengrocer - more seasonal, cheaper and not paying out to The Man.

          1. Having a weekly meal plan, which may take into account on sale items, helps cut down on my grocery costs. I like to prepare new meals for my family - not always the usually casseroles, chicken dishes, etc. If I plan out at least 5 meals a week, I can control how much I spend. If I don't have a plan, my spending goes way up with multiple trips to the store during the week.


            1 Reply
            1. re: eatmyfood

              I tend to shop at the market 3 to 4 times a week, I prefer fresh food. I find this to be more cost efficient...

            2. We also do the week plan... I find that it saves a lot in the long run, by not having to whip out to the store all the time, where I always end up buying extra stuff. I shop at superstore, where I find it to be much much cheaper, and try to hit local markets for fresh stuff. That being said, food is the one place we dont watch money... we think eating well is important. I would rather eat out less and have better groceries at home to make fun meals.... plus cooking is a hobby, so I think of it as spending money on an activity rather than just eating, if that makes sense...

              1. My husband and I just joined a CSA for this season. We paid $200 and it runs from June 1st through November 15th. We got such a good price because we put it 4 hours of work per week...so if we go up together it's only 2 total hours. I think this will go a long way towards reducing our grocery bills. Which is a very good thing because I saw "Fast Food Nation" recently and swore that I would not purchase "regular" meat again if I could help it.

                1. I buy my grains and legumes in bulk at a health food store. Not only is it cheaper, but you save on excess packaging. I have containers at home that I just refill.

                  And I try to use my meat/fish items multiple times to get the most out of it. DH purchased lobsters last weekend (which is a rare treat for us). He poached them in butter. I saved the butter and poached some shrimp (saving the shrimp shells) in it last night, made mashed potatoes using the butter. The shrimp shells and lobster carcass will go to a broth where I'll make a soup later on this week. When I make roast chicken, I use the rendered chicken fat and roast some potatoes in it. The bones go into flavoring something else. You get the idea.

                  I generally purchase organic meat no matter what the cost. For me, I'd rather not eat meat than purchase those factory chickens. (When I eat out, that's a different story -- I'm not zealous enough to only go to establishments that sell organic meat). But with certain items like tripe, I purchase that at Chinatown (non-organic) as it is difficult to find organic versions, and if you do, they tend not to be the freshest.

                  I look in the fridge before I do my grocery shopping on the weekends. You'll forget about the bunch of parsley that exists in the corner of your vegetable bin. I try to plan out meals based on whatever is in the fridge, purchasing extra items for the week as necessary.

                  And as I live in NYC, we generally shop using our feet as transportation. So that's a big savings there.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    It's the same with us - we live in SF and don't own a car. (So we save money there, and that allows us to enjoy life & eat out more often...) We shop by bike (with large bike bags) if we go to Rainbow Grocery or Trader Joe's, and then we supplement with farmer's markets, ethnic groceries, and our local health food corner store. I try to utilize bits and pieces and make the most of what we purchase - I feel really wasteful if I let something go bad and have to throw it away, so we plan our meals around what needs to be used. Like today, I made some wonderful pesto out of basil that was leftover from a tart recipe, and had that on whole wheat fusilli with broccoli and red bell peppers. We try to make our lunches, which is another money-saver.

                    1. re: Morticia

                      Yeah, having a car costs a lot more than my grocery bill! I'm moving to the city as we speak so I can spend less on gas and repairs and more on the farmer's market!

                      I have to say that being a vegetarian has cut down my costs considerably, esp since I make my own soy/cashew milks these days. (lactose intolerant here)

                  2. We have 3 major grocery stores to choose from. I usually hit the 1st one that is the farthest away, I get what is on sale then I hit the 2nd store on my way home, grab what they have on sale that I didnt get at the 1st store, then it's off to the last store for the remaining stuff I need (always on sale) I spend roughly 100 dollars every 2 weeks on food sometimes less. I always check out the bargain bins on meat and usually can find a deal every time. I also make my own stock, bread, rolls and goodies and that saves a ton of money. I have an xtra freezer in my garage which also helps to keep the cost down.

                    We are planting a garden this year too. I love fresh produce and that is one thing I refuse to buy at the store. It never tastes ripe or fresh. So all summer long I will have fresh tomatoes, cukes, etc.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Smileelisa

                      If you don't mind me asking, how many people do you feed on $100 every 2 weeks?

                      1. re: ArikaDawn

                        I spent $50 yesterday on cheese, milk, sour cream, fruit and veggies for lunch next week. Right now I am glad we are empty nesters.

                    2. I just bought produce and groceries at Aldi for the first time.
                      $40.00 bought: frozen raw shrimp, box of pierogi's, spinach stuffed pasta, dozen eggs, gallon of milk, prepared cookie dough, 4 pkg butter, tri pkg of peppers, cantaloupe, 2 avocados, broccoli, ham steak, hash brown patties, ice cream cones, 3 rock cornish hens, Asiago grated cheese and 3 shopping bags (my market bag was in the wash) and I had a 5.00 off on 30.00 order coupon. I wish I could buy everthing I need there because this was a huge bargain.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: HillJ

                        I'm a big fan of Aldi and Lidl as well - very good quality for the price. I don't buy their meat though, really, apart from deli items like ham and salami.

                        1. re: greedygirl

                          gg, my sil recommended that I stay away from the chicken parts but I made the 3 rock cornish hens for dinner with lemon, garlic and thyme and they were very good. $6.00 dinner for three!

                          1. re: HillJ

                            I'm in the UK, and have no idea what a rock cornish hen is! You definitely wouldn't find one in my local Aldi/Lidl. I avoid the meat because I would rather use a local butcher, and because I don't like to eat intensively farmed chicken.

                            There are a lot of regional variations - in the French ones you find a much bigger selection of cheeses, for example.

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                and very tender/tasty! I didn't realize it was an American thing but I've been enjoying rock cornish hens for decades. Makes a wonderful fried chicken for picnics too!

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  Thanks for that. I think the equivalent here would be poussin.

                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                    I see wikipedia tells us the Cornish Hen is an American crossbreed (nothing to do with Cornwall), first bred in 1950.

                                    1950 - a very good year for things first bred :-0

                          2. re: HillJ

                            HillJ, where did you get that 5$ coupon? Aldi's is just beginning to do some small TV ads in my area, and they have the weekly specials online, but I've never seen a blanket coupon.

                            1. re: FoodFuser

                              FF, it came in the po box I maintain at work. A brand new location just opened in my work territory. $5 off for an order of $30 or more this week and $10 off for an order of $40 dated for next week. Do you think the mailed offers will stop?

                              1. re: HillJ

                                Well, they run a super lean ship when it comes to overhead. They entered my area roughly 5 years ago, with little or no fanfare. I'd say use the coupons while ya got 'em.

                                1. re: FoodFuser

                                  super lean = the prices I paid the other day, no complaints outta me!

                          3. I live in NYC and we spend about $125 a week on groceries and that's to feed myself and my SO, plus his son (5 yrs old) who is with us a few nights per week. We used to spend about twice that before we took a look at the budget and realized it really was way too much.

                            The thing that saved us $ immediately was going to one place each week instead of shopping at several different stores. We both love buying and looking for food so it's so easy to go into different stores and buy a little here and there. It adds up. So we actually decided to do the majority of our shopping at Whole Foods and the rest comes from the farmer's market and some at TJ's. It's worked out very well, plus it coincided with a decision to eat less meat overall so legumes and beans and tofu don't cost as much. When we do eat meat we almost always buy pastured meats directly from the farm, and happy to pay what it costs.

                            Like everyone posting so far, we make a plan each week and check the fridge and pantry before shopping. We're also getting better at making something one night and stretching it - I make lentils in this tomato and vinegar sauce and that lasts for both work lunches and dinner. I think we eat very well on our budget and don't feel deprived, I have my Fage with cherry preserves, we get the good aged Parmesean, bronze die cut pasta, etc. And every couple months or so, we go as long as we can where aside from buying fresh stuff (vegetables, fruit, soymilk, etc), we use only the existing pantry items we have on hand.

                            1. Eat seasonally. Buy locally. Cook from scratch. Simple as that.

                              Living in Manhattan I'd normally be a victim of inflated prices, but I look for what's on sale at my local grocery stores, purchase my produce from a green grocer or farmer's market and rely on my cooking ability to turn raw ingredients into something flavorful and satisfying. Since it's just me, my average grocery tab lately has been around $25, but that also means that: my meals are dictated more by sales and season than my own personal cravings; I don't eat "organic" (a misleading label anyway) or grass-fed beef and poultry and rely more on technique and seasoning to develop flavor; I spend a more significant portion of my time cooking. The first two might be a drawback if you're accustomed to Whole Foods and artisinal goods, but the latter is barely a chore if you love food.

                              13 Replies
                              1. re: JungMann

                                I don't think that most people eat grass fed beef or organic poultry because they find it more flavorful (although I have to say that I find that most organic poultry is tastier). I think there are other reasons that come into play. In fact, I find grain-fed beef tastier. Though I can appreciate the gamy quality of a grass-fed beef, if I'm going to pay steakhouse prices, I want a nice juicy marbled grain-fed steak. And it's true that the term "organic" can be misleading. A lot of people do understand what that term encompasses but most people think that companies like Horizon Organic is superior to conventional companies when in fact they are essentially the same thing.

                                $25 tab is pretty impressive in NYC, JungMann, especially for a single person.

                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  I'm Filipino. Thrift is in my blood. Ginormous student loan debt is also a factor. But I've still managed to have great meals while avoiding penury: pork vindaloo, roast chicken with autumn spices and aleppo pepper, mojo chicken, cardamom-rose panna cotta, horseradish cauliflower mash, asparagus with beurre noisette, etc.

                                  I'm sure many people know what organic labelling actually means, but most of the true believers I have met assume organic means a lot more than it actually does. It's no wonder they're exasperated with their food costs when what they're really trying to buy is the fountain of youth.

                                  As for meat, I was trying to express that the quality of meat that I buy is probably not the same as the OP. Chicken quarters at 69 cents/lb. or large portions of pork that I can butcher at 99 cents/lb. Supermarket beef on the East Coast doesn't taste like anything to me, so I normally avoid it unless it's a good sale.

                                  1. re: JungMann

                                    I see what you're saying about the meat. Well, a good chef can transform the most humble things into something magical.

                                    Yeah, and I understand the Filipino thrift thing. I used to work with a lot of Filipino physical therapists who rented large houses and shared all expenses so that they were able to live in NYC (outer boroughs) for less than $600/month (rent, utilities, food included). They sent a lot of the money they were able to save back home to the Phillipines. Growing up with parents who've been through war time, my family also knew what thrift was about as my dad would complain that you could feed a family of four on a Vietnamese lunch special that was $5. As much as it pained me when he would say this in the middle of our $5 meals, he knew what he was talking about -- buying things on sale, stocking up in the freezer, buying things in markets that were undervalued. We ate fish collars growing up (really, one of the best parts of the fish). But as most people preferred steaks and fillets, my dad was able to get fish collars really cheaply. If you go to a Japanese place like Aburiya Kinnosuke you'll pay through the nose for them.

                                  2. re: Miss Needle

                                    "I don't think that most people eat grass fed beef or organic poultry because they find it more flavorful"

                                    [raises hand] That's pretty much exactly why I buy local/organic/small farm/etc. meats and veg. They taste better. Everything else, though I agree with the principles behind, is secondary. I'm primarily interested in food that tastes good.

                                    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                      I guess I've had different experiences from you. I've found things to be a hit or miss in terms of taste. Generally, I've found that local foods taste better but not always. For example, I've had Icelandic lamb (in NY) that was far better than the local lamb from the Hudson Valley in terms of taste. And I have to say I've had some stuff from the greenmarket that was worse than stuff I would get at a local C-town. I've found that organic celery always tastes better, but doesn't necessarily translate into other fruits and vegetables. And in my experience, organic chicken (or free-range) tends to be a lot tastier than their conventional counterparts.

                                      1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                        I completely agree about grass fed beef- it's a cleaner, milder taste that took a bit of getting used to but now I feel the taste blows grain fed out of the water. Now when I have grain fed beef, the taste is sort of muddy/gamey. I recently realized that my whole life I'd been eating cheeseburgers not because I love cheese on my burger but because I didn't really care for the flavor of a grain-fed beef burger. These days I eat my burgers straight- it seems a shame to hide the flavor under a slab of cheese.

                                      2. re: Miss Needle

                                        "And it's true that the term "organic" can be misleading"

                                        Not in Europe where we have legal constraints on the use of the word and the product has to be independently certified as compliant.

                                        1. re: Harters

                                          In the States you have legal constraints on the word organic itself as well. But some places like Horizon Organic, while technically comply within organic specifications, has been boycotted by a lot of "organic" people because their practices are not in the spirit of the movement, which is generally against factory farming and the whole access to pasture thing.

                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                            Thanks for that. I rather thought it might going to be something about definitions. Have I understood correctly - you saying that, in the US, animals can be factory farmed and the meat can still be called organic?

                                            That definately cannot happen in the UK (nor, I think, in the rest of the European Union) - one of the key requirements is that organic must first be "free range" (to pasture, etc) - itself a legal definition in the UK. It indicates access to "outside" and other factors, but does allow different feedstuffs or regular use of antibiotics which are banned for designated "organic".


                                            EDIT: Google tells me Horizon Organic has commercial tie-ups to Dairy Crest (I think our largest creamery company) over production of organic yoghurt. Plenty of reassurance around that milk must be to EU not US organic standards.

                                            1. re: Harters

                                              Horizon Organic produces dairy products, no meat, and it's perhaps the largest organic dairy label in the US. But its milk comes from huge dairies over much of the US that fit organic requirements because they feed their dairy cows organic feed; doesn't mean the cows are in any better conditions than in a huge conventional dairy farm.

                                              As for meat, here certified organic means that animals are fed feed that is itself certified organic and they are given no hormones or antibiotics - but it doesn't require that they be pastured or "free range," and all those words (other than certified organic, which is a legal designation) have very sticky definitions. That's why it's definitely best to buy meat from local vendors/farmers' markets if you care about these things here, so you know presicely what your food's provenance is.

                                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                Yes, agree with everything that you said. And there's an increasing demand for organic products in the States that I think a lot of companies resort to factory farming in order to meet the demand.

                                            2. re: Miss Needle

                                              Isn't there also a difference between organic and certified organic? There is a really comprehensive rundown of it all in Marion Nestle's What To Eat, but unfortunately I let someone borrow my copy and then moved out of state.

                                              1. re: ArikaDawn

                                                Yeah, certified organic has to have 95-100% of their ingredients as organic. There are stringent requirements that the grower has to go through as well with inspections to make sure that they are adhering to the regulations.

                                      3. Okay. Too many posts for me to read them all to see if anyone else has said this.

                                        When I really want to keep the food budget down, I shop at (don't yell at me!) WalMart. I don't know if it's their policy all over the country, but in Texas (well, at least El Paso and Plano) as you go into the store, they have a huge bulletin board in the entry area that has every other supermarket's ads posted. You can check them all out for sales, take notes if you'd like, then when you reach check out, all yuo have to do is tell the checker you want the sale price from where-ever.

                                        But I don't buy beef at WalMart. Sams had USDA choice, and even though it is wet cured, it's not the same "red Jell-O" that WalMart sells. When dry cured and prime is critical, I have a great little stand-alone butcher shop not too far from me, but that's not the place to shop if you're minding the budget!

                                        Again, I don't know how things work in the rest of the country, but I have both a Kroger's and an Alberston's a lot closer to me than WalMart (well, maybe not "a lot", but closer) but if you want their best prices you have to play their Mickey Mouse game of having their discount membership card. I can get their prices at WalMart without the hassle, and with gas prices what they are, I can get the bargains from every supermarket in town with one stop!

                                        Okay. Go ahead and tell me how wicked WalMart is for putting Mom and Pop out of business. But gosh, Mom and Pop don't pay my bills! '-)

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                          Caroline1, my sorry I wasn't able to read YOUR post because it was a bit too long...something about WalMart....rofl. Seriously, half a dozen large mart food chains get the boot on CH but at the end of the day...as you said...it's your food bill...so read the good suggestions above if you need add'l ideas. I just "discovered" Aldi Food for the first time. Some love it, others don't apparently...but I was delighted with what I purchased (again, you'll have to read up thread) for $40.00. Good luck, it's really dog eat dog in the food aisles these days.

                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                            My mother has taken to buying a lot of her groceries at WalMart b/c they really are cheaper and have pretty good quality produce, etc.

                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                              They also carry a goodly amount of organic foods with more arriving all the time. I assume that's national. Organic produce at my WalMart is 1/3 the price of my "farmers" market.

                                          2. I've decided to give Whole Foods a rest for awhile. I would often tell myself that I was just going in for cheese and then walk out having spent over a $100. Obviously, I was buying more expensive things that were simply convenient to purchase while I was there...and since I don't really care for their meat department, was buying expensive things that were cheaper and better elsewhere.
                                            Safeway is back in heavier rotation.
                                            Gas prices are what caused me to change my shopping habits. I have a daily 50+ mile commute and no options for public transportation. (ok, it's feasible, but my work day would then consist of one hour at the office.)

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: sebetti

                                              I have the same problem with WF! Food is one thing I cannot seem to cut down on. There are also periods in my life when I am not good at the planning thing. I could cut down on the discretionary spending stuff when I walk into WF and buy these crackers b/c they are on sale or whatever else is not on my list. . ..

                                              I buy most of my produce at the Farmer's market--and even though I go weekly, I will walk around to get the best prices. There are 6 or 7 strawberry stands, and sometimes the price difference can be $3 (for a 3-pack). That's one item, but it adds up. If a place sells artichokes for $3 and another sells for $1.50, I'm going to buy the $1.50 one (assuming size, quality, are equal).

                                              I find myself buying a lot of produce (unfortunately, I don't keep track of my FM expenses, since everything is cash, but I think I spend anywhere from $20-$30, just for produce), since I don't eat meat and rarely eat seafood.

                                              But aside from the produce, I try to buy spices, grains and many things bulk as another poster mentioned.

                                              I almost always bring my lunch from home. I am actually sick of the choices offered around here (I work at a university, so it's hard to get off campus during lunch), and the $6-10 here and there adds up over time. Some people eat out a few times a week, and I don't understand it. $7 times 3 times a week is $21, multiplied by 5 weeks is over $100.

                                              I also don't do the $1 coffee/latte/whatever thing that most of my coworkers seem to do.

                                              I hardly ever buy processed stuff. So no frozen meals, etc. I have a 4-pack of veggie burgers that I bought thinking they'd be "convenient", but after over a year, I still have one patty left.

                                              Also, lately, I haven't eaten out much, though I tend to be seasonal with my eating out habits.

                                              Does all of this save money? I don't know, because I think what I save by not buying processed, overpackaged things and not eating out much, I probably make up for with my produce bill. But with the produce, given how many health benefits they provide, I think it's worth it.

                                              1. re: anzu

                                                Anzu, you bring up a great point about saving money with the health benefits. People tend to think very short-term. When people get sick, so much money goes out the window in terms of treatments, medicines, diagnostic tests, lost wages, etc.

                                                1. re: anzu

                                                  I've found it tough to reduce my produce expenses without buying less, which I am unwilling to do. My husband and I go through about $50/wk in produce, but as you said, to cut corners and eat cheaper...well....crap just is not worth it. IMO it's money well spent.