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grocery bill for health conscious consumers

We are a family of two, very health conscious, cook almost every meal from scratch and bring our own lunches (eat out 5-6 times a month). We eat almost exclusively organic and seafood. I would like to solicit some idea from fellow organic veggie eaters on how to pinch pennies in this inflationary environment.

We currently belong to 3 CSAs, Eating with the Seasons, Full Belly Farm and Frog Hollow (for fruit only). We like Eating with the Seasons because it offers choice, unlike conventional CSAs. With choice comes cost, every single item comes in a smaller quantity compared to Full Belly, which has some outstanding produce, but bunch carrots for a whole month could be overwhelming. So we always look at Full Belly's weekly delivery list first, and choose from EWS whatever FB doesn't deliver that particular week. Frog Hollow (Happy Child CSA) is the most expensive one, costing about $35 for 10lbs of fruit (avocado inclusive), we joined based on the raving reviews of their peaches on this board. So far, we don't find their fruit to be THAT extraordinary, perhaps because the peach season has not started yet. With 3 CSAs under the belt, we need very little supplement from the supermarket, except for olive oil, milk, condiments etc. at TJ's. When our subscription with Frog Hollow expires, we may find another fruit CSA with better value. Are there any other choices for fruit CSA besides Frog Hollow?

Our CSA costs come out to be around $85 a week, which I find to be as good as it gets because we eat enormous amount of veggie. Prior to joining the CSAs, our Whole Foods grocery bill was at least 50% higher. Now we never visit Whole Foods again. Our TJ cost is around $40 a week on ice cream, olive oil, milk, nuts, two buck chucks (for cooking, we don't drink) etc. Maybe there is some slack, but I feel we are doing ok.

We are murdered by our cost on seafood. We shop at Mitsuwa, which we found to carry the best quality seafood in South Bay, but at a steep price. Our seafood cost is around $65 a week, and they are not even all wild caught. I would love to know about quality fish mongers around South Bay that can cut my seafood cost. Are there seafood CSAs?

So just on food alone, without counting the bath tissue, washing powder etc., our grocery cost is already $800-850 a month, which I found to be on the higher end compared to grocery bills I saw on the internet. I would love to cut $100-150 a month without sacrificing much quality, is it doable? How?


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  1. I guess it depends on where you live, but for me, going to the farmer's market (Alemany in SF) weekly is *much* cheaper than getting a CSA box (or three, in your case)--eg I'm buying organic stonefruit for $1.50/lb and greens for $1/bunch. I buy a lot of bulk dry grains and legumes at Rainbow Grocery (also in SF). There's no way two people could eat 50+ lbs a week, etc., so I'd consider dropping the CSAs.

    Seafood is hard; I'd probably look at frozen seafood as well, and bear in mind much seafood isn't truly sustainable. Farmed tilapia or catfish are pretty economical.

    5 Replies
    1. re: xanadude

      Thanks for the feedback. I will definitely look into the seafood choices.

      But I am a little embarrassed to admit that we DO finish almost all the veggies from 2 CSAs every week (maybe 50 lbs), sometimes in 6.5 days. We get two full shares from both CSAs. Since we have nothing to eat on the 7th day of the week, we have to eat out. I know that sounds completely ridiculous, but we seem to have unreasonably big stomachs, and we haven't been putting on much weight after so much food, perhaps because it's mostly veggie and fruit.

      1. re: Riceball

        I would be, as I'm sure others would, interested in your cooking suggestions/recipes for all the produce - you obviously love it and must have some great and easy ways of cooking and serving! This time of year we all need a kick start and new ways of thinking as the abundance comes!

        1. re: OCEllen

          Howdy, we've moved the stuff on cooking/recipes to the Home Cooking board. Please continue the discussion there, so that hounds everywhere can benefit. The link is here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/522718

        2. re: Riceball

          WE also do 3 CSAs, Frog Hollow, Two Small Farms and Marin Sun Farms. We go through 2 boxes of veggies from TSF in a week easily. I eat a ton of veggies! We are just a family of 4, and my husband often doesn't help eat the veggies because he doesn't get home until late.

          Hold out for the stone fruit for Frog Hollow and then make your judgment. This is our 3rd season and to be honest I quip about quitting it every winter, but their Warren pears keep me captive. The winter produce isn't that great. Our farmer's market here is hit or miss on organic fruit, and I just don't have the time or transportation to make it to one that has a better organic selection, so the CSA works. I haven't found any other fruit CSA that does local organic fruit, especially one that ships from their own farm as Frog Hollow does in the stone fruit season.

      2. Have you tried Race Street Market for fish?

        1 Reply
        1. re: daveena

          Thanks for the suggestion, I will go check out this week.

        2. Besides farmers markets in the South Bay, how about some of the mom and pop produce places like Milk Pail and such?

          My work has CSA delivered for fruit and it's convenient but on the expensive side. I know I do better then that and I'd imagine if you scouted the farmers market and local mom and pops and kept tabs on what's seasonal and on sale, figured out a pattern, you could do better and have fewer duds. I guess the trick would be switching over.

          p.s. a second on xanadude's recommendation on legumes...it really can stretch things very econmically.

          1. Your food budget does sound....high.

            I'd think half of that number would still be pretty indulgent for a lot of healthy families. Were you already spending that much with Whole Foods/TJ's?

            It sounds to me like you could cut out one CSA and still have yourself covered, but it also sounds like it's your fish that's out of control. $240 a month on fish?! TJ's has some really decent flash frozen fish, as an alternative but if you're downing $60 worth a week it makes me think you're buying really high grade stuff, or having lobster dinners, or exotic fish, but either way, it's sounding like you're consuming more then is healthy anyway.

            I think the best advice would be to stretch your food, and return to doing a bit more shopping at Whole Foods. The other option is to grow some stuff yourself if you have a big backyard.

            Also, is your diet almost entirely carb free? Rice, and noodles have served some third world nations pretty well and help to stretch meals.

            By the way, there is that Dr. Oz (or whoever originated it) theory that if you consumed a ridiculous amount of fruits and nuts you'll actually lose weight, reduce cholesterol and other benefits. I recall there was some cod liver oil or something involved though.

            6 Replies
            1. re: sugartoof

              We have completely cut out WF since our CSA substitution. TJ's inventory is very reasonably priced and we are hooked on too many of their items so we can't cut that.

              However, the seafood problem is, those flash-frozen fish tastes decisively different from the fresh fish served at Mitsuwa. If our tongues cannot tell the difference, I would be more than happy to go with TJ's stock. But since we live so close to the coast, I've always been wondering if we can find a cheap local fishing outlet that sells fresh fish from Monterey or Half Moon Bay.

              Yes, our diet is mostly carb free. We do eat little bit of rice, noodles, bread etc. every day and that's why we need lots of veggie and fruit to fill the stomach.

              Healthwise, we actually feel very good on the current diet. But we don't feel that good about the cost.

              1. re: Riceball

                I'm just wondering if your Whole Foods bill used to put you in that same $800 price range?

                It just sounds to me like you need to take the same food, and approach it as if you were cooking for a family of 4 instead. I'd imagine that bulk of veges turns it into a juggling act of using the stuff before it spoils, but not to quickly so you don't have food for the weak. Anyway, that may be easier then finding cheaper farm direct sources that aren't going to compromise quality.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Have you ever read the posted health warnings about eating fish from the Bay? It's scary stuff, mercury, PCB, selenium and other toxins are present. On occasion Bay-caught fish is probably okay but on regular basis it's seems unwise.

                    The advisory recommends that adults eat no more than two meals from the bay per month, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children under 6 half that amount.

                  2. re: Riceball

                    There's not a whole lot of commercial fishing out of HMB anymore. If you drive there, you can (sometimes) but stuff off the docks or at the fishmarket; there's a phone number you can call to find out what's for sale on the docks that day.

                    Costco would be worth checking out for fresh farmed fish, especially for the quantities you're buying. 99 Ranch (asian market) is also worth a try.

                    Squid is also worth considering as a relatively cheap seafood protein source.

                1. If you are up for a little food-slumming you might stop by Grocery Outlet. It would be more for canned goods and cleaning supplies. It is more of a treasure hunt.

                  However, they have item like Imagine organic broths for 99 cents, lots of organic boxed tomato sauce, tomatoes, vegetables, soups. I'm blanking on the name right now but I bought some excellent crushed tomatoes for 50 cents for a box that would normally sell for $2.

                  They also have organic cereals, maple syrup, Aidell's organic sausages (sometimes), occasionally Niman ranch products (never did see the Niman Ranch chipotle bacon that was reported).

                  It is a matter of looking. They also have some organic wines and lots of non organic wines ... currently there are Target 4 liter wine cubes for $3.99 ... at a buck a liter that beats 2 buck Chuck. They also sometimes have those natural cleaning products ... the name of which also escapes me.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: rworange

                    I was finishing up project late last night and not focusing. I know you asked about veggies and seafood, but if you can save say $20 a week on staples, then that's almost your goal.

                    I do have some ideas though on veggies / fish that I'll address later.

                    I wasn't putting down Grocery Outlet either but it might seem food-slumming to someone who is shopping at Whole Foods or using Frog Hollow (btw I don't think they are all that or the best peaches out there ... but their Warren pears in the fall are magnificant).

                    OK, back to Grocery Outlet. The natural cleaning prodcuts they sell from time to time are the Method line. The great crushed tomatoes were Pacific brand. They sell many of the organic line you see at Whole Foods like Woodstock Farms, Amy's, etc.

                    When I'm in Whole Foods I have a smug self-satisfied inner smile knowing I'm paying 1/2 to 1/4 the price of the same items at GO.

                    I don't know what brand ice cream you buy. If it is Strauss you are out of luck, but they usually have Haagen Daz for $1.49 a pint and one sorbet of HD was 50 cents. They do carry various organic ice creams from time to time though. They had Breyers organic quarts for $2.49 for a while and some other brands. Some GO's have Judy's organic eggs ... $2.29 for 18.

                    There was an organic all-juice pomegranite juice line GO was selling for $1.99 that the supermarkets were selling for $5.99 ... I see no reason to throw away $4 for the exact same juice ... nice healthy blends too ... pomegranate blueberry and cherry.

                    They were selling Corte California Olive oil (an interesting story) for $7.99 for a big bottle. I have been really, really ... really happy with this one. However, olive oil there is more miss than hit.

                    Back to fish/veggies. I agree with others that a good farmers market can be a saving over CSA's, you get to choose what you want instead of the luck of the draw and if you go at the end of the day there are bargains ... especially if you are buying in bulk.

                    Are you opposed to freezing or canning your own?

                    You could take advantage of seasonal organic u-picks. You could make occasional trips up to Half Moon Bay and buy fish off the boats and freeze.

                    This time of year, for example, you can drive up the coast and make a stop at Swanton Berry farm on the way to HMB and do a upick of their organic strawberries. If you are not opposed to canning or freezing, you can make easy jam and freeze berries for use in smoothies or other recipes.

                    You don't mention dairy, so I'm not sure if you eat cheese, but in Pescadero there is Harley's goat farm which has wonderful cheeses. The little goats are right outside the door. They have some cheese products that last a while like jars of goat cheese in olive oil.

                    Speaking of dairy ... if you use it ... you might consider for cooking purposes organic dry powdered milk. It is difficult to tell the difference in something like a baked good, if you make those.

                    Mariquita Farms which once sold at Ferry Plaza has seasonal u-pick tomato weekends along with a few other veggies like peppers.Tomatoes are 50 cents a pound. They decided that the farmers market was too much a hassle and they are just now selling to restaurants like Chez Panisse. Here's their website with the list of restaurants the supply. Check for upcoming upicks

                    Here's a link to last year's u-pick tomato report with links to previous years

                    If you are interested in canning ... you could make tomato sauce or soups. You could make huge batches of casseroles and freeze them. That would also solve your problem of running out of food by the end of the week. You would have some reserves in the pantry or freezer.

                    Also, the suggestion of doing a little planting if you have a yard is a good one. The little walkway on the side of my house has lemon and orange trees. Citrus doesn't need much love because I do nothing to them and have unlimited fruit.

                    I don't find your fish budget hard to believe given that you eat a lot of it. In San Jose, you might check out L & F seafood which is a Portuguese market. Their big thing is drying fish ... about a eight varieties ... however they buy from local fishermen and they also have a fresh fish counter. Someone put it down on another food forum for being too 'ethinic', so you might keep in mind it isn't for everyone.

                    1. re: rworange

                      Mariquita also sells through a CSA (Two Small Farms).

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Unfortunately their site says they are already booked for this year, but will put people on a waiting list.

                        I didn't mention this because Mariquita only does this in SF, and the OP is in the South Bay so gas used driving up there would cancel any savings ... but maybe for someone else interested ... they have something called Mysterious Market Thursdays.

                        From the above link with more info

                        "What: Guerilla vegetable deliveries: Not a CSA, we have one of those. More like a taco truck-meets-the farmers market"

                        Basically they drop off boxes to SF restaurants like Greens, Incanto, Globe or whoever they choose that week. Send them an email to reserve and leave your cell phone number. They tell you where and it is a cash only transaction.

                        1. re: rworange

                          It's a lot of veggies -- you probably get about $40-50 value for your $25 as they use this as a way to sell some of the stuff they have lots and lots of. The variety is always good and often there are a few usual things (for example, lovage one time or agretti).

                      2. re: rworange

                        Thanks for the detailed reply again. We are not loyal WF fan, and by switching to CSAs from WF, we are already saving 50% on veggie cost. When my Frog Hollow CSA runs out, I will go to local farmer's market for fruit. Maybe I should hold out till their stone fruit season first (they don't come down to South Bay for farmer's market), but so far I find their fruit to be overpriced at $3.5 per lb. The Upicks is a great idea, we are on the waiting list of Two Small Farms CSA, so if we get on, we will drop one of the current CSAs.

                        Gardening is a great suggestion, I am trying to research on how to grow herbs in my backyard. Not a born green thumb, but hey, whatever can save $$$ is a good enough motivation.

                        We are not brand conscious, we just want to find the most reasonably priced healthy food, because frankly, food is much cheaper than medicine and hospitalization cost. My father spends easily over $250 on medicine a month even though he is covered by Medicare.

                        1. re: Riceball

                          Growing herbs is easy -- most herbs are essentially weeds. They're easy to grow in containers, too. In fact, some herbs (like mint) are best grown in containers because they can be invasive. Tomatoes and squash are also easy to grow. At the price of organic zucchini these days, you really can't afford not to grow it.

                          One other suggestion: check the free listings on craigslist and freecycle for people who are giving away excess produce or cuttings from their trees or gardens.

                      3. re: rworange

                        Thanks for the suggestion on Grocery Outlet, I just found one that is within 5 miles radius of my home. I will go check it out today.

                        1. re: Riceball

                          Great. Always check the expiration date, but there are lots of reasons why something is marked down, sometimes there is an overstock or a product is being discontinued, etc, etc.

                          There's usually a monthly Grocery Outlet thread on the board with people reporting their finds and whether they are good or not. Here's the May thread

                          A few stores still have the nice smoked Alaskan wild salmon that is boxed in a pouch. It is found, if any, near the canned fish. It is $4.99 for 8oz ... selling for $15.99 elsewhere. It is not is the same class as something like Captn Mike's Holey Smoke ... however it is superior to any of TJ's smoked salmon or anything else I've found in an average market.

                          And keep in mind the stock is different weekly. There are some reoccuring items, but never count on them.

                      4. For fish, check out 99 Ranch.

                        I rarely find that Frog Hollow has the best fruit at the Berkeley farmers market.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          In addition to 99 Ranch, you also have Marina and Tin Tin close to where you are shopping. I have had good luck at Tin Tin in particular.

                        2. Riceball, I didn't see a mention of shopping at farmers' markets--are you poorly located to do that? When produce items are at their peak season, or close to closing time of the markets, prices lower noticeably.

                          Eating wild seafood, unless living in or near to a fishing community, in the larger context of diminishing stocks, environment degradation, and fuel costs, to my perspective is a luxury and I usually limit eating it to locally caught sustainable species one time a week. Farmed fish of course has to be considered according to the specific variety and species--a lot of salmon and shrimp farming is environmentally unsound. Dried legumes and soybeans in various preparations (dou fu, tempeh) are a principal protein source in some of the poorest parts of the world--south asian and middle eastern preparations for various pulses and chick peas have many tasty variations.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: moto

                            All true, but soy is another one which should be enjoyed like most things, in moderation.

                          2. join a food co-op (natural foods/organic)?


                            1. Ohhh the cost of eating/living healthy. Kinda sucks how much you spend when you pick healthy choices at the grocery store.

                              For ex: Last night i picked up 1lb asparagus, broccoli, diet 7up, and 4 chicken breasts and my bill was basically $30. Now, most would say thats enough for 3 meals, but when you eat 6 healthy meals a day, then it really adds up.

                              MY typical grocery items:
                              low fat cottage cheese
                              chicken breast
                              natural peanut butter
                              brown rice
                              diet soda
                              LEan beef or lean ground beef
                              low sodium turkey breast

                              IT really does add up to a lot.

                              20 Replies
                              1. re: Robert Hobbs

                                Sounds like a tab from Safeway, maybe? It's certainly hard to bargain shop for groceries, but it can be done. It's just a full time job.

                                (not so sure diet soda is a good idea for the health conscious though. might want to try one of the sugar cane, pure sugar drinks like hansens, etc.)

                                1. re: Robert Hobbs

                                  A few points from an obsessive healthy eater

                                  -low fat xxx is sometimes imitation xxx. The American law has it that the manufacturer doesn't need to put the word imitation in front of the food which is being imitated. What are the components of imitation xxx? Well, the usual suspects of industrially produced chemical compounds.

                                  It's actually ok to eat full-fat dairy, as long as it is natural and organic, and raised without rBGT. Americans grow fat not because of fat, but because of sugar. Our body converts extra sugar into fat for storage. The Europeans are not obese not because they don't eat fat (in fact they almost always go for full-fat dairy), but because they eat low-sugar diet. Almost everything on their supermarket aisle has a low-sugar alternative.

                                  - diet soda is NOT healthy. Both aspartame (Nutrasweet) and its predecessors are carcinogenic. There are also many long-term side effects for consuming aspartame.

                                  It is ok to consume REAL cane sugar. The problem of American diet is, we have no or very little cane sugar, but high fructose corn syrup as substitute! Everything in this country is loaded with high fructose corn syrup which doesn't make you feel full. If you like soda, get something with real cane sugar in it without any corn syrup, and pour in half half seltzer water, hence reducing the calorie by half. I often make my soda by pouring juice and seltzer or soda water together.

                                  - try to stay away from ground any meat. What kind of meat do you think goes into ground meat? Internal organs, useless ends, usually parts with the highest cholesterol content. Buy good meat and ground it yourself if recipe calls for it.

                                  1. re: Riceball

                                    Riceball, I applaud you for taking care of your health. Most people don't give a crap. However, there are a couple of points I'd like to mention.

                                    Agree that low fat can sometimes mean imitation xxx, but not always the case. Some things are naturally low-fat. And just because something is low-fat doesn't necessarily mean it's good for you, like those sugary "low-fat" cereals.

                                    The full-fat natural, organic dairy thing --I think it really depends on the person. There are those who say it's better to have full-fat milk than low-fat milk (eg. Weston Price folks). My personal belief is that if you can handle it, go for the fat. It certainly tastes better. However, I do feel that some people really can benefit from having a lower-fat diet. But I agree with you that the quality of the dairy is important. And, yes, there are lots of people who eat high-fat foods but are not obese. There is more to the European paradox than just their lower sugar diet. They tend to eat smaller portions and move a bit more compared to Americans.

                                    Diet soda/real cane sugar -- I'm not a fan of aspartame at all. I like your idea of mixing in soda/fruit juices with soda water. But I think overconsumption of real soda contributes to problems as well. And for people who have issues like diabetes, they are probably better off drinking diet soda than having soda with cane sugar, though it's probably better not to drink either. And while I prefer to have cane sugar over to Nutra Sweet, I'm not sure if I would say it's OK. Depends on how much you have. My issue with the whole cane sugar soda thing is that I'm amazed how many people think this stuff is healthy so they drink more of it. These cane sodas are being marketed as being healthier than the HFCS ones. I kind of think that the health difference is negligible really. I think the problem of HFCS is that it's cheaper so that people end up eating more of it. Portion control is really key with this health thing. You can eat an entire homemade cake made with organic, cage-free eggs, real cane sugar, grass-fed organic milk and organic whole-wheat flour and have it be pretty unhealthy.

                                    And about the ground meat thing, I do agree with you that it's best to grind your own meat. But not everybody has the luxury of a meat grinder. You could be a zealous person like my mom was, purchasing her own meat, and "grinding" it using knives. But a lot of people probably don't want to bother with that. You should be able to find high quality ground meat (and I'm not talking about Whole Foods -- I've found bone twice in my grass-fed ground beef there).

                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                      As far as I can tell, the problem with sodas is that (mostly unconsciously) people don't count them as part of their food intake. Americans have largely replaced water (which has no calories) with something that has a significant amount of calories and are consuming it along with whatever else they would normally eat. The same is true for fancy coffee and tea drinks -- the calorie-less morning coffee morphs into a drink with enough calories to qualify as breakfast on its own, and yet people don't factor that in with the rest of what they eat. Then they say "I'm not eating any more than I used to, why am I gaining weight?" Soda used to be a treat that came in a small bottle -- now it comes in 20-ounce bottles or even a 40-ounce Big Gulp and is considered the standard accompaniment to many meals. No wonder Americans have gained weight. Drink water. It's better for you in all kinds of ways.

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        Another soda issue--some of us do not like the "fuzzy teeth" feeling from sugared soda, even if it is natural. I drink a couple of sodas a week, diet. I drink it for the carbonation and I especially like it after a long run in warm weather (seems to quench my thirst better than just plain water, though I drink a water/Recharge mixture during the run).

                                        I do agree that a daily 6-pack of diet coke is probably not a good thing! And Ruth, you raise some excellent points! Sodas used to come in those little 6- or 8-ounce bottles. And it was a treat, not a standard beverage.

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          True. A 40 oz soda can definitely replace one meal as well as one of those Starbucky type drinks. And you don't get much nutrition from them as well. No wonder a lot of Americans are malnourished.

                                          And in Europe I see soda in 8 oz bottles.

                                        2. re: Miss Needle

                                          Again it comes down to moderation, but in the case of Diet vs. Non-diet sodas, there are new studies which are linking problems from the diet product.

                                          You inherit a slew of side effects we're only just now being informed of. I'd rather have a lifetime of wear and tear from sugar use, then a lifetime of effects from sugar substitute in my system. I know a number of people who got hooked on diet Coke and actually experienced various bowel disorders, and gained weight as a result. There's something going on beyond abuse and operator error.

                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                            I'd also rather deal with too much sugar than with the whole artificial sweetener thing. Besides, artificial sweeteners don't taste that good.

                                            I do have a problem with marketing cane sugar sodas as being healthier. Apparently, people don't see "healthier" and see "healthy." Kind of like one of my exs who said, "These falafels are so healthy that I should eat two of them so I get more health benefits." btw, this guy is an MD.

                                          2. re: Miss Needle

                                            Although I try not to buy anything that has HFCS (exception-- those Hagen Dazs rich "light" line of ice cream flavors. Some of the flavors have HFCS) and jokingly call it "evil", I think the truth is that sugar is sugar, and our body basically processes it the same way. I think I read this in McGee's On Food and Cooking, but I'm not sure.

                                            Either way, the key is moderation, as Ruth says, and being reasonable about it, as you say.

                                            I've never understood the 40 ounce soda thing. I haven't had soda in almost 20 years, but even when I used to drink it, I remembered that I'd feel so bloated after drinking it, that I couldn't even finish a 12 oz. can, and then if I had one after school, I didn't have room for dinner (which is why I eventually stopped drinking it).

                                            The one pet peeve I have about WF is that they market things like "evaporated cane juice" as much healthier than say, refined sugar. (They also sell "vegan" sugar, but such annoying labels are fodder for a separate rant in a separate thread.) Ok, I'll give them that it is less processed, so it is marginally better, and both are better than artificial sweeteners, but in terms of how the body processes it, it's all the same.

                                            As for grocery bills, (to reply to the original thread) I think I'm on the high end, but I also hardly spend on much else and rarely eat out, so I don't worry about it too much. I suppose I could cut out the junk and the processed stuff and that could cut costs a bit. I could also get better about buying and not wasting. . . but for ex. my Feb. food bill (1-person household) was roughly $170, while my March bill was $270. I don't do meat, and rarely do seafood (maybe a few times a month?), so that might keep my costs down, but I don't know, since I don't know what 1 person's typical monthly food bill runs to. I think I spend about $20-$30 at the FM per week, and then spend $20-$40 at various grocery stores on non-produce items. It looks like in 2007, it averaged $230ish per month.

                                            I think in the 80s and 90s, my mom spent $70 a week to feed 5 of us, so she is much better at economizing, b/c she essentially spent on 5 what I spend on 1, but then again, bread didn't cost almost $5 a loaf, and eggs were always less than 99 cents for a dozen, whereas I pay $1.75 for half a dozen. She also didn't have a aged gouda cheese addiction, and bought that green carton of parmesan cheese instead of the real deal, which can cost $16/#, but I'm not willing to skimp on. . .. So my mom might be appalled at my food bill, but then I look at countries where people have to spend 40-50 percent of their income on food. I'm nowhere near that mark. I guess I should be thankful.

                                            So the original poster spends about $400/person per month on food. RWOrange can live in $3/day, which is about $90/month. I guess I'm somewhere in the middle, but probably still on the high side, and looking at the "Living on $3 a day" thread, could probably be more resourceful if I tried. . .

                                            1. re: anzu

                                              I got the same peeve about WF as you do. Evaporated cane juice may be marginally better for you, but it's still sugar. Unless one has a certain type of lifestyle where they're incredibly active, sugar needs to be consumed in moderation. And the whole organic chocolate thing -- some people actually think they're being healthy by eating it because it's organic. Personally, I've had organic chocolate but am not crazy about the taste.

                                              1. re: anzu

                                                Actually, "vegan sugar" isn't quite as ridiculous as it sounds. While sugar itself is vegan, some sugar refining processes use charcoal made from animal bones, which for some people who are strictly vegan make the sugar non-vegan. While I personally think it's silly, "vegan sugar" is not just a labelling gimmick the way, for example, "cholesterol free" sugar would be.

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  Isn't that the processing use to whiten the sugars? I think you can also avoid that with "brownulated" sugar, right? The problem there is you naturally have to use more of it to match the sweetness of white sugar.

                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                    agree that the vegan distinction on sugar is important to many people, which makes it important for anyone who may cook for them. for that reason i don't think it's stupid at all. "vegan sugar" is useful in the same way as "vegetarian cheese" or "kosher chicken."-- not important distinctions to many folks, but very much so for others.

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      Regarding chocolate, one of the foods with richest antioxidant, one should always try to buy undutched cocoa, which is far more important than buying organic. Dutching is a process of adding alkali to cocoa to do away with the bitter after taste, but it also sheds over 90% of the antioxidant.

                                                      Sharffen Berger is one of very few companies that carry undutched cocoa. Highly recommended.

                                                  2. re: Miss Needle

                                                    I agree with most of what you said.

                                                    However, I think once we return to the "old" food that our ancestors have been eating throughout tens of thousands of years, moderation is really not required, because our body knows how to react.

                                                    The biggest problem of high fructose corn syrup is, it was only popularized as a sugar substitute 30 odd years ago. Our body doesn't know this stuff. As a result, you don't feel full, and you don't feel sweet enough. Our body through centuries of evolution has never encountered something like corn syrup and doesn't send off "I'm full" signal to our brain, hence the amazing percentage of obese Americans in this country.

                                                    I didn't grow up in the US. When I first came here, two things about food were shocking to me. Dessert tasted (and still does for me) sooooo damn sweet, I could never finish a typical American cake or cookie. When we make our own cookies at home, we have to cut the sugar to 1/3 of the recipe. On top of this, food portion was HUGE. The second one was easier to get over, somehow I found out, if I eat enough of those food loaded with corn syrup, I just didn't feel full so easily!

                                                    I occasionally use butter, never margarine, for cooking or bread spread. I don't mind high-fat things, as long as they are "old" food, because I quickly feel full and stop. Although I have never bought any low-fat gimmies, because of my veggie-centered diet, my bad cholesterol level remains very low while my good cholesterol level is very high due to the our daily fish intake.

                                                    I think it is actually quite easy to eat healthy. Just eat the menu that our ancestors have taste-tested for us for many generations. It's the highly industrialized food production and modification process in this country that bothers me.

                                                    It is also quite an irony that I have to pay more to eat like my parents did in their home country. Something is awfully wrong about the food industry in this country.

                                                    1. re: Riceball

                                                      Your parents (or ancestors) back in the home country probably ate a lot more rice than you say you do ("our diet is mostly carb free. We do eat little bit of rice, noodles, bread etc. every day and that's why we need lots of veggie and fruit to fill the stomach"). Plus they mostly grew or foraged for their own veggies.

                                                      There's no way people historically ate as much fresh seafood as you do -- before refrigeration most people didn't have access to it (which is why in most cultures seafood is "restaurant" food) and even if they did, they probably only ate a couple of ounces of fish with some rice and veggies, not what we've come to think of as a "serving."

                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                        Unless she comes from a family of fishermen or dock workers.
                                                        If you're going for accuracy, it's probably the meat free diet which many of our ancestors would take issue with. Even that depends on the region your family came from. I think the point was to eat as natural and pesticide free as is possible, and to avoid the many modern innovations in food distribution that are probably to blame for our bloat. Sadly, everyone I've known who tried such a thing for long periods of time ended up having to change their diet at a doctors order.

                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                          Our ancestors actually probably ate a lot more calories than we did, but they did more physical exercise to burn it off.

                                                    2. re: Riceball

                                                      "- try to stay away from ground any meat. What kind of meat do you think goes into ground meat? Internal organs, useless ends, usually parts with the highest cholesterol content. Buy good meat and ground it yourself if recipe calls for it."

                                                      Where do you want them to go? Are organ's 'lower quality' meat? What's wrong with dietary cholesterol? BTW, ground beef can--at least in the US--legally only contain skeletal muscle (not organs and such). There's plenty of not-very-tender skeletal muscle on a cow, especially when you include trim.

                                                      1. re: xanadude

                                                        Yeah, I think the organs, etc. generally go in meats like hot dogs. There may be a stray organ here and there when meat gets ground but not enough where I'd be worried about it. And, besides, I eat organ meats so it wouldn't really bother me too much if there was organ meat in it.

                                                        But I do agree with riceball that it's always best to grind it yourself if you can.

                                                  3. Not to ruin anyone's fun, but a few points
                                                    - the op eats lots of seafood/produce and somehow ground beef is mentioned
                                                    - the op didn't ask how to eat healthy, but how to eat less expensivly defined by his/her diet
                                                    - the op was asking what stores specific stores/vender were less expensive in the San Francisco Bay area ... in fact a very specific part of the Bay Area