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Rising food costs. Is it changing the way you eat?

Whether we like to admit it or not...rising food costs are a real problems for not just 'chowhounds'
but everyone.

Do you have any cost saving measures you want to pass on?

Or any thing that you have to add to a discussion about food costs?

L

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  1. Yep, I've pretty much stopped buying beef. I can't bring myself to pay 8$/lb for beef when chicken and pork can be had for around a dollar.

    My animal protein consumption now basically consists of pork shoulder and chicken. For greens, kale is a great choice at around 1$/lb fresh and frozen spinach is also around 1$/lb.

    9 Replies
    1. re: joonjoon

      ...huh. i continue to pay less than 3dollars per pound of good lean ground beef at costco.
      your greens prices are much lower than mine (including frozen)

      1. re: Chowrin

        Ground beef can be had for mid-2 dollars at Costco as well as Wegmans but I'm talking about choicer cuts. Steak prices even in Costco or "club" packs are starting to hit 7 bucks now.

        1. re: joonjoon

          Those prices wil go down after summer. Everything is cyclic.

          1. re: Cathy

            I have a phobia about costco and other "big box" store ground beef.

            I buy mine from a local butcher, and by that I mean the cows live and die down the road from me, on 50 acers of sunny land, no agriculture pens ever, no "red paste" in his meat, and no hormones,. Lean ground from Mr. B is $11 a kg about $6 a pound, but soo worth it.

            Less meat more quality. I believe this type of shopping will bring a better balance and recovery to our ecomomy than deserting local growers for big agribusiness.

            1. re: Luna2372

              you are lucky that is available. for a great many of us that is not a choice and no matter what store we buy meat, it could have come from almost anywhere.

              1. re: KaimukiMan

                Omg..I do know how lucky I am. We have amazing producers of lamb, chicken and beef here in the Gulf Islands. But..for 8 months of the years..fruit and veg are all shipped in for a HUGE cost. $1 ears of corn, $7 watermelons and just amazing prices on regular veg.

                But again, it is hard not to go to the big box stores....and pay less that half the price.

                1. re: Luna2372

                  i'm lucky when i can get an ear of corn for a dollar, and thats island corn (at the farmers market.) $7 is what walmart and costco were selling watermellons for on 4th of july weekend. found one at the farmers market for $4. Living on an island can be great, but.... LOL

                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                    We visited Kauai'i and Hawai'i in 2004...eesh...it IS VERY EXPENSIVE to eat on all of the Hawaiian islands (but SO very much worth the visit!!! Will NEVER forget Waipio Valley/Falls and Waimea Canyon...I cried over how beautiful they were! I could not believe what I was looking at!)

              2. re: Luna2372

                A little late reading your post, but I saw grass-fed hamburger beef today for the first time at Costco, Winchester, VA. I'm sorry I didn't pay attention to the price, as I have grass-fed hamburger in my freezer from a local farmer.

                I do see that at another farm he is selling grass-fed hamburger for $4.50 lb., near Winchester, VA.

      2. Like joonjoon, I tend to stick with chicken and pork unless it's a special occasion or there's a great deal on beef and seafood. Tilapia and catfish, however, are always available at very reasonable prices here, so I use them quite a bit as well.

        I'm really big into buying and breaking down a whole chicken - I get stock, chicharrones, 2.5 to 3 pounds of chicken meat, 2 or 3 meals for our little Doxie off the stock bones. That chicken is literally a pile of stripped bones by the time I'm done with it.

        Seasonal produce is usually less expensive than non, and dry goods like beans and grains also stretch the dollar quite a bit.

        And I think there's something to simply buying less. I find that I'm more apt to make use of everything in the fridge and cupboards if I'm not overwhelmed by the sheer quantity and variety of what's in them. This also prevents spoilage and waste.

        9 Replies
        1. re: inaplasticcup

          "And I think there's something to simply buying less." <-- I couldn't agree more. It's better for my waistline and sanity as well as my pocketbook just to buy less!

          OP: Unless it's a special occasion, I only buy meat when it's on sale, and my meat purchasing tends toward the ground beef and whole chickens end of the spectrum even in the best of times. I just splurged on a pound of ground lamb at $8/lb, but it'll feed six people when made into burgers (stretched with spinach, feta, and rice) for a friend's birthday cookout, so I don't feel a bit guilty about it. But generally, if it can't be had for under $4.50/lb, it's not in my kitchen.

          You know where I haven't seen prices shoot up, believe it or not? My local Whole Foods. I was just remarking on the fact that meat prices at the regular grocery stores in my area are approaching WF levels, but WF prices aren't going up accordingly. It's the darndest thing. I have seen some of their prices go up (on sugar and dairy, off the top of my head), but by ~5%, not 50%.

          1. re: LauraGrace

            At their price points, particularly on meats and produce, I don't think WF could sustain major price increases in this economy. :|

          2. re: inaplasticcup

            You have a doxie too inaplasticcup! I knew you were a hound after my own heart. Just when I started really worrying about food expenses my friend invited me to give raw vegan a shot with him this summer. I still "cheat" once in awhile but I've been saving time and money by mostly sticking to raw fruit and veggies. I haven't had much meat in awhile (although I'm planning on having some this weekend) and I've been enjoying the simplicity of this diet, as well as the other benefits. My friend and I went to Costco yesterday and got a lovely huge watermelon and a big container of grapes. But some meat ended up in my cart. Two organic chickens for my two dogs. And some organic eggs for them too. At my friend's urging, I fed my little doxie a whole raw organic chicken leg today. She took her time eating it and really loved it. Later the Jack Russel Terrier got his raw chicken goodness. I'll let you know how this works out for both me and my doggies. My friend did a lot of research on the raw diet for dogs and humans and everything is going well so far.

            1. re: givemecarbs

              LOL, carbs. I remember reading your other thread about raw veganism and thinking for 2.5 seconds you weren't really gonna do it. I guess I'm so married to my omnivore diet that I projected. Congratulations for trying something new and, in my mind, more than a little challenging! I'm glad to hear you're experiencing health benefits too.

              Please do report back on the raw diet for the pooches. I'm very interested to find out how that affects them longer term.

              To our, and our pooches', health! :)

              P.S. Doxies are the bees knees.

              1. re: inaplasticcup

                Another proud doxie owner here! I have 2 long hair, full size hounds who adore the scraps from a soup pot or leftover chicken meat. We will have to share some doggie-friendly recipes.

                1. re: Diane in Bexley

                  I think that's a great idea, Diane, so I started a thread about it here:

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/794565

                  Can't wait to read about what everyone feeds their four legged friends. :)

                2. re: inaplasticcup

                  He he inaplasticcup! I fell under the doxie spell many years ago and they have dominated my life ever since. They are true chow hounds! I may be imagining it but her coat already seems silkier. The mainstay of my raw diet is green smoothies. I don't know how well I would do without them as everything else takes so long to eat. Things are easy now, with watermelon, cantelopes, etc. in season and tasty. Guess I'll not look too far ahead and deal with the cold weather when it comes. I'll head over to the new post to see what you and Diane have to say. Doxies Forever!!!!

                3. re: givemecarbs

                  My dogs LOVE raw. I am usually able to get all natural locally grown chickens for about a dollar a pound at my local QFC, so that's what they get the most of. But my 2 80lb dogs go through a chicken each day, so my food bill for them is at least $35 at week, but usually a wee bit more when I add in extras like veggies, eggs, sour cream, red meat, and organs. The health benefits are great though. My pitt/malamute mix almost died of renal failure after tracking down a lost bottle of ibuprofen a few years ago and he is in EXCELLENT health now, and both pooches have very healthy teeth.

              2. I will miss eating lamb and veal chops. I pulled a package of frozen shoulder lamb chops from a few months out for dinner last night. They were $4.99/lb and today they are $8.99/lb., double the price in a couple of months. I only buy beef when it's on sale or when I can find a good deal on primal that I can break down.

                Even chicken has doubled in price in my neighborhood. I am alone and eat only breasts, the going rate here is $2.50/lb for breast with bone-in, up from $1.29/b in less than 6 months. Pretty soon, I will be living on the Kraft "dinners" I had as a starving college students 30 years ago.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Diane in Bexley

                  I live on a small Gulf Isand, and when I moved here 10 yrs ago, it was crazy to go to the big island to shop for food. Now it is a matter of nessecity. Superstore cuts my food bill in half, compared to what our local grocery charges. Eg. watermelon at SS $3.99 Watermelon here was $6.99 the same week. $3.99 butter vs. $5.19. It doesn't make me happy to do it...but it is out of control.

                  We are lucky to have good local lamb, beef and chicken, and I will pay more to support our local farmers, but we eat much less of it. Maybe once or twice a week. Bacon is garnish that makes this new regime tolerable!

                  Also we now make our own yogurt and soft cheese. Tasty and less expensive...$2.75 gives us two liters of yogurt, which is an amazing price for a staple in our home. Also and nice thing to do with my guy.

                  I do like the winnowing down of the number of things to. Simple is good. But it is worring to watch things go up and up every week.

                  1. re: Diane in Bexley

                    I paid $15.00 for four frenched lamb chops yesterday, on sale. Definitely not something we eat often. Same with more expensive cuts of beef, like tenderloin. We generally save up and splurge, rather than eating cheaper cuts, so we go veg a fair bit.

                  2. I've been freezing more meat. I was always fairly wasteful in a way because I would cook plenty of everything just to be sure. But I've become very aware of how much we actually are eating and cooking just that amount. Extra uncooked meat hits the freezer. Less food waste. And I feel good about that all the way around.
                    I also trade or give things to neighbors. Our local store sells produce pre packaged in huge amounts. About 5 of us exchange things, or pass them on rather than chuck them later on.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: alliegator

                      My Mom, my best freind and me all share big quanties from the SuperStore. The big jug of honey is $18 for 3 kgs where as one 1kg is $10 at my local. It helps to keep things fresh too. Also I keep less in my freezer. That way I keep it rotated more and am less likely to waste it due to freezer burn.

                      I will be freezing alot more veg this year. ONE EAR OF CORN WAS .99 cents yesterday! So when it comes in at a reasonable price I will be cooking it, carving it off the cobs and freezing it for soups and relishes all winter.

                      I'm not ready to get into the whole can/jam thing yet!

                    2. I've been eating more chicken thighs instead of breasts.

                      Not only has this saved me a little bit of money, but it has expanded my cooking repertoire to include things I wouldn't have considered previously.

                      1. I basically just chase the trends, or rather, chase things that have gone out of style. Times were, you could get skirt steak for next to nothing; now, it's a premium item. Hanger steak was once considered just a cut for the butchers to take home, but now that everyone is serving it, its price has gone through the roof. Surprisingly, bone-in chicken breasts seem to be losing their appeal, and are getting cheaper as a result. Ribeye and T-bones are through the roof, but you can usually find a deal on sirloin. Finally, I try to buy seasonally. A melon in summer is so cheap you'll not be able to resist it. In season, stores are basically begging you to take mussels, clams, and crab home.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: gilintx

                          I love how you think gil, I do the same thing. I do long for the skirt steak and hanger steak tho. This year is seems like flank steak is the orphan de jour and I have had many a lovely marinaded flanks cut on the grain with just the perfect amount of char to make me think for a mo that they are in fact a skirt.

                          And as to the fruit. I did take out my juicer from under the cupboard today to make the most of some melon that was a truly good deal.

                          Ice melon and mint juicers was a great treat on a hot summer day.

                        2. What makes you think food prices are rising?

                          Certainly some items are more expensive, but others are less. Overall, I'm not so sure that food prices are increasing (relative to inflation).

                          29 Replies
                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Ipse, there is NO QUESTION food prices have gone up - substantially. Mostly related to fuel surcharges.

                            Seafood especially - fish at my local Fairway that was running $8-$10 lb. is no $18-$22. (Sorry, I'm not paying over $10/lb for Grouper. And not only on seafood and meat (except for chicken and pork) - produce is way up. Just as an example, this is blueberry season. You used to be able to count on a pint at $0.88 at our local supermarkets. Now it's "buy one for $2, get one free".

                            1. re: sbp

                              Sorry, I meant to say blueberries are by one for $4, get one free, for a "sale" price of $2.

                              1. re: sbp

                                Again, I ask, where's the evidence that relative to everything else (incl. inflation) food prices are increasing.

                                Of course an apple today will cost more than it did 5 years ago (for example).

                                But then everything costs more than it did 5 years ago (generally speaking).

                                But unless your purchasing power has stayed the same -- ie. you still make minimum wage of 4.25 instead of 7.50 -- then, yes, food prices are rising.

                                But if your purchasing power has kept pace with general inflationary pressures -- incl. those for food -- then, no, food prices are not rising.

                                So, again, I ask. What evidence is there that food prices have (1) outpaced inflation and (2) outpaced consumer purchasing power?

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  check out fivethirtyeight, or bonddad, or use the bloody federal gov't site. it's rather easy to document that food inflation has outpaced nominal inflation.
                                  And American wages have decreased, relative to inflation, over the past four years.

                                  1. re: Chowrin

                                    http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ppi.n...

                                    From the Bureau of Labor Statistics linked above:

                                    _______________________________________

                                    "Finished foods: The index for finished consumer foods fell 1.4 percent in May, the largest decrease since a 2.4-percent drop in June 2010. Almost forty percent of the May decline can be attributed to prices for fresh and dry vegetables, which moved down 12.2 percent."

                                    "Intermediate foods: The index for intermediate foods and feeds fell 0.4 percent in May, the first decline since July 2010. Leading the May decrease, meat prices dropped 3.2 percent."

                                    "Crude foods: The index for crude foodstuffs and feedstuffs decreased 4.4 percent in May. From February to May, prices for crude foodstuffs and feedstuffs edged down 0.3 percent following a 12.2-percent rise in the previous 3-month period. Over thirty percent of the monthly decline in prices for crude foodstuffs and feedstuffs can be traced to a 5.8-percent decrease in the index for slaughter steers and heifers. Lower prices for slaughter hogs also contributed to the fall in the crude foodstuffs and feedstuffs index."
                                    _______________________________________

                                    What does that mean? Not much except it is far from established that food prices are rising.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      ipsedixit. in the past two months, the grain market kinda collapsed. not surprised that you'd be seeing food deflation in that. (try year to year comparisons, they're more stable than month to month).

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        The US Federal Government has established a track record of ignoring items that have been increasing markedly in cost (read: fuel, housing, etc.) and only reflecting the more stable prices in order to show an artificially low rate of inflation. Why? Because a high inflation rate makes the current administration (whoever they are) look bad and, perhaps most importantly, the official inflation rate drives Cost Of Living Adjustments for federal employees, social security recipients, etc. If they doctor the statistics they - and any other entity that bases their pay on official inflation figures - get to save a lot of money.

                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                      There has been relatively little inflation in the past few years. Wages have not risen much. Food prices are up all over. Do you actually do the food shopping in your home? I don't need to commission a statistical analysis. Wages haven't risen 30% in the past year. But many food costs have.

                                      1. re: sbp

                                        Food costs have risen 30% in the past year? Really?

                                        Do you have evidence of that? Other than anecdotal?

                                        Last Memorial Day I paid 9.99/lb for NY Sirloin Steaks at Costco. This July 4, I paid 9.99/lb for NY Sirloin Steaks at Costco.

                                        Unless my math is off, that doesn't tally up to a 30% rise in steak prices. And last I checked, steaks still count as food.

                                        And, yes, I do all the food shopping in my home, as I am the only one in my home.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          You are replying to anectdotal evidence with anectdotal evidence. I have other things to do than conduct a peer reviewed statistical analysis. But yes, anecdotally, many, many items are up that much and more. Soda: a couple of years ago, 2 liters were $1.25, on sale at $0.70. Now, $1.89, on sale at $1.50. Apples: a few years ago, $1-$1.25/lb. Now, $1.49-$1.99. Prime beef strip steaks on sale at Fairway: a few years ago, $6.99-$8.99/lb. Now., $9.99/lb. Short ribs: $3.99/lb., now $5.99/lb. Farm Raised salmon: a few years ago, $4.99-$6.99/lb. Now $7.99-$9.99 /lb. Squid: a few years ago, $2.99/lb. Now: $4.99 lb. Blueberries in season: a few years ago, $0.88/pt., no $1.50-$2.50/pt.

                                          I can go on and on. On the other hand, you are citing holiday sale prices from a big box store. I'm basing my pricing on A&P, Stop and Shop, Fairway, King Kullen, Waldbaums.

                                          As I said, it's driven by fuel surcharges. This has been widely reported in various places. You seem to be the only person who thinks prices have not gone up.

                                          1. re: sbp

                                            Anecdotally, blueberries were 88¢-$1/pint last August. When fully in season.

                                            Right now $1.25-$1.50/pint. Because not yet fully in season. Prices around Fourth of July are better than earlier in the year but not as good as they will be.

                                            I do the shopping. Sale prices are lower now than they have been in decades. I often remark how I feel like I am in University again, with these crazy bargains. It seems every store is searching for business and has sales with insanely good prices.

                                            1. re: Cathy

                                              NJ blueberries are fully in season. I presume that you are in Canada ("in University" is a Canadian expression) - where berries ripen a month later. I'd like to know where you are shopping for groceries with "insanely good prices," because I'm not seeing it here.

                                              1. re: sbp

                                                Sorry, Cathy, I see you live in San Diego - though I'd guess you're Canadian anyway. I always have been very aware of prices, choose from among 5 different supermarkets for sales. At any given time, there may be 1 or 2 items on loss leader, but prices in general are way up.

                                            2. re: sbp

                                              sbp,

                                              I did cite non-anecdotal evidence here previously. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7942...

                                              This is going to be my last post on this, and I'm just going to leave it at that.

                                              Cheers.

                                              1. re: sbp

                                                ... ipsedixit may be looking at a shorter scale than you are.
                                                she/he may also be seeing more closely following prices.
                                                I know costco varies their milk prices more than supermarkets do (ditto with ice cream)

                                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                                I do the grocery shopping for my family - and my food bills have gone up at least 25% -30% over the last couple of years. Some of that is attributable to the fact that we have a growing boy - he's 10, and not eating like a teenager yet - but I am having to buy more food for him. Otherwise, our grocery list has remained the same, and yes, it is costing us quite a bit more now.

                                                1. re: flourgirl

                                                  I was a skinny girl, and when I was 10, I started eating more than my father and brother and stayed skinny... :-)

                                            3. re: ipsedixit

                                              Not five years ago, one year ago. I shop in a rhythm of watching for what's on sale and planning purchases and meals around this, and this method has worked well for me for sixty years. One year ago an 8-oz bag of shredded cheese would go on sale for 99 cents---now, 2-$5.00 or 2-$6.00. One year ago fresh catfish filet went on sale for $3.99 lb; now, $6.99 lb. A house-brand 5-lb bag of small Idaho potatoes a year ago went on sale for $1.99 or even 99 cents---now, $3.99. The coffee I buy, imported from Puerto Rico and sold at a big distant Mexican market I make a safari to several times a year to stock up on coffee---for years and years has been steady at $2.99. Last week it was $4.69.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                When a box of saltines that cost 99 cents on sale five years ago now costs 2.99 and never goes on sale, that is a 300% rise. Neither my housing cost nor my utilities nor my shoes nor my transportation nor anything else I pay has increased by 300%. And, guess what, neither has my income.

                                                1. re: Querencia

                                                  It's actually a 200% increase, and it's only one item. Nobody could possibly claim that food prices have gone up 200% overall, much less 300%.

                                                  If something doubles in price that's a 100% increase. Add that much again and that's another 100% over the original price, or 200% increase total. The price itself is 300% of the original, but the increase is 200%.

                                            4. re: ipsedixit

                                              There's not a single item at the supermarket that's cheaper now than 5 years ago. Not that I know of anyway.

                                              1. re: joonjoon

                                                The cat food I buy (they only eat a little of it and then their dried stuff) went up 6 cents per can 2 weeks ago...my kipper snacks went up 10 cents two weeks ago...and our Smucker's Natural p.b. also just went up, some places 20 cents per jar! The thing that KILLS me is that all the retailers said "oh, with gas prices going up, we HAVE to raise the prices" a few months ago..now gas prices have come down a bit but have ANY prices come down???? nope. it's total b.s.

                                                1. re: joonjoon

                                                  I agree with ipse. I pretty much only buy sale and in season items, stock up when certain basics are on sale and use coupons only for items I am going to purchase anyhow as well as shop at Costco.

                                                  We have always shopped at the local ethnic markets around town (we are in San Diego) and I pick one ethnicity a week and purchase the sale meats, vegetables, breads and maybe spices or canned items if on sale there and supplement those with other staples we already have and sale items from 'regular' grocers. We are lucky to have a variety of Asian markets, a few Italian markets, quite a good selection of Mexican markets and a lot of Middle Eastern markets.

                                                  I will not pay more than 99¢/lb for chicken, no more than $2.50/lb for hamburger, no more than 10¢ per egg, less than $2/lb for pork, no more than $1.50 for a box of cereal and have other limits for certain cuts of beef and seafoods. I can always find something to eat and on sale. My weekly grocery spending has remained constant, if not lower than before.

                                                  {FWIW, the Costco rotissiere chickens as well as their hot dog and soda combo have not changed prices in the last ten years.} (Additionally, Wendy's has had a 99¢/value menu since 2001 at least- I had the experience to have to eat at their location within the UM Hospital for weeks prior to 9/11).

                                                  I reallly think people are now paying attention to their expenses and income the way they should have been paying attention all along. A good thing that more are aware, but many have had to change their lifestyle.

                                                  1. re: Cathy

                                                    @Cathy, I guess it depends on where you live...now San Diego is more like Naples (where I am) demographically...but hell, there is NO place to find chicken for 99 cents a pound (unless that's at Costco??) I don't belong to Costco because there's only me and grown son who is *hopefully* moving out soon since he found a job this past November...I do remember visiting my other son in San Fran and yes, the adorable Asian markets would sell bananas for 19 cents a pound, UNHEARD of here..and other great buys...but, regional stores sell for different prices it seems. And I do agree with you that this *correction* was much needed with a lot of Americans...just seems to me that prices are still going up.

                                                    1. re: Cathy

                                                      Cathy, I'm with you on the ethnic markets (I'm in north county, though, so the Mexi-mart is easier access than the Chinese or Japanese markets, which I hit on my monthly visit to OC).

                                                      To illustrate, I bought a fruckton of groceries today including:

                                                      - a 10 pound pork butt
                                                      - a whole (5 lb) yellow chicken
                                                      - 1 whole tilapia
                                                      - a pound of shrimp
                                                      - a pound of cheddar
                                                      - tons of produce
                                                      - 3 bags of spices
                                                      - a dozen eggs

                                                      and a few other misc. food items for just under $90 dollars, which should last me & the Man during the week and my kids with us on the weekends for at least 2 weeks.

                                                      We'll probably spend another $10 for some bread and milk, but $50/week for even just 2 adults is beyond affordable for most, I think.

                                                      Look! (I don't usually take pics of my grocery runs, but I'm blogging about the benefits of venturing into ethnic markets.)

                                                       
                                                      1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                        Good grief! Here in the Midwest/South there is NO WAY I could get that many groceries for 90 bucks. Pea-green with envy over here.

                                                        1. re: LauraGrace

                                                          I guess we're a little spoiled in (certain parts of) CA, LauraGrace... :/

                                                  2. re: ipsedixit

                                                    I get memos like this at work every day

                                                    August 11, 2011

                                                    "Price Increase Notification

                                                    As I'm sure you are all aware, the weather during the planting was

                                                    extremely wet in the durum growing region of North Dakota and Montana. Only

                                                    47% of the anticipated crop was ultimately planted. The expected amount of

                                                    the durum harvest is on pace to be one of the lowest in modern times.

                                                    Additionally, the most recent crop report shows that durum production is 10%

                                                    lower than the July estimate.

                                                    Therefore, effective with all orders placed as September 15, 2011, we are

                                                    forced to raise our prices by 9¢/lb on all items. We will continue to

                                                    closely monitor the durum markets as we are now approaching the start of the

                                                    harvest which will begin in a couple of weeks and continue to mid-September.

                                                    If the weather continues to cooperate, this should be the last foreseeable

                                                    increase. However, if there are any issues during the next few weeks, we

                                                    have the potential for further and significant increases. "

                                                    I have been in the food business for over 30 years and never heard things like this, ever. You hear those stories of the world running out of food? Don't laugh, they're not raising the prices just to make more money. Soylent Green is becoming reality, not to sound crazy or anything, but it's scary.

                                                    1. re: coll

                                                      Holy Moly...things like this scare the bejeebuz out of me!

                                                  3. Rising food costs and the tough economy haven't really changed how we eat a lot, but it definitely has made me a much smarter and more careful shopper.

                                                    I used to shop for food without much thought and planning, other than to make sure I got key ingredients for a particular recipe. Didn't pay attention to what was in season, what stores were running specials, shopping at places like Costco for volume savings, etc.

                                                    Now I shop with a list every time I go grocery shopping and I try hard to stick to it. I don't overbuy, and I buy store brands instead of name brands on most things. I also try to buy things in season so I'm not paying crazy amounts for out of season produce.

                                                    Our family has never been huge meat eaters so meat has never been a huge part of our grocery budget. Chicken is a favorite so that is convenient.

                                                    The grocery store I frequent has a decent cheese & deli department. They mark items down by 50% when they get close to their pull date. I head to that section every visit and have gotten great deals on very nice cheeses and other products. I also use that as a way to try items I haven't had before and have discovered some new favorites.

                                                    I also shop the day old bread section so I can make my own croutons and breadcrumbs.

                                                    Even with the above adaptations, there are times where I just hold my breath while waiting to see the total.

                                                    A footnote: I have also gotten very careful to use what I buy and prepare and not throw stuff out. I have stumbled my way into projects and fundraising related to our local hungry and homeless. I have had a crash course in how dire things are for so many, right under my nose. At times I have been almost physically ill when thinking of the kind of waste I have been guilty of without even thinking twice. The CH in me would like to un-learn those things, or at least flip a switch in my brain from time to time, but no such luck. So I am trying to be a good steward of what I haveo have my discards. Don't mean to sound preachy...I am just trying to figure out how to balance the foodlover side of me with the concerned & responsible citizen side of me.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: jlhinwa

                                                      jlh,

                                                      GUILTY...even tho I was raised to not waste anything, I still am amazed at what I can do to keep food out of my trash can and on to my dinner plate.

                                                      Now when I trim meat, the bones and fat go right into the freezer, and get taken out again for soup within 3 days. No more just finding the "archives of meat' 6 months later and throwing it out.

                                                      Even the bones count now!

                                                      I get preachy points for living on a place that has no real "garbage pick-up" so I have always at least composed all my veg waste. ;-)

                                                    2. I hate to say this, but maybe it's a good thing? You know, Michael Pollan and his 'Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.'

                                                      However, I feel there is a portion of the population that will not get the message and will probably make cuts in other things to be able to continue eating meat.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: pdxgastro

                                                        For many of us, eating meat has nothing to do with not getting the message and has everything to do with health.

                                                        1. Is it changing the way I eat?

                                                          Not at all. Food is something we're not prepared to compromise over - I put it in my mouth!

                                                          So buying for home and restaurant eating remains unchanged.

                                                          17 Replies
                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                            I'm also more focused on buying fruit and vegetables in smaller quantities so there isn't spoilage. When we go out to dinner, the food has to be great....I can do "good" at home. So, to spend the calories and the dollars I'd rather go out some place amazing once a month, then just good every Saturday night.

                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                              Harters, same here. Food and cooking is my passion and where my husband and I tend to splurge. Great and interesting ingredients are very important to us and very much a huge part of our lives. We have always been careful/smart shoppers and that will never change, either. I will continue to scratch cook everything, grow my garden, make my preserves, freeze, etc. but have always done so since I was a kid. So no. I will not compromise.

                                                              1. re: chefathome

                                                                For some of us, it's not about compromise, it's about necessity -- it's not a moral choice, or really a choice at all. No offense, just saying.

                                                                1. re: LauraGrace

                                                                  until you don't have a car (where possible -- it isn't always, say if you're a farmer)
                                                                  have an $8 a month cell phone bill
                                                                  and don't have a tv, let alone cable...
                                                                  well, there are necessities, and then there are necessities!
                                                                  *disc: i don't have the aforementioned.

                                                                  1. re: Chowrin

                                                                    I have no car, no TV and my cellphone bill is about £30 a year.
                                                                    I also don't eat meat
                                                                    I do, however, buy the finest raw ingredients I can get my hands on, no compromise.
                                                                    I have noticed the price of seafood going up - but that is as it should be, with falling stocks. Other than that - the price of food is seasonal, so I expect fluctuations. My accounts (that go back over 10 years) show a very slow increase in food expenditure, but nothing more than I'd expect from normal inflation.

                                                                  2. re: LauraGrace

                                                                    You're right, definitely. I am extremely grateful that we have no financial concerns and are able to use fabulous ingredients. However, one of the reasons we are where we are today is we are very smart stewards with what we are blessed with (both of us were raised that way) and live well below our means. We prefer to live simply. Food and travel is what we tend to spend money on - I could care less about fashion, cars, clothes, etc. There are just the two of us and we compost our waste, plant a garden, and so on. Priorities! :-)

                                                                    1. re: chefathome

                                                                      I think this rise in food is hitting families a little harder. Working families with a time and money deficit. I am thankful it is just me and my husband, and that we are not faced with the "hey mom I brought jeffsandybillybobbyand ralph over for snacks".

                                                                      If this happen 10 years ago no woman I know would have given a pause before whipping out the snacks.

                                                                      Now I sure some mothers and fathers are just cringing and wondering if the light bill will get paid while they feed the kids.

                                                                    2. re: LauraGrace

                                                                      I agree...I'm lucky enough to have a place to grow alot of food. It's starting small and I'm just learning this whole new lifestyle. But most of the ppl I know have no way of doing this.

                                                                      Most are trying to get by.

                                                                    3. re: chefathome

                                                                      Chef,

                                                                      Any tips for those just starting on this trend?

                                                                      Can you get a good rotation of greens where you live?

                                                                      My worst waste was lettuce, cilantro and other fragile veg?

                                                                      what's your rotation?

                                                                      1. re: Luna2372

                                                                        I garden in Zone 1a which is the coldest zone there is so my husband built me wonderful huge raised beds against the white wall of the house. It is a virtual heat trap! It drains faster than the ground and easier to cover to protect from frost (often in June and August - our season on average is just 87 frost free days per year). Anyway, I rotate the 3 beds - one is for root vegetables, one for herbs and the other for greens, beans and so on. I bet I can grow as much in our raised beds as we used to in our large garden. I plant intensively. My husband works in lots of organic matter and I compost.

                                                                        We have only a few tables at our Farmer's Market (climate). This year I am growing:

                                                                        - 3 kinds of carrots

                                                                        - green beans

                                                                        - 2 kinds of radishes (planted right with the carrots)

                                                                        - 9 kinds of greens including several microgreens (when they are finished I plant something else to replace them - in this case green beans)

                                                                        - 3 kinds of tomatoes (transplants of course)

                                                                        - 4 kinds of peppers (obviously transplants)

                                                                        - 15 kinds of herbs (only chives are perennial - nothing else survives our winters)

                                                                        - muskmelon and honeydew (they usually don't make it)

                                                                        Usually I like to plant one or two unusual things such as asparagus peas but this year just planted more of what we love.

                                                                        I dry and freeze herbs; make salsas, ketchups and mustards; tons of jellies, preserves and chutneys (herbs and our crab apples) etc.

                                                                        I do all my baking and rarely buy anything processed except for a few things like tomato paste. Our meat/poultry as well as many cheeses come from local farmers and/or my brother. I make our ricotta and creme fraiche and even our vanilla extract.

                                                                          1. re: DaisyM

                                                                            Thanks for the compliment. I teach cooking classes and do some volunteer work but have the time to do what I love most! Many people just do not have the time I do. It is my passion. I've done the preserving and canning since I was about 12 - it was either that or butcher and clean the chickens on the farm. Well, I had to do that, too, and am glad I know how to but I managed to do less of it than my siblings. I think I made the right choice! :-)

                                                                            1. re: chefathome

                                                                              We all have the same 24 hours! You are during some amazing and delicious things with yours. It is inspiring.

                                                                              1. re: DaisyM

                                                                                Thank you so very much! I have my Mom to thank for my creative streak. Although she is a very poor cook she is creative in other ways!

                                                                    4. re: Harters

                                                                      Wow....lucky you! I personally think I am eating better now that I think about everything I put in my cart!

                                                                      And not so many..well...you know decadent indulgences..

                                                                    5. We definitely like meat and are committed omnivores, but we haven't changed the way we buy our food or cook because our "way" is naturally frugal.

                                                                      We buy our beef by the side and pay about $2 - $2.20 per pound, including processing, for grass-fed non-certified organic... that's for everything from the hamburger to the filet mignon to the roasts. We buy from a person we have known for years and she always charges us only what the market price is the day the animal is butchered. One side of beef lasts us an entire year. We also buy eggs and chickens from her. We also buy a lamb by the animal, which is more expensive than the beef, but still much, much less expensive than buying individual cuts of meat. We have 2 large upright freezers in addition to our regular freezer and those have probably saved us the most money of all of our investments.

                                                                      I also garden and can/dehydrate our excess, which saves us a lot of money. I do it because I enjoy it, though. Although I haven't for a while, we also grind our own wheat, and we make many of our staple foods from scratch (bread, yogurt, cheese, jam, etc.) and utilize buying in bulk and storing/rotating to maximize our grocery dollars. I even can some of the meat and our own soups, so we have something quick on-hand for dinner, as we don't eat fast food and sometimes we do need "fast" food.

                                                                      We don't really eat processed food, so buying real ingredients (I like that quote "If it doesn't rot, it isn't real food") in bulk definitely has its dollar-saving advantages. We do it because I enjoy it, though, not really out of financial necessity. I haven't seen huge increases in what we eat (except maybe rice), but perhaps it's because of how we buy our food. I also meal plan based on what is available locally in conjunction with what I have on-hand.

                                                                      We definitely have not reeled in our restaurant eating. We enjoy it as entertainment, as many here do, eat at higher-end places and I won't compromise on our dining experiences to save a few dollars.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: velochic

                                                                        I can't get beef by the side for less than $5 a lb where we live. Last side I bought, we drove almost 2 hours to save .60 a lb.

                                                                        1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                          I love buying by the side. We do a lamb and split a 1/2 beef with another couple. All so there is a place up north that does venison.

                                                                          Only down side was when the power went out for 4 days this winter.;-(

                                                                          But we just had a great big (chillY) BBQ for all our freinds that don't "do the freezer thing* every one chipped in a few dollars for *meat fee* and we did kinda come out even. But with a great event out of it.

                                                                      2. The one big change I have made is to use leftovers more efficiently. I can cook a slightly larger pork roast, for example, and get 3 meals out of it - the roast for dinner on night 1, in a stir fry with yummy korean ramen and whatever vegetables I find in the fridge for night 2, and cuban sandwiches on night 3. I figure I save maybe $30 a week by planning my meals to cover more than one meal. Does that make sense? I also volunteer once a month at a farmers market, and get a $25 'credit' for vegetables, so I use that to stock my vegetables as much as I can.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                          Jean,

                                                                          $30 a week = $120 a month. Those are the things I was wondering about when I started this thread. I do the same thing.

                                                                          Even tho most of my meat is from my freezer, I waste less...my pets aren't as happy...but I still save more time.

                                                                          Oddly meat is not such a big expense on my island. Its fruit and veg...corn at $1 a cob and 5 dollar lettuce is a BIG deal.

                                                                          1. re: Luna2372

                                                                            The strangest thing about it, we are eating just as well, or even better. I only need to spend maybe an extra 20 minutes each week, to figure out what's on sale, that I can take and stretch into a couple of meals. And even funnier to me, it's saving me time, because it forces me to plan the week's menu ahead of time. So it's all good. I agree that vegetables and fruits are a bigger part of my budget than meat. I am really happy that the big local farm stand has cheap corn and melons this week, so I can get my fill, and freeze some corn.

                                                                        2. Not sure anything has changed for us but we do spend more on food. We do spend a bit more on food than previous. We've been trying to eat frugal for as long as I can remember but we try to follow certain themes (although not always successfully).
                                                                          1. buy quality not quantity
                                                                          2. buy in season
                                                                          3. Reduce food waste (i.e., make just enough and reduce food spoilage or throwing food out)
                                                                          4. Buy in bulks/on sale and freeze
                                                                          5. Eat out less

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Soup

                                                                            I eat out less and spend what I need to spend to eat what i want at home. That said, I have moved towards meat as a side, not the center of a meal for other reasons and that works economically too. OTOH since I no longer buy any factory farmed meat or eggs, the meat I do eat costs more .

                                                                            1. I didn't really notice the hike in the food prices until I went to the supermarket recently to buy lamb chops....WHAT??? it was like $17/lb. it looks like meat prices have gone up drastically...is this because US exporting more beef so less for us?

                                                                              Anyway, i am actually quite lucky as my dad is an avid gardener. I get free organic tomatoes, different types of lettuces, cucumbers and some fruits like figs, apples and pears. This saves me a lot of money.

                                                                              I definitely eat more chicken and pork(though pork prices have gone up too) and i try to eat more fish...luckly, there are still some bargains in fish.

                                                                              1. yes
                                                                                I went to the store recently to pick up some skirt steak. $11 a lb.
                                                                                Went for a thin sliced tri tip instead. Not quite as good, but it worked.

                                                                                And forget about fresh fish prices. Gulf shrimp $15/lb. Wild salmon $18/lb.
                                                                                Yellowfin sashimi grade tuna $35/lb. Its a treat for us to eat that stuff.

                                                                                We are eating less high quality proteins. The one thing I have been doing during the past year and a half or so is buy two whole organic chickens over the weekend and cook em up on our rotisserie with nothing but some olive oil and salt and pepper. I take off the skin and "pull" the meat. Then, for most of the week I will make sandwiches, quesadillas, tacos or chicken salad. I will also add it to salads, pastas or simple soups.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: AdamD

                                                                                  I'm not a big chicken fan...to many years of bad rubbery "fear chickens" in the past ..but my husband does really like chicken, so we have recently started buy a few organic chickens from local producers. He cooks them much the same way a you do...and they do last us for most of the week. And what a difference in the taste and texture. But they are not cheap...but as you say less expense than $18.00 for wild salmon.

                                                                                2. This might freak people out but whenever I go to the store I look through the meat counter for things that are expiring the following day and are normally marked down 50%. I plan meals based on what's in my freezer. I rarely eat beef anymore, just pork butt and chicken for meat, and lots of days, no meat. I use my freezer in case there's a good deal. If I have leftover meat that I can't use right away I freeze it for soup, pasta sauce, etc.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Floridagirl

                                                                                    For day when I have taken nothing out of my freezer or am looking for something...well a little more spontaneous I have no problem shopping in my "reduced for sale* section. Especially if I'm looking for beef or lamb.

                                                                                    Might not look for shellfish tho...;-)

                                                                                  2. no need. i ain't cookin' gourmet like most folks here (not on a regular basis). $100 a month for food (no eatin' out), and it lasts for two healthy adults.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                      WOW....I am in awe of that budget! My partner and I make most of our own cheese and yogurt, don't eat meat every day, bake all our own bread (praise be for bread makers) and still can not get our budget down under $80.00 a week.

                                                                                      Mind you that does include pet food and all of the other things you pick up in a grocery store when you live in a small place...Tp, detergent, foil ect...

                                                                                      But we have managed to get that down from $120... so we're happy

                                                                                      1. re: Luna2372

                                                                                        I should call it more like 120, accounting for inflation. But I shop at costco, don't buy much preprocessed foods, and eat less than a quarter pound of meat per sitting. and not buying organic helps.
                                                                                        Might be worth it to organize a shopping expedition out to costco -- save a bundle on towels/detergent/foil etc.

                                                                                    2. I wish I could lower my food costs, but due to medical issues, how and what I eat really can't be varied. I cannot swallow most meats, so I don't buy much of it at all. I'm lucky if I eat it once or twice a week. What I can swallow is rack of lamb chops (I try and buy them out when they are on sale for half the price and freeze), chicken thighs and pork butt or shoulder. Has to be fatty. I can swallow sea scallops, which are not cheap, but I usually only eat three as my serving, so they last a while. As far as eating more vegetarian, which I what I do, I am still spending $50 in produce a week, and it's just me. But I do either juice, or make whole fruit and veg smoothies at least once a day. I probably spend at least $100 a week on food, just for me. I drink a lot of milk and almond milk, and I do eat cheese, which isn't the cheapest thing either.

                                                                                      I definitely see that food costs have risen, at least where I live. I cannot really plan menus around what is on sale, because of my limited menu options. Makes it difficult.

                                                                                      1. Interesting read.

                                                                                        This spring, I was appalled by the costs of some produce so I spent most of spring reclaiming some grass infested flower beds out back. They are now brimming with veggies. Yesterday at the store in the city, they were asking $1.79 for fresh green beans; the price didn't drop with summer so I'm especially thankful for my densely planted bean patches.

                                                                                        This year I had set aside for relearning what grows and when. I didn't know how easy cilantro was here and my patch of French Sorrell will grow through winter in my climate, so it's going to expand in its bed.

                                                                                        Lettuce: there's no reason to buy it, just experiment with which lettuces to plant when.

                                                                                        Meat: shop whatever's on sale. Be thankful for the guys who eat a chicken wing and pay $0.50 or more for the priviledge; I think that's why the rest of the chicken prices are staying reasonable.

                                                                                        Venison: we let hunters on our land; they give us processed venison. WIth enough spices, I can't tell the difference in a lot of beef dishes (nor can picky Mr. Shallots.)

                                                                                        Bread: often from scratch using bulk flour from Sam's club.

                                                                                        Desserts: I try never to buy dessert, only to make it- sort of a 'fewer calories if it's home made' lie to myself.

                                                                                        1. Eventhough we are 'complaining', it seems like US still has the lowest food prices in the World...quality may suffer for some but still, you can get good amount of food at good prices especially if you shop wisely.

                                                                                          1. Spending about $75 a week, for two people and a hungry cat.

                                                                                            We eat a lot less meat than last year, and pretty much only when it's on sale (read: less than $3 a pound), but I choose to cook the best quality I can find at a reasonable price. Hence the volume of meat is smaller but sill delicious an nourishing. Big tougher cuts like a single bone-in pork shoulder are great to make carnitas, pea soup, sandwiches, mixed with mash and cabbage; all from the same piece of meat, over the week.

                                                                                            I tend to grow a lot of my herbs (parsley, lemon thyme, basilic), the easiest is spring onion, just keep the lower 10 cm with the root in a glass with water, it'll grow back for a couple weeks, 50/50 chances it'll live if you put it in soil.

                                                                                            I bake pretty much everything, which I love and is a lot less expensive an tastier. Ive calculated it costs me around 80c for a 900g loaf of wholewheat bread at home, where it would be tricky to find a 600g loaf under $3 at the grocery store. Sweet baked goods just don't compare.

                                                                                            Exotic grocery store have rare finds at crazy good prices: a kilo of great tofu for $2, 2 large fillets of basa (8 portions from it) for $4, 1.5 L of mild tasting Korean soy sauce for $6, a kilo of fresh Medjool dates for $5... Couldn't believe my eyes.

                                                                                            Gotta learn the fair price of things, be frugal, stay loyal to your grocery list, look for the deal, never throw good produce or leftovers (bones and veggies bits for stock!)

                                                                                            1. People still eat???? No, but seriopusly (that started as a typo, but I like it).. I've always been pretty cheap, but this is out of hand. I do a lot of small scale butchering now, not a favorite activity, but those pork loins are one of the few bargains left, and I can get far better and cheaper ground meat and stew meat by doing it myself. I no longer casually go down to the supermarket for fill in produce- that couple of more potatos I need are $1.89/ lb., I won't pay a dollar for a blasted onion, and as for $2 a lb. for giant zuchini- I say ha! I grow a lot more food, too- I've been a mad-dog gardener for many years, but was never particularly interested in truck farming until recently. And I read ads and cut out coupons, which makes me feel like someones maiden aunt, but maiden aunts are good, I can take it. And above all, I do not go to restaurants.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: oldunc

                                                                                                Seriopusly props to maiden aunts, uncs, grams and gramps...I do believe if it wasn't for my great lernin' from my nan i wouldn't have a clue how to survive in this economy. My Mum was the "that skipped a generation", she's all hamburger helper and stove top stuffing.

                                                                                                My Nan is my hero...

                                                                                              2. I live in Chile, so I don't think there is an inflation (?) induced rise in food costs like in the US, but the cost structures are different, and somewhat seasonal.
                                                                                                I only eat avocados when they are below the equivalent of $5.00 a kilo--occasional exceptions. The same with things like blueberries or strawberries. Cheese is relatively expensive--more expensive than beef per weight, so, we end up eating not so much of it. Canned soups or canned beans, lentils, garbanzos, are really expensive--so we act is if they didn't exist and never use or buy them. The dried beans are cheap--it's just a matter of planning and thinking ahead--soak them the night before for the next day's dinner. Things like imported candy bars are more expensive, too. A snickers is the equivalent of $1.50 (if memory serves me, in the US those things are cheap)--so we eat them very occasionally. They're not too good for you anyways so it turns out for the best I suppose.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: Wawsanham

                                                                                                  Wawsanham, what besides beans ect, is a really good deal seasonally in Chile, like here in Canada blueberries/blackberries/raspberries are almost free if you drive/walk a few kilos and pick them.
                                                                                                  Also I believe you have great coast line is fish expensive?

                                                                                                  L

                                                                                                2. Today i took a Canary melon at over $4.00 back to produce before checking out. I just didn't feel I could afford it. Too bad, so sad. :(

                                                                                                  On the other hand I've been buying local peaches for several weeks this summer at $1.49 or so a lb, and they have been really good this year.

                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                    I've also been *loving* the yellow GA peaches for .99/lb - $1.49/lb this year Sue; haven't had a mealy one yet...totally juicy and slurpy...ahhhh! I think the blueberries have also been quite good all summer long.

                                                                                                    1. re: Val

                                                                                                      My local peaches are from MO, and they sound as good as yours. I can't believe how long the season has been.

                                                                                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                        We have had a really good peach/nectarine season in BC too. I have started to make and freeze chunky chuntney type things just to keep the season going into the fall.

                                                                                                        I do believe they are the best I've had in years, no baseballs or mealy mushy stuff, just slurrpy goodness.

                                                                                                        Also made some killer adult beverages with them~!

                                                                                                  2. It's not changing the way I *eat*; it's changing the way I *shop*. We get virtually everything at Costco or Cash & Carry, our local restaurant supply place. We also tend to hit the local Grocery Warehouse or Big Lots, which clear out discontinued stuff when the manufacturers change the packaging. Case in point: Taco Seasoning: $.89 - $1.29 per pack in the supers, .49 at Big Lots, .21 per equivalent if you buy in Restaurant Pack at Costco. Ground Beef, $4 per pound or more in the supers, less than half that when I buy a huge pack of chuck roast at Costco or C&C and grind myself, plus I control what's going into it and how it's ground. Restaurant Quality Pasta, never more than 75 cents a pound if you're willing to buy 10 pounds at a time (and you have room to store it).

                                                                                                    We also have a Costco Business Center near to us, so we buy Select Beef when it's appropriate (which lets us afford to buy Prime when that's appropriate).

                                                                                                    I assume all this has been mentioned upthread but it's a long thread and I haven't gone through all the responses yet; sorry if it's redundant.

                                                                                                    23 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: acgold7

                                                                                                      Wouldn't worry about redundant- maybe someone in the supermarket business will read this and realize that many people do know when they're being robbed blind. Remember when you used to go to the Super because it was the cheapest?

                                                                                                      1. re: oldunc

                                                                                                        I think our local markets are trying to be competitive, but they pay a living wage to union workers, and they don't have the buying leverage of Costco and Sam's. I support my local market chain, because what we have here in my area is unique--local grocers who build and maintain really nice stores. I spoke with a women who sliced off my 1/2 lb of expensive lunchmeat today. She said same as I. Food prices are going up. Bad weather, more demand from places like China, farmers growing corn for our cars--and on and on.

                                                                                                        I don't think though that our grocers are at fault here. And I also think that shoppers will go where they get the best prices.

                                                                                                        1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                          Of course you're right, and of course I do shop at regular Supermarkets for the things they don't have at Costco or the other places I mentioned. I have a sort of hierarchy in order of ascending price and selection, and I have a sort of loop I do that lets me hit all my stores in order every week or two.

                                                                                                          I would love to support single-location Mom and Pop stores, but here in the West there really aren't many of those, and in a practical sense it's pure folly to pay double for the exact same packaged goods as in a Supermarket. When we lived back east it was worse, where it was literally triple the price at the local butcher for meat that was much, much worse than you could get at Costco.

                                                                                                          1. re: acgold7

                                                                                                            My situation is different. It doesn't cost me very much to patronize my local food chain. If I really was aggressive about saving money, I'd hit Aldi's. As it is, I hit Costco every 3 months or so, but not so much for food as for paper products. I buy certain things at Whole Foods as well. But I find meat and poultry on sale frequently enough at my local market, that I don't feel pressed to change that habit.

                                                                                                      2. re: acgold7

                                                                                                        Well, everyone loves an optimist. My local supermarkets pay their small staffs better than most retailers, but not enough to justify regularly charging 2 1/2 times the price of other for profit retailers. A lot of this has to do with targeting upscale markets- such things as always cosmetically perfect produce, whatever the price or actual quality, and always- premium prices on everything from flour to dish soap. My main local small "luxury" grocery chain regularly sells basic produce items at far lower prices with better quality than the major chain in this area, and also pays union wages; it's a matter of where the accountants hide the excesses. As far as the practice of selling bags of produce items at higher prices than the same items in bulk, and of balyhooing sale prices in big red numbers while changing units in tiny letters (such as pricing by the half pound, or by the each rather than the weight) are blatant efforts to take advantage of unwary consumers.

                                                                                                        1. re: oldunc

                                                                                                          Just curious: what items are 2 1/2 times the price at one store than they are at a big box store. I want to know so I can buy more economically?

                                                                                                          1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                            I'm not prepared for an extensive inventory, and don't shop a lot at big box stores, but this morning's run through the produce section included bad looking zucchini at $2.49 a lb. (under $1 everywhere else in town), prepackaged mushrooms for ONLY $4 (except it's a half pound package) white potatoes at $1.89/lb, small lemons at $1 each... this is not exceptional pricing for this store.

                                                                                                            1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                              Well, of course it depends on what sort of items you buy, and your area, but virtually every packaged good you might buy at a regular supermarket in a small pack is significantly cheaper per unit if you buy in a larger size at a warehouse store. Of course this means you must have the storage space at home and not throw out any of it.

                                                                                                              We don't buy a lot of processed foods, but we do buy some. So non-perishables like boxed and canned goods are often half or one-third as much if you are willing to buy them by the case and they have the brands you like (or you are willing to switch to the Costco brand, which often is better). In our area, we find the Costco Meat and Produce to be top-notch; this isn't true everywhere.

                                                                                                              I listed a couple of random examples above as well. I think Sam's and BJ's, if you have one in your area, will let you go in and browse without being a member; not sure if Costco does (I would think so). If so, you could go in, check out the prices and see if they have the sort of stuff you'd normally buy and jot down the unit cost for the stuff you use most, and do a comparison with your local stores. Only then will you know if it makes sense for you.

                                                                                                              For us, we know we spend less than half of what most people do.

                                                                                                              1. re: acgold7

                                                                                                                In my area, at least, there are very good produce stores that have substantially better prices, that's where I mostly shop. The best of them, incidentally, employ mostly or all certified greengrocers, who do not work for free. I get some meat at Costco, their prices are about the same as supermarket sale prices. Also a lot from Trader Joe, nuts and dried fruits especially. I grew up in an era when supermarkets were the new coming thing, ballyhooed for their low prices (
                                                                                                                The answer? Volume!!!) in much the way big box stores are now. Incidentally- a lot of people assume prices at Costco and such are always lower, it's advisable to break them down into unit prices occasionally and compare. Home Depot is even more of a crapshoot- the "match any price on any item" policy sounds great until you realize how much of their stuff is proprietary brands that there is no price to compare to.

                                                                                                                1. re: oldunc

                                                                                                                  Yeah, I'm not crazy about the produce at Home Depot... always tastes really woody...

                                                                                                                  But seriously folks, yes, always compare unit pricing. It's not always cheaper at Costco. It does vary by region and weekly Supermarket loss leaders are very often cheaper.

                                                                                                                  If you get those weekly Supermarket circulars in the mail, pay particular attention to those specials on the front page above the fold. Those are the loss leaders designed to get you into the store. If you buy those and nothing else, and they're the things you'd normally buy anyway, you can do very well.

                                                                                                                  1. re: acgold7

                                                                                                                    Agree totally about unit pricing. I buy salmon burgers, fresh unprocessed almonds, tuna, and a few produce items at Costco. In the winter the vegetable produce is more attractive to me than it is now. But we did come out of there this week with blueberries, and the price was quite attractive.

                                                                                                                    The zucchini price you quote sounds as expensive as if it were organic produce. I wouldn't buy it there either. If you want to talk price inflation for fresh food, lets talk bunches of radishes! Ouch, and ouch again. (The annoying plastic bags of radishes cost less for some reason.)

                                                                                                                    What inflates our costs is our reliance on a few "health" foods, fresh stuff, and fish. I eat low carb bread which I find at WF, and a carb controlled milk which is not cheap as well as a pricey high fiber cereal and Greek style yogurt. Mr. Sueatmo likes to buy a carton of low fat ice cream for himself.

                                                                                                                    I've had a hard time paying for green and red bell peppers lately. The local crop is in, but it isn't as inexpensive as it was last year. I dread paying a dollar a pepper or more this fall. I may have to investigate some other sources.

                                                                                                                    1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                      Today's unit price gem- Red Star Yeast $3.99 for 2 lbs. at Costco, $7.99 for 2 oz. at the supermarket. These are the usual prices both places, but I just got back from Costco and that one always gets me- I use a lot of yeast.

                                                                                                                      1. re: oldunc

                                                                                                                        That's great, and the sort of insane thing I mean. Another example off the top of my head -- peeled fresh garlic: $6.59/lb at the Supermarket, but $4.99 for three pounds ($1.66/lb) at Costco, same brand. If you have a Costco Business Center near you, you can even get a 5# bag for $7.99, which brings the cost down to $1.59/lb.

                                                                                                                        If it's stuff you use a lot of, it's a no-brainer.

                                                                                                                      2. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                        Yes, radishes and bell peppers especially! For that reason, bell peppers barely make an appearance in my kitchen these days anymore.

                                                                                                                        Like you, I also find the few "health" food items contributing a big part to the food bill.

                                                                                                                        1. re: vil

                                                                                                                          We both love green peppers! We often split one for lunch, eating it raw. The increase in price for these is really painful.

                                                                                                                          And to compare notes--what health foods are you buying?

                                                                                                                          1. re: sueatmo

                                                                                                                            Over here, it is red peppers, and oven roasted. I miss the days when I used to roast an oven-ful of bell peppers.

                                                                                                                            On second thought, what I mean by expensive health food seems to apply to many items in my grocery cart. Mainly specialty foods that have alternative ingredients or a step up from the conventional version: free-range eggs, organic produce, unsweetened soy milk that does not have oodles of additives, a good loaf of sourdough bread, cookies and crackers that are made with butter or olive oil, non-homogenized milk, to name a few.

                                                                                                                            Free-range/organic eggs these days are whopping $6.99-7.99 a dozen these days at the grocers near where I am. Avocadoes, $2.99 each, and so I often get one at a time.

                                                                                                                            1. re: vil

                                                                                                                              Wow, Vil, just wow--where are you? I have 4-5 red peppers still on the vine--wish I could share 'em with you. And just yesterday I bought organic eggs--$1.60 a dozen. I think I'd better quit whining about food prices where I am!

                                                                                                                              1. re: pine time

                                                                                                                                Organic eggs and free range eggs are not the same animal (nor are sorta free range eggs and really free range eggs- the difference between chickens that have a few inches to move around and chickens you have to round up before bed every night). There's no reason for bell pepper prices to be much different in different places, they store and ship pretty well, but you pay a big premium for the huge, perfectly shaped ones favored by supermarkets and mass retailers.

                                                                                                                                1. re: oldunc

                                                                                                                                  Yes, and I wish they would start designating eggs as "really free range" on the boxes ;-) Well, what do I expect, when in a hurry and cannot find time to seek out the local farmers who truly deserve that designation.

                                                                                                                                  And I wish I would know where to look for those imperfect bell peppers!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: vil

                                                                                                                                    My area is blessed with many produce markets and ethnic groceries that regularly stock plain old bells, for far below supermarket prices, but there's a lot of produce grown nearby- good chance they don't bother to ship many of the irregular size/shape. Which are, by the way, kind of a pain to peel.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: oldunc

                                                                                                                                      I should invest in leather gloves for when I make pie from pie apples. tend to peel me hands.

                                                                                                                                2. re: pine time

                                                                                                                                  Thanks for the thought, pinetime! I am currently in a suburb in Toronto. I don't think I have ever seen bell peppers on the vine in my life, only the too-perfect ones in the supermarket.

                                                                                                                                  And we are not not whining, by the way, just comparing notes and trying to be proactive about it.

                                                                                                              2. re: acgold7

                                                                                                                Not redundant at all! Good bulk buying, and trying hard to get good quality seems t be the mainstay of many families.

                                                                                                                Home butchering is becoming a thing to think about. I'm looking into spliting bulk meat that is grown on island. Good price, shared to keep cost down, and still buying from the little guy.

                                                                                                                And who isn't going to use 10lbs of pasta over a short amount of time if you have family?

                                                                                                                All good info!

                                                                                                              3. It certainly is making it very difficult to eat organically.

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                                  Oh, definitely. I had been trying to stick to hormone and chemical free meats, and lately, with the ever rising prices, I find myself getting fewer and fewer steaks, chops, whole chickens, thighs and wings. Instead, I go for the big bags of discounted chicken, pork and beef bones from my local butcher. The meat scraps from the bones, when used in soups or stews, are plenty for me and my family (and still very tasty).

                                                                                                                  1. re: PotatoHouse

                                                                                                                    +1

                                                                                                                    Trying so hard!

                                                                                                                    I do find that by just not buy cleaning products gives me WAY more money for food...LOL

                                                                                                                    Truly I do skimp far more on non-food items.

                                                                                                                  2. Yes, it changes the way I eat.
                                                                                                                    I do all my emotional food thinkin' at home (what sounds really good to eat) then make a list and buy what I need. Rather than just wandering the store grabbing things that "sound good."
                                                                                                                    I miss my old way of shopping but I make better decisions now and throw away less food.
                                                                                                                    That's not to say the occationally drum of cheeze ballz doesn't make it into the cart but it's very rare.

                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: Aabacus

                                                                                                                      I do find that the cookie aisle is not on my "thinking" list. And if I am not famished when shopping I do end up at home late at night...thinking..."hmmm...why didn't I buy cookies!*%#@!"

                                                                                                                      1. re: Luna2372

                                                                                                                        Subtracting emotion from the shopping experience leads to all manner of late night gnoshing frustrations.

                                                                                                                        Need. Cookie. Now.
                                                                                                                        More. Wine.
                                                                                                                        Why no Sea Salt and Pepper Cashews?

                                                                                                                        Then I end up making white trash cheesecake (sweetend cream cheese with vanilla and a squirt of lemon then dipped with graham crackers) until my stomach knots.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Aabacus

                                                                                                                          LOL...been there! Done that! gonna go and do it now!

                                                                                                                    2. Like so many here, finances have caused me to change my meat buying habits. We eat whatever is on sale at my 'acceptable' price, period. It doesn't matter if you are a chowhound, and premium ingredients are important to you, if you are already operating close to the bone and there is only $40 to eat on for the next 10 days.

                                                                                                                      On the plus side, I'm getting almost no takeout lunches any more. I used to spend quite a bit on sandwiches, gyros, pizza for lunch, but now I'll eat leftovers and invent random things from scraps and bits.

                                                                                                                      Unfortunately, even with the increases, flour and sugar & whatever fruit is in season is still cheap, so my problem with baking a giant dessert and eating it all in 2 days has not been helped.

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. re: rohirette

                                                                                                                        Hell is knowing there is a good berry crumble in the fridge at 2:00 a.m. ! I mentioned earlier that the "cookie monster' is still fighting for buying rights, but I just can't do it when I know I have flour, and sugar, and fruit on my trees! So in expensive and you get to CONTROL the sugar, and no preseravatives!

                                                                                                                      2. Thankfully,healthier food is usually cheaper food. I'm eating more beans and vegetables which is much cheaper and better than meat. Buying whole chickens are cheaper,cutting them ourself for chicken parts and stocks for cooking soups and vegetables. In the long run,you'll be healthier,less health costs. There's a few good things about higher food prices.
                                                                                                                        And to the person who says food prices go down after summer? Then they go back up for the Holidays!

                                                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: WINDELLA

                                                                                                                          I disagree that eating healthier is cheaper. My grocery stores are much cheaper for meat and vegetables, but when I shop directly from farmers, I am paying more for organic and no/less pesticides. Some times a lot more. When I am broke and running around town, a $1 double cheeseburger fills me up. I can't hardly buy an organic apple for $1, much less a sandwich. No argument that the apple is better for me. But I can't buy a healthy sandwich for $1. Organic milk is more expensive than hormone full store milk, and soda is cheapest of all. There's a reason that lower income people are heavier - bad food is real cheap.

                                                                                                                          1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                                                            I have to disagree that eating well is not feasible on a small income. I am very poor, on Food Stamps and everything, and I feed myself and two preschoolers on $200/month or less. We eat almost exclusively whole and natural foods. Now, I can't usually afford to buy organic, per se, but we have no processed food in this house. I don't buy soda or alcohol, snack foods or box meals. We don't eat cold or instant cereal (or instant anything, for that matter). I take the children for french fries maybe once or twice a month, but otherwise, what they get at home are fresh fruits and vegetables. I cook everything from scratch, breakfast, lunch, and supper. We don't eat much meat - maybe two whole chickens, and 2-3 pounds of beef steak/roast each month, when we can afford it. But we make due, and I'm the queen of finding a way to stretch a steak or a chicken into 2-3 meals. My children only know fresh fruits for snacks, natural peanut butter, decent cheese, and drink mostly water. We do just fine, and probably eat healthier than most people with twice our income.

                                                                                                                            1. re: emilyjh75

                                                                                                                              emily, I would like to see some teaching from you on how to eat mostly healthy foods on a small budget. Lest I sound like some rich a-hole, I'm not, rich, anyway. I think most of us who aren't into conspicuous consumption would like to know how to economize on food for a family from somebody who has creatively accomplished it.

                                                                                                                              1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                                                1) Find cheap starches. Flour, Rice, Sugar -- buy in 50lb quantities, they will LAST! (Cornmeal too if you're down south. I will be forever jealous)
                                                                                                                                2) Stop with the fancy cheeses. Get some quality Mozarella (2.5 a pound at costco), and use it as a medium.
                                                                                                                                3) Beans, beans and lentils. Great protein sources.
                                                                                                                                4) Eat meat sparingly. see how much you can stretch your foods... eating a quarter pound of stirfried beef seems like plenty with some veggies.
                                                                                                                                5) No snacks goes a surprisingly long way.
                                                                                                                                Learn to like some soups, and eat Popcorn! It's a great great great diet food.

                                                                                                                                1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                                                  Well, the biggest thing I eliminate are all things processed, canned, or boxed. No soda, chips, snacks, freezer meals, etc. Those things may be cheaper per item than many healthy foods, but don't last as long, some things being for only one or two meals. I spend a little more on whole foods, which can combine in infinite combinations to make large meals that will last for days. I also don't eat much meat. As Chowrin said, you can stretch a small amount of meat with a good heap of savory veggies.

                                                                                                                                  Do some experimenting and find out which foods can be bought generic. Some things, like rice, peanut butter, beans, etc, don't have a big difference in quality. Also, some stores have higher quality store brand foods than others. Wal-Mart brand cheese is practically inedible, but Kroger brand cheese is pretty good, considering.

                                                                                                                                  I avoid all foods specifically labelled "healthy" or "low-fat" or any other such gimmicks. Most of the time they jack up the price just because they look healthier. I read all labels, and restrict what I buy to things that have the least amount of ingredients, and little to no additives. Also, many store brands now offer "natural" choices, so I've been able to buy, for example, natural peanut butter and jellies in the store brand, etc.

                                                                                                                                  More than half of my food budget goes toward produce, which I buy weekly. I bulk up meals with lots of veg, and provide fruit for the kids to snack on. Also, some cheap veg come in large quantities and make excellent snacks, like carrots and celery. As far as produce goes, I never buy pre-packaged, frozen, or canned veg (with some exception...I keep frozen peas for when I don't feeling like shelling a bunch, and I keep a couple cans of veg in reserve for food storage, low income months, etc.) Often, produce in bulk is cheaper than the packaged stuff, and goes a lot further.

                                                                                                                                  It also helps to have a good sense of logistics, and plan to use or re-use items in different ways. For example, I may buy a small ham, like 2-3 lbs, with the bone. Slice a few slices for sandwiches, chop a bit of meat for stews, and save the bone. Next day, cook down the bone and make split pea soup, and use half the chunks of ham. Use the rest of the ham to stretch out eggs for breakfast for a few days. Bake a loaf of bread and slice some for sandwiches, and use some to go with meals. Heck, just make bread when you're hungry. Bake a pan of cornbread, throw some butter on it and a glass of milk, and I'm a happy camper. You can even use the juice leftover from a pot of greens and make it a fancy meal.

                                                                                                                                  This is already too long, but I did want to mention I don't entirely avoid junk food. I couldn't get through life without a bit of chocolate occasionally, and some days, if I have the extra money, I'll buy the kids a treat, etc. But the point is, we only buy those things when and if we have the money to do it. Those types of things (including soda) are considered a non-essential luxury, and very last on the list of things to buy, and consequently are rarely bought.

                                                                                                                              2. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                                                                The organic question is a tough one, especially since I live on a small island and can buy direct, not just from "farmers", but ppl I actually know and respect and try really hard to support.
                                                                                                                                But the question is...meat once a week...or meat 3 times a week?

                                                                                                                                I do only buy my burger from our local. But sometime I want a steak and $36.00 a kilo is out of the question.

                                                                                                                                But I find veg here is organic and cheaper from stands than non-organic in my supermarket.

                                                                                                                            2. I'm really trying to be more frugal than ever and crack down on any waste and to make the most of what I buy. I'm still getting the hang of cooking and buying for one. Figuring out the few things I can buy in bulk to save money. It won't save you money if it goes bad before you can use it. Potatoes, onions, oatmeal, garlic, eggs and carrots, I seem to plow through quickly. So, I have been buying them at Sam's Club which has been cheaper.

                                                                                                                              I also started a 'stock/broth bag' in the freezer and I'm taking all the vegetable peels and trimmings and any left over bones and making stock from them, for free, instead of wasting or composting it.

                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: Matahari22

                                                                                                                                Learn to like leftovers. You'd be surprised at how much you can make in fourperson chunks, and that's enough for four meals (some can be work-lunch)

                                                                                                                                1. re: Chowrin

                                                                                                                                  Hi Chorwin. If this response is for me, I do eat left overs, but making four portions at a time is generally too much for me. There are some things that simply will not work for me as leftovers, like proteins, don't work for me left over. I have severe dysphasia and have problems with meat to begin with, and when they are left over and reheated, even the things I can normally choke down, become inedible.

                                                                                                                                  If I have left over from the night before, I usually have it for brunch or lunch with an egg on top if it's potatoes and or veggies. I made a serving of extra rice to use for dinner tomorrow night's dinner. As a general rule, for me, I never make more than two portions of a dish. Any more just is too much.

                                                                                                                                2. re: Matahari22

                                                                                                                                  I also do the stock bag. Monday is soup day. We usually have a nice Sunday dinner...do a lot of ppl still do this? So Monday cleans out the stock bag and any left overs not set aside for lunches. Plus it's a low hassle meal.

                                                                                                                                3. I just noticed that here is something I routinely do that could be of help. I write down my produce on a Word document page in the order of its fragility, cost, and when bought.

                                                                                                                                  For instance here are a few things I wrote down which encourages me to use up in order:

                                                                                                                                  Bought 10-14:

                                                                                                                                  Tomatoes $3.49

                                                                                                                                  Butter Lettuce $1.49

                                                                                                                                  Asparagus $3.26

                                                                                                                                  Swiss Chard $2.69

                                                                                                                                  Broccoli $1.32

                                                                                                                                  Celery $2.49

                                                                                                                                  Now I can see that I used all of the above. But I still have on my list (with the cost and when bought) which I will have to use. This cuts down on waste for me.

                                                                                                                                  Radicchio

                                                                                                                                  Fennel

                                                                                                                                  Limes

                                                                                                                                  Serranos

                                                                                                                                  Cabbage

                                                                                                                                  Squash

                                                                                                                                  Apples

                                                                                                                                  Oranges

                                                                                                                                  Carrots

                                                                                                                                  This list sits beside my computer and I don't have to think about what produce will drive my menu .

                                                                                                                                  1. Well, it's been a long time since we got a prime rib roast at costco, for sure. And we didn't get the prime prime rib roast, we got the choice. It's partially a health thing, I like to think.

                                                                                                                                    1. I do many of the things others have mentioned, plus a couple more.

                                                                                                                                      Like Floridagirl, I buy meat at the end of "sell-by" dates to get the best price. Think about it -- sell-by isn't the same as use-by, and you're getting "wet-aged" beef when you buy late. Aged beef for less than freshly butchered? Morton's would be jealous. Unless it's a special occasion (Thanksgiving, Christmas), I don't buy regular priced meat or poultry. I keep a well-stocked freezer, and bag meat from the store in freezer bags (which I wash and reuse) so the meat keeps longer.

                                                                                                                                      I look for end of week "reduced" specials on veggies that I plan to cook in the next couple of days. I also buy from the discontinued/dented can bins at the market for things like tomatoes, beans, etc. I can often get Muir Glen organic canned tomatoes for less than the store brand just because of a dent. I buy many condiments, nuts, dried fruits, sauces from Big Lots or Building 19 (a New England liquidation chain.) I go to a bakery outlet store on the weekends when they have a "buy 2, get 1 free" promo for half price day-old bread, and get 3 loaves of organic bread for $5.00, instead of the supermarket price of $15.00. These get used for lunch sandwiches.

                                                                                                                                      I enjoy wine with dinner, and have found good quality boxed wines such as Black Box that are now my "house wine" for weeknight dining and cooking. The pricier wines are now weekend and special occasion wines.

                                                                                                                                      And for restaurants, I agree that one great restaurant a month is better than one good restaurant a week. I use Restaurant.com and Groupon to make these affordable as well.

                                                                                                                                      1. Since it's just my husband and I we'll price out the cost of cooking in vs. going out. Or I'll cook something that I can re-purpose for the next day. Also I cook with what is seasonal and take advantage of what is on sale.

                                                                                                                                        1. Having just diaried our grocery expenses and meals for a month, I have a pretty specific breakdown of our food costs as written up in my blog. And while I don't usually do this, to keep with the CH rules, I'm going to cut and paste part of the post mortem post in case the information might be of use.

                                                                                                                                          "In the past 4 weeks, I spent $390 on weekly grocery runs, and an additional $20 on what I would call band-aid meals - the $8 Panda Express lunch the Man bought that one day I didn't have dinner leftovers to send with him and $12 in coupon fried chicken meals.

                                                                                                                                          The $390 breaks down as follows:

                                                                                                                                          Produce - $101 or 26%
                                                                                                                                          Meat - $96 or 25%
                                                                                                                                          Pantry - $63 or 16%
                                                                                                                                          Dairy - $59 or 15%
                                                                                                                                          Indulgences (wine, desserts) - $31 or 8%
                                                                                                                                          Grains (bread, cereal) - $18 or 5%
                                                                                                                                          Misc. (cleaning supplies, toiletries) - $23 or 6%

                                                                                                                                          Considering how much more expensive all other foods are by the pound, that means we eat a lot of fresh produce. That is something I consciously strive for, and I feel affirmed by the data. :)

                                                                                                                                          Including the aforementioned band-aid meals, we have eaten 225 meals total between me, the Man, the kids (who are with us on the weekends), and very occasional guests.

                                                                                                                                          - 73 breakfasts at an average of $0.76 per serving,
                                                                                                                                          - 75 lunches at an average of $1.09 per serving, and
                                                                                                                                          - 77 dinners at an average of $2.23 per serving.

                                                                                                                                          An overall average of $1.33 per serving.

                                                                                                                                          Included among those meals have been California Rolls, Lasagne, Vietnamese Summer Rolls, Braised Pork with Kale & Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Black Bean & Chorizo Chili, Korean Style Braised Chicken, Sauteed Bulgogi With Shiitakes & Onions, Korean Style Spicy Stir Fried Octopus, Havarti & Egg Croissants, Gumbo, Soy Ginger Beef & Potato Stew, Caprese Croissants, Mole Inspired Chicken Tacos, Fried Whole Fish Thai Style, Sweet Potato Ravioli, Bacon & Egg & Havarti Bagels, Fried Chicken, Kimchi & Bacon Fried Rice, Tandoori Chicken With Aloo Gobi, Pernil With Platanos Maduros Fritos, Korean Bossahm (Lettuce Wraps), Yakisoba, Broiled Salmon With Homemade Tartar Sauce & Collard Greens Braised With Bacon, Udon With Poached Egg, Red Velvet Cake, Club Sandwiches, Brownies a la Mode, Teriyaki Chicken With Tamagoyaki & Garden Salad, Angel Hair Pasta With Fresh Tomato Ragu With Sauteed Mushroom & Romaine Salad, Bacon & Cheddar & Caramelized Onion Omelettes, Arroz con Pollo, Crepes With Spiced Apple & Rum Soaked Raisins, Picadillo Empanadas With Lime & Cilantro & Jalapeno Curtido, and the occasional glass of wine, some sparkling, some not.

                                                                                                                                          That's 35 different dishes inspired by at least 8 different cuisines, and I didn't even list them all (though I did list most).

                                                                                                                                          Considering that, as of this writing, an Egg McMuffin costs $3.29, a Big Mac $4something, and an Angus Burger $6something (the Man just drove past a Cracky D's menu to gather data for me but alas it is breakfast time and lunch prices are not yet up), it's really hard to think of a good reason to pull up to that drive through most days (though I'm not saying we never do or never will).

                                                                                                                                          In the past 4 weeks, we have gone out to eat 3 times. It happens that none of those 3 times was on our dime. But when we do dine out, we average between $20 and $25 per person, largely because a lot of what we like to eat when we dine out in the immediate area is sushi. Since I have the luxury of staying home and cooking almost every meal, it doesn't make much sense to dine out in a not quite ready for primetime restaurant environment."

                                                                                                                                          $400/month for what amounts to 3 adults (which includes paper, supplements, cleaning supplies, and toiletries).

                                                                                                                                          For the visually oriented, a link to albums of most of the stuff cooked during that month:

                                                                                                                                          http://www.facebook.com/media/albums/...

                                                                                                                                          15 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                            That's quite impressive.

                                                                                                                                            For many years I kept a data base list of every food that I put into my mouth, otherwise I could (with much effort) have made up a list of meals eaten during a month.

                                                                                                                                            I also keep a list of amounts in a data base of money spent, only itemizing groceries which are not separated by meat and produce, so your itemization is further impressive.

                                                                                                                                            I also keep a separate list of amounts spent for 'household supplies' but it is hard to tell which would be used for other areas than the kitchen.

                                                                                                                                            I do keep a separate list from the groceries for wine, but as I don't know how much of that wine was actually drunk during that month, that is hard for me to tell. Say I bought $200 of wine and only consumed $25, that would be hard for me to tell unless I kept a complete diary of what wine of that $200 I did consume.

                                                                                                                                            Coffee might be a little easier to itemize per cup, but I don't know about these mornings when DH arises at 5:00 a.m. :-))

                                                                                                                                            Restaurants are a definite purchase that I CAN itemize - darn those trips away shopping when one has to eat and didn't bring enough snacks, or just need a break or can't get home soon enough.

                                                                                                                                            Travel to grocery stores and the milk farm (40 miles) entail trips 60 miles RT and 150 miles RT, so that is not figured into my grocery shopping bill. They are made expressly for purchase of groceries, but other shopping is included.

                                                                                                                                            Beef (bought seasonally) is in our freezer, and I do keep track of how many pounds were taken out. But I have not separated it by money and pounds.

                                                                                                                                            There are two of us, and we generally eat what we want to eat; but will not buy something that is obscenely priced. For instance, I've never tasted truffles :-))

                                                                                                                                            For the month of September, all things considered above, my best estimate is that spent about $400 for groceries, including wine, but not including restaurant. BUT, it would be difficult to know what part of that money went to supplying my freezer and shelves that I didn't eat. The same goes for every month, so I guess the best for me would be to take a yearly total. I used to keep a running total on my data base, but I don't do that anymore.

                                                                                                                                            I applaud your great interest in food and the cost per meal, and all the time that it took that went into your post. Thank you.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Rella

                                                                                                                                              Thanks, Rella. My breakdown also doesn't include all our alcoholic beverages, but it does include my weekly bottle of ubercheap wine.

                                                                                                                                              And eating out. Don't even get me started. When I do a cost comparison, it makes me a little sick to my stomach. :P

                                                                                                                                              1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                                I made all my wine this summer...3 carboys (5 gallons) of good kit wine from our U-Brew...1 white, 2 red and I did a carboy of homemade blackberry. This brings the cost of a good bottle down to $2.50, and really it is better than any $11-15 bottle available where I live. And I a damn proud of myself for finally doing it. I usually do 3 batches at our U-Brew, but some how last year I just let it lapse...but after 3 months of seeing $100-150 dollars show up on my debit for the truly bad plonk...Ackk...I got cracking on the wine.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Luna2372

                                                                                                                                                  That's so awesome, Luna! We (I should say He) brew(s) our beer, but I've never made wine before. Can you provide a link or something where I can learn more on how to get started?

                                                                                                                                                  And what kinds of grapes do you use?

                                                                                                                                            2. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                              Ina- those Facebook photos are so amazing. Want to go live at your house. :) Your dishes are an inspiration.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Matahari22

                                                                                                                                                Thanks, Mata! You're the one who inspired me to link to the fb albums. (Your food album is also quite delicious, BTW...)

                                                                                                                                                1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                                  YW, thank you. Yeah, the fb is because I'm always on an iPhone. Can't upload pix with it on here. Not that I've found, anyway.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                                I am in total frickn' awe at your list! And your organization.

                                                                                                                                                Now that my work will be setttling down for the winter I am now inspired to do something similar for the month of November. Since I'm Canadian I don't have to worry about fitting in a major holiday into it.

                                                                                                                                                Just being able to choose a country and cook around it for a week seems like a huge idea.

                                                                                                                                                Thank you for your post.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Luna2372

                                                                                                                                                  I'm so glad you liked it! And I envy you that November is a quiet month. :)

                                                                                                                                                  Would love to hear your update when you're done!

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                                    @INA,

                                                                                                                                                    I am off to the SuperStore this Friday...yea...and my thoughts a focus is a Korean theme. It is impossible to get kimchi here, so that will be a lovely start.
                                                                                                                                                    I did a great work trade for organic chicken and I am hoping to do something daring with them...not just a lovely roast chicken...I am thinking of a spicey marinade.

                                                                                                                                                    No daring seafood, but I have a nice batch of prawns so many things can happen.

                                                                                                                                                    Fish sauce, good tamari, seame oil, shallots, ginger garlic, yams are a given. Kale is almost growing wild here so I should take better advantage of it.

                                                                                                                                                    What I really love about all of your menus is that they sound so tasty, but most seem wheat free. Which helps me a lot.

                                                                                                                                                    So off I go..inspired by your greatness....me and coconut milk will prevail!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Luna2372

                                                                                                                                                      Hey, Luna! I'm so curious - how did you set up a work trade for chicken? I am increasingly intrigued by the idea of barter, but I need some solid ideas as to how to get started.

                                                                                                                                                      Since you're doing a Korean theme, and you're thinking spicy chicken, hope you don't mind if I volunteer a recipe for a spicy chicken marinade, which is good for 2 to 2.5 pounds of chicken. (I think it works best on dark meat.)

                                                                                                                                                      - 2 Tablespoons minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
                                                                                                                                                      - 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root (or you could use about 1/4 teaspoon dry ginger powder)
                                                                                                                                                      - 1 green onion, finely chopped
                                                                                                                                                      - 1/8 cup sugar
                                                                                                                                                      - 1/8 cup gochoojahng (Korean red chili paste) aka gochujang (you can substitute with sriracha - not quite the same, but you'll get a tasty result)
                                                                                                                                                      - 1/8 cup low sodium soy sauce
                                                                                                                                                      - 1 teaspoon kosher salt
                                                                                                                                                      - 1.5 Tablespoons neutral oil (like vegetable, canola, grapeseed)

                                                                                                                                                      Can't wait to hear what you come back with! And I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at all the gluten free options you have with Korean food. Lot more use of rice than wheat (though there's some of that too).

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                                        Hey INA,

                                                                                                                                                        Thanks for the recipe, and it was fantastic, although I used Thai red chili paste. And FYI if you hold some back and add a bit of rice wine vinegar and a dash of sugar it makes a great dressing for chopped cabbage type salads.

                                                                                                                                                        Also as a funny twist...our grocery store has been out of kimchi for two weeks.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Luna2372

                                                                                                                                                          What a great twist on the recipe to make dressing, Luna! I'll have to try that because we are always doing cabbage salads in our home.

                                                                                                                                                          And thanks for the info on the barter. I have no such farming or ranching friends at the moment, but maybe I'll make friends with an incredible gardener sometime in the near future... :)

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                                                                                                          INA,

                                                                                                                                                          My friend raises organic chickens and turkeys, and no I didn't help with the slaughter. But I did clean her house, top to bottom, windows and all. P. was so busy all week killing poultry, and was then having 20 ppl to her house for dinner. She's a marvel! But really how much can one woman do while working and also raising two organic boys!

                                                                                                                                                          She has a clean house, I have tasty chicken!

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Luna2372

                                                                                                                                                            Yeah food prices are going threw the roof where we live. We are blessed to be able to eat well but very simply in the sense we do not buy any luxury foods. When I don't have game and I want to cook beef I go to the local butcher and buy beef bones. These bones are the cheapest form of beef except organ meats. There is always lots of actual meat on the bones. I braise them until the marrow is dissolved in what becomes a beef stock to be reduced and frozen in ice cube trays then put into a zip lock bag. The meat and collagen fall off the bone.
                                                                                                                                                            I learned something important many years ago from a Vietnamese family of five who used to raft up to my boat at night during the Dungeness crab fishing season in Ganges harbor Salt spring Is. They lived aboard. Every night they cooked on the back deck. Always the same meal. Rice that had been precooked. A broth with fish sauce and soy sauce poured over wild greens the kids had collected ashore. Always some sort of bottom fish fresh caught again by the kids. They loved to deep fry small three inch sculpin whole. Never once did they eat a Dungeness crab although they had dozens in the live wells. It seemed the one luxury they never went without was lots of green tea. (The amount of tea used per small cup was a lot for my taste.) They invited me to eat with them once in a while. The meal was absolutely delicious each time. Years later 'Dong' the father told me proudly he had been able to put all three kids through university paying cash for their tuitions. All three are now CA's. Frugality pays.

                                                                                                                                                2. Well rising food costs changed my shopping habits today. I went shopping for Sunday Gravy (it's gonna be Friday night gravy), and the following are the meats I ended up buying:

                                                                                                                                                  Beef Shank
                                                                                                                                                  Pork Neck Bones
                                                                                                                                                  Pork hocks/feet
                                                                                                                                                  Sausage
                                                                                                                                                  Ground beef for meatballs

                                                                                                                                                  Usually I'll throw in some brisket in there but brisket is now almost 5$/lb. That's STEAK prices. Nope, I ain't spending that kind of money for pulled brisket. Shank it is!

                                                                                                                                                  I usually like some pork ribs in my Sunday gravy also, but I refuse to pay nearly 4$ a lb for a cut that is mostly bone. Time to switch over to feet and hocks!

                                                                                                                                                  We'll see how the gravy comes out with the substitutions.

                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: joonjoon

                                                                                                                                                    jj, hope it works out! and you might be pleasantly surprised...(hoping)...re: the hocks...are they smoked?? I would think that would really change the flavor...SMOKED hocks are the only kind I've ever seen sold here in SWFL...thanks!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Val

                                                                                                                                                      Smoked hocks are very expensive here for what you get from them. (Six-seven bucks) Mostly bone and exterior fast neither of which is much good for anything after they have been used to make broth. You be lucky to get a palm full of meat.