Rising food costs...keeping it budget friendly!?
Is it just me or the grocery bills getting more expensive!? Who knows...actually I was wondering what is a reasonable monthly budget for feeding a family of two. We limit the eating out to once a week, if at all, frequent the local farmers markets (though not as often as we would like) and make a point of only shopping at Whole Foods if we can't help it. We have a Costco/Sams membership, but live in an apartment so space/fridge space is tight. We like to eat cause we're active adults, but our cost for food just seems outrageous. Thought I'd poll the masses and see what's seems to be average and get any advice/feedback people have to help cut-costs while not sacrificing good tasting, healthy food. Thanks!!!
Hey hey, HeyJ. :)
We live in N. San Diego county, CA, and I think we average about $45 - $50 a week for the two of us, excluding alcohol for home and dining out maybe twice a month.
I think we eat pretty well - very few processed foods, lots of fresh produce, good variety of global cuisines, and a healthy and reasonable portion of animal protein for most lunches and dinners. But we do most of our shopping at ethnic (Mexican and Asian) markets, and some of our produce at the farmers market.
I realize this budget would be near impossible if
- we did most of our shopping at Whole Foods, or even the major big boxes or Trader Joe's,
- we didn't invest the time to cook or prepare almost everything ourselves,
- we didn't cook around what's been purchased rather than recipes, and
- we didn't make a concerted effort to maximize our groceries by repurposing leftovers and disciplining ourselves to eat all of one type/brand of a thing before buying another (for instance, if we're making pulled pork sandwiches and use 4 of 8 buns for the sandwiches, then its egg and cheese sammies or even PB&Js on those buns for breakfast until they're finished).
And if we didn't have access to some really great ethnic markets, I suspect our food bill would automatically go up by at least a third if not more.
$100- $110 a week for two doesn't sound particularly high at all. I eat quite frugally during the week by not eating out, bringing my own lunches (often leftovers)to work, etc.and then splurge on things like a quality meats ,seafood and other pricier ingredients for my weekend cooking exploits. Just the weekend meals alone can easily be over half my total weekly expenditures for food and that's for just me but I kind of make up for it during the week. For me anyway, it is important to regularly reward myself and not eat frugally every day. That said, I probably spend $100 a week for myself and don't consider myself myself to be an extravagant shopper.
We spend about $60/week on average for two of us, unless I'm not paying attention...it's very easy to let the bill creep up without thinking, particularly with multiple trips to teh store in the week.
I try and shop the ads, particularly for fresh produce - whatever is advertised for the week is what we eat for fruits and veggies for the week. I make several vegetarian meals a week and that holds down costs as well (this week we had a veggie thai curry on monday and a veggie frittata last night). I've cut down the amount of sides I make with meals...there's only two of us we don't need a big dinner every night...I make a main and either a salad or veggie to go with us...unless I'm making asian food or a pasta dish I skip starches most of the time. Just one more thing to buy and put on the plate every night - that we really don't need to be eating anyhow.
We do eat meat but not a lot. When whole chickens are on sale I buy a couple so I always have one or two in the freezer. For two of us we can easily get three or four meals out of one chicken(typicallly: roast chicken the first night, chicken salad for lunches the next day and then two meals worth of enchiladas). Other meat items we like (pork chops for instance) i do the same - buy a few, wrap in portions for two and stick in the freezer. I keep a pound of ground beef or turkey wrapped in half pound increments in the freezer also(I don' t like leftovers much so keep things in portions of two). Doing this helps keep down the grocery bills as then it's mostly just fruit, vegs, eggs, and dairy on the weekly shopping.
We both take lunch so I keep things on hand that keeps lunch interesting: boxes of greens, spinach, and arugula for salads or wraps/sandwiches, different types of breads, wraps and pitas, hummus, tzatziki, tapenade for spreads. Avocados,sprouts cukes, and tomatoes I don't buy lunch meat as we're both able to find plenty of things we like to take and never seem to go through the turkey ham or roast beef when I do buy it. I do frequently make batches of tuna and egg salad for lunches. Also, if I am cooking for leftovers I make just enough leftover for lunch the next day which breaks up the salad/wrap monotony. So enough stiry fry for the next day's lunch or a couple extra stuffed tomatoes.
We buy all our sundries at Costco - takes us a long time to go through them and I don't include them in the weekly bill this way. We have the storage for this stuff in the house so the value makes it worth it.
We don't eat nearly as much fish as we used to and I do miss that. It's expensive though and it's harder and harder to find "good" choices in fish - particularly in the Arizona desert. I do keep a bag of frozen wild salmon from Costco in the freezer for fast dinners. And I will buy wild salmon or other interesting fish about once a week, depending on what's on sale. I keep the portions small, buying only what we'll eat that night, and helps with the cost.
Honestly, the biggest thing I've done to cut our food bill is to just start paying attention to prices of food and increasing my awareness of what I"m buying, what it costs, and how often I'm going ot the store. Sounds stupid and obvious but for years I just bought whatever I was in the mood for and never really worried. Like everyone else in the last few years, the dollars don't seem to go as far and I've needed to start thinking about where they're going and how to use them more carefully. The prices of eggs lately has been shocking actually. Still an inexpensive meal but the last time I was at the store nearly all the eggs were close to $4/dz.
Another vote for shopping the ads here. Most grocery stores post their ads online, Whole Foods included. WF ads also include coupons, so it's worth swinging by the store to pick one up in person. Check the ad each week before planning the menu and shopping list.
Planning is easily the most important part of saving money on groceries. Look through the fridge, freezer and pantry to see if there's anything already on hand that needs to be used. With that in mind, look at the weekly store ad, and sketch out a rough plan for the week ahead. I like to draw a 2x7 grid with lunch and dinner for each day of the week. I fill in any meals I know will be away from home, then go to work planning what to cook for dinner and if/when I'll have the leftovers.
Another thing that helps is to make a price book - set up a spread sheet to track item, cost per unit, source (store, market/farm), and date of purchase. Record everything you buy for a few weeks, then you'll have a good reference point for what constitutes a great deal.
Finally, don't assume Whole Foods is always better. Other than farmers' markets, I've found the best source for local and regional produce is the "cheap" supermarket chain in the area. The 365 brand products are pretty good and reasonably priced, but many of the name brand products are available for less at other supermarkets.
$110 a month. plus veggies subscription (which i don't count as it's paid for by someone else, and doesn't run in the winter.)