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Monthly healthy food grocery bill?

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My question is how much do people spend on healthy eating grocery bills for 2 adults? This includes vitamins, protein powders, and other healthy supplements. Me and my husband and our two dogs have a heck of a time trying to stay under $2000 a month, and we feel we are being very conservative. We never even eat out, brown bag lunches everyday, never a fancy dinner, hardly any snacks. But we purchase organic produce and we don't buy processed foods, no grains anymore because we don't tolerate any grain well. This way of living sounds reasonable, but we are trying to save money for a home and the cost of our grocery bill seems so high. And I'm a savvy shopper! We use Costco wherever it makes sense to. But they don't have high quality organic grass fed meats, so I have to get that from Whole Foods. I know some cannot afford it, BUT assuming you DO have the money and have chosen to live this lifestyle, how much do YOU spend on this sort of lifestyle? I'd really like to know I am not going crazy here and this really costs this much. Thanks!

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  1. I might also add that the cost above does not cover the dog food. Being that we are health nuts, we really wish we could feed our dog a raw diet. I shopped around for the best value, and Darwin natural raw dog food is the best. But we have had to stop raw food for the dogs and simply purchase a decent dry food. For our two large dogs, this costs us $150 a month (Raw would cost us $350 a month or so). I feel like we have to constantly make more compromises for what we eat and what the dogs eat, just to keep our average bill under $2300 a month. Anyway, any thoughts and advice, or stories of your own with this lifestyle would be very appreciated. Thank you!

    1. My husband and I spend about $550 per month for the two of us and a dog and cat. That doesn't include his lunches (he eats at the hospital cafe). We spend another 250 on dinner out twice a week. We too eat grass fed/pastured meat, eggs, high quality cheeses, local dairy (Shatto!), lots of vegetables and fruit.

      regarding your grass fed meat purchases, you may want to find a local rancher who will sell you a quarter or half side of grass fed/finished beef, for substantially less than you are paying at Whole Foods. We're in Kansas and can get a half for about $4 a pound, with the cuts we want.

      We also shop at the farmer's market for fruits and vegetables.

      I'm not sure what your location is, but $2000 a month sounds a bit on the high side, even for eating only grass-fed and organic.

      1. Claranie, I'm flabbergasted! Where do you live, if you don't mind my asking?

        I did a report where I ate only from the farmers market, only organic food, only sustainably raised meat and eggs, and no eating out, and I spent $100 for a week. I live in Orange County, California.

        We do eat a lot of grains, and we try to limit our meat eating, but honestly, even doubling the amount we spent, that would still be under $1000 a month. I wrote about it for a blog and didn't post it on Chowhound, so I feel inappropriate posting it here, but if you Google "$100 a week farmers market" you'll see the details.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          Wow, I live in the Denver Colorado area. Gosh, I spend $60-$80 every couple days, but that includes buying every meals meat at whole foods. Dinner for us both of Salmon and asparagus can cost $14 for the salmon for two (wild caught), and $4.99 for the asparagus for two, plus the butter (raw). That is $20 already for one meal! Granted that is a more pricey meal anyway, we usually do chicken or something cheaper, but still never below $15 for two for dinner. Lunch is usually less meat and more veggie-based. But I see what you mean. I will definitely read your other article "$100 a week farmers market". Thanks again!

          1. re: Claranie30

            No worries. In Colorado I'm assuming you don't have year-round farmers markets, but Whole Foods has earned their sarcastic moniker "Whole Paycheck"... I once did a week's shopping there and spent $250!

            Instead of Costco, may I suggest finding the local Latino markets? Here in California we've been stunned by the cost-effectiveness of it. I don't know if they'll mark organic produce there, but I also don't know what the State of Colorado has in the way of organic inspections. The California Department of Food and Agriculture inspects organic growers here (some go with CCOF, which is nationwide and respected by CDFA).

            Also, may I make a suggestion? Probiotics are relatively easy to do at home—home-fermented vegetables will help you with a great deal of your probiotic needs. Even if you purchase a yoghurt maker and a wine fridge for low-and-slow fermentation of things like pickles and sauerkraut, you still will save money even in the first month.

            You can see the wonders of probiotics by buying a box of non-iodized fine salt (Diamond Crystal kosher is fine, but don't use Morton's kosher salt as it's far too coarse) and an organic cabbage. Core and shred the cabbage as finely as you want, toss with a quarter cup of salt, let it sit for an hour in a bowl, and then put it into very clean glass Ball jars (quart size, you'll need two). Press it down—I use a small lid from a Gladware container that I bend to get in the jar, and a small pill bag filled with beans—cover with a piece of cloth and a rubber band, and wait. If it isn't submerged in brine the next day, add brine (1 Tbsp. salt dissolved in 2 cups water) to submerge it, then wait a week before tasting. It's normal for there to be mold on top—it won't hurt you even if some slips into the brine—but try to remove it with a clean spoon. Taste a piece daily until it tastes like sauerkraut, usually no longer than 2-3 weeks. Don't forget to drink the liquid—it's hugely probiotic.

            Also, make your own butter—it's very easy to do. If you just want regular butter, buy cream and whip it past the whipped cream stage. If you want European-style cultured butter, put a third of a cup of yoghurt or buttermilk in a pint of cream, cover, and let stand overnight on the counter (no, not in the fridge!) In the morning it'll be crème fraîche, and if you whip that past the whipped cream stage, you'll have cultured butter. Don't forget to keep the buttermilk that drains out—also very probiotic—and make sure you rinse your butter under cool running water to get pockets of remaining buttermilk out (otherwise it'll go rancid in no time at all).

            1. re: Das Ubergeek

              Holy cow Ubergeek, This is some really awesome information. Very insightful! I didn't even consider making butter at home, i figure it would be really complicated, but as described above it sounds do-able and better in the long run. Thank you for taking the time to put such detailed instructions in this reply!

              1. re: Claranie30

                Glad to help! These are things our grandparents knew how to do because there was no opportunity to purchase pre-prepared products—but our generation has this "if it's made in a factory it can't be made at home" mindset.

                One additional note about making butter at home. I use a stand mixer, but no matter what you do, throw a clean dishtowel over the bowl while mixing. Otherwise, when the milkfat separates into butter and buttermilk, you will throw buttermilk all over the kitchen. It happens to everyone once. :)

                The big secret of lactofermentation at home is that you can take slices of fresh chile pepper and do the same fermentation as with the cabbage—when they pickle, purée them, brine and all, with vinegar and you have homemade hot sauce!

        2. The easiest way to cut that bill is to cut down on the amount of meat you eat since that is surely the most expensive of your purchases. Pastured eggs are organic and make a great meal for much less cost. You also might look at the lists of which fruits and vegetables it makes sense to buy organic--potatoes and strawberries are two I can think of right away--versus those where it really doesn't matter--avocados and bananas come to mind. I don't know if you have a Farmers' Market nearby, but that can sometimes be a good source of seasonal produce. And whatever produce you buy should be as local and seasonal as possible since those generally are the least expensive. Good luck.

          4 Replies
          1. re: escondido123

            Thanks! I like the idea of shopping with local ranchers for meats and cheese, eggs and such. We are in Colorado. I will research local farms and ranchers and see what i can buy direct. Meat is one of the most expensive grocery items in our diet right now. Farmers markets are also a great idea for fruit and veggies.

            1. re: Claranie30

              Claranie, you can go here http://www.eatwild.com/ to search for local ranchers. I'm sure you'll be able to find someone selling pastured and grass-fed beef, pastured pork, lamb, chickens, etc.

              1. re: ChandraNH

                Thank you!

                1. re: Claranie30

                  Our local Costo has had wild salmon for $6.99/lb for the past few weeks, you could stock up on that as it freezes very well.

          2. I think an important question Claranie is do you have any idea what percentage of that $2,000 is spent on vitamins, supplements and protein powders? Your numbers may not be that high if that is a huge part of your budget.

            6 Replies
            1. re: andieb

              Sorry I forgot to say. We spend about $150 or so a month on the supplements, usually a high quality probiotic, and a multi from whole foods, plus a quality protein powder, and both of us use a scoop each morning. We also purchase assorted yogi teas from the grocery store for the occasional after dinner tea. The protein powder is a little pricey but high quality, Miracle Whey from Mercola.com. I think that is mostly it, besides the occasional supplement if we get sick.

              1. re: Claranie30

                So it sounds like protein is not lacking in your diet. That said, cutting back on the amount of meat could go a long way toward cutting that food bill.

                1. re: escondido123

                  Yeah, I agree, protein is definitely not something we are deficient in, lol. Nutritionally speaking, we can probably eliminate the protein powder all together even some of the meats for dinners, and still be okay. We do use it after workouts, but perhaps we don't need to. One of the biggest issue we have without this much meat, especially at dinner, is that my husband never feels full without a big main meat dish. He eats so much in general. When he was more unhealthy, he could eat a massive bowl of raviolli and that was about the only thing that filled him up. But since then, we stopped grains and pastas all together. Neither of us tolerate any form of grain well. We are not overweight and we eat sensible portions for the most part. But he is a tall lean guy, about 6'2 or so. I'll admit, dinner is where it gets crazy. He has to have a big meat main-dish, plus a bunch of veggies. When I say a bunch of veggies, I mean I actually use 1 whole bell pepper, an entire red onion, a huge handful of mushrooms, and 1 entire squash chopped just for HIM as his side dish to the main meat. I steam or stir fry it all with olive oil and seasonings. If he eats this way he is full for the night and says he is content. But anything less than this, or if we don't do a meat, he says he is still hungry and raids the fridge all evening for snacks. It is frustrating because we don't purchase much snacks, so he eats things I bought for lunch or dinner the next day. he eats plenty the rest of the day too. The guy eats a lot. With an organic veggie diet, and expensive meat, his eating needs are costly. He feels bad, and I feel bad for him, not sure what the best answer is to that issue. I can eat 1/3rd what he does and feel great! So we are really different. Someone else had mentioned farmers markets and local ranchers for meats, and this may be the best bet for him to be able to keep eating that way for less. Maybe I can stop the meats myself or cut back.

                  1. re: Claranie30

                    Give him more fat. LOTS more fat. Fat is satiating. Make sure it's natural fats like butter (yes, butter) and olive oil, not canola. Encourage him to eat the fat off meat, chicken skin, etc. My husband's also a huge eater and we eat much the same as you do and he also had the issue of feeling like he had to eat a ton to be satisfied. I upped the fats and he started being satisfied on a lot less food.

                    If you're in Colorado you should probably have a load of ranchers willing to sell meat to the public for reasonable prices. Unless your husband is eating whole sides of cow at a sitting your grocery bill should be nowhere near $2000 even with organic stuff.

                    1. re: Claranie30

                      If you're not eating grains, maybe beans of some kind might be a good addition. Cheap if you buy them dry and cook them yourself and there are many varieties to choose from. By the way, that amount of vegetable for him does not sound excessive to me, especially since you are cooking them. I also ditto on some more fat--olive oil is great. Fat makes us full.

                  2. re: Claranie30

                    The multi-vitamin lasts us 3 month or so, we take them once every few days. The vitamin costs $20, so that is lowest cost of our supplements. But the probiotic is $34.99 and lasts a month and a half. The protein powder is the higher cost of the supplements. But our primary costs in the food budget go to meat, then veggie, and cooking oils like coconut oil and olive oil, then the eggs and raw cheese. The food is the bulk of the cost.

                2. Claranie30 - how much are you spending food supplements and vitamins? If you are eating a well balanced diet of healthy fresh foods, then supplements and vitamins should be totally unecessary . The only exception is if you have some specifical nutirional needs and your doctor has recommended you take a specific supplement. I suspect your nutritional supplements are what is pusing your grocery bill so high.

                  1. Claranie, I'm essentially cooking for 3 plus a Dachsund on a budget of $400/month and, as Ubergeek did, I am currently blogging it (daily). While we don't do organic, I think we have a pretty balanced, healthy, and varied diet, and I imagine going totally organic would raise our total bill by anywhere from 30 to 50%.

                    I live in North San Diego County, California, and from what I'm reading on these budget posts, it looks like those of us in CA have it pretty good where food prices are concerned, but I think cooking as much as possible from scratch in most instances, and eating as close to everything that you cook makes a huge difference.

                    Are you using most of what you buy?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: inaplasticcup

                      Wow that is really good! It does seem that food prices vary pretty significantly from state to state. I'm not sure how Colorado fares. It may even vary from city to city.
                      To your question, we use everything we buy for the most part. I learned the hard way in the past how fast organic rots. I usually buy in smaller quantities more frequently so things don't rot. That makes the overall bill a little higher compared to buying in bulk. But I don't want to throw out expensive food.

                    2. $130/week for 2 people in the DC metro area. That includes household items (toilet paper, laundry detergent) but no meat, no supplements and no prepared/pre-packaged foods. We eat out 1-2 times per week.

                      We have a garden, plus a CSA membership, and I frequent the local farmers markets and organic grocers for food stuff. Household items are purchased in bulk on sale from Target/Giant/Safeway. And I buy things like beans in bulk. We eat a balanced diet, so no need for supplements.

                      I don't skimp. I like cheese, but I buy small blocks so we finish it before it goes bad. My husband likes fage with local honey. And I buy fresh-roasted coffee from a small local roaster at $13/lb.

                      1. Your bill does seem high. We (two adults, two teens, 1 dog, 3 cats) live in the Denver area, and I'm sure we don't spend that much (hubby does most of the food shopping, so I don't keep tabs). We do eat lots of grains (and legumes), rarely eat processed food, and most importantly, we eat a mostly-vegetarian diet. That's primarily because of our preference, but it means that when we do purchase meat, we have no hesitation in spending more, because it's only once or twice a week.

                        Are you purchasing seasonal fruits and vegetables? If you're buying asparagus at this time of year, it wil likely be more expensive than some other vegetables (and not local, either).

                        And I agree on the supplements; if you're eating otherwise a healthy lifestyle, you don't need that extra stuff, especially if you and your spouse are on the younger side (as I suspect you are, if you're saving for a house). And most Americans get more protein than they need; look at some labels sometime, so really consider whether you need protein powders (whether or not it's adding significantly to your budget).

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Lexma90

                          wow that seems high. My husband and I spend around $150 a week on food. Our 2 bulldogs eat Royal Canine and that is $70 a month or so. I go to costco one week and then the regular store the next. Supplements add up fast shop online for the best deal and buy in bulk.

                        2. In Paris, my husband and I spend about $900/month on fresh groceries (produce, meats, diary not counting fine cheeses, eggs). Before we started eating virtually exclusively organic, our grocery bill was about a quarter this amount, so I thought we were spending a lot on groceries, but I guess compared to you, it's not much at all!

                          We have never tried to keep track of how much we spend on wine, cheese, foie gras in jars, pastries, candy, jams, honeys, oils, spices, cured meats and such, because for those, we usually buy at food fairs (like today) when we tend to spend $500 in a day stocking up directly from producers that sell at the fair, this happens about 4 or 5 times a year. so I guess that adds about $200/month

                          I wouldn't be able to calculate how much our wines cost.
                          We don't take any supplements or buy any processed foods(which I find way to expensive).

                          for dining out, we only do it when we have visitors or special occasions.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: kerosundae

                            oh crap, I have to factor in the cost of wine?!! Never mind!

                            1. re: danionavenue

                              LOL

                          2. We eat healthy, I cook from scratch although seldom organic anymore. I watch every penny and am happy when we come in at $400-500 for the two of us. A few years ago things were not so expensive and I was more into high end shopping, but now it cuts into the other bills way too much. I have a budget of $1500 to $2000 a month for every penny I spend, not counting utilities and taxes. You say you can afford it but is it keeping you from buying the house you want? Maybe a few cuts might help you towards that. Food is always a bargaining chip in my budget, with no bad compromises made.

                            Thanks for making my day, I always think I am ridiculous when it comes to buying food. I keep a spread sheet but keep our 3 cats in a separate column, not that they add up to all that much. I also keep alcohol separate, but since you can't buy it at the grocery store here I never thought to include it. Also toiletries and drugs, are you keeping them apart....I mostly do, although my main concern is the total total at end of month (gasoline and cars, home repairs, business expenses and so on) I like to know where it all goes specifically. BTW vitamins were one of the first things to go, we eat healthy enough that I realized it was sort of a waste.

                            1. I think you need to go through your receipts and add up all of the different categories and see what you are really spending. The reason I say that is because if a $20 salmon dinner is on the more expensive side for you, even if you ate that every night, plus spent $10 each on breakfast and lunch (that should more than cover the breakfast protein/vitamins), that's $40/day, which is $1200 per month, not $2000. Once you look at how much you spent in each category (e.g., 'vegetables', 'meat', 'snacks', etc.), you will probably see an area where you are spending a lot more than you think.

                              I also highly recommend a CSA. I'm sure the price is different in every area, but I get an amazing deal on tons of organic vegetables from my CSA. I definitely couldn't afford all of those vegetables otherwise.

                              Oh, and we spend about $600 per month for 2 adults, but other than the vegetables it isn't all organic.

                              1. $2000/month for two sounds extremely high. We don't strictly eat only organic, don't eat only grass fed beef etc, but we do buy whatever we fancy. We just had $17/lb shrimp last night for dinner forexample, eat lots of fresh produce, buy little to no processed foods and eat out very infrequently, maybe two or three times a month. Including our fish oil ($50/bottle for 120 pills) , plus vitamin B's and pro biotics for my gf, we spend $600/month max. I don't think we could spend $2000/month unless we ate lots of truffles, caviar, and lobster!

                                My take on buying anything we want is that it's still a LOT cheaper than going out to eat to moderate or even low end restaurants. That $17/lb shrimp dinner (1.5lbs) plus two baked potatoes cost us maybe $30, not much more than we'd spend going to a local hole in the wall.

                                1. I'm in Australia and I'd say I'd spend $500-600AUD a month for two of us, but that will vary depending on what I'm cooking. I don't keep processed food in the house and shop nearly exclusively at farmer's markets & ethnic groceries, though the bill can be higher if I need specialty ingredients from a health food store. Our diet's a bit similar to yours - lots of protein and veggies, very few grains or refined carbs - but because I like the whole 'nose to tail' eating thing we'll often eat cheaper cuts of meat. If I were to supermarket shop the cost of food would be huge though - the markets are way cheaper here and as far as I've seen the cost of food is substantially higher here than in the US in general.

                                  1. I've never added it up before and am a bit surprised, but my wife and I spend close to what you are stating. We often shop at WF, probably about a 3rd. This does include household items and wine/beer along with a few meals out, maybe 3 a month. I mostly cook from scratch, but if you buy quality over price it still adds up. I am a bit inspired to pay more attention to cost while trying to keep the quality ingredients.

                                    An example of ccosts for our area:
                                    Broccoli - $1.99 - 2.99
                                    Salmon - $12 - 15 (if it goes higher I don't buy it)
                                    Baby Back ribs $3.99/lb - 6.99 ( the higher priced ones come from WF)
                                    Marzano tomato 28oz can - $3.99
                                    Bacon - $7.99 Wilshire Farms mostly
                                    Regiano parmiggiano - $18.99/lb
                                    2 year aged Cheddar - $6.99
                                    Butter - $3.99 - 5.99 (Can you really make butter cheaper than that from cream?)

                                    Thanks for a thought provoking post.

                                    jb

                                    1. My partner and I have been shopping at our local natural market (New Frontiers) for about a month now, and I'm guesstimating our cost at about $750. The store is very similar to Whole Foods, but better, as they have their own farm that provides them with the bulk of their organic veggies. We've been trying to limit our meat consumption to 2-3 meals per week (for health reasons), and eat more grains and legumes than we had been in the past, which has helped keep the cost of eating organic down.

                                      This isn't including the cost of dog food (we feed our boy Blue Buffalo, at about $30 per month. I'd serve him a BARF diet if I could afford it and my partner could stomach it) or the various and sundry supplements we take - if I were to guess I'd say that's an extra $150 per month between us) or other household items like TP, cleaning supplies, etc.

                                      1. Just wanting to add that in my household, we also spend a relatively large fraction of the budget on health supplements, which on a rough estimate even precedes the cost of real food items (although in my case, I feel fine with, because without some of those supplements my medical costs would be way higher than that).

                                        I have also been reviewing and trying to pare down the expenses, and have only recently found out that most of the supplements can be ordered online at much better prices, even (or especially) after taking shipping and taxes into account .

                                        I know, all that shipping and packaging (boxes and bubble wraps) are not that great for the environment, but savings of 10%-40% are significant to me.

                                        1. For the quantity of meat that you consume, if you have the space for chest freezers in the garage, you really should look at buying whole animals, which would also probably allow you to feed your dogs a barf diet.

                                          In Colorado, you can get a 100% grass fed free range 1000lb to 1350lb steer, which would get you 600 to 700 lbs bone-in hang weight for 400 to 450 lbs butchered and packaged for about $1750 to $2,000, about $3.00 per lb. This should fit in a 16 cu foot chest freezer. If between the two of you eat about 2lbs of meat a day, this would cover your meat costs for over 200 days. For meat type you can get variety if you get a pasture raised whole hog, about 230 lbs hang weight for 160lbs butchered and packaged weight for about $850 which is another 80 days at about $5.50 a lb. A pasture raised grass fed lamb at 60 lbs hang weight, ~35lbs finished weight for about $325, another 17 days at about $9.30 per lb. I don't know how much your dogs eat, but if combined they take another whole steer for the year (a little over 0.75 lbs of red meat per dog per day, sufficient for two dogs slightly less than 50 lbs each), that would be a yearly cost of ~$5,200 for two steer, one hog and one lamb at slightly less than $450.00 per month for meat. If you buy a whole steer/hog/lamb then you should instruct the ranch to package all the organ meats from your steer/hog/lamb for your dogs that they would otherwise discard (heart, kidney, green tripe, etc) are an integral part of a BARF diet. This would also help reduce your meat costs for the dogs. Then also, with two whole steer, you can divvy up the cuts between the dogs and yourself and reserve the prime cuts for yourself. I know you probably love them to bits, but there is no need to feed them the tenderloin/fillet mignon, prime rib, porterhouse, etc. while you eat ground chuck. Making pulped vegetables to add to the meat using a food processor or juicer is really easy. The packaged BARF meals are convenient, but you pay a huge surcharge for that convenience at $5.00 a lb for beef patties vs $3.00 a lb (actually quite a bit less if you keep the more "expensive" cuts for yourselves and also get the organ meats from your steers).

                                          I also agree with what some of the others posted that since you are being so careful with your diet that you may not need all (or almost any) supplements which is about 13% of your food budget.