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ALGEBRAGIRL Posts: 1,925
5/24/14 10:10 A

I don't buy fresh milk anymore. I just buy something that comes in a big container, with the name 'Klim' or 'Nido,' usually easy to find in the section of the supermarket that has Goya items, or other foods for Hispanic cuisines. It's a whole milk powder that, when reconstituted, tastes exactly like fresh milk to me. It dissolves instantly, too, which is great when you use it in cooking.

My husband is a serious bargain shopper when it comes to grocery shopping. We both head for the discount bins to buy vegetables and fruit that are older or less-than-perfect. I realize all supermarket don't have those discount areas for produce; one supermarket near me stopped having discounted produce altogether. What a shame!

If I could take all the talent and skill displayed on 'Chopped,' (the Food Network cooking competition), I would choose that over any coupons or sales. If you develop cooking skills to make things that taste good out of a few ingredients, using things that are 'thrown at you' when suddenly you see an opportunity, you can do very well with little money. The thing is: getting a variety of strange or bland things to taste good. People have to want to eat them! The 'healthy' part of it is important, but if something doesn't taste good, it's going to be picked at and passed up.

So, I second the idea using pasta, beans, etc. Have a pasta night every week. Have a chili night every week. Go to a thrift shop and find a bread machine that works and start making your own bread - and use that for sandwiches. Look at the least expensive meats and learn what you can do with them - keeping in mind your family has to like the taste. When I cooked meat for my family, pot roast was easy but nothing I could do to chicken livers ever made the grade.

Also, get an idea of how much protein you are actually serving and how much protein the people in your family need. Teenage boys, I am guessing, need more than their parents. A stir-fry is not going to have so much protein but if you add lean meat very thinly sliced, you get a cheaper protein source than tofu, which can be pricey. I don't eat much meat, but I notice that meat on sale can be very cheap indeed.

When you put that stir-fry on top of brown rice (a rice cooker makes cooking rice so extremely easy), it can be a very filling meal for a teenager.

Almost forgot: taco night... make the tacos yourself unless you can find a good price for those crunchy pre-made ones. Then let everyone fill their tacos from bowls of ingredients at the table. And make your own salsa - so much cheaper...

Edited by: ALGEBRAGIRL at: 5/24/2014 (15:00)
5/24/14 3:40 A

We were a family of 6 growing up without much money. I used to love chicken and rice. My mom would boil a whole chicken and then cook the rice in the chicken water (with fat skimmed off as best as you can) and while the rice cooks (use brown) let the chicken cool and pick it to add back into the rice. We could eat off that for a few days. In the fall and winter large pots of soup are excellent and inexpensive and last a long time. But in spring and summer I like a lot of salads or grilled meat and veggies- whatever is on sale!

If you have been serving a lot of convenience kind of items and have picky eaters you can recreate that. I just made something sort of like a tuna helper. Boil a box of bowtie pasta, and for the sauce heat a couple cans of tuna (that I got on sale 47 cents a can) with a small jar of capers. Add a cup or so of the starchy pasta water to the tuna then mix it together. Serve with a large salad or garden veggies on the side.

Something else I just started doing was purchasing heads of lettuce that must be washed instead of the 3-4 dollar clamshell of prewashed greens. I nearly passed out when I saw a huge head of lettuce was only 65 cents. I have a salad spinner so I wash and dry it when I get home and depending on how quickly I plan to use it up I might pack it in a plastic storage bag with a paper towel to help keep it fresh.

Another thing I do is make my own pizza crust and tortillas. I find that making the tortillas really helps with portion control because I can be reasonable about the portion size before I start eating whereas if I had a bag available I might be tempted to continue to eat.

Another thing I am sure you know is that with so many people including teenagers that they will immediately inhale any kind of snack item you buy, and when you pay 2-3 dollars a box for something that they can eat in one sitting it is just too much so don't buy it.

And for breakfast do oatmeal from the big quaker can or some other type of plain cereal like cornflakes or cheerios.

MAYBER SparkPoints: (116,484)
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5/23/14 11:38 P

Remembering back when all five of our children were at home and money was tight
The kids loved our milk gumbo soup which we made when grocery cupboard was near empty
It consisted of milk warmed and flour and eggs with a little salt made into crumbles and added to the milk heat to a near boil add a dollop of butter if we had it
To this day when they come home still ask me to make it
One day at a time love prayers peace

PJJJSAGE Posts: 104
5/8/14 3:27 P

And don't forget about store loyalty cards. If you live in a big enough town, in some cases you can even load coupons directly to them. (oh, how I long for that day...)

Also, keep an eye on the register as you're rung out. Especially with produce, sometimes the clerks ring out what they assume it is, rather than what it may be. I picked up red leaf lettuce (on sale) and got charged for romaine (not on sale). You wouldn't believe the hassle straightening that out. (I'm not blaming them, it's a lack of training and the pressure to keep lines moving...)

DMJAKES Posts: 1,634
5/8/14 2:10 P

You've gotten some great advice already, but I'd add......

Be sure to scan the weekly ads for the stores near you, and shop the long as the gas and time are worth it for you. Aldi, Sav-A-Lot, or any other discount grocer would be a great place to check out for your every day staples at a generally better price.

If you're so inclined, couponing would probably work well for you, especially with such a big crowd to feed. It does take time and patience to really see the savings. Check out and Both have "getting started" sections that will help cut your learning curve quite a bit. Even if you don't officially become a couponer, both sites can teach you a lot about sales, rock bottom prices, and when to stock up.

Go over your other expenses with a fine tooth there anything else you can cut to make more room for food? Do the teens work? If not, why not? They can contribute toward their own clothing, gas, fun money, school expenses, etc. Sometimes you have to be pretty ruthless to get down to the real difference between wants and needs.

Over the last five years or so of having a much tighter budget to work with, I've learned to walk into any store with the mindset that I need to get the MOST for my money that I possibly can....because I worked hard for it and there is a finite amount of it. I have a plan when I walk in, and I think about things before I put them in my cart. No more mindless shopping for me. emoticon

LEC358 SparkPoints: (11,135)
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5/8/14 1:41 P

Also, this is the best link I've found that deals with grocery budgets:

NYXWOLFWALKER SparkPoints: (157,781)
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Posts: 15,158
5/8/14 1:40 P

Beans, RIce and Quinoa are the three big staples around here - with them I can make a meal for 10 that cost about 50 cents per person including veggies and the spices (might not have left overs but if not serving to 10 people that means there is left overs).

Easter dinner was cooked up for 15 people and cost me less then 15 bucks for the entire 4 course meal and there was a weeks worth of left overs, which meant a good portion of it went home with those who came over.

Frozen veggies are cheap and can be got in bulk (large servings) the trick is having a deep freezer that you can store large amounts of frozen foods. Fresh is always better but not always a option (if you have a local farmers market great, but if not can be an issue).

I serve daily a family of 4 for 150 a month - this includes special diet issues and allergies (celiac, diabetic, nut allergies, vegan and a fussy eater) but doesn't include essentials such as TP, laundry soap or the like.

If you are a meat eater, then buying from a butcher your meat can save you a good hefty sum of funds (getting a side beef that you carve up yourself into steaks and the like makes it cheap, same goes for buying a pork shoulder or half a pig).

Also lentils go a long way for making portions larger and at little extra cost (a 10kg bag is like 5 bucks, n last a good month if not longer depends on what you use it for, us it last about a month since we use lentils in a lot of ways).

PJJJSAGE Posts: 104
5/8/14 1:30 P

Since you live in a city, check around and see if there isn't a community garden near by (or connected to your church, school or library). Even if it's not in your budget right now for seedlings, etc., maybe you could trade some labor for produce. I'm sure there'd be a lot of gardeners happy to know their extras were going to benefit others.

Buy store brands, definitely. They're the same as the big name brands, simply under a private label.

Try farmer's markets. Not the huge weekend ones....smaller, mid-week ones. Especially closer to closing time. The less packing up sellers have to do, the happier they are. I've gotten good deals.

5/8/14 12:21 P

Your budget is tight if it includes shampoo, toilet paper, cleaning supplies etc. I would suggest the best way to maximize it would be to:
use coupons for non food items - do not have brand loyalty
use an email list or app to look for lowest prices
buy in bulk if you know you will not find a lower price
plan your menu around sales, stock up on great priced meats
plan your menu a month at a time - you don't have to cook or buy everything at once but it will help you decide when a sale item is an especially good deal.

For example, I was at the store and they were clearancing the organic ground beef for $2.50 a pound because the exp date was the next day. it is normally 6.99 a pound and regular - the lowest regular price is 2.79. I talked to the butcher and he said it would be fine to take it home and freeze it. So i bought all of it. It was 5 packs and it came in handy over the next two months. because I have a tiny freezer (the kind over the fridge) it makes sense for me to use it for meats instead of frozen dinners. I also buy chicken tenders for $2 a pound. They are frozen and I buy it at Costco 19.99 for 10lbs. I like them because breasts are to big for one person, not enough for 2 and if it's just me and my youngest for dinner I can grab 4-5 and it's plenty.

I find when I am out of resources, the giant bag of potatoes fills out the end of the month. :D

CASHGOESFAST SparkPoints: (3,362)
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Posts: 2
5/8/14 10:52 A

Think of foods that can be used many ways like plain yogurt. Smoothies for a treat, top potatoes instead of sour cream, a base for indian food, base for casseroles. Casseroles and one pan meals tend to be cheap and feed a lot. Don't forget to use your recipes for slow cookers. They tend to be meals that will feed a crowd. Now that summer is here, you can use cold pasta salads for a meal. one can of tuna, pasta, peas, cheese, mayo should feed six adults. Add it on top of greens and it is even healthier. Potatoes are good foods, just don't use butter and sour cream. They will help your casseroles and one pot dishes be more filling.

LOUNMOUN Posts: 1,332
5/7/14 9:58 A

Buy things like dry beans, lentils, plain oatmeal (add your own fruit or seasonings), plain yogurt (add your own fruit), rice, pasta, popcorn kernels (not the microwave stuff), eggs, potatoes.
Buy store brands.
Buy large containers instead of individual serving sizes and divide them up yourself.
Buy things that aren't already cut up or shredded for you.
Drink mostly water.
Make a meal plan. Look at what you already have and find ways to use that stuff. Plan a rotating menu of a limited number of meals (10-20 different meals) and use it for a couple of months before making a new one.
Try to eat more meatless meals.
If you eat meat cut it up and put it in soup, stir fry, casseroles and you can use less than if you put a large piece of meat on everyone's plate. Cook a large piece of meat and divide it up for use in many meals.
Make a big pot of soup at least once a week. Bean or lentil soups can be very filling.
Hummus is ridiculously easy to make and a filling snack with bread, crackers, chips, or veggies.

TIFFANY85011 SparkPoints: (3,252)
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Posts: 13
5/7/14 9:12 A

Yes, we don't go out to eat, but maybe a few times a year and I try to cook from scratch as often as possible (I like to know what is in my food). I don't have a lot of room in my kitchen and have a small refrigerator/freezer. I would love to get a deep freezer but I don't have the room. I rarely have leftovers. I appreciate all the suggestions that everyone is giving.

RENATARUNS SparkPoints: (4,367)
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Posts: 1,379
5/7/14 9:09 A

That is truly not much, so best of luck to you.

There is plenty you can do. For produce, buy in-season, buy frozen where those are cheaper, buy discounted vegetables whenever you can find them. (For some reason our local grocery store always seems to massively overpurchase green peppers. After a while it becomes clear they're not all going to sell, so out come the discount bins, and they're a third the price as before. Perfectly fine veggies.) Once you find what items are less expensive, buy lots and lots of those and less of everything else.

Shop at a discount food store if you have one nearby. The Aldi's by us is stupidly cheap.

Buy less meat, and more alternative sources of protein such as beans, lentils, rice, pasta, and so on. Emphasize cheaper cuts of meat that you can cut up and throw in smaller quantities into stews, casseroles, soups, one-pot dishes and so on; save the big chunks of meat, which are even more expensive, for rarer occasions.

Eggs, as mentioned, are relatively inexpensive. A green pepper and onion omelet is delicious.

And don't buy much junk food! Worst bang for the buck that there is. :)

Good luck; I know it's not easy. But losing weight and staying on a food budget are not at all incompatible in my own experience of our food bills; nor is keeping your diet reasonably healthy. It's more that without too much money to splurge with you lack much variety or options at times, which can get grindy after a while.

TIFFANY85011 SparkPoints: (3,252)
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5/7/14 9:09 A

No, I currently live in the city and have no where to plant a garden. I use to have one and it helped a lot.

BUNNYKICKS Posts: 2,410
5/7/14 9:04 A

do you do a lot of home cooking from scratch? or do you use a lot of pre-made or partially-pre-made (i.e. "hamburger helper"/ "rice a roni") type items?

If you are not already cooking mostly-everything-from-scratch, you can make a HUGE difference to your grocery bill by ditching as many "convenience"items as possible. Of course, this makes meal prep a little more inconvenient, because you have to spend more time reading recipes, shopping, chopping, slicing, seasoning, and cooking.... but wow, will it cut your budget. AND will result in healthier meals, too! Totally win-win.... if you are willing to invest the extra time and effort.

Feeding hungry teen boys definitely is a challenge on a budget - I would recommend BEANS. Especially if you are willing to buy the dried ones (they are easy to reconstitute and cook, it just takes a long time - what I tend to do is make a HUGE pot on some random rainy day, and then freeze the results into 2-cup portions - i use yogurt containers and pile them in the freezer - they thaw out just fine). Anyways, once you have beans (and canned work too, just a bit more $$), make a giant vat of chili. You can hide a lot of veggies in a chili (that wrinkled carrot? peel, dice, in it goes! that last bit of celery? in it goes! tomato that got too soft? in it goes!)... and you don't need that much meat (or any at all). Serve with tortillas, or roll leftovers up as a wrap, or pour over rice, or over a baked potato. This is "teen food"....

Also, pasta. Make your own mac 'n cheese (yes, it will be cheaper than Kraft dinner... and way less salty and unearthly orange). Spaghetti with tomato or tomato/meat sauce is a pretty quick, cheap dinner.... even if you are buying pre-made pasta sauce. Last night i made spaghetti tossed with a "sauce" made of nothing more than browned butter, and a sprinkle of grated cheese - decadent! I will note my own teen son looooooves browned-butter-noodles. Yes you need real butter not margarine, but you only need 0.5-1tbsp per serving. Cheap filling yummy!

Soups and casseroles are good hearty "teen food"- watch for sales on tuna and make your own tuna noodle casserole from scratch (skip the Tuna Helper).

I find that sometimes it is cheaper to buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery deli (or Costco) than it would be to buy a raw chicken. Use the chicken for dinner, leftovers for sandwiches, then pick the carcass for small bits that can be used later in a casserole or soup, then throw the bones in a stock pot and make a chicken stock. You can get a lot of mileage out of an eight dollar rotisserie chicken...

For fresh fruit and veg, eat "in season" and "local"- try the farm markets and produce stores, they tend to be cheaper (and fresher) than the produce section of the grocery store.

TIFFANY85011 SparkPoints: (3,252)
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5/7/14 8:30 A


LEC358 SparkPoints: (11,135)
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5/7/14 8:29 A

Eggs are also a really cheap source of protein. Do you have space to start a vegetable garden? Tomato, pepper, cucumber, and squash plants are all easy to grow and produce high yields per plant.

NIRERIN Posts: 13,445
5/7/14 8:20 A

what is healthy that you find cost prohibitive? in season fruits and vegetables should be about $1 a pound. frozen is another option and you certainly have enough people to buy the value sizes and go through them. for things like rice and beans it would also be practical to buy the five and ten pound bags, which makes the per serving price quite cheap [the regular grocery store prices tend to top out at under 15 cents a serving and it's not that hard to get the cost per serving down to 7 cents if you shop sales. so unless you're buying a kind that only ordained monks can pick on every other harvest moon so they're a dollar a serving, those are incredibly cheap bases for meals.]. if you need a cheap fruit, buy the applesauce that's apples, water and maybe ascorbic acid. that tends to run about ten cents for a serving of fruit, which frees up money for other things.
the other thing you should do is cook as much as you can. if you buy the perfect portion chicken breasts, those are pricey. if you buy a whole chicken you can not only get the breasts, but all the other bits of meat and you can make soup or stock with the carcass. best of all buying the whole bird is the cheapest price per pound. if you make your own bread, even whole grain, it tends to cost under a dollar a loaf.

TIFFANY85011 SparkPoints: (3,252)
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Posts: 13
5/7/14 8:02 A

I have 6 people in my household (with 2 teenage boy appetites). I have very little money to spend every month on food for such a large family. It is hard to buy healthy, good for you food and still feed the family. I would love to make healthy meals for everyone. I only have $600 a month to work with. Any suggests or ideas would greatly be appreciated.

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