Money Matters: How Much Do You Spend on Groceries?

8.24.2011
After being off with Violet for nine months without pay, followed by adjusting to the cost of child care, diapers, doctor bills, and all of the other costs that come along with having a child, our savings and budget have taken a bit of a hit.


Although I'm not excited about leaving Violet this week (I'm back at work), I am excited to say that I will be receiving a full paycheck again (finally). And on top of that our home equity loan will (finally) be paid off, so I feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel.

In the meantime we've been looking for new ways to save more money. We have quite a few goals and we need to find a way to finance them:
  1. Replenish our general savings
  2. Start some sort of college savings (Roth IRA, 529 Plan, Insurance Fund?) for Violet
  3. Start saving for a down payment on a larger home
  4. Save for me to be off again with (hopefully) a future baby
Things that we've considered are:
  1. Cutting cable (unthinkable in the Hubster's opinion, and, to be honest, I'd miss it too) 
  2. Spending less on the house (difficult for me because with blogging I'm constantly seeing beautiful new products and inspiring homes)
  3. Spending less on groceries. (We both like food!)

I always wonder what other people spend on groceries. Sure you can compare on Mint.com or ask friends or even poll people on a forum, but I always think that these comparisons can be so inaccurate because people mean different things when they say 'groceries'. For us, groceries include our food, cat food and litter, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and baby items.



When I see people say that they spend $50-$60 a week on groceries, I am floored. I know that there are some serious coupon clippers out there, and I suppose it's possible depending on what you buy. But even with coupons it just doesn't feel doable for us because we buy mostly whole fresh foods, and you just don't see coupons for things like asparagus, bread, or salmon in the newspaper or the coupon clipper. (At least not in ours!) I feel like I use this as an excuse sometimes though, so I've tried to think of money-saving options we do have available:

  • clipping (and using) coupons for toiletries/cleaning supplies/baby stuff
  • meal planning (we're not very good at this)
  • using our store bonus card
  • setting and sticking to a budget
  • comparison shopping
  • envelope system (sometimes the card works against us even though we do get rewards points) 
Right now if we manage to stay within $100 per week I am proud of us. Is that crazy? Do you have any other tips for me? Or motivating words? I'm hoping by posting about this it will hold me accountable for actually really trying.





P.S. Have you seen the tumblr Things Organized Neatly?! If you haven't check it out - it's equal parts therapeutic and insanity-inducing.

Pennies Image by Bob Dinetz Design via Things Organized Neatly
Ingredients Image by Carl Kleiner for IKEA via Things Organized Neatly

51 comments:

  1. Good questions! This is one I often debate myself. I use Mint.com religiously, and over the last few years I've gotten more realistic about what we actually spend on groceries. We spend about $500 per month. Like you, we do not buy much in the way of name-brand stuff. I clipped coupons for two years but stopped recently because we don't use them. We mostly buy fruits, veggies, fresh dairy, meats and store-brand items (HUGE money saver), like beans, canned goods, cereals, etc (we are fortunate to have an awesome grocery store -- Wegmans -- with great in-house brands). Many of our fresh ingredients are organic.

    To control our spending, we:
    1) always go with a strict shopping list and stick to it (my husband and I go to the store together)
    2) plan our meals for the week together using a recipe notebook I designed
    3) make most of our cleaning supplies -- I make our dishwashing liquid, window/shower cleaner, and laundry detergent. You need a couple main staples, like white vinegar and castile soap, and that covers most products. I do still buy Clorox wipes at Costco, dishwasher detergent at Costco, and a stainless steel cleaner for our appliance and Spot Shot for our carpets at the regular grocery store.
    4) use our Costco membership wisely. I've figured out what items there are worth it for us to buy and what we should pass on. It really depends on how your family lives.

    Regarding cable, we haven't cut it yet, but it's a debate we have frequently. With so many more options entering the market, it might be worth looking into whether you could live off a combination of Netflix, Hulu, etc.

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  2. Food and essentials are expensive. I've tried shopping at discount food and beauty stores. I've tried driving around to different stores buying things on sale. I've tried coupon clipping. What I have found that works for me is a little bit of everything, but I don't think about it much anymore. Why? Well, eating good food is what truly matters. If it costs me another $50 a week, in the end, it is priceless. I can tell you we have really cut down on processed foods. Crackers, chips, cookies, ice cream, etc. We spend our money on fruits, veggies, fish, meat and cereal and oatmeal. My bill was cut by about $25! Also, I've learned to stick with the beauty/bath products that I like. Don't buy something just because you have a coupon. My bath cabinet is now streamlined due to only stocking a few essentials. For example, I love Neutrogena Rain Bath. So I buy the super duper large one and it lasts me couple of months. I use it as bath soap, body wash, shave gel. No need for 3 different products.

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  3. I am totally with you on this! I am do jealous of people who can save $50 on groceries. It's hard to clip coupons especially with the organic stuff. We go to 5 (YES 5!!) different stores - target, trader joes, babies r us (for a couple of back-up baby foods if I don't feel like cooking), wegmans and whole paycheck, or um whole foods :) it's so crazy because we spend well over $100 a week, so kudos to you! And meal planning? Forgetaboutit! Hopefully you get some tips to pass on to those of us in the same boat!

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  4. We just cut cable and just have netflix on our roku box. Honestly I don't mind it. I found I we were mindlessly spending too much time in front of the tv. Now we watch madmen or spend time together. I also save $$ on groceries by making my own detergent, cleaning spray & other cleaners (natural & cheaper), going vegetarian (at home) & shopping at a discount/salvage grocery. I know they aren't an option for everyone but if you can find a scratch n dent grocery you'll save a ton! Ours is huge and even has great produce and frozen food. I also participate in survey/sampling sites - I get paid to test products or get free samples. It saves on grocery bills when I get free tissues, shampoo, contact solution and kitty litter!

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  5. You are correct about the lack of GOOD coupons. Sure, you can find one for some yogurt or deli cheese every so often but usually it's the garbage in the middle of the store that you can get practically for free. I've tried! Meal planning around store sales is hard if you don't like what's on sale. But if you come across a BOGO meat sale jump on it! They put those giant packages of meat on sale often and it's usually chicken breast or the perfect stuff for roasts. You can save $10-15!!
    One thing you can do to save is shop for toiletries at CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid. If you time your trips and clip your coupons (it can get hard sometimes and I'll give up) you can get free or almost free toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner/body wash and more.

    One thing I've done is stopped buying chips and if I buy pretzels or another snack I'll divide them into my own snack portions to hand out when we need them. That saves quite a bit of money. If you like oatmeal skip the instant packets and go for the big plain container- it's SO much cheaper and you can add whatever you want to it (brown sugar and cinnamon!). It's our go-to breakfast.

    I can't say exactly how much we spend on food and toiletries every month but it's for sure more than $500. Jason has also been on a diet recently (frest fruits, veggies, nuts, meat) and that has upped our grocery bill significantly.

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  6. I actually think you guys are doing pretty well. My husband and I spend about $600/month when you factor in cat supplies as well. A few things you could try:

    1) Buy your fruits and vegetables seasonally. What is in season will be cheaper and probably look better too. It is true that there are few coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables but they go on sale all the time.
    2) Cut back on meat, which is expensive. Beans are cheap (especially if you buy them dry) and are a good source of protein.
    3) Meal plan around the meats, veggies & cheeses that are at a good price that week (so if pork chops are at a great price one week have a pork chop dish that week)
    4) You can try writing to the companies that make the bread, dairy products, etc that you like asking for coupons.

    Hope this helps!

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  7. I have it all figured out. On Sunday we went to an all you can eat buffet. We arrived at 11:45 and had so much fun talking to our friends that we were still there close to dinner time. Two meals, one price, lots of food options. Oh...I forgot to mention. It even cuts down on the toilet paper you use at home since you use theirs. Also, your water bill could go down, no dishes to do, less toilet flushes. And the savings just go on. No dish liquid. During the week, the buffet's charge less to get in at lunchtime, but if you stay until dinner, no additional charge. Oh, and did I mention the fact that you don't have to spend time shopping or clean your table or floor because of messy food droppings. Wow, if I had more time, I'd probably think of more stuff.
    Hope this helps.
    Love
    Grammy

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  8. we spent about $500-$600 a month for 4 of us and a cat. I have a hubs that is a big guy plus a 19yr old that seems to be a bottomless pit. I do try coupons but I wont buy stuff just because I have a coupon for it. Also I dont see many coupons for healthy stuff, I just shop around for best deals, the market, BJ for meat in bulk that I can separate and freeze.

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  9. My goal now that we are on a budget is to only spend $100 a week on groceries and it is my husband, I, and a 2 month old (we do have 2 cats which I include their food in the grocery budget). So I totally understand. I would love to learn how to spend less each week too!

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  10. Good luck! We are one of those crazy families that spends about $60 a week on groceries and we buy maybe 50% organic fruits/veg, all natural meat and lots of whole foods. It can be done but you have to remember that it depends on what you're including in your grocery budget (we have no cat, don't include hubby's lunch in the grocery budget, 4 smallish eaters in our family, and we use cloth diapers so no baby expenses to speak of, oh and also we live in the midwest where food isn't terribly expensive).

    However, I still think there are ways to cut your budget. We don't use many coupons, but we do save a bundle.

    1) We get a box of organic produce through Door to Door Organics every two weeks.
    2) We buy natural, grass fed beef in bulk and then split it with friends.
    2) We stock up on basics when they are on sale.
    3) We plan our menu based on what is on sale and what we already have on hand. (A friend told me when I shared this hint with her it made the biggest impact on her budget.)
    4) We make a lot of food from scratch.
    5) We don't buy many snacks. The kids eat graham crackers, cheese and fruit. We also snack on cereal or popcorn.
    6) We get the basics at Aldi including oats, graham crackers, bananas, plain yogurt and hormone free milk.
    7) We aren't brand loyal on most items and I will shop at whatever store has the best sales for the week.
    8) We don't waste food. Every couple of days I'll evaluate what is in the fridge and what we need to eat first. Most families throw away 25% or more of the food they purchase. I read a crazy stat like that somewhere.
    9) Meal plan. But you already knew that. :)

    I'm sure there are more but the kids are calling.

    Best wishes!

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  11. Allison M SchafferAugust 24, 2011 at 10:48 AM

    We're lucky to have an awesome Target near us with full grocery ( I still go to a specialty market for meats and fresh produce) so we do mostly all of our shopping there...that includes cleaning and all baby stuff...plus I like the one stop shopping...honestly being 7 months pregnant with a 2 yr old, I don't have time (or energy!) to run here and there and comparison shop. It helps to get the Red Card too...5% every time you shop...it's something:)

    I've kind of come to terms with the fact that we are in a big spending time in our life...it's always something!

    Oh and for baby/kid clothing I'm pretty exclusive to the Gap and Old Navy...I'm a card holde with them too and I have not paid full price for clothing for the 7 years I've held the card (the sales, incentives and rewards are good!)...plus free shipping all the time, no minium purchase. Athough, sometimes I do wonder if I'm "saving"...when sometimes I don't need to be shopping at all...sigh.

    I guess I'm no help:)

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  12. Hi Lauren! I don't think your budget is that bad! We spend $75-100 and we are a family of 3 as well. This does not include our toiletries though. We buy those in bulk at Costco about every 4 months and spend about $125 on shampoo, soap, toothpaste, dental floss, t.p. etc. Our schedule that we try to stick with is, I cook on Mon, Tues, Wed, and we eat leftovers on Thursday's. Friday & Saturday we eat out or eat in with pizza delivery etc. and my hubby cooks for us on Sundays. So when I grocery shop, I am only shopping for 4 meals for that week. The big spenders for us at the grocery store is snack type foods which we have cut back on a lot. They are way expensive and not good for us anyhow. I am a soda drinker and although I still buy it, I don't drink it as much which is better for my health and for our pockets. I don't use coupons because it seems as if they are always for things I don't usually buy. I do always buy the store brand though and save that way. When I check out at the register and the total is 75 dollars, it sometimes seems like a lot for what I am getting, but then I realize that we could easily spend close to that eating out twice! And that's eating out at a ordinary restaurant like Red Robin and nothing fancy! Another way we have minimized our expenses is by downsizing our cable plan. We don't watch a lot of television so I called our provider (dish network) to see what their lowest plan was. To our surprise they offer a plan that they don't advertise (btw) for 14.99 per month which includes HGTV, Discovery, TLC, Food Network to name a few. I couldn't believe it since that's pretty much all we watch if the t.v. is on anyhow. And our most recent frugal saving is that we share our trash service with our neighbors. Sounds kinda funny, but it was only an additional $2.00 to add an extra bin. We now split the bill with them and it saves us money each month. By reducing our cable plan and sharing our trash with the neighbors it is saving us $50.00 dollars each month! Not too shabby! Just food for thought for anyone looking to save a few extra dollars!

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  13. Hi! I think we flip between $70-80 per week and there is two of us... and no coupons. We also include our cat stuff in that, toiletries, etc. Some of it depends on where you live as prices are cheaper or more expensive regionally. Also, for example, we spend at least $5 in tax on our groceries because food is taxed here-- not everywhere else though. So it really depnds. $100 doesn't sound bad.

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  14. There are just two of us but I spend between 50-60 a week on groceries and this covers 5 lunches, breakfasts and dinners. I too am not a couponer as we also buy mostly fresh produce. I do find that I can cut the cost by shopping the farmers market in the summer, local ethnic grocery stores in the winter and cutting our meat consumption [meat is expensive!] to 2-3 nights a week. I hope this helps!

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  15. Directions Not IncludedAugust 24, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    We don't eat processed food so coupons are pretty useless for us unless they are for toiletries and household stuff. We do not have kids and spend more than $400 a month on food. It is by far our biggest variable expense. Pet supplies are separate since we have 5 creatures so it doesn't really factor in correctly for this purpose.

    For grocery saving, what I'm finding works is:
    - Checking to see what is on special and stocking up on meat when it is on sale.
    - Planning, planning, planning. I hate meal planning but it really does help use up the food, cut down on random trips to the store (which always adds up to more $$ spent).
    - Cooking with less meat and making big batches of meals full of veggies and beans.
    - Eliminating sodas/juices/mixed drinks.
    - Using frozen veggies for filler and buying seasonally.

    We did no cable for several years while saving for the house. We have it again now for a year because of some special when we moved but I will be cutting it as soon as the contract is over. You'll be surprised what you can get on NetFlix, Hulu or Apple TV for a much lower cost.

    Look through your bills and see what can be reduced. We did well by cutting back our phone/internet/cell phones/personal car and increasing our insurance deductibles (only recommended if you have a healthy emergency fund of back up cash which we do) and things of that nature.

    Also take a look at those money sucks that hover around. When I realized through Mint all the $$ going to random trips to Target, to get coffee or a quick lunch, etc it was pretty eye opening. We resorted to the envelope system for our miscellaneous expenses which helped reduce the spending.

    It all seems little at first but it really does add up. Don't get discouraged if you have set backs at first or spend more than anticipated one month. Think of the bigger picture. Give yourself little goals. Maybe you cut out an extra meal out a month and those $25 - 75 goes to a 529 for Violet? That's what we did for our niece's college fund. Little by little.

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  16. $50-$60 a week?! Wow! We spend about $200 every two weeks, with little-no coupons as I always end up buying things just because they "were a good deal" if I coupon, even if we don't even need/want them. That includes food, toiletries, and baby items.

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  17. I am a crazy couponer, I found that I can spend $30 a week getting all toiletries, dairy, meats, even frozen veggies free or at least 90% off most of the time, which allows me to spend most of our $30 budget on organic produce. Couponing is hard work, but really worth it sometimes. You can always actually buy coupons from ebay. If I read that using a $1 off SoyMilk coupon is going to double in the coming week, I will order 10 off of ebay for under $1 and then just stock up for the next two months (soy milk takes forever to expire). We also use cloth diapers and reusable wipes as well as make a lot of our own cleaners, baby food and bread from scratch. Hope this helps!

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  18. Hi Lauren! I think you're doing a great job at $60/week. We have a family of 3 (with another on the way) and I find myself spending a lot more than that a week. I have recently started meal planning and that does help a considerable amount and we also just moved from Brooklyn to the suburbs, which has made a difference as well. However, I still feel like I have a long way to go. I'm not a coupon clipper, I honestly find it to difficult and time consuming to hunt them down every week. And the few coupon websites I've tried out had nothing to offer that would fit our lifestyle. I've read through the other comments and there are some great suggestions, now I just need to explore them and put some into effect. It seems like a lot of people use cloth diapers and I'm really intrigued to see how that would work out for us. We'll have 2 kids in diapers in November! Maybe that would be a good place for us to start. However, until then, I have found that joining Amazon Mom offers really good deals on diapers and I don't even have to think about ordering them, I'm on the once a month schedule and they just show up.

    Anyway, good luck and let us know of any great tips!

    Heather

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  19. Dina @ Honey + FitzAugust 24, 2011 at 11:19 PM

    I have adopted the ways of the crazy couponing as well. You just need a system that works for you. This is our system. Before our WEEKLY shopping trip, I take stock of what's in the pantry and freezer and what I could make with that stuff. I plan meals for each day and then figure out where there are gaps and then I check the local circulars for the 3 grocery stores around us. I use a site called SouthernSavers to see where there are coupons I can match to store sales for maximum savings.

    I'm with you...there aren't coupons for the fresh produce but by comparing and couponing HARD for toiletries, detergent and baby items, pantry staples, etc I'm able to channel the saved money into fresh produce and proteins. I also subscribe to a Farm Box program in our area that delivers fresh produce from local farms directly to our door for a ridiculously low price. It's a challenge to eat seasonally and figure out what to do with yet more tomatoes for instance but by combining meal planning, couponing and farmer's market shopping I've been able to get our grocery bill down from over $100 a week. Sometimes I would tally all our weekly grocery trips and we'd be spending over $160 for the week when it was just the 2 of us!! Stopping at the grocery store every day after work to pick up stuff for dinner that night sounds wonderfully European and all but that was killing us financially. Now I can stay around $60-$70 a week depending on if we need formula and dog food that week or not.

    Good luck! It definitely requires some planning and a shift in how you think about shopping but it's possible!

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  20. $100 would be amazing -- $50-60 would last us two days max! We don't have coupons in Aus and with a family of four we spend around $300+ a week on groceries. We eat pretty healthy foods and it is expensive. Even with making meals from scratch. I recently read that Sydney is the 7th most expensive city in the world, even beating New York and Paris. I feel it.

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  21. First: cutting cable isn't as bad as you may think. We've been without it for about five months, and we've saved at least $400! We get about eight basic cable channels over the air (ABC, NBC, FOX, PBS, etc.), and we stream Netflix and Hulu to our Xbox. We really haven't missed it! Though ask us again once college football season begins ...

    As for saving money on groceries, we have a really hard time with that, too. We just love to cook -- and eat! Meal planning does help immensely, though. We try to stick to about $150/week.

    Good luck! And I hope your first week back to work has been a good one.

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  22. I think budgeting is so difficult, but kudos to you for reevaluating different places you can save! We actually cut TV & cable out of our lives completely when we got married, so we don't even own a TV. (I know, we're one of those people...) This has saved us a ton of money, and also means we make better use of our time in the evenings. Sure, we still watch the occasional show or movie on our computers (Hulu & redbox are great!).

    I wish I had a better idea how much we're spending on groceries - it's kind of hard to tell because we buy beef in bulk from an organic farm, chicken from the farm, and we do a CSA share in the summer for all of our produce. In the summer, I maybe spend $25 a week on food for the two of us because of this, but during the winter, it's a bit higher. Planning meals is a HUGE help, as well as buying in season, and off-brand staples. We don't buy hardly any processed or boxed foods and make nearly everything from scratch.

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  23. Wow what a great list, thank you! I think we really do need to get better at using leftovers in the fridge. We've gotten a lot better since we've been budgeting more, but there's definitely still room for improvement!

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  24. $30 a week! You are a super woman. Please come to my house :)

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  25. I'd love to get rid of cable. I just wish there was some other way the Hubs could watch all of his sports (one of his main joys in life!)

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  26. Yes the sports thing is Kevin's sticking point with cable. He must have his sports. I wish there were some other way for him to be able to watch them...

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  27. My sister lives in Australia (although not in Sydney) and everything is more expensive there!

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  28. SouthernSavers - haven't heard of that one I'll definitely have to check it out! I am terrible at planning ahead. We're kind of fly by the seat of your pants people. Getting better now that we have a little one though!

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  29. Yes another thing I'm trying to find balance with is time for family, work, and blogging. Becoming a coupon hunter would definitely not help in that area, but it would definitely help in the budget area. Just not sure which is more important at this point.

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  30. Oh and P.S. I use Amazon mom for diapers as well and love it!

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  31. I know what you mean - you feel like it's a deal and you spent all of that time hunting down the coupon, so you ought to use it!

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  32. We definitely need to learn to use less meat. I have mild hypoglycemia so unfortunately I can't save money by eating a lot of pastas and pb&j's and really have to have the protein in my diet. I am really considering the envelope system. It's a tough shift but sounds worth it.

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  33. You're lucky that you have so many shopping options! I love our farmer's market but find that it is actually often more expensive than the grocery store? Not sure why that is. The meat is definitely a thing we need to start thinking about!

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  34. Hmmm...sharing trash service. Never thought about that! What a great idea.

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  35. I've thought about joining a BJ's or Sam's type of club...

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  36. Cutting back on meat seems to be the consensus (although I don't think I want to feed my husband any extra beans if you know what I mean!)

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  37. Never thought about shopping at CVS, Walgreens, etc. I always assumed they'd be pricier!

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  38. We have an Aldi but I've never tried it. Could be worth a look!

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  39. Glad I'm not the only one who stinks at planning!

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  40. I agree that putting quality food in your body is the number one priority. I just wish there was a cheaper way to do it!

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  41. We cut cable 2 years ago and it was hard the first week but after that I was over it. We watched Netflix and Hulu instead. I think you could do s fewe things to save money - buy in bulk when you can, buy generic brands, and meal plan. We keep a list of about 15 dinners/meals that are our staples on the fridge and I shop to that with occasional items thrown in. And when we hit the monthly total, no more spending. It had worked for us and we ended up paying off both our cards, our home equity loan and a credit card (about 15K) in 18 months.

    It's cost vs worth. Is the cost of cable or eating a specific way worth more than other things to you? You have to decide what is important to your family first, then budget to that. We wanted to live free of debt, not tied to an enormous mortgage so we could travel more.

    Good luck!

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  42. I don't do coupons and I budget for $150 a week for two of us and three cats. That being said, I don't regularly buy processed food, and we generally have a ton of stuff frozen for quick meals later. I saw this link that I wanted to share with everyone about hunger in America (after reading your comments and this article, made me do a double take!) http://ecosalon.com/hunger-pains-6-million-americans-struggle-to-eat-160/

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  43. What's worked for the best for me is a few things:

    1) I shop at Super Target for just about everything, which means I don't waste gas driving to tons of different stores and I don't pick up impulse items at all of them either!
    2) I use the Target Coupons on their website and any others that happen to come my way. I find this is a nice balance of saving a few dollars, but not taking up a ton of my time.
    3) I buy a lot of meat when it's on sale, and none if it's not.
    4) I deliberately look for and try recipes that call for cheap healthy stuff (things like potatoes, onions, rice, carrots, beans, etc.)
    5) I only go to Target once a week. (Those 'just a few things' trips add up quickly!)
    6) I try to meal plan every week, but if I'm too busy to meal plan one week and end up short of dinner ingredients, I get creative and make something up. The best meals are sometimes the simplest ones!
    7) I try to never throw any food out. We eat leftovers for lunches and if necessary for dinners too!
    8) I use the Grocery IQ app for my iPhone (I highly recommend it), which makes it super easy to add things to my list as I realize we need them. That way I don't forget to buy things, which again, helps eliminate the extra trips to the store.

    Using these strategies I spend about $110 a week for EVERYTHING (diapers, baby/kid clothes for my 2 girls, toiletries, groceries, cleaning supplies, etc.). And what's just as important to me, I only spend about three hours of my whole week on this task (clipping coupons, meal planning, list writing and doing the actual shopping trip).

    Oh, and one little thing I did that ended up being a big thing was that I invested in a whole bunch of Norwex cleaning cloths and a mop too. No more Swiffer mop heads, Windex or Clorox wipes for me. The only two cleaning products I buy any more are dish soap and toilet bowl cleaner.

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  44. We JUST started doing the envelope system (like two weeks ago) and I love it. I am a compulsive grocery shopper as well, but if I don't have a cc in my wallet and only have 10 bucks on me, I won't buy more than we need. I am really trying to eat what we have in the pantry/freezer now and then be more selective about my purchases. I also have the luxury of having a grocery store right next to my work, so I can just pop in and get what we need. Combine this with having just torn out our entire kitchen, so we are living out of the microwave/george foreman, therefore half the groceries in the world are off limits to me (can't buy something I won't be able to cook, right?). We are budgeted for $250 a month on groceries and so far we have stayed on budget. I also have an 18 month old, so diapers are a challenge, but we ran out of the last diaper yesterday, which was payday, so we got to replenish just in time. Our goals are similar, pay off cc debt, medical bills, college fund and down payment for a bigger home, and I think we will be there in a few years. I'm a dork and I am kind of excited about it.

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  45. One-hundred-dollars per week for two adults and a toddler seems high to me, but I suspect you live in an area with a higher cost of living than I do. We feed two adults, three large dogs, and eight (yes, eight!) cats on $75-100/week. When I include the pets in that estimate, the cats eat a processed cat food that, while not cheap, is not exorbitantly expensive, either; the dogs, however, eat raw meat, raw vegetables, rice, beans, and other whole foods, like eggs. So, that's a considerable amount of real, whole foods we're adding to our budget.

    We do not clip coupons. I don't receive a newspaper and have never gotten into the practice of using those clipping services (in fact, the entire concept is ridiculous to me). We don't shop sales or read flyers. We just make a list, go, and buy what we need.

    We shop once a week. Once. We almost never make extra trips because I plan carefully. Extra trips quickly add up to extra expenses.

    My plans don't include set meals for any given day. Instead, I plan four or five dinners (leftovers account for the other two or sometimes dinner out), a sweet treat for the week, and something for our traditional lazy Sunday breakfast (like French Toast, Quiche, or Omelets). Then I decide what to make based on how much time I can spare for prep and cooking that evening, what sounds the most appetizing, and what fresh foods are likely to spoil first. In the past, I've tried assigning foods to specific days of the week and didn't like the rigidity of it--almost as a form of rebellion, I would inevitably determine I didn't want to make what was 'on the plan' and we'd eat out instead. No good. But, I find planning for four or five meals to be eaten 'whenever' is flexible enough to make me feel we have choices.

    We only eat whole, organic foods. I bake our bread, tortillas, rolls, biscuits, etc. We grow a garden every summer and can our own pickles, tomatoes (sauces, etc.), fruits (jellies), beans, and sundry vegetables. We freeze anything we can't consume quickly enough, so we have almost no waste. We don't buy processed meals, frozen foods (except fruits and vegetables), or boxed convenience foods . . . ever.

    But, there are ways we save money. We buy markdown meat--you know, the meat that "expires" the next day and needs to be consumed or frozen? We buy that whenever we see it and keep it frozen. We try to eat grass-fed, pasture-raised animals only, but our dogs aren't as discriminatory, so we'll even buy the cheap-shit for them if we see it marked down (I'm cringing as I write that--I really must stop being so cheap). We also shop farmer's markets and local producers, especially for meat.

    We also use Amazon's "Subscribe and Save" system for a lot of our staples. We can buy 25 lb. bags of organic, stone-ground flours at a considerable savings, with free shipping, and sign up to have it delivered automatically as often (or rarely) as we like. We also use their services for beans, rice, oats, other grains, and even pet foods.

    Gosh, I've written a novel. Hope some of it helps you!

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  46. BEANS= cheap protein

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  47. Watch "Forks Over Knives" sometime. I'm not a vegetarian, and don't plan to be one, but it really eliminates the myth that meat is needed to provide the protein necessary for any diet.

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  48. Hi Lauren, I have the same problem as you - it's impossible to find fresh fruit and vegatables at good prices. I guess that's why the nation's health is suffering.

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