Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
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Can You Hear The Frugal Bugle?

I've spent two weeks mucking out that there basement. Apologies, I inadvertently channeled my Grandma there, god love her. I'm gearing up to have a big yard sale. I don't want stuff anymore. Stuff sucks. Why do I have four purses that I haven't used in five years? Why do I have five thousand shoes, most of which went out of style six thousand years ago? Don't want it, don't need it. Who's looking at my big Mom ass for style tips, anyway? Chucks (black, lowtops) a decent pair of jeans and a worn t-shirt is my uniform. And I like it that way. So the yard sale. Despite my fear of Yard Sale Rejection I'm powering through and selling everything. Furniture, clothes, skis, barely used snowboard and a bunch of Serge's shit (if I git-r-done while he's fishing).

After cleaning out the basement I moved all Yard Sale items to the garage. They keep mysteriously making their way back to the basement. That work-out mat and ball Serge bought nearly a year ago? The one that's still in the box? Apparently now's the time he's going to get his work-out on. That was two weeks ago that he brought it back from the garage. It's still in the box.

I have a question for you, my fantastic readers, and this one is more important than my hair color. Which, incidentally, is freaking me out. I was organizing old photographs, most of which contain a blonde Monica and holy shit was I out of my mind. There was some intense Pamela-Anderson-porn-blonde going on back in the day. Roots as dark as Alex Haley's. Goddamn. What a waste of thousands of dollars. But I digress.

My question for you, dear reader, is this; How much money do you spend on groceries each week? Do you shop weekly? Monthly? How many are in your family and lastly, do you try to save? We've been writing down everything we spend our money on and this week? Groceries; about $200. Generally we're somewhere in the $150 range but this week everything came up due. Dog food - $20, diapers - $20, formula - $25. Groceries are the number one place you can reduce your spending so I'm focusing in that direction. I am pleased to report there were no fast food trips, no eating out, nada. I am, however, not announcing the amount spent on beer and wine on the grounds I may incriminate myself.

Come on now, gimme your numbers.

Reader Comments (37)

We have a family of 5 and we spend between $200-$250 per week. It makes me sick and I have tried over and over again to get it lower but some people and I won't say who {but his name starts with a D} want only certain a certain cheese, a certain deli meat, and certain meat to go into his meatballs! We do still have one in diapers and I am pushing hard for her to be out of them because that right there is $20 a week. This is one of our biggest expenses every week....but the kids gotta eat and we need our wine!

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShelly

i don't even know how much we spend on groceries but I do know that we reduced it a lot by trying to go to zero waste. Try to make your food stretch as far as you can. You might end up with some crazy ass stew at the end of the week but you will appreciate the fact that it is only costing you ten cents/serving. Another easy (and very healthy) measure that you can take is to reduce the amount of meat you consume. Buy meat on sale and make the shit stretch. We also have a garden so that helps. If you want wine and beer, don't beat yourself up over it. Try to find something affordable that you like. Dining out isn't always bad if you can find a few tasty (but affordable) options that have huge servings so that you can take home the leftovers and stretch it into another meal. We don't have kids and both have good jobs, but one day I realized we were spending way too much money on materialistic crap so we decided to cut it out.

Glad you are going through with the garage sale. You will be so glad to open your closet and only have the clothes that you can actually wear and enjoy. It gives you a strange boost in confidence to look great in every single thing in your closet. Cleaning house will be so much simpler without all of the junk. If your husband wants to lose weight or workout, he doesn't need a mat and ball.

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterE.

I spend about $80-$100 a week on groceries and it's just me so I'd say you guys are right on target. Beer and wine should have their own separate budget ;)

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeagan

Hey Monica, we spend right about 100 dollars, that is 2 adults and a three year old (Z doesn't get counted). I plan meals so I know exactly the items I need to make dinners (so we don't end up going out). I try not to go the grocery store more than once a week (it really has cut down on over spending).

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNika

Nika, that is totally my goal. $100. But working full-time doesn't really give me enough time to plan meals and I'm not even home at dinner time anyway. I'm reading all these books about how to reduce your grocery bill and the number one tip is plan your meals, make a list and stick to it. I tried to do that this past weekend but still, I'm not home at dinner time. Was thinking maybe I could cook a couple meals on weekends and freeze them for the week. Cool discovery: I made stuffed peppers on Saturday and realized you can save the meet/rice combo you use to stuff the peppers and then maybe have burritos on another day. Score! Also? Oh my god, who am I now?

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho...

I spend about $100 on groceries every week..

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShelly

See if there is some meal prepared place like this:

For $7.50 you can eat awesome meals that are plenty large for a family. Eat light for breakfast and lunch, and then make a veggie with one of the meals and voila! You seriously cannot make a dinner that tastes this good for $7.50 when you add all the ingredients. You may find that some delis and meat markets have these homemade meals ready too. I just love them.

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCMarie

There are 2 of us and we can spend $150 some weeks - because produce is so f'ing expensive. But normally it's more in the $100 range. We stock up on a lot at CostCo some weeks and I too and a big meal planner, which probably helps. Do you take dinner with you to work? Do you or Serge have have time to make something before you head to work? I've also found that although it's a big pain in the ass - stopping at a couple different stores, cutting coupons, or taking ads to match competitors prices helps too.

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCindi

2 adults, 2 teenagers and 2 big dogs....about $200 AUD a week including cleaning stuff. All fruit and veg comes from the farmers markets which is very cheap. We live in a tropical area where produce jumps out of the ground so we also grow a bit of stuff - we've got more avocados and citrus fruits (oranges, limes, ruby grapefruit and lemons) than we know what to do with at the moment so it's fresh orange juice and guacamole everyday. By early summer the only vegetables i need to buy are root vegetables - we grow nearly everything else. I buy no processed foods - no chips, snack bars, soft drinks, frozen meals etc - everything is made fresh from scratch which is healthier and much cheaper. I came from a large family (4 kids) and am a deft hand at making big meals for under $10 with enough left over for lunch the next day. Bulk items I get as needed - tinned tomatoes, beans etc Local butcher makes pet quality mince for $2/kg which is cheaper than tinned food (and a lot less offensive the next day) Also- buy what is in season, out of season produce is expensive.

I find it important to plan the meals (loosely) then go out and get everything in one go (the plan can change depending on what's on special) but its the going back and forth from the supermarket everyday that tends to cause the budget to blow out.

Also - if you see something on special and it isn't on the list, get it and cook up a big pot to freeze - e.g.our butcher recently had premium bef mince for $5/ the freezer is now full of containers of bolognaise and chile which is also good for when i don't have the energy to cook. And there's end-of-week the end of the week get all your leftover and going limp vegies a turn them into a big soup or stew.

I know that we are lucky because we live in an area where food is grown locally and is very cheap but if you are committed and get organised you can cut down your costs.

Oh yeah - as for booze. One case of beer (24 bottles) 6 bottles of wine and a bottle of gin a week comes to about $100 from the local wholesaler . Sure we could and should cut down but read the first sentence - 2 teenagers and 2 dogs. Not to mention his ex wife and our jobs. Its still cheaper than therapy for us both.

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Sarah! You're my idol. Can you move in with me? Or at least share some of your best recipes? Also, out of curiosity, where do you live that the fruit jumps from the ground? Avacados are so expensive but I love them so.

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho...

i'm doing the same thing. purging. i got the bug from which has a ton of great ideas.

as for food, we are two and i want to save, have tried to save but have not been successful. i think we spend about $400 per month but we eat out at least 4 meals a week. :(

the above comment though is the way-- cut out meat. shit is bad for you anyway. have serge catch some fish. much better for you and free!

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersusan

Lots of good suggestions above. Here's another one: learn to love your crock-pot! You or Serge could throw all the necessary ingredients in the crock-pot in the morning, put it on low and it will be ready about 10 hours later. Invest in one with a "keep warm" setting and you will be good to go whenever you get home at night. This helps with your planning and you can take leftovers for lunch. Bonus!

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterColleen

Sarah´s way is definitely the way to go! I too want to know where you live, fruit jumping from the ground AND cheap farmer´s market?! So just in case we move to Australia we can take it into consideration... I live close to Santa Monica, and our farmers market is more expensive than Whole Foods... and bunnies have been eating all the veggies I´ve attempted to grow (won´t give up though). I´d say for only my boyfriend and me, we spend $120 on groceries each week. We buy a lot of produce organic...I want to go more frugal, cook ahead from scratch... but from good ingredients. Stock up on organic ground beef on sale etc. There are some things I am not willing to compromise on, like $5 half gallon raw organic milk; but basically, if it weren´t for my boyfriend´s cravings, I would be pretty much vegetarian, which could get the bill down. Beans, lentils and grains are cheap, healthy and I LOVE them! And you can do a million different things with them. So driving up the bills are the meat, fish (which I love), "his" 2 pieces of french cheese at $7 a piece (of which half goes bad usually...) and "my" organic fruits/veggies. We buy one 6pack of beer every month or so =)

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra

wow. these people are amazing. what do you do if you have certain foods in the fridge and none of them at all seem appetizing? shit. i normally go get something that does sound good to eat, but I also need to save money in this department. planning everything out seems like such a commitment.

anyway, we (two people) spend about 60 dollars a week on eating out and 100 on groceries. way too much i think.

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterleyla

ah. i realized what it is - organic food. spending too much on that.

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterleyla

Shit, you got me thinking. Just staring at my online banking overview...I wrote $120 a week, who am I kidding? We spend $30 a week alone on cat food. Not counting litter. For TWO cats, not five. Because we´ll buy only super-premium-no-by-products-grainless-1.50-a-tiny-can-food.
Do I have to count the roughly $40 a week my boyfriend spends on cigarettes? And the up to $10 a day for coffees and lattes? I eat two jars of $5 organic peanut butter a week. My boyfriend has a $2.50 chocolate bar for dessert each night. I probably consume $10 worth of "food bars" (addicted BumbleBar Chocolate) a week. And the bottled spring water? - I drink almost a gallon a day. I know, bottled is unreasonable, I´m scared of tap though...filter or not. I´m from Europe and grew up drinking spring water. Anyone seen the film "Flow"? There´s rocket fuel in tap water in the Southwest supposedly...
And do I have to count my supplements into the grocery bill? Omega-3 at $10 a bottle, antioxidants, blah? - adding up to $50 a month easy.
There goes my ignorance. I am feeling sick now.
At least I buy all my clothes at Goodwill. Gotta have priorities...

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra

My numbers aren't very relevant as we live in an ex-pat community in the Channel Islands at present, prices are in GB£ and through the roof due to shipping... but nevertheless my big tip for keeping to a groceries budget is to take a purse with just the right amount of cash, and no cards. It's a miracle how well it works ;)

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmelia

Oh and I echo the crockpot advice - they are wonderful especially if you are not home at dinner time. Set to low and keep the food warm for when you come in. Cooking is so easy with a crockpot. You will need to search out good recipes that suit you - we tend to go for 'gourmet' crockpot recipes. We are not gourmets by any stretch but when it comes to crockpot cooking they are better quality and healthier. And still economical.

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmelia

We're 3 (with a 2 yo) and we spend 100 Euros a week for groceries (140 dollars more or less). And we indulge in take-away chinese, kebab and pizza too often... (more or less 60 Euros a week)

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSerena from Italy

We have 2 adults in the family and a 1 1/2 year old. We spend roughly $150-$200 a week in groceries. I buy the big box of Huggies at Costco and it only costs me $40 for the whole month. I am always looking for ways to spend less at the store but it seems impossible. Once your little one is a year and you can cut out formula it will feel like you've gotten a pay raise!

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy in Austin

It's just the two of us plus our two cats. We shop about once every three weeks to the tune of $200. Cat stuff is another 50$ every couple of weeks. But I spend another 30$ a week at CVS and the corner store "filling" in items that we need. And we eat out probably three times a week but we're big ones for hitting $2 burger night and $2 beers or $3 pizza night and $2 beers. We might splurge once a week on Chinese takeaway or spend $30 on a meal out.

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjeneria

I shop for my husband and I (and two dogs) once every two weeks for the bulk of our groceries. There are usually one or two supplemental trips added in. We are on a really tight budget so I set our grocery budget to be no more than $75-$100 for two weeks. It seems crazy, but so far we've stuck to it really well.

Things that have helped us maintain that strict grocery budget (and yes, we do eat more than rice and beans) is having a list. Make a list and then check your cabinets to see what you might already have. We have multiples of a lot of spices and random condiments...totally unnecessary expenditures because I didn't make a list. For a few weeks time I would write down the cost of each item as I put it in my cart and then total everything before I hit the register. It was extra work, but also gave me a reality check on what things really cost. I shop at Aldi's - not sure if you have any near you. It's a grocery store with all generic items - you bag your own stuff, etc. We learned to not care about brand name food products a long time ago - it tastes the same. I'm sure you can find an equivalent in your area. We do buy a name brand dog food, but have been fortunate to find sales/coupons for it. When I do, we stock up - we've been spending around $10 every two weeks for two dogs.

In terms of baby stuff (we're getting ready to have a little one), my friends have suggested shopping at Costco or it's equivalent. Buy diapers and formula in bulk. Don't be afraid to use coupons either - there are people online that have made an art of coupon using, especially at drug stores like CVS and Walgreens.

You'll find your groove. Good luck!

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKara

My husband and I spend approximately $500 a month on groceries. We also spend $150 a month on meals from I highly recommend checking out dream dinners. There is one near your house in Brickyard Plaza. The yummy premade meals have almost completely eliminated dining out for us. I also pack my lunch every day and my husband works from home so that saves us a ton of money. We buy fancy dog food from the organic store but the pooch is only 10 pounds so one bag lasts for several months.

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSuzie

We spend alot on food. We probably spend $150-200 weekly in the supermarkets, then another $20-30 buying local produce at the farmers market. (we were in an organic produce co-op until recently & that was costing us $94 monthly). We also get take-out or eat out about once or twice weekly but we're trying to cut down on that. I'm not even going to mention our beer/wine expenses...

There's just some things we like to splurge on. I try to stay away from processed convenience foods in the store & I try to buy organic dairy & meats when i can & buy local produce when in season. We buy good coffee & almost never get coffee at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, etc. But then we go and fuck it up & get take-out at McDonald's or something...oh well. It's harder to make a decent home-cooked meal when your kids get older & are on the go w/ after-school activities, etc. It's so easy to just pick up that pizza on the way home when you're hungry and tired.

I read an article in the August O Magazine (yeah, I read Oprah...what of it?!) that offered 10 tips on how to eat healthy more economically. Most of the advice was common sense things like eat less meat & more beans, hit farmers markets or grow your own produce, etc. I find that it's a tough balance between the expense of good food and eating well, especially when you're short on time.

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChrissy

We average around $200 for family of four per week. That's two adults, an 8yo and 6yo. Now, we have food allergies and such so we sometimes spend more than average. We are also still buying diapers since my younger son is disabled.

WE do tend to cherry pick. In other words, I am close enough to several stores and buy where they have things the cheapers that week. It pays to look at circulars. Sometimes, online prices for things like diapers and formula re waaaaaay cheaper, even with shipping (which, btw, you can get free shipping if you do your homework). I also get pharmacy items, shampoos, paper towels, etc at Target or Walmart, they are generally cheaper there.

Hope this helps. YMMV.

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDomestic Goddess

Amen to those who say a crock pot is your best friend. Also, food co-ops are WONDERFUL places to save money and they give you the opportunity to do volunteer work. Our family has saved so much by volunteering and ordering from our local won't believe how much food you can buy for so little, and unlike a food pantry, there is no economic "qualifier" to join and take advantage of the savings.

I did a quick google search and food one for Utah...

and here is a link to an article that explains it in more detail:

Hope this helps!

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKris

Hey, food and frugality--two of my favorite subjects!! We average 70-80 bucks per week for 2 adults who like to eat well. We only grocery shop every other week, but some weeks we buy beer and eat out so it's a generous average. Honestly, we don't really plan or make lists but we love to cook and are fairly adventurous. Here are our best ways of saving $$:
--We don't buy much processed food. It is easy to make soup, spaghetti sauce, cookies, etc. and is cheaper than buying.
--We hardly ever eat meat...usually only if we eat out or if it's on mega sale somewhere.
--We have a share of a CSA farm for over half the year. It breaks down to about 10 bucks per week for most of vegetables, although we don't get much of a say in what we get each week, so prob. not ideal for picky eaters. You could probably get a similar experience by buying what's in season at farmer's markets.
--We shop around quite a bit for sales or regular deals and stock up...the food co-op, Asian markets, discount groceries (you know, those places with dim lighting and no, it's Aldi).
--With the discount cards and the coupons, stuff like shampoo, deodorant, pop, and vitamins can be insanely cheap at CVS and Walgreens.
--Try to find a really frugal friend or co-worker who can give you tips about bargain places in and around your area. A classmate of mine told me about her discount warehouse grocery store thingy (in a tiny town next to mine), a cheap movie theatre, and a farm supply store that sells dirt cheap dog food. I never would have found out about these places on my own.

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMT

I wanted to add that I think we spend more in the summer because we're in and out and more likely to eat out than we are in the winter when we make our own chilis, soups, stews, spaghettis, etc in our crock pot. I can't believe how awesome a contraption that crock pot is and we save a ton in the winter because we have so many leftovers.

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjeneria


Great post! Great idea(s) and great comments from others! This is long, so I apologize, but I really think I've got some great tips!

I'm (become) an EXPERT at saving money, especially @ the Grocery Store! It's rare that I spend more than $50 during my weekly trip--or trips, I don't go more than twice--ever! I just make do with what I have! It's taken me years to get this good at it, so although this is long, I'm going to give you my best tips for grocery shopping on a budget! Please bare with me and I hope I can give you some good advice!

My husband & I spend about honestly spend anywhere from $200-$250 dollars on a month on groceries--perhaps $300 if we get lazy. This includes food, drinks, tolietries and such. I do it for this price several ways:

#1: There's only two of us and no kids, so that helps majorly right here.

#2: We don't eat MEGA portions, we make our meals last a day or two at least. Rice/pasta/homemade pizza and spaghetti sauce can last several days and you can make several meals wit that! We certainly don't eat like birds, but we also have portion control! That's big too!

#3: We both don't drink soda, alcahol and I'm a vegetarian. I do buy ground beef for my husband, the occasional chicken for soups/stews and if fish is on sale, I'll buy that. But not drinking soda, alcahol and not eating a lot of meat SAVES so much money! I know most people can't do this, but we find it saves a lot of money and time!

#4: I scour the weekly adds and am fortunate to live in close proximity to a Fresh & Easy (the BEST grocery store ever), a 99c/Dollar Store (don't knock it 'till you tried it, you can find some great food there!), Smith's (Kroger, elsewhere), and Trader Joe's. All of this adds up to HUGE savings across the board! I don't drive across town to save money--all of these stores are within 5--7 miles of my house! Lucky me!

#5: My husband and I pick one "splurge" per item UP to $5 in value, and just ONE! Sometimes we compromise on that "splurge" item, and sometimes I get it and sometimes he does. Usually it's a pre-made meal or cheese, we're big cheese lovers in my house! We do this so we don't feel like we're deprived of everything and it's only an $20 a month, which isn't that bad in the long run. On short months (short on money) we automatically cut this "splurge" thing from our list!

#6: I know that not every store has the best price on everything, they can't, but I do make myself aware of sales--Smith's (Kroger) has the best! If you hit their store during a major sale--WHOA! Total score!

#7: I don't go to Wal-mart for grcoeries, they are in fact NOT the cheapest on ANY food item in my town. (Las Vegas!) I DO however shop there OR at Target (like someone mentioned above) for paper products and things like that!

#8: I buy A LOT OF GENERIC! Cereal, syrup, buns, bread, cheese, pasta, canned veggies, beans,sandwich bags, rice, etc, etc, etc....the prices between brand name stuff and generic are sometime astronomical! This saves A LOT of money! Trust me!

#9: I do coupon-clip, but I make sure it's a good coupon on something I'll actually BUY...I don't use coupons just to use them. Every penny counts and every penny saved IS a penny earned, in my belief. But, why pay $3.46 for something to save $.25c on something I wouldn't normally use/buy anyway? Dumb! Coupons ARE great, but rewards programs are better!

#10: I KNOW the general prices of the items I shop for most at the stores I frequent the most. I take some time to price everything per ounce, per serving. Cost per use, you know. I also know when the prices on my most bought products in my most frequented grocery stores go up and down by more than .50c. Now, I know this takes some time, and with a kid, you don't have a lot of it. But getting to know YOUR grocery store(s) and taking the TIME to CALCULATE what you're buying, how much and when can pay off BIG TIME! I

#11: I buy with a CONCIOUS! I NEVER go in without a list and while I don't necessarily meal plan, I do have a general idea of what I want to make each week. I THINK about what I'm buying before I buy it--whether it be groceries or otherwise!

#12: I NEVER go to the store hungry! BAD idea--then you want everything in there!

#13: I ALWAYS take a calculator with me, or just use the one on my cell phone as I go along....that way I can keep a running tally of my total (so far) as I shop, and am aware of price per ounce and so and so forth!

#14: I keep a very well stocked pantry--I ALWAYS have: olive oil, vegetable oil, a variety of vinegars, mustard, mayonaise, ketchup, a variety of dried herbs and spices (Trader Joe's is the best/cheapest place for dried herbs!), fresh garlic, soy sauce, beans, rice, pasta, canned tomatoes, canned corn and canned beans. I also keep frozen juice conentrate in my freezer--quick drinks or flavor enhancers in dishes that need a fruity touch!

#15: I MAKE most of my own stuff: spaghetti sauce, pizza (with pre-made dough), soups, rice/veggies, etc. I know what's in it and I can make it go further!

#16: Since you have a kid and you work full time AND eat meat--I'd say get to know your slow cooker (crock pot), it's really easy to make fast/cheap meals in there that you don't have to slave over a stove to prepare. I'm not a mom myself, but a lot of mothers I know swear by using the Crockpot at least once or twice a week! SLOW COOKERS are great!

Also, aside from are other ways I save money:

*I do my OWN manicures/pedicures. At home.
*I do NOT color my hair, get massages or get facials. I buy my razors/shaving gel/soap/shampoo at a Warehouse type store! Saves huge!
*I buy most of my beauty products like moisturizers, face cleansers from reputable sellers on Ebay! I usually save anywhere from $5--$40 doing it this way, INCLUDING the shipping/handling!
*I don't buy clothes unless they're majorly on sale, and I take care of my clothes so they last me literally years!
*I don't smoke cigarettes, this saves a lot also!
*We now only rent movies from Redbox where they're $1 a night and we watch them that same day! HUGE money-saver!
*We don't really go to movies unless someone surprises with a gift card to the theater--then we do! Thanks to your friends for this one!
*I stopped buying bottled water and now use re-usable, re-fillable containers to take my water with me on the go!
*I ALWAYS make my own coffee/tea at home!
*If I don't buy those beauty products online, THAT'S when I really use the coupons--$1 for most cosmetics every Sunday in the paper! I'll double them up with sales at the drugstores...i.e....$1.00 of ANY Cover Girl/Lorea'l cosmetic AND 30% of those brands at my local drug store! Score!
*I rarely buy new books, I use my library very frequnetly and know it in and out!

So, those are the ways that I save a lot of money! I live pretty damn frugally and make my things last and last and last. I grew up with a grandma from the Depression who's motto was "use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without!" I LOVE new things and treating myself, but I only do it about twice a year! For me, saving money is a better feeling than having a house full of crap I don't use/need, or even know I have! I've had the "urge to purge" lately too! My husband and I are moving next month and I've been going through things and throwing stuff out left and right--garbage bags full of stuff! Oh, and we also like to scour garage sales--they're fun and you can find some great things! If I lived closer to SLC, I'd come to yours! :)

Living frugally takes time and effort, and often prepartion, It IS a lifestyle, and it can be difficult to get used to, but once you do it, you really don't miss all the EXTRA's you use to have!

I wish you, and your family, all the very best! I hope I've helped, and again, sorry for the length!

Many Blessings Always,
-Sarah Liz :)

P.S. Realize that OCCASIONALLY, it's OKAY to splurge--like once a month or so...or every few months! After all, you have to live and today is all we really have!

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Liz

We're about a 90 minute drive north of Brisbane on the east has a wet/dry seaspon climate, perhaps similar to southern Florida? Summers are hot and humid (a very predictable 90F and 80% humidity everyday) winters are warm and dry (70F and very little rain from July -October, personally 70F is cold for me and i'll be rugged up in woolies and ugg boots!)

I've got some recipes and photos of everything on my blog, if you're interested i'll get you a log in - i have to keep it private (psycho exes etc) It was good having a look back through the archives just then actually - found some favourite old recipes i'd forgotten about!

Oh also - I don't know what Serge is like but in my experience don't let men do the shopping - they never seem to look at the prices!
I know a lot of people here have said to cut back on meant - but i can't do it and He just wouldn't cope. I work out a lot and i NEED my protein otherwise i just gorge on carbs to compensate. But by keeping my eyes open, buying stuff on special and tossing it into the freezer I can have my meat and not overspend.

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Family of four with two teenagers and two cats. We probably spend about $500-$600 a month on groceries. Ack. We eat a lot of fresh produce and go through it fast so it adds up. I am growing my own garden this year so probably we have a bit lower bill for these summer months since we have our own lettuce, peppers, broccoli, beans, and (soon) tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini. Crock pot is my life saver since I work full time and often have to get dinner ready quickly before evening activities. Lots of great recipes out there and is a relief to go to work and know that I won't have to frantically run around throwing something together when I get home.

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhockeychic

With two children (ages 6-8), my husband and I spend about $100-150 per week on groceries. We do not eat meat but do manage to buy mostly organic products. We try to grow some produce, frequent the farmers markets, and buy in bulk whenever possible.
One thing that saves a ton is learning (or teaching your husband) how to bake. A 5 pound sack of organic flour may cost $5.00 but with it I am able to make a dozen bagels (which would cost $9.00), a loaf of sandwich bread (approx. $4.00), a few pizza doughs (pizza would probably run $15-20.00 depending on toppings), a couple batches of cookies ($4.00 per bag), waffles ($ 3.00 per box frozen), and cheese crackers ($4.00 per box). It does take a bit of time but once you get the hang of it it becomes routine. For example, most nights after dinner I mix up a batch of Mark Bittman's no-knead dough (recipe can be found on NY Times) and since it gets better as it sits I can then decide when to make something out of it. With dough on hand I can make potpies, calzones, baguettes for subs, or anything else without too much prep time.

Letting time work for me I also don't buy canned beans ($2.00 per can, organic) instead I soak pot of black or pinto beans once a week and cook enough to make burritos, soups, stews,etc.)
In the summer, I use popsicle molds to make my own popsicles (good juice, no artificial colors), frozen yogurt bars, and even adult pops with cheap pink wine and fruit).
We do have chickens for eggs although after paying for their food and coop lighting we only break even. Still, there is quite a joy in opening the nest box and finding food just sitting there.

We rarely eat out (being vegetarian makes it difficult) but when we do we treat ourselves to the most important elements: wine, appetizers, and dessert and often split an entree.

And about the alcohol, sometimes it is best to decide what part you really crave-taste or effect. If your goal is to relax and get a slight buzz it may actually be cheaper to buy a bottle of hard liquor rather than wine. A stiff whiskey sour can take the place of three glasses of wine for me (no shame there) which is often what I can end up drinking once the cork is popped.
You should also consider how much you are spending on disposable paper towels and napkins.Buying cloth napkins and dish rags saves money and is better for the environment (plus it makes the table look so much nicer when set). If you have a sewing machine you can buy fabric on sale (often at $1.00-$3.00 per yard, which can make 6-8 napkins depending on fabric width). If you are packing lunches you may want to look at how much disposable plastic bags are and go with something like a tiffin (to go wear has them). It may be more upfront but over time it does make a difference.
And take advantage of this time when your child is not fussy about clothes to frequent local thrift shops. Consider them hand-me downs from friends you do not yet know.

August 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermiriam

Better late than never, right?

The blog "The Simple Dollar" is one I keep in my feed reader. There is some really amazing, simple, and innovative advice given on there (though some of it is boring or not relevant to my own situation). Anyway, totally recommend you check it out:

I'm single* and budget $250 per month on food (to include eating out). My basic strategies: buy staples in bulk (flour, sugar, oil, salt, etc), don't buy more than I can eat before it expires, supplement with homegrown (even if you just do a tiny herb garden, this helps to diversify the staples with ease, like basil with eggs), pay attention to unit price at the grocery store. Also, I second the advice to use stuff over: roast beef day one (which is easy to cook because you throw it in a slow cooker and forget about it) then vegetable-beef soup the second day.

*I spent the last three years cooking all meals for my family of three, which is way easier than cooking for one.

August 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Not late at all. Keep the advice rolling in! Loving it.

August 5, 2009 | Registered CommenterMonica

I agree on the bed baking thing - my parents make their own bread because they're pretty much retired and have the time. It costs a fraction of what store bought bread costs and tastes so much better...there is simply nothing like tearing open a freshly baked bread roll and smearing it with butter and vegemite. But my partner and I both work full time jobs involving a lot of interstate (me) and overseas (him) travel...we just don't have time for the whole bread baking thing which is a shame...because if you tried my Dad's sourdough and caraway rye you'd truly believe that man can live on bread alone.

August 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Miriam said: And about the alcohol, sometimes it is best to decide what part you really crave-taste or effect. If your goal is to relax and get a slight buzz it may actually be cheaper to buy a bottle of hard liquor rather than wine. A stiff whiskey sour can take the place of three glasses of wine for me (no shame there) which is often what I can end up drinking once the cork is popped.

The Girl Who said: I never thought of this. For me it definitely is the buzz. I do enjoy a cold beer in the summer but can easily get the same affect with ice water. I always stayed away from hard liquor because I was such a nutter on it in my twenties. But this idea has a lot of merit. Thanks, Miriam!

August 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTheGirlWho

Oatmeal for breakfast (have a serving roughly twice the size of those little packets and add your own dried fruit, spices, honey, etc) and Cheerios for lunch, are fine for me a lot of days. Cheerios appears to be the best and healthiest cereal for the money available, and it always seems to be on sale and/or couponed. Don't get generic; they will (probably) be largely corn sryup and filler, as opposed to whole grain. A bowl of Cheerios is a lot better for you than a lot of what most people eat for lunch on workdays (Or maybe I just work with too many TV-dinner-and-pop-tarting maniacs who then wonder why they get cranky by 3pm) and saves you going out on an expensive food run. Of course, if you can take leftovers or sandwiches into work, that's great too. I'm talking about days you (or I) don't manage to do that. People don't mind or think it's weird if you have oatmeal at your desk first thing in the morning, especially if you're early. And for me breakfast is what tends to make me late.

Bananas (very cheap) and other fruit are my snacks. Tea is also cheaper, better for you, less addictive, quicker and easier to make than coffee. Trader Joe's also makes good, cheap, healthy snack bars, without all the partially hydrogenated and other crap that many of the name brands have in. These help you stay away from vending machines.

Also, get a large steel (not aluminium or Nalgene) bottle to take drinking water to work with you, even if you can't manage a packed lunch (I certainly can't most days.) That will help you avoid sodas, or even bottled water, which costs about the same.

At times neither of us has the time or inclination to cook, we can stretch a large Chinese or other Asian takeaway quite far for the money. Salad can also become a meal if you add guacamole, boiled egg or beans, etc. and wrap it in a tortilla.

And, if you're going to drink anyway and can control your portions there too (I tend not to, personally), vodka or similar, plus mixer is much lower calorie than wine or beer. (Also, frozen orange or other fruit juice is better than soda here too.) You look fine to me, but you mentioned wanting to lose some weight (though I'm not sure where from!)

August 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterL

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