Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

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chasebrooklyn1985
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Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by chasebrooklyn1985 » Wed Jun 26, 2019 2:41 pm

I just don't get it. My girlfriend and I cook in every night. Sure, it's cheaper than eating out, about half as much as if we went to a restaurant. I've documented everything I spent this month on food and it comes out to $450. My gf has spent about $300. So that's $750 for two people.

I live in NYC. We shop at Whole Foods, but it doesn't really matter because even the basic supermarkets near us are all the same price as Whole Foods. In fact. many items are actually cheaper at WF than they are at C-Town, Foodtown, or Associate.

Our grocery bill has been the most difficult expense for me to cut so far. The thing is, I get really freaking hungry. I find myself craving food and it seems like I'm always hungry. I try to eat mostly organic, and if it's meat, only organic. And no, I don't eat a lot of meat. Mostly just chicken, and no way am I going to buy that Tyson feedlot chicken.

Also, I gave up milk and replaced it with Oat Milk which is awesome, but actually cost more! I prefer it to milk. But still, it's $6 per half gallon, bringing my monthly oat milk total to $36. I eat a lot of cereal, cold and hot.

I stopped eating in restaurants about a 9 months ago and realized that I had been blowing about $800 a month on restaurant meals. Everything from soup & sandwich shops to proper sit down meals with tipping.

I don't miss it much either. My gf is such an amazing cook and it's been fun learning on my own.

Then I gave up drinking in bars, another $500 per month. I'd just buy craft beer at Whole Foods and take it home to have with dinner. That cut my alcohol consumption down to about $200 per month.

Now I haven't had a drink since January, so I'm at $0 alcohol and $0 restaurant expenses, but still $400-$600 for just myself on groceries each month. I simply don't understand how anyone can get by on $150 a month, let alone $75 like some on here claim.

Anyone have a monthly grocery bill breakdown they can post?

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Stahlmann
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by Stahlmann » Wed Jun 26, 2019 2:59 pm

prolly:
- there're waaay simpler ways to provide enough calories and (maybe not?) all of the vitamins
- if you cook something everyday, it means you complicate it too much
- 100-150$ mo. score counts really hardcore regime like not buying seasonings, but growing them

bigato
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by bigato » Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:05 pm

You got it backwards. *You* should post your groceries breakdown and then we could comment on that. It makes no sense to post everyone else's because each is tailored to each person's habits, lifestyle, location, country. I can tell you how to have a 50 dollars a month food category by being vegan in Brazil, does it even matter? Obviously not. What you need to do is detailed tracking which I guess you haven't, and then sub-categorize it for analysis.

Gilberto de Piento
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by Gilberto de Piento » Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:05 pm

My grocery bill is $200 to 300 a month and I am always concerned when it is closer to $300 than $200. I started saving receipts to try to see if there was something I could do but I just haven't had the time or energy to look into it. I don't have the data but it feels like an "80/20" situation where a few items really drive up the total. For example, a while back I bought $20 in meat for one meal with friends. It doesn't sound bad but that's 10% of my monthly spend even though it was only part of one of the 90 meals I'll eat this month.

Congratulations on the $0 alcohol and restaurants, that would be hard to do.

When comparing grocery bills we should probably adjust for size, exercise level, etc. If you are a huge dude who does manual labor all day and is into bodybuilding that might explain your expenses when combined with the cost of food in your location.

bigato
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by bigato » Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:34 pm

I suggest using some smartphone app for this, so that you enter the items as soon as you buy them and it becomes a habit. Letting receipts pile up doesn't work for me because I get lazy and loose some.

chasebrooklyn1985
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by chasebrooklyn1985 » Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:40 pm

Stahlmann wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 2:59 pm
Wow, fast replies.

How am I complicating things by cooking every day?

As for the gardening, I live in a small apartment in NYC. Fire department doesn't allow us to have planters on our fire escape. So no growing of herbs, seasonings or veggie garden for me. Bummer.

Ok, so $150 is hardcore. That's good to know. I was beginning to think that was the norm for FIRE people.

chasebrooklyn1985
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by chasebrooklyn1985 » Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:42 pm

bigato wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:05 pm
Ok, fair enough. Makes sense.

And yes, I did a pretty detailed tracking of it this month. I will post it in a few.

Edit*** I take that back. I only included the price and the store. I'll revisit after a month and be sure to include all items as well.
Last edited by chasebrooklyn1985 on Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

chasebrooklyn1985
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by chasebrooklyn1985 » Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:44 pm

Gilberto de Piento wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:05 pm
Thanks!

Yeah, I have a few of those huge expenses too. Ice cream is my vice, and at $10-$12 per pint, it can really do some damage.

No, I'm not a big dude at all. 5'11" at 155-160lbs. I am active though.

chasebrooklyn1985
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by chasebrooklyn1985 » Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:46 pm

bigato wrote:
Wed Jun 26, 2019 3:34 pm
I suggest using some smartphone app for this, so that you enter the items as soon as you buy them and it becomes a habit. Letting receipts pile up doesn't work for me because I get lazy and loose some.
I've been recording every purchase on a spreadsheet this month. I find it easier than typing things on a phone screen. I do it once I get home from the grocery store too, so that I don't forget.

Thanks!

anesde
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by anesde » Wed Jun 26, 2019 4:10 pm

Where in NYC? Manhattan is very tough for groceries, almost everything is significantly more expensive. However by your name I assume Brooklyn? More options there.

First up is assessing what you’re buying and whether you really need all of the items, or if there are cheaper alternatives that you would be happy with or you could forgo altogether. This is along the lines of your reduced alcohol content. Easiest is removing packaged foods, ready made marinades, basically anything that isn’t whole foods. Shop on the perimeter and don’t venture into the aisles.

Second is buying in bulk as much as possible. 10kg bags of rice, beans, pasta, oats, anything non perishable. You say you’re a fit guy - if you don’t have a car this is all about using a backpack and two strong IKEA bags to walk to the nearest ethnic grocer (Indian, Hispanic, etc) to buy. Most of these places are cash and carry but you’ll definitely find them in Brooklyn. Take the opportunity to combine activities whenever possible - if you can get a ride with friends to Costco, etc. If you really want to go crazy invest in a nice chest freezer, rent a car for a weekend and head out to a farm in upstate NJ to buy chicken in bulk at better prices. More outlay on day 1 but cheaper in the long run.

Third is to consider how much food you really need. To be fair at 5’-11” and 160 you’re pretty light already but unless you really exercise a lot or have a very active job I doubt you need that many calories in the first place.

bigato
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by bigato » Wed Jun 26, 2019 4:17 pm

No problem, be welcome to the forums by the way!
Remember that this is not about critizing where you are indulging. Just consider the detailed tracking a educational exercise. Your habits will be influenced by the mere act of typing them everyday, and when you get questions like those in your OP, you'll be able to answer them objectively and make a proper cost/benefit analysis on the results. Often you will be able to get the same or better benefit for less cost. What we can remember is far from accurate enough for these purposes.

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Dream of Freedom
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by Dream of Freedom » Wed Jun 26, 2019 4:25 pm

The thing is, I get really freaking hungry. I find myself craving food and it seems like I'm always hungry. I try to eat mostly organic, and if it's meat, only organic. And no, I don't eat a lot of meat. Mostly just chicken, and no way am I going to buy that Tyson feedlot chicken.
Dude if you are hungry all the time there are some things you could try. First, try getting at least 20g of protein first thing in the morning. I like eggs. The second is paying attention to the glycemic index. If you have high insulin it will make you hungry.

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Lemur
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by Lemur » Wed Jun 26, 2019 4:25 pm

I managed under $150.00 a month if I count just my own eating habits: Lentils, Rice, Beans, Chicken, Potatoes, and Veggies.
My vice is diet sodas & energy drinks.

Practically, its around $300 (edit: upwards of $400) for us (including a child). My wife likes meat & dairy and her ethnic Asian foods. Could never get her to make beans a regular part of her diet but she did influence me to eat rice frequently.

cimorene12
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by cimorene12 » Wed Jun 26, 2019 4:51 pm

I spend fairly lavishly on groceries BUT I will say that this thread made me re-read the section in the ERE book about how to optimize your food. Jacob is a big fan of Kuhn Rikon pressure cookers. Nowadays, Instant Pots are very popular, too. You do a batch of a one-pot recipe and that's your food for a few days. Rinse and repeat.

You're in a high cost of living area, too.

The comments in this thread about your caloric intake reminded me of an MMM article about eating more fat. Maybe it's worth experimenting with a big high-protein high-calorie breakfast if you find that you're getting hungry frequently throughout the day.
https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/04 ... -nutrient/

Dave
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by Dave » Wed Jun 26, 2019 6:01 pm

Welcome!

I'm with Bigato - please post your spending and we can give specific feedback.

But, you've given enough clues to point out what the likely "problems" are. Basically, animal products are expensive. Meat, especially organic like the chicken you mentioned, is extremely expensive by a calories/$ or protein/$ measurement. Even if you don't eat lots of meat, this can add up very fast. Milk, even (especially) the non-animal type, tends to be very expensive, too. You say Whole Foods isn't more than other stores nearby, and I don't have proof you're wrong where you live. But I have to think you can find some grocery stores that may be a little further away that are meaningfully cheaper (see comments about international grocers).

This topic was discussed on the forums pretty recently, and someone made a useful post that looked at what it would cost to live off of something extremely basic like white rice and black beans. I don't recall the post, else I'd link it here, but the basic point was that you can live extraordinarily cheap if you followed a basic diet like that. Of course, almost no one will live like that for multiple reasons (e.g. taste and need for broader array of nutrients), but it's a useful yardstick to see what is possible. You can do this yourself quickly: figure out the cost for 30 days worth of your maintenance calories of white rice.

The basic idea of eating cheaply is to buy foods in bulk (grains and legumes go a long way here) that are minimally processed commodity products (therefore have no marketing dollars and large profit margins baked into the price). Focus on in-season produce, loss leader products, and foods that are just generally cheap like bananas and carrots. International grocery stores tend to be cheaper in several areas I have lived in over the years.

A lot of this will vary based off your approach to nutrition (i.e. someone following organic Paleo simply cannot compete on cost with a non-organic whole food plant based eater), but I follow the guidance above in Honolulu and spend less than $150/month on groceries. For a period in Indianapolis and then Chicago I was spending less than $50 per month on groceries, but I don't think I was eating a very balanced and overall healthy diet. But I did it for a number of months without issues.

This is a fun topic and I think one tie-in would be that learning how to cook well can really help you stretch your money into more delicious meals per dollar. Back during that phase I mentioned of low-cost eating I was eating really simply and a lot of my meals were pretty boring. I believe loosening the purse strings just a small bit can go a long way. I've been experimenting with various types of Indian dal fries and bean soups and am making food that is very tasty while also quite cheap. So if you're serious about this area, it's worth spending some time learning to cook different sorts of foods well.

A recent book I've read that is helpful with this, especially with legume-based dishes, is Salt Acid Fat Heat. If someone thinks that beans or lentils are a boring food to eat, they are properly eating beans that are improperly salted, lack acid (e.g. vinegar/citrus juice/tomatoes/pickles of some type), do not have enough fat, or are cooked to a poor texture. Something to think about if you find yourself thinking that all cheap food must be boring/bland.

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fiby41
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by fiby41 » Wed Jun 26, 2019 11:52 pm

First month in Moscow was 1700 rubles on groceries. Second month was 2400 rubles. Following months in the budget of 2500 rubles.
I use a 1.5L pressure cooker. Cooks 2 meals each time, which lasts about a day. Dairy for breakfast.
I go out for eating non vegetarian. Outside non veg is affordable but veg is expensive. I'm not paying 100 rubles for a 100 gm bowl of salad which is just grated vegetable without salt or spice.

Seppia
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by Seppia » Thu Jun 27, 2019 12:44 am

I lived in Manhattan and shopped exclusively (almost) in Whole Foods.
Family of 2, budget came out to around $260 per month.

We never went cheap on the ingredients, but following these simple rules you’ll be below 95% of the people’s budgets.

- no packaged foods.
- eat less meat, and use it as a condiment (carbonara sauce) regather than full meal. We are steak about once a month and chicken maybe twice a month.
- eat more grains/beans.
- let the sales and seasonal items dictate your menu.

Other details:
We never bought anything liquid except for milk. No soda, no ice tea, no mineral water.
No snacks, no candies, no chips, etc.
we shopped almost every day = zero waste.

horsewoman
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by horsewoman » Thu Jun 27, 2019 1:33 am

For me the following tip was a game changer:

Shop with a list and keep a running tally on it where you add the price of any item that goes into the cart. It is a lot easier to let non essential things on the shelf when you see the alarmingly high figure on your list.

Pro tip: divide your food budget through the number of shopping trips in a month (or bi-weekly) and you have the maximum amount that can go in your cart.

I can relate to being hungry all the time. I used to eat huge portions but still felt slightly hungry all the time. An ongoing GERD condition made it necessary to reduce my meals drastically. It took months until my brain caught up. Some day I noticed that I'm seldom hungry these days. So I figure it is conditioning, nothing more, at least in my case.

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Ego
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by Ego » Thu Jun 27, 2019 3:54 am

http://www.jacksnyc.com/

Also, Dollar Stores will often have UHT boxes of nut/grain/soy milk as well as bags of staples like grains, beans and pastas.

Mrs. Ego got to know the staff at one of the $ stores and would call to ask if they had what she was looking for before making the trip. They would set things aside for her as these types of stores are prone to run out of stock.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Grocery Bill: The Most Difficult Thing to Give Up.

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Thu Jun 27, 2019 7:03 am

One of my new favorite authors is Leda Meredith. She is a professional food forager who lives and teaches in NYC. Living in the city is not a good excuse for purely or merely passive involvement in the food system. I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of "The Locavore's Handbook: A Busy Person's Guide to Eating Local on a Budget." Beyond the benefits in terms of saving money, improving quality of diet, and likely helping your local environment, hunting down or your own food or interacting with the humans who grow your food is great fun!

Also, you can forage and/or grow all sorts of food you can't even find in a store. For instance, this week I cooked dishes making use of fresh garlic scapes, alpine strawberries, sour cherries, and a particular variety of Indian mustard greens.

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