Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Milehimama has started a discussion at her blog about grocery spending.

She wants to know: How much does your family spend on groceries? How do you stay on budget?

This is one of my FAVORITE subjects!

I used to be able to feed us all on much less, before Big Brother became a distance-running teenager and Middle Sister hit a growth spurt. In fact, last January's figures aren't even a good comparison! Also, the Big Kids are bringing lunch to school more than they did last year, when they could buy a FULL MEAL for $2.00 a day, so I'm also spending on lunch stuff like hoagie rolls, tuna and lunch meat.

Right now I am feeding 2 adults and 3 kids ages 15, 11 and almost 5. I just went over the past 3 months and including cleaning and laundry supplies, paper goods, greeting cards and a biweekly bag of birdseed to fill the feeder, I've been spending just under $130 each week. We eat meat for dinner 6 out of 7 nights. You can see my dinner menus here. I think we eat pretty well. Generally, there are no complaints from anyone else, except last night when Middle Sister wondered why I don't serve lamb chops (At $10 a pound, kid, that's a $20 dinner!!!!)

My theory is that, as the homemaker in the house, I should be a good steward of our family's money. TheDad works hard to earn it, and I should work hard to use it wisely. I'm fortunate to have a lot of pantry space in the basement, as well as an upright freezer and extra fridge. Last week my favorite supermarket held a big canned-goods sale. I have enough canned tomato puree and crushed tomatoes to keep us in spaghetti sauce for the next year, and I got it at half price.

I try not to pay full price for anything. I won't buy boneless chicken for more than $2.19 a pound. Same for boneless pork loin. I can get roast beef for $3 a pound on sale, and ground beef for $2 a pound. I had been trying not to spend more than 10 cents an ounce on breakfast cereal, but the prices have gone so high and the coupon values dropped so low that this is nearly an impossible dream. I refuse to buy deodorant, hair care products, "feminine necessities," toothbrushes and toothpaste without a sale and coupon.

I do use coupons and combine them with sales whenever possible. My favorite store doubles coupons up to $1 total value. (I got 12 free cans of Goya beans last week with coupons. That's 3 batches of chili!) My neighbor and I each buy two Sunday newspapers. We clip all the coupons and give each other the ones we don't want for ourselves.

I am guessing that with the kids in their "bottomless pit years" I won't be able to cut the food budget much more than I already have. I'd like to keep it fairly stable if I can, though.

UPDATE: To answer some questions from the combox:
We live in the Philadelphia area, and we have found that food prices are generally a little lower than where we grew up (in the New York area). I know that prices vary around the country.

Do I use dried beans, pasta and rice? No dried beans. I've never had success with those. I make chili, etc. with canned beans (got those freebies the other day!!) I buy pasta when it goes on sale, as much at a time as the store will let me buy (usually 12 or 16 boxes). I buy rice in 20-pound sacks and store it in pretzel containers with tight lids (freebies from my neighbor The Utz Guy. All my rice, flour and sugar are stored in Utz bins.)

Where do I buy meat at such low prices? The supermarket. The local butcher closed a couple of years ago. I used to get ground beef there at $1.69 a pound for 90% and it was fantastic.

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