Grocery Shopping With Your Middle Finger

The Grocery Store is the only retail establishment that I visit more than once a month. But even then, we have a bit of a love/hate relationship.

I Love the grocery store, because it is the source of almost all of my food. Under its roof lies a world of unlimited possibilities. It can help me cook up almost any recipe on Earth, and by selecting the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones, I can ensure a fantastic level of health for myself and my family.

But I also Hate the grocery store occasionally, because about 90% of the products in there are pure crap. Colorful boxes and disposable plastic packages containing mostly ridiculous chemicals, colors, and artificial flavors, all mixed over a base of high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oil, and refined white flour.  These things are big contributors to our country’s startling waistline, and while I believe we should still be free to make, sell, and eat these products at our own discretion, it saddens me to see such incredible effort and environmental resources going into creating things that logically should not even exist.

The grocery store also earns my rage with its ever-tricky pricing scheme. Besides the mental filtering required to seek out that Healthy 10% of items not covered by the previous paragraph, there is also a wildly fluctuating game of price-gouging going on at my store (which happens to be Safeway). Lucerne Organic eggs are sometimes $2.99 for a dozen when they are “on sale”, otherwise they are $4.59 and a competing brand becomes $2.99 instead, or some amount in between. Apples can usually be found for a buck or so per pound, except when you grow complacent and they jack them up to $2.49, resulting in you buying yourself a $15 bag of apples if you aren’t paying attention.  Today I needed tomatoes and they had temporarily risen from 99 cents to $3.99 per pound, so my little handful cost me $5.69! Later I learned there is not a nationwide Tomato Embargo as I had assumed – they are still 99 cents at the other grocery store, but Safeway just decided to give ol’ Mr. Money Mustache the shaft in the name of profit. (But now they’re paying for it in the form of bad PR, aren’t they? Take that, you $3.99-a-pound-chargin’ bitches!)

At least you can take comfort that some prices are always stable. Specialty items like little packages of Basil leaves and gluten-free bread mix and the comedically priced fitness supplements depicted in the headline picture of this article follow a year-round ridiculous shaftola pricing scheme.

So what’s a Mustachian to do in a situation like this? I like to call it Grocery Shopping With Your Middle Finger, and here are the main ingredients:

Know the Right Price: I’ve been the family’s main grocery shopper for years, so I know exactly how much all of my main staples should cost. Interestingly enough, I’ve hit grocery stores all across the US on road trips, and I find the prices are surprisingly consistent across the land. That makes it easy to shop efficiently, even while on vacation. If prices are ever significantly above the “right” range, I discreetly stick up both of my middle fingers, swear under my breath, and move on to a substitute good if possible. Conversely, if prices are below the normal range, I’ll stock up like crazy. For items with a long shelf life, this can lead to some interesting results, like the time I bought 30 jars of Classico pasta sauce because it had dropped from $3.50 to $1.50 per jar, or 20 boxes of Quaker Oat Squares cereal because it had temporarily been marked down from $4.50 to $1.00 per box. The cashiers raised an eyebrow each time, but each of these purchases saved me about $50 over the regular price for these products… and gave me a nice inventory at home to help reduce future trips to the store.

I like to think of it as a little algorithm:
- if a food is overpriced, buy zero or the minimum possible amount you can live with
- if a food is regular price, buy an amount to last until your next grocery trip (minimum 1 week supply)
- if a food is underpriced, buy at least enough to last until the next expected sale at this level (4 weeks?)
- if a food is drastically underpriced, buy a near-infinite amount, limited only by shelf life of food and available stock on shelves. If Bananas go to 1 cent per pound, you can’t really benefit. But if rolled oats dropped to an all-time low, I’d probably buy at least a year’s supply (100 pounds).

Use Healthiness and Cost Per Calorie to decide what to eat: I love blueberries and raspberries, and they are good for you. But for most of the year, they are ridiculously expensive – as much as $5.99 for a tiny handful in a 4-oz container.  Those 64 calories are costing you 9.35 cents per calorie. To live solely off blueberries at 2000 calories per day, you’d spend $187 per day ($68,255 per year).

On the other hand, I also love old-fashioned rolled oats*. These can be had for about 70 cents per pound in 9lb boxes at Costco. A pound of rolled oats contains 1714 calories – and fantastic ones too, rich in fiber, protein, and iron. This cost per calorie is 0.041 cents. In other words, Blueberries are about 229 times more expensive than Rolled Oats!! If I lived solely on rolled oats at 2000 calories per day, it would cost me 81.6 cents per day to eat, or $298 per year.

You can use this cost per calorie strategy to optimize your eating – not compromising on health, of course, but just shuffling around healthy foods so that cheaper ones get eaten more. As a few more examples, I personally eat loads of
- raw almonds at $3.99/pound (2720 calories per pound, yielding 0.14 cents per calorie)
- natural (peanuts-only) peanut butter ($2.50/pound, 3000 cals = 0.08 cents/cal)
- 1% milk ($4/gallon ,1760 cals = 0.22 cents/cal)
- bananas (0.69/pound, 500 cals per pound = 0.138 cents/cal).
- basmati rice (0.60/pound, 1600 cals =  0.0375 cents/cal)

Meat is more expensive, for example steak or chicken breast at $5.00/lb for 560 calories yields 0.89 cents per calorie – about 11 times more than the natural peanut butter, which is just as good for you in many ways. Protein, of which I’m a big fan, can easily be supplemented with beans and rice, cheese and eggs, and 6 lb bags of whey protein powder that you can mix into shakes (also from Costco).

Avoid Cutesy little Containers of things that cost $8.00
Nowadays, organic and healthy food has caught on in a big way, especially among the affluent 20-to-40something crowd. When you combine a desire to do the right thing, with the typical free spending middle income earner, you get a highly profitable Sukka Consumer. And Whole Foods and Natural Grocers are right there to make the most of it, with tiny little jars of Mrs. McFancyPants’s Natural Ostrich Feather Butter for $18.99 and Jack McGillicuddy’s Organic Maple Elven Unicorn Syrup Crisp cereal for $77.59 for a 2-serving bag. When I visit the homes of middle-income people these days, I find the pantry absolutely loaded with these big-ticket small-quantity items, and then I understand why their grocery bills are $1000 per month.

Buying luxury health foods from small companies is a great thing to do if you can actually afford it – you’re stickin’ it to the unhealthy factory food system and Monsanto, while supporting the growth of healthier small companies. But if you’re not yet retired, you can’t afford it yet, so why not compromise by buying any reasonably priced organic food you can find at a regular grocery store, build up your ‘stash for now, and then switch to the boutique stuff after your first million?

I also eat fruits and vegetables at every meal, despite their higher cost per calorie, just for the sake of deliciousness and having a healthy balance. I just lean towards things like cucumbers, carrots, apples and bananas, rather than out-of-season blueberries and raspberries from New Zealand, except for special occasions.

To put it all into perspective with an example, let’s review the typical MMM family grocery list for one week. In the earlier “Exposed!” article, I found that we spend an average of $74 per week. Here’s the breakdown. Most foods listed are organic when available at reasonable prices.

Milk: 2 gallons at average $3 (since I only buy organic part of the time): $6
Eggs: 2 dozen at $3.50 each: $7
Bananas: 6 lbs at $0.70: $4.20
Apples: 3 lbs at $1.50 each: $4.50
Misc. fruits and vegetables: 4 pounds at $2 each: $8
Spaghetti (rice noodles gluten free): 1 lb at $3.50
Spaghetti sauce: 1 jar at $3
Chicken, Beef, or Fish: 2 pounds at $6: $12
Cereal, including oats: 2 pounds at $1: $2
Cheese: 1 pound at $3
Coffee: 1/2 pound at $7: $3.50
Various kinds of Beans, rice, whole wheat flour: 3 pounds at 0.60: $1.80 (I make my own bread, yum)
Apple Sauce: $2
olive oil: 4 oz at 0.25: $1
Miscellaneous stuff like dark chocolate, protein powder, spices, recipe ingredients, occasional ice cream, whatever: $10.

This is just a typical list, and it’s an estimate based on buying some things weekly, and other things on the quarterly gigantic $300 stock-up at Costco. The main things I might find noteworthy is that it adds up to the mid $70s weekly for a family of three, it’s mostly organic food and meat, and there is pretty much zero processed prepackaged stuff or desserts in there. It could be cut in half if we switched to non-organic food and dropped the luxury meats and coffee, but hey, as I always say, the MMM family leads a luxurious and decadent life despite the below-average overall costs :-) )

 

* Mr. Money Mustache’s Amazing Save $100 on Cereal Per Year Trick. Not everyone loves cereal, but some of us are addicts and could eat it all day. You know who you are. I have at least a couple bowls daily myself. Four years ago, I invented a trick where I substitute 50-75% of the cereal for plain rolled oats (uncooked, straight out of the container), then pour regular sugary cereal (like honey bunches of oats or raisin bran) on top of that. Mix it up, add some bananas, and you have a super-nice bowl of the good stuff! I actually prefer the texture and taste of this over regular boxed cereal. For every pound of oats you use up doing this, you save about $2.00, since cereal in boxes costs around $2.70/pound and oats are only $0.70. I kept track for a year, and found I had used 50 lbs of oats. I’ve saved $400 so far with just this trick, and it helped me sharpen up the abdomen as well due to the reduced sugar and higher fiber!

 An update, two years later:  Since writing this article, the adults in our family have switched to a lower-carbohydrate and higher-fat style of eating, with even better results. Instead of cereal, I have a heartier breakfast with eggs and avocados.  Less pasta and more stir-fried vegetables. If your current plan works for you, stick with it. But if you ever need to lose fat, try dropping all bread and sugars (including most fruit juice – eat the fruit instead) and see what happens.

 

Welcome New Readers! Take a look around. Feeling Hardcore? Start at the first article and read your way through using the links at the bottom of each article. Casual Sampler? Browse the complete list of all posts since the beginning of time. Hope to see you around here more often. ~ Love, Mr. Money Mustache

Where to next? Check out a Random Article

Stay in Touch: Subscribe to posts by e-mail, RSS Feed, or follow MMM on Twitter and Facebook.

Join the Conversation: Learn from Like-Minded Mustachians in The Money Mustache Community

Get MMM automatically
by email:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Tags:

124 Responses to “Grocery Shopping With Your Middle Finger”

  1. Adrienne August 23, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    After years of stocking up low and avoid high at the grocery I found that 1 simple thing is saving me over $200 per month. I shop at Aldi. Not only am I saving money but time as well (small store and fewer choices). It takes some getting used to and I can’t get 100% of the things I need but it is the single best thing I have done for my grocery budget (and it’s more enjoyable to boot).

    • MMM August 23, 2011 at 10:06 am #

      Thanks for the tip. I had to look up ALDI since I had never heard of it. Looks like it is only in the Eastern US so far, reaching only to Kansas. But they are doing well and expanding.. Perhaps Colorado is next!

      • Stephen September 11, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

        Even better than Aldi is Trader Joe’s (the organic version of Aldi’s that is run by the same guy). One of my favorite retail establishments when I was in Chicago, but sadly, they are not in Florida yet.

      • Matt October 14, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

        Oh Aldi is wonderful! Mmmmmmm… $2 dollar frozen pizzas!! 10 cent ramen…. oh college life :)

        They’re also in Germany!
        Or Originate in Germany… German company…

        • turboseize December 18, 2011 at 12:56 am #

          Aldi is short for Albrecht Discount and belongs/belonged to two brothers from my hometown. They split up the company between them and defined spheres of influence: Aldi North and Aldi South.
          The business model is extreme frugality: eliminate all unnecessary vier, buy in bulk. No luxuries. Example: Somewhen in the 1990s, Germany changed postal codes (e.G. 4500 Essen 1 became 45130 Essen). Until late in the 2000s, for business mail Aldi would use envelopes with the adress with old postal code stamped onto, the postal code then crossed out and the “new” one added by hand. Envelopes were from recycled paper, of course.
          With this mixture of frugality and “thinking big” they transformed their parent’s little grocery store into two big corporations and became the richest germans.

          • turboseize December 18, 2011 at 1:03 am #

            Sorry for the typographic error, I’m using my phone and auto correction is playing tricks on me…
            The sentence concerning business model should have been: “eliminate all unnecessary cost, buy in bulk.”

            • Rob October 13, 2013 at 6:12 am #

              I’m back in Germany and ALDIs has won me over, not only because of low prices but great quality. There fruit/veggies are usually local and half the price of competing chains. They’re also surprisingly big into organic.

    • Latoya November 9, 2012 at 8:44 am #

      My family and I love Aldi! We’ve cut our grocery bill completely in half! When we buy $60-$70 worth of food, our cart is super full with food and we’re stocked for 2 weeks! We’ve been buying a lot of their ground turkey instead of beef and it really saves us money..(Not to mention it’s healthier for you!)

    • Stephanie February 19, 2013 at 6:31 am #

      My father told me about Aldi and it quickly became stop #3 on my shopping list. One of our local grocers is my first stop. They regularly have marked down produce & meat. I always look for bargains there first before buying full priced meats & produce. My second stop is a local chain of discount grocers called “Sharp Shopper”. They offer marked down dry goods, refrigerated & freezer items as well as produce, baked goods & bulk items. Some of these items are beyond expiration date or close to expiration date, so one must be mindful when shopping. And like at Aldi, I don’t get everything I need there, but I can score some good deals. I also use an app called “Menu Planner” to help me track prices & sales at stores around town. It allows me to sort my list by store and only items that are cheapest at that store show up on that store’s grocery list. This allows me to plan my route to save gas $ and time.
      Thank you MMM, I am enjoying your site!! Your content is so refreshing!!

  2. Chrissy August 23, 2011 at 8:17 am #

    Thanks, MMM, you just reminded me how much I love, but forget about apple sauce!

    I’d love to see your bread recipe. Mr O and I don’t eat bread often, but I like to buy some of the good whole wheat, seedy stuff from the bakery for weekend toast indulgence. It’d be even more fun and badass to make our own.

  3. Heather August 23, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    Three cheers to avoiding the silly food while shopping. Luckily the grocery store arranges things so that there are entire aisles that I never even have to go into. Snacks, and drinks, for instance.

    After considering the cost, we have decided that frozen blueberries are a worthwhile luxury. We eat them in happily ridiculous quantities. “We are rich!”, I say to myself. “Look at all these blueberries!”. The cost is high, and this is how we have chosen to spend some of our wealth. I believe that we are getting a good ratio of happiness per dollar.

    • MMM August 23, 2011 at 8:54 am #

      Good point, Heather. We have secretly started eating more blueberries recently as well, because hey, it’s just as fun as buying a motorboat but much better for the Earth.

    • kiwano February 8, 2012 at 11:51 am #

      Oddly enough, my big “I’m so rich” moments of that sort come when I fill up a glass or bottle of tap water. I mean look at all this safe, tasty drinking water that I can get simply by turning a knob for a few seconds. Not only that, it comes in a wide range of temperatures. No hunting down creeks, digging wells, or storing rain for this spoiled mammal!

      (That said, a good deal of this may have come from biking across Canada when I was 28, and from living on a boat for 8 years; both situations where having safe water to drink involves a lot more work, tasty just isn’t practical much of the time, and choosing the temperature is right out of the question.)

      • Sarah July 13, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

        I always feel ridiculous ly luxurious when I take a long hot shower. Look at all this steamy hot water at my command, I think to myself. I am the richest person on earth. Even washing my hands in deliciously hot water makes me feel fabulous.

  4. Mr. Frugal Toque August 23, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    A few months ago I built a Money Saving Shelf in the basement for just this purpose. It has a wide array of goods purchased on sale: rice, crackers, pasta, canned/jarred pasta sauce, canned vegetables and fruit, 40L of cranberry juice (we’ll let you know if that keeps) etc. etc.
    Not only is the Shelf good for saving money, we’re also a little further along the way to being proofed against various Apocalypses (economic, zombie, etc.)

  5. B August 23, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    MMM, why do you shop a Safeway? I find the prices to be a little bit better at King Soopers. For some staples I even hit up the super target.

    • MMM August 23, 2011 at 9:23 am #

      Another excellent point! I agree, King Soopers is better than Safeway in many ways. I have started shopping there more recently. Safeway was the default choice since it is only 1.5 miles from my house (vs. 2.5 miles for KS), and I do all shopping by bike with trailer. Better organic food selection too. After yesterday’s Tomato incident, I’m just about ready to give Safeway the Permanent Middle Finger.

    • Kevin M August 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

      King Soopers? What a strange name.

      • MMM August 23, 2011 at 12:07 pm #

        I agree, but not as strange as the Kum ‘n’ Go gas station chain or In’n’Out Burgers :-)

        • Anne-Marie September 25, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

          Or Piggly Wiggly in Georgia

        • Jeff October 25, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

          I’ve heard the “Kum n’ Go” referred to as the “Ejaculate and Evacuate”!

          • sms October 24, 2012 at 9:03 am #

            You just made my day with that comment

    • J.Two June 7, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

      Also, King Soopers (Kroger inc for you out in other lands: Qfc, City Market..) has a “price guarantee” whereby the product is free if it rings up wrong. Ime, Safeway rings up incorrectly at least TEN TIMES as much as King Soopers; of course, higher almost without exception. It must be a sheer coincidence.. ;)) Safeway (Ralphs, Vons..): someone steals from you and it’s the crime of shoplifting, which you actively prosecute-rightfully so; yet, when you consistently STEAL from us?….

      No, I don’t work for Krogers or any other grocery company yet remain baffled why these companies refuse to offer honest products at honest prices. To the crooked/idiotic companies:the data and research is available: one can make MORE money, by being honest and ethical and treating your employees and customers well. Duh. Ever hear of Warren Buffet? (A little ‘stach tip to MMM, I know what a fan you are :))))) )

  6. Margie August 23, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Now THAT is impressive customer service! You realize I’m going to expect all of my suggestions to be turned into blog entries within the hour.
    I’m very interested in what you stock up on at Costco. I’ve ever been and wonder if it would be worth a trip to the suburbs once a month? I tend to be frugal about some food items and splurge on others. We rarely eat out and I make most of our snacks from scratch, but I pay $6.50/gallon for organic, non-homogenized, local milk. We have breakfast-for-dinner nights, make-do with what’s in the fridge nights, and receive some free, local produce from volunteering at our community garden. Still, I pay $150/week for food. We did take the kids blueberry picking this summer and bought about 10 pounds of pesticide-free blueberries for $1.65/pound. Of course, the kids ate them faster than we could pick them, so we labored hard for those berries. Thank you for the cereal tip. We spend a ridiculous amount of money on cereal, and it’s not very healthy and it goes SO quickly.

    • Aleks December 1, 2012 at 2:55 am #

      Trader Joe’s is basically an urban version of Costco’s. They both have the same strategy: rather than having 50 million choices, there’s 1-2 versions of every item (almost exclusively store brand), at a great price. This means products turn over much more quickly, which means the store saves lots of money on rent, advertising, storage, etc., all of which get passed onto the consumer in the form of lower prices.

      The only real difference is that Costco generally sells items in huge quantities, while Trader Joe’s items are normal-sized. So obviously the prices are better at Costco, but you have to temper that with the fact that you’re driving to the suburbs (which potentially means you need to own a car in the first place), and that you may be tempted to buy stuff you don’t really need.

      For me, if it’s a choice between walking four blocks to TJ’s, or renting a Zipcar to drive to Costco in the industrial district, I’ll pick TJ’s every time.

  7. David Baillieul August 23, 2011 at 11:15 am #

    We do the same thing with Classico sauce. It is the only sauce we really like, and really stock up on sale days :)

    • miamoo August 31, 2013 at 10:59 am #

      Ever tried Francisco Rinaldi? If it’s available in your area it’s just as tasty (if not better) than Classico and when on sale $1.19 – $1.25/jar.

  8. Kevin M August 23, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    Interesting trick with the oats. I will try that.

    Funny you mentioned almonds – I saw a pricing error at the store yesterday – the regular shelf had the Blue Diamond brand 2 cans for $6, but the cardboard display at the end of the aisle had them 2/$3. I stocked up and was ready when the checker rang them up for $3 each. Told her exactly where the sign was and she complimented me on my good deal (while instructing the stock boy to take down the sign).

  9. Executioner August 23, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    Apologies in advance for the food rant that is about to occur. I am passionate about my eating.

    #1: I am shocked that you, MMM, didn’t mention that you do some of your own gardening and/or participate in a shared agricultural resource like a CSA or a farmer’s market. This can dramatically increase the quality of your food (amazingly fresh, local, organic) while simultaneously decreasing its cost. My wife and I participate in a CSA. We regularly bring home freshly-harvested local and organic fruit and vegetables in excessive quantities, at a fraction of the cost. Our per-week expenditure is $27, and we take home a quantity of food which would easily cost $60-75 if bought in the organic section of the local supermarket (not even considering what it would cost at Whole Foods). This is the best way to give the grocery store the middle finger: don’t buy food there if you don’t have to!

    #2: Protein. The meat industry has done a fantastic job of convincing people that they need to consume large quantities of meat or risk wasting away from some sort of scary, mysterious protein deficiency syndrome. “Protein” is not synonymous with “meat”. Beans and rice are protein. Soy is protein. Nuts, corn, potatoes, cheese, and milk are protein. Many vegetables have non-trivial amounts of protein. It is extremely difficult to fail to eat enough protein in a modern industrialized nation.

    #3: Cost per calorie. Your body needs macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc) in order to function at its best. If you shop only for calories, you’re getting a good deal on carbs, fat, and protien, but possibly missing out on nutrition. You did touch on this somewhat by mentioning you eat fruits and vegetables for every meal.

    Looks like the MMM family does buy a lot of whole foods, though, rather than processed items (cereal and pasta sauce excepted), which is definitely a good thing. And consider that when you buy organic you are trading off higher food prices in the short term for better overall health (and hopefully lower health-related costs) in the long run. Garbage in, garbage out.

    • MMM August 23, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

      Nice Rant Executioner!
      I am shocked too – we didn’t grow a garden this year because we are always away for most of the summer, and Colorado is too hot and dry to leave a garden on auto-pilot for that long – one small error in the irrigation system with nobody around to adjust, and your plants are just crispy brown skeletons within days. But I will look into this CSA idea (?) . Our local farmer’s market sucks, far more expensive than the grocery store, so that option doesn’t help. Next year I have a plan: contribute early-season labor to the garden of a local friend who has a huge plot. Then reap the rewards when I return after annual vacation.

      I agree with your protein ideas. Even when I’m in a phase of mega exercise and heavy weightlifting (as I am this week), the diet seems to do the trick, adding muscle as needed with no shortage of energy.

      • Executioner August 23, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

        CSA = Community Supported Agriculture. There are several models, but the most typical has you buying a future “share” of a farm’s produce at the start of the growing season, and receiving a proportional amount of the harvest on a regular basis (for example weekly) as long as the land is producing.

        A quick search of your area turned up one candidate:
        http://www.pachamamafarm.com/csa.htm

      • Kathy P. August 23, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

        MMM, you can search for CSA’s near you at http://www.localharvest.org/

        • Raymond April 11, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

          Kathy, thank you! I found a CSA nearby. I passed there everyday and did not know it. Fresh veggies, fruits, organic chicken and beef, even wild-caught Salmon in summer. Save some mustaches and be healthier, Great!

      • Finally getting fugal mommy of 4 May 17, 2013 at 5:20 am #

        Dear MMM,
        So happy a friend told me about you. OMG!!! Does my family need your advice. We are a family of 6 and spend the awful close to $1000 a month on food. UGH!!! Going to try your suggestions. So appreciate your insight.
        Have you heard of a tower garden? You could grow your own produce year round and you can get a auto watering system with it so you don’t have to worry so much about the Colorado summers or being gone. We live in Colorado as well. It is the best investment ever!!! I can give you more information if you are interested. I actually sell them b/c I feel so passionate about helping families become healthier but I never considered the thought of helping people financially by growing their own food.
        You rock!!! My husband is so thrilled we found you. Keep up the good work!!!

  10. Liz August 23, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    I endorse your grocery manifesto since it generally matches my own habits, in a preaching-to-the-choir kind of way. Since there are only two people in my household, Costco’s usually too overwhelming. A 25 pound bag of oatmeal takes too long to consume. I buy smaller amounts from the bulk aisle. Try Molly Wizenberg’s recipe for granola, it was in her Bon Appetit column ages ago,and her blog Orangette is inspiring. That granola is my go-to cereal these days. Fast to put together, not overly sweet, a good basic recipe easily adapted to items on hand. Try it once and it’s hard to go back to cereal from a box…

  11. Dan August 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) is just like any other sugar, right? As long as you’re not gaining weight and you have a decent BMI and body fat percentage, and you’re getting enough fruits and vegetables, it’s OK to have sugar mixed in with other foods, no?

    Reason I ask – I’ve been debating whether paying for the organic natural peanut butter (about $2.70/pound) is really worth the approx 80% premium over the regular, HFCS laden stuff ($1.40/pound) [both prices from Costco].

    Similarly, 18 slice 16 ounce loaves of 100% whole wheat bread at our local bakery thrift store (on way to Costco) is just a buck a loaf, but of course this has HFCS too; still, is much cheaper than homemade bread (to say nothing of convenience).

    I also like beans quite a bit – 16 ounce cans of Rosarito’s refried beans (pinto beans with plenty of sodium and oil) are about 88 cents; only a 20 cent premium over an equivalent per pound weight of uncooked dry pinto beans in Costco sizes – well worth it for the no-hassle factor. Admittedly the salt and the oil aren’t ideal but again if my blood pressure is under 120/80 (so salt is not really an issue) and my weight is A-OK with enough fruits/vegetables (so the oil is alright), why not go with the canned?

    Last question MMM – have you considered Trader Joe’s? Large jar of spaghetti sauce for $1.80. You don’t have the 10 lb bag of red delicious apples at Costco for $10 (sometimes $8) instead of your $1.5/lb metric? You can totally also get cheese for under $2/lb by buying the Mexican blend 5.5lb bag at Costco and freezing a large portion until needed, and note that frozen vegetables are usually more healthy than fresh, so you could cut your vegetable cost by 50% by switching to frozen broccoli and peas etc [Target usually has these at $1 per one pound bag, and you can take another 5% off that if you have the Target RedCard].

    • MMM August 23, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

      I’m not a nutrition expert, although I have read a couple of Marion Nestle books. According to her, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is not yet proven to be any worse than other kinds of sugar. Some studies have suggested a mild increased obesity link, but not too many major well-done studies have been completed. So you have a good point. The real key is almost ANY added sugar is bad – nutrition experts say we should eat less than 20 grams of refined sugar per day, yet a single can of soda has about 40 grams and the average US resident consumes more like 120 grams. Sugar basically messes up your body’s apetite control and makes you eat more than you’re really hungry for.

      Also good points about Costco – I could cut my grocery costs much more if I could get there more often. Unfortunately, the nearest one to me is in a neighboring town almost 21 miles away.. so I only visit when I have another excuse to go to that area. Or in the worst case, I might make a dedicated trip if I’ll be buying $300+ of groceries (which saves over $100 since Costco seems to have certain things at about half of Safeway prices).

      Trader Joe’s – I WISH! .. they have not yet come to Colorado. I almost want to move elsewhere, just for this shortcoming :-(

      • Kathy P. August 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

        High Fructose Corn Syrup has been linked to a higher than normal occurrence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. A quick search turned up at least five studies on PubMed at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=HFCS%20fatty%20liver%20disease&itool=QuerySuggestion. And of course any number of health websites and blogs have picked up on this. That’s why some soda brands now have taken to bragging that their products are now made with “real sugar” as if that makes sugar sweetened sodas into real health food!

        • Dan August 23, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

          If you do any quick search you can find a study to support anything. Soda brands market to us to sell us crap not because they care about our health; in fact if a food company advertises to me that something’s healthy then I assume they’re probably spinning something beyond it’s original intent (since a food company doesn’t generally care about health, obviously). I know the health blogs are up in arms over how HFCS is bad but I think this is a “fake” health initiative because when you really dig into it, sugar is sugar. Similar to how most health blogs tout the superiority to local fresh vegetables when in fact frozen vegetables are often much more healthy, and when vegetables from distant farmland (through modern efficient logistics) can often be better for the environment than “local” food (which often means land that wasn’t best suited for growing was used; small trucks with inefficient distribution and fuel burning were involved; etc).

          • Kathy P. August 23, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

            Um…the link I gave was for the studies on PubMed at the NIH. As in the The National Institutes of Health. As in peer-reviewed and all that. I know better than to simply cite blather from health blogs, though in this case they seem to have found the studies as well. So perhaps they do know what they’re talking about sometimes.

          • Dan August 23, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

            Are you saying the NIH’s official stance is that HFCS is worse than sugar? Sorry but I don’t buy it.

          • Kenoryn October 20, 2012 at 11:58 am #

            “Sugar is sugar” is actually not quite true. There are various forms of sugars; the ones we think of as sugar most often are glucose and fructose. Glucose is what your body uses in glycolysis and Kreb’s cycle to produce energy. Glucose and fructose are both ‘simple sugars’, or monosaccharides. They can both be used in chains with other simple sugars to create disaccharides (two simple sugars together) or polysaccharides. Glucose is what your body makes when it breaks down complex carbohydrates – polysaccharides. Fructose is found naturally in fruits, mostly. Table sugar is a disaccharide made of one glucose and one fructose – so it’s 50/50 glucose/fructose. Now, glucose and fructose share the same molecular formula, but are arranged differently, so they can be converted one to the other. Fructose is sweeter, so sweeteners with more fructose are also sweeter. HFCS has undergone an enzymatic process to convert some of its glucose to fructose to get some particular desired glucose/fructose ratio. Now, it didn’t start out as sucrose, so that’s not to say it’s greater than 50% fructose, necessarily. There are different formulations of HFCS, some with more fructose than glucose, but not all. Common formulations are 55% fructose, 42% fructose, or 90% fructose. Glucose and fructose are processed a little bit differently by the body. I’m not a biologist, so I can’t really elaborate on the details of that. I understand the body regulates glucose absorption somewhat differently and the mechanisms for fructose uptake are not fully understood. So, suffice to say: there is a difference between high-fructose corn syrup and sugar (sucrose), and it could very well be better or worse for you.

      • reader from the rockies November 14, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

        Good news for when you visit Denver. At least one Trader Joe’s is opening in the Mile High City (on Colorado Blvd). I believe there may be a second one planned. Maybe Boulder is in the works?

    • Diane August 23, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

      Ooh! The Costco Organic Peanut Butter is so good! It’s more expensive than non-organic, but it’s the best price for organic that I’ve ever seen. It’s a must-have on my frugal shopping list.

  12. Kathy P. August 23, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    I too am surprised you didn’t mention gardening, farmers’ markets or CSA’s. I just went out to the garden and picked a huge bowl of yellow and purple (turn green when cooked) string and Italian beans, and filled an 8 quart basket (that local peaches came in, I froze 27 pints) with homegrown heirloom slicing and paste tomatoes. I won’t be able to eat them all, and even after giving some away, some tomatoes will become sauce in the freezer. I already have two gallons of frozen beans in there and the latest haul will be added to it. I have four buttercup squash plants that have climbed to the top of a 15′ evergreen, each with several bright green squashes dangling among the branches like giant Christmas ornaments. I also bought 2 bakers’ dozen (26 ears) of fresh, local sweet corn last week, for freezing. That works out to 38 cents an ear that will be far superior to the expensive “fresh” Florida sweet corn that will appear in the supermarkets in February or so. Fresh, local blueberries are 4.50 a quart, as were local strawberries back in June. I endeavor to not shop in the supermarket any more than necessary. All meat is obtained locally as well, pastured beef, pork and chicken. Pastured, organic chicken eggs are $3.50 – $4/dozen. I’m done with the CAFO crap meat in the stores. The only way to beat that obscenely cruel system into oblivion is to boycott it. In another week or two, I’ll get to work planting the cold frame that will provide greens at least through Christmas and once the daylight exceeds 10 hours in February, I’ll be eating fresh spinach in March.

    Supermarkets: phooey! LOL!

    • MMM August 23, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

      Fantastic! I now realize I am a food beginner and will be learning some of your tricks this year.

  13. Cam Juniper August 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    While Costco perhaps reduces the need for this, I stock up on nonperishables by buying cases or in bulk (for steel cut oats and legumes). Many stores offer a discount for cases or bulk amounts.

    I’d also recommend looking into food or purchasing co-ops in your area. Some are not necessarily set up with store fronts but are groups of people who use bulk purchasing power to get things at or near cost. Some require you to buy in, which may or may not be worth it; some waive fees in return for volunteering to sort/deliver items.

    The right neighbors and coworkers can be wonderful sources of free or cheap vegetables. I have some who tend to share garden abundances, some handing them out and others selling vegetables on their front lawns for very little money.

  14. Dan August 23, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    Anyone ever tried making your own pasta sauce? The #10 can of tomato sauce at Costco works out to $0.35/lb – super cheap. Just need to add some olive oil and basil, oregano, etc, right? And then could freeze portions – would last 3 to 6 months and save a ton?

    • Mel Lip Stubble June 13, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

      We definitely do that exact thing. Sauté a ton of garlic, add olive oil and the tasty San Marzano tomatoes from Costco. Let it simmer for 2-3 hours on a Sunday afternoon to break down the tomatoes and then divide out portions for the freezer. When you want to use it, you can add whatever veggies or spices you want at the time so you can mix it up. Or boil it down to make a thicker sauce for pizza. Humph…buy pasta sauce….the idea…

  15. rjack August 23, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    I eat a Paleo diet which basically is low-carb, grass-fed meat, vegetables, some fruit, and no grains and legumes. Also, no processed foods. As a result, I’ve lost over 30lbs and feel great. However, from a food bill standpoint, I’m f*cked!

    • Aleks December 1, 2012 at 3:00 am #

      Your health is much more important than your income. If you know that grains and legumes are bad for you, then keep going the way you’re going.

      That said, I have to ask, did you cut out grains/legumes and processed foods at the same time?

      The jury is out on paleo in general, but pretty much everyone agrees that the less processed junk you eat, the healthier you’ll be. You might find that adding in some amount of cereals, like home-cooked rice and lentils, would save you quite a bit of money without putting the weight back on.

    • Vana October 15, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

      We had the same problem eating Paleo. We now save throughout the year and purchase our grass fed beef (1/4 cow) once a year from an organic farmer in central florida. Also, since we live in the fishing capital of the world (Florida according to WFN haha) we have now taken up fishing and are hoping to start catching some of our meals soon! Currently we do not buy fish at the supermarket due the high prices and the controversy surrounding the truth behind what kind of fish is really being packaged vs what u r being charged for. Anyways the freshest fish at WF’s can’t compare in taste n freshness with fresh caught. Needless to say I no longer buy meat at the grocery store.

  16. Marcia @Frugal Healthy Simple August 23, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    Very awesome blog post. Our eating habits are pretty similar to yours. I’ve gone pretty close to vegetarian in the past, but now have added a bit of meat once/week. Which means, I may cook up a pound or two, and we eat it as a garnish in our meals (chicken on our salad, in our pasta, etc.) I’ve done that because I’ve noticed more of a sensitivity to carbohydrates as I get older. I buy organic milk and yogurt and local and/or organic eggs and meats.

    I used to have a price book – first on paper, then in Excel, and now in my head. I found that for grains, Trader Joe’s wins (sorry you don’t have one! We have three.) And Whole Foods is surprisingly reasonable, if you don’t go hungry. If you go hungry, you’ll end up buying lots of stuff you don’t need. But otherwise, the bulk bins have the best price on rolled oats and some other things I buy regularly (nuts and seeds that I can’t always get elsewhere, dried beans).

    I find Costco to be a good deal on some frozen veg, canned tomatoes, and dairy. Plus yeast and bread flour. I haven’t bought apples there because I’m an apple snob. Red delicious? Um, no. It’s pink lady for me.

    And the gardening/CSA thing. We’ve done a bit of gardening here and there, but aren’t particularly good at it. We may get a few tomatoes and a couple of carrots, but don’t spend enough time/effort to get more than that. But we’ve been members of a local CSA for 11 years, and that is definitely a good deal. We get 10-15 lbs of produce a week for about 20 bucks (organic). Often they have family “pick your own strawberries” days. This year was the first “pick as many early girl tomatoes as you want” day (free with membership). My husband came home with 30 lbs. So now I know how to can salsa and spaghetti sauce. Last year we canned a lot of tangerine marmalade (we have a tangerine tree). Last week I made applesauce from many pounds of apples that my boss brought in from his tree.

    We do have snacks in our house, but probably a lot less than most. My husband likes his raisin bran, my son likes the occasional yogurt tube or applesauce. We have tortilla chips and sometimes we have crackers.

  17. Jackson August 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    “- natural (peanuts-only) peanut butter ($2.50/pound, 3000 cals = 0.08 cents/cal)
    - 1% milk ($4/gallon ,1760 cals = 0.22 cents/cal)”

    Mr. Mustache, what brand of natural peanut butter do you buy? Does it say “natural” or something like that on the jar? Why do you buy 1% milk instead of fat-free milk? Taste or some other reason?

  18. Dan August 23, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

    I hear you, the red delicious can be a bit bitter. Costco has a 14 pack of pink ladies for $7.50 usually… and you cannot beat the 5 lb bag of tortilla chips for $4 at Costco. Only 4 grams fat per serving, and you can freeze them / refrigerate them to extend the shelf life.

  19. rosarugosa August 23, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    My husband makes all our spaghetti sauce and we freeze it in meal-sized portions. i don’t know if it saves us money, but it’s a million times better than jar sauce – even Classico (which isn’t too bad for the jar stuff). Guess you all must not be italian!

    • Dan August 23, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

      Worthless comment without a recipe

      • Chris August 23, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

        Use Google, noob

        • MMM September 7, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

          I think Dan was trying to make one of those “pretend-grumpy-but-actually-friendly” comments, in effect honoring rosarugosa’s idea by asking for the recipe.

          But his Internet manners are still in need of a little polishing. Note to Dan – situations like this are precisely why the Smiley face was invented. ;-)

          Further Assignment for Dan: practice writing friendlier-sounding responses in all MMM comment forums, since we’re all friends here!

  20. Ademac August 23, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

    My badass trick for getting cheap meats is to know a butcher that slaughters his own beasts.
    How this works is I spend a day with the butcher(family friend) and 3 or 4 members of my wife’s family to help with the butchering/bagging

    end result is I get a 50/60 kilos of meat for $3, 5/6 hours of my labour and time spent with family and friends.

    In a family of carnivores that is enough meat to last 6 months then we do it again. Even the dog loves it as the bones don’t go to waste.

  21. poorplayer August 23, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    One of the great blessings of living in WNY is the abundant amount of produce during harvest time. For me, gardening is actually a waste of time (unless you get personal enjoyment out of it) simply because at this time of the year there is almost every kind of fresh produce you can name readily available in bulk grown by everyone from the Amish to boomerhippies. It is actually cost-inefficient for me to grow my own garden, but I do keep two tomato plants, cucumbers and peppers just because. A bushel of tomatoes – about 6 bucks. Sweet corn $3.50/dozen. Green beans, squash, broccoli, etc. Good time of year.
    There are also people in the area doing grass-fed beef, buffalo, pork and poultry. Buying a quarter of a grass-fed cow keeps me in beef for a year. We already have our Thanksgiving turkey picked out.
    I tend to prefer oat bran over rolled oats for my breakfast cereal. A handful of some crunchy granola added in, a little honey, voila. Locally roasted coffee tops that off (I am a coffee addict).
    Trying to eat right as well as eat well in this culture is a challenge. You really have to spend the time to read labels, do a reasonable amount of research, and stay alert. But I will offer perhaps a tad bit of heresy – despite all its evils and ills, there is still something to be said about a food supply that can provide a reasonable diet to so many people in this country. We have a lot less starvation here than in most countries around the world, and the fact that we enjoy in this country a relatively long life span is in part due to our ability to produce the amounts and types of food we do. It’s not perfect, and it has its evils, but I do not think that Americans would want to return to the state of the food supply in the 1920s or before. To be sure, what we have is not sustainable, but at the same time it should be given its due for what it has accomplished.

  22. Shralp August 23, 2011 at 9:24 pm #

    I’m enjoying the blog MMM. It’s helped motivate me to make some financial decisions that are really making a difference in my household. One of those is our food purchases.

    One of the best and easiest things we are doing is planning meals a week or two in advance. We write them in a little notebook that we take to the store. It makes shopping easier, faster and cheaper as we aren’t impulse buying. We also shop on a weekend afternoon, when we aren’t hungry or in a rush.

    Because there are just two of us in the house we often have trouble finishing food items before they spoil (beans, pasta sauce, dairy, veggies, etc.). By planning our meals in advance we eat two or three similar meals during the week that will use any remaining ingredients before they spoil. For example we have tacos one night and use the leftover ingredients to make enchiladas, which can be eaten soon or easily frozen for another day.

    It’s been fun to start cooking together again, we are eating less than we would at a restaurant and spending less at the same time. Win x 3!

  23. Tomas August 24, 2011 at 3:06 am #

    I’d suggest some traditional preparation methods such as soaking and fermenting to minimize the amounts of antinutrients in oats.
    You can start here
    http://paleohacks.com/questions/25556/baked-oatmeal-recipe-oats-soaked-in-whey-buckwheat-pics-incl#axzz1Ub7nae2x

  24. Jaclyn August 24, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    I have been a proud cereal junkie for 25 years. I love the tip about the rolled oats.

  25. Oskar August 24, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Great post, we also buy almost only whole foods and no processed stuff and I think that is the biggest save.

    When we lived in the US we were very close to a farmers market we were usually the only people there who were not latin american or asian…well I was since my wife is half Mexican:-)..the food was great and prices low, the tomatoes did not look as shiny as in the local ACME store but they had much more taste..the same was true for most of the produce. I think some are afraid to go to such places because they are not what they are used to.

    Another note on alternative stores like ALDI, we do not have ALDI were we live (in Sweden) but we do have a similar (also German owned) store called LIDL. This store has a less options but they have everything you need. Very fast shoping and very good prices normally. They even joke in their adverticing about how there are so many options for tomato ketchup in other stores (with botles ataching a woman shoping) But with LIDL there is no stress you can choose ther own brand and the most popular brand (Heinz)…..the questions you ask yourself after that comercial is why in the world would anyone ever need more choices?????

    Our food budget is simiar to yours, maybe a littla higher but then we also have higher food prices than the US. We manage to keep it low also because we buy some meet (lamb, chicken) from local farmers once a year and stock up, good price and great quality.

  26. Wendy August 24, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Love your blog, MMM. Keep up the good work!

    We eat vegetarian at home. My husband is a vegetarian and occasionally my toddler and I will have some fish at my parents’ home. We also try to avoid processed as much as possible, but we do like our veggie Italian sausage on occasion! We live walking distance from a Ralph’s, but only go there for a handful of items, such as milk, flour and butter. In general, I find the produce at large chains to be overpriced, especially for organic items. Mostly we shop at Trader Joe’s, go to the Farmer’s market, shop at the various ethnic markets Los Angeles has to offer, and benefit from my parents’ awesome veggie garden. But I know that I am extremely fortunate to have frugal old world village parents who not only provide us with homegrown veggies and scout out all the best ethnic markets (because this can be intimidating), but will mock me if I pay too much for green beans!

  27. Jon August 26, 2011 at 6:24 am #

    I understand that the widespread perception is that “organic” food is healthier/better for you. I assume that is why MMM is advocating it, but I have not been able to find any scientific evidence that it truly *is* healthier. Since many studies have indicated that there is very little if any benefit to organic produce, I can’t see paying a premium for it. If anyone can point me to a scientific study that *proves* organics are better, I am happy to change my opinion.

    http://thisorthat.com/blog/5-myths-about-organic-foods-why-the-organic-movement-is-a-load-of-bush

    • MMM August 26, 2011 at 7:42 am #

      Good point.. I haven’t done much research about the health aspects. I mainly buy organic for the environmental benefits, since I do know a little bit about farming and the environmental effects of chemical vs. Organic growing.

      • Oskar August 26, 2011 at 9:15 am #

        On this point i agree with MMM that the main point of organic is the environmental effects, if it is also more healthy that is a nice extra. I don’t know if it is because a lack of interest in the environment but i find that advertising for organic food in the US focus on positive health effects often that it is better for your children but in Europe and other parts of the world the focus is on environment and then secondly maybe on positive health effects.

        I also think there is a question of content here, many types of fruit and vegetables that are grown using chemicals grow really fast and as such contain mainly water.

        • Kenoryn October 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

          While some advocates will claim organic food has higher nutritional value, I think the point of that is not that identical tomato plants, grown under different conditions, would produce tomatoes with different nutritional values, but that the organic food movement (and local food) often comes with more variety and options: you can choose an heirloom variety of tomato that was once bred for its flavour and other such qualities that are irrelevant to the mass-producers of tomatoes, who use modern hybrids primarily developed for traits like being able to stand up to shipping long distances, resistance to cracks and diseases, and a nice shiny round red shape that consumers will accept. The argument, I believe, is that nutritional value has also accordingly been sidelined in the pursuit of the most commercially viable tomatoes.

          The other health issue, of course, which is what most people who buy organic for health reasons will cite, is pesticide and herbicide residues. If you are not interested in eating carcinogens along with your food, organic is the way to go. That matters less for some things like avocados and bananas, which you peel, but could be more important for something like cauliflower or romaine lettuce, which you can only wash so thoroughly due to their shape. The argument food producers use is that, while pesticides and herbicides are demonstrated to be toxic and carcinogenic, we don’t eat enough of them to affect us. Of course, no studies have been done, nor reasonably could be done, on the cumulative effects of all the carcinogens we’re exposed to in our lives. It is safe to say, however, that carcinogens lead to cancer, and organic food is an option for those who aren’t sure that food regulators have all the facts to make decisions about how many carcinogens we ought to be eating each day.

  28. Mark August 26, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

    oh yah, they can completely give away aisle 1 as long as aigle 2 through 10 are regular priced. as long as you are buying all your stuff there, they can totally give away things and raise the others to normal or high price.

    it is just a game.

  29. kim_n21 September 4, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    Unlike several other commenters, I’m actually glad you didn’t mention growing your own food or a CSA share in this article. It was nice to read a grocery shopping article that focused on what you can do at a regular grocery store. I live in an apartment building with no outdoor space at all and can’t grow my own food and I live alone, so a CSA share would be really impractical (too much food for one person and too expensive for my budget as well). While I wholeheartedly agree that gardening and other options are great for the environment and great for saving money, I think a lot of people don’t remember or don’t realize that they aren’t viable options for everyone. A good chunk of the urban population only has access to grocery stores (and not even always large, suburban grocery stores- my nearest store is tiny and overpriced because they can be. I am lucky to have a car and can get to a large suburban supermarket, but this isn’t true for everyone in my area). It can be disheartening sometimes to read an article that focuses on food costs and realize that the main tips are not ones I can use because of limits of geography or living spaces.

    • Kenoryn October 1, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

      kim_n21, I guess I’m coming late to the party here, but wanted to point out for you and any future readers of this comment that a lot of CSAs offer half-shares (meant for two people). With one of those you could freeze or can or otherwise store the half you’re not eating, thus saving you money during the winter months in exchange for higher expense during summer. If you pay more for heat and electricity in winter it might sort of balance out.

  30. Flea September 4, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Well i stumbled upon your site while on LH .. and i am one that is always looking at ways to pinch penny’s … being the guy in my family of 3 it has always brought odd looks when i am at the grocery store. but i am the best at shopping … (thanks to my mom and her being a single mom when i was raised) …

    for my wife and 18 year old boy our monthly grocery cost is around 250$ give or take a little bit each month for the occasional splurge … and i do not think i can trim it down much more then that till our boy is out of the house …

    no matter what grocery store i go to .. there are about 70% of the isles that i do not bother going down … it is almost to where i just stick to the outter rim of the store and avoid most center isles … i do though wish we had a store like Costco around here .. closest thing is a Sams Club but after going there on and off for a year i did not renew my membership as the prices were in most cases not any cheaper then where i already shopped .. just larger quantities .. plus the extra 9+ miles to get there…

    we live in a small to middle sized town .. and sadly my job is in another town over 30 miles away … one day i hope to be able to move to an area where we can do away with our cars .. or at least just have one and it only rarely be used… as that is the second largest expense per month for us.

    now time to catch up on the rest of your site.

  31. Graey September 6, 2011 at 6:26 am #

    You can save a lot of money by buying generic when you can. They’re usually of similar quality, and sometimes even the same product put into two different packages. Give it a try. Buy one of each, get some friends, and have a taste test, blinded for sure, and double blinded if possible. You’ll be surprised at how little difference, if any, there is. If you can’t tell which is which, save your money and buy generic.

    Also, “organic foods” are almost always considerably more expensive than the alternative. Everyone has their own reasons for buying organic, but if it’s for nutrition, save your money. Organics aren’t any more nutritious than normal food. (And if it’s to ‘stick it to the man,’ be sure exactly what company you’re dealing with and its relationship to other big name companies; a lot of organic companies are just subsidiaries of the same corporations you’re trying to avoid.)

  32. Jen September 7, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Your algorithm would make a good app!
    I shop like you do, avoiding the middle aisles, amazed at the junk people pay good money for. We also supplement our diet with our garden, preserving things for winter when we have time.
    I wanted to share this – if everyone spent 10% of their food budget (about one dollar a day) on locally grown food, they could bring a lot of money into their local economy and create jobs. In NC that adds up to $3.5 billion (http://www.cefs.ncsu.edu/whatwedo/foodsystems/10percent.html). No man is an island after all.

    • Dan September 7, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

      Jen, that’s nonsensical. You don’t create a job just by moving your spending from one place to another, you just move the job. If we all spent more locally the net effect would be zero. Further, why do you think it is OK to care more about someone who by chance happens to be within a given geographical proximity to you? If the person is 5,000+ miles away you think they’re less valuable?

      • MMM September 7, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

        Hey, nothing wrong with promoting your own community. You are right that the net effect on job creation is the same either way. But it’s natural that we humans will prioritize our immediate environment more than that of strangers. Otherwise the US government would not spend any of its money on domestic programs at all – because the need is much greater in Africa!

        Plus, promoting smaller and more local economies will tend to reduce the amount of shipping that goes on, and get people more invested in their own communities – forming more relationships, being drawn into more cooperative ventures, depending less on TV for their leisure time.. overall a healthy thing for overall human happiness, which is really the only goal I am shooting for myself.

  33. Dan September 7, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    Agreed MMM, I was trying to be friendly, but a “friendly challenge” way (i.e. I was not agreeing) – much as you often use “friendly aggressive language” to encourage us to view something in a different light.

    I think it’s wrong of human beings to value those in close proximity to those at long distance. Taking a job from a tomato farmer in California to give one in New Jersey is just geographically racist (for lack of a better term). It may have no net effect, but it certainly shouldn’t make you feel better about yourself. We have a duty to see things how they are, not how they appear to be.

    Further, MMM, you can’t just consider shipping costs. You have to consider all of the energy and other opportunity costs involved in shifting your purchases from distance production to local production. As Stephen Landsburg thoughtfully points out (which disembowels the whole ‘buy local produce’ nonsense):

    “For example, as Budiansky puts it, “it is sinful in New York City to buy a tomato grown in California because of the energy spent to truck it across the country”…. you should care about all those costs. And here are some other things you should care about: How many grapes were sacrificed by growing that California tomato in a place where there might have been a vineyard? How many morning commutes are increased, and by how much, because that New York greenhouse displaces a conveniently located housing development? What useful tasks could those California workers perform if they weren’t busy growing tomatoes? What about the New York workers? What alternative uses were there for the fertilizers and the farming equipment — or better yet, the resources that went into producing those fertilizers and farming equipment — in each location?

    Budiansky ignores all that to focus strictly on energy consumpion. But the quality of our lives depends on a lot more than energy consumption, so Budiansky’s narrow-minded computations are strictly loco.”

    http://www.thebigquestions.com/2010/08/23/loco-vores/

    • MMM September 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

      Yup, all excellent points. It is indeed a bit pretentious for me to assume that “shipping” is the only thing to try to avoid in my purchasing habits, since I could easily be missing many other hidden local energy wastes – even if my goal is solely to reduce energy use.

      Your thebigquestions.com article suggests that price is a good approximation of the true social cost of things. That is a good point, except I think our current pricing scheme drastically undervalues the ecosystem, which we’re eating away at a difficult-to-measure pace (although I have read in the past that the US level of consumption runs at 4x the sustainable rate on a per-capita basis). It also undervalues core human happiness – we all overwork and overconsume while acquiring a level of happiness that is shittier than many countries with much lower GDP per capita. It boils down to one reason: most people don’t understand what actually produces happiness a standard human mind (and it turns out there is a simple formula for it!), so they try to create it with consumption instead.

      So I’m out there breaking the market system, saying, “Fuck the price-only model, and let’s figure out how to make ourselves happy while pushing our entire society closer to that model as well”. It’s an ambitious goal for a little tiny blog, eh?

      • Dan September 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

        Ambitious goal indeed, but one that makes your blog posts so fun and compelling.

        Agreed price doesn’t capture everything and undervalues lots of things. Gas is way too cheap, for just one of a zillion examples. But just looking at whether something is local or not is an even worse way to measure something’s “true cost”. Price is the best we’ve got.

        If we really want to push humanity towards less consumption and more happiness, perhaps we should focus on pulling the least globally fortunate out of true poverty first. I’d argue this takes precedence even to spending on fancy solar panels, buying local produce, etc. Take the pledge, anyone? http://www.thelifeyoucansave.com/why

        • Kenoryn October 1, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

          Buying local produce (and other foods besides produce) is an important part of pulling the least globally fortunate out of poverty. This is because, when it’s local, you can find out exactly where it came from and what conditions it was grown under. If you buy mass-produced tomatoes from Florida, chances are much better that they come from a place that exploits its workers with low pay and dangerous working conditions. The welfare of workers is also not included in prices: if anything, there’s an inverse relationship. The cheaper it is, the more likely it is that it was brought to you so cheaply at someone else’s expense. The same is true of environmental costs. It’s called ‘externalizing costs’ – doing things as cheaply as possible from a strictly short-term monetary perspective has bigger costs down the road that, fortunately for the producer, are usually paid by someone else. For example, producers don’t generally have to pay for the healthcare costs of people whose health is adversely affected by the pollution they generate (e.g. cancer, asthma). Nor do they have to pay the remediation costs of contamination (unless it’s site-specific). They don’t have to pay for damages to other industries, such as fisheries, done by the harm they cause to the ecosystem. They don’t have to pay for the storage space in landfills their products take up. They don’t have to pay to ship or recycle the waste. They won’t have to pay for housing refugees from parts of the world that are flooded due to climate change. Those costs are instead passed on to the consumer, and, worse, to the innocent citizen/taxpayer who didn’t even consume their products. And the costs are much worse than just monetary expenses.

          Since we were talking about tomatoes, the book ‘Tomatoland’ is a good read about these issues. But here’s a brief summary: http://willowhousechronicles.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/tomatoland/

          Of course there are a lot of other important considerations. Buying locally usually also means eating seasonally – adjusting your diet according to what’s available. This gives you more awareness of where your food comes from and what’s involved in growing it. The things that are available in season are generally the lowest energy to produce. Obviously growing something out of season might take more energy, but you can easily avoid that by simply not buy things out of season. You will also likely be buying foods that are practical for your climate. Here in Canada, for example, I won’t be getting local bananas, but peaches, strawberries, apples – sure!

          Buying from small-scale farmers rather than Big Ag will promote a more stable and sustainable food system, without monocultures, like diversity in a portfolio.

          Having diverse small-scale food sources close to home and integrated with other land uses rather than huge swathes of Big Ag results in better communities with a variety of uses within an area, to reduce commuting, reduce stress on any one area caused by the impacts of a particular land use such as agriculture (e.g. nutrient input leading to lake eutrophication, chemical input to waterways, overuse of water for irrigation, etc.) reduce a community’s dependence on outside sources, which can be a huge benefit for stability in the case of natural disasters, etc., and foster a sense of community and social connection, with potential improvements to crime rates, care for the elderly, etc., as well as overall happiness and life satisfaction.

          Also, the food is just better – tomatoes are a great example since, when shipped from afar, they’re picked green and artificially ripened rather than vine-ripened. Everyone who’s ever had a fresh tomato from the garden knows that it’s simply 100% more delicious than the cardboard store-bought variety. And you can get all kinds of fun varieties from your local farmer that you can’t get at the grocery store.

          But the bottom line is that when you buy local, you can find out exactly where it came from, how it was grown, and what’s in it. You can get to know your farmer and rest assured that s/he’s making the kind of decisions you can support.

  34. Dan September 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm #

    As MMM says, it may be true that “it’s natural that we humans will prioritize our immediate environment more than that of strangers.” However I think this is one of humanity’s biggest moral failings – that we let ourselves be lulled into a sense that if I can’t see things wrong around me (because everyone seems happily taken care of in my community), then things are super-hunky-dory. To the extent we want to make a difference to our planet and future generations (of any race or nationality), we must embrace the impacts of our choices to the whole planet. Reduction in consumerism can and should take place side by side with global free trade and a disassociation with “community first” ideals. It may sound radical but I think we should do a better job of “world first” or “humanity first” before “community first”.

    • MMM September 7, 2011 at 2:33 pm #

      Man, you’re sounding less standard-issue-conservative than I thought :-). You are more like The Economist magazine now, which I read religiously.

      I also think that humanity first is a good goal. In fact, promoting a nationwide reduction in consumption right here in the US, as well as setting a model of this activity for the rest of the world, is an awfully good thing for humanity!

      • Dan September 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm #

        Call me a libertarian conservative I guess. I think we should encourage, but not require, morality that focuses on less consumption and more care for overall humanity. We should not use government as a tool to propagate our world view; we should do it by building consensus and awareness. Lasting solutions start at the source of people’s priorities themselves, not by adding ever more regulation and state social engineering. Blogs are a great start! Excellent work.

  35. Dan September 7, 2011 at 2:41 pm #

    PS let’s tax the sh*t out of spending (with more sales taxes). Punish buying, not working or saving. Seems like a perfect alignment of anticonsumption and the need for at least some government.

  36. Pachipres September 7, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    Even organic peanut butter is not supposed to be that good for you because of the mold factor on peanuts-organic or not-toxic cancer causing. Heard this from a world renowed nutritionist and my local naturalpathic doctor.

    • MMM September 7, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

      Oh-oh! You had me worried there, so I had to look it up. Peanuts and many other grains contain aflatoxin, which is a cancer causing factor in large enough doses over extended time. But the dosage in peanut butter is far below the scientific safe standard of 15-20 parts per billion. And when it comes down to it, everything causes cancer, except staying in great shape for your whole life, which far outweighs all other factors in preventing trouble. So me and PB can stay togetha.

  37. kasia September 14, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    Hey MMM –
    I’m living in Longmont too, pretty cool to find someone else who is. Subscribed today just to see how you make do with things in the local area. Cheers!

  38. DavidR October 12, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    I’m sure you shop at Simply Bulk on Main Street, but if not, you need to! And say Hi to Phil for me!

    • MMM October 12, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

      I wish I could shop there! .. I admire the style and location of the store and it is a great thing to have on Main Street. But when I checked out the prices on everything, they were deep into Middle Finger territory! I mean, 2-8x more than I would expect to spend. The owner should price-check at the local grocery stores and at least match them. Or even better, buy at Costco where applicable, mark it up 10-50% and you’re still undercutting the local grocery.

  39. Joe November 3, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    Not to be promoting other sites or anything, but what do you think of coupon websites like savings.com or cheapsally.com where they are basically coupon aggregators and they have a bunch of printable coupons for the grocery store. I don’t use them that much but some of the extreme couponers really do. Would be interesting to hear your favorites.

    • MMM November 3, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

      Yeah, I’m a complete non-couponer but I’ve read enough about the extremists to see that they do achieve meaningful cash savings on an hourly basis in some cases. As long as they are having fun with it and not using up time that could be better used for other things that are even more fun or valuable, then hey, why not?

      The thing is, the accounts I have read involve people saving money on Pilsbury dough, hungry man TV dinners, and Glad garbage bags. I don’t buy things like this. If you give me a big stack of $1-or-greater coupons for apples, cucumbers, and organic chicken breast and fish (coupons which I’m sure do exist, I just never see them), then I might become a couponer too.

      • equestrienne8 January 7, 2012 at 11:31 am #

        Love your blog. I am currently revamping all of my consumer habits, and I began this journey last year with couponing. I am in accord that dough and trash bags are not helpful, but you can indeed save on annoying products like shaving, shampoo, household, etc.. and apply those savings to better produce. I was able to save enough to buy my coveted mixer with a dough hook I wanted for two years. Now I need bread making directions!
        Valerie in Houston…a shiny consumptive oil town

  40. CG December 4, 2011 at 8:49 am #

    This is how I shop too. Well, I shop the staples and without my middle fingers but the underlying principle is the same. I spend $300 a month for my family of 5 and we’re not roughing it by any means. We always have great coffee, fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and homemade treats in the house. Most meals are meat based(hubby’s preference). I grow veggies in my garden in the summer. We could go down to $200 a month if the need arose.
    BTW, if you see a $.01 lb sale on bananas you should definitely stock up! Peal and freeze them for smoothies, shakes, banana breads & muffins and a great ice cream substitute.

  41. MacGyverIt December 10, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    Harris Teeter is a fairly expensive grocery store but they have great sales if you can stick to a shopping list. Yesterday they had Kona Coffee (I forget the brand name) on sale buy one get one free and since it’s a staple with a long shelf life, I bought them out. I’ve got enough coffee to last through winter at 50% off. Also picked up Nilla wafers buy one/get one free.

    Another great option for staples is Trader Joe’s. I can purchase natural almond or peanut butter and the like for a reasonable price.

    If you are near a Dollar Tree/Store/General they often have items in stock such as milk, sandwich meat, spices, pasta, etc. not to mention toiletries. I can buy a 16 oz far of salsa or a nice oatmeal soap for $1. This is often cheaper than buy one/get one free deals at the local supermarket/pharmacy.

    Lastly, I plan to take up MMM’s Costco recommendation and thankfully my cousin can add me to her plan for free so no $50 annual charge – my concerns of not making that $50 back in savings are now moot. W00t! I did notice their big pail o’ lentils are actually far more expensive (40 lbs for $59.99) than buying lentils from Shopper’s Food Warehouse at $1.02 for a one pound bag.

  42. Angela January 7, 2012 at 7:33 am #

    We love making “green smoothies” the kids drink them up like crazy and they are a great and inexpensive way to add some extra veggies/fruits in your diet. Not to expensive if you use what fruits are on sale. A smoothie and some nuts is a great healthy and cost effective meal or snack anytime!

    • Shanna January 8, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

      Angela, I will put my comment with yours since it is a similar topic!

      We make 2 quarts of green smoothie a day for breakfast to split between me and my husband and whichever of our 4 children are willing to try it that day. Costco is the go to place for most ingredients since we can go through an entire cart of fruit and vegetables a week. Their frozen fruit prices are the best and we eat at least 1-2 bags a week. One green smoothie a day and you have already had more micronutrients and phytochemicals than most of the entire country probably gets in a week without taking a single vitamin. At night I will make a frutier smoothie just for the kids with hidden cabbage, beet greens, or a couple brussel sprouts and some chia seeds in it. Win!

      Bananas- or what triggered my comment beeper in the first place. If you are using bananas as a smoothie ingredient, for muffins or to add to oatmeal you can peel and freeze them. They actually taste better for a smoothie if they have been frozen. I found red-tape organic bananas for 34 cents a pound one night at a Fred Meyer and bought all 20 lbs and just put them in the freeezer whole and peeled. I have a high powered blender so I don’t chop them up first. Any discount on bananas is great since we eat 6 or so a day. I also take all the left over fruit from the kids and rinse it and freeze it to throw back in their smoothies.

      PS for price checkers -I realise Costco may have cheaper bananas but for some reason I just don’t like their bananas!

  43. Toms March 11, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

    When you mentioned “sticking it to Monsanto..” I knew that you an awesome person. I’m new to this blog but I can see there are a lot of high quality articles here. Keep it up and I hope you can blog more about job interviews, transitioning into the professional world from college, and more articles about money management.

  44. Priam July 20, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

    we eat a lot of meat from a local farmers, their grass fed hamburger is only $6/lb. I suggest you look up the Weston A. Price foundation and Mark’s Daily Apple. I think you would enjoy both!

  45. Beth October 12, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

    I also do most of my shopping at Safeway, and I wanted to add that most of the time, when they have the strange sales, it’s usually for items that are expiring in 1-2 days. The Safeways I’ve been to (in northern CA) are also quite notorious for LEAVING expired items on the shelf. There has been more than one instance where my husband and I, in anger, have emptied an entire shelf of rice pudding (we were really into it for a while!) or such onto the floor, because every container was expired.

    • Diane October 15, 2012 at 10:58 am #

      For Pete’s sake, I hope you don’t mean you literally threw food on the floor in the grocery store! You’re kidding, right?

      I also live in NCA and Safeway is the big player in my town. If I see someone clearing the shelves in a Safeway store (not all that likely, as I don’t grocery shop much), I will be quite tempted to point my finger and say quite loudly “that is NOT a Mustachian, that’s a whiny babypants.”

    • Kay October 28, 2012 at 4:37 am #

      Wait, here you can talk the shops into giving you the things for free if they are expired.. it’s a store policy in many places. If I found a whole shelf with things that don’t really go bad expired I’d be delighted!

  46. ael October 15, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

    I don’t know the geographic distribution of these stores, but Winco Foods (employee owned I believe) has wide choice, including bad for you foods, good for you foods, low prices, fresh vegetables, bulk foods, even grind your own peanut or almond butter. Trader Joe’s has smaller selection but more healthful foods at reasonable prices. And buy your spices at ethnic stores–larger bags, much lower prices.

  47. Kay October 28, 2012 at 4:38 am #

    Why would you buy jars of spaghetti sauce? It’s so easy and fun to make..

    • Robertwa January 9, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

      Here here, Kay! MMM deserves a small face-punch for that. :)

      Marinara sauce is four ingredients: olive oil, onion, garlic and crushed tomatoes. Step 1: put oil in pot. Step 2: sauté garlic and onion. Step 3: add tomatoes. Step 4: simmer at least an hour (2-3 if you want awesome sauce like an Italian grandma would make). Salt and pepper are optional.

      QED. Crushed tomatoes are the secret, diced will make your sauce watery. This also makes great pizza sauce. For double awesomeness, toss your pasta with sauce and cheese before serving. The cheese thickens the sauce nicely.

      If you need to follow a recipe, check out Slate’s “You’re Doing It Wrong” series at http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2012/01/18/the_ultimate_homemade_margherita_pizza_recipe.html. They also have a great Vodka sauce that I am dying to try.

  48. Mark December 14, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    And here I thought I invented the CDI (Calorie per Dollar Index). I hate you MMM (just kidding).

  49. Saverslave December 29, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    Sometimes I make my own cereal. It’s pretty simple. You mix oatmeal, honey, crushed crackers, cinnamon, vanilla, nuts, dried fruit or whatever else you like in a roasting pan and let it bake in the oven. Egg whites with sweetening whipped and blended in, can be used as sweetening and it will still be much healthier than finished products. An you save $$ :)

  50. Andy January 24, 2013 at 3:21 am #

    Damn, I thought I’d invented the ‘rolled oats with regular cereal’ trick!

    I increasingly view trips to the supermarket as a game – what unhealthy crap are they trying to sell me this week, and how can I avoid that and find the best value, healthy, usually organic food instead.

    You probably already know this but I only learned recently that supermarkets pay a ‘stocking premium’ to have their products at more accessible, eye-level locations on the shelves. Unbelievably, people will buy more of these to save having to bend down or reach up high! So a good tip is to look at the top of bottom of a section as those products haven’t paid as much to be there – in my supermarket the healthy organic stuff is usually hidden away on the top shelf.

  51. cv April 26, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

    No one here invented cereal with rolled oats- the Germans did, and it’s called Muesli (German style); they also invented Aldi, Passiv haus and championed high percentage income saving. One of the most productive year of life I spent learning how to live lean is living abroad in Germany.

  52. burnchar June 8, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    Mr. Mustache:

    While I know the organic/GMO debate can be tiresome, may I most sincerely suggest you read this Oxford talk from one of the antiGMO movement’s founders:

    http://www.marklynas.org/2013/01/lecture-to-oxford-farming-conference-3-january-2013/

  53. Samantha July 14, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    Mr. Money Mustache – Can you do a post that gives us an idea of how you make that grocery list stretch into a week’s worth of meals for your family? Maybe my imagination is lacking, but I keep looking at your list and trying to figure out what your family is eating (especially for lunch!) Thanks!

  54. Sarah August 12, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    I have to disagree with you when you say that you can’t really stock up on bananas. Recently, my husband found bananas for about $.20/lb (ridiculously cheap!) He bought maybe 15 lbs. For several days, our family of 6 ate bananas a couple of times a day. When they started to get too brown to eat, I filled up the dehydrator with them. Then I peeled the rest, and stored them in a ziplock bag in the freezer. I ended up with a gallon bag full. I use them in smoothies or pull out 2 bananas at a time to make banana bread. We could have probably used double what we bought.

  55. Georgina September 6, 2013 at 6:15 am #

    Thank you very much for all the information and for the people who take time to add comments. I like all your posts but I do not always add: someone beats me to it. I would like to add a tip. I buy fresh tomatoes when they are in season, then I just tip them into the odd spaces in my chest freezer. They can then be used for sauces, curries and stews. They last well until the new season of bounty rolls around. Most importantly, they are very visible so they are used often.

  56. Julie Garrett October 4, 2013 at 5:23 am #

    Another way to get reasonably priced, organic, local food is to join a CSA farm (community supported agriculture) and buy your food directly from the farmer. You pay up front in spring for a box of food delivered weekly or bi-weekly all season. It feels good to support a small family farm (!!!) and the food you get is super fresh and nutrient dense — better for you than the food that’s shipped in to Costco or chain grocery stores (also, lower emissions and better for the planet when you take out the transportation miles!). Some farms offer meat and eggs in addition to produce. To learn more, visit http://www.csacoalition.org.

  57. Tom October 24, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    an idea for one of your “get rich with…….” blogs could be a Nalgene bottle… I take mine with me everywhere I go and never have to go searching for a beverage or bottle of water to buy.. they are basically indestructible and you can take them anywhere.. I even take mine to airport (empty as you go through security and then you can fill up at a water fountain).. the $10 bottle saves you hundreds every year.

  58. kathy January 15, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    The majority of our monthly expense goes to food, unfortunately. When its eaten its gone and you have to ultimately buy more! A vicious cycle. However, I am always looking for ways to save on food. Hubby loves his meat and though he eats less than he used to, meat is expensive, and we don’t have the acreage to raise our own. I am vegan, but have fairly recently gone whole foods vegan, meaning I cook most of my meals and rarely buy or use packaged products. I also eat as much organic as I can due to chemicals, and where I live, our one local grocery store ultimately is Walmart. Yuck. We drive 30 to 50 miles several times a month to get better quality produce, but with that, our food bill is a bit high for 2 people. The local health food stores, as you stated, are triple the price of the grocery stores, but on occasion I have to resort to purchasing there if in dire need of an item. But I do purchase some items online with free or low shipping to save some money. We have no local farmers markets to shop at in the summer (again having to drive 30 to 50 miles to find one). We do garden and can or freeze a lot of produce, but in winter months, we love our fresh produce. Because we pack all our lunches for work and cook the majority of our meals at home, our grocery bills average about $100 to $150 per week. We have no costco’s, sam’s clubs, or any discount places in a 50-75 mile radius of us either. I wish I could get our bill down without losing the quality of the organic produce we eat.

  59. AC February 4, 2014 at 8:57 pm #

    Last year I stumbled upon MMM and this article due to a google search I did on “cutting your grocery bills”. I’ve since poured through all the articles, but still found this posting to be the most beneficial. I am a finance geek and started using Mint.com in 2012. In reviewing my annual summary; I was surprised to learn that my wife and I were spending $2,000 per month on food and dining! We spent $1,000 per month on groceries and another $1,000 on dinners/drinks.

    Fast forward 12 months… Our food and dining costs are $650 per month.($400 groceries and $250 dining out) I’ve used the principles laid out on this site to dramatically reduce our food and dining expenses and dropped 10 lbs without even trying.

    I’d like to share a tip to make this even more effective. Menu planning! My wife and I sit down each week and prepare a menu for the week ahead. First we shop our pantry and Refrigerator/Freezer. We then make a list of groceries needed to round out the meals. This has multiple benefits: We buy less “junk food”, are more likely to cook at home since we “planned for it”, and throw less food away.

    BTW…I’m pretty sure we could easily cut our food costs by another 50% from here. Maybe we should make that a goal in 2014. Or maybe we will just decide to continue living luxuriously on 2/3rds less than we spent in 2012!

  60. Vanessa February 5, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

    I’d argue that you can actually stock up on bananas when on sale- we freeze them and make lots of smoothies/almond-flour banana bread muffins and pancakes.

  61. Vanessa February 20, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    I’d love to see a post with the MMM family’s updated Paleo eating plan. I was so inspired by an earlier post that had me convinced that we could still eat well without spending so much on food. We eat a paleo diet due to our string belief that this way of life is best for our family’s overall health. We are not willing to compromise, so we eat high quality meats, fish, eggs, organic veggies/fruits, nuts, etc. and cook/bake with coconut oil and raw honey. I make everything from scratch and our grocery budget for our family of 4 is still $900/month. This is with extensive meal planning and raiding Costco’s organic selection once per month and filling in gaps at Trader Joe’s. We are active with 2 boys so I know we eat a lot (and we are all very lean), but I mean, c’mon, that’s still a huge grocery bill. I’d love to hear how the MMM family eats paleo or similar in less.

  62. johnadamian February 24, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    Your cereal trick just blew my mind.

    I love cereal so much, but I cringe when I look at the prices. This could very well save the day in my world!

    I use to love eating rolled oats for breakfast anyway. I’d throw in some shredded coconut, blueberries and shelled Hemp seeds to take it up to the next level of healthy eating. I’m excited about this idea…./end transmission.

Leave a Reply

To keep things non-promotional, please use a real name or nickname (not Blogger @ My Blog Name)

The most useful comments are those written with the goal of learning from or helping out other readers - after reading the whole article and all the earlier comments. Complaints and insults generally won't make the cut here, but by all means write them on your own blog!