Help! My grocery bills are ridiculous!

by Karen on August 16, 2008

On the advice of Kacie at Sense to Save, I’m participating in Menu Plan Monday this week by posting my meal plan for this week. I’m hoping I might get some tips on how to lower our ridiculous $75-$90 a week grocery bills. Any advice is welcome and appreciated!

Blackened catfish fillets with rice pilaf (We bought 1/2 pound of fish on sale for $4.99/pound. The rice pilaf is just rice cooked in homemade chicken stock with onion, garlic, and seasonings added.)

Balsamic pork roast tenderloin (We had a tenderloin leftover from last week. We bought it on sale for $2.99/lb. and used it for two meals last week, too.)

Tacos with refried beans (Ground beef on sale $2.99/lb.)

Taco salad (We only use 1/2 pound of ground beef for tacos, so we’ll use the leftover taco meat for this.)

Roasted chicken with potatoes (The whole chicken we bought cost $6, and we’ll use it for two meals this week and a gallon of chicken stock.)

Chicken Alfredo (Made with homemade Alfredo and leftover roasted chicken.)

Homemade cheese pizza (Homemade pizza sauce and crust. The most expensive part of this meal is the cheese, which we buy in bulk at $5 for 2 lbs. because we make pizza once a week.)

I painstakingly plan these meals out based on the sales at two separate stores, and I try to use everything up and stretch things out. I’m really frustrated by our continually high bills. We don’t buy extra snack foods, and we eat leftovers for lunch.

We do buy whatever fruit is on sale (this week strawberries, blueberries, and two peaches). The grand total for fruit was $5.25.

I realize my meal plan is meat heavy, which is why I want to try to plan more vegetarian meals to cut down the cost. Our goal is to cut costs on groceries to $60 or less per week while still eating healthy, tasty meals. Any tips?

Note: We spent about $75 on this week’s meals, which is our average grocery bill. The other $15 of our grand total went toward bulk purchases that will last us a month.

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Grocery round-up a day late & Menu Plan Monday a day early « Living Well on Less
August 24, 2008 at 2:51 pm

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1 Christina @ Northern Cheapskate August 16, 2008 at 9:53 pm

You’re right… your grocery bill seems a tad high… we average about $100 a week for five of us. And I think mine is high!

You don’t mention coupons… that’s how I really stretch my budget. Sites like afullcup.com and hotcouponworld.com can really help you get the best deals. I also visit freebies4mom.com so that I can use freebies to stretch my budget, too.

I’d probably try to do less meat in my menu… Beans are a great way to get protein without spending a lot of money.

I also stockpile whenever I see a great sale.

I’m sure there’s lots more I do, but that’s all this tired brain of mine can think of right now! :-)

2 Karen August 16, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Thanks for the advice Christina! You’re right, I don’t use coupons … but we very rarely buy anything but produce and meat, so I’ve never thought that coupons would be very helpful. The only packaged food we buy regularly is cereal, and I always buy the deepest discounted cereals and use coupons when I have them.

I’m just at a loss for what to do next! Looks like cutting meat is the winner …

3 tiffanie August 17, 2008 at 1:12 am

maybe posting a detailed receipt with prices on what you’re paying would be helpful to readers. break it down for us. because you’re right, it does seem high for what you’re making. also, what stores do you shop at? we spend roughly $35-$40 a week for two people, and often less because we stock up on meat once a month at Sam’s Club and freeze it in serving size portions. This month we spent just over $60 on meat, and it will last us about 25 meals (hamburger, boneless pork chops, boneless chicken, roast, ribs). Plus I don’t cook meat every night.

We’ll often have breakfast for dinner once a week (eggs are good protein!), plus I usually make a big pasta/goulash/or chili meal that works for leftovers for one night later in the week, plus good for lunches. Um…other cheap dinner options are subs or grilled cheese sandwiches (fancy it up with good cheese and a slice of ham) with soup. Still filling, but not as intensive as some other meals.

Otherwise, your menu looks great and you have a good variety.

4 Kacie August 17, 2008 at 12:47 pm

It looks like you’re eating well!

I’m a bit confused as to where some of the money is going. When I added up what you’ve listed, I got about $21 (though I realize you listed prices for just the meats, and things like pasta or rice weren’t listed). Since you had some meat left over from last week, what else did you buy to hit $90?

I agree with Tiffanie, maybe posting your whole receipt and prices could help…even though that would take awhile :)

The prices you’ve listed for the tenderloin and ground beef are higher than what I pay here by about $1 per pound. Maybe you just live in an expensive grocery market! No fair, but that could be what’s going on.

Looks like you stretched your taco meat quite a ways. Some times I stretch it by halving the amount of beef and adding a can of black beans.

5 Karen August 17, 2008 at 1:07 pm

I don’t have the receipt anymore … I toss them once I’ve entered the totals into my price book. I could go back through and figure out exactly what I bought this week, but that would be even more time consuming than transcribing the receipts!

I’m going to rework some things for next week, make sure I’m not buying extra things without being mindful of it, and try to cut down on meat. Hopefully I’ll have better results next week!

6 Kacie August 17, 2008 at 6:46 pm

Instead of transcribing them (if you want to in the future) just take a photo and voila!

7 Amy August 18, 2008 at 8:16 am

I agree on breakfast-for-dinner and sandwiches. We used to spend an obscene amount of money on groceries (because we could), but a move and a new job later, we’re trying to be budget conscious too. It sounds like you home-make a lot of stuff, which I have found helps us. Good luck to you!

8 Christine August 18, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Like you I am trying to get my grocery bills down again. One thing that I noticed with my family is they like meat and they associate one chicken breast as their meat portion. How do I save a bit? When I buy chicken breasts in the bulk pacs I cut the breasts so they are about the 4-5 oz portion (if I make them too small dh just eats everything else in the house trying to get enough food). The chunks that I cut off of the breasts go into meals that use chunks or diced chicken. For meals like that I make the pieces pretty small so you get a LOT of ‘bites’ without busting the meat budget.

Keep trying and I’m sure it will come down some.

9 Steph @ Problem Solvin Mom August 18, 2008 at 9:20 pm

I’m probably repeating what you already know…but we buy meat in bulk and freeze what we can’t use when there is a great sale…in our area that means I can buy a pork loin or two for $1.79/lb and have it cut for me at the meat counter into 2-3 pieces…allowing me to freeze enough for several future meals. I have found our Cub Foods sells ground turkey (93% lean) for $1.69/lb so that has replaced much of the ground beef in my cooking-sometimes I mix beef into the turkey depending on what I’m making. Similarly, we buy chicken on sale in bulk @ $1.99/lb and freeze for the future. Clever packaging can increase the amount you can fit in the freezer if space is tight, pre-cooking and storing in ziploc freezer bags, for example.

Your menu looks delicious! Keep us posted as to how your doing with your budget – I love hearing how others are cutting spending, especially these days!

10 Karen August 18, 2008 at 9:41 pm

Thanks, Steph! Wow … those meat prices are much lower than what I’ve been paying! We pay $2.99/lb. for pork tenderloin, $2.99/lb. for chicken breasts (bought in bulk at Costco), and usually about $2.99/lb. for ground beef. Yikes!

I just started tracking prices in a price book, so hopefully I’ll be able to track the trends and take advantage of the lowest possible prices in the future. I’ve already been buying in bulk and freezing, but unfortunately I think I’ve been paying too much even for my bulk purchases. :(

I’m beginning to think that my problem might be a combination of unnecessary purchases and higher prices than I should be paying. This has been so helpful!

11 Rebekah August 19, 2008 at 10:16 am

Hi Karen,

After reading through your about me – I’m pretty much in the same position as you – I just got married this past May, too! We’re also trying to menu plan to watch our budget and really, just planning it out has been a huge help to us. We’re spending about $40-$50 a week on our groceries, but I don’t think we eat quite as much meat as ya’ll do. Also, I LOVE to shop at Aldi – it saves us tons of money on our groceries. Definitely check to see if you have one nearby. Even if it’s a little out of the way, it would be worth going there when you have a lot of basics to stock up on.

Oh, and as far as the meat goes – my husband was at first really hesitant of cutting down on meat, but we’ve found some really good recipes that keep him from missing it. So, don’t give up, you’ll get there!

12 Rebekah August 19, 2008 at 8:37 pm

Hey again – I’ve been thinking about your dilemma a little more today & this may not work for ya’ll – but I had another suggestion. I think you mentioned somewhere that you typically cook for 4, then take leftovers for lunch the next day. That’s a great way to do it – and I personally love leftovers for lunch – but you could try to eat the meal two nights in a row for dinner. Then you could pack lighter lunches for yourself & your husband. Something like pasta salad or a sandwich would probably cost less than your leftovers. We ended up eating our leftovers tonight for dinner instead of sticking to our original meal plan – this will help us stretch our meals out longer. Anyway, just a quick thought!

13 Robbie @ Going Green Mama August 24, 2008 at 4:35 pm

I agree that bulk purchases do help, as long as they’re smart ones that will get used.

We have relied heavily this summer on our farmers market and a CSA (community supported agriculture) program and plan our meals around produce. It’s a different way of thinking, but it is also cheaper than thinking, steak, chicken or port tonight?

We’re also experimenting with other grains, lentils and beans, which can be an alternative protein source.

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