What $227.22 Will Buy for Food

I know I’ve mention before our food bills are typically under $300 for a month to feed three people. So I thought perhaps it would be useful for me to post what I bought during one of big shopping trips at the start of the month. I should point out I run a pantry system in the house, so I only buy certain things when they run out so this isn’t a complete list of what I eat but rather a snap shot.

Here is what we bought at the start of March for $227.22:

  • Apples (two kinds), Ya Pears, Bananas, Lemon, Red Onion, Yellow Onions, Red Pepper, Garlic, Radishes, Green Onions, Fresh Mushrooms, 1/2 case of navel oranges (the free item with $150 minimum purchases), frozen mix veggies, frozen peas
  • Bulk bins: Whole almonds, Jelly Belly Beans, Gummi Bears, Pumpkin seeds, Lemonade drink crystals, honey roasted peanuts, pretzel twists
  • 12 bulk bagels, multigrain cheerios, rice, bread x 3, pitas
  • 8 pudding cups, 2 boxes triscuit crackers, apples juice x2, cranberry juice, White Cheddar Mac and Cheese (2 boxes), 6 L of Canola Oil, baking soda x 2, Hoisin sauce, soya sauce, butter chicken sauce, coffee 3 lbs, bulk coffee beans, jar of jam, sugar, brown sugar, Chinese Five Spice, 2 bags of potato chips
  • Cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, yogurt cups (case)
  • Canned: chick peas x 2, pork and beans (one big, one small), pineapple tidbits, six bean mix x 2, whole tomatoes, skim evaporated milk, tuna
  • 2 lbs bacon, coil sausage, two shrimp rings, sirloin steak, ground beef, pork chops, 2 dozen eggs
  • muffin cup liners, stain remover, toilet bowl cleaner, 1 case paper towel

I’m sure there is going to be questions on this so feel free to ask (the above includes using $9.24 in coupons).

19 thoughts on “What $227.22 Will Buy for Food”

  1. Drop some of those cows and pigs and get some chickens and turkeys in there. 😉

    Have you tried turkey bacon, it’s near the same price as regular bacon, has it’s own unique taste but it’s way healthier. At first I didn’t like it much, but after a few servings and then ‘treating’ ourself to regular bacon again I didn’t like the regular as much because if it’s fatty taste. Kind of like going from regular milk to skim, at first I didn’t like that but now I find regular milk tastes like cream.

    We usually buy big bulk packs of ground beef, or chicken breast when it goes on sale and then freeze it for a while in weighed one serving packs. It seems to keep things even on the cost scale. We do like eating things like fajitas and tacos quite a bit since the kids really like putting them together.

    Where’s the potatoes? I don’t know if I could live without garlic mashed potatoes.

  2. I would not be able to eat 99% of this list.

    Do you ever worry you might get sick from this type of food? Saving in the short run is fine, but what about long-term consequences?

  3. FT,

    Yep that’s the main run for the month. Keep in mind I do a middle of the month run for more fruit and veggies. I also didn’t put in amounts for most of it. For example, pork chops is a package of 12. I repackage them into single chops and freeze them. Then that lasts for a about two months or more.

    Trac,

    Freezer is already full of chicken breasts and I’ve already got a full potatoe bin at home from my last month. Like I said this is a snap shoot and doesn’ t reflect my diet day to day. I’ve got several things in that list I normally don’t buy, but I’m trying out a new asian cookbook so I picked them up.

    Yes I’ve tried the turkey bacon. Not bad. We like the regular stuff and usually only eat a 1lb a month. It was on sale so we picked up an extra pound this month which is now frozen.

    Noni,

    Really? You don’t eat rice, fruit, veggies, meat? I’m not sure what your getting at on that list. Keep in mind the ‘junk food’ items are typically only 100 to 200 grams each from the bulk bins and my house is already loaded up with baking supplies to make most of my own muffins and other baking. Also some items I stock up when they are on sale like the the oil. That will likely last me 6 months or more (and I own a deep frier which will use half of it). Like I said in the intro this is only a snap shot and not my diet.

    Tim

  4. What about milk? We go through like 32+ litres a month!

    Because of your first post on food budgets we changed to just one main monthly shopping trip, which has been great for time savings and spending. But we struggle to keep everything within a $700 budget and we mostly shop at Costco & Walmart plus Safeway on the 10% off day. $300 is still hard to imagine for us. This post makes me want to go over a month of our shopping to see how much more food we’re buying.

    I’m also curious do you ever find when you stock up on things in bulk or when they are on sale that you end up hording more and more food as time goes on? It seems our storage and freezers keep getting tighter and harder to find what you want. I was thinking we should have a semi-annual purge, just refuse to buy anything until we run out.

  5. It’s always so interesting for me to read posts like this, because the husband and I have a long running conversation going about how we manage to spend so much on groceries. I don’t begrudge it, we both like to eat and eat well, but some of the grocery budgets I see online are kinda bafflingly low to me. And yes – where’s the milk! Definitely something my household goes through like you wouldn’t believe.

    (We also always seem to have more recycling than the other houses on the street despite there only being two of us; which may be because we cook so much, but also baffling).

  6. Jordan,

    We use about the same amount of milk. My wife likes a particular brand, so we buy it elsewhere out of our spending cash. Cost for us is about $1.08/litre (we buy it in 4L size).

    I would say part of your food costs are where you shop. Costco isn’t all that bad (I personally don’t use it) but Walmart and Safeway are not good places to shop in my mind. Why? Walmart tends to have processed food or name brand which tends to be more pricy. Also Safeway is generally just expensive (even with the 10% off). At one point I switched from Safeway to a smaller version of a Superstore and I estimate I was getting an extra 20% of food for the same dollars spent.

    We don’t hoard a lot of food. We have just one large fridge and one apartment size deep freeze. We tend to watch our usage fairly well to use up old items. About the last half of the month I tend to make an effort to use up items rather than running to the store.

    If you really want email me a copy of your last grocery bills and I’ll provide some suggestions.

    Tim

  7. I agree that Safeway is expensive, even with the 10% off. For some staples (cereal is an excellent example), superstore is 50% cheaper for the same brand and size. I shop 90% at superstore and the rest at save-on (also expensive) and safeway. Superstore is about 10 min drive from my condo, while the others are walking distance. Driving to superstore is still cheaper, even when gas and my personal time is included.

    Thanks for getting me to think about this. I was always under the impression that I spent over 500$ a month in groceries (for one male). I tracked my food expenses religiously when i was going to university. 400-450 was pretty standard (but that included going out for food or take out). After looking at my expenses for the last 4 months, I see it’s more like $210/month.

    Looking at your list, Tim, I see a lot of sodium (in the canned foods). Not a problem unless you have blood pressure conditions. I go through a lot of juice every month (probably 10L). Just wanted to point out that cranberry ‘juice’ is sold as cranberry cocktail 90% of the time and isn’t technically juice (sugar is a larger constituent than juice on the ingredient label). Same thing with ‘drink’, ‘Punch’, or ‘cocktail’. In Canada, it has to be pure juice in order for the word ‘juice’ to appear in the label.

    I don’t have a Costco card, but in the few times I’ve been there, I’ve seen comparable prices to Superstore. The parking lot scares me though.

  8. Nobleea,

    Ah yes, eating out and take out can kill a food budget SO fast! We don’t do a lot of eating out. I rather like cooking at home.

    Mmm, your right that was a high sodium list. Overall we don’t eat that much sodium. High blood pressure runs in the family, so I tend to watch my sodium intake even if I don’t have high blood pressure.

    Actually most of our juice we consume is the frozen stuff. We buy it by the case, so I don’t pick up much juice this month. Just a bit of apple for the kid and myself and my wife really wanted the cranberry. I think your right it was a cocktail and not a juice.

    Tim

  9. Hi all, Fascinating stuff these food budget comparisons. My husband and I realized a year or two ago that we were spending $500+ on groceries for 2 people! This despite Costco, cooking a lot, etc. We couldn’t believe it.

    The changes that made the biggest difference to us were cutting way back on meat, fish, and cheese (now no meat, fish 1-2x week, and cheese probably 1 week a month), and trying to find better sources for veggies. We have found a farm in our area that, although not certified organic, doesn’t use pesticides and is hugely cheaper than our local grocery store options. We buy a month’s worth of produce for $40 that only then needs supplementing with avocadoes, oranges, etc every week. Highly recommend doing some investigating in your area for options. Tastes WAY better and no packaging!

    And we had the same experience when shopping for deals–we’d just end up hoarding more. We’ve found this year that shopping only for what we will eat in a week–even though individual items may not be on sale–has actually brought the bills way down. Not to mention the storage space that’s opened up! When things like cereal or flour go on sale we’ll still buy one extra, but not 6 like we used to.

  10. For my family of 3, we spend on average about $500-$600 per month on food and supplies (toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc).

    A lot of people I speak to seem shocked when I mention this figure, but it seems to me that a lot of people have not truly done the analysis to see what their food/supplies budgets actually amount to. They will do a quick grocery trip with cash and not count it as a grocery expense at the end of the month, etc.

    Do you eat breakfast at home? Many people I know grab a coffee and doughnut on the way to work… this is a massive expense that I save because we eat at home. But it increases food budget.
    How about lunches? We pack our lunches primarily from left-overs from the previous night’s dinner. Many people, again, go out for lunch and spend a horrendous amount of money doing it.

    Breakfast costs us, on average, about $2 per day. That’s $60 per month.
    Lunch costs us about $4 per day. That’s $120 per month.
    Dinner averages around $5-10 per meal. That amounts to $150-300 per month.
    Total: $330-$480 per month.
    Add to that total snacks and supplies and you easily hit the $500-600 mark.

    We eat a lot of fresh fruits and veggies which drives up our food cost. But, as mentioned by others, you have to invest in your health as well as your finances. Spending an extra $50 per month on fresh fruit/vegetables is money well spent. We do a shop at Real Canadian Superstore about every 3 weeks and then go once or twice per week to the local Safeway to pick up some produce and items we’ve run low on.

    I’d be curious to know what additional groceries you require as the month wears on. Milk, fruits, etc (those bananas definitely won’t last a month!).

  11. Sarlock,

    Very good points. I personally eat breakfast at home every day or take something to work. I also eat leftover’s for lunch just about every day.

    As I’ve mentioned before we do a mid month run for more fresh veggies and fruit and the odd loaf of bread. Typically it is well under $50 (I would guess the average around $30). As noted above milk is approximately $35/month.

    I would agree your breakfast/lunch numbers are about right, but I would guess your suppers are very different from mine. I’m usually not that high and our snacks/supplies again is typically much lower.

    Mmm, I guess I need another post to short this all out.

    Tim

  12. Pingback: My Frugal Diet
  13. deciding where to place certain expenses can skew the numbers. some people might consider going out for lunch to count under ‘food’ while others might say this is ‘entertainment’.

    I use the rule of thumb that if its something i would normally tip for, then it’s entertainment. otherwise, it’s food.

  14. Well you asked for it, so here’s our shopping list from the beginning of the month at Superstore & Safeway.

    This doesn’t include milk because we still had 4x 4L jugs in the freezers, or much meat for the same reason.

    It seems like the superstore list has a ton of junk food, much more then normal. For any items that I felt beyond the basics, or were expensive I included the price:

    SUPER STORE: $300

    frozen corn
    frozen sweat peas

    brown mushrooms
    green onions
    bananas
    asparagus – $4.35

    beef strips – $3.99
    boneless pork balls – $9.99
    veggie hot dogs – $8.99

    buns – $0.20
    english muffins

    2x frozen pizzas – $6.29/ea
    pizza pockets – $2.28

    soymilk – $1.99
    generic orange juice – $3.29
    orangina juice – $2.67

    parmesan cheese – $8.69
    2x cheese strings – $4.98/ea
    2x large cottage cheese – $4.98/ea
    2x large sour cream – $2.18/ea
    feta cheese – $5.91

    hot chocolate powder – $7.48
    gummi bears – $1.19
    cola candies – $1.79
    peach rings – $1.40
    pretzels – $2.48
    cheetos – $3.39
    3x baked nachos – $3.49/ea
    chocolate chips – $6.58

    rotini pasta
    lasagna noodles

    all bran cereal
    quaker cereal – $8.97
    generic toasted O cereal

    manwich sauce
    red pepper dip – $2.99

    generic shampoo – $6.99
    2x huggies diapers – $36.99/ea
    pullups – $26.99

    SAFEWAY – $150 on 10% off day (saved $54.12 with combined discounts)

    apple sauce
    couscous soup – $5.00
    4x salsa – $3.49/ea
    sweet & sour sauce – $3.49
    orange & ginger sauce – $3.99
    curry paste – $4.18

    2x goldfish soup – $3.49
    2x crispix cereal – $5.69/ea
    4x food colouring – $1.99/ea
    2x peanut butter – $2.50/ea

    3x large astro yougurt – $2.50/ea

    3x donuts – $.58/ea
    2x flax begals – $5.78

    chicken breast box – $26.26
    chicken burgers – $11.98
    chicken sandwich meat – $4.78

    bananas
    kiwi
    cantaloupe
    green peppers
    red onions
    red peppers
    carrots
    avocados
    plantains
    broccoli
    white onion
    medium onion
    gala apple
    red pears

    So let me know what you think, any suggestions on things we shouldn’t get or have paid too much for?

  15. Jordan,

    Looking at your list I’m noticing a few things:

    1) Your eating out of season. For example, asparagus is totally not a cheap thing to eat right now. Likely this is similar thing with a lot of your fruit and veggies. To see what is in season check out prices – what is cheap is often in season so load up and enjoy. I still buy the odd thing out of season, but not too often.

    2) Your eating some prefab stuff I would question the value of buying: cheese strings, sweet & sour sauce, orange & ginger sauce, pre-made soups (or mixes). If you love them keep them, but they tend to be pricey. I personally like making my our stir fry sauce. It’s never the same twice, but that makes it fun for me. Also I love homemade soups. Some prefab is handy to keep in the house when your just lazy. For example, we keep a frozen pizza and some chicken fingers/fries in the house for that reason. Just watch getting carried away.

    3) The more processed it is the more you are paying for it. For example, beef strips. I would just buy a steak and cut it up myself. This is also why a whole chicken is a lot cheaper per pound than a boneless skinless chicken breast. I also tend to limit our beef (other than ground) and chicken beasts consumption to once a week each. Meat and cheese are likely the most expensive things you can eat. By the way, why buy a chicken burger? Either eat a actually chicken breast or buy some ground beef and make your own beef burger.

    4) Diapers – you spend $100 at superstore for them. If your hooked on Huggies try to get coupons or perhaps try a smaller package of a cheaper brand (to start). We use Parent’s Choice from Walmart I believe the cost for a case is around $27 for 120 size 5 (I could be wrong, my wife has got the last few cases and I don’t recall the exact price).

    5) Breakfast – Cereal is actually expensive to eat. It’s also the same for english muffins and bagels (~$.50 each). We personally eat a bit more toast, homemade muffins (~$0.15 each) and oatmeal with fruit.

    That’s my summary on your list. In general try to break costs down per serving to compare items and decide which is giving you the most food enjoyment for the least amount of money. Of course you will want to get some more expensive food once in while. That’s fine. Just try to keep it as a treat and a smaller part of the bill. For example, we rotate month to month buying a roast, ham or seafood. We NEVER buy all three at once.

    I hope all this helps.

    Tim

  16. CD,
    Thanks for the details here and in your more recent post. I am going to track my exact food costs (purchases and what we’ve eaten) over the next month to get a feel as to exactly where the cost increases come about. We’ll revisit this 🙂

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