How low can you go? Grocery limbo

cutebrownJuly 17, 2006

I am currently budgeted for $150 per month for groceries. I usually spend closer to $200-$250 per month. We are a household of 5, because my kids are 4-9 I keep lots of snacks in the house. How much are you spending? I don't do coupons, I shop mostly at Aldi's, Walmart, and Sam's. How much are you spending? How low can you go in your budget and still get a decent meal?

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"because my kids are 4-9 I keep lots of snacks in the house"

Snack foods can be very pricey. You might be able to do better with in-season fruit.

And, young kids don't need lots of snacks! (Neither do us OLD kids!!)

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 4:16PM
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That's going to be a tough one to answer. I probably spend about $250/month for myself, but that's partially because I buy 'most everything at the organic market (including cleaning supplies and most health & beauty [!] aids) and partially because I include some dining out in my grocery bill (if I'm going from work to a meeting, dinner out is part of the grocery bill because I would eat dinner anyway; it's just more convenient/more possible to get things done without backtracking homeward).

I think paying less for groceries depends largely on what you can/are willing to eat and how much time and effort you're willing to put into preparing food. Interestingly, in the U.S. very often the most-highly-processed food is the cheapest, but that's not what most people should be eating daily. Similarly, your grocery bill can go down if you can make do with chicken thighs rather than chicken breasts or if you don't care where your ground beef has been or if you will eat canned vegetables rather than fresh or frozen.

Time is a factor, as well. If you have time to soak and cook (or pressure-cook) beans as an ingredient, you'll be able to spend so much less than someone who buys a can of beans or buys ready-to-microwave baked beans/chili/whatever.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 4:36PM
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"Because my kids are 4-9 I keep lots of snacks in the house."

Well, there you go.........I think you have your answer right there. Snacks aren't food.

What does anyone's age have to do with buying "snacks" anyway????

"I don't do coupons"

Shopping exclusivly at these bulk warehouse stores is not a guarantee to save money. Sometimes the prices are higher there on some things rather than shopping the sales or even *higher* than the regular prices of other stores. I have found this to be the case MANY times on quite a few items. And you don't have to buy a TON of the item to save money either. Using a coupon on single item at a regular store can often be cheaper, rather than buying in bulk at the warehouse store.

Here is how low you can go; If you buy soda pop - Stop. If you buy candy, chips, dip, ice cream, popsicles, Kool-Aid, Jell-O, pudding cups, coffee, ect. - Stop. If it does not have vitamins, minerals and fiber in it, do not buy it. You won't die. You will save a bunch of money and be healthier for it besides. My rule of thumb is that if it has a *brand name* I don't buy it. That wipes out all boxed meals, instant mixes, canned soups and canned veggies and fruit, (UNLESS the item cannot be obtained fresh in my region ie; we can't grow pineapples in Wisconsin and grocers won't carry the fresh ones because of low demand, and the high price of having them flown in.)

Make everything from scratch. It does not take that much longer to prepare a meal from scratch and some meals can be made in batches and frozen to save time.

Asking how much someone spends is not going to give you an accurate picture for comparison. Prices differ regionally across the US.

For instance, where I live I can buy a 10lb bag of potatoes at the local chain store for a buck. I can find chicken on sale for 29 cents a pound at another small local chain and I stock up and freeze it. Beef liver is 29 cent a pound and with no bones and no fat, (I happen to like liver and onions). Fruits and veggies for pennies per pound. Pork chops 79 cent per pound. I am not sure you will find those prices everywhere. These are the common *sale* prices here, but not regular price which are somewhat higher.

You can make dinner *for the whole family of five* for about a dollar and for breakfast, make a ten egg omlette with in season veggies, and juice, for under a buck feeding the whole family of five. Feeding a family of five good wholesome food on $5/day is not all that difficult where I live.

The only conveniece food I buy is bread and pasta and yogourt. I can't get the hang of making those items at home myself.

I also by a few condiments but just the 'basics'. I never buy prepared *fancy* sauces. I know I can make my own tartar sauce out of mayo, relish, lemon, pepper and my own cocktail sauce out of ketchup, horsradish, lemon, garlic, ect. I can make my own teriaki sauce and ginger. I make all my own salad dressing which is much healthier for you. Have you every read the lables on salad dressing bottles?? Do you pay attention to the price of a bottle of salad drssing? These things all add up to savings and better health.

The reason I say that you cannot make a price comparison is because I know from traveling that certain necessary things cost more in certain areas. I found that fresh tuna in Florida is CHEAP and pleantiful but is a delicacy and hard to come by, where I live. Oranges are fresh and cheap in Florida. Fresh veggies are CHEAP where I live but $$$$$$$$$$$$ in Florida where they have to be shipped in, which adds to the cost (and they usually arrive looking wilted and rotten too). Lobsters are cheaper in Maine. Oysters are cheaper in Louisiana. Milk cost more outside of Wisconsin. And EVERTHING costs more, WAAAAAY more, in Alaska. It even depends on whether you live in a small town or a big city and if you live in a big city prices often depend on which side of town you live on. Secret: Chain stores have what they call "zone pricing" things cost more in "certain areas' of town.

So your personal food budget is going to be partially dependent on where you live and whether you live close to a food source where food does not have to be flown or trucked in.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 4:58PM
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Essentially you are trying to feed each of you on $1.00 a day. Does that $150.00 per month include cleaning supplies, or strictly food? I think that $150.00 is quite low, for everyone that you are feeding. If that includes breakfast, lunch and dinner for all of you. I am surprised that you can even come close.

Yes, snack foods are expensive. However, it depends on what snack foods you are talking about. Popcorn that you pop in the pan can be inexpensive, and filling. I know that young children can get hungry in the afternoon. Fruit and popcorn can help.

I always used coupons when my children were younger. I had a friend who would have one of her children cut out the coupons. Any that mom used -- the child got half.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 6:15PM
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I'm way impressed!

I spend more than twice that to feed two people and we eat out on weekends.

I buy almost all fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat/fish. So coupons aren't useful. But I do almost all my own baking, as much as is practical and you'd think that would keep costs down a bit.

Wow! I really am impressed.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 7:18PM
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I'm with many of the others - change your "snack" foods, and also make as much food from scratch as possible. And keep in mind, whole raw foods are nature's "fast" foods, so they are not only healthier, but usually cheaper to purchase and easiest to fix. Try to choose whole foods over processed. Apples over applesauce or applejuice. The additional fiber in apples will help satisfy hungry kids longer than a sugary drink.

Individual sized anything is much more expensive than dividing food up into individual servings yourself.

Popcorn, wholegrain crackers and cheese/peanut butter are much better choices - but don't purchase them in the individual serving sizes. Buy the large size of vanilla yogurt instead of the expensive "kiddy" ones and give them a serving size. Add your own fruit or granola. Teach your kids what a serving size is for them. Free-for-all food is an open invitation to overeating.

Make your own granola (low-fat, low-sugar) and put serving sizes of it in snack bags or small cups with a small piece of plastic wrap held on with a rubberband/piece of yarn/string.... Your kids can make these up. This will be a good time to teach the math involved in dividing these things up into serving sizes.

When you make your own mixes using nuts, seeds, raisins, dates, pretzels, crackers, etc. you can save money by mixing and portioning them yourself.

Kids need nutrient-rich food, not empty calories. Your snacks should be part of the total nutritional requirements for the day based on their age and activity level. Check out the Food Pyramid information below and design meals and snacks around it.

Here is a link that might be useful: MyPyramid for Kids

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 7:42PM
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I spent that on two people 15 years ago when I lived in Kansas. I didn't use coupons because I mostly shopped at an Aldi store. It's seems pretty darn low to me, but I'm wondering how much fresh food is in that budget?

I now spend $400-800 a month, but I'm in Alaska and food is very expensive. When I do a $400 month, I have done really good meal plans, which I often don't.

I spent years as a single mom. No processed snacks. Even if fruit is more expensive, it's an investment in their health. Carbs are really cheap food, so don't overdo them. Spagetti may be cheap, but it won't fuel them for long.

Since you are short on funds, I'd head out to the backyard (assuming you aren't in an apartment) and dig. Plant some lettuce, spinach, carrots, peas, etc. Start providing some fun of gardening and some fresh food for the table to supplement what you have to buy. Join your freecycle list and ask if anyone is dividing fruits like raspberries. Wonderful stuff. Just takes a bit of water and you can use the bath water after the kids are done if water is expensive in your area.

If you really are feeding them healthful meals at that price, I think you are doing fantastic!


    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 9:44PM
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I'm with Gloria. I would strive more on feeding my family healthy foods even if I have to spend more to do so. Healthy lifestyle is a much better investment for your future and your money.

I am ever so amazed at the amount of "crap" and empty calories we americans consume. No wonder we are the fattest folks in the world! White bread, white rice, sugar laden soft drinks, cereals, processed foods loaded with hydrogenated fats (which are linked to heart disease and cancer) and so much of it is geared to the middle class, who are trying ever so hard to watch their money and don't have a lot of time to cook. You ever notice that's what the coupons usually are triggered towards?

I'm busy and don't have time to make my own ketchup like bud_wi (it would be fiscally irresponsible since I can make more money with the time it would take to make it instead of just buying a bottle) but I do try to steer clear of the "middle aisles" of the grocery stores and focus on fresh simple foods. I also read labels, educate myself and my family about good food and health. I look at it as an investment in our future. The money saved in a good diet far surpasses the money saved in buying big bulky bags of sugarpops and cases of soda.

Okay, I'll get down from my soap box now :-)

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 9:50AM
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I'm busy and don't have time to make my own ketchup like bud_wi (it would be fiscally irresponsible since I can make more money with the time it would take to make it instead of just buying a bottle) but I do try to steer clear of the "middle aisles" of the grocery stores and focus on fresh simple foods. I also read labels, educate myself and my family about good food and health.

You hit upon a key here: it is necessary to balance money and time. It does take longer to prepare food from scratch (whether you're making pancakes or chili, there's no way anyone can reasonably maintain that "making it from scratch doesn't take longer"). It takes time to read labels and calculate if the large size is, indeed, the most economical one (it isn't always).

Sometimes that label-reading costs you twice. For example, ground turkey appears to be a healthful alternative to ground beef. But the cheaper stuff, frozen in a chub, often is loaded with fat and skin, making it nutritionally inferior to the fresh-ground meat in the refrigerated case. Reading the label takes time; buying the refrigerated ground turkey costs more. But it's the best choice.

There are some worthwhile products in the grocery aisle, though: raw ingredients like whole-wheat flour, honey, etc., and products which don't exist in other forms (why does no one sell frozen beets? Or frozen V8 juice, FTM?). You just have to be a judicious shopper.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 10:16AM
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I try to buy meats and poultry on sale and stock up the freezer. Usually, I'll buy 4-6 roasting chickens when they're at .59 cents a lb. I splurged and purchased 4 rib eye roasts from the butcher when it was $4.99/lb. I'm finally cooking my last one today. The leftover meat gives me 2 more meals as well.

I live in rural Montana where food is expensive. I came here from Texas and there is a big difference in the cost of food (gas has been on the cheaper side than the rest of the country for some unknown reason).

A green pepper is anywhere from .80 to 1.00, either each or by the pound. How can 1 green pepper be so expensive? This is the first place I've ever lived where produce is sometimes sold as each and other times, by the pound.

Anyways, it's hard to keep your food budget down with high prices and with transportation rising, I'm wondering how high the prices will go.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 10:39AM
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Okay I got as far as the fourth post. I have never in my life seen chicken for $.29 a pound. The lowest I've seen is leg quarters for $.69. That's dark meat. Now if is was low fat white meat, that would be different. I try to buy turkeys on sale for around $70 a pound. The dogs get the dark meat and I cook up the white.

Good healthy food - veggies and lean meat is not cheap. Organic is even more expensive. Macaroni and cheese is cheap, but I sure don't want to live on it - it gives me diarrhea, anyway.

I'll go read the rest now.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 10:48AM
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This is a topic that I have tried to conquer for a long time.

My husband and I buy our beef on the hoof and it averages approx $2 lb processed -- we raise our own hens for eggs and we have a large veggie garden.

I can approx 500 qts of veggie/fruit products a year along with freezing another 200 lbs.

I bake totally from scratch -- I make my own granola and yogurt. And yes, I do make my own catsup.

BUT my grocery bill runs approx $300 a month. We have increased the amount of seafood in our diets and eat as much fresh fruit and veggies as we can. Unfortunately, bananas, oranges, pineapples aren't ever "local" in Iowa.

For me, it is quality first. I can't find a salsa that doesn't taste like sugar......I ran out of my homemade salsa last winter and it has been miserable trying to find something edible!

Canning and freezing is a highly rewarding effort. I probably go to the extreme -- in the past when I worked 50 hours a week -- I focused on taste or value. Frozen corn has an incredible taste when compared to store-bought. Nothing can beat home canned tomatoes for taste or value.

Catsup --- that's a family preference. The Harvest forum has a ton of great info.


    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 2:24PM
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clink, that's impressive growing all those fruits and veggies. I too, would love to eat more seafood, especially fish, but it's out of my budget.

And I sure can relate to sugar. Why is there extra sugar in so many things? I was on a great diet that was all natural and lost a lot of weight. It completely cut out processed sugar (and most salts) for the weight loss stage, and I can tell you, I didn't miss it a bit.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 2:59PM
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Posted by clg7067-Okay I got as far as the fourth post. I have never in my life seen chicken for $.29 a pound.

I did try to emphasize that prices do vary regionaly. So I believe you.

Chicken for $0.29 can be found on sale, about every 4-5 weeks, at the El Rey in Milwaukee. It is local chain. When I lived on the East Side I bought $0.29 chicken all the time, at Glorioso's, another local chain. I did not mention that this was for dark meat legs and thighs as I did not feel that was important. I didn't realize that what I was *eating for dinner* is what YOU buy and *toss to the dogs*.

I understand that, as Marie26 says, that *where she lives* bell peppers can cost $1.00 each. I can get them for about $3.00 a BUSHEL at the local farmers market as they are grown nearby. I Pay $2.00 each for an avacado (which I rarely buy) and I bet that they are much cheaper in California where they are grown.

My realtives who still live in the rural farming areas in Northern Wisconsin get veggies and dairy products CHEAP but pay up the whazoo for processed and canned foods, that have to be shipped in to small town grocery stores, that deal in small volume rather than in bulk.

Hats off to Clink for making his own yogurt and catsup! A couple of other posters thought I was being silly. I also make my own salsa rather than buying and it tastes BETTER. Mayo is NOT difficult to make either. All salad dressing are a snap to make - for pennies.

Yes, one much make choices, I do not grind my own peanuts for peanut butter, but I know people who do and swear by the better taste and healthier ingredients. I wouldn't be doing this to save money (unless I lived in Georgia I guess). I think I might start though for the health aspect of it though. I do grind my own ground beef. I had a friend who suggested this and I've stuck with it ever since. Buy the tough cuts of cheap steak on sale, and grind it yourself. This way you KNOW exactly what is going in it. It will always tast fresher and have less fat going into it. I am lucky, I have a pricey food processor that I received as a gift, but it can be done with a hand crancked meat grinder that you can pick up cheap from a restaurant supply store.

I understand about "balance" and that it would be cheaper for some people to just buy a bottle of catsup rather than make up a batch. >>>But someone on a $150/mo food budget probably does not have that option.When you make things from scratch I find it best to *pick a day* to do this rather than trying to make things from scratch as you need them. That WOULD take longer.

Get it organized. Have soup stock simmering while you make spagettie sauce and then freeze most of the sauce and use some of it to throw a pan of lasagna together and freeze it. When you haul the flour and suger out of the cupboard make up a batch of bread and while that is baking in the oven make up a batch of pancakes and fry them and freeze them. Boil a huge pot of potatoes and make them up into hash browns and potatoe salads and soup. Prepare and blanch veggies. Broil up or grill, trays of chicken, pork chops, burgers, ect and freeze them either alone or in sauce.

I do this on Sunday evening and the rest of the week it's like having "fast food". Everything is ready to be heated or finished off cooking. I know that somebody is going to point out how this would "waste" a whole sunday evening. But what else would you be doing with this time? If the answer is "watching TV" or something like that the evening has not been wasted.

Each week I make a different pot of soup or chilli variety and freeze it in individual containers for single servings. I have about five varieties of soup in my freezer at any one time. I agree it would be silly to try to make a bowl of soup "from scratch" each time one wanted one but making a pot of soup and freezing it is cheaper than buying individual cans of single serve soup.

Also get out the idea of eating "traditional" meals. One does not need to have eggs and sausage for breakfast, a hamburger for lunch and pot roast for dinner.

People find it strange that I have a big bowl of hearty soup for breakfast. It's light and tasty and healthy. Sometimes yogourt and nuts for lunch. An Omelette loaded with veggies for dinner. Or just a raw veggie plate with peanut butter for dinner. You don't NEED to bake a ham for dinner "just because" it's what most americans do.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2006 at 5:41PM
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Bud_wi I wasn't giving you a hard time. I'd love to find chicken for $.29 a pound. My dogs each need about 1.5 pounds of animal carcass a day. Hard to believe but it's cheaper to feed animal carcasses to dogs than to buy dog food. Just to clarify, "Old Roy" for $5.99 for 40 pounds is not what you want to be feeding your dog. :) Many dog foods are mostly grain filler which some dogs have reactions to and it just passes through them to make larger stools. I still feed some dog food because it's handy, but they get a lot of cheap turkey and chicken. They are much healthier that way and they think it's Super to get all those crunch munchy bones that clean their teeth, too! :)

    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 10:13AM
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What's called Once A Week or Once A Month cooking is a great thing for convenience and money saving, if done correctly. But to dive into a huge project is tough for someone starting out. A good way to ease into it is to try a double or triple cooking. Make two or three meals at once. For instance, if you're making lasagna, make two and freeze one. Couple days later, if you're cooking chicken, make twice as much and freeze it. Couple days later, do something similar. I often cook up 5 or 6 pounds of hamburger and sometimes cook some onion in it and freeze it. Then break off a chunk and use it for pasta, or pizza, or an improptu sloppy joes or taco salad, etc. This is an item that goes a long way and provides much variety. A taco salad is downright refreshing after a week of chicken, beef or whatever. Plus the occasional night of a veggie platter with some dips, peanut butter or whatever is a nice treat too. Especially on a hot summer eve.

I made my kitchen much more friendly by putting a tv in there. OK, I like TV. So shoot me. But I can cook, prep foods, bake or whatever and listen to the news or a comedy and the time passes and it's not work. I can also sit down for a bit of a break and pay bills or whatever and still be close to watch the pot if needed. Making the kitchen an inviting and comfy place gets you out there and it's more of a hobby than work.

One other point is that you can drop your grocery budget by cutting down waste. I'm appalled when I see kids' plates loaded up and they take a bite and spit it out or something and it goes into the garbage. Don't overload plates and toss the excess. Take what you'll eat, but eat what you take as the old saying goes - you can have seconds if you want more. Even if you spend more on better items, there's no nutrition value used by the garbage can so you can actually cut your budget. Portion control is invaluable.

One guy I used to work with talked about how he cut his cheese budget. His family ate a lot of cheese but he found that buying the presliced cheese, which most would say is expensive, came out much cheaper since the kids would take a slice and be happy. Otherwise they'd take a big chunk and be happy, whether they ate it or tossed part.

There are no absolutes. What works for one may not for others.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2006 at 2:09AM
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We spend about $500-$700 a month, family of 5 with kids ages 7-10. DH gets lunch at the work cafeteria and I don't know what he spends--it probably averages about $5 a day as he also goes out to restaurants for lunch (some of this is expensed).

Yesterday I paid $2.49 a pound for Perdue skinless, boneless chicken breast. The pack was about $6.00. I would have liked to buy the free range chicken without antibiotics or hormones but those packs were about $10.00 each, too expensive for us. An avocado here costs $1.50. A box of cereal costs $3.99. We buy "organic cow" brand milk--a carton is $3.49. I could get a gallon (twice as much) of regular milk (grocery store brand) for $2.49. I choose to spend the money becuase I have daughters and the kids I know drinking regular milk seem to be developing earlier and earlier.

Our grocery stores are carrying more and more organic choices.

I belong to a farm coop, so get veggies there (all organic). It is not cheaper by any means--I'd say it's twice what I would spend shopping the sale items at the grocery store (non organic).

I agree food is a choice, but for some families the choice isn't very good--pay more for fresh organic food, or pay the light bill.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 9:55AM
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I forgot to say that I do believe young kids need lots of snacks. Even old kids need them. It's healthier to eat 3 smaller meals and 2 snacks than it is to eat 3 big meals and no snacks. Hopefully the snacks are healthy ones.

Also, we drink mostly water. The milk is used mostly for cereal.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 9:59AM
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Around here, we've been told for years to **not** feed chicken or turkey bones to dogs (or cats) - that there's major risk of them choking on a fragment, or having their stomach or gut perforated.

Sometimes I do give them some - but feel guilty when doing it.

Haven't had a pet of my own in years - but now pet-sit my daughter's, occasionally.

The dog (actually, that's the proper term for a male of that species and her animal, being female, carries a different designation, that rhymes with "itch") prefers being on the farm, where there's grass and lots of interesting smells, to the (hotter) city (mostly uninteresting concrete).

Sometimes dogs're smarter'n people! (Often? Wouldn't you prefer a "dog's life"?).

ole joyful

    Bookmark   July 21, 2006 at 7:59PM
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It is not cheaper by any means--I'd say it's twice what I would spend shopping the sale items at the grocery store (non organic).

I agree food is a choice, but for some families the choice isn't very good--pay more for fresh organic food, or pay the light bill

There are two main reasons why organic food costs so much more than conventional food:

- Conventional producers are much more efficient than organic producers because organic producers won't cram chickens into pens so small they can't move; they won't bulk up their cattle with steroids or unnecessary antibiotics (and then bulk up the meat further with a "15% tenderizing solution" for the refrigerated case); they won't use the synthetic fertilizers/herbicides/insecticides that conventional producers use, which lowers their yields.

- Conventional producers push a surprising amount of their costs off to the general public (you and me) to pay. When runoff from synthetic herbicides and fertilizers or manure from huge livestock operations gets into our water, the cleanup is not usually paid by individual farmers -- it's paid by the EPA and local governments, funded by all of us. Conventional producers also frequently have employees (many times undocumented) working without benefits like health insurance or worker's compensation, so when one of them gets injured, we all pay for it through our insurance premiums and local taxes. Conventional producers also enjoy a transportation subsidy in the form of federal highway subsidies and armed forces in the Middle East -- paid by all of our taxes -- so they can cheaply truck that hothouse tomato hundreds of miles to your grocery store.

It will be interesting to see Wal-Mart -- the 800-pound gorilla of the grocery business -- sell organic food at their stated "no more than 10% higher cost than conventional" food. I suspect they will have to lean heavily on their suppliers to do that, and I suspect there will be some tremendous (and negative) changes in the organic-food business brought on by the commoditization of the food. Frankly, I think if organic producers were smart, they'd just say "no" to Wal-Mart.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 11:21PM
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In regards to cooking in bulk and freezing, there is a WONDERFUL book called "Dinner's in the Freezer" by Jill Bond.

Some of the freezer books have charts and lists for pre-designed menus, which means if your family won't or can't eat a certain entree, then you get to figure out how much of the grocery list went towards that item.

Ms. Bond writes many mini-stories of how she gradually developed this system and includes blank charts for you to create your grocery lists with YOUR recipes.

For her family of 6, she has learned how to freeze enough foor for SIX MONTHS! Everybody helps and the whole cooking session takes one weekend. By personal preference, she chooses to cook a full dinner once each week, so I guess she's only cooking enough for about five months at a time. (rolls eyes)

This book is priceless for the stories alone. Jill never acts superior -she realizes that everyone has life choices to make. She also suffers from several food allergies and hypoglycemia and has chosen to go organic when possible. She encourages people to step into this method slowly, much as has been mentioned earlier, by doubling and tripling familiar recipes.

As for the snacks, I encourage you to include the kiddies in the making of snacks and other meals. Even a toddler can help make salad or jello "wigglers" or popsicles from juice or koolaid. My own mom made the popsicles from Koolaid that she had mixed with less sugar. So it was cheap and she had some control over the ingredients.

Look online for those salad dressing recipes and then let the kids dip their carrots/sugar snap peas/cheese cubes/onions into a plate of it.

My DD would eat anything if there was dip. I have a photo of her at 18 mos, happily chomping on a green onion in ranch dip! Remember that the fancy Italian restaurants pour olive oil & red wine vinegar into a plate, often with cracked pepper and herbs, for dipping crusty bread.

Another idea is to instill some new traditions into the dinner hour. One is Potato Night. Bake a spud for each person (or half, where appropriate), clean all the leftovers out of the fridge and chop them into small bits. Put each "topping" in a separate small bowl and pass them around. The kids get some power in deciding what goes on their spud, and they tend to like things better when cut up small. Your hubby can get some meat satisfaction by sprinkling on the shredded sausage/hamburger/whatever. Make a green or fruit or jello salad and dinner is ready.

Sandwich Night and Pasta Night and Soup Night are other ideas.

Pudding is easily made in the microwave. Follow the recipe on the box of Nabisco vanilla wafers for their version, just keep a whisk near the MW and use it to stir often. My MIL makes her fabulous chocolate pudding in the MW and fills her pie crusts with it. Never buy pudding cups again! Winter tip: hot chocolate pudding with shredded coconut and tiny marshmallows on top!

Try not to serve hunks of meat. We all know meat is expensive and not so healthy. If you put bits of it in casseroles along with rice/pasta/potatoes and interesting veggies, you can serve lots more people on the cheap.

Forget about the protein craze. Did you know that Americans actually have protein overload? And that excess protein stresses the kidneys? We all need some, but Americans take it to the extreme.

Sorry to take up so much space. All the best in your endeavor!

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 4:14PM
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I am single and I spend about $100-$150 a week on groceries.
And I thought I was being cheap! Whoa.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 10:27PM
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Joyful,feeding dogs COOKED chicken products is a nono.Feeding raw meat products is more akin to a dogs natural diet.Chicken bones are supple when raw.They contain important enzymes that dogs need.Ihad also always heard of dogs choking on fowl bones.I investigated the Bones And Raw Food aka B.A.R.F. diet when my dog was a pup.I believe that although the initial cost is slightly higher,the lower cost of vet bills will make it more financially sound over the life of the dog.Vets are reporting a high increase of cancer in pets,and it is hard to believe that at least some of the problem isn't due to cheap kibble.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2006 at 12:31PM
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Cute $150 for a family of 5 is very low unless you are a farmworker in California. They eat beans, tortillas and very little cheap meat. Won't mention how much sugar some include in their diets though. Well, I exaggerate, forgive me. I think if you can stay away from processed products and high priced meat you can budget down. I believe it's better to eat as healthy as you can afford, plan meals ahead, and waste not is all you can expect. I agree above, it depends on where you live. If you have cheap produce readily available, you can learn to can, freeze, preserve. I raised 4 kids, worked fulltime+, and we bought produce when available and put away for winter. We had a lot of time because no TV or movies. We did vacation by camping. All kids finished college w/o financial aid including DH and myself so I know how to squeeze a nickel or dime. We've valued health and knowledge more than money. Both of these have afforded all of us a comfortable living today. There was no Walmart or $stores then and, thankfully, no credit cards or TV. I put the budgeted grocery (household) money into four envelopes and challenged myself to have some left over each week. I think things are a lot harder these days, so much temptations and bad processed foods to buy. We still don't eat out a lot because I see the price of an entree at a good restaurant can feed DH and me for probably a week or more and I still like to know what goes into my food and I just can't help being cheap no matter what.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2006 at 8:47PM
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I don't know where you live, but it sound likes your budgeted amount is not very realistic. Even what you end up spending seems low. As someone else mentioned, your budget would be $1 per day per person...What are they eating every day that is that cheap? I don't care if they are having unhealthy kiddy snacks but I just can't imagine that they would be eating enough on only a $1 or so a day. Are you guys eating out a lot (kids at school, husband at work) and not counting the cost?

My meals and snacks vary...sometimes they are more decent than other times, but that usually has more to do with time than expense. I have to admit, it's hard for me to compare budgets with you because we often entertain, and just one party a month really adds to our budget (even though a lot of the leftovers can be eaten by us for days after).

I wouldn't totally write off coupons. One of the stores in the area often have a $10 off coupon in their add; that's not a bad deal. I often clip coupons for amounts only over $1 on products I know I will buy. It cuts down on how many I clip and save, but does save me some money.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2006 at 12:57AM
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I spend about 25 a week for just myself. That includes all household shopping such as food, cleaning stuff and personal products like shampoo and soap. I don't buy the cheapest stuff just because it's cheap, I buy items which I believe are good quality *and* a good price. Sometimes it's the cheap store brand, but not always.

For a long time I used to think I wasn't eating as much food as everyone else, which is why my shopping bills are low, but when I looked in to it I found I was eating almost exactly 2500 calories a day, which is supposed to be about right for an adult man.

I also eat reasonably good food. I find that junk foods are expensive and you need to eat much larger quantities of them it seems. I can eat a whole pizza that's supposed to serve 2-3 people and be hungry again in an hour, while a fairly small plate of lasagna or curry lasts for ages. And yet the pizza packed in way more calories?

The money savings are partly because I don't need to eat such a large volume of food because it's not highly processed. I also eat everything I buy and almost never waste anything. Avoiding alcohol is a big money saver, and meat is expensive as well, particularly if it's good quality. I'd rather have no meat than cheap low quality meat, so I rarely buy any. What some people pay for one good joint of beef is my entire weekly household budget.

I could spend less, but it wouldn't be food I liked, and £25 a week for one person is cheap enough anyway. Still, I try to save money by buying offers and bulk.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2006 at 9:33AM
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Something a few family members and I are looking into is developing our own "co-op". By purchasing a bushel of something from a local farmer, we can actually spend less per item and get good, quality produce. However, since we wouldn't all NEED a bushel each (and don't have the space to freeze it as some have mentioned), we can purchase it together and split the cost. It saves us all money and is better for us. A co-op like this doesn't exist in our area, so this is something we'll have to do as a family. We all eat similarly, and will be able to split many things.

Is there a good friend or family member you could co-op with? It might be worth your time, effort and money to check into it.

I agree that sometimes we need to rethink the way we eat. I cannot eat very much dairy (1 item every 2 days or so), so most breakfast items don't work for me. A bowl of cereal will make me sick, as will a bagel with cream cheese or anything with cheese (why does EVERYTHING have to have cheese on it???) I have grown accustomed to eating things that weren't meant for breakfast for that meal. I don't mind eating leftovers from the night before b/c it's that or nothing. DH doesn't like to eat in the morning, so we do traditional breakfast foods (waffles, pancakes, etc.) for dinner occasionally. Sometimes just re-thinking the traditional meal structure can save you time, money and higher fat/sugar content.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2006 at 10:25AM
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Lower than last week.

I picked some beans, cucumber and cantaloupe this week.

Corn due soon.

Lettuce, peas earlier.

Carrots, beets later.

Some for me and some for landlord and friends, one of whom gave me some delish tomatoes the other day, and another has given me other stuff.

o j

    Bookmark   August 23, 2006 at 4:40PM
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steve o
Are you an organic producer?

    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 2:41PM
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Something I've mentioned before is growing your own food. I live in the suburbs, and I don't have a lot of spare time for growing food. There is no large scale food growing happening here, but a number of landscaping plants around my garden also grow edible items for no cost at different times of year.

Fruiting trees/shrubs are just as good for landscaping as eating, so I wonder why people don't grow them more often? My cherry tree flowers wonderfully with a mass of white blooms each year. I also like the idea of a grape vine but am unsure it would fruit very well in this climate. Don't forget nuts and smaller edible plants as well. Part of my pond landscaping is a rhubarb plant.

I figure it's all free since I would have paid to landscape the garden regardless if I bought edible or entirely ornamental plants.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2006 at 5:23PM
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Are you an organic producer?

Nope. Just an organic consumer. :-) Who happens to be active in the direction of his co-op.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2006 at 9:38AM
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$150 a month for food for your family, almost sounds unbelievable to me here in NJ. I know exactly what I spend a month, since I use a credit card for points. This month I spent in the supermarket, $443.00. This amount doesn't count the days I run out for fresh veggies. I am feeding 3, sometimes 4, all adults. And, DH and I eat out on Saturdays.
I know my monthly winter food bill is more since we eat more.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2006 at 1:14PM
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FWIW, a local paper challenged five local chefs to create a week's worth of meals for what the Federal government considers the minimum amount it costs one adult each week to eat healthfully. That amount is $31.42. That turns out to be $136.15 monthly. I do not know if that amount is regionally-adjusted; I would imagine food prices locally are more expensive on average because the growing season here is so short.

Interesting to note that, of the five chefs they asked, one flat out turned them down because he/she said it was impossible to plan healthful meals for that amount of money, and two others dropped out because it was "too time-consuming to fit the nutrition criteria".

That does not bode well for your budgeting plans.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2006 at 1:23PM
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"organic producers won't cram chickens into pens so small they can't move; they won't bulk up their cattle with steroids or unnecessary antibiotics"

steve o
those are some pretty stong statements...

    Bookmark   September 12, 2006 at 5:53PM
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A local rancher was interviwewd on TV and said that when you buy a pound of ground beef at the supermarket, it could contain the meat of 100 cows. Yuck! A butcher at a local supermarket agreed with this statement. I'm lucky that where I live there is a really good butcher that is cheaper than the supermarket but that's one of the few plusses (money wise) to living in a rural area.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2006 at 8:10PM
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YEA.......... what do you think they do at Tyson's? They combine all the ground beef together and mix in huge vats.

We buy our beef directly from the producer. I know what steer is being butchered and by what locker. You put out a little more money at once -- but the per pound price is cheaper. Last spring was the highest price I have ever paid and that was $2.25 per pound processed. That may be expensive as far as hamburger goes --- but cheap when it comes to prime rib.

It is important to understand where your food is coming from. Look into "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" which has chapters all over the nation. As a small producer, I am thrilled to talk to you about my farming practices. You will pay a fair price -- not a bargain -- but I'm putting my kids thru college and trying to keep a roof over my head, too.

And you can't use steroids on your cattle and be called organic. Even using "chick starter" which has an antibiotic for coccidiosis --- would void an organic certification.


    Bookmark   September 12, 2006 at 11:39PM
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"organic producers won't cram chickens into pens so small they can't move; they won't bulk up their cattle with steroids or unnecessary antibiotics"

steve o
those are some pretty stong statements...

Yes, they are. Unfortunately, they're true. I suggest you use a Web search engine to search the words growing conditions factory chicken and the words steroids cattle farm . I'd link to a result of that search, but I don't want to be accused of choosing one site just to make my point. There are many sites to choose from; you can evaluate the "goodness" of a site by your own lights.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 8:27AM
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* Posted by steve_o
.... two others dropped out because it was "too time-consuming to fit the nutrition criteria".

There is part of the problem. People don't want to have to *do anything*. It is soooo much easier to buy mashed potatoes in a tidy microwavable container, sold right next to the meats at the chain store for $4.98, than it is to buy a 10# sack of potatoes for a buck, and having to peel them, and then put them in a pot of water and then turn on the stove, and then take a masher and have to mash them and put them in a bowl........Phew! I'm exhausted just typing about it. I am being facitous of course.

Relying on convienence foods is why so many people just can't seem to "make it" on a budget.

I was at a neighbor's yesterday. They had a 'Taco Night" and invited people over. They bought a bunch of those 'taco kits' that you see in the store that come in a flashy box and are made by big name food factories. Each box had a few tortillas, a tiny package of sauce, and some meat seasoning in a tiny foil pack. The kits are pricey in the store.

I pointed out that they could have gone to the locally owned Mexican food store a few blocks away and gotten 20 tortillas for a buck, that they make right there at the store, and a whole thingy of hot sauce that they also make there, for about three dollars and a whole jar of taco seasoning that they put together for about two dollars, that would last a looong time. But they bought a bunch of 'taco kits' instead for five times the price.

I know that buying tortillas and sauce and seasoning there in bulk, like I do is also a form of 'convienence' food as I only see white people buying those things there. Most of the Hispanic shoppers are buying giant tubs of lard, and sacks of flour and corn meal and make their own tortillas at home. Ditto for making their own salsa with fresh ingredients instead of buying it there. I know this would be a lot cheaper for me to do, but also a lot more time consuming. I know can fit some convienence foods into my budget though.

If someone thinks that making dinner is just taking the lid off of things and using a scissors to cut bags open to heat things in the micro or toaster oven, they are not going to be able to make it on the government's recommended $136.15/mo recommended amount to spend for healthful eating. You have to put SOME effort into things.

Also things like coffee and soda pop and cookies are not *food*. They do the body no good and should not be in your 'food budget'. If do you buy those things, the money should be coming out of your budgeted 'luxuries' that you can cut back on or increase depending on your other financial needs.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2006 at 11:17AM
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I pointed out that they could have gone to the locally owned Mexican food store a few blocks away and gotten 20 tortillas for a buck, that they make right there at the store, and a whole thingy of hot sauce that they also make there, for about three dollars and a whole jar of taco seasoning that they put together for about two dollars, that would last a looong time. But they bought a bunch of 'taco kits' instead for five times the price.

bud_wi, I generally agree with everything I've seen that you've written. But I want to play devil's advocate here. I suspect the reason those folks bought the "taco kits" is sheer comfort. They may not know about the Mexican grocery. They may not feel comfortable being a "minority" in such a store. They may prefer to know before they walk in the door that the store meets some weird standard they have for cleanliness or marketing displays. They know the store in which they always buy their groceries -- the products, the layout, the general atmosphere.

Many people find it very hard to go outside their comfort zone. You see it on this board, as people list their prospective purchases and ask others to vet those purchases; you see it in the sheer number of people who won't try a new restaurant unless someone they know and trust tells them it's good. People pay a great deal to stay comfortable. And, for better or worse, it's not possible to put a good price on that.

If someone thinks that making dinner is just taking the lid off of things and using a scissors to cut bags open to heat things in the micro or toaster oven, they are not going to be able to make it on the government's recommended $136.15/mo recommended amount to spend for healthful eating. You have to put SOME effort into things.

True enough, but I don't know if you're familiar with that very long time between when the family gets home from work and school and when dinner hits the table. It's also hard to know what has gone on with a person's day that justifies simplifying dinner. You can't fight every battle; if opening some bags means the family sits down to dinner together and without anyone in shreds, then it may be considered an appropriate price to pay.

Also things like coffee and soda pop and cookies are not *food*. They do the body no good and should not be in your 'food budget'.

Warning! Slippery slope ahead! :-) If we're going to knock coffee and pop and cookies off the list, we can knock off white bread, potato chips, "fruit drinks", and many breakfast cereals, as well. They're just as bad for you....

    Bookmark   September 16, 2006 at 4:06PM
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I don't know, I buy those taco kits all the time. I wait til they go on sale for buy one get one free, then I use a coupon that gets doubled so they end up being really cheap. And, if I cut off the box top, my kid's school gets money back too. Even if I'm feeding a crowd, they're really not that all that expensive.

Plus, since the kits are just the right amount for my family; there's usually no waste. If I buy things in bigger quantity there is almost always some waste or the product quality goes down. Those shells don't last forever and neither does the salsa. Plus, I just don't have the room to store the stuff. And, I really don't have the time to drive or walk all over town buying different things at different stores.

The Hispanics may be making tortillas from scratch, not just as a money safer, but because they use tortilla shells daily and it's part of their culture. Where we may get up and make coffee, they may get up and make the fresh tortillas for the day. I'm not sure buying these tortilla and salsa making products in bulk would be good for you anyway because there would probably be some waste or storage issues if you're not going to go through a lot of it quickly.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2006 at 10:19PM
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In my city, (Toronto, Canada), the "ethnic" stores are often the best places for bargains in staples such as rice, vegetable oil, frozen vegetables, and imported packaged sweets :)

These stores often have a much better selection of "local" produce than the major supermarkets have, plus many carry "local" brands of dairy products that aren't available anywhere else. It saddens me that I have to go to a Pakistani or Korean shop to buy Ontario-produced food.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 9:42AM
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If the kits work for you, then you should stick with them, but I do believe you would be better off buying the products individually which would give you, in my opinion, better quality ingredients (fresher salsa from the refrigerated section of your grocer) at a better price point and you would still be ahead of the game even if you ended up tossing some out, which, I believe if the ingredients taste better, (fresher) you hopefully would not have left-overs to toss. Left-over salsa can be tossed into a pot of rice with cilantro to make a quick Spanish rice. It can also be used as a base for soup, or chili. Left-over tortillas can be broken into chips and topped with melted cheese & jalapenos to make nachos. When you buy things "outside the box" you find other ways of utilizing them to avoid waste and that can be fun and challenging, but I understand completely that convenience is a godsend in a busy family. We all must find our priorities and what works for us. This is why I believe the internet is such a good thing. We can learn about things from others that can help ourselves and our families and share.

Most important is to be healthy, eat well and enjoy your family.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 9:50PM
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You may think I'd be better off, but you don't know my family...LOL... My two little kids don't eat salsa at all. My husband will eat a little but generally hates chunks of tomatoes and refuses to eat any leftovers in any form. I could go on, but generally, you just have to believe me, it is very hard for us to use up things when bought in bulk. And it really isn't to our financial advantage to do so.

It's not really about me being busy or what is or isn't convenient. I really do love to cook and don't work outside the home so I have the time. For us, it really does boil down to a better financial decision for our family. I know people just don't want to believe it, but sometimes "kits" and such really are cheaper especially when they are sold as loss leaders. I just bought a brownie mix (on sale and with coupon) for 20 cents. Financially, it's really hard to do better than that. Yes, homemade are better (usually), but really, they were only 20 cents - I can't even buy a chooclate bar for that.

I think some people just refuse to see that sometimes convenience type items may just end up being the "cheapest" and not just easist way for them. I think you just have to know how to shop and when to buy things and not close your mind to the possiblity.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 1:14AM
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carla - I completely agree with you. It is just me and my hubby, and honestly convenience foods work out MUCH cheaper for us than trying to buy and prepare from "scratch." Also, as someone above mentioned, it is hard to get local produce at the store which makes the imported stuff like tomatoes EXTREMELY expensive - we could never make salsa cheaper than canned, never. Also, it is sometimes even cheaper for us to eat at local restaurants than buy even the convenience foods. One has to factor in the electric/gas used and the water and soap and electric for cleanup, let alone preparation and cleanup time.

For those with large families, and access to locally grown it is probably economical to prepare from scratch, but for others of us, no.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 10:53AM
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My Dad used to say, "You can lead a horse to water ...

... but you can't make him drink". (Nowadays, it'd have to be " ... can't make him/her drink".)

If people are interested to learn simpler, wiser, cheaper ways to do things, fine.

We can post ideas here, so that some who want to know can learn how.

What they do about the knowledge is up to them.

As the price of bread has been rising, I've been thinking that I should attend a local auction house to see whether I might be able to pick up a bread machine at lower than usual price. The farmer gets about a nickel for the wheat in each loaf - maybe I should get a bushel from a local farmer and grind it myself.

A few weeks ago I'd taken son to entertain kids at a festival in a small town and went to the library in another town. Along the route I saw a yard sale, so stopped to check it out.

Not thinking it a good idea to ask about what you're really interested in first, I priced a few things, then asked about the bread machine. The lady asked what I'd offer. While I was thinking, "Would $10.00 be too low - should I offer $20.00, or maybe $15.00?", I was saying that I really didn't know what to offer. She answered, "How about $7.50?". I agreed that that was a reasonable price and bought a few other things.

A couple of weeks later, while taking a carless friend home, he commented on some stuff at the curb, mentioning a bread maker ... so we went back. It was a machine like my son bought new a while ago when his old one began leaking around the bottom bearing.

The friend said that he'd like the one that I felt that I'd not like, and I'm using the one like son has (my kitchen is small and it takes up less space).

I plan to try the other one soon, to see which I prefer.

Son says also that he'd like us to hang on to both, so that we have a back-up in case his dies again. I figure that we can let the friend use the second one till one of us has a problem.

I made my first loaf a week ago, and started another today, using some whole wheat flour that I bought the other day. Almost forgot to add the yeast (son had given me some to start), as it was written at the bottom of the ingredient list and I thought that I'd included everything.

That would have made a real mess in the machine!

And not so hot for me to eat it, in that I have only three teeth left! Too bad I sent the dog back home last week. Maybe the cats might have struggled to get it down - but that's a bit problematic: you know how finicky cats can be!

Hope you're all having a glorious week.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   September 20, 2006 at 4:45PM
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On my first loaf, a week ago, the paddle soon formed the mix into a ball, that then rolled around.

I guess I put too much water in yesterday, as it formed a thick mix, but no ball.

The loaf turned out rather low, soggy , and not fully baked.

I'd used 4 cups all purp. flour in the first batch, but bought some whole wheat flour the other day and included one cup with 3 all purp. yesterday.

So - hopefully that next loaf will be better.

I hope that when I visit the Prairies next time I can bring back a bushel or so of hard spring wheat - the kind with a lot of gluten that they grind into "bread flour" that makes bread rise really well.

Will grind it a small portion at a time in my blender.


Thanks for the info about the fowl (not "foul") bones - I'd thought that, since the animals in the wild had surely eaten a number of fowl, that this supposed problem couldn't be too serious.

Your point makes a lot of sense to me.

I hope that you're all having a week that's memorable - for good things, rather than difficulties.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 1:22PM
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Interesting forum. First time I have been on it. Most of you would gag at the way I shop. Nothing in cans, boxes, premaid, etc. I guess I have to do it all, even make my own yogurt, have for 30 yrs. I have 4 diseases to control by diet, diabetes, fibromyalgia, IBS and Lymphocyotic Colitis. The last two, dr. wanted to remove the colon, but I went on a special diet 7 yr. ago for it. No meds, no surgery and no problems. Unable to use grain flours, as I have Celiac disease. So the baking is done with nut flours, which is pricey. Thus not a lot of fancy baking for me. Hubby can eat the grain flours. Nut flours vary in price from $4 a lb. to a whopping $15 a lb. We use a lot of fresh foods here, and buy nuts and dates for snacks. We must have 6 types of nuts here, I usually eat 3/4 c. per day. No, not overweight either, weight is normal. We raise a lot of our food ourself, like berries. For over a mo. we get one gal. blueberries a day, organic, off our bushes. We have quite a few types of berry plants, 2 apple trees, and a plum tree, and a huge grape arbor. We go to Farmer's market also. Next week they close down for the season, so things are quite huge squash..4 for $1. I stock up on items at that time. I can't do potatoes or breads or pastas. Our grocery bill varies from mo. to mo. depending on what our needs are. I only go down the middle row of a grocery store for toilet paper and laundry needs and cleaning needs. Friends have gone shopping with me, and always find it quite interesting. I am chemically sensitive to smells, so avoid products with perfumes and dyes added. So to most of you, I would be a real thorn in the side. I do come up with some interesting meals though. My belief is: I pay it to the grocer, farmer, or to a doctor.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2006 at 4:21AM
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Darlene87, there is a book called Ultra Metabolism that suggests the way to being healthy is to eat as you do. Do you mill your own flours? And if so, which foods do you mill?

    Bookmark   November 12, 2006 at 2:27PM
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Hi there, great discussion! Thanks for the tips.

bud_wi do you have any recipes for those dressings, etc.
I have been looking for a caesar salad dressing recipe and a sweet and sour recipe like the ones the Chinese restaurants use. Also, looking for a syrup recipe which does not use corn syrup.

Concerning DIY---I have been looking into the nutitional content of foods we can buy. Someone said the closer it is to natural the better it is for you. Also, the packaging has its limitations-- too many chemicals to make them and too much refuse.

Concerning reducing the food bill:
---have you looked into foraging wild foods. Check some books at the library about this topic. It could a great bonding\learning opportunity for the kids, too.
---cooping and making it yourself have been discussed.
----consider buying in bulk and repackaging the snacks, etc., in smaller, portion controlled quantities. This has helped us make food last longer. Be sure the food doesn't go stale. I have found that most crackers and chips are already stale when I buy them-- a good reason to make your own.
----take a look at any waste you may have. If coordinated, many new meals can be made from previous meals\snacks before they turn to fur in the frig. :)

Keep the great ideas coming..............SB

    Bookmark   November 13, 2006 at 12:42PM
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Sandibluffs. I don't ever use syrup so I can't help you on that one. Butter only, on my pancakes and French toast.

Are you looking for a REAL ceasar dressing? Or a ceasar style dressing like they sell in bottles at the store?

I wait tables in restaurants and we do a ceasar dressing made tableside. This has raw egg in it so it CANNOT be stored. It's a PITA to make at home unless you are having a dinner party, or have a lot of time and like to pamper yourself.

3 Egg Yolks, beaten
3 tablespoons Prepared Mustard
10 tablespoons Garlic
2 Anchovy Filets
6 Capers
1 1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon White Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Dried Oregano Leaves
15 drops Tabasco Sauce
15 drops Worcestershire Sauce
Olive Oil
5 tablespoons White Vinegar

That's what we use at the restaurant and it is a pretty basic ceasar. When I make it myself at home I leave out the capers as I do not care for them. Make sure you use FRESH garlic and not garlic salt or garlic powder.

Just like soups, dressing have a typical base. For instance, virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (or you can use red wine vinegar) for Itallian, rice vinegar and peanut oil for Asian, olive oil and white wine and lemon for Greek, sour cream with buttermilk or goat milk for creamy dressing.

Once you get familiar with the bases you add what you need - sundried tomatoes, garlic, dry mustard, sugar, dried onion, oregano, pepper flakes, ginger, fruit and what not. Make them up the way you want.

I do not use "a recipe" for dressings I make at home. I just create knowing what end result I am looking for. I don't want to give you a list of recipes that you may not like. Do you like garlic dressing? A creamy gorganzola? Do you avoid sugar? Watch you fat intake? Do you like pineapples? What I like may not be what you like.

Tip: Use granulated sugar for O/V dresssing and powdered sugar for creamy dressings. Granulated sugar in a creamy will make it thinner. Powdered sugar has a bit of corn starch in it when you buy it to keep it from forming a lump and it works better as a binder. Powered sugar in O/V dressing will make it cloudy and change the texture a bit.

If you put soft cheeses in dressing make sure you puree them. If you just drop in the chunks they make the dressing watery. I think it is best to add crumbled or grated cheese on top of the salad just before serving rather than puree them into the dressing, but that is just my personal preference.

If you use parmesean cheese make sure you buy the REAL stuff not the stuff out of the green can. Yes I know it is expesnsive, about $14/lb, but you are only using a little bit grated. It's not like you are sitting down to eat a whole pound of it.

Use DRIED spices and not fresh in your dressings. You can dehydrate your own spices and have fresh dried spices that are packed with concentrated flavor. Avoid buying those dried spices in the jars at the chain stores if you can, or shop at a specialty spice shop where they prepare and dry them on a regular basis.

Let your O/V dressing sit at room temp for a while before you use them so that the flavors meld and the spices are not "crunchy". Creamy dressings should sit in the fridge for a bit before using.

Do not use low fat sour cream for dressings, use yogurt instead.

And remember, these homemade dressing do not have preservatives in them and unless it is a dressing with a lot of vinegar, it will spoil or grow fuzzy mold in no time. Don't made up more than you can use in a few days. If it has raw egg in it DO NOT store any of it. Cooked egg dressings are a bit more stable but still do not let these sit atound for more than a day or day and a half.

I've seen people keep those bottled dressings from the store around for MONTHS in their fridge. I do not think bottled dressing are even real food. They're scary. I saw one brand that said ZERO calories - then what is it? It can't be food. Is it plastic?

Using squeaky clean sterilized bowls and utinsils will help avoid contamination and delay degadation of the dressings.

And here is a recipe that I got when working at an upscale restaurant at one of the huge hotel chains. I am not going to say which one because I know it is a signature recipe of a certain certified chef. A waiter stole it and passed it around to the staff.

House Dressing 333

15 yolks @ room temp
32oz oil mix (7:1 corn to hazelnut)
1C granulated sugar
2T horseradish
2T marjoram
2/4T thyme
1/2T dry mustard
1/2T white pepper
8oz lemon juice (use fresh sqeeze not bottled!)
6oz champagne vinegar

Here is a tip. Gourmet recipes are more about technique than just mixing a bunch of stuff together. In this recipe it is very important to sloooooowly drizzle the oil in or you will have a clumpy oily mess. Transfer the oil egg mix to a bain-marie and add the remaining ingredients one at a time. This dressing tastes best when it is well chilled.

You can divide the recipe for a smaller amount although since the eggs are cooked it has a longer life. I guarantee your guests will RAVE about this dressing. Use crumbled feta cheese on this salad and of course use a good spring mix lettuce with a high ratio of 'crunchy' to 'soft' lettuce in it. I never buy those bags of mixed lettuce at the stores. I buy the greens I want and wash and spin them, and mix them to get the ratio I want.

Cooking is a hobby and an art. Have fun.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2006 at 5:52PM
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I forgot to add my personal fav dressing that I made up myself. Maybe there is a simliar one out there, I don't know.

16oz sour cream
a splash of goat milk or Kifir
a big soup spoon of powdered sugar
a spoonful of dill
a spoonfull of cayenne pepper
about ten twists of fresh ground black pepper
a big pinch of dried onion flakes
a tiny bit of crushed garlic OR a pinch of garlic powder

* instead of goat milk or Kifir, you can also use buttermilk, or a dolop of commercial mayo with a squeeze of lemon.

Use this dressing on a crunchy bed of Romaine with some Spanish blue cheese or a gorgonzola. Options are also, boiled egg slices, croutons, purple onion slices, radishes, apples pieces, bacon (REAL bacon).

You asked about a sweet and sour Asian dressing. Basicly a sweet and sour is just sugar and vinegar base. You then add what style you want - ginger, soy sauce, pineapple, garlic, tamarind, carrot what ever.

Make what is known as a 'simple syrup' by bringing water to a simmer and adding granulated sugar until it is a thick syrup. You can make up a huge amount of this and store it for future use and for other recipes as it will not spoil readily.

To make the sweet and sour dressings, add simple syrup to vinegar to create your base and then add your seasonings according to your tastes.

Most bars make simple syrup to use in their blended drink recipes and Old Fashion Cocktails and Hot Toddies. I used to make this up 20 gallons at a time when I bartended. After it cooled a bit it was funneled into bottles and corked and stored. You might want to make up a big batch of this and be ready for holiday specialty drinks if you host events in your home.

Dressings are easy, and fun to make. Healthier and cheaper too.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2006 at 6:49PM
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WOW!!! Thank you very much for your tips. My daughter loves the bottled creamy Caesar dressing. By making it, I would like to avoid the additives.

I am looking forward to an exciting kitchen adventure. Thanks again! ...............SB :)

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 7:58AM
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You are totally awesome for sharing those! I make a *real* French dressing which has been handed down through my family. We take minced onion, granulated sugar, salt, dried salad herbs and paprika and toss them into a mortar and pestle. You crush the ingredients together, you can do this using the back of a spoon in a cup if you don't own a mortar and pestle (crushing the sugar and herbs into the onion) then pour it into a jar and add equal parts extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar. You can change this basic recipe by using different vinegars, like balsamic or apple cider to achieve different results but the end is always the same, Delicious! Also I have to say, good ingredients are a must, especially using good extra virgin olive oil. It's pricey but not nearly as pricey as buying pre-bottled dressing stuff. For an asian dressing, I like using sesame oil instead of peanut oil...mmmmmmm!

One can really save a lot of money by making their own tomatoe/pasta sauce too and it tastes 10 times better then stuff in jars.

Here's one of my favorite saving tips: buy yourself a meat cleaver and buy whole chickens and cut them up yourself instead of buying chicken parts. The most flavorful part of the chicken is the back which makes delicious broth which can be frozen into ice-cube trays when a recipe calls for a tablespoon of broth. Better tasting and healthier then boullion which is loaded with salt and preservatives.

Okay, now this is making me hungry.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 9:27AM
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Kimba, you are right about using the sesame oil rather than peanut oil. I meant to post sesame oil, and add peanut oil as an alternative, since sesame is pricier and sometimes difficult to find if you live in a small town. I didn't see my ommission error until I had already posted and there is no edit funtion on this board. Thank you for bringing that up. Sesame is MUCH better for Asian.

I'm was pleased to see your recipe for REAL french dressing. What most Americans call 'French' dressing is what is normally called 'Russian' dressing elsewhere.

The Russian/French dressing that you see in restaurants and in bottles in the grocery store is a type of sweet and sour base dressing. What it is, is a whole lot of sugar with vinegar and a bit of oil and of course dehydrated tomatoe powder and the appropriate spices like paprika and such. You can make it by using the simple syrup that I described in the above post. The only place I have been able to purchase dehydrated tomatoe powder is at a specialty spice shop or a restaurant supply house. I don't make this one very often as I find the sweetness of this dressing overpowers the salad and "sets the palate" making the rest of the meal seem bland or gives a clash, like serving Russian dressing on a salad and then following with chicken cacciatore or BBQ ribs.

Oh, and I forgot to add that you may want to add an amount of salt to the dressing when you make them. I do not ever use salt, but I do know that most people like their food to be a bit salty as that is what they have grown accustom to. Bottled dressings from the store have a lot of salt in them, as do those canned soups. When you make your own soups, sauces and dressing you can gradually wean yourself off of salt as YOU control the amount going into your food.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 11:37AM
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Steve O, I thought you might be interested to know that my new Senator (Tester) from Montana is an organic farmer.

Thank you, Bud, for your recipes.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 1:11PM
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Thanks too, Bud, for the dressing recipes and other tips!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 8:55PM
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Sandibluffs, I've made my own pancake syrup out of brown sugar and water. I don't recall the amounts, because it has been awhile. It would be about like making a simple syrup from white sugar tho, I am sure.

An easy french dressing...or maybe it is Russian ;) is 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup ketchup and 1/2 cup oil. Shake it to combine. It tastes similar to Kraft. I think the original recipe called for a little bit of sugar but I like it without sugar. Everyone who has tried it, loves it and can't believe it is so easy to make.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2006 at 11:35AM
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Russian dressing includes pickle relish, so yours is a French-dressing recipe.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 11:24AM
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Like I mentioned before, food and drink often have different names depending on your region. Where I come from, if it has pickel relish in it, it is call Thousand Island.

I worked at an international hotel chain, so we had guests from all over the world, and it was always a problem with guests ordering "French" dressing and expecting real traditional French dressing and not the 'red stuff' that they normally would get served at American places. I usually brought out O/V cruets and a side of 'the red stuff' and let them figure it out for themselves.

There is a lot of confusion with drink names. Different regions have different names for the same cocktail. Sometimes a common name for a drink here means a completely different drink elsewhere. I always like it better when someone orders a "vodka and orange" rather than a "screwdriver". Then I'm not dumping out a V/OJ because they meant a 'beer with a shot poured into it' when they said "screwdriver".

Easy Thousand Island Dressing Chain Restaurant Style:

32oz mayo (not Mircle Whip)
32oz catsup
8oz pickle relish

Voila! Exactly what you find at all the salad bars around town and is the 'secret sauce' that fast food hamburger places use. Catsup is very high in sugar and has vinegar, and the mayo has the oil in it. This is not a healthful recipe but by making your own as you need it you have one less thing to order and stock on your shelves. We made this up by the bucketful at one place I worked. Same with tartar sauce. I reduced the portion size in the recipes to home use portions.

Easy Tartar Sauce

32oz mayo
8oz pickle relish
3T cayenne
1 whole lemon squeezed (option)

Easy Cocktail Sauce

32oz catsup
1/4C horsradish
1T Tobasco
1 whole lemon squeezed (option)
2T dehydrated onion flakes (option)
1T garlic powerder (option)

Making it as you need it, takes only seconds and saves refrigerator space, so you're not keeping store bought jars of cocktail sauce and tartar sauce kicking around that aren't used often. AND it is more expensive per ounce to buy sauces already made up rather than just tossing them together when needed.

Of course you CAN even make your own mayo. The problem is, that fresh mayo, like the gourmet restaurants use, cannot be stored and must be either used right away the same day or tossed.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 4:42PM
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