Groceries Out of Control

Updated on October 02, 2012
A.S. asks from Glendora, CA
26 answers

Our grocery expenses are out of control!! I just added it up and last month we spent nearly 1000 dollars on groceries so I really need to scale it down. We are budgeted for 600 for our family of five. 2 of us are gluten free but we don't buy a lot of "gluten free" products because they are expensive. I buy 2 loaves of gluten free bread and a box of gluten free pasta a month (so a total of 11 dollars). We try to focus meals on things that are naturally gluten free - chicken, fish, fruit, veggies, rice, potatoes etc. The problem is we are out of fruit and veggies within about 4 days so I find myself back at the grocery store (which I hate) and a few things turns into 60 dollars really fast. So my two questions are, how do people get away with shopping only once a week or even once every 2 weeks and still have fruits and such available and how can I scale back my grocery expenses while still staying away from pasta/wheat ingredients? This means, unfortunately, that many soups are out of the question also (so practically all of my crock pot recipes :( )

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Produce at Costco is WAY more economical if you ask me. Esp since it sounds liek you eat a ton of it. You can get huge amounts of it for what you spend for a little bag at the grocery store. Its good too.
Same for meats and their meats are great.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I don't shop once every 2 weeks. I'm constantly going back to the store. I just make a list of what is needed and avoid picking up extra items. I look at items in my cart and put stuff back if I've grabbed extra stuff.

Also consider shopping in different stores.. Stores like Valu + tend to have lower prices on produce.


answers from Dallas on

I never did learn to manage the grocery once a week. I did learn to give up big dinners every night. Settle for Tuna Salad, Egg Salad or Chicken Salad (leftover chicken from the night before) to save money. I wouldn't skimp on fruits and veggies but in most houses if you learn to drink only water you will save quite a bit. Give up any drinks and expensive snack foods. Buy in bulk at places like Sam's and Costco.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I cannot tell you about gluten free products because if my kids have a problem with that I never learned about it.

However, saving at the grocery store is my forte`.

My wife and I spend about $25 per person per week for groceries and other consumeables like toilet paper, detergent, and pet food. So you should pay about $125 per week for your family. I also live in SoCal so our food prices should be about the same. The difference is our buying habits. The key to saving the extra $500 per month is your willingness to change.

No change in buying habits means no change in money spent. Its your choice.

First, lets dispell some myths.
#1. You save more money by doing all your shopping at one store so you don't spend your savings on gas. WRONG! Unless your car gets less than 1 MPG.
#2. Shopping at Sams or Costco will save you money. NOT SO, if you buy meat and fresh fruit and vegetables there. I find prices much cheaper at my local grocery stores when they have meat or vegetables on sale. And Sams is less expensive to belong to and the prices are cheaper at Sams than Costco.
#3 marked down meat, vegetables, and canned goods are not safe. WRONG! Those items are marked down because they are not pleasing to the eye in the display case. They are ok to eat. They are good to eat.

Get all the ads for the ALL the grocery store in your area. Read all the ads. Then go back and read the ads again, use the pen and circle the best prices on all of the things you want for the week or month. Then plot your routes to the various places you go each week. When you go by one of the grocery deals, stop in on you way home or on your way to somethng else. You save gas. Always stop by that stores bargin bin. (Where they place marked down canned goods or items they are discontinuing.) Buy what you use or what you would like to use.

When you find a really good deal, buy MORE that what you need over the next week. I like to use the example of spaghetti sauce and alfredo sauce. Ragu normally costs $3 when it isn't on sale. But when it goes on a really good sale, its $.99. So when its on a really good sale, I buy 12 of them. That will last me the two months until they have that really good sale again. You save $2 everytine you use a bottle of ragu. But don't be afraid to change brands. My local Stater Bros had Hunts spaghetti sauce for $.99 each. If you bought two cans, they would give you two packages of pasta (12 to 16 oz). So I bought Hunts instead of Ragu spaghetti sauce. You may say, "Well my kids won't eat Hunts". In my home, I always add spices and stuff to the pasta sauce so I never use what comes directly from the can or bottle. If you do that too, it won't make any difference what came in the can or bottle because you made it better. (I add mushrooms, diced celery leaves, hamburger, onions (brown and green), italian seasoning, pizza spices, and what ever suits me. I've even added enchilada sauce for a spicier sauce.)

If I find a bunch of the same thing in the mark down bin, I go to the store manager and tell him he has 30 of this in his marked down bin and that if he will sell it to me for a better price, I will buy all of it. Example: 30 cans of cream of chicken soup for $.25 per can. 23 cans of pork and beans for $.30 per can. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Fruits and vegetable I tend to buy at one of the "mexican" markets in my area. Rio Ranch Market had brown onions for 10 lbs/$.99. Sams had 5 lbs for $4.99 and Stater Bros had brown onions for $.99 lb. At Rio Ranch you could only buy one onion if you wanted and you would have paid about 5 cents. When onions get that cheap, I buy 5 to 7 lbs (50 cents to 70 cents) and then store them out of the frige under a counter and use them as I want. If I loose half of them to spoilage, and I seldom loose more than one, then I only paid 20 cents per pound. And I always buy the size that I will use at one meal so I don't put half an onion in the frige.

I have posted on several of these questions on mamapedia as have others. I hope you go back and read and learn.

ETA: The four most expensive stores in our area are Vons, Ralph's, Costco, and Sams in that order for meat and vegetables. Walmart price matches so I bought 10 bottles of Kraft BBQ sauce that was on sale at Food 4 Less at Walmart. I saved 8 miles of car travel and got the deal at Walmart.

Good luck to you and yours.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

The tightwad gazette suggests tracking prices so as to make sure that you know when an item is really on sale. i.e. spaghetti sauce might be 3.59 one week. 2 for 5 the next week, 8 for 10 the following week, and 5 for 4.50 the next week. If you stock up on a midlevel sale, you really haven't fully capitalized on the savings.

There are those who would have you menu plan to the ounce. We don't. Instead we cook based on what's on sale. If I wanted creamed spinach as a side dish, but asparagus is on sale, its going to be asparagus.

Lastly, we've seriously reduced our meats. We cook meat about once a week at best, and then its more like a garnish than the main event.

Crockpot does not have to go by the wayside because you are doing GF. Right now I've got a cream of broccoli soup going in my crockpot. sliced onions, chicken boullion, a bit of pepper spaghetti sauce (cause it was in the fridge), and 2 bags frozen broccolli. When its nearly done I'll add some heavy cream and call it done.

Hubs just raved about my red cury lentil soup. It has red lentils, tomato, onions, spinach, potato, olive oil, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper, and curry powder.

Later I'll be making rice pudding using a gallon of milk, two cups of rice and 1.5 cups of sugar.

We don't use any prefab soups with our crockpot. Nor do we use any pasta/wheat. A little bit of creative substitution, and you'll do just fine.

Good luck to you and yours,
F. B.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Rockford on

This is just a random thought here, I know that a lot of canned soups and stews have flour/wheat in them as a thickener even if it doesn't have pasta in it, but if you make something yourself you can sub in cornstarch as the thickening agent. This also works on slow cooker recipes.
Even though my family isn't gluten free, I don't put flour in my soups and stews, I am a cornstarch kind of person, and there is no gluten in it naturally. It usually takes less cornstarch than it would flour to get the thickness you are looking for.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Biloxi on

Shop sales and freeze. When you find produce on sale - blanch it then freeze it. We also use canned veggies to augment the fresh ones. I also only buy durable fruit - bananas, apples, oranges, grapes. Sometimes frozen fruit.

I set a price limit for myself and have been known to take only cash and a calculator to the store.

Pre-plan the week based on what is on sale. Good sales, I plan two weeks.

I save a huge amount at the grocery by not buying snack foods and convenience foods.

Also, does your $1,000 include household goods? Because that is not food and needs to be backed out of your monthly amount. I actually budget paper and cleaning products separately.

Good Luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


I don't stock up nearly as much as 8kidsdad, but he has good tips. If you have some standard go-to meals and the ingredients (even some of them) will keep, then buy low when you can. We ALWAYS have pasta in this house. Quick and fast. We always have corn bread. Things like that can be bought inexpensively and stored so you aren't scrambling for a meal or buying pricier mid-week replacements. And think outside the box. What about breakfast for dinner? Can your family do that? Scrambled eggs, bacon and some of that gluten free bread for toast? Eggs are inexpensive.

And I agree on the go back mid-week ONLY for what you need. That's part of why I use the scanner. If I get off track, that scanner tells me straight up how much is in my cart and I can rethink my shopping.

You should also not shop hungry. I know, seems basic and silly but if you are hungry for dinner and shopping for dinner....

We've also cut out a lot of junk food. Without SD or SS home, candy is very limited (DD can stretch the candy from a party for weeks), we don't buy soda or chips or things like that often. So apart from how much is spent, look at what is spent and can you redirect your resources?


We shop once a week and try to plan ahead with fruits and veg. We keep canned items so if we get to Friday and don't have fresh, we have something to throw in. We also do a leftover day where everyone can pick their own meal, provided it's not marshmallows and cocoa puffs. That cleans out the fridge at the end of the week for new food. I don't coupon regularly, but coupons, sales, comparing the price per quantity - it adds up. For the crock pot, can you do a beef stew? Or a chili? Can you do a stir fry one night? Throw some potatoes in there and it's a vindaloo. If you are consistently out of fruit and veg in a few days, look at what you buy and how much you buy. Should you really buy a whole bag of apples vs just a few? And is it cheaper to buy more in bulk at the start of the week? We also shop at a local asian market for veg. Or the farmer's market.

We take a list and stick pretty closely to that list. It helps. And I use the scanner thing so that there are no surprises at the register. I know before I throw in something extra that I'm not over my budget.

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answers from New York on

I don't think it's really possible to eat healthy and only shop once every 2 weeks. Once a week should be your goal. We go fruit picking at our local orchars from July to November and get our favorite fruit, apples for 1.50 a lb. Peaches are the same price. For the rest of the year, some frozen veggies are good like French (not french cut) green beans, peas, and non GMO corn. I think the key is to try to eat the same food several times in a week instead of 3 distinct meals a day. Also, buy what is on sale. I agree, I do not think wholesale clubs save more money than buying on sale combined with coupons.

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answers from San Francisco on

I shop at Costco! I buy things in massive bulk, then divide them up into smaller, more manageable quantities as necessary, and then store them. Often times, they have good deals on meat (which I divide into 1-lb quantities before I freeze), and you can't beat their prices on milk, cheese, butter (you can freeze cheese and butter, too), even coffee creamer. Likewise, you can get three times as much toilet paper for the same price as the grocery store. Even canned goods are a lot cheaper there. It's true that you have to buy a membership, so that is a cost up front, however we are Executive members, and get 2% of our purchases refunded to us each year in the form of store credit. Last year, our membership ended up being free because of this. (We also buy car tires, have our business payroll services done through there, photo printing, eye glasses, etc.)

Anyway, so, I do buy certain veggies at Costco from time to time. They have these giant bags of broccoli that will last a while. We buy salad greens there. I'll buy bags of oranges when they're in season. Onions, garlic, potatoes... things that will keep a little while, you can buy in large bulk.

My Costco bill ends up being about half of what my grocery bill was before I started shopping there. For other types of produce, I receive deliveries once per week from a local farm. You never quite know what you're going to get, but it's all super fresh and was grown less than 30 miles away. When it's delivered to you, you can't impulse shop, either. ;) Based upon what I find when I open the Farm Fresh box, I create that week's menu, and go from there.

I have one child who pretty much only wants to eat raw fruits and veggies. For her, I'll buy a 10-lb bag of apples at the grocery store. Those keep for a long time and they're inexpensive. (Though she powers through the whole bag herself in a week! ;)

I have many soup recipes that I think are gluten-free (no pasta, no grains). If you want, I'm happy to send them to you!

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answers from Houston on

Why are your soups out of the question again... use potatoes/beans/rice to replace the pasta if that is the reason. We have a pretty low budget for a family of 5. Fruit goes bad here really fast, so I go to the store about 2 times a week. The second trip for produce, you just have to be very diligent about getting only what you need so you don't overspend. You can also buy frozen fruits/veggies as well. To save money on 'cream' of type cooking soups, you can make those yourself from pantry items and seasonings/bouillon cubes. Freezing is great, buy things on sale and make a large batch of spaghetti sauce, enchiladas, seasoned ground beef or shredded chicken, and freeze it in sections. Menu planning will help with this. Also, buying prepackaged meals, soda, chips, snacks and such wastes money. Snack on things like celery and peanut butter, pretzels, nuts and it will be cheaper and more healthy.

I asked a similar question a while back when we were going through unemployment, got some good answers:

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answers from Chicago on

For the gluten free breads and pasta look at Amazon Subscribe and Save feature. I buy my GF pasta on Amazon and I save at least $2 per package or more after signing up for Subscribe and Save. Also, Vita Cost has great prices on Bob's Red Mill GF flours etc. As for the fruit cut it out. Serve a fruit with breakfast and then give them celery or some cheaper veggie with the other meals. Frozen fruit is good too but skipped the canned because it has so much sugar. I rarely buy canned soups, GF or not. I make a huge batch in my crock pot and freeze the leftovers. Check out the Crock Pot blog CrockPot365. All of her recipes are GF and inexpensive.

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answers from Iowa City on

I have found that saving money means spending more time and effort on planning and shopping.

Here's what works for us: Check out the ads. See what is on sale. Make a weekly meal plan accordingly. Stick to your meal plan.

Sometimes, in order to save the greatest amount of money and get the best quality, I end up going to more than one store. Yes, it takes more time but it does save money.

Making a meal plan also takes time but it saves quite a bit. Without a meal plan and grocery list I would just go into the store and pick up random things thinking hey, that looks good. Inevitably, I will have missed several items needed to complete a meal and require a return trip.

I personally find that buying in bulk does not save me much money but then I don't have a membership to a bulk store and there isn't one in my area.

Frozen fruit and veggies sound like they would be a good option for you. Buy some fresh and some frozen. When you run out of the fresh stuff, instead of going to the store, pull out the frozen items.

Also, going to a grocer saves me money. When I go to a big box store it is easy to just pick up extra, non-food, things.

Check out the websites of your local grocery stores. They might have a preplanned menu that includes menu items that are currently on sale.

I'm sure you can find gluten free recipes for slow cookers buy using google.

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answers from Norfolk on

Dried and canned fruit have a much longer shelf life.
We love raisins, dates, dried appricots, canned peaches, etc.
Squash (acorn, butternut, spaghetti) are great veggies.
We have road side stands that sell in season locally grown veggies and fruit and the cost can be better sometimes that what is in the super market.
If you can pick and can your own, you have total control over sugar and salt content.



answers from Oklahoma City on

The thing is, those foods cost money so if you can't afford them you don't get to buy them. That's the bottom line. Cut your spending somewhere else to make room for buying the fruits and veggies.

If you can't afford to buy the groceries then you may also need to limit the amount eaten in one day, for instance, if you buy a bunch of banana's and they are supposed to last 4 days but you let them all get eaten in one day, you messed up. It's up to you to control the food going out of your kitchen. If they are eating it all in a couple of days then either you are letting them have total access and they are grazing on it instead of eating it in a meal or you are simply not buying enough.



answers from Topeka on

If you have Whole food stores in your area or a HYVEE they offer a sack sale for 10% off what you purchase in a sack.They offer these often for gluten free products or whole/organic foods.
I'm a shopper for 6 I have 140 a week for groceries and I typically have 15-40 bucks left over.It varies if I make enough for leftovers or if we happen to eat out,or the kids are out of school and at their grandparents then on those days I don't cook just eat what is there.I vocus around a menu,sale ads and of course coupons i'm able to go from store to store to get the savings since i'm a SAHM and where I live the stores I go to are fairly close by.I try to purchase all frruits/veggies even frozen and canned from ALDIs,bottle of dish soap,laundry detergent,toilet paper every trip for the week so for I don;t run out and that is always on my list.I would go online and google what specific recipes your looking for and print them off buy the ingredients and if your family likes it add it to the menu.There are cookbooks out there for healthy gluten free families,if your not eating right your not going feel your best


answers from San Francisco on

If you don't go to Costco try Smart and Final, I love that place, and no membership required!
Buy in bulk whenever possible, especially meat, cheese and milk. Large bags of frozen veggies are a good reasonably priced alternative to some fresh veggies, and they can be stored longer. Beans are a great, cheap and filling protein, and again, easily stored. Eggs are another good choice, add some veges, onions and cheese for omlettes or a frittatta for dinner. Potatoes and ham are fairly cheap (a little goes a long way) and can be used in soups, casseroles and stir frys. Bake your own cookies and muffins instead of buying them prepackaged.
Even though I do a lot of stocking up I am still at the store several times a week, picking up odds and ends for particular meals, especially bread and produce. But overall all I have a pretty well stocked freezer and cabinet which helps keep costs down :)



answers from New York on

i agree with mallory.. get a costco membership.. u may end up spending more money in one trip than u normally will but it will last you alot longer and u wont shop as often.. i just got a costco card recently .. now instead of buying formula once a week we go to costco and buy 2 cases of it.. its the same price as a case would be at babies r us but you get 2 more bottles for the same price!! .. the other thing i like about costco is that when u shop there it takes a while before everyone starts complaining about having nothing to eat in the house.. i bought pasta there n it came in and 8 pack.. so now until thats all gone ill alwasy have something to make for dinner even if its last mminute


answers from Boise on

It's a matter of rethinking how you shop without changing what you shop for.

We are a family of ten and spend about $1,000 a month. That's 6 adults (4 adult children..barely) and 4 smaller ones, who eat more then the grown ones.

Plan everything, make sure that you always have the staples and condiments on hand. When these things are on sale, buy 2 not 1. Every household has certain things that are used over and over again.

Plan every mean, down to every detail and shop according to that list. If you keep staples on hand you will find this very easy to do.

Fruits and veggies, only buy what is in season and also buy frozen or canned.

Plan soups and stews, they are absolutely gluten free if you just skip those things that have gluten. They do not need pasta. Double the batch when you make them, either freeze it for later or eat it again in a few days.

Bulk is your friend, if you can afford to shop at least once every few months in bulk and replace as used you will find your bill to dramatically decrease. Freeze or store in airtight containers what won't be used right away.

Snacks, stick to things that can be made from scratch. This is a huge saver in my house.

Household products should not be listed under groceries. They are part of maintain the house.

hmm, I'm sure there is more. I make things were ever I can. Mayo, laundry detergent, cleaning solutions. Small things, but things that add up none the less.



answers from Philadelphia on

I do alot of couponing! Luckily too, I have a discount food store right near me that has excellent prices! I can't get everything there, but the things they do have that I use are WAY cheaper than any other store I shop at. Maybe you have something like that near where you are. I also go thru the grocery circulars for 4 stores that I like and since I know what prices I can get things at, when I see a really good deal, coupled with my coupons if I have them, I go and get my deal, regardless of whether I need it at that moment or not, as long as it will not spoil quickly. Like cereal, I won't pay over $2 for a box. I don't eat red meat, so I am always looking for sales on chicken. When I see it for $1.69 lb, I know that is when to stock up. For me, honeycrisp apples were on sale for 88¢ lb. last week, so I made a special trip out to the store. Know your prices. It will take a while to get the hang of it, but once you do, you don't even have to think about it.


answers from Grand Forks on

Do a weekly meal plan so you know exactly what you need to buy. Use the most perishable produce earlier in the week after you shop, saving the more stable produce for the end of the week. Also, if you have a deep freeze use it for your meat. Only buy meat when it is on sale, then keep it in the deep freeze. Buy seasonal produce and freeze that as well. Check the store flyers before you make your meal plan, and plan according to what produce is on sale that week. When cheese is on sale at a great price, buy extra that you can shred and freeze to use on pizza, in lasagnas and other casseroles. Do not buy convenience foods. Figure out the best days to get clearance items at the stores you shop in. Right now utility turkeys are on sale for 99 cents a pound, so I will buy four or five 10 lb for the freezer. A turkey will feed my family for two days.



answers from Savannah on

You need to be a planner! If you plan your menu for the week (preferably around ingredients already in your pantry so you save money), then stick to your shopping list you should do a little better. As for the fruits and veggies thing, I will occasionally go to the market for something fresh a second time for the week, but the key is to keep to the shopping list (as it should be every time you step in!) You also should buy the fruits and veggies that are on sale that week. If you look at the ads before you plan your menu for the week, then it will be easier to save some money. Make sure to stock up on items that are a good price! Also, frozen veggies are GREAT!!! We get the big giant bags at Sams Club, that way we always have veggies. Also, you have to price compare even in the same market. For example, I get the bag of apples, because they are less expensive per pound than getting the loose apples (And also more accurately a "serving" because they are not as large). One thing that can cost big time at the market are snack foods. You should really look at what your family is consuming and try to alter the foods that are being eaten. Always check the price per ounce or unit in whatever you are buying. Then compare it to other sizes and brands on the shelves. Bringing a calculator to the store is very helpful!



answers from New York on

Wow $1000!! You need to plan, plan plan. Learn your prices and heck out various stores. I know where I can buy produce at 1/2 the price of grocery store. I do a lot at Walmart super centersn and Walmart. Cannot beat the grocery prices. Just today went spent $400 but I am good for about six weeks except for milk and if I really need something special. I have an upright freezer and buy like 8 loaves of bread. $1.00 a loaf for example.
We are four adults. I know the price of everything everywhere. In that $400 was
Shampoo, and other toiletries. So it can be done. Just takes a bit of extra time and patience.



answers from Washington DC on

i eyeball the amount of fresh fruits and veggies for my family of four. Probably 2 bunches of bananas (cheap!), 5-6 fruits like apples or pears, something like grapes or cherry tomatoes, and a fresh green like spinach, brussles sprouts, or green beans - enought for two meals. Then I use a lot of frozen veggies to supplement - we always have frozen peas and corn on hand. And I always have some canned fruit and applesauce around to supplement fruit. I also buy big bags of carrots and potatos which last for a month or longer. We do meat about 3-4 nights a week,pasta 1-2 times and eat out 1-2 times. We eat pasta, cheese, cold cuts, soup, and other leftovers for lunches. Cereal, peanut butter, yogurt for breakfasts. I always have eggs, onions, garlic, chives, rice - all good staples for an omlet or stir fry if all else fails. I spend about $130 per week but wish it was less.

The most valuable advice I have is to buy store brands - it only matters on some items to buy the name brand. Often, the ingredients are identifcal (e.g., canned fruit). Also, don't buy individual packages of things - no pudidng cups, buy the stovetop mix or at least a big container. All the better, cook from scratch.

I don't envy you avoiding gluten. We love our bread and tortillas and pasta. But I know gluten is hidden in a lot of things...



answers from Norfolk on

I make a meal plan for 2 wks. Which means I have ingredients for those meals. I go Save-A-Lot about once a month and stock up on can goods and other things I like to keep on hand for quick meals if needed. I'll usually spend around 40 there. I also shop at Sams (me and my mom share the expense for the card, 20 each) I get a lot of my fruits and veggies there. I have used those green bags, that keep veggies longer, but haven't seen those for a while. Fruit don't last long in our house either, there are 6 of us. We have a farmers market around the corner here we go to often, or we get the fruit that's on sale. Something is always on sale. Since making a meal plan and buying meat in bulk (at sams) I have cut down on our bill a lot. Plus if we need something, I wait till I absolutely need to go grocery shopping again. Also like someone else said, you don't need a big dinner every night. Some nights grilled cheese do just fine. :) Sorry don't know much about gluten free stuff.


answers from New York on

I could have written this post, We also have 2 gluten free people in the family and I also stay away from the pre-packaged gluten free products. I end up running to the store during the week for fresh fruit and veggies and same thing end up spending a small fortune. Prices are so high!

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