Grocery Geek: At a Crossroads

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My grocery shopping adventures have met a crossroads. Tonight at dinner my boys each asked for a second hamburger. I only made eight, so that was quite impossible. They “filled up” on Sunchips and carrots. But, it gave me pause.

A Growing Family

My family is growing. With a husband doing manual labor most days and four sons aged 14, 10, 9, and 7, the quantity of food I need to prepare is growing. No, they aren’t eating junk. And no, they aren’t overeating. All the boys are pretty slim and trim.

But, food, whether that’s burgers, peaches, or pumpkin pie, is disappearing at a pretty fast clip. This is to be expected and normal I think for a growing family.

Fewer Processed Foods

Today in line at Walmart, I watched the woman ahead of me unload several cases of beer and soda as well as several boxes of Captain Crunch, Lunchables, and many bags of snacks I didn’t recognize. There was no milk, no produce, and no fresh meat. The only “real food” she had in the cart was bottled water. And that made me think.

Not in a judgemental way — I have no idea what else she has at home or if this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of purchase. There’s a lot of unknown in that equation. But, it made me reflect on how our family’s eating habits have changed over the last year or two.

We still eat some processed foods (the aforementioned Sunchips, for example) and I love to eat out. But, I’ve been making a lot more from scratch. And I haven’t bought pop in quite a long time. A Vanilla Coke used to be my regular, daily habit.

Not so Great Deals

On top of all that, I’ve not used more than a handful of coupons in the last six weeks. Sales have never been as good in California as they were in Kansas, same with the coupon deals. With the economy what it is, I don’t expect this to improve in the coming months.

Clearly, my shopping and cooking habits have changed — and the store deals have as well.Β And so here we are at a crossroads. I still love to grocery shop; I still love to cook good food; I still love to save money. But, I’m kinda curious what form my grocery geekiness will take in the coming months or how my food budget will change.

One thing I do know, is that I will not go quietly. I don’t think I will ever have quite the full cereal cupboard for practically FREE that I once did. So, I’m going to continue plugging along, buying the (healthier) loss leaders, and trying to make the most of what we have.

That said, this week’s big shopping trip looked like this:

I spent $54 on the dairy and produce pictured, some organic, some not. Hubs spent another $16 when he picked up some things I forgot. I spent another $20 in Walmart today. For the week, we’re at $90. We still have a few freezer meals and some meats in the freezer as well as pasta, beans, and rice in the cupboard.

Full disclosure: last week I spent about $140 at Costco and $100 at Trader Joe’s on the basics. We had depleted our stores in July and with my mom coming to watch the kids while I was at a conference, I wanted to make sure that they had plenty.

So, for the month we’re at $330. There’s a whole lot of month left, so we’ll see how it goes. I have a feeling that I will need to bake up a storm soon — and do some extra rice and beans nights if we’re going to stay under budget.

Are you seeing changes in your grocery buying habits?

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  1. When my oldest became a teenager I noticed a big difference. He eats 2 hamburgers.:) I am loving the teen years, but a big switch from the days of sharing a meal at a restaurant.


  2. You have bought some really good food Jessica. πŸ™‚
    And yea, that is so true.. I make two days worth meals and its GONE in one day. Hahaha. And good food is getting so expensive.
    Sometimes, even if I spend a little more than the amount budgeted, I feel a sense of deep satisfaction that I am giving my family the purest foods. They will remember me for that like how I remember my mom. At the end of the day, health is happiness.

  3. My hand is raised in East Tennessee! When we started watching what we eat last year (went on the South Beach Diet), it totally changed the way I shopped and what I shopped for at the grocery. Meat, fresh fruits and veggies, beans (high protein), turkey sausage and bacon, eggs, milk (though not as much), low-carb yogurt – none of these things came cheap! Our milk alone is pushing $4/gal., so even the “basics” have gone up in price. However, I like how we’re eating now compared to the (cheap) junk we ate before, and I’d rather have a balance between totally frugal and eating healthy. πŸ™‚

      1. I am in East TN and pay anywhere from $4.79-$5.39 per gallon of milk. I haven’t seen $2.50/gal in years! We were part of a cow share and paid $6/gal but I had to cut that out of the budget for now {was spending extra $ in gas to go pick it up too}.

          1. Raw milk in my area is $8/gallon. Non-homogenized organic cream top milk is almost $6/half gallon (plus $2.50 deposit for the glass jar) which makes raw milk a bargain.

  4. My children aren’t near yours ages. Right now they are 4, 3, 16 months, and one due in 6 weeks but they will seriously out eat my pre-teen nieces and nephew. They are thin and active and I don’t complain but in the last couple of months I have noticed that the oldest 2 have started eating more and being hungry more often. The 16 month old can match them bite for bite. He is on the chunky side. : )

    We eat mostly from scratch and don’t do much processed food and what processed food we do eat, I try to make the better choices, Stacy’s Pita Chips, Organic Cliff bars for emergencies, etc. It’s extremely hard to find coupons for scratch items in our area. I did the CVS thing and other crazy good store deals for a few years but they stopped matching our level of quality eating. We do a lot of shopping at Costco and a few fill in things at Wal-mart. Looking forward to hearing about your new food journey.

  5. We’re using fewer and fewer coupons, too, as we switch from processed foods to everything being homemade. I have a teenage boy and let me just tell you how much they eat! That’s sooo much of our budget, keeping that 8th grader in produce. He can eat 4 apples in a day….2 hamburgers at a sitting…it’s crazy.

  6. My 2 oldest have started eating ALOT more. They are thin, as well. It is very hard when they ask for more and you don’t have it. Luckily this summer, my dad loaded us up on fresh veges from his garden. That is about over, so I plan on going back to our local produce coop. But it is hard to fit that into our budget.

  7. Hello, I love your blog. I wanted to suggest to you that you check out, Laura has 4 boys and talks about her food journey a lot. She just made a whole foods “list”. I apologize if you already read her blog, I did not see you mention her. She uses Azure standard and swagbucks etc.

    I hope I have helped you just a little tiny bit. You help me on a daily basis.

    Thank you and Many blessings

    1. Thanks for the suggestion. I do know Laura. She’s a wealth of info, isn’t she?

  8. I’m noticing that my price book isn’t very useful anymore, because prices are a moving target. For example the price of canola oil, sugar, coffee, etc are constantly on the rise. A year ago I could easily score coffee for $1 a package; but now I stock up when I find it $3 a package. (Stockpiling is becoming more like dealing in commodities! ) This summer I was able to grow my own salad garden, which was a huge savings. But come late fall I’ll be spending more in the produce section. I guess the end result is a more focus on basics. I already base my meals around whole grains, and I bake most of our family’s treats with freshly ground wheat and corn. I’m lucky that my family enjoys eating healthy! But the price of feeding a family is going up, and I think Americans are going to have to join the rest of the world in spending more of our income on food.

  9. Thank you for the full disclosure! I have always cooked mostly from scratch. As a result I have never used as many coupons/purchased as much “food” for the drastically low prices as I see documented on various frugal blogs. That has always made me feel guilty, or as if I am not trying hard enough to find great bargains. My husband has frequently pointed out to me when I get into one of my “what’s wrong with me–why can’t I stay under $___ budget amount per week like ____ frugal blogger!?” funks that we don’t buy much that there are coupons for (quality produce and fresh meat, basic baking ingredients), but that I do stock up significantly when there is an awesome loss leader sale. And we eat very, very well, and enjoy some splurge foods just cuz that’s how we roll (feta in bulk from Sam’s, good coffee, bleu cheese on occassion, etc).

    It just alleviated some guilt to hear someone else say that eating healthier can cost more than not!

    At least I can still play the drugstore game with the best of ’em.:)

    1. You know, so far, we’re doing okay making the switch. The bills haven’t gone up, but I see that the quantity needs to and that is where the change will come in.

  10. Hey, Jessica!

    I don’t comment often (I know, rotten me) but I have been a loyal fan for quite a while now. I had to pop in today and leave you a little note. I so appreciate your honest transparency. In a blog world littered with extremes for eating, shopping, living, and facades of perfection to measure up to… you are real with us. That is why I still read your blog… every day. This is what encourages me. And I know that some people enjoy and are comfortable in the extremes but it doesn’t fit my personality. I’m all over the place. I go with what is best for us today, at this time. I’m just glad you are sharing your heart and home with us and wanted to say thank you!

    btw… I have four boys (2 teens, 1 tween, and 1 toddler) and I cannot make enough burgers anymore. I finally started mixing our ground beef with ground turkey just to stretch it. And I make lots of cheese tots, girlfriend; lots of cheese tots. I can so understand where you are coming from. πŸ™‚

  11. Um, yes. I totally relate, because my kids have been eating noticeably more this summer than they did last year. I am slowly adjusting to making more (much more) than I did at this year.

    My kids are younger than yours, though–the oldest is just 8–and that makes me nervous for what the future holds! If they’re eating a lot now, what will it be like in 5 years? Yikes!

    1. I think it comes in waves — and depends on what is being served! Some meals get devoured more than others. LOL

  12. Growing kids, what’s a mom to do? Except continue preparing healthy good food! Half of my kids are out of the house, but my 17 yr old son (6’2″) and my 15 yr old daughter (very athletic) can sure put the food away. Good for you, Jessica, for not giving in to processed/artificial food. I love it when my kids tell me (in jest, of course) “thanks a lot for ruining my taste buds, Mom! The food at the party, (or whatever) was terrible! Why don’t people eat real food!” You are doing far more than just “feeding” your family a meal. Have a happy day!

    1. It used to be that my kids didn’t like the canned soups or other processed stuff. But, pop and chips? They’d be all over that.

  13. We are in a similar situation. My boys are growing, and definitely eating more. So far it has worked to round things out with a little more pasta or a little more beans, but the days of one sandwich or one burger are long behind us. We’ll just smile and figure it out as we go along.

  14. Welcome to the world of teenage appetites:) There seriously ought to be more warnings for this season in a mother’s cooking life, really there should. Our children have always been good eaters. Now that they are 19,17,14,12,5,3, the amount of food we go through is phenomenol. Cooking from scratch saves for us as we don’t really have a ton of great coupon deals for processed food in our rural area. Milk is now over $5 for us and one of our favorite tomato sauces went up 3cents just in the last month. Totally agree with the viewpoint that price notebooks aren’t as effective as they once were, and I was just figuring out how to use one:) When purchasing groceries this past week, it dawned on me how much we had been conserving aka scrimping in the grocery area. Neither had I realized how much of our food is now prepared from scratch until a necessary splurge for convenience’s sake. Wow! We aren’t as unhealthy as I thought we were. In the future I see members of our family whose labor is less physically intense possibly having to eat a bit less so that those who are out there putting it out each day have enough “fuel” to maintain adequate health. Thankful for everybit from the garden. The Lord willing, we will have enough tomatoes to can sauce and juice for the upcoming year.

  15. I read somewhere (thriftyfun, maybe) about a “rule” one mom had for her very hungry teenage boy. He was always allowed to eat oatmeal and baked potatoes, so that’s what he had when he came home from school, and he “had” to eat one of those before eating anything else. The goal is that he got to eat more, but cheaply!

  16. Shopping for grocery thrills me a lot too. I look forward in cooking them new dishes. I take time to choose items that we need especially the healthy ones. This is important to our growing children. Sometimes, if it goes a little over the budget, I let go of the things that we need less so that I can prioritize more on just what we needed for the week. I like bringing my kids to grocery because I like the look on their faces when they see a lot of food and also it is my chance to know what are their favorites.

  17. Grow a garden! It keeps the boys busy and you can have all the fresh foods you want/need!

    1. Great suggestion! I was a big gardener at the homes that we owned.

      Unfortunately, gardening is not so easy when you rent with a very small, landscaped yard. πŸ˜‰

  18. LOVE YOUR BLOG! I have 7 kiddos, all your children’s ages except we also have an 11 month old. We are working on 4 pounds of ground beef to make meatballs or hamburgers for dinner and I still frequently hear “What else is there to eat?”!! Since we homeschool, that is 3 meals a day plus a snack that we are eating at home everyday, LOTS of food! Ecnouraging to know I am not the only one with HUNGRY children πŸ™‚

  19. We buy a lot of fresh foods, so that is what our trip usually looks like. We do a large farmer’s market purchase and smaller purchases during the week (my husband goes because he only get what I ask for, I usually get extra…) I feel like our needs have changed so frequently I haven’t been able to hammer down a budget. Our budget has been everywhere from 175 a month – 400 and our diet everywhere it can be within usually cooking from scratch (from supermarket, frozen, conventional to organic, fresh, and local).

  20. I am laughing with you because my teenage son is always saying, “There is nothing to eat in this house!” when he has just downed a great deal of food. I love the Zits comic strip because I can SO relate!! He is going to college at the end of this week so my husband and I are interested in seeing how that affects our grocery habits at home. We are willing to eat beans and rice to cover the college costs and we even like substituting black beans,etc. for meats – more so than our son does. We hope that will balance the budget. By the way, my son picked his college and his dorm room by evaluating the food plans and the proximity to the cafeteria!!!! We are also sending him off with his own Ninja blender because he loves to make his own protein shakes for snacks.

  21. Prayin’ for you and your sweet family, Jessica, in this transition.

    We thank you, TOO, for all the fabulous help we get from your blog!!

  22. We’re in the same place. I feel like I can’t keep food in the house to feed the five kids we have. One thing I try to plan for is to always make more than enough. ( Which is getting tougher and more expensive)I want to have a home where the kids can always have a friend over on the fly, as a way to help build relationships with their friend groups. The oldest children are entering the teens and tween years. I am anticipating making mountains of food in the years to come, but I’m looking forward to it, and to the challenge of funding it all!

  23. The phrase at our house is “let that settle first.” If my kids have already eaten a lot, but they are asking for more, I tell them to let that settle for awhile, and if they are still hungry later, I will get them something else. Sometimes they come back for more, but usually they go play and never mention it again.

  24. I have, over the last year, been cutting back on coupons for groceries, and have been buying more whole foods. Although it’s more costly, and our budget keeps getting cut due to lack of income, I think it’s worth it. My 1 year old has had 1 cold since she’s been born. My son, by the time he was 1, had many, many colds, flue, stomach issues. All of those have gone away since I’ve been cooking from scratch more, and buying some items organic. I like to shop at salvage grocery stores to stock up on canned organic fruits and veggies, and whole grain/wheat pasta and rice. I do flinch when my 2 1/2 year old sone has “eating days” when I realize that one day he is going to be eating more than me. Hopefully I will be a better shopper then, and we’ll have more income :0) Oh, I too am from California, and my mother in law from Oklahoma worries daily how we are surving when the cost of living (mostly groceries) is so high. I wonder that too sometimes!

  25. I don’t use coupons very much any more and it takes me much less time to shop. Instead of getting boxed cereal for very low prices, we eat oatmeal and other hot cereal. I also make muffins, pancakes, eggs, etc. We can use whole wheat flour and it is healthier for us. I still stick to my $50 per week on most weeks. Once in a while I take a break like this week since we had a family wedding. But, most weeks, I just buy what I can for $50 and get healthy food and it seems to go pretty far. Making homemade bread has been a life saver. I have some great recipes and the variety is nice.

  26. I have 2 teenage boys and we live in Los Angeles area so I know what you mean about not as many good deals. I learned from you about all the good deals at sprouts so now that we have one near us, we go there weekly. Also, I don’t use coupons much but with the target credit card, we get 5 percent off plus periodically an additional 5% off after 5 prescriptions filled which helps along with the target coupons and regular coupons. I just save a few coupons in an envelope specifically for target so that does help but we do pay the bill off monthly. Costco continues to have good prices on certain things and a great return policy. When I have had something go bad or some food item we didn’t like, we just return it and they give us a full refund. But day to day, it is hard to get great deals around here. I bought some boca burgers recently. I didn’t tell them it was vegetarian and they each ate one but didn’t ask for more like they usually do as the kind I bought were just ok, but not so great in flavor. So maybe that is how you can cut down on the seconds? Just thought you might get a chuckle out of that.

  27. I am very interested for you and others to keep posting how this goes. Our prices have gone up around here (Ohio) and we are now limited on how many Sunday papers (that have the good coupons) they will let us buy.

    I am trying to take a different approach to my shopping and stocking up. For example our local Riteaid has generic dried cranberries for $1.00 a bag this week. I am going to buy one bag, taste test them, check the expiration date and then if they are good – stock up for the winter. We use them in granola, cookies, etc.

    I have been rethinking my entire grocery budget this way and buying more of products than usual when they are on sale and rearranging my weekly budget to grab more meat, etc. when it is reduced.

    Love your recipes and suggestions!

    1. I am stunned that they are limiting how many papers you buy. You would think the newspapers would want to sell more. Goodness!

  28. Oh my goodness, we are totally in the same boat! I actually used to do some grocery match ups on my blog, but have since quite because I just haven’t been “couponing” as much. This summer, we have mostly shopped from our vegetable garden, our CSA and the farmer’s market. All of which, I am sad to say, don’t take coupons.

    I have noticed that the “deals” on the things I want and need are few and far between anymore, so I have upped my stock up prices and my budget a little. I do feel blessed everyday that we actually have a little wiggle room in the budget to do this.

    My friend and I were just talking about how we used to have cereal coming out our ears and Nabisco crackers that would survive the apocalypse, but I honestly FEEL better now about the foods we are eating. Budget be d…… πŸ™‚

    It is fabulous to hear another going through the same things. I felt like maybe it was a summer slump, but I think it’s just an overall shift in attitude towards our food.

  29. It’s so funny that you bring this up. I wrote about this on my blog back in March. I haven’t been able to stockpile the few things I used too just because I haven’t seen the sales here in Portland.
    We too eat a lot of fruits and veggies. Apparently an unusual amount of them because my CSA that I pick up on Wednesday is usually gone by Friday.
    My kids are also older, so finding those filling things does get tough. And yes, my food budget is not only effected by the rising prices, but also effected by the great summer fruit that I buy all summer long.

  30. Thanks for such a great blog. Really enjoy reading it.
    We are a family of 4 (son is 12 and daughter is 10) who live in Australia. My kids are big eaters too, but I love feeding them……..
    In regards to prices, I always look out for bargains and cook from scratch all the time. Our average grocery shop is $170. – $200 every week. If it is ever under $150 I am thrilled. Eating out is a luxury. Average spend is about $75 for a modest meal. Even a Macdonalds meal for 4 people costs about $45 here.
    I just wanted to let you know I envy your prices in the US.

    1. It’s all relative, isn’t it? I used to nab all kinds of free food with coupons and could feed 7 of us on $400/month. Times change — and we just have to make the best of it.

  31. Growing kids definitely change the way you eat. My son is 20, my daughter is 14 and my husband is a body builder; I’ve altered my budget expectations to account for the huge appetites all of them have. I’ve found that my daughter when she is very active in sports can put away almost as much as her brother. I try to do the following to make sure that they are eating healthy but keeping their bellies filled.

    -Encourage them to make a double hamburger if they are consistently eating two. This will help them keep down the carbs
    – Put a bag of spinach on the table with every meal. The kids like salad so even if all they are eating is spinach and dressing they are filling up on something healthy
    -Put applesauce on the table with every meal. It works the same as the spinach. I love Motts All Natural Applesauce for my kids
    -Keep lots of yogurt, apples and bananas around for snack food. Different families have different rules for taking food separate from meal time. I’ve always said that there are really no limits to those snacks but I wouldn’t replenish anything during the week so they needed to learn how to budget their snacks. My son alone eats a bunch of bananas, two bags of apples and six yogurts by himself every week.

    It’s only going to get worse, so be prepared πŸ™‚

    1. The applesauce is a great idea! They all love it. In season, I can make a ton, but Walmart always has a good deal on Mott’s. Thanks for the suggestion.

  32. We had a friend’s kid brother stay with us one time when he was a teen….MAN could he raid that fridge! And I bet he weighed a buck twenty. Kudos to you for handling it in a healthy way!

  33. The milk kills me! A recipe I got from my mom is picadillo which should just be up your alley with the love of latin foods:

    Saute hamburger with an onion, smash a clove of garlic with salt and add, throw in some oregano, bay leaf, a bit of tomato should you have one or some paste/sauce/salsa sitting around [spoonful or two] lea perrins or worchestershire [aka something else yummy to season your beef] cube up some potatoes add enough H2O to barely cover and simmer covered til potatoes are done. The potatoes are the stretcher so one per person plus extra for pan or you know 3 at least per lb of beef. Serve over rice. Avocado and tomato are nice on side. There are fancified grown up/company versions with wine and chopped olives, eggs etc in them which I also love. Favorite one of those is here: but google will be your friend here. Stuff any extra in mashed to make papa rellenas or into a turnover for empanadas.

    I have picked up on my baking~breads and such as filler. I am not so sure I am saving that much but at least everybody is full πŸ˜€

  34. Hey there Jessica! I have been reading your blog for over two years and love it! I have been wondering when the huge appetites would hit your home. I have two teenage boys who are currently playing football so you can only imagine what that’s like. I really appreciate how you tell us the ‘whole truth’ so that we can relate. I also appreciate Liz’s tips. Anybody else have anymore tips on how to stretch the meal??

  35. I don’t know if the Target stores near you have the full grocery sections now (many of them are going this route), but watch them for deals if they do. Target also offers a DEBIT card that gives you 5% off in-store purchases. I was very excited to see this because I won’t open store credit cards, but a debit card is a whole other ballgame! (Yes, the 5% also applies to groceries.)

  36. I just recently discovered Costco, and I am loving it, though I do need to watch the prices as they definitely aren’t always cheaper than the grocery store. I am curious what items you find to be good buys there.

    1. I agree, Melissa… Costco isn’t always cheaper, especially when other stores have a really good sale. It’s my go-to for things I usually get on sale (beef and chicken) when I can’t find a good deal anywhere else.

      The main staple I buy at Costco? Plain old milk. It’s a good $0.25 to $.50 a gallon cheaper.

    2. Somewhere in the grocery geek archives, I’ve talked about it. Feel free to poke around. I’ll try to remember to report back next time. We’re due for another Costco run this week: milk, bread, cheese, half and half, bananas, etc.

  37. We have a 9m old daughter and 2 little boys, 6 and 4 years old. I often shudder at the thought of what our grocery bill will look like in a few years!
    We are in the process of making some significant changes in what we eat. We are buying organic whenever we can and have eliminated most processed food and everything with high fructose corn syrup.
    With these changes I rarely find coupons for the products we now use. I now do the majority of our shopping at Costco and only a small trip to the grocery store.

  38. We’re also trying to stick to “real food” as much as possible, but I really struggle with finding time to make things from scratch. It always makes me feel good, though, to finish a big shopping expedition and see that the cart is mostly full of produce and “building blocks” rather than packaged snacks! I’m looking forward to reading about your continuing food journey.

    1. Yesterday afternoon I spent a couple hours prepping cheeses and vegetables and doing a little baking for the week. I think it is worth it, but I need to enlist my kids in the work. That will make it easier — and perhaps help them understand that meals don’t just happen.

  39. My grocery shopping is changing, that’s for sure. I “second the motion” that there aren’t as many good deals out there like there used to be. I have YET to find ground beef for $1.99 a pound — any kind of ground beef. Ugh, I was counting on that kind of sale to push me through some summer and fall stock-up meals. Oh well.

    Besides that, I’m just in a funk about meals period — I’m bored with what we’re making and frustrated that I can’t get my preschooler to expand what he finds tasty. This funk will pass, I hope…

      1. Our costco has their ground beef for 2.99 a pound (which I thought was too high for me!) until I realized that is the super lean. Super lean at Walmart, etc is never less than 4.99/lb. My “target” price used to be 1.99 but it is always for the 80/20. It’s worth it to me to pay a dollar more per pound, not to mention the flavor is SO much better!!

  40. Hi Jessica,
    thank you for your blog! I have enjoyed reading it regularly for a while now and have gotten so much encouragement and help from you. I was actually thinking of you when I was at Ralphs today. We recently moved down to south Orange County from Claremont in the Inland Empire. I had been warned that the prices are higher here but man was I shocked in the store today at what they were calling “sales.” Sheesh! I am at a crossroads now like you too and rethinking all of my menu planning and stock up strategies. While my kids are little–4 and 18 months–they motivate me daily to get cooking, saving, and strategizing. While in the meat department, I kept thinking of your post…I will not go down without a fight! LOL

  41. We went through the exact same thing. My coupon hunting is so much different now. There are good organic coupons to be found. We buy raw milk, grandson gets preferential treatment for the best foods. For homemade ice cream and other things I use regular whole milk, or if possible organic. I guess what I’m trying to say, avoid the middle aisles, and cook and freeze. Homemade “junk” food is so much more healthy. Muffins have been a fav since they taste good but hide a ton of healthy ingredients.
    Our favorite store is Jimbos, but money makes us mostly shop at new earthgrown market/formerly boneys.

  42. Does Abundant Harvest deliver where you are? I pay 36 a week for a large box of produce and it is a lot of produce. The only other produce I add is bananas. It’s in season and organic and I
    Just meal plan around what we have. My other cost have gone up dairy meat etc and we are feeling it. Plus my 10 and almost 8 year old boys have knocked it up a leveling terms of eating. They both at one piece shy of a whole pizza each te other day. I thought I was gonna pass out. I find making sure they are getting protein each meal helps. Finding cheap forms of protein like quinoa or beans has helped. I have tried the coupon thing but never been good at eat, just didn’t use a lot of the items and even when we did I would constantly fOrget to bring them. I’m an airhead like that. I’m glad you are sharing all this and look forward to your tips on the journey….as I need all the help I can find feeding 5 kids.

    1. Thanks for a great suggestion in Abundant Harvest. They do deliver close to home. Is it really a lot? We did a CSA locally for about the same price and it wasn’t really a lot of food.

      1. It is a lot. To the point where I have to tell Aaron we need to stay home to finish it. Haha. You can do a trial. Summer is a little lighter than winter but summer is always extra delicious with cherries and berries and tons of stone fruit. My mom is visiting and was shocked at the amount in the box for the money. (she raised 7 kids). The owners are Christian. They are also great if something is not satisfactory replacing it the next week. We have been using them 3 years this fall.

        1. I have had friends that did love and farm fresh to you and all have switched to AHO because it was more food and better quality.

          1. Well, I took the plunge. There isn’t a “trial” that I could see. But, if I cancel w/in 60 days I get the $30 back on the box. And if I don’t like it, I’m out an extra week for the cancellation time. So, we’ll see.

            I’m testing your definition of “A LOT of produce.” πŸ˜‰ What I like is that everything in the past boxes (on the site) are normal food.

  43. Thank you so much for this post! My husband and I just had a BIG discussion about our grocery/household supplies budget and it’d refreshing to know that I’m not the only one spending more and more on food but seeming to have less and less to eat. With 4 adults and 2 kids in the house, I am always trying to reconcile my desire to not LIVE in the kitchen with wanting to feed my family nutritious food AND be able to pay my bills!

  44. It’s so hard to reconcile healthy eating, organic foods, what my children will eat and reasonable prices for food. I’d love to see more government subsidies for healthy foods and fewer tax breaks for the companies that make processed foods, that would help all of us afford to eat healthier foods… Sigh… It makes me crazy to look at the ingredient list on favorite “healthy” foods that my toddler or older kids eat and find “high fructose corn syrup” or artificial flavors or colors listed!

    1. I dunno about the subsidies part, but I like the tax breaks idea. πŸ™‚ Anything to encourage small business is a good thing.

  45. I kinda know what you are going through – I have 4 kids ages 3-7, while they are not into the teen years yet, I have noticed a huge difference in our grocery bill compared to two years ago when they were all toddlers…I can’t imagine how much I will spend in 5-7 years from now!! Living in Canada, our groceries are much higher than yours…I see peoples’ budgets for groceries and want to cry! I coupon where I can (paper products) and buy in season, but we still spend about $300 every two weeks. Milk here is about $5/gallon, meat is unreal and produce isn’t much better!! But, that’s life I suppose! :0) No sense in complaining about it!! lol BTW, I have learned alot from you since reading your posts and have used plenty of your ideas with success!!!

  46. Hi, I’m from Canada and in need of ideas. Since June, my stepson 17 is living with us full time. Before, he used to visit each 2 w-end with his sister 15. I also have a son 21.

    I’m totally freaking out… my stepson eats everything and raids the pantry/fridge all the time. I can spend 850$ in 2 weeks! I make meals from scratch but also buy some other products. Food is pretty expensive here and good food even more. I work full time and have other part time jobs too (I am so tired…). My boyfriend works in marketing and put lots of hours (but doesnt bring enough income). I make a decent salary but I can’t pay groceries that are higher than my mortgage.

    We tried talking with my stepson and ask him to think of the other members in the family when he eats. It didn’t make a difference. This morning, my boyfriend showed me the “almost” emptied container of little cakes I made and kinda of laughed. So that made me sad… it is not funny and I’m ruining myself.

    Yesterday, I made a nice stew full of lean meat and veggies (big enough, thinking I could freeze some). He ate some and more to the point that I thought I couldnt serve a plate to my son. Don’t get me wrong, we all need to eat and eat good stuff too. But… this is driving me insane. I’m thinking of locking 1 kitchen cabinet…

    In the past, when I was raising my son alone, we didn’t have much and I learned to save, cook everything, use coupons and not let anything go to waste. My son made a lot of sacrifices and now that I am in a better place, I want to give him what I couldn’t and to think that in the next day I might not be able to feed him cause my stepson is eating everything makes me feel very sad. I don’t know what to do…

    1. Unfortunately, this isn’t so much about food as it is about your relationship with your boyfriend. It sounds like it’s time for a heart to heart. Can you tell him what you told us?

      1. Yes in other words of course… since he didnt raise his son, he is overjoyed of having him fulltime and has a hard time putting limits (he is a good teen, no party, no drugs, no trouble, etc.) or even thinking of doing something to jeopardize him being with us (I can understand…). Having is children each 2 w-ends and each summer made him, yep a dad that spoils and hardly say no.

        I dont really see the use of talking again and again with my boyfriend… we are a family, we live all together and our sons aren’t going anywhere. I just wish to regain a little control over my kitchen and feed my stepson in a healthy way that will fulfill him. My stepson is healthy, in good shape and not overweight. So, I was looking for ideas that wont cost me 1200$ per month. I thought of maybe using soya product for snacks…

        1. I getcha. First, I would make a shelf that is designated for “snacking.” Ask his input about the things that he likes — and make an effort to include some of those things. But, at the same time, fill it with stuff that costs less money. Since I have never been to Canada, I’m not sure what those things would be. But, I stock up on crackers, rice cakes, bananas, cheese, and dried fruit and nuts. Those things seem to fill up my teenager and he likes those things.

          Beans and rice are typically cheap and filling. It might be good to have a stash of freezer burritos that he can reheat himself. I hope that helps!

  47. Yes thanks for the “snacking shelf” idea, didn’t think of that one. Think I will also make a space in the fridge. We (me the most) are still adapting to our new family arrangements…

    To make you all laugh: about 6 years ago, I went to the restaurant with my boyfriend, his kids and my son. Before that, my son and I would go eat out and have a nice meal, go to the movies and buy all the stuff we wanted to eat and spend like 35$. So, just imagine the face I made when for the 1st time I saw a bill of 2 adults and 3 teens at a restaurant, I wanted to faint… I wanted us to skip the movies, lol. We didnt of course. But it made me realize that life isn’t cheap… a small box of healthy cereal can be 8$ here and those products are hardly on sale. Time to reorganise my kitchen, thanks again!

  48. I gave up buying packaged/processed foods about four years ago. My pantry shelves are filled with glass canning jars not boxes. I buy in bulk which saves money but my best kept secret is joining a local organic food buying group. Other than the occasional trip to Costco I rarely shop a grocery store now.

    I would encourage people to check locally for organic buying groups. If you can’t find a group start one. We do group buys which saves enourmous amounts of money. Buying organic becomes much cheaper when you can remove the middle layer of grocery retailers. We buy everything from wholesale spices, to flour/grains, fruits/vegies, honey, and meat through our organic group. We have over 500 families in our organic buyer group and it continues to grow. I picked up 40 lbs of organic Fuji apples for $28. Try matching that price at a grocery store. The organic orchard sells to us for the same price that they sell to the grocery store chains. My honey comes from a local beekeeper and even Costco can touch the price I pay. We do honey buys every 3 months. Sustainable bee policies is a bonus. We do twice a year group buys for beef, pork, and lamb which the ranchers/farmers enjoy because they can sell to us versus selling to individuals. Passing the savings along to members instead of stockholder profits. We do every two month orders for flour/grain from the organic farmer who not only grows the grain but owns the mill where it’s processed. The organic flour is fresh and delivered within three days of being milled. The fact that big agra companies never touch my food is what I love most. Of course the savings to my food budget are nice too. If you really want to save money join/start an organic group to stretch your food budget.