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How much is your weekly grocery bill?

Last week, the Oregonian's FOODday featured four families that put their family food budgets on a diet, ranging from $100 to $300 a week.

Why are we paying so much more at the store? Blame rising energy costs that make it more expensive to transport food and run a farm; spiking corn prices that inflate the cost of feeding animals we use for meat, eggs and dairy; and a run-up in what food manufacturers pay for wheat, soy and corn sweeteners, the main ingredients in bread, cereals and most processed foods on your grocers' shelves.

One family slashed their eating-out budget and planned their darndest to keep within their budget and scheduled meals.  Another family stopped frequenting all their favorite speciality food shops, opting - instead - to one-stop shop, saving on time and gas and impulse purchases.  The third family, raising two teenage sons, became masters at finding steals and deals, scoring enough milk for the boys' gallon-a-day needs and cheese or fruit for their constant appetite.  And the last family tightened their belts even tighter and focused on from-scratch cooking.

These days, we're talking about tightening belts, but we're also talking about lower-sugar, less processed cereal, peanut butter, and bread.  How do we balance the food budget with all these factors in play?  What is your family's weekly food budget?  What are tips and tricks to keep you within budget?

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this thread has my attention. i would be incredibly interested in what other families are doing.

due to allergies and medical conditions, we've gone to a (nearly) all organic and/or local diet. this is (obviously) super expensive and takes it's toll on our single income budget, however, we feel very strongly about this decision and our minds won't be changed anytime soon.

i love the idea of reducing meat intake and incorporating more vegetarian dinners into our weekly menu, but i have no clue where to start. this would help us pinch pennies though.

the most attractive idea is to do most everything from scratch. i find myself wishing more and more that my grandma were still here so that someone could give me lessons on canning, preserving, and baking.

I would really love to have some lessons in canning preserving etc. We will have a simple garden this year. It would also make sense to berry pick this summer and freeze some. Any other folks interested in learning more of these basics?

My husband makes minimum wage at his job and has to work overtime so we can meet our monthly bills. My job as SAHM is to make the dollars stretch- especially for food.

Plan ahead! Think of 5-7 meals you want to make, and that can be stretched into leftovers or lunches. Go to the store with a grocery list for those meals and stick to it. By buying a smaller amount of specific groceries, you can spend more time comparing prices.

For low income families there is a lot of help out there- from your local churches and food boxes, Loaves and Fishes, Gleaner's (they have organic food). Check and see if you are eligible for food stamps too!

With an empty wallet, rising costs for everthing, and growling stomachs, pride needs to go out the window fast and these generous helpful services should be taken advantage of!

these days, we can only afford to buy for one week at a time. we save the most money when we plan out meals and buy accordingly. you can actually eat REALLY well on a budget when you do that.

Check the library for canning books. We've made jams and jellies for us and as christmas gifts, going to try canning veggies this year. It 's been super easy and yummy too to grow basil then cuisinart it with pine nuts & EVOO- freeze it for year round delish pesto. Do you have a bread machine? just a few ingredients and super quick.
Thank God for coupons!

You can often find really great nonperishable stuff at the discount/grocery outlet stores, including organic items. I used to love Sunshine Liquidators at 50th and Woodstock, but they just closed. A Grocery Outlet is opening at the old Value Village Hollywood location. Three Boys at MLK and Dekum can be good--they have St. Johns location too. You have to be willing to troll the aisles, keep a sharp eye out, go back often, and accept that sometimes items won't ever get restocked once they're gone. Also be flexible with expiration dates. The box of Nature's Path cereal or can of Muir Glen tomatoes doesn't suddenly go toxic if it's a month past the "use by" date. Lots of staples are just fine for months past date.

As a SAHM, I've got more time but less money to work with. I've got to get creative because we're on a very tight budget. Since food is the biggest household expense that's the most flexible, you've got to plan ahead or you can really end up overpaying (don't pay retail!).

My family of three lives on about $65-85 per week on food. We eat a lot of organic food, all vegetarian, mostly healthy (since I'm trying to lose weight). I shop where the deals are: QFC, New Seasons, Trader Joe's, Fred Meyers & Safeway--anywhere there's a good sale or consistently low prices.

Like other people have said, pre-planned meal menus are KEY to saving money. I keep a running list of 5-9 meals to make during the week, stock up on the ingredients, and cross them out after I've made them. That way you can pick what you'd like for dinner off the list.

Here are my other tips:

* Stock up on sale items, & use store + manufacturer coupons in tandem. You can even get stuff free that way, if you're not locked into a particular brand.

* Use store circulars to find best produce prices, esp important with organic fruits and veggies since they're more expensive.

* Arrange meals around good produce on sale. I.e., when celery is on sale, I'll make a few soups. Soups freeze great too.

* Buy potatos, onions, apples, etc in bags. It costs substantially less than buying singly.

* Trader Joe's has (some) great prices. Keep an eye out so you don't overpay on other stuff though.

The more money you can save on food, the more you can splurge on stuff that's important to you. My son's toothpaste is about $5 for a little tube. I want him to have the best, all natural stuff since he swallows it. Or that bottle of wine I just got to have...

Getting a chest freezer was one of the best decisions we ever made. We found ours for $50 on Craigslist last spring and I filled it all summer long.

I did bags of u-pick (and wild-picked) berries; grated zuchini in 1-cup portions for muffins and pancakes, the pesto from 10 bags of farmer's market basil; plastic bags of blanched, chopped tomatoes (bought a 20lb box at the market), apple sauce. I had that stuff all winter, and it's really paid off. Plus the warm glow of self-sufficiency...

I second the meal planning. That makes a big difference as well.

Hey Zinemama- great ideas. Did you just wash the produce (zuchini, berries etc) and freezer bag them? Any tricks? Any good "do not do" advice in terms of freezer burn?

Thanks for the good suggestions.

Mary,

Do you have more information about the programs for low income folks that you mentioned? In particular Gleaners?

Thanks

Zinemama,

Did you notice any big difference in your electric bill with the freezer? I'm quadrupling our garden size this year and really want a freezer but fear the expense...

Where in the world is the mom of two boys shopping? She paid $9 for a 2lb brick of BANDON cheese?? Please! Try Winco.
So many people are so stuck up and wont shop at Winco b/c they feel it's 'beneath' them and then get their tail in a knot b/c their grocery bill is so high. Stop being so stuck up and bag your own frickin groceries.

Amen MumtoP!!

Karen,

Gleaner's is through the Oregon Food Bank: http://www.oregonfoodbank.org You have to be referred to it by someone else, a LOT of families are on it, so you might want to ask around, or post on cragislist. Someone can refer you, or, you can ask them to pick you up extra food (that is what my friend does for me) and she goes 1x a week and comes to my door with MOVING BOXES FULL of produce, frozen goods, and all kinds of yummy treats.

To get food stamps, go onto the Oregon DHS website they have a calculator on there that will tell you if, based on your income, you are eligible: http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/assistance/index.shtml

Call your local churches and ask if they have food boxes and what days they do them. If your particular church doesn't, they will know of another who does, or can refer to you get extra help.

Loaves and Fishes is in Portland and you can check their website for more information: http://www.loavesandfishesonline.org

I got a very interesting meal plan from a friend and her brother in law. They spend $100/week for a family of four (kids are under 10). One family is vegetarian, the other is not. Both buy mostly organic and natural meat.

Here's how they do it: plan your menu for the week. Shop by yourself 1 time/week. Buy no (or very little processed foods). Plan meals where left overs are used for lunches and 1 day is a left over day. As you shop tally up what is in your cart. If you hit $100, put something back. If you have an expensive item to stock up on or get one week, plan for lower cost meals to off set the higher priced item (ie: olive oil is needed, eat a simple meal of cheese omelets and green beans). Don't steer from your list for sale and impulse items.

I think that was the gist of the "plan". I have tried this method and it has worked for me in spurts. But I am a sucker for the frozen Trader Joe's easy meal or the Annie's Mac on sale. While cost is a major issue for us, the most important thing in our family is eating well. Cutting out processed foods cuts down the grocery bill a lot. Also I rather spend more on organic/local produce, meat & dairy and have less of something else.

For those of you interested in putting up your own food, take a look at http://www.portlandpreserve.com They offer great food preservation classes, smack dab in Alberta.

Also, http://www.streetroots.wikispaces.com has a link to community resources including food boxes for people within certain income guidelines.

I have thought about this subject and considered totalling our food bill. But I haven't done it yet.

For those of you who are thinking of canning. It is a great experience, I love canning and think of it as a summer ritual. Take your time, be very prepared, and follow the directions to the letter. Here are a few other tips.
- If you have a large pressure cooker available, it is faster and easier than the hot water bath.
- Look for old jars at yard sales, be sure they don't have chips.
- Go light on the sugar. I have tried non-sugar options, but find using the least amount of sugar is fine.
- Find a friend to do it with. Or better yet, if you have a friend who can show you.
- Home canned peaches, pears, & green beans are our home favorites. They taste so good, my girls don't like store canned fruit now.
- Freezing is a great option. It is easier to do. When I see the price of blue berries in the store. I am glad we made the trip to Sauvie Island in the summer.

We're just finishing up our last bag of frozen blueberries from last summer...we'll have to wait a month or two, but all that effort was well worth it to have blueberries at our fingertips all year! I also did strawberry freezer jam last year--super easy since you dont have to do the hot water bath. I thought I made a lot, but it only got us through until December or so....I'll have to do more this year. We have an apple and pear tree, I've done apple and pear butters, but this year maybe I'll try to do some canning of my pears, sounds yummy!

I have not kept track, but in the last several months, our grocery bill has skyrocketed...I suspect we have been spending upwards of $800/month on groceries (for a family of 4). It's always been a priority for me to bring home fresh, organic, non-processed, etc. food for our family so I have not paid attention to price all that much. But lately it's been hard not to notice the rising costs...So, in the last 2 weeks I have made a very strong effort to reign things in a bit. The articles in the Oregonian inspired me, and so far I'm really proud of the results!

I'm going through my freezer and pantry before I go to the store, planning 5-6 meals ahead of time, and only buying what we need for the week. Last week I set a budget of $100 for a trip to TJs and I kept track in my head as I put each item in my cart. It was really gratifying to have a full cart of food, know that I had meals for the week, and my total bill was $102...not bad! I ended up having to make one trip to Fred Meyer this week for more bread, some cleaning supplies (because they were on sale AND I had coupons), and fruit, but I only spent about $20, so our budget for the week was $125 with very little effort.

I know I can do better...this week I'm gonna try to stick to $100 total...we'll see how it goes.

Kristin, we checked out freezers in Consumer Reports before we got ours; energy cost was our main concern, too. But we were surprised to find that many of them are very efficient. The Kenmore we ended up with uses about $40 of electricity per year. So it's been a good investment.

I'll be back later on with some more on freezing. But in the meantime, I just want to tip my hat to all of you who can food. I know it's the energy-saving way to go, but I'm too lazy and (sort of) intimidated by the whole process. Good going, canners!

For those of you spending $65-$120 per week, let me ask: do you include the cost of paper products (toilet paper, kleenex), cleaning products (prepared or ingredients for making your own), and/or bath supplies (shampoo, soap, etc.) in your grocery bill? If not, how do you account for those expenses in your budgets?

So, here's my freezing strategies. I would love to hear about what other folks do.

berries: do not wash - just freeze on trays then pop in freezer bags. (Blueberries don't need to be frozen on trays; you can put them fresh in freezer bags and freeze.) I tend to cut up large strawberries before freezing, since lots of them end up in oatmeal. For school lunches, I fill a container with frozen berries and they've defrosted by noon for the kids.

basil: I make and freeze lots of pesto. When making pesto to freeze, leave out the cheese (it doesn't freeze well). Add at the time of eating. Also, walnuts are cheaper and taste just as good as pine nuts. I freeze pesto in ice cube trays and in small containers, then pop out and put in freezer bags.

zucchini: I grate it, squeeze out some of the liquid, and put a scoop into a cup measure. I up-end the cup measure on a cookie tray, so I've got what looks like a tray full of little green haystacks. I freeze these one-cup portions, then put them in freezer bags.

tomatoes: I blanch, slip off the skins and chop. I freeze them in 2-cup portions using the small (1 qt.?) size freezer bags. These have been so handy all winter.

plums: you know those Italian plum trees everywhere? I picked a shopping bag full from my neighbor and made plum sauce - just stick the plums in a big pot, cook down, run through a food mill. The kids were crazy about it. I froze it in ricotta-sized containers

One thing that's helped this first year of having the chest freezer is keeping a list of how much of each thing we froze and when it gets used up. For example, that 31 lbs of blueberries we picked at Klock's Farm? Not enough! This year we're going for 40lbs.

This thread is giving me some great ideas, thank you. I am definitely going to freeze more this summer, I've spent so much money on frozen berries in the last few months. For me, menu planning, leftovers, and whole food cooking are key to being economical.

I've been using the New Seasons online shopping. I started it because it is so hard to take my 2 year-old shopping right now, but I soon realized it is helping me spend less. Once a week I make my menu list, then sit down and shop at the website. You can look at everything on sale in one section and constantly keep track of what you're spending. Also, they give a free gift every week (you have to find it on the website and use the code) so if the gift is something you use, it practically pays for itself. I use the pick up service, not the delivery, and I'm loving it. Though I do actually enjoy grocery shopping so I kind of miss that, this service is totally working for me right now.

Zinemama,

Thanks for the tips. I will look more seriously into a freezer. There are so many things that can be frozen, from berries to rice to homemade tomato sauce to peaches. It seems like a freezer would also let me take advantage of certain sale items that I otherwise wouldn't have room for....

Also, I just got back from Costco and found that they have more organic options than ever before -- soy milk, peanut butter, jelly, bread, whole wheat spaghetti, mac and cheese, cereal, pretzel sticks, on and on...I just had to restrain myself to be sure to not waste my savings buying that new DVD...

I'm not sure how many people will see this at this point, but is anyone interested in being part of a yahoo group about this subject if i started one? we manage $400 month for a family of 6. i HATE cutting coupons, but it's a necessity and the thrill of getting things dirt cheap is worth it. i feel "icky" when i have to pay full price! a couple weeks ago, with a coupon and a double, and the item being on sale, i got a bottle of tartar sauce for .10 cents! i make jam/jelly every summer that lasts all year. i would love to do more, but that is a luxury/expensive item i don't have to buy and i don't really have more storage room for now to do more, (beans, fruit, etc). anyway, i though we could start a group for people daunted by coupons/watching ads/knowing what a good price is for something, and in addition to all the great suggestions, post weekly bargains we come across, like that 10 cent deal.
if anyone is interested, you can email me at summmer_babies@yahoo.com.
also, for those whose income qualifies, there's Care to Share. sorry i don't have a link.

I'd love to hear the skinny on coupons--where are the best ones? Where do you find a "double"?

Shannon, please, lets form a yahoo group about food/preserving/saving/sustainable diet on a budget!!!
We are family of 4 with two preschoolers plus daycare kids eating here 4 days a week. I used to be able to keep it to under $100 but I can't anymore...My strategy is shop at Winco when I need things like mayo, flour, etc. Then other weeks I can pick & choose--sometimes it's the fruit stand at 82nd & Foster, sometimes it's Limbo & TJ's (39th & Holgate). I only shop at Safeway when they have a good sale & then it's only for stuff I can't find/can't afford at TJ's. And I have to say I LOVE WINCO!!!!! Their bulk section is great, their in store bakery bread has a short ingredient list & they mostly carry the same brands as FMeyer & Safeway so why pay more?

As far as freezing goes I always wash the berries. Clean the blueberries first, then wash them (once wet it's impossible to get all the little sticks & leaves out). Wash strawberries first, then take off stems/soft spots (I use knife, my SIL has such nice nails she doesn't need the knife). Peaches freeze nicely, in fact I prefer frozen over canned--just slice onto cookie sheet then shake into freezer bag. It's best to pay full price for ziploc bags, dollar store freezer bags aren't as good. There are lots of great farms out in Boring (I'm an east-sider so I don't know about Tualatin & Hillsboro) and you can find them at tricountyfarm.org--listed by fruit, area & name.

Another idea: instead of using eggs in muffins or pancakes use applesauce, canned pumpkin puree or any other moist fruit (about 1/4 per egg). I discovered that I actually prefer them without the eggs after we discovered my daughter's food allergy. For Dia de los Reyes I made rosca (a sweet bread ring) and tried out several recipes & we all agreed that the ones without egg were much tastier--so we just don't make bread recipes with egg anymore. So far haven't figured out a reliable substitute in cookies. Cutting out the baking with eggs is another substantial savings!!!!

My struggle right now is with meat. I really would like to start buying organic meat but haven't found a place I feel comfortable buying. I don't go to New Seasons because of the prices. TJ's meat is too packaged, too expensive, mostly pre-seasoned. I checked out the provider of the local carniceria & they're selling your run of the mill stocklot steer meat. Back in my home town there are lots of people selling grass-fed beef but we generally prefer pork & chicken.....I guess I've gotten so hooked on being able to pay $1.50 a pound for cheap cuts at the grocery store that I'll just have to bite the bullet & adjust my expectations.

I am afraid to estimate our food costs. We try to plan and budget, but we are bad at it. I want to have more ideas for fast, easy, and nutrious foods, as I often find myself so uninspired, as much as I used to love to cook up big complicated meals pre-kids.

I think in that same FOODday issue, there was also mention of someone who does workshops on "sustainable living on a budget". It sounds almost like an Energy Trust audit or an Eco-Home Party, but with an emphasis on food. Here is more info: http://www.sustainablebudget.com/

There are tons of workshops coming up at people's homes, so it sounds like a good opportunity to learn in a small setting, meet others and share challenges. There is a cost: $25 per person or $40 per couple.

Hi! This is such a great thread - thank you for starting it, urbanmamas. I’ll categorize my responses since I’m going to just let it roll here…

General savings ~ aside from produce, I prefer to make 1 bigger trip rather than several small trips throughout the month. This helps me budget and keep me from ending up with too many unexpected purchases. I mainly shop at Costco, Trader Joe's, Winco & New Seasons. A while back I made a list of the same or similar items that are offered at more than one of these stores. For example, Tillamook medium cheddar cheese which my daughter would practically die without. Then I created columns to compare the prices by size. Now I only buy the item at the store with the lowest price.

Menu planning ~ life got so much easier when I incorporated this into our lives.
A) even if hubby darling gets home to find me knee deep in an art project with kidlet, he can grab one of the quick menu ideas and go to town in the kitchen knowing we have everything to pull it together.
B) if I’m in the mood to chop for a straight hour, I can make the rest of the weeks meals all that much easier.
C) almost no produce or other perishables go to waste.
D) I have these recipe sites bookmarked, and most if not all have a quick & easy section: allrecipes, epicurious, recipestoday, molliekatzen, arrowheadmills, etc.

Deeeeeep freeze ~ love my freezer. Currently it’s stocked mostly with oj, bread, milk, cheese, bacon, quorn products & fish. It’s a relief to me to know I won’t need any of these things until next pay day. And maybe not even then. Our freezer is in the basement so rather than run up and down the stairs every time I’m cooking, I keep a smaller package of things like corn, grated cheese & bacon in the kitchen freezer. I probably wouldn’t want a Costco membership without a chest freezer. Oh, and next to the freezer we have shelving for the other bulk items like cases of soy milk & the huge bag of rice.

2 words about New Seasons ~ they have coupon books at the service desk with items that I’ve noticed often go on sale during the same time as the coupon. We have loads of Quorn products due to this. Thanks heavens too because those are not cheap. Anyway I highly recommend checking out this little coupon book which I’m inconveniently forgetting the name of.
Rebecca’s right, the online shopping is crazy handy. I’ve been using it and creating a shopping cart but then printing it and going to the store myself to pick out the items. Just an idea.

A word about Winco ~ I totally understand why people would not want to shop there and was never going to go back after my first visit one weekend afternoon but a friend convinced me to try it again saying the deals are too good. It just so happened that I randomly went the 2nd time on a weekday morning. Completely different feeling. Not jam packed with screaming families, floors and pretty much everything was clean and orderly, and all the employees were super friendly. Plus no one was shoving me out of the way when I took too long to bag my groceries. And I love that Goodwill is right next door. How freakin’ handy – my daughter’s insanely adorable & fancy Easter dress was $6.

Okay, that’s all from me. Maybe I’ll see some of you at those Preserve classes!

i started a google group, here is the link.
http://groups.google.com/group/better-shopping?hl=en
from there you can join. the more the merrier!

Thanks for starting the google group, Shannon! I just joined.

My tip to start buying from the bulk isles. I'm now buying dishwasher detergent, laundry soap, etc in addition to food. I save glass jars from pickles, etc to store my bulk products.

I also found a pretty good price on organic ground beef at Costco. I think it was $4/pound ($12 for the 3 pound pack). It's cheaper than I've seen at New Seasons + Freddies. I put it in my freezer (each pound was already individually wrapped so I didn't have split it up. I also plan to buy a chest freezer to put in the basement.

Thanks for all of the inspiration!

Hey Capella- if you are eastside check out Whites Meats. I am not sure if they are organic but I am sure they could tell you. I used to live in Troutdale and buy freezer BBQ packs from them. It was really a costs savings. They are kind of an institution east side.

White's Country Meats
1206 SE Orient Dr
Gresham, OR 97080
Phone: (503) 666-0967

When I lived in Upstate NY, we belonged to a buying club through United Naturals (a distributor of natural and organic foods--I see their trucks at New Seasons). We bought our non-perishables in bulk through the club, and would split the large quantities that were the minimum. As an example, my family purchased a case of our favorite brand of peanut butter--it saved us $50 and lasted the entire year. Does anyone know if there is such a club in Portland? Or if anyone is interested, and we had a critical mass, perhaps we could start one...

Mamas! We just received an email from Carissa, Editorial Manager at http://www.ecometro.com for a great coupon. It expires at the end of the month, i.e., on Wednesday!

"I enjoyed your recent post on grocery bills. We at ecometro.com/Chinook Book launched our first ever online coupon earlier this month for $20 off of $100 online at New Seasons Markets. There's a PDF with the coupon code here: http://www.ecometro.com/portland/location/New-Seasons-Market-Online-Shopping/1789/

We're hoping to get the word out before the coupon expires at the end of this month. There will be two more online coupons next week, too. We will have a link to all online coupons on the site shortly, but for now we are announcing them in our newsletter (due out next week, on farmers markets) and trying to get the word out ... We'd love to have more people know about our online coupons, especially the New Seasons one before it is gone."

We just moved to Portland under a year ago from the east coast, so I'm still in honeymoon stage about all the great food options here, but I'm still thrifty and these are the places I've found that stand out to me:
Produce Markets! Here in SE, there's Paul's with cheap local/organic produce, open-air style on Hawthorne; there's also Limbo's next to Trader Joe's with excellent deals on produce and bulk herbs. I rarely pay anywhere near grocery store prices.
QFC has had some great deals on natural meat - not organic, but without antibiotics/hormones (whole chicken, .69/lb; stew beef 2.99/lb) - and wild pacific salmon ($6/lb). The butchers are helpful and will get still-frozen meat so you can stock it in freezer. The store is pretty low-key, so you're guaranteed non-stressful shopping.
Otto's is a great german-style butcher for house-smoked (very little nitrates) meats and cordon bleu at very fair prices. One of the guys at the counter said the meat is from local pasture-raised animals. Bonus is the grilled sausage stand outside for a quick cheap bite. They're on Woodstock.
Cheese we buy at Trader Joe's and I also get big blocks of Tillamook on sale at QFC or Fred Meyer.
People's Co-op is where we get bulk bio-kleen laundry, dishwasher + dish soap - their year round farmers market is on Wednesdays.
Body care products are bought online, and we stick with Aubrey Organics - yes, spendy, but lasts a long time and they're 40% off at vitaglo online.
Vinegar is about all we use for cleaning everything house-wise (floors, bathroom, kitchen, windows, etc).
This summer we'll definitely be doing the u-pick farms and stock up on berries to freeze. I also wanted to look into a CSA to see if they're worth it.
I joined the google group and looking forward to more tips there! Oh how I love Portland.

Our grocery bill is too much, and we are really trying to watch how we spend money in general. With that said, we are on a budget.

Like other mamas have stated, planning and preparing are the best strategies for watching the food bill. Since moving to a different neighborhood, I completely miss being within a few miles of Trader Joe's and Limbo where we felt we got some really good deals on cheese and essentials. Now, a trip to Trader Joe's is much less common.

I think there is certainly a trade off for us between driving 20 miles round trip to the nearest Winco (which we used to shop at) versus shopping at the New Season's or Freddies that's a 1/2 & 2 miles away. I say that now, but if my boys ever reach the point where they're guzzling 5 gallons of milk a week, then the 20 mile drive to Winco will definitely be worth it.

I went to Trader Joe's yesterday, with this conversation in the back of my mind. I came out of the place with six bags mostly of our favorite Trader Joe's frozen foods and I felt like complete crap.

I can't plan our meals. I have four people with four quite different palates. I don't like what they prefer, and they don't like what I prefer. They'd much rather have a package of Trader Joe's mandarin orange chicken. For $4.99 that feeds three of them plus provides for lunches for each child.

I got home a bit earlier this evening and wanted to employ some tips that were offered here: exhaust everything in your cupboards / fridge & make from scratch. I made soup with a carrot, potato, lentils, water / broth, celery. I thought it was good. Kids sat down at the table and protested. It broke my heart.

I love New Seasons because it's where everyone knows your name and they have such great principles in choosing their product. But, their prices makes me cringe. I came out of New Seasons the other day with maybe 5 things and had dropped $30. Ouch.

We don't get out much, so we basically only have a Freddies, Trader Joe's, Safeway, and New Seasons that are accessible to us.

There are some great tips here, but I am sort of feeling resigned trying to find balance between Trader Joe's processed food and New Seasons fresh but pricier food.

olivia, you're breakin' my heart! i totally get what you're saying....i'm so sick of being a short order cook that by the time i've made the boys what they'll eat, i just don't cook and tell the man, who busts his arse everyday, to suck it. no, not really...but close. i'm this close to doing the "this is what's for dinner, eat it or not" but, one kid is vegetarian, kind of, and one likes bland, the other spicy,etc...it's so overwhelming.

So many great tips!
In an economy where staples (bread, eggs, milk) are up as much as 250%, during Bushes presidency. I take a very different approach to shopping as well.

Another good resource that lots of families don't know much about is WIC. WIC is designed to help you meet the nutritional needs for you and your family. You are eligible for WIC if you:

-live in Oregon
-are a pregnant, postpartum or breastfeeding woman, or a child under five years old.

-fathers, grandparents, foster parents or other guardians may apply for WIC for their wards.
-have a nutritional need
-have a household income less or equal to 2,111/mo for a family of 2, 2648/mo for 3, 3184/mo for 4, 3721/mo for 5, and 4257 for 6.

WIC gives you vouchers for milk, eggs, cheese, dried beans or peas, fruit juice, peanut butter and cereals.

The number is 800-723-3638.

Olivia, I think you should give yourself a break! I dont feel bad when coming home from TJ's with frozen food...I think a bag of frozen gnocchi from TJ's is a far better meal than Hamburger Helper or a can of spagetti-o's! I like TJ's prepared foods because I can usually pronounce all of the ingredients and they usually are preservative free. Last night we had TJ's curry chicken with frozen peas and rice for dinner...Anders had a few bites of chicken and rice, but filled up on peas so we called it good. I think it's hard enough to get one meal on the table, let alone 2 or 3 so yes, I refuse to be a short order cook for my family. Anders does not eat a lot in terms of volume, but he's fairly adventurous and he'll try every thing we put on his plate so maybe we're lucky that way. I try to make sure that we have at least one thing I know he'll eat at each meal and he has to take 2 bites of everything, but otherwise I dont make special meals on account of him. The most important (non-negotiable for us, actually) thing at our house is that we all sit down together and eat as a family, in that sense, the food becomes less of an issue.

One thing that I've changed recently is that I'm going through the pantry and fridge/freezer before I go to the store so I know what I've already got and what I need to make complete meals for the week. Historically, I'd walk through the store and just throw things in the cart on the fly...I'd come home with "parts" for 6-8 meals, but inevitably have to run to the store mid-week for more produce or meat for the rest of the meals that week and end up spending another $50-60 on more "parts". So cutting out that mid-week run to the store is saving us a ton of money for sure. Tonight we're having simple pasta with sausage, and tomorrow we're having tacos--not fancy meals at all, but I know I've got all the ingredients so that's been the key for me lately.

Maybe this is a topic for another thread, but I think the "short order cook" issue is a big one for a lot of families...how do you tackle that? One thing my mom did when we were kids (there were 5 of us, and she never made a special meal for anyone--we ate what we were served, period) was she would ask us what we wanted for dinner that week and she cooked accordingly. Maybe getting your kids on board with the menu for the week would help? I know sometimes I say it to my husband when I'm sick of coming up with ideas...I dont mind cooking at all, I just need ideas for what to cook.

Has anyone had "problems" with WinCo produce being less than fresh? I recently shopped there, and saved lots of money compared to my usual store, but found my carrots turned out soggy and the brocolli limp after cooking them. Has anyone else had this problem?

Hi,
Has anyone come across information about local dairy farms that deliver? Someone wrote into the Oregonian about these articles saying that they had milked delivered from a dairy in Salem. Does anyone know what that is or others that might be closer by?
Melia

Here's the link to the home dairy service:

http://www.norisdairy.com/home.html

If you really hunt around there are some local groups bringing in raw milk, but it will be more expensive.

Hi, I just came across this comment posted on your website last year and thought I would mention www.hotby6.com.

4/07 Have you been a part of a DIY freezable dinner exchange? Do you have some great recipes for meals that freeze (and thaw) well?

check out www.hotby6.com. It is awesome and does all of the hard work for you providing you with freezeable recipes, meal plans and shopping lists by aisle in the grocery store all with a few clicks! You can use it as an individual or take advantage of the 'exclusive' group feature.

Lisa Raygoza


I just wanted to say that I love this thread and also give you a tip. Bob's Red Mill in Milwaukie dropped their HOMEMADE bread down to an every day low price of $1.99 for everything they make including whole wheat hamburger buns, all kinds of rolls, and fantastic yummy loaves of bread, most made with organic flour, etc. The ingredient list is nothing more than I would be using at home making bread but I don't have to heat up my kitchen in the summer and while a bit more than what I could make it for at home, the time saver for me is well worth it.

I have long wanted a chest freezer as I grew up with several and this thread has convinced me I need to start looking for one in earnest. I do can but I am a single mom with three young children (one a baby) and I haven't gotten any at all done this year so far. AHHH! Now I feel like panicing :) I am glad it is only mid August and not mid October!

Thanks everyone....happy preserving!

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