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Someone asked me on another board about my comment on the "Retire on the Cheap" thread about my $200 a month food budget. I was a little surprised--I don't really think that's that low, so I'm kind of curious about having a discussion about it. I know Gingko eats super cheap, so I hope you join the discussion!

I'm just very interested in food, because I like to cook and eat, and also because I'm amazed sometimes when I see people complain about the high cost of food. I just don't really see it myself.

First of all, I will say that's my budget for eating at home. Since I've been in super budget mode lately (except for my art purchase...) I've been eating nearly every meal at home or packing a lunch and usually breakfast. I do have a separate budget for eating out, which is currently low at $50 a month, but except for December, haven't really been spending that much.

These are my typical purchases every month. This is just food, no cleaning supplies, pet supplies, etc. And I'm single, which makes a huge difference.

I haven't gotten crazy with my budgeting; basically, when I get paid (every 2 weeks), I take $100 and keep it in my wallet which is used for food, and food only. If I have some left over at the end of the month, I put it in the back and that "extra" goes toward deals I see or allows me to buy in more bulk. Or it may get moved to the eating out budget eventually. So in other words, this month I may only spend $150, but the next month, I may spend $250. Also, as I write this, I realize that my budget is actually a little more than $200 a month, since I get paid 26x a year.

But this is what I typically buy/eat.

--Oatmeal. I've been eating a lot of oatmeal lately, and I buy it from Aldi. I don't have a recent receipt, but it's a great big canister of oatmeal. I think maybe it runs about $2.99? but not absolutely sure.
--Frozen blueberries or raisins also from Aldi.
--Bagels. I buy 2 things of bagels typically every month, again from Aldi. I think they run $1.99 each, for 6 bagels.
--Cream cheese, also from Aldi. I do not buy the tub, because it's more expensive and because I'm trying to cut down on my plastic ware purchases, so I buy the block. Usually 2 a month, but I don't usually use an entire block of cream cheese for 6 bagels.
--Sometimes I splurge and buy a thing of smoked salmon at Kroger for my bagels.

Breakfast for me on weekdays is typically a bagel with cream cheese or oatmeal with either frozen blueberries or a handful of raisins or dried cranberries. Both I prepare the night before--I put the oatmeal dry in the container, some sugar, then add the fruit, and then when I get to work I dump hot water on it. I drink coffee at work, and only make coffee for myself on the weekends. Again, from Aldi, I buy a big can, and it lasts a long time.

Lunch is almost always some kind of leftover from a previous meal. Today, for example, I had leftovers from New Years dinner--roast pork, cabbage, mashed potatoes and gravy. (I hosted New Years dinner at my house. My mom brought cooked apples and cornbread. I bought a Pork Butt on sale at Kroger--9.37 pounds for $13 and some change. I cut the roast in half and put half in the freezer. I cooked the other half, fed the three of us ample portions, cut what was left in half and sent home with my mom and I've got the rest in my fridge. I estimate that between my mom, me and my brother we'll eat at least 10 meals off that $7 pork butt.)

--Potatoes. I have been eating more potatoes lately, and a 10 lb bag at Aldi typically runs $2.99. That's a lot of potatoes. I eat them either as hash browns or boiled with butter, and they are very filling, high in potassium (I have high blood pressure) and actually have a good bit of fiber. I think potatoes get a bad rap.
--Pasta. I buy pasta at Aldi. I buy both whole wheat and white pasta.
--Vegetables. I buy a lot of frozen veggies, because I finally figured out that veggies were often going bad before I used them. I buy frozen kale, chard, spinach, and corn typically. Big bags, generics.
--Carrots. Carrots are a very cheap veggie, and I eat a lot of them. Steamed with a dollop of butter. Sometimes a sprinkling of brown sugar.
--Cabbage. I LOVE cabbage and eat it pretty often. Very cheap.
--Rice. Rice goes a long way, and I have risotto and/or fried frice at least once a month to use up leftovers.

I have cut down on my meat consumption during the week, and I buy different things, usually depending on availablity and price.
--Chicken thighs are a staple for me. They are cheap anyway, and I score them on sale a lot.
--I always scope out what is on sale at Kroger. I very seldom pay full price for meat--I very often buy stuff that's been marked down for quick sale. I recently got 5 packages of cube steaks for $1.99 each, and each package had 4 cube steaks in it. Really that's 4 meals; I typically serve them with mashed potates and gravy and a veggie. Seriously cheap meal.
--I bought 2 large things of ground beef at Aldi recently that were $3 off. I divided them into 4s and put them in the freezer. I think they were around 3 pounds each. I'll use that for hamburger mac casserole, chili, etc.

I do not buy meat that is spoiled, of low quality, etc. So often stuff is marked down 2-3 days prior to its sell-by date. That does NOT make it bad!

Other stuff:
--I buy a lot of canned tomatoes and use them for various things. They run around 50 cents a can at Aldi.
--I don't drink much milk, and maybe buy a half gallon a month.
--I don't buy soft drinks, and typically drink iced tea (no sugar) or water at home. I also take my own iced to to work.
--I usually have a couple of cans of soup on hand, but I like to make soup from scratch. Canned soup is usually for when I'm sick!
--I buy usually a pound of butter a month, unless I'm making cookies or brownies.
--I buy dry beans and cook. Occassionally ham to cook with the beans or some kind of sausage. I eat lentils pretty often.
--Half and half. I always have half and half in the fridge. Use for potatoes, pasta, lots of things.
--Cheese. I like strong cheeses, so I don't use as much. Blue cheese, goat cheese, sharp cheddar all go a long way.
--Eggs. Eggs run something like 99 cents at Aldi, and I probably eat 2 dozen a month. Scrambled eggs, frittas, omelettes. Quick and easy meal.
--Always have good olive oil on hand, but a little goes a long way.

--I probably don't eat as much fruit as I should. I typically will buy a bag of oranges and a bag of apples at Aldi. During the summer, I spend more money on fruit when it's the season for melons, etc.
--Seldom buy salad greens. If I do, I don't buy the pre-washed stuff.

I just don't buy convenience foods any more and cook from scratch. I typically make my own chicken broth. I don't eat a lot of sweets, like cakes, etc. unless it's a special occasion. I do make my magical brownies (no, not that kind!!) pretty often, because my mom and brother love them. (stick of butter, cup of flour, cup of brown sugar, bag of chocolate chips, nuts. Stir and bake at 350 until done. People rave, especially when I substitute Heath Bar bits for the chips).

Tonight's dinner was angel hair pasta with sun dried tomatoes, chicken (thigh meat) and goat cheese, with olive oil. I have enough left over for at least 2 more meals. The goat cheese I got at Aldi for $1.99, and the sun dried tomatoes were $3.99 at Whole Foods and was about 1/4 of a jar that I had left in the fridge.

Yep. That's pretty much what I eat. Now that it's on paper, I'm kind of wondering why I'm spending as much as I am!
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