Grocery bills

by MBT

I am fascinated by those of you who have mentioned in the past how you spend so little on groceries each month for your families. I spend multiples of what the SNAP monthly allotment is, but several people on here said that the SNAP number was consistent with their spending. So because one of my goals for this year is to reduce some of my mindless spending, my overall grocery and takeout food budget is under careful scrutiny right now.

I often don’t meal plan, and just buy things I think I’ll use, which results in waste. So I am trying to start meal-planning on weekends and only shopping off of my list. But I want to know what some of your secrets are for a consistently low grocery bill. Here were a few of my questions:
– Do you buy store brands and/or generics?
– Does your total bill include wine, beer, etc?
– Does your bill include meat? (I order most of my beef from an online steak company, so my weekly grocery spending does not include this)
– Does your number include household cleaning products like paper towels, detergents, etc?
– Does you number include personal care products like shampoo, razors, etc?
– Do you intentionally choose recipes that require lower cost foods, or do you cook whatever your family likes?

What other things do you do to watch your spending, so you don’t end up with the $150 quesadillas?


212 thoughts on “Grocery bills

  1. We shop at Walmart and use their price matching app. Their software compares the items on your receipt to other advertised prices and refunds the difference.

  2. Ooh! I am looking for advice on this too!

    We average $250/week for the five of us, but DH does not eat breakfast or lunch on weekdays and eats dinner at Grand Central 2 or 3 nights a week. Other than lunch for DS a few times a week at McDonalds, the rest of us don’t eat out. So if you’re comparing budgets, we are equivalent to a family of four. Doesn’t include cleaning supplies or toiletries, which we buy at the warehouse club.

    I would like to get it down under $200 and reduce the amount I waste.

    Here’s what I do so far:

    – Shop almost exclusively at Shop Rite, which is cheaper than Stop and Shop or TJ, and far cheaper than Whole Foods
    – Buy generic brands as much as possible
    – Plan the meat dishes at dinner around the weekly ad

    I don’t have a lot of success with meal planning, and we end up throwing out about 1/3 of the meat I buy. Sometimes the kids get sick, sometimes the afternoon schedule changes and we end up eating a frozen pizza, sometimes the leftovers from the last night seem preferable to roasting another chicken.

    Couponing sucked up more time than it was worth for me. My hourly return was under $20.

  3. I’m going to point out that I have said that I could make the SNAP numbers work, not that I do. I have no intention of spending so little, especially when I’m trying to keep diabetic DH on the low-carb straight and narrow. Cheap low-carb stuff is basically eggs and chicken thighs. Too boring after awhile. I do rely heavily on frozen vegetables, which I toss on a cookie sheet and douse with oil (sometimes basil oil or rosemary oil) and roast, which makes them marginally edible and produces less waste than buying fresh.

  4. When I have listed our monthly food spending in past discussions, it was including booze, meats, household products, and my purchased lunches during the workweek. (Husband, kids, bag lunch so that’s already in the total.) We don’t often do takeout for dinner so I wasn’t figuring that in. We do happily buy generics, but our monthly is still well north of $1000/month. I think I’d estimated before at $1200-$1300, and my husband thought that might be too low.

  5. our food spending has increased a lot because DH’s doc advised him to go on a special diet (not for weight loss) gluten free, dairy free, sugar free (besides naturally, such as fruit)

  6. DD, I put it in the freezer, and then forget it exists, and end up throwing it out when I clean the freezer.

    There is no good excuse for that, but that’s what happens….

    There were some bloggers who were posting pictures of how little wasted food they throw out each week in a challenge.

    If you count the food I serve my kids that they refuse to eat, my house would be a frightening picture.

  7. The best thing I have found is to meal plan for 2-3 days at a time. I buy only what we need for a few days so I have little waste. I have very little in the freezer and only enough produce/meat/perishables to get us through a short time. This only works if you have enough free time like I do to go to the store a lot and don’t mind (or actually like it as I do) going to the store so much.

  8. I’m going to sound like a broken record, but Cooksmarts has help cut our grocery bill. For our family of four we average about $100/week (including meat and seafood). On weeks that is the bill is $125-150 it is because of papertowels, shampoos, and such. Beer and wine is not included, because we can’t buy those in the grocery store. I shop exclusively at Target (My final bill does include ~15% off) and buy generic for most items. I also don’t buy organic. With the meal plans I’m less likely to venture off the grocery list and fill the cart with random items that may get eaten.

  9. Cat, do you take your kids to the store? I hate going with the littles because they insist on pushing the mini cart around. They knock the cart over, they knock displays over, and I’m just waiting for the day when they knock an elderly person over and break her hip.

  10. I am really just estimating because we buy from so many different places. I know what I spend at Whole Foods/Costco/Publix (I think it averaged $900 per month last year, down from $1K per month the year before and shooting for $600 this year). We are doing a CSA for veggies/eggs ($35 per week) right now and buy most of our meat from farms when they’re having sales. We bought half of a cow last year and I estimate that will last at least 12 months+.

    About $300 on Costco which includes a decent amount of food. We eat meat or fish at dinner and usually that makes enough for leftovers. My younger two get lunches at daycare during the week and I pack my oldest DD’s lunch every day. Beer is included in the Costco figure and some wine but DH has a separate wine budget because that’s his hobby (and honestly does not spend $ on much else). So goal is $1000 per month for a family of 5, reality is probably $1200. We eat almost all meals at home and bring our lunches almost every day.

    I do meal plan and incorporate leftover meat in other meals (leftover roast gets incorporated into a shepherds pie later in the week). I did pretty well for January grocery shopping, I think I did only spend $650 and I was doing a Whole 30.

  11. We are probably comparable to HM — on a “Just Cooksmarts” week, it’s typically under $200, but then when I have to go stock up on stuff, like this past week, it was almost $400. That includes almost all toiletries, cosmetics, and household products, except a few I get from Amazon Subscribe & Save (TP, paper towels, toothpaste, Clairol, a bath gel I like, etc.); it also includes cat food and litter, kid lunches (which they take from home), and my lunches (ditto). It does not include milk, eggs, butter, and OJ, which I get from the dairy, and which probably runs another $150/month (yes, it is a complete splurge). It also does not include DH’s lunches, as he eats out every day. All told, for regular food and toiletries and household products and the like, we are probably around $1500 a month? Not including takeout or eating out.

    I no longer plan meals around cost, although if I see pork butt for 99c/lb I will adjust my week meal plan accordingly. Last week was so high, for ex, because I found a veal roast, which I never ever ever see at the store and need for one of my favorite recipes in the world; it was something ridiculous like $20 for 2.5 lbs, and I bought it anyway. The low-carb does also make things difficult, as it’s largely meat and veg and dairy and nuts, with some fruit thrown in — all fresh, all comparatively expensive because not cut with cheap filler stuff.

    We eat out most weekends, usually for lunch as we’re running around doing stuff, and usually F-Sat. night (almost never Sunday, as that’s when I cook). We eat out some weeknights, although with the kids’ current schedules, it’s actually easier to make a box of M&C or hot dogs at home before they run out to class or games or whatever. We’ve also cut back on some of the fast-casual eating out, as it’s easier for the grownups to stay healthy and on plan when I control what goes into it — if I’m going to blow the diet, it’s going to be on a meal that’s worth it, and not just because I smelled the bread when I walked into Panera.

    I still waste more than I like. Usually because I buy things like kale that I then find excuses not to use. Or because a recipe calls for 2T fresh parsley, and who can use up a whole bunch of parsley on anything (or at least anything you’d want to eat?). I also tend to forget things like the grapefruit the in-laws send that goes into the bottom crisper drawer; every year, I end up throwing out a bunch that dried up because I never thought to serve them. My freezer is full of leftovers that weren’t going to get eaten in time — sometimes I just pull out a mystery Tupperware and defrost it to see what we’re having for dinner tonight, like Tupperware roulette.

  12. +1 to Lauren. Cooksmarts.

    We buy what’s on that shopping list, plus the lunch stuff (we rarely get lunch out), some desserts, and snacks. Our food bill includes what we buy at Stop and Shop or the local chain (shampoo, some cleaners, no alcohol). Whatever else (paper goods, some cleaning supplies, etc) are purchased at BJs or Target. This list does not include baby food, formula, or diapers/wipes. I budget ~$50-$100 per month for that. Take out is also not included, and we don’t really budget because we don’t really do that. So many ~$50 a month?

    I think we spend for 4 people (3 adults, 1 toddler) ~$300 per month at Stop & Shop. We buy some generics, some name brand, little organic. We also coupon, buy bulk on things that we’ll use, and when meat goes on sale, throw that in as well. I have another fridge/freezer in the basement that I fill when necessary. The months we go over (usually less than $500 total) it’s because we needed to stock up on supplies, or are hosting a party.

    To save money, I also prep meals ahead of time so we reduce take out. I’ll freeze a bunch of crock pot meals (adds ~$100 to our grocery bill for the month to get 3-4 meals). One meal feeds my entire house, usually with 1-2 servings of leftovers. I’ll also make my own stock, sauce, some snacks, and baby food.

    So, if we add all that up, we spend $350-$600 a month on everything listed above (except alcohol). It usually averages $400 for everything listed above except alcohol.

  13. I don’t really know what we’re spending, but some of my practices are to always go through the wholesale club mailer, and if there is a coupon for paper products or detergent, than buy it, unless we’re already ridiculously overstocked on that product–this requires some storage space. The coupons can be 30 – 40% off, and with three kids who probably use too much toilet paper and napkins, I imagine it makes a difference never paying normal prices for those items. I don’t do laundry “pods,” I buy All buy the warehouse-sized vat (it stays in the garage, and I refill the little bottle). Razors – there was a coupon a couple months ago for what will be more than a year’s supply of Gillette Fusion Pro 5-blade; obviously still working through that one slowly. Kids can use the Pantene shampoo and conditioner when there’s a coupon for those.

    Short answer – commoditize all these staples and stock up when the discount is available.

    Chicken, shrimp, beef, pork, milk, bread, tomatoes, beans, pasta, sauce, cheese, guacamole, frozen French bread pizza, pot stickers, peanut butter and jelly, green beans, bagged spinach, bell peppers, bananas, Keurig cups, ice cream, and cereal are all wholesale club. (the last two, not always, as we might want other varieties).

    Don’t be stupid about buying multiple packs of fresh herbs for every recipe. You can often substitute dried spices. We mostly do canned or frozen vegetables as the sides (wholesale, again) because they’re easier.

    If any of this sounds less appetizing, all the better, as you didn’t need the extra calories anyway. You don’t need to love every single meal. It’s eating, not sex.

  14. My #1 savings strategy is to send DH grocery shopping. He’ll randomly just decide I don’t really need certain things on my list and I can substitute instead. It drives me crazy but he always spends less than I would have.

  15. Oh yeah, figure does not include beer/wine, as that’s sort of DH’s hobby. If I counted what we *bought*, it would be a lot (we tend to pair a visit to our favorite restaurant with a visit to their associated wine store, and I can’t recall ever walking out with fewer than 6 bottles). If I counted what we *drank*, it’s probably one bottle a week. Yes, we are fully prepared for the zombie apocalypse.

    @Atlanta — forgot to say congrats on completing the Whole 30!

  16. We spend about $125-$150 a week on food/toiletries/household supplies/beer & wine. DH doesn’t eat meat, so we have a diet that leans vegetarian. My kids do not like fish, so we stick to poultry, pork, tofu, and shrimp. We buy fruits in season, and generally do not buy organic. Sometimes I will buy the store brand, but for many items, we buy the name brand product.

    However, our freezer is a dumping ground of forgotten food. I need to do a better job of using frozen foods in our meals.

  17. We will buy store brands / generics, especially things like beans for chili / Mexican dishes, dried pasta, other canned veggies / fruit when we buy them, cheese, some deli

    Total bill includes everything but wine/booze and BJs (smallers eastern US Costco competitor). We actually haven’t been buying very much at BJs these past few months, but we’re due for a stockup on all the paper products. Wine/booze are from specific liquor stores in NY, unlike a lot of western states where you can get everything in the grocery store.

    We make what we like…sometimes that’s really inexpensive and sometimes (more frequently) not.

    DW will cut coupons on Sunday morning while the rest of us make breakfast and she’ll use’em.

    To see how much coupons + swiping the shoppers club card is worth to us, I transfer the amount shown at the bottom of the receipt to the savings account that’s linked to our checking acct. I guess it’s real money, right? Surprising how fast it grown. Then we’ll use it for a splurge bottle of wine, or maybe a “free” dinner out if I let it go for a while.

    Mostly, having a well stocked kitchen with pretty much every spice / flavoring we’ll ever really need + the knowledge of how things work together is one way to keep costs down. Yeah, there’s the investment buying the stuff initially, but it’s not like they all run out at the same time.

  18. LfB – Thanks! Glad i did it but glad it’s over!:)

    On the freezer organization thing, we bought an extra freezer when we bought the half of a cow and DH has totally organized it by type of meat, along with a spreadsheet of how many we have of each item. So every time I grab something, I’m supposed to check off that I took x item (which, um, I don’t always do) so we have an idea of what we’re running low on. Our freezer upstairs really just holds frozen veggies, bone bags for stock, frozen fish and extra pancakes/muffins from weekend baking which makes it easy to find everything.

  19. “My #1 savings strategy is to send DH grocery shopping.” Really? Mine is the worst at going off-list. Last time I sent him off on his own to get milk/eggs/bread (literally like 5 things), he came home with $68 worth of Italian sausage, chips, etc. Although the Wegman’s app helps with that, because it sends him to the specific aisle and minimizes aimless wandering.

    Herb keeper — who knew? Actually, on the flavor-per-unit-of-effort scale, I’ve decided that parsley and thyme generally aren’t worth it, but cilantro and sage and rosemary and mint are. Luckily, all but the cilantro keep pretty well.

  20. The one thing I’m terrible at using are herbs/green onions. As LFB mentioned, you only need a small amount, and they go bad fairly quickly. Luckily, they are not too expensive, because I often throw them away unused.

  21. We got one of those herb savers from my MIL (who buys us the most random kitchen gadgets that we mostly throw away) but that thing actually works. i usually have cilantro/parlsey in there because those are the herbs that don’t keep and I swear they last at least a month in that thing.

  22. Is dried parsley any good? I use dried thyme and rosemary, and they work well.

    I agree that fresh cilantro is key. If you dry it and wrap it in a paper towel before you put it in the fridge (i.e. let the water evaporate from the leaves), it will last for a week without getting mushy.

  23. I forgot to mention in the summer we have a CSA for vegetables. And one member of the family hardly eats dinner, and breakfast and lunch are provided at daycare. So really our shopping is for 3.25 family members. I also didn’t include Trader Joes, which is probably $50 a month, mostly to stock up on noncow’s milk and their awesome BBQ ribs.

  24. I usually do an herb garden – I do minimal maintenance because I buy the $2 plants at the store, water them the first week or two, and then don’t weed or do anything else. Usually lasts me from May-October, later for rosemary, and costs no more than buying the first fresh bunch.

    Looks like heck, I admit, but then so does the rest of my yard.

  25. I spend about $75 a week on food, not including toiletries or cleaning products.
    We really cut our grocery bills when we cut back on red meat and cut out soda and junk food. I am still feeding a teenage boy, so we go through milk and ice cream.
    I plan the meat and veg/fruit part of menus from the sale ads. If fresh spinach is on sale, we’ll have it a few times that week, and then not again for a few weeks until it’s on sale again. Etc.
    We buy eggs, milk cheese and salmon at Costco–not much else there unless I’m cooking for a crowd.

  26. I haven’t been tracking our spending well lately but it’s around $800/month for a family of 6, two adults, three elementary school kids, one baby. That total includes most but not all personal care/cleaning items. I joined Costco last year and will likely spend ~$300~$500 there this year, because I usually beat their prices and there are only a few things we like there. Mr WCE and I will have to discuss our membership. I do a primary grocery shopping trip once/week and a milk/produce trip one other day, usually. I buy ground beef from the local locker for ~$5/lb. I buy prime beef roasts on sale from Safeway and Foster Farms chicken when it’s under $1/lb and we need whole chicken.

    I buy according to what’s in the ad and my kids are old enough that I have a pretty good idea how much they will eat. (Three packages of red raspberries, for example, make a side dish when those are on special.) We have no special dietary restrictions and I put leftovers in square pint freezer containers for Mr WCE and me to take in our lunches.
    1) I buy frozen vegetables when feasible, especially for soup. I keep two bags of each type we like around. Winco sells them for ~$1/lb and our Kroger affiliate sells them for ~$1.19 for 12 oz. We prefer petite peas to regular peas, steamable green beans to regular ones, frozen white sweet corn, chopped okra for gumbo, and chopped spinach for spanokopita. for example. Carrot coins for soup and cauliflower for roasting are convenient.
    2) I don’t buy fresh spices, generally. I buy spices in bulk and refill my spice containers. A refill costs on average fifty cents.
    3) I stock up on cheese (shredded mozzarella freezes well and deli slices are good for months) when it’s 3 for $5 in the Kroger ad. If we’re gone during a regular meal time due to soccer, fruit, cheese and Triscuits is faster to pack than PB&J sandwiches and what we don’t eat isn’t wasted. Packaged sliced cheese lasts for months; eggs are good well beyond their sell-by date.
    4) I know that Nov-January is diaper sale season and I buy disposable diapers for less than half of Costco’s price. Huggies had a December promotion where you got a $15 e-gift card (used to purchase an e-gift card from Amazon for convenience) when you spent $30 on diapers. After printable coupons, sale, $10 off $50 Safeway purchase, etc., I averaged under $10/box for the ten boxes of diapers I bought.
    5) I buy cereal on sale with coupons, partly because we prefer brand name and healthy-ish. We are transitioning to bagels or toast for breakfast.
    6) I buy S&W beans at the store where they are seventy cents/can and I know my canned good prices. I buy brown rice, quinoa, corn meal, etc. in bulk.

    To save more, we could drink water instead of milk, not buy school lunches, not buy individual yogurt cartons, eat less meat, and avoid eating expensive out of season produce. I waste very little food- cucumbers don’t last long in winter and are the item I find most likely to go bad.

  27. DH learned that if I specify a brand DO NOT substitute. Other than my specific instructions, I let him have at it. He’s very good at saving money at the store.

    DS eats his weight in food daily, it seems (he must have hollow legs). I suspect we’ll have to revisit our budget and up it this year to accommodate him. He eats what we do, so if he eats more, we lose out on leftovers which is someone’s lunch the next day. I may start clicking on the “6 servings” tab on cooksmarts for some meals…

  28. Our “grocery bill” is $225 a week on average – four of us, all eat adult size portions. That includes everything you buy at the grocery store including toilet paper, shampoo, medications, laundry soap, cat food, etc. We do minimal couponing. Very little food goes to waste here. I am not the primary shopper or cook and I know he doesn’t meal plan much. When that was my job, the cost was less and the meals were planned.

    When we needed to shift around tasks, this is one he’d rather do than other things. Our meals are very simple – cooked protien, cooked startch and cooked vegetable – and pretty interchangeable. Where we suffer is when we have tight schedules and eat out a lot. As he doesn’t plan, the day of he realizes that people will need “dinner” between 4:30 pm and 8:00 pm and nothing he has will make quickly enough into something that will hold that long (like soup or casserole).

  29. Atlanta – same here. DH will get exactly what’s on The Lady’s list, plus the 12 or so other things I add to it (things like fresh fruit, milk, Lactaid, bread), and not one single thing more. He also often comes home with a single zucchini instead of 1 POUND of zucchini, etc. However, he’s keeping me from doing it, so I’m thrilled with what he brings home and find a way to make it work.

    If I send DS, all bets are off — smoked salmon, fancy sausage, weird eastern European things like blood sausage and artisanal sauerkraut, etc. Best to keep that boy out of the grocer.

    We reduced from a family of 6 to 4 this year and most notably, jettisoned the 6-bowls-of-cereal-and-gallon-of-Lactaid/day kid (or so it felt like), so whatever we’re spending, it’s so much less than we’re used to that it seems like a dream when the cashier announces the total.

  30. WCE – are you back from travels? Good to hear from you. I hope Finn can give us a typical week’s worth of menus, since he is the poster who most frequently claims he and and his family eat for less than SNAP amount.

    Since I also had 4 children, and little money for many years, in my now affluent small house wasting food simply *is not done*. That means that something that is old but not rotten/expired gets used. That principle takes a lot of pressure off grocery shopping, because you don’t worry about waste and simply adjust the meal plan mid week to use up what you must. This week I found a steak with freezer burn. Cook it anyway to medium, chop it up, add barbecue sauce, place on equally forgotten frozen sandwich rolls freshened first in the microwave, then in the toaster. Limp celery went into a drinking glass filled with salted ice water – almost good as new – and substituted for the missing carrots in green curry chicken thighs. When I have a few extra snow peas or the tail end of a red pepper or tired scallions I chop them, give a quick saute or steam and stir into leftover brown rice as a side dish. I usually make enough brown rice or quinoa for 2 meals (we are just a couple). Instead of all water I use up the last cup or two in the shelf stable package of chicken, beef or veggie broth opened for some recipe last week and still in the fridge.

    I had to eat soggy frozen vegetables for my entire childhood and cannot abide even the modern freeze dried ones, so I need these techniques to buy fresh veggies in a small household. As for herbs, I have a full set of dry, but at my supermarket in the produce section there are tubes of Gourmet Garden pastes – Basil, Clilantro, Lemongrass, Parsley. It is not quite as good as fresh, but quick and easy. I buy Kaffir Lime leaves in season and freeze in a tiny rubbermaid container – they keep beautifully. The Thanksgiving sage bunch or other special use herbs – the unused portion is washed and chopped and frozen in a small container. I also make up flavor cubes such as pesto in an ice cube tray and then dump them into a container or ziploc bag.

  31. Although we grow lots of our own food and harvest deer and wild berries, I could do so much more. I don’t collect the walnuts from the many trees on our land (too much work); nor do I do pick the mushrooms that grow around us (too scared, but lots of people who are very knowledgeable about that do). We have a couple of pawpaw trees, but I hate the taste of pawpaws, so I just leave them to the wild animals. Over the years I have raised quail, turkeys, and guineas for our consumption. DH newest hobby is tapping the maple trees and boiling down the sap to make syrup. Seems as though we are always trying something new. I am thinking about raising pheasants this year.
    WCE-I was intrigued one night when you said that you were serving elk heart to your family. I just always give the lamb’s hearts, kidneys, and livers away and DH never harvests those organs from the deer that he kills. Perhaps we should try them.

  32. We probably spend $150-200/week at the grocery store. Lifestyle creep over the years has me going to the nicer grocery store that bags our groceries and they’ll carry your bags to the car vs. the cheaper store that makes me depressed with humanity.

    We also pay $175/month for our CSA. We get vegetables from May-December, fruit, and coffee from them. I signed up for Cooksmarts, but right now I’m trying to work through all the root vegetables we have. Any favorite cabbage recipes?

    We spend WAY too much on eating out/take out and alcohol.

    I like this topic as it inspires me to do better.

  33. I just looked at last year’s spreadsheet and we averaged $650 a month. We are mostly a family of 3 now and when the older two come home for weekends we spend a lot more that week because I tend to make special food. I shop at Aldi a lot because I like their products. The conversion rate on spices is 1 T fresh = 1 tsp. dried, at least that’s what all my herb growing books used to say back before many recipes called for fresh herbs. (I had an herb garden as a teenager in the 70s.)

  34. “Gourmet Garden pastes – Basil, Clilantro, Lemongrass, Parsley”

    Brilliant! I will check these out.

  35. + 1 on those pastes. I’m done grating ginger until I retire–and given how busy Meme is, I won’t likely even do it then.

  36. I can’t believe all the parsley hate….

    Diced in a salad
    Boil carrots, then strain the carrots onto collander with chopped parsley, the hot water instantly cooks the parsley, serve with butter
    toss with cooked potatoes….

    One year we grew a field of parsley for seed, I think we had fresh parsley every night for almost a month….it was wonderful

    I suspect we spend about $150 per week for food, not counting meat. We buy 1/2 a steer and one or two lambs and keep them in the freezer. I buy food we like, rather than the least expensive. Sometimes brand names, sometimes store brands, whichever I prefer. Good food adds so much pleasure that it has always seemed the biggest utility payoff.

  37. @Atlanta, would you mind sharing what herb keeper you have? Sad to say many of our CSA herbs went to waste last summer.

  38. We go through a fair amount of parsley. I get fresh herbs inexpensively from the farmer’s market near my work and they last reasonably well in the fridge. Anything to do with mint or basil, if I’m not using it and it’s starting to go I can give it to the guinea pigs and they’ll be thrilled.

    We also use fresh vegetables, some from our CSA, some from the farmer’s market, and then those big bags of broccoli florets or “baby” carrots or baby bok choy or what have you from Costco.

    We usually keep stocked on fresh ramen (packets of fresh noodles with sauce concentrate) and hot pockets as the teens like to make those for afternoon snacks. That probably bumps up our grocery bill a bit. My youngest favors more elaborate snacks — the other day I came home to find the kitchen lightly dusted with taco seasoning because he’d made that Mexican scrambled egg thing where you stir in crushed tortilla chips and Mexican shredded cheese. Usually you stir in salsa too but it looks like he’d used taco seasoning instead.

  39. Risley – the only time DH deviates is when something is really on sale. And he always buys less than I asked for and it’s usually the right amount. I always overestimate how much we need, especially on veggies, and then they go bad. He is just much more methodical about saving money on things (except for wine). The best thing for saving money on groceries for me is just not to go to the grocery store more than once a week.

  40. The CA trip is complete and I’m visiting my sister in MI with Baby WCE.Thanks for the paste suggestions. RMS, if you’re around, that reminds me that I wanted to make some recipes with fish/anchovy paste that you suggested last year while Baby WCE was learning to nurse that have disappeared.

    Given the topic, I’ll mention that two of our suppers were prepared thanks to the hotel microfridge. The late arrival after the Getty Villa was Progresso soup with Kroger bakery bread and red raspberries and the night before Disneyland was Barilla Pronto pasta (cooks in a specified amount of water in the microwave) with a jar of spaghetti sauce and cut-up turkey kielbasa.

  41. Atlanta – That fresh herb keeper looks like exactly what I need. I like to use parsley and other fresh herbs to liven up many dishes.

    For four adults we spend about $250/week on groceries not including wine and liquor. That doesn’t include M-F breakfast and lunch for two people. Plus we all eat out at least once a week on average.

    I throw out too much food, and it’s partly because we have three different grocery shoppers in our house, and two of them impulse buy and generally shop without good planning. They buy too much produce and other food that goes bad. Plus, one member of the household has been experimenting with different diets, including vegetarian and vegan. She frequently buys some awful meat and dairy substitutes that end up mostly in the trash.

    I’ve gotten better at buying just what I need. I used to have to throw out pantry items that had gone past their expiration dates, so now I don’t buy in bulk. Our Costco membership expired years ago.

  42. Veg we use canned: tomatoes, green chiles
    Veg we use frozen: peas, corn kernels
    Veg we use fresh: sugar snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, corn on the cob, choy sum, bok choy, green beans, long beans, kabocha, tomatoes, spinach, carrots, kale, chard, sweet peppers, cabbage

    So yeah, we definitely get more fresh veg than frozen.

    BTW, for the person who was looking for cabbage recipes:

  43. Oh yeah, you can slice cabbage into thin wedges and roast it on a baking sheet too (with oil and salt).

  44. I’m still thinking about whether we buy what’s cheap or what we like. I kind of think they’re both true — we get what we feel like eating, but our mental universe of possibilities we might feel like eating has been trained to not include steak as a regular dinner possibility, and to feature chicken-soup-from-the-rotisserie-carcass and creamed tuna / creamed chicken on rice as regular comfort food items.

  45. My household is just 1.5 people, and I spend about $75/week on groceries, more when I stock up on wine. I try to do all my shopping at Kroger (food, paper products, toiletries, etc.) in order to get discounts on gasoline. I just saved 50 cents/gallon today! DD’s swim team also gets my community rewards from Kroger. I like a lot of their private label products too, which are usually cheaper. I’m trying to limit eating out to one dinner and one lunch per week. I always do better with that goal and the grocery bill when I take the time to plan meals and consider what’s already in the fridge & pantry.

  46. We buy about 2/3 fresh veggies and 1/3 frozen. Regular frozen veggies we purchase = corn, spinach, cauliflower, edamame, broccoli, and peas. I have found that some of the Birds Eye lightly seasoned steamed veggie packets are pretty good.

  47. DD, I put it in the freezer, and then forget it exists, and end up throwing it out when I clean the freezer.

    Why do you throw it out? It keeps forever.

  48. I forgot to mention our CSA – it’s a box of veggies style program and I can subscribe bi-weekly. It’s nice and about $50 per month. The veggies last ~2 weeks, so one box is plenty for us. Though I still have 2 sugar pumpkins and random other squash in the basement fridge. I’m pretty sure my mom cut one up, threw it in a dinner, and the rest is in a bag frozen, ready for Baby Rhode to nosh on.

    We waste far less food since starting cooksmarts. And what we don’t use immediately, I tend to use in soups, crock pot meals, or make some slaw or fruit sauce with.

    Cabbage – we threw some in a stir fry once, roasted it, and made more cole slaw than I could imagine.

  49. Our freezer door holds nine square plastic containers of lunch leftovers on the top right side, labeled with freezer tape and a Sharpie kept in a high cupboard. Mr WCE reads the dated labels and chooses his lunch. Stuff to be used soon (open frozen vegetables, half a lb of leftover ground beef, a leftover chopped bit of something, labeled) is kept on the lower freezer door. I vacuum seal meat bought on sale/in bulk for long-term storage in the garage freezer.

    Disneyland was OK. We spent one day there and one day at Legoland. I admire Disney’s animatronics but we don’t do well with lines and crowds. Hotels in the 1500/1600 block of Harbor Blvd are right across from the park and perfectly adequate for us. I didn’t end up needing to take Baby WCE out of the park (we stayed from open through close) but I liked knowing I didn’t need to wait for a shuttle if I did. Temperature ranged from 45-60 and all the southern Californians were avoiding Splash Mountain. We would have done it several more times if it hadn’t broken down. We also visited San Diego and LA museums of natural history, space shuttle Endeavor, Fleet Science Center (awesome!) and Getty Villa.

  50. We spend about $180/week on groceries (including cleaning supplies and laundry stuff but no wine or beer) for a family of 2 adults and 2 kids (9 and 11 years old) and another $40 every 6-8 weeks when we need to stock up on things like paper goods or garbage bags. We make lunches every day and go out for dinner at most twice a month. I rarely clip coupons anymore but I do use the SavingStar app, which links coupons to your store loyalty cards. I used to go to more than one store a week to try to catch sales and save as much as possible, but I found it exhausting and in the grand scheme of things not worthwhile. Now I shop at Wegmans once a week (Thursdays after work) and generally make no mid-week store runs. This forces me to sit down and plan all our meals. I frequently use the crockpot for nights when everyone needs to eat at different times. Wegmans brand products are excellent and we use them frequently. Twice a year I go to Shop Rite for deals during its Can Can sale.

  51. Love this topic. I don’t track how much we spend each month but should be around 500 per month now that kid has started eating more chicken and fish. Our biggest expenses come from organic chicken, turkey, eggs and milk. We don’t eat cereal or drink juice. We consume on average a can of soda per week each sometimes two. But we do end up wasting food because we get lazy or want to eat something different from what’s in the menu and end up eating out. Weekends are also spent outside on errands or other stuff and it’s hard to get back home to cook and eat.

  52. We spend about 1,200-1,300 a month on food including paper goods, cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, etc. I have three teenagers who have very large appetites, much more so than DH or me. The boys probably eat an extra meal a day, usually during the after lunch and before dinner period. Everybody packs a lunch. We do takeout once a week on average. I tend do bulk cooking on the weekend. I’ll make a big pot of soup or stew, at least enough for 3 meals. We also plan food purchases around supermarket circulars. I fantasize about how much our food bill will drop when all three are in college/out of the house.

  53. We spend about $1100-$1200 per month, excluding steak which I buy online. We have steak at least once a week, since it’s one meal my picky eater really likes, and he needs the protein. I waste a lot of fresh produce, because apparently in my aspirational world, my family eats healthier than in reality. I need to accept that my kids don’t select from the bountiful array of fresh produce when they want a snack. My daughter grocery shops for us sometimes, and brings home boxes of pancake mix and other random stuff that no one eats and eventually gets thrown out. She also sticks up on her preferred hair care products while shopping for me. It’s worth it to have the task done for me, but that’s part of the cost creep. I also buy the fresh hot tortillas every week and end up throwing sixty percent away, but they are very good that first day. I think just being a realistic and consistent meal planner is my first step. Maybe I need to adopt The Lady for a few months.

  54. My DH is likes Risley’s DS- Lots of aspirational grocery purchases. He will buy crazy amounts of fruit and each type of vegetable that we eat. He always complains about how he really starves at home- all because he is comparing home meals to his per diem meals outside. I just shrug it off. But to keep my fridge from overflowing and blowing our budget, I have to grocery shop by myself.

  55. We are overall very careful while grocery shopping. We stock staples like rice, beans, potatoes, onions, tomato, garlic, flour etc. We buy meats from the farmers market, fish from the Chinese supermarket and freeze. We buy all our other vegetables, fruits, bread, milk and yogurt weekly. There is a rough meal plan so that there are no veggies left over that will perish the next week. We do try things but are careful not to get carried away. We will buy a small quantity and see if the family likes it. Tomorrow, I am testing the air chilled chicken from the regular grocery store vs. the ones we have been buying from WF. If it passes the taste test – we won’t go to WF. When we try things it is more a test for flavor than anything else. We don’t automatically go for organic.

  56. I went to WF after the discussion earlier about air chilled chicken. We get organic chicken breast at Costco for 5:99 a pound vs at WF it was about $5 more. Is it really worth it? I ended up buying chicken thighs which were about same price as Costco breast. Haven’t tried them yet.

  57. We splurge on air chilled chicken, but I didn’t even realize that I was buying it each week until Louise mentioned it a couple of weeks ago. It is prominently displayed on the Bell and Evans package, but I didn’t even know this was the probably the reason that it tasted better until it was mentioned here. We buy most of our groceries at Shop Rite because it is much cheaper than our specialty supermarket. I buy most of my fruit, veggies and meat at the farmers market, or a regional family run supermarket that is selling fresh dairy and other stuff. I buy some snacks and other favorites for the freezer from TJs about 2 times a month.

    My grocery bill isn’t as high as some of the numbers here, but the reason is that we eat out a lot. We spend A LOT of money on restaurant meals. We eat almost all of our breakfast at home, but DH eats lunch out every weekday. I tend to do this as well when I am working or have meetings over lunch. We also meet our family and friends during the weekend for lunch or dinner. It is usually just the local diner, italian/pizza places, but it is much more expensive than eating at home for all of those meals.

    We’ve been trying to eat at home more during the weekend, but DD has plans at least 2 or 3 Friday evenings each month, and we enjoy going out to dinner when she is busy.

  58. Our issue is that DW likes to meal plan, so she’ll plan 4 or 5 dinners for the week and buy the needed items. Then inevitably things come up and not all of those meals get made. The weekend comes and she plans the next week’s meals, and she forgets that we have the stuff for the dinners that weren’t made. So she plans 4 or 5 more dinners and buys the groceries for them. The result is we end up with an overflowing freezer and pantry.

    A couple of weeks ago, I got her to agree to limit the shopping to just the things that we need to buy regularly because run out, and to use what’s in the freezer for meal planning so we can use all this stuff up. It’s going pretty well overall.

    My thing with grocery shopping is that I consider one of the perks of being an adult is that you can go to the supermarket and buy whatever the heck you want without your parents telling you no. So I like to go every so often and wander the aisles and get stuff that looks good. It does all get used so it’s not a total waste of money, although I probably end up spending a little more than I would prefer.

  59. I wanted to add when we come home from the grocery store we air dry herbs like cilantro, mint and any greens. The water that is sprayed on vegetables in the grocery store to keep them fresh, leads them to quicker spoilage if you just pop these in the fridge.
    @Sky – I would recommend some sort of system to get optimum use of frozen foods. Something like not stocking up until everything is gone or two things out one thing in etc.

  60. Here’s a low cost meal that I made last night in my Instant Pot:

    Pressure Cooker Split Pea & Ham Soup

    It is enough for at least two meals for us, served with rustic Italian bread. I added more carrots and could have cut down to 7 cups of water.  I used Better Than Bullion, and left over ham.

    I don’t think I saved much time using a pressure cooker since it took about 20 minutes to heat up and 20 minutes to release pressure.  You may know that the manufacturer doesn’t recommend cooking split pea soup because apparently it can clog up the vent, but it worked just fine with the slow release method.

  61. “aspirational” grocery shopping — yeah, I can relate. I usually only allow myself a few aspirational items. :)


    Our family likes these Bhuja snacks that may be a bit spicy but are now available in regular grocery stores. To me, they taste better than the ones available at the ethnic food stores. What is great IMO, is the availability of ingredients at the regular grocery store that previously required a trek to ethnic or speciality stores.

  63. she’ll plan 4 or 5 dinners for the week and buy the needed items. Then inevitably things come up and not all of those meals get made.

    The trick is to plan fewer meals (maybe 3), but have some easy dinners you can throw together any time from pantry and freezer staples, so that if it turns out you really did need to cook another meal or two you can fall back on that. If you can convince her of that.

  64. Aspirational grocery shopping is only allowed if you are producing a 10 course tasting menu :-).
    I would like to go to a restaurant and do a whole tasting menu but no one I know is that into food or would really enjoy the experience.

  65. Louise – we do tasting menus quite a bit when we go out for nice dinners and they are a lot of fun. My husband loves them (and loves to get the wine pairings) and I’ll pretty much eat anything so I’m happy to participate. You should do it at least once!

  66. We spend a good $1,000-$1,200 per month on groceries for our family of four (not including alcohol), and we buy very little premium or organic stuff. The cost is largely driven by the fact that my 52-year-old DH and my 11-year-old DS both eat like teenage football players. The sheer quantity of food that those two go through is astounding. I shudder to think what the bills will be like when DS actually does become a teenager.

    Then again, having big eaters in the family means that pretty much nothing goes to waste. DH and DS will scavenge any leftovers in the fridge for snacks and lunches, so we end up throwing very little away. I also meal-plan religiously.

    Off topic, the NoB kids had their first snow day of the school year today, and they were thrilled!

  67. So, with all the organized meal planners out there, am I the only one who goes shopping and buys appetizers and bread to eat on Sunday nights instead of a real meal?

  68. Murphy: That sounds like a great Friday night meal to me. We do something like that with different types of cheeses, nice sausage, crackers, and fruit. Sunday evening is more formal for us, as I actually have time to cook!

  69. I would love to do a farm internship at Sheep Farmers. I grew up when my grandparents had their homes and gardens – so lots of fruit trees, chicken coops and fresh food. I now realize that what they didn’t have meat that often (fish was eaten almost daily) so they practiced “nose to tail” eating – no part of the animal was wasted.

  70. Murphy- that’s our go to meal when we don’t want anything else. Tostitos salsa con quest and chips.

  71. I had to average over three months to get an idea of our grocery bills for 2, including paper goods, weekly flowers, and cleaning supplies, but excluding alcohol, which is not much anyway.. We eat dinner out 6 times a month, rest of the meals at home. Mail order coffee and fresh fish are the most expensive items. It comes to $450 – $500 per month.

    Tonight I was inspired by this discussion to deal with the remaining fresh parsley from a formal dinner three weeks ago, used some in the cheese filling for lasagna, chopped and froze the rest. But there is still a duck from heaven knows when in the back corner of the freezer – I’ll give myself two weeks to figure out that meal.

  72. Meme – Asian style duck soup with noodles. Several recipes came up but I am too lazy to post.

  73. @Dell. The b/s chicken breast at Whole Foods by you is ~$11.99??! At my store, it is $6.99 ($7.99 butterflied) regular price and very often on sale. And that the most expensive cut. The Bell & Evans which I think is identical is similarly priced at Mariano’s which I would call the Chicago answer to Wegmans.

    We spend about $1200/month on groceries, household items, and beer/wine. We don’t differentiate between those items. That figure is from Mint so pretty accurate for 2015. I meal plan religiously, and we eat about 19-20 meals/week at home. We don’t eat lunch out often, but we eat out as a family once a week as a rule plus maybe another meal out for a date night or night out with friends. I do not plan meals based on sales, and I never hold myself back from making something that I want to cook due to cost. But we don’t waste much food anymore after years of practice at the meal planning thing.

  74. I just finally got to read through today’s posts, so please excuse the torrent of responses to what’s been posted. I guess I’ve been the primary driver of the discussion on which this post was based, so I should post.

    We do about 95+% of our grocery shopping at warehouse clubs, mostly Costco but also Sam’s, which opens later on Saturdays and has covered parking, so we often go there when it’s rainy. We realize that a lot of things can be got for less at other places, especially if we get them on sale, but when we had kids, we realized that we didn’t have the time to chase the best prices, and overall we’re pretty sure we spend less this way than if we shopped anywhere else. Some of the key items we buy regularly cost a lot less there, notably milk.

    We don’t waste a lot of food, mostly because DS and I are not very picky eaters, and I hate to see food go to waste (a cousin who was in the dorm with me in college liked to call me a garbage disposal). So despite DW’s and DD’s pickiness, a lot of stuff they don’t like ends up getting eaten by DS and me as lunches.

    Our spending on food, not including household stuff like paper goods and cleaning supplies, has gone up as the kids have gotten older and eat more, and as we’ve felt we’ve moved more into the more money than time quadrant. We used to spend about $100 or so per week, but more recently are up to more like $120 to $140 (including wine and beer, but we don’t buy that much, and we usually buy the cheap stuff). I think that puts us above the SNAP benefits level, although I think we could drop down below it by not buying booze or snack foods.

    We buy a lot of stuff that’s almost ready to eat, like frozen fish that’s already seasoned and just needs to be baked, and when we do cook, it’s often fairly easy, like stir frying some fresh veggies, often choy sum or broccoli, with tofu and/or Spam.

  75. Please pardon a day’s worth of responses consecutively:

    “I joined Costco last year and will likely spend ~$300~$500 there this year, because I usually beat their prices and there are only a few things we like there.”

    We spend more than that on gas.

    If you spend that much, then it’s not worth the membership, if you pay the regular price ($55, IIRC).

  76. “not buy school lunches”

    I’m curious, how much are your kids’ school lunches?

    My kids have been mostly taking lunches from home since kindergarten. When they were young, they ate so little I didn’t think it was worth the cost (something like $3 or $4 a day). When DS got to MS, he preferred to take lunch, which saved him walking to the cafeteria and waiting in line. In HS, he often doesn’t have a break for lunch, and eats in class, so it would be tough for him to not take lunch from home.

  77. “Is dried parsley any good? I use dried thyme and rosemary, and they work well.”

    We keep a stock of dried herbs. E.g., when we want caprese salad but don’t have fresh basil, we’ll use dried basil. It’s a far cry from fresh, but it’s still a decent salad. As Milo says, it’s not sex.

  78. “Carrot coins for soup and cauliflower for roasting are convenient.”

    I’m going to try roasting frozen cauliflower. I’ve only used fresh for roasting. My strategy is to buy 2-4 fresh vegetables a week to use up, and keep a supply of frozen for other days. I rarely use canned vegetables, except for tomatoes. I use canned beans a lot. Pasta fagioli is one of my go-to, low-cost pantry meals.

    We also do the cheese, bread, sausage meals. Last night we enjoyed ghost pepper salami, which for some reason can be easily found in Boston but not here.

  79. The only frozen veggies I buy are peas and corn. I’ve tried broccoli and green beans but they’re just not as good.

    CoC – DH was telling me there is a cauliflower shortage right now because it’s the “hot veggie” right now. Now it makes sense why I had gone to Whole Foods a few times over the last few months and I couldn’t find it.–and-its-799-a-head/2016/01/15/5ef7e846-b867-11e5-99f3-184bc379b12d_story.html

  80. I think dried parsley is pretty useless, but we use plenty of other dried herbs. I also have some herbs that I grow inside or outside most of the year – basil, parsley, mint and chives which the the ones that I use often and don’t work well dried. Thyme, oregano, and sage are fine dried in most everything.

  81. I keep seen by recipes for cauliflower rice as a substitute for rice. I even saw some cauliflower cheese stick recipe for super bowl apps. It is really popular right now.

    Our Costco doesn’t sell gas. It would have been great when prices were so high. I was in NJ last week and I spent $15 for almost ten gallons. Crazy. It’s not worth it though because DH firm is suffering due to energy markets.

  82. “It would have been great when prices were so high.”

    Emotionally, sure. I remember gas lines at Costco that looked straight out of a Carter-Malaise montage. Logically, the savings tends to be fixed around $0.15 per gallon, regardless of the base price.

    What HAS gotten insane lately is the price premium on high-octane fuel. It used to be an extra 10 cents for mid-grade, and an additional 10 cents for premium. Now you’ll see premium that’s 70 cents to a dollar higher than regular. My Acura is killing me that way. I’m done with cars that require premium.

    A guy at work commented that it’s now cheaper to drive his F-250 than his 5-Series.

  83. ” I spent $15 for almost ten gallons. ”

    Yeah, adjusted for inflation, it’s cheaper than it was in the 1960’s heyday. My teacher/coach used to say how he could fill up the car and take his favorite gal out for burgers and a movie for 15 cents or whatever it was.

  84. Finn, you should write a book on how you do that. I might save enough that it would be worth flying out to you and following you around the store!

    When we honeymooned on the Big Island, my main train of thought (after how beautiful everything was) was “holy cow, stuff here is expensive!” And at the time I lived in Manhattan :)

    I’ve signed up for cooksmarts, and will report back.

    For those who are wondering, it is possible to pick a few of the week’s recipes and then substitute from the archives when the set choices won’t work for us, and still have the meal selections create the grocery list. From the looks of it you can’t access everything in the archives to substitute unless you use 2 grocery lists, but I may be missing something.

  85. The trick is to plan fewer meals (maybe 3), but have some easy dinners you can throw together any time from pantry and freezer staples, so that if it turns out you really did need to cook another meal or two you can fall back on that. If you can convince her of that.

    She just needs to remember to look in the freezer before making the shopping list.

  86. I went to the Cooksmarts website and was somewhat confused. When you all are saying that you use it, are you just subscribing to the recipes and generating a grocery list, or are you having a box of food delivered as well? Can you pick and choose what you want to have delivered? There seem to be a lot of ingredients you need to have on hand. At that point, it seems that all the recipes are doing is telling you what and how much protein and veggie to buy, if you can actually get that small a quantity easily at the store (Kale comes in bunches). if you subscribe, does she have a diabetic option? Paleo cuts out more than DH needs to have eliminated (dairy, quinoa, brown rice) and leaves in honey and maple syrup and sugary fruits.

  87. I’m subscribing to the cooksmart recipes, and buying my own food.

    The recipes come in regular, gluten free, paleo and vegetarian. There is detailed nutritional info for each recipe, so you could check sugar levels and substitute another meal if you need to.

    Alternatively, has a diabetic plan that might be more useful for you – I didn’t look at it closely.

  88. Finn, school lunches here are $2.25 and usually include a sandwich/burger option and (twice a week) pizza, daily small salad bar, and milk (including a daily choice of chocolate, probably a main reason my kids choose it). The twins are in first grade, where school lunch is a novelty, so they usually choose it. I expect they’ll pack their own more as they get older, because it’s not intrinsically all that awesome. Mr WCE or I packs a lunch for them if they choose not to eat hot lunch. (Everyone marks the monthly menu with his initials, and everyone can read well enough to read the menu.) Baby WCE doesn’t eat commercial baby food so I pack a lunch for her and am trying to nurse her/prep her pumped bottles around the time the boys need to leave for the bus. School lunch is one less thing I have to do.

    Costco has only one driveway for both the store and the gas station and even during the day, there’s often a line to get in or out. It’s also 20 min away. Milk is ~$0.30/gal less than Kroger (but you have to buy two) and butter either slightly above or slightly below Kroger’s sale price. Costco’s produce quality is poor. (Fruit often appears unripe and you have to buy a package that includes blemished fruit.) USDA choice beef round roast is $5.99/lb, compared to $3.99 for same on sale at Safeway. We decided to keep our membership last year, because Mr WCE likes some of the things they carry, but it’s a slight net cost for us at the $55 level.

  89. Meme, that’s why I gave up on Cooksmarts. I don’t need someone to tell me to have salmon on Monday, chicken on Tuesday, etc. Her recipes all seem really similar. And of course they’re not low carb enough for us.

  90. Cauliflower has been running $4.99 a head at the local stop n shop, but I stopped in the other day at the new Chinese supermarket across from my campus, and discovered loads of beig beautiful cauliflower at $1.99 a head. It wasn’t even a loss leader – that was just the price. All the veggies were cheap and gorgeous. I think I will be buying my produce there for the foreseeable future

  91. Rats, I missed a good thread. Our grocery bills are way too high, even though I do weekly meal planning and pretty much restrict our meat choices to sale burger, sale pork ribs, and chicken thighs. I don’t even track the amount I spend any more because it is too depressing. The main reason is that we just eat a lot. My DH and I have always had good appetites, and now we have two teenage boys, and DD eats her share too.

    We go through 5 gallons of milk a week. If I buy eggs for a meal, I have to buy the big 16 egg pack. I buy 2 pounds, yes, 2 pounds of green beans at a time. Its crazy

  92. Our school lunches are expensive. It is ala carte, and the kids often end up spending $4. I had to cut off DD because she was buying loads of crap snacks with her lunch. None of the kids really eat their lunches whether purchased or sent because they don’t have enough time to eat. My oldest doesn;t even have a lunch period because he had to cram health in. The other two say they don’t have enough time, so the lunches largely come home uneaten. DS#2 often doesn’t even bother to bring one any more

  93. For diabetics, the south beach option will work well for you! Parliame seems too restrictive in many ways.
    @Ivy, I checked and air chilled chicken breast is 9.99 a pound. Still much more expensive than Costco. I think we live in the same general area of the country, so I am surprised at the price discrepancy.

    I avoid canned food except maybe coconut milk for Thai curries. I found tomato paste in a glass jar at WF.

  94. Yes, we shop at local ethnic markets for veggies that we don’t buy organic. Our local grocery coop has organic stuff cheaper than WF.

    This summer I am going to try planting various herbs, garlic, chilies, and ginger. Apparently you have have a steady supply of chives or spring onion if you put a sprouted onion head in water. It will be an interesting experiment. This will all be in a container.

  95. I buy fancy pantry staples at Vitacost (flours, coconut milk, tomato paste in the glass jar). It’s usually cheaper than Whole Foods.

    Costco is very valuable for us but I don’t buy meat, eggs or milk there. I will buy wild fish if they have it (in the fall they get the Copper River Salmon for a week or two). Grocery items I buy at Costco are Larabars, nuts, sugar, rice, cheese, Kerry Gold butter, dried fruit, frozen organic fruit, Wild Planet sardines and tuna, spinach, snacks, organic string cheese, canned tomatoes, pasta sauce beer and wine. I’ll get citrus fruit there too and it’s been good. Gas is another perk, as it’s usually a difference of 40 cents per gallon and there’s rarely a wait. Plus the tires there are usually a much better deal. DH got a hole in his and they patch for free.

    Whole Foods is where we usually get seafood, dairy, bread, veggies/fruit and oats from the bulk bin. I think I just occasionally run to Publix if I need something last minute but I looked this a.m. and we’ve spent $125 there this past month. No idea what that even was. We order meat from White Oak Pastures about two or three times per year whenever they have a sale and just stock up.

  96. After years of school lunch issues – DS has finally come to the point where he has access to a microwave. However, there are lines at lunchtime – so anything you heat should not take more than three minutes. Though not a perfect solution he takes things like frozen burritos, meat and macaroni bowls etc. The school cafeteria food is OK – probably the same as taking frozen entrees.
    A random thought – after years I saw a Valentine’s Day ad for Vermont Teddy Bear company. It made me smile because DH gave me a VT Teddy Bear years ago. I still have it.

  97. My kids don’t have time to stand in line for lunch either, and are short on time to eat even a home lunch.

    Dell, chives and green onion (aka spring onion) are not the same thing as the onion greens from the top of a regular onion plant. I’d suggest you get seeds for chives and/or green onion if you want to have some on hand, or get seedlings of them at the garden store.

  98. Finn, I have no idea how you do it. I just left the grocery store having spent $220. That was with no meat. I don’t buy juice or soda, but did buy a 6-pack of beer because I’m a sucker for the free sample people. I spent about $20 on vitamins and stuff you may not include, but I also bought bottled water and a couple other lunch things at Costco earlier, so $220 is still probably representative.

  99. HM beat me to it, but Dell, chives are very easy to grow and are perennials (come back every year). They do bloom (spiky blossoms similar to a pink clover), so you want to keep clipping and using the young shoots before they mature and bloom. They do well in pots and will overwinter in a sunny window if you live in a cold climate.

  100. $1.39 a gallon up the street from me, but I did not check at Costco. I would happily pay $3/gallon and see the lay-offs end. It’s really been a tough year down here.

  101. Sky- if you don’t want a certain meal go to the bottom of the week’s menu and click ‘add another meal”. It will add the meal you choose from the archives to your grocery list. We’ve done that 2 times this month because we didn’t like or want a certain recipe.

  102. “I would happily pay $3/gallon and see the lay-offs end.”

    I would happily pay more for gas and see the roads get less congested.

    A number of years back, our state legislature passed a bill to cap the price of gas, tying the price of gas to mainland prices. Shortly afterwards, there was a big hurricane in the gulf that caused a bunch of refineries to shut down, and gas prices to spike, which then caused our prices to spike to over $4/gallon (IIRC, prices were between $2 and $3, closer to $2, just before the hurricane).

    The benefit of that was that suddenly traffic levels dropped tremendously. E.g., the bus ride for my kids getting home from school dropped from being in the 45 to 55 minute range to 25 to 35 minutes.

    A friend who runs a construction company said he would happily pay an extra $2/gallon for the reduced traffic.

  103. “It made me smile because DH gave me a VT Teddy Bear years ago. I still have it.”

    Your DH thinks like I. That’s why I give stuffed animals and jewelry instead of flowers.

    I was at a local drugstore yesterday, and realized VD is coming up, so I went to get a card for DW. I scanned the VD card section, and there were large selections under the headings of “mom,” “son,” “daughter,” “dad,” “husband,”, and even “grandparents” and “grandchildren,” before I found a small section for, “wife.” What’s up with that?

  104. @MBT – $220 seems high. Even with the beer and vitamins. For fresh vegetables, fruits, milk, bread, yogurt, juice, oatmeal, one ordinary chicken few snacks it is around $100. We buy a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit. If we buy wine, eggs, more meat the bill is higher. I think the key is to establish a baseline and then see where the deviations lie. DH was complaining about the BJs Wholesale club bill BUT he had bought two bottles of wine totaling $100. That’s our baseline weekly grocery store amount blown in one shot.

  105. “Logically, the savings tends to be fixed around $0.15 per gallon, regardless of the base price.”

    I’m wondering about the logic behind that. Is it that you are using an iPhone?

    (side note to DD– I’ve recently had my work-issue Blackberry replaced by an iPhone, and I agree with you that it’s not intuitive. The BB was far more intuitive for me.)

    Most recent check is that the local difference is about $0.37/gal, in line with Atlanta. Do you have other discount gas stations available? My comparison point is the big dealers, e.g., Chevron, Shell. We don’t have a lot of alternatives to those stations other than Costco and Sam’s.

  106. “My oldest doesn;t even have a lunch period because he had to cram health in. The other two say they don’t have enough time, so the lunches largely come home uneaten.”

    What’s the policy of their school WRT eating in class? DS doesn’t have a lunch break on some days, so he eats in class, which is OK. At open house, some teachers have specifically mentioned that it’s OK for the kids to eat in class, as being hungry is non-optimal for learning.

  107. “If I buy eggs for a meal, I have to buy the big 16 egg pack.”

    At our local Costco locations, they sell 1.5 doz cartons, which we usually buy. They also have a larger size (5 dozen?). When I did compare, the larger size is quite a bit less on a per-egg basis, but we don’t eat enough for that to make sense. I suppose if we ever had a breakfast potluck we might buy that quantity.

  108. 25 cents per gallon comes out to 50 dollars a year for me. I guess that is why I don’t go out of my way to find a discount station.

  109. “chives are very easy to grow and are perennials (come back every year). They do bloom (spiky blossoms similar to a pink clover), so you want to keep clipping and using the young shoots before they mature and bloom.”

    You might want to let some of them bloom, so they will seed, and seeds will sprout and bring new life and diversity to your garden. The blooms can also help support your local bee population.

  110. “edamame”

    Where is the edamame you buy grown?

    Here’s something I don’t get: The US is one of the world’s largest growers of soybeans, at about 30% of the world’s production. China grows about 5%. But when I shop for frozen soybeans, I can’t find any grown anywhere but China. The only way to get soybeans grown anywhere else is to buy fresh, locally grown soybeans, which often means going to a farmers’ market, which is inconvenient for us.

    What’s up with that?

  111. ” I guess that is why I don’t go out of my way to find a discount station.”

    I don’t either. I’m lucky that there’s a Sam’s gas station close to my office that is rarely crowded, so I usually fill up there. We usually take DW’s car when we do our weekly shopping run, which is usually to Costco, so we gas up then. When DW and I both go, I’ll often drop her off at the store then go to gas up. She likes to meander through the store and look around, so I’ll have to wait anyway, and this way I only wait once.

  112. “Fleet Science Center (awesome!)”

    We went there a few years ago, and really enjoyed it too. It was one of our favorites in San Diego and, more specifically Balboa Park, which IMO has a bunch of other great tourist attractions.

    You would probably love the Exploratorium, in San Francisco. I haven’t been to the new location, but went to the old location many times, and IMO that was even better than Fleet Science Center. If you ever go to SF, IMO that’s a must-see for you and your family.

    How’d you and your family like Legoland?

  113. “have some easy dinners you can throw together any time from pantry and freezer staples”

    For us, that’s spam, rice, and frozen veggies. We also usually have stuff like frozen chicken nuggets (pre-cooked) or fish sticks or canned soups that we can just microwave and eat.

    Having a lot of rice and canned food on hand is also part of being prepared for hurricanes and ocean freight interruptions (for the latter, we also keep try to keep stocked up on TP).

  114. Rats, I missed a good one. I am sure we are around $1200-1500/month on food, mostly because of eating out. DH and I eat lunch out when I work from home and dinner out at least once/week together. Plus I eat out for lunch at work twice a week and pick up takeout on the way home from work at least once a week when I have had it and can’t face the kitchen. ;) I have much more patience for cooking on the weekend. I don’t meal plan either, except vaguely when I am in the store – I have a bad habit of not wanting to cook what I’ve planned when 5 pm rolls around and I end up making something else or picking something up. This week I have been “planning” not to eat any fish or bacon or anything too highly scented that will linger, since we are showing the house.

    I do not buy frozen veggies other than peas (could probably do corn and carrots, but never think of it) and I don’t like the way the Costco organic milk tastes, so we get milk and fresh veggies/fruits mostly from WF and Wegman’s. I often will buy pre-cut stuff to save my wrists when they are already tired.

    On Costco – I have found that almost all of the Costco refrigerated prepared foods don’t taste ‘right’ to me – too sweet (pulled pork) or too creamy (lasagna) or too many errant bits of fat on meat (chicken tikka masala), etc. – and we buy those because I want to try a new one and then end up chucking them. Ditto for their bread products, too bready (their whole-wheat bread slices are too thick) and/or sweet. The Costco frozen dumplings/potstickers are mostly good, esp. the low-fat ones, so we get those often. Other things we get and like at Costco: all paper products, ziplocks, etc., unscented detergent, coke zero if they have it, coffee, seltzer, organic 24-pack eggs, 12-packs of Annie’s mac and cheese, organic ground beef and chicken thighs, 12-packs of greek yogurt, 3-packs of Boursin, sausages for DH, kielbasa, pierogi, some of the veggies depending on what looks good, canned tomatoes, cereal, tostitos, PB pretzels, applesauce for lunches, vitamins, pizza from the food court if at mealtime.

  115. Easy dinners to throw together: breakfast for dinner, picnic/snack (bread, cheese, salami, veggies), mac & cheese for the kids, dumplings/sausages/edamame or frozen peas. Or make the kids mac & cheese and order Indian/Thai food for mom and dad. :)

  116. I would happily pay more for gas and see the roads get less congested.

    So would I, but when gas was up around $4, there was no difference in the traffic here.

  117. I have found that Costco has good prices and quality on vegetables, mushrooms and berries, wine, ice cream and butter. Their fruit tends to be terrible and I go elsewhere. Although, two summers ago, they had the best peaches available anywhere. Not so much last summer, but I couldn’t find good peaches anywhere last summer. I was sad.

  118. “I don’t like the way the Costco organic milk tastes”

    OTOH, my kids are so used to it that they don’t like when we buy any other kind of milk, with exceptions for chocolate and strawberry milk.

  119. Finn – We probably have more discount fuel options, plus Walmart sells gasoline. It’s rare that I’m ever at a Shell/Exxon/BP.

  120. Atlanta mentioned Kerry Gold Butter. I love the taste. In my house due to health reasons for the seniors who have butter much more than I do, we buy Smart Balance or similar spreads. Even a small bit of Kerry Gold tastes miles better than buttery spread.

  121. Finn – look at this engineering marvel. (My Dad has grown fond of them.)

    The tri design allows you to use more sail area for better speed.

  122. Milo– pretty cool. As I’m watching the video, I’m wondering a few things:

    -Does it actually plane, with the outriggers coming out of the water?
    -Are those kids wearing really thin PFDs under their jackets?
    -Who’s playing the piano?

  123. The milk is different in various regions of the country, and this is especially true for organic milk. One of my clients used to be the large dairy company based in Texas and I learned a lot more about milk and cows than I ever wanted to know. I am not a big milk fan except for a drop in my coffee, but it definitely helped explain why DD prefers the milk from our local regional dairy farm. She is used to the taste, and when I would buy the organic from TJs or Costco – she didn’t like it. BTW, a lot of that private label organic milk at stores like TJs or the supermarket can be traced back to this one large company that continues to buy up smaller regional producers of organic dairy products.

  124. -Does it actually plane, with the outriggers coming out of the water?

    I’ll guess that only the windward outrigger is lifted out of the water based on the wind pushing the leeward one into the water, but not so much because the hull is planing. Maybe it’s a semi-displacement hull? It’s kind of a cruising boat.

    -Are those kids wearing really thin PFDs under their jackets?

    They’re likely wearing vests that inflate when submerged. A little pill dissolves when wet, which releases a spring-loaded valve that discharges a CO2 canister to inflate the life vest. It happened to me once at 3 am on a very humid night as I was starting to doze off, and scared the dickens out of me.

    -Who’s playing the piano?

    I don’t know.

  125. OTOH, my kids are so used to it that they don’t like when we buy any other kind of milk, with exceptions for chocolate and strawberry milk.

    We get milk delivered by a local dairy and the kids refuse to drink any other milk.

  126. @Sky – if I take a more serious view of that Elle article – I would say that as kids we were given a handful of mixed nuts to eat as brain boosters ;-). Tumeric root is well known in the home country and is used in a lot of dishes. She is taking raw ingredients from different cultures/sources and eating them raw.

    “I always reach for coconut yogurt with cardamom, dried figs, walnuts, and apricots from a weekend farm visit”

    This is interesting.I can see coconut yogurt becoming common. When I first arrived in the U.S. the people who had immigrated here had stopped using coconut completely because they were informed that it was high in cholestrol. We were told that our traditional cooking habits caused ill health. We continued our normal usuage of coconut and now how times have changed with coconut products in every aisle. Fresh coconut water tastes very different from the packaged coconut water. I tasted a few brands and every one of them tasted nasty to me.

  127. Sky – reading that just makes me hungry. How can one subsist on juice and vegetables, even if it’s elegant?

    Louise – that’s another thing we get at Costco – coconut oil. Along with maple syrup, honey, olive oil, balsamic vinegar. I seriously don’t know what we’d do if we didn’t live near Costco.:)

  128. Sky, maybe you could get an invitation to Rohan’s fourth birthday and see what is served and how the guests react. We went to one birthday party where lentil soup was served. I ate all three of my kids bowls.

  129. I never considered that milk tastes different depending on the source, but of course it makes perfect sense when I think about it.

    Random rant:
    Do you any of you have SOs who make you do math or just simply give too much information when asked a question?

    Me: How many pounds of chicken wings did you buy?
    SO: Uh, let’s see. $2.67 a pound and it was two packages plus I cut off the tips . . . do you have a calculator.
    Me: You can use your iPhone and just give me a number when you figure it out.

    I just wanted a number, not a whole narrative. Similar to answers when asked other questions such as what time we’re leaving. “Well, I have to run to the drugstore and then we have to wait for DD and then check the dogs. The thing starts at 7 but we don’t have to get there until 8, so maybe in about 2-3 hours.”
    Just give me a time! (Okay, I admit I’m a hopeless beyotch.)

    I’m making wings today. :)

  130. Sky- I feel like I was reading Greek. And I feel so unhealthy. Lol. Why do I get the feeling she drinks most of her food?

    After this conversation I realized DH never upped our food budget. So we’ve been blowing our budget for a few months. We probably spend closer to $500 per month for 3.75 people.

    I read a lot of the milk conversation with interest. Any tips on getting a 1 year old to like milk? He spits it out or will only take it through a bottle. Anyone had luck with smoothies?

  131. Rhode, my mom just added Nestle’s Quik. Not the healthiest option but it got the calcium into me.

  132. Interesting comments on milk. I am not a milk drinker, and always thought that all milk tastes equivalently nasty. But my kids, who do drink milk, are very fussy. They won’t drink organic milk, they won’t drink Fresh Market milk, they won’t drink COstco milk. They will drink the milk that comes from the dairy in Danbury (sold at an IGA supermarket), they will drink TJ milk, and they will drink the Stop and Shop brand, Sometimes I get mad at them and tell them that milk is a commodity and tastes all the same, but they insist it is different. So you guys are backing them up.

    We only do Costco once every 3 months or so because it is such an ordeal. We mainly buy paper products, hamburger, big jars of three bean salad, packs of garbanzo beans and tuna cans, and olive oil. I think their meat is good but mostly overpriced. Their vegetables are disgusting – totally packaged and weirdly industrial. It is the same stuff that TJs sells – I bet they use the same suppliers. I am thinking of switching over to Amazon for the paper products

  133. My DS2 got invited to a Superbowl party where they are going to play Dungeons and Dragons. I guess that is one way of spending the pseudo-holiday! The rest of us are going to dine on cumin beef, spicy cabbage with Sichuan peppercorn, and dumplings, since it is Chinese New Year tomorrow. I wanted to make noodles, but everyone vetoed it. We went to the big LNY dinner on my campus on Friday night. Usually we do the kids Chinese school dinner, but we had a conflict. This one was pretty typical except that the performances were done by Asian fraternity and sorority members, and included lots of twerking in the ribbon dance. And the speech was given by a Chinese professor who stumbled through the traditional Korean and Vietnamese greetings as well as the Chinese.

  134. Sunday is my food prep day. For those who don’t menu plan, I don’t know how you do it. I am so brain dead by 5:30 that if I have to actually come up with something to make at that point, it’s painful. On Sundays I clean out and wipe down the fridge and pantry, then do the weekly meal plan. After that I go to the grocery store, then come home and prep things for the week (cut & wash lettuce, salt meat, hard boil some eggs, pull things out of the freezer to thaw as necessary, etc. etc.). All in it takes me about 3 hours, but it makes meal prep the rest of the week SO much easier.

    On $$ at the grocery store – I definitely stick to a list and don’t get many impulse items. Usually none. Paying cash for everything really helps me be more aware of how the $5 here and $5 there adds up. We spend between $120 and $180/week on all grocery and household items for 4 people. Sometimes up to $200 if I need a bunch of cleaning items. I rarely make separate Target runs because I walk in for $5 Murphy’s Oil and walk out $150 later with stuff I didn’t know I “needed.” So I’d rather just pay $7 for it at the grocery store. That $$ covers a hot breakfast every day (bacon, egg, oatmeal, French toast) and dinner 6 nights/week. Once/week we go out or get pizza.

    This week’s meal plan:
    Sunday – Chili (from the freezer – I have red chili and white chili frozen but not a ton of each, so I pulled both out and everyone can pick one).
    Monday – pan fried flounder, salad
    Tuesday – Fat Tuesday. DH is working late this night, so I’ll make pancakes for the kids per our tradition. I’m not crazy about breakfast for dinner although the kids love it, so this night I’ll probably just do cheese, salami, and crackers for myself while the kids have their pancakes.
    Wednesday – NY strip and roasted veggies, salad
    Thursday – Tomato soup (from the freezer) and grilled cheese
    Friday – Pizza or other takeout.

  135. We do not have a Costco :( but oh how I wish we did.

    We are also picky about milk – I can definitely taste the differences.

  136. @ Rhode – what was he on before? Breast milk or formula? We just weaned each time we switched – start with bottles that are 3/4 of what he’s used to, 1/4 milk. Then a couple weeks later 1/2 of what he’s used to, 1/2 milk. And so on.

  137. Sometime this week we’ll do:

    Crockpot stewing beef with bourbon, siracha, and soy sauce. Probably minute rice and canned green beans.

    Rachel Ray’s Tomato basil cream soup with Cheez Its

    English muffin pizzas

    Paula Deen’s taco soup (cheese, guac, sour cream)

    Tonight is my shrimp quesadillas and takeout buffalo wings (to pretend that we care about the game)

  138. Meal plan for the week (not in the order we will do them)
    white wine chicken stew (one of those dishes you can just leave in the pot for an hour, which I find more convenient than say breakfast for dinner), salad
    sandwiches and canned soup, shredded collards on the side (S&S had bagged shredded greens so I thought I would try it)
    fast skillet chili (ground beef, canned beans, diced tomatoes, lots of chili powder and cumin, and cheese on top), with frozen corn and tortillas
    hamburgers, frozen okra mixed with stewed tomatoes on the side

  139. Lark – I really want to try the cash only thing you do but then I waver because of the 5% back we get on Amex…

    My kids are also very particular about milk. WF near us sells this pastured organic whole milk and they love it. I had to buy Organic Valley a few weeks ago because WF didn’t have the type I usually buy and kids would not drink it. I think it’s really just a matter of what we’re all used to. Heck, I even got used to eating over easy eggs fried in coconut oil instead of butter during the Whole 30 and learned to like it.

  140. Atlanta Mom, when we went to cash only spending in Target and grocery stores we saved way more than 5% by not buying stuff we didn’t need and even know we wanted before we saw it on Costco’s treasure hunt displays. I found it really helped.

  141. I have a pretty full freezer right now, so I only need to make a milk and veggie run Monday. Our eat out day this week is Wednesday. Sunday is usually my laundry, ironing, chores day. Tonight is wings, nachos, chili (made last week). Monday Lamb chops and chopped salad (we need a break from carbs). Tuesday I’ll roast a chicken, steamed broccoli and some sort of healthy grain. Thursday will be a big cooking day – I’ll run by H-mart for the ingredients and make Louise’s suggestion of duck soup for Friday night, plus make chicken stock from the carcass and a chicken pot pie for Th dinner. Also some sugar free ice cream for DH. DH will be out either Sat or Sun night. The one he is home we will have lasagna from the freezer (made last Friday) with salad. Sometime Th Fri or Sat I’ll do a pot of basic tomato-basil sauce for the future.

  142. Only the hand roll for alternative lunch and the yogurt and fruit snack sounded good in Sky’s article. But that woman is clearly repackaging an eating disorder as ‘healthy eating.’ The comments were funny, sorted by ‘best.’

    I don’t know yet what we’re eating this week. But I might make pottage since we have a leftover ham bone in the freezer from a couple of weeks ago, we’re building up a lot of sweet potatoes from our CSA bags, we have kale and chard to use, and the weather is relatively cool.

  143. Shutterfly has Free 4×4 and 4×6 prints. Happy to see that. I uploaded last year’s kid pictures. I really needed to do prints and move on to this years pictures.

  144. HM – hmm. Maybe it is different in different regions? I can’t remember what the package looks like here, but it is definitely too sweet.

    Friday we had brussels sprouts and bacon, and the kids ate nothing but air (too many snacks before dinner) Last night we had leftovers (chili, pizza) and a bunch of yellow and orange peppers. Tonight will be soup for the kids, leftover Thai food for me, DH is going to his friend’s house for the Super Bowl. Unintentional hilarity – this is the friend who is getting divorced and now invites over me and DH but not the kids every time, with maybe 0-1 days’ advance notice. Does he not remember that we have kids? Or does he just want to make the gesture? Unknown. Tomorrow I will make pork tenderloin and shiitake mushrooms and the kids will also have leftover rice. Tuesday I will try to sell someone else the leftover chicken tikka masala from Costco – it may be too spicy for the kids so if DH won’t eat it I will need to throw it out and make broccoli pancakes/fritters instead. Wednesday is the nanny’s late day so she takes the kids out, and then Thursday maybe we will have another late day when DH and I will go out to eat and she will feed them mac and cheese or kielbasa or dumplings.

  145. L, I wonder if we’re talking about different things. The Kirkland branded smoked pulled pork has no sugar added — see tiny picture below. Are you getting one that comes with a sauce, maybe? I think they carry a Jack Daniels branded pulled pork too, that has sauce with it and probably is too sweet.

  146. HFN – I’m sure you’re right. Costco is not taking Amex anymore as of 4/1 so that may be a good time to transition to cash and see if it helps. If Lark averages $120 to $180 for everything, we surely should be able to, when we have a full freezer of meat.

  147. I was going to follow The Lady this week but just realized we leave for mid-winter break on Sat AM, I have something on Wed night and DH and I have a date night/swanky fundraiser wine tasting thing on Thurs night. I think I’ll pull my standard “we’re leaving for vaca soon – let’s use everything up” routine and clean out the freezers, pantry, do breakfast for dinner, etc. DH will be thrilled to have a very short milk/fruit/coffee grocery run tonight so he can be back in time for all the pre-game stuff. The kids aren’t as excited about these weeklong pantry/freezer clean-outs as they used to be (breakfast for dinner isn’t so thrilling once you’re a big kid), but they’re gracious enough not to complain about it.

  148. I tried parodying the Moon Juice chick, but it’s darn near impossible. It’s just not as funny as picturing her trying to subsist on half a zucchini, bee pollen and a few spoonfuls of mushroom broth. Ris could do better.

    * * *
    I usually wake around 4:47 AM, and start by silently cursing whatever small child or furry creature woke me up this time, followed by a 23-minute whispered conversation in which I meditatively repeat: “it’s still dark, go back to bed” while breathing slowly through my clenched teeth. When I surrender to the inevitable and drag myself downstairs at 5:27, I prepare a cup of unfair trade generic coffee in a semi-functional Keurig knockoff machine we got free after rebate.

    By 6:00, all of the children have joined me in the kitchen for a delicious and vitamin-packed breakfast of Frosted Flakes and Lactaid. The precocious darlings quarrel over who gets to read the box, as if it had changed since yesterday.

    While waiting at the bus stop, I savor another cup of coffee, laced with the caffeine I call “brain dust.” (Ed. note: Is that a cocaine reference?). I throw in some Girl Scout cookie-themed creamer as part of my sugar-boosting and bone-strengthening regime.

    At 9:30 am after the first two children are at school, I take the toddler to the bagel shop to meet up with another mom and her toddler for coffee. In between prying our children off the back of the booth, fixing their iPads, and telling them not to eat off the floor, we enjoy bagels with cream cheese and lox for their hunger-satisfying and beautifying qualities – smeared cream cheese conceals lip wrinkles!

    For lunch after toddler swimming class and preschool pickup, we hit the fast food drive thru. The natural oils found in McNuggets smooth the complexion and promote the growth of myelin, which is critical for the brain and nervous system. The French fries are packed with phytonutrients, as well as manganese and kukoamines that lower blood pressure. Plus, the meal is insanely delicious. You can tell they focus group these!

    If we are home in the afternoon, we enjoy a snack of goldfish crackers and Hi-C juice boxes. The whimsically-shaped crackers encourage the children to pretend that they are sharks, and the Hi-C is specially formulated not to stain when they vomit because it is made almost entirely of corn syrup. If they manage to digest it, the sugar provides enough of a boost to ensure no one takes a second nap while car pooling to soccer practice. We are always on the go and running late, so sometimes I encourage the children to scavenge a snack from the leftover Cheerios in their car seats instead.

    In the evening, we may prepare dinner together as a family: the four year old gets three cans of Chef Boyardee, the two year old gets out the big corningware dish I snagged for $2 at a tag sale, and the seven year old opens the cans, reverently stirs the pasta, and pops it in the microwave for two minutes on high. I set the table with rainbow colored plastic dishes from Ikea, which lend a festive atmosphere to every meal. Plastic utensils and cups with lids complete the look. Chef Boyardee was a culinary pioneer, and we discuss the importance of his legacy of canned pasta and tomato sauce to modern American cuisine over our meal.

    Later in the evening, we all have some vanilla ice cream while watching reruns on Disney Junior. The children like to pile sprinkles on and then stir until it turns into rainbow colored soup. Then I make sure there are enough Lunchables for tomorrow, so that my daughter can explain to the lunch monitor yet again that she is underweight and trying to gain, not lose.

    After they are finally asleep, I sneak some gourmet chocolate, which has lots of anti-oxidants with cancer-fighting power.

  149. Loved it Sky.

    On Lunchables – when my kids were young, I let the picky eater get the pizza one a few times to pack in a lunch. We were in the grocery store with it in the cart when we ran into some friends. Their boys gasped and screamed “those are poison!!!” The mom spoke up and said, ummm, I might have told them that. Her 6 year old enjoyed things like swordfish, so we were not operating on the same plane.

  150. What do you all say to your daughters when the other girls start to diet?

    I thought second grade was too young for this, but DD is getting called out by her classmates for her food (we are actively trying to have her gain, she’s 37 pounds).

  151. Nicely done, Sky!

    And regarding your 5:30 post, your daughter’s classmates are right little pills, aren’t they? Weren’t they calling her out earlier for being half Asian? I have no suggestions, but I sympathize with you and with her.

  152. MBT, is your friend not aware of the high levels of mercury in swordfish? Pizza Lunchables is probably less harmful for kids.

  153. Sky – move to a different school system? Sorry, I have no advice – your daughter’s peer group sounds more than awful.

    HM – I will check the box next time we go to Costco.

  154. RMS, that was a different group of girls. In an interesting twist, the school dealt with it by putting DD in a social skills group.

    InMyDay, the people making the racist comments were told off and that was the end of it.

    She has just started the group, so I’m very interested to see if it will work. Evidently they take an Izzy Kalman approach, and try to teach the victims to let more comments go and to react in ways that don’t draw more negative attention.

    They do not tell us if the other girls were spoken to, but DD said that they have stopped hitting her and she is willing to wear dresses to school again.

    Had I realized she would be surrounded by the Stepford Junior League, we might have chosen another neighborhood. Now I’m focusing on finding the nicer girls and encouraging those relationships.

  155. Sky, has your DD ever seen you diet? Perhaps seeing how dieting inherently involves deprivation might help. Maybe you could try a pretend diet that involves depriving yourself of some of her favorite foods.

  156. Lark- the weaning doesn’t work because DS doesn’t drink enough. He’s hydrated through food mostly. But I’ll give it a try again.

    RMS- totally crossed my mind. He needs the calories and calcium. I may throw in fruit though because DS hasn’t had chocolate yet.

    Louise- we are eating pancakes on Tuesday too!!

    Sky- perfect. You are my hero. Good luck with your daughter. I wish I had useful things to offer

  157. Sky – loved it!

    I am like DD’s wife. It is only in the last year or so that I have learned to plan on 2-3 meals vs 4-5, and to just have hot dogs or deli or something on hand if I do actually need more.

    Yesterday was down to @$100, because I realized DH is out half the week, so I basically have two CS meals and then the big pack of hot dogs and some Hormel turkey chili. Plus, of course, last week’s leftover chicken piccata, and the leftovers from our dinner out F and lunch out Sat.

    Go Broncos!

  158. I was going to make the same suggestion as RMS for chocolate milk. Or strawberry or any other flavor.

  159. Finn – no way, I hadn’t heard that about Amex/Costco. And I was all ready to do my cash only savings diet. I may try it anyway as an experiment. If it whittles our $1200 per month down to $800 I’ll gladly switch to cash.

    Sky – I just can’t believe all that goes on in 2nd grade! I really haven’t heard a peep about dieting or mean girl stuff from my 3rd grader.

    We just got back from the Super Bowl party. The host served bison for Denver and shrimp and grits and barbecued pork for Carolina. I was just happy I didn’t have to cook tonight.

  160. The home team lost but it was still a happy couple of weeks for the fans.
    @Sky – I loved the parody. I am going to send Coc parody post day so start composing suitable topics in your head.
    The meaness of the kids at such young ages is awful. Though my kids are a minority in our neighborhood, neither they nor us as parents have felt that way. School is a religious private, so though there is little religious diversity there is racial diversity and again their friends are based on whom they get along with as people.

  161. “They put her in a social skills group…and try to teach the victims to let more comments go and to react in ways that don’t draw more negative attention.”

    Hmm. In what way is this different from the old school “tell the victim she’s too sensitive and needs to try to be cooler?”

  162. Sky – loved your parody! I’m going to try to work into some of my conversations that I’ve stepped up my kukoamine intake by eating more McDonald’s French fries. It helps lower blood pressure, don’t you know. And the thing is, I can guarantee that some people I know will nod approvingly when I say that!

    Atlanta — your chicken wing recipe was a big hit. I actually did a test, baking a few without the baking powder and I saw that it made a subtle difference. Thanks!

  163. HfN, it’s the same thing, but with the veneer of “skills” over it to make it more palatable.

    The whole anti-bullying curriculum is victim- and witness-focused. I wonder if that is because (a) few kids would admit even to themselves that they engage in bullying, (b) changing the behavior of the victims and witnesses is easier, or (c) even the curriculum writers blame the victim.

  164. Rhode, try adding Carnation Instant breakfast, especially if you are looking to boost his caloric intake. You may want to add less than the whole packet (I use half) because your DS does not need the full adult RDA of vitamins yet.

    We found pediasure is helpful but becomes a crutch (and seems almost addictive, though it smells terrible to me), and the instant breakfast flavored are much closer to non-supplements like Nesquik.

  165. Rhode, one other tip – start giving DS a sippy cup with water to carry around between meals once he finishes his milk, and encourage him to sip it between activities. I found it very hard to get my long term nursers to drink once they weaned, and you want to try to instill the habit before the hot weather because toddlers dehydrate fast.

  166. DD has been coming home and asking me about weight and dieting since probably the second grade. I think the girls talk about it alot. DD is tiny and pretty slender so she doesn’t get too much pressure. She has also been the target of slanty-eye teasing, which totally suprises me because there are a lot of East Asian kids at her school. She dealt with it last year by getting in with the Japanese crowd.

  167. If you read the Amazon comments on that Izzy Kalman book, you’ll see a lot of complaints that it is victim-blaming. And his Mafia-inspired “no tattling” ethic is instantly embraced by teachers and administrators who don’t want to do their jobs. I’m a little bit conflicted, because I was bullied and I will acknowledge that I probably could have used some coaching on how to be a little more cool. I burst into tears a lot, so teasing me to get me to cry was pretty easy and apparently really fun. But mostly I think the bullies just should have had the snot beaten out of them. I don’t like Kalman’s approach overall.

  168. I am of course in agreement that blaming the victim is sending the wrong message, but from a practical point of view, if a kid is small or weird or just deemed to be weaker/victim by the dominant group at 7, this situation is not likely to improve until the object of derision finds his/her niche or area in which to excel in high school or beyond. So teaching the child techniques of how to get along and how to have a thicker skin is not just to make the teachers’ life easier, but is a real survival skill for the next 8 to 12 years. The alternatives for the family are moving, choosing private school (which has been done by some of our Totebaggers), homeschooling (perhaps only for a few years),

    I can recall a situation when the nicest and overall most popular of my children, the youngest, entered middle school with a new group of kids. The boys quickly divided into the dominant and the non dominant group. My son really was uncomfortable with the dynamic and tried to maintain friendships in both groups, but at the end of the day, he was 11 years old, not a certified saint, and could not be expected to stand alone in a situation that was deemed by adults to be natural selection. When I became aware of it all, I had to ask myself, if his choice is at this point binary, do I want him to be a noble victim or can I accept that he found a way to “pass” as a member of the ruling class without actually beating anyone up. The dynamic improved some over the next two years, but in large high school I put him in a small magnet program for fresh and soph years where he was insulated from some of the social pressure and he was able with the help of a great science teacher to find himself, so successfully that he was elected senior prom king (not Carrie style), in part because he did have friends in all camps.

  169. I would not add anything to milk to make it palatable. Unless your pediatrician has serious concerns about weight gain/calorie intake, adding sugar to food is a bad idea. Carnation Instant Breakfast is basically sugar. High fat diets are necessary for good growth in babies, but there are many ways to get that.

    On the kids who don’t like organic milk – in many areas, organic is a niche enough product that it is ultrapasteurized. There is a distinct (and foul) taste to ultrapasteurized dairy. We get organic from a local dairy and I love it – the kids won’t drink other organic milk.

  170. “ changing the behavior of the victims and witnesses is easier,”

    I’m torn about the best way to handle bullying. Much of it is subtle and so difficult to manage in a school setting.

    For example, how do you discipline the bullies’ eye rolling and shunning in the cafeteria. Does making them sit with the victim work? How about breaking up cliques by instituting a seating system that prevents them from sitting with their friends? I think the results of these efforts are mixed, and in fact most anti-bullying programs don’t work. (Our school had a horrible program IMO that was completely experimental and “feel-good”.  It involved having students sign pledges and publicly denouncing bullying while continuing to bully.) So the bottom line is that helping a victim deal with the bullies, who will always be with us, seems like a good priority.

  171. @Meme — I’d be more comfortable with “teaching the victims social skills” as long as it is paired with “teaching the bullies not to be bullies.” Especially in second grade. And it’s that last part that Sky has no visibility to — which is a problem in and of itself.

    It’s hard for me even to imagine what Sky is going through, because my kids’ schools are so anti-bullying that I’ve periodically rolled my eyes. But any complaint gets an instant response — focusing on retraining the aggressors. The two complaints I made (for much less significant issues than here) were immediately responded to by the administration; I knew what was being done, and even more, I knew by their fast and open response that this was important to them and so I could trust them to handle it appropriately.

    I agree by MS and HS that there’s only so much the school can do. But in ES, the school is in loco parentis — the kids are at an age when CPS gets called if the actual parents so much as leave them alone to run to the store, so I don’t have any issues with holding the school to that same level of care. If they have a bullying problem at that age, then the administration and teachers aren’t doing their jobs, any more than I’d be doing my job if one of my kids were constantly beating up on the other. (which I have some experience with, but that’s a different story)

  172. CofC,

    That article doesn’t seem to say what you claim. Kids at schools with anti-bullying programs are more likely to report being bullied. Which is what you’d expect as that’s what they are told to do. We have no indication as to the number of bullying incidents at schools with or without programs.

  173. Thanks Ada. I’m so focused on DS *liking* milk, that I forget the basic “rules” of baby food – no added sugar or salt. I’m so focused because I *detest* the taste of regular milk (in food, tea, chocolate or strawberry variety, etc. it’s great). He’s small, active, and growing like a damn weed that I want to make sure he has strong bones to support the wall-climbing he’s doing (and tumbles he takes).

    DH has off today (sadly, I do not). He gave DS milk in a different sippy cup (one with a straw-like top, which is longer than the nub tops) and DS took it straight. We’ll slowly introduce the other cup again (one that mimics a regular glass).

  174. Rhett, Good point. I should have written that there is not consistent evidence the programs work.

  175. I’m sure that just lecturing kids about not being bullies works about as well as saying “Now, children, don’t take drugs!” You need an entire social system enforced from above that hammers the bullies. School is a Hobbesian universe, only worse, so you need the Leviathan to smash the “glory-seekers” and petty criminals.

  176. Rhode – my little sister liked bottles so much that she continued to drink them until almost 5 years old at home. My mother would not make them for her so she would make them for herself (with apple juice in them). It sounds like Baby Rhode will do fine.

    I agree with Ada about just giving him milk, he will get used to it. And we only drink whole milk – kids need that fat.

  177. Sky – Your daughter is on a diet, just not a weight reduction one. A response such as – my mom and my doctor have determined the diet that is best for me to maintain a healthy weight. The issue might really be that the girls are jealous of her.

    Diets and 2nd graders – I don’t know if Sky’s dd’s peers NEED to lose some weight or think it is a grown up thing to do because their mothers do. But, some of the large kids with pre-diabetic conditions could stand to improve their eating habits.

  178. “if a kid is small or weird or just deemed to be weaker/victim by the dominant group at 7, this situation is not likely to improve until the object of derision finds his/her niche or area in which to excel in high school or beyond.”

    There are occasional exceptions.

    When I was in HS, there was one kid who was picked on because he was ‘different’ until a group of cheerleader girls made it their mission to protect him.

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