Imaginale Design

(My jamon iberico, queso, & pan baguette in Spain)

I knew things would change when we got married. And I especially knew our grocery bill would change. But I didn't realize HOW MUCH! We go through a gallon of milk every week, we probably go to the grocery store twice a week, and somehow I feel like we're always missing something (a veggie, a fruit, or... MILK!).

So I need some opinions... or advice. Here's the thing: I buy organic produce. Mainly, I buy organic milk and chicken. The milk isn't really a problem, but the chicken is definitely expensive. They don't typically sell organic "skinless, boneless, chicken tenders" in bulk. Also, instead of beef, we usually buy ground turkey which is leaner and not as expensive. I'm not a fan of fish, but I bought a blackened catfish at a market yesterday and it was DELICIOUS! So now I'm considering fish for more protein options.

Anyway, what I really want to know is: How often do YOU go grocery shopping? What do you typically run out of the most? I know this changes for every individual/couple according to their preferences (Jose is a cereal killer = milk is like water at our place ;). But I'd like to get an idea of what the "average" is -- whether you buy for one or two.

Do you always eat some type of meat for dinner? Or do you turn to other options for protein? Any tips on saving at the grocery store?

I even considered us getting a Costco account, but we don't even have kids! So I'm not sure if we would take advantage of the benefits in "bulk" purchases.
But the way we run out of milk, cereal, bread, and chicken is making me have second thoughts.

Maybe we're just skinny cows. What do you think?! :)
14 Responses
  1. Kristen S Says:

    I shop for the two of us. We are car-less metropolitan dwellers, and the lack of car means grocery shopping 2 to 3 times a week. We do buy meat, drygoods and housegoods in bulk from Costco, and source our milk and butter from a bigger chain grocery store with guaranteed lowest prices. We go through a gallon of milk a week. I do not buy organic all the time, it is too expensive, and would mean us eating pasta instead of steak. I like to source our fruit and veg in the summer from a local farmers market, which gets us fresh organic goods, however being organic means they do not last very long, and we cannot get a weeks worth of fruit and veg from the market. Cooking for two is a lot different than cooking for one. Why? Because when you are on your own, you do not usually cook big dinners. You are more apt to microwave a burrito or a bowl of cereal. Groceries run me about $100 a week, and we usually spend $200 - $300 in bulk shops of dry goods/meat once a month (invest in a deep freeze, its worth your money). If you insist on organic meat, think about contacting an organic farm, and buying whole animals, and freezing. Its much more cost effective than buying in the supermarket.

  2. Sonjacharde Says:

    i buy for three people, me sammy and khatim. i usually go to the grocery store 2-3 times a week. i run out of milk, half and half, eggs and bread the fastest. i can not afford to buy ANYTHING organic at all... but i do buy meat only when its on sale and i stock up on it, wash it cut it, season it and put it in plastic bags (in portion sizes) and then put in in the deep freezer. i do fix meat with every single meal, and it goes from chicken to beef to turkey (ground turkey, turkey legs, and sometimes the turkey sausage- italian kind- for burgers and pastas), and all kinds of fish, usually whiting, salmon, catfish bacalao or whatever is on sale...i shop at aldis for dried foods and frozen vegetables, eggs and milk. they have the cheapest prices. i also go to discount stores such as food depot cause they sell meat in bulk and at much much cheaper prices (10 LBS chicken thighs for $5). also i never buy wings, i only buy thighs and whole chickens and cut them up cause wings and breasts are too expensive. i know my experience shopping may be different than yours being that im a single mother with kids... but i hope that this can help you somehow!!! good luck babycakes!!!

  3. melissa Says:

    We set a monthly budget for the grocery store and the famers market (we really do try to stick with it). Like your friend Sonjacharde said the milks(coffee)and bread go the fastest, and like you, we do buy all of our poultry beef at the farmers market, and SOME fruit and veggies as well. We decided that we must compromise on what veggies and friut we buy at the market and at the store, b/c of the prices. i really like kristen's idea about Costco, for things like cleaning suplies, ect... But we go too two different places already (store and market). the important part is compromising on the wants and needs and to stick with the budget. What i do, since i am also a cereal eater, (SPECIAL K, mornings and most afternoons) I buy two cereal boxes and two milks, it saves on having to make an extra trip to the store. I also buy two coffee milks and two breads. The milks dont go bad b/c i eat so much cereal and we drink coffee everyday. Before I go shopping though, i set a weekly meal plan so i have an idea on what i am going to need to buy. This helps me save money and the veggies and salads that i dont use wont go bad. Before i would buy a bunch of veggies and fruit and they went bad quickly. With the fruit, I pick two different types weekly, its cheaper and again they wont go bad. i hope this helps a little.

  4. I go to the grocery store twice a month. The first trip of the month is a pretty big one (about $200.00 worth) where I stock up on meat and non-perishables (I freeze 70% of the meat when I get home). Each night I cook dinner (roughly 4 times a week) I do a meat and two sides. The second trip to the grocery store is halfway through the month to refill on bread, milk, eggs and produce. This has worked really well for us.
    Also, I'm starting to cook larger meals that can be frozen (i.e. a whole casserole, but split it into and freeze half of it for later) this is making it even easier to not only cook meals, but make the food we buy last us much longer. Hope this helps!

  5. Lenora Says:

    I usually shop anywhere from 1-2 times a week to once every other week, just depending on whether or not I'm out of town for the weekend or what I forgot the first time. I go through about 2 quarts of milk a week by myself.

    I generally only eat meat at one meal a day, and I prefer one dish meals--they're both easier to prepare and easier to reheat. I was raised eating red meat every night, with 2-3 sides, and it took me awhile to figure out that I didn't have to do that. No wonder my mom hates to cook--that's a lot of work.

    I mostly buy chicken, too, the big packs, then marinate it and divide it into Ziplocs. I try to stretch it out with a starch, though--if I'm making fajitas/burritos/tacos, I'll add corn/rice/black beans to make most of the filling, or if I'm making spaghetti, I'll do a little bit of ground meat with mostly lentils. Lentils and black beans are your friend. I'll make a bunch, then freeze them in little bags till I want more. I'm starting to try to add more fish since it's the healthiest, but I know fewer ways to cook it. Honestly, though, most Americans consume way too much protein--it should be the smallest portion on your plate.

    If you're trying to cut back on meat in general, as opposed to just due to cost, try an Asian grocery store. I buy super yummy gluten (in cans), but it's not really cheaper than chicken. Also good sources of fresh tofu, with different textures--most regular grocery stores only stock extra firm. If you freeze tofu before you use it, it can be crumbled, which makes it work better as a substitute for ground meat. It's also a good way to stretch out real meat--use a little bit of the real thing, then fill it out with the tofu.

  6. Avie Says:

    The easiest way for us to keep our grocery budget down is to not buy dairy or meat products. I know that is a pretty radical change but it helps so much. So maybe you could have a few days a week when you don't eat meat. Also, cereal is hella expensive and I'm guessing a lot of your money goes there. But you probably won't get your husband to quit that habit.


  7. Meghan Says:

    For a while, I would plan out what meals we would have each night on the calendar (up to a month at a time). This way, I knew what to shop for each week and I didn't have to figure out what to make each night because it was on the calendar.

    Since I make our meals about 6 nights a week plus Sunday lunch (we usually only eat out once a week and Tom's...not a chef, shall we say), I liked that at first. But recently, I've started to clip coupons more (here's a link to some sites I use: and pay attention to what is on sale in the stores. Now, I buy what's on sale and make my meals based on that. I try to stay at or under $100 a week (I might spend more in shopping trip, but I stretch it out over more than just the following week). I'll buy what we need and what I think we'll use that's on sale, then I try to stretch that until I literally cannot make it make one more meal. Usually I can get to where I'll go up to 2 or 2.5 weeks between a big grocery shopping trip.

    In between, we fill up on bread, milk (common one to run out of), sugar (sweet tea, baby), chicken, and coffee creamer for Tom.

    Our chicken to red meat consumption is probably something like 5:1. We do a lot of chicken because it's leaner. Sonja is right that it's cheaper to buy a chicken than pieces. Sometimes, if I know I have plans to make a meal that calls for pre-cooked chicken, I'll buy a chicken, boil it, shred the meat, use it in meals that call for pre-cooked chicken, then use the left-over stock for something else.

    I also try to make couple-friendly sized meals (half a recipe sometimes) or make big ones that I can freeze. For example, I purposely make a lot of spaghetti sauce so I can freeze some. Pasta can be stored for ages, and with the frozen sauce, there's always a go-to back up meal at home.

    As for produce, I try to not overdo it because Tom doesn't eat much of it, and I don't want it to go bad. I buy vegetables I know I'll use in meals in that week or week and a half after the store and fruits that I can eat for a snack or breakfast. If I have leftover produce that I know I won't finish in time, I try to use it for something else. Salsas, banana bread, smoothies, fruity pancakes, salads, and even mixing them into main dishes are all ways you can find to use up extra fruit and veggies without letting them go bad and wasting money.

    We have a Sam's Club membership that I haven't used yet (we got it free through Tom's dad's business), but I've been thinking of shopping there for cleaning supplies and paper products (paper towels, toilet paper, etc). My mom always shopped there and at BJ's for our family when all four kids lived at home, and I know she saved oodles. I think it's also a great place to shop if you know you're having a lot of people over to visit or for a party and need to have a lot of the same food items.

  8. m Says:

    hmm...okay, sorry, it TOLD me it was too long, but it published it anyway. Feel free to delete this comment and the two above it. Good gracious.

  9. Ale Says:

    So many different perspectives!! I appreciate the thoughts... seriously.

    The problem I think is that we don't quite have a *system* yet. We're just learning to adjust to a "couples" system. (Yes, cooking for two is definitely different)

    I should clear up that when I said I buy organic produce -- I really only mean meat & milk and SOME fruit/veggies. There's no way we could buy every produce organic.

    Kristen S -- buying a whole animal freaks me out a little. But you know what? Jose's mom is visiting us next week and is insisting on showing me how to de-bone a whole chicken! We'll see how that goes... =D

    Sonja -- I completely understand what you're saying. And you're definitely doing something right cause your dinners always sound so intricate and delicious!! :)

    Melissa -- the weekly meal plan. Ahhhh. I have to do that. I realized that's just the best way to approach this, then analyze at the end of the month: which meals do we REALLY want to keep and how much are we spending?

    Kristen T -- I really hate freezing meats, but it's the only way we can keep from going to the grocery store twice a week. We also risk having the meat go bad if we don't freeze it. Right now we're doing something similar... one *big* one, then a couple more for the small refills.

    Jenna-- YES! A meat and two sides is a lot of work. Since I'm working from home (for now), I really love experimenting with recipes. Fortunately Jose always comes home and asks to help out so I don't feel pressured to make it all by myself. *However* Jose would probably be less likely to try the tofu option =\ I really like the idea of using it to take "meat" breaks, but I'd have to get REALLY good at cooking tofu. I've had really good AND bad versions. I'm with you on the fish! I want to learn more recipes & ways to cook it.

    Avie- Yeah, that's definitely radical but I do agree about cutting back on meat some days. I want to really think of yummy recipes on no-meat days. Throw me some this way if you got any! ;)

  10. Ale Says:

    LOL.. Meghan, I haven't read the comment yet but it said the SAME thing to me when I commented and published it anyway.

    Girl, you know me and my own novel-comments... :P Ok.. gonna read it now!!

  11. Ale Says:

    Meghan-- thank you for coupon links!! Similar to Tom, I'm actually not very good at eating veggies. I tend to stick to corn, fried okra (HA! I still count it!), asparagus, and occasionally peas. I LOVE corn, and we also love fried okra... but clearly we need more veggie intake. We started putting carrots and cucumbers in our salads (and cucumber on sandwich is actually REALLY good too!).

  12. Ellen Says:

    Well, my eating/grocery store habits are pretty terrible. If I run out of something, I end up eating fast food until I have time to go shopping (which is horrible, I know - now that I have free-time, I'm going to break myself of this habit!). Even so, I usually end up spending $300 in groceries each month! The items I consistently run out of are milk, cereal, and tomato sauce (I eat too much pasta!).

    I probably eat chicken once every two weeks, and I always buy it organic. I also always try to buy my fruits and veggies organic, and I buy soy milk as a supplemental source of protein. I agree that you and Jose would really benefit from buying meat on sale and freezing what you don't need. Also, when winter comes around, you might find it helpful to make a large batch of soup and freeze it. Also, as a final random thought, I second Jenna's comment about lentils - they are super-cheap, go with almost anything, are healthy, and are a great blood-sugar stabilizer!

  13. rex Says:

    I shop for two. We tend to run out of eggs, salad, and avocado the most (avocado and bacon sandwiches are DELICIOUS and simple). We don't really use milk that much though I eat cereal almost everyday (dry like chips). TO make the meat last we buy a large (5lb) ground beef, cut it into smaller sections and freeze them. We don't eat beef that often so that normally lasts 1 to 2 months. We mostly eat chicken at our main protein instead. To help cut down on cost of vegetables, which we do eat a lot of, we have started getting our fruits and veggies from a farmers market co-op. We paid $10 to join and the different sizes are different prices but we get a $10 basket which is enough to fill one and a half of the chill drawers in our fridge. They generally have pick up one day a week and most offer organic baskets and non-organic. We don't choose what is in the basket but it is all extremely fresh and really cheep. We wait to go the grocery store until we get the basket so we can decide what to make and then we just get the other things we need. If you just google "farmers market co-op" and your city I'm sure you can find one where you are.
    I know this isn't the point of your post but I have a system for cooking larger meals that makes them simpler and less time consuming. I cut up and marinade the meat at night before I go to bed then put it in the oven first thing in the morning then I go eat breakfast and everything else while it cooks. If I have time I try to cut up the veggies I want in the morning as well or I cut all my veggies on sunday. I just got a rice cooker which makes life so easy. I just season my veggies and toss them on the steaming rack in my rice cooker. I can walk away and relax a little then warm up the meat I made that morning and voila, dinner is done.

  14. Lauren Says:

    Get ready to laugh! I'm lactose intolerant, so I can't drink milk at all... and yet we still go through 2 1/2 - 3 GALLONS of milk a week at my house. Yes, you read that correctly. Milk is to Robert as air is to the human race. LOL.