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Saving on food as a single person
Old 07-13-2019, 12:31 AM   #1
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Saving on food as a single person

I am in my 40s living in the New England area in the US. I recently started working on saving expense on food as it is currently my single largest annual cost item.



I need some other ideas than the following that I have been doing in the past month:


- cereal, an apple for breakfast (an egg every other day)


- around 2pm I have the following for lunch
pasta, Chinese noodles, sardine from a 3.5oz tin, and another apple


- no dinner.


During every weekend I have a $10 budget to eat out.


Each week I spent roughly around $35 on food excluding snacks and some luxury items (e.g. ice cream). I say annual cost on food, if I keep this up, is around $2k for myself.


I can replace a few items (e.g. sardines for beans, apples for oranges, etc) based on the discounts and coupons to prevent me from getting bored. But I was wondering if there other ways to eat healthier and not more expense.


Any input is appreciated.
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Old 07-13-2019, 01:16 AM   #2
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nice work , getting food as your single largest expense ( that can be trimmed i assume )

( and welcome to Early Retirement )


the problem here is cost v. nutrition ( and probably time availabity )

cooking for yourself can be a big help and you can grow some stuff to improve the flavour of what you cook





using herbs both rice and pasta can be on the menu ( you can buy in bulk and store it for weeks/month ) say rice , herbs a a tin of sardines ( or shopped up ham/bacon )

might be the same if you bought the beans dried and cook them up like the rice idea

when i was working at night a favourite meal was peanut paste or cheese on wholsmeal bread ( white bread tends to dry out too much during the night , for me )

quick to make before heading off to work and you can but the cheese in bulk on discount ( the wholemeal bread is OK for say 3 meals if kept in the refrigerator )

i bet other member will have some more tasty solutions
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Old 07-13-2019, 01:24 AM   #3
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Dry beans and rice are staples for some protein and carbs. Maybe consider planting a small garden for some fresh vegetables when the season is right.

Whatever your choice I would not push the food budget to the extreme at the cost of a balanced diet. As your health and healthcare costs make an extra 2k/year or even 20K/year look cheap in comparison.
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Old 07-13-2019, 01:49 AM   #4
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Dry beans and rice are staples for some protein and carbs. Maybe consider planting a small garden for some fresh vegetables when the season is right.

Whatever your choice I would not push the food budget to the extreme at the cost of a balanced diet. As your health and healthcare costs make an extra 2k/year or even 20K/year look cheap in comparison.
+1

but yesterdays miracle food ( milk , cheese , pasta , eggs , beef .. etc etc ) are todays slow poison
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Old 07-13-2019, 01:52 AM   #5
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Thanks for all the input. The herb planting is something I am looking forward to try. Rice takes too long to cook but I can make enough for two or three days meal and just microwave it before the meal.



I definitely want to put my health as top priority. In the past I had consumed too much and with not enough exercise, it's becoming a big issue (overweight, low stamina, etc). Hopefully I can gradually change the balance of my body to have less food and with more exercise. I think the fish in tin is good protein source. Noodles/pasta are basically flour which could be good carb and fiber source.


I need to clean out some junk so I can start planting herbs in the sunny room. I keep my window blind closed most of the time for privacy and that won't do for those herbs if they don't get enough sun light.
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Old 07-13-2019, 01:59 AM   #6
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i had the opposite problem and went HEAVY on the coffee , had plenty of energy stayed slim and developed heart disease ( or increased an existing problem )

rice can be good on the weekend ( when you are doing other stuff , i would let it cook while i was doing the laundry and such )
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Old 07-13-2019, 06:07 AM   #7
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I'm a single person who cooks for herself too, but I'd need a lot more information to give you ideas. First of all, do you/are you willing to cook? And do you enjoy it? The menu you described is very light on cooking. Second, are you hungry? Although many here have disciplined themselves down to one meal per day, many of us enjoy and do better on three - particularly as your two seem kind of light. Third, I see you eat fish, but do you eat meat and dairy? What you described seems kind of light on protein.
Fourth, are you devoted to any particular diet right now, or is the world of food wide open to you? And finally, are you able to keep larger quantities of food (Costco and similar bargains!)?

Saving money on food was a big part of my FIRE strategy, yet I spend about the same as you - maybe a little more in summer going to farmer's markets - and I had/have a much more varied diet, because I seldom ate out, did a lot of cooking, and ate LOTS of my own leftovers. There are other strategies - the once a month club of cooking, quick cooking each day of little chops and omelets, the gourmet planning strategy where you have lots of little partially cooked items in your freezer, and you plan, plan, plan like crazy to use them (I have never achieved this, though it is my aspiration).

What kind of approach would work for you?
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Old 07-13-2019, 06:17 AM   #8
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I'm not seeing any vegetables in your diet, and only one fruit, plus a lot of carbohydrates. IMO, not a healthy balanced diet. You might save money in the short term but will likely pay for it later in health issues.

Since I'm only cooking for 2, I do bulk cooking where I will cook a batch of something (soup, beans) and then freeze it in small portions. On weeknights, dinner is rarely more than thawing or grilling something quick, and making a salad to go along.
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Old 07-13-2019, 06:59 AM   #9
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I was a single person on a tight budget for many years. My Mother had been the eldest child in a poor, woman-headed immigrant family during the Great Depression, and taught us kids many penny-pinching tricks. She was very big on nutrition vs. cost. We had very little junk food in the home.

Mom would have liked www.cronometer.com, a nutrition/exercise tracking program. It can help you maximize your savings versus nutrition by showing you what's missing from your diet.

Oz's herb info is great! Mom would have approved :-) Herbs and spices are key to making the most inexpensive, sale-priced, produce, meat and pasta taste delicious. Spices are a worthy investment because they last a long time. A basic herb/spice box might consist of:
Rosemary (grow indoors and use fresh/dried)
Thyme (grow indoors and use fresh/dried)
Basil (grow outdoors/indoors and use fresh/dried)
Fennel seed (buy; growing it in a pot is a challenge)
Peppercorns (buy and grind yourself - get a grinder at a thrift store)
Cinnamon (buy)
Bay leaves (buy)
If you are a baker, Real Vanilla is a must. Very expensive, though, so if that's out, get a good vanilla/synthetic blend.

In addition, your library will have info on Eating on a Budget.

Lastly: a favorite penny-pincher, that I still do sometimes just because the family likes it: Assuming you have a freezer: Buy whole chicken or better yet, turkey on sale. Buy a bag each of carrots and frozen peas, some canned corn, a big yellow onion, a bunch of celery, and a box of pearled barley. Have aluminum foil or reusable plastic freezer containers on hand. I often see the containers at the thrift store, which is even cheaper than getting them at the dollar store (dollar stores aren't nearly as cheap as they pretend to be).

Roast the fowl. When it has cooled, strip the meat from to the bones. Divide the meat into foil packets or reusable plastic freezer containers.

Cook the bones in a stockpot or very big saucepan with a couple of bay leaves, a teaspoon each of dried thyme, rosemary, sage, and 1/2 tsp ground pepper; and all the leaves from the celery bunch. Strain the resulting stock and let it cool; pick the remaining meat off the bones (you'll be surprised how much there still is) and place this "found meat" in a packet or container. Discard the picked bones and cooked-down herbs. Pour the strained stock back in your stock pot.

Bring the stock to a boil. Add the box of pearled barley and cook on low for ~1 hour till the barley is soft. The soup will thicken till it's almost a stew.
Cut carrots, celery, and onion into small pieces. Add the cut-up vegetables, 2 cans of corn, 2 cups of frozen peas to the barley soup, and cook for 15 minutes. Taste the soup and add salt if you wish (we add salt only at the table). Add the reserved meat scraps, plus one or two cups of cut-up meat.
Now you should have at least a gallon of tasty, nutritious soup - almost like a stew. It freezes excellently.

Good luck!
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Old 07-13-2019, 07:19 AM   #10
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I send about the same per week on food, but eat a lot more! Not sure how you
spend that much on so little. Are you in a high cost of living area? Anyway to source your food better?

I do eat some rice and beans, but throw in sausage or steaks and fresh veggies. Chili is a staple of mine as well.
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Old 07-13-2019, 07:20 AM   #11
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For saving on overall food and grocery expense, I suggest investing on a good vacuum sealer. That way, you can buy items in bulk when on sale and vacuum seal them. Plus, vacuum sealing leftover portions for another so they don't get freezer burn and end up getting tossed away as "cash in the trash" (like the old Foodsaver commercial.

As for vacuum sealers, if I could do things all over again, starting out I'd get a good chamber sealer as my main machine. An initial investment but overall, in the long run a big savings on bags compared to those expensive Foodsaver type bags.
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Old 07-13-2019, 07:38 AM   #12
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I send about the same per week on food, but eat a lot more! Not sure how you spend that much on so little. Are you in a high cost of living area? Anyway to source your food better?

I do eat some rice and beans, but throw in sausage or steaks and fresh veggies. Chili is a staple of mine as well.
$35/week minus $10 eat out is $25/week. Surely, the OP can get more than just an egg or apple for breakfast, and a tin of fish for lunch (no dinner).

By the way, he says he lives in New England, but the profile says Arizona.
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Old 07-13-2019, 07:42 AM   #13
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In addition to the basics my go to items are frozen vegetables and frozen shrimp. The veggies can be added to the rice or pasta to add vitamins and fiber. The shrimp (I buy a bag in the frozen food section not the meat case) can also make a stir-fry, add to pasta sauce, or with corn tortillas for tacos. I stock up when the frozen items are on sale. Grocery items rotate their sales about every three months. So your sale items should hold you until the next sale.
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Old 07-13-2019, 07:45 AM   #14
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I am in my 40s living in the New England area in the US. I recently started working on saving expense on food as it is currently my single largest annual cost item.

Each week I spent roughly around $35 on food excluding snacks and some luxury items (e.g. ice cream). I say annual cost on food, if I keep this up, is around $2k for myself.
$2k/year is your single largest expense?

Quote:
But I was wondering if there other ways to eat healthier and not more expense.
It's not clear what your goal is.

If you want to eat healthier, you need to include some vegetables - your current diet isn't healthy at all.

If you want to eat for less, you could go to soup kitchens, check dumpsters behind restaurants, and try foraging.

Is this austerity program something you are forced to do? There are some good food assistance programs in New England. I'm not sure about Arizona.
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Old 07-13-2019, 07:49 AM   #15
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This sounds fishy (the OP says he eats a lot of tinned fish).

And Arizona is in New England?

Troll?
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Old 07-13-2019, 07:50 AM   #16
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And Arizona is in New England?
Let me check... nope, it's still not in New England.
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Old 07-13-2019, 08:43 AM   #17
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If so, it is possibly the least trollish troll post I have ever seen. What's controversial about saving $$ on food? (Oh wait, food is among the most controversial topics we ever get into on this forum!)

As far as New England vs. Arizona, meh. People can and do move. One of my friends is a pastor whom I call the Peripatetic Pastor. Her church sends her from living to living all over the U.S.

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This sounds fishy (the OP says he eats a lot of tinned fish).

And Arizona is in New England?

Troll?
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Old 07-13-2019, 08:48 AM   #18
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Eating one egg for breakfast, and one can of sardines for lunch each day? No dinner?

That does not add up to $2K/year. One egg+sardine or tuna is around $1/day. Well, maybe $1.50 if you do not catch them on sale.

Anyway, if that $2K on food is the largest expense category, I guess he can live on perhaps $4K a year?

If the OP can manage all that, he is already so frugal, I don't know how any of us can help him save more money.


PS. The OP would be extremely lean with that diet. Egg = 80 calories. Small can of sardines = 90 calories. Total = less than 200 cal/day.

PPS. Yes, it is a mild troll. He was having fun with us.
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Old 07-13-2019, 09:42 AM   #19
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Another +1 on the herbs, I have friends in apartments who grown their own herbs and peppers in their window flowerpots, so space is usually no barrier.

I like to use hot sauces to add flavor to plain foods and even when I snack on raw vegetables. If you like spice, experiment with some of the cheaper ones. Which reminds me, if you have an Asian market in your area (H-Mart and Lotte Plaza around here), they are a really good value and have a good selection; somehow they always seem to have much better prices and fresher produce and meat!

For breakfast, yours sounds great, but if you want to mix it up, you can boil a big pot of steel-cut oatmeal over the weekend, then warm up a portion every morning. Oatmeal is pretty cheap if you buy in bulk instead of prepackaged portions or flavors, and you can always add something to it for variety.
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Old 07-13-2019, 09:53 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by teetee View Post
I am in my 40s living in the New England area in the US. I recently started working on saving expense on food as it is currently my single largest annual cost item.

Each week I spent roughly around $35 on food excluding snacks and some luxury items (e.g. ice cream). I say annual cost on food, if I keep this up, is around $2k for myself.
So housing is under $170 per month? That's very thrifty.
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