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Grocery Shopping – Think Outside the Box

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No doubt about it. Grocery shopping during a recession can be challenging. The grocery store is there to take your money. And they employ every psychological trick in the book to get you to give more of your money to them.

From the colorful flowers that greet you at the store’s entrance, the mouth-watering smell of bread baking wafting through the air, to the store layout, everything inside your grocery store is designed or placed for you to cheerfully part with your money.

Today I will share five time-proven ways to save money at the grocery store. But I am going to save the best for last. While researching this topic I discovered the most wonderful website for saving money not just on food and groceries, but just about everything. They have put all these tips on saving on groceries in one post accompanied with a video demonstrating how to shop when on a limited budget.

Cook. That’s right, cook. Stay away from that pre-made salad and pre-made sandwich. Making your own spaghetti sauce will cost you less than buying a ready made jar. You pay a premium for the cost of someone else doing the work. Same is true for pre-cut packages of fruits and vegetables. When you purchase ready made foods it is like paying for a personal chef. Sometimes convenience is important. But try to limit pre-made items as much as possible. Here at More Thyme Than Dough I try to provide recipes that are both reasonably healthy and easy to cook. It can be done.  Also buy in season, especially with fresh fruit and vegetables.

Make a List. Plan your meals ahead, at least a week in advance. Build your meal plans around the stores weekly ad specials. For instance, if chicken is on sale this week build your meal plan around chicken. Buy items that are only necessary to your weekly meal plan.

Buy real food. The perimeter of the stores is where you will find real foods such as meat, vegetables and fruits, and dairy products, or real food not processed food. The aisles are where you find the pre-packaged boxes of food. Try to buy as much from the perimeter before buying goods from the aisles.

Use coupons. They do help reduce your grocery bill, especially if you pair a vendors coupon with an in store sale item. My niece is a real pro at using coupons. Using coupons and shopping the closeouts cart she once got both shampoo and hair conditioner for $.04 each. In a future post I will share her strategies.

Repurpose. That is use up leftovers. If you cook a whole chicken you can use left over chicken for other recipes during the week, such as cream chicken or chicken fajitas. Save the bones. They can be used to make chicken stock for soups.

Stock up on ‘loss leaders.’ Again, check out your stores weekly sale ads. ‘Loss leaders’ are items that are sold to the store at a loss to the manufacture to draw customers into the store where  hopefully they will spend a lot more money on other more expensive items. Loss leaders are generally basic food items such as chicken or beef broth, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, canned fruits and vegetables and the like. They are usually things than can keep in your pantry. Stock up on those sale items. I have what I call my Depression Pantry where I stock all kinds of these type foods. Then when I do my weekly shopping often all I have to purchase is the meat and the fruits and vegetables.

Okay. Now on to the most wonderful web site I have ever seen on how to save money – Tip Hero Your Guide to Saving Money. They have an exhaustive list on how to save on nearly everything. I have added Tip Hero to My Favorite Sites blog roll.

On this site I found an excellent summary of how to buy food on a very limited food stamp budget. I am basically a lazy person. Why reinvent the wheel if someone else has already done it, especially if they have done it better than I could. Tip Hero has graciously given permission to reprint their article with video on how to save money at the grocery store on a limited budget. Thank you, Ray.

Reprinted by permission:

What Can You Eat on a Food Stamp Budget?
Submitted by: Ray @ Tip Hero 03/11/2010 9:12 AM

 

    What can you eat on a food stamp budget? Leslie Cole, a journalist with my hometown paper, The Oregonian decided to find out. She called in the help of Ellen Damaschino, an instructor with Share Our Strength, a national organization that works to prevent childhood hunger. With $95.50 in their pockets, the average weekly food stamp benefit of a family of four with young children, they worked their way through a local supermarket.

The article is filled with solid advice for anyone looking to cut down on their grocery bills. Much of it is cardinal rules of grocery shopping that readers of Tip Hero are very familiar with but it’s always great to see it in action. Here are a few highlights I pulled from this great piece:

1. Always have a Plan. If you don’t have a plan Damaschino says, you often spend twice as much.

2. Start with proteins. Meat is often the most expensive item in people’s diets. Like most Tip Heros, Damaschino tracks the weekly grocery ads and plans her weekly menu based on what meat is on sale.

3. Supplement your more expensive meat proteins with cheaper protein sources such as beans and eggs.

4. Fruit is often one of the first things that get sacrificed when you’re shopping on a budget. Damaschino follows the golden rule of buying what’s in season.

5. Stay away from convenience packs like pre-packaged salad. There’s a high cost to convenience.

6. On vegetables, Damaschino follows a basic rule: “Fresh first, then frozen, then canned.”

7. For big savings, buy spices from the bulk bins. How big you say, check out our article on buying spices from bulk bins.

8. Always have the makings of an emergency meal for those nights when your tired and tempted to got to a restaurant or order in.

9. Damaschino points out a well known fact that most things eye level in the supermarket are higher priced, for the real bargains, look up high or down low.

10. “The cereal aisle is a minefield of big price tags and empty calories. Damaschino’s advice for budget-conscious families is to buy one kind of cereal for the week, and kids don’t get to choose” They’re shopping at one of my favorite stores, Winco, and one really good breakfast bargain there is buying oatmeal in bulk for around 48 cents per pound. You can have your breakfast for around 15 cents.

Here’s an excellent video they put together of their shopping trip.

How to  feed a family of four for less than a hundred bucks.

Also be sure to check out the full article for more tips and advice: Living on a limited income calls for smart choices at the market

sponsored: Find Money Budgeting Tips.

 

THE HUMBLE POTATO

Since we learned today that shopping the perimeter of the store is a good way to save money and eat healthy in today’s recipes the main ingredients are found in the perimeter of the store. The main ingredient is the humble potato.

Potatoes often receive a bad rap for not being healthy. But nothing could be further from the truth. Potatoes by themselves are very healthy. It is all the stuff we humans put on the potato that causes the problems; from butter to sour cream to fried bacon.

[Picture source: International Year of the Potato Nutrition Source: United States Department of Agriculture, National Nutrient Database]

Like peanut butter, potatoes are nearly the perfect food – low in fat and high in nutrition. And you should not be too wary of a potato’s high carbohydrate content. There are good carbs and not so good. If you get your carbs from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, or beans it is a good thing.

Okay, enough preaching for today. Lets get cooking and eating.

Recipe # 1

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Here is what you will need:

1 sweet potato for each person       Cost for 1 person = $.20

1-2 teaspoons butter                      Cost for 1 person = 1 stick butter $1.19  2 teaspoons = $.10

1-2 tablespoons brown sugar          Cost for 1 person = cost 16 oz box $1.65 2 tbsps = $.30

Olive oil if cooking in oven               Cost per person = $6.39 17 oz  1 tspn = $.06

Salt and pepper to taste

Cost per person:  $.66

Cost for 3 people:  $1.98

Here is what you do:

Wash and dry the potato.

If cooking in the oven rub a tiny bit of olive oil all over the potato.

If cooking in a microwave prick the potato in several places using a toothpick, fork, or a knife.

Bake in an oven at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes; if using a microwave hit the “potato” button and wait for the microwave to beep at you. If your microwave does not have a “potato” button it will take about 7 minutes for one potato, a bit more for several potatoes.

When your potato is baked to your liking cut a deep X on top and then push the ends toward each other to open up the potato. With a fork loosen the potato up a bit.

Add the butter and the salt and pepper.

This is a meal in and of itself.

But if you add a little brown sugar you have a meal made in heaven.

Serve with a salad and you have a full and healthy meal.[/print_this]

Recipe # 2

Baked Potato with Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese

Here is what you will need:

1 baking potato per person                   Cost for 1 person = 10 lb bag $1.49; 1 potato =$.12

1-2 teaspoons butter                           Cost for 1 person = 1 stick butter $1.19  2 teaspoons = $.10

1 medium broccoli cut into florets         Cost for 1 person = $.99 1 cluster broccoli 1/3 of it = $.33

2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese        Cost for 1 person 8 oz chunk = $2.13  2 tbsns = $.27

Olive oil if cooking in oven                    Cost per person = $6.39 17 oz  1 tspn = $.06

Salt and pepper to taste

Cost per person = $.89

Cost for 3 people = $2.64

Here is what you do:

Wash and dry the potato.

If baking  in the oven rub a tiny bit of olive oil all over the potato.

If cooking in a microwave prick the potato in several places using a toothpick, fork, or a knife.

Bake in an oven at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes; if using a microwave hit the “potato” button and wait for the microwave to beep at you. If your microwave does not have a “potato” button it will take about 7 minutes for one potato, a bit more for several potatoes.

In the meantime steam the broccoli florets until crisp cooked. This will take only about 5-8 minutes.

When your potato is baked to your liking cut a deep X on top and then push the ends toward each other to open up the potato. With a fork loosen the potato up a bit.

Add the butter and the salt and pepper.

Top with the steamed broccoli florets.

Shred the cheese and sprinkle on top of the broccoli.

Serve with a salad.

[/print_this]Until next time, bon appetite!!

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