Saturday, January 7, 2012

Supermarket Savings

I get a little excited about saving money. It's kind of weird to most people, but a lot of personal finance bloggers understand. So here's a long part-confessional/part-bragging sort of post about what I saved on the first grocery purchases of the year.

My sweetie and I spent the last week of 2011 and the first week of 2012 cleaning out the fridge and pantry -- by donating a few non-perishables we weren't going to use, tossing expired food and medications (yuck!), eating up leftovers that were still tasty, and making meals with what was already in the house. (Mmmmm, pot roast with "vegetable melange": baby carrots, a russet potato and two baby red potatoes, a withering zucchini, a mystery yellow squash, and frozen corn and green beans and peas!) We also tidied up the pantry (which is really a small bookshelf in the kitchen closet) and organized it into sections: pasta and sauces, soups, rice and dried beans, baking. That made room for new supplies!

Yesterday, she handed me the weekly ads for the two grocery stores closest to us and told me to make her a list. To be clear, we don't usually even look at those; we make up recurring meal ideas and pick up the ingredients as needed, or when they're on sale while we're shopping for other things. We buy store-brand for most items, because there's rarely a noticeable difference except in price. She does the grocery shopping and the cooking, but I am the picky eater, so she finds it important to run menus by me. I'm not a big one for clipping coupons, but I do love sales -- and groceries on sale are even better than other stuff! (See, the weirdness.) So I looked through the circulars and clipped all the interesting stuff that I thought was both yummy and useful -- for bento lunches, weekend casseroles to freeze, crock-pot dinners, and easy meals for when school starts back up. I figure the new year is a good time to start stockpiling canned goods, and to replace the household cleaning supplies we've used up. (I also have a weakness for drugstores that may be related to shopping the sales.) There were a few items that were offered at both stores, so I did the math and picked the better deal.

The original plan was for her to stop at one store on her way home from work this morning (she works night shifts on weekends, midnight to 8 AM), carry the groceries home, then sleep for a bit while I got my day started; then we'd go to the second store together and I'd swing by the drugstore nearby and fill some prescriptions while I bought garbage bags and laundry detergent and such. Well, she came straight home instead, found me passed out in bed and unwilling to wake up and go to the store immediately -- do you blame me? It's Saturday! So... unbeknownst to my sleepy self, she went right back out, picked up a City Carshare vehicle, and hit both stores at once! I got out of bed a little later and received her phone call asking me to put on shoes, come downstairs, and help her lug everything up to the apartment. Let's hear it for motivation!

Anyway, we got everything put away -- sort of. She'd rather overestimated the space left in the freezer, so we'll have to divide up some of the meats, and cook some other ones, before they'll fit in the icy Tetris of our little top freezer above the 3/4 fridge. I have no idea where we'll put the dinosaur bones. But it's beautiful! I feel abundance, which is an excellent sort of feeling.

I wasn't kidding. In there we have several kinds of frozen bagged veggies, the wheat-free flour and baking mixes that our housemate uses, leftover mattar paneer, chopped spinach, coffee beans, one enchilada, some chicken patties, beef patties, frozen raspberries, pine nuts, a turkey carcass, several containers of turkey-barley soup, ice cream (free with today's groceries!), microwaveable meals from Healthy Choice and Amy's, breaded fish filets, and pasta sauce. Oh, and a jawbreaker.

 That bottom shelf is our housemate's stuff. She eats more veggies and less bread than we do, but sometimes we share food if it's "friendly" (gluten-free for her; dairy-free or dairy-light for me).

 Top shelf: tortillas, leftover candy from Christmas, cottage cheese, yogurt (ick!), leftover sweet potato hash, hot dogs, string cheese, eggs. (I started liking eggs last year, after 20 years of only occasionally eating them hard-boiled and otherwise not at all. I also was diagnosed with a Vitamin D insufficiency in November... these things are possibly related.) Middle shelf: Brita pitcher, lactose-free milk (one of which will have to be exchanged for fat-free), the last of the eggnog (also ick -- it's for my sweetie, but I won't touch the stuff), coffee creamer (housemate's), and LOTS of meat ready to be divided and repackaged in Ziploc for the freezer: salmon, chicken breasts, ground turkey, ground beef, lamb shoulder blades, cross-rib steaks, and beef ribs! (There was a really exceptional deal.)
Our pantry shelves: oatmeal, unsweetened applesauce packaged for travel (sometimes it's the only thing I can eat without nausea), couscous, tuna, random squash from Thanksgiving, masala sauce, pasta sauce in red and white, various pastas. Canned soup (some to live at work in case I forget my lunchbox), chocolate, sugar, baking powder, cornstarch, sliced almonds, a tub of sprinkles. Ramen, chicken broth, rice, dried lima beans, more canned soup, canned black, kidney, pinto, and garbanzo beans. (Very important for meatless meals!)

Not shown but also picked up today: bleach, garbage bags, more Ziploc bags, some vitamins that were Buy One Get One Free. And some artichokes. :) I still need to get laundry stain remover, my prescriptions, and maybe some bleach shower spray to get the purple hair dye out of the tub.

So there's our stockpiling for the beginning of the year! It's all stuff one or both of us will eat, and it lets us plan out menus in advance to cut down on stress and waste. We have a couple of local farmers' markets that we'll visit once or twice a week for fresh produce, since we don't have the facilities to buy it in bulk and then  can or preserve it. That ought to round out our grocery budget, which comes from her living stipend. And this was so easy to plan! It took me a maximum of 20 minutes to scan the ads, clip the coupons, and make the list; I did it while watching Grey's Anatomy. We got free ice cream! And some boxtops for education (without buying the products in the boxes). And you know what the best part is??

We got all this stuff, which we will use over the next two or three months, and saved 40%!

So that's about $260 paid today (including non-edibles), to be spread over an average of two months (the canned soups and beans will last longer than that, and so will some of the leftovers we freeze from this month's meals). $130 a month, plus maybe $10 a week for produce and fresh bread from the farmers' market, and probably some more milk. $175 a month, then -- and we eat great, filling, often very nutritious food. I KNOW that frugal housekeepers make do on less (sometimes much less), and there are definitely areas in which we could cut back if we had to (and we've done so in the past!). We don't have a garden or a chest freezer (or a car!), though, and neither of us is home during the day, so many of the money-saving strategies employed by others aren't practical in our situation. For now, this works for us.

Bear in mind, the most recent food cost estimates from the USDA say that a "thrifty" plan for a family of 2 adults should be $373.60!!! I think the USDA is off its rocker. I live in an area with a very high cost of living, and still can't imagine what I'd spend all that on! (I guess it helps that we don't drink soda or alcohol... but does the USDA include those??) Remember, they're just calculating costs for food -- not toilet paper, cleaning supplies, vitamins, etc. So I call today's shopping trip a huge success. *kisses the lovely household provider*

1 comment:

  1. Great post. That was nice of her to do all the shopping while you sleep!

    I can definitely see the benefit of stocking up and reducing the number of trips needed to the store. Keep up the good work!


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