Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pantry Stocking for Frugal Living, Part Two

Part two of the economical eating series:

Ok... This one should be a little shorter than the last.

Price book: Many people (I actually don't do this, because I do it in my head, but it helps most people) will get a notebook and pen, then go to the store. What they do is write down the types of things they buy, or plan to buy, for their family, and then they write down the cost of the item (also the unit price, which is price per ounce, or per whatever). They will typically go to a few different store and do this. So the book might have an entry like this:

White rice, long-grain
HEB: 10 dollars for a 10 pound bag
unit price: $1/pound
Randalls: 8 dollars for a 10 pound bag

And so on. Don't go to a store you wouldn't feel comfortable shopping at. Even if they're a little cheaper, you won't go there anyway, so it doens't matter. Do consider looking at places like ethnic store (hispanic, asian and middle eastern stores often sell staples MUCH cheaper than american markets), and dollar stores. Dollar stores often sell real food, real cheap. A lot of the time this is where I'll get treats like potato chips (which granted, are not real food). I just got a huge ass bag of chips for a dollar. Cereal is often cheaper there too, as are some canned products and basic spices (which will be a separate email). Sometimes milk can be obtained cheaply there as well. So just kind of look around. I recommend hitting up Fiesta. The Fiesta in Austin is open 24/7, so you can go there after work and not waste extra gasoline.

Also, as annoying as those fliers in the mail are, look at them. I just found out (because of the fliers) that a store near me was offering almost 9 pounds of roast for 15 bucks. That's a steal, so I bought it. I split it into two packages and I'm using half of it today to make a pile of chili. Additionally, those fliers will tell you certain other things, like what HEB is offering for the Meal Deal and Combo Loco. When I had HEB readily available to me, I often found I could get 20-50 dollars worth of food for 10-15 bucks. The trick with those deals is to really look at what's being given away free. If you won't use more than 2 items, it's often not worth it (though look at the individual prices of the items you would use to compute its actual value to you). I donate the extra items to food banks or to friends whom I know would eat those foods normally.

The two above paragraphs deal more w/ her local grocery options, but I suspect most people will have some sort of grocer that everyone locally knows is super cheap, and I'm sure there are also cool deals to be found in "normal" grocery stores too.

If there's a CVS near you, get an Extra Care card. A lot of people are able to buy basic household items for free, using this card. Google "Extra Care" and you'll see tons of blogs teaching you how to do this. I use CVS as a convenient place to get tampons and toothpaste and stuff, because they often are selling these things for about a dollar.

When you see something is super-cheaply discounted (but not expired), buy a bunch of it, if you can afford to. This is what I do w/ pasta, canned tomato products, canned tuna, etc. I don't buy them when they're not on sale, but the large amounts I buy when they are carries me through until the next sale. If you have a good amount of freezer space, do this with meat, too. This is a little harder for me because my freezer is tiny. But lately I'm getting into canning. If this is interesting to you, let me know and I'll tell you more about it.

Where to shop at the store:

The perimeter of the store is your best friend. This is where the deals tend to be, and it's also where the food is healthiest. The closer to the middle of the store you get, the worse the food is for you. Sometimes you still have to go to the middle of the store, but I try to do it as infrequently as possible. The middle of the store will always carry the most expensive food there is.

I'll tell you more if I rmemeber more, but this is all pretty simple. It's a long-winded, detailed explanation of where to look for the best deal,s and how to keep track of the cost so you know when a good deal really IS there.



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