Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Frugal Grocery Shopping 101

After all our stupid grown up bills, the next thing we spend the most amount of our money is FOOD. Food is essential to survival (it's also quite enjoyable), so though we can't eliminate it, we can certainly takes steps to cut back on our spending by using clever strategies.

Many people who've tried living on a dollar a day or whatever crazy-extreme things do, usually suffer the consequence of inadequate nutrition. Remember folks - it's better to be broke than to be unhealthy. HEALTH IS YOUR PRIORITY. Although many processed/boxed/premade foods can be cheap, they're not good for youuuuu! Why do you think there are so many people like me who've developed gluten intolerances? Because our digestive systems have not evolved fast enough for all this modern processed, mass-produced foods. So let's challenge ourselves in a positive way, by figuring out how to grocery shop frugally AND healthily.

My roommate, Jonathan, had read something that said that one should shop in the perimeter of the grocery store. You've got your fruits, veggies, fresh dairy, meats and seafood in the perimeter of every store. These are WHOLE foods. The healthiest, most basic of foods. I'm not telling you not to venture into the aisles, I'm just saying... it should be a general rule to have whole foods as the majority of your grocery purchases. With this said, let's get to some tips on how to save money on these perimeter-found foods....

* Do you have a farmer's market in your area? By cutting out the middle man, you save so much on whole foods. I used to live in Decatur, which had the Dekalb Famer's Market, just minutes away from my condo. When I moved to Atlanta (about 25 minutes away), I started shopping at the regular ol' grocery stores, and my produce was SOOO expensive in comparison. AND they were NOT fresh, blechhhh! So now I make it a conscious effort to go to the farmer's market. A longer trip is worth it in the end. At my farmer's market, they sometimes have pre-bagged produce for really good deals. They're usually cucumbers or tomatoes or apples or what-have-you that will spoil the fastest if they don't get rid of them, so they bad em and put em on sale. So make sure you're able to get to them within the week!

* Watch out for SALES! Whatever produce is on sale, for example - that's what you're eating that week (or however long it will sustain you). Usually prebagged stuff is cheaper, but it wouldn't hurt to calculate it in your head to make sure it's worth it to you. Some pitfalls of this is - if you're shopping for one, make sure you're able to eat everything before it spoils. Solution? Shop with a friend or two and split your bulk items!!!!

*Costco or other kind of bulk store. You have to do your own calculations on whether paying for a membership will be worth the savings - everyone has a different lifestyle. Again, if you're shopping for one this may not be worth it - but it would if you shared the membership with friends!

* Mealplanning - you don't have to spend a whole Sunday afternoon on this. You don't have to be rigid about it. Just have a general idea of how much you eat in a week, and what you can eat. This is my personal list for a typical week. This doesn't mean I buy ALL these things every single week, but these are the basic items I try to keep in stock at most times.

peanut butter
juice or milk (I use a milk sub, like almond milk)
bread (I buy gluten-free kamut bread from the farmer's market - it's the cheapest gluten free bread I've found - usually they're a ridiculous $6 a loaf!!!! - so I won't buy anything else. If there's no kamut bread, then no bread at all!)

sandwich condiments (store brand kind)
deli meats
sliced cheeses
lettuce or dark leafy greens, like collards or kale (LOADED with minerals, anti-oxidants, vitamins, etc.)
rice noodles
dehydrated wakame or some other seaweed (LOADED with minerals, anti-oxidants, vitamins, etc.)
tofu or something similar (bean curd sheets, tempeh, etc.)
whatever fruit is IN SEASON, usually pre-bagged on sale (if you buy produce only when they're in season, you save tons and they tend to last longer in your fridge or shelf!)

So for work I make myself a sammich, throw some fruit and/or veggies in. It usually lasts me my 10 hour work day.
At home, I make noodles with veggies, tofu or similar stuff, and seaweed. I also throw in an egg while the water's boiling, for added protein. Then you just splash on soy sauce and whatever spices you like for flavoring. Simple and still nutritious.

You don't have to follow my regimen. In fact, I encourage you to make up your own. EVERYbunny's different, so play on your strengths. What do you like to eat that happens to be healthy? Or how can you turn your favorite meal into a healthy one and still be yummy? If you're not enjoying what you eat, you'll never stick to a good plan. Ah, that reminds me....

* You should also add in some rewards for your frugal shopping. Once in a while, you should splurge on something nice and yummy for yourself. Variety is also good for your stomach and taste buds alike. If you see some salmon on sale, even the frozen kind, go for it. If you've been really good about saving grocery money, get a small thing of ice cream! Go ahead, it's okay! Live a little! It's very important that you don't deprive yourself. Smart money habits are very important, especially in these times, but you also have one life to live. So enjoy yourself when you've been responsible!!!!!

*If anyone has any more suggestions, as I'm STILL trying to refine my frugal ways... please feel free to comment and share!

Happy grocery shopping and even happier eating! *NOM NOM NOM!!!*

~Jenny Bunny Bunns!

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