Save Money; Eat Better

Since I was on a roll with our cost savings plan, I wasn’t ready to stop. I Googled a few more ideas and started to look at our grocery bill. Here was another place where we would go shopping and just pay with our debit card and never really look at the total. Sure, we comparison-shopped and watched for sales, but we never really “looked” at all we were buying.

I decided I needed to set a budget for food. It’s just the two of us and we keep the pet food under a separate budget, so I figured we should be able to eat just fine for $50 per week. I know what you may be thinking, but yes, it can be done.

The first thing you need to do is change your thinking about food. We are a society where more is better. Supersized and large family meals are household words. We are bombarded by commercials pushing huge portions.

In truth, the average American eats way more than we need to. And it turns out that all we have to do is think about what we’ve eaten to tell our minds and our stomachs to settle down.  Read this BBC article find out more.

I became interested in the Longevity project after reading a story about a man from Greece who was diagnosed in the US in his sixties with terminal lunch cancer and given nine months to live. He is now 99 years old and lives back in his hometown of Ikaria, Greece. You can search his name and come up with several articles, but here is one from the New York Times.

There is a direct correlation between what we eat and how long and healthy our lives are. If we truly understood what we were putting into our mouths every day, we would be mortified. I have been doing a bit of research and I look at food much differently now, but I will save that for another blog.

For now, let’s get back to that grocery bill.

The next thing you have to do is take stalk of your pantry. I mean how many cans of chicken noodle soup and stewed tomatoes do you have right now? Do you know? Did you just get up and go look? That’s what I mean. Unless you really know what you have in your pantry, how do you know what you need at the store? How many times have you picked up a box of mac and cheese or frozen vegetables because you weren’t sure what you had at home and “it’ll never go bad.”

Let me tell you a little story. My boyfriend has a saying; “Happiness is a fully stocked pantry.” The problem with that was when we moved from his condo to our farmhouse, he had boxes of mac and cheese that dated back seven years! Seven! There were canned goods that went almost as far back. It was crazy.

In one day I tossed more than half of what he had in his cupboards and I would have done more except he was starting to hyperventilate. I’ve had to ‘re-program’ both him and myself to understand that having the “right” foods was better than having the “most” foods.

With that in mind we did a small challenge…we skipped a week of grocery shopping and just ate up what we had in the pantry. My boyfriend is pretty ingenious when it comes to throwing things together to make a meal and we ate quite well all week.

The idea in keeping your grocery bill low is meal planning. I HATE meal planning. I may plan to have spaghetti on Tuesday, but by the time Tuesday comes around, I might want hamburgers instead. So, I compromised. I made a “loose” meal plan for the week and I based it off of what was on sale in the grocery store flyer.

Let me take a moment to discuss grocery shopping and comparison-shopping. In our area we have three main grocery stores: Shaw’s, Market Basket and Hannaford’s. We also have a Super Walmart and a Sam’s Club and we have a Target that carries some food items. So how do you know where to shop and do you really save money by running around?

I will be the first one to tell you that Walmart and Sam’s Club are NOT the cheapest place to buy things. I have a real problem with Club stores. I should not have to pay them to shop at their store and if you think you are truly getting a bargain think again. The only reason we shop at Sam’s Club is because we were given a membership as a gift at Christmas. If you can get a free membership, then you may be able to cash in a little, but it won’t be much.

Let’s look at a few comparisons, shall we?

Jiff Peanut Butter 40oz

Market basket: $3.98

Walmart: $4.98

Sam’s Club: $9.98 2pk (That’s a penny more than Walmart and remember you had to PAY to shop there.)

White Vinegar 1 gallon

Market Basket: $1.99

Walmart: $2.48

Sam’s Club: $3.88 2pk

Target $2.74

Betty Crocker Cake Mix

Market Basket: $1.29

Walmart: $2.00

Target: $1.29

Sam’s Club: N/A

As you can see, prices can be all over the map and while you may save a few pennies on one item, you could potentially spend more on others. The good news for us frugal shoppers is that almost every town has a well-known store where you typically save over all. For us it is Market Basket. While it is not the most diverse store, they cannot be beat on prices for your basics.

Hannaford’s carries the organics and locally sourced foods we enjoy. Once we started looking at the food we were buying we realized that very little of it was healthy for us. We have made some changes and plan to make more, but again, that is for a future blog.

Another trick to lowering your grocery bill is using cash. I took my $50 to the store and I was amazed at how much closer I looked at prices. I looked at the Market Basket circular for that week, planned some loose meals for the week and then made sure I didn’t buy any extras.

How did I do?

I bought enough food to make:

A whole chicken dinner

Chicken soup

Spaghetti

Shepard’s pie (with stew meat instead of hamburger because, believe it or not, they were the same price per pound and if you knew what went into grocery store hamburger you’d vomit anyway.)

Homemade Pizza

Whole Chicken Leg dinner

We also wanted to try goat meat, so we bought one pound from a local farm to make a stew.

That is enough to make seven meals and have enough leftovers for lunch the next day.

What did I spend?

I spent $44.00 at the grocery store and $12.00 for the goat meat. A total of $56.00. Not bad.

I will be the first to admit that there may be weeks where we will need to spend a little more, but there will also be weeks when we can spend less. We rarely eat out as we like our own cooking better and we have made sure that we make time in our lives to cook meals together.

So there you have it… our food cost savings.

But we didn’t stop there…

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