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How to Grocery Shop Economically and Well

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  • How to Grocery Shop Economically and Well

    *I wrote up this little blog for another site. It's elementary for foodies like we have here on CK but I was thinking that the general public does not always think about these things.

    Smile next time in the checkout line
    This one is more like my food editor stuff, more amusing than funny, I think.

    We all have main themes we gravitate toward in our lives. For some it's family, for some it's religion or the quest for World peace...One of the strongest themes of my life is food. And by that I don't just mean just what delicious thing I can forage for next. Well, that too...but I also mean what I can cook or bake for other people, how I can contribute to food banks and research the issue of hunger in the US, and I'm always stretching my culinary skills by taking cooking classes and creating new recipes and menus. Besides, I'm a Southern Jewish woman. I was basically bred to cook and eat.

    This blog entry covers the basics of food shopping when you are on a budget. It's not the cheapest food plan you can find because I also emphasize fresh produce and variety. But I think I have some good tips for a balanced diet that won't break the bank.

    The first and most important tip is to shy away from super processed and packaged convenience foods. Frozen dinners, Lunchables, and individually packaged snacks. Empty calorie snack foods. Fad foods like the new shapes and sizes like all the dipable crap as in Oreo sticks and mini this or that...Same thing but higher price per ounce. Even most fruit rollups are primarily sugar and food coloring. No one needs that. Forget about sugar free and fat free. The most obese people I know have both in their pantries all the time. They cost more and make you actually gain weight. And well, ingesting phenylketonurics or wood resin can't be good.

    OK. So what CAN you eat, now that we just removed about 80% of the contents of your cart?

    For value and nutrition, one of the best additions you can make to your diet is whole grains. And I don't mean Blueberry Kashi Waffles or Quaker's instant Strawberries and Crème oatmeal *Artificially Flavored. I mean brown rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat...Hearty things that could put out your eye if pelted toward you before cooking. Not wimpy buns and bread and stuff you have to add to the top of your cart so apples and cans won't squish it. Start eating one or two servings of whole grains a day and you will feel great. One of my favorite breakfasts is cooked brown rice with fresh or thawed frozen berries and almond milk, eaten like a cereal. Takes 30 seconds to assemble in a bowl and one minute to nuke in the morning. This sticks with me and gives great energy and no sugar lows. Instead of eating your boring old lettuce salad, add chopped veggies and beans to a whole grain and add a vinaigrette for a complete meal.

    Soup, soup, and more soup. Why? Let's see...economical (can even be a way to use leftovers), often healthy, reheats well after freezing and easy to prepare. What can be easier than cutting stuff up and throwing it in a pot? Try to make soup three times a week and always have some around. I probably make Vegetable, Miso, Chili and of course, Chicken Soup most often. For recipes go here and a comprehensive soup cookbook is a great investment.

    Go semi vegetarian or just cut way down on meat. I don't care how great that butcher department sale is, Scarlett, it can't compete with the price of beans or tofu or making a frittata. A wide assortment of nuts is available and they have become more competitively priced in relation to other groceries.

    Get worldly. Ethnic markets can have some of the best options for fresh and affordable, not to mention delectable. Some of the items I stock up on in ethnic markets or grocery sections are spices, noodles, seaweed, tostadas, tortillas, sauces, canned vegetables and the list goes on. At a fraction of the usual price, usually about half, and often better tasting. The last time I visited the Buford Asian Market they were out of my favorite Pad Thai Sauce that happened to be sold for $2 a jar. I almost cried.

    Veggies. Think versatile. Start exploring new ways to make veggies, especially those that are consistently cheap like greens and cabbage. I never liked collard greens. Had always had the traditional ones with ham that taste like an armpit and somehow conjure up visions of mullets, muscle tees and chitlins. Now I sauté them in chicken broth, olive oil, garlic, onion, and Siracha sauce. Yum. Thinly sliced cabbage in Pad Thai instead of bean sprouts is a good substitution. Cabbage is much less likely to spoil before you can use it. My Mother turned me on to frozen mushrooms and diced peppers. I still use fresh frequently but you can thaw frozen sliced mushrooms, diced onion and peppers in a skillet in the morning for a healthy quick omelet.

    Rethink "convenience" foods. You can stuff hummus with carrot and celery sticks or smoked oysters on crackers in your face in even less time than it takes to reheat frozen appetizers. Try a new sandwich. One of my faves is Peanut butter, bacon, and lettuce with onion and mayo.

    How will you store your abundance of new homemade and non-individually packaged fare? You can get pleated baggies for a penny each for your brown bagging and partially cut onions and tomatoes. Ziplock bags are sorta expensive but still a better option than buying frozen dinners. And I mean Ziplock when it comes to freezer bags. Others leak. I get them at Costco but you can also watch for sales. We all have a huge collection of assorted plastic containers of the new flimsy variety floating around our cabinets. I'm not a big fan of those. I prefer to buy the Kmart Martha Stewart glass storage containers that are freezer, fridge, and microwave safe. Never lost one, not even a top! The thought of nuking food in plastic you can indent with a fingernail just does not sound good. I've never had one of the tops ignite at the bottom of my dishwasher and create noxious gasses throughout my kitchen either. And I think they are pretty. Oh, here's a good one. Clean and's not just for Grandma anymore. Jam and salsa jars can hold leftovers and spaghetti sauce jars are great for storing rice, pasta and grains.

    Almost as important as what TO do, is what NOT TO do. Personally, I never use grocery coupons. I can't justify the time to clip sort and keep up with them. I could use that time to learn a new skill or watch a web video of cats on a treadmill. Most coupons are for newly introduced foods you may like or may not. They are often toward processed foods that are poor choices in the first place. The only coupons I think are practical are the ones for fast food like Arby's. Used one today. and actually got an extra dollar off because the man at the register thought I was cute. What a deal. I don't do the once or twice a month cooking thing because I'd get sick of eating the same similar frozen crap all the time and end up making a run to Whole Foods for something good. Would rather double recipes on occasion and freeze some. And I only buy bulk of healthy foods. I live alone. If it's here most likely I'm the one who is going to eat it. So it is best not to hoard crap foods because that's what I'll eat.

    To find out more about how to Live and Eat like a Southern Jewish Princess visit:

  • #2
    Re: How to Grocery Shop Economically and Well

    SJP well said, we try to live by this too. FIL had a bypass so DH got so scared, DH had high clorestral & blood pressure,overweight too in Jan. Started doing most of this and lost 25lbs & got the clorestral & blood pressure back to normal, just eatting mostly fresh & watching what we buy. Dr. wanted him on pills but if you eat mostly healthy you can control it. We do cheat at times (got to have some fun) but we read the labels & got rid of so much crap in the house. DD is getting into it too. Especially with food prices going up. Got to add in exercise, I don't do it ( I know) DH walks every weekend & at lunch time but so hot this time of yr. that he can only do it on the weekends. I try not to use too much salt & never put the salt shaker on the table, just pepper. Grew up with our parents cooking heavy dinners. Cook simple & eat simple, but you can cheat a little & still maintain it.


    • #3
      Re: How to Grocery Shop Economically and Well

      Has anyone here of I started TGG about 5 wks ago and am amazed at how much I can save utilizing the rules of the game. It FAR offsets the small cost they charge to be a member and I find it is affording me the opportunity to try many of the new tried and true recipes here as I build my stockpile. If you go there and decide to join please list [email protected] as the person who referred you. Also, if you have any questions about how its done contact me and I'll be more than glad to help. I know it was a little confusing for me in the beginning, too.


      • #4
        Re: How to Grocery Shop Economically and Well

        I use grocery coupons all the time and never for processed food, but only for things I'd use like laundry/dish detergent, salad dressings, mayo, cottage cheese, shampoo and toothpaste.
        "What fresh hell is this?" Dorothy Parker


        • #5
          Re: How to Grocery Shop Economically and Well

          i refuse to pay for someone else to tell me where my deals are.
          anyone who shops on a regular basis with a budget in mind can follow their own ads and find their own savings. save your reciets, or keep a handy dandy notebook and log what stuff is costing. why pay someone to do that for you? how is that saving money?
          I just hold on tighter, to a hand that's stronger...he knows my every thought, he clears my weary heart, and hold's on tighter...


          • #6
            Re: How to Grocery Shop Economically and Well

            oh coupons do not usually work for me, if i have to buy 2 very large ketchups to save 35 cents, then it isn't worth it to me. when i only wanted a 16 ounce one for 1.27, store brand is the best way for me to go. tastes the same. i won't store brand cresent rolls, or pie crusts.

            I have found that by cooking 30 meals at a time and freezing it saves me 300 a month ( 300 last month, other months it's been anywhere from 2- to 4 hundred a month) and saves time, and clean up.

            shop your local ads, and buy what's on sale. plan your menus according to the ads.
            I just hold on tighter, to a hand that's stronger...he knows my every thought, he clears my weary heart, and hold's on tighter...


            • #7
              Re: How to Grocery Shop Economically and Well

              I use coupons on some items. I am diabetic and even before being diagnosed I used diet coke, diet Kool Aid, etc. I can't tell the difference between sugar free ice cream and regular. It's bad enough that I have to count carbs, but don't say people should not use sugar free products. If that is all you can use, you would understand.


              • #8
                Re: How to Grocery Shop Economically and Well

                I use coupons. I find a ton on line. I use them on sale items...simple.

                Don't lump all coupons together.

                Eat in moderation...and move more...there...done.

                Use more veggies and whole grains...

                You may die suddenly one day....enjoy the small things.


                • #9
                  Re: How to Grocery Shop Economically and Well

                  I use coupons too. I also take my list and try to stick to it. now and then I find a bargain on things I use so I buy.I've been a diabetic for more then 30 yrs, so I do buy many sugar free items.

                  I always try a store brand, and no, they don't always taste the same.If we like it I will buy it again, if not I go back to a brand name. I don't save anything if it has to be tossed.

                  Also watch my sale ads. Meat is usually reduced in price the day before the next sale I look at the sell by date, and often buy my meat that way. I buy in bulk , bring it home re-pkg , date and freeze. I've been doing this for 50+ yrs....don't remeber many coupons in those early year though, but I can remember getting fresh ground hamburger 3/lbs for $1.00
                  I organize chores into catagories.
                  Things I won't do now; things I won't do later; things I'll never do.


                  • #10
                    Re: How to Grocery Shop Economically and Well

                    i LOVE LOVE my coupons!!!!!!!! when i can bring my bill from $68 to $11.......u got to love it and is for things we will use. tp, dental floss, shampoo and food too lol. actually tomm i will be getting 4 packs of FREE bacon! not ugly, nasty, cheap bacon.......but my fav and one that sells for $5.50-$6 a package.

                    alsgal........i have been a member of tgg for over a year now, tho i have played "the game" for over 30 years (yah.......i am that old ) and why do i pay for someone to look at the ads???????? because i have better things to do with my time. or like sabine why she pays for maids......because she doesnt want to do it! and i dont want to have to take HOURS out of my week to figure out the best deals. remember.......not all the sale items are in the ads. the majority are not, and i dont want to walk up and down aisles to find the best deals. and i dont want to go thru coupon inserts over and over to find out if there is a coupon for it or not. my listmaker tells me if there is a coupon and what sunday insert it came in. for the $1.25 i pay a week for the list......i will do it gladly

                    i didnt loose it! ...........i sold it on ebay!