Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Grocery shopping is expensive

There wasn’t anything interesting on tv last night so I was wandering around the internet getting inspired.  I came across a blogger (and the commentors) who were saying their grocery budgets were being strained by increasing high grocery prices.  Out of curiosity I stopped to read awhile.

The blogger wanted to buy only organic foods to keep her family healthy.  I can’t find fault in that if you can afford it.  She wanted to do this without clipping coupons, keeping track of prices, or going from store to store on shopping day.  Hmm… interesting idea.  The saving of money on groceries without any of the work involved.

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Well, maybe I can offer one suggestion that might help a little. Wanna know what it is?  Ok.

Make yourself two separate grocery lists and two separate grocery budgets.  One for anything edible and one for everything else. If you really want to know exactly how much you are spending on food then don’t count non-edible items as a part of your food budget.  Food means food. Such things as lotion, body wash, batteries, deodorant, or dog treats are not food.

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If you absolutely must cut grocery expenses then maybe you can do that with the non-edible fluff and not the things going inside your body. Yeah, I called it fluff.  Fluff makes you look, smell, or feel good but does not keep you alive.

You will gain whole new insights into the real cost of your groceries if you pay separately for just the food.  Its probably a lot less than you thought.  You may start seeing more of the high cost of fluff than you had noticed before.

If going to more than one store on shopping day bothers you then shop different stores on different days.  Split your paydays.  Do the food shopping on one payday then do the non-food shopping another trip on a different payday. Choose the best store for food prices and another store for the best prices on other stuff.

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If you choose only one store for food then think about these things. The days you shop during the month can make a big difference in your grocery costs.  Food stamps are usually available and spent the first two weeks of the month so there are not many food bargains. Junk food goes on sale around the time of food stamps.  Shop for the non-edibles those weeks. The last two weeks of the month food stamps are usually gone and the stores will have lower prices on better food.  The fourth week of the month is when grocery stores have the most mark down or discount items.  Stores want to clear shelves to make room for new stock arriving before food stamps come out again.

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Lower your expectations.  Organic and all natural does not always mean healthy. Snake venom is organic and all natural but I don’t think you want to eat it do you? Eating grass fed t-bone steak may be your choice but your wallet may be telling you to eat antibiotic free chicken instead.

Lastly, unless you are super wealthy with your own personal chef, then feeding yourself “only the best” can’t be done without at least some effort on your part.  If costs are rising higher, and your budget is struggling more, its up to you to either put some work effort into paying less for what you want or do without.

17 comments on “Grocery shopping is expensive

  1. Deb K
    September 10, 2015

    Na Na. I agree 100%. I work full time, so trying to get the rock bottom price on everything is not always easy, but for me handing someone a couple hundred dollars at a grocery store is even harder. I watch for deals on non-food items at drug and discount stores and stock up at grocery store when I will save 50% or more savings, it is amazing how much I don’t spend in a regular grocery store. I do have the advantage of having an Aldi’s discount grocery store and this makes for big savings. I know many people who refuse to shop there because it is not NAME BRAND! Seriously! Just an FYI, many Aldi’s product are manufactured for Aldi at the same factory as the Name Brand items, they just do not have the high sticker price. I try to avoid convenience foods and processed foods, mostly out of preference. (I wasn’t raised that way.) As far as Organic, I do like to buy organic when my budget allows for it, but even then I use the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Safe 15” lists to minimize the want from the needs and use soap and water on my non-organic produce. One thing that I have found that is organic, and actually helps me save money, is Organic Milk. We do not use a lot of milk and I often find that it goes bad before it is all gone, even buying half gallons. Organic Milk last much, much longer.

    My point! Even though I work full time, I still watch for the best price and stock up on things I know I will need. An average of 2 hours of work per week, probably cuts $100 per week from my total grocery bill, if not more.

    • Na Na
      September 11, 2015

      I shop at Aldi too. Did you know you can freeze milk? I don’t buy liquid milk often these days but when I do I freeze it in plastic peanut butter jars. I thaw one jar at a time by putting it on a lower shelf in the fridge. I use and drink powdered milk most of the time.

      • Deb K
        September 11, 2015

        Thanks Na Na. That is a great idea about the peanut butter jars. I do not have the freezer space for gallon jugs and did not want the extra cost of buying and running a freezer for milk. It would be great for whole milk or 2% that I only use for cooking and pudding.

      • mem37814
        January 12, 2016

        We can get a good buy on almond milk and use it.It seems to last longer w/ out spoiling.

  2. mea
    September 10, 2015

    I usually say it takes work to earn money, it takes work to hang onto that money.
    In one year we all will be one year older, that is regardless of whether we work or sit on our buttocks. So why not make use of that time and pitch in some work which will be to our benefit anyways. A lot of work is unpaid work (in the home) but it does pay in some other ways: you get empowered, you problem solve, you get a routine, you get confidence as in knowing/practicing how to do stuff, you will enjoy the accomplishment and it will benefit you in some way or another.


    • Na Na
      September 10, 2015

      I agree. Saving money is just as important as earning it. A penny saved is the same as a penny earned.

  3. Sara
    September 9, 2015

    I find that my amish community has a dry goods store and the prices I get there are really great. Spices are so cheap. They also sell produce very cheap and I buy what I cannot grow myself then can it. I really love to can. My landlord will not let me have a garden however I do very well with large containers and I have a box I fill and rotate in. I have 4 teens and 2 adults this can get very expensive I have to cut where I can.

    • Na Na
      September 11, 2015

      I sure wish there was an Amish community close to me. I would buy from them too if I could. I live in a food desert so my fresh produce comes from the mobile food pantry. I hope to have a backyard garden spot again. I miss growing my own to can.

    • Patricia
      September 11, 2015

      I wish I had a garden, a back yard or even a porch to grow veggies. But alas, I don’t so I have to rely on friends, CSA and our Food Pantry to help. Its only me but still need those veggies to stay healthy. I can’t imagine having 6 adults or near adults to feed these days with the prices the way they are.

      • Na Na
        September 13, 2015

        Yes, thank goodness for the pantries everywhere. Without them a lot of us would be suffering.

  4. Patricia
    September 8, 2015

    I am a senior on a tight budget (due to housing costs) and so have tried to find ways to cut my grocery budget. In beginning of July I heard about a CSA from one of our local organic farms, normally over $350 for a single buy-in, it cost me $50 for the entire summer up until Thanksgiving – that’s about $3 a week for all types of organic healthy veggies. Where I pick it up is at our local Pantry (I’ve never used it but 30 families a week do). I had to go in to sign up that I got my CSA and it was just before closing (they are only opened 9-10 on Sat.) so they practically begged me to take some items – I was floored – 1/2 gallons of milk, farm fresh eggs, fresh fruits, vegetables, fresh roll, breads, bagels (ymmy cinn raisin & blueberry) – I was blown away. So I picked up a few items – then they brought out frozen for me to take, organic Ital. sausage made at the farm where the pigs were raised, ham steaks, chicken legs, frozen organic berries and vegetables. This past Saturday I picked up my CSA and then went to the food pantry, got white eggplant, tiny sweet pears, squash, both zucchini and summer, milk, eggs, organic Annie’s mac & cheese, package of whole wheat buns, 3 lbs of heirloom tomatoes, big box of Cheerios, two bottles of concentrated cranberry juice, and last but not least, a beautiful, incredible 5 chocolate Belgian chocolate cake (was marked 18.99). Between my CSA and this “haul” (all for no cost), I have enough to eat like a queen for over three weeks. I’m so happy and so pleased that we have these services for seniors in our little village.

    • Na Na
      September 11, 2015

      What village? It sounds like you have some very caring people donating to the pantry. We have a CSA here but its on the other side of the county from me. Not very handy for bus riders like me.

      • Patricia
        September 11, 2015

        Cold Spring, NY – on the banks of the Hudson River. This is my “off week” for CSA but still have so much left over from the last shopping bag and the Pantry items that I’m OK for at least the next week if not longer. Today for dinner is fried eggplant on rolls with homemade pasta sauce (from my daughter’s husband – its great).
        Also am defrosting a whole chicken I got at Sam’s Club (when I went with my daughter) – will bake it tomorrow night and have it for five days of meals: roast chicken dinner, sliced breast sandwiches, wings & legs with potato salad, chicken & dumplings, chicken soup with matzo balls, fresh spinach and carrots. And there will be lunch leftovers for at least 6-8 days. My next 10 days foods will be great!
        I love your blog, get so many wonderful ideas from it. Its hard to be creative when we’re retired and on tight fixed incomes. After so many years of working I’m finding it a challenge to make sure I eat well on what I have. Sounds like you are in the same place in this challenge. I was just reading a great book and the elderly character was walking by a bakery and wanted to go in and get one of their delicious meat pastries, but thought, “I can’t do that, I’m going home because I have a packet of chicken soup in the pantry.” A senior toss up we all face.

        • Na Na
          September 13, 2015

          So that’s why you called it a village. Ah the small town life. I wish I could live in one too. That book sounds like a good read. You described an excellent example of “planned” leftovers. Our mothers did that long ago but these days its described as a new idea. I haven’t been to the mobile food bank in awhile. I’m gonna do my best to get there this week.

  5. captnmike
    September 4, 2015

    about 40 (400 or so servings I think)

    Should have been

    about 40 pounds of oatmeal (400 or so servings I think)

  6. captnmike
    September 4, 2015

    Interesting on the price changes during the month. I buy a lot of my staples at Costco (a warehouse store) – so Oatmeal comes in 10 lb boxes for restaurants, and canned soup in 8 or 10 packs, can save that way – however I tend to hoard a bit so I now have about 40 (400 or so servings I think) – so there is a downside to in bulk

    Most stores have loss leaders and you can save some money if you have self control to buy only the loss leaders and shop at more than one store.

    But yes you need to compare a bit and be careful, saving money is not easy, some stores have certain items less than the store next door, the secret is to look a bit and check.

    When I was a kid we were on a real tight budget, mom would make a list from the store ads and we would shop at two or three grocery stores, almost always getting what was on sale ONLY. Low cost cuts of meat that had to be cooked for a long time. But mom was good at all those things and we never went hungry and if ice cream was on sale, sometimes we would even get a bit of a treat once in a while.

    The stores have things down to a science now on how to get you to spend more money, easy to swing by the deli on the way home and get the prepared quick food. Guess that is probably a bit better than going out.

    Keep up the good work, always interesting to see what you are up to

    • Na Na
      September 5, 2015

      Yes, we live in a different world now. You and I know how to shop around to save money on groceries but the younger generations don’t want to do the work. That was the case of the blogger. She wanted to save money without any of the work. The age of computers…. we grow more lazy each new generation.

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