Minimizing the Grocery Bill
Minimizing the grocery bill has been on my mind a lot the past couple of weeks. Here in the Midwest, it is not easy to eat well cheaply. In fact, since eliminating meat from the house and bringing more fresh veggies in, our grocery bill has gone up, and I’ve been looking for ways to get it back in line with the rest of our lifestyle.
Alien in Aisle 4
The Gardener’s Cottage has had an interesting series of posts on her grocery budget, and I’m still picking my jaw up off the floor after reading them. Evidently it is possible for two people (one man, one woman, middle-aged) in southern California to eat well for less than $90 per month. The dollar stores there actually carry fresh produce and other non-expired food. I feel like I’m on a remote outpost where anything other than the most synthetic frozen pizza is the equivalent of Cordon Bleu. It’s a miracle if I spend less than $100 in a week, and I cook most of our meals from scratch.
Every few months I do an estimate of the grocery bill to see how we’re doing. There have been times when money was tight (actually it’s still pretty tight, but it was much worse back then) and those skimpy frozen pizzas and ramen noodles were regular items on the menu. Loaded with carbs, fat, salt, and additives substituting for nutrients, a week of that diet nowadays would kill me. But the grocery bill could clearly be improved. Maybe not southern California-improved, but certainly better than it has been.
Food service supply stores and Costco were regular stops when I had a cookery. We continued to buy things for ourselves at Costco for a while, because the price of good cheese and whole, unsalted nuts couldn’t be beat. The problem with buying in bulk, however, is that those high-calorie goodies were always around. It was just too tempting. It also meant a bit of travel expense and time. I wanted to find cheaper alternatives right here in our own town, and decided to give Aldi’s a try.
Two big boxes of food of all kinds from Aldi’s, including a lot of fresh veggies, came to $50. Not bad, when you consider the same boxes at my usual supermarket would come to $80 or $90. Eight ounces of fresh mushrooms, for example, were sixty-nine cents apiece at Aldi’s, and two dollars apiece at the supermarket. A bag of kettle-cooked potato chips (my biggest weakness and a once-monthly indulgence) was ninety-nine cents, as opposed to $3.89–and it was yummy. Lactose-free milk was $2.29 for a half-gallon, as opposed to $3.74 at Target–and $4.79 at the supermarket. Bonus items: a pound of frozen wild caught salmon for $4.49 (as opposed to farm-raised for $7.99), and a box of mixed lettuces for $2.29 (instead of $3.99). This particular Aldi’s doesn’t carry everything I often use, such as Thai and Chinese ingredients, lentils, split peas, vegetarian ingredients, and vegetables like parsnips, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, leeks, bean sprouts, etc., but there’s enough there to make it a regular stop.
Adding another weekly stop, parking lot, and checkout line would make grocery shopping more of an ordeal than it already is, so I think I’ll make Target a once-monthly stop for things like coffee, tea, wine, chocolate, shampoo, etc., as well as my favorite natural peanut butter, as they still have the best prices in town on those items. Or perhaps I will end up changing the menu or dry goods list. Sometimes it’s good to give that a bit of a shake-up, too. I’ll do a comparison again in about three months.
Has your grocery bill been getting out of control, too? Or have you kept it in check?