Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Frugal Foodie

As a complete food freak, I must confess that grocery shopping is one of my favorite pastimes. Somehow frolicking through the produce section and gamboling through the cereal aisle never cease to entertain me. While shopping for food brings me immense joy, it also pains me because (much to my dismay) I cannot buy everything that strikes my fancy--it's just not in my tiny college student budget.
The reason I address this subject is that my sister, just recently married, is now discovering that food is expensive, and she asked my mom for tips on how to save a few bucks. This got me to thinking about my food spending habits. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to eat healthfully on a small budget--at school, I shop at Whole Foods every week (mostly for its proximity to campus, but that's beside the point). Anyway, here are a few things that I have found helpful in cutting food costs:
-Buy local, in season produce. It's almost always cheaper than those Venezuelan mangoes in January. Plus, just think of how much less damage you're doing to the environment.
-Look for produce that is on sale for the week. Not only does this save money, but it ensures a varied diet. If you're trying a new fruit or veggie every week, you're getting a diversity of nutrients which supports overall health. Bonus points if it's organic!
-Go bananas! I buy a bunch every week-they're yummy and usually around 50 cents per pound.
-Trust the house brand. My sisters and I were brand name snobs as youngsters (honey-toasted oats?! Only Honey Nut Cheerios will do!), but now I have come to realize the wonder of house brands. I especially love the natural house brands that are appearing everywhere: Wild Harvest, Full Circle, and Whole Foods' 365. You can save a lot on cereal, canned beans, grains, yogurt, frozen fruit/vegetables...the list is endless.
-Allow yourself a treat. I've found that if I completely deprive myself of slightly more expensive treats, I ultimately have a total splurge excursion in which I spend way too much and buy items I won't need or use. My favorite indulgences are non-dairy ice cream and frozen waffles, but it can be anything--from a small container of high quality olives to freshly baked bread. Live a little!

I could write about this forever, but I'll stop for now. Feel free to comment and/or suggest alternative strategies. What do you do to save at the grocery store?


VeggieGirl said...

Food-shopping = one of my favorite activities as well :0)

Great tips!!

To save at the grocery store, I always read the "store specials" signs and try to shop in season.

Whitney said...

Hey I've been reading your blog for a while (I love it!!) shopping on a budget is really really difficult. I am also a college student so I know how that works! My best tips are shopping every week to reduce food going to waste and to get as much fresh produce as possible. I used to shop bimonthly and found near the end my diet was lacking in fruits and veggies. Another awesome tip is to buy canned fruits and veggies. This allows you to buy affordable fruits in seasons they normally aren't available without having to feel guilty of transportation and whatnot seeing how they are usually canned in season. Plus it helps that most fruits now are canned in their own juices versus added sugars. Finally, if you have roommates it saves a TON to go in on milk, eggs, and cheese together...I'm the only vegetarian in my household but we still manage to buy bulk cereal and bananas and other produce and just split the costs. Sorry this is so wordy...but I have been doing this for a looong time! Have an awesome weekend!

tofufreak said...

i love grocery shopping! it gives me a weird sort of euphoria... :] but hmmm how do i save my money while grocery shopping? welll other than the usuals (canned, frozen, coupons, etc) i bring my parents along! haha. they can pay for my splurges XD

Jenn said...

Great post! I am so inspired by it because I would love to do more shopping at Whole Foods - and it seems like you are able to do so rather inexpensively. Thanks for the tips :o)

Erin said...

I shop a lot like you! I eat a banana almost every day as one of my fruits, I buy house brands as long as they're healthy, and I go with a list, usually allowing myself one splurge on a snack or sweet item. Other tips I have are:

- Buy bulk for nuts, beans, grains. So much cheaper!
- I only buy organic if it's not that much more expensive than normal.
- I have a "price threshhold" for produce. I'll only buy melons or berries if they're under $2.50, and apples, pears and peaches under $1.29. Most of the time :) I keep cheaper produce on hand, like bananas, carrots and kiwis, and buy more expensive things only when I need them for a particular recipe.

Kimberly said...

Great topic!! I recently gave my sister The Big Lecture on how, contrary to popular belief, pre-packaged convenience foods are actually far more expensive. Forking over a 400% mark-up for the deli to slice up strawberries for you? $2.50 for one can of soup, when you can throw together a huge pot for the same price? As if! I've found that shopping for one is not that bad in the long run with proper planning. The pricier ingredients (sprouted-grain bread, frozen berries, organic almonds) tend to contain enough servings to last a week or more, and then I fill out my meals with the cheaper veggies, fruits, beans/hummus, whole grains, etc. I also switch off snacking on organic nuts ($8 or up a container) with organic sunflower seeds (just $3.)