Slashing Our Grocery Bill: Progress

>> Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Last week's post about how we're putting a stop to our outrageous grocery spending (Eating Well Need Not Cost a Fortune) seems to have sparked some great conversations . . . and hit home with many more of you than we expected. We received so many helpful hints and tricks, I sincerely encourage you to visit the post and read through the comments section.

When we put some of our own advice to practice, how exactly did we do? Wonderfully, in fact! Check out this lean, mean number:

We couldn't focus on all the tips at once, of course, so we picked 3 of them that we thought would help us best. The first: Plan ahead. I didn't write out a grocery list, though I always mean to. But before we even stepped foot into the store, we had a conversation about what our meals would be this week. We were shopping Sunday, so we included dinner for that night in our spree. I was a champ and made three rounds of pizza dough early in the day so all we needed to pick up were some diced tomatoes and shredded mozzarella.

We already had portabellas left over from last week. Some basil from Friday's dinner IN (more on that in another post) . . . all the fixings for a homemade pizza. It was so good and cheap, we've now declared Sunday homemade pizza night. The best part is, you can freeze the dough for up to three months. Now we have the next two weeks covered! And it's really nice to return from the grocery store and have a pizza for dinner.

Week night meals are another story. Vegan stir-fry is cheap and good. But buyer beware: We always reach for green peppers without second thought, thinking they're inexpensive (usually $1.99/pound). This time around, we actually paid attention . . . and though we usually buy four for about $4.50, this week, the ticket price was more around $7.50. They had gone up $1 a pound since last week. Silly as I may have felt at the time, I took three out of the bag and kept only one. Onions can be tricky, too. White onions cost $1 per pound more than red onions. We made the switch. We stocked up on broccoli because we decided we'd have vegan stir-fry twice this week (Monday and Thursday). And broccoli is light on the wallet. Same veggies in both dinners -- different sauces.

Tuesday and Wednesday will be homemade chili night. Canned goods are best for chili -- including stewed tomatoes, corn, beans, and maybe even some TVP we have in our cupboard. Again, inexpensive, but really healthy and good. For lunches and breakfasts, we stocked up on spinach (for green smoothies), fresh fruits (bananas and apples are least expensive), beans (garbanzo so Stephen could make hummus), and oats. With all the money we were saving, we decided to indulge in some avocados. Where they used to be 10 for 10, they are now 3 for 5. Which brings us to our next tip . . .

Limiting ourselves to only one treat. I set a $5 limit. Stephen spent his on some prepared food from the "Wokery" section. And I got three more avocados. I wanted also to get some Nutella, chocolate, and coconut vegan ice cream. But so far, I've been fine without the extra luxuries. I think this area is perhaps where we saved the most money. We tend to pile the goodies in our cart like there's no tomorrow. Now, not only will we be more conscious and savor each bite of our "treat" . . . at least in my case, I think I may benefit from losing a few pounds in the process. No one needs to eat a jar of Nutella every week. Instead, I spend time making vegan cookies. At least I'm expending some energy in their creation. :)

The last rule we tried to follow this week is something we didn't really put on the list, but it kind of goes along with the Eat Vegan one. We tried as much as possible to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. It's where the freshest, most healthy ingredients and foods are stored. And produce, especially, is packed with nutrients, but not with pennies. Our refrigerator is stocked silly with all the green stuff we bought. And, we've been eating like kings. Our stir-fry last night could have fed a family of four (or, in our case, two hungry athletes). So, stay out of the packaged foods section. You'll create less waste, eat more healthfully, and spend less. Guaranteed.

Did following all these "rules" make us crazy? No. In fact, when we found ourselves in line watching everything tally up, we were SO relieved to have stayed well within our budget of $75. If, really, you subtract the money we spent on storage bags and some tin foil (and toilet paper, yeah -- we use that, too). We only spent about $50. Yet, we have tons of great food. Including some more "exotic" items like coconut milk and avocados . . . and, yes, some cheese. Next weekend, we're taking the challenge to an extreme. Can we eat on only $50 per week? Is it possible? And we also want to incorporate more locally grown fruits and veggies in our quest. So, a farmers market versus grocery store pros and cons list will soon be in the works.

I think what we both decided we liked best about the experience (aside from the savings) is that we found we were buying items with less packaging. Therefore, less garbage. We also want to continue this trend -- so if anyone has any tips on that, we'd love to heat them! What do you think of our progress? Do you think we were just being overly well-behaved but will go back to our old ways next week? Know of anything we're overlooking? Can we eat on even less than $50 a week and still make the creative recipes we oh-so love?

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