How Much do You Spend on Groceries?

In the past I’ve created posts explaining the USDA Food Plan Costs so you can get an idea of how much people spend for food individually and as a family. While I do know a few people who spend less than the thrifty food plan, this seems to be spot on most weeks for me.

I do aspire to the thrifty food plan, which was $38.00 February 2019, but sometimes I go above, spending closer to the low-cost plan of $47.20 a week. Mind you, I do buy some organic, non-gmo items, and I’m still learning to do this in the most affordable way possible. I want to point out that I do a stock up trip with my tax refund where I spend an additional $100 to $150 in one trip, but the food lasts a long time.

During years when my parents grow food, my overall average has gone down significantly. When I have a place where I can garden I plan to grow most of my own produce and herbs, but I am not there yet.

Here are some ways I save money on food:

  • I grow some of my own organic herbs and dry or freeze them for later use. Parsley and mint are two of them.
  • I have chives growing out at my mothers. When I visit, I cut some and bring it home to freeze. This is an absolute freebie for me.
  • I make some things from scratch, such as Paleo pizza crusts, muffins, and tortillas, as well as the occasional dessert.
  • I make my own fruit sauces.
  • I coupon minimally. It’s hard to find coupons for most of what I buy.
  • I try to buy when on sale.
  • I accept fresh produce and eggs from anyone who wants to give them to me.
  • I freeze small bits of food to add to smoothies, soups, and other things later on.
  • I snag good buys at farmer’s markets at the end of the day/season.
  • I comparison shop. Sometimes, but not always, I can find better deals online.

What I don’t mind spending extra money on.

  • Organic, Maine-made honey.
  • Organic, Maine or Vermont-made maple syrup and cream.
  • Organic, locally canned pickled beets when my parents don’t make them.
  • Organic olive oil, coconut oil, and ghee.
  • Almond and coconut flours.
  • Enjoy Life chocolate chips.

I don’t buy a lot of these more expensive items, but I do like to have them on hand once in a while. Sometimes I like to make something special.

How does your spending compare to the amounts given for February?

Shannon

Frugal Recipes Happenings: Winter 2018-2019

This winter hasn’t seemed as bad as last winter. Not so far anyway. Last year, the first couple of months were too cold – colder than normal. While we’ve had some of those days this year, there haven’t been as many. It seems like it rains after most snow days, making for very wet weather. I still see patches of lawn, though.

Not that I’m complaining. I’ll take this over two months of freezing cold temperatures. How about you?

I’ve been enjoying having Zowie and Devan in the area, and spending time with my precious grandchildren. Little Man is 3 1/2 and Little Miss is already 6 months old, and they are my hearts joy.

 

Yule (the first day of winter) was a busy, busy day. The bestest picked me up, and we went to my parents home for the family Christmas party. It was a lot of fun. We all exchanged our gifts, and enjoyed some great food. I love my stepfathers homemade baked beans, and he always buys Governor’s rolls to go with them. Yum! When it was time for us to leave, mom packed me 3 meals worth of beans and rolls, as well as treats. She does this for me every year, so I can have the food for my upcoming shifts at The Inn.

Then the bestest and I went to her house for our baking day. We made so many things! I made peanut butter and chocolate no-bakes, and three flavors of popcorn. She made breads and chocolate dipped pretzel logs. I’m sure there was more. We packaged all of the goodies, and handed them out to loved ones as part of their holiday gifts.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, copyright December 22, 2018.

Christmas Eve was spent at my aunts for another Christmas party, and then some of us met up at my daughter’s on Christmas. After everyone left, I stayed behind for further bonding with the grandchildren.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, copyright December 24, 2018.

I took a vacation from The Inn after the holidays, and spent some time Zowie’s family again, as well as with my daughter Skye and her boyfriend. Play dates with the kiddos are always fun. I babysat one night, so their parents could go on a date, and then bought us all food from Angelo’s another night. Expensive, but well worth it for the family time and a treat.

So how was your holiday? Did you set any resolutions for the new year? I set some goals. Wanna learn about them? Read these posts here on the blog to find out what I’m concentrating on this year:

New Year Goal: A New “Kitchen”

New Year Goal: Be Healthy

New Year Goal: Try New Recipes (Mostly Paleo)

You may also enjoy reading about one of the ways I am building memories with my grandson.  ❤

Winters are long. If you’re looking for a project to keep you busy, I suggest reading Joni Meyer’s book Extreme Couponing, and setting up your own coupon system.

You might also enjoy checking out my new site, Fabulous Frugal Life. In particular, you might enjoy reading my post on how you can save on groceries. There are many articles already posted to the site, and I’ll be adding more throughout the winter months. Let me know what you think of the new site.

Have you read my fiction blog yet? It’s another great way to pass the winter, telling you all about my writing life and sharing about the short stories I have published. Head on over today to check it out!

Warmest Wishes

~ Shannon

Quick Tip: Plan Meals AFTER You Shop

Sounds strange, doesn’t it? But hear me out.

I don’t always shop with a list, especially if I’m on a tighter than usual budget. Why? Because I can shop, finding the items with the best prices, and create meals from those foods when I get home. If I only have $25.00 to spend, I take it to the store and challenge myself to get as much as I can for that price.

I know the basics: Vegetables first, protein sources second, fruit third, and a healthy fat if I have nothing at home. My basic shopping list literally has these four things – no specifics.

Also, I don’t leave for the trip not knowing what is in my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer.

On the occasion I want something specific, I do add the specific ingredients I will need to my shopping list.

Happy cooking!

Shannon

 

 

Homemade Food Gifts: The Cooks’ Gift

If you’ve taken the time to make the homemade vinegars, oils and butters that have been featured here on the Frugal Recipes blog, then you have a great base for a cooks’ holiday gift. If you have made dried herb gifts, you will be able to add them to this. All of these items, combined with some homemade baked goods, will make a great gift.

Place a combination of these items in a large gift basket, over a dish or tea towel, or other fabric. Tie a bow on, and add a tag.

You can add to this gift if you have affordable ways of obtaining certain other items. For instance, why not add some homemade knitted or crocheted dish cloths to the gift. (My sister makes me a couple of these each year, and I just love them.) A dollar store will net you wooden cooking spoons and rubber spatulas, or even dish towels. I once found two large metal pots at a yard sale for .50 each. They were used, but looked almost new. A thrift shop may net you a hand grater for a quarter, or a couple of whisks. If you’ve been lucky enough to find such deals, create gifts with them.

This would be an easy project for children to put together, as they aren’t really preparing any of the foods themselves.

Tips

  • Combine in a container. No need to wrap.
  • If you choose to use a basket, they can be found affordably at thrift shops.
  • I once found four large baskets at a yard sale for $1.00 each.

What food gifts do you give at the holidays? Please share with us in the comments below.

Shannon

Note: I know sweets and many baked goods are not healthy, and that we really shouldn’t be eating them, but I have family members who don’t limit such things. So yes, I give these items at the holidays. Also, I don’t think it is necessarily bad to treat yourself once-in-a-while. You just don’t want to make a habit of it.

Farmers’ Market Shopping by Shannon L. Buck

Shopping Locally is the Way to Go

Shopping at a farmers’ market is a lot of fun. They offer many items and a lot of the fresh produce sold at these events is very reasonably priced, if you know when to shop. I shop in Orono, Maine, because it is close to my home. This makes it easy to purchase fresh produce and other needs from a local source.

Granted, these farmers do not generally live right down the street from us. The markets allow various farmers to come together in one place for us to visit once or twice per week. This saves fuel in two ways: 1) Products are not being shipped in from other states and/or countries, and 2) all farmers’ market customers do not have to travel here-and-there-and-everywhere to purchase state grown products.

I’ve noticed that when I visit the market an hour or so before they close, I can usually get even better deals on the fresh produce. Why can you get better deals at the end of the day? Because the farmers don’t want to have to take the fresh produce and baked goods, or even the frozen items, back home with them if they can help it. They grew and/or made these items to be purchased, not to be brought back home. The products may not last until the next farmers’ market, so the seller may be more apt to bargain toward the end of the day.

Our local farmers’ market has more than just fresh produce. I’ve seedlings, soaps, homemade jams, jellies, butters, pies, breads, and more. Even frozen seafood and dried herbs. Last year, someone was selling homemade, organic dog treats. These wonderful products are just what I’m looking for.

I find that almost all of the products offered at a farmers’ market are organic. If an item is not organic, I can choose not to purchase it. I want to purchase as many natural, organic products as possible, so this is a very attractive reason for me to shop at the farmers’ market rather than the grocery store. I also like the fact that the products are made and/or grown in my home state.

To shop a farmers market, you need a few things

1. Reusable shopping bags, which you will want an abundance of.

2. The knowledge of what you need, and how much you’ll be able to use before your next visit.

3. The knowledge of how to preserve and/or store anything you are able to get a good price on.

Stock up when you find good deals at a farmer’s market

You don’t want to stock up on anything that wont last until you can eat or use it up, but you’ll want to take advantage of good deals on the items that will last. This will save you money in the long run.

I’m now going to offer you up an assignment. I’d like for each reader to visit a nearby farmers’ market. Spend some time there. Ask about the products that are of interest to you. Find out if they are organic, if the sellers are willing to bargain at the end of the day, and how often the sellers attend that particular farmers’ market. When you return home, comment here to let us know how things went and what you learned.

 

Using After Christmas Sales, Closing Sales, and Thrift Stores to Score Items for the Kitchen

Yesterday I posted on Single Mom Family: Loving Life Together about a girls day the bestest and I had last Thursday. The article, called  A Much Needed Girls Day, covers the reasons we needed the girls day, as well as what we did: Lunch at Governor’s and shopping!

Because I live in a room, my kitchen belongings are few. All my pictures for this blog use pretty much the same dishes, bowls, etc, and I’ve wanted to switch things up for a while. I’m looking to incorporate different colors and styles, and various size items.

This means some things are going to have to go, which is fine. I don’t have enough space now for everything. My plan is to give away/donate items as I clear them from the shelves, so I know they wont be going to waste. I’m looking for interesting pieces at great deals so I can photograph food with different place settings and whatnot. And I’m allowing myself to mix and match.

I think experimentation is creative, and want that creativeness to show through in my photographs.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, copyright January 15, 2017. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/shannonbuckI love the Pioneer Woman line. While the bestest and I were at Wal-Mart we checked out the clearance section. A four-pack of the Pioneer Woman Adeline Snow 10 ounce embossed sundae cups goes for $13.72. That is $3.43 each. By purchasing a single cup at $3.00, I saved $.43 on it. I only need the one cup, so it would have been wasteful to buy more.

I also found a Pioneer Woman Adeline Snow 13 ounce embossed bowl. Sold in four-packs, these cost $17.52, so one bowl would be $4.38. I paid only $3.00 for my bowl, saving $1.38.

You can somewhat see the design in the picture. They are so pretty! I’ve needed another bowl, and have wanted a sundae cup for photographing upcoming parfait recipes. Watch for the recipes to be posted this coming June.

These will help me to prettify my photographs, for sure. I’ve learned a little more about food photography, and want my photographs to reflect that learning. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised in the coming months.

I’d say my walmart shopping venture was a huge success based solely on those two purchases, and I found other wonderful deals as well.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, copyright January 14, 2017. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/shannonbuckThe Macy’s in our area has already started its closing sales, so I took advantage of the deals to get a couple of small plates. These are saucer-size plates, not full size. I think they’ll make great dessert plates.

You can’t really tell by the photo, but the plates are slightly different shades of white. The Cellar White Ware Square plate is interesting, likely because I don’t have much for square items. It caught my eye right away. The plate is usually $3.00, but with the 30% discount I paid $2.10. A $.90 savings.

The round one is a White Elementals Plate. Originally $1.00, I paid $.70, a $.30 savings. Not a bad deal.

I want a number of white items so I can put them in place settings with colored items. The white will stand out from the colored pleasingly, I believe. I’m trying to use a mix of white and colors, hoping for more interesting table settings, and you’ll see me experimenting with this through my photography throughout the year.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, January 14, 2017. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/shannonbuckOur last stop was the Goodwill thrift store, and I found a few items I liked while perusing the aisles.

The soup bowl is amazing and, yes, it says “SOUP” right on the front. It cost $2.00 and is well worth the price. A very sturdy bowl, it will hold a good amount of soup. I have another, not exactly the same, that I paid $5.00. The estimated savings on this item would be $3.00.

I love the square bowl, though I’m not entirely sure if it is a bowl or bakeware. Notice the size in relation to the size of the saucer; it isn’t really much bigger. I paid only $1.00 for it, but have no idea how much one would cost normally. If anyone knows if this is just a serving bowl or if it is bakeware, please let me know. For now I’m going to use it for serving.

The small bowl will add some color to a place setting. I paid $1.00 for it, and I think it is the perfect size for cereal or ice cream.

And the saucer is so pretty. The back says Vintage Fine China. I paid $1.00 for this item as well. The saucer will add a splash of color to an otherwise white setting, and I think the round white plate from above will fit over it nicely and still allow for seeing the artwork.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, copyright January 14, 2017. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/shannonbuckThe mug has a more interesting design. I like the blue and white, and you can see the yellow ring near the top. This is not a full size mug by any means, but it will be perfect for a little hot cocoa or tea on a cold evening. This mug cost $1.00.

If you look closely at the pictures, you’ll see the burgundy napkins have a design cut out around the edges. Fancy! While these can obviously be used as napkins, I think they would also make good placemats for the place settings that I’ll be creating with the smaller plates, bowls, and cups. The two napkins cost $1.00.

The holiday napkins came as a three-pack, and can also be used as placemats if I want to get fancy at the holidays. The three napkins were $1.00, but I only had to pay $.50.

I can’t tell you exactly how much I saved on these items because I don’t know the regular prices for most of the items I bought at Goodwill, but I can tell you the savings on the items I do know the regular prices for. That savings would be $6.01. But I’m sure I saved quite a bit more by shopping at the thrift store.

Have you found any good deals for kitchen needs since the new year? We’d love to hear about them.

Happy shopping!

Shannon

 

 

Simple Ways to Eat Healthier While Saving Money

Consuming nutritious food is important to our health, but can also be darn expensive. I could easily spend around $60.00 a week to eat healthy, but can’t really afford to do so very often. There is only one of me! It would be far less expensive to eat Ramen noodles and boxed mac and cheese, with cans of corn and peas, but I want better than that. I want fresh produce at each meal, along with some protein, because I feel better when I’m eating healthy.

So, how do I eat healthy while not spending $60.00 a week on food?

  • I drink water.
  • I drink tea.
  • I make my own iced teas, lemonades, and fruit waters. No sugar, just some raw honey in the lemonade – and not even as much of that as most people seem to use.
  • I have meat most meals, but don’t go overboard on the serving size. I fill in with more vegetables, usually carrots or celery, along with the vegetable servings I’m already consuming.
  • I don’t use a lot of flour and other baking needs. I try to eat more fresh foods, less processed.
  • I drink smoothies, using leftovers of fresh produce. Even vegetables! This way, I don’t waste anything.
  • I try not to stuff myself too full.
  • I use some leftovers in casseroles and meatloaf.
  • I freeze every bit of food left over from meals and snacks, if it’s freezable and I know I wont use it right off. I even have little freezable containers that only hold a couple of tablespoons of food. And then I use them.
  • I bring leftovers home after eating out, and use them to make new meals.
  • I make slow cooker meals almost every week, enjoying the meal for dinner, then packing up the rest to bring to work so I don’t have to order out so much.
  • I buy nut milks, but don’t drink them at every meal or even every day.
  • I accept food items from those who offer. Fresh produce from my parents garden. Fresh eggs from Tam. Samples dropped off at work by local restaurants. Even if it isn’t healthy, it can be paired with very healthy sides. A treat once in a while is okay in my book.

How do you save money on food? Share with us in the comments, or email me directly at shannonlbuck@gmail.com. I respond to all email.

Shannon

 

The Experiment: Saving Money by Not Using a Shopping List

If you read Try This to Save Money on Groceries and A New Way to Plan Meals, you know I was planning an experiment. I meant to do this before now, but the temperatures have been too low for me to walk from Walmart to work. Ordinarily I do the shopping then walk to work, placing my food in the refrigerator until my shift is over. However, I’ve not been able to shop regularly because my asthma kicks in at drastically low temperatures.

This weekend has been marvelous! And I decided today was the day to shop.

Ordinarily I plan my menu before I go to the store, shop sales, and use coupons (trying to use sales with coupons when I can!) and keep it all very organized. Today I decided to do things a little differently. I did not plan a menu, except to know that I wanted lemons and limes so I could make some lemon-limeade this week. I also needed some almond milk.

I did take stock of what I have available at home. I was all set with:

  • Organic diced tomatoes
  • Organic coconut milk
  • Coconut water
  • Coconut cream
  • Organic coconut oil
  • Organic ghee
  • Organic almond flour
  • Organic coconut flour
  • Organic tapioca flour
  • Organic raw honey
  • Organic maple syrup
  • Eggs (A few store-bought + 1 dozen farm fresh from my friend Tam!)
  • Carrots
  • Sausage, enough for 1 meal
  • Frozen fruits, for smoothies (Some melon chunks, and some citrus fruits.)
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 side salad
  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • 1 Buttercup squash

Keep in mind, I usually have most of the above items on hand before a grocery shopping trip.

During a good shopping trip, where I buy quite a bit, it would not be uncommon for me to spend between $60.00 and $65.00. Just for me. And that is (mostly) good-for-you stuff, with just a few items that are processed and not real good for you to lessen costs a little.

I did not want to spend that much, and I wanted to test out my theory that one can save money without planning for a shopping trip, while buying many of the less expensive things and still getting enough healthy food to feed oneself for the week.

Stew meat, on sale at $3.80 per pound = $16.07 (saved $7.53)

Organic spinach and arugula, good size package, 5 ounces = $3.28

Almond milk, 1/2 gallon = $2.98

Vegetable tray (cherry tomatoes, green beans, celery, carrots), 2 1/2 cups = $5.98

Organic Red Delicious apples, 7 count = $3.67

Kiwi, 3 = $1.35

Bananas, 4 = .77

Limes, 4 = $1.32

Green cabbage, 1.94 pounds = $1.32

Strawberries, 1 pound = $1.98 (Saved $.50)

Meyer lemons, 7 count = $1.98

Sweet potatoes, 2.15 pounds = $2.11

Red potatoes, 1.19 pounds =$1.17

Total Spent = $43.98

Savings over a typical week = $16.02 – $21.02

  • I can get quite a few meals out of the stew meat, red potatoes, and sweet potatoes, when using them with the carrots and squash I have on hand.
  • The spinach and arugula will mainly be used in smoothies, but I might also make a couple of meals where I serve them with eggs and sausage. This will allow me to stretch the sausage to two meals, and be plenty filling.
  • I may also make some homemade applesauce.
  • I was so happy they had lemons and limes. They didn’t the last time I was in there.
  • I was surprised at how good the strawberries looked, and could not resist the price.
  • Organic is expensive, and I cannot afford to get everything this way. So I do what I can, with what is available. I hear apples are one of the worst fruits to buy non-organic, so I’m trying to be good with that. The same with the spinach.
  • I do know the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen, but Walmart in my area does not always have organic options for everything, and I couldn’t afford to get all organic anyway.
  • I truly wish I could afford grass-fed, etc., meats, but they are just not in my budget.
  • The trays of organic vegetables did not look all that fresh this week, so I went with the non organic tray.
  • Notice how I did not use coupons, and only a couple of items were on sale, yet I still came in at less.

I’ll have to deal with what I have on hand now that the shopping trip is over, but I don’t think that will be a problem. Between my groceries and what I already had on hand, I am pretty well set.

Tomorrow is my day off, and I’ll spend it making meals for the week. I will better know afterward how many meals I have for the coming week.

Happy shopping!

Shannon

A New Way to Plan Meals

Often times, the meal planning session takes place before the grocery shopping does. We look at sales papers, planning our shopping lists and meals around those discounted items. We use coupons for bigger discounts. Plan the menu for the coming week or two, then do the shopping.

Once I have tried my new (to me) way to shop and get it all home and put away, I will then plan my meals. That is right, I vow not to plan meals until the grocery shopping is done.

Step 1:

Shop according to Try This to Save Money on Groceries.

Step 2:

Put all the food  away once I get it home, noting what items I already had on hand. I will likely make a list of those items, to go along with my shopping receipt list of items.

Step 3:

Sit down with my lists, a pen, and some paper. Split the paper into four sections: Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners, Snacks.

Step 4:

Brainstorm ideas for the four sections, utilizing what foods I have on hand at this point. This may mean changing up recipes, which will actually give me more recipes to post here! Make the list.

Step 5:

Prepare any items I can in advance (Ex: Meal Prep for the Coming Week, More Workweek Meal Prep, Even More Workweek Prep, Plus), packing them into meal or snack size portions. These items will make it easy for me to pack my meals for work.

Step 6:

Remember that I don’t have to stick to my plan completely. Whenever I make a meal, I can switch it up using other ingredients I have on hand. Doing so allows for more creativity.

Have you tried planning meals after shopping? How does it work for you? Or, why does it not work? Does this meal planning method help to save money? Let us know in the comments below, or email me at shannonlbuck@gmail.com.

Shannon

Try This to Save Money on Groceries

I don’t buy as many groceries as I used to and, when I do, I generally have a recipe in mind when I get to the store, as well as a shopping list and a menu planned. But, I’ve been wondering if there is a better way to shop that will allow me to save more money. After all, every penny counts these days.

My plan is to try a little something different during an upcoming shopping trip.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014

Step 1:

Start how what I normally do. Go through my coupons and the sales papers to see what sales I can match up with my money saving coupons. However, while I will make note of the item and the coupon value, I wont be making a main shopping list. I may not actually end up buying these items because there may be better deals.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014

Step 2:

Make a mental note other coupons I have, and be prepared to bring these to the store as well. I have an organizer for this.

Also note what my budget is. I will likely break this down by section. Ex: $12.00 for meats, $15.00 for fresh produce. But, maybe not. I might find it better, once I get to the store, not have a set amount per grocery store section. Maybe I will do two shopping trips, to see which is better.

Step 3:

Write down any foods I absolutely have to buy, whether I have a coupon or not. Non dairy milk and eggs are necessities most weeks, but I will not stick with my usual brand if another, more affordable brand costs less but offers the same needs nutritionally.

Spend a little time researching companies (I wont have to do this for every trip to the store) to determine which brands use BPA and other harmful toxins in their can/freezer bag linings. Note which companies do not, because I would rather buy from them.

Step 4:

Grab my coupons, make-shift list, reusable bags, and a pen, and calculator (I have one of these on my phone), and head to the grocery store.

Step 5:

Remember to look for in-store specials, which are not always advertised. Also try not to be brand loyal, and keep in mind that store brands are usually just as good as the name brand. In many cases, the store brand is the same exact product, with the label being the only difference.

Photogrpah by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

Step 6:

Look around the store. Meat is essential, so I will check out what they have to offer. What are the cheapest cuts? Would a slightly more expensive cut be more affordable with a coupon? If not, go for the cheapest cuts and worry about what I will do with it when I get home.

Do the same in the produce section. Then with the eggs and the milk. Be sure my options are healthy ones, and I am not buying a lot of processed foods. Instead, I will use the money I save by not buying those foods to go toward more fresh, canned (packed in water), and frozen produce, or a little more meat. Or, I might use it to begin a stock of canned coconut milk or to buy some almond flour – a real treat.

Step 7:

Go home and put everything away, keeping my receipt handy to refer back to during a meal planning session.

It will be different, not having it all planned out by the time I get to the store, but I am hoping this method will save me a little more money on my grocery budget. I will keep you updated.

Do you have a similar method? Tell us about in the comments, or email me at shannonlbuck@gmail.com. What works for you? What does not?

Shannon