In our house, we love food. We love to cook. We love to eat real, good food. We love to cook real, good food.
We also like to shop at the most pleasant grocery store in town, Market of Choice. Some people balk at the fact that we shop here, because the perception is that it is really expensive. I suppose it can be, but not if you do it right.
To quote their website, “Market of Choice will offer an extensive selection of the finest and freshest conventional, natural, organic, and health conscious products at affordable prices. We will strive for a relaxing and enjoyable shopping experience with truly friendly people who care about the communities where they live and work.” There are stores like this everywhere. The stores that go above and beyond others in what the offer, both in products and in experience. What I’m writing is about Market of Choice, but it can be generalized to most stores that have the same philosophy – and I imagine there are stores like this everywhere.
We like to do weekly shopping trips, after we’ve planned a week’s worth of meals. When we shop one time a week, it cuts back on impulse purchases. We usually get out of the store spending between $30 and $60. This is all the food for the week (except for ground beef which we buy at a butcher shop… we only eat ground beef once a week or so, so we get 5 or 10 pounds wrapped in one pound packages, then freeze them. It’s also the good beef, and much cheaper.).
There are discount grocery stores in town, but we’ve done the math and we don’t feel like we’d save much money going there. They are not as pleasant, by far. There aren’t as many options. They aren’t convenient to us. So, for us, it isn’t worth it.
Here are some of the ways we get the most out of our money while shopping at the ‘expensive’ store:
- We like to buy organic canned goods like beans and tomatoes. At Market of Choice, we get just that – a choice. They will usually have at least one brand of their organic tomatoes on sale, so we buy those. We don’t have a favorite organic brand, or any sort of sense of brand loyalty. When we’ve gone to Safeway or Albertson’s, we only see one option for organic, and it’s always really expensive. We can get a can of organic tomatoes at Market of Choice, on sale, for the same price as conventional at another store.
- We buy a lot of stuff in bulk section. There are lots of things you can buy in bulk that are wayyyyyy less expensive than in the prepackaged section.This doesn’t mean we buy in bulk – as in buying 20 pounds of flour at a time. We just buy things out of the bulk bins.
- All our herbs are from the bulk section. This is great, because how often do you need a whole jar or marjoram or curry powder? I know that we have thrown out lots of herbs and spices that were well past their prime. Now we just get what we’ll need and it doesn’t have time to go bad. AND it’s much, much cheaper, even if you were to buy a whole jar’s worth. What we did was save all the jars we got in a spice rack, and now we use those for the herbs and spices we use most often.
- There are also some totally random things that are much cheaper in bulk. I buy all my yeast in bulk. Seriously pennies on the dollar compared to packaged. Sea salt, honey, maple syrup, raisins, dried fruit, taco seasoning.
- We also pay attention to things that are sold in bulk that aren’t less expensive than in packages. For example, dried split peas, dried beans, pasta, and rice are more expensive in bulk, per ounce. We buy those in packages. Just make sure you compare prices.
- We keep track of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen to help us decide which produce to buy organic, and what produce is okay in conventional. Every year, there is a list of the 12+ fruits and vegetables that are most laden with pesticides. This changes every year, depending on how things were grown. It is a good idea to buy all of these in organic options. The Clean Fifteen are the fruits and vegetables that are safest to eat in the conventional option. We cook with onions a lot, so it’s good to know that it’s okay to buy the cheaper conventional version. That saves us money.
- This is a new one: we like to eat pizza and other foods that have mozzarella in them. I recently learned that most mozzarellas are not rbST free. And mozzarella always seems really expensive. So, we switched to Monterey Jack. Way less expensive, and adds a unique sort of flavor to things! So, if one ingredient is really expensive, be creative, and look for a cheaper option.
- We often buy frozen vegetables to cook with. The organic options are great, and much less expensive than the fresh version. When you’re going to cook the veggies anyway, why not use frozen?
- We avoid the expensive parts of the store: snack foods, prepared foods from the deli. There are many weeks that we just go to the produce, the bulk, the meat section, the baking aisle for flour, the canned goods aisle, the coffee area, and the beer and wine section. We rarely even walk down most aisles. In fact, I’m pretty sure there are some aisles I’ve never been down, except to walk through.
- You really have to pay attention to impulse purchases. Sure, those chocolates up front look amazing. But they are $15. What? That’s just crazy. If you need chocolate, Trader Joe’s has amazing bars of dark chocolate with almonds. Most of the snack food at specialty grocery stores are special, so they cost more. But we don’t really buy that anyway. And yes, the dips and salads in the deli look (and are) amazing. Just resist.
This is really long winded, and maybe everyone already knows all of this, but I thought it would be fun to write it all down somewhere.
What are some ways that you help feed your family good, healthful meals, or save money? Do you have a favorite place to shop?