I frequently get asked about our grocery budget. Most people assume that a weekly grocery bill for a family of 7 has to be so large that it naturally has to be supported by at least 2 incomes. To tell you the truth, when I was working full time outside my home, I had also subscribed to this theory.
However, after deciding to leave the workforce and becoming a full time homemaker and home manager, we have had to make some necessary cutbacks and one of the first and most costly items to slash on our budget was our grocery bill. After all, food is the second highest expense in America, right after shelter.
Now that I am home full time, I concentrate on many meals cooked from scratch and not rely on overpriced, unhealthy convenience items; I have the luxury of time to be able to browse loss leader and discounted items at my local grocery stores; I have stopped buying sugary, carbonated beverages, and I have found a wonderful source for fresh fruits and vegetables at crazy low prices.
The secret I want to share with you today is the 99 Cent Only Stores. This article will not be applicable to many readers as 99 Cent Only Stores, currently only operate in California, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada, but for those of you who have access to one of these stores; you are missing out if you are trying to keep your food costs down and have not taken full advantage of this gem. (*Please note, I AM NOT getting compensation for any kind of endorsement from the store).
Many of you reading this might be thinking to yourselves, that you have a Dollar Tree located near you and it is all the same…right? We do shop for some food items at the Dollar Tree as well, as I have mentioned before, but Dollar Tree stores are limited with their grocery offerings, whereas, more than over half of any 99 Cent Only Store is dedicated to food, produce and grocery items that are ever rotating.
We are fortunate enough to have 4 of their stores within a 15 mile radius of our home. Of the 4, we have a preferred location, due to the other merchants in that vicinity. Every two weeks, my husband and I will head out to this area and generally make a “date day” of our outing. We may start at one or two garage sales in that area if any are offered, then head over to one of the many restaurants for lunch, maybe followed up by browsing around the local book store that is right next to our destination, before we finally finish our outing by shopping in the 99 Cent Only Store for some great deals.
The main purpose of our visit is to stock up on fresh produce. While there are many other great items and closeout deals in the store, and yes we do pick those up as well, our main focus is always the produce. On our “date day” we will stock up on about 2 weeks of fresh produce to feed our brood with.
Once we get our produce home, we will take the time to prep our haul to last us for the upcoming weeks until we go shopping again. We will wash the appropriate fruits and vegetables, slice, dice and cut them into the portion sizes that we will need for various dishes, then store them either with our Food Saver bags, if going into the freezer or in zip lock bags in the fridge to be used in the next 3 to 5 days.
Many have argued and thumbed their noses up at the very idea of being able to get anything fresh from this store. They are thoroughly convinced that the produce is otherwise unworthy to purchase from here as it has to be the cast offs, or “recovered” produce that the fancier and pricier grocery chains would not accept and that these items surely must be unattractive, rotted, shriveled, soggy, and not fit for consumption.
These kinds of preconceived notions could not be farther from the truth. Let me reassure you that as with any merchant, the 99 Cent Only Stores have to follow the same laws and regulations that all the other grocers follow, so it would be illegal to sell food items that were not up to par. As far as the produce being “recovered” and/or unattractive….you do realize that some of these now trendy subscription based produce boxes sell the same kind of “seconds” to you, right?, but at a much higher price.
If you don’t want to take my word for it, just ask Billy Vasquez, also known as the 99 cent chef who has been blogging about his 99 cent ingredient recipes for years: The 99 Cent Chef
So if you are fortunate enough to have a 99 Cent Only Store in your vicinity and you are trying to reign in your food budget, I highly suggest stopping in at one of these stores, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at what they have to offer and what you will come home with. And if you have stopped in to shop…share it with me; I would be interested to learn about what your particular location has to offer.