99 Cent Produce

99-cent

By Liz

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).

99-cent

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.

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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.

99-centOnce 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.

99-cent

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.

99-cent

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.




Puzzled?

 

puzzle

By Liz

Just like most people, I am a product of my environment, living in an ever changing, hustling and bustling busy world; so therefore, I always feel the need to be productive or to be doing something.

While “stop and smell the roses”, is a great concept on paper, who has time when there is so much to be done in a 24 hour period?

Like most, our Saturday’s are just as busy as the rest of our week.  Generally we reserve Saturday’s to “date day” unless we have looming projects at the house, that are an absolute must, usually  this means a project in the yard, garage or home improvement.

However, this particular Saturday just felt like a bust.  The weather was less than cooperative and it had been overcast, rainy and cold all day.  Obviously we were not going to be able to tackle any outdoor projects or attempt to clean the garage, which was long overdue for a cleaning.  We had just spent the previous day doing our weekly housecleaning, and we were all caught up on laundry, we had a fridge full of leftovers, so cooking wasn’t a necessity for the day.




My husband and I were perplexed on how to salvage the rest of our Saturday and due a lack of motivation on both of our parts on this dreary day, we railed off suggestions to each other; after many suggestions, we were not anywhere closer to a compromise. Finally, my hubby suggested that we tackle one of the jigsaw puzzles that was sitting, collecting dust in our closet.

At first I was indifferent about this suggestion, but when the love of my life said he would build a fire, turn on the stereo and open a bottle of my favorite wine in addition to setting up the card table in our living room, I had a change of heart.

I am generally not a fan of jigsaw puzzles, mostly because as I feel I suffer from ADHD, so I had approached this 500 piece puzzle, with some reserve, thinking that after about 10 minutes, I would have surely felt like I was crawling out of my skin in frustration, but I had agreed to give it a chance.

There we sat in the middle of our living room at our card table, with a warm, crackling fire, listening to some oldies on our vintage console stereo, sharing a bottle of wine and enjoying each other’s company, so you can imagine my surprise when I found myself looking at the time and noticed that we had been working on this puzzle together for over 2 hours and were only half way done.

fireplace

When we decided to stretch our legs and heat up something to eat, two of our adult kids, who were home for the afternoon, appeared from their rooms, surely they had found something to pass the time on this dreary day as well. They walked over to the card table and upon inspection, asked if they could work on some of the puzzle while we were in the kitchen heating up some dinner.  I have to tell you, it was a thrill to see a couple of young adults, not staring down at their phones or tethered to a video game console for a period of time, in fact, they had gotten into this puzzle, just as much as my husband and I did.  We let them have at it, and before you knew it, an hour more had passed.

My husband and I, re-entered the living room to check their progress on the puzzle and found they had gotten much more of it completed.  For the rest of the evening, the four of us would take turns at the card table, in tag team fashion, completing this puzzle.  At times, we would find ourselves singing along to whatever song was playing in the background, we would find ourselves laughing at something one of us had said, and each one of us, were completely content in this family, friendly moment, and there was not an electronic device or distraction in sight. We were close to finishing, so none of us wanted to turn in for the evening until we had finished this 500 piece challenge.




At last, we had finally finished the puzzle and he had high fived each other, proud of ourselves for accomplishing the challenge we had started.  In total, we had spent 5 hours doing this puzzle…. 5 hours.  I know what many of you are thinking: “Do you know what I could do with 5 hours?!” Believe me, I do know what can be done, productively for 5 hours, in fact, like most, we have a laundry list of things that we could have been doing, but it came to me as an epiphany and was glad that it happened, I finally got it, we had “stopped and smelt the roses”.