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.

99-cent""

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.




Dollar Tree Musts

money-tree

By Liz

If you are like me, you have read many an article from different folks sharing their top buys at the Dollar Tree store.

Dollar Tree stores have been in existence since 1991 and operates more than 13,600 stores throughout the 48 contiguous U.S. states and Canada.

Dollar Tree is classified as an extreme discount store and while initially, it’s targeted consumers were those who were suffering financial burdens, it has now become more popular with affluent customers (that’s how the affluent, stay affluent, by saving their money).

So here is my list of must haves from Dollar Tree:

cards

1.Greeting cards.  While I do “care enough to send the very best”, I am not particularly fond of taking out a small loan to pay for the sentiment. This is especially true when you are shopping for several cards for special occasions and you can’t find a box set with the repeated greeting. If you look hard enough, Dollar Tree even offers a section of cards that are 2 for $1.00.

bags

2.Gift bags/wrapping.  The store offers a wide variety of gift bags, in assorted sizes, plain, unmarked as well as occasion specific decorated bags.  In addition they offer bows, tissue paper, stickers and tags.

seasonal

3.Sesonal items.  Each major (and some minor) holiday, you can find wall décor, table décor,  crafts, ornaments, baking items, disposable and non-disposable kitchen items, and more to help you celebrate, without breaking the bank.

party

 

4.Party. Whether you are hosting a birthday, holiday, shower or a wedding, you can find invitations, thank-yous, banners, balloons, party favors, table ware, centerpieces and more.

readers

5.Reading glasses. Dollar Tree offers an array of magnifications and a wide variety of frame styles for both men and women. The store also offers, cleaning cloths and hard shelled glass cases in different sizes to help you keep your readers safe.

newspapers

6.Your local Sunday newspaper.  If you are a “couponer”, I personally believe that this is your most cost efficient way of obtaining duplicate coupons, (unless your friends, family and/or neighbors donate them to you).  If you are going to buy multiple Sunday papers, some locations may limit the quantity, so you might want to check with store personnel. Also, if they haven’t sold out, you can still find the Sunday paper, throughout the week at the store.

books

7.Activity books. Sophisticated coloring books for youth and adults are all the rage right now and I have seen some of these complex, designed coloring books with a hefty price tag being offered at both online and brick and mortar stores, Dollar Tree offers the same kind of coloring entertainment, just at a bargain rate.  Dollar Tree also sells puzzle books, so if you, or someone you know enjoys passing the time with word search, Sudoku or crossword puzzles, you can find plenty of options for only a $1.00 a piece. This is not only a great form of entertainment on the cheap, but it also requires one to “unplug” for awhile, while engaged in these activities….and who couldn’t use some more of that?

foil

8.Aluminium foil pans. Due to the size of our household, 7 people, we generally wind up hosting all of the major and some of the minor holidays at our house. It doesn’t feel right converging on my sister’s family of 3 and expect them to cook for our brood.  That’s when these lifesavers come in handy.  I can generally do some or most of the cooking a day or two prior to the event, store the food in the foil pans, and then just re-heat the day of the feast. Then there is the clean up factor, it is exhilarating to just empty the pan, crumple it up and toss it in the trash.  These beauties are a wonderful time saver for me and I am able to enjoy the day with my family and not be stuck in the kitchen cooking and doing dishes all day.

pasta

9.Pasta. Most stores offer this pantry staple pretty cheap, so you might be wondering why I listed it. When was the last time you actually looked at the size of the package when you bought pasta at your favorite grocery store? I have noticed that at even at my own beloved grocery stores, offers pasta for as low as 85 cents per package……great deal, right? Not exactly, upon further inspection, the size of the package is only 12 ounces. This equates to 7 cents per ounce. Dollar Tree offers both 16 and 24 ounce packages, this equates to 6 cents and 4 cents per ounce, respectfully. This probably does not sound like much of a savings, but when you eat as much pasta as we do, it just makes cents (see what I did there?).

broth

10.Broth. I know….I know….making your own homemade broth is more economical, but I use so much beef and chicken broth on a weekly basis, that I would have to make a batch every 2-3 days. Dollar Tree offers beef, chicken, and sometimes when I can find it vegetable broth. Each container is 32 ounces (4 cups) for $1.00. Even though making it from scratch would save me money, this option saves me time, and that too is just as valuable to me.

So there you have it, my personal favorites from Dollar Tree.  I hope that you will be able to apply some of these suggestions into your own time and money saving routines.  Stop in at your local Dollar Tree, you just might be surprised what you find.