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).

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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.

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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.

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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.




Food Subscription Boxes

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By Liz

Talk about all things trendy.  If you haven’t seen or heard about food subscription boxes yet, then you must be living under a rock. This is not a new concept, I mean, take Omaha Steaks for instance…they have been around since 1917.  But nowadays you can get just about any kind of food, delivered to your door with easy step by step instructions, with little to no waste and without the hassle of visiting your grocery store to pick up the ingredients.

Types of boxes available are fruits, vegetables, and snacks, jerky, chocolate, bacon, cheese, full meals, seasonal, regional and the list goes on and on.

Sorry to say, I think this trend, is a waste of your hard earned money!

We as a society already spend so much money on food, whether going out to eat or at our local grocery store(s), so it seems to me that this kind of service is really irrelevant.  However, like most trends, these companies are trying to convince you, that you need their product to be hip, trendy, creative, and money savvy; but do you really need their help?

I decided to do some research on these companies, because many of my fellow, “frugal” bloggers have wonderful things to say about them, (although, I personally believe that if you are calling yourself a “frugal or money saving” blogger and promote or purchase these kinds of subscriptions…..you’ve missed the mark).

There are so many companies trying to cash in on this latest trend, it is overwhelming, so I decided to just concentrate on just produce boxes, but most of this information also applies to most of the other subscription boxes and this is what I have discovered:

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1. Many are locally based, so they might not deliver to your zip code, or you will be paying very high shipping costs for this convenience.

2. Your going to pay for this kind of convenience, anywhere from $11 to $110 (and these are prices for produce boxes).

3. Most offer both traditional or organic products.

4. You really don’t get what you pay for. If you were to do a price comparison, you would see that in most cases, you are paying double and in some cases, triple what it would cost you at the grocery store for the same or very similar products.

5. Packaging can sometimes be environmentally unfriendly. Some of the organic products being purchased, come packaged so as they are not bruised or damaged; all well and good, but many of the materials used for packaging, are not good for mother earth. (Ironic…..huh?)

6. Some of the produce subscription services are selling “recovered”, produce, meaning fruits and vegetables that are perfectly fine to eat, but would have otherwise been thrown away. It’s often discarded because of aesthetic imperfections or logistical inefficiencies. They don’t try to hide this; in fact, for some it is on the main page of their website.




So it has been pointed out to me is that these kinds of services  are helping local farmers and business owners  not to mention the convenience it brings to the consumer of not having to go the store to pick these items out for themselves.  My argument is this….you have to go to the grocery store anyway, right? So while you are there picking up the myriad of other items on your list, why aren’t you taking a few extra minutes to purchase fresh, traditional or organic produce from the same place you shop in the first place?

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It has also been argued that these kinds of services offer more natural choices, help many with diet restrictions due to health, and offer step by step instructions with just the right amount of ingredients to make a gourmet meal at home.  My argument for this is the following:  just about everyone owns or has access to a cookbook, (these resources also come with step by step instructions) or the internet, which offers an endless supply of recipes.  Natural and organic produce can be found not only at your local grocery store(s), but also at specialty stores and especially local farmer’s markets.

No matter how old I get, I am always looking for ways to save money, as much money as I can, because my dream is to retire with my husband somewhere close to the ocean and be able to travel, volunteer, relax, and really to just wake up on any given day and do whatever we want, when we want.  We don’t want to realize one day that we don’t have enough for our retirement, and we have to keep working until we are 75 or 80 years old, or that any one medical condition that myself or my husband might encounter down the road, will wipe us out financially.  So we are all about saving as many pennies as we can for as long as we can. My husband and I are both foodies, and we both enjoy cooking, but we also know that, throwing money away on the latest band wagon of what is hip and trendy today, will not help us achieve our goals for tomorrow.

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If you too are financially conscience, and not only want to eat healthy, but well; I suggest that rather than subscribe to one of these, trendy, overpriced and under stocked box services, you should take a little time each week, plan out a few meals, list your ingredients, purchase only what you need for these dishes and keep the money you have saved in your wallet.