Discounted Grocery Store Shopping

AmazingSavings-store

By Liz

So recently, I finally got the opportunity to check out the local grocery salvage store. This has been on my to-do-list for a couple of years now, and I found some time and finally went. If you are unaware of these kinds of stores, let me enlighten you a bit.

Many large cities and some smaller ones too, usually have a salvage store within its radius. Extremebargains.net maintains a directory of salvage and discount grocery stores in the United States. 

A grocery salvage store also known as outlet or discount grocery store, are stores that specialize in selling items that traditional grocery stores can’t or won’t sell.  Most buy their merchandise from grocery reclamation centers, and it includes such things as:

Food that is near or past its expiration.

Items in dented or torn packaging.

Items in seasonal or otherwise-dated packaging.

Store closeouts.

Manufacturer overstock.

Salvage from truck wrecks.

Unlike a traditional grocery store, which stocks the same items each week, salvage grocery stores stock different items each week, depending on what they get in.




Before going to my nearest grocery salvage store, I had done some homework, looked for pictures, sought out reviews, took into consideration the distance from my home and the hours that the store was open.  The reviews were really what got me excited about going as many reviewers gave this particular store, 5 out of a 5 star rating, claiming that this particular store had the best selection and the lowest prices around and that the “educated shopper  can eat gourmet on a welfare budget”.

I have read many an article and opinion on grocery salvage store shopping and the majority of the consensus gave this kind of shopping a thumbs up, however, this frugal homemaker, was not particularly impressed.

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Upon entering this store that resembled an old butcher shop/warehouse, the first things I noticed was the cleanliness of the store, the demographic of the customers and the utilization of space. 

While the areas with shelves were clean; the floors, bins, and refrigerated areas were in desperate need of sweeping, dusting and mopping. 

The demographic of this stores customer was all over the place, and this is a good thing, because it told me that people from diversified ages and backgrounds were all here trying to accomplish the same thing…making their grocery dollars stretch farther.

The utilization of space was slightly less than average. While there were the appropriate amount of products filling their shelves, at every end cap and every corner of the store, there were anywhere from 1 to 3 shopping carriages full of extra discounted goods.  These carts were overflowing and made it hard to browse through them without making a huge mess.

So what did this homemaker think of the goods for sale?  Again, I was unimpressed.  While there were more than its fair share of gluten free, organic and vegan products available, there were also plenty of traditional items as well.  Upon entering the store, the first section was devoted to overstocks of candy and chocolate, most of these were for sale as bulk items like you might see at Sam’s Club or Costco with almost Sam’s Club and Costco prices attached to them.

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I then proceeded into their refrigerated area where on this particular day, they had an over abundance of yogurt and yogurt smoothies that were 2 days past their expiration date and carriages full of fresh radishes, yup…you read that correctly…radishes, because there is always a HUGE demand for the stuff. Coincidentally, this area is where they keep their fresh produce, however this particular grocery salvage store only gets fresh produce on Saturdays. Some reviewers showed pictures of lines out the door to show what the store’s Saturday’s look like.  I don’t know about you, but my time is valuable to me and I don’t need discounted produce ALL that badly just to save a couple of bucks.

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My next stop in the store was the freezer sections of the store.  The store contains several wall sized freezer cases that houses mostly convenience boxed food, things like microwaveable meals, waffles, breakfast sandwiches, easy lunches, etc…  In the middle of this area, was several half sized rows of open freezers that contained frozen meats or in this case, freezer burned meats.  I was really expecting to find some incredibly low prices on the items in the wall sized freezers, and dirt cheap prices on the cuts of meats, but sadly, compared to my local Winco, Walmart and Aldi, the prices averaged to about the same if not more expensive and that isn’t with coupons or sales.  As far as the freezer burned meats, I can’t stress enough…NEVER, EVER waste your money on such an item at ANY grocery store, while most freezer burned items are safe to eat, (but who wants to take that chance?), both the taste and texture become compromised and your hard earned money should not be thrown away on such an important part of the meal.

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The rest of the store was shelves with dry goods and cleaning products, not to mention all those overflowing, cumbersome, randomly placed extra discounted shopping carriages. I did peruse each and every aisle and compared prices to where I usually shop and I really thought for sure, that this time and in these sections I would have much better luck finding some really great bargains that the reviewers were raving that they had only spent mere pennies on the dollar for their groceries.  One more time, I was disappointed. 

I was seeing prices such as:

$. 79 for canned peas (14 ounce)

$1.25 for spaghetti (12 ounce package)

$3.99 for Life cereal (18 ounce box)

$1.99 for Cheeze-Its (15 ounce box)

$1.79 for yellow cake mix (16.5 ounce box)

These are just a few examples of what I thought to be prices that were way too high for a grocery salvage store. However, there were a few deals that I thought were worth the effort.  




After almost a year of saving and planning, we are about to take our summer vacation, Hallelujah!!! So I had picked up a variety of snacks for the long road trip as well as for the vacation rental stay.  Most of the items pictured were obtained after rummaging through those overflowing discounted carts that I mentioned and that wound up yielding me half off of what the product was marked.

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 So my Cheeze-Its only cost me $.99 each.

Sunflower seeds (pepper /garlic & cinnamon toast?) were 4/$1.00

Restaurant Fritos  $1.00

Canned pumpkin 2/$1.00 (14 ounce cans)

Little Debbie snack cakes 3/$2.00

Keebler cookies $.99 each.

Terra chips 2/$1.00 (large bags)

Snack size cookies 5/$1.00

Life cereal $1.30 (18 ounce and the one and only discounted box I could find).

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There were a couple of other things, and I wound up spending $22.50 that day, however, it took me almost 2 hours to comb through the store to find these deals and items that met my standards.

My overall opinion of this store is that it was a HUGE disappointment and I will not be returning to this particular establishment. As previously mentioned in several of my posts, if you shop smart and find the right locations close to your home, you can get fresh, quality, non-salvaged groceries at your local stores at similar if not in most cases, better prices, thereby saving you time and money.

Feeding my Family on $80 for a Month Part IIII

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By Liz

 

If you haven’t had a chance, please check out Part I; Part II and Part III of this series.

Well, here we are…week 4 on my quest to save $500 for a month by only spending $80 for groceries for the past 30 days for my family of 7 plus 4 dogs.  In case you forgot, as I mentioned in my Penny Pinching June article, we have a decent sized walk in pantry, a chest freezer, a refrigerator in the kitchen and a refrigerator in the garage (used for mostly defrosting food or overflow of milk, eggs and other items) so prior to this experiment we had a decent stock pile of meat, dry goods and bread the only thing I was needing to purchase for the past month was items like milk, dairy and produce as these all have a short shelf life.

 


So how did I do this week with only $16.50 left of my $80 cash budget?

I can tell you, we put a really good dent in our food stockpile over the past month and we are down to our last loaf of bread, but we still have enough to probably use this method for another week or so, however, my family has been getting a little antsy when it comes to their guilty pleasures, things like ice cream, cookies, chips and soda, basically, all those treats they are used to having during the summer.

Now I admit, I do indulge my family on these items some of the time. We do not have these things on a regular basis in our home. In order for me to save money regularly, we don’t always have said treats and junk food. I usually make one or two baked goods for the week (a batch of cookies or a cake), things like chips and soda usually make an appearance in our house if we are having a cookout or the rest of the family comes over and although we eat our fair share of ice cream during the summer, I have noticed that generally by the 4th of July, the family starts getting burned out on it and by mid-August, I am discarding these now freezer burned treats.

Again this final week, I went to Aldi, still avoiding the variety and temptations that Winco has to offer, here is a snapshot and list of what I purchased this week:

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2 gallons of milk
10 pounds of potatoes
Bananas
Garlic
1 package of cheese slices
1 jar peanut butter

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For a grand total of $14.44. YAY!!! I actually came in under budget with $2.06 left to spare!

So what did we eat for this week?

Monday: Slow cooker, smothered chicken queso over rice.

Tuesday: Grilled hot Italian sausages and pierogies.

Wednesday: BBQ chicken on the grill/foil packet veggies (onion; summer squash & mushrooms)/garlic bread.

Thursday: Fresh slow cooker pinto beans/quesadillas.

Friday: Caprese salad pasta tossed with whatever was leftover of the sausages and chicken.

Saturday: Basil mac and cheese/fried chicken (that I forgot we had and was found in our chest freezer).

Sunday: Grilled steak/baked beans/simple salad with cucumbers and tomatoes.

Looking back, I am thankful it was a successful experiment and I was actually able to save my family the $500, if not more for the month. This was a challenge though, not going to lie about it, I probably would have had an easier go of it, if my meal planning was not as vast as it was and we ate things like beans and rice every Sunday or homemade pizza every Friday, but like I said previously, we like variety and it was nice to know that I was able to accomplish that with my stockpile and pantry offerings, sprinkled in with some fresh perishables.

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As previously mentioned, I will probably institute these kinds of penny pinching months at least twice a year into our savings plan and depending on what kind of deals I can gather during the regular months, and probably to the dismay of family, maybe, eventually make this a quarterly event. I will keep you updated.




Feeding my Family on $80 for a Month Part III

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By Liz

If you are just tuning in, feel free to check out Part I and Part II of this series.

So how did I do this week with only $32.10 of my $80 for my Penny Pinching June?

We are really getting down to the wire here and although my dry pantry staples and freezer are still in good shape, it is really things like my perishables I am having issue with. 

We are starting to miss a lot of dairy, items such as cheese, margarine, yogurt, sour cream and now that summer is here, ice cream.  I have been substituting real butter for the margarine, and while agree it tastes better and is better for us, real butter is expensive and does not stretch as far as margarine in certain recipes so I had to break down and get a tub.

Again I went to Aldi, I think I have been doing this to avoid Winco, there are just too many options at Winco, and I feel like I would be overly tempted to purchase more and blow through my cash budget.

Here is a snapshot and list of what I purchased this week:

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1 tub margarine

1 package cream cheese

1 package tortillas

2 dozen eggs

2 rolls of ground turkey

4 avocados

4 peaches

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I spent a total of $14.63 at Aldi.  Shortly after I got home, I realized I forgot to pick up milk, thankfully one of the boys was already out for the day, so I texted him and asked him to pick up 2 gallons, but he only brought home 1 (kids…insert big sigh here). I repaid him the 97 cents for the milk at dinner time. So my grand total spent for the day was $ 15.60, leaving me $16.50 for my final week of this challenge.




So what did we eat for this week?

Monday: Chili Dog Enchilada Casserole/ homemade potato wedges.

Tuesday: Pork Chili

Wednesday: Hamburgers/macaroni salad.

Thursday: Pizza (prior to the month I had found some rather large take and bake pizza’s that were discounted at Walmart so I picked up a couple and had them in stored in my freezer).

Friday:  Lemon Chicken Penne/garlic bread/salad.

Saturday: Spaghetti with Bolognese sauce (I had a spaghetti squash in my fridge for quite some time, so I made this for me instead of the pasta to cut back on the carbs.

Sunday: In honor of Father’s day and in an attempt to spoil my husband who is also a fabulous dad…I made steaks on the grill (that I butchered from a roast)/garlic smashed potatoes/green beans with lemon/sourdough rolls/dark chocolate cake with fresh raspberries.

One more week and it is going to be a huge challenge since our micro garden is now exploding and I need to put those ingredients to use, personally, I am starting to have cheese withdrawal and its summer so my kids want to know…WHERE IS THE ICE CREAM???

 

 


Feeding my Family on $80 for a Month Part II

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By Liz

If you are just tuning in, feel free to check out Part I of this series.

So how did I do this week with only $53.79 of my $80 for my Penny Pinching June?

Well, not too bad. Earlier in the week I was prepping for dinner shortly after lunch, since my cutting board and knife were already out, when I discovered I was missing a key ingredient for dinner.  So with a lot of hemming and hawing, I broke down and went to the store for the one ingredient I needed.

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I needed Parmesan cheese for the lasagna rolls I was making that evening, and even though I could have probably omitted it from the recipe, I use a lot of Parmesan in many of my recipes, (comes with being Italian, I guess).  While in the store, my two options were the large container for $4.84 or the smaller container for $3.98, even though I knew I was on a strict budget, buying the larger container was still the better price per ounce, so I hesitantly ponied up the $4.84 for the larger container.  On a side note here, later that afternoon I had emptied the dryer to fold clothes and found $2.36. We have a standing rule in the house that it is “finders; keepers” in regards to money found in the dryer, so I added the $2.36 to my cash budget for food, thereby only costing me $2.48 for the Parmesan.

 


I went to Aldi again this week because I knew the kinds of fresh produce I needed for the upcoming week was going to be comparable in price versus Winco, the store I alternate with Aldi, however Aldi is slightly closer to my house, so I went there again.

Here is a snapshot of everything I purchased that day.

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2 gallons of milk

2 packages of strawberries

3 pounds of apples

1 block mozzarella cheese

1 block Swiss cheese

4 peaches

2 cucumbers

3 pounds of bananas

1 package of green onions

2 pounds of white onions

1 quart of half and half

2 dozen eggs

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My total came up to $19.21, and with the extra $2.36 from my dryer score, I still have $32.10 for the next 2 weeks.

As mentioned before, we are not living on rice, beans, peanut butter and jelly or breakfast for dinner (you will rarely ever hear me mention that as an option, as my husband despises breakfast for dinner).

So what did we eat for the week? Here was our menu:

Monday: Lasagna rolls; mozzarella/tomato/pesto Paninis.

Tuesday: Steaks on the grill; au gratin potatoes; grilled corn on the cob; fresh baked bread.

Wednesday: Grilled cheese and tomato soup (ok…I phoned this one in on this particular evening, but most everyone was out for the evening, so it was just me and one of my sons).

Thursday: Rustic Pork Ragu over spaghetti; pita/garlic bread; Caprese salad (basil and tomatoes from our micro garden were used in the salad).

Friday:  Dijon/garlic and lemon salmon; green onion and garlic quinoa; lemon cauliflower.

Saturday: Spinach and Feta cheese sausage and fresh veggies (bell pepper, tomatoes & zucchini from our micro garden) served over brown rice.

Sunday: A quick and easy one pot jambalaya.

So that is how I measured up this week, to be honest, when I was at Walmart for the Parmesan cheese, I felt slightly disheartened seeing many good discounts in their bakery and meat departments, knowing I had to pass them up because all I had on me was my small cash budget that I have to make stretch, BUT that is the purpose of this exercise…right? Well, that and saving $500 cold hard cash.

Stay tuned to see how I do next week.

 


 

Feeding my Family on $80 for a Month Part I

coin-purse

By Liz

Last week I announced that I was instituting a Penny Pinching June here at the house since I have felt like we had been “bleeding” money for the last couple of months. I wanted to reign in some of our spending while building our savings account back up to my “I can sleep at night” comfort level.

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I had taken an inventory of our current stock of foods from the pantry, freezer and fridge, did a small amount of stocking up in May on those staple items we seem to plow through and have decided that I would buy nothing else for the month of June and we would be living off of what we already had on hand.

My regular food budget for our family of 7, is approximately $600/month; however my challenge and goal for the month of June is to spend only $80 for the month on the perishables that I know have a much smaller window when it comes to expiration dates, items such as milk, eggs and fresh produce.

You might be wondering how I came up with the amount of $80. To be honest, it was what I had left in my wallet after my last grocery shopping trip in May.  I did however sit down and ran the numbers really quick on the perishable items listed above to see if this was a realistic amount, turns out; it is if I want to reach my goal of saving $500 this month.

As you may have deduced, $80 for the month, equals roughly $20 for the week. That sounds crazy…right?  C’mon…$20 per week for a family of 7 + 3 dogs?  Impossible you might say, well I guess we will find out together.

Thursday’s are my “running day”, the day when I do the majority of my shopping, errands and appointments and this past Thursday was my first attempt at shopping on this small budget. I had a very short shopping list with me that included only my absolute necessary perishables and my $80 in cash. I left all other means to pay (credit and debit cards/checkbook) at home. This day, I had a lot of errands to take care of, so I decided to shop at my local Aldi, which I would be passing on my route home. The entire time I was in the store adding items to my cart, I was doing the math and making a conscience effort not to go over $20. Currently, the price of eggs and milk are pretty low here in Texas, so I am taking full advantage of these particular 2 items that I can never seem to keep on hand with my brood and the rest were purchases that I needed, but looked for the best deal in the store and if it wasn’t within my price range or keeping within my budget…I put it back down.

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Here is a snapshot of everything I purchased that day:

2 packs of chicken thighs

1 gallon of milk

2 packages of mozzarella block cheese

1 container of cream cheese

1 container of ricotta cheese

1 (1) pound package of black forest ham

Bananas

3 dozen eggs

2 containers of strawberries

1 head of cauliflower

3 pounds of onions

My total came up a little higher than I wanted, it was $26.21, leaving me $53.79 for the next 3 weeks, but I am confident I will be able to pull it off.

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In my previous Penny Pinching June article, I said that we would have a monthly menu that included variety, and not just a diet of beans and rice or PB & J sandwiches. Here is what was we ate so far since June 1st until this posting.

Thursday:  Slow cooker corned beef and veggies.

Friday: Loaded Nachos, with beans, cheese, jalapenos, salsa and sour cream

Saturday: We were visiting my sister and brother-in-law, so we were invited to have dinner at their house.

Sunday: Grilled chicken thighs, potato salad and garden salad.

You might be wondering about breakfast and lunch. In our house, we all have different schedules as our kids are mostly teens and young adults, these two eating periods are an “every man for himself” situation. We always have a variety of breakfast and lunch items on hand; plenty of bread and bread like options (bagels, tortillas, English muffins), oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, cheese, eggs, sandwich meat, pre-cooked and frozen meats and pastas (made previously, bagged into portion sizes and then frozen), or the inevitable leftovers from the night before.

As a parent, and provider I have always felt this drive to ensure that my family is well fed and nourished, after all it’s one of our a basic necessities, because of that, we always have a decent size stock pile and selection in our freezer and pantry. And just as I have a certain discomfort level when our bank account drops below a certain amount, I have the same apprehension when it comes to the inventory of food in our home. I have to admit, that as I start this month, I feel as though we are in good shape and I am confident, at this point, I will make my goal, however, it will be interesting to see how I feel towards the end of the month, when my pantry and freezer starts to really look bare and I run out of cash. So I invite you to stay tuned to see how this experiment winds up, won’t you?



My Menu Planning System

 

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By Liz

I often get asked how I come up with a variety of nutritious, delicious, cost efficient meals for me and my family of 7. Unlike most meal and money saving plans, we really, really like to have variety. So one thing that you might notice here, is we don’t have pizza or rice and beans on our menu once a week, each of those is more like once a month.

My system maybe old school, but it is what works best for us.  On our fridge, there are two empty, monthly, block style calendars.  One is for the kids to post their work schedules and school hours and any kind of extra activity that may arise that is out of the norm.  The other is used for dinner planning, as it is the main meal in our house. Also on our fridge is a note pad to be used when I do our weekly grocery shopping.  This is a running list of items that we are either out of, or we are low on.  I have tried to challenge myself to go grocery shopping once a month, but our family goes through a lot of milk, fresh fruit and vegetables.

For our family of 7 we have the fridge in our kitchen, however, its design lacks optimal storage space on the inside, but it came with the house, so it is ours until it dies. We also have an extra fridge that is in our garage that holds mostly beverages, overflow of milk, eggs, juice and coffee creamer as well as meat that needs to be thawed or cut to portion size pieces; the top freezer portion contains bread, rolls, bagels muffins and buns.  In addition we have a 12 cubic foot chest freezer that holds primarily meat, batch cooked meals, ice cream, frozen vegetables and any kind of convenience food that we found worth our hard earned dollars and passes our personal, nutritional guidelines. Also worth mentioning is that we have a good size walk in pantry for all of our dry goods and staples.




Once a week, I will sit down with the kids’ and menu planning calendars and start filling in my dinner menu. I will browse my chest freezer for meat, chicken or fish, check my vegetables and dry goods to pair it with and start building my week of menus. Since the kids’ schedule is ever changing, I do this on a weekly and not a monthly basis, but it is nice to see what we had to eat in a month’s time. It also helps me fill out my running grocery list. If I am in need of an ingredient or will be using the last of a staple, then up on the list it goes.

I don’t plan out our breakfasts. Our house contains mostly adults and not all of us are morning people. I myself, rarely eat breakfast, I know it is the most important meal of the day, but I have always struggled with eating in the mornings.  I am good with just a cup of coffee or two. Some of the family however does like eating early in the morning and because of that there is always a supply of eggs, fruit, bread, jam, peanut butter, oatmeal, yogurt, premade muffins, breakfast sandwiches or burritos (that I make up in batches every two weeks).  We do share a weekly breakfast together, after Sunday service; I will cook brunch for the family that usually consists of a meat, toast, potatoes and eggs made to order, fresh hot coffee, juice and or milk. Once a month I will make either French toast or pancakes served with fresh fruit in place of the toast and potatoes.

Lunches are not planned out either, due to different schedules.  Our house has a revolving door between the hours of 7:00 a.m. to midnight, between work, school and socialization. So our lunches tend to be mostly leftovers, either as is or reworked a little. For instance, if the previous night we had chicken or steak, lunch then becomes either fajitas or quesadillas or if we have leftover baked potatoes from the night before, this easily becomes a broccoli and cheese stuffed potato for lunch.  We also, always have tuna, peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese on hand in case someone wants a sandwich.

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My system makes it easy for me make the most of the money we spend on groceries. Since we have a freezer full of bread products, I only shop for this once a month. Since we have a freezer full of meat, I only pick more up if I come across a great deal (and I usually do) during my shopping trip. Since we have extra fridge space in the garage, I can stock up on milk, juice and eggs for the week and since we have pantry space, I can stock up on dry goods when they have reached rock bottom prices.

I love to cook and even though I have a formal education in culinary arts, it is not always very practical when operating a large household.  My menu planning contains mainly easy, healthy dishes that require minimum ingredients, time and most important….minimal clean up. Again, it might not work for all, but this is what works for us.