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.

town-talk-inside

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.

town-talk-fridge

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.

town-talk-meat

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.

town-talk-shelves

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.

town-talk-haul

 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).

town-talk-rcpt

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.

Southwest Baked Ravioli

Ravioli

By Liz

Don’t you love one pot dinners?  After a long week of homemaking and spending most of my Friday’s house cleaning in time for the weekend, this is my favorite way of cooking on a Friday night; the only thing that would beat it would obviously be take out.

However, if you are like me, having to use many dishes to prepare dinner on ANY night of the week, is too many. Any chance to cook a one pot meal is always a win in our house, because, let’s face it, dirty dishes are not anyone’s passion.

Here is a simple, cost effective, filling, one pot dish that was a big hit with my brood:

Southwest Baked Ravioli

Ingredients

16 ounce jar salsa, mild (or hot, depending on how you and your family like it)

10¾ ounce can tomato sauce

½ teaspoon ground cumin

28 ounce bag cheese ravioli, frozen

1 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1 ½ cups frozen corn

½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

½ cup green onion (about 1 bunch), thinly sliced

2 cup sharp cheddar cheese or Mexican blend, shredded

Sour cream and fresh avocado chunks for topping (optional)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Mix salsa, tomato sauce and cumin together in a bowl.

3. Spread ½ cup of salsa sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 11 baking dish.

4. Layer frozen ravioli over the sauce.

5. Layer black beans and corn over the ravioli.

6. Pour remaining sauce over the black beans and corn.

7. Sprinkle cilantro and green onion over the sauce.

8. Layer cheeses on top.

9. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.

10. Remove cover and bake for 5-10 minute more or until cheese has melted and begins to bubble.

11. Serve with a little sour cream, pico de gallo and avocado chunks.

Due to the size of my family of 7, I double this recipe when I make it, but the above should keep a family of 4 more than satisfied.

Enjoy the printable recipe card below and give it a try and let me know what you think.

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Southwest Baked Ravioli
Serves 4
A Tex-Mex twist on an Italian favorite.
Write a review
Print
854 calories
86 g
111 g
44 g
37 g
22 g
703 g
1652 g
20 g
0 g
18 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
703g
Servings
4
Amount Per Serving
Calories 854
Calories from Fat 383
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 44g
67%
Saturated Fat 22g
111%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Monounsaturated Fat 15g
Cholesterol 111mg
37%
Sodium 1652mg
69%
Total Carbohydrates 86g
29%
Dietary Fiber 18g
70%
Sugars 20g
Protein 37g
Vitamin A
60%
Vitamin C
43%
Calcium
71%
Iron
34%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 16 ounce jar salsa, mild (or hot, depending on how you and your family like it)
  2. 10¾ ounce can tomato sauce
  3. ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  4. 28 ounce bag cheese ravioli, frozen
  5. 1 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  6. 1 ½ cups frozen corn
  7. ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  8. ½ cup green onion (about 1 bunch), thinly sliced
  9. 2 cup sharp cheddar cheese or Mexican blend, shredded
  10. Sour cream and fresh avocado chunks for topping (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix salsa, tomato sauce and cumin together in a bowl.
  3. Spread ½ cup of salsa sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 11 baking dish.
  4. Layer frozen ravioli over the sauce.
  5. Layer black beans and corn over the ravioli.
  6. Pour remaining sauce over the black beans and corn.
Notes
  1. You can make this dish as mild or as hot as you like.
beta
calories
854
fat
44g
protein
37g
carbs
86g
more
The Fort Worth Homemaker http://thefortworthhomemaker.com/


My Menu Planning System

 

schedule

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.

market

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.




Food Subscription Boxes

mail-box

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:

produce

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?

farmers-market

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.

couple

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.




Why I Don’t Coupon

 

coupons

by Liz

We have all seen or at least heard about couponing and extreme couponing, where everyday people have been able to save anywhere from 40% all the way up to a staggering 90% off of their grocery bill by means of clipping some coupons and following their local grocery store sales.  To these folks, I say, congratulations!

A few years back, I too, jumped on this bandwagon, hoping to save myself and my family of 7 buckets of cash while amassing stockpiles of items we would not have to re purchase at full price at an inopportune time in the future.

Here is what I experienced:

1.  In order to maximize and accumulate the quantity my family would need of any one particular item, I would need multiple coupons for the same item.  No problem, I just picked up more than one Sunday paper with coupons at my local Dollar Tree for $1.00 per newspaper (our Dollar Tree has a 5 quantity limit). The alternative to this was to print coupons at home, however, it would cost me more in paper and ink to print up multiple coupons, and some of the coupon companies would set a limit of only 2 print out per device, thereby, having me jump from one computer to another to be able to print what I needed.

2. After gathering all my coupons, I would then spread them out over my living room floor combining duplicates and then separating them into like categories; i.e. dairy; cleaning; beauty; snacks; etc…

3. Then I would have to cut them all down to size and put them all together in my storage system,  I had chosen the 3 ring binder/baseball card pocket storage, as I thought this would be the easiest to carry around and shop with at the grocery stores.  However, before filing these little beauties away, I would first have to “weed” out all my expired coupons, and their always seemed to be a lot of them that I had not used and I had to toss out.

4. Later that day, I would pull out the local grocers sales flyers from the week to start to match up sale items with coupons, giving me the lowest prices I could find on any given item.  This was an ongoing step in this process, because unlike in the North East of the country where the store’s sales run from Sunday to Saturday, here in Texas, the sales run from Wednesday to Tuesday, for this reason alone, there was always more than one trip to the stores in any given week, (this is marketing genius on behalf of the grocery stores.)

5. After gathering my coupon binder, I would head off to seek my treasures, I would then be stopping in at least 2 to 3 stores at least twice a week to cash in on my savings and reap my rewards.  Usually upon leaving the store, I would check my receipt, I would generally save, somewhere in the ball park of 40%, not nearly the savings as bragged about by self appointed “coupon mavens”, but week after week, I would be at it again.

6. Once I got my items home, I needed to find a place to store them.  At the time, the 7 of us were living in a 1600 sq. ft. home, and it seemed as though the kids were growing all the time.  For this reason, I asked my wonderful husband to build me some shelving out in our garage, which he happily did.




After only a few months of this ritual of savings, I had acquired quite a large, over-flowing stock pile of goods. Most of the items were health and beauty items, which we kept in our garage in our then, new, elaborate shelving system and most of the food and pantry staples were kept in our tiny kitchen storage system.

coupons

I was feeling mighty proud of myself at the time and was pleased in knowing that if anyone of my family members needed to replace their toothbrush, deodorant or any other product, all they had to do was go “shopping” in our stash, which I had purchased at a discount.

Here is what I actually learned:

1. My time is precious and valuable.  After only a couple of weeks, I learned I dreaded Sundays.  Spending hours of my time going through this crazy, couponing cycle, only to save an average of about 40% was disheartening, when I was striving for a larger savings.

2. Most of the items, I obtained due to couponing we hadn’t ever really needed or used. The only reason I bought most of the items instead of my usual brands, was because there was a coupon being offered.

3. My family never learned to live the motto of “a little goes a long way” because psychologically they knew there was an endless supply of items, so there was never any thought of how to conserve anything.

4. When my stock pile would start to look sparse, here or there, I would start to panic and get anxious, so I would usually go out of my way, with an additional trip to the grocery store(s), on top of the 2 times I was already going per week, just to replenish my vast inventory, thereby spending even more of my time and my money.

5. We did not have the storage space to keep this “hamster on a wheel” way of shopping up.  If you were an outsider looking in, we looked like a mom and pop general store or a family of hoarders at least that was certainly the way I had started to feel.

6. In the end, when me moved from our 1600 sq. ft. home, we looked at our couponing treasures, and there was a lot of it, we decided to donate most of it to families that were in need.  Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of “couponers” who donate much of their goods, and I feel like my family and I are very blessed, so we had no qualms about giving to those in need.

7. I have since gone back to my original way of shopping which include:

a. Shopping  at my local Winco and Aldi food stores, both of which offer the lowest prices, compared to the other, larger grocery chains.

b. Buying in bulk.  My Winco has a wonderful bulk section, so I can stock up on nuts, cereals, beans, grains, rice and even candy if I so choose.

c. If I am in my local Walmart, Albertson’s or Tom Thumb stores, I will always swing by their discounted sections to see what kind of deals they have.  I have been able to purchase discounted, but still wonderful looking meats, cheeses, pastries and breads at each of these stores.




My now stock pile(s) only have a 1 to 2 item reserve on any given item, sometimes less. I am ecstatic to say the least, as I do not have to look at all that clutter not to mention, I have regained control of my Sunday’s and now use that time to spend with my family enjoying our life and our home together.

And the most important:  I shop only once a week.  By limiting my trips, I save time, gas and money and who can’t use more of those?