Monday, January 19, 2009

Changes I've made

I went grocery shopping today.  I usually don't mind it, but lately, since I've been trying to take care of how much I spend at the store, I have begun each shopping trip with a bit of trepidation.  I get nervous that the items on my list will add up to more than I have budgeted.  What then?  Do I put some things back?  Do I make them last beyond the week and into the next?  No, what really gets me is I'm afraid that I will spend my whole weekly budget in one shopping trip, and then run out of food before the week is up.  I have a teenager and pre-teen at home, both boys, who eat and eat and eat.  In fact, just 30 minutes after my eldest swore he was stuffed to the gills at the dinner table tonight, he complained, LOUDLY, that he just HAD to have more food.  NOW.  How does that happen?  I'm beginning to think I need to feed them rib-sticking, cement-like, oatmeal 3 times a day just to fill them up.

But anyhow, about my shopping trip.  I have noticed little changes I've made, just to make the money go farther.  
1. Buy the large, 5 lb bag of carrots instead of the baby carrots in the tiny bag.  You get much, much more carrot for your $5 vs 2 little bags of teeny, tiny carrots.  Sure, they're cute, and fit into lunches easily, but they really taste the same as the big ones, and you can cut them into tiny pieces if you really want.

2. Make my own cereal by grinding roasted rice.  We have a gluten intolerance in our house, so we have to buy the very expensive, gluten-free oats for oatmeal, which we happen to love in the morning.  When we run out, it usually takes a while before I can locate another very expensive bag (they cost around $10 for 16oz and no one around here carries them consistently).  So I tried roasting brown rice in the oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes, then ground it all up to a fine powder.  I put it in the crockpot with tons of water overnight, with some cinnamon and dried fruit, and let it cook.  By morning, we had a great-tasting, hot cereal with a different taste from oatmeal.  By the way, when I do have oatmeal, I also make granola.

3. Buying boxes of sliced mushrooms for $1.99 gives you more food than a box of whole mushrooms at $1.99.

4. Stop buying juices.  I used to feel badly because I wasn't buying juice for my kids.  I had this thought that I needed to purchase apple juice to get in one more serving of fruit each day.  Then I watched my 11 year old drink down a huge glass full one day, followed by a sugar high, then crash.  I am a firm believer that you need the fiber from the actual fruit, over just the juice without the fiber.  That's pretty much straight sugar.

5. The jury is still out for me on whether the boxed baby lettuces are a good value.  We prefer organic lettuce for our salads, and buying them salad-ready is a real time saver.  The boxed variety seems to hold more than the equivalent of a head or two of organic lettuce, but looks are quite deceiving, I know.  And at $3.99 per small box, I may be overpaying.

6. I pay a ton, a literal TON, for gluten-free bread.  Making our own is tricky since it doesn't last beyond a day.  I work quite a bit, and travel around with after-school activities almost daily, so making bread every day is not practical.  However, at $7 per small loaf, I need to find an alternative.  To make the loaf last longer, I make quesadillas with corn tortillas, and encourage my kids when they are home to eat foods other than sandwiches for lunches and snacks.

7. I refuse to purchase anything in small, individual packaging.  If I need chips or popcorn for the kids' lunches, I buy the large bag and bag it up myself (or pop the popcorn).  I saw a commercial last night for individually wrapped prunes.  Folks were interviewed as saying, 'I just love the little packages.  It's like eating candy'.  Oh brother.

Do you have little tricks to make your groceries go farther?  Add your comments!


Lisa said...

Just a quick comment on the GF bread. I make several loaves on the weekend, slice them, then bag for the freezer. The GF mixes are great, but making from scratch is not that much more time consuming and is way cheaper!

Jill said...

Hey - Thanks for the idea! I will try it out and let you know how it goes.

Anonymous said...

Do you have a bread machine? You could quickly make a loaf a day (do you really want your family to eat that much bread?) by using a gluten free mix (commercial or homemade). Set it up the night before or in the morning and let the bread machine do the work. I make my own gluten free mix, keep it in the freezer and use as needed. Saves lots of money over packaged GF bread mix. I think your costs would be about $2.00 a loaf. Also, you can control the sugar.

Jill said...

Ah! What a great idea - I do know how to make my own mix, and can use my bread machine on the timer. Daily might be a bit much - but every other day might work. And $2 a loaf sounds alot better than $7! I do wish there was a magic ingredient to make the bread stay fresh after one day without freezing it. My kids are tired of toasted bread with their sandwiches. Thanks for the comment!

Julia said...

I also saw that commercial with the wrapped prunes and just started shouting at the TV! Sheer idiocy! My 7 year old son (and anti-packaging activist) was also horrified and we both wondered what they think they are doing. Prunes are too sticky? Bizarre and very frustrating that companies think this sort of thing is acceptable.