The Shopping Adventure

May 26, 2007 at 2:41 pm 5 comments

With my goal being as much produce (fruits and vegetables) as possible and enough quality protein for the week, I set out to stay within a budget of just $63 for the week (two adults and one child) to feed us all and not compromise our health with nutritionally inferior foods.

First stop, the online sale circulars for our local grocery stores. Most people get these each week in the mail or paper, but ours was already long gone, in the trash earlier in the week. After reviewing each, I compiled a list of foods on sale and then set to complete menus for the week to add what else I needed to the list I’d buy while shopping.

Once that was complete, it was off to the stores – first to one without an online circular – the grocery store in the northside of town, that bills itself the “discount” grocery store.

It was a good first place to start – I knew what the other stores had on sale, so if this store had things for less, I would buy them here. The first big savings was on green peppers – 4 for $1.00; followed by cantaloupe for $2.00 each (other stores were advertising $2.50); Kraft real mayo $1.50; and an assortment of canned beans and tomatos (paste, sauce, diced), ranging from $0.19 a can to $0.53. I also snatched up a one pound bag of frozen, peeled, deveined shrimp for $3.99 – granted they’re uncooked, but this was about half the advertised price elsewhere for cooked shrimp.

In total, I spent $26.53 in this store.

Our next stop (I had my son with me) was my math adventure. The store had, in addition to their advertised specials, a number of manager specials screaming from bright neon orange signs lining the shelves. One in particular caught my attention – block cheese, 24-oz, for just $3.88 – or $2.58 per pound. It did look like a good deal, and unless you could do the math, might be tempting – it looked much bigger than the advertised 8-ounce block (obviously) and seemed like it might be less than the 2/$5.00 sale price on the 8-oz blocks. It actually cost $0.08 more per pound, so I chose the sale cheese over the managers special, spending $2.50 on a half-pound block instead of $3.88 on more cheese than we’ll use in the week.

Here too was my best deal on the shopping adventure – wild salmon for just $3.49/lb (frozen) and was less than the $1.39/4-oz wild filets I intended to buy at the next store ($5.56/lb).

It was in this store too that I hit the mother-lode for spices – the health food section had bulk spices, sold by the pound. Garlic powder, ginger, italian spice mix, white pepper, and sesame seeds were had for just $0.65, and enough rolled oats for one breakfast was had for just $0.17.

In total, I spent $25.05 in this store…$51.58 so far, $11.42 remained with one more store to go. I suspected at that point that I was going to exceed the budget…but continued on.

Last stop, I was determined to stick with my list and not purchase anything not needed. Eggs, check; baked beans, check; yogurt, check; fresh tomatoes, check; frozen strawberries, check; ground turkey, franks on sale and ground beef, check.

After looking over my remaining things needed, I grabbed a jar of relish and headed for the salad bar – why? Here you can get fresh produce in very small quantity, often for less per pound than the produce aisles or deli counter. At $3.49 a pound, it was cheap to get baby spinach to add to the romaine I had. A 6-oz bag of baby spinach was being sold 2/$5, or $6.65 per pound – the salad bar was a better price…so I put together one small container of baby spinach. Next I put together a small container of red peppers and mushrooms. Red peppers were being sold for $3.99/pound whole, so here I could buy just what I needed and have no waste I paid for; and mushrooms weren’t sold loose, but in one-pound containers for $3.29, and I didn’t need a pound! I also added some pepperoni and roast beef strips to add to salads or omelets during the week. Salad bar items added $1.65 this way instead of more than $8.00 had I purchased these items stand-alone.

The last minute impulse buy took me over my budget – I grabbed three small bags of nuts (sliced almonds, pecan and walnut pieces) to add to salads, forgetting the one-pound of sunflower (hulled) I’d already purchased for $1.39 in the first store. At $1.43 per bag, this added another $4.29, and took me over the budget.

In total I spent $16.35 here, and a grand total of $67.93 – $4.93 over budget.

The budget over-run could be chalked up to the nuts, or the fact that I won’t compromise with milk for my son – organic whole milk was on sale, but still more expensive than conventional milk and I spent $5.98 on his milk, $2.13 more than I would have if I’d picked up regular milk.

Had this been a real world scenario, I’d have put back the extra nuts to keep the organic milk since they alone make up most of the overage, along with condiments that it’s unlikely one would need to buy all of in one week (ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and spices, including iodized salt) since I’d think most people have these on-hand, or at least some of them, and buy as needed.

So, at the end of the day, my conclusion is that you can feed a family of three for just $63 without resorting to low-nutritional-value foods.

As you can see from the picture I took (post below) of my purchases, we have plenty of fresh produce, more frozen vegetables to add to those, fresh and frozen fruits, nuts & seeds, yogurt, cheese, eggs, and a wide selection of meat, poultry and fish.

The big question now is, will it last a week and will our meals be filling and nutrient-dense?

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It is Possible… Expect the Unexpected

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. About PJ  |  May 26, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    My second question is, would you be stuck eating that same menu week after week for eternity? I imagine that’d get old. Now what if the teacher says you are designated to bring snacks for the class next tuesday; how does that mess up the ability to feed the whole family? I’m just thinking of common things sure to come up.

    By the way if you get a menu down for this stuff, that would be a great thing to post as one piece with some decent search engine terms. It might be valuable to a lot of people.

    The only caveat I have is that when people say “…and I found X on sale for ___, and Y on sale for ___,” obviously this isn’t the case for everybody. You have a car and can drive around the city to three stores to look for deals, as opposed to having a stroller, bus far costs hard cash, and the only store local is small, more expensive across the board, and definitely not there with the same kind of sales (esp on protein foods), no health food aisle, bulk foods or salad bar. So it works for you in your situation — which is awesome, I admire the planning that HAD to go into this to make it possible! That doesn’t necessarily make it workable in all situations. But I’m sure you know that… this is all just an example. 🙂

  • 2. Sherrie  |  May 27, 2007 at 12:40 am

    Hey this is really interesting Regina, good luck!

  • 3. Regina Wilshire  |  May 28, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    My second question is, would you be stuck eating that same menu week after week for eternity?

    I would think what one buys each week would be dependent on a few things – tastes, what’s on sale and seasonality of produce since fruits and vegetables tend to be less expensive when they’re in season than when they’re not.

    Now what if the teacher says you are designated to bring snacks for the class next tuesday; how does that mess up the ability to feed the whole family? I’m just thinking of common things sure to come up.

    It could seriously put a dent in the family food for the week.

    The only caveat I have is that when people say “…and I found X on sale for ___, and Y on sale for ___,” obviously this isn’t the case for everybody.

    Very true – I’m just an “n of 1” here….

    You have a car and can drive around the city to three stores to look for deals, as opposed to having a stroller, bus far costs hard cash, and the only store local is small, more expensive across the board, and definitely not there with the same kind of sales (esp on protein foods), no health food aisle, bulk foods or salad bar.

    I’ll address this stuff in an upcoming post – they’re good things to talk about and discuss!

  • 4. Calianna  |  May 29, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    In case you haven’t found this thread yet, here’s an interesting discussion on the topic:

    http://forum.lowcarber.org/showthread.php?t=336147

    One poster pointed out that when you live in poor urban areas, not only is everything more expensive at the closest grocery store (captive audience factor, most likely), they are notorious for having produce and meats that look like they’ve been sitting around for ages. She pointed out that it’s also quite difficult just to get a decent bag of frozen veggies in those stores.

    This whole issue is a lot more difficult than it would appear to us who have our own transportation, as well as access to ads for multiple competitive stores so that we could make the most of our $3/day.

    After reading her post (post 10), I can understand if they’re living on boxed mac’n’cheese, and cookies, even if they happen to have knowlege of nutrition. The only way to make the most of your $3/day is to buy foods that wouldn’t go bad even if it had been sitting out in blazing hot sun for years – the kind of stuff that has no nurtitional value left in it.

    So the irony of it is that even if the $3/day were expanded to say… $8/day, they probably still wouldn’t be able to eat a bit better (nutritionally speaking), since the foods they have access to are so awful to begin with.

  • 5. Anonymous  |  August 9, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Happy to find your post about your experiment! I have tried similar experiments but either made myself sick with ramen noodles, or gave up and went over budget! However, where is the bread, and what did you end up feeding your family for breakfast? And did you get the other adult to not buy fast food or lunches during the day? The snacks for the classroom issue is easily handled by lumping that expense into the ‘party’ category of your budget, because it is something entirely different that you need to factor in to your budget, after all.

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