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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Do you know why I make such a big deal about saving money on groceries?

Last night's dinner: black bean/brown rice/cheese burritos, with leftover,
homemade enchilada sauce, rolled up in a homemade, whole wheat flour tortilla,
garden green beans and carrots, and foraged wild blackberries,
with a dressing of melted crabapple jelly.
Groceries are one of just a couple of necessary household budget items that we identified as producing a significant savings, when reducing our spending, which could be carried out throughout our lifetime. We estimate that we save about $400 to $500 per month, every single month of every year.

Additionally, these were savings that we could feel the impact of immediately, when we implemented new grocery shopping techniques. In September of 1988, we went from spending $70 per week, to spending $30 per week on groceries, in the span of 7 days. I credit a magazine article that I had read, that very week with the changes in our spending. That was 28 years ago, next month.

Today, we spend about $45 per week. Back in 1988, we were a family of 3. We're now a family of 5. The USDA's food spending charts would have us spending $195.40 per week, on the Thrifty Plan, that's about $845 per month. And do you want to know something? I think our family eats healthier now, than it did back in 1988.

The dinner we had last night really drove home the point, to me, on how advantageous it has been to cut our grocery spending from the first year of our marriage, and on.


  1. So true. Your supper looks wonderful, fresh, healthy!

  2. I failed last night in dinner preparation. We have been so very busy the last week that getting dinners planned and then made has been non-existant. I broke down last night and bought a Stouffers vegetable lasagna for dinner while we did other things as we cooked the thing. It was good but the price made it taste less good.

    We were cleaning out the spice pantry and dividing it amongst the two kids who are living in apartments during the school year, then we took an old computer out of the closet to clean it's contents to eventually be donated. The big old monitor was brought upstairs to get rid of somehow and then beginning preparations to wire an outside rooftop antenna is being worked on. That's too much stuff but all of this has to be done.

    We're attempting to ditch AT&T television. They raised our rates a lot and conveniently has no specials to reduce our cost. TV is the thing we use the least of but that had the highest increase. We'll keep phone and internet for now. If those begin to rise, we'll find another internet provider and get the "plain old telephone service (POTS)". I'm sick of them raising our prices all the time.


    1. Hi Alice,
      sometimes, you have to choose the lesser of two evils. You needed to feed the family. You are also needing to cut your TV service, by installing a rooftop antenna. What you spent on the Stouffers meal will be paid back in the future months of no TV service billing. But I get you. Sometimes, I goof in our planning, or we splurge and after the fact I feel it really wasn't worth it.

      At least with TV, you really do have options, like an antenna. And after you've had the rooftop antenna for a while, I'm willing to bet that you find it works well-enough for you.

      Have a great day, Alice!

  3. Your dinner looks great, Lili. I love blackberries. Great post and like Carol said, so true.

    1. Thank you, Belinda. I love blackberries, too. But we tend to take them for granted, here.

      Have a great day, Belinda!

  4. Wow, the amount of delicious meals that you make with very little money is amazing! If there were an Olympics for frugal grocery shopping, you'd win the gold medal.

    1. Aw shucks! Thank you, Jayne!

    2. I agree. And I have been at this for forty years. You are much better than I am.

  5. I very much get your point, and why your dinner last night reinforced the good decision made and cumulative windfall of "working" the food budget for 29 years! Nothing lacking with your dinner there!!

    As you well know, other consumable areas of the budget are also prime targets like clothing, utilities, household goods and furnishings, and even the family car. I too don't feel we lack anything when we curtail wasteful spending of the things we consume, especially since it is consumed. Yesterday my husband made such a fuss about what car to buy next, that I blurted, "it's just a car!" I tend to view everything that I consume this way. I don't need to love everything I eat, wear, or look at. And, more importantly, it's never a reflection of who I am, however, what I can make and do, is. In fact, aside from being a productive member, the more self reliant I am the more I feel I have freed myself from the chains of our economy and the need to spend any stored wealth. I know it is not the message we're brainwashed into thinking.

    Have good day!!

    1. Hi YHF,
      So, as I was reading your comment (in my email, so couldn't see who), I was trying to figure out who wrote it. And I was leaning towards you! Funny how one's personality can show through in their writing so well.

      Yes, you are so right -- we don't have to love everything we do eat and have. Some things are purely functional, and we can love how something functions without loving it's appearance.

      But, also, I get your husband's feelings about wanting a car with a certain look/style/make/year etc. To you it's just transportation, to him, it must mean something more/different. And that's why we need to set our priorities.

      Have a great day, YHF!

    2. lol...that's funny indeed.

      After I wrote that, I thought that might be driving the point to the extreme. I may be able to live very spartan like but I know that's not the whole point of living. I think you strike a very nice balance between enjoyment and frugality from the examples you have set in your blog.


  6. Yum! This looks fabulous.

    I always enjoy reading your grocery posts. I feel like I learn something with each one.

    1. Thank you, Busy Bee! The dinner was really yummy.

  7. Lili,
    Another amazing meal! For so little money. The blackberries look so good.I am with the others about the Gold medal. You work magic in the kitchen.

  8. I think my discovery happened the opposite of yours--in trying to eat healthy food by doing my own food prep, I realized how much money we were saving!

    It's been an expensive month for us--a lot more eating out than what we are used to. It's a temporary thing (day trips with friends, etc.) that happens more in the summer--but I'm noticing the effect on my waist band! I'm kinda looking forward to autumn with lower eating-out costs and healthier eating (I can hardly believe I'm saying that!!!). Good for you for sticking with your home cooking plan--your meals do look delicious.

    1. Hi Kris,
      I also find that the more I eat in restaurants, the more weight I gain. So, in a sense, cooking from scratch, at home, and eating garden veggies/fruit saves me money in another way, by not needing any weight-loss services/programs (Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers)!

      When we've been on a trip and I've eaten too much restaurant food, I always long for simple foods like split pea soup or beans and rice.

  9. I am always inspired by your frugal meals. And to think that you were so deeply influenced by a magazine article you read years ago. I'm curious as to what the article was?

    1. Hi Ruthie,
      The magazine was probably Family Circle or Woman's Day. And it was an article about a family who saved a fortune on groceries by shopping all the deals and stocking up. This had never occurred to me, that you would shop at several stores per week. My mother always shopped one store, once per week, and bought just what we needed for that week.

      The magazine article outlined how their family managed to shop multiple stores, by dividing up the work between spouses. Each took half of the weekly flyers, and circled all the must-buys. Then each took one or two of the kids and went to their half of the stores, and only bought things at rock-bottom prices. This is something many of us do now, but wasn't so common back in the 80s.

      They did stock-up on some things that I wouldn't, like chips and soda. We quickly discovered that when I bought junky stuff or convenience items, that we plowed through them and ignored all of the healthier foods. So I only stocked up on meal items and skipped snack-y stuff.

      The first couple of weeks were a bit spartan, as I remember. I set my budget, and figured out how to buy enough on that lower amount of $$, and also stock up on some good deals. But it was still doable.

      I tried to explain all of this to a cousin, at the time, but she didn't understand that you don't need large sums of money to stockpile the good deals for the future.

      And I've had to start from scratch, so to speak, again, since this time. We moved to a new state a year later, and had to start over on a pantry. We moved to a state with higher grocery expenses, and my husband was unemployed, so I had zero leeway with starting that second pantry, and no small items that practically everyone who's been cooking for a while has, like salt, spices, cooking oil etc.

      It's very doable, but it takes some work, time and planning.

      The great thing about stocking a pantry and freezer rather than buying enough for one week, is that if I have a bad or busy week, I can cut out shopping altogether for that week, and save my time and energy for whatever is currently complicating my days. There is always enough food at home to get through not just one week, but several.

  10. Food is usually one area in most people's budgets where they can save money. You've known that for a lot of years. And over the years, you have used your abilities to become a champion of doing more for less.

    1. Thank you, live and learn. Yes, you're right. Most people could cut back on groceries, still eat well and save a bunch of money, if they needed to.


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