The Day I Got Mad at Groceries, Part 2 (Is Balance Possible?)

Read Part 1 – The Day I Got Mad at Groceries and Food in General here.

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After processing with you some of my frustrations with being able to achieve balance when striving to…

  • Save money on groceries
  • Fill us with nourishment
  • Satisfy my teenage sons’ huge appetites
  • Not spend hours in the kitchen
  • Keep up with life during a busy season

…I headed to the grocery store.

I had my list ready to go. I also had our full calendar in mind, knowing all too well what the next two weeks held for my family. Which was bigger – my grocery list or my to-do list? Oh, now that’s a tough one.

So I prayed for a balanced approach to my shopping. God is not above me asking for help in selecting food for my family. God cares about every detail. He knows my desire to be a good steward and also my need to not over-burden myself in the kitchen. He knows what’s on my calendar. He knows how much my boys eat. He knows we need a new vehicle. He knows.

groceries june 17

At the store, I filled my cart with a wonderful variety of fresh produce from strawberries to peaches to zucchini to peppers to apples to asparagus to watermelon to avocados. I got all the produce at wonderful prices thanks to price-matching.

Then I compromised and bought a few loaves of bread, even though I know how to make it myself. I bought pre-made frozen hashbrowns, even though I know how to make them myself. (By the way, the only ingredient in the Mr. Dells brand frozen hashbrowns is potatoes. The lack of fillers made me add three bags to my cart!) I bought several packages of nitrite-free, uncured beef hotdogs for fast and fun lunches on the grill. I bought bottled BBQ Sauce, even though I know how to make it myself.

Truth: Everything I bought was still real food. (Yes, I realize I’m pushing it when talking about hotdogs. Work with me here. They’re trying. Really they are.)

I got good deals. I was careful about everything that went into my cart. But doggonit, when I want to make Grilled Chicken this week, I’m gonna open up a bottle of pre-made BBQ Sauce, dump it on, and go about my day.

I think we all have to:

  • make decisions about what works for our family and what doesn’t.
  • realize that just because something had been working for our family, sometimes a change is in order.
  • ask God for clarity, peace, and help in all areas in our lives.

My conclusions about groceries…today

Actually, I have no conclusions. I conclude that what I conclude today may be different from what I conclude next week. Right? Often if it’s best if we just think about today. I trust God to make it all clear to each of us when it comes to saving money, eating well, and saving time.

Today’s conclusions are:

  • I will continue to follow Simple Meals plans because without them, I’m lost and frustrated at dinner time. The recipes and every aspect of these plans are so easy I barely have to work and I rarely have to think. This is how I’ll continue to do dinner.
  • With that, when a recipe calls for BBQ sauce, spaghetti sauce, salsa, or beans – it’s coming out of a jar, bottle, or can because it is still real food, the price is still reasonable, and I don’t have time to make every single ingredient from scratch right now.
  • Lunches and Breakfasts might need to be some of the same choices over and over for a while. This will cut down on my need to think so hard, and make it easier for the boys to help themselves.
  • As long as I always have plenty of fresh or frozen fruits and veggies to fill the table, I can relax about the occasional hotdogs or pizza.

Balancing Nourishment, Time, and Cost When Grocery Shopping

What have you found helps you most when trying to find balance in saving money, eating well, and saving time in the kitchen?

Freebies for you!

Did you get these yet? Here are two free ebooklets Top 10 Money Saving Recipes and 30 Real Food Money Saving Tips!

Join our Heavenly Homemakers Savings Club, and we’ll send it to you for FREE! (Joining means we’ll also keep you informed of all the latest money saving groceries and homemaking items we come across. A win-win! It costs nothing to be a member.)

Top 10 Money Saving Recipes

Sign up to join our Heavenly Homemakers Savings Club here.

Better Than Costco? I Think So. Get $15 Off Boxed!

************UPDATE************

Unfortunately, my good feelings toward Boxed lasted about one day. Their website promised that you would get $15 when you signed up through my referral link. However, only five of you were allowed to use that code, even though there is no place on their site that says there is a 5 referral limit.

This turned into a big hassle. I emailed and emailed and emailed them. Some of you emailed them. I asked them to please make this right for you. They did not respond.

I am so very sorry, readers. I know you trust me to only share great options. I thought this was one but I no longer feel that way. They didn’t follow through on what their site promised. I no longer recommend that we support this company.

Thank you all for your patience as we tried to get this figured out. You are all dear to me.

************UPDATE************

Last night I came across Boxed – ever heard of it?

boxed

Boxed bragged that it was “better than Costco.” Seeing as the nearest Costco is about 100 miles from me, I clicked over to check it out.

If I had a Costco in my back yard, I’m sure I would love it. But I don’t, and even so, I really love the convenience of shopping online at home. Anything that is a good price and delivered (for free) to my porch? That’s pretty hard to beat.

So…Boxed.

  • There’s no membership fee.
  • Your first order ships free (plus you get $15 if you click through my referral link). Shipping on subsequent orders are $5.99 or FREE with an order of $49 or more.
  • Orders ship within 1 business day.
  • They carry items from grocery to office to babies to household cleaners – all at great prices!

I did some checking before I jumped on board, and certainly before I shared this with you. I found almost all of the prices to be very, very good – less than I pay locally. Free shipping makes shopping with Boxed more than worth it because it saves time and gas money.

There are plenty of processed foods to avoid, but quite a few healthy choices too. And don’t forget to look beyond the food. My favorite grab in my first order was batteries!! They were a very good price and they’ll get dropped on my porch. I got some Mrs. Meyers soaps and some La Croix Sparkling Water. Their office supply choices was impressive.

I decided that Boxed is definitely worth being a part of (since there’s no membership fee!) and worth telling you about. I’ll be using them from now on to save money on food and other items I don’t want to mess with picking up at the store!

Then get your own referral link to share with your friends and family! They’ll get $15, you’ll get $15! (Boxed did not follow through on this beyond 5 referrals. Please be aware of this if you do choose to refer friends.)

What do you think? Had you heard of Boxed before?

My Grocery Store Dilemma and Our New Pet (Yes. Really.)

I’m not sure how you think about grocery shopping but here are the three main things I focus on:

  1. Price
  2. Nutrition
  3. Time

But not in that order.

Except for sometimes.

See, all of those are important to me when planning a menu and grocery shopping. We eat a ton of food at our house now, so cost is definitely a biggie to watch so that I can put the best possible food on the table without going over our already enormous grocery budget.

But I don’t want to compromise on nourishment just for the sake of keeping the cost down. And then there’s the time factor. Time to prepare the food and time to shop for the food. I find my schedule is so full now that I don’t have as much time as I used to for comparing prices, clipping coupons, price-matching, etc. I still do all of these as much as I can, but it sure does take time!

You know what else? I’m finding that price-matching has almost ruined me for buying produce full price. So guess what has started happening? Sometimes I don’t buy enough produce. Me. The one who preaches to everyone about eating lots of fruits and veggies eighteen times a day.

All of this blabbing to say – yesterday when I was grocery shopping, my “eat nourishing foods” won out over my “keep the cost low” arguments in my head. There are actual conversations going on in spite of me up there in my head. They go on and on (“whoa that’s expensive” vs. “dude, you need broccoli”); meanwhile I’m walking up and down the grocery store aisles thinking of our Christmas menu and making a mental note to reply to an urgent email when I get home and also I am wondering if I can make it home or if I should pee at the store before I leave.

No one. No one wants to be inside my head.

Seeing as my “eat nourishing foods” voice won out over my “keep the cost low” voice, today I decided to price-match the few produce items that were a great deal, and then buy a bunch more fruits and vegetables whether they were on sale or not. I did draw the line at strawberries. They were $5/pound and looked like they would taste like red Styrofoam. No thanks.

groceries12-14

I got four bags of Halo’s for a super low price match (plus I had a coupon!). I got three pineapple for just $1.29 each because of price-matching. That’s where my savings ended. I’m over it though. My countertop looked so happy with all the fresh produce that my “eat nourishing foods” voice gave my “keep the cost low” voice a haughty little smack down. My “keep the cost low” voice gave a little shrug, but not before reminding the “eat nourishing foods” voice that ultimately she would be keeping our doctor bills lower so she wasn’t the ultimate loser here, thankyouverymuch.

So now would you like to hear about our new pet? (I know. It’s hard to keep up here. Voices in my head, produce on my counter, goldfish in my living room. Welcome to my world.)

I did not ask for a fish. Of course, I didn’t ask for a cat either. I never wanted any pets. But now there’s Wiggams, the cat, who has won us over with her catness – so much so that sometimes we take play-by-play pictures of her catly activities. For instance:

Malachi went out to feed her one morning, but dropped the bag. (I write fascinating stories to keep you on the edge of your seat.)

wiggams food1
Wiggams considered that perhaps she didn’t need food scooped into a dish this time.

wiggams food2

Indeed. Step back everyone. She’d take it from here.

wiggams food3

Ah Wiggams. Just wipe your mouth when you’re finished.

So now. About the fish. It happened like this:

Last Thursday, Matt needed to go to basketball practice with Justus and Elias. I had Bunco with the ladies. This left Malachi, our 10-year old, without plans and all alone for several hours. I texted Asa (our college-age son) to see if perhaps Malachi could hang out with him on campus for the night. Asa said sure, except that he had a Christmas party to attend. No problem. Malachi would just go with him to the party. As a matter of fact, it was decided that Malachi would be Asa’s white elephant gift.

Therefore, while other college students were wrapping up odds and ends of candy and ugly sweaters for a gift exchange, Asa put a bow on the head of his 10-year old brother. Malachi was thrilled.

malachi white elephant

He was, as expected, a huge hit at the party! Everyone loved him and fought over him like all nice college students do during a gift exchange. Later that night, I got home from Bunco and let Asa know that I was available whenever the party was over. An hour later, he texted back that Brittany would be running Malachi home. I eagerly welcomed them when they arrived. But wait. What was this?

Brittany breezed into the house with Malachi and sat a small fish tank on my kitchen counter. “Merry Christmas!” said she. Um. Thank you?

finnley

Well, my friends. Meet Finley. (name brilliantly chosen by Justus)

Apparently Asa wasn’t the only college kid to take a living gift to the white elephant party. White elephant; gold fish. It all makes sense I guess.

So now we have a cat…and a fish. (But not in the same location.) This pet accumulation thing has got to stop.

We began our fish care adventure by putting too much food in his tank and completely polluting his water. I take all the blame. I am, after all, used to feeding teenagers in bulk quantities. We quickly learned how to most efficiently change water in a fish tank without killing a fish. Later that day, Malachi eagerly reported that “Finnley is pooping!!” So we all got to watch. Whatever did we do with our time before we started having pets?

Have any fish? Have any cats? How many voices do you hear in your head while grocery shopping (cost low! save time! eat well!)? 

Always Go to the Store When You’re Hungry

shopping cart 2

Yep, it’s just like Grandma used to say:

  • Be sure to go outside with wet hair on a cold day.
  • If you can’t say something nice, be sure to say it really loudly.  While sticking out your tongue.
  • Sit very close to the TV. It’s good for your eyes.
  • Always go to the store when you’re hungry.

Best advice ever, right? Good ol’ Grandma. How’d she get so smart?

Obviously, I’m a little mixed up on what I remember hearing from Grandma. Cold day…stick out tongue… I think what she actually said was that when I go outside on a cold day, I should always stick out my tongue to lick the fence post. Yes, that was it.

Before I get any more carried away, let’s set the record straight:  Don’t go outside on a cold day with wet hair or stick out your tongue (fence post or not). Never say unkind words or sit close to the TV. There, now you can’t sue me if your kid reads this and says, “That Heavenly Homemaker Lady said I should.”

But going to the store when you’re hungry? Now that’s a different story. Grandma never gave me advice about this, but I’ve heard it from plenty:  “Don’t go to the store when you’re hungry. You’ll come out with a cart full of junk food you don’t need.”

I beg to differ.  Just hear me out.

Always Go to the Store Hungry

Last week, I went to the store before dinner. I wasn’t “passing out hungry” because I do know my limits and realize that the grocery store manager would appreciate it if I don’t faint beside the display of plums. I had snacked, and I was just on the verge of “Mmm, food is starting to sound pretty good right about now.”  You know that feeling?

That is when you should go to the store – to the produce section. For the love of Doritos and Dolly Madison, do not go to the cookie aisle, the bakery, the bread aisle, or the potato chip aisle when you’re hungry. But I dare you: Go to the produce section of the store when you’re hungry.

The pineapple, the asparagus, the cucumbers, the mixed greens, the apples, the pears, the fruit you’ve never heard of before much less tasted – it will all look fantastic to you! You will begin to crave it right then and there. You will imagine crisp slices of cucumber, dipped in fresh ranch dressing, and you will think that you might die if you don’t have some this very night. You will long for vegetables roasting in the oven. You will have to fight the urge to bite into a Honey Crisp apple right there on the spot, but for goodness sake, don’t do it because we all know Grandma told us we always have to pay for food before we eat it and that is the absolute truth.

Don’t cross your eyes. They might stay that way forever. But do go fill your cart with fruits and vegetables when you’re hungry. Buy them. Don’t complain about the price. They are cheaper than junk and our bodies crave nourishment- so don’t even get me started. Bring fruits and vegetables home by the bag full, then start crunching. Eat your fill. Enjoy the goodness.

Then wait 30 minutes before you go swimming. Grandma knows best.

Forget Everything I’ve Ever Said About My Low Grocery Budget

How to Handle an Increasing Grocery Budget

Well, please don’t forget everything – just the parts I shared a few years ago about how I can feed my family of six a whole foods diet for less than $500 each month.

See, I thought my kids ate a lot of food at that time (2011)…because they did. They’ve always been very active and have had hearty appetites.  But now? Well, we can polish off 2 pounds of meat, 2 pounds of strawberries, 1 pound of frozen vegetables, 5 pounds of potatoes, and a half gallon of milk – in one meal. An hour later they’ll need (and I do mean need, not want) more food, so we’ll eat a bowl of apples, four bowls of popcorn, and a hunk of cheese.

The boys who used to look like this:

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Now look like this:

GG_8

The little one who loved dressing up in costumes and climbing on my bulk groceries…

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Can now eat his weight in bulk groceries. And he’s the youngest one of the bunch. You should see his 6’3″ brother eat. Those 50 pound bags just don’t stretch as far as they used to.

The food portions we put on our plates at meal time still look like this:

fruits and veggies 11

But that’s just a warm-up. An appetizer. A teaser plate. They polish that off and go back to heap more onto their plates, twice, or maybe three times – if there’s anything left. I typically have to act quickly if I want seconds (or firsts as is the case at times).

I love this. Feeding people is fun for me, watching my family eat great food is a joy, and observing healthy appetites does my heart good. Bring on the food, bring on the appetites, bring on the healthy eating!

But it does come with a price tag – an ever growing price tag that sometimes shocks me, especially when see the shopping cart, the bulk co-op purchases, the cases of food delivered to my door – and I know how long the food will (won’t) last.

grocery cart

This is what my grocery cart usually looks like (weekly) – filled with fruits and veggies to go with the farm fresh meat, eggs, and milk – plus all of our bulk food purchases.

Do I really mean for you to forget everything I’ve ever said about how to keep a low grocery budget while still feeding your family a whole food diet? No way. All of my tips and tricks still hold true. Our grocery budget would be increasing whether we were eating whole foods or not. I don’t even want to think about how much I would be spending every month if we were eating large amounts of processed food.  I believe eating healthy whole foods is what is keeping our food budget as low as it is right now.  Therefore, we’ll continue to:

Our grocery budget increases, but only because we’re eating more food, and there’s not much I can do (or want to do) to change that. If they are hungry, let them eat.  Just save some for me, boys!

To accommodate the changes in our grocery budget, we’ve had to shuffle some numbers around in our overall budget. Eating is not an option.  The money has to come from somewhere, right? So where has it come from?

Well, as we’ve taken a look at all the line items in our budget, it can look at first glance as if there is no flexibility. After all, we try not to spend money on anything we don’t feel is necessary, so what can we possibly cut out? Nothing, really. And while I’m on the subject, can I tell you how nice it is to have a clearly itemized household budget so that we can put a name on every dollar we earn and spend? There is so much comfort in this, even if there are sometimes question marks about how to adjust those numbers.

What has worked for our family is this:  Our boys are now able to earn money by doing various jobs such as mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow, babysitting, and other miscellaneous jobs people call on them for. Our two oldest boys are licensed soccer officials, which means that in the spring and fall they are called to the soccer fields 4-5 days/evenings each week to referee games. They are good at what they do, they enjoy the work, they earn nice paychecks, and they are good savers. So guess what? In an effort to both help our household budget and teach them how to manage money, our boys have become more responsible for purchasing many of the items they need.

As a result, we’ve been able to shift some money from our clothing budget over to our grocery budget. We let the boys pay for their own outings with friends, church youth functions, part of church camp costs, etc. Aha! It’s a win-win. The boys get to continue eating (you’re welcome, children), plus they learn about budgeting for themselves.

I’d love to hear how you manage your grocery budget, how you cut food costs, and how you teach your kids about managing money.

Also, I want to encourage you to take advantage of what BudgetFocus offers in the area of setting us a specific (but simple!) household budget. I love this resource!   Through Mother’s Day, they knocked down the price of an annual plan to just $19.95 – a super deal!

Now let’s talk grocery budgets. How are you holding up with growing appetites at your house?

Buying in Bulk – Do You Have the Space?

Before I can talk about the foods I like having on hand and the foods I purchase or preserve in large quantities, I think it’s best to let you know a little bit more about our family’s storage capabilities. God has blessed us with a large house that has a large storage room. We have (through the years) invested in not one, but three large freezers. We have a large pantry and a large kitchen and after you’ve typed the word large this many times in the same paragraph, it begins to sound funny in your head. Large. Large. Is it just me, or does the word large sound funny now? (It’s largely possible that it’s just me.)

I say all of that (in large part) to let you know that I’ll be sharing what works for our family – then you can take that information and do whatever will work for yours. Even if your house and storage abilities aren’t as large as mine, you still may be able to swipe some of my ideas (or learn something from all the brilliant minds who leave comments and share what works for them!). But make adaptions based on what God has blessed you with. If you have a small home with minimal storage, you’ll have to get more creative. For instance, you could sell your couch and build your own living room furniture from your bulk purchases.  Fifty pound bags of wheat and oats would make very cushy chairs. Five gallon buckets full of rice and beans could serve as your end tables and you could use jars of coconut oil and canned peaches as book ends. Bags of pasta would be fine accents on your “wheat and oat couches” – you know, like pillows? Adorable

Or not.

Don’t ever ask me to come help you decorate your home. It’s clearly not my strong suit. Moving on…

Why do we have three large freezers? Well, we’ve found that it’s an investment that has saved us hundreds of dollars each year. We bought them used, and if you recall, they are as ugly as can be – one of the reasons we got them for such a low price. Having them has enabled us to purchase high quality meat in bulk quantities. Even more exciting, when we’ve been blessed to get our hands on free strawberries or peaches – when our garden has been producing bumper crops of green beans – when we are able to get a great deal on a year’s supply of corn to put up for the winter – we’ve got the freezer space to handle the quantity. By the end of summer, our freezers are crammed full of produce, much of which we’ve grown ourselves or purchased for a very reasonable price from local farmers and gardeners.  

So, what if you don’t have large freezers or a large pantry or storage space? I was kidding earlier (mostly) about building furniture with your bags of oats, but there really are some great and creative ways for you to make good use of the space you do have. Take a look at how beautifully Jodi has decorated her home with her canned produce

I think this is gorgeous:

A colorful close-up:

Think about the usable areas of your home. Can you slide some food containers under your beds? Are there some closet floors that could house some buckets of dry goods? Can you think of a cute way to stack a few containers in a corner of your kitchen? Any chance you have an open wall somewhere that you could purchase an inexpensive shelf that you can decorate with food like Jodi did?

While you may not have the space to store 500 pounds of wheat (our year’s supply!) like I can, I bet you do have a few (or more) bulk storage possibilities in your home.

I’d love for you all to share your tricks and strategies for food storage in your homes. Share what type of home you live in and how you make good uses of your storage spaces.

And really, can’t you just picture the coconut oil jar book ends?  Adorable.

My Exciting Grocery Posts for the Week, Part 1

I made a big mistake this month in the grocery shopping arena. I completely missed my April Azure Standard Food Co-op ordering date, which means that I was unable to order groceries for my family and I can’t order again until May so in the meantime my family will have nothing at all to eat for four entire weeks!!!!

Okay, not really.  Not even close.  I did have to talk myself down from a panic once I realized I’d missed ordering, though. I have ordered from Azure Standard every single month for the past four or five years.   My menus revolve around what I’m able to order and I very much rely on them for fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables.

But as you may recall, I always order in bulk, keeping a nice supply of food on hand at any given time. Plus, we still have quite a bit of preserved garden produce we canned or froze last summer/fall. Our freezers still have plenty of meat. So, just because I made a big goof-up this month, are we gonna starve? No.  I would imagine that even if I forgot to order from Azure for several months in a row, we’d still have plenty to eat (although we might have to get very creative with our tomato sauce and flax seeds after a while). 

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I also still have a lot of fruit leather.
So we’d have tomato sauce, flax seeds and fruit leather
:)

As I began to look around at all the food I have stored to get us through until our next Azure Standard order, I realized two things:

  1. We really have a lot of food.
  2. My storage room is a complete and total scary mess.

And so…this week I have decided to clean and reorganize our storage room and my pantry and all my food storage places, because enough is enough already with all the disorganized messes, and because without my normal Azure Standard grocery order this month, I’m going to have to be a little more creative.

I take this as a challenge to myself.  I don’t get to rely on having absolutely everything in stock like I usually have. I didn’t get to order the yeast I needed or the frozen broccoli I like to get or the white cheddar cheese I am almost out of.

And yes, I could go get some of this stuff at the store (because wow, we do have grocery stores around here), but how about I just work on using the abundance of food that we have been blessed with and what I have in storage?

Therefore, I hereby declare that I am going to get a shovel and dig out my storage room. Then I will reorganize it and make it nice and workable again.

What you need to know is that I hardly let ANYBODY into my storage room. It’s completely embarassing and a total disaster, and I’m not one bit proud of that room.

But if you scream loud enough, and say some really nice things about how you’ll still like me even after you see that my storage room looks 200 times worse that a boy’s dorm room…I may get over myself and take a picture to show you.

And then I’ll update you with my progress throughout the week and show you before and after pictures, as well as share with you some of the tasty things we’re eating with our stored food.

So, whatdoyasay? You wanna see the room? (Please say no.)

Whole Foods Couponing…and a Thank You!

As you may remember, I used to be a Coupon Queen. I was the one who would be in front of you in the check out line with 47 coupons and a cart full of groceries. After the cashier spent ten minutes subtracting out my coupons, my receipt total would be somewhere in the $24 range for a cart full of food.

If indeed we can call it food. I wasn’t exactly using coupons to get fruits and vegetables, you know?  But shucks…most of it was free! Free poptarts are great, right?

Learn to make healthier, homemade poptarts if you need a poptart fix!

Well, as you know, we’ve changed our ways a little bit entirely and now I shop completely differently. (You can read this post to learn how I grocery shop. And you can read this entire series to learn about our Healthy Eating Journey.)  I now recognize that spending money on good, whole foods is a perfect investment in our overall health.

But I still love finding great deals on great groceries!

This is where the “Thank You!” part of this post comes in. Remember how I mentioned that if you sign up for Shop it to Me…I could earn free gift cards?  Well…several of you signed up, which means that I earned several free gift cards. I appreciate it so much!  There were several gift card choices…but of course…I chose the cards for Whole Foods!! Who can pass up free groceries at Whole Foods??!

Matt and I were able to hit a Whole Foods store while we were away for the weekend at the Weekend to Remember conference. (Yes, part of our romantic weekend was spent shopping for asparagus. You know your relationship is solid when you can lovingly gaze at organic produce together.)

Not only did I have a few Shop it to Me Whole Foods cards to use…I had been doing my homework and had put together some coupons to use during our outing. It brought back memories and I have to admit that I felt quite giddy as I actually put coupons into an envelope again. I really haven’t done that (to this extent) for a long time. (Yeah I know…I’m a geek.)

The kids were pretty happy to see us when we got home…especially when they saw we had brought home cereal and yogurt!! (Hey guys…didn’t you even miss us just a little bit?)

We stocked up on chicken wings and boneless, skinless chicken breasts because I just don’t have a great source for those nearby. We found great deals on lettuce, asparagus, apples, pears and zucchini…Larabars, yogurt, butter and cheese.

And then, because they were on sale, because I had coupons and because they are gluten free…we splurged on a few items I lovingly call “organic junk food” that we’ll save for a rainy day. Cereal and chips…woohoo! Malachi sure does look disappointed with our loot, huh? :)

I had also been sent a Brat Hans Sausages coupon so that I could try them for free! We cashed in on that and WOW, you should have seen the boys when they found those in the bag! I thought they were going to eat me when they saw them! They must feel they have a brat deficiency or something?

So thank you to all who signed up for Shop it to Me …you made our Whole Foods shopping trip very fun!! If you haven’t signed up for Shop it to Me , you certainly can and it wouldn’t hurt my feelings even a little bit. :)  NOBODY  has to spend any money unless you want to – that’s the beauty of it!!! AND, more importantly, after you sign up, you can tell YOUR friends and family about Shop it to Me  so that YOU can receive free gift cards!!!

I did want to note:  I normally do the majority of this type of shopping through Azure Standard…Whole Foods is two hours away and I’m blessed to have an Azure Standard drop point right here in my town!! Azure is much less expensive and has everything I need. This Whole Foods trip was a fun splurge, gave me a “grocery store shopping fix” and well…I had gift cards. And coupons. And needed to get Brats, apparently. :)

Do you shop at Whole Foods? Do you have one close to you, or do you have to drive pretty far like I do? What do you like to get at Whole Foods?

How I Grocery Shop

Remember how I told you about how I grocery shop when I shared our 2011 Grocery Budget? I don’t usually buy much at grocery stores; I buy in bulk from co-ops; I purchase from local farmers. Some months I hardly buy anything, some months I buy a lot. This month, February, would be an example of me buying a LOT…and you get to witness it here today! Everything just sort of hit all at once this month, but that’s okay. There is money in our grocery budget. I just wait to spend it until I need it!

Here are a few pictures and some details about my grocery purchases this month. Some of this will last us one month. Some of this will last six months. Some of this will last for a year. Some of this will be gone before you read this post. ;) 

Here is our Azure Standard food co-op order for this month:

This month’s order was a pricey one because I ordered a case of butter. See that box up there with two pounds of butter on top? There are 28 more pounds in that box. It’s a hefty investment all at once, but we go through a lot of butter and it’s nice just to have it in the freezer for when we need it. I can avoid going to the store as often this way, plus, this butter is much higher quality!

What else did I buy from Azure Standard? Well…10 pounds of oranges, three packages of frozen broccoli, 2 big bags of frozen peas, five pounds of peanuts (to make peanut butter!), a case of raw white cheddar cheese, a bottle of red wine vinegar, 10 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, 20 pounds of Fuji apples, a little bag of avocados, 25 pounds of whole corn (to grind into cornmeal), 6 half-gallon jars for milk and other food storage…and three jars of Hain Safflower Mayo. Yep, that would tell you that I haven’t attempted the Homemade Mayonnaise part of the Heavenly Homemakers Recipe Challenge yet. Hey, a girl can’t do everything at once. :)

My co-op order total (with delivery fee included) was $254.00…quite a bit more than I normally spend on an Azure Standard order.  It was the butter.  The cost of butter is rising I’ve noticed. My case of 30 pounds was $108. Ouch.  And yet, I’m paying for high quality butter, and this will last us a while. By “a while”, I mean that I really have no idea how long it will last us. Three months maybe? Maybe not that long. Depends on how much baking I’ll need to do.

Beyond our large Azure Standard order, we also got our year’s supply of wheat last week. Remember how last year I ordered 500 pounds of wheat? It has lasted 12 months and I still have some left over, so this time I held back and only ordered 300 pounds. :)  Total cost for my year’s supply of wheat which will make all of our bread, tortillas, muffins, quick breads, cookies, brownies, cakes, pie crusts, pancakes, waffles, and everything else that needs flour: $144.00. That’s only $12/month for ALL of our high quality, organic, whole grain flour!! Have I proven to you yet that investing in a grain mill WILL save you money? :)

In addition to all of this, I was almost out of chickens and hamburger meat, so I ordered 60 pounds of ground beef and 6 whole chickens from the local farmers we love and trust. That was a hefty (yet reasonable) price tag too:  $362.00. This meat will last us for a few months, depending on the amount of company we feed and how many times I’m in the mood for sloppy joes. :)

 

If you did the math on that, you would have found that I have spent $760 on bulk groceries (so far) this month. This isn’t including what we’ve spent on milk and eggs, or what we will spend on bananas and a few other little things that we do get at the grocery store. 

Sound like a lot?! :)  Maybe. But this is how grocery shopping and spending works for us. We buy food when we need it, we don’t buy food when we don’t. We are blessed to have three freezers and plenty of pantry storage for bulk purchases. I am amazed at how much money we save by buying our food this way. 

And can I tell you my little secret? I love having a wide variety of all of our staples on hand at all times. Rarely am I out of any basic ingredient, which means that at just about any time, I can cook up any recipe I have a hankering to cook up. This makes meal planning so much easier for me and helps me run my kitchen so much more efficiently.

So, how do YOU buy groceries? Share what works well for you!

Do You NEED to Cut the Grocery Budget?

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Thank you all for adding suggestions and sharing your various circumstances in my last Real Food Grocery Budget post, Very Limited Income for Real Food Purchases. I think it’s great that we’re all helping each other think of new ideas for saving money on good food.

What I’d like to address now is that while I think it’s great to learn ways to cut down on food costs when you’re going through tough financial situations, I also feel like it is very important to make sure our families are getting the nutrition they need. Again, we are investing in our bodies when we spend money to eat whole, real food. Some foods we can cut back on, but there are some things we really, really need to be eating so that we can stay healthy.

That’s why I had such a hard time sharing what I’d cut back on or cut out of our diets. I have a hard time recommending that many people NEED to cut down their grocery budget. If you’re spending money on processed foods or splurging all the time on specialty items and buying food that isn’t in season or buying stuff to eat that will simply fill a hole but not offer any nourishment…then we need to talk about ways for you to cut your grocery budget.

But if you have $X amount in your grocery budget and you’re carefully spending that amount on real, whole foods that are nourishing your family…I think you should keep doing what you’re doing. Sure, let’s keep trying to find fair prices and good deals and shop wisely so as to be good stewards of what God has given us to take care of our families. But if you have the money for plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables or any of the high quality healthy foods you feel convicted about eating…buy them for your family. Don’t cut out necessary nutrition just so that you can say that you’ve lowered your grocery bill.

In addition – and I’m guessing that I probably don’t really need to be saying this to any of you but I’m going to say it anyway – before you talk about needing to cut your Real Foods Grocery Budget, please make sure you’ve cut every other un-necessary item out of your budget first. My family has always done without cable TV and expensive cell phone plans and frequent eating out and going to movies and expensive clothing and all kinds of other things I can’t think of because we don’t spend money (or rarely spend money) on them so I probably don’t know what I’m missing.  I’m NOT saying that you shouldn’t ever have or do these things. If you have cable TV, I’m fine with that and will probably even enjoy watching the Food Network with you when I come for a visit. I’m just saying that you really shouldn’t complain about not being able to “afford” real, whole food…and then turn around and fill your grocery cart with frozen pizza, soda, twinkies and chips, 24 new pairs of high heeled shoes and a big screen TV for your bathroom.  Kapeesh?

My point ultimately is that we all need to be as careful as possible with how we spend our money…but I think that spending money on good, whole food for our families is wise and even necessary. It’s an investment in our health for today and for years down the road. Good food costs money…but I think we need to caution ourselves against feeling like, “ugh, healthy food is SOOOOO expensive.”  Is it…really? I don’t look at it that way anymore. I look at healthy food as…healthy. And the price that comes with it?

Well…I’d rather not pay the price of eating cheap, empty food. To me…that is what is costly.
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Off and on all week I’ve said that I would share about some creative ways our family saves, earns and comes up with great sources for food. I’ve sprinkled some of that information throughout these posts, but really and truly I have a whole post devoted to sharing ways to stretch and grow your grocery budget. Other topics keep popping up this week as I’ve written this series, but I promise (probably, mostly for sure, I think) that I’ll post tomorrow about stretching the budget. And sometime soon…I’ll even post about stretching a chicken.
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What are your thoughts about the “cost” of nutrition-void food?