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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What's in Your Wallet?



The current state of the economy is playing havoc with American family financing and it promises to get worse. Very little of our budget is within our direct control. We can shop around for the best mortgage or a smaller domicile for a cheaper rent; we can turn off unnecessary lights, run full dish and clothes washers and air dry both, but the only real control we have is over what we spend on those day to day items we purchase at the grocery store. A new flat screen television can wait, but food on the table cannot. So what do we do to stretch those discretionary dollars?

My husband and I each came into our marriage with methods of stretching food dollars learned from experience—he as one of seven sons of two teachers and I as a mostly single mother. I am familiar with the best brands and methods of mixing powered milk; he with watering down orange juice. The latter I am totally opposed to. Watered down orange juice is worse than powered milk in my opinion. When the juice is gone, it’s just gone. Drink water.

There’s no getting around the fact that powered milk doesn’t taste like fresh. I use it for cooking, but in a pinch have mixed it with fresh to stretch it further in much the same way my mother-in-law watered the orange juice. Milkman brand is probably the best, but more costly than Carnation and others. I have found that mixing it in the blender nets the best result, but the milk will need a night to settle out the bubbles created in the process.

Cutting back on prepared and processed foods is one of the best ways to save money and increase health. It takes longer to make things from scratch, but it tastes better and keeps dollars in your wallet. I’ve written more than once about my love for our crockpot. Throwing things into it in the morning guarantees an easy dinner that evening and vice versa.

My daughter-in-law and I got into a conversation regarding grocery shopping recently. With the price of gas soaring, it is no longer feasible to hop from store to store shopping the sales as my mother-in-law did raising her family in the ‘50s & ‘60s. Now those of us on the Gig & Key Peninsulas can add an extra dollar to our bridge toll (an extra $52 per month for our family) and current $4 gas (headed to $5 by the end of summer according to the TNT)making a trip to Cash & Carry or Grocery Outlet a questionable bargain. Better to stay near to home and buy in bulk whenever something is on sale. Personally, I still believe that shopping a good sale at a regular grocery store is frequently a better deal than Costco, but it takes the planning of a military campaign and no spur of the moment meal planning.

Then there is the whole coupon debate. Many dyed-in-the-wool bargain shoppers claim that manufacturers’ coupons are not a bargain, that buying store or sale brands in bulk is best. I don’t save as many coupons as I did back in the 1980s, but for items used regularly I will go through the Sunday papers clipping away and keep an envelope of them in my purse. I use them when the item is also on sale.

What are you doing to cut costs? Where do you like to shop? Overall I prefer Fred Meyer, but I’ve seen even their prices inching upward.

14 comments:

Kim Thompson said...

I am lucky because I have Fred Meyer, Safeway, Albertson's and Trader Joes all within a short drive of my home (I could walk there if necessary). My faves? Fred Meyer for sure. Love Fred's. Then Trader Joes. I eat vegetarian mostly and they have lots of products to meet my needs at great prices. One little thing I am trying to do is using my cloth bags. Not only is it environmentally friendly, stores (like Fred's and Trader Joes) give you discounts off your bill. It's not a lot, but you know what? It still counts!

The other thing I am doing is planning errands in such a way that I am not running all over town. This has worked very well.

Lastly, cook enough for leftovers to eat or freeze. That's the best--saves lots of time as well as dollars!

Stephanie Frieze said...

Well, said, Kim. We love Trader Joe's for certain things and it's on my son's way home from work so we can get him to stop. Their sales on wine are a steal and while we are not great drinkers I like a glass of red wine in the evening if I can manage it. Believe it or not, even their $3 wine is good.

Albertson's has a new line of organic products at a good price. They are in the other direction from work for me and thus not on my radar, but I am always happy to find new products.

Lorraine Hart said...

My hubby is the shopper...doing it on his way home from work...or on a Saturday when he's out running other errands too.

One of our difficulties is the different dietary needs of the three of us. I believe we need a sitdown planning session to reconfigure our stocking of staples.

There was talk of a food co-op coming to Tacoma for a while there...anybody know what happened to that idea?

I'm still working on becoming a "breatharian"...finding it just as annoying to spend the time and money refueling me, as it is to refuel my car.

Have you also noticed how, as the price of gas is going up, the quality of it is going down, making our tanks empty faster?

I guess we'll be taking our rebate cheques to the grocery store...and this helps boost the economy how?

Stephanie Frieze said...

At the rate gas is going up, the so called stimulus checks will be good for about a tank of gas. It would be nice if we could get a co-op going on this side of the bridge. I belonged to one in the '70s. It was just some families that got together and sent someone to warehouses in Seattle to pick-up bulk items. I realize that in many ways Costco fulfills that need, but they are not always the cheapest game in town.

Kim Thompson said...

I don't think Costco is necessarily a good deal all of the time. For food items, I tend to have more success at Fred Meyer.

As far as a food co-op goes, wasn't there an article, just recently, here in the TNT, about co-op talks starting up again?

When I lived in Seattle, I joined PCC. I used the Roosevelt store and the Greenlake store. It was just great. Come to think of it, I rode my bike with plastic milk crates attached to it to carry my groceries back home. Talk about green living!

Stephanie Frieze said...

That certainly was green living, Kim! I agree that if you shop the sales at Fred Meyer you can do better than Costco, but for bulk things they're good.

I heard on the radio news this morning that one of the indicators that we're in trouble is that sales of Spam are up. The segment ended with the Monty Phython song of the same name.

M. Sugimura said...

I have found on occasion that the price of some produce items at Asian stores (up here it's Korean owned businesses) are often very good.

We're also looking more into ethnic and vegetarian items featuring soy products in it's many forms - tofu, edamame, natto (fermented) and deep fried & seasoned varieties which are part of the traditional diet in several Asian countries and available in just as many varieties.

Stephanie Frieze said...

Good idea, Mizu. Sometime when I'm over in the part of Tacoma where there are several Asian stores I'll stop by one. This weekend I hope to make the Proctor Farmer's Market before the bridge toll goes up!

Kim Thompson said...

Oh, Spam sales are up? The Hawaiians love Spam. In fact, at the Hawaiian McDonald's, you can get a breakfast of Spam, rice, and eggs. I am totally serious!

Check this out--by my home, REGULAR gas was $4.14!!!! Crud! Oh, my poor Big Islanders! I worry about Hawaii. On the Big Island, lots of folks have to commute for work (from Hilo to Kona or to Waikoloa). My hearts go out to them. Gas in Hawaii? I am sure it's at $5 or higher.

Ick.

M. Sugimura said...

Kim -

Your mention of Spam breakfasts in Hawaii caught my eye. On those times we've vacationed there, we've become quite fond of making our own picnic lunches to save travel dollars and Spam musubi's (or spam sushi) have become a tradition. We also put it in ramen - the fresh kind with less salt.

goddesslunacy said...

Fred Meyer can never ring up prices correctly. I stopped shopping there because I had so many items ring up more expensive than they were on the tag. It happened at nearly every visit.

I like Top Foods, their produce prices are cheaper and great quality and they get a lot of products locally. They give me 5 cents off for each reusable bag I bring. I have 2 TJs red ones, with the pretty hibiscus.

I will go to Safeway for better deals on non-perishables or meat sales. And I always use coupons to buy the cheapest item. If I find something cheaper without a coupon, I will buy it.

I am too, waiting for that Tacoma Food co-op. I filled out a survey a few months ago that pertained to a Tacoma Food co-op. So, I hope something is in the works.

goddesslunacy said...

Fred Meyer can never ring up prices correctly. I stopped shopping there because I had so many items ring up more expensive than they were on the tag. It happened at nearly every visit.

I like Top Foods, their produce prices are cheaper and great quality and they get a lot of products locally. They give me 5 cents off for each reusable bag I bring. I have 2 TJs red ones, with the pretty hibiscus.

I will go to Safeway for better deals on non-perishables or meat sales. And I always use coupons to buy the cheapest item. If I find something cheaper without a coupon, I will buy it.

I am too, waiting for that Tacoma Food co-op. I filled out a survey a few months ago that pertained to a Tacoma Food co-op. So, I hope something is in the works.

goddesslunacy said...

oops not sure how i posted twice...sorry bout that, I don't like this new format you guys switched to. Makes it harder to blog.

Stephanie Frieze said...

Some of us are not as thrilled as we might be with the new site, but we had no say in the matter. In some ways it's easier, but us old dogs have difficulty learning new tricks.

Which Fred Meyer did you have difficulty withl, Goddness? I think I have good luck here in Gig Harbor and at the one I take my mother to in Warrenton, OR.

Today I went to the Proctor Farmer's Market, which I'd never been to, and was disappointed that it is so much smaller than Gig Harbor's, but I did do well on some lettuce and apples.