Self-Sufficient Living | Homesteading | Gardening

Self Sufficiency In Twenty Minutes Or Less: Hacking Your Grocery Bill – Get Better Quality For Less

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People give me the dirty eyebrow when I tell them that despite the fact that I shop mostly at Whole Foods we still spend about $100 less per week than the average family our size.

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It only goes up to a family of 4 so I add the individual price of each child which makes $318.15 for a family of six on the moderate cost plan. We spend about $200-225 per week on food from all sources. Sometimes, if I’ve stockpiled well, I might only spend $100 for fresh veggies and cream for our coffee.

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It’s completely true. It’s all in how you do it, though. I wouldn’t classify myself as one of those extreme couponers but I don’t discount a good coupon, either.

So how can you buy real food at a reasonable price without making yourself crazy?

I don’t shop at just one place or one store

I do shop at Whole Foods for about 60% of our grocery needs, but I don’t use them for everything. I can get cheaper organics at Trader Joe’s or Lucky’s Market for some things like canned coconut milk or sour cream.

Then I also shop online deals. If you’re a part of Thrive Market then you’re part of a revolution! Thrive Market is like a Costco-type club where you pay a small amount up front to get really awesome deals. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I save with them. My only beef with them so far is that they don’t have much in the bulk department. But their house brands on things like olive oil, chia seeds, maca powder, and more really makes up for this. Plus being able to shop by value is incredibly helpful! I’ve also never seen a company that listens to their members so closely. I keep telling them that I want to buy in bulk but I must be the only one since it’s the one request they haven’t put into their shop within 2 months.

One of the best parts of Thrive Market is that if you live in a deeply rural area and there aren’t many options for good quality food around you then this can help.

If you click on the link above, btw, I will get a small reward but you’ll also get 15% off of your first order so it’s a win-win. 😉

Buy in bulk

When Whole Foods has a sale it can be a truly AWESOME sale. If it’s something that can be stored like dry goods or freezable foods it can save you major cash down the road. Or if it can be frozen like grass fed ground beef or whole chickens. I’ve found that those two items tend to go on sale every six months for crazy cheap prices so I load up and stock the freezer because it’ll all last until the next time there is a sale. 

BTW, have you seen those Modern Table Meals? The ingredients on some of the mix powders aren’t perfect, I’ll grant you. I’m not a fan of cornstarch. But on the other hand they are non-gmo and most are also gluten and soy-free and the pasta is grain-free. These are my favorite go to emergency meals. You know, when you have to tell your husband to cook or when the meat you thawed out is freezer burned? Those emergencies tend to happen to me at least once a week so instead of racing for the nearest compromise food option in a sea of fast food, I grab one or two bags of these and add some extra veg. They are my life saver and no, I don’t work for the company and they aren’t affiliates. I just love them. 

 

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But at $5-6 per bag they are expensive, especially if you have a large family like we do! So when Whole Foods has a sale I will purchase a couple of cases of these at a time. A case is 6 at my store and I get the sale price plus 10% off which means I got each bag for $2.70 instead of $5.49!

At Whole Foods you can do that with just about anything they have which is why I love them so much.

Some other stores have the case discount as well, you just have to ask. Also, if you see something in their bulk food aisle like oatmeal or rice that you’d like to get a discount on you can buy from them directly and get a discount as well. Just call the store and speak to the grocery manager or butcher if you are looking to buy meat at a case discount. When they have grass fed organic ground beef on sale in the fall and spring you can believe I run in and scoop up a great case discount to stick in my freezer!

Think ahead

Many stores also have bulk bins, even Kroger now has organic rice, beans, oats, and nuts in bulk bins. A lot of people have issues with the cleanliness but that’s okay because if you call the store you can put in an order for an entire bulk sized bag for your family and usually pay less for it. Even better is to call the company direct because you can sometimes get it for even less depending on what it is unless they want to charge shipping, too, in which case it’s best bought from the store.

Twenty pounds of rice sounds like a lot, but your family will use it and it will stay fresh for years if you store it well. Better to be prepared than caught with your pants down in an emergency. You don’t have to be thinking of doom and gloom catastrophe to prepare your family for hard times. Hard times happen to almost everyone. It could be the loss of a job or temporary dip in income. It could be a weather emergency like floods or snow.

What’s still going to be okay to eat in a flood? Well, those pouches of beans, rice, and dehydrated vegetables you put up in mylar bags look like they’ll be just fine! They’ll taste just as good if a family member loses their job or you have neighbors that need a helping hand.

I buy these great mylar bags and oxygen absorbers from the LDS church website. They have some fantastic information here about what foods are good for long term storage. Then you can take those bulk items and repackage into smaller bags that fit your family’s individual needs.

https://www.lds.org/topics/food-storage/longer-term-food-supply?lang=eng

As a side note to that, some of the LDS storehouses are available to the public. I first learned about them because my step-dad was raised Mormon and he used to buy things from there when I was a kid. Their items are usually of the best quality and already sealed to last for years. So if you’re interested in seeing what they have just google the closest one to you and ask if they sell to the public. 

Thrive Life, or Shelf Reliant as they’re also known, is another company that sells products for long term storage that can also be used every day. I purchase freeze dried and dehydrated foods from them just to help me with shortcuts in the kitchen or making my own soup mixes because their products are really pure for a long term storage company. I have bought items from other companies but they usually use garbage like TVP for fillers. While Thrive Life does use that in some products, their labels are very transparent and they’re really friendly to people looking for the best quality foods.

I also purchase from North Bay Trading Company for bulk size dehydrated vegetables and fruit that I want to bag up myself. Again, not working for either of these companies at the moment but I might contact them in the future to see if we can get some cool giveaways. 🙂

The power of the raincheck

Do you know, some people don’t even know what a raincheck is much less how to ask for one?

A raincheck allows you to purchase an item later for the sale price, but the catch is usually that they are out of stock or don’t have sufficient stock for your needs. My needs run to purchasing by the case so I can pile that 10% case discount on top of the sale price. So if I show up on a Sunday afternoon and they are completely out of what I’m looking for I write it down and give the customer service desk my list of items to get a raincheck for. This includes how many is in a case (ask the grocery person to show you), how many cases, and what type or flavor. If you want a case of yogurt and they have that brand but maybe they are out of one flavor you can still get a raincheck. Or if you wanted to purchase a case and they only had 2 or 3 then you can still get a raincheck to buy more later. Keep these and add them to your budget. Sometimes you have to call the grocery manager to order the amount you need if it’s more than 1 case. I usually have 1 case of something on order at any given time. 

If you’re able to combine coupons with your case discount and raincheck so much the better! The hidden bonus of a raincheck is that it makes your budget more flexible in case a sale sneaks up on you and you don’t have the money to get that good deal just yet.

Check what’s on sale and when

Every store has a sales cycle, which is a schedule of when certain items will be on sale. Typically if you see something on a good sale (like those Modern Table Meals I talked about earlier) they’ll be on the same or similar sale again in 3-6 months. If you watch the sales ads you will notice a pattern. Then if you have time and the brain cells to rub together you can keep a list of things you purchase and what time of year they are usually on sale. This helps a lot with budgeting.

Gleaning

If you go to your local farmer’s market you can ask if and when they glean their fields. This age old tradition is basically the farmer turning over the leftovers to whoever wants them. A lot of times they will invite neighbors to come bring in their last harvest and they give a portion of it to them. I’ve traded hens for buckets of berries and eggs for tomatoes in the past as well. Gleaning doesn’t have to be strictly in the traditional sense of the word. It can also be bartering your own goods or effort in exchange for fresh fruits and vegetables. So don’t be afraid to talk to the local farmers and offer help in exchange for a share of the crop or even meat or milk from their animals. Most farmers will jump at the chance to get a helper at no cost to them. Just make sure you can actually help instead of standing in their field counting crows or smashing pumpkins. (I just gave my age away right there…)

So even if you don’t have space for a garden and live in an apartment, you can keep a good sized pantry for not only emergencies but for everyday use. If you have other tips or suggestions that weren’t listed here please drop a line below.

Resources and References:

https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/CostofFoodAug2016.pdf

http://thrv.me/selfsufficient

https://www.lds.org/topics/food-storage/longer-term-food-supply?lang=eng

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