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How To Lower Your Grocery Bill

Everyone knows I’m a big fan of The How-To. Just usually not when I write them, but this topic, this one I can cover. You disagree? You’ve seen my grocery spending? True, True. $750 not withstanding, I’ve got the principles down. How does that go again? Shop loss leaders! Buy Generic! Coupons! Have a list! Comparison Shop! Keep a price book! The Grocery Outlet! Buy in Bulk! Buy Seasonally! Preserve Food! Grow Your Own! I could put that to music and do a little jig. Or maybe write some iambic pentameter. I know it by heart.

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My fridge. With it’s non-minimalist front and un-frugal contents.

Because I do those things. All the time. Don’t believe me? I understand. We’re still talking $750 here. Its a big number for 2 people. Even the times I’ve lowered it by a whopping $100, no one is impressed. Nor should they be. $650, also a very large number. When I ruminate on sacred cows and lowering my overhead, the grocery budget is a glaringly obvious money sinkhole. It is the beacon of overspending in my landscape of frugality. Wow. That felt really Gunslinger-ish.

Apparently, I’m still dancing that jig. Right around the point. That is, I do a lot of ‘the right things’. The things I’m willing to do. I need to acknowledge the things I’m don’t. My holdouts. Which for all the right I’m doing, the party line I’m reciting, those things that keep me at a ridiculously high high water mark. Holdouts that make $650 an accomplishment.

Eat Less Meat. Meat is expensive. Every Amy Dacyczyn lovin’ frugalite worth their rolled change knows meat should be an accompaniment, not the main attraction of any meal. Not how it works in our little corner of carnivore love. Ever since we lost all the weight, meals often look like this: Meat and a side of veggies. Pork Chops and chard. Chicken and Green Beans. Steak and Salad. Leftovers from dinner become tomorrow’s lunch. Steak and cheese wrap. Chicken Salad. Meat-centric. All of it. And good for us. We are normal BMI, low cholesterol having, active adults. Who happen to require a shit load of protein to keep our blood sugar in the black. I make concessions. We eat low or no meat meals once a week. Lentil soups. Bean and cheese enchiladas. I also bought 1/2 a cow last year. And we ate it.

Sacrifice my Morals. It’s not just the meat. It’s gotta be happy meat. Cows shouldn’t eat corn. Pigs should live in the mud. Chickens do not come from factories. I feel very strongly about this. I want to eat my animal friends. That doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to the best life they can get. A species appropriate life is better for them and better for me. More than that, its better for all of us. Within our skewed food supply, pig that lived in the dirt will cost you more than pig who lived in a sterile meat growing facility. With all the meat I need to eat, I have to be willing to pay more. A lot more. This is where I use all my best tips and tricks to get the best price possible for the product I want. Bulk Buys. Bartered eggs. Stocking up on sales. I’m not a fancy eater, but I’m still going to pay more.

I could swing right down to my local Albertsons and double coupon it up for a multi-pack of hormone laden, stressed out chicken breast. My grocery budget would begin an immediate and corresponding downward decline. That fake budget would be well within my grasp. I could harken back to my days of Mac-N-Cheese processed food consumption. And watch the scale take a leap forward equal or greater than the backwards drift of my food spending. I could. And maybe if I want to change my life, I have to. These lines in the sand are a luxury. First world problems is the term. Look at me and my concern for where my food comes from. Taking the big fat comfortable assumption that it will keep coming for granted. Only spoiled American brats like me. Corporate Servitude has made it so. I haven’t exactly resisted.

I’m telling you I could do better. I just choose not to. Currently. I’m aware that choice has a very real cost. As much as I’m aware that a compromise may be on my horizon. I’m just not sure when or if we will get to that breaking point. I’m not looking forward to it. I imagine organic crow would taste just as leathery as conventional.

Do you compromise your values for the good of your pocketbook? How? And Why?

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Comments

Tammy
Reply

I would really like to make the switch to non-factory meat and organic produce, but considering what my family has to live on, I have to compromise those values, either that or go hungry most of the time. I do mostly meatless meals, but my partner is an avid carnivore, so I can’t go too extreme without facing discord at home, which is so not worth it.

dogsordollars
Reply

I am so happy to hear that other people struggle with this. We all have to make compromises, keep the peace, and draw our own lines in the sand, but I’m glad it’s on your (and other commenter’s!) radar.

K.B.
Reply

I’m sorry, did you say something? I couldn’t hear you over the awesomeness of your “Where the Wild Things Are” magnets.

Sorry, if you want me to actually *read* the post, stop with the cool pics ;)

dogsordollars
Reply

Oh, that is only the surface of my WTWTA paraphernalia. It’s a whole thing. Thanks for noticing!

Jenny
Reply

I’m in Tammy’s boat; I would LOVE to go to pasture-raised meat, however, to eat that every night would mean we wouldn’t be able to pay our bills. So, we eat conventional. I am pretty good about buying all local produce, as I’m convinced local > organic anyday (although both is even better!) However, this is a timely post in that my family just made a big dietary switch. My husband decided in an effort to lose weight that he would eat a vegan diet for two months, and in an effort to support him, my son and I are eating mostly vegan (with the occasional dairy mixed in – how does one give up cheese, really?). My thought is, once we go back, we possibly COULD make the switch to pasture-raised if we only ate meat 2 or 3 times a week.

Btw, your grocery bill is shocking… I’m not even sure I can find enough food to purchase to come up with that number for my family of 3 (that would not go wasted, of course!).

dogsordollars
Reply

Jenny – It shocks me sometimes too. :) And little to no waste around here. Chicken bones boiled into broth, bread ends saved for crumbs, veggies scraps to chickens, a productive garden, and lots and lots put away.

Its the combination of much meat and no compromises on where it comes from. The bulk of mine is both organic (although sometimes not certified) and local. But I think I agree with you. Local may be better than organic in many, many cases.

Steph
Reply

Meat is what I’m debating over right now. Local, morally-obtained meat is freaking expensive. It’s the most expensive potential line item in my food budget.

dogsordollars
Reply

What you said! ;)

Miser Mom
Reply

I have just one word to add: Soup.

Especially as fall comes in, one evening a week in which we feast on the stewed bones of our former Happy Turkey, plus some bread, plus maybe some veggies, is one of the cheapest and most filling meals our frugal family shares together.

dogsordollars
Reply

And it provides lunches and leftover for days to come. I am really looking forward to soup season. :)

Laura
Reply

I’m a third Tammy. I know local and organic are better, but my budget is tight. I have to spend $100/week or less for groceries.–This includes non-edibles such as toilet paper and shampoo.

I buy one package of either chicken or catfish/week and the rest of my meals are either Amy’s frozen dinners, beans, eggs, or brown rice with veggies. I supplement my diet with homegrown figs, blackberries, and fried Turk’s Cap (not mainstream). I’m hoping to have homegrown pears and plums to add in the next year or two.

I raised meat rabbits a few years back and I actually butchered nine of my own, but it was a difficult endeavor on many levels and I decided I couldn’t keep it up by myself. Those rabbits, however, were treated humanely and were fed fresh picked greens on a daily basis. They had a good life until I ate them.

dogsordollars
Reply

Wow Laura. I’ve thought of the rabbit thing. I can barely manage the whole chicken thing. And they are without cute bunny noses. That take some serious doing, so kudos to you. Do you think it was cost effective? I really love the idea of these animals having a great life. And just one really bad day.

Gillian @ Money After Graduation
Reply

I unfortunately do sacrifice my morals to save money, as my money is very tight and my partner and I simply aren’t at a point where we can afford organic, farm-run meat. However, I used to be a vegetarian for a long time, and whenever I can I try to cook without meat. And once we are both a little better of financially, I do plan on switching, or becoming vegetarian if the boy will ever be okay with that :P

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