Sunday, December 7, 2008

shopping - Saturday

I finally went shopping. The best store was a very bare-bones produce market that sells industry seconds. The price difference was really substantial particularly given that I typically shop at Whole Foods. I know – spoiled. Some of the prices were shockingly affordable. In fact, I even considering taking pictures of the produce displays with the prices just so I could prove that those were really the prices. My mother (in Alaska where nothing fresh is cheap) is going to be annoyed when she sees what I paid for 3 pounds of apples. Suffice it to say – you’d definitely starve on $25 in Alaska. Fortunately, I’m not there right now, and I had plenty of options for inexpensive food. It’s good because my husband may well have perished without fresh fruit. The other absolute necessity was the hippy hang-out with lots of bulk items where I bought a variety of dried beans and grains and also some spices and dried herbs in miniscule, and therefore not budget-destroying, quantities. I rounded it out with a trip to Trader Joes for a few things (mostly because you can’t compete with their $0.19/each bananas) and the regular grocery store. Here’s the breakdown:

First to the Strip District, an area in Pittsburgh with the aforementioned produce market and also Italian, Hispanic, and Korean markets, butchers, a great cheese counter and biscotti bakery that, alas, I can no longer afford, etc. Between these little places, I found all this:

For this much:

Strip District
$2.00 5 lbs potatoes
$2.50 5 lbs carrots
$2.00 3 lbs Granny Smith apples
$1.00 red leaf lettuce
$2.19 2 large zucchinis
$0.40 lemon
$0.41 garlic
$1.08 1 lb bacon ends
$11.58 TOTAL

At the local, independent health food store, I bought a smidgen of nearly item offered in bulk. I worried my cashier would hate me, and therefore neatly arranged all the items on the little grocery store belt in order to make her repeated weighing and cashiering easier. Of course, she was nothing except totally gracious. And when the coupon I’d hoped to use wouldn’t scan, she just gave me ten bag credits to equal the same coupon value. Here’s my loot:

And the item-by-item for your reading pleasure:

East-End Coop
$0.09 red chili flakes (~1 teaspoon)
$0.26 cumin seeds (~1 tablespoon)
$0.71 hot chili powder (~2 tablespoons)
$0.28 cinnamon (~1 tablespoon)
$0.33 black peppercorns (~1 tablespoon)
$0.12 baking powder (~1 tablespoon)
$0.22 dried basil (~ 1 tablespoon)
$0.99 tomato sauce, 8 oz
$0.84 sugar (~1 cup)
$0.18 wheat berries (~ 1/3 cup)
$0.28 garbanzo beans (~ 1/3 cup)
$1.55 oatmeal (~ 6.5 cups)
$0.30 sea salt (~ ½ cup)
$0.70 green lentils (~ 1 cup)
$1.31 sunflower seeds (~ 3 cups)
$0.25 brown sugar (~ ¼ cup)
$0.94 red kidney beans (~ 1 cup)
$1.08 black beans (~ 1 cup)
-$1.00 coupon for tomato sauce
-$0.10 bag refund
$9.24 TOTAL

Then on to Trader Joe's where the most miraculous thing happened. I found a whole box of tea for 99 cents! I’m dying of delight. I’d given up on caffeine – standing without purpose in front of the wee containers of Folgers and wishing the clouds would part and a little sale sign would appear while I blinked. Imagining the week of caffeine withdrawal headaches following me around wherever I went. Who knew Folgers was so expensive? Thus, I tip my hat to Trader Joe's, which has provided me with 20 bags of caffeine for so small a price (and it’s even fair trade).

Trader Joe's

$0.99 black tea
$1.29 frozen spinach, 16 ounces
$1.14 6 bananas
$3.42 TOTAL

And finally, an uneventful trip to the regular grocery store.

Giant Eagle
$3.21 milk, gallon
$1.51 eggs, 1 dozen medium
$1.39 peanut butter, 18 oz
$2.50 Cheddar cheese, 8 oz (on sale)
$2.50 Monterey Jack cheese, 8 oz (on sale)
$2.00 flour, 5 lbs (on sale)
$2.29 rice, 2 lbs
$0.40 2 ramen (on sale)
$0.35 2 small onions
$0.21 a few green peppers (salad bar)
$2.00 frozen broccoli, 16 oz (on sale)
$2.50 vegetable oil, 16 oz (not pictured)
-$1.00 coupon (broccoli)
$19.86 TOTAL

Oh, and I even bought something at Whole Foods. They sell yeast in single packets for $0.49 so it was cheaper than buying a three-some anywhere else.

That leaves me spending $44.59. I need a little more than $3 for a mid-week milk and banana run and that leaves me with two whole dollars for emergencies.

A word on coupons. I went to some trouble to find a variety of coupons for things I thought I’d need this week. They were much less valuable that I originally suspected even though some of them were a whopping whole dollar. See, it seems coupons are printed mostly for new, trendy items that you (a) don’t need, or (b) don’t need at that price. I had a dollar off coupon for organic milk (woohoo), but it turns out even with the discount, organic milk is still a LOT more expensive than hormone-pumped, chemical-laden, store-brand milk. So no organic milk for me. Sigh. I’m feeling relatively confident that I’m not going to starve this week, but I’m definitely noticing already that making health-related decisions about what you eat quickly falls away to purely financial ones. I’m feeling suspicious about my conventional potatoes and apples (two of the most highly pesticide contaminated fruits and vegetables), but I’m guessing the cost-benefit ratio is still in favor of eating some fresh foods.

I’d like to award prizes to my top three food items. Second runner up goes to bacon scraps for $0.99/lb. Of course bacon gets a prize. When they cut bacon into little slabs, there are ends that get trimmed and apparently (who knew) you can buy these little ends for barely any money. I don’t have to live a whole week without bacon, which is a huge relief! You might wonder how someone such as myself could not crown bacon scraps the winner, but see – they’re kind of gross.

First runner up goes to tomato sauce. Tomato sauce cost me negative one cent. I had a coupon for a dollar off any Glen Muir product and tomato sauce costs only $0.99. It was amazing. OK – not exactly amazing, but I’m not a coupon person so the miracle of a free product is still catching up with me.

And the moment you’ve been waiting for …. I’d like to present you with Trader Joe’s Tea! Who you’ve already met. You know the story.

One more night of regular eating.


Tracey said...

Wow, that sounds like a lot of work. You have the patience of a saint...

Betty Ann said... did great.. and encouraging me to eat more healthy. I've been organic but I tend to not go crazy over veggies/fruits.

I'm more of a milk; cheese; grain bread; yogurt; organic meat person. I have to get those veggies/fruits in..

I'm lazy I but organic bean soups and such; and do not soak and make my own.. (black refried organic beans..yummy but more money due to being can foods)