Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The "Weird" Way I Shop To Save Money

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My insanely large amounts of turkey gizzards, about to be cooked. A 5 liter and 9 liter pressure cooker filled with them!

At the grocery store yesterday, I highly amused one of the workers behind the meat counter with my request. I literally had him cracking up with what I asked for, because, honestly, it isn't a "normal" thing to ask for.
Most people don't get how I shop. Not even my husband.
It is typical to look at my grocery cart and think that I'm probably some sort of nut job based on what I buy, because it certainly doesn't look like a normal shop.
But that's why I share summaries of my shopping lists on here, to show that there is a method to my madness, a method that works for us pretty well and helps us keep down our grocery bills, despite being on a restricted diet and not having all the time in the world lately to be cooking all sorts of intricate made from scratch things all the time.

That said, I was going to share the exact details of today's grocery shop, and then before I could lay out all the groceries on the table to be photographed, the kids ate a bunch of it, so... it wouldn't be an accurate picture anyhow.
And, to be honest, most of my shop wasn't particularly noteworthy- veggies and fruit were all overpriced in addition to my being limited in availability, so I just got what I needed, tried to not overbuy so they wouldn't spoil before we used them up. The only noteworthy part of my produce shopping is that last time I bought lettuce and Swiss chard, and only noticed when writing up the receipt that Swiss chard was $1.40 per package while lettuce was $1.85 per package. This time, therefore, I skipped the lettuce and just bought a few packages of chard, since I find it more versatile- I use it raw in salads in place of lettuce, but it also cooks nicely, and being cheaper too made that my go-to.
Other than that I got carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, fennel, mushrooms, bean sprouts, apples, oranges, avocado, cilantro, none of which were particularly cheap unfortunately, but then again, nothing was, not even the butternut squash like it was last time. I spent a total of $55 on fresh produce, and we'll see how long that lasts.

Recently I've been treating myself with the occasional camembert cheese from the corner grocery store, which is expensive but its a really nice treat for myself, so I feel it is worth it. There it costs $5.71 for a package that is 125 grams (4.5 oz), so it works out to be $20.77 per pound. At the cheese counter, I asked them how much their camembert cheese costs and they said it was $12.90 per lb which is so much cheaper than the stuff in our local store that I'd been buying, so I asked them to give me 200 grams (7 oz). On the package I saw that it actually was priced at $11.55 per pound which I thought was really cool, and even better of a price! Then when I went to pay, it rang up at $10.25 per lb, so I went and got 150 more grams as a second treat for a later date because the price difference was just that amazing!

Also at the cheese counter I had them give me sliced yellow cheese (don't know its exact name), which I purposely bought instead of the packaged ones, since at the cheese counter I am able to ask them to slice it as thinly as I want it. I noticed that my kids eat cheese slices visually, per slice, not per ounce or whatever, so if I buy it cut thinly it lasts longer. Also when making tuna melts or pizza thinly sliced cheese spreads farthest. It also helps that the cheese at the cheese counter is also cheaper per pound than the prepackaged stuff.

At the butcher counter I was excited to see that they had gizzards. We love gizzards here, since they are absolutely the cheapest meat we can get (once you factor in that there are no bones) and they are very versatile, so long as they are boiled to death first or pressure cooked to get them soft (rubbery gizzards are gross in my opinion), and we think they taste delicious. Unfortunately, I haven't seen gizzards often lately, either frozen or at the meat counter, so when I saw them at $1.28 per pound, and they had turkey gizzards as well as chicken gizzards, I asked the guy at the meat counter to give me all of the turkey gizzards. "All of them?" he asks, surprised. "Yes, every last one of them that is here." He tells me "We have more in the fridge in the back- do you want all of those as well?" laughing. Ok, I know I looked absurd getting my 16 lbs of turkey gizzards (you need to clean gizzards individually before cooking, so I find turkey ones easier since they're larger, and therefore less work to prep), but I told him that they're the best cheap meat I can find, and since they don't always have it, I want to take advantage when I can find it.

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See how large these are? I love turkey gizzards- so much meat on them, and so cheap!

I also was excited to see that they had turkey wings for $1.55 per pound, which I thought would be a nice meat to have when we wanted something a bit "fancier. Turkey wings, locally at least (because they breed them to be extra large birds), are like chicken wings on steroids- half a wing has the same amount of meat on it as does a chicken thigh, but for much cheaper per pound. I had them chop the wings in half for me (at no extra price) and got enough for 2 meals worth. They asked me if I wanted some ground chicken, which I usually like, since it makes nice quick and healthy meals, but it was $3.25 per pound, so I told them no. Then they said "Well, we want to get rid of these scraps that we use to make the ground chicken, so if you'll take the entire lot of it, we'll give it to you for $2.59 per pound. They won me over, because that WAS a good price for it, so I got 4.7 lbs of it at that price.

The rest of my shop wasn't particularly noteworthy, I guess, other than my canned hearts of palm, which I buy at $1.68 per can instead of the usual $2.85 per can, since they're cut into odd shapes and sizes. I love hearts of palm, and while it isn't so cheap, when I'm tempted to eat unhealthy foods, I am usually able to make the decision to have hearts of palm instead, which is a better choice, and I still feel satisfied, because it was a treat (just healthy, low carb, etc.)

My entire shop there was $160 dollars, which wasn't so terrific, but whatever. What can I do if the produce just costs so much and I can't make it to the cheaper store, and wild plants haven't really started growing here (the rainy season is just starting, and when it doesn't rain the amount of wild vegetation available is much more minimal)...

I also recently made two other purchases I was excited about. A few weeks ago I saw tuna on sale for $1.03 per can, which is a fraction of its regular price, so I bought 27, then kicked myself for not buying more. So a few days ago, I went back to the store to see if the sale was still on- and it was- so I bought 30 more cans! And then yesterday, when I was back in the store for something, I saw the sale ended, so I'm glad I managed to take advantage of the sale while it lasted.

The fact that I buy large quantities of tuna or gizzards or whatever when I find things on sale gets me strange looks, because what will I do with such huge amounts of those foods? But the thing is- we don't use huge amounts of these at a time- we just put them into our stockpile and then use them at a regular pace. Canned things like tuna I can buy in insanely large amounts because they are shelf stable, but I am limited in how many lbs of gizzards I can buy because we don't have a spare freezer yet, so I just buy what I can fit into my freezer, and when that gets used up, I fill it up again with the next thing I find on sale.

I went to a local outlet store to buy our el cheapo minimal ingredient gluten free corn flakes for the kids, and while I was there, I saw they sell broken cashews, 200 grams (7 oz) for $3. I stared at it for a few seconds, because my brain wasn't able to calculate on the spot how much it was per pound, and because that store is cheap for certain things but I generally found their nuts to be overpriced... but then I did the calculation and saw that it was $6.81 per pound, when the price for cashews that I usually got excited about was $7.53 per pound at the open air market, but I haven't been able to get there lately, and the local price for cashews is soooo much higher. So you can understand why I would be thrilled for the price I found just a short walk away from my house! I double checked with them to see if this was a sale price or something that they don't always have in stock, and I was told that that is their regular price, and they always have it in stock, which was terrific because it meant I could buy as much or as little as I wanted at a time at that terrific price. Broken or not, I don't really care, because I typically use my cashews ground up as cashew meal, or blended up in desserts (such as cashew cheesecake or my chocolate mint bites) or homemade cashew butter.

Anyhow, I want our grocery bill to be as low as possible now, but I have to face reality that there are mitigating circumstances that are raising it, such as these insane veggie prices, etc... so I'll do what I can to keep the grocery prices as low as I can while still eating healthily...  We can only do our best, not better than that. And even if our prices aren't as low as I want them to be, at least my grocery bills are lower than they would be if I didn't make an effort.

How have your grocery shops been lately? Found any great deals? Stock up on anything great? Do you also get funny looks at the grocery store based on how you shop?


  1. I don't generally buy meat with bones but I do shop very much the same way you do. I buy many items when things hit a super deal. We have a small pantry and last week I was able to buy bbq sauce with no hfcs 2 for less than $1 so I bought 12. Just a side note I think you got an even better deal on the nuts than you think ( 7 oz for 1.49 - makes it just 21.28 cents per oz multiplied by 16 = 3.41) great deal!!!

  2. Hi Penny,
    I know someone has probably commented on this, but would pressure canning be an option for you? It could help you preserve all those cheap veggies and meats when they go on sale. I know that things rotting in the fridge can be a problem, especially if you don't have the freezer space. I love my pressure canner because it makes cooking meals SO, SO easy and fast. There is no freezing, no thawing, no cooking. Just pop the lid off and use. The meat is tender and just falls apart.

    1. She said before it's too expensive to buy equipment for pressure canning.

  3. I love the way you shop! I get strange looks when I buy a store out of something that is a great deal too! People usually ask why.....I just say I'm planning ahead. I wish I could get gizzards here where I live (Midwest US) but people around here just don't appreciate offal like they should. Once in a while I can find a good deal at an Asian market when I'm in a big city! Sometimes I can find other cool things like chicken feet, ox tails, pigs feet and tails, and tripe (haven't tried that one yet)!

  4. we usually buy whole chickens & I save the gizzards till there is enough for a meal do not buy the gizzards available here as the feed all sorts of weird things to the chickens only buy organic for that reason if I lived where you do am quite sure would have got stares

  5. I was happy to see Kroger dropped the price of tuna down back to 69 cents a 5 oz can. I use 4 a week for my snack at work (lemon pepper tuna on crackers). More meat (2 oz) and cheaper than Bumble Bee's pre-packed lemon pepper lunch kit by 75 cents.


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