And... I'M BACK!!!
I feel like shouting from the rooftops, because I am officially back in the game! After about a month of frugal slacking, since I've been so busy finishing up my cookbook so I can get it out already that I haven't been able to do my usual frugal and extreme-frugality things, I'm ready to kick back into gear!
The past few weeks, friends have been posting pictures of their latest frugal shops from the market where I often go to get my super cheap and sometimes even free produce, and each time I saw those pictures, I'll admit, I got envious, since I missed the open air market, not just the hustle and bustle and experience of shopping there, but also the amazing deals I got there, allowing me to get produce that otherwise would be above my price range.
Yesterday, I finally went back and oh boy, was it a good shop.
But first, I went to a grocery store that has some cheap gluten free breads and such, where I like to go to stock up. Since it is far, I try to do a big shopping trip each time and hope that it lasts a month. After that, I went to the open air market.
Here is what I bought:
For the record, that includes over 3.5 lbs of two types of cheese, 4 packs of not so unhealthy hot dogs, 32 cans of tuna, tomato paste, 2 bottles of olive oil, ~4.5 lbs of jaggery, and ~56 lbs of produce... among other things, so just over $90 for all that is amazing even me!
So, what did I get and why?
First, at the O store, I bought 7 packages of hamburger buns and 6 packages of hot dog buns. These are all gluten free and cost $1.40 per package, which makes it more or less the same price as making my own gluten free rolls from scratch, even if its less healthy. The hot dog buns have 6 in a package and the hamburger ones have only 4, so I tend to stick to the hot dog buns since you get more servings for your money (also in terms of weight).
However, now that Ike started school, I have to provide him with an alternative lunch some of the days of the week. Once a week they have pizza for lunch, so I provided him with hamburger buns which can be cut open and topped with tomato sauce and melted cheese so he can have his own pizza. I could make pizza from scratch and send it in with him every day, but honestly, the thought of having to do that stresses me out, and is a lot of work, and sometimes there are other days that end up being pizza days when I wasn't told about them in advance, so I just keep those in school just in case.
Of course, if I wanted to be cheaper I could have them make the hot dog buns into pizzas, but the shape isn't as nice, so I spend a bit more for him to have a more normal looking pizza lunch. The hot dog buns are for at home, and we use them for sloppy-joe type meals and even as our regular gluten free bread since it is both tastier and cheaper. So that is $18.20 on gluten free bread, which should last a while.
Also because of pizza, I bought 16 little packages of tomato paste for for 43 cents each for a total $6.85, so he can spread one on his buns to make pizza every day. It's more expensive than buying larger packages, but I needed something that wouldn't spoil after he opened it, and I wanted something a bit healthier than just ketchup which is shelf stable unlike opened packages of tomato paste.
Lastly, I got a 2.2 lb package of cheese for $9.97, which I divided into smaller packages, for him to use for his pizza.
I bought a package of quark cheese, kind of like a sort of runny cream cheese, which I use for Ike's sandwiches I send him for school daily. Package cost $3.80 for 1.5 lbs, which isn't so cheap, so I'm trying to figure out better alternative for sandwich spreads that he'll agree to eat (especially since he's my pickiest eater).
My husband hasn't really been interested in my making him food from scratch for his lunch every day at work; he wants cans of tuna mixed with other stuff on rice cakes for his lunch, and tuna gets expensive. I saw packages of tuna, $2.25 per package of 4, or 56 cents a can, when locally tuna usually costs upward of $1.50 a can and if you're lucky you can get it on sale for $1.15. I've bought this tuna before, and I'll be honest, I'm not such a fan of the texture or the taste- it is very fishy, enough that I found it off putting. However, my husband is not as picky as I am in terms of tastes or texture, so he was happy to have a cheaper alternative to his expensive shelf stable cans of tuna for lunch. So I bought 32 cans, for a total of $18.
I bought a multipack of not so unhealthy hot dogs. I'm not going to delude myself into thinking they're health foods, but at least they have no MSG, food coloring, gluten, or trans-fat, which make them a less bad alternative. A pack of four packages at my nearby somewhat cheap grocery store costs $9.71, or $2.43 per package, and this store sells them for $8.54, or $2.13 per package, which is why I bought it there. I do try to keep those only as a back up for emergencies, so I'm not planning on using those up quickly.
That would have been all I bought at that store, because I was heading to the open air market, where I usually get great prices on produce. However, I saw cucumbers, carrots, and tomatoes all being sold for 25 cents a pound, which is pretty much what I often pay for reduced rack quality/grade B stuff at the market, and this was grade A stuff, so I bought some, but not a ton of each, since I said maybe I'll be able to get cheaper at the market- I sometimes get for 13 cents a pound or even free there. I got 2.7 lbs of carrots, 3.9 lbs of cucumbers, and 3.6 lbs of tomatoes for a total of $2.50! Not bad at all!
Just as I was checking out, I remembered that I was completely out of olive oil, and then saw bottles being sold at a great price right near the checkout counter. 2 bottles for $5.11 each, for a total of $10.22.
Total from the O store? $78.08.
Then I stopped off at a store to buy some jaggery to make jaggery syrup, as I ran out of my bulk order of coconut sugar, and I had to use honey for my coffee, because that was the only non refined sweetener I had left, and that felt like a waste since honey is so expensive that even when bought cheaply, I'd rather use it sparingly and not in my coffee... So 2 packages of jaggery, 4.4 lbs total, at $5.14 each, for a total of $10.28 for both.
Lastly, I stopped at the market. I told my kids before I came that I precisely was not drawing cash, since I know if I have cash I'm more tempted to use it there, so I'd only use the $10 cash I already had in my wallet, and we'd see what I could get with that... Ha.
You see all this produce I got at the market? Everything in it, other than the avocados and onions were 100% free!
I got to a certain seconds store late, just as the owner, Gideon, was closing, and after noting that he hadn't seen me in a while (I told him that I was working on my book and hadn't come to the market), he told me what I'd been missing out- that the butcher across the aisle from him has been throwing out so much good chicken that I could have gotten had I come... and then he told me that everything in his stall was free, and tried to push me to take everything, but there was a limit to how much I could take!
I got free:
1 lb turnip
5 lbs kohlrabi (there was so much more there, but not many people in my family will eat it, so I didn't take more)
.8 lbs fennel
.2 lbs red pepper
10.1 lbs melon
and 5.2 lbs zucchini
... just from that one stall!!!
I pretty much was set just after that, since the things I wanted from the market were zucchini, maybe another cooking vegetable, and a fruit that wasn't citrus (since I had oranges at home already, and wanted another type). But since I didn't spend anything, I decided to see what else I could buy cheaply or get free.
I got 3.5 lbs brown bananas free (the kids at some before we got home, so not all are pictured here), and we love brown bananas better than yellow ones, since they make the best smoothies and desserts.
I also got a really large amount of cauliflower leaves and stems. They just throw these out, but cauliflower leaves and stems taste so good in so many ways- last night I just threw a bunch into a pot of soup and it was heavenly! They also are amazing in pakoras (Indian style batter fried veggies). It's such a shame that these get wasted, but hey, at least I can get them free that way! I came home with 15 lbs of cauliflower stems and leaves, and there were plenty more where that came from, I just ran out of room...
I bought 6 lbs of onions for 77 cents, or 13 cents a pound.
And I found avocados that were already ripe. They were selling them at 52 cents a pound, when the regular avocados were being sold for 75-90 cents a pound. However, I told the vendor I wasn't interested because of that price, so he offered them to me at 39 cents a pound, and I bought 3.8 lbs at $1.43, which actually was 38 cents a pound, one cent a pound cheaper, but whatever.
Total expenditure for all the produce not from the O store? $2.20 for 45.4 lbs of produce, or 5 unbelievable cents a pound on average!!!! And averaging in the stuff from the O store? 55.6 lbs of produce for $4.70, or 8 cents a pound on average!
My fridge is packed, I'm all stocked up on the more expensive items, and it is so exciting to be able to do that without paying much at all.
I definitely feel like I've gotten my groove back!!
Have you gotten any amazing deals lately for groceries? What have you gotten and where?
Did you know cauliflower leaves are edible and tasty? What is your favorite way to prepare them?