My Latest Frugal Shopping Trip- What I Bought and Why

Sometimes when you set yourself a really high (or in this case, low) goal, even if you don't make it exactly as you'd planned, your coming close puts you in a better place than you would have been had you not attempted to reach that difficult goal.
Two weeks ago I had a good shopping trip, and then another. So while each shopping trip was a good trip, buying things at decent prices, overall for the week they were higher than I wanted them to be, so I went the entire week last week without buying groceries (hubby picked up some milk for cereal), and I managed even without buying any new veggies and still eating only paleo and therefore veggie heavy for myself... So Sunday was the first time I was going shopping in almost 2 weeks, and though not going shopping the week before brought down our "monthly average" I still wanted to try to keep my grocery bill low, so I set a goal to only spend $85 on groceries- no big stocking up on anything since we had most of what we needed other than produce and a few other things. I said $85 would be what I was aiming for, but if I needed to spend as much as $115 that was also cool with me.

Well, I'll give a little spoiler here now. I didn't make my goal of $85 or even $115, but since those were the numbers I was aiming for, my total was $124, pretty close to my upward end up my goal. So setting that goal was a good exercise and did keep down my spending. (I almost bought 12 bars of dark chocolate on sale, but didn't because it would put me over my goal. And my waist will thank me for that!)

The way I kept my costs down was mainly by determining what I would be willing to spend, and then carefully tracking my grocery total so that when I got to the register I wouldn't be surprised. Our local stores don't have scales in the produce department, which means that I get surprised at the register sometimes, so I bought myself a pocket hanging scale from ebay which I don't use religiously but did this last shopping trip.
On my shopping list specifically were produce (enough to last a week or more), eggs, diapers, and a few other things, so I knew the majority of the money would be spent on produce, so spent the most time in that department. Unfortunately all the produce was expensive- in the past I made myself a rule to not buy veggies that were above 65 cents a pound, and aim for the ones between 13 and 40 cents a pound (mostly reduced rack stuff, but some other veggies I often can get for 40 cents a pound or less) but for logistical reasons I currently can't get to the market where I regularly buy reduced rack produce for that cheap, and the local store where I shopped this last time is hit or miss in that department.
Bottom line- there was only one vegetable that was being sold cheaply at all- butternut squash at 23 cents a pound- so I knew that that would be the majority of the produce that I'd be buying, and we may be eating it until it comes out of our ears, but that's fine- its nutritious, our family loves the taste, its very versatile, and the price is perfect. So I bought 34 lbs of it for $7.82. (Wow, about 5 years ago!) I wrote a post about substituting cheaper vegetables for more expensive ones, and in it, wrote that butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, and carrots have a similar flavor profile to each other, so you can substitute one for the other in most recipes and get a similar result, so because I saw that carrots were 78 cents a pound (twice what they usually are), I bought none, and since my shop I have used butternut squash in place of carrots a few times already, including in last night's chicken veggie stir fry (just peeled and sliced it thinly in place of carrots and it worked pretty well) as well as a few other ways.
However, other than butternut squash and onions (50 cents a pound, bought 8.5 lbs for about $4.25) everything else was above my price limit (other than tomatoes that were 63 cents a pound (right at the upper limit of my price range) so I decided that what will be will be, and I'll just buy produce that we'll eat, even if it is more expensive, because we need our produce and can't not eat just because the prices are higher. I just decided to try to keep it under a certain price and not buy too much of the more expensive produce... And did stick to the lower amount... until I realized that when I tallied up my groceries to reach around 85 dollars, I forgot to get two things on my list- diapers and eggs, which is why it ended up being what it was.

So here's the other veggies I bought:
Fennel for $1.15 per pound- I bought 7.26 lbs for $8.35.
2 packages of Swiss chard for $1.40 each.
2 packages of romaine lettuce for $1.86 each.
Zucchini was $1.03 per pound, so I bought 8.32 lbs for $8.57.
All apple types were $1.03 per pound, and my kids go through them quickly so I bought a mix of red, yellow, and green, a total of 13.55 lbs for $13.96.
A double package of mushrooms for $4.26.

I also bought some rice cakes- 2 jumbo sized packages for $3.43 each, and cheese (1.1 lbs at $5.18 per pound, for a total of $5.70) for some quick filling and not so unhealthy foods for my kids.
And I also bought some disposables (and not feeling guilty about it)- 2 packages of cups, one of plates, and one of bowls for a total of $2.80, and a package of diapers for $8.26.

I can't get to my usual place where I buy my cheaper no added sugar tomato paste that I use for my tomato sauces, so I bought 3 cans of crushed tomatoes on sale for $3.69 (so $1.22 per can) to use when needed.

I saw whole chickens for $1.81 per pound, which, while not very cheap is not super overpriced also, so I nearly bought 3 chickens, but decided to only buy two instead to keep down the costs of my shop, so I paid $13.70 for 7.57 lbs of chicken.

I also was happy to see that they had eggs for super cheap- usually a pack of 30 costs $8.54, but they had 60 small eggs for $8.54, so I bought 120 eggs for $17.09.

Then I also bought my kids a treat- a package of Pez candy inserts for $2.29 (they'd been asking for a while so I bought one package for them to split at a later date), and bought the family potato chips (usually they are $1 per bag, but it was on sale 5 bags for $3.14 so only 62 cents per bag), and since I can't eat while potatoes, I bought myself, as a treat, a package of sweet potato chips for $2.14.

Could I have done a cheaper shopping trip? Yea, if I didn't buy any extras like the chips or Pez or some other stuff. But honestly? I'm pretty happy with my shop, and if I do all my shops like this, if all weeks are like this one, my monthly total grocery bill would be less than $500 which would actually be pretty awesome.

Have you had any good shops lately, or did you go on any shopping trips where you were proud of yourself for how you shopped? What were you proud about? 
What do you do when you need to buy produce but it is all super expensive? How do you balance your need for certain things with frugality if doing without isn't an option?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. stop using those diapers! they are so expensive and they keep going up (cut smaller, fewer per package). calculate the cheapest ones and go with them. of the not-pampers-or-huggies, i can assure you the ones your bought are never cheapest and they don't work better enough (if at all) to shell out for.

    also, how much is butternut squash per pound after peeling and de-seeding?

    1. I have price compared the diaper companies available in my area, and these actually work out the cheapest per diaper. I dont buy el cheapo ones with a plasticy outside because I find they cause rashes, but of the rest, i just buy what is cheapest.

      Sorry, the layout of this chart on this page is terrible- gotta fix it- but you actually get more per pound after peeling and de-seeding from butternut squash than you do from carrots.

    2. it didn't strike me that the material of those was any different from any of the other diapers. but i guess if you're limited to buying diapers locally you're going to pay a fortune regardless. i try to buy in the cheap stores and pile them in my office and bring to daycare/home as needed.

      interesting. thanks. i will probably stick to carrots regardless b/c have no time to deal with winter squash on any regular basis. i just now paid a fortune for vegetables in a cheap store. prices now are insane.

  2. Butternut squash fries, baked in oven. Can be made straight or covered with crushed cereal, panko, crackers or breadcrumbs for crunch.

  3. prices by us have been sky high for vegies.

    we really try to have a vegie salad daily for dinner, cukes, tomato, onion,

    the past few weeks tomatoes were a ridiculous price. we had cukes and onion salad, I will not buy a

    vegie at a crazy price. we also have been eating alot of butternut squash as the price on that has

    been very reasonable. I use it in my chicken soup, stews, bake it with chicken, and side dishes.

    we love it and its healthy,

  4. You can try this recipe: using all butternut squash and subbing a different nut for the pecans

  5. I have learned a lot this past year including the frugal way to shop and another thing I have done is join a co-op where I get vegetable and fruit and can get other things as well.

  6. Have you tried Mexican seasoning on your squash? We like Butternut Squash Burritos, which also work with sweet potatoes or pumpkin...not sure about carrots.

  7. I read today that rice cakes aren't as good as we've been lead to believe. Can't remember why since I never eat them, but it was on the website incase your interested. Love your site and writing style. Yours is the only blog I actually read. Kudos and keep up the good work.

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