"So, Do You Have A Cat?" and Other Tales from the Market

oday I went to the city to go buy some produce at the market. The last time I went shopping, 8 days ago, I spent $28.57 on produce; this morning, nearly all our fruit (other than 2 pears, and the frozen bananas which I wasn't in a rush to finish) was gone, and our veggies could do with replenishing, but that wasn't urgent. I had advertised that I was teaching a super frugal shopping class at the market, so I had to go there anyhow. Because I am trying to keep our monthly total for our groceries down, because I'm "repaying" what we spent on vacation after the fact, and our monthly total so far was higher than I'd like it to be at this point, I set out to only spend $14.28 on this produce shopping trip.

Let me just say that I was not successful.
But I still spent less on the shopping than I made from the frugal shopping class that I taught simultaneously, so that in and of itself is a minor win. And it was still a very inexpensive shop. In fact, I would say this shop was even more impressive than last week's.

As I walked around the market, I explained to those I was teaching that I try to set myself an upper limit for how much I'd spend on veggies ($0.52 per pound, but aim for $0.39 per pound and under and for fruit $0.65 per pound was my max but I try to aim for under $0.39 per pound) and try to only buy things that meet those criteria if possible; they seemed amazed that I could even aim for that, but you can see I stuck to that, and my average was way below that! (I have a different upper price limit for grocery stores- these price goals only work at the market for me.)

The first thing I bought were some yellow plums. The vendor said he'd charge only $0.39 per pound if we took the lot, so we, as a group bought them all, then split it. I got 3.67 lbs for $1.42. That was exciting because I haven't had plums yet this summer since I hadn't seen them at a low enough price until now. That was officially a 'seconds' produce store but the plums were perfect!

Next were some guavas- first time I saw them this season was today and I found some reduced to only $0.39 per pound so I bought 5.7 lbs for $2.22. I did not expect to get two types of fruit that we hadn't had yet this season for the same low price per pound!

A vendor was selling fennel for $0.52 per pound, which is my upper limit for veggies, but I really love fennel and even at that price, it is much cheaper than any other fennel being sold around. He was also selling onions for $0.26 per pound and tried to convince me his onions were a good price, and that I should buy them. I told him I wasn't interested, as I'd seen elsewhere for $0.19 per pound, so he said he'll sell it to me at that price. Total shop there- $3.57, but not sure exactly how many pounds of each that was.

I got pumpkin for $0.32 per pound that looked as perfect as the stuff being sold for full price. I bought 2.6 lbs for $0.86.

I bought melon for $0.11 per pound- 12.7 lbs for $0.65. The merchant then threw in a mango free.
From the same merchant, I bought 6.6 lbs of persimmons and 6.6 lbs of clementines at $0.43 per pound, for a total of $5.71.

Lastly, I bought 5.1 lbs of peaches, one leek, and 18 lbs of zucchini and beets for $5.71, which averaged out to $0.24 per pound. This vendor, as I've written about before, is very finicky and doesn't label his prices, yet gets offended if you ask how much something costs, so it is always a gamble when shopping by him, if it truly is a good price. What I do with him is tell him how much I plan on spending before I even tell him what I want, so there is no confusion. Today I told him I wanted to spend $5.71, and that I wanted zucchinis and beets and leek and peaches, and he gave me the bag of zucchinis and beets in addition to the leek I took, and then when I asked about the peaches, he told me it would be another dollar or so. I asked him to remove some of the zucchini, then, so I could still have peaches and the total be $5.71 as I'd originally said, so he said to just take them all for $5.71. If I hadn't said that about the peaches, if it had just been the zucchini and beets and leek for that price, it would have averaged out to $0.32 per pound, still a good deal but not as much of a great one.

After buying all that produce, it amounted to $20.14... that was around $5 more than what I'd intended to spend on produce, but honestly, I have no regrets. They were some great deals, as that was around 69 lbs of produce, which averages out to around $0.29 a pound for fruit and vegetables, well below my upper limits for the market, which is a fraction of what these cost at the grocery store!

But that's not all!

Because I got more than that, and all of it was free!

Yes, by looking in the trash bins at the market, where vendors put their produce that they think they can't sell, I managed to get so much more fruit! Mostly peaches, but a bit of guava and tangerines too. A total of 9 more pounds! The peaches that I got free were, more or less, the same condition as the peaches I paid for. As in, not perfect, but as soon as you cut off a spot, they are delicious perfection.
A vendor gave me two hot peppers for free.

So if we add that amount of produce into our total to figure out the average (produce at $0.00 per pound definitely brings down the total), it was $0.26 per pound on average for those 78 lbs of produce! Stupendous!

But even more stupendous is what comes next.

Right outside a butcher shop, there was a trash wagon. A huge amount of chicken frames and chicken skins were just dumped there as I watched. I went over to the butcher and asked if there was anything wrong with it, and they said nothing wrong, they just didn't need it. They then gave me a bag so I could help myself to it.
And yes, I dug my hands through that, and collected an entire 21.8 lbs of chicken parts! (If you want to know how much of each, when I got home that was 5 freezer bags filled with chicken frames and an entire dutch oven filled with chicken skin.) Mind you, other people may consider this garbage, but I consider this an amazing steal. I buy chicken frames from the grocery store for $0.65 per pound, which I use to make chicken broth, then debone and use the meat for other things. On top of that, I love to cook with chicken fat, but my local grocery store where I generally buy meat refuses to let me have their chicken fat or scraps anymore, not even for pay, so I've been missing it, as I just make it with the skin I take off my whole chickens, which I rarely buy... I had thought to myself that we may need a few more Paleo legal proteins in the house, not just produce, but was reluctant to spend more money on it, so this free meat was an awesome find.
Yet, while I was collecting it, more than one person asked me "So, do you have a cat?" "Is that for your cat?" "Are you looking for indoor cat food?" or variations thereof. I found that really amusing. Why would someone assume that meat wouldn't be for a person, especially if it is something that they do sell in the grocery store? I told them, no, it's for me... and just as they stood there contemplating it, the next person chimed in with their cat question.
Once upon a time, when I was asked questions like that, I would answer that yes, it was for my cat, but I've gotten to the point where I don't feel like I have to hide. Why pretend that I'm not going to eat it, when I think it's perfectly fine? Do I have to say yes just so people will think differently of me? Who exactly am I trying to impress? In fact, I am proud to say that I got free meat and am using it to feed my family, and no, not a cat.
Fortunately, I wasn't the only one who got that. When the third person was questioning about my cat, another woman nearby said "Why cat? You can make great things with that! It's wonderful in soups!" and I agreed with her, then added that the chicken skin can be rendered to make a terrific cooking fat and cracklings...
And yes, that was the inspiration for this post. I told the people shopping with me that when I write this post about my shopping trip, I'd just have to call it "So, do you have a cat?" because I found that whole exchange so amusing about the assumption that no person would be eating it, that it only would be something you'd take for a pet.
(In case you were wondering, there was a sink right near the free meat, so after digging through that bare handed, I used wipes, hand sanitizer and then a sing to clean off my hands...)

Speaking of proteins, I did buy 3 salmon heads for $4, or $1.33 each, which isn't as cheap as I usually buy it, but they were out of the cheaper kind. I did bargain them down from $4.28 to $4.00...

I was torn about whether or not I should buy jaggery when I was showing my students about it. I have coconut sugar at home already that I bought in bulk, but even in bulk, it is more expensive than jaggery syrup, and it's harder for me to replace it when it runs out, so I decided to buy one container of jaggery to use for recipes that don't need a granulated sweetener, and save the coconut sugar for that.
That was $5.14.

Grand total of my shop? $29.28. Which is an amazing price for all that I got, especially factoring in all the free!

My students were shocked at how little my shop cost me, and to be honest, so am I!

Now, as to what I did with all that once I got home... why, that is a story for another day.

What have you been buying lately? Gotten any great deals lately? How about free food? If free food, I'm especially eager to hear what it was and how you got it.
If you were in my shoes and people saw you taking free chicken scraps, and asked you if it was for your cat, and it wasn't, how would you answer it? Would you say it was for your cat? Would you say it was for you? Why or why not?

Penniless Parenting

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


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  1. What is a chicken frame? The bones?

    1. It's a more polite way than saying carcass. Its basically the bones, yes. Bones with some meat on it.

  2. You're actually going to eat chicken that was in the GARBAGE? Disgusting.

    1. It wasn't like it was sitting in the gargage or mixed with anything else. It was a box of pure chicken that was put down literally 1 minute beforehand on top of another box on a wagon that was destined for the garbage, and it was still refrigerator cold, and the butcher who put it there confirmed for me that there was nothing wrong with it. I don't see what is disgusting about that, other than what is in your mind. It's no different than having gotten it from the butcher himself 1 minute earlier. Other than the price, that is.

    2. Anyway, it's getting cooked. Should take care of any bacteria.

    3. Oh dear! This reminds me of when I was a child and a neighbour told me it was "disgusting" to pick wild blackberries as "any animal could have peed on it" lol - must have gotten hers from the pee free farm ;)

    4. People are so afraid of everything these days. I would have taken that chicken, too!

  3. I wish I could find chicken frames like that!!

  4. And if so many people had asked if I had a cat I probably would have started mewing. Lol.

  5. The prices are crazy low where you live! I could never ever get prices like that for fruits and veggies. The lowest we get, when on sale, is maybe - MAYBE - 0.99$/pound. And this is rare. It's more in the 1,80$/pound range for fruits and 1$/pound range for cheap veggies like carrots and 4$/pound range for more expensive stuff like asparagus. Meat is - if lucky - 4$/pound. Fish can be around 7$/pound if on sale. Cheese is about 4$/pound when on sale. A bos or cereals is 4$, and this is the cheap unhealthy kind. It sucks that food cost so much.

  6. I so appreciate your posts! You are an inspiration!

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