What place does processed food have in my budget?
When I do buy processed food, it’s only when it’s much cheaper to buy it than it would be to make it. An example would be the tacos I buy at a salvage store I stop by from time to time – I stock up when I see them priced at 8 boxes for a dollar (12.5 cents each). I certainly wouldn’t consider buying them on sale at the supermarket for $1.89 a box. It’s little things like this, here and there, that add up and sink a budget. It’s hard for me to think of many other processed foods that I regularly buy, except for canned veggies (lots of tomatoes and canned pumpkin).
Buying in Bulk
I also buy lots of foods in bulk, like grains (wheat, oats, dried corn, millet, rice, buckwheat) and coconut oil (as you saw in my recent post!). I buy 50 lb of potatoes for under $6; since the place I buy them is an hour and a half from my home, I buy 150 lb at a time (since it’s cool now, I don’t have a problem with them staying fresh – I don’t buy this many when it’s hot, only 50-100 lb at a time then). Most people don’t feel buying in bulk is practical do to for a smaller family, but if you get together with another friend or two and split it up, it means big savings for all of you! (And if you can find some extra storage places in your house – under the beds, even – you don’t need to split it up with friends to enjoy the bargains.)
I buy family packs of ground beef when they are on sale; the sale prices I have found locally aren’t very impressive, so I stock up at $2 a lb. I use the meat more as a condiment than a main dish, as a stir fry, in a stew, casserole, etc. It gives everything a great flavor, but I don’t need to use more than 1 – 2 pounds a meal.
I don’t buy beans in bulk – surprisingly, they cost more at all of the bulk sources I’ve priced out than they do at the supermarket. Several weeks ago a bunch of kinds of beans went on sale at a local supermarket for .51 a pound, so I bought 50 lb, five – ten pounds of each kind. That will keep my pantry stocked for a while.
Stock up on loss leaders
I keep my eyes on the specials the stores are running; I check the flyers and don’t make a trip there unless they have something I want. There are a number of items that the stores will offer at great prices, at an actual loss to themselves, to lure you in. Since most people don’t buy just the loss leaders, it’s a profitable strategy for the stores. But I just stock up on what’s on sale – for example, I just noticed that salmon is on sale this week for $1 a can. That’s the price I’ve been waiting for, and I will probably buy about 30 cans (I know I don’t need to buy more than that because the sales are cyclical and this price will come around again). This means even at the regular overpriced supermarket, I regularly have huge savings.
Don’t tell yourself, “We don’t have prices like that where I live.” I’ve given you some examples of how and what I buy, but it’s taken me time to find these deals. Remember that every locale has it’s own bargains; some things will be more expensive, some things will be less. Some people live in rural areas where farm produce is very cheap, but they need to drive a lot further to a large store than someone living in the heart of a city. Almost 5 years I lived in a city in a totally different part of the country – there I found a source for ground meat at 99 cents a pound, as well as salmon steaks for 99 cents a pound. Amazing, right? Right – those are things that cost a lot more where I am now. But there are plenty of bargains in my area, too – it just takes persistence in finding them. For example, I found a bakery outlet where I can get 3 loaves of bread for 99 cents, the same loaves that are $2 – $3 in the grocery stores. (Though I don’t like to buy bread often anymore because bakery bread is much lower quality than what I can make, even the whole grain loaves.)
Remember that it takes effort and persistence to find cheap food sources. Don’t worry about doing it all at once; pick one area to work on at a time. Ask other people who seem to be budget conscious for their best tips for shopping, and their favorite stores to frequent. Over time, you will find that you can significantly realize big savings in your food bill.