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Some thoughts on groceries

I had ALL THESE THINGS to write about, sort of an Indeterminate Number of Quick-ish Takes, but they have all gone poof! Alas! We spent most of this 95 degree day at my parents' house where Phillip and I did all sorts of alone and grown up things like go to the movies and browse in Costco (which is different from SHOPPING at Costco, an occasional necessary evil with children.) By the time I got to my computer, the brain was malfunctioning. 

So I marinated meat instead. And thought about groceries. Between my regularl weekly shopping trip on Saturday and our Costco trip today, I thought I would discuss Feeding The Cheungs: Version 2012.

Sooooo, is it me, or did groceries get more expensive? I SWEAR I am buying the SAME OLD STUFF and my bill is $20 to $30 higher in the last several months. I even joined that stupid Safeway program even though I keep telling myself I WILL NOT SHOP AT SAFEWAY because their produce is TERRIBLE, but I spend even MORE money at other stores. I am BAFFLED!

Here are some new things you should know. The first one is that I am trying VERY VERY HARD to do a lot of my dinner prep work on weekends, or right after one of my shopping trips when I am feeling all foodie-like. So cutting up chicken and vegetables, marinating meat, that sort of thing, and shoving it all (neatly labeled, obvs) in the freezer. This makes me feel SO AWESOME. Maybe it's the fact that it's not eaten right away? And sits obedidently in my freezer, waiting for its Moment? And nobody says, "I don't like this one, Mommy." 

I'm still doing a meal plan for the week and shopping that list, but now I'm trying to put a lot of the pieces together ahead of time. When it works, it's awesome. When it doesn't work, eh! No biggie. 

But here is a New Thing, as of, like, yesterday, that throws a big kink into the works. Phillip is going low carb! This shouldn't be a problem, as low carb is basically How I Eat Now and I don't make a lot of dinners that I won't eat myself HOWEVER! I am, as you know, not really into eating (unless it is cake, cookies, brownies, ice cream, etc.) and content to eat scrambled eggs for dinner and I will skip lunch entirely in favor of snacking on cheese and, well, Phillip is not that sort of person. Also, if you take away his potato chips, he will require MORE meat. 

SO! While I am a proud supporter of this endeavor, it's going to be EXPENSIVE. Hence the Costco trip today where we loaded up on frozen thingies Phillip can eat at work if he doesn't bring a lunch, lots of fresh veggies (to cut up and freeze). But I don't normally SHOP at Costco. I might go once a month to buy a giant box of fruit snacks or those Costco hot dogs that everyone in my house loves and the giant tub of cherry tomatoes, but I don't SHOP SHOP there. I feel like the months I shop at Costco I always go over budget. 

While we were IN Costco Phillip and I were talking about how we have ROOM to be Costco shoppers now. The old owners left TONS of food (and paper towels and toilet paper, almost a year's supply, SERIOUSLY) in a closet downstairs, so that is obviously the Costco storage closet. We COULD buy everything in sight and never go to the grocery store until October. 

This month is an experiment, I guess. We came up with more ideas than just a week's worth of dinners. I have a ton of stuff in the fridge and freezer and next week I'll just be buying things to supplement dinner, not MAKE dinner. I'll still go to the store next week, but my load will be smaller - hopefully it will be smaller all month. 

I would love to shop at Trader Joe's, but I don't know what you buy there that isn't a snack or some sort of gourmet frozen dinner. (Which means, obvs, that in a perfect world I would love to shop ONLY at Trader Joe's.) 

I want to shop at Central Market, but it's more money and I don't really buy organic (*HIDES*).

Sometimes I meet my friends at Whole Foods for coffee and a bakery treat, and if I'm early I go walk around the produce section and shock myself. 

When I get really mad at Safeway I go to the grocery store with the playroom which is more expensive and farther away, but has way better produce. 

Poor my family, huh?

One of my friends has a similar grocery budget, but she makes AMAZING DINNERS and buys organic milk. I am not entirely sure how she does it. She says it's because she only buys what's on sale, BUT I DO THAT TOO. So yes, there are a few low carby things I require that aren't always cheap or on sale, but the fact that I do not buy organic milk should make up for that, right? So I don't get it. 

Oh, she also goes to three or four different stores. I... do not do that. I COULD. I SUPPOSE. But honestly, just one shopping trip a week is enough for me, and I LIKE grocery shopping! I think she must go after work without kids? I don't know. I don't do in and out of car seats for a mid-week grocery shopping trip, not if I can help it. 

In the meantime, I am constantly going overbudget and not entirely sure why. Except now I'll be able to say, "Phillip can only eat meat! Must buy lots of meat!" 

Blargh. 

Oh! One note about the plastic bag ban - I am in favor. I mean, I was always supportive IN THEORY, but I was a little nervous about HAVING bags, not FORGETTING my bags, making sure I had ENOUGH bags... turns out the only bad thing about the bag ban is the mass of teenage baggers who try to cram everything you bought into your smallest and crappiest bags. Seriously, the giant sturdy Target bags are RIGHT THERE. Don't use my flimsy thank-you-for-attending-our-event college department reusable bag. THAT IS A BACK UP BAG! 

But I like not having the extra mess of cleaning up plastic bags, and it's easier carrying 4 or 5 heavy cloth bags up my stairs to the kitchen rather than nine thousand half empty plastic bags. Am a fan. My greenification is increasing. And I always remember to take my bags to the grocery store and I always forget to take them to the mall. Blargh. 

Comments

Carrie

We're about to run out of plastic bags ( which we use for cat messes and swimsuits and such) which means I need to go shop in Bellevue. Where they give out lots of bags.

Trader joes- great prices on bagged salads, dairy, rice, frozen salmon, sauces that you just open and throw meat into, WINE, chicken broth, applesauce in pouches and misc. kid munchies. I will shop with you and show you all the options, because they are many. But do not ship at the one closest to the university. Go north or to Ballard

HereWeGoAJen

Yes, more expensive. I am spending that same extra $30 a week that you are on the same stuff I used to buy. It's annoying. I would prefer to spend that money at Target or on going out to lunch.

Crystal

I feel like you...I cannot go to more than one grocery store per week. Just the one trip leaves me drained. Also, you should tell Phillip that low-carb does not necessarily mean high-meat. There is plenty of non-meat protein available that is much cheaper. I have been eating this way myself since Lent began (and ended) and I lost another five pounds without even exercising more. Think: eggs, yogurt, cheese, beans, nuts (peanutbutter), seeds, fish (tunafish, sardines), and yes, even soy products (edamame, tofu). All VERY cheap. My budget actually went down because only my husband is eating any actual meat. (My kids won't eat meat unless its a hot dog.) Good luck!

Lauren

I have no advice on grocery budgeting, as we spend an obscene amount of money on food, IMO.

But re the plastic bag ban: I almost always do grocery shopping from my car, so I keep our cloth bags. Works great. But Saturday we were going to some friends' house and needed to take food, and I'd neglected to cook anything. So we stopped by Whole Foods in David's car, which has NO BAGS, and I was nearly hanging my head in SHAME, having to ask for disposable bags in hippie food Mecca. David laughed at me for being embarrassed, but I really kind of was. Silly, right?

Redbecca

Drought in midwest = more expensive everything. They say it isn't coming until the fall, but the higher prices are already here. I've noticed it too.
We do about 80 - 95% of our shopping at Trader Joe's and fill in with other stuff from the Safeway/Giant/whatever. Stuff like Oreos and produce, because we've found that unless you freeze or eat it within 24 hours the produce at TJ's goes bad quickly. Cheese from there can also be questionable (I find it gets moldy fast). It may be an East Coast issue, but it has been consistent for us the last few years.
Carrie needs to take you on a shopping trip to TJ's so you can see how the pros do it!

Ellen W

We buy most of our meat at Costco - the chicken breasts are already prepackaged and we use our food saver to divide up the ground beef, pork chops, etc. We recently moved to a smaller town still in the metro Houston area and I noticed even the same chain grocery stores don't have as great of selection on some staple items in our house like Stonyfield yogurt or the King Arthur gluten free bread mixes. I guess this qualifies as a first world problem.

el-e-e

I like this post. I'm like you, I feel like I try to stick to my list, and buy on-sale, and still I think I'm always over budget. Argh. I could do better about planning and couponing (Ugh) and shopping Costco for better deals, but I really don't have the time. I do enjoy reading about how other people do it, though.

jenney

We buy most of our meat, seafood and produce at the asian market. Much much cheaper and the meat and seafood is better. We eat a mostly asian-ish diet (with spaghetti once a week).. so it is 70% rice or noodles, 20% fruit and veggies, 5% meat and seafood and 5% crap. I think I spend more money on school snacks than I do on meals. Our food bill went from $75 to $100 a week lately. It would be more but seafood is dirt cheap around here lately. Lobster last night fresh off the pier $3.99 a lb.

Erica

Seriously I feel like the produce at Whole Foods is one big joke. Well, pretty much their whole store. So expensive. Ridiculous. We don't even go in there anymore. Although COSTCO poses its own problems for me. Like this weekend when I went in there for beer and wine and came out with an electronic keyboard for Anna. Oops.

Ashley // Our Little Apartment

I loved this post.

That is all.

(We're a twice-a-month-plus-the-farmers-market-weekly right now. It's so much nicer than going often to the grocery store. Which I love, but is also overwhelming sometimes. And don't get me STARTED on the wholesale club situation. We are still working on our 24 bars of soap we bought THREE YEARS AGO.)

Meg

If you can get to a Trader Joe's alone (or at least without the kids), spend time investigating every single aisle. When we lived in DC, we did almost all of our grocery shopping at TJ's and the cost is really less than regular grocery stores! Now the closest one is two hours away and our grocery bills are significantly higher, even accounting for the increasing prices everywhere. (Seriously, peanut butter prices have, what, tripled? Crazy.)

Mary

I LOATH grocery shopping. My brain usually turns into a mushy mess and all of a sudden i forget what i eat and what my kids like and end up with a gallon of cream cheese and loaf of bread....ughhh
I only shop at trader joes, and send my husband to a regular grocery store for his junk food ans soda. I think they have some good meat selections now and some good fresh veggies, frozen side dishes, love the cheese section, and when you are feeling bad....the Inside out Carrot Cake OMG OMG. Death by carrot cake! Good job on planning ahead your meals, i know that rockstar feeling you get!

Beth Wankel

I do almost all of my shopping at Trader Joe's. It was really hard at first, and I found myself running all over town supplementing my list. But after a while, I got a handle on what the have, and what they don't have, and I've been able to adapt my list of Regular Meals accordingly. If there's something I'm desperate for that they don't have, I will dare step foot in a Safeway, or our awesome little local market. I'm also not super keen on all of the Trader Joe's produce (some of it is just fine, but some of it, ahem, TOMATOES, just sucks) so I will hit up a farmer's market if I am able.
We have a Costco membership, but I don't go that often. It is GREAT for basics that we're constantly buying (toilet paper, peanut butter, cat litter, canned goods) but I find that buying a lot of the food in bulk is a recipe for making me hate that particular food. And anything perishable just isn't worth it. We don't have the space to store a lot of perishables and they just go bad.
I stay pretty much in our "budget", but I do feel like I'm still spending more than I should be.

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