The Power of Your Purchases: Grocery Shopping Done Smart.

Happy Monday!  I didn’t get around to posting yesterday because we were PUTTIN IN WERK on the house.  Things are slowly but surely coming together little by little.  We’ve been ripping out the carpeting one room at a time to reveal the gorgeous, well maintained hardwood underneath.  Only one room has been painted so far (kitchen), but I can’t wait to get painting in all the other rooms.  We are totally working with the original character and charm our Cape Cod offers, so our choices in color have been bold and retro-inspired.  Now…if I could only snap my fingers and all of this would come together!

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One of my errands EVERY Sunday is grocery shopping.  I actually really love going and prefer to go it alone.  I love taking my time, browsing, and checking it all out.  But, it has taken me five years (honestly) to shop smarter out there.  In my first apartment, it was almost a guarantee that I would have some sort of rotting vegetable or fruit in my refrigerator.  I had totally good intentions when picking up produce while doing my weekly trip, but I would often shop on impulse and forget two days later.  I never wrote a list!  When doing a raw foods diet, one of the tips they gave was to shop on impulse in the produce section so you don’t get bored….uh, horrible idea if you don’t know what to do with it!  So much of my groceries went to waste, and I feel terrible thinking about all of that now.  Not only was it a lost cost, but I was totally wasteful in every way when others can’t buy the produce and things that I had access to.

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I have posted PowerHouse Purchases in the past.  The idea behind these posts so far has been to share information on items that give you more bang for your buck.  Items that are packed full of nutrients and many you can keep in stock in your pantry or fridge.  Some may be a bit more pricey than others, but the idea is to think of some foods as “always on deck.”  Easily accessible and versatile.  Over the past few weeks, I really began to think about how I grocery shop and how I could save more money while there.  I feel I have grown into a savvy grocery shopper this year (like, literally over the past few months), and I would like to share some of my tips with you.  Shopping is kind of like a game to me, and you should think of it that way, too!  You hold a lot of power when you are grocery shopping:  the power to put your hard earned cash into better businesses, the power to support businesses that conduct fair trade, and the power to save what you can.

The Savvy Shopper:

Tip #1:  Shop Seasonally — As much as I would love to buy raspberries or strawberries in January, it’s really not a smart grocery move.  These fruits are not in season so you’re going to pay an exorbitant amount for them.  Pick your produce according to the season.  Right now, you can get peaches, apples, plums, zucchinis, squash, tomatoes, and berries for half the cost you would see them go for during the winter.  Hit up your local farmers’ markets to support your local economy, (usually) cut back on your pesticide exposure, and get a better deal.  Also, limit your fruits to maybe two or three a week.  Are you really going to eat a whole bag of apples, a bag of peaches, a bag of plums, and berries ALL in one week?  I doubt it.  You may have good intentions during your trip, but think about the amount practically/realistically.

Tip #2:  Freeze Produce — If those berries you bought seasonally are about to good bad and you know you ain’t usin’ em any time soon, FREEZE THEM.  Granted, not all produce freezes equally so keep in mind what you’re throwing in a freezer bag.

Tip #3: Go Meatless — Meat can really rack up your grocery bill.  Maybe cut your meat consumption down to one or two nights a week.  Mike and I will talk Sunday morning about what meat we want for the week.  Rarely do I come out with two packaged meats, and if I do, I know my bill is going to be $5-10 higher just from that addition to my cart.  Think about which of your favorite recipes could have mushrooms or beans substituted in to cut back on the meat.  Heck, maybe try just eating vegetarian every other week!

Tip #4:  THE LIST — Let’s get to the point, you need a list.  You need an explicit, lengthy list with no allowance for wiggle room.  Take it with you, take a pen, and cross out every item you need.  I actually write my meals on the list and number them.  That way I can cross off each ingredient I need for each meal.

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Tip #5:  Meal Planning — Tips Four and Five kind of go hand in hand.  Plan your meals for the week ahead of time and take a look at the ingredients you A.) already have in your pantry and fridge, and B.) which grocery items cross over for each meal.  If I’m going to buy an entire bunch of cilantro or an entire package of chopped butternut squash, you best believe those ingredients are going to be seen more than one meal for the week so I don’t waste or buy a TON of ingredients for four-five different meals.

Tip #6:  Meal Planning with Produce on Deck:  Again, this ties in with the previous two tips….if you have a lot of peppers left over or some other perishable produce, incorporate that into your meals for the following week’s meals and COOK THOSE UP FIRST!!!  As long as that produce is still good, that is an item you don’t need to purchase again and you don’t want to waste them.

Tip #7:  Use Your Crock Pot Wisely:  Having at least one crock pot meal a week will almost guarantee you will have leftovers for another day or two.  That’s one or two meals you don’t have to create or buy more ingredients for.

Tip #8:  Keep In Mind Your Plans for the Week — I’ve had weeks where my grocery bill was only about $30 for just a few meals to throw together during the week.  My work would sometimes feed us for a few days for breakfast and lunch, and I would plan my list accordingly.  Do you already know you’ll be grabbing a bite and some drinks with a friend on Wednesday?  Cut back on one meal then!  Is your employer going to be buying a few lunches for you and your co-workers this week?  Cut back again.  No need to stock the fridge when you won’t be there.

Hope these tips are helpful and you save some moola.  I’ve been keeping my grocery bill under $120 each week which I had been spending $150-$180 a week for a while (for two people, mind you).  What are some tips you’ve followed before?  Hoping to learn some new ones 🙂  Enjoy your week, and be smart at that grocery store!

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