Monday, May 09, 2011

Tightening the strings

There are a lot of changes in our lives this 2011. Thathouse is all topsy turvy. And pretty much all of those changes are going to involve money. It's the cold hard truth that nothing in life is free, and all the good things that come into your lives are going to come with a price.

Which means we're very cognizant of all the funds that leave our pockets right now. Which just makes sense no matter what your status in life.

The inlaws are a PERFECT example of what NOT to do. TFIL hasn't held a permanent job in the past 30 years. So you imagine our surprise when he announced that he was retiring a couple years back. TMIL has been complaining about the fact that even though their budget is small, TFIL insists on spending a ridiculous amount of money on groceries. And now her car is on its very last legs. When I suggested that perhaps they should just be a single car family, given that TFIL doesn't, you know, have a job, I was railed against. How on EARTH would TFIL prepare dinner if he didn't shop at the market every day? I mentioned he could do what most other people do, shop once a week. That didn't go over well either. So although they are working with a budget that they complain about to everyone within 5 minutes of meeting, they continue to spend way too much money on groceries and are about to take on a second car payment so TFIL can make daily supermarket trips.

That's not how we work. We try to make rational economic decisions, even if it means making compromises. This week's topic on Eat.Live.Be. are tips for staying within your shopping budget.

1) Shop Farmer's Markets if you have them available to you. I attend every week, and as long as I'm not picking up honey or olive oil, I manage to spend $20 or less on fruits, veggies, bread and eggs. This is far less than I would spend at the supermarket. Bags of beans, carrots, or peppers for a dollar, a giant bag of oranges for $3.00.

2) Going along with tip number 1, try to eat locally and seasonally. I know, me and my tomato mouth should shut up. But for me, tomatoes are the exception. And I make some compromises. Tomatoes are more expensive when it's not summer, so I don't waste money buying gorgeous heirlooms in the winter when I know they won't taste as good. And as much as I love melon, I also try to refrain from buying it off-season. I've declared my birthday "Watermelon Day" and use that to mark the first day I'll consider buying it. It's more than just taste - because we know things taste better when they're in season, but it also costs grocers more to ship things in when they're not in season. Which means those grapes during the winter? Well it costs a lot to bring them in from Chile, and you're going to end up paying the costs.

3) Utilize your freezer. I keep an eye on proteins when they're on sale and buy them then. Then I stick them in my freezer. Proteins can get expensive, but you'll find that post-holidays those gorgeous rib-eyes and cuts of beef are marked down substantially. I got a goose for under $10! And in the summer, we can get shrimp for insane low prices. You don't want to leave them in your freezer forever, but it does buy you some time.

4) Shop around. After I hit the farmer's market, I pick up household goods (toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies) at the supermarket and head to Trader Joes for other groceries. Things like jams, dairy products, dried fruits and nuts, nitrate free bacon, etc. Trader Joes is a GREAT place to go for pork tenderloin. I can usually pick one up for under $5.00 which makes it a very budget friendly meal. I've included an easy recipe below.

Broiled Pork Tenderloin
1 pork tenderloin
2 strips of bacon

  1. Preheat broiler. Tie bacon in place on top of tenderloin with some cooking twine.
  2. Place pork in a shallow broiling pan.
  3. Cook 12 minutes, slice, and serve.

Next week's topic follows up on our habit breaking from last week.

And here are a list of the other bloggers participating:


  1. Here in K-town it is sad to say that it is more expensive to shop at the farmers market than my usual grocery store but that never stops me from heading to my local farmers market to support our local growers.

  2. I spend way too much on groceries right now, probably because there are 2 grocery stores within 3 blocks, so I go all the time because it's so easy to walk there!
    I would LOVE to be a one car family... hopefully when we move into the city!

  3. TJ's is definitely my go-to for all things non-produce (and sometimes produce also!). I usually do a triple grocery trip - first to the farmer's market, then to Trader Joe's, then to Whole Foods if there's anything left that I need. Thankfully, all three are within a block of each other.

  4. You have some great tips here. There are however, regional differences.Our farmer's markets are expensive relative to produce in the super markets. That never stops me from shopping there but it is more expensive. To keep things in balance, I buy in bulk and make my own bread, condiments and sauces. I think my biggest food savings is to make no more than we will eat in a single sitting unless I have a planned leftover meal to follow it. This is starting to resemble a tomb, so I'll stop here. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

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  6. Those are great tips! My grocery bill stayed within the same 5-10 range for the last several years and over the last few months it has jumped up. I am pretty good about only buying what we need but, could do better looking for a bargain. I should use my freezer more.

  7. I definitely spend more than I should sometimes for meals, but I feel like they are still cheaper than eating out all the time! These are great tips.

  8. I'm totally jealous of your price for pork and that you have a farmer's market. The nearest one to me is 45 minutes away.

    We're trying to be more aware of our spending too. It's hard for me at times because no one really ever taught me about money management - my parents are horrible with money. My mom hasn't had a full time job in years (12 I think) but spends like they are a 2 income family and my dad just tries to ignore the money issue all together until it comes and bites him in the butt.

  9. I love being about to go to farmer's markets (and TJ's)! :)

  10. These are such great strategies, thank you for sharing. I am trying to trim our food budget now in preparation for cutting back on my work hours this fall (more time with the kids! yeah!). I have been trying to cook more vegetarian meals, and am also excited to have signed up for a CSA this year which should help a lot as well.