May 6, 2009

Groceries and Gas

The idea of Works-For-Me-Wednesday are tips from blog world to make life easier, cheaper or more fun. The theme for this week is frugal living.

Feeding a family of nine (or 3 or 4 or ...) is not getting any cheaper these days. We try to maintain a balance between nutrition and being able to pay the grocery bill without having to leave one of the kids at the checkout.

One of the ways I do this is belonging to a produce coop. We try to eat a mostly vegetarian diet heavy in fresh fruits and veggies. By being flexible in what we take, I can get a much better quality product for far less than what I pay in the grocery store. We place our order every other Monday and pick up every other Wednesday afternoon. The catch is having enough space to store 2 weeks worth of produce for nine. We maintain a spare refrigerator in our laundry room just to store produce. An additional bonus is that if you have a lot of fresh fruit and veggies sitting around it is likely that you are going to be eating healthier, too.

For the small amount of meat we do eat, we found a local butcher who raises their own animals without all the hormones and chemicals of store bought meat. Not only are we getting a fresher and better quality product, that I feel comfortable feeding my family, but...for the ordinary things you would buy, like ground beef or chicken breast...their prices are usually far less than even Super Walmart. Without the yucky additives, the taste is so much better, too. Everyone who's had a burger at my house is converted to Hemp's burgers. My husband doesn't even eat steak in restaraunts anymore because he says it never tastes as good.

As for bread, pizza dough, baked goods... we make our own most of the time. Again, you can not beat the taste or price. An average loaf of bread at home costs about $.50 to make. The last whole grain loaf I bought at Super Walmart cost almost $3.00. That is a big savings. Here's a bonus for you. For health and taste, we buy wheat berries in bulk at the local health food store and grind our own flour. You will never eat bread any other way again. People ask my daughters to bake for them. If you'd like to know more or would like a recipe leave me a comment and I will get back to you.

My eggs come from a local fellow who raises hens in his yard. I pay $1.50 a dozen for organic eggs versus almost $5.00 in the grocery stores. Ask around. I bet there is someone you know who knows someone who raises chickens and has eggs to sell.

Everyone assumes because we are a large family, I shop at the big box clubs like Sam's and Costco. The truth is, there are just a few items that I go to the warehouses for. Frozen fish because it is far better quality than the grocery stores. (I insist on Alaskan Salmon for example. Almost all of the fish in groceries stores is from overseas, even what they market as "fresh". Ask some questions.) For this reason, I am willing to pay more. The best prices on good quality fish, in our area, is at the Sam's club. I also stock up on nuts and cheeses there.

For most everything else, I can do better buying generic items at the Super Walmart. I know...groan. I HATE shopping there more than anyone in the world. Sometime, I will share my philosophy on Walmart. can not beat their prices on most staples like Kashi cereal and organic soy milk.

And while we are on the topic of grocery stores... In our area the Giant Eagle offers credits towards your gas purchases if you shop in their store and buy gas at their GetGo gas stations. I do not buy groceries there because things are much more expensive than what I can do elsewhere. But, you can earn points for gift card purchases, too. In fact, you get double points. And their gas station always has the cheapest price in town. So, what we do is this.

We bought an older house a few years ago and always have a home improvement or gardening project going on. Before we go to the Home Depot we go to the Giant Eagle and buy gift cards for what we will spend. We aren't spending anymore than we would anyway and we are getting free gas for it. In fact, I usually have cards for the pet store we frequent as well as McDonald's, the movie theater we go to on date night, Starbucks and our favorite restaraunts. I shop on ebay quite a bit so I stock up on Ebay gift cards once in a while, too. Every dollar I spend is earning extra money back for me.

Which brings me to the point...we quite often fill our Suburban for free or at a greatly discounted price per gallon and we don't spend a penny more than we normally would. A few months ago that was a savings of $150 a tank or $$300 a month! I have been told that there are similar programs like this all over the country. We all buy stuff and we all need to eat. Make it work for you.

For more Works-For-Me-Wednesday tips check out We Are THAT Family


  1. These are great tips! I would love to be able to save on gas that way. The best I have done in this area is at Sam's Club. If you swipe your Sam's card before starting to pump they will take 5 cents off per gallon.
    My sister raises chickens and I love the flavor of organic eggs compared to store bought. It is a huge difference!

  2. Ok, I looked up Giant Eagle, and there aren't any where I live. Bummer because that was a GREAT tip!!! I need to find a good deal on gas like that for my Suburban! I wish you could give me lessons IRL on grinding your own wheat and baking with it. I am very interested, but not sure where to start, plus I need my husband to catch the fever for it!
    Great tips for saving money for your large family!