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Grocery News: Thrift

By Katy Killilea

More With LessLatte

Well, I’ve crossed the line: the one between thrifty and cheap. It was an ugly scene that involved two young boys, too few pears, and too many overripe avocados. Sorry, kids. What’s a parent with Boomster scallop dreams and a tilapia budget to do? Shopping at Price Rite, Job Lot, or Building 19 has its place, but only helps so much. For many of us, forgoing the pleasures of buying food in a beautiful setting is far too bleak. And unnecessary. To wit:

1. Buy whatever produce is gorgeous, organic, and on sale. (Caveat emptor re: vast quantities of avocados which are sure to ripen simultaneously.)
2. Buy in bulk: If you use a lot of a particular pantry item, you may be able to get a discount on a whole case.
3. Shop at the Farmer’s Market. Avert your gaze from the pricey jams and focus on the apples and kale, and surely you’ll have $1.50 left for an exquisite cup of New Harvest coffee. Sip slowly, and bask in a sense of luxury on your way out.
4. Give fancy jam as a gift. This allows you the pleasure of selecting and purchasing a small, deluxe object and might ultimately make people love you more. (Everyone likes jam. Raspberry jam.)
5. Make your own sophisticated cleaning products. Leslie Reichert, aka The Cleaning Coach, has written a book that threatens to put Mrs. Meyer’s right out of business. And once you see how well Tang drink mix works in your dishwasher, you’ll be extra glad it has ceased to be a required beverage for children.
6. Think like a Mennonite and stop wasting food. Mennonite cooking emphasizes wasting fewer of the earth’s (obviously limited) resources in order to create a fairer, more humane world. In the cookbook More-With-Less, wholesome, nutritious ingredients (always fun to buy) are used wisely and creatively. These recipes are thrifty in a way that, in some circles, passes as stylish. (Custom-blending your own granola because of your fine palate or frugality? Who can say?)
7. If you have a pricey latte or kombucha habit, learn to make your own, and then open up your living room as a neighborhood speakeasy. You’ll be able to maintain a sense of community while sipping deluxe beverages at a fraction of the retail price.


Have you devised a way to save money on food? Share your ideas, pointers, and favorite resources with us.

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  • This delicious soup I made was so cheap I think I earned money by eating it:

    Cook a chopped onion & garlic in a little olive oil. Add sliced mushrooms. About 2 cups. Add a diced potato, carrot, scallions. Add 8 c vegetable stock or water and 1 pound of lentils. I had French Green lentils. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes.

    I had a parmesan cheese rind so I put that in too. Ground pepper and oregano.

    Sounds plain but is really good. Only few dollars for the whole big pot.

  • Going in on a 25 pound sack of oats from an organic food coop with another family–hope we have room to store them…

  • No-not on WIC but I know it must be difficult. Do they limit where you can shop?

    The coupon thing won’t help me either as I would not normally buy a lot of the preservative rich stuff on those shelves. Not worth it just for tp etc.

    Job Lot does have good tea deals, also almonds, walnuts and agave.

    One great tip I have for cleaning is the Arm & Hammer Scrub Free spray w/oxy at Tarket for 1.99. Lasts forever, works and eco friendly.

    I buy a dlb esp at whole foods and add a little soy at the counter for a coffee fix that is still great coffee but only 1.98.

  • I didn’t mean to be cavalier about financial trouble. I think this is just how I deal with having to be thrifty–I want it to be fun, even when it’s not.

  • I am crazy about making bread, but don’t know how much dough (ha ha) we are saving…because now we just eat so much more bread. Although…I guess it’s just maybe 50 cents for the flour (per loaf), a few cents for yeast & salt…and the water is free…pretty darn inexpensive, even if it’s a daily habit!

  • Many people are making bread at home. I never thought of it as a way to save money. You should write about easy bread receipts.

  • We have started to bake all of our bread and treats. When cookies cost 4.00 (ouch!) it is much easier, healthier and very tasty too to make our own.

    It’s also a fun project for the kids

  • Re: How to avoid spending $30 at Chipotle, after shopping at Trader Joe’s & Price Rite.

    I LOVE Chipotle, but have to have fiscal control as well. I do my best to shop at TJ’s first thing in the morning, AFTER I have had breakfast. That way, It is too early for lunch and even seeing the sign does not make me crave a Barbacoa Burrito!

  • My wife makes really good bread and it makes eating at home seem like a bigger treat than stopping for something at a bakery. We don’t buy much prepared food–we spend a lot of labor time making our food though. Does that even count as saving money?

  • one other little thing we do is try to just eat from the pantry/freezer/fridge for say… a week. Without buying anything. It’s always interesting.

  • is is possible to go to Trader Joe’s and Price Rite without losing thirty dollars at Chipotle while you’re over there?

  • One of the best ways I save at the grocery store is to go with a list of what I need (and the menu for the week) so I am more focused and less distracted by all the things I do not need.

  • Great article, Katy!

    I’m always looking for ways to lower our grocery bill (and not spend a fortune on gas as I drive from store to store for various items). I’m just loving that the new Trader Joes is directly across the street from Price Rite, I hit them both weekly – great way to save time & money!

  • I totally agree that most coupons are a joke, but timed with a sale and used on something you would purchase anyway (like the Larabar or my Pampers/Tide/etc)you can really do well.
    Most people don’t know that Target puts out coupons on their site, which can be used WITH a manufacturer coupon… and again, time it with a sale and you are getting stuff near free!
    It’s a good thing I am a SAHM, this deal hunting is a JOB

  • Wow! Jamie, you’re a real pro. I think coupons are mostly a waste of time–make me buy things I don’t use or need–but sometimes they work out…

    I used to use the 50 cents off Larabars coupons from Wholefods at Shaw’s, where they’d double the coupon, so the bar would be almost free if they were on sale (which they often were.)

    But I think Larabars got hip to my jive and now the coupons are for use only at Wholefoods. Drat!

  • I post hot deals on my blog, like a recent deal at Shaws where I spent only $50 (over several trips) on
    20 boxes of Cheerios
    20 jumbo packs of pampers
    10 pampers wipes refill packs
    5 packs of 18roll Bounty
    1 pack 24 roll Charmin
    5 Large Bottles of Tide
    4 Bags Cascade power packs
    6 Boxes Cascadian Farms granola bars.
    8 Cans Muir Glen Organic soup

    I cruise the site, Slickdeals.net and buy into only the best hot deals that stock me up on essentials for pennies. Then I have no problem splurging on the good stuff at Whole Foods. I do shop at Price Rite for some things, Trader Joes for some things, Shaws for sales, and mainly Whole Foods. I am a dealwhore, there is no doubt about it.