Frugal Shopping

I love grocery shopping. I know, I know, I should probably get a hobby. And I’m not going to pretend that I love grocery shopping on busy Saturdays. Especially when I get stuck behind a gaggle of old ladies who walk incredibly slowly and block up the aisles. Thursday is really my favourite day to shop for the week’s necessities. But this time of year, I usually feel a bit of a pinch, money-wise. Not only are the holidays coming up, but I also usually need either a new coat or boots, as well as winter tires for the car.

So instead of subsisting on ramen noodles and “wish” sandwiches (bread with butter that you wish had something on it…), I shop wisely. I actually enjoy this more, as it’s almost a little challenge. Whenever Grant and I go shopping, he always says, “No way this is under $200.”, when I know, just by looking at the cart that it’s $110, tops. Usually I’m right and he is amazed at the alchemy in the kitchen, turning these ingredients into delicious meals for the week.

Here are some of my tips:

1. Look at cheaper meats. There’s a reason that prime rib is more expensive than a pot roast. And that reason is that you’d have to be a troglodyte (new big word of the day!) to make prime rib taste bad.

Seriously, pot roast is absolutely delicious.When. Done. Right. The key to frugal shopping (and the subsequent frugal cooking) is to know how to transform tough meats into flavourful, tender, fall-apart, melt-in-your-mouth meats. This is usually achieved through braising, low and slow cooking, marinading and brining. And, as previously promised, I really am working on my pot roast post. It should be up this weekend. Promise!

Anyway, these meats tend to be on sale, at which point I buy two packages, one for this week, one for next. There will be more on sales a little later on, though, so beware of “Sale”.

2. Shop in season and locally. Seriously, I don’t just shop at my farmer’s market because it’s trendy. Actually, that’s a bit of a turn off. There tend to be a lot of yuppies and their children named Tristan and Skylar, all wearing matching sweaters, running around and underfoot. The real reason I like to shop there is because, other than the darling little baskets, they are WAAAAAAY cheaper. I can usually buy tons of veggies for the week for under $20. You can also get eggs and poultry, and some markets also sell beef and pork, which would be awesome. These aren’t always cheaper, though, so pay attention to the prices.

3. Only buy what you need. How much do you throw out during a week? I am a big offender, breaking this rule if I get slack. I hate waste, but with just two of us here, it is easy to have things go off before we can get to them. Prevent this. Canned and frozen goods are fine, but watch your dairy and produce. For example, I’m making Red Velvet Cupcakes again this week for a little work party (it’s actually a party for me as I’m going to be leaving for a new position in a new department. I’m also making caramelized onion dip, as well. Not quite sure how I managed to cook for my own party, but I digress….). Normally, I would need to buy buttermilk for this recipe. But, I know that I can substitute milk with vinegar and I need milk for mashed potatoes and a bechamel sauce later in the week, so I just bought regular milk. I normally don’t drink dairy, so this wasn’t an ordinary purchase for the house. Now I won’t be wasting an entire carton of buttermilk and have just what I need for the rest of the week, which leads me to the next tip…

4. Plan your meals. If you don’t plan your meals, it’s easy to buy a whole bunch of things that don’t really go together for dinner. Grant says that only I can spend $200 on groceries and manage to only have condiments in the fridge. So instead, I make my grocery list while thinking about the week’s meals. And I try to make meals that will result in delicious left-overs for lunch the next day. This also saves money and is much better than a crummy old sandwich in the lunch room.

5. Beware of sales and coupons. I know this sounds weird, but I can tend to buy things I don’t need just because they are on sale. I don’t really want or even like soy mayo, but I am tempted to buy it when it’s on sale. Before you buy something on sale, think about how you will use it for the upcoming week. If it’s too much of a stretch, leave it on the shelf. It’s only a bargain if you will use it.

I have plenty of other little tips and tricks, but these are, by far, the biggest help with keeping me on track with the budget. Now, if this only worked with shoes…

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