Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Grocery Shopping with Roommates

In yesterday's post, I mentioned that the girls I'm featuring this week, roommates Lisa and Julie met me at Whole Foods to learn what they could buy on their weekly grocery budget of $80.

Having prepped the girls, by pointing out the benefits of writing a shopping list, they came prepared -- their list looked something like this:
  • butter, milk, eggs, cheese
  • fruit, veggies, lettuce
  • meat, fish
  • bread, trail mix, chocolate, honey
We started in the fresh produce area and immediately I pointed out all the Good Stuff For Less signs. Despite having previously shopped at Whole Foods, the girls had never taken much notice of the signs, even though they mark items priced "for less."

They bought oranges, apples and Whole Trade bananas all of which were on sale. There was a bit of an issue over the oranges because Lisa likes them but Julie doesn't eat them often.

Nevertheless, they agreed to buy a 4lb bag for $3.99 because it was great deal.

Julie then reached for a 4lb bag of the mini peeled carrots and I prompted her to consider buying the large, loose organic carrots so she could control the weight and the price, and buy only what they'd need for the week.

She was reluctant because of the convenience of the already-peeled, bite-sized mini carrots. However, once she weighed 5 large carrots and found that they were a quarter of the price, she decided the price-savings was worth peeling her own carrots.

They also bought parsley, organic cluster tomatoes and limes on sale, lettuce, arugula and some curly kale, which I suggested they try cooking this way:

Crispy Kale
1) Wash kale and chop into chunks.
2) Spread on a baking tray and put into 350-degree oven.
3) Remove from oven once kale begins to turn slightly brown around the edges (about 15 minutes or so). Kale will be incredibly crispy!
4) Sprinkle with seasoning, i.e. salt & pepper, or grated Parmesan, or garlic salt.
5) Eat on its own as a snack, or with a main meal.

We transitioned to the dairy section where they picked up 365-brand milk, butter, eggs and cheese, all for much less than other brands.

Using their own plastic bags in the bulk section, they discovered the lower price on shredded coconut, trail mix, cranberries, pine nuts, dates and chocolate chips when you pick and pay for only what you need.

They also discovered the savings on using the nut-butter machine (middle pic) to grind just the amount of almond butter they wanted. Julie was over the moon when, at the check out, her portion of nut butter came up as a mere $1.

Julie uses nut butter to make her own Energy Bars:
1) Mix coconut, chocolate chips, almond butter and honey (optional) together until it sticks
2) Take spoonfuls & mold the mixture into rounds
3) Keep in the fridge for a handy snack

The girls picked up ground beef, chicken thighs and pork bacon, which Lisa took back to the meat counter, picking up 365-brand Turkey Bacon instead after I pointed out the savings and the lower fat content.

In the frozen-food aisle, they collected a bag of 365-brand chopped spinach and broccoli florets. Julie fixated on the amazing ice-cream selection opposite the frozen veggies, but resisted an impulse purchase noting the prices.

Once Lisa had picked out bread, using a coupon from the Whole Deal value guide, the girls were pretty much finished their shopping. And looking at their cart, I commented that they'd probably gone over their budget of around $80.

Then Lisa spotted her favorite deli item, honey roasted turkey. She bought $6 worth, their priciest purchase. Julie made noises, but Lisa said it was "not negotiable." I mediated saying, when you're on a budget a treat a week, and one within your means, is totally reasonable.

Lisa needed to leave at that point, but before she did, Julie commented "since you bought the sliced turkey, I think I'll treat myself to some hummus," which Lisa was fine with. So Julie purchased $5 worth of garlic hummus.

Once we got to the check out and Julie began to unload her groceries, it became obvious that they were probably at least $20 over budget, if not more.

As it turned out they purchased 42 items for $115. However, once home with the groceries stacked in the fridge, freezer and cupboards, they both agreed they had enough food to last at least 10 days, if not longer.

What Lisa and Julie discovered is that they can buy a lot of food and still save, shopping at Whole Foods, so long as they buy Good Stuff for Less and WFs 365-brand, but because the store merchandises so well, such that everything looks so enticing and delicious, it is hard not to impulse purchase.

My advice to roommates and singles shopping on a budget:
  • Be mindful of your grocery budget
  • Write a list and stick to it -- try and avoid impulse purchases
  • Treat yourself to one thing within your means once a week
  • If you get to the check out and find you've collected more than you can afford, take the things you don't really need and set them aside -- you don't have to buy everything you've put in your cart!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Did you and the girls think about buying an uncooked turkey breast from the butcher? I find its easy to throw a breast in the oven for 25 minutes when I'm around the house and have a nice preservative free lunch meat with any flavor I can make up.

Also, when I'd like some Hummus (which is often) I can pick up a can of garbanzo beans for about a dollar. Throwing them in the blender or food processor with salt, cumin and garlic to taste and and adding olive oil until I get the consistency I like takes 10 minutes. Tahini is a nice flavor bonus but I don't find I have to have it if I'm out or wanting to pinch pennies as it can be pricey!