Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Grocery Shopping Tips for Couples on a Budget

Yesterday, I introduced readers to documentary film-makers, Zac and Alyssa, the creatives behind Soul Fabric Films.

I met Z & A last year when I took a series of seminars they were teaching on documentary film making. We stayed in touch, and now the tables have turned and I'm teaching them about my area of expertise: how to grocery shop on a budget.

Last post, I left off with Z & A having loaded their cart with fresh produce. Given that the couple had told me they were trying a spring- cleanse diet, I proposed that the bulk of their groceries should be vegetables and fruits.

From produce we transitioned into seafood where they collected a pack of Whole Catch shrimp, and from there into dairy for WFs 365-generic brand eggs and cream.

Despite the cleanse Zac has in mind that he wants to make sticky rice with mango this week and his epicurious recipe calls for heavy cream.

But we noticed organic half and half was on sale so Alyssa chose half and half because I advised her it could be used in the sticky rice.

Checking his iPhone epicurious app, and the recipe for sticky rice, Z wondered if using half and half would compromise the dish.

If you've read my earlier posts, you know I advocate recipe-independence and so my response to Z was "improvise." Rather than cook the rice in water, adding the heavy whipping cream later, enrich the rice by cooking it with 3/4 half and half and one quarter water.

Transitioning into bulk, I pointed out dry chic peas, since I'd noted hummus on their list. Alyssa looked at me sheepishly, "make our own hummus?!" I gave her the quick power soak method for cooking chic peas, and listed the ingredients: tahini, lemon juice, olive oil.

They agreed to make hummus from scratch.

While in bulk, Alyssa spotted a large bag of gluten-free pancake mix. The price was around $15 for a pound. I nearly choked. Much finger-wagging ensued (by me), with A holding firm on her choice because Z is gluten sensitivity and apparently, this is the best gluten-free mix available.

However, pancakes are very easy to make: mix together flour, eggs, milk, and your choice of sweetener and spices. Having shared that combination of ingredients with A, I steered her away from the packet mix and toward a pound bag of gluten-free rice flour -- the price, approx $3.

"You're turning me into a Betty home-maker," trilled A, "first hummus, now pancakes!"

Zac came to the rescue, "I'll make the pancakes!" And so the decision was made, Z & A saved $12 by choosing to make their own pancakes.

Alyssa disappeared for a few minutes, returning from the middle aisles with a carton. I asked her what she'd found. It was a pint of coconut water for about $6 a carton. Needless to say, I nearly choked again.

However, at the risk of turning into a finger-wagging ogre, I proposed, which I do to everyone, that a treat a week, within your means, is perfectly reasonable. Alyssa smiled, putting the coconut water into their cart.

The couple finished up by using a coupon from Whole Deal to purchase tinned coconut milk. And weighing up the cost benefits of buying lime juice concentrate over bottled lime juice, Z & A chose the concentrate because they calculated that it would go further and so was ultimately cheaper.

As they were checking out, Z remembered he'd forgotten bottled water. I suggested they consider buying a Britta Water Filter, or something similar, for the long-term savings. After some discussion the pair decided they'd go across the road to Target and do just that.

So the grand total for a week's worth of groceries for the two was $120. Zac & Alyssa were thrilled because they've spent as much as $200 on their weekly groceries.

And reducing their expenditure didn't mean going without, in fact, it was simply a matter of following these simple tips:
  1. write a grocery list
  2. be mindful of price
  3. be mindful of your budget
  4. avoid impulse purchases
  5. make your own instead of paying a high price for ready-made


Jill said...

Love the post! I am all for improvisation in the kitchen. The other day I used half and half in a recipe because I did not want to buy cream--it curdled!
Would love to know how the sticky rice turns out!

Louise Ross said...

Hi Jill,
I'll ask Z & A to report in on their sticky rice and mango dish.

Cream, milk, half and half curdles if it's slightly off, or if there is an acid in the mix, i.e even a little acidic fruit could cause dairy to curdle.

Zachary said...

Thanks for an awesome shop Louise! The sticky rice turned into a rice pudding with coconut recipe from epicurious. It was (and continues to be) fantastic! We added strawberries to the fruit mix which adds a great splash of red.

check it out here: http://is.gd/BTA0