Sunday, September 5, 2010

A lesson in penny pinching

Lets lay it all out here, I have to be cheap, it's how we are able to eat right now.  In addition to all these things I'm canning for later use I also have a fairly full chest freezer, and 2 fridge freezers full.  And a fairly decent pantry of store bought goods.  I'm guessing we could eat for 3 months before we run out.  Right now we don't have much disposable income, and what we do have goes into food for us, the necessities and animal feed.
You are probably asking how I can buy and keep this much food, right?
Lets start with the basics.  Meats and Produce.  Those are your largest ticket items for the most part.  There are store sales if you can catch them and there are what I call the used meat bin and the scratch and dent produce cart.  I can usually snag the nice expensive hormone free grass fed beef for half price or lower in the "reduced for quick sale" bin.  Those meats which are expiring that day.  I pick through, look for the best deals, and either toss them directly in the freezer or cook them that day.  Same goes for produce that doesn't look perfect, and if you've ever had a garden you know that produce isn't perfect.  Bananas can go directly in the freezer and be thawed out for use later.  Most everything else will need a little bit of prep before freezing, say chopping/blanching but they can still be tossed in the freezer.  Or you can can them in some form or eat right away.
Our little bitty local store also will mark down damaged goods to half price or lower.  Torn 5 lb bag of sugar?  99 cents.  Tortillas that have been crinkled on one side?  99 cents.  Etc.  Those deals I am always on the look out for.  Staples like flour, dried beans, rice, etc I buy in bulk.  Saves money and road trips to the store.  I also take full advantage of BOGOF sales.  I rarely cut coupons since I can almost always get the generic store brand for cheaper.  I don't make a large circuit of shopping places each week either, I live in the middle of nowhere and that is just not economically feasible.  Instead I keep a list of things for each place where I've found it cheapest and stock up when I'm ever in that area.

Just to give you an idea of how this helps lets examine dinner for tonight.  Beef and barley stew.
1 pound stew meat, or whatever you can lay your hands on cheaply, tonight was the hormone free large chunks of stew meat cut into small pieces, cost $2.50
1.5 cups dried beans, my choice tonight was half pinto and half red kidney beans, bought in bulk on sale, so maybe 20 cents total
1 cup pearled barley, I got a good deal on the organic stuff but maybe $1
1 cup frozen baby lima beans, 25 cents possibly
1 tbsp dried onions, it was a free-be with another purchase but the container is normally $2, so lets say 10 cents
1 tsp dry cilantro, dry ginger, dry oregano, salt, I buy all this in bulk maybe 20 cents total
Beef bullion to taste, but a cube or 2 cost 5 cents each
2 bay leaves, 2 cents?
Water, gallon to a gallon and a half, have no idea on cost since it's tap water.
Cook this in a crock pot for 6 to 8 hours

Overall price, not including water or electricity?  $5.27, and that's using a more expensive cut of meat and organic barley.  This amount of stew will give you at least 8 servings, so around 66 cents per bowl.
For us that's dinner tonight and lunch for the next few days.  Add a loaf of day old french bread at 90 cents and you have a really good meal on the cheap.

This was just a lesson in food, imagine the savings and deals I find at thrift stores and yard sales and clearance racks! 
The key is to be flexible and think ahead, way ahead if needed!


  1. "1 pound stew meat, or whatever you can lay your hands on cheaply, tonight was the hormone free large chunks of stew meat cut into small pieces, cost $2.50"

    That's really funny :) I don't mean that in a bad way, but there's NO way I could find anything like that near me. For hormone free stew beef, I think I'd pay 8 or 10 dollars a pound, and it never ever gets marked down because it's all frozen. Maybe you live somewhere it's got a lower cost of living than NY?

  2. Whoops, signed from the wrong account. This is SandraMort from BYC.

  3. Hi Sandra!
    We live out here in the middle of nowhere, beef cattle country to be exact. Prices are a little cheaper, not much but enough, especially out of the 'used meat bin', ahem, 'still good reduced for quick sale' bin.