Sunday, March 1, 2009

More Making Do in Hard Times

I always believe that if I’ve figured something out that everyone else must figured it out long ago. Based on what I’m seeing in newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet I’m old. The current economic crisis has made all the things I learned through experience “news.” I find myself preaching to my children who are having difficulty making ends meet. I’ve said it a hundred times and I’ll say it again, food is one of the few expenses somewhat within our control.

If you don’t want to be reduced to a steady diet of macaroni and cheese and the accompanying fat here are some shopping strategies.
  • Eliminate processed foods/cook from scratch:
One thing that I’d never paid attention to before is that all the good food in a grocery store is on the perimeter. The middle of the store is reserved for all the processed and packaged food. For the most part, all the fresh, whole and bulk food is located around the edges of the store so start there. Cooking from scratch doesn’t have to consume a huge amount of time and staying away from Hamburger Helper and high fructose corn syrup laden packaged food will save your money and your health. Cooking from scratch allows you to control the ingredients. If you succumb to packaged food, check the health food section of your super market and read labels.
  • Choose whole chickens.

I buy whole chickens when they are on sale. If you are fit enough to be eating fried chicken you can cut it up yourself and save a lot of money. I find cooking whole chickens, in the oven or crock-pot, easier than frying chicken anyway. We have a big family so I buy the largest chickens I can find and generally cook two at a time so that there’s plenty of chicken leftover to make sandwiches, soups and casseroles. Actually, buying large amounts of anything leads to the next tip.

  • Buy in bulk.

I like shopping at Costco for large amounts of things like rice, sugar, and flour. Fred Meyer sells bulk organic products as do health food store such as Marlene’s. The larger amount you have room to store the cheaper per unit is. Back in the 1970s, before the Pacific Co-op, a play group I belonged to with the babies decided to form a co-op. Each month we made lists of things we needed and took turns going to the industrial section of Seattle to buy in BULK and then divvied up the booty at someone’s house or a community hall. Obtaining bulk food is much easier today and ought to be on everyone’s shopping list.

  • Eat in season.

Buying out of season produce is not only costly, it hurts the environment since it has to be transported from other parts of the world where the seasons are the opposite of ours. Besides, eating locally is supposed to be more healthful. I suppose a case could be made for the fact that few of us live in our tribe or area, but there are some experts that contend that we become habituated to the food of the area where we do live. Personally, my favorite foods are Pacific Northwest fare.

  • Use coupons

Even if you don’t take a daily paper, buy the Sunday edition. You get a TV guide, a lot of news and entertainment, and most of all, coupons. Last week ,while I was shopping at red Meyer, I discovered that someone had left a handful of coupons on a table near the floral department. They were carefully clipped from the Sunday coupons and I thought, “Hey, what good karma.” Normally I cut out only what I know are products that I would buy and put the rest into recycle, but today I think I will cut them all out, keep what I want and take the rest to the store to leave for someone who might be able to use them. Coupon use goes with the next tip for eating well in a down economy.

  • Plan meals based on what’s on sale and what’s in the pantry.

I use those coupons when items are on sale unless it is an emergency. I peruse the food ads and cruise the aisles with my coupon folder in hand. Keeping a well stocked pantry of food purchased at rock-bottom prices is the best way to stretch food dollars. Both my mother and my daughter-in-law are easily swayed by recipes they find in magazines or see on the Food Network. They want to run out and purchase the ingredients right then and there. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve put my mother’s groceries away for her, only to discover that she already had multiples of the items in her pantry. She has no idea what she has. You don’t have to keep a running inventory of what’s in the pantry. We tried that and it was too much work. But occasionally looking to see what you have will keep a little inventory in your head and giving it a real study when planning meals will save you money.


2Grandmas2 said...

Thanks for your comments on my menus blog. I'll check out that article in AARP. And I will be following up on this.

Lots of good ideas here. One thing I've begun doing at Costco is gettting a couple of their roasted chickens. Their chickens are huge, and roasted to perfection, cost is under $5 per bird. My family numbers 2 at the moment. We used our one bird for three dinners and two lunches, not bad for $4.95. Sure am going to have to invest in a freezer, though.

Stephanie Frieze said...

Yes, having your own freezer to shop in is wonderful. I like to cook two chickens at a time so I've got leftovers, especially for chicken salad and when I haven't planned ahead Costco's chickens are a blessing. We've had Fred Meyer's be under done--way under.

Sometimes we have "left-over soup" where I throw in left over vegetables, meat, etc. into a soup base and call it dinner. Costco sells a box of boxes of organic ginger carrot soup which is a wonderful jumping off spot for making a hearty soup. I add curry which really seems to compliment it.