Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Things I buy, but shouldn't

Over the last year, I've been working on reducing my grocery bill from $150-$200 per week, down to $80 per week (though I occasionally go over). I've done this partly by smarter shopping - collecting and using coupons, finding great sales, finding deals online, and buying more items at drug stores which give rewards for buying certain items.

But, more importantly, I've done more scratch cooking, depended less on pre-made ingredients, and just cut certain foods out of our diet.

That's one reason I was excited to read an article on 8 Foods You Should Never Buy Again. I don't buy any of those items for the most part. I have bought rice and pasta mixes, but only when they were free, or almost free, after coupons and sales. And I do buy bottled water before the hurricane season to have in case of an emergency.

But it got me thinking... what grocery items do I still buy, but I shouldn't? What else can I work on to bring my grocery bill down?

Here's the list I came up with:

1. Juice boxes. Yes, I spend money for a little juice and a box that gets thrown in the trash. And they are so expensive! Each box contains about 6 ounces of juice, and they come in sets of 8, so I'm paying $2.38 (if I don't have coupons and they're not on sale, that's the cheapest regular price I can find here) for 48 ounces of juice. Not a good deal. My excuse was, one time I bought plastic reusable juice boxes, and my two younger kids ended up throwing them away, since they were so used to doing that.

Well, this is one I decided to work on since coming up with the idea for this post. I bought two more plastic juice boxes ($1.44 at Walmart), and I'm going to label them very clearly, on all sides, "Do Not Throw Away." Then I'll sit down with the kids and review with them tonight, as well as tomorrow morning that they need to put the box back in their lunch boxes after they eat. We'll see if this works or not.

2.  Applesauce cups.  Same problem here.  I've spooned jarred, purchased on sale applesauce into purchased on sale Gladware containers, but too often the container didn't come home.  Another labeling and reminding issue that I'll tackle once we get used to keeping the juice boxes.

3.  Instant oatmeal.  A lot of expense for a little oatmeal and a lot of sugar, salt, and artificial flavorings.  I have made oatmeal in the crockpot before - it's much healthier and much cheaper, and doesn't take up much time at all to start the night before.  But... the kids like the instant stuff better.  *sigh*

4.   Fresh herbs.  It wouldn't be all that difficult or expensive to grow a few pots of basil, cilantro, parsley, and other herbs I like.  I've tried starting a garden several times, but never really had much success.  One of these days I need to put my mind to it and grow at least some herbs.

5.  Tortillas.  My kids looooove tortillas, so we go through a pack or two a week.  I've found them pretty cheap at 92¢ for a package of 20 at Walmart.  Still, this expense adds up for something that's just a little flour, shortening, baking powder, and salt.  I need to find some time to learn how to make them myself.

6.  Sandwich bread.  I have a bread maker, and I make my own challah, French bread, and pizza dough, so what's stopping me from making sandwich bread?  I don't know.  Another project I just need to start.

What do you buy at the grocery store, but could make yourself if you put your mind to it?  Leave a comment below!

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Corrin May 25, 2010 at 9:50 PM  

I think tortillas would be a lot of work for the savings. We do grown our own herbs. Our basil plant is taking over the patio this year!

Leslie May 26, 2010 at 12:17 PM  

Great ideas! I've been working on the same things and finding ways to not have to buy them again. For the juice boxes, I purchased thermoses that my kids take and they haven't asked me for a juice box or capri sun since. Every day they can choose between milk, juice or water from or fridge.

And for tortillas, I was always intimidated by them (even though I have lots of baking experience) until I saw a demo at a church function. After that I tried it and they are so easy! My kids love them and they taste so much better than store bought. Here's my link to a recipe I've tried that works:

One Red Daisy May 26, 2010 at 2:21 PM  

My mom used to always make sloppy joe mix from scratch, but sometimes I think it is actually cheaper to buy the 88 cent can. I try also, to make my own salads versus buying the bagged ones, but when they are on sale for $1, to me it is worth the purchase. I really like your blog and will be visiting!

Susan May 26, 2010 at 3:59 PM  

You can make your own instant oatmeal (whiz in a food processor). Or just make a bowl in the microwave. 1/2 cup of quick oats, 1 cup water, add some nuts, dried fruit, cook for 2 minutes on high---sugar is not usually needed (this makes 2x the amount of one of those packets). The amount of chemicals in the packaged stuff is horrible.

I agree, that while homemade tortillas are good, nobody has the time to make everything. And making all your bread is not necessarily a money saver---our family eats far more bread when it is homemade. I would focus on buying healthy foods that don't contain harmful additives and ecological foods that don't have extra unnecessary packaging. And choose the things you want to spend the time on because they are important to you.

Christy May 29, 2010 at 9:59 PM  

I buy "red soup" aka Campbell's tomato soup. My youngest loves it and really, homemade is such a different taste. I do make tortilla's - they do take time but my 5 year old rolls them out for me, so it is really easy. (flour - never tried corn)

judy gardner December 14, 2011 at 12:11 AM  

those are some good ideas! i have the same issue with buying applesauce in the individual little cups! i also tend to buy other things in the little individual cups, such as fruit (pears and madarin oranges), pudding cups and even cheese! i am a sucker for little bite sized things too, like laughing cow cheese, cheese precut slices and cubes among other things! and the worst part is that i dont have kids who need things like that for their lunches!!! oh well. i did not know you could cook oatmeal in a crockpot! i will have to try that! thanks again for the ideas!


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