I was reading one of the blogs I follow, The Frugal Farm Wife, when I came across a post about 8 Shopping Errors and How We Fixed Them. I was intrigued. Basically, she looked at some receipts from a few years earlier, and was amazed at some of the things she used to buy but didn’t anymore. Things like hot chocolate mix, tortilla chips, etc. And I was inspired to make a similar list of my own.
First, the things we have in common:
- Tortilla Chips. I haven’t bought these for a long time. Up until this month, we have been using tostadas instead. They run a bit cheaper than the chips do, and seem to have less fat. But we’re giving those up too. Fears about genetically modified food have definitely been a factor. I can make delicious millet tortillas (which my corn-allergic son can eat), so we’re going to try that.
- Canned Beans. I bought these sometimes in the first couple of years of our marriage. No longer. My mom bought me a pressure cooker, and I’ve never looked back. I used to can my own beans, but that turned out to be more work than it was worth (90 minutes of canning time was just too much). Instead of keeping a couple of cans in the pantry for emergencies, I choose to make double batches of beans and freeze the leftovers. In fact, just yesterday I realized I had forgotten to soak beans the night before, so I pulled some out of the freezer, thawed them, and served them. Simple. Delicious.
Things I think I buy less of now:
- Cold Cereal. I have become concerned about the iron shavings in fortified cereals, and as such have quit buying almost all of them. I do buy Rice Chex, mostly because they are gluten free (and rice has yet to be genetically modified, last I heard), but other than that, I stick with Kashi cereals. They are certified GMO free, and some are even organic! And sometimes they are cheaper per ounce than similar name brand cereals (such as Shredded Wheat). I try to only buy 3 boxes of cereal a month, and make it last. Now that I’ve gone gluten free, I think I may only have to buy 2 boxes. That’s a lot less than we used to buy, I think. Or maybe not. But it has changed, anyhow.
- Juice. I used to buy the ready-to-drink juice bottles. But the price kept rising. Your average 100% juice bottle (I refuse to buy the cocktails and drinks) is over $3 a bottle at the cheapest grocery store in town. That’s ridiculous! I probably wouldn’t bother buying juice at all (and didn’t for a long time), but it’s the best way to get wheat grass down. So I buy the frozen kind and make it up as needed. I put 6 in my pantry list, but I expect we’ll only use about 4 in an average month.
Things that have changed significantly:
- White Flour. I can’t remember the last time I put white flour in something and served it to my family. The last time I bought white flour, I made muffins for my husband’s coworkers and playdough for the kids (which turned out to be a real disaster–the recipe calling for cornstarch worked much better and lasted a lot longer).
- Whole Wheat Bread Flour. After getting a grain grinder for my champion juicer, I quit buying whole wheat flour for bread. I also discovered that I could get 25 pounds of wheat berries from Azure Standard for less than the price of wheat berries from WinCo–and the 25 pound bag contains organic wheat, as opposed to the bulk wheat at WinCo, which isn’t organic (and therefore probably is GMO). I grind 4-5 pounds at a time and use it to make the best tasting bread.
- GF Flours. I have started buying flours from gluten-free grains like millet, teff, sorghum, etc. I also buy tapioca flour (starch, basically). These don’t affect the budget a whole lot, because I buy them in bulk quantities, such as 5 pound bags, or in the bulk section at WinCo. Most of them are not certified gluten-free, either, but in our family that isn’t such an issue as it would be in the home of someone with celiac disease.
- Exotic Foods. In the early years of our marriage, we lived in south Texas, where things like yuca (cassava), plantain bananas, and other exotic foods were relatively cheap. So we ate them on a regular basis. Now we only rarely buy them. We have found frozen shredded yuca that my husband makes into patties for Manny, and occasionally if I find a few good plantains, I’ll cook them for the family, but rarely. Maybe 2-3 times a year–instead of every week. I also don’t use coconut milk on a regular basis.
- Bulk items. When we lived in Texas, there wasn’t a good place to buy bulk items. Now, though, I buy things like cornmeal, rice, black and pinto beans, oatmeal, etc, in 25 pound bags and store them in buckets with screw-on lids. It really saves money; I can go to the store at times and spend $30-40 for a week’s worth of food–sometimes less–because I am only getting things that I need for that week; staples are always available. In fact, if we could do without fresh food, we could eat for quite a while with the beans and flours we have on hand.
- Certain Fresh Produce. This summer we finally planted a garden, and for a few weeks I won’t be buying tomatoes, since ours have finally started to ripen. We have also been given much surplus produce from friends and church members–beets, green beans, swiss chard, etc–that we didn’t grow ourselves. We got some free apples from Freecycle, as well as other fruits either from the wild (wild plums, blackberries, etc) or from friends. So I pretty much just buy bananas for fruit. I have also started buying only organic of certain things–lettuce, celery, and other things. Those items tend to absorb pesticides and other things, more than fruits like bananas or oranges, because the skins are thin.
- Soymilk. I like to keep a can of shelf-stable soymilk on hand, just in case we need it, but I generally make my own with a soy milk machine. It’s not the best tasting milk, but we’ve gotten used to it, and you can’t tell the difference in baked goods. And at $.25-.50 a quart, there’s just no comparison!
- Pasta. I can get pasta in bulk at WinCo, and I won’t buy it on the shelf unless I am splurging on a special shape they don’t have in bulk. I also never buy white pasta. I also buy a significant quantity of rice pasta, since both Manny and I are eating a gluten-free diet. Thankfully, WinCo has rice pasta for about $1.50 a pound–probably about what you would pay for your average name-brand pasta in a bag or box on the shelf. The wheat pasta is around $1 a pound, give or take a few cents.
- Nuts. I buy nuts in bulk at WinCo too. (I feel very sorry for people who don’t live in the states where WinCo has a presence–or who live far from it.) I don’t buy Brazil nuts or macadamia nuts or pine nuts, either. As my friend at Too Cheap for Pine Nuts so aptly put it, “pine nuts . . . are $60940909 a pound. . . . [and] we just couldn’t bring ourselves to spend that for a pine nut.” I have also noticed that cashews, which used to be cheaper than almonds, are now almost twice the price. I still buy them, because I like them in certain things (but I dislike the taste of them by themselves), but I have found that almonds work well in place of cashews in certain recipes, such as cashew-based gravy and cashew cheese. I find myself using cheaper nuts and seeds more.
- Baby Food. For some reason, when my daughter was born, I thought making baby food would be too much work. I can’t believe I ever thought that. Sure, it’s nice to have jars of food on hand for trips to town or church or wherever, or for emergencies, but I can make a jar’s worth of food for pennies, and it tastes so much better than the stuff in the jars, especially in the veggie department. I just whiz whatever in the blender, freeze it in ice cube trays, and bag it for use later. Those metal cups work well for thawing small amounts of baby food over the stove (since we don’t have a microwave).
And other things that I can’t remember, because we don’t save food receipts.
It’s kind of a balance. I save in certain things so that I can splurge on others. My son drinks hemp milk. That currently costs $38 a case if I buy it from Azure Standard. It would be more if I bought it anywhere else. But it’s the only high-quality fat and protein milk he can drink (other than rice milk,which doesn’t have much of either), so I buy it.
Now it’s your turn. How have your buying habits changed over the years? What do you now buy that you didn’t before? What do you do without now that you used to think was indispensable?