Friday, January 28, 2011

Want -v- Need

It seems like everyone is feeling the pinch. I was reading Frugal Queen and she was complaining about how the price of everything was going up, and that she was regretting not planning ahead and stocking up on staples when the prices were low(er).  Although I have been stocking up when my staples were on sale as loss leaders, I do feel her pain!  I hate going grocery shopping, because the price of EVERYTHING has been on a steady march upwards with no end in sight. The good old days of having a whole shopping cart full of food and paying only $100 or so are long gone. . .

Just today, I had to fill up my husband's truck with gas, and put some gas in my older son's car as well, and burned a hundred dollar hole in my wallet! I remember before I was married and living in the Bay Area near San Francisco, my monthly gas bill for my commute back and forth to work ran under $50! Now, it costs more than that just to fill up one vehicle one time! And back then, I thought that was high, since I knew California always taxed gas at a higher rate than some other states.  In Texas where I live, gas prices are inching towards $3 a gallon. It is no wonder the cost of EVERYTHING is going up!

What all this means is that we all have to make hard choices and really differentiate between wants versus needs. If I don't need it to put food on the table or keep my family healthy, it is not a "need." I may "want" something today, but if I go ahead and get it, is it going to prevent me from getting what I "need" tomorrow?  Increasingly, this is becoming a choice all of us are making.  I've been noticing in the past year or so that I rarely see people at the grocery stores with full shopping carts.  A full cart used to be the norm, but I think it is increasingly becoming an exception these days.  Everyone is feeling the pinch, and everyone is having to make hard choices between thier needs and wants. 

It is really a vicious cycle.  Impulse purchases just are no longer a reality for most people these days.  At the same time, an abundance of such purchases were what made the economy hum.    I blame the current state of affairs on wasteful government spending all over the globe.  This is not just the fault of the United States, or England, or Europe, or any one country.  All the leaders who spent thier respective countries' budgets into the ground are all to blame.  And we are left holding the empty bag. . . Unless this whole bloody mess is somehow rectified, all we can do is buckle down and be vigilant on what and where we spend our hard earned income and hope and INSIST that governments everywhere will learn to do the same!

Tomato paste and American cheese

I was down to my last can of tomato paste, so I've been on the lookout for sales. They used to go on sale 4 for a dollar not too long ago for 6 oz cans, and now they are averaging 78 cents a can when they are not on sale. Kroger now has them "on sale" at $3 for 5 cans, which comes out to 60 cents a can! Talk about inflation!

Interestingly, they also had 12 oz cans for sale at 45 cents a can. Are you kidding me? I can buy twice as much for less than the current sales price of the 6 oz can? This was a no brainer. I purchased 20 cans, since I use tomato paste frequently to add flavor to spaghetti sauce and stews.

Kraft American cheese was also on sale for 99 cents. Though they are not my favorite, my sons and husband like them on grilled cheese sandwiches and hamburgers, so I purchased 10 packages. They will keep quite a while in the fridge. They regularly sell for about 3 dollars, so this is quite a savings as well.

Bottom line though, is it is always a sticker shock every time I go grocery shopping. One must save, and stock up whenever we can. 
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Soup For Dinner

Inspired by Frugal Queen's soup yesterday, vegetable soup for dinner tonight! I needed to clear out some vegetables in the crisper compartment of my refrigerator, anyways. Four carrots, one red bell pepper, one onion, two stalks celery were all chopped up and sauteed for a bit in the frying pan. Tip it all over in a pot with water with a can of Northern beans and leftover marinara sauce. Salt, pepper to taste. Then I added diced acorn squash... A pinch of hot pepper flakes, and it was done! My husband is on a vegetarian diet for the foreseeable future, and it has been hard coming up with a menu everyday.
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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Making it from scratch

It was reaffirmed today what a difference it makes making your meals from scratch. Around 10 a.m. my husband was asking, "what's for lunch?" I had no answer. But he said, "I wouldn't mind some chili!" I put about 2 cups of dried pinto beans in my pressure cooker with some water and put it to boil.   It had been a LONG time since I used the pressure cooker. One hour later, the beans were all but done. I  adjusted the seasonings and let it simmer for a bit longer. I could not believe I made chili from DRIED beans in under two hours! I really need to remember to use my pressure cooker more often. Aside from the savings in time, think of the savings in energy costs!

After we were done eating lunch, I was trying to relax reading the supermarket fliers.  I complained to my husband how the price of Ranch Style Beans had come up over the price it used to be sold on sale (used to be 4 for a dollar, now about 78 cents for one can). He told me that the beans I cooked ( in the chili) tasted better than the canned ones, so don't even sweat over trying to find it at a sale price.

Goes to show, when you are used to buying it canned, you tend to forget how easy it is to make it yourself from scratch.  The chili tasted better than the stuff we buy canned, and it cost pennies per serving.  Note to self, don't forget to make things from scratch when you can, because the savings are astronomical. 

Once our supply of store bought chili is used up, I will start making a big batch and canning it at home in the future.  My chili tasted way better than those from the store, and it didn't have mysterious ingredients in it. I will be using my pressure canner that I invested in last year for just such projects.  If you are canning anything with meat or low acidity content, you must process the bottles properly under pressure. Safety first!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Buying Out of Season Part Deux

Amazing how even the price of everyday grocery items change! Before Thanksgiving and Christmas, I had my eyes glued open, waiting for the price of Libby's canned pumpkin to come down so I can stock up on it. Generally, it is at its' lowest price every year at that time.  This past season though, the lowest price I saw anywhere was about 78 cents for a 15 oz can.  Not really anything to write home about, so I gave up and didn't buy any, since it was not worth stocking up at that price.  Back then, I think I would have stocked up if they had them offered at 2 for a dollar.

Today, when I went to Walmart to buy some lunch items for my sons' school lunches, I hit jackpot! They were 25 cents a can. I had to look twice, as the sign above the shelf said $ 1.25, but the price on the shelf itself said 25 cents.  I double checked the price at the baking aisle to make sure, and it was really 25 cents.  According to the reciept, Walmart's regular price on this item is $1.50, so I think what happened here was that the store had a supply glut over its' normal level and wanted to move it quickly to clear shelf space. I happened upon a small window of opportunity before Walmart jacked up the price again.  Thank you grocery shopping fairies! (BTW, I had to go back inside the store after I checked out to get a couple of items I forgot, and they were ALL gone!)

I bought 4 cases, which comes out to 96 cans.  Yes, that is a LOT, but as I said before, buying groceries for me is a two pronged approach; trying shop smart day to day to not waste money, but also stocking up on non-perishable items so I have a food storage supply "just in case." I spent $24.00, and that bought me peace of mind.  I will be using it in the future to make pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin soup, etc.  In addition, it is supposed to be a good substitute for oil in many baking recipes, so the end result of my baking will be healthier!

Now, I am on a quest to find a good price for canned tuna. A little over a year ago, I purchased around 70 cans when they were on sale for an incredible price (which I don't recall). The other day, I opened the last can (yes, I like tuna). What are the chances that I will find an equally incredible deal?