Archives for the day Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Shopping smart for groceries

 In the previous entry titled “Cooking smart“, I wrote some of my personal rules for cooking along with things I have learned from my mother to cook efficiently.

 At our house, number one thing we spend most on is the food. Then, depending on how much we have spent on food, sometimes it determine what other things we can spend on.

 It is impossible to cut back big amount on legitimate bills, but you can cut back much bigger on food cost. Even if $10 per week of saving, when you think about it, if you cut back $10 per week for a year, you will be saving about $520 and it is huge.

 I realize that how you shop,when you shop, how you plan your meals etc can make a big difference on your grocery bill and I thought I would write about tips on smart shopping and share it with you.

 First of all, back home in Japan, our parents go through weekly advertisement and look for things on sale and, often times, there are a couple of stores.We usually go there in the morning and buy things on sales plus things that are low in stock, which we keep as staple in our pantry.

 We barely buy processed food.

 Then, my mother look at things we bought on sales and decide what to make for the week.

 I think that is one way to shop and plan meals for the week.

 I myself have different strategy to hers.

How we shop for grocery for the week..

 At about end of the week, I look through fridge, freezer and pantry and see what we have on hand and based on what we already have on hand, I plan weekly menu.

 At the same time, I check if there are anything low in stock among staple items such as sugar, chicken/beef broth, flour etc.. and if I found something low in stock, I will add that to my grocery list.

Plan the weekly meals ahead of times

 Planning weekly menu ahead of time has some advantages.

1. You will buy only what you would use for the week

** Without the grocery list from weekly menu plan, you are more likely to impulse buying. Plan your weekly menu and stick to your grocery list.

** Since you know what you would need for the week, time to spend at the grocery store will be less

2. You can see what you will be eating for the week, and you can adjust meal plans for balanced/variety of protein source meals with more vegetables on the plate. This also means that you can eat better.

** I aim to cook with various protein source throughout the week

** I aim to cook seafood at least once a week

** I aim to not cooking fatty dishes too much throughout the week

** I aim to cook good amount of vegetable on the each menu

3. Since you will be planning weekly menu, you know what you will be cooking and you do not have to think hard what to cook next.

Using the leftover dish for next meal..

Sometimes in the week, I occasionally have day that I have leftover from previous day.

 When that happen, depending on what it is, I make the new meal with leftover. For example, if we had some beef and pepper steak ;Chinjao ro su leftover, since it is hard to change the flavor in the sauce, I will add more vegetables and cook pasta and serve it as pasta dish or roll the dish without rice up with Gyoza wrapper (or Wanton wrapper or egg roll wrapper) and freeze them so we can have them for later as quick side dish.

 Sometimes, depending on how creative you can be, you can make the old dish with big make over and you can serve it as different menu.

 That means, if it happened once in the week, one menu can roll over to the next week and you can have less menu to plan for the next week.

Freezing food..

 When I make meatball, burger patties, Gyoza dumpling (Pot stickers) etc.., I always make big batch and freeze some of the batch so I can have them to cook quickly.

 When I make bread, pizza etc… I freeze them too for later use.

 Having those in the freezer comes handy for quick cooking. Plus if you know you have meatball ready to go to oven to cook to serve, it will save your grocery bill too as a result.

 Block of hard cheese, peeled ginger are great ones to keep in the freezer too.

 If you do canning, preserving food by canning/dehydrating foods during the produce’s peak seasons is another way to save money on grocery bills.

Knowing how much you would spend on your grocery..

 It is always good idea to have rough ideas as to how much you actually are spending on the grocery bills. If you know the rough estimate for the month, you can budget for grocery and try not to spend over the budget limit.

 To get rough ideas of how much you would spend is easy. Just collect receipts from grocery stores for a month or two and, add the total cost for the month.

 In Japan, many people use cash to pay for almost everything and, credit card there are for emergency use.

 Therefore, we have rough ideas how much we have on hand.

 In the states, many people does not carry cash to pay for things and pay with credit cards at cashier place. So, they really have no chance to visually see the currency in their wallet and unless you have budget book or collect receipts to see how much they really are spending on many things, it is hard to grasp how much they spend on what.

Eat before you shop..

 Have you had time buying things that were not on your grocery list just because the delicious smell of baked goods whispered to you “Pick me!Pick me!”?

 I find that if you had meals before the grocery shopping, less likely to buy things that are not on your grocery shopping list. So, have meal before the grocery shopping time.

Make your own with fresh food..

 Convenient pre-made/ready to eat food are very expensive plus since things like boxed frozen food are highly processed, they are not good for your health.

 Make your own with fresh ingredients. That way, it is cheaper,tastier and less fillers in your system and better for you.

 Every grocery store has rotisserie chicken and, it is convenient to have already cooked bird,but it is very expensive.

 Rotisserie chicken at our grocery store cost  about $5, but if I buy a whole chicken to roast them, I can buy them under a dollar per pound and much cheaper that way.

 It goes same with pre-made burger patties. Make your own patties. If you make your own burger patties, it is cheaper,tastier and you can add your own flavor to it and be creative with it.

 With burger patties, I like to buy hunk of meat and grind it myself.

 Also, when you plan bean dishes, try buying dry beans,and cook beans on your own.

 Dry beans are cheap and you will get more for cost and, texture,creaminess are different when you make on your own plus you can control sodium intake this way,too.

<Cooking beans on your own>

 I often use the
crockpot to cook the soaked dry beans and,it makes tender,creamy beans.
Its taste is superior than the beans from a can. Not only that, canned
beans are high in salt, and if you cook the bean on your own,you can
adjust sodium. Plus, dry beans are quite cheap and, you will be paying
less this way for the same amount of beans you get from a can.

1. Wash beans under running water in sieve

2. Pour the dry beans to bowl and pour water to about 1″ or so depth more than beans

3. Soak the beans with water in the fridge over night in the bowl, but make sure to change the water about every couple of hours

Next day, drain the beans and beans should be a bit bigger in size, and
bigger volume in the bowl. Put the drained beans onto crockpot, add
water to about 1.5″ depth from bean and add pinch of kosher salt and set
temperature high and cover the lid, cook for 2 hours. You should have
creamy tasty beans.

 Another things to skip are cut-up fruits and pre packaged salad bag. Very expensive if you compared to cut-up/make on your own

 I also do not buy packaged green/red peppers. It is because I cannot feel the skin of the peppers and I am not sure how fresh/old and wrinkly feel they are.
Buy produce in season..

 Often times, produce in peak season is best buy because they will be much cheaper than any other seasons in a year.

 Often times, meat products are the one that eats big on your grocery bill but you can change that by buying differently.

 Buy meats when they are in season; BBQ season (summer) is great time to stock up BBQ products such as pork ribs and AFTER Thanksgiving day is great time to stock up Turkey.

 Stores want to sell as much Turkey as possible after Thanks giving day, it is great time to stock up.

 If you have big freezer space, since you will have ability to buy in bulk and store,it will save you more.

Not all coupons are good ones to use..

 Coupons are good. It saves money for you and help bringing down the food cost even a little.

 However, are they all good? For me, it all depends on which coupons I am talking about.

 Non food item coupons such as toilet papers, paper towels, shampoo, and other cosmetic or health care coupon are all good helper to save money especially if you use them when they are on sale. It maximize the saving and great value to buy them.

 Food item coupons are different story.

 Every Sunday, I find coupon book in between newspaper and I do clip them but I don’t use many food item coupons. Food item coupons I use are limited;flours,dry yeast,nuts etc…

 Reason why is that many food item coupons in the coupon books are processed food such as boxed/bagged frozen food, dog/cat food,candies etc..

 I prefer to cook with fresh food rather than buying pre-made/frozen bag/box food for convenience from health point of view.

 Plus, I would imagine, even if you would use the coupon for pre-made/frozen bag/box products, making them from scratch may be much cheaper after all,although you may get happy to see the big saving on your receipt with processed food.

 Just because you have coupons does not mean you must use it. Choose wisely which coupons you would use.

 That being said, some produce brand such as Driscoll for berries seem to give printable coupons if you sign up for the e-mail alert for coupons,offer,and recipes here.

 If you have favorite brand of something, you can always visit their website directly and see if they offer discount via printable coupons.

 Depending on grocery stores, they will double/triple manufacturer’s coupons and it can help you bringing down the food cost.

 At our grocery store, they double the manufacturer’s coupon up to 99 cents. This means, as long as the coupons are under 99 cents, they will double your coupons.

 Bring coupons only you know you will use for the week..

 I see many shoppers that carry coupon books with them, flipping through what to use,walking through aisle to aisle.

 I think it is one way to save money on things, but it can also be tricky because it can encourage impulse buying,and you may come home with things that were not on your grocery list.

 What I do is that, I plan weekly menu and make grocery list and look through coupon box and pick coupons that I will use or the one I might use and bring only those coupons and stick to the grocery list as much as possible.

Sign up for the store card..

 Depending on grocery stores, they offer store card to offer discount for loyal customers.

 Sign up for it and, save grocery bills each week.

 Our grocery store send us store coupons/recipe magazine every month and, it helps to save our grocery bills.

Re-usable Grocery bags…

 Previous grocery store we used to go to gave us 5 cents of per re-usable bag we bring when we shopped there. If your grocery store does the same, bringing grocery bags are another good way to save money.

 On the talk of re-usable grocery bags, if you use re-usable grocery bags, make sure to wash them regularly.

Buying a store brand..

 I have started buying some products with store brand as opposed to name brands. Some of the stuff, I would like to stick to name brand but if I did not have particular brands that I love, I buy store brand and sometimes, buying a store brand can save some money on your grocery bills.

Which one of the two are best buy for you..

 To compare price of different size of package of the same products, my husband has taught me to look up the unit price. Sometimes, smaller packages are better deal depending on store sales.

Swap the ingredients..

 Swapping the ingredients is not just for calorie counters. Sometimes, I come across expensive ingredients in the recipes but I like to taste the flavor of the dish etc and, when that happens, I usually swap the protein source.

 You can swap lobster with shrimp, for example.

 On many occasions, recipes works fine with swapping the protein source. Some of the protein source with unique flavor such as lamb can be tricky sometimes but you can try and see.

 I hear sometimes that there are not many variety of meatless dishes people can cook. However,if you do not eat meat, you can just omit the protein source and you can have a recipes for meatless dish You can still taste the same flavor in a dish and, you can enjoy them.

 I plan one day in a week for meatless meal sometimes. Many occasions, I make risotto or pasta dish, or Kani Tama Don (Japanese version of Egg Foo-Yang) with just vegetables etc..

 Having meatless meal now and then maybe helping food cost down in some ways,I think.

$10 for 10…

 Often times, you would encounter advertisement paper that says “$10 for 10”. I always thought that you must buy 10 of the items to get the deal but my husband has taught me that you do not have to buy 10 of those to get the deal.

 You can still buy one item with $1 that is under $10 for 10 deals.

Bring your own lunch to work..

 Food at restaurants are expensive, and to save money, if you go to sandwich shop, often times, they use high in sodium meat such as cold cut meats,from health point of view, they are not good food to eat often.

 Best way to save money and eat healthier is to bring the lunch to work. I make lunch for my husband everyday when he is working, and my mother used to make me,my sister,and my father Bento box (lunch boxes). We barely ate lunch outside the work place and, I think it was good culture we have back home in Japan to eat healthy.

 If you work 5 days a week, and 3 times out of 5 days, if you eat out and lets say you would spend $20 per time in average,and that means, every week, you will be spending $60 per week and $240 per month in average. That is a lot of money!

Grow your own vegetables/herbs/fruits..
 Needless to say, if you grow your own vegetables/herbs/fruits they have more nutrition in them and taste better and it will help your grocery bills big way.

 Even if you do not have space outside, you can grow herbs in the kitchen windows and it is worth experimenting on your favorite herbs.

Sign up for restaurants’ loyal club..

 Many restaurants these days have royal clubs and if you sign up to receive offer,coupons and new menu alert, chances are they will send you coupons periodically.

 Recently, we have got Free entree coupons for birthday and, believe it or not, we have saved about $15! That definitely was best deal we have got so far.

Asian dishes vs Non Asian dishes..

 This is something I have noticed over the years,but when I plan Asian dishes more in a week, grocery bills are lower than other week without Asian dishes on the menu.

 When I think about it, non Asian dishes such as American dishes, Italian dishes etc use expensive diary;heavy creams,cheese etc and often times, meat is the star of the dish.

 Asian dishes often times have more vegetables in the dish and meat is kind of like accessories,and we don’t use much heavy cream/cheese etc.

 Instead, in case of Japanese cooking, if you have soy sauce, sake, Mirin (Sweet rice wine), and rice vinegar, those would cover most of the dishes’ ingredients list and it seems to make the grocery bills lower.

 Often time, my shopping cart has a lot of herbs,vegetables and since I plan weekly menu based on protein source I already have in freezer, my shopping cart does not have many meat in it.

 So, when we plan something special one day in the special week, I can spend more on quality meat.

 Recently, I have made Seared Herb Tuna and, our family enjoyed the dish.The same week, protein source in my shopping cart was just Turkey and Tuna. Most of my shopping bags was herbs,fruits,vegetables and grocery bill was a little lower than previous week.
 I hope you find this to be helpful tips to shop smart for your groceries.

 Do you have any more tips to shop smart?


Sep 28, 2011 | 0 | Uncategorized