It’s no secret that our economy is hurting. All around our town, I’ve seen businesses closing and others struggling. People are still spending money, but what they’re spending it on has changed a lot this last year, at least as far as I’ve seen. With increased gas prices, grocery prices have gone up. It costs producers more to produce and ship the food.
Howie and I are trying to find a balance in our spending, frequenting Aldi Foods for canned vegetables and other staples. Trader Joe’s is a favorite of ours, especially since their store brand products are inexpensive and good, but they’re about 40 minutes away and the cost of driving there and back discourages us going there unless we make an afternoon of it or have other business to attend to near the store.
How about coupons? We are not typically big coupon clippers. We don’t usually buy the Sunday paper, for one. Also, people tend to buy products they wouldn’t have otherwise purchased, so they spend more money in the long run. Additionally, coupons tend to be for packaged conenience foods that we don’t buy, things like Hamburger Helper and the like. There aren’t many coupons for our staple items: fresh fruit, eggs, meat and rice. I look for coupons online and use them some things, as long as they’re items I buy anyway and they don’t still cost more than a less expensive brand’s normal price.
Of the grocery stores I mentioned, Giant Eagle is the one we shop most often. It’s closest to us, which saves us gas, plus they offer FuelPerks, which really add up. They also offer $1 FuelPerk for each new or transferred prescription, including the $4 generic drugs. My recent shoulder surgery resulted in many new prescriptions, racking up $16 in FuelPerks. That’s enough to fill our van about four times at no cost. Cha-ching! The service is also good there (except the pharmacy, meh), and they have a wide selection of healthy foods and international offerings.
We do spend more on some things, such as fresh fruit and vegetables. During the summer, we try to buy these from local vendors at the downtown farmer’s market. Buying locally, we support area growers and enjoy fresh produce often picked that morning. We also enjoy the interaction, getting to know the vendors.
When I make things like soup beans, casseroles or chili, I make them in big batches. That way, I can freeze portions to have later. The cost per meal is quite low when doing it this way, plus we’re more likely to eat at home if there is something easy to heat and serve when we don’t feel like cooking. There are numerous sites which offer OAMC (Once A Month Cooking) recipes and ideas – I won’t go into all that here, but you can Google OAMC to see what I mean. A plus: Some friends and families make a day of it, cooking together while they visit, then splitting the food between them.
But what about some non-traditional means of saving money on the grocery bill?
There is a money-saving available, too, with a couple of pickup locations right in our town. After hearing about this program for about a year, I finally decided to try them out: Angel Food Ministries. They have no income guides and it’s not just for struggling individuals. That was Howie’s first concern, in that he never wants to be taking away from others truly in need. It is not a food pantry. Don’t let the word ministry deter you; AFM is not a charity for low-income individuals. The food is not free, but it is less expensive than you can buy on your own. The organization is able to buy in bulk, plus I am sure they receive donations.
The standard monthly box costs $30. The menu varies by month, which is one of the reasons we’ve not ordered before now. Some months they’ve had a lot of processed foods like corndogs, chicken nuggets and other more fattening, less nutritious foods we don’t typically eat. This month’s menu looked pretty decent, so we decided to take the plunge and order. We are getting both October’s standard box and the Fruits & veggies box, an add-on for $21. They have several add-on boxes available each month and, like in the standard box, their contents vary. You can view the monthly menus on their site.
Here are the items we’ll receive on October 25. Including a $1 service fee for using a debit/credit card to order online, it came to $51.All we have to do is show up and bring our boxes home.
Standard Box, $30
- One Dessert Item
- One Dozen Eggs
- 1 lb. All Meat Hot Dogs
- 1 lb. Boneless Center-Cut Pork Chops (4 x 4 oz.)
- 1 lb. California Blend Vegetables
- 1 lb. Chicken Breast Fajita Strips
- 1 lb. Frozen Sliced Carrots
- 1 lb. Fully Cooked Meatballs
- 1 lb. Pasta
- 1.5 lb. Ribeye Steaks (4 x 6 oz.)
- 12 ct. Corn Tortillas
- 26 oz. Heat and Serve Meatloaf and Brown Gravy
- 28 oz. Marinara Sauce
- 32 oz. Borden 2% Reduced Fat Shelf Stable Milk
- 4.5 lb. (avg) Split Chicken Breast Family Tray Pack
- 48 oz. Hawaiian Punch
Fruit and Veggie Box, $21:
- 1 head California Iceberg Lettuce (Cello wrapped)
- 1 bunch California Broccoli
- 2 lb. Medium-Large Idaho/East Oregon Yellow Onions
- 5 lb. New Crop Yukon Gold Potatoes
- 3 lb. North Carolina New Crop Red Apples
- 2 lb. Bag of California Fancy Lemons
- 1 Super Sweet Gold Pineapple
- 1 lb. Bag of California Peeled Baby Carrots
Some of it, like the Hawaiian Punch, we’ll not use. Those we’ll give to others who do use them. Other things, like the meatloaf and gravy, we will use, but in moderation. These would be good items to save and use when we have company, so we’re not tempted to eat too much at a time, plus there won’t be leftovers to tempt us.The meats are frozen, so they’ll last us a long time. All in all, it’s a good deal.
Here’s a video explaining what Angel Food Ministries is and how they started:
They accept donations. I’d like to support them once I am able to work again and our finances get a little better.