By Julie Norman
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
You may remember that last week I wrote about changing grocery stores to see if I could save some money. I thought that buying the extra amounts of produce lately had just made shopping at Safeway a little too pricey. Sprouts was supposed to have great produce rates and I even mentioned that I could have saved money on some items I'd recently purchased at Safeway. So this past weekend I set out on my Sprouts/Walmart combo shopping trip.
Boy was I disappointed.
I'd had high hopes. I thought this would be a great thing! A new shopping experience! Nope nope nope nope nope. Here's what happened: I was fine with Walmart. I went there first for all my basics. I got my Kraft salad dressing, my toilet paper and tissues, herbal tea, etc. The prices were comparable or sometimes a little better than Safeway. The store was clean, the skylights were cool (way to be green, Walmart) and overall it was a good experience. Then I went to Sprouts.
There are quite a few people here at the Sentinel who love Sprouts. I am not one of them. I'd been there once before and hadn't really been impressed. This time was no different. First, when I walked in the door I thought I was going to have to turn around and walk right back out. It smelled HORRIBLE in there. I'm pretty sure there was a rotten potato in a bin somewhere because nothing else smells like that. Except, I've been in other stores where there were rotten potatoes, and even then I walked all over the store with a bag of potatoes with a rotten one and never noticed it. So WHAT could have permeated the ENTIRE store with its odor? I don't know. So that was problem #1.
Then I began looking at the produce. Signs proclaimed things like, "Lemons 4/$1! Save .65 when you buy 4!" Ok, but what if I just want one lemon? Obviously that lemon isn't .25 if I'm saving .65 by buying 4 of them...Yes, I can do the math in my head, but it seems quite deceptive to me that there were no per item prices there. Same with the pints of strawberries: 2 for $5! Save blah blah amount when you buy 2! Well what if I only want one? At Safeway and City Market if pints of strawberries are 2 for $5, then ONE pint is $2.50. So therein lies problem #2. I will have nothing to do with your deceptive pricing. In the end I spent $15 more than my weekly budget. This was the third week in a row that this had happened. So, if it wasn't Safeway's fault, then what was it?
And then it hit me: the menus. Back when we first started this blog I said that I don't make specific dinner menus. When I do, I spend more because what was once just "Wednesday: A risotto" becomes "Wednesday: Shrimp and Asparagus risotto." I end up not being nearly as flexible and I don't buy what's on sale; I buy what I think I need.
So this week when I'm writing the grocery list I will look at what's on sale at Safeway. I will purchase on sale O Organics meats and then I will create a menu based around what I've purchased and my pantry of staples. Because really, if you keep a variety of grains, pastas and tortillas on hand, along with crushed tomatoes and some basic herbs what can't you make? I cannot WAIT to get back to my beloved Safeway! I'll never doubt it again.
Want a pantry staples list? Here's a decent one from Real Simple. Rachel Ray also has one in the beginning of her Express Lane meals cookbook. It's a great option if you're trying to cook more at home on busy weeknights.
By Julie Norman
Friday, May 30, 2014
Pets are expensive. Maybe not as expensive as children, but definitely pricey. They require lots of food, toys, vet visits...and for some people all that is worth the cost. Owning a pet means you've probably helped a poor dog get out of the shelter, or taken in a poor cat off the street. It's admirable! It requires responsibility and paticence and both of those are great qualities to have. BUT pets will use up a lot of that money you've been saving. So, if you're thinking about getting a pet but also thinking about saving money...well, here are some other ways to get your "pet fix" without having to get one of your very own.
1. Volunteer! Places like Roice Hurst Humane Society are always looking for volunteers for everything from walking dogs to taking cats to the vet. To find out more about their volunteer opportunities, click here.
2. Be a pet sitter. If you have lots of friends with pets, chances are when they go out of town they need someone to watch their pets. Be that person! That way you're helping others save money, because they don't have to take the dogs to a kennel, and you're getting time with pets yourself.
3. Be a foster parent. Roice-Hurst and other groups often need foster parents for puppies to little to be adoped, animals that need extra socialization, etc. They cover the cost of all vet visits and your costs are limited because the pets are eventually adopted into forever homes. Still, you get the knowledge of knowing you helped raise a happy and healthy pet.
Pet ownership is an important responsibility but so are other opportunities involving animals. Find your best way to help with these links and other resources online!
By Julie Norman
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
I've always been one of those I'm-not-shopping-at-two-grocery-stores kind of people. I've argued against it more than once. And yet...I'm about to do it. First, the why:
We've been eating much more produce lately and only buying organic chicken and sustainable fish. As a result of all the produce I've been buying (berries for yogurt, cantaloupe to go with every meal, apples for lunches, veggies for salads, sautes, etc) my grocery bill has skyrocketed. In the past two weeks I've gone $50 over my usual budget for that amount of time. Something has to give. Who has the cheapest produce in town? Sprouts. In fact, I just compared 5 fruits and veggies that I bought last week at Safeway to the same items at Sprouts this week. The difference? EIGHT DOLLARS!
Sprouts also has really good deals on organic chicken and fish. They have the same dairy products that we buy at Safeway too. BUT not everything is cheaper there. Trying to find basic pastas, olive oils, etc can be a challenge. So while bulk roasted almonds sound great, expensive organic pasta doesn't. So now, here's the how:
I plan to start heading to Sprouts once a week to get produce, meats and dairy items. Possibly even grains and bulk nuts. Then, about once a month, I"ll make a trip to Safeway to stock up on pantry staples like cans of beans and crushed tomatoes, canned tuna, olive oil, pasta, etc. That way I'm not really shopping at two stores a week.
I think this solution will work well. After the next two weeks we'll see if it's made a difference!
By Julie Norman
Friday, May 23, 2014
It's a much more long-term way of looking at saving money than a simple coupon, sale or FREE offer from Safeway (of which I had 3 this week...but, more on that later). Saving for the future is something that takes commitment. It means finding ways to put aside money that, sometimes, you'd much rather spend on a new television, tablet or phone. It means keeping that pair of running shoes for one more year instead of buying the latest Hoka Ones, and getting that mountain bike fork rebuilt instead of buying a new one. In the long run, it will be worth it. So here are a few ways I've found to make saving for the future easier.
1. Retirement: Every year I do my best to increase by 1% the amount of money going into my 401K from each paycheck. Right now I'm up to 11% (I think) and I'd like to get all the way to 15%. Saving for retirement is important, and starting at a young age is best. Right now I can take a few more risks with my investments because i have plenty of time for them to recover if something goes wrong. You don't have to hire a stockbroker or anything like that to start a retirement plan. Probably your work offers one, and if not, you can go to your bank and set up an IRA.
2. My Savings Acct: The savings acct is SO tempting isn't it? That money is just sitting there...just waiting...but you must resist! That money is there for a rainy day. For when the refrigerator breaks, for when the sprinkler system goes ka-put...for when the oven quits working...but how to you make yourself put money in it? I schedule 15% of my monthly income to go into my savings acct each month without me having to touch it. 7.5% of each paycheck (roughly) gets transferred on the days I get paid each month. I never even have to look at it. Direct deposit...automatic transfer...almost all in one fell swoop. It's an easy way to make sure some money is set aside. They say you should have anywhere from 3-6 months' worth of income set aside...some even recommend more. Right now I have about 2.5 months'. So I've got a ways to go, but at least I'm making an effort. Even if you can only afford to but 5% or even 2% of your paycheck aside, do it. A little savings provides comfort and security.
Oh and finally, take advantage of store cards and free offers!
We're making jambalaya next Friday (yes, I wrote next week's menu last night) so the French bread will be perfect...we aren't gluten-free folks, but it's baking mix...I'll take it! And free laundry detergent? YES PLEASE!
By Julie Norman
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Well, it may not look like much, but my steady supply of lettuce from the garden has kept me from having to spend that extra $1.79 on it each week at the grocery store. Of course, I've ended up spending it on cantaloupes (which just sprouted in the garden), berries (which I'm not growing) and tons of other items...by this fall, hopefully, I"ll be bypassing the produce section all together due to an overabundance of items in the garden!
Also, today at lunch instead of driving somewhere or spending money out at a restaurant, I brown-bagged it and spent my lunch break doing this:
Frankie the cross-bike and I headed down to the riverfront trail...and of course we took a detour out onto the levee just past the railroad bridge. It was cool, cloudy and just perfect for a lunch time ride. Best of all? It was FREE!