While on our customary jaunt to Market Basket (hat tip to our local discount grocer) last week, it struck me that today’s grocery store is presented as a one-stop shop. There’s food sure, but also a plethora of household accoutrements: toilet paper, spatulas, slip-n-slides*, diapers, dog chow, and everything in between.

*Sidenote: I wonder how Frugal Hound would do on a slip-n-slide…

Our haul on the conveyor belt. I ate most of that watermelon myself, just sayin.
Our haul at the checkout. I ate most of that watermelon myself, just sayin.

But per usual in the frugal weirdo’s realm, with convenience comes danger. We all know we’re going to pay more for just about anything in the category of “time saving,” but it only occurred to me last week what insidious financial perils lurk in the aisles of your average supermarket.

Fear not, to stave off these lurid and deplorable supermarket wallet-killers, Mr. FW and I assembled the below list of things we never, ever buy at the grocery store. Now, this is obviously based on our own experiences (like everything else in Frugalwoods-land!), so your mileage might vary depending on where you live and what you consume on a regular rotation.

Another grocery store week for us (yes, those are chips!)
Another grocery store week for us (yes, those are chips! don’t judge)

And now for a quick rundown of the Frugalwoods grocery situation for any new readers: our total grocery bill for two adults runs $300-$350/month. Since we don’t eat out or get take out, this amount includes every scrap of food and drop of drink we consume all month long, plus coffee and alcohol (that line item was admittedly more relevant when 50% of us weren’t pregnant ;)…).

Want to know more about what we do buy? Check out these fine (if I do say so myself) texts:

And now, prepare to be scandalized and terrified by this shocking list of things to never, ever buy!

Six Things The Frugalwoods Never Buy At The Grocery Store

1) Food that’s in a package.

Homemade cookies!
Homemade cookies!

In general, if it’s encased in some sort of packaging, it’s going to be more expensive. I’m looking at you soda, cereal, boxed cake mixes, cookies, jars of sauce. These are all things you can make from scratch for way cheaper (yes, a frugal form of soda included).

Baking a batch of cookies will cost pennies and be far more scrumptious than those that arrive in cardboard. Same goes for cereal. Some frugal weirdos like to DIY their first meal of the day–my mom, for example, makes granola from scratch. And others of us, yours truly included, like to go the bulk route to the tune of $0.10/serving for raw oats from Costco*.

There is a glaring exception to this prescription and they are called chips. We buy packaged chips (which are $2/bag for the Market Basket brand) to accompany our homemade guacamole. It’s easier than making them from scratch and it’s $2 we’re willing to spend.

*Note on Costco: there’s a $55/year fee to join and so you’ll have to calculate whether or not it’s worth it to you. For us, the savings we reap in dog food alone make it worthwhile, so we’re happy to pay the price. We also don’t have a Wal-Mart in our area, which can be a great option in lieu of a warehouse membership.

2) Food that’s already cooked.

Mr. FW whipping up some homemade hummus. Much cheaper than the pre-packaged stuff.
Mr. FW whipping up homemade hummus. Much cheaper than the pre-packaged option.

If someone else cooked it, you’re going to pay for that service with almost no exceptions. Frozen dinners, prepared hot meals, salad bars, packaged sandwiches, rotisserie chicken, and that ilk are all pricier than their raw component parts.

Now that’s not to say there’s no place for the occasional packaged/pre-made meal in the home of the extremely frugal.

As I’ve shared, Mr. FW and I maintain a reserve stash of Costco frozen pizzas for emergency situations. These ‘zas are $3.50 each, but that’s far more reasonable than succumbing to take-out on a night when we’re too wiped to cook. However, subsisting on these pre-made options full-time will undoubtedly inflate the ol’ grocery bill.

3) Anything sold in the checkout line.

Candy, magazines, cube-shaped breath mints covered in flavor crystals (???), tiny packages of mixed nuts–these encapsulate the epitome of the impulse buy. Such individual tidbits are priced far higher than their bulk analogues found a mere few aisles back. Plus, let’s be honest, if you didn’t buy it before you got to the checkout lane, you probably don’t actually need it.

4) Non-food.

Frugal Hound scopes out our groceries
Frugal Hound scopes out our groceries

Pursuant to my opening salvo, the convenience of buying non-grocery paraphernalia alongside your broccoli is almost always a frugal fail. Lightbulbs, paper, pens, laundry detergent, and shampoo are in the grocery store for your convenience, not for your savings.

There are a few rare instances where we’ve discovered that such objects are cheaper at the grocery store, but those examples are scarce as a frugal weirdo at a BMW dealership.

To determine if this holds true for your personal supermarket, you’ll need to conduct your own price comparisons. But I’m willing to bet you’ll locate non-food for a better price at a non-food store.

5) Bulk items.

Bonus: wind power near our Costco
Costco: the Frugalwoods mecca

A typical run-of-the-mill grocery store is simply not designed to vend genuine bulk goods. Patronize your grocery store for what they excel in: small portions of fresh produce, dairy, meats, and grains. Leave the bulk efforts to the champions of huge quantities: Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s, and others in that genre.

There are atypical deviations from this rule where grocery stores will run specials on massive allotments, but make sure to calculate the price per unit (i.e. per ounce of coffee, per pound of bananas, per hundred feet of toilet paper) to ensure you’re actually getting a screaming bargain.

Bulk deals apply to both household goods and food. For Mr. FW and I, the following products are vastly less expensive at Costco: toilet paper, dog food, rice, olive oil, oats, canned tomatoes, beans, limes, avocados, spices, pasta, olives, capers, shampoo, vitamins, and more.

6) Anything that costs more than $10.

A trend Mr. FW and I have noticed in our grocery receipts is that we seldom, if ever, purchase a single item over $10. This totally makes sense since we’re not buying packaged, pre-made, non-food, or bulk products. The stuff we do buy (produce, dairy, the occasional meat) is pretty cheap per item.

If you’re seeing single items ring up above that $10 threshold, I’m thinking one of four things:

  • You’re shopping at Whole Foods, which is a personal choice and I won’t judge you for it. Just be aware that you’ll pay less basically anywhere else that sells food.
  • You’re buying bulk or non-food merchandise that would be better procured at either Costco or Amazon.
  • You’re buying fancy cheese (which is delicious and something we do from time to time).
  • You’re buying specialty commodities such as spices or olive oil, which are almost always more economical either from the likes of Amazon or Costco.

How Do We Know Where The Best Prices Are?

Mr. FW noting the per lb price of almonds so that we can check it against Costco's price
Mr. FW noting the price/lb of almonds so we can check it against Costco’s price

I’m the first to admit that Mr. Frugalwoods and I might be what you’d call a tad obsessed with snaring stellar deals on food (and everything else we buy, come to think of it). Thus, we’ve probably spent more time than your average greyhound mulling over where we source our stuff.

But here’s the thing: you can do this too with minimal effort! How? You only have to figure out your cheapest outlet for dog toothpaste one time; thereafter, you’re officially cruising on the blissful ease that is frugal autopilot. Once you know your thriftiest option, you’ll never fall victim to overpayment again.

Here’s our four-step method for finding the lowest prices on everything from mangos to dental floss:

1) Put all of your receipts for household goods and groceries in an envelope. If you want uber frugal bonus points, you can reuse an envelope.

2) Carry that envelope with you when you shop and compare the prices in store to the prices on your receipts from other stores. Use a calculator to determine the price per unit (unless you’re one of those people who can do mental math–I most certainly am not), so that you know you’re comparing identical quantities.

3) When comparing prices before purchasing bigger ticket items such as electric toothbrush heads (which in case you’re wondering are cheapest on Amazon), write the amounts down–don’t forget the quantity!–and carry that piece of paper with you to the store/home to your computer. You could also use your smartphone in store to research online prices.

4) Memorize where your stuff is a bargain and only buy it there.

And that’s all there is to it. Within a few weeks, you too can be rolling through grocery shopping with the greatest of frugal ease. These techniques contribute to the fact that we don’t bother to budget–there’s simply no reason to when we know where to sniff out the best deals. And once you’ve established your own routine of frugal shopping prowess, you’ll be thrilled at the savings.

What else shouldn’t be bought at the grocery store?

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  1. I tend to think Costco is a bit expensive for basic paper goods as well, although nowhere near as bad as grocery stores. I just know roughly how much tp, paper towels, soap, etc I use in a year and buy it twice a year on sale at Target (aka I spend 10min on coupons twice a year) since Target always plays Costco in January, and lots of things to on sale for back to school in august, and then they clearance the excess stock (or I buy with a coupon when they are also running a sale during these two times). This means for shampoo I usually pay under $1 for a fancy $5+ bottle of shampoo, even less for toothpaste and so on.

    1. Sounds like you’ve got a good system worked out! It’s definitely all about figuring out the best store for your needs. Nicely done on hitting the sales :)!

    2. A good resource for paper supplies is Quill, an office supply store. Get on their email list and every so often you’ll get a $30 off on $100 coupon at the same time as a deep-discount sale on toilet paper and paper towels, and the per-unit price plummets. Granted, you won’t need to buy paper again for a while, and you need a place to store it, but it’s a really frugal way to go on such products. I don’t use paper towels much – maybe one roll every six weeks, so I won’t be buying any more of those for about four years!

    3. I agree on watching for “door buster” sales. Our Walgreens often has items as cheap as or slightly cheaper than the big ticket stores, but at random times, so you have to keep to the sale items. They get you by” busting” the door and then impulse buying, which was the reason for the sale anyway!

  2. Going to throw you for a little loop – we don’t have a real Whole Foods in our current town, but there is a food co-op named suspiciously like the chain. And it’s similar – anything you buy there is more expensive than an equivalent food at a regular grocery store – EXCEPT my daughter’s very expensive hemp milk, which runs about $4.50, give or take, per quart. Now, I’m a member of this co-op and every few months, they sell this stuff at half price, and I stock up! It pays for me to run in there from time to time to check it out.

    I’ve been thinking, maybe Mr. FW would share some recipes from time to time? Id love some more frugal inspiration for our meals.

    1. Great find on the hemp milk–that’s awesome you’re able to stock up! I shall pass your recipe request along to my chef ;). He doesn’t really cook from recipes, so we haven’t gotten around to me transcribing any of them other than the rice-and-beans, but we really should.

  3. Just one quick tip that will apply across the country is to make every effort to shop at stores that have other similar stores located close by (Target by Walmart by a grocer etc.) these tend to be a solid 10-25% cheaper per basket than stores that are located more than 2 miles from other similar competition.

  4. I love your description of Whole Foods!

    I don’t buy fish at our grocery store. It always frozen, and the least sustainable/healthy kinds available. Also, they sometimes have frozen frog legs (!!!) in the case with it, and that just grosses me out. I know I pay more for fish at the fish store, but I definitely think it’s worth it.

    I think you’re generally right about household goods at the grocery store, but I can often get things like toilet paper cheaper there than at BJ’s, if I buy them on sale and use a coupon.

    1. Knowing those prices between BJ’s and coupons is some awesome frugal action! I feel like just having that price awareness is half the battle. Nicely done!

  5. We are very fortunate to have an ALDI as our closest grocery store. There, most things are even less expensive than buying in bulk. We try to limit packaged foods but some things, like pasta sauce and spaghetti (clearly I’m not Italian), or tortillas and tortilla chips, are packaged and less expensive than making homemade. I absolutely agree that Amazon has better prices on certain food and many household items. As you said, it all boils down to finding the best price and sticking with that, instead of buying on impulse.

    1. Aldi’s is so awesomely cheap! We don’t have one nearby, but their prices are pretty similar to our Market Basket prices. Gotta love the discount grocery stores–it’s just incredible how much less expensive everything is. And, you’re so right about some packaged items being cheaper (plus I just really love my store bought tortilla chips 😉 ).

      1. There’s an Aldi in Medford… On rt 28 near Wellington Circle. If you go to the Costco in Everett, it’s practically on your way. I do find the store brands at Market Basket to be within a few cents of Aldis prices making it not worth the gas to shop there on a regular basis. (I live in melrose). But I do go and stock up on occasion.

    2. We have an ALDI nearby, too, and I really wanted to be able to make it our main grocery store because it’s so cheap. Unfortunately, my wife and I just found it too hard to buy healthy food for the week there. At least at the one near our house, the produce quality is subpar, often with berries already moldy and avocados in bad condition.

      We’ve ended up making Trader Joe’s our go-to store for weekly grocery shopping. They’ve got pretty competitive prices on their produce, which is almost always high quality and in good condition. Without all the cheap packaged foods full of sugar and salt, I find it a lot easier for myself not to get tempted to buy stuff we didn’t go in for (except for that darn Cookie Butter!). We’re also able to get all our shopping done in less than a half an hour because the store only has a few aisles, which helps a lot, too.

      1. I always buy rice pasta and jelly (all fruit, no sugar added) and bananas at trader Joes. Often other things but those three are staples that I will not buy anywhere else. Organic brown rice pasta is $2 for a pound package, at TJs, at Market Basket, I think it’s 3.49 (as you suggest, I checked it a few times and decided to only buy it at TJs so I’m not sure of the exact price at MB, but substantially more).

        1. Interesting. It doesn’t shock me that brown rice pasta is cheaper at TJ’s, it seems a little out of market basket’s comfort zone :-). We actually still buy a couple of things at TJ’s once a year or so. Their champagne muscat orange vinegar makes _amazing_ vinaigrette, and I’ve never found anything close anywhere else. Certainly not at the basket!

        1. It is not true. Here in Gernany there is ALDI Nord (north) and ALDI Süd (south). Aldi Nord owns Trader Joe’s, Aldi Süd owns ALDi in the States. These are to separate companies.
          Greetings from a frugal bulgarian living in Germany!

  6. All great points and very similar to how we shop at the grocery store as well. I actually go to two stores during the week. One has incredibly cheap fruits and vegetables, but everything else is marked up. So I go to another store during the week for other items. Both stores are less than 3 mins from my house and both are on the way to work, so really no big deal to go to two stores when the savings really add up.

    1. That’s great you’ve got two stores so close by! Makes comparison shopping even easier 🙂

  7. It’s kind of funny, but I can actually find a lot of my organic produce for cheaper at Whole Foods than any other grocery store near us. They tend to have more sales on the organic items than just our regular grocery stores since they stock more of those types of foods, so I actually (mostly) find much better deals on things like organic blueberries and strawberries at WH than other stores. One of those instances where it does pay to shop around 🙂

    1. That’s true here, too, and you know you can get quality.

      But WF is such a problem for me. The samosas from the hot bar are my own personal kryptonite.

    2. Things I find to be reasonable at WF:
      Produce on sale
      Bulk Bin grains,etc.
      Their generic 365 brand products
      Dairy (sometimes)
      Wine (sometimes)
      Meats (on sale)
      Some of their body/bath products especially when they have a 25% off sale
      Things that are NOT reasonable at WF:
      the food bar
      gourmet items
      fancy, specialty produce
      I also shop at Fresh Market for similar items as Whole Foods and they have excellent quality and good sales. But I tend to avoid their fancy, specialty items as they are way over-priced.
      They have an excellent bakery and once in a while I will buy a pie or a pastry such as an éclair. They are a tad pricey but sometimes go on sale and the quality is excellent. I am not much of a baker/dessert maker and as such it is cheaper for me to purchase such things. I don’t buy many such items anyway as I don’t have too much of a sweet tooth.
      BTWY: Costco has an excellent frozen Tiramisu for about $10.00 for a big tray! I highly recommend it!

      1. I love the careful price comparisons! You guys rock!
        P.S. Whole Foods has samosas??? That sounds amazing…

  8. I actually used to keep a pretty detailed price book. Each item, the store, the regular price, the sale price.

    So for large quantities, it was rarely Costco that was the best deal.

    Of course 2 kids (and zero free time) later, it’s all in my head now. I no longer shop the sales at multiple stores weekly (and last time I tried, it was a disaster! Let’s just say last week’s budget was a mess). If I happen to be in a store and find a deal (0.99 dried chickpeas, or $1 whole wheat pasta, I’m looking at you!) I’ll buy it.

    I don’t save *quite* as much this way, but it saves time for sure.

    It was always things like toothpaste, brown rice, pasta, dried beans, canned beans, shampoo, that would go on super sale.

    I guess I don’t buy honey at the grocery store, because I prefer local honey. I rarely buy cheese because Costco is a better deal than even the best sales in the store. I used to not buy any fruit either, because farmer’s market is so much better quality, but I don’t have the time to hit the farmer’s market every week anymore.

    1. Great idea to have a price book! It definitely pays to know where stuff is the cheapest. And, there’s also something to be said for saving time–sometimes it’s worth it to pay more, but reap the time!

  9. OH, one more thing – avocados.

    The quality at the store is so hit-and-miss. My hierarchy:
    1. My friend’s tree
    2. The farmer’s market
    3. The produce stand
    4. If I’m desperate, Gelson’s or WF. Maybe
    5. I just buy packaged guacamole from Trader Joe’s because I KNOW it’s good.

    1. I so wish avocados would grow up here in New England because I love them! We’ve been pretty pleased with the avocados we get from Costco, although they don’t hold a candle to the ones that grow in my parents’ backyard in southern California… yum.

    2. The BEST way to get avocados is frozen from the restaurant supply store. Here we have cash and carry, where a 3 pound bag of avocados are $15. It’s a ton of avocados and they are ready in half an hour when you are. No more too early or too late.

  10. I agree that Costco is way too expensive for paper goods. I buy my toilet paper at Walmart..they have a Walmart brand that rivals the competition. I get my paper napkins at the dollar store, where I also get deodorant, toothpaste, lotion, floss, etc,

    For many people Costco is far from where they live and it does cost a membership fee to join which doesn’t make sense to lots of folks.

    1. Walmart’s White Cloud TP is a great value, especially if there’s a sale and you have a coupon!
      I also buy some stuff at Dollar Tree.

      1. I love the dollar store! Can’t believe I forgot to mention them :). The dollar store is our source for a lot of personal care products too–face wash, deodorant, etc. Fabulous prices!

        We, sadly, don’t have a Wal-Mart in our area, but I recall their prices being great when I lived in the midwest and was able to shop there. And for us, we make up the cost of our Costco membership in dog food savings alone. But it certainly varies by region and by individual experience. It’s all about knowing what works best for you :)! Sounds like you both have great systems going on!

    1. We have used Penzey’s for spices before–Mr. FW gets some from there, some from Amazon, and some from Costco. Bulk spices are definitely where it’s at :)!

  11. Useful post! I follow most of this myself but the more I hear it the more I am inspired to follow the advice!
    Btw, I use trello for planning my meals for the week & food shopping. This keeps me on track in terms of frugality & nutrition.
    I learned about Trello from one of your recent posts. Love it for managing my blog posts as well.
    Thanks for sharing

  12. We have an Aldi right down the road as well as a Ruler (Kroger’s version of Aldi). They are having price wars currently and I am loving it. $1.49 for a gallon of milk, $0.69 for a dozen eggs, and $1.29 for 10 lbs of potatoes are a few of the deals that I’m benefiting from. In addition, we also have a Shop ‘n Save and while I don’t shop there much, on Friday’s they do run a freebie special for rewards members (and it’s a free membership). I stopped in and picked up a free jar of pasta sauce. I love it when the cashier hands me the bag and says, “It’s free, have a good day!”

    1. Oh wow–those are some amazing prices!! You’ve got Market Basket beat! Those price wars are definitely working in your favor :). And, nicely done on the free sauce.

  13. We follow a lot of this ourselves – especially when it comes to the no packaged and pre-made foods. Convenience is nice and all, but nowhere worth the cost in our opinion. We buy most of our groceries at Costco actually, aside from smaller items or toiletries we get elsewhere for a cheaper price. Having 3 kids, it just makes more sense on produce type items we don’t grow in our garden. So much of saving comes down to doing a little homework and knowing what items cost.

    1. Absolutely! I think we’d buy more produce, etc at Costco too if we had more mouths to feed–the prices are pretty great. I made the mistake of buying a pallet of peaches there once and it felt like all we ate all week were peaches ;).

  14. I totally agree with this list! As I mentioned on the podcast, I pretty much avoid the middle of the food store when I’m grocery shopping because it’s packaged goods that I could probably find cheaper elsewhere. I do sometimes buy food that’s already cooked and that’s the rotisserie chickens. They are usually cheaper than buying the chicken in the package and sometimes I buy them to use over salads, etc. and between the salad material and the chicken, I can make 5 or 6 lunches for under $10 which is a win for me.

    1. You’re so right about avoiding the middle of the supermarket–that’s pretty much how we shop too. And, good to know re. rotisserie chicken! That’s a great price!

      1. Apparently rotisserie chickens and some other prepared food fill an interesting economic niche of the grocery store (http://www.kcet.org/living/food/the-nosh/grocery-store-rotisserie-chickens.html)

        I think the gist of it is that grocery stores need to buy more whole raw chickens then they will sell, other wise they might run out and alienate customers. Instead of letting the extra chickens go to waste, somebody figured out that if they cooked them and sold them very cheap, they’d be certain to move the product quickly, make a bit of profit and get people in the stores for the chickens.

        I guess that’s why they say economics is a zero sum game, everyone wins (except maybe the chicken).

  15. I am sure this varies regionally,but rotisserie chicken at Costco here are oddly cheaper than whole raw chicken. I still tend to buy the raw chicken bc they are more versatile and I like to use the raw backs for stock, even though bullion cubes are cheaper than making stock. I also find the best prices on dry beans/grains at whole foods in the bulk section.

    1. You’re the second person to clue me into the cheapness of rotisserie chicken–good to know :)! But, you’re very right about the versatility of whole raw chicken–lots you can do with that.

      1. Costco has a good, huge rotisserie chicken for a good price. Walrmart’s price is good, too but their stuff is too salty and the chickens are smaller. If you go to our local Kroger you can get them half price on the last day of sale!

  16. We just recently got a Costco in our area, haven’t checked it out yet. But I do coupon, especially non-food items. I can get toilet paper, paper towels, and any health and beauty items, cheap cheap! The grocery store I work at doubles up to and including the $1.00 coupon, so I can really save some money there. Bonus, we have a local gal who price matches all the stores in our area, and will link printable coupons to each match up. I don’t even have to do the work, other than following her links and getting the stuff at the store (easy since I work there 😉 People think it takes a lot of time, but it really doesn’t. And every area in the country has someone who does a match-up, you just have to google it!

    1. That’s a great resource to have someone else doing the price matching–nice! Sounds like you’ve got a great system going on with your coupons! Costco does have an annual membership fee ($55) so you’ll have to see if it’s worth it for you. For us, we recoup the cost of the membership in dog food savings alone :), but I know it varies for everyone.

  17. I suppose the only thing I ever buy over $10 might be a really big package of meat (that will last me a long time). Otherwise, I don’t buy things over $10 either. Good tips about buying raw vs buying packaged or processed foods.

  18. Since you both like your Friday night pizzas, have you ever made your own. We make the dough in our bread maker, which is wonderful by the way, we make some pesto with our homegrown basil and some olive oil, our own tomatoes we’ve grown, and gasp!!, packaged mozzarella cheese, only because the good stuff is too expensive to put on a pizza and melt. Or we make one with sauce and pepperoni, or whatever we have in house. It’s really easy, homemade, and not expensive at all.

    1. Yum, sounds delicious! We do indeed make our own pizza sometimes–Mr. FW makes a mean from-scratch pizza dough. Now you’ve got me craving pizza before 7am ;)!

  19. Oh how I wish we could calculate price points in Alaska! Grocery prices are so fluid here depending on so many factors. Apples at Costco can be 6.99 one week and 11.99 the next and stay at one or the other for a number of weeks or months. And I’ve already admitted my love for Trader Joe’s brownies. I love them. I bring them to Alaska in my suitcase. 🙂

    1. Trader Joe’s brownie mix in a bag (just squeeze out and bake) is scrumptious and thrifty. Try adding a small amount of red wine or liqueur to mix. YUM!

      1. Maggie-prices sound rough in Alaska! And, what a bummer that they fluctuate to such a large degree! You have my sympathies.
        MEL–yum! Now you guys have me craving brownies… 😉

  20. On box meals, hmm, I seen to remember someone expounding on the taste of frozen pizza. Wasn’t that this blog?  We mostly use all of these rules, too. I find that requiring myself to make any snacks and desserts by hand is a good way to make them more delicious, and also, like, eat less snacks because it’s a pain to keep making them. I agree on the $10 threshold too. If I ever see double digits on my grocery receipt I realize I’ve done something terribly wrong.

    1. Haha, you know I love my frozen pizza, which is why I included it as a caveat in #2. Gotta have the emergency ‘za ;)!

  21. I do buy some things from Costco :
    Organic eggs at 2 dozen for $6.99 it is a better deal than anywhere else unless you find a sale
    Laundry detergent (Kirkland Unscented)
    Some produce
    Organic chicken and beef (much cheaper than elsewhere unless you find a decent sale)
    Maple Syrup
    Nuts (or Trader Joes)
    We don’t have the room (no big freezer and only a tiny pantry) to stash the humongo amounts one tends to find at Costco and with only two people, things would be wasted.
    Magazines (10% off cover price)
    I get a subscribe and save deal on dish liquid and bath soap from Amazon.
    TP I usually buy on sale at Kroger, Walmart or Target.
    I am going to check out Aldi’s soon and see what they offer although I am p’od at them for locating a store even further out in the suburbs in my area and not re-using the two perfectly good vacant grocery store buildings near me.
    And I don’ t live in the hood by any means, so that was kinda crappy of them. I guess they want to sit within shouting distance of a shopping center with a KROGER, TARGET (with groceries) AND FOOD LION? Makes no sense to me.

    1. That sounds like a pretty good Costco list! I like that same unscented laundry detergent–so cheap and so gentle. And re. nuts, I’ve found that Costco’s almonds seem to be the lowest price/lb. Good luck with your Aldi’s test! We don’t have one very close to us either, which is a bummer.

  22. I also shop at Trader Joes, Big Lots, Kroger, Walmart, Food Lion, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, farmer’s markets and country produce stands.

    1. It’s good to have the variety to choose from! Almost everywhere will have their own unique loss leader.

  23. I like how you shop! We buy packaged foods sometimes for convenience. Like your chips, it’s often not worth making something from scratch if you can pay a small premium and have it perfectly pre-made for you.

  24. Excellent advice! Okay, although I understand buying chips (we buy kind of a lot), it’s actually super easy and cheap to make tortilla chips at home. The key is finding huge stacks of corn tortillas for $2-ish, which you should be able to do at any Mexican or Latino market. To make: brush both sides of a tortilla lightly with flavorless oil. Flip another tortilla on top, rubbing it against the first to get its underside oiled, and brush oil on top of that one. Repeat for a stack of 8-10 tortillas. Cut into sixths, arrange on a cookie sheet or two, sprinkle with salt and a little paprika or what have you, and bake at 400F until crispy and delightful, about 5-8 minutes. FIN. Delightful and hot!

  25. Great tips! I love the way you guys shop! I’m single without kids and between my local grocery stores and Costco spend about $200 a month on food. (I also rarely eat out.) I agree with some other folks that it definitely depends on region as to where you can get some of the best grocery deals. I live in Phoenix, Arizona and the grocery stores are very competitive here. Pre-packaged, pre-cooked and processed food are the evil budget busters! I follow the weekly grocery ads every week and know when certain items go on sale. Sometimes you can find laundry detergent or paper products on sale for a great price, even better when you can stack coupons.

    1. Nicely done on the grocery bill! $200/month is awesome :). You’re smart to follow the ads and coupons!

  26. FWs,

    I’m all about being frugal, but I don’t think I agree with this:

    “In general, if it’s encased in some sort of packaging, it’s going to be more expensive. I’m looking at you soda, cereal, boxed cake mixes, cookies, jars of sauce. These are all things you can make from scratch for way cheaper (yes, a frugal form of soda included).”

    Doesn’t always (often?) add up like that. Are there no economies of scale in packaged food? Making marinara sauce or buying a jar for $2 (we literally just bought a jar for $2 yesterday)? Factoring out the time it takes to actually make sauce, the ingredients will surely cost more than $2. Cereal? If I’m not in the mood for oatmeal, I’m going to make homemade grain-based cereal? I could maybe see a case for cookies, but that might not be something you’re going to be eating anyway. And I frequently see these on sale (even in small batches) that would rival or even beat making them for scratch. And, again, that’s factoring out the time. If you don’t enjoy making marinara sauce from scratch, that’s a poor use of time.


    1. I hear you on the value of your time. There’s something to be said for economies of scale too if we see a stellar price on a nonperishable that we regularly co sume we have been known to clear out a shelf on occasion. However if you really care about knowing what’s in your food there’s no better way than DIY. I’ve been happy to see that more and more manufacturers are offering no high fructose corn syrup options etc. Still can’t find bread and butter pickles without HFCS but at least they sell ketchup and Jelly w/o it now.

      1. You both have great points here. I definitely think everyone’s mileage varies on this point and it’s important to find that balance that works best for you.

        For us, our decision to make most of our food from scratch stems from a few factors: Mr. FW enjoys cooking and sees it as a hobby, and as Eric mentioned, we like having control over what’s in our food. Plus, we feel we’re able to cook higher-quality foods ourselves. With our homemade pasta sauce, for example, there’s no sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, etc.

        We’ve also found that it’s cheaper for us to make the sauce from scratch, but again, your mileage will vary based on which sauce you like, etc. I think it’s all about figuring out the method/price points that work best for you.

      2. Eric:
        RE; B&B pickles: Whole Foods has them and Trader Joe’s, too, I think.
        Also try some of the foreign brands like you might find at Big Lots or an ethnic grocer. The US seems to be the only place that uses that stuff.
        Sometimes country markets and produce stands carry home &/or local canned pickles and they tend not to have HFCS.

    2. I never buy jars of tomato sauce. For about $4 (depending on sale price) I make a pot of tomato sauce (from canned tomato puree, tomato sauce, two cans of tomato paste, dried onion, garlic, italian seasoning and oregano, and water). I think it makes about six pint jars, which I freeze (usually I use whatever I need first and bottle up the rest to freeze). Takes about 10 minutes to get things mixed up in the pot, boil, then simmer on very low for at least a half hour. so versatile, add ground beef for over pasta (or vegetables), or on homemade pizza or lasagna. I make a batch every few weeks.

      1. Yep. Mrs. FW is on a tomato sauce kick now with the pregnancy, and I’m making a pot of sauce a week. My recipe looks similar to yours, though this time of year I can supplement the dried spices with fresh from our (amazingly nice) neighbor’s garden. Makes it even more delicious!

        1. Ha ha the one time I bought a pre made Spagetti sauce the wife added so much extra it became homemade. LOL

  27. I really don’t like to shop at multiple stores, but I find I do it since we moved down to Florida. I rarely shop at Walmart anymore, except for non-consumable items. Winn Dixie has such great sales, rewards, and gas perks. Plus, not to offend any Walmart lovers, but the food, even the packaged stuff, is so much fresher at Winn Dixie and Publix. This really was a super article with great tips, Mrs. FW. You rocked it, as usual! I will try harder to shop for fresh, non-packaged foods. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Kay :)! I’m not a huge fan of going to multiple stores either, but, sometimes it must be done in the name of frugality ;).

  28. I have to put the costs of items on a spreadsheet that gets updated after each grocery run. Our receipts are at least 11″ long (some are much longer) and things never get rung up in the same order, no time to search for what I paid for anything last time or 2 weeks ago, just use the spreadsheet to write down on my list what I expect to pay for each item based on what I usually pay along with a note of the best price acquired in the last 6 months.

    1. That’s a great system, Helen! I’m impressed! You’ve definitely got me beat in price tracking :).

  29. I sometimes pay over $10 for a large beef roast, which makes enough stew to feed the four of us for three full meals!

    We often shop at Walmart as our grocery store, and it has the lowest prices on allllmost everything except for a few things that are cheaper at Costco. (Diapers are cheaper at Walmart, baby formula at Costco; toothpaste at Walmart, Cheerios at Costco, and so on.) But since I have ethical concerns about Walmart, I’ve been trying to move as much of my shopping as possible to Costco, Target, and Sprouts (which has cheap produce and fantastically expensive, Whole Foods-like packaged food). This takes a bit more shopping around on my part–I have to actually do some research instead of just automatically buying things at Walmart.

    We do buy some packaged food. Spaghetti sauce. Mac and cheese. Chicken nuggets by the Costco pound. We are working people with two tots and I only cook from scratch MOST nights! I think we use them largely like your pizza (when we’re very tired, have plan changes, or for the occasional night off).

    1. Large roast beast :)! Yes, that’d definitely be worth the $10+. We lack a Wal-Mart here in our area, but I do remember how low their prices were when I lived in the midwest and shopped there. I think having those packaged foods on hand is genius–so much cheaper than eating out and lets you have a plan in place for exhausted/unexpected nights.

  30. I just wish there was one store that had the best prices/ items we need instead of having to visit Costco, our local co-op, Trader Joes AND our local grocery ( less often)!!!
    not that I visit them all every week, but it’s still such a time sink!

    1. I’m with you on shopping at multiple stores–such a time suck! We’re really lucky that Market Basket is cheaper than any other grocery store, which admittedly makes our grocery lives a lot easier. But kudos to you for fighting the frugal fight and getting the best prices :)!

  31. A few comments that come to mind. We just had a baby recently and that has caused us to reevaluate some of our grocery budget. Canned tomatoes are really high in BPA, the BPA is found in the interior can liner and is especially susceptible to the acids in the tomatoes– knowing this now (ignorance is bliss) we only do boxed tomatoes which adds a premium (or we DIY which is a pain but doable). The other thing we adjusted was the hormone/antibiotic free meats– again, a pricier option but you only get one body and we want to get as many frugal miles out of them as we can 🙂 Lastly not a grocery tip but we’re big believers in cast iron cookware… It lasts forever and doesn’t need to be replaced like Teflon etc and it also leeches a small amount of iron into your diet which is like a bonus prenatel vitamin for free! For the last few years we’ve used it for everything and haven’t looked back.

    1. Always good to keep health in mind! That’s why we prioritize organic produce and cooking from scratch. It’s nice to know what’s actually in the food we eat 🙂

    2. If there’s a Costco near you, consider joining. You can get organic meats, chicken, eggs and dairy much cheaper than elsewhere.
      One thing you can do to lower the initial Costco fee: Join with someone else and share the membership!
      I joined when I got a discount (with a bunch of coupons for free stuff) through my credit union.

  32. Those are some great tips. I will keep those in mind. One of the issues we have with our grocery bill (besides the fact we really love to eat), is that I can’t eat gluten. A bag of flour costs about $8. A loaf of bread (which I use very sparely and it lasts about 6 weeks) is $6.49. Pasta is more (although it often goes on sale for 2 boxes for $4.00 or $4.50 which is a savings of $1 a box, and we stock up more). Even soya sauce costs more!
    I try and limit the amount of these foods I eat and stick more to the fruits, veggies and proteins, but when you have a gluten free, dairy light, soy light, no nuts or sesames allowed at work (which effects lunch about 3 days per week, as I only go to the office that much), it is a challenge.
    I think the only $10+ items we buy is like the turn we buy once or twice a year (last time on sale, so just over $10 and it last us all our meals for a whole week!)
    I will definitely think of your rules next time we go shopping.

    1. It must be tough to shop for gluten-free–you have my sympathies. That’s too bad the prices are so much higher! Seems unfair! Kudos to you for still fighting the frugal fight though!

    2. Hi! My husband and son have to avoid gluten, dairy, eggs, beef and peanuts. We spend $800 plus for 4 and I think it’s the only way to fill us healthily. It’s very difficult to compare when there are no food allergies. I’ve been very stressed trying to lower that number in past years to up our savings but I really think my energy is being wasted. It’s an extra expense that we will just factor into our lives and being frugal makes us able to still save each month. Cheers! Also, I stock up on pasta when near a Trader Joe’s.

      1. Heidi, your post is totally validating for me! We are in a similar situation…we cannot have gluten, dairy and egg and have 4 mouths to feed each month. This includes two quickly growing boys. My oldest son often eats more than me and he is only 4; I can only imagine what it will be like when they are teenagers. Our monthly budget is $800 as well, but I often find myself going over. Food is our largest expenditure other than our mortgage. It can be so frustrating. Do you have any cost saving strategies you have found that are helpful? Or even go to dinners that are less expensive? I would love to exchange some thoughts/advice!

    1. Good question! We’ll sometimes get spices from Amazon, but that’s about it for groceries–the bulk stuff is all cheaper at Costco (at least in our experience). For household goods, we’ve found a few select things that are cheaper on Amazon: electric toothbrush heads, sunscreen, and doggie toothpaste :).

  33. I too love Costco, one thing I would point out is that those bulk prices are not always the best prices. Typically Costco and Sam’s or BJ’s are the most cost effective, but at times they are actually more expensive. Just a buyer beware type FYI.

    1. Yeah, you definitely have to be aware of the prices per unit. For the things we buy at Costco, we’ve figured out that they’re cheaper than our other options, but it’s certainly not the case for everything in the store. All about comparing those prices!

  34. One thing that isn’t cheaper to make: marinara sauce. Unless you grow the tomatoes yourself, anyway. I was going to make some by hand using canned tomatoes/tomato paste in order to lower the cost and sodium content. Both were almost exactly equal no matter how I arrived at the end product.

    1. We do like to make ours from scratch, largely so that we can control what’s in it. But it’s definitely true that your mileage might vary with price.

  35. Why carry all of your receipts with you?

    I don’t do this anymore b/c I buy just about everything from Aldi. But when I was price comparing multiple stores, I kept a spreadsheet at home. I would do all of the unit price calculations on the spreadsheet. I’d have the Store Name and Address and date of purchase. Anytime a good scored a new low unit price I’d highlight that row in Yellow.

    I would then save the spreadsheet to my Dropbox account so that I could view it from my phone while shopping. No need to sort through receipts at the store. Everything was already calculated and sorted for me.

      1. They don’t list price per ouch on the shelf?

        When I lived in Spain sometimes the smaller sizes were cheaper per ouch than the bigger sizes so I alway checked

  36. I love the idea of having a small spreadsheet with prices on some of the frequent items we buy so that when we see a true sale on that item, I can stock up, as Mr. Money Mustache recommends! Working near a dirt cheap chinese supermarket, I’ll sometimes head in there to buy some soy sauce or vegetables that are even cheaper than the grocery store. I find Trader Joe’s to have lower prices than Market basket on certain items such as coconut milk (99 cents vs. $1.50). However TJ is out of the way, so I don’t waste gas driving there unless I have another errand to run in the same area.

    1. Stocking up is a great idea! And, there’s definitely something to be said for saving time and gas by just going to one store.

  37. We hate our Costco. BJs was so much better but alas, there’s not one near us. We’re going to try out Sam’s Club since we got a year long membership on the cheap (only one month of overlap).

    One thing we’ve found is that some grocery stores still have great bulk deals. For boneless chicken, Wegmans sells a family pack for $1.99/lb for skinless/boneless breast. They used to have the individually wrapped ones for this price (same as the non-wrapped ones?!?!?!) but they wised up and charge $1 more for that. We dont’ deal with that, but man, it’s the best price for chicken and it’s much closer than the other stores.

    So I dunno, I think you have to pick and choose your battles, especially when you have the little one around. it’s not that you won’t have the energy to make dinner, it’s just that it takes a LOT of extra planning ahead of time on top of will power for both of you when it gets time to execute.

    You two look like you have it figured out pretty well though. 🙂

    1. Yeah, you’ve definitely got to figure out what works best for your individual situation and the stores that are closest/most accessible. We certainly love Market Basket in part because it’s so close to our house! Just makes life easier.

  38. The Costco in my area is quite far out, definitely not worth driving way out there… I know I pay for convenience for some things… but I am not yet a full fledged frugal weirdo…

    My emphasis these days is to buy local. I try to buy from our local corner grocery stores that support the local farmers and local vendors as much as I can. Sausage that is made from local meat, by local people, is something that I’m willing to pay more for…

    1. Yum sausage…. And, I agree, you’ve got to balance out the ease of access to close stores with potentially lower prices farther away. Not worth it to drive really far just to save a few bucks!

    1. We have in fact been to that very Aldi’s :)! Not quite close enough for it to be our weekly grocery store, but a good resource when we’re over there. Thankfully, the Somerville Market Basket is super duper close to our house :).

  39. Hi Mrs FW,

    Everything you explore has helped me immensely. Are you able to post your chocolate chip (with applesauce) cookie recipe? Or, can you at least tell me the exchange amount of applesauce for butter? Thank you, Mary

  40. Will you be sharing the hummus recipe!? I’m ready to jump through the computer….my last child was born over six years ago…I still get cravings!!! I’ll be dreaming of hummus and brownies and olive oil tonight!

    1. Haha, I’m ready to jump through the screen too! All this food sounds so good :)! I shall ask my chef (aka Mr. FW) if he can write down his hummus recipe for us to share on the blog. He doesn’t cook from recipes, so I’ll need to pin him down on his process, but I’ll try :)!

  41. We have both an Aldi’s and a WalMart within easy driving distance (And right next to each other). Generally, Aldi’s is better prices, but doesn’t have everything we want every week. Except for items I get at Costco (pretty much anything I can), we go to Aldi’s, then head to WalMart to get the remaining items. Sometimes, if there’s only a few items, and most are at WalMart, I just go straight to WalMart. I have no shame buying at low prices from WalMart!

  42. Greetings from Eastern Europe 🙂
    I used to do the price comparisone and watched for sales like a hawk but it turned into complicated task: there are 6 grocery strores within 5 min walking distance from my apartment, add 4 more stores if I’m willing to walk 15 min. Too much decision making 🙂 so I usually visit the store I’m passing by on the way home to buy some vegs and fruit, and whatever is finished.
    My ‘never’ list include:
    1) fresh herbs: if it doesn’t grow on my balcony garden, dried herbs are used;
    2) eggs and cottage cheese: they are bought at farmer’s market;
    3) wine: just not worth it. Bought from the bulk store once a month. But beer is allowed;
    4) potatoes (don’t laught 🙂 ): we had our own, but since I moved to another country, I never buy them, the taste here is very different.
    5) anything not eatable. Batteries and TP are exceptions 🙂

    Thanks for your posts ang good luck in your journey to homestead!

    P.S. I adore your writing style!

    1. I can certainly understand the ease of stopping at the closest store! Sometimes that’s the best trade off :). Thanks so much for reading and sharing!

  43. The “non food items” point applies depending upon where you do your grocery shopping. I do a fair amount of my grocery shopping at a Super Walmart, which has the lowest grocery prices in my area…..AND the non-food items are also extremely inexpensive in most cases.

  44. I’m working my way through your posts and *loving* it. Just had to chime in to say that we finally have an Aldi’s not *that* far away in Medford near Wellington Circle (down 28). I have not become a regular but was psyched to see it after reading so many references to it on frugality sites.

    1. Yeah, we’ve visited the Aldi’s a few times and their prices are great! It’s not quite close enough for it to be our weekly store. And, for what we buy, Market Basket seems to have really similar prices (and is super close to our house). Between the two, we’ve got some excellent frugal groceries in our area :)!

  45. Our recent large grocery savings was buying chicken drumsticks. We decided to buy a few at 80 cents a pound at the butcher counter. Our butcher nicely pointed out that they were sell 5 pound bags for $1.97. Say what? Yes, please! We ate two each a night (along with some large helping of veggies) until gone. That did take us a bit, so we’re ready for a break from chicken drumsticks. But that was the nicest meat deal we’ve had in awhile. I was tempted to buy more, but we have a pretty small freezer, and a 5 pound bag of drumsticks is fairly large.

    Side note on Whole Foods: the way you shop, it’s probably almost always a budget buster. But I used to shop somewhat regularly at Whole Foods. They have a decent bulk section, the yogurt prices were competitive in my town, and they had a few things that I really liked quality-wise. They’re now too far away to justify. But there was a time when the majority of my shopping was the local co-op, the farmer’s market, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods.

    1. Nicely done on the chicken drumstick find! Yeah, for us Whole Foods is almost always more expensive, which is a shame since it’s a 5 minute walk from our house :).

  46. Costco is a staple in the financial fish household as we have one nearby- our monthly budget is ~$600 for a family of 6. Although we are nowhere near as thorough as the frugalwoods( coupons/envelopes w price comparisons)

    When shopping at other stores my main influence is the travel time+ gas cost since this determines my time involved vs savings over Costco when going to other stores. Generally we have to see significant savings via sales to shop at other stores vs Costco, unless we are in the neighborhood and can pool shopping together with other activities. One pet peeve I have is when my wife spends an extra hr out of her day and 10 miles of travel to save $5 on one item at the discount store.

    The other thing I try to avoid is to buy perishable items solely based on the idea of ” because it’s on sale”- nothing worse than having 15/20lbs of zucchini lying around the house because the price is right but the kids will not eat more than 5 bites.
    Great post!- Chef

    1. $600 for a family of 6 is incredibly impressive–nicely done! Yeah, I agree with you on the folly of driving far in order to save a few bucks. That quickly becomes not worth it.

  47. I just found your blog and I must say..bravo! You two are going to make awesome parents! My hubby and I are looking down the barrel of retirement and we decided 2 years back that we were not going to be able to the way we were spending. We also RARELY eat out. I think the last time was some burritos as big as your head for 23$ last month (The leftovers were his lunch the next day). We love to cook and yes we buy some spices at penzeys as well. We also buy spices at Costco. I was wondering..do you have a substantial pantry to store your bulk rice etc.? I would love any interesting ideas you could have on safe and affordable food storage.

  48. Your post & the comments have covered about everything that we do (and don’t) buy at the local grocery store.. I will still repeat age-old advice though – don’t go there when hungry. Empty stomachs have a way of getting you to forget decisions & resolutions.

  49. Love that your indulgence is chips! We love them too (I think that my son thinks that they are a food group). I have tried to make them from scratch but they are just so much better from the store. My husband also has a thing for store bought brownie mix which I can’t break no matter what recipe I have tried from scratch but he doesn’t get them very often. I make bread, rolls, quick breads for breakfast, cookies and most other things around the house to save money. I use so much flour that I stock up when it is on sale in the winter months (around Thanksgiving) for $0.99 to get unbleached AP flour and I buy 25 bags of 5 lbs which is totally used up before Thanksgiving the following year. I actually buy lots of things at the grocery store but only on sale and with a coupon when I can get it at rock bottom prices and I keep a price book in my head of what a good price is for most items so I know whether it is a good deal. We gave up our Costco membership over 9 years ago because we just didn’t use it enough and I can get better deals with coupons at the stores. If you want another tip for Olive Oil, it goes on sale at CVS for $3.99 frequently so I use a $1 printable coupon and get the 16 oz (?) bottle for $3 which is a great deal versus the grocery store. Great tips!!

    1. 125lbs of flour in a year is hardcore! That’s awesome! Nice tip on the CVS coupons, though I don’t know if I could give up my spicy, organic, extra virgin oil from costco. That stuff is delicious compared to normal ev oil, and we do often eat it raw in recipes. I tend to cook with a cheaper, non ev olive oil.

  50. Coming over from MMM, just want to say that I think your blog has the best detailed and useful info I have ever read on the HOW to save. I’m literally copying down all your grocery ideas and trying them out in our own way. For example, the eat the same thing for a while really clicked for me. We have a pantry full of misc ethnic food stuff just getting old. I plan to do Japanese week (or month) and eat thst stuff up, then Indian, etc.

    I love how you are so detailed and specific. Also funny, of course, ya weirdo! Thanks for your blog and best wishes on the baby and the land purchase.

  51. Came across your blog today – it’s right up my alley! On the subject of grocery shopping and getting the best deals I have to say it’s a lot easier to just knock up a quick spreadsheet and throw in what each items costs and where. It’s not easy remembering where to get Bob’s Red Mill garbanzo flour from at the best price [hint, it’s Vitacost!]. I realize that’s weird but hey – I’m uber-frugal, and yes occasionally I make spreadsheets.

  52. If one has a WinCo in their area, it’s well worth shopping there. They have a huge bulk food section. Like you, we buy very little packaged food, and their bulk beats all other stores around here on just about everything. If you have an ethnic market (Asian, Hispanic, etc.) in your area, it’s worth checking those out for meats and vegetables. Many cultures outside the US eat far more fruits and vegetables than we tend to do, so our local market has WAY better prices on produce, and it’s fresher because turnover is so high. Their meat is better than most grocery store meat, too. Farmer’s Markets (in season) are a wonderful resource, as well.

  53. Shampoo is my one foray into coupons (they encourage you to buy overpriced stuff you don’t need!) – I have long hair and go through lots of it, and I like the good kind. So once a year or so I buy a lot of 20 coupons for Dove shampoo on eBay (cost ~$3) that gives me $1.50 or $2 off per bottle. Combine that with a good sale somewhere and I’ve rarely paid more than $1.25 a bottle. It’s a regular joke among my friends that I once bought 40 bottles!

  54. My list of items not to buy from the store keeps growing and growing the more self sufficient we get.
    No eggs (we raise chickens)
    No fish (my husband fishes)
    No beef (we raise a beef)
    No onions and garlic (easy to grow and store)
    No tomato sauce or salsa (I garden)
    No pickles
    No jams (I grow or glean fruit)

    This year I’m going to blanch and freeze corn to last the year.
    I’m going to vacuum pack bell pepper and freeze.
    I didn’t plant enough potatoes, but I will next year.
    We also make our own pinot noir. We usually buy the grapes, but this year I’m gleaning them for free and we planted 60 plants for next year

    When I do go grocery shopping. I analyze what I bought and see if I can, not buy it again.

  55. The Cheaphearts never buy:

    -Paper towels. I have about 200 cotton servilettes that have “migrated” into my home through my years working in restaurants. I use them like I would paper towels, launder them and don’t get fussed if they are a bit stained. If they get really gross I soak them overnight in Oxy Clean. My friends joke that I’ll get rid of toilet paper next, I’m dreaming and scheming about that too. Any thoughts about the economy of this $900 Japanese toilet seats that wash your bum? If there were cloths to dry off with you wouldn’t need toilet paper (except for guests).

    -Spray cleaners. I clean with vinegar and water.

    -Trash bags. We just use plastic bags from the supermarket in a small can. Has the added advantage of getting smelly stuff out of your house faster.

    -Bread. My MIL turned me on to the fact that you can make a very nice loaf of bread in a bread machine for about $1.25 with 10 minutes of active time. They are very unstylish at the moment and the Panasonic YD-250 that we use was bought on Craigslist for $15.

    -Yogurt. It is so easy to make at home. No special equipment needed. A half gallon of milk made into yogurt will keep in the fridge for two plus weeks. Way cheaper.

    1. I found Yogurt too much hassle to make and buying the starter powder is really expensive here!!! Plus we rarely eat it. Bread, I live in Germany and the bread here is awesome and cheap, especially compared to what my family pays for it in Canada. I did make it for a while but again the cost savings were small and even with a bread maker the hassle factor is there.

      1. Yogurt a hassle? All you need is a cooler & 12 hours, and a plain yogurt you like as starter. Plain milk needs to be boiled to inactivate the enzymes inside, but no boiling necessary(and it’s cheaper) if you use milk powder.
        And bean sprouts are really simple to sprout. Just remember to rinse once a day until ready.
        Google is your friend….

  56. I have just discovered Frugalwoods and I’m working my way first through all of the food articles, with random forays elsewhere. Fabulous stuff! Thank you for all of the ideas. I have a frugal bent. But right now, my food focus is entirely on food additives, especially MSG. It is in almost all processed food and most restaurant food (they have just gotten smart about calling it by other names, so you will never see “MSG” on a label). I react badly to increasingly small amounts of it. It took me a long time to isolate the cause. Hence my current kick is to cook everything from scratch. It’s a challenge, though its getting easier as I get into a groove. Sure enough my health and energy are rapidly improving. So there is an additional reason to avoiding processed and packaged food–you intake fewer toxins. Also, I haven’t checked it lately, but I think our spending on food is waaaay down.

  57. I just discovered your blog and am slowly reading all the posts. On this one, I do just have to say a rotisserie chicken works out for me. I get them at Costco for $5.00. My husband doesn’t eat chicken, and I don’t eat dark meat, so I just get all the white meat off. I give the dark meat to my mom and the rest I use in recipes. Last time I made chicken spaghetti and enchilada casserole, and I got 10 work lunches just with that and pantry staples. I call it .50/lunch, but if I were to figure out all the other ingredients, I bet it would be less than $1. (I realize that isn’t that stellar for many of the more seasoned frugalistas here, but I’m just starting out 🙂 ).

    Anyway, I am really enjoying your posts, such great inspiration here!

  58. I love your food series! Definitely going to try that Costco pizza now that we’ve started back up our membership. I’ve shared the tip with a couple like-minded frugal friends who are excited to start reading your blog. Would you mind sharing your tahini free hummus recipe? I’ve recently starting making a few different carrot, squash, etc hummus and I’d love to try a new recipe

  59. FWIW, on my weekly library bicycle ride for DVDs CDs & books, I check my local pet store for “near-expiry” food they cull continually.
    They put it on sale for 25-90% off. It often gets cheaper than my usual 50-lb sac.

  60. When my children were little and always with me for grocery shopping, I gave one of them the grocery list and the other one the pencil. I always mentioned that we were on a mission and only going to purchase the things on the list. For them this was a great game and they helped me shop for the best deal, we did the math together, compared the different choices and then they checked it off. I never had the experience of a huge meltdown in the store because we were too busy with our mission to have time for such things. I do remember the looks on their faces when they witnessed another kid begging for things in the store. They were always so confused about why. My children were not perfect but they helped me stay on budget and I never felt bad for passing by all the overpriced junk that is placed in the check out line. It was nice. When we were finished shopping, I would let them help me put all the things away and then I would let them pick a fun activity from a list of already chosen activities. It was in this way that we celebrated our successful shopping trip and they were engaged in something they enjoyed. This worked really well for me and my little family. Every family is different though but I thought I would share that idea.

  61. Market Basket for the win! I live in Somerville. It’s great reading a blog about the frugal lifestyle in our own neighborhood 🙂 When I shop anywhere other than Market Basket I get so annoyed because the same exact items are 30-50% more expensive. Even fancy cheese is under ten bucks at MB!

  62. Another good reason to shop at Costco is that they are a good moral company. They really try and are known for treating their employees right.

  63. We never buy anything because of coupons. People waste money buying stuff just because they have a coupon. If you never cared about an item until you had a coupon, you will waste money on it.

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