Friday, May 03, 2013

Hunting and gathering

Do you ever feel as though you are a modern hunter/gatherer when it comes to groceries? I do, especially after this afternoon. Six stores later, I think I am done with errands and stores and grocery stores, at least for a few days. Now, admittedly, not all six stores involved food. The first three were to pick-up things that we needed, but not to eat.

First, D. informed me that he had no shorts at all, so the first stop was the thrift store to supply him with those. Then, the dollar store is right next door to the thrift store so I popped in hoping to find some wide, stretchy headbands for H. It's easier to keep her hair out of her face at this point and we have found that a wide stretchy headband with a ponytail (because her hair is over 6 inches longer than it was a year ago) is a cute look. But, no headbands.

Then we headed to that store with the big red bulls eye. You know, the one where you go in to buy a bag of socks and walk out $100 poorer because of all the other things you discovered you needed. I hate paying $100 for socks, so try to avoid it. I did pretty well and only bought the three items on my list, including those hairbands. But still no food.

Finally, it was time to head the two grocery stores I shop at every week. The first is Aldi where I buy staple-type stuff... milk, eggs, butter, canned goods. That type of stuff. I have yet to find a store that has these items cheaper. After I'm done at Aldi, I load those groceries in the car and then head next door to the next store. In this case it is a small independent grocery store that has a great selection of meat and produce and also really good prices. Because it caters to a large immigrant population, it carries a large variety of ethnic food. It's just fun to shop at. (And if you happen to like Indian Bhangra music, it's a double plus because that is often what is playing.) It is not the place to shop, though if you're looking for traditional American fair... cold cereal type-stuff... because the selection is small and very expensive. Since that is not is what is normally in my cart, it works for me.

Then it was time for our last store, my not-so-favorite big members-only store but I shop there because of the good paper goods prices. Along with toilet paper, I also get large bags of chocolate chips. (Yes, they do count as a necessity.) At other times, this is also where I get honey, chopped garlic, vanilla, and some other spices that I use in bulk quantities. There is actually little else food-wise that I buy here. I was sorely tempted by all the hanging baskets that were on display, but I was good and stuck with my exciting toilet paper laden list.

Now, I realize that as unexciting as it was to actually be on this little shopping adventure, it is even less exciting to just read about it. So why am I torturing you all (assuming you have made it this far)? I really do have a larger point. I don't know if you've noticed, but grocery prices have gone up an extreme amount in the past year. I haven't really changed what or how much I buy, and I have seen my grocery bill rise by about a third. It's murder on the budget. If you are feeling pinched by the grocery bill, here are a couple of things I do to try to keep it down (and it goes a long way to explaining the number of stores I shop at).

First, I have found that different stores will have the best price on different items. If you really want to save money, you just can't do your shopping all at one store. Some people have success keeping a price book. That would be a list of everything you typically buy and the amount these items cost at various stores. I don't keep an actual book, unless you count the one in my head.

I have a good idea of which items are cheapest at which stores. One store may have the best price on drug store type items, but there is no way I would buy food there. Or another store might be good for staples, but I wouldn't buy produce there. It goes on and on. It also means that I will stock up on certain items every month or two because it involves a special trip.

Second, I find the big-name, regular grocery stores to have the highest mark-up. In some instances, I see prices that are more than doubled what I pay at the stores I shop at. I know that I happen to live in an area that is awash in food shopping choices, so this isn't always an option, but do look around at all the stores and compare prices. I have found some of  the smaller stores to have great prices.

You really do need to hunt and gather from various places to feed your family. I'm just glad I'm done with it for the week.

Brandi still needs a family! You haven't forgotten this little sweetheart, have you? Please keep praying for her family to find her.

She is 6 years old. She lies in her crib and waits and waits and waits for someone to scoop her up and tell her how loved she is. Just imagine a grin on her face, her hair allowed to grow out. Imagine how transformed she will look when she is loved. Pray that she doesn't have to wait too much longer for her parents to find her. While her file has been sent back to her country, it can be obtained. I can put you in contact with people who can help you do this if you are interested.

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