What will 150 a week get you?

I had to make a quick trip to Wal Mart this afternoon. I have new contacts and needed a new eye drop solution for them... and, of course, 40 dollars worth of other stuff for Camille's party and random crud. Isn't that how places like WM and Target work? You can never walk out with just ONE thing!

When we were in there, I ran into a friend. She is a coupon clipper and was doing her weekly run of four different stores to get items she needed. She proudly (and rightly so) told me that she averages 50 dollars a week on food for a family of four.

I am impressed. It's hard work to clip those coupons, travel to different stores for the deals and pick up only what you need. She offered a few tips and I offered some of mine. She shops at stores and I do alot of on-line shopping. (Amazon is my friend for things like Charlie's Soap.) Then she showed me what she looks for deals on because that's what they eat alot of.: canned soup and canned Pillsbury bread products.

Oh.

Now, don't get me wrong, we ALL buy what we can afford and what we like and what our kids will eat. I used to buy and eat alot of canned soup and I do love me some canned rolls. A few years ago, though, I realized that canned soup is a food unitasker. It can be used for one thing and one thing only- as soup. It was cheaper and healthier to buy soup fixings (like chicken breasts, veggies, broth) and make soup to freeze in protions. Chicken breasts can be used in soup, stir fry, baked as a main dish, in casseroles, etc. In short, soup ingredidents are a multitasker so I would get more bang for my buck out of them.

Plus, all canned food has BPA in it, no matter what is in the can. It is important to lower our exposure to BPA so a high soduim unitasker food with BPA needed to leave our cupboards.

I do try to buy whole foods in their natural form and cook from scratch. I have to shop around and look for deals but I don't typically clip coupons. I've found that most coupons are for things we don't eat, like canned soup. Many times, even with coupons, store brands are cheaper. We have a nice Aldi near us and I swear their cereal is the same as the name brand cereal at the supermarket. When it is under 3 dollars a box and tastes the same, I refuse to pay mega prices for a unitasker food. (Plus, my kids need more than just cereal for breakfast before school, so cereal is normally a weekend breakfast food or a snack.)

So what DO we buy? Every week we buy:
  • fresh fruit and veggies. I buy organic potatoes at Trader Joe's because the conventional ones at other stores seem to go bad really fast. We go through alot of garlic, for some reason, and baby carrots. Other than that, we buy what is in season.
  • Frozen veggies. If we see a good deal, we stock up.
  • milk. We use about three gallons a week.
  • string cheese. This is another Tader Joe's purchase and we buy two packages a week.
  • Butter, yogurt, sour cream and cottage cheese. Sometimes all of these, sometimes none- depends on what the kids are into eating.
  • pasta. We eat whole wheat pasta for quick dinners, or lunch. Whole wheat organic pasta is about 1.39 a bag at Trader Joe's. Whole wheat pasta is also very cheap at Aldi and both places sell white pasta for around 99 cents a package.
  • bread. We buy 3-4 loaves a week and freeze them. We also buy two rolls of bagels and, lately, English muffins.
  • Eggs.
  • Any meat we need for the week. We buy beef in bulk and eat alot of chicken. Depending on when we hit up the deals, we might only have to buy chicken every 2-3 weeks.
  • canned tomato products. If I am shopping, I get them at TJ. If Adam is shopping, he gets them at Aldi.
  • juice. Sometimes and mostly in the winter.
  • dried fruit. Mostly mangoes but sometimes dried bananas.
  • any spices or baking supplies I need, including white and whole wheat flour.
  • any snack foods we might need, like cereal bars.
  • peanut butter
(This list may vary slightly depending on what is in the cupboard, what I have on the menu for the week and if anything we normally use is on sale and I need to stock up.)

Every few weeks we buy:
  • cereal, mostly at Aldi but we love TJ's cheerios!
  • 2 gallons of vinegar. Sam's sells 2 gallons for just over 3 dollars. Plain white distilled vinegar is our cleaning solution (bathrooms, kitchen and floors) and our fabric softener. I like that it is safe, good for the kids and good for the environment.
  •  meat, depending on what is on sale.
  • stock up on carbonated water at TJ's, since I can't drink soda and Adam is trying to drink less
  • an order of Charlie's Soap from Amazon
  • buy overnight diapers and Easy Ups from Amazon.
  • get shredded cheddar cheese and shredded mozzarella cheese from Sam's.
  • baking mixes. Next on my list of things to make at home is pancake and waffle mix.
  • dishwasher soap. I am trying homemade soap and failing!
  • Dr. Bronners. It's five dollars cheaper at TJ's than anywhere else.
  • multi vitamins for myself
  • the odd roll of paper towels for the "OMG, the dog threw up!!!" moment.
  • toothpaste and shampoo for the kids and Adam.
Every few months we buy:
  • olive oil from Sam's.
  • baking soda. With vinegar, I used this as a cleaning scrub in addition to baking.
  • essential oils. To be honest, I can't remember the last time i bought some and I still have plenty of lavender, orange and Tea Tree Oil in the house. They are pricey but a little goes a LONG way!
  • toliet paper
  • baby wipes. I use these for everything!
  • an order of multi and fish vitamins for the kids. I buy 2-3 packs on Amazon, so one order lasts awhile!
  • beef from a local butcher. We buy this about once a year.
  • hair products for me. I use Beauty without Cruelty and order in bulk.
  • personal care products for my husband and myself. Again, we order or buy in bulk, so those last us awhile.
I honestly think our biggest money saver comes from using cloth diapers, cloth kitchen towels, rags and napkins and cooking alot of our products from scratch. While I don't make our own bread, I do make our own rolls. This is something I enjoy, so the time and labor is worth it to me. To another family, it might be worth their time and energy to buy nicer breads or, perhaps, the canned rolls. That's okay; different strokes and all.

When I went down the laundry asile at WM to buy washing machine cleaner, I was struck by the overpowering smells. That's another huge money saver in our house; the lack of commercial cleaning supplies. It's not that I don't clean, it's that I don't clean with oddles of chemicals. I bought a spray bottle at the dollar store (the repurposed bottle I had been using for 3 years finally died) and filled it with vinegar, water and EOs. That is my cleaner for counters, cabniets, the kitchen and bathroom. When I really need to deep clean sinks, I sprinkle baking soda in there, spray some of the cleaner on top of it and after a few moments, rinse and scrub with HOT water. When just a little wipe down is needed, I squirt some dish soap on a rag and wipe down the counters. Wood is cleaned with a teeny amount of olive oil (always spot test first) and a microfiber towel. (I've also been known to use old socks, soft torn up t-shirts and, yes, old underwear!) The only commerial cleaners we buy are window cleaner (haven't found a good homemade one yet), kid and pet stain remover for the "OMG, the dog puked!!!!" moments and toliet bowl wands. (I refuse to have a reusable one around the house. Do you KNOW what my kids would do with one?!) Everything else that they try to convince you that you need, like lysol spray, antibacterial wipes, we don't need. When Georgie was a newborn, yes, we used those. Now, I don't feel like we need the heavy duty cleaners and that we are healthier when we aren't breathing in all those chemicals.

Throw in the odd ingredient, random craving for crackers and speciality item and there you have it. That's all the stuff I include in our 150 a week to keep us fed, happy and healthy.