Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Story...and some ideas

By: Emily Boldrin, PhD, R.D.

YOU GUYS!!! Do you know what happened last Friday? Well I suppose not, so let me tell you, but first a little background…

Are you like me? I love food. Do you love it too? It is fun, tasty, and we need it to survive. Pretty great combination in my book! My love of food started when I was a child where I was lucky enough to be raised in a family that experimented with food. A lot. Needless to say, grocery shopping for me is fun (aside from the cost…see previous post). The wackier the grocery store, the better. Strange cans I can’t read? Perfect! A fish that looks like an alien? Yummy. I will take it!

But. Guess what? I had a baby. A wonderfully cute, time demanding baby. These grocery store trips are no longer fun and it is impossible to justify taking him to a sketchy area of town just to go to some wacky grocery store. So, for the last 16 months I have been relegated to the standard big box grocery store.    

Le sigh. Le sigh. Le sigh.

But then...last Friday...Grandma time!! I said see you later and sped out the door faster than a herd of turtles.  I was on a mission to binge on grocery stores. All the glorious ones I hadn’t been to in over a year. I was on my way! First stop - Natural Grocer – which is similar to Whole Foods. This store is right next to my big box grocery store.  But for reasons stated earlier, this was my first visit in 16 months.

I pulled up and the doors opened to the heavens and I am sure Celine Dion was singing. Or maybe it was Phil Collins. Anyways, when I went in and saw the dew kissed organic produce greeting and calling out to me, shock and horror arose. Could it be true? I racked my brain and determined it was in fact true. The organic produce at this grocery store was cheaper than the non-organic produce at the big box store. Happy, happy day! Now I could buy organic produce for less than what I was spending on regular produce. Budgetary delight!

Speaking of budgets - We talked in the last blog post about how much we are spending on food in America, how it compares to other countries and how it correlates with obesity rates. I also discussed how students often say that they can’t eat healthy because it is too expensive. So, this time we are going to talk about how we can eat healthy on a budget. The concepts we discuss below* can apply to organic or conventional produce!

  1. Be a detective – See example above J. Even if you comparison shopped a year ago (as I had done), it never hurts to check out competition every now and then. Looks for sales flyers if you don’t want to go to the store. Some stores even have their prices online.
  2. Be a cook – Avoid the cellulose and plastic packages. The more intact an item, the cheaper. Bonus - you get to refine your  slicing and dicing skills J
  3. Be a hoarder – look for sale items and stock up. This goes for produce as well. A lot of stores have a dinged and damaged area for produce. For example, at my big box grocery store, you can get 5 pieces of organic produce for 1 dollar in this area.
  4. Be Bulky – Often times, the more you can buy in bulk, the cheaper it is. However, you will want to comparison shop to verify you are getting a better deal.
  5. Be the Crazy Coupon Lady/Man – I admit that I hate couponing. Perhaps it had to do with long Sunday afternoons as a kid getting paper cuts while cutting out endless coupons. But, for those of you without couponing nightmares, it can be a really great tool to save money. A lot of stores are offering online coupons and of course you can find coupons in your Sunday circular. 
  6. Be Smart – Buy produce in season from your local farmers markets and fruits stands. Make the farmer’s market your family Saturday morning activity and get to know the farmers! The more they know you, the better they treat you (and that includes getting a good deal on their produce).
  7. Be Discerning – If you want to buy organic produce but need to watch your budget, you can refer to the Environmental Working Group lists of the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” to help you decide what to produce to purchase. Find it here:
  8. Be Friendly – You can sign up to join a food coop. These food coops deliver weekly “bounties” to their members. The coops often have large bounties, so ask a friend to join with you. Sharing the produce with a friend will half the price!
  9. Be Picky – You can find organic or conventional local produce operations that are much tastier than what you find in the grocery store and most often cheaper! Pick until you can’t pick any more and freeze, can or cook what you can’t eat.
  10. Be a Farmer – This is the easiest way to save money! Plant a garden – even if it is just one plant. Anyone can grow zucchini and tomatoes are great for small spaces like a patio or porch.
So now it is your turn! What do you do to save money when you grocery shop?

*Tips adapted from: (2014)“Money Saving Tips”. Retrieved from:


Leslie Young said...

Emily, I LOVED your article!!!!
Your writing is funny and interesting at the same time. I can completely relate to your story about staying home with a baby and avoiding grocery store trips or ANY extra stops that would have required loading the baby carrier around. Of course, the exposure to germs /fear of the baby getting sick made me home-bound for a while during his first few months of life. Thank you for sharing the great article. I enjoyed it.---- Leslie Young MS RD (Faculty -Nutrition Sciences)

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