Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pennywise and Pound Foolish or am I the Fool?

As I may have mentioned Mike and I are following the Dave Ramsey plan to save and prosper. Anyway, I have been looking for more ways to save and stumbled on another frugal grocery shopper who followed Dave Ramsey via ‘the web’.

It turned out, I spend three times as much on groceries per week as her. Now true I have a larger family (by 2) but still--three times as much?! I read her money saving tips and one thing stood out. Her fresh produce consisted of one item--3 yellow onions. My produce on the other consistently represents 60-70% of my entire bill. She went on to discuss buying discounted milk in bulk (she freezes it) and then any mark-down meat which seemed to almost always be ground beef--I am not sure what mark-down or discounted means but I am thinking it means about to go bad. She also mentioned she went to a health food store and bought a few items like organic whole flour (no meat, eggs, dairy or produce) but only bought items that were marked down--actually she said she only bought items that were marked down.

I told Mike about her grocery bill and rather than saying ‘we should try that’, he actually said ‘I bet she goes to bed every night feeling like crap."

Now we are not the world’s greatest eaters but I try very hard to get the best organic produce, dairy and meat (sometimes the meat is only hormone free but it is at least hormone and preservative free---the animal and animal by-products are actually my biggest ‘must’ for being organic (and humanely treated--but that’s another issue)). I honestly feel this has helped our family stay healthy. We don’t have any sort of indigestion issues--no meds or over the counter medicine are in our cabinets (except baby Motrin for when our kids might get sick with very high fevers--and that Motrin always expires half-full).

But is this worth spending three times what this frugal shopper is?

I would love to save more money but I certainly don’t want to risk my health doing it.

But am I?

Is it really better to keep your kitchen free of high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artifical food colorings and flavors, growth hormones and animal antibiotics with a smaller bank account or is it better to eat whatever the FDA says is acceptable and have extra money in the bank?

I don’t know. I can tell you I feel well. Head aches, stomach aches, groggy feelings are pretty rare in our home---they mostly show up during a vacation or after a serious ‘out food binge’. But I can also tell you I’d like to save more money. I have talked with other shoppers who shop like me and my budget is much less. This gives me comfort....but spending three times more than this other person----geesh, I dunno know.

Blogger world--what’s your take? Is the healthy diet worth it? Will spending all this money be an asset for my body 20 years from now or will it make no difference?


dani said...

my very wise neighbor told me many times over... "if you are healthy, you are rich!" that's my take:)
happy st. patty's day, lisa:D
much love,
dani xxxxxx

Miss Lisa said...

Dani---this is how I have always felt but part of me wonders if I'd be just as well...not sure I could ever freeze milk though. Happy St. Patty's Day to you too :) ((HUGS))

Unknown said...

I was just discussing this with another friend. We've talked about before how our families are pretty healthy and some of the things that we've seen when we let our kids eat junk. I have eaten cheap before and we've noticed such a difference in how we've changed our health with eating better and having a larger grocery bill. I think you are wise because being healthy and having a healthy family I think is better than being sick all of the time or being in the processed food comatose. =)

beachroses said...

Whole Foods is notoriously high priced and you can often find some of these very products in large grocery stores now, I do. Not everything on weekly specials is old, either. You can check their websites to see what they are each week and farmers' stands are usually even cheaper. IOW, comparison shop. I also make a lot of soups full of good things, casseroles, pasta dishes, quiche, home made breads and desserts. Beans are very healthy and don't cost much and I alternate foods I cook so we don't get too much of one thing, incl meat. Also make "sodas" with sparkling water and a little fruit juice. We don't need to eat unhealthy food to save money, a lot of people on the internet are not using common sense on either extreme. I might add that hormone free dairy/meat and transfat free marg are also on store shelves, so is butter and cooking oil. I would like a Whole Foods here for other things, but for basics, I don't need it. :)

Jenny Howell said...

We do not use any high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fats or dyes. I do not use organics. We use fresh fruits and veggies, go to the farmers markets weekly. We are NEVER sick and are all healthy. I have seen no health benefits to using organics. I believe more in natural foods and whole food nutrtion. No processed foods.

Miss Lisa said...

Andrea, your comment reminded me of the time we tried shopping at a bulk store--we all felt pretty miserable! Thanks for your support!

Miss Lisa said...

So true on the weekly specials--I love those! I think the blogger was referring to 'must go' meat--she mentioned you needed to freeze it right away. I have done shopping at other grocery stores but seriously they are all MORE than Whole (Paycheck ;) ) Foods. I spent a few months comparing their store brand organics to Tom Thumb and Kroger. I hear on the beans and soups--great great advice!!!
Thanks for the tips (and I hope you get a Whole Foods soon!)

Miss Lisa said...

Julia H's mom,
Farmers Markets!!! Yes--I love going to those-it's just hard to get there and to find the actual farmers shed the restaurants use :)
Thank you for the information on your eating--it seems like you found a very happy medium. :)

Melissa said...

I think that it is about finding balance. I don't think it is great to keep all frucose sugars, preservatives and such all out of foods... you can then get sick if it does enter your system, But... if you only eat that kind of stuff you are going to do damage in other ways. It is all about finding recipes that are cheap, but also gives you the options of usuing healither choices if you have the funds.

I actually look for recipes that, if needed, I could feed my family on $50 for a week. Recipes with 5 ingredients or less are cheap, plus you can use canned organic items that really aren't much more than non organic canned food.

Susan said...

I think they most important thing is feeling healthy. I do shop at regular grocery stores... and they have no growth hormone and no antibiotics in their meat. When the chicken is on sale, I stock up on it and freeze it. It is not organic though. Michael Simon said that you should focus on 90% of your food from fresh ingredients...sorry I am rambling. I think you are doing fine but you might be able to make a few changes... maybe with the meats... You know those GoGurts that kids eat... they finally made a healthy one free of growth hormones and no dyes or artificial ingredients... they are a lot cheaper than buying organic yogurt.

beachroses said...

I just stick with mostly whole foods and cook from scratch, washing and peeling vegetables. Sometimes I buy organic and sometimes not. Whole Foods used to have higher prices, I had stock in the company at one time. Not sure about now, but it never hurts to compare.

Miss Lisa said...

Motherhood for Dummies, Canned food!! Yes--I make sure to do canned for lots of out season--esp. tomatoes. Maybe I should do some more cans.
Would you mid sharing some recipes? Are they on your FAB site?

Miss Lisa said...

Thanks Susan---I like those tips too.
One new question I have is regarding the meat in other stores that are 'hormone-free'--is it red on the outside but brown when you cut in it? I don't know what this means, I have heard everything from nitrogen to red dye to make it look fresher. I know the red meat at WF is not--if it's red on the outside--it is inside too; and the sausage is always brown.

Miss Lisa said...


There was a study comparing the organic store brands and WF came out cheapest--but then this was told to me by my cashier friend at WF ;)
The products I have compared, Whole Foods is up to $1 less! (the gluten free is much cheaper).
I totally agree with cooking from scratch--I do, yet my grocery bills are.....ugh, maybe my goat cheese and asparagus omelet habit aren't helping ;)

jenna/mindfulmenus/chivetalkin said...

Hey Lisa,

Nice post... I have always looked at food as medicine for the body. We have health insurance, but we rarely use it. Meaning... we tend to eat well and therefore stay healthy. I limit myself to 2-3 meats per week. I don't buy deli meats. I grind my own meat because I find it tastes better. If I can't buy fresh wild caught salmon, I buy canned. Not everything I buy is organic... I buy the dirty dozen organic or don't eat it. I try to buy local and seasonal, as much as possible. I try to buy minimally processed foods, no GMOs if I can help it... There are certain brands of nonorganic foods I use. My plan is to grow as much as I can myself this summer, along with freezing. I would now choose canned organic tomatoes over fresh until I can buy them or even better grown them local. I do look for specials in the stores and markets. If something seems outrageous I don't buy it. For example, in the town I just moved from I could buy a certain organic juice for $3.89 a bottle, the Safeway down the road from me now sells the same for $8.99! I won't buy it. I use exclusively homeopathic medicine, I oil pull daily, I use the hydrogen peroxide drops daily in my ears - thanks to you! and I take supplements if I feel my diet is lacking. You didn't say how much you spend per week on groceries... So, I would say that eating well keeps one healthy... so yes, it's worth it.

Stephanie said...

It's always hard to balance those trade-offs! Especially when you're weighing something as concrete as a dollar amount against something more abstract like your overall well-being. How many dollars healthier is this food than that one? That's a question I struggle with all the time.

One big money-saver for me has been to plan my menus around what's on sale and be willing to be flexible if I can find a deal on something we'll eat. (If I was planning a side dish of green beans, but find that squash is marked down, I often change my plan.)

As far as discounted meat, it's usually approaching its sell-by date, so they want to sell it quickly. Most stores will not sell items that are past the date. So if you cook the meat that night or freeze it (and cook right after thawing), it's completely fine.

Working in at least one meatless (i.e. homemade mac and cheese or fried rice) or low-meat (i.e. ham and bean soup) meal a week will save you some bucks, as well.

I think you're right on about including lots of produce in your diet. See if you can find a good source of inexpensive produce in your area and load up on it! Check out farmer's market type grocers (i.e. Sunflower Market or Sprouts), discount stores and ethnic stores. Be brave and go off the beaten path. I find that's often where the deals are.

Also? I don't freeze milk either. There's nothing unsafe about it, but we don't have the freezer space. And it grosses me out.

P.S. I'm just now remembering I went to a workshop on meal planning/saving money on groceries awhile back. If you're interested, my notes are here:

Miss Lisa said...

I knew you would have some great tips. We are lucky to get fresh tomatoes close by during the summer but I try and avoid all tomatoes but canned beside then--just taste like cardboard :)
Great tips on the meat intake.

Miss Lisa said...

Thanks Stephanie!
we have a few Mexican grocery stores here--I should check them out :)
Going to check out your notes too!

dnwu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Heather@Cultivated Lives said...

If there are any bulk whole food places in your area, that might be a place to try. We live in a heavily mormon area and there are emergency food store places all over. I usually buy my flour, oatmeal and other staples in bulk. Buying say, 10-25 pounds of quinoa at a time is sure cheaper than buying it at Whole Foods.

I also keep a list of prices for items that I buy frequently in the back of my shopping list notebook. That way if I'm at a store I can compare prices and stock up if it is a good deal. That way if brocolli crowns go on a smoking deal, I just plan several meals to incorporate that! I too plan around sales ads for my meat and produce. But then again, if you are wanting to buy only organic that can be harder to do. Organics in my area rarely have good sales...

When I was first married, I tried one of those coupon clubs. I found that although I 'saved' a lot of money, I was buying processed junk that I didn't need in the first place and would never have bought w/out the coupon. So really, I was spending money that I wouldn't have ordinarily spent. Most people that gush about saving all kinds of money on their grocery bill usually spend more than I do because they are buying extra processed foods...


Christine said...

Hi Lisa,
Love your post. I am actually writing to you on behalf of Save-A-Lot food stores, which is such a great resource for helping families save money.

(1,200 locations from ME to CA and 12 in DFW)

I'd like to let you know about our upcoming DFW event on Friday, 3/26.

We love your blog and would like to personally invite you as one of a select few bloggers to meet celebrity chef Tim Love ( - Winner of Food Network’s Iron Chef America and previous judge on Bravo TV’s Top Chef), Tim will be creating a special chili recipe and sharing tips and techniques at our event. We’ll also have a gift bag full of goodies for you.

Please reply to this email so we can provide further details. Be sure to include your phone number.

It would be great if you could join us! Please contact me at


Christine Yee
Matrixx (On behalf of Save-A-Lot Food Stores)

Gretchen said...

I am pretty much opposite of you... I don't buy anything organic, I use lots of bulk items, and I have no problem with HFCS and other stuff.

But, then again, my husband is always complaining of not feeling well. I'm sure he'd love to live at your house with your cooking.

I am NOT a good cook. I don't like to do it. I would not be good at changing to a labor-intensive meal prep.

But, anyway, I have read reports that organic foods show NO significance in health when choosing them over non-organics. And, HFCS? I know it contributes to obesity, but so does Ding-Dongs. I think your kids could probably tolerate HFCS since you watch their other foods anyway. But at this point, if your family is so used to your current way of eating, I'd stick with that. Even if it's a little more, I'd stick with it.

And, the "reduced" meat? I buy it all the time and just fix it that night or the next. It's not gone bad, it just needs to be sold quickly to make room for fresher meat. I don't know how this is different than buying meat and freezing it, then defrosting it. However, I dont' know if they sell meat like that at Whole Foods.

Like I said, I'd stick with what's working for you. Me, I'm doing okay with food from Aldi. But I guess my body is used to me filling it up with crap! ha ha LOL

mah-meeee said...


Stick with what works for you and your family. You are doing such a great job with feeding your kids what you believe is good for them and still stick with a budget.

What works for each family is different and it can not be compared dollar to dollar. Yes, she might save more money than you, but her shopping philosophy very oviously is not for you. Then why change it?

Miss Lisa said...

Thanks so much! I love the idea of a shopping notebook--I could totally get into that! I too am worried that a coupon club would not really help :(

Miss Lisa said...

Texan Mama,

Thanks so much for your input! The 'reduced' meat just makes me a little nervous--my ideal situation would be to find a farm where I could buy the animal then have it butchered and bring home to freeze same day. I'd love to buy a pig :)
I did see the study of organics but I am still worried about possible cancers caused by the chemicals. It may just be a mind trick but I feel like the organics taste better.
As always you have given me some great thoughts and a good laugh--I am sure you could cook--I know you don't like Jamie but he does have a tv show coming out next week.....

Miss Lisa said...


Thanks--I think you hit the nail--it's just how we do things and what works for us. My kids look at going to the grocery store with as much excitement as Six Flags (almost!)

beachroses said...

You could go hunting for wild boar down there in Texas. :) I should go fishing more, it's not like I have to go far. If our house wasn't in the woods, I'd have a vegetable garden. On the grocery store subject, I don't see the point of running all over town just to save $5 either. (Update: I heard on the stock board that Whole Foods might lower prices further, but sources are unreliable ~> hopefully it's true.)

Lauren said...

I live in the Dallas area, and I have found this method to be the cheapest for produce. Since Walmart price matches, I collect the weekly advertisements from all of the local grocery stores (including the Mexican ones). Then I find the cheapest price for each type of produce and circle it in the ads. Take the ads to Walmart, buy the produce there, and price match all of the produce. Sometimes the produce at Walmart looks a little sketchy, so I also visit Sprouts for their weekly sales (go on Wednesdays--double ad days!). Yesterday, between Walmart and Sprouts, I bought 10 lbs. of potatoes, 3 lbs. of Roma tomatoes, 3 mangoes, 2 pineapples, 2 limes, an onion, a red pepper, a green pepper, 4 lbs. of oranges, 1 lb. of carrots, two heads of romaine lettuce, a bunch of bananas, a clamshell of blackberries, and 2 lbs. of apples for $12. This will last my family all week.

Sarah said...

I agree with what many of the others have said: quality food will keep you healthy. I don't think you can put a price tag on that! What I try to remember is how much the certain food products like beef and corn (and corn by-products, in nearly everything nowadays!) are subsidized by the government so that the true cost is not seen, and how low the standards are for those foods. I've trained myself to think in terms of what's "real food." I think organic foods get expensive when we are just buying the organic version of the same convenience foods we used to buy, such as out-of-season produce or processed foods, so I've made an effort to cook from scratch as much as possible, even though it takes more time.