Store-hopping deals

Daoxiao mian / Knife-cut Chinese noodle (刀削麵) ...

Daoxiao mian / Knife-cut Chinese noodle (刀削麵) Specialty store (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few days ago, we stopped at Safeway to grab something for dinner, having not had time to fix anything before leaving for church. My husband wanted pizza (his favorite), but knew that it would be hard on the stomach that late at night, so opted for a salad instead. I ran in to get the fixings, and was able to pick up a large container of fresh salad for just $5! Even better, it was organic! I was surprised to learn that the organic salad was the same price as the regular- making it affordable.

Of course, I snatched up that deal, but it got me to thinking. I grew up shopping different stores. In an effort to maximize our limited food budget, my mother would shop around at various locations- meats here, produce here, and hey, this store now has apples on sale!

When I married, I continued that tradition… for a time. Now, with a 7-month-old in tow, it makes it a little difficult. Getting to one store, getting her out of the carseat, going through the store while murmuring a prayer that she doesn’t fuss, getting out to the car, loading her back in the carseat, loading the groceries, going to the next store, repeat. It’s a lot. And as I don’t care for going to a lot of stores and getting in and out in the first place, it gets even more tiring.

So I stopped doing it. I limited my shopping to just two stores- Walmart and a local specialty store that I knew had good products. But at that dinner rush trip, I learned that I could better maximize my food budget if I expanded more.

Every store has its advantages. Learn what each store has in stock and what their prices are. Like I did, you may find that buying quality products at one store is impossible, but at another, it becomes affordable.

If necessary, keep a journal of the stores you visit, what products they carry, and especially the prices (and I’ll get more into pricing in another post). Use a paper and pencil notebook, an app on your phone, or whatever else works for you. Keep an eye out for sales- sometimes, the “good” stuff is on sale, so watch out for it!

While you’re at it for store-hopping, don’t neglect those specialty stores! Many of them have great foods at great prices. While some are overpriced, others may have even better prices than “regular” stores. Also, you are more likely to find fresh, less processed foods at specialty stores, and in bulk, too. I can get 20lbs of dry beans for only $10 from my local Mexican market- I’m lucky to even find that much at a Walmart, much less for the price!

Shop wisely. Use your town to its fullest. Find which stores offer which products at the best prices. Use specialty markets. Keep an eye out for sales. And good luck on healthy living!

P.S. If you’re on food stamps or otherwise have a limited budget, chances are you could use some more money. (who doesn’t?) Watch on Saturdays for tips on building your own business (with as little investment as possible), working from home, and earning a little extra cash on the side. If you’d like some personal tips for you, leave a comment and I’ll get back with you!


The Beginning of a Journey

"The New Fred Meyer on Interstate on Lomb...

“The New Fred Meyer on Interstate on Lombard” (7404 N Interstate Ave, Portland, OR 97217). This version has additional correction to correct for poor white balance and slight counterclockwise rotation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all know we should be eating healthy. It’s almost instinctual. Similarly, we also know that eating fast food all the time will not make you healthy. It will, in fact, make you fat.

But what about other things, the things we don’t often see? How about the food in those boxes at the grocery store? Perhaps, on some instinctual level, we realize that that is not real food, either. It’s processed. 

Maybe you grew up in a traditional family and learned all about the old paths. Maybe you’re just now learning about the harmful chemicals in what you thought was “healthy” food. Or maybe you’re somewhere in between, or none of the above. Either way, you’re here for a reason. We’re all on some stage of a journey to real food. We all have different motives. But the end result is the same- health.

In that quest for good, nutrient-dense food, there comes the ever-present question of cost. It’s an understandable question, really. Organic is often insanely expensive, and buying fresh produce all the time just isn’t realistic for some people. And what about those who don’t, for one reason or another, have access to a farm?

That’s what this is for. Maybe you’re on food stamps and you’re only limited to the stores, because EBT doesn’t work for farms and online stores. Maybe you’re in the city and there isn’t a farm near you. Not everyone can take shortcuts.

I want to show you that it IS still possible. I’m not perfect; I’m still on my own journey to real food. I still eat Cheerios, and I still make a quick run to McDonald’s upon occasion. We’re all in different stages. But that’s why it’s a journey, and not an immediate life change.

So- how do you eat healthy when most of what’s available to you is processed in some form or another? Walk with me, and I’ll show you quick tips to good eating. Take what you can, and leave what doesn’t work for you. We’re all different; what may work for me may not work for you. I’ll also share some tips on things that may not work for myself, but they may work for your family.

This goes beyond just healthy eating. In the process, I’ll also show you how you can cut corners on other areas, as well. Stick with me, friend, and maybe we’ll both learn something new!

State assistance in the real world

Before I get into the meat of the series, I want to add some disclaimers. Many people have a warped view of those who live on “state assistance.” I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve heard about those who “bum off the government.” About giving up your toys, your gadgets, your fancy new cars. About how if you would just work hard, you’ll be able to make ends meet.

Let me tell you, it doesn’t always work that way. I didn’t grow up that way. Growing up, we hardly ever went out to eat- it was a treat that only came once in a while. When we did go, we got the economical meals. No happy meals from McDonalds- all the kids knew that the dollar menu was our limit. Often, we shared a drink- one large drink for all eight kids.

Oh yes, did I mention there were EIGHT of us? Eight kids on a single income that didn’t even bring in that much. Oh, I can’t even begin to tell you the comments I’ve heard on THAT one. Disparaging comments about the number of kids in a family, and how if we didn’t have so many, we wouldn’t need state assistance. Etc, etc, etc.

Let me tell you, I ENJOY every single one of my siblings. I couldn’t imagine life without them. Comments like that… they make me bristle. Just at the idea of not having my wonderful baby brother- you’re stroking the tiger now, just sayin’. (Did I mention I’m one of the oldest? Yeah…. protective big sister, you know.)

So. There’s a lot of really, really rude comments. A lot of misconceptions, a lot of assumptions. A lot of judgement. And quite frankly, it’s annoying. Worse than annoying. So I’m just going to get it out there right now- families on state assistance are doing the best they can. They’re working hard, coming home exhausted, cutting corners, and trying their best to hold on to everything. You’ve never seen “tight-budgeted” until you’ve seen a family attempt to live on less than $30,000 a year. And sometimes that’s the best that they can get.

These are the people I’m speaking to, directly. But I wanted the disclaimer that they’re not being catered to, they’re not bumming. So STOP making them ashamed for who they are. Don’t make them ashamed to pull out that telltale card at the checkout line. For some, it’s enough to swallow their pride and ask for help at all. So… just some understanding– or failing that, silence.

Nutrition on more than just a budget

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe (Photo credit:

I grew up in a low-income family. We (almost) never went out to eat, and clothes came from the Goodwill, and then only if you absolutely needed them. Foreclosures and repossessed cars were common. We moved around a lot, once even staying with my dad’s father- five kids in one small bedroom. Most people would find it small just for one person.

That lifestyle also included food stamps. In fact, early into my marriage, I came to the shocking realization that I just kind of expected food stamps to be a part of life. No, I wasn’t “bumming” off the government. I just never expected to financially stable enough to buy my own food. To have one or two or three hundred dollars from your own pocket to buy food was incomprehensible to me. Who has that much money?

Consequently, I felt separated from everyone. Those who could casually talk about the things they buy or going out to eat, seemed to me to be just brazenly announcing how much money they had. How much they were not like me. I still struggle with that.

When it comes to my grocery shopping, these feelings are compounded. I’ve been doing a lot of research. Do you have any idea what is in our foods?? Most of it isn’t good. Much of it is toxic. There are few options for true “healthy” eating at a grocery store. The ones that are good, like organics, are insanely expensive. Again, who has that kind of money?

If you recognize what I’m talking about, then you’re the one I want to talk to. In my search for good nutrition, I’ve read a lot about buying from the farm. About getting good, grass-fed meat straight from the butcher. And I can’t help but think- those doors are closed to me. I can’t do that. I can only get what the state allows.

So I want to take a different spin on things. I want to show, from a “poor family’s” perspective, just what you CAN do to get your family good, healthy food. Because for a certain class of people, it’s more than just “living on a budget.” It’s being limited in your options, because you can only go to certain stores with that EBT card.

Follow me on my journey, and maybe you’ll learn some tips yourself. Healthy eating CAN be possible, even if the farm is not.