Getting Enough Groceries?

2017-06-02 week of groceries c

Over the years, I’ve had a variety of grocery-shopping styles. In the years with plenty of income, it was: no grocery list, just go to the store and throw into the cart whatever looked good. A lot of frozen prepared foods. Pizza delivery once a week for us and the kids. And dinner at a restaurant after church on Sunday. Looking back, I cringe at how much we spent on food.

Then came the lean years, when our income was quite limited. Feeding the family changed drastically. No eating out or pizza delivery, checking grocery store ads, re-discovering coupons, buying the least expensive foods, just eating less overall.

One of the most useful things I’ve learned about grocery-shopping over the years is this: buy enough groceries in one shot to last all week. It does no good to pat yourself on the back for how little you spent at the grocery story on Saturday if you have to make a second run a few days later, or if you go out to eat because you don’t have enough to prepare a full meal.

Consider the picture above, a snapshot of our grocery trip purchases a few weeks ago. Combined with what is in our cupboards and fridge, this is enough for a full week. We have what we need for every food category – meat, fruit, veggies, starches, dairy, desert – plus some non-food items (a graduation card, paper towels, band-aids, toothpaste, oxi-clean, and Drano for a slow sink). What did this cost me? $123.98 for the food items, and $13.20 for the non-food items, for a total bill of $137.18.

Yes, I could have spent less, but if you get too chintzy with grocery-shopping, you find yourself feeling deprived and end up splurging at Starbucks or an ice cream shop. Instead, I got our feel-good desert at the store, on sale. So there you have it – not too little and not too much, just the right amount of groceries!

For more tips on keeping your food expenses down, check out some of my previous posts:



The Man Who Couldn’t Eat – by Jon Steiner (2011)

The Man Who Couldn't Eat

After reading this book, I’ll never complain again about having to fast before having a blood draw. Even being unable to eat for several days because of the flu pales in comparison to the nightmare described in this book. Jon Reiner is a guy who loves food, to the point of gluttony. But nasty digestive flare-ups lead to a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease, surgery to repair the damage, and an altered diet.

The book begins at a point in Jon’s life when he’s been feeling exceptionally well, so he has reverted back to eating whatever he wants. Then the worst possible thing happens: while his wife is at work and the kids are in school, his intestines rupture. Jon comes close to dying on his living room floor. He spends weeks hospitalized with peritonitis, and the doctors not allowing him to eat or drink anything. He has only intravenous (IV) nutrition.  Jon comes to hate the medical term NPO (no products orally).

As time drags on with very little healing, the doctors decide to let him go home, but he must continue to survive solely on IV feedings for three months to allow the digestive track to rest and heal. Watching his family eat while he is allowed not one sip of water or bite of food is agony. Jon’s descriptions of food fantasies and past eating experiences are vivid, to the point of almost being able to taste them as you read.

The story is truly stranger than fiction. It is hard to imagine that anyone could survive the abdominal infection and months of not eating. But the human body is amazingly created with the ability to heal up from nearly impossible odds. The next time you feel deprived because your meal is late or the doctor wants you to fast for a day before some procedure, think about Jon Reiner and thank God you’re not going through the same thing.

Trying Out Aldi’s Grocery Store

2016-06-21 shopping cart at Aldi


Several days ago I decided it was the perfect time to introduce the granddaughter to grocery-shopping, and in particular, shopping at Aldi’s. The goal was to teach her the following:

1, decide how much money we have to work with

2, write down a list of what foods we need, and

3, make it through the grocery store buying only what is on the list.

So we wrote down a list of food we needed and set ourselves a limit of $50. Okay, so I realize $50 isn’t an entire week’s supply of food, but I didn’t want to overwhelm her. The principle is the same.

We drove to Aldi’s and I showed her how to put a quarter in the slot of the shopping cart, and pointed out to her that there was not a single loose cart in the parking lot, since people have to return the cart to get their quarter back.

2016-06-21 putting quarter in shopping cart

Once inside, the granddaughter commented, “This store is really small!” Yes it is small, because it carries only the basics.

2016-06-21 entering Aldi

We went down the four rows, grabbing only the items on our list, and jotting down the price that was listed on the shelf edge. Milk was a bargain – $1.49 a gallon, as were the eggs – just $.49 a dozen!

2016-06-21 eggs on sale at Aldi

Just before checkout, she rounded off each item on the list to the nearest dollar, and said we had enough money. Then I showed her how to quickly put everything on the conveyor belt so the cashier could get everything scanned. The total came out to $36.28.

If you’ve never tried out an Aldi’s store, give it a visit, and see what a difference it can make in your budget.

Missed my earlier blog posts on grocery-shopping? Click on the links below to read them:

Food Trucks

Food Truck

Each month our church brings in a “Feeding America” semi-truck loaded down with surplus food, and we distribute it to whoever needs it. People living around the church begin lining up along the shade of the trees on the south end of the parking lot an hour, sometimes two hours before the truck arrives. We set up long tables in two rows outside, ready to have food piled on them. Then we wait for the semi to arrive.

Last Wednesday I had the privilege of being one of the volunteers for the food truck. About 5:15, a cheer went up as the semi slowly pulled into the parking lot, maneuvering between the two rows of tables. The side panels of the truck were whipped open, and we began to unload the food. Some things merely had to be set on the tables, other things had to be put into plastic bags. We never know ahead of time what will be in the truck. It’s like a grab bag. This month’s offerings turned out to be: potatoes, cabbage heads, carrots, sweet peppers, yogurt, canned milk, onions, tomatoes, and apples. Ah, a nice healthy mix, I thought.

The people began to file past the tables, and we filled bags, boxes, and wagons with food for them. Each guest was invited to stop inside the church for some cake and punch, as we were celebrating the tenth anniversary of the food truck. Every bit of food was given away, with the exception of a few bad potatoes. Our jovial, friendly truck driver closed up the side panels and drove off with a smile. See you back next month!

Having recently read the book “Toxic Charity”, I wondered if I would view our food truck differently than I had in the past. As we distributed the food, I observed that just about everyone was dressed simply – mostly in t-shirts and jeans. They arrived in older used cars. They looked pretty much like us, simple working folks. The sort of folks that are just squeezing by financially, but they make too much money to qualify for food stamps. The need for a little extra food for their families seemed quite genuine, and each of them was appreciative of the fruit and vegetables.

If you have the chance to participate in a local food pantry or food truck, I would encourage you to do so. Don’t worry about whether or not the people coming through the line are in true need, or are taking advantage of it. Just smile and share what you’ve been given. Blessings given out have a way of coming back to you.