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Grocery Budget: Know Your Prices

admin May 16, 2011

Image by AlishaV

It’s time for another grocery trip!  Well, last week I completed one, anyway.  Now I have to tell you what else I’ve learned.

This past week, I learned a couple very important lessons.  One which you probably already know, and one which you may never have thought of (just like I hadn’t, until it suddenly hit me a few days ago).  So let’s see.

First, seek out interesting local resources.  I live near Amish country.  In fact, I could probably drive in almost any direction and find an Amish community.  I had forgotten that some of these Amish stores might be within a reasonable distance from me, but then a friend (thanks Michelle!) told me about one that was fairly close.  I checked it out, and scored sucanat and spices at prices way lower than what I was paying elsewhere.  I even got a pastured chicken cheaper too!  Overall it meant perhaps $10 savings on my grocery budget…just on the few items I bought.

Second…when buying certain things, like honey or maple syrup, the price per pound is not equal to the price per 16 fluid ounces.  I had assumed it was…big mistake.

Raw honey — 16 fluid ounces actually weighs about 1.35 lbs.  So whether you’re buying in fluid ounces or pounds really matters.  I was buying it by the pound, for $3.79.  That actually translates to about $5.12 for 16 fluid ounces.  But, now that I’ve done the math, I know the price to beat no matter which way it’s sold.  I wrote it down in my handy little notebook, too, just in case I forget.

Maple syrup — To be considered real maple syrup, a gallon (16 cups, or 8 pints) weighs 11.3 lbsnot 8 lbs.  That means that when I was paying $4.95/lb., I wasn’t actually getting 16 ounces at all (that was kind of a relief, because it meant we weren’t going through as much as I thought we were!).  And my price per gallon wasn’t $40, it was really $56.  Well, now I know what my price to beat on maple syrup is too, regardless of the way it’s sold.  (Hoping for a quart for less than $14, but I fear this may be wishful thinking….  I have, however, been told that a local farm sells it for $50/gal if you buy the whole gallon…so I may just go that route.)

Here’s the crucial lesson: know your prices.  And make sure that you’re comparing apples to apples when you’re trying to figure out the best price.  Price per item or volume is not the same as the price per lb.  I knew that in some cases — for example, I know most bananas weigh around 1/2 lb., and Trader Joe’s sells them by the banana for $0.19.  This gives me an approximate price per lb. around $0.40, which beats anywhere else I could buy them.  But, now I’ve learned my lesson on maple syrup and raw honey, too.

So what did I actually buy?

  • 1 gal. Grade-B maple syrup — $50
  • 1 lb. organic limes – $3
  • 1 red onion – $0.50
  • 1 bunch cilantro — $0.75
  • 2 canteloupes – $3
  • 2 lbs. peas — $2
  • 2 lbs. broccoli — $2
  • 2 lbs. tomatoes — $4.50
  • 3 jalapenos — $0.40
  • 1/2 gal. orange juice — $2
  • 3 lbs. tortilla chips — $7.50
  • 2 lbs. organic apples — $2.50
  • 11 bananas — $2
  • 1.5 lbs. mangoes — $2.50
  • 2 lbs. organic carrots — $2
  • 1 lb. almond flour — $4
  • 0.75 lb. raw Romano cheese — $4.50
  • 0.5 lbs. raw sharp cheddar — $4
  • 0.75 lbs. raw mild cheddar — $3
  • 1 lb. almond butter — $5
  • 32 oz. bottle organic grape juice — $3
  • 10 lbs. organic potatoes — $8
  • 2 lbs. organic celery — $3
  • 0.5 lbs. zucchini — $1
  • 1.25 lbs. organic lettuce — $2
  • 1 box cumin — $1
  • 1 box onion powder — $1
  • 1 box oregano — $1
  • 1 box basil — $1
  • 1 box arrowroot powder — $1
  • 4.5 lbs. sucanat — $8.50

That’s about $90 on “regular” groceries, plus the $50 on maple syrup (clearly bulk…since it’s a full gallon!  I expect it to last maybe 3 months).  Truthfully it was about $100 from my “regular” money; I pulled just $40 out of bulk for the maple syrup, which I purchased at the farmer’s market near me!

To this, I’ll add:

  • 4 gal. raw milk — $20
  • 1 lb. ground pork — $4.50
  • 4 doz. eggs — $12

That places me about $130.  I still have some money left and haven’t decided yet what I’ll buy with it.  I may need some more raw cheese, or more chips (I made a bunch of salsa for myself, so I need to eat it up!).  I’ll see what we’re running low on.  If nothing, then I’ll set the money aside for later!  Strawberries are coming up soon!

Speaking of strawberries…WWYD?  I have been told by a local organic farmer that basically no farms in my area raise organic strawberries due to the fluctuating weather conditions.  So if I want local, I have to go conventional.  I’ve emailed a couple local strawberry farms asking what they spray with (specifically if they use methyl iodide), and will consider the local strawberries if they do not use this and are otherwise “low spray.”  My only options are to buy these local strawberries at perhaps $1.50/lb., or pay $2.75/lb. all winter for organic frozen strawberries.  So what would you do?

That’s my recent shopping trip!

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14 Comments

  1. I'm a local reader and have been told the same thing by the farm where I go for "pick your own" strawberries. Disappointing, but I guess that's the reality of fruit farming when you aren't in California! Keep us posted on what you end up finding out about local strawberries and what they spray with. I also have found it impossible to find local organic peaches and cherries. I've been told the same thing about those crops. But the farm where I do "pick your own" cherries did tell me that they carefully time the sprays so by the time you are picking the fruit they haven't been sprayed recently. But it's not ideal.

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  2. Robin,

    I know one strawberry farm does stop spraying a week or so before fruiting and doesn't spray during picking. I did find an organic strawberry farm in Coshocton (90 min. drive), $3/lb. but willing to "do better" if you buy in quantity (Windy Hill Berry Farm). I also know an organic farm with peaches (Wayward Seed). The prices on peaches were actually better than non-organic. I get lucky on cherries, my MIL has a tree! Blueberries are still my issue though….

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  3. I think I would go with the low-spray strawberries if available. Otherwise i would not buy them. I think I read that they were some of the heaviest sprayed fruits, and right up there near the top of the list of the dirty dozen. I would also check with the amish farmer who has the pastured chicken. Most of the amish farmers in our area have no qualms about using GMO feed, and in fact, most of them do. Their chickens ARE pastured as it is the most cost effective way for them to raise them. Nothing against the amish, it is just how they do it.

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  4. I so miss Amish country!! My husband and I lived there for the first several years we were married. We moved to Knoxville 2 years ago and I am still in shock over my grocery bills. Whenever we go home to visit I always stock up on spices and dry goods. The smaill Amish farms are great for produce as well.

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  5. Love this post! Some of my friends think I'm crazy for keeping an excel spreadsheet of costs at various stores. I did pick up on something that you're doing that I want to incorporate and that's a small notebook of particulars that I can carry with me at all times.

    I shop only once per month but now that it's farmer's market season I may be able to pick up things thoughout the month that are cheaper than the usual stores I shop at.

    I'd by the local, in season berries, wash them really well and pray over them…seriously….. pesticide residue is no match for the Lord!

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  6. For the strawberry issue, have you thought about growing some yourself in your vegetable garden? Then you wouldn't need to worry about pesticides. There are ever-bearing varieties that produce strawberries throughout the summer, not just all at once in June. We just planted them for the first time this year, so I don't know how they're going to fare in my climate (Maryland), but I am doing my research on organic gardening and hoping for the best!

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  7. Kate,

    We have about 60 plants in the backyard, actually. We planted them a month or so ago and not sure how they'll do (they're nice and green now…but no flowers yet). I know that at least this year, they won't produce enough for our family (not if I want to preserve), so I have to supplement with something else. But we're hoping for a decent crop there!

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  8. Yes, I'd find out if they actually spray the fruit. My mom gets her apple trees treated in the Spring, but not when the fruit appears. To me, that makes a big difference. Sometimes to get a worthy crop you have to use certain pesticides and such, but you can still minimize use and exposure.

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  9. I am a local reader. Would you mind telling me where you got the maple syrup and sucanat? I have been getting mine at Whole Foods and would love to find a better source if possible. Thanks!

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  10. Lissa — Maple syrup was at the Worthington Farmer's Market. Sucanat was at The Cheese House in Plain City. 🙂 Worth a trip out every now and then!

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  11. Really?! I go to Yutzy's all the time for produce and lunch meat. The Cheese shop is right before that. I did not realize I was passing up such a great resource. BTW Yutzy's now carries no hormone, no antibiotic, no sulfite lunch mean products. They also have local meats if you are interested.

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  12. Thanks for the info on the berries for local readers! I will think about doing a "stock up" shop at Windy Hill Berry and try for the cheaper price in bulk. Last summer I bought about 75 pounds for the freezer and preserves (we eat it stirred into plain yogurt.) But they were conventional. 🙁

    I bought 50 pounds of peaches last summer from Wayward Seed Farm for $1 per pound but I was told they were not organic. I know Wayward Seed Farm is organic, but I was told they only grow veggies and all the fruit they sell they source from other local farms. I would love to be wrong about this, though, so let me know if you find out anything about this…

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  13. I read recently that if you soak berries in clean water for 1 hour, it reduces 80% of the pesticides on the berries. If you have to eat those berries, this at least could help. And pray 😉

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  14. I was wondering if I could privately talk to you on finding a good grocery budget for my family I will explain everything in email [email protected]

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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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