Posts filed under ‘Frugal Eating’

Crazy For Costco

We LOVE Costco. We are very sad when there is no Costco nearby…because we do the bulk of our shopping there. If you eat a diet that is high in fruits and veggies, Costco should be a very close friend.  No, not everything is organic…but several things are, and they are adding more all the time. I wish we could eat a 100% organic diet…our budget would be through the roof! I do try to focus on the items I know to be very high in pesticides that we eat on a daily basis, like spinach and apples. Items like avocados and broccoli are not heavily sprayed crops, so I’m not as concerned. For more info on the “dirty dozen”, click here.

Here are a few of the items we buy there:

  • Organic spinach (1 lb): This is the number one “best buy” for us at Costco. It ranges in price from $2.99 – $3.99….which is a far cry from $6.99-$7.99 at Whole Foods.
  • Romaine lettuce: Who can beat that deal? 6 pack for $2.99. They are the BEST. Perfect for salads and juicing.
  • Avocados: Costco has the best. Hands down. The biggest, creamiest, yummiest…at a good price.
  • Watermelon: Oooooh, just typing that word makes me happy. We LIVE on these in the summer…and Costco has consistently provided me with yummy, red, and juicy specimens. It’s pretty rare that I get a bad one, but if I do, they have a 100% guarantee on everything they sell. I’m thinking of calling up the local produce manager and finding out when they are going to be stocking these so I can be camped outside their door in my tent that morning.
  • Broccoli/Brussels/Asparagus: Yum.
  • Medjool dates: Again, best quality I’ve found…but WAY cheaper than other places.
  • Apples: Not all Costcos have organic apples, but when we find them, we stock up. Their organic red delicious variety is 89 cents per pound right now at the Austin, TX location.
  • Blueberries/Strawberries/Raspberries: We buy blueberries on a regular basis and the others once in a while.
  • Oranges: We buy the 25 for $8.99.
  • Grape tomatoes – “Cherubs”: These are pesticide-free and delicious.
  • Bananas: $1.29 per bunch.
  • Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and pine nuts. These are priced VERY competitively. This is the only place I will buy nuts.
  • Pineapples: Not too much cheaper, but they are always big and ripe.
  • Frozen fruit: Their Spectrum Blend is my favorite smoothie mix….you get double the amount that you can get anywhere else for the same price.
  • Pure maple syrup: Great price/large container.
  • Organic corn chips: Big cheap bag.
  • Bread: Organic and/or whole wheat. 2 loaves for $5.99 or so. They also have bakery loaves of crusty bread for soup, etc.
  • Silk soy milk: If you drink soy milk, it’s a great buy. You can get a 3 pack of 1/2 gallons for $5.99.
  • Organic bean/cheese frozen burritos: Matt and Bella love these. Much cheaper than buying individually.
  • Other items we occasionally buy: Organic quiche, frozen OJ, Starbucks coffee…I know I’m forgetting other stuff.

What are your Costco favorites?

March 29, 2010 at 12:38 am 54 comments

Frugal Organic

I frequently hear people complain about the cost of organic foods…but honestly, I’ve never had trouble buying nearly 100% organic foods on a budget. I wouldn’t say it’s a super strict budget…but not excessive either. We usually stay right at about $75 a week…sometimes $100. Today I was really happy with myself because I stayed within my budget, bought 100% organic, and I got TONS of stuff.

The key to it all…is to make things from scratch. Don’t buy a lot of packaged foods. Bring a list. Make a PLAN! It’s that simple. It works. Click here to see notes on each item.

November 10, 2006 at 2:28 am 16 comments

Buy Bulk

I love the bulk bins. I could stand there and stare at them for hours. So many pretty things. Beautiful organic package-free goodness. Have you ever tried to focus on buying things with minimal packaging? It’s crazy how much cardboard and plastic companies wrap around their products!

I also love putting them in my jars when I get home (see photo). For those of you who are bulk dry foods challenged, from L to R (top row): red lentils, split peas, garbanzo beans, quinoa. Bottom row: Raisins, popcorn, long-grain brown rice, and pinto beans.

Buying bulk is cheaper, healthier and better for the environment. One of my favorite webistes (New American Dream) wrote up a nice little ditty. Here you go:

One useful piece of advice I’ve heard is to “buy bulk.” This can mean one of three things, all of which can save money.

Firstly, there’s the bulk bin section of the grocery store – the bins with loose flour, rice, etc. that you scoop into a bag and pay for by the pound. Not all grocery stores have a bulk bin area or carry organic items in it, so you may need to shop around. At my local store, I’ve realized big savings by purchasing staples like organic flour, dried beans, pasta, cereal, peanut butter, and cooking oil from the bulk bin section. An eco-friendly bonus is that less packaging is used for foods sold in the bulk bin section. I sometimes go the extra mile and bring my own clean, reused plastic bags to the store so that no new packaging is required.

Secondly, you can “buy bulk” by buying organic foods in bulk packages. These big packages often have a lower price per pound than smaller packages and also generate less packaging waste. In my case, I like to buy the 25-pound sack of organic brown rice. It costs less per pound than a one- or two-pound package and lasts forever. Single people, small households, or those with limited storage space can team up with one or more friends and split a bulk package between themselves. (A helpful side note: stores with bulk bin areas probably carry 25- and 50-pound bulk packages – that’s what they use to fill the bins. Ask your friendly organic grocer if they will sell the bulk package to you directly, at a discount.) I’ve read that certain commodities like organic coffee and chocolate can cost the same as their conventional counterparts, if you purchase a year’s supply at a time and then store it in individual airtight containers. And this strategy isn’t limited to dry goods, either – I’ve also read about several families who realized savings by splitting a side of organic beef. Some possible sources for bulk packages are Costco, ShopNatural, Azure Standard, Ozark Organics, and Door to Door Organics.

A third way to “buy bulk” is to buy large numbers of organic items, especially when they are on sale. Organic canned soup on clearance? Don’t stop at 5 or 10 cans – think big – buy a case or two and keep them in your closet or share with friends. Fresh produce is a good candidate for similar treatment. If you can’t eat all that discounted organic produce at once, items like berries or chopped bell peppers can be frozen in plastic bags for later use. A chest freezer, especially an energy-efficient model, may come in handy for doing this on a bigger scale. These freezers come in all sizes, from ones small enough for single people, to large models for big families. Just make sure that the operating costs for your freezer don’t cancel out the savings from your bulk buys! Another option for preserving large batches of discounted organic fruits and veggies is to dry or can them, if you have the time, equipment, and know-how.
Thanks New Dream for putting my thoughts into words at this late hour. Just say NO to excessive packaging!

September 20, 2006 at 6:33 am 6 comments

Buying food

Every Tuesday is like Christmas morning. Tuesday evenings we drive down to pick up our CSA box. What the heck is a CSA? Check out this link and find your own while you’re at it. We paid a lump sum of money to Jill and Sean at Blue Gate Farm to buy a farm share, and they give us yummy organic goodness each week to eat. The photo above is this week’s take (minus the fruit in the bowls). There is NOTHING like food that was just harvested. If you’ve never experienced “just picked” green beans, you’re so missing out.

I also shop at New City Market, a small (and I mean SMALL) market just a mile from my house. I love it there. They know me. They talk to me. The listen to me. And they care about the issues. This week, I was shopping and noticed that they were putting out a new brand of tofu to replace the White Wave tofu. I told them that I was happy they were doing that because White Wave is owned by a big nasty corporation and I would rather support small farmers/producers. They “get it”.

I LOVE grocery shopping. I try really hard to buy everything on my list at New City, but I ended up going to Hy-Vee to get a few extra things. Of course, whenever I go to Hy-Vee, I remember why I love New City so much. Here is a little comparison:

New City
*Cute and quaint
*Great relaxing music playing
*Friendly and knowledgeable staff
*Awesome bulk section

*Huge, bright, and loud
*I don’t remember if there was music, I was too busy being annoyed by the huge bright loudness.
*My checker had lost her voice, and sounded like something out of Nightmare on Elm Street. I couldn’t make out a word she said.
*I feel like the only one there who knows that white bread is bad for you.

New City just has “my kind of people”…and Hy-Vee does not (most of the time). I have a really bad habit of looking down the checkout aisles as I leave and thinking to myself….”oh my goodness, they aren’t really going to EAT THAT are they?!” I feel a deep need to grab them and tell them about genetically modified food, partially hydrogenated oils, dangers of pesticides….ack!! So in order to prevent myself from judging others…I should just stay at New City.

The Farmer’s Market is possibly my favorite activity of the summer months. I don’t buy a lot of food there (especially now that we have the CSA share)…but I just love going and talking to the growers and finding out who is truly not using chemicals, etc. I have a new favorite…Blue Gate has a booth there and they have this AMAZING herbed lemonaide. I am craving it right now. I usually buy some cucumbers, tomatoes, and flowers. Other than that, it’s mostly just people (and dog) watching and music listening.

If I can’t find something organic, I buy local, if I can’t buy local, I buy the closest to home that I can. Why? There is a great blog about a couple who only bought food that was produced within a 100 mile radius of their home. Check it out. I’m certainly not perfect in this area, but I’m working at it.

Just be MINDFUL and deliberate about your food purchases. That’s what matters. Check out my other blog for more thoughts on buying local.

July 20, 2006 at 7:24 am 1 comment


Words to Eat By

"It is easier to change a man's religion than to change his diet." -Margaret Mead

"I don't understand why asking people to eat a well-balanced vegetarian diet is considered drastic, while it is medically conservative to cut people open and put them on cholesterol lowering drugs for the rest of their lives." - Dean Ornish, MD

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


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