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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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  • [January 15, 2016] - It's National Soup Month so this month's posts will focus on soups. Yum!
  • [February 1, 2016] - An interesting report on why you should always choose organic tea verses non-organic: Toxic Tea (pdf format)
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Monday, August 20, 2012

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Grocery Stores

Frugal Kitchens 101
Friends of ours own a large chain grocery store franchise.  They have often told us even though we support their store by shopping there that we are horrible customers.  They said if everyone shopped the way we do, they would have been out of business a long time ago.  Why?  We don't fall into the grocery store fallacy of shopping every week and having to buy the latest gimmick the food manufacturers are promoting.  We shop the outer aisle focusing on Canadian produce spending very little on imported produce, not much in the lines of breads or meats or poultry, a little dairy and occasionally a couple of frozen food items.  We buy raw products like flour, sugars, vinegars, oils, dried beans and dried pastas.  We buy very, very little in the way of commercially preserved anything.  We don't shop weekly but rather pick up the odd item here or there if absolutely needed or cherry pick the sales.  On average, very little of our food dollar is spent in a grocery store.  I'd be surprised if we spent as much of an eighth of of food budget in a grocery store!  Yet we put high quality, nutritious food on the table without spending an astronomical amount of money.  In fact, we spend about a third of the amount on food that a normal couple spends which I think is impressive giving the amount of entertaining and hosting family events that we do.  How do we do this?  Here are a few things we do to basically avoid grocery stores.

  • buy in bulk - Most of our meats are bought directly from the farmer and bought in bulk.  Staples like flours and sugars are bought in the largest size possible at the cheapest unit price or bought at the bulk food store.  I use a lot of citric acid for canning tomato products.  Even at the bulk food store a small bottle is almost $4 but I found going through a local wine making store I could get a 1 kg bag for $9. 
  • grow our own - We grow whatever we can.  Even a small space (eg. patio, balcony) using nothing more than containers can yield a fair amount of produce.  We use edible plants in place of ornamentals wherever possible.  We also grow as much as possible indoors in our continuous garden.  Several vegetables grow nicely indoors including tomatoes, herbs, potatoes, lettuces, chards and celery.
  • buy in season locally - We support our local growers so buy in season and as close to home as possible.  This means shopping at roadside stands, local orchards, farms, fisheries, and wineries.  Even if buying produce at the grocery store our first choice is Ontario grown followed by grown in Canada.  I was seriously shocked the other day to see sweet corn imported from the US when locally grown sweet corn is available now but the worst thing is folks were actually buying it over locally grown.  For shame!
  • buy foods produced locally - We try to adhere as close as possible in buying our food needs grown or produced with locally grown foods within a 100 mile radius of our home.  We shop the local mushroom farms, farmer's markets, local abattoirs, cheese factories and occasionally bakeries.  We use Ontario salt, sugar, milk, eggs, chicken, beer, and wine.  If it is a choice between Ontario grown and an import, we choose Ontario grown.
  • home food preservation - We are very active in keeping a well stocked pantry based on home canned, home dried and home frozen foods.  Our pantry is our grocery store.  We cure some of our meats as well which saves us considerably on the price per pound.  For example, peameal bacon is usually priced at about $6 per lb but I can buy pork loin on sale for $1 to $1.50 per lb, cure it myself and save at minimum $4.50 per pound.  Home canning results in a significant reduction in our annual food costs.
  • from scratch - The number one way to save on the food dollars is to cook from scratch.  It eliminates having to go to the grocery store for convenience products.  If I/we can make it ourselves, it isn't being bought at a grocery store which ultimately saves us a bundle.  Oh sure, we might still have to buy the raw ingredients at the grocery store but it is still a huge savings.  For example, a homemade version of Hamburg Helper costs me about 1/4 of the price in raw ingredients as the store bought version but I get almost three times the amount and it freezes well so I also end up with a homemade convenient meal in the freezer.  That little 99¢ packet of taco seasoning costs me all of about 4¢ to make and it takes only a couple of minutes.  Cooking from scratch does not mean giving up convenience foods only giving up store bought convenience foods in favour of homemade convenience foods.
  • shop online - We live in a rather small town which means some ingredients are simply not available locally.  I buy cost saving necessities like ClearGel and Pomona's pectin online.  If I want a certain variety of seeds for the garden that I can't find locally, I buy online.

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