A trip to the supermarket, I don’t know what to buy!

Since January, I have been logging my grocery shopping over at Canadian Budget Binder. Mr CBB started the Grocery Game Challenge so that each participant starts to realize where his/her money goes when grocery shopping, avoid waste and stay within budget.

My veggie shop for the week.

My veggie shop for the week.

I don’t really care how much I spend on grocery to be honest, because I can afford most foods, and there is not a lot to choose from anyway. But, the supermarket is full of food will you say! This post started after I commented on a fantastic post from Funny About Money, about how prices today were about the same as they were two generations ago. I argued that the cost of food may be the same but the quality certainly is not. Monsanto corn and Mexican tomatoes who are harvested before they are ripe have nothing to do with a local, mostly organic harvest in the 50s.

To which the author replied

We’re inundated with fake food in a way people in my parents’ generation were not. If you try to keep mostly to whole foods (avoiding as much processed stuff as you can), today’s supermarket looks like a food desert. Most chain grocery stores carry surprisingly little real food, in proportion to the total number of ingestible items on the shelves. That’s because few Americans care to cook meals from scratch — or even know how to.

I couldn’t put it better, so that is the end of my post, thank you for coming hahaha!

Back to the supermarket. The last time I went, I bought things for the sake of buying, I honestly didn’t know what to get! My diet is pretty simple and I make most of my food from scratch.

So I buy the basics, rice, pasta, salt, oil, spices… and lots of flour to make bread, pizza or crepes from scratch.

Then a few vegetables, and I am on my way.

Occasional items include crackers, alcohol and mixers (7up or sparkling water), and a tub of cream cheese.

We also go to a membership supermarket 3-4 times per year in Guatemala City and stock up on more non perishables, as well as imported products like cheese, bacon, cereals… We freeze the perishable items and stockpile the rest.

 

I do not buy from the supermarket

 

- Meat because we have a local butcher who kills an animal daily and we don’t trust the supermarket to keep the meat properly refrigerated. Frozen/Unfrozen/Refrozen= guaranteed stomach disaster. Same for sausages and convenience cold cuts who are not good anyway, and very pricey.

- Yogurt, I have cultures and do it myself.

- Fresh milk and cheese, same as the meat, so we buy powdered milk, only to do yogurt and put in coffee, and cheese in bulk that we freeze from the capital city. Last time I bought cheese was before Christmas  just made a refill in late May.

- Chicken, as explained in my post about raising chickens, we do not buy chicken meat until our chicks are grown to be eaten.

- Frozen pizza and other convenience foods like ready meals, or anything from the frozen aisle. It takes 30 minutes to go home and it would thaw. Not that it is delicious anyway.

- Bread. I make my own. Sliced bread smells like laundry detergent 90% of the time, I have no idea why but feel like eating soap when I buy some. I bake about once a week, slice my bread and freeze it, then warm a few slices in the oven in the morning.

 

My list rarely changes

 

Apart from the vegetables, none of what I buy will go bad, so I could shop once a quarter and be just fine. The price of vegetables in my village is 20% higher than in town and with the new old car it only costs $8 round trip to go shopping instead of $20 previously, so I still shop weekly.

The veggies are always the same too. Bananas, tomatoes, garlic, onions, jalapeno chilis… and a few treats that are affordable in season like watermelons, spinach, grapes, apples, strawberries etc. The supermarket is making a small effort to bring stuff out here like mushroom but they are so expensive no one buys them, and if you do, they may have been there for a week and look all dry and sad.

 

So really, 99% of the supermarket’s products are not for me.

 

This post was featured on Canadian Budget Finder, thank you!

What about you? Do you eat like two generations ago or have a lot of convenience food?

A 30 something French girl embarking on a journey towards Financial Independence. I blog about money, travel, simple and deliberate living, freedom and choices. You can find me on Twitter, Google+, or Reach Financial Independence's Facebook Page

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Comments

  1. I’m a bad cook so I tend to purchase a lot of ready made meals. I do like buying avocados and making my own fresh guacamole. I try to buy fresh veggies and fruit from the local farmers markets once or twice a week. There are lots in this area which I love.
    Untemplater recently posted..The Good Times Won’t Last Forever OnlineMy Profile

  2. I try to eat whole foods, but most of the produce I get are conventionally grown. I also eat a lot of raw foods because they don’t take long to prepare. When I do eat readily prepared meals it’s usually when I’m eating out with friends :) There’s a large backlash in Argentina and Brazil against the controversial actions taken by large agri-businesses like Monsanto. Sometimes the best way to eat is the simplest grown locally and made from scratch.
    Liquid recently posted..A Historical NoteMy Profile

  3. I wouldn’t buy frozen pizza anyway, it is way too easy to make from scratch and doesn’t take all that much time.
    Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank recently posted..Do you still buy DVD’s or CD’s?My Profile

    • I take a long time flattening the dough, do you have a secret method? I wonder how those pizzaiolos just throw the dough in the air and it falls back down in a perfect flat circle.

  4. I used to be really bad on the convenience foods, but we’ve cut lots of those out. Right now is great because you can buy produce locally, which is about the same price, sometimes more or a bit less than the supermarket. We do buy meat at the grocery as we have no local butcher, and you would usually have to buy a whole cow or half cow to have one locally purchased. I do wish we had more local options year round that weren’t so expensive.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Can You Stop Someone Else’s Bad Choices?My Profile

    • I am surprised you have no local butcher in a place that has cattle, it should be more lucrative for the farmers to sell locally but probably not in the quantities they can sell to a supermarket.

  5. I love this post! When I don’t have time to cook we have salad. I do not open boxes and cans. I grow a lot of our produce, but when I haven’t been able to grow enough or can / freeze enough we buy fresh or frozen (but frozen only if we have to.) This year I’ve really concentrated on baking our bread, but that has taken a backseat the past few months. I’m working 50 hours a week and I’ve had to prioritize gardening over baking.
    Betsy / CollegeMom recently posted..How to join a credit unionMy Profile

    • I bake once a week at the moment, with that slicing/freezing routine it barely takes one hour all in, and we have bread all week. It is not as good to have a toasted frozen slice than warm bread fresh out of the oven but it saves energy, time and it’s still much better than the nearby bakery.

  6. I definitely buy convenience food. Mainly, I’m just a terrible cook and only want to spend 5 minutes or less prepping food. My wife has started to cook a LOT more though and we definitely have started to shift towards food from scratch and organic food. It’s a tough transition, though, because the SuperMarkets here charge 2x as much for organic it seems like and it’s so easy NOT to cook from scratch.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted..4 Things I would be more interested in if I was WealthyMy Profile

    • Check out the ingredient list of a frozen ready meal. Most of the time all the add ons are pretty depressing. Sure making your own lasagna takes time but you can control the meat quality, avoid all added sugars and fat and make it taste better. It should cost about the same or even a bit more if you choose lean beef, plus your time. But many recipes like lasagna you can make 12 portions and freeze for when you don’t feel like cooking.

  7. We are trying to eat less and less convenience food. Typically, we’ve found that everything on the perimeter/walls of the store are filled with actual food. Everything in between/down the aisles are filled with crap. Most of our cart is filled up with real food, but we do have some stuff that is convenient.
    Greg@ClubThrifty recently posted..How to Buy a Used Car Like a BossMy Profile

  8. And the sad part is we are so conditioned to this processed food, we don’t even realize what some of the real food tastes like! Ask anyone from a developing country who lives in the US (not sure about the rest of the western world), and the person would tell you, bananas don’t taste like they do in their part of the world. The same goes for oranges as well.
    Moneycone recently posted..The secrets of getting rich (as told by Warren Buffett, Peter Lynch and Charlie Munger)My Profile

    • True. Bananas are cut when they are green and get ripe on the boat, with no more nutrients from the ground. A fresh tomato is incredibly tasty, after that the watery stuff from the supermarket doesn’t taste the same.

  9. We do a mix of both. There are times when we simply do not have the time (nor the energy) to make a nice meal so that’s when the convenience meals come into play. Other than that we do a pretty decent job of cooking/eating.

    • I reduced gradually, but the more I cooked at home, the worse convenience food was tasting. I worked at McDonald’s for a while and always enjoyed a Big Mac, after a few months of not eating one, the last couple of times I was not enjoying it so much. Any food is an acquired taste I guess.

  10. I have to be honest, we’re not incredibly focused on the real vs. processed food debate. We have a grocery budget that we re-evaluate every so often, but beyond trying to figure out more economical ways to make our meals we’re not too focused on it. I would say that it’s true for us as well though that 99% of the supermarket is irrelevant, as we pretty much just stick to a list and buy much of the same things over and over again.
    Matt Becker recently posted..Bad for the Budget. Good for the Soul.My Profile

    • If you want to go for economical, you may have noticed the markup on convenience. Sliced vegetables are about 3 times the price of non processed vegetables. And frozen meals are about 4 times as well. Sure it doesn’t include prep time.

      • Oh we don’t buy frozen meals, other than really cheap frozen pizza at Costco. We buy the raw ingredients and cook ourselves. Or I should say that my wife cooks herself. So maybe we are buying mostly “real” foods. But we don’t bake our own bread or anything. I actually made my own salsa last night and it’s delicious! And cheap. Although I made way too much and it’s probably going to go bad before we finish it. We’ll have to come up with some creative uses.
        Matt Becker recently posted..Bad for the Budget. Good for the Soul.My Profile

  11. It depends on my schedule. Unfortunately, when I get incredibly busy, our meals get horrible (which is ironic, because that’s when I probably need better food!). However, when I’m sane enough to create my meal plan (most weeks), we eat healthy food, with very little from the center of the store.
    Joe @ Stacking Benjamins recently posted..Big Drugstore Discounts – Stacking Benjamins Episode #8My Profile

    • You noticed that center of the store thing too! That’s smart, it does force you to go through all the bad choices to get to the real stuff.

  12. We have been trying to be better with our cooking. I just wish I wasn’t so lazy at times!
    Michelle recently posted..Life Updates and $3,232 in Extra IncomeMy Profile

  13. Wow, good for you for being able to get a hold of these items and making some yourself. Must be really convenient and healthier too. It would be nice to do some of these at home or being able to grow some yourself. Saves you lots of money.
    KC @ genxfinance recently posted..How to Start Your Own Business With No MoneyMy Profile

    • The garden I am not so good, haven’t grown more than a few herbs and some potatoes, so it doesn’t save money considering all the time spent. But it is nice to see where the food comes from and it tastes much better.

  14. We don’t buy a lot from the local grocer either. Most of our diet is fairly simple and we get a lot of what we buy each week from the farmer’s market now. We do buy most of our meats from the grocer for now, but we’re excited for the day when we can spend a little more on meats and buy locally.
    Kyle @ Debt Free Diaries recently posted..Using Credit is an AddictionMy Profile

    • I saw many people size down on meat to afford the best quality. We eat too much meat, I try to reduce and not make it the center of the meal, but just a bit to flavor a dish.

  15. Jake @ Common Cents Wealth says:

    My wife and I definitely eat too many processed foods. We’re not very good about eating healthy, but we’re hoping to change that soon. It can be tough to eat healthy when you are on a tight budget, which is why I think the majority of Amereicans eat the way they do. Being that you can grab a meal at McDonald’s for cheaper (most of the time) than making a meal from scratch, it’s tough to want to spend the time and extra money to eat healthy.
    Jake @ Common Cents Wealth recently posted..The Liebster Award!My Profile

    • You should check that link to the grocery game challenge, people in Canada and the US post what they bought and the price, and Mr CBB, the blogger of Canadian Budget Binder eats healthy with his wife for under $200 per month. Mc Donald’s is about $4 for a basic meal, if you make burgers and fries at home with lean beef and fresh veggies it will cost you about half. And will be much healthier. The main reason for not eating healthier seems to be time (you can cook in bulk and freeze to save time) and not knowing what to cook, but for that there are terrific sites where you put what you have in the fridge and they suggest easy recipes.

  16. Your grocery list sounds pretty similar to mine- all real food! My wife and I love making meals from scratch, they taste better than anything pre-made every time. I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard of someone making their own yogurt, but that sounds delicious- I’ll have to look into how to do it!

    • I have cultures, which are like fungus, or bacterias and get the milk started. Bifidus is a kind of culture. But you can also start your yogurt from another yogurt, and keep a little bit of the one you made to keep on making.

  17. I think you have great prices on fruits and vegetables from what I can see but it always depends on where people live. I do enjoy reading others grocery shops from around the world to compare prices and what products people buy.

    Grocery shopping has been an eye-opening experience for us and we learn something new about our eating and shopping habits every week. Most people don’t evaluate grocery shopping the way we do. It has helped us to eat healthier foods and given us that push towards creating more home-cooked meals and meal planning that we needed.

    We’ve been making our own pita, pizza dough and homemade bread but sometimes buy the store-made. We can buy cheap bread but if you want the good stuff you will pay the money or make it at home for cheaper.

    Now that my wife is on a low GI diet she eat pumpernickel bread, but we buy it. We’ve talked about making it ourselves. I don’t eat bread often but I like pita bread so I make it once or twice a month. I take hot meals to work not sandwiches.

    There are a few bloggers now in the challenge which is essentially challenging your own shopping habits. It has been incredible to watch many of us improve our grocery shopping experience no matter where we all choose to shop over the past year and a half.

    Like you we can afford to spend money on groceries if we want each month but we opt for the budget. It helps us stick to the plan and weed out all the items we really don’t need. We always aim to improve because just like everyone else, we’re not perfect in all aspects of life.

    How do you make your yogurt? My friend Beth makes her own in a flask but I’ve heard others make it in a crock-pot.

    Thanks for sharing the GGC!
    Canadian Budget Binder recently posted..An introduction to investing – Part oneMy Profile

    • I saw Beth’s recipe, mine is fairly simple since I use cultures and not a yogurt starter. You just pour milk on the cultures and wait for 24 hours, then drain the milk and wash the cultures in clear water. It is a pretty liquid yogurt but works wonders for tzatziki and frozen yogurt which is what we eat most. You couldn’t do Greek yogurt with that. I have tried to drain the whey overnight in a cloth but ended up with a tiny spoon of thick yogurt, not worth the effort or price for almost a pint of milk.

      • No, I wouldn’t bother for a spoonful of Greek yogurt lol. I miss the cheap prices of yogurt back in the UK. Today we picked up 3 x 750ml tubs of Vanilla Yogurt on sale for 2/$4.00 or 1 for $2.49 reg $3.99 each. We have a coupon for buy 3 save $5.00 so I’d say it was worth the price we paid today. I still want to learn how to make it at home. I’m going to chat again with Beth to see what other options I have since I don’t have a flask. Cheers mate!
        Canadian Budget Binder recently posted..An introduction to investing – Part oneMy Profile

  18. We both need to learn how to cook more. We try to not eat out as much, but we often run out of energy and time to cook from scratch.
    Savvy Financial Latina recently posted..Ways to Have Fun Without Dipping Into SavingsMy Profile

  19. I try as much as possible to cook a good, healthy dinner every night and most nights I succeed. We’re big on fresh, organic produce which I pay a premium for, but it’s worth it to me. Admittedly, I also stock a few convenience items because sometimes life is crazy and I need a fall back plan, but I try really hard to meal plan. I love that you make your own break and yogurt. I enjoy making bread but generally only do it for special occasions.
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted..How to Teach Your Kids to Think about DebtMy Profile

    • Bread takes me an hour per week all in with that slice-freeze-toast technique. The next decent bakery is 300 miles away so you learn to make your own pretty quickly haha.

  20. It’s easy to fall into the trap of having convenience foods around especially with four kids and running from activity to activity. We try to do the best we can by cooking healthy meals and avoiding too much junk.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted..Investing Made Easy (Part II): When Should I Start?My Profile

  21. When I buy meat it’s from the grocery store. I’d like to be able to know and trust more where my meat is coming from (I don’t eat a ton of meat though), meaning it want to know how the animal was raised and what they fed the animal, etc. I find that I don’t do it enough because of cost. I buy mostly healthy food, but I’m not above buying oatmeal, triscuits, bread either. But I definitely don’t buy “crap” like white bread, cookies, soda, really, really processed foods, or even frozen foods because of the sodium.
    Budget & the Beach recently posted..The Simplicity of SummerMy Profile

    • We don’t need as much meat as we currently eat. It is much pricier to buy good meat but you can make tons of recipes like bean stews with less meat and go for more expensive, better cuts to even out quality with total price.

  22. My parents and grandparents split a half cow each year. A local farmer raises them and hires a butcher to come in once a year to slice up the meat. My parents swear that meat bought at the grocery store has a “weird” flavor now that they’re used to grass fed all-natural beef. I don’t eat red meat, so I wouldn’t know the difference.

    I totally agree with you on not eating foods our grandparents wouldn’t recognize. I’m trying really hard lately to lose weight, and of course what helps you lose weight? Eating fresh fruits, vegetables and non-processed crap. As an added bonus I feel healthier and more energetic too.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..New York State of Mind or Maine-iac?My Profile

    • It does taste different. When I bought meat in the US it was tasty but felt too chewy to be real meat. The hormones make the meat softer but not for the good reasons. What looks like a great deal is actually a poor suffering animal full of hormones that grew too fast and didn’t have time to grow real bones and meat. Caged chickens can barely walk because they are injected to grow breasts quickly and their legs can’t stand the weight.

  23. Great post! I have really changed the way i eat the last few months because of health! I feel so much better knowing I am supporting local farmers as well as eating the best! Why did i not figure this out sooner?? Its not really that more expensive because i dont spend money on packaged foods! Its a win win!!!

    • It does make you more energetic to eat whole foods, your body will feel the change gradually but it is worth doing. I remember a time when I was addicted to diet Pepsi, I would wake up at night craving not water, but the bubbles of a soda, and now when I am thirsty all I want is a glass of ice water. We can get used to anything. And yes, cooking from scratch is generally cheaper than buying the ready made stuff, healthier and tastier too.

  24. Wow it’s interesting to see people’s spread of eating ‘whole’ and ‘convenience’ from your commenters. I try to be ‘whole’ but occasionally ‘convenience’ sneaks in (and eating out would count in that grouping). I try to bulk cook, so for those who say ‘I can’t be bothered, or I’m too tired’, those nights, it’s a reheat night. And having some ‘scratch’ easy, whole meals, like spaghetti or cheese souffle (I always have all the ingredients on hand, and I find it easy). Still, some days I think ‘how do people do this’ :)
    SarahN recently posted..20 things about me (100th Post)My Profile

  25. As someone who tries to curb their grocery spending, it is not an easy thing to do. I don’t like buying lots of crap even though thats whats cheaper. I personally feel sick if I eat too much junk food.
    Debt and the Girl recently posted..I Think I Have ADD And Where Things Are HeadingMy Profile

  26. We are very anal about our shopping habits. It’s mostly fresh for us – can’t do it any other way when you only spend $200 a month! Lately, we’ve been spending a bit more to get organic eggs from a guy at work (his parents have a farm) but ohhh man… they taste damn good.
    CF recently posted..June Garden UpdateMy Profile

  27. I try to eat real food as much as I can, but you’re right, grocery stores don’t carry much of it these days. Everything has high fructose corn syrup in it or is loaded (and I mean loaded) with sodium. We try to cook mainly on Sundays for the week because we don’t have time during the week to cook from scratch.
    Jon @ MoneySmartGuides recently posted..Getting Married and Combining FinancesMy Profile

    • I do that too, batch cooking can save a lot of time. Just baking bread every day would be an hour when it takes about the same to make 6 loaves for the week in one go.

  28. We are leaning more and more toward whole foods, either growing our own, shopping the farmers markets or buying from our meat guy. We started this mostly to save money, but we sure don’t miss the processed food junk, or the prices that come with it. Can’t wait till the garden comes in!
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted..Recipe of the Week: Beans and RiceMy Profile

  29. We rarely eat convenience food anymore, but I am sometimes too lazy to make a separate stop at the Asian grocery for cheaper meat/produce (shameface)
    eemusings recently posted..What to expect when you travel southeast Asia in low seasonMy Profile

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