Bulking up in this economy

This morning I watched a story on the Today Show saying that 15% are on food stamps, and showing people waiting to shop at Walmart when the money hit their accounts. They showed a near empty refrigerator – except for about sixteen condiments – and they showed the parents loading up their carts with canned food, cereals, frozen foods, and more. And the mom calling on her iPhone to check her balance.

And it bugged me.  Bugged the crap outta me.  Why?  Because people don’t know how to shop.  They actually think it’s cheaper to buy all these cans of preservative-filled foods than to actually cook from scratch. The bulk aisle has nearly everything to sustain families a vastly cheaper price that only needs to be supplemented by fresh fruits and vegetables.  And we need to spread the word.  Here’s a great article from the Food Network on the benefits – not just financial – of the bulk aisle.

Most folks think of only a few things in the bulk aisle, but trust me, it’s exploded.  And this is not just in the health food stores & natural grocers – WinCo, Kroger/FredMeyer, and many Safeways to name a few all have bulk aisles.  Work it!   A jar of spices that you’d pay $9 for?  Under a buck.  Get spice bottles at Cost Plus or thrift stores and refill them over and over.  Spend once on bigger containers, put the tare weight on the bottom, and keep refilling them.  No plastic bags, and prices that will blow you away.  Items in the bulk aisle include…

* Flour / Sugar / Cocoa / Baking Soda * Herbs / Spices * Granola / Cereal * Beans * Dried Fruits / Nuts * Pasta * Nut Butters * Soy Sauce / Honey / Agave * Olive & Canola Oils * Dish / Laundry Soaps / Detergents * Chocolate Chips / Candy * Dog Food / Treats

And soooo much more.  Spend your money on organic produce.  Get out that crock pot and make your dinners & lunches in bulk and freeze them in portions.

Oh – and remember my comment on condiments?  We all have wayyy too many, folks.  Salad dressing is a demon – I swear, get your olive oil in bulk and a jug of balsamic (my local wine shop sells balsamic in bulk so I can bring in my bottle and constantly refill for much cheaper), and you have salad dressing for a fraction of the bottles of Kraft Krap.

Then there are things that many don’t or won’t consider, and should, when finances are low: * Downgrade your cell phone plan.  In this day and age most people don’t need unlimited minute plans because most plans give unlimited between cell phones anyhow. Cut $30/mo off my cell phone when I realized I never got close to the 400 minutes – check your bill, you might be surprised. * Unless your company is paying for your internet, you don’t need it on your phone – check it when you get home.  And FYI?  Many plans give you email anyhow, just charge more for internet (T-Mobile did for me). * Get rid of your land line if everyone in the house has a cell. * Get rid of cable television. * Stop ordering takeout / delivery. * Cut the Starbucks habit. * Eliminate store-bought gifts.  Can’t afford food but justifying shopping at Black Friday sales?  Are you effing kidding me?  Christmas does not have to equate to gifts.  Make it about togetherness, about time, about love. * Make broth from chicken carcasses &/or veggie scraps and freeze – tastier, no sodium, and way cheaper than that Swanson’s garbage. * Rent out the empty room in your home or basement.  Consolidate your space to make room for a tenant.  Consider opening your home to another family and share childcare expenses, chores, and more – cheaper for both parties!

Remember, most folks in this world live in less space with more people on a fraction of the $.  If you’re broke, you need to consider what you can do.  Even if you’re not, what’s the wrong with more $ in your pocket….?  And the wonderful irony?  The incredible taste difference and environmental impact of eating whole foods rather than processed…how cool is that.

I won’t go into transportation or energy efficiency, as there are plenty of posts in my blog about that.  My main focus was to really talk about how we shop, and what many people don’t or won’t realize when it comes to ways they can truly save. It involves changing habits…yep, the reality of it.

Thoughts?  What are you doing to change your habits??

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