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Barriers to spending less on food

June 12th, 2014 at 08:37 pm

I've identified 5 things that make spending less on food more difficult. Some are more easily dealt with than others, but it makes sense to me now why food has always been our biggest money drain.

1) Bulk buying most items is impossible

We live in a 600 sq ft apartment and do not own a car. The closest grocery store is over a half a mile away, and the larger one I normally shop at is 1.3 miles away. I usually shop by myself too, since I tend to go right after work. There's only so much I can carry at once. And even if I could get it home, I have nowhere to store it.

I do buy 5 lbs at a time of some things like flour, rice, and beans, but it often requires a special trip. I used to just buy the smallest quantity at a time that I could. We also buy 6-9 lbs of frozen chicken breast at a time when it goes on sale cheap enough.

2) My options are limited

I live in the middle of the city. There are lots of little corner stores with pitiful produce and huge mark ups, but no big box stores of any kind. The are two normal grocery stores (QFC) within walking distance, both the same company, and a Grocery Outlet, a Trader Joe's, and a large Asian grocery store are either a quick bus ride, or longer walk away. I make a point to get to the Grocery Outlet around once or twice a month, and occasionally go to TJ's and the Asian store for a few specific things, but otherwise all my shopping is done at QFC.

3) Temptation is everywhere

The nearest grocery store is 8 blocks away, but within a three block radius of our apartment are two delis, two bakeries, a McDonald's, a Subway, and a large drug store where most of the grocery items cost a lot more. On my way to and from work there are over 100 of such businesses, plus restaurants, coffee shops, ice cream and frozen yogurt shops, and more. It's a lot easier to juts pick up a snack or a meal here or there, but it adds up to hundreds a month quickly.

4) The dishes never end

We don't have a dishwasher, so everything is hand washed. By me. And even though I tend to go for one dish meals, there are still a lot more dishes when you cook from scratch. Measuring cups and spoons, mixing bowls, knives and cutting boards, colanders, not to mention pots and pans and the dishes we actually eat out of. So not only do meals take longer to prep and cook, but the cleanup takes longer too.

5) DH's dietary restrictions

So many of the foods that are both cheap and healthy are also things DH has to limit his intake of. Potatoes, rice, pasta, bananas, carrots, nut butters, canned tomatoes, beans, lentils, split peas, greens. We still eat them, but we have to be careful how much. He is also supposed to get as much of his protein from meat as possible, which we do to the best of our ability. But let's face it, most people with his complicated medical issues have enough money going out for medical care that they have to cut corners wherever they can.

11 Responses to “Barriers to spending less on food”

  1. Marie @ Financial Debauchery Says:

    I usually buy in bulk too, especially rice. And I go to the grocery store once a week, I made sure that I bought everything that I need good for one week. I also cook from scratch and we do manually dish wash our plates.

  2. scottish girl Says:

    I know the feeling having never ending dishes. We haven't got a dishwasher or a car either. I'm planning on using my slow cooker more to hopefully cut back on dishes and less time in the kitchen for me.

  3. Nika Says:

    I do get that this is more challenging, and you are trying hard. Maybe mention to a friend that has a car that you would love to tag along when they are going food shopping.

    Another option I would try if I was hard up for cash but wanted to eat healhty - find a local CSA/food co-op and inquire about volunteering few hours a week in exchange for fresh produce. Those places do have extra produce that goes to waste, and they do need labor. You may get lots of expensive organic greens and fruit for less time that it would take you to earn money to buy them.

  4. CB in the City Says:

    I'm in an urban area, too, and although I do have a car, I have the issues of limited storage space and the task of getting my groceries up two flights of stairs.

    Do you walk or take mass transit to the store? Do you have a little cart? I find that helps me a lot, especially with the stairs.

    I have a dishwasher, but for many years I did not. I always tried to fill the sink with hot sudsy water before I started cooking and then just dumped the dishes/utensils in as I was working. Seemed to help, maybe just psychologically!

  5. SecretarySaving Says:

    My magical answer is - paper plates once in awhile.

  6. hamchan Says:

    Currently there is a bus that goes between both grocery stores and my apartment, and I will sometimes take the bus back, but still have to be able to carry everything for one block. Sometime before the end of the year that bus is getting cut due to lack of funding though. When I walk I do carry everything. I don't know how often I'd use a cart since I'd still have the issue of where to store things.

    They have a countertop dishwasher with good reviews on Amazon for $200 with free shipping (there'd likely be about $20 in tax). I have thought about it, but that's a lot to spend right now.

  7. crazyliblady Says:

    Here's a thought. Have you considered buying one of those luggage/grocery type carts like this? That could enable you to buy more of what you need and not have to expend so much effort to bring it back.

    http://www.walmart.com/ip/10929358?wmlspartner=wlpa&adid=222...
    Also, I noticed your profile says you live in Seattle. According to zip car's website, zip cars are available there. Maybe you could rent a zip car for a few hours to get your errands done.

    Then, there are probably also taxis available. Maybe a friend or relative has a car and would not mind you tagging along. Or, offer them gas money or a free meal. Some of these things cost money, but thinking about them might jog your mind into thinking of other possibilities. Think about the possibilities, not barriers.

  8. Hamchan Says:

    I don't drive at all, so zipcar is out. And since I still have the issue of where to store bulk purchases, I never bothered to solve the transportation issue. It doesn't do me any good if there is nowhere to store it.

  9. LuckyRobin Says:

    Try looking in unusual places for storage. Most beds can store canned goods underneath. Do you have a coffee table? You can store things underneath. Do your cupboards go all the way up to the ceiling or is their a space between the top of the cupboards and the ceiling where you can put a few items? Does your apartment have a balcony? If so, you could store flour and sugar on it in a Rubbermaid tote. What about book cases? There is usually quite a bit of unused space there. You can put canned goods in front of the books (or behind them for aesthetics).

    Look at making more one skillet meals and then serving those meals directly from the skillet and not putting the food into a serving bowl first. Do you have a crockpot? The have liners for crockpots that you can just lift out after cooking and throw away. No clean up necessary. If I bake fish in the oven I line the dish with aluminum foil so I can just peel it off and throw it away, no cleanup. You can actually look into packet cooking, where you cook your meals in packets of aluminum foil. It really cuts down on dishes. And if you eat the meals directly out of the packets, no dirty plates, either.

    Danby makes a good little countertop dishwasher that does 6 place settings. That also might be something to save up for.

  10. Hamchan Says:

    I'm not kidding when I say we have no space. My DD lives in our only closet, so everything we would normally store in a closet is under the bed, stuffed into a bookshelf, and inside or on top of kitchen cabinets. We have a dresser and small wardrobe for clothing that are full. We don't have a balcony or anything. I could probably find places to squirrel away a few extra canned goods, but toilet paper from Costco? 25 lb bags of rice? A chest freezer? Nope. Not unless I want to feel like a hoarder and not have space to turn around. If I looked at renting storage space offsite somewhere, any money I saved buy buying in bulk would quickly get negated by the costs to store and transport it.

    We normally serve things directly out of whatever it was cooked in, except maybe when we have company, which is rare. Foil packet cooking is something I've never tried, so that could be useful. I'll have to keep my eye out for the crock pot inserts as well. I use the crockpot once or twice a week on average. I'm thinking about ways to set aside extra money of the countertop dishwasher too. It would be so helpful. I can turn coins into Amazon credit at the coin star machine and they don't take a cut if you do that, so that's a start. We have a bank where all the loose pennies, nickels, and dimes go. Quarters are used for laundry.

  11. SecretarySaving Says:

    Have you thought about ordering your food online and having it shipped or delivered? I googled a few places in Seattle that do organic local produce delivery. Check out the list below and see if its something you might want to consider. I used a company called greenling for awhile here in Houston, TX and was very pleased. I just needed to have a $25 order for them to deliver.

    www.fullcircle.com
    freggies.com
    newrootsorganics.com

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