In the last few years, we've all heard that it's more inexpensive to eat high-calorie, nutrient-sparse foods.    Are we then doomed to a life of either nasty nutrition or perpetual poverty because of our ballooning food budget?

No way!   The whole premise turns out to not really be true.

But then, those of you who cook your own food probably took the earlier studies with a grain of salt.

Fresh and whole foods are cheaper especially if eating from scratch... whole grains and legumes are especially inexpensive per serving (you know, that stuff that stores long-term really well!).

The original studies, we now learn, were comparing price per calorie in healthy vs. unhealthy foods.

Now, if you're comparing a fresh apple to a side order of fries, it looks something like this:

1 medium apple, about 5 ounces (141g) = about 80 calories    at $1.50/lb,  this costs $ .47  (if you buy them when they're on sale for $1/lb, then it's $ .31)

1 medium order of McDonald's fries, about 5 ounces (147 g) = 453 calories, in my city it costs $1.49

Both weigh approximately the same.  You'll feel about as full with each one; they both fill the same amount of space in your stomach.  According to the old numbers, though, the fries are much cheaper because   $1.49 divided by 453 calories gets you 3 calories per penny.  The apple, at $ .47 for 80 calories, comes out at 1.7 calories per penny. 

This would matter in a country where every calorie is precious.  Our problem here, though is the reverse.  Most of us eat too many calories, and being full with fewer calories is a helpful thing.

The price difference gets worse, too.  Here in Utah, sales tax on food is 3%.  Sales tax on food from a restaurant, however, is 8%.  That means you're paying one to two cents to the government when you buy the apple, and twelve cents when buying those French fries.  (Maybe that's where the money came from to fund that first study saying fast food was cheaper?!)

So is healthy food always cheaper than fast food?  No, not always.  Often.  It depends on what you buy.  (like Dave Ramsey says, eat "beans and rice; rice and beans" for those trying to live very frugally.) 

But your grocery budget already told you that.

Click on the link below to read the article that sparked this blog entry:


My teenaged son and I were talking about the crazy economic week the nation (world!) is having.  I mentioned that the DOW had lost a fourth of its value in a weekend, and gold had gone from $1400/oz to $1800/oz.  He stared at me, and said, "I told you we should have bought gold!" 

Nah, I'm not interested in it- if I pooled all available resouces, I'd be able to buy about one handful of gold.   Wheat, on the other hand, is two cents an ounce (already in a bucket for you at Macey's this week).  And I can eat that.  The line I've repeated to my older children over the last couple years is, "I can't afford gold, but I can afford wheat.  And I can eat wheat."

Are you feeling concerned about the future?  The Lord told us, "If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear."  (D&C 38:30).  More on that below.  The biggest part is being prepared spiritually- living with faith and trust in the Lord.  He will do what will help us become better, more righteous people.  Trials are essential to that.  Are you also prepared with food and supplies?  I do not advocate rushing out and going into debt to get everything; I do encourage you to pinch and scrape this month to get the most value out of your money, before the value changes again.  Buying the absolute basics- wheat, rice, oil, sugar, dry beans, salt, powdered milk-  will stretch your money the most.  Do you have an entertainment budget for the month?  A budget for dates?  Take that, just this month, and use it for food you can have on hand in your house.  Wheat has doubled in price since 2009; talk about a great investment!  I love eating at 2-years-ago prices. 

Here in Utah we enjoy a phenomenon called The Case Lot Sale.  As best I can tell, this is because of the high concentration of Mormons here and our unique buying habits; we have been taught since the church's early days (1800's) to have plenty of extra food and supplies at home.  The case lot sales are when the stores offer great prices on many items, usually the lowest prices of the year, and sometimes with an extra discount if you buy an entire case of something.  We enjoy the sales once or twice a year, depending on the store.  They are a big part of my budget shopping, along with the price book idea- I buy nearly all of my groceries only when on sale.  When canned green beans hit their best price, I buy enough for the coming year.  Then I don't buy any more for the rest of the year, when they're at least twice the price.  This makes for an expensive Case Lot month, but the months after are much cheaper as a result. 

This week Macey's and Fresh Market both have case lot sales.  See the Deals page for what the best prices are.  All of the long-term-storage foods I've listed there are close to, or cheaper than, the Home Storage Center prices.  The only exception is the Country Cream powdered milk, but it tastes better than the HSC's.  It's still a good deal, too.

The following excerpts from an article are from Ezra Taft Benson, then an Apostle, published in the Ensign magazine, January 1974, entitled “Prepare Ye”.  He repeats D&C 38:30 three times in it (“if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear”), and this talk has been extensively quoted.  It contains at least 12 segments I’ve quoted or heard quoted.  I recommend that you read through the whole talk, and see how many pieces of it you’ve heard before.

Here are some excerpts:

“In Matthew, chapter 24, we learn of “famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes. …” (Matt. 24:7.) The Lord declared that these and other calamities shall occur. These particular prophecies seem not to be conditional. The Lord, with his foreknowledge, knows that they will happen. Some will come about through man’s manipulations; others through the forces of nature and nature’s God, but that they will come seems certain. Prophecy is but history in reverse—a divine disclosure of future events.

Yet, through all of this, the Lord Jesus Christ has said: “… if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.” (D&C 38:30.)

…At the April 1937 general conference of the Church [of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints], President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., of the First Presidency, asked: “What may we as a people and as individuals do for ourselves to prepare to meet this oncoming disaster, which God in his wisdom may not turn aside from us?” President Clark then set forth these inspired basic principles of the Church welfare program:

“First, and above and beyond everything else, let us live righteously. … Let us avoid debt as we would avoid a plague; where we are now in debt, let us get out of debt; if not today, then tomorrow.  Let us straitly and strictly live within our incomes, and save a little.

Let every head of every household see to it that he has on hand enough food and clothing, and, where possible, fuel also, for at least a year ahead. You of small means put your money in foodstuffs and wearing apparel, not in stocks and bonds; you of large means will think you know how to care for yourselves, but I may venture to suggest that you do not speculate. Let every head of every household aim to own his own home, free from mortgage. Let every man who has a garden spot, garden it; every man who owns a farm, farm it.” (Conference Report, April 1937, p. 26.)

There are blessings in being close to the soil, in raising your own food, even if it is only a garden in your yard and/or a fruit tree or two. Man’s material wealth basically springs from the land and other natural resources. Combined with his human energy and multiplied by his tools, this wealth is assured and expanded through freedom and righteousness. Those families will be fortunate who, in the last days, have an adequate supply of each of these particulars.”

 Healthful foods, proper rest, adequate exercise, and a clean conscience can prepare us to tackle the trials that lie ahead.”

Rescuing food can help you rescue your food budget, too.  The average American family wastes about 15% of the food they bring home.  How much money could you save?

There are sites online, like stilltasty.com, that list the shelf life of foods.  One problem with them, though: the sites give the 'best by' information.  This means the manufacturer can guarantee the food is at peak quality and nutrition.  Food doesn't automatically spoil after that; it's generally a slow deterioration.  You control the speed of it, by the amount light, heat, oxygen, and moisture/humidity your storage conditions have.  Because of this, all charts tend to give very conservative numbers in case storage conditions are less than ideal.  Store something in the dark, where it's cool, and you can easily double its stated shelf life. 
Another type of date you'll find on products is the 'sell by' date.  Dairy and eggs are two products that have this.  This date assumes you'll take a little longer to actually eat the food, so the 'sell by' date is about a week earlier than the 'best by' date.

Higher-fat items go rancid sooner.   Watch for that.  How can you tell if it, or anything else has passed its useful life?  Smell it.  Your eyes, nose, and tongue can tell you a lot.  Use common sense; if it smells bad or has gone moldy or foamy, there's no need to taste!!  And if you are feeding people with low immune systems, err on the side of caution.

If a can squirts at you when you open it, that can be an indication of botulism growth.  Boil the contents for 10 minutes.  If food has started eating through the can, well, I wouldn't eat it unless I was starving.  Even then, I might not.  But the sealed Mason jar of peaches from ten years ago that you just found at the back of a shelf?  Yeah, they've turned an interesting peachy-brown. Puree them and use as the liquid in a cake, make a smoothie, or some other creative use.  Is ten years old ideal?  No, of course not.  You'll get better nutrition if you're rotating the food more often than that.  But older food is still... food.  Use it.

Cutting Food Waste at Home

My #1 tip! Before you cook dinner, look in the fruit basket, crisper drawer, fridge shelves, or freezer to see what needs used up first.  Use that in your meal.  Be creative if you have to.

·         My #2 tip!  Don’t waste what’s on your plate.  If you have small children, serve them very small servings (a couple of bites) of just a couple foods. Use a small plate.  They only get seconds on anything after the firsts are eaten.  As my kids hear, “Firsts of everything before seconds of anything.”  They can learn to eat everything on their plate if the servings are small enough.  When they’re older, progress in the teaching by letting them learn to serve themselves small/reasonable portions.  If they have leftover food (either at home or eating out), SAVE it for the next meal; they “get to” eat that before any new food. 

·         Freeze leftovers.  You get instant dinners for later! 

·         Use leftovers as a ‘variety pack’ meal: put all the leftovers on the table, and let everyone choose which they like best.  Or pack them for take-to-work (or school) lunches.

·         Keep a bag in the freezer for celery tops, mushroom stems, bits of raw or cooked meat, leftover oatmeal, whatever odds and ends you have.  When the bag is full, make it into soup.

·         When you have heels or crusts of bread, leftover toast, or stale bread, add it to a bag in the freezer.  Use it when you need breadcrumbs, or to make bread pudding, poultry stuffing, or bread salad.  I also save the breadcrumbs from when I slice homemade bread.

·         Trim away bad spots, eat the rest.  Brown edges on lettuce can be trimmed away, same with black on cabbage, mold on apples or strawberries, etc.

·         Chop shriveled apples or other fruit and mix them into muffin batter.  Or make smoothies.  Find some way to use the food where looks don’t matter.

·         Freeze overripe bananas to use in recipes and smoothies.  For simplicity's sake, peel before freezing. 

·         when you have so much of something that it will spoil before you can use it all, freeze it, dry it, or bottle it.

·         Moldy cheese?  Trim off the mold, use the rest or shred and freeze it.

For other ways to save money on food, see the post from Feb. 3, 2011.

When should you throw out food?

My general guidelines are to throw it out if it is:
-foaming (unless it's bread dough or batter, or if you're fermenting something intentionally),
-molding (except for cheese, and small bits on fruit or vegetables),
-turning slimy,
-developing unusual colors, or
-smells bad.

Learning how to tell when food is still good can really help out your budget.  We waste huge amounts of food here in the US, the average family of four throws away just under $600 in food AT HOME per year!  (See http://uanews.org/node/10448)   And total food waste, from the field to your stomach, runs between 40-50%.  Really.  

This higher number includes the following steps:

·         cultivation
·         harvest
·         storage/processing/packing/transport
·         supermarkets
·         consumption (restaurants/schools/home waste)

As a side note, so you don't think the US should be singled out for condemnation, total waste percentages are about the same in undeveloped countries- but they lose more between the field and the store, and less at home.  (See http://www.siwi.org/documents/Resources/Policy_Briefs/PB_From_Filed_to_Fork_2008.pdf,  pages 18-23) 

Pink Salad Dressing

½ -1 c. sugar
½ c. red wine vinegar (there is no alcohol in wine vinegar)
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ c. chopped red onion.   

Combine all in a blender.  Turn on and slowly pour in 1 c. oil.  Run until well blended.

Does it seem like your money isn’t going as far as usual?  The government is claiming that there has been only 1% increase in cost of living for the year, but here are what some food prices have done over the last year.  Numbers are taken from http://www.cnbc.com/id/41831886

 ·       Ground beef up 11%.
·       Butter, up a stunning 27%.
·       Potatoes, up 7.1%.
·       Lettuce is up 5%.
·       Bread up 3%.
·       Chicken up 4.3%.
·       Egg prices have been fairly steady.
·       Milk, up 2%. 

Two of the biggest ways to save money on everyday things are:

1-the S.O.S. method- Stay Out of Stores.  This especially includes restaurants!

2- Be organized so food and ‘stuff’ doesn’t get lost or ruined, waste less of the food you buy


Compiled by my friend Angie

 Liquidation Wearhouse (Orem): sellsCostco's and Sam's leftover and returned merchandise

Sunflower Market (Murray. across from Fashion Place) honors competitors' ads on Wednesdays from this week's and next week's ads. They specialize in produce and their prices are crazy low anyway (29 cent per lb. oranges). It's kind of a like a Wild Oats.

Winco Foods (around 72nd South, Salt Lake Valley, see http://www.wincofoods.com/ for other locations) has cheap food/produce as well.

Reams often has very cheap produce and other items (note from Rhonda- my overall grocery list there costs about the same as Walmart.  Produce and meat are cheaper, canned and boxed things are generally more.)

Buy-Lo: In Orem. They have amazingly low produce prices. (10/$1 kiwi). You can print off their list and price match at Wal-Mart.

The Baker's Outlet and Donut Shop (12652 S. 2700 W. #A, Riverton, #542-8286) has restaurant bread, pastries, donuts, rolls, artisan breads, wheat breads, etc., for cheap.  Bags of flour tortillas are $. 50.  They have both fresh bread and day-old bread both.

Smith's Foods deeply discounts their meat and dairy when close to the sell-by date.  With dairy, the ‘best by’ date is actually 1 week after the ‘sell by’ date.

Planning meals around the sales does wonders for the food budget. You do have to spend a little time using leftovers and preparing more raw foods (uncanned/boxed things) like rice, pasta, grains, etc., if you want to save. However, if you use coupons effectively with sales (see below) you can get a lot of manufacturer deals on brand-name boxed/canned food. 

Wal-Mart price matches exact prices from any ad (not BOGOs) in checkout lines. So get the online ads for the cheap stores above and take them to walmart for location convenience.

Target price matches at the Customer Service desk.

Sunflower Market (see above)

Print out dozens of online coupons and add them to any sale any stores are having. Plan ahead and bring ads for proof of price-matching if you don't have coupons. You can also use this strategy with price matching at the above-listed stores. Note that some of these may be .net or .com, you'll need to search a sec if you don't find it.)

Coupon sites that compare sales at all the stores and let you print coupons that you can add to already-good sales

PinchingYourPennies.com/Grocery Smarts: This site (I assume Pinching Pennies? Or Maybe they're linked companies?) and their daily newsletter can get you some of the best internet clothing deals out there, particularly for Kohls (we're talking a regular 75% off of purchase and free shipping), Children's Place and free-shipping codes for countless other stores. Children's Place clothing is often $3 and under.

DealsToMeals.com (costs $5 a month) This site is similar to pinching your pennies, but requires a little less effort. For $4.95/month they scour the ads for you, compare them to Costco, Sams club and Walmart and tell you where the best deals are. They also have a menu planner with recipes centered around the best deals. They give you tips on things to stock up on for food storage. If you use it, it's definitely worth the $5/ month. You'll definitely save much more than that. They also have a blog: www.myfoodstoragedeals.blogspot. com and www.dealstomeals. blogspot. com. Both are full of great food storage tips and recipes.





E-bay: People also sell overprinted manufacturer coupons on e-bay for pennies. They come within a couple days in the mail. You can add these all up when it's a limit of 10 per item or something and get steals. 

Craigslist.com, KSL.com (for-sale part of the site): For more expensive clothing purchases, like a great ski parkas or watches, I've had great luck here. People respond to politeness, so be kind in emails. Be brave and always ask what price they want to sell for first: Never be the first to offer a price. The last person talking in the negotiation always wins. (For selling stuff, remember that Craig's list is often a younger crowd and often out of state, and KSL is usually local and older crowds. But try selling to both places when you have something to sell.)

Liquidation Wearhouse (Orem): sells Costco's and Sam's leftover and returned merchandise—like backyard deck sets and stuff like that.

Downeast Outlet's Outlet- 3500 S. & Bangerter, across from Granger High next to Albertsons. Clothing (2 for $5), housewares, Potterybarn, seasonal. Prices are slightly negotiable; ask what percentage you can get off (about 20%). This is where I buy Diesl, Lucky, Ann Taylor, 7, American Eagle and Downeast for around $2.50. They have a great size selection.

Savers: Two locations. Always bring items to donate and get 20% off of your whole purchase.Clothing from Tanger outlet mall is shipped here. JCrew, Banana Republic, Express, Ann Taylor, J Jill, Aerospostale, American Eagle, Old Navy, Gap, Children's Place, Victoria's Secret, Nordstrom Rack shoe returns, Dress Barn, Ross and TJ Maxx books--- kids books are $.69 and buy 3 get one free. I get wonderful children's items and very nice shoes here. This is where I took the J Crew catalog, found the $100 items on the racks and walked away paying less than $6 for each. (You can take the catalogs in, find things that are still selling, then buy and resell them on ebay.)

DI: Mondays after yardsale items have been dropped off from the previous Saturday. Larger items are negotiable and it's tax free. Downtown/nicer-area DIs will have nicer stuff.

The Store. Part of the Salvation Army. They receive shipments from Target on Wednesdays. (in West Valley and Murray; 56th south and 9th east)

Kid to Kid (store in sandy) with kids clothes and stuff for cheap—used but in good condition.

Dillards in St. George: has great fall shoe sales—especially on close-toed shoes since no one there wears them.

Coupon codes online. Look up every store before purchasing online. For example, Google "Office Max Coupon Codes." I did so when looking for a camera and found a $20 off any $100 purchase. 

The Library: So this is obvious---that the library is cheaper—but just a reminder that they carry lots of magazine subscriptions as well as tons of movies along with the books. The current magazines can now be checked out, not just back issues.  And if they don't have something, you can often request an inter-library loan from other library systems. You can request things and use it as a free version of Netflix (where they hold the movies that come in and you just have to swing by and get them). You'll have to wait on a few things, but patience is a virtue—a free one. 

Cars lose half of their value by the third year. So buy a 3-yr-old car with low miles for the least loss of investment.

Cash up front does wonders for prices! We got incredible rent, insurance prices, and yardsale items that way.

Yard Sales: you can do better with small amounts of cash in your hand, small children that are cute, and kindness. Negotiating fact: whoever offers the first price looses! Always ask "What price could you do on this?" By noon people are burned out and will give you almost anything for low, low prices. 118th south and 114th south had great sales last year. Daybreak is always good. So is the Johnson Farms ivory home development behind the district—the homes are bigger but about 10 years old, so you know their kids are casting off stuff.

People spend 18% percent less when dealing with cash. Carry cash=saving money. It hurts more! 

Reading List: The Scriptures, LDS General Conference articles on debt. Books: The Tightwad Gazette, Millionaire Next Door, Total Money Makeover, One for the Money

photo courtesy of photos8.com

Hi everyone,

Does it always seem like too much of your budget goes to food?  Do you wonder what amount of money is 'normal'?  If so, go to the Official USDA Food Plans pdf.

This page will give you the 2010 averages, based on nutritionally balanced diets cooked at home.  Now that you see how frugal you really are, here are some tips to help even more; pick just one or two to try so it's not overwhelming. Then all that's left is deciding how that new-found money is going to better use!

Ways to eat well on less money:

*Buy on sale and get extras so you never pay full price.

*Buy the fresh fruits/veggies that are $1/lb or less.

*Find ways to throw away less- only serve up what you will eat, save wilted veggies in the freezer for soup later, re-purpose leftovers.

*Use meat mostly as a flavoring (mixed in with other ingredients), not as its own dish.

*Buy meats that you can get for $2/lb or less, or whatever is bargain-price for your area.

*When you buy meat, get a bunch on sale, then cook it all at once.  Package and freeze most of it for future, faster, meals.

*Buy flour, sugar in bulk, make more things from scratch.

*Keep your kitchen clean so you like being there!  (You don't need to do it all yourself!  Doing dishes 'all the time' causes depression for me- once I added that to my kids' job charts, I felt much better!)

*Grow a garden where you used to have some lawn- you get the same water bill, more food.  Packets of seeds can last 4-5 years if kept cool and dark.   Or split packets with a friend.  

*Make your own bread instead of buying it.

How much can you save on bread?  Cost varies by recipe, but mine comes out to less than $ .50 per loaf ($. 42), including the electricity for baking, for top-quality whole-wheat bread.  (Well, frankly, the quality varies by week....)   If you eat two loaves a week, that saves you $200/year when compared to $2.50/loaf of bread.   We go through 6 loaves a week, so we’re saving over $600 per year.  Yes, a stand mixer and grain mill  definitely pay for themselves!  For the recipe I use, see Basic Bread on my website.
Yesterday the Teachers' Quorum (14-15 yr. old boys) came to my house for their weekly activity.  They've been learning about nutrition and safe food handling, so they all pitched in and cooked a meal.    Their handout included budget-friendly, adaptable, and fairly fast recipes; the kind that would be especially valuable when in college or on missions.  For these recipes, click on Quick & Cheap Meals.  The boys did great with them, I think you'll like them, too.   

Happy cooking and budgeting!