Chapter 2 of Joe Average Buys Groceries.


Last month, in response to Shel Zolkewich posting about Stats Can’s claim that the average Manitoban spent $241.00 a month on food, I decided to give that challenge a try. You can follow Shel’s attempts by keeping up with her posts in Manitoba Food Bloggers.

Protein purchases. Pork is almost invariably the cheapest meat choice.

Lessons from my First Month

One of the things I decided when I started was that I needed to do this for several months to find out if it would really work for me. I’ve done various challenges in the past requiring me to focus for short periods of time, but average implies, that I need, at the very least, to make two attempts so that I have something to create an average with.

So, I’m beginning my second month, but want to take a look back at the first month. The biggest thing I learned is that I need to do a better job of keeping track of my receipts. When I gathered up the various slips from January, they came to a total of $129.11. However, I know that I spent a fair bit more than that. My guess would be that my total for the month was around the $200.00 mark.

This month to counteract that, I’m going to try to not only keep all my receipts. I don’t know yet whether I’ll become like my mother and staple all the receipts inside as well, but one never knows.

Grocery memo
A book for recording my purchase totals. The only time in my life I ever needed a “little black book.”

Another takeaway for me was that, for this month at least, my food waste was minimal. I bought a package of buns that I planned to use in a recipe. I never got around to making the dish. I forgot about the buns and they ended up going mouldy.

The final takeaway is that I ate a lot of popcorn. Often when I got home I found that it was later in the evening. I didn’t feel like cooking supper(though I will say I generally had eaten a good lunch), and so making popcorn to eat while I read a book or watched a video from the library happened a few times more than it probably should.

Dairy and Produce
A selection of Dairy and Produce.

Buying for Month Number 2

My total for the first three trips of the month came to $80.20. That means that this food should last me for about 10 days. 

I actually started my buying on January 31. I had a couple of items that I purchased to consume that day, but most of my bill was for items that I was going to use in February. I picked up a nice pork shoulder, some coconut milk(I’ve been using it a lot in soups), perogies, and a two pound bag of onions.

My shopping yesterday included sausages, eggs, milk, cheese, tomatoes, yogourt, and oranges. This is my first time trying Greek yogourt, My main goal with that is to use it in trying out some new recipes

treats and snacks
Snacks and treats.

I went out again yesterday and picked up a few more items to start the month off. As I said last month, I enjoy snacks from time to time, so I picked up some granola bars, packaged jelly, frozen fruit bars, and a two litre of coke. All but the frozen fruit bars were on sale for $1.00 each.

Non-perishables.
A few non-perishables from my first shopping. Going to pick up more later today

I also picked up a couple of containers of stock and a couple of more large tins of tomatoes. I still have one tin of tomatoes and three 540ml tins of kidney beans leftover from last month.

More Dangers of Bulk Buying

One of the hidden dangers of buying in bulk, is automatically assuming that the bigger package will always be the better deal. I ran into this yesterday at my local supermarket.

There was a big display of boxed Navel Oranges, advertised at $11.19 for a 4.54kg/10lb box. This is a good deal, as oranges are generally closer to $2.00/lb than $1.00/lb. However, that’s a lot of oranges, about 2 dozen. So I looked around, and I found a table with Navel Oranges by the each, and they were $1.00 a pound. So, it turns out that it’s $.20/lb cheaper to buy the individual oranges by the box. Plus, I was able to buy only half a dozen, so I don’t have to worry if they will go bad on me before I eat them all.

These pictures are a little blurry, as I’m trying to snap them without drawing too much attention to myself.

Boxed oranges.
These oranges, which received a more prominent display are 10lb boxes and work out to just ounder $1.20/lb Bulk buying is not always the best way to go.
Joe Average oranges
Weekly savings on the oranges was $1.00 a pound.

In case you are wondering, this isn’t limited to one chain. I purchased some groceries from one of the other ones, and ran into the same thing with their carrots.

Cheaper by the smaller.
In case maths is not your strong suit, the 2lb bag works out to the equivalent of $3.68 for a 5lb bag.

By the end of January I had run out of salt in my house. Last time I purchased salt I only purchased the Kosher variety. I really like using it in rubs, or for salting steaks before cooking. However, it isn’t really good in the coarse form, as a table salt. So this time I picked up a container of fine sea salt for table use.  One thing I hope to do this month is see if I can add quality to the food I purchasing while still staying with in the $241.00 parameters.

Chapter 2 salt
I am feeling a little salty. Kosher for the rubs, etc. Sea Salt for the table.

The salt was purchased at lunchtime when I made a trip to my local NoFrills. This bag of Gala apples is $5.97 for 8lbs. A great buy, as that works out to roughly $.75/lb. However, that is a lot of apples for person to try and eat. Especially since they are described as naturally imperfect. That means there are extra bruises and they will likely start to rot quicker. Guess I’m going to be making some apple crumble.

Chapter 2 apples
8lbs of apples. I think I have some baking ahead of me. That is about the only way a single can buy such a bag of fruit, and avoid a monotonous diet.
Chapter 2 chicken
I think I will break this down, and then cook up the pieces, little by little.

I bought a whole chicken. I intend to break this down and package it up. One of the temptations of cooking something like this all in one go, is to eat it all in one go. I’m hoping breaking it down first will make it easier to avoid doing that.

Chapter 2 carrots
The 2lb bag of carrots was a better deal than the 5lb.

The 2lb bag of carrots means I’ll be able to eat a greater variety of vegetables during the coming month. Plus, if all else fails I still have 8lbs of Basmati Rice leftover from last month.

Unopened Basmati.
This is the bag of Basmati Rice I bought at the beginning of January. Still unopened.

Well, that’s my update. Here’s to February, and another attempt at being average.

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28 comments

  1. I realize the challenge refers only to the amount spent on food for the month, but do you factor in things like the cost of making multiple trips to different stores? Or transportation? I am thinking, as an example, of a friend who is on a fixed disability income, and has no vehicle. She has to either bus or cab it to get groceries, so popping out several times to buy food isn’t an option. She can only get what she can physically carry from a bus stop.

    One of the things I’ve learned from our years living on a “poverty diet” is to have something special set aside for the end of the month, when things start to run out and money is tight. It’s a huge boost to moral when you can do something like bake a batch of cookies, or have a rack of ribs for supper, or some other cut we normally wouldn’t be able to buy but were able to get on a really good deal.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I think it’s great that you are doing this. A real challenge and an eye opener. It must take a lot of meal planning and its always interesting on some days to create/adapt meals from what you have left over or in the cupboard I know we all do this to some extent but when there is no choice every day it must be hard going. I like Re-farmers suggestion of having a morale booster in reserve. I think you will certainly deserve one by the end of the second month. Good luck and thank you for the interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well written blog, most food blogs focus on recipe and some include an elusive or expensive ingredient. Those with an eye on cost become familiar with prices and know when the prices change and to adjust. Timing and multiple trips to the store do factor, for some necessary travel are the lifestyle and socialisation of the day.
    Fresh food at the low level, that is unprocessed, is a better choice than processed in my opinion. Bulk purchases are debatable depending who you talk to, the economist will advise not to tie up to much money in inventory, but every case is different. Our big box retailer allow receipts to be scanned with their app, will refund pennies if it is found cheaper and allows data storageof purchases.
    Healthy fresh foods are our main concern. Technology promises that those with mobility issues will have delivery options available but I guess this would depend on your location. Again thanks for posting the prices, which some don’t take into account when posting recipes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting. One of the reasons I posted prices was I’ve noted a trend in grocery stores to make the prices more confusing and something that isn’t a bargain is made to appear to be one

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  4. I don’t know if you have a crock pot or not. But one of the things I buy as a staple item is a whole chicken. I cook it all day in the pot then break down the meat into tuppawear. I can then use the rest of the meat to make, bbq sandwiches, chicken noodle soup, chicken tacos, add it into a salad…whatever. That way it doesn’t have to be ate right away and you have meals for the next few days. I have a post on my blog about it. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is pretty awesome! I agree buying is bulk isn’t always the best approach to grocery shopping. I find the best thing to do is to look at weekly ads and compare prices from different stores. My dad does this a lot and I have picked that up from him. That habit will hopefully help me a lot when I move out.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for dropping by my blog and following. I see you are a foodie…..not 🙂

    Where are all the green vegetables in your food/budget challenge (assuming you eat the green stuff)? May I suggest you keep all your apples and oranges in the fridge – they keep much longer and the oranges are much juicier.

    …and you do have to watch the prices of bulk or larger bags. I’ve often found them to be more expensive than buying fruit items individually in Australia.

    If you eat /buy bananas, don’t put them with your other fruit. As they ripen, the ethylene(?) they produce ripens all your other fruit beyond recognition. I’ve had oranges sitting next to bananas go off in 2 days with lots of mould – white & green.

    Do you have a freezer? if so, and it is large enough, put bread, muffins etc in the freezer and only take out what you need for the next day (to thaw). That way they don’t go mouldy.

    I live on a very frugal Government Disability Pension and have no car, so my shopping is what I can carry in my shopping trolley on the bus OR ordered from the local supermarket online and home delivered. Home delivered and/or supermarket prices are 2-3 times the price of my local Asian fresh food market.

    Basmati rice is far better for you than other rice varieties. I grow lots of herbs, so if I’m really broke, I have a bowl of basmati rice mixed with chopped herbs and lemon juice squeezed over it with a sprinkle of Himalayan fine unprocessed salt. I love Lemon (anything). Not necessarily very nutritious, but it fills an empty tummy.

    You should be eating meat or fish portions the size of your palm and at least 2 fruits and 5 servings of vegetables – preferably all different colours – every day. I am gluten and lactose intolerant and while I can eat very small amounts occasionally, it does mean I have to take extra vitamins, fish oil supplements AND most importantly, an all round Calcium Supplement. Men get osteoporosis as they age just as much as women.

    And of course, get to know the prices of all your produce. Just because it says it’s on Special, doesn’t mean it really is. Your food is ever so much cheaper than ours here in Australia.

    And lastly, drink water. It’s cheap and very good for you (assuming Winnipeg has a decent public water supply in the taps).

    I notice you uploaded this post on Feb 2nd, so I guess you are well on the way to the food challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What I used to do with the chicken, to make it last, was to cook it at the same time as a different meal. This way it had cooled down enough, when I had eaten the meal, to portion out and place in freezer bags. I must admit that I was also a little anal as the bags where weighed at the time as well. It did however make the chicken go further. I check the price per kilo/pound on everything because it is the same pricing scam in english supermarkets.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. hi, i’m new follower based in New Zealand, but really interested in good cooking on a budget. I’m the main cook in a household of 6 (including 3 young men in their early 20s); so I’m passionate about making food stretch. You are correct that it pays to check the price per pound, because some foods inexplicably are more expensive when bought in bulk. I have learned that the best economy is eating produce that is in season, and bought as close to where its grown, as possible. The addition of herbs and spices can turn the mundane into something really special. With a chicken, I’ll often cook it with carrots and onions to make my own stock (which I freeze for later) and then use the cooked chicken in a stir fry, lunch sandwiches or with a sauce over pasta…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi thanks for stopping by and commenting. Cooking for a large family is certainly challenging. I grew up as the youngest of six brothers in a family of eight. My mother portioned out all our meals as one way to help make things go farther. Sounds like you’re doing a great job giving good and tasty meals to your family.

      Liked by 1 person

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