Community Food

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 Here’s a summary of my first month, and a look a head at chapter 2 of this experiment.

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

Lessons from my First Month

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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 Chapter 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.

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.

By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.