Grocery Geek: Angst Diagnosed

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I discovered the source of my grocery angst this week when the grocery sales flyers came out. The sales are good, to be sure. This week. (I’m not sure why the stores held out so long, but they did.)

However, since I’ve adopted some new food philosophies, I still felt a little let-down. Many of the things that are on sale, things that I would have previously filled my pantry with, are not necessarily things that I want to buy today. In my efforts to move us away from processed foods, I’ve narrowed my range of choices.

And, yes, it’s a choice.

No one is forcing me into it. But, after reading a number of books encouraging a return to less processed foods, I want to make an effort. I’m not giving up everything processed. But, I’m shooting for 80%.ย And that effort is going to have to involve my pocket book.

That said, a lot of organic and unprocessed ingredients were still on sale this week. And while $1.99 for 5 pounds of organic potatoes doesn’t compare with 10 pounds of conventional for $0.99, it is still a lower price than normal. And that was something I had to remind myself of this week when I was scanning the ads. Organic may not be as cheap as regular, but grab the sales when you can.

(I am also lamenting the fact that I put the produce box on vacation this week. The boxes were full of the ideal ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner. Lesson learned.)

Grocery shopping was expensive this week. As it was last week. And the week before. And I’m still trying to come up with a game plan to keep our budget low without compromising my new baby steps: organic produce, unprocessed sugars, less processed food in general.


I bought a fair amount of ย stock up items at Sprouts, namely chicken breast (on sale – $1.77/pound), ground beef and pork, sour cream ($0.99/16 oz.), hormone free butter ($3/lb), potatoes, Pellegrino ($1.25/bottle). The whey protein was pretty pricey at $26.99, but that helps keep my man-child full.

I spent $110 on all that is pictured, including a splurge on a rotisserie chicken to take home and make into chicken noodle soup for sick kids.

And that was all she wrote, folks. I still need to buy a bird, still trying to figure out what kind I want. But, I have most everything we need for Thanksgiving.

Do you have grocery angst?

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  1. I totally understand that angst! I’ve been trying to buy more natural foods – baby steps – but it sure does make it harder to get excited about a sale. In fact I don’t actually go to the regular chain stores too often anymore – between their LACK of good sales and my choices we aren’t such good friends. I stick with trader joes more often, costco occassionally, the local fruit/veg mart.

  2. I experience the same angst on occasion. I’ve learned it’s all about balance. My desire to eat healthy food has to balance with the amount of money I have to put into it. So I buy the healthiest food I can afford, and don’t stress out about the less healthy things that I buy, which means that my kitchen cabinets and refrigerator can look kind of schizophrenic at times, lol. And the prices you quote on things like meat and produce (especially produce) always amaze me because we don’t get anything like that around here! $1.99 for 10 lbs of organic potatoes is unheard of! Regular potatoes might – MIGHT – get to that price once or twice a year.

  3. I can honestly say I got over my grocery angst a while ago. Not saying I don’t cringe when I see the total, I’ve just come to realize that at this stage in our lives the grocery bill will be high. My husband lifts weights and is particular about what he eats, I have a 21 year old son and a 15 year old daughter – we go through A LOT of food. Additionally, time is not my friend so I’ve stopped spending much time on coupon clipping or running from store to store looking for deals.

    I do the following to keep my grocery bill as low as I can and then close my eyes when the total is being rung up.
    – Shop at the store with the lowest overall prices
    – Make a weekly menu so I have a plan
    – Take inventory so I don’t buy unnecessary items
    – Go to Swagbucks coupons to see if there is a coupon for anything on my list
    – Look for coupons in the store. The store I got to doesn’t offer loyalty cards or deals (it’s how they keep their costs down) but they stick coupons all over the store for their customers. I keep my eyes open and usually find at least $5 worth of coupons per trip.

    Moral of the story, I do what I can to get the bill down and then I banish the angst. There will come a time when the kids are out of the house that our grocery bill will be low. Until then I’m going to appreciate the fact that our bill is high (and the kids are still home) and that we have enough money to feed our family healthy, nutritious food.

    You are serving the food that you think is best for your family and you are trying to do it as econimically as possible so just let the angst go. It’s rather freeing ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I struggle with this all the time lately. I only have 2 little girls, but I work full time and live out in the middle of no where. I’m very limited on what stores are available here and organic is very scarce. I bought at the farmers market this summer and put up a lot of veggies for winter. I’m trying to figure out what compromises I can live with and which ones I can’t. We’re also on track to pay off our house in the next 4 months so things are pretty tight – granted it’s self inflicted. I actually have vacation this week so I’m hoping to do more analysis/reflection on this area.

  5. I’ve dealt with some angst as well. Like you, I try to buy less processed and more organic. I’ve increased our grocery budget a little and have learned to develop different shopping strategies. When I lived in Kentucky, the store I shopped at doubled coupons and often discounted organic meats. We spent $40-$60 a week for a family of four.

    Here in Florida, there are no double coupons and I almost never find deals on organic meat. I recently renewed my Sam’s membership(oh, how I miss Costco) and now buy the things I have trouble finding deals on there. I’m trying to buy as many non-grocery items as possible with coupons & ECBs at CVS to free up money for groceries. I prioritize what I buy organic. I also buy certain items from Amazon with Swagbucks. I’ve only increased our grocery budget by about $40 a month at this point and am working at refining my new system. My goal is to keep my budget where it is now and do one big shop at Sam’s with only small weekly trips to pick up the best deals, fresh milk and produce.

  6. I also have been trying to go more organic and less processed, but literally the price of things keeps me away! It seems it’s a high hurdle to get over and one that doesn’t go away very easily. I think if I could find a price point list for organics in my area, I’d feel a little better. It seems like I wet my feet a little and jump back out. So it’s hard to know what a decent price is when I’m not consistantly looking at prices…It probably doesn’t help that it’s the Holiday season and there are different foods that we don’t normally use that are “needed.” Maybe I’ll get through the holidays and try again for 2012!

  7. I hear ya! I have been trying to make more whole food choices, more organic than not. It stings sometimes. When I can’t stomach the cost, I go halvsies-1/2 organic eggs and 1/2 regular, for example.

  8. I’ve bounced back and forth on the Primal diet for months now. My husband and I are very psychically active – I just finished a half marathon (6 months after our first baby!) & am still nursing on top of that and he is now training for a big CrossFit event. So our grocery budget is high $100 a week for the two of us! I still can’t swing organic for the amount of meat and produce that we eat, but have cut back on grains to small portions in 2 meals a week and have cut out processed sugar. Those two changes were much bigger than baby steps for us!
    I remind myself that eating this way will keep us much more healthy in the long run and think about how much better off the kids are that are starting out eating this way!
    Hard. More expensive than I want it to be, but good!

  9. I struggle with this too – it’s a constant battle. We had found a fruits and vegetables store in our town that mostly caters to restaurants, but therefore has great prices for end users, then we became more aware of issues around pesticides, BPA, etc and read about the “Dirty Dozen” from EWG. Nothing they had was labeled organic. When I asked, they said they didn’t usually carry organic produce. Sigh. I started trying to buy only organic and local fruits and vegetables and suddenly realized that I practically wasn’t buying ANY in the winter (we live in New England) and I came to grips with the fact that Some is better than none and started working on compromise. I find great stuff at our local grocery stores – better and cheaper than what the chains carry and great stuff at Costco. I really need to write a blog post about Costco, because they have such great policies about sustainability and sourcing.

    Sigh. Good for you for buying the organic box, I’m thinking about going back to Boston Organics, which is the same thing in the Boston area, but we’re not sure we can afford it!

  10. Good for you! I, too, struggled in this area. It took me about 1.5 years to come to terms that if I wanted to making it a priority to feed my family organic foods, it was going to cost more. Period. Now, I look over the grocery ads and see “good deals” and loss leaders and can’t imagine feeding my family most of those items. You have to learn to let go of the clipping coupon mentality (since most of those items are highly processed) and begin to focus your energies on sourcing organics. It was a learning process for me. But, these days, my monthly grocery spending is now what it was (or LESS!!!) than before I switched to organics, with the exception of a couple of large splurges throughout the year, such as a side of grass-fed beef, or a bulk purchase of 10-15 whole organic chickens from a local farm.

    I have discovered the principle of buying organics in bulk (Azure Standard or Amazon), shopping sale items at a semi-local health food store, Costco, and the local produce box. Combining all of those avenues and keeping a pantry stocked with the essentials really helps me keep my grocery spending in check.

    Good luck to you as you struggle through this process as well. It is a real learning curve, but one worth every worry, struggle, and dollar!

  11. I constantly live in grocery angst. It is stressful and agitating for me to go to the grocery store now, after a huge financial setback. Because of my husband’s illness, he is unable to consume processed foods. It’s a continuous battle between budgeting and buying whole foods. Thank you for sharing your budgeting tips!

  12. I think just the prices overall have increased, that’s all. We lost one eater (Sonny boy off to college) and I was like yeah! So even though I don’t buy ‘that’ food anymore for him and the band boys, my bill doesn’t show that much of a difference each week. It’s gotten to the point where I’m trying to use what we have and THEN I will re-evaluate the stuff I buy. We are trying to take the same journey in less processed but I’ve not totally jumped on the bandwagon for organic JUST yet, though I do buy some stuff when it’s reasonable. It’s a journey like anything else!

  13. I’ve been experiencing the angst too as I move us away from processed foods. We have a well stocked pantry and a freezer of meat but the incidentals I need to buy are really adding up. Things like trying to buy higher quality cheese and making so many things from scratch (using more flour and butter) are really adding up. This past weekend I returned home from the Farmer’s Market and natural foods store with only $54 left for the rest of the month. Granted, I bought a locally raised heritage turkey which was a choice (and an incredible luxury for which I am grateful) but still.

    What my husband gently reminded me was to keep my focus on what’s truly important. Am I spending our grocery money frivolously? No. Is my food spending hurting us financially? No. DO I FEEL GOOD ABOUT WHAT I’M FEEDING MY FAMILY? YES!!!! I have to shift my thinking about of the bargain/couponing mindset and accept the financial cost of how I am choosing to feed us. As always, it’s important to be mindful of this luxury and privledge and to keep in mind areas I could cut back if necessary. But I need to Let Go of my conceptions about what I *should* be spending on food compared to XYZ Blogger or the Mom down the street.

    What I am struggling with (and this is another topic so I’m sorry for the disgression) is the food I buy to donate. I took my kids to the store last week to buy food for the donation barel and it was all packaged. Pasta, sauce, canned ravioli, Hamburger Helper, instant oatmeal, jam with HFCS. Things I wouldn’t feed my own kids (except the pasta) but it was cheap and I wanted my donation dollar to go as far as possible. I know the solution would be give money to the food bank and we do that. But a few times a year I buy food with my kids in tow so they understand what we’re doing. I just struggle with the lesson of the food we eat vs. what we donate. Sigh.

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