I don't know where you live, but around here there is a Farmer's Market 3x week. The prices on the stuff they have on display are pretty close to the prices at the grocery store, but if you ask they have uglier stuff in the back of the truck and are glad to unload it for a better price rather than take it home. For example the tomatoes on the stand are 2/$1 for the medium and $1 each for the bigger ones, but if you ask for a box of canning tomatoes, they are $10/bushel. A bushel is a lot of tomatoes, way more than 10-20, but you can do a lot of things with them. I actually grow my own tomatoes, and then can them up and store them in the basement. We have all the pasta sauce, salsa, chili tomatoes and stewed tomatoes we'll need for the rest of the year, and I paid maybe $75-100 for the whole of it. But if that's not your thing you can blanch and peel the tomatoes and store them in the freezer. You can also barter for better prices with the farmers if you're willing to buy large quantities, Mr. Orchard (that's his real name) sells his peaches for $18/bushel, but when I buy a bushel he always tops off my bag with another peck or two, just because I'm a good customer. He's the same way with his apples and he knows that I'll be there with bells on the first morning he's selling Cortland apples, because they make the BEST sauce and my kids eat applesauce like crazy.
Another thing I suggest to save money is to buy meat in large quantities at the local meat market. Not the butcher shop, but the place where farmer's take their animals to market. Generally these places are auction houses and you have to bid on a live animal, but the butcher shops are right there taking orders and usually will arrange the transportation for the animal from the auction house. So you don't have to own a stock trailer and a truck to get some great prices on meat. You do have to shell out a couple hundred dollars to get the good price, but it's not that hard to find others to go in with you on a side of beef. And actually a spring lamb is only about $100-150 and roughly 60lbs of meat, so it's not so much that you can't get it in the freezer. A side of beef is a whole different story, like 300-400lbs of meat, you need a deep freezer for that, but if you have a deep freezer, go ahead and fill it. Besides the fantastic prices, you get to give the chop house "cutting orders", so the meat comes exactly the way you like it. So our steaks are 3/4" thick, 4 in a package and they are double shrink wrapped and ready for the freezer, the roasts are 2-3lbs and the leg of lamb roasts come pre-seasoned and wrapped in cotton mesh etc etc. The only drawback to that is that you get a little bit of everything, so you have to be willing to cook hamburgers, T-bone steak and tongue.
Another thing I do to keep the budget in balance is to use coupons. There are some fantastic on-line coupon sites that will help you find great deals on stuff by pairing up sales with coupons. It's not too often that I find coupons for fresh produce, but if you get your shampoo and toothpaste for free or nearly so, then you have a little bit more money to buy groceries. I also shop price, when apples are on sale at Sav-A-Lot I go the extra 1/4 mile to buy them there, if the grocery store runs chicken breast for $1.66/lb I'm there every afternoon to buy my limit, etc etc.
Another crazy thing I do to save money is to plant a garden. If you have a little bit of land or some good pots and a tiny bit of green in your thumb you can grow food for very little money. And if you have no green in your thumb, but have a little time there are great opportunities for U-pik all summer long. Right now it's apple season here. If you buy the bagged up ones, they are $1-$1.50/lb, but if you pick them yourself, they are only $.50/lb.
Can you tell I've been living on a tight budget most of my life?
Starting weight: 244.6 lbs. 10/01/09
Pounds lost: 80.6 lbs
Current weight: 164 lbs
Goal weight: 120 lbs
Weight to go: 44 lbs
Goal Date: 1/1/13
Last edited by almeeker; 09-20-2011 at 06:36 PM.