The $25 Shopping Cart, Version 2.0

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It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these and I do apologize for taking so long to bring you Version 2.0 of the $25 Shopping Cart. The reason for this is that I go to Trader Joe’s more than any other store. But I know that there are many places still deprived of this store, and I promised you that I could do this at almost any grocery store, so to make good on that and as a challenge to myself, I headed to Safeway (VON’S in SoCal) for this edition. I’ll be honest and let you know that this time around I actually spent $33.92, but that was due to the kitties (hey, they need to eat, too!). Although I’d toyed around with the idea of keeping to $25 for all of us, I decided to stick to having the human food count towards that amount for the sake of the assignment. Still, paying close to $34 for all of us is quite a steal.
The $25 Shopping Cart, Version 2.0

Though Safeway is largely considered one of the more pricey major chain grocery stores in this area, I like to shop there on occasion for a few different reasons: I prefer their atmosphere and selection to their competitors’, they usually offer better prices on my cat supplies, and I’m a fan of their Club Card specials. They can’t match my beloved TJ’s, but they offer great opportunities to save on the national brand and comparable store brand products. One way to get wind of these new specials is to check out the weekly circulars that come in the mail. I ignore most of them because they’re for stores I don’t frequent due to distance, but I do check out the ones for stores I visit. If I’ve tossed it before viewing it, I try to hop online and sort through the store items by their Club Card specials first. And if I’m just rushing there after work because I’d forgotten to purchase something I needed, I try to take a quick walk through the aisles I frequent to see what’s on sale, when the end of the sale, and make a mental note of it for later. Because I was on assignment, I also came prepared with a few coupons I’d printed online from their site.

I don’t normally go into this with a setlist of what I want to buy unless I’m entertaining and know ahead of time what I’ll be making, and this time was no different. I did make sure to remember what I already had at home so that I could build around that, focusing on buying ingredients that would make several different meals. Again, it’s tempting to buy premade meals, but when you’re trying to make a small amount like $25 stretch as far as possible, buying whole ingredients is a much better option. I had a coupon for some yogurt and knew I wanted to get a couple of cans of tuna, but aside from that, I was ready to see what Safeway had to offer me. I went through every aisle except the junk food aisles, since that just doesn’t appeal to me at all. I was both shocked by some things ($28 for 21-50 frozen shrimp???) and pleasantly surprised by others (grapes for $0.88/lb, snow peas for $1/lb, woohoo!). It wasn’t until I hit the meat department and found this crazy sale on some beef round tip strips that a recipe idea started to form in my head. Though I’d normally buy the whole cut of beef and cut it myself, this deal was way too good to pass up. Spotted some sweet treats here & there, picked up a bottle of vino for happiness & heart health, and I had myself the makings of an interesting week of non-TJ’s/farmer’s market food.

Here’s the shopping list:

Even with the mischarge on the snow peas and the splurges of cheese, wine, and ice cream, my total cost for my food was just about $26. I was one buck over and bought enough food to add to the little I had at home to have:

– A lovely beef & rice noodle dish I’m concocting as we speak

– Grilled cheese sandwiches

– Tuna salad

– Grapes & yogurt for a work snack

– Rice noodles & snow peas with tofu (which I had at home)

– A traditional Umbrian farro & beef dish I’ve been dying to try

– a nice low-cal, low-fat ice cream sandwich to help continue my voyage back into size 4 pants (I’ve lost 8lbs already, hooray!)

– some mystery dishes I haven’t even thought of yet!

I’ll admit this was a lot harder than a Trader Joe’s run, partly because I have their prices memorized, and partly because Safeway is just that much more expensive, even though everything – except for the rice noodles – was on sale. Still, with a little bit of planning and a keen eye, it is completely possible to buy a week’s worth of food for about 2 people or a couple week’s worth for one for about $25. And for just $7-8 more, the feline members of my family have a little gourmet feast of their own for about 2 weeks.

Stay tuned for the next edition of the $25 Shopping Cart! I won’t tell you where I’m going next, but trust me, this one will be a true exercise in savvy shopping!

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