The $25 Shopping Cart, version 11.0

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Two $25 Shopping Carts in one month???

That’s right, folks! Since there will be two birthdays this month – mine and PGEW.com’s – my gift to you is a double dose of The $25 Shopping Cart this month. And it’s all thanks to an unexpected trip to WinCo after my farmer’s market run last week.

I didn’t intend to go to WinCo at all, especially not after already having spent $25 at ye olde farmer’s market. Not because I don’t like shopping or anything; one of my favorite sports IS shopping, so I will always go if I can afford to do so. But after having bought so much awesome produce, I didn’t think it was necessary to get anything else. Part of why my $25 Shopping Carts are so successful has to do with the fact that I pay very close attention to what I have at home before I go shopping so that I build around what I already have and avoid duplicates in the kitchen.

Usually.

The funny thing about food is that you end up eating it and it never restocks itself on its own (kinda like how money doesn’t just grow on trees… I’ve always hated that). I generally keep a tally of what bare bones staples are running low and pick them up along the way on bigger shopping trips so I can always have something on hand, but this time around I was running low on a lot of stuff. So when my pal, Catherine, mentioned she’d be heading to WinCo (a large discount grocery store chain in the western US) to pick up a few things from their bulk section, I figured it was a good time to tag along and get some bare-bones staples for my bare cupboards. Here’s what I got:

  • 0.77 lb spiral pasta – $0.59
  • 0.60 lb fusilli pasta – $0.47
  • 2 Ghiradelli white chocolate bar – $2.29
  • 1.69 lbs navy beans – $1.25
  • 0.62 lb melty vanilla chocolate pastilles – $1.41
  • 1.40 lb black beans – $1.19
  • 0.15 lb curry powder – $0.40
  • 0.24 lb sliced almonds – $0.80
  • 0.97 lb brown sugar – $0.63
  • 0.87 lb brown rice – $0.46
  • 1..11 lbs red kidney beans – $0.87
  • 0.43 lb Grated parmesan cheese – $1.62
  • 0.92 lb orzo – $0.69
  • 0.49 lb raisins – $0.73
  • 0.47 lb dried cranberries – $1.77
  • 1 lb bag frozen peas – $0.88
  • 1 lb bag frozen broccoli – $1.19
  • 1/2 gallon nonfat milk – $1.19
  • 32 oz. container Greek yogurt – $2.59
  • 2 cuts petite sirloin steak – $3.50

Minus some cat food ($0.39/can! StuKitty & Hana scored!) and some cleaning supplies, I spent a mere $24.58 on a veritable cornucopia of Bare Bones staples! Ahhh, happiness! I even scored some materials for a couple of baking projects I’ve been working on.

Now, it may not look like an exciting lot of goods to most folks, but what I see is a ton of possibilities. With a variety of grains and legumes in my pantry combined with all the great produce, I scored at the farmer’s market, I have the bases for things like:

  • Black Bean, Sweet Potato & Cranberry Salad
  • The Easiest 3-Bean Chili Ever
  • Red Quinoa & Broccoli Salad with Almond-Honey Vinaigrette
  • Curried Garbanzo Beans
  • Cheesy Broccoli, Cauliflower & Pasta Bake
  • Grilled Eggplant & Veggie Sandwiches
  • Heck, I can even make some Mandarin-Cranberry Thumbprint Cookies if I’m so inspired!

The sky’s really the limit when you’re stocked with whole ingredients that you can stretch out by making healthy, tasty, and sometimes even inventive combos. With just about $50, I was able to buy enough food to feed myself – and the occasional guest – for a good two-and-a-half to three weeks. Anything I don’t use produce-wise I can always freeze for use in future recipes. Had I gone the frozen dinner or pre-packaged meal “kit” route, my $50 would have been used up on maybe 1 week’s worth of food. Sure, those things may be tasty & convenient but when it comes to value, you’re not getting much at all. It takes a little effort, but when times are truly tough and money’s super tight, it’s best to give up a little bit of time & work in the kitchen to save yourself a lot of money.

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