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Eat for 40 Cents a Day: Part Nine: The Price Per Pound, or in Other Words, Comparing Apples to Oranges

Most people will compare the price per pound of meat. We'll eat chicken instead of beef because it costs less. We'll compare the price for meat on sale.

In my family, we eat a lot more turkey and ham bought on sale during the holidays because these are the lowest priced meats per pound. I can have meat a lot more often when I'm spending .69 a pound than when I'm spending $1.99 a pound, so I'll buy a lot more of the less expensive meat.

If you want to lower your grocery costs even more, compare the price per pound of everything that you purchase.

Rice is less per pound than pasta. On sale, I can find pasta between .50 a pound and $1 a pound. I can buy rice in bulk for .39 a pound all year long. By eating more rice than pasta, I can greatly reduce the cost of my meals. At this point my family will eat 1 1/2 pounds of pasta in a meal. Even if I purchased the pasta on sale for .50 a pound, the pasta cost me .75 for the meal, compared to .59 cents for the rice. At the higher sales amount of $1 a pound for pasta, the difference is $1.50 a meal compared to .59. However, I don't cook a pound and a half of rice a meal. I cook 2 1/2 cups of dried rice, which is 1.14 pounds. That's only .44 for the meal, instead of .75.

When potatoes go on sale in the fall for .10 to .20 a pound, I'll buy lots of potatoes. I usually only purchase them at .10 a pound, buy buying russets on sale in November. My family eats 50 pounds of potatoes in a week from November through February. At .10 a pound, I'm spending $5 a week for 50 pounds of food.

Bulk oats (around $14.50 to $15.35 for a 25 pound bag) are another great food that doesn't cost much per pound. At $15.35, they are .61 per pound. Last year Winco had them on sale for less than $10 a bag in the fall. We normally have oatmeal 3 mornings a week for breakfast.

Bulk dried beans run around .65 to $1 per pound.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, I'll look at what is the lowest in-season price per pound. Instead of deciding that I want to buy apples, I'll choose fruit based on what is the lowest price.

If a store has apples on sale for .79 a pound and oranges on sale for .39 a pound, I'll buy oranges, and lots of them. I know the oranges can last a few months in my refrigerator, so I won't hesitate to buy 40 pounds (or even 80 pounds).

If the sale is oranges for $1 a pound and apples for .50 a pound, then I'll buy 40 (or more) pounds of apples instead (which will also last for months in the refrigerator).

If I really want to have both apples and oranges, I'll buy some of both, but I'll only buy a small amount of the more expensive fruit.

The least expensive fruit options are going to depend on what is in season, as well as what prices you normally see where you live. Some readers have commented that they can always find bananas for .39 a pound. Where I live, a normal price for bananas is .59 a pound to .79 a pound. This means that I don't buy a lot of bananas, but if I lived where they were .39 a pound, I would buy a lot more if they were my least expensive option.

I evaluate vegetables in the same way. For me, this usually means purchasing a large amount of a particular vegetable to blanch and freeze (such as broccoli and bell peppers), buying it already frozen on a seasonal sale (such as peas, which I usually buy in November on sale), or buying it canned on sale. Onions and winter squash are two things that I can buy on sale in the fall and keep for many months in my pantry. I usually look for onions to go on sale for .20 a pound, and winter squash for .79 a pound.  (I usually grow butternut squash in my garden instead of purchasing it, but this year and last year I haven't had a single squash grow).

Carrots are a vegetable that I can find for the same price all year round. I used to buy these at Sam's Club for .39 a pound in a 5 pound bag, until Sam's switched to organic carrots at .79 a pound in a 3 pound bag. At that point I started looking around again for a lower price on carrots. Winco ended up being the solution for me. They carry 2 pound bags at .44 a pound. On closer examination, I found that they carried 10 pound bags for .39 a pound. Ten pounds of carrots for $3.90 sure beats buying a pound of baby carrots for $1! I have found that at .39 a pound, we'll eat a lot more carrots, cut up for pasta salad, cut up for dip made with homemade Greek yogurt, and put in several soups, including Tomato Basil soup (which uses 10 carrots).

Lettuce is quite expensive per pound, which is why I think lettuce is one of the best crops to grow at home. In a week or so as the temperatures cool down, I'll be planting a fall crop of lettuce in my garden.

Pomegranates from my garden
Pomegranates, figs, apricots and blackberries are very expensive where I live. I don't purchase them at all. I only grow them in my garden (I have also gleaned pomegranates on three different occasions). The more produce I have in my garden, the lower my costs will be. This year I added 9 fruit trees to our garden. In the front yard, I added 3 Meyer lemons, an Early Elberta peach, a Katy apricot (this ripens 3-4 weeks earlier than the Royal Blenheim apricot in my backyard, which means I'll have fresh apricots twice), and a lime. On my back patio, I added two orange trees and a pomegranate in pots. The pomegranates above are from this new tree.

What produce do you buy more often because it is less expensive per pound? Do you grow the more expensive items in your garden?

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Tagged in: 40 Cents a Day


  • The Prudent Homemaker August 17, 2014

    Fruit trees at our local nursery usually go on sal...

    Fruit trees at our local nursery usually go on sale for $20 each. Thinking of how you can save $20--not going out to eat a meal out, if you do that; not replacing clothing and wearing what you have a few more months or even longer, mending it if need be; doing without some things and making do using what you have; eating more homemade soup and bread to cut $20 off your grocery bill that month; running the a/c less in summer or going longer before running the heater in winter, selling some used items on Craig's list or at a garage sale, etc.It may be that you can just add one or two trees a year, but each year, you buy more trees.Also, here is a post I wrote on choosing fruit trees that you might find helpful when you are able to buy some trees:http://theprudenthomemakerblog.blogspot.com/2014/04/choosing-fruit-trees-for-your-garden.html

  • Katie-Annie Haydock August 17, 2014

    I would love to grown more fruit but just can'...

    I would love to grown more fruit but just can't afford to buy the fruit trees. Any tips on how you manage to invest?

  • The Prudent Homemaker October 18, 2013

    The problem here is the heat. The gardening classe...

    The problem here is the heat. The gardening classes that I took from the extension service said that it's too hot here for them.

  • Preppy Pink Crocodile October 18, 2013

    And Anna- there are actually cold hardy avacados. ...

    And Anna- there are actually cold hardy avacados. You can grow them in pots, too. I forget where they are sold but I know I've seen them noted in several places. Do a search for cold hardy avacados and you will find them.KK

  • Preppy Pink Crocodile October 18, 2013

    I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, FL and there were av...

    I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, FL and there were avacado and mango trees everywhere. I'm surprised they won't grow in Vegas. KK @ Preppy Pink Crocodile

  • Preppy Pink Crocodile October 18, 2013

    You likely already do this but a few years ago I s...

    You likely already do this but a few years ago I started weighing xlb bags. So if a bag of potatoes is a set price per bag and I plan to buy one bag, I will grab three and weigh them. They are always different weights because the rule is that they need to be at least that stated x lb weight. I've found bags of veg that weigh close to one lb more. As it's a set price, you get more for your money if you weigh a few and put back those that weigh less.I used to feel self-conscious about doing this (I still did it mind you...but I felt funny) until about six months ago someone in the produce aisle complimented me. Now I try to encourage all of my friends to do it. It won't save you any $ as these things are set prices, but it will often lead you to take home a little bonus weight!KK @ Preppy Pink Crocodile

  • Marysavingmoney October 03, 2013

    Shannon, I've been reading Stark Brothers nurs...

    Shannon, I've been reading Stark Brothers nursery "plant or tree manual" online. It gives a pretty good description on when and how you should prune trees or berry plants. I pruned my first plum tree today! EEEEEKKKK! The manual says "some pruning" is better than none. I try to keep that in mind.Oh and I live in zone 9. I purchased dwarf trees and plan to purchase dwarf peach and nectarine trees, and raspberry and grape plants later this month. The manual also says or I read elsewhere "dwarf trees produce fruit faster".

  • Shannon Mokry October 02, 2013

    Andrea, My apple tree is 2 yrs old now and my pear...

    Andrea, My apple tree is 2 yrs old now and my pear is one year, I live in zone 9 or the bottom of 8, really I am hopefull to get fruit of any amount by year 4, they are so tiny though I know all the energy now is going to leaves and branch growth. I know pruning helps with getting fruit too, but I have no idea how to prune, I am hoping my dad will come visit and clue me in.Jennifer I didn't realize I get pumpkin that cheap earthier until I started watching the clearance shelf at my grocery stores, in my area they all seem to have a huge surpluss in January they want to offload.

  • Tara October 02, 2013

    okay, do you buy fresh or frozen turkey and do you...

    okay, do you buy fresh or frozen turkey and do you buy a certain brand? how about ham? bone-on or boneless and a certain brand? how do you cook that?

  • Jennifer Thompson October 01, 2013

    I know it is hard to believe but it is true, when ...

    I know it is hard to believe but it is true, when you start to buy bulk, make at home and use what you have on hand your imagination goes up and you start seeing things as possibilities, not hindrances. I started to save veggie water, the leftover bits of grains and veggies, and the juices that meat was cooked in and I started to throw it together with a few other things in the crock pot to make a soup for lunch the next day, add biscuits and my family thinks that they are in heaven. All stuff that I would have previously thrown out, except for the biscuits, of course :)

  • Jennifer Thompson October 01, 2013

    Shannon, we can never buy pumpkin for that price! ...

    Shannon, we can never buy pumpkin for that price! I wait till Halloween is nearly here and then I try to scoop up the last of the unwanted pumpkins for a dollar a pumpkin. Cans are always over $2. For pumpkin puree I roast the pumpkin on the rind and then scoop it off when its soft enough, and cool enough :), then I blend it with enough water to blend well or you could use an immersion blender. Freeze it in Ziploc bags at the amount that you need for your recipe. If it is a bit watery when defrosted just let it sit in the bag while it defrosts and then drain off the excess water that collects at the top. It's a great way to preserve pumpkin for muffins and loaves. My mom used it for years with her pies.Good Luck!

  • Andrea Q September 30, 2013

    In my zone (5), it takes 7 years for a well-tended...

    In my zone (5), it takes 7 years for a well-tended apple or pear to produce a significant amount of fruit. I have a long wait!

  • Andrea Q September 30, 2013

    I freeze zucchini every year for use in casseroles...

    I freeze zucchini every year for use in casseroles, soups and tomato sauce. It saves a lot of money to buy it in the summer when it is plentiful!

  • lpc- September 30, 2013

    We really enjoyed living on the "wet" si...

    We really enjoyed living on the "wet" side of Washington. The only thing that was so tough for me (I grew up in CO) was no sun. The rain didn't bother me but the gray sky for 9 months out of the year was a killer. It was perpetual fall to me and I cooked and baked and cooked and baked. Needless to say I gained way to much weight LOL But loved the different cultures. Loved being able to still grow tomatoes in November.. I could go on...

  • Katie September 30, 2013

    I've grown more from my garden this year than ...

    I've grown more from my garden this year than any year. I've even had enough to preserve. It taught me two things: 1. Food tastes MUCH better fresh from the garden. I want to eat more this way. 2. Preserving what I grow tastes (in most cases) much better than what I bought "fresh". My favorite preservation trick I learned this year was storing tomatoes in the freezer. They fall apart as soon as thawed, but make a very fresh addition for sauces and soups. I'll be growing many more tomatoes next year!So! I'm trying to eat in season from the grocery store, grow more of my own, and preserve more from each of those fresher sources. What I buy from the store is much more often purchased in season. It's just getting too expensive and tasteless to do otherwise!

  • Athanasia September 30, 2013

    I bought 2 pomegranates so far this fall, only tim...

    I bought 2 pomegranates so far this fall, only time they show up here. They were 2.99 each, but unlike say a banana which is eaten by one person usually, the pomegranates are split up over several people and several meals. We like to add them to salads or sprinkle a few seeds (arils?) on a bowl of yogurt and granola to name a few.They are usually quite large too like a softball. I will probably get a couple more over the short season. Pears are not too expensive here if you buy the basics. They are on sale now for .99/lb but I have bought none as this must be a bumper year for local pears. I have had 3 offers of pears, which I accepted from 3 separate places. Normally I just pick some from an aunt's tree, enough to make pear mincemeat for one pie and a couple batches of canned pints. We like pears with cottage cheese. I put a brown bag full of them in the fridge to keep them from ripening and save for later.

  • Shannon Mokry September 30, 2013

    My garden did much better this year than ever befo...

    My garden did much better this year than ever before, I even planted some really old carrot seeds 2 weeks ago, and they sprouted! Not all of them of course but quite a few, I am thinking about going and getting some more seeds and planting them when I take out my tomato plants. Next year I will not bother with tomatoes. We just don't care for fresh tomatoes and don't get nearly enough to make sauce. Instead I am going to split my space between cucumbers and peppers, those are things we eat and will actually save us money.We have planted two trees, one is a 2 in 1 apple and the other is a 2 in 1 pear, they are both very young so we won't see fruit even next year, but I am hopeful for the year after.I have tried to make pumpkin puree but it seems to wet, is there a trick to making it nice and thick, or how to use homemade purree that is different than canned? All three of my girls like pumpkin muffins, I usually get canned pumkin on clearance in Jan when the stores are just trying to get rid of the surplus, I'll get the cans for .25-.75 for a 15- 28 oz can. I will buy them out at .25 :D

  • Paula September 30, 2013

    Hello, also in Arkansas (waving) !

    Hello, also in Arkansas (waving) !

  • The Prudent Homemaker September 30, 2013

    I've seen pictures of the desert side of Washi...

    I've seen pictures of the desert side of Washington and Oregon, and it is still so much greener than here, where we get 2" of rain a year in the north end of town, and 4" a year downtown.Plus it is so much cooler than here.That said, we would love to move to Washington, but not to the desert side. We've done desert living for almost our entire lives and even a greener desert than here isn't what we would prefer. However, God wants us here, so here we are.

  • lpc- September 30, 2013

    Most people think Oregon is Green, soil is black a...

    Most people think Oregon is Green, soil is black and has mild weather ! When in fact 2/3 of the state is considered high desert. Very dry and not many trees. Lots of severe wind storms and we do get some dustings of snow but we also do get some snowfall that would shut everything down (7+ inches) . Water is precious to the 2/3 of the state. I lived in this area for 11 years and it was incredible talking to somone over the phone (business) and the minute you said Oregon their thoughts were green green green... Boy were they shocked to hear what it is really like. The description you gave does exist but mainly on the west coast. BTW Washington state is pretty much the mirror image of Oregon when it comes to climate !!! ( I lived on the green side in WA for many years too) Arkansas living now :)

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