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

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?

This Post Has 31 Comments

  1. Margo

    I do compare price per pound – I keep my cell phone with me when I’m shopping because it has a calculator, and I whip it out a lot to check prices. I also consider how much nutrition a food has for the cost. I am willing to spend $1.25 on a pomegranate, like I did at the Asian store this week, because they are nutritious and will perk up our cheap lettuce salads.I also buy a lot of local food in bulk when the farmers at market are in the peak season. Right now, it’s bell peppers. I can get big bell peppers of all colors 4 for a $1. I chop them and freeze them. I can get big cabbages for $1-2. I ferment them into sauerkraut, or make them into a pepper cabbage (like coleslaw, only with vinaigrette) which freezes nicely.I must say, I never thought of comparing rice and pasta. However, I do rely on brown rice for most of our meals because of the increased nutrition. My family is very healthy, which prevents a lot of medical issues and expenses.

  2. Dear Miss Brandy and readers,I bought some pumpkins at the Farmer’s Market for $10. I got 32 cups of pumpkin puree out of what I have thus far. I still have a very large pumpkin (not orange) that weighs 25 pounds I am going to make puree from. I also noted at Aldi’s that canned pumpkin was 79 cents a 15 ounce can. I believe I did pretty well by buying in bulk and making my own puree. Fresh just taste so good. I used pumpkin puree today to make muffins.Happy bulk buying to everyone!Anna

  3. Anna

    Brandi,Just in case you don’t know there are quite a few varieties of endangered heirloom avacados that have different climate tolerances out there you just have to find them. Perhaps there is an heirloom that is more heat tolerant? I live in the high mountains of Central Idaho and I dream of a dwarf avacado that I could grow in my greenhouse I learned about the very sad avacado situation while researching a dwarf variety never did find one does anybody know of one? I grow bananas in my house as a fun houseplant for now. I got my seeds from Baker Creek rareseeds.com we get cute little pink bananas on them. IIf I could get some avacados it might make heating the greenhouse during the entire winter worth it.

  4. Jenny in Wales

    This is the recipe I use, which came from a blog, last year, sorry I don’t have the reference.Ranch dressingIngredients: .5 cup mayonnaise, .5 cup whole yogurt, .25 cup 2% milk, 2 tbsp. chopped celery leaves, 1.5 tbsp. chopped fresh dill, 1.5 tbsp. diced onion (sweet or red), 1 clove garlic, diced, 1 tsp. dijon mustard, 2 tsp. lemon juice salt and pepper to taste1.chop onion, garlic, dill and celery2. put everything in a bowl and whisk and chillA missionary asked if I could make it, they thought it tasted good.Jenny

  5. Celia

    I really want berries and asparagus but my husband said no since it would take up so much room and we are moving in three years. The second we move those suckers are going in.

  6. lpc

    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 🙂

  7. 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.

  8. Paula

    Hello, also in Arkansas (waving) !

  9. Shannon Mokry

    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 😀

  10. Athanasia

    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.

  11. Katie

    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!

  12. lpc

    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…

  13. Andrea Q

    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!

  14. Andrea Q

    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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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 🙂

  17. Tara

    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?

  18. Shannon Mokry

    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.

  19. Marysavingmoney

    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”.

  20. 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

  21. 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

  22. 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

  23. 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.

  24. 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?

  25. 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

  26. Marie

    Brandy, your posts are always helpful and, obviously, you know how to feed your family well by using a very disciplined method of food buying…but….and I’m not sure if you’ll see this comment a year later….I’m not sure why you worry as much about the price per lb of lettuce. It is a a highly nutritious, but very LIGHT vegetable. It seems that maybe a cost-per-serving method would be better in this instance….especially as it does not need to be the only component in your salad, but, rather, like the broth in soup, the thing that anchors it all together. Of course, your method of growing it yourself is cheapest, but, in general, I would not be afraid to purchase lettuce.

  27. Cynthia

    I purchase carrots, potatoes and onions because they are so cheap in my area ($.33, $.20 and $.11 respectively). I do think that the taste of homegrown carrots is a whole other thing. However, they don’t grow well in my soil and I am trying to slowly (and cheaply) build my soil, so for now I buy!

  28. Janet

    My staple vegetables are: potatoes, cabbage, onions, garlic, celery, carrots. These are usually the least expensive if I shop carefully. I plan our soups and vegetables around these 6 items. Also will buy other fresh veg. and fruit in season at lowest prices.

  29. MargaretP

    I so appreciate your post on comparing cost per pound. Last year I tried to explain this idea to a woman and she argued with me that I was wrong to do it that way! Later I realized she was a meat person and the idea of buying lots of rice or potatoes and veggies wasn’t something she was interested in. She tried to tell me she’d get more meals out of a pound of boneless chicken breasts than I could get out of pound of dry beans. That is until I pointed out that by cup you get less chicken when it’s cooked than beans when soaked and cooked.

  30. I know this blog post is from a million years ago, but I want to point out that Trader Joe’s has super cheap bananas. They’re 19¢ apiece, so you can pick and choose the biggest ones. I see that there are three Vegas stores, so I thought I’d let you know in case this skipped your notice.

    I will often stop in *just* for bananas as my husband eats 2-3 per day. Of course I always accept their samples while in store. I’ve even been known to stop in just for a single banana while out and about running errands if I get peckish.

    Here’s a a photo of my 19¢ meal:
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BygNQrMlBY-/

    1. Brandy @ The Prudent Homemaker

      Thanks Katy. They did build a location closer to me, but I’m rarely out, and that location is a bit further than I go for most shopping. I group my errands as much as possible to save both time and gas.

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