Saturday, September 19, 2009

Budget Grocery Shopping Tips

Hunger Challenge 2009
Just yesterday the San Francisco Chronicle reported that unemployment has reached 12.2% in California, that's the highest it's been since 1976. That means more and more people are struggling to make ends meet. More and more people are facing hunger.

I'm lucky, I've never faced hunger. I've never used food stamps or gotten food from a food bank, but for the second year in a row, I'll be participating in the Hunger Challenge sponsored by the San Francisco Food Bank. It's an opportunity to try to gain a better understanding of the challenges that come with trying to eat 3 meals a day for only $4, the typical food budget of a food stamp recipient.

I've already gone shopping twice at Whole Foods, once for my own cooking and a second time with Sue Kwon of KPIX to help her as she takes on the challenge. This week I'll be sharing my experiences, tips and recipes. To kick things off, here are some of suggestions for how to save on groceries at Whole Foods:

+ Buy bulk, that way you can get as little as you need for recipes using ingredients such as nuts, legumes or grains.

+ Frozen vegetables are often a better value than fresh, especially when it comes to green peas, spinach and broccoli.

+ Use flavor boosters to help make bland foods taste better--try a little garlic, lemon zest or chili flakes.

+ It's perfectly ok to buy one stick of butter, even if you have to open a package to get it.

+ Look to the Whole Foods 365 brand for tremendous values. Best bets include peanut butter, pasta, and oatmeal.

+ Protein is expensive, but eggs are still a good bargain and can be purchased for under $3 a dozen.

+ Lentils are another cheap source of protein and cook quicker than other types of beans. Dry beans are always cheaper than canned beans.

+ One of the best bargains in the produce section is carrots at 99 cents per pound. Eat them raw in salad, cooked as a side dish, or add them to soups and stews.

Here is a great list of 50 Items Under $1.50 at Whole Foods compiled by Stephanie at Noshotopia. Not all the prices are still the same, but they are pretty close.