• Personally speaking….

    Just the thoughts and cookings of a software engineer that likes to make foodstuffs from time to time in the bay area of California.
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    How to get to Amici's from the hotel

    My first food truck experience.

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Produce vs Meat at the cash register

I made up my menu last week and went shopping for it. I balked at paying over $2 for a bunch of collards. They were beautiful though but still were over $2! My mom and I were chatting about how expensive food is and she said that she leaves with one bag of food and it’s over $50. I barely get to $50 and if I do then it’s usually because I’m stocking up or doing a whole bunch of different cooking — like all this vegan baking I did this weekend. So, why do I think it’s so expensive?

I guess I forgot that meat bargains are $3+ a pound and that includes — perhaps — bones and fat which weights more than a couple of stems.

The Deal Sale/lb Normally/lb Where
Half Boneless Pork Loin 2.27 3.99 Food Lion
Holly Farms Whole Fryers .89 1.19 Food Lion
Food Lion Frozen Vegetables 1.00 (32 ounce bag) 1.20 Food Lion
Yellow Onions .83 (3 lb bag) .99 Food Lion
Carrots .69 (2 lb bag) .84 Food Lion

So, the vegetables are cheaper, but who can have a meal of just carrots? Not me. But there were many a night where I had just a meal of chicken. Well, it’s true.

Greens are in season right now. I’m surprised I don’t see any on sale.

Local grocery sales with a little web help

Organic Produce Since I now have this goal of cooking at least one recipe from one of the cookbooks in my stash, I’m going to need to plan. This semester is going to kick my rear both in body and pocket. One of the wonderful things about keeping an eye on what’s in season is usually that’s what is on sale.

I usually look through the local sale circulars online but recently ran across mygrocerydeals.com which pulls circulars together for me — for free. I’ve tried some other sites that do this but they charge. When I first checked the site out, it only pulled the circular from one of my neighborhood stores. Now, it has a pretty good selection, including some circulars I can’t find online. Not sure how they do that!

According to their site, these seem to be the best buys, produce-wise:

  • Apple, Red or Golden Delicious, Virginia Grown or Organic, Kroger. $1.00/pound (Normally $[censored]/pound)
  • Asparagus, Farm Fresh. $1.99/pound (Normally $3.99/pound)
  • Green Beans, Farm Fresh. $1.99/pound
  • Cabbage, Kroger. $.39/pound
  • Greens (Kale, Collards, Mustard), Farm Fresh. $.88/pound (Normally $1.99/pound)

I wonder if I should hit Trader Joe’s then swing by Kroger and Farm Fresh on the way home. Trader Joe’s is about 10 minutes away. Kroger and Farm Fresh are in the same shopping center.

Now that I know where the cheap is, it’s time to pick the dishes!

Vote and get free food!

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Get a free Krispy Kreme donut and scoop of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Guess that means we should vote early to make sure and get the foodstuffs before they close! 😉

Update: Starbucks is giving out free coffee for voters. Thank you Mindi!

Update too: More local freebies at Sonic and California Taco.

Review: Wesabe.com

Like many, I want to get a handle on my budget (or lack thereof). Overall, my spending is good. I save. I don’t charge a lot that I don’t pay off monthly. I do have some old debt though that I would like to be rid of.

utilities
Wesabe. I can burrow down on the graph and see in one spot how much I spent on the tag “utilities.”

I have used Google docs to make a budget. I have tried a Mac application called Moneydance to download my statements and tag them. I heard of mint.com and wesabe.com. I checked out mint.com but ended up putting my life in wesabe.com.

Why Wesabe?

Both touted their security features which was a major concern of mine. Both had a pleasing layout and seemed easy to use. Both have charting features which is nice to see how much of the pie *** goes to the mortgage.

Tags. Community. Those two together are a fantastic combination. Basically, if I upload my bank statement and it has 30 entries from 23104005-WAS-T-M-234133 that means nothing to me. The tool converts it to something understandable if it knows it, and it builds on other people’s input. Maybe Jane Smith uses that company too and it then becomes “Waste Management” for me and suggests tags that others have used like “bills, utilities, household” which helps me later.

Also, there’s a goal feature but I’m not too keen on it yet. I tried adding a goal of paying down the debt but it didn’t give me the carrot I was hoping for. For example, if I have 2 credit cards with one at 9% and one at 3%, I would like it to tell me to pay down the 3% and how much to pay to get it paid off by November 2009. And if I pay extra, what that does. I’ve seen these calculators elsewhere and it’d be nice to have it rolled into one. Maybe it exists and I haven’t seen it on the site.

I also like the community aspect other than the help with tagging and changing my entries into human-readable formats. There are areas for saving on lunch, home improvement, and paying down debt. The other users in the same boat as I am offer up suggestions that have worked for them.

Wesabe groups

The major reason I like it is because I can combine my one credit card and my bank statement together so that I can see all purchases of a certain type together. For example, I use the card that I pay off monthly to charge to get the points. But sometimes I have to write checks (go figure). It’s nice to see how much I spent on memberships for 2008 from both locations in one place. It’s very easy! Import. Import. Tag. Click. And there it is! Lovely.

*** Great visual calculator of what we should have pie-wise: http://www.cnbc.com/id/26641187/.

Saving by menu planning


Image: Daniel Y. Go

I tried The Grocery Game for a $1 trial. Pretty neat idea. If I actually visited the site and did what she said to do, I can definitely see how I’d save in the long run. But I tend to shop at one store, with maybe a quick stop at a couple on the way home if they have a really good deal on meat or produce.

I have a subscription to E-mealz but haven’t really been keeping up with that either. The Walmart menu has prices on it and they say they make up menus based on sales. I get a generic points one.

Finding the circulars online
I usually visit the stores’ sites directly. Also, there’s: Sunday Saver. Unfortunately, some stores don’t list grocery sales in their online ads. For example, Walmart.

Update the price sheet
I have a price sheet in Google docs’ spreadsheet. I input prices that look low to me and keep them categorically.

Date Store Category Item Total weight Units Price Price per Weight unit Price a pound Notes
4/22/2008 Food Lion Meat Chicken breast, frozen 2.5 pound 6.99 2.80 pound

I also have a notes column and an extra column for pound. Like when cans of green beans are on sale, they are X per ounce. I then take the X and multiply it by 16 so I can see price per pound. I do this on frozen meals and canned vegetables mostly.

Before I started this, I thought that those big bags of flash frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts were always a better deal. Nope. Especially now that I’ve learned how to freeze stuff better.

Highlight the good deals
If there’s a great meat deal based on the previous prices, then I stock up a bit. Not too much since I am cooking for one or two max. If there’s a great produce deal, I use that as inspiration.

Farmers’ Markets
I had previous plans Saturday so missed out on the local market but hopefully I can hit it up next weekend. I bought less veggies this last grocery shopping trip because I knew we’ve got lots of local seasonal produce to purchase and use!

Coupons
This is a major weakness of mine that I hope to improve upon. I clip coupons from the paper when I get it, file them and forget them. I haven’t utilized the plethora of online coupon sites but should. It’s a really kick in the pants when I get home to find that there was a $1 (or more!) coupon for something I just bought. Here’s some great tips on coupons (that I hope to do m’self!): So where can you find the coupons?

Dilemma: Buying locally vs Having money

Yorktown Market I, like many others, have a dilemma when it comes to buying locally. I want to buy locally. I prefer the taste. I prefer the idea of it. I, however, don’t prefer the cost in both price tag and gas to get there. What to do!

I check the grocery store sales to save there in order to splurge on locally grown foods. Lately, when I travel up to farmers’ markets to find no produce or produce that makes me feel like they purchased to sell it. This weekend, however, the market about 30 minutes away is promising produce.

All these thoughts keep leading me back to one solution: grow it myself. But, even that, is expensive. The soil isn’t expensive and neither are the plants. My time, however, is very expensive! I also don’t like to work outside when it’s over 90 degrees outside. My neighbor has a large garden. He’s also retired. I have no “free” time when I factor in both job and school work loads. Not to mention all the normal necessities like cleaning, cooking, and sleep.

How does one do it? Should I spend 30+ minutes on the road weekly to get to the best (that I’ve seen) farmers’ market to buy a few vegetables for one or two people? Gas is getting near $4 here. I nearly fainted yesterday when I filled my car up. I’d start to have heart problems if I had to gas up more than twice a month.

Dilemma. Yep. Big ol’ dilemma. Advice welcome.

Yorktown’s “Market Days at the River”

Yorktown Market

Checked out Yorktown’s “Farmers'” Market today. The quotes are because most of the vendors I saw were baked goods or other such things. There were a few meat vendors including the above seafood vendor with live softshell crabs. I saw at least one flower vendor. There was a big flat cart of produce crates but by the time I got there most were empty. Note to self: Don’t go after 10:00 a.m. It was also very bright and it made photographing stuff difficult since I couldn’t see.

As with Williamsburg’s Farmers’ Market, there were lots of dogs. Since this market was on the river, there were also oodles of families with small children. I enjoyed the art and the rest of what the area had to offer. I hope that the next time I visit that there’ll be more produce vendors.