What to Do When You Can’t Afford to Eat

Health foods

By Patricia L Johnson

The CPI (Consumer Price Index) released January 16, 2009, for the month of December 2008, indicates a decrease in the food index of 0.1 percent.  This is the first decrease in the food index since April of 2006.

That doesn’t mean much to the average person who is attempting to buy $100 worth of groceries with a wallet containing $50.

Food, energy and medical care in this country have skyrocketed during the past several years and doesn’t play favorites.  All of us, rich, poor and middle class have been hit with exorbitant prices for basic needs. 

So what can you do to stretch your food dollars? 

Where you purchase your groceries is just as important as what you purchase.  Do you often stop at a convenience store to pick up odds and ends because it’s convenient? 

Next time you stop at a convenience store take a look at the price of that loaf of bread, or bottle of detergent, or can of soup.  You’ll find they are considerably more than what you pay at your local grocery store.

But, what about that local grocery store? 

Most items are discounted once every 10-12 weeks, so buy when the item is on sale and buy enough to last 3 months.  That way you’ll run out just about the time the item goes back on sale.

If you have time clip store coupons and use them.  A few weeks ago I was behind a shopper who was able to cut $70.00 off her grocery bill by using coupons.  I was completely in awe of this wonder shopper.

After carrying around six manufacturer coupons in my coat pocket for three months I eventually gave them to my husband to buy dog biscuits when they were ‘on sale’.  Well, one out of two isn’t bad – he bought the dog biscuits but ignored the ‘on sale’ criteria.  Just because coupons don’t work at our house, doesn’t mean they won’t work at yours.

Don’t have any coupons?

There are several online sites that offer coupons for various products.  Searching for the right site with the right coupon takes time, but most of us have far more time than we do money so it can be very beneficial to the shopper on a tight budget to use coupon.

Use a specific product month after month?  Go to the manufacturer’s site and sign up for their newsletter.  If you’re lucky you’ll also receive a coupon or two in your mailbox.  The disadvantage to this method is you have to print out the coupons on your own printer, the advantage is manufacturer’s usually provide a deeper discount and a longer expiration date.

Do you belong to a wholesale club?

Major discounts are available by purchasing larger quantities at wholesale clubs.  I belong to Sam’s Club and have saved at least 10 times what the initial membership fee cost.

Can’t afford a wholesale club?

Try shopping at your local Aldi’s.  Aldi’s motto is ‘Incredible Value Every Day’.  Aldi’s is similar to a warehouse, without the need to buy in large quantities.  They have approximately 1,000 stores in 29 states and the only disadvantage is you have to bag your own groceries.  A small price to pay for the huge savings available.

In addition to the 1,400 items that are regularly stocked,  Aldi’s also has special purchase items with special pricing.  While the groceries are usually an off brand, which accounts for the huge discounts, the special purchase items are generally brand name products purchased in large quantities, providing you – the customer, with a lower price.

Last, but certainly not least, is Angel Food Ministries.   Angel Food Ministries is a non-profit, non-denominational organization providing discounted groceries to anyone that wants to cut their grocery bill in half.  There are no qualifications, minimums, income restrictions or applications.  EVERYONE is welcome to participate and food stamps are welcomed.

Angel offers a box of food for $30 containing both fresh and frozen items.  This same box if purchased at a retail store would cost you approximately $60.00.  The initial box of food is called a regular box and each month the items in the regular box change.  Once you have purchased your regular box of food, you are eligible to purchase additional boxes of specials.  Example – one of their February Specials is a Fresh Fruit and Veggie Box for $21.00.  Another is an Assorted Meat Box for $22.00.  For the month of February there are six separate special boxes you may purchase.

The drawback is you have to order and pay for these items in advance,  and then pick up on a specific date at your host site.

Angel Food Ministries has an area on their website where you insert your address and/or zip code and a map will pop-up providing you with detailed information on host sites in your area.

No host site in your neighborhood?  Talk to your church and or local community office about becoming a host site for distributing the food.

© 2009 Patricia L Johnson

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