Costco Is Expensive – Day 41: Eating Well On $1 A Day


I have always been a big Costco fan and of the limited shopping I had done before beginning this challenge, I would say that most of it was done there. I had to make a run to Costco today to get some non food items, but that didn't stop me from taking a few minutes to look around at the prices. I instantly realized how expensive Costco really is compared to shopping sales with coupons.

Granted, Costco is a lot more convenient and does give a good discount if you compare it to normal grocery store retail prices, but it would be difficult for me to buy much there on the $1 a day budget since it all has to be purchased in bulk (this is especially true since I am doing this only for myself — if i was doing a challenge where there were more mouths to feed, Costco could be a good place to get some food in quantity). It just goes to show that the more aware you are of prices that you can get on certain foods (and I am still learning a lot in this area), the more control you are in getting good deals when they come about and not simply paying what the “normal” price is.

I did go on my morning walk and was able to find a few more blackberries that had ripened (it is supposed to get hot this weekend and there are a lot of flowers all over the blackberry plants, so I am hopeful that I will be swimming in them in a couple of weeks) and I also found a raspberry plant where I was able to get a few raspberries as well:

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This is part of a continuing challenge to eat well while spending an average of only $1 a day on food. You can find the beginning and the rules of this challenge here

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wild blackberries

back berries and raspberries

I think that I will head to the library this weekend and see if I can borrow a book on local edible plants (something that I know absolutely nothing about) to see what might be available to me.

Breakfast

For my early morning meal, I decided to use a banana that was beginning to brown along with my blackberry find to see if I could make a fruit smoothie. I simply placed 5 ice cubes, the banana and a handful of blackberries into a blender:

fruit smoothie day 41

and was rewarded with this:

fruit shake day 41

I was concerned that it might be a bit sour, but it turned out to be amazingly good. If I can have one of these each day during the summer, I am going to be really, really happy — and why I am anxiously waiting for the blackberries to ripen.

I am also happy to announce that I am finally getting the hang of cooking potatoes (I was getting worried there for a bit). This time I cubed them and fried them up with an egg and a piece of whole wheat toast on the side. I did use up my last bit of salsa which is something that I will need to replenish if possible. I also had a bowl of Cheerios with the raspberries that I had found on top:

breakfast day 41

Lunch

I still have the chicken deli meat so I decided to use that. I put that on whole wheat bread, added a bit of grated cheese, put a bit of oil in a pan and made a toasted chicken and cheese sandwich. I also cooked up an ear of corn and had half of that with a large handful of tortilla chips. I also decided to try the South Beach Living S’mores Fiber Fit bar sample I had received (overly sweet for me):

lunch day 41

Dinner

I decided to put some of the ingredients I had into a recipe search engine to see if there were any recipes that looked appealing and wouldn't take an overly long time to prepare. I found something for called Avgolemono that I decided to try and immediately came to some conclusions:

1) I should not try and cook things that I have never heard of before.

2) I should not try to cook things I can't even pronounce.

3) I need step by step photos with my recipes.

4) Since it is already obvious that I have no clue what I am doing, I should follow the directions and not try to improvise.

I took the rice out of the Hamburger helper package (about a half cup)and cooked it in two cups of water adding a cube of the chicken flavor bouillon. Since I had a little broccoli and carrot that I had steamed left, I decided to add that to the rice. I then took an egg and squeezed the juice of one of my foraged lemons into that and mixed it up. I added a bit of the hot bouillon to the egg / lemon mixture, mixed it up some more before adding it to the rice. I let it cook a little more and this is what I came up with:

dinner day 41

I definitely put too much lemon in it as it had a slight sour taste to it (I don't mind sour, but this was a bit too much). I have no idea if I even came close to making what I was supposed to be making. It was edible and I did eat it all, but I think I should stick with some more basic recipes that I actually understand for the time being.

I need to get to the grocery store again and I hope I can find a bit of time to do that tomorrow…

This is the current list of what I have purchased:

Money Spent $34.27
Money left to spend: $26.73 ($1.51 must be spent at CVS)
Retail Value of everything bought: $754.94

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The Beginning ::: Day 42: Time Consuming

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23 Responses to Costco Is Expensive – Day 41: Eating Well On $1 A Day

  1. Honey says:

    You are going to freeze your foraged berries in individually-serving-sized Ziplocs, yes?

    Do you count the cost of storage devices such as baggies and tupperware towards the cost of food?

  2. Amy says:

    Berries you pick but can’t use right away can be frozen for future smoothies and to make topping for pancakes, etc. They’re a different texture after freezing, but will still work great for most things you’ve used them for so far.

  3. I’m really enjoying following your journey. You have shown me that I too can find things to donate to those in need, even when on a limited budget. Thank you for that.

    I just wanted to let you know that when making rice it’s a 1:2 ratio. As in 1 cup or rice to 2 cups of water, or in this case 1/2 c rice to 1 c water.

  4. patientsaver says:

    Berry season arrives here in July, and i have huge thickets of berries (wineberry and blackberry) out back but we have tons of ticks here, too. I usually put my hip boots on to get in there.

    I hope to freeze tons of berries.

  5. jeffrey says:

    @Honey

    One of my biggest problems is that I travel a lot and don’t have much refrigerator or freezer space – I will do some freezing, but won’t be able to do nearly as much as most people could. I’ve not reached the point that I have needed to use more storage containers than I already had on hand 9and haven’t put this against the food budget), although I could probably get that for cheaply as well — there was recently a catalina and coupon deal where you could get the nice Ziploc smart snap containers (4 per package for $0.24)

  6. Monkey Mama says:

    I was going to say – I throw bananas in the freezer when they start to go brown (for smoothies, later). Actually, I chop them up and then freeze – to use instead of ice. I much prefer frozen fruits for smoothies, than ice. In general, yogurt, frozen fruits, non-frozen fruits, milk, juice, etc., go a long way to make smoothies (just mix and match). I’d freeze whatever fruit you have room for.

    I think bananas go a long way to keep the “sour” down in some smoothies. Maybe the ice helped, too.

    I haven’t quite figured out how to save money at Costco. I always thought once we had kids we’d utilize it more, but haven’t found the cost savings, even with 4 of us. I am no super couponer, but we tend to do much better with light couponing and sales at the local grocery store.

  7. Kelli says:

    It sounds like (and looks like) you came pretty close to how avgolemono (egg & lemon soup) is supposed to be!

  8. Jenelle says:

    If you need the storage containers there is also a $5 mail in rebate when you buy 4, making it a money maker! You can submit for the rebate 3x.

  9. Ryan says:

    I am curious if I could possibly up your challenge a bit.

    I spend $710 a month on groceries for my wife and two small children. I know, it’s terrible. We don’t even eat out (to my wife’s disappointment). The difficulty to even doing couponing is that we keep a kosher diet (we’re Jewish), and eat organic (minimally processed foods and avoidance of ingredients that can’t be pronounced by the average human on the first try).

    I just don’t know if someone could actually keep a kosher diet and eat a semi-organic diet for 31 days for a dollar or two a day, or even five.

    Multiply that by a family of four, and you see the pickle I’m in.

    I’m also not alone. I know many poor Jewish families in the same predicament, with many resorting to eating food that is processed and very bad health wise. As I’ve been fond of saying, “just because it’s kosher, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.”

    Any ideas? I personally think my situation is the toughest food budget challenge on the face of the planet short of a medically-necessary restrictive diet. Up to the challenge?

    If anyone could pull off feeding a family of four on a kosher semi-organic diet on less than $8 a day for a month (or the equivalent of $2 a day per person), I think they would be the food budget king of the planet.

  10. Zoe says:

    You’ll want to see if you can get some garlic or onions. That will add a world of flavour to your meals. Also, perhaps look up some omelette (sp?) recipes. Ommelettes are not hard to do, I’m sure you’ll be able to pull them off. Eat with some greens and/or potatoes. Come on, even you can do that!

  11. jeffrey says:

    @Jenelle

    Woohoo – thank you. I already sent in one but just assumed there was a one per household limit (I should know better). Since I already have plenty of qualifying receipts from other money makers, that will give me a little extra money for this challenge. Much appreciated on the heads up.

  12. Dawn says:

    Been reading your journey here- it’s fascinating. However, as I was reading, I wondered- you say you don’t like to, or even know how to cook. What did you do before this challenge? Were you eating prepared meals? Eating out all the time?

  13. Jennifer says:

    You can get a #10 can of tomatoes for around $3 at Costco (this is like the huge coffee can size). If you saute an onion then add the whole can to a large pot then add any seasonings you have you can easily get a month’s worth of tomato sauce to add to pasta or any number of things. Costco’s Italian seasonings are around $2.50 I think. Garlic & fresh basil would make it even better.

  14. Melissa says:

    I love the $3 crushed tomatoes at Costco. I also bought the HUGE bag of bread flour, the gallon of olive oil, the huge bag of pepperoni and the largest loaf of mozzarella we can find. There’s a Costco Business Center near our house, and I splurged for the restaurant-sized parchment paper as well.

    I make pizza from scratch, and Costco brings my total cost per medium pizza right into the $1 each range. If we leave off the pepperoni, the cheese pizza is somewhere like 60 cents each. Now, there’s a bit of time sunk into making pizza from scratch, but I’ve gotten it down to the point that my active time is ranging right around an hour to make a week’s worth of crusts for us (I par-bake them in batches, so it’s like home-made Boboli that we just pull out of the fridge).

    I know, I know – pepperoni pizza is not the healthiest meal around! We don’t stick to pepperoni though (I like to repeat meals over and over, but not to that extreme). In the winter, we add winter squash, frozen spinach, mushrooms, etc. In the spring and summer, we go crazy with fresh items on the pizza. Whatever we get in our CSA or at the farmer’s market generally makes its way onto my home-made crusts. My current favorite is to skip the normal toppings, brush a crust with olive oil and then add washed spinach and goat cheese. The spinach wilts down in the oven and you’ve got a great, fresh, healthy pizza going on!

    I’ve thought about writing up a cost breakdown for the pizza I do, and you’ve inspired me to post that on my blog this week!

  15. Tink says:

    I like Sam’s Club more then Costco, the yearly fee is less and they have more of the things that althought not as cheap as sales with coupons, are a lot less then buying when you can’t find a great sale on them. Of course, with a family and a large freezer it is easy to use all of a container. But, they still have a number of things that are worth it even if you cann’t eat them all like 16 servings of salad mix for what 4 servings (i.e. small bag) cost in grocery stores. Even with sales and coupons in a grocery store it would cost more 90% of the time in my area, and any that doesn’t get ate goes to be composted.

  16. jeffrey says:

    @Dawn

    I snacked a lot. I ate out a lot. I’d eat lots of leftovers when visiting family and friends. I also travel quite a bit so I did end up eating out most of the time on my trips. Not the healthiest way to eat (although I snacked on fruit and nuts quite a bit), but it’s the reality…

  17. Dana says:

    Rumor has it that Safeway has made some substantial changes to its coupon policy. One change that I find interesting is, “Safeway will accept valid Catalina manufacturer coupons that are issued to a customer by another retailer. ”

    I’ve seen this change mentioned on several blogs, including here: http://www.savingcentswithsense.net/2010/06/safeway-new-coupon-policy-valid-6710/

    I don’t know if it’s statewide or chain-wide, so everyone might want to contact their local Safeway to find out their latest policies.

  18. mclatchy says:

    Just discovered your blog last night i must say i’m impressed! This is fascinating stuff, i live in the UK and we don’t have blinkies here or catalinas as far as i know, but i am interested in investigating whether something like this would be feasible in this country! Have a few cooking tips for you: Baked potatoes – Pierce the potato right through a few times with a skewer or fork, and if you can rub a little oil or salt into the skin before cooking. Microwave on full power for 4-5 minutes depending on the size of the potato and then put in a hot oven for 35-40 minutes. It should come out with thick crispy skin and lovely fluffy insides! If you cook the potato for a little less time in the oven it is possible to cut it into wedges and then shallow fry them in a pan with a little oil until they are golden brown. Presto you have nice perfectly cooked potato wedges! It has been mentioned before but making a simple dough out of flower salt water and yeast is a simple way of making flat breads and pizza bases, you can use wholewheat flower if you want to be healthy!. Also, a few tomatoes and a little onion and garlic and herbs (whatever you have) will give you a great sauce for pasta and pizzas for pennies too. I won’t post detailed recipes for the dough or sauce as there are millions of websites that will do a much better job than me! Good luck with your challenge you are doing a great job!

  19. Pingback: Eating Well On $1 A Day - Grocery Coupon Guide

  20. Morfydd says:

    I wouldn’t add the vegetables to avgolemono – it’s supposed to be just an easy rice/lemon/broth soup. And it is usually a bit sour, but I like that.

    This is definitely inspiring. Time to go make avgolemono!

  21. Ranelle says:

    I’m re-reading your blog and loving it again. Your blog is what got me into couponing and I have been able to save alot of money! So many thanks. I make smoothies almost everyday and one thing I love to do is freeze the bananas. They become super sweet and creamy! Looking forward to your next challenge!

  22. jeffrey says:

    Happy to hear the challenge provided some inspiration :)