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Inspired by Mrs. Frugalwoods’s post, today I will share with you the 10 things our family doesn’t buy at the grocery store.
Before I go into detail, I will give you an overview of what stores we shop at and what we purchase from them.
Vietnamese grocery store & Great Wall: pork ribs, pork bones, noodles, salted duck eggs (for breakfast), vegetables, fruit, seasoning and any Asian foods you can’t find at American grocery stores.
Costco: red delicious apples, dinner rolls, croissant, corn oil, pork, eggs, milk, and other household items (diapers, wipes, toilet paper).
Shoppers: eggs and milk. We usually go to Shoppers when we forget to buy eggs, milk, and apples from Costco or when they run out faster than we expected.
Below are the things we never or usually don’t buy from the grocery stores above.
Related: Why We Eat Out While In Debt
1. Magazines & newspapers
Mr. FAF and I have never subscribed to any magazines or newspapers.
We follow the news online.
There are a couple of great and free news outlets that offer almost the same information as some hard-copy news publications.
If course, you won’t get the same info online as when you read the Economist, the Washington Post, and the Financial Times.
Many well-known media outlets have a cap on how many articles you can read for free online.
The publications I’ve seen at the grocery stores, however, are usually gossip magazines like the People and Esquire. They offer entertainment value and are not going to change your outlook on world politics or the global economy (or they might).
Those newsstands are usually near the checkout line. When the line is long, I often take a peek at those magazines to keep myself updated on celebrity gossip and to kill time.
Sometimes it makes me feel better about my life since I’m not going through celebrity drama. Sometimes I wonder if those celebrities ever shop at Shoppers or Giant.
I have to admit that I sometimes learn about new events through Twitter and Facebook. I’m almost embarrassed to say that since they are social media. But it’s true, so I just have fess up.
Mr. FAF and I didn’t grow up eating snacks every day. We didn’t have sweets after every meal either.
I remember having an orange wedge, a banana or any cheap fruit that was in season that my mom bought as dessert after lunch or dinner.
Snacks back then were a luxury for me, and I didn’t get to enjoy it often. In a way, it has had a good impact on my eating and spending behavior.
I usually balk at spending $3 on a bag of chips, $4 on a box of cookies, or even $1 on a tiny candy at the checkout line.
Those expenses can add up to $10 a week or $40 a month. I find that not shopping on an empty stomach helps prevent a lot of impulse purchases.
A box of Kirkland diapers (size 4, 180 counts) at Costco is $38.99 or roughly 22 cents/ each. A bag of Pamper diapers (size 4, 204 counts) at Giant is $54.49 or 27 cents/each.
The 5-cent difference might seem negligible. But if your toddler goes through 200 diapers a month, the price difference can amount to $10 a month. In other words, we save $10/month or $120/year on diapers by purchasing the generic-brand diapers at Costco – Kirkland.
4. Toilet paper
I once did a cost analysis of Kirkland and Angel toilet paper (one of the cheapest toilet paper brands out there). I found that there is not a significant difference in the costs per sheet.
But through experience, I found that the Kirkland toilet paper is thicker and softer. I used to buy the Charming brand but later realized that it was too expensive to just flush down the toilet and never to be seen again. I have to say though that I really like their commercial with the two cute little bears.
5. Chewing gum
I used to like chewing gum when I was little. I loved the sweetness of the gum and how I could blow bubbles with it. The popping sound of the bubbles was just really fun to hear.
However, now that I’m all grown up, I realized that spending $2-4 on gum a week could be a drain on my grocery budget.
Some of my colleagues chew gum after each meal to help clean their teeth and have a fresh breath.
For me, I usually keep a set of toothbrush and toothpaste in my drawer at work and brush my teeth after lunch. It’s cheaper and cleans teeth better than chewing gum, in my opinion.
My office provides free gum at the front desk. I sometimes pick one (once every two weeks or so) to chew on out of boredom.
6. Pet food
Mr. FAF and I don’t have pets, so we don’t buy pet food. One time I asked Mr. FAF if he would like to have a dog or a cat in the future. He said, “I only want to raise my kids.”
That’s a fair statement, and I probably won’t bring it up again. Taking care of Baby FAF alone does make us feel exhausted sometimes.
While a furry member might bring us more joy, we will revisit this topic after we have one or two more kids.
Our family doesn’t drink soda. Although a little sweetness at the cost of $1 a bottle can spice up our lives a bit, I try to satisfy my sweet tooth by eating fruit instead.
Before we started dating, Mr. FAF rarely ate any fruit. But I’ve successfully trained him to eat a banana, a mandarin or strawberries after each meal.
Sometimes I forget to remind him to eat fruit, but Mr. FAF still remembers and asks me where certain fruit are. That indeed makes me really happy. I have also trained Baby FAF to eat lots of fruit. Bananas, apples, and mandarins (cheap and sweet) are his favorites.
8. Helium balloons
The last time I checked, a helium balloon cost around $5. It definitely looks nice and can make a party look more fun. But the balloon also gets deflated after two days.
Mr. FAF and I have never bought those from the grocery and are not planning to. If we are having friends over at our house, we usually eat together, so I’d prefer to spend $5 on food instead. If we are having a birthday party for Baby FAF, we will get him a birthday cake and fruit.
The first and last time Mr. FAF got flowers from the grocery store was one year ago when he tried to lighten my mood.
I was over the moon when I saw a bouquet of roses with Mr. FAF’s lovely note on my desk.
However, the roses started to wither and just looked so miserable after three days. There goes my $10!
I told Mr. FAF not to buy me flowers anymore. He was so happy when he heard that.
As an Asian family, we eat a lot of rice. We can eat rice all day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
A 2-pound pack of long grain white rice can cost $1.49 or $0.75 per pound at the grocery store. A 25-pound bag of a similar type of rice from Costco costs $17.50 or $0.7 per pound. The $0.05 cent difference is not significant. However, every cent adds up, and I think the Kirland rice tastes slightly better.
When I was little, I wished that I could buy anything I wanted at the grocery store without having to get my parents’ permission. I would picture myself getting all the candy and snacks that I wanted and just devour them the whole day. It was a sweet dream! It was my parents and my lack of money that prevented me from realizing that dream.
Now that I’m a grownup and make money to buy what I want and need, that childhood dream is no longer there. I can buy whatever snack, candy, chips, or ice-cream that I want at the grocery store. No one is there to tell me what I can or cannot buy. But the desire to save money, stay on a budget, and eat healthy tells me no and keeps me in check.
Little things do add up. And we try to not let our small or impulse purchases at the grocery stores get the way in our pursuit of financial freedom.