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I used to be a slave to convenience at the grocery store.
But after doing the math, I’ve gone back on my convenience-loving ways. We now make many of our food staples at home and enjoy a pretty steep savings as a result.
It wasn’t that past-Me didn’t want to save money; I just didn’t know what to look for. So here are just a few examples of sneaky convenience that we’ve spotted at the grocery store, as well as their more frugal counterparts.
Ears of Corn
Mr. Picky Pincher is a corn fiend. He would probably eat corn for his last meal. The man tears through these things like you wouldn’t believe!
So, needless to say, we buy a lot of corn when it’s in season. The price varies by week, but on a good day we can get 6 ears of corn for just $1.
However, I’ve noticed a less frugal option that’s placed on the same table as the corn. A styrofoam-and-cellophane-enveloped pack of four huskless ears of corn for $2.50.
At first I thought the corn must be fancy or special. Why else would it be double the price of the fresh corn?
I checked one week and, nope, this was not extra fancy special corn. This was the same damn corn they were selling in the husks, but HEB was charging for the convenience of huskless corn.
I can understand a few convenience costs, but this one really bothered me. It’s not particularly difficult or time consuming to remove the husks from ears of corn. And that small convenience is certainly not worth paying double the cost!
Mr. Picky Pincher had a dental procedure a few weeks ago and needed some soft snacks around the house. So we decided to pick up some tasty pudding!
We almost went to the aisle with the beloved chocolate Snack Packs, but on a whim I checked out the pie mix aisle first. And, sure enough, the HEB brand of chocolate pudding mix was available for 48 cents. It did require two cups of milk, which brought the total cost for one batch to about $1.
Even though I had to add the pudding mix to milk, it wasn’t horribly inconvenient. I still had cold pudding within five minutes, since it was an instant mix. I made a few batches ahead of time and stored them in Tupperware for on-the-go snackage.
The ready-to-eat (with who knows what in them) Snack Packs cost about $3 at the store, which meant they were three times the cost of instant pudding mix!
And I’ve found the pudding mixes just taste better, anyway.
I’ve always hated fish, but Mr. Picky Pincher can’t get enough of the stuff! So when we plan vegetarian meals, he loves to grab a fillet of salmon as his protein.
A few weeks ago, we realized our menu put a fish dish in the middle of the week. Since we buy fresh fish on Saturday mornings, this meant the fish would definitely be more than gross by Wednesday. Instead of restructuring our menu, Mr. Picky Pincher opted for a bag of frozen salmon fillets instead of a fresh one. The frozen bag cost about $12 for three small cubes of salmon.
This didn’t work out for two reasons.
First of all, the frozen fish didn’t suit Mr. Picky Pincher’s Picky sensibilities. After all, how can you go back to frozen food once you’re used to fresh? And second of all, the price of the frozen (and less tasty) fillets was more than a fresh fillet. I believe the equivalent amount of fresh fish would have cost about $9 and tasted much better.
So in this case we were solely paying for the convenience of having fish that would be safe to eat days after purchase.
We’ll just stick to fresh from now on.
I was super pumped to make a tasty tomato bisque soup for dinner one week. This called for 28 ounces of canned, peeled tomatoes. I dutifully put these in the basket and thought nothing of it. Mr. Picky Pincher’s frugal spidey sense was tingling, though, and he said, “Woah, wait. $4 for a can of tomatoes? Let’s go see if fresh ones would be cheaper.”
And man, were they ever. We got two pounds of tomatoes for about $2–which meant the canned equivalent was over twice the cost. We were able to get significantly more food for way less money–and it was fresher, to boot!
While I normally bake our bread, we were having a particularly hectic week where I wasn’t able to bake. So we grabbed a loaf of bread from HEB’s in-house bakery to make our grilled cheese sandwiches.
I had a coupon for $1 off sliced Country White bread, but we couldn’t find it at first. We could only find its non-sliced counterpart. It wasn’t until we actually looked around that we realized HEB had a (fascinating and supremely badass) bread slicing machine. All we had to do was drop in the loaf and it would be cut into perfectly-proportioned pieces. Boom, sliced bread!
As it turns out, we were rung up for purchasing unsliced bread (since we took the small inconvenience of cutting it ourselves), which was cheaper than the sliced bread with the coupon, anyway.
We did find the version that was sliced by the bakery staff and realized that bread was marked up for $3! It was a whole dollar more than the same damn bread that we cut ourselves. With the same equipment as the bakery staff, mind you.
After some clever couponing, we got the cost of our bread loaf to just 50 cents. Compared to the $3 asking price for this bread off the shelf, that’s some crazy savings for a minuscule amount of work.
The Bottom Line
I’m not here to judge people’s buying decisions. Sometimes cutting out convenience means spending time that you don’t have; I’ve totally been there. You can buy hundreds of canned tomatoes and still be committed to a frugal lifestyle! But if you’re in the mood to save big bucks in a new way, and you’re able to do it, avoiding convenience is a great approach.
We want to know: What costs of convenience have you seen at the store?