The Rule of Second Cheapest

Feeding and entertaining three people on $28 a day is proving to be pretty damn challenging. Every penny counts. Luckily, I have a few tricks up my sleeve the make those precious few dollars stretch a tiny bit further without feeling like everything you pick up is the worst thing ever. They’re probably terribly obvious, but hey, you can’t think of everything.


The rule of second cheapest

We’ve been following the rule of second cheapest for a few years now. This basically means that when you’re making selections at the grocery store on something where quality counts, things like olive oil or peanut butter, we allow ourselves to buy the second cheapest. It’s not the pricy stuff, but if you stay away from the absolute bottom of the barrel, there’s a better chance that you won’t get something that actually tastes of generic. Sometimes if you buy the cheapest thing on the shelf, it ends up tasting so bad you don’t want to eat it anyway, which defeats the purpose of food. I don’t want to spend money on something I’m not going to enjoy. The fifty cents is usually worth it. Sure, you can’t afford the really expensive high quality chocolate, but you don’t have to buy the absolute worst one, either.

Bulk is the baker’s friend

I don’t buy in bulk very much, partly because I don’t have a lot of space to store 48 cans of black beans, and partly because I don’t ever know what I’m going to want to cook from one day to the next. I do, however, save a lot of money by stocking up on baking staples, especially butter, cream cheese, sugar, and chocolate chips. The butter and cream cheese can be frozen until you need them, and by weight, you end up spending sometimes half as much. I can’t get a bag of flour at my Costco in anything smaller than a 50 pound bag, and where the hell am I supposed to put that? But I have also bought vanilla, brown sugar, and berries there and saved a bunch of money. 

When shopping in a foreign country, just buy the item with the funniest name.
When shopping in a foreign country, just buy the item with the funniest name.

Take the time to go online

We live practically next door to Safeway, and we go there at least once a day. Safeway has one of those annoying club cards, but what makes it worthwhile is Just for U. If you go to their website and register your card, you can have even more coupons and discounts automatically loaded onto your card. You don’t have to clip coupons and remember to take them to the store. And since your club card tracks what you buy, a lot of the deals are targeted at things you actually want. I’ve gotten some pretty great deals when I actually remember to go online and load up my card. It’s totally worth it. Check your neighborhood store and see if they have something similar.

Grocery shopping can be such a drag, especially buying things like toilet paper. What a drag. But if you save enough on the boring stuff, maybe you can afford to buy some ice cream. Ice cream never lets you down.

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