Navigating the Produce Section

17 Apr

I have been stretching our grocery budget for a few years now. First thing to know for southeast AZ is that grocery store prices are very competitive. There are a lot of sales and the prices on some things are pretty reasonable, including produce.  Second thing to know is that the sale cycle typically runs Wednesday through Tuesday.  Finally, make sure to you have a store shopping card to get the sale prices.

Here, we have a handful of places to find produce, the commissary on Ft. Huachuca, Walmart, Target, Food City, Fry’s, and Safeway.  I’ve found quality-wise, my favorites are Fry’s and Safeway for produce.  Plus, they have a wide selection, especially at Fry’s.  Food City, Fry’s, and Safeway put out an ad weekly in the newspaper to tell you some of the sales, then in store there are usually some unadvertised sales as well.

Now that I’m busy with other things on Saturday and not participating in Bountiful Baskets as often, I’ve started building my own basket in the produce section at the grocery store to get my produce for the week.  My goal was to stay between $15-$20, and get a variety of both fruits and vegetables.  Last week was my first try at it, and I chose Safeway.  Here is how I did:

Safeway trip 4/12/2013

2.26 lbs of bananas (6 bananas) at $0.57/lb = $1.29
1.93 lb navel oranges (3 oranges) at $0.99/lb = $1.91
3 avocados at $1/ea = $3
2 mangoes at $1/ea = $2
2 cucumbers at $0.79/ea = $1.58
1.72 lb fuji apples (4 apples) at $1.39/lb = $2.39
0.78 lb broccoli crowns at $0.99/lb = $0.77
1 package whole mushrooms at $1.99/ea = $1.99
5 lbs russet potatoes at $2.49/ea = $2.49
4 lbs strawberries at $0.99/ea = $3.96
2 lbs baby carrots (from an AZ farm) at $1.99/ea = $1.99

Total: $23.37, $23.78 after tax

Not bad for my first try.  If you take out the extra 3 lbs of strawberries, I’m just above $20 ($20.40 to be exact).  Since the strawberries were cheap, I stocked up to put in the freezer for smoothies over the summer.  The avocados have already been made into guacamole, the carrots and broccoli are for my daughter’s lunches.  The cucumbers I will make into dill pickles, and the  mushrooms and potatoes, possibly some baby carrots too, will go with a roast in the slow cooker.  The oranges will get juiced with some grapefruit and minneolas I already have, the apples will be snacks, and the mangoes and strawberries will be blended into smoothies.

That was all from last week’s ad, so now that it is Wednesday, there is a new ad.  Today, a friend and I went to Fry’s and Safeway to see what we could put together with this week’s sales.

Let’s start at Fry’s.

Fry's trip 4/17/20131.32 lb broccoli at $0.99/lb = $1.31
1 green leaf lettuce at $.99/ea = $0.99
1 celery at $1.29/ea = $1.29
1.21 lb Roma tomatoes (6 tomatoes) at $0.99/ea = $1.20
0.96 lb jicama at $1.49/lb = $1.43
1 seedless watermelon at $2.99/ea = $2.99
1 lb baby carrots (from an AZ farm) at $0.99/ea = $0.99
1.68 lb navel oranges (3 oranges) at $0.99/lb = $1.66
2.13 lb gala apples (6 apples) at $0.99/lb = $2.11
2.02 lb bananas (5 bananas) at $.57/lb = $1.15
1 80z container blackberries at $1.50/ea = $1.50
1 1 lb container strawberries at $1.50/ea = $1.50

Total: $18.12, $18.43 after sales tax

I did better this round, and I think I got a nice variety of produce.  I also picked up more strawberries, because this week they have a 4 lb container of strawberries for $3.49 (limit of 2).  That’s less than $1/lb, which is a great stock up price!  Frozen strawberries aren’t quite the same as fresh, but they still make great smoothies and frozen lemon or lime-ade for summer.  There are also other varieties of apples (fuji, red or golden delicious) for $0.99/lb, as well as other varieties of lettuce for $0.99/each (iceberg, Romaine, or red leaf).  Zucchini and yellow squash is also $0.99/lb, but I’m already stocked well on that from Market on the Move (a new event in the area I have on the list to write about).

Next, we headed to Safeway to check out the deals there.  This one was a little tougher, the sales weren’t as good as Fry’s, but we still came out pretty well.

Safeway trip 4/17/20131.93 lb bananas (6 bananas) at $0.57/lb = $1.10
1.67 lb navel oranges (2 oranges) at $0.77/lb = $1.29
2 avocados at $1/ea = $2
2 cantaloupes at $1.50/ea = $3
1 lb asparagus at $0.99/lb = $0.99
1.84 lb fuji apples at $1.39/lb = $2.56
1 pineapple at $2.99/ea = $2.99
0.95 lb broccoli crowns at $0.99/lb = $0.94
1.11 lb sweet potatoes (2 sweet potatoes) at $0.99/lb = $1.10
2 lb bag carrots (from an AZ farm) at $1.29/ea = $1.29
(Celery was accidentally in the picture, forgot to move it after the Fry’s trip picture!)

Total: $17.26, $17.56 after tax

Other items on sale include mangoes for $1/ea, 1 lb strawberries for $2.99, red seedless grapes for $2.99/ea, artichokes for $2.49/ea, grape tomatoes for $2/ea, red or green bell peppers for $0.99/ea, russet potatoes for $0.99/lb, organic red delicious or fuji apples for $1.49/lb, organic tomatoes on the vine for $2.69/lb, and organic mini watermelon for $4.69/ea.  So, there are a few things you could swap out and still get the same total at the end.

So, today, I stayed in the original goal of $15-$20, and I was able to make it a part of my weekly trip to the store to get my other basics, milk ($1.79 a gallon at both Fry’s and Safeway), eggs ($1.50/dozen at Fry’s) and cheese ($1.99 for sliced, $1.88 for shredded and blocks).  Fry’s also has a Mega Sale right now where select items you get $5 off each set of 5 items you buy, mix and match on the deals.  If you choose to shop at Safeway, they also have a deal today though Sunday that you get $10 reward coupon when you spend $75 or more in a single transaction.  Make sure to sign up for just for U at Safeway to get coupons loaded onto your card for more savings.

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