I can still remember the first time I realized we were in trouble. I was sitting at the dinner table with my four fast growing boys and one little daughter, watching as they completely finished off a two liter bottle of coke. I could not believe they drank the whole thing. I just didn't think they were that big.
I should have seen it coming. Beau was only two years old when he decided McDonald's happy meals were not enough food, and began asking for Quarter Pounders. I had grown up in a house of four daughters and a mother who barely hit 100 pounds when she was nine months pregnant. I could not fathom this kind of appetite!
Then the days came when my husband Bill would look in the fridge on Sunday night and say, "Where's that half gallon of ice cream I brought home Friday?" Oh, please...he didn't really believe there would be any left after two days, did he?
As my family grew, I got more and more frugal, but one thing that would come close to inciting a rebellion at our house was if I scrimped on groceries. My oldest son stood before me in his early teen years and told me "I am always hungry, Mom! Forget this girl food, I need MEAT!" I choked back a smile and gave him what he wanted.
But feeding four growing sons - one who would soon be more than six feet tall - was a challenge budgetwise. I tried lots of things over the years. I even became a "coupon queen" for quite a while; joining an online group called "the grocery game" that helped me know what to buy when with which coupons. I saved so much that the checkers were floored when my receipt was long enough to trail on the floor, yet I had saved around $80 to $100.
Then, Tommy came to live with us, and before long we were on the Feingold diet. My coupons were useless now because most of them were for processed food, which Tommy cannot have. Either I had to buy foods labeled "organic" or "natural", or I had to make it from scratch. A look at the price tags on those organic foods and I soon opted for cooking from scratch. We also began to have very simple meals: homemade bread from freshly ground wheat with melted cheese and some natural spaghetti sauce was a favorite lunch. We ate fruits and salads. We began to shop at Central Market a lot. Our problem was that Central Market is almost an hour away and very pricey. But wow, the produce was amazingly good. Walmart just couldn't compare.
Still, certain things just didn't fit in our budget very often. Tommy can't drink regular soft drinks. We discovered Izze's, which he loved, but at nearly $1 a bottle, times lots of us, we just couldn't buy them very often.
So imagine my delight when my daughter discovered Town Talk, Fort Worth's salvage grocery store. I used to shop there, but several years ago, they had a terrible scare when LOTS of people got sick on chili they bought at Town Talk. My husband forbade me to shop there. I did finally get him to say I could buy foods in cans, but I was not supposed to buy any meat or frozen goods from them. It didn't seem worth it to drive an hour, so I soon quit going.
Then my daughter, Rachael, called to tell me that they had Izze's there for 50 cents each. She said they also had lots of organic things that she thought Tommy could eat. I should go there before we left for Virginia, she said, and get snacks for the car ride.
So I did. And I was so amazed to find that they did indeed have lots of natural and organic things that I couldn't afford to buy often before. I stacked my cart to overflowing with snacks for eight people, for the 20-hours-one-way-trip-we-would-make-twice-in-one-week. And I only paid $80 for a car load of stuff.
Before we left, I let the fridge go almost completely bare. Which meant that I also came home to an empty fridge. Not only that, but I came home to an empty fridge, and my car went immediately to the shop because the air conditioner went out. So I had an empty fridge and no car. Finally, today, three days since we got home, I borrowed son Spencer's car and took off for my now two favorite stores: Town Talk and Central Market.
Being a salvage grocery store, Town Talk is pretty much at the bottom price wise. You have to be VERY careful what you buy, because many things can be as much as two or three years past their expiration date. I have one son, Beau, who, when he was a young boy, was terrified his lax mother was going to kill him by giving him food past it's expiration date to the point that we now call those the "die by" dates, as in, if you eat them after this date, you will die.
So we checked and shopped carefully, and for $141.10, I got twelve sacks of groceries, one 12 pack of Sierra Mist, and two 24 packs of Juicy Juice. All things Tommy can eat. All things that will not kill Beau. All the 'fun foods' that just make life nice. I was most happy!!
And amazingly, this twelve sacks of groceries and large amounts of Sierra Mists and Juicy Juices fit perfectly into the trunk of Spencer's small car. He actually has more room than I do in my Tahoe, which I always said was just too small...
From Town Talk, the discount grocery store, we headed over to Central Market, which is an upper end grocery. But wow, do they have amazingly good produce and a whole store full of natural foods that Tommy can have. So at Central Market, we got Gelato to keep the kids happy, and shopped for the good for you stuff:
I was pleased that I only spent just over $200 there, and had maybe another eight bags. We did pretty well!
We came home and quickly put up the enormous amount of groceries we bought, then feasted on slices of toasted French Baguette bread with real butter and feta cheese, and chunks of watermelon. We drank peach Izze's and had Central Market natural cupcakes for dessert. It was girl food, yes, but my big sons were not home, and Luke and Tommy still love this kind of stuff.
I still need to make one more shopping trip, and I'll have groceries for a month. I am getting tomatoes and peppers from my garden, and yesterday, I dug up two patches of garlic:
My chickens have given me 34 eggs so far today:
Most of these eggs are destined for the incubator, but soon, I'm going to have to find a market for them. One place has already offered to buy some, so I'll be calling her in a couple of days.
So my trip to Virginia is over, and now my house is once again filled with food. My watermelon plants are growing in the garden - I planted 15 watermelon plants, because I could pretty much live on that alone in the summer. Have you ever had frozen watermelon and Sierra Mist 'smoothie'? Try it someday!! It can quench even the biggest boy's thirst!