I often hear…well, these $5 Dinners are great and all, but the prices I see in my stores are too high! Jessica, who lives in the heart of San Diego, is here to say otherwise! If you look, you might be surprised at the great prices you might find in your area!
I grew up in Southern California. Born and raised in an LA suburb, I know the beaches, the warm weather, the high cost of living. I went to college in the affluent city of Santa Barbara. And I know what it is to spend $500 a month to feed two people. Been there, done that.
When my husband and I first married, we believed what everyone said,
It’s too expensive to live in California.
You can never get ahead if you live in California.
Well, eventually we left the Golden State for greener pastures. Or so we thought. In 2003 circumstances led us to move to Kansas City where we found that most costs of living and of raising a family were not less than when we lived in California. Sure, our house cost less and so did gas, but everything else – food, utilities, clothing, and other household expenses — cost the same or more than their counterparts on the West Coast.
We’ve since moved back home and today we live a debt-free life in San Diego, raising six children, and feeding them on about $500 a month. My, times have changed.
I’ve heard people question how Erin can save money and feed her family so inexpensively. They don’t believe they can do it on their home turf, saying, “That’s great for you. But you live in the MidWest. Things are more expensive on the West Coast.” True, some things are more expensive, but not all — and certainly not food. And generally speaking, wages are higher in California than in other markets. You can totally do this! Totally.
(I am after all, a true Valley girl.)
Here are some tips to get you enjoying $5 Dinners right where you are:
- Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. Heaven knows that appearances can be deceiving, especially in California. Make the conscious decision to “be weird.” That’s the California way, is it not? Set your mind to dismiss the raised eyebrow that may come when you use coupons, order water instead of soda, or ask to take your restaurant leftovers home. It’s your money! Don’t let peer pressure goad you into spending more than you should.
- Clip coupons. It’s true; California grocery stores are more restrictive than those in other states. Ralphs will only double one coupon of a kind. Vons allows only one internet printable of a kind. But, it’s still possible to save big money. Familiarize yourself with your stores’ coupon policies and make them work for you.
- Enjoy fresh produce. California is the bread basket of the United States! Everything grows here. And with less mileage to travel, the costs will be lower. My produce prices regularly beat Erin’s. (No offense, girlfriend.) (Erin here…NONE taken!) Our family enjoy lots of fresh fruit, green salads, and steamed veggies. It’s not uncommon for to find avocados 3/$1 or even cantaloupes for a quarter. Stock up on great deals and enjoy a bountiful harvest.
- Practice stockpiling. Don’t ever pay full price – unless it’s an emergency. Regular prices are high, but sale prices and loss leaders are exceptional! Keep track of the best prices for your area and stock up when there’s a sale.
- Make the most of markdowns. Erin does a fantastic job on this. Learn from her and know that it can happen in the Golden State! I have found boneless, skinless chicken breast at Ralphs for $1.59/# and organic ground beef at Albertsons for $1.99/#. My Vons clearanced an excess of T-bone steaks for $2/#. Proteins are the heart to $5 Dinners! Buy as much as your freezer will hold.
Don’t buy the lie that you can’t “bloom where you’re planted.” California groceries are not overpriced. You just have to know how to shop. You can enjoy delicious and healthy $5 Dinners and get a suntan, too!
Jessica Fisher is a happy mom to six children, basking in the California sun. She writes about fun, frugality and the pursuit of a clean house at LifeasMOM and posts delicious ways to act your wage at Good (& Cheap) Eats.