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Can One Family Survive the 99¢ Store?

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Homeschool Mom: I'm a plan-B kind of person. I drive my husband a little buggy because I am always "what iffing." I have a plan B for almost every situation: if my husband lost his job, if I couldn't get my kids' cystic fibrosis drugs, if my whole family were killed in a fiery car crash.

Family photo infront of 99 cents store

I pretty much have an idea of what I would do in any situation I can contemplate. That is why, while paying the bills and seeing the amount of money we spend every month on food alone, I decided to conduct an experiment. What if we didn't have very much money for food, and what if the grocery store was not endlessly stocked with beautiful produce and aisles full of delicacies and convenient foods? What would be our plan B? That's when it hit me like a sack of slightly bruised apples: The 99 Cent Only Store. I would try to survive and feed my children a healthy diet only shopping at The 99 Cent Only Store for one week. For those of you who do not live in the states of Texas, California, or Arizona, you will not find any 99 Cent Only Stores, but you might find a copycat version. There are 17 such stores within a ten-mile radius of my house in Southern CA.

I like to preach, though everyone likes to ignore me, that we Americans are spoiled and extravagant, and that we could do with so much less. Depriving ourselves, even a smidgen, is as far removed from our minds as traveling to Venus. Hey, I'm no saint here either. I like my neighborhood high-end health food grocery store and do not feed my kids things with trans fat or high fructose corn syrup, nitrates or too much sodium. I like my fine wines, gourmet delicacies, and fancy whatnots as much as the next chick. But as my depression-era Grandma liked to say, "What the hell do ya' need all that for?"

So we are going to do without, for a week anyway. We are tightening our belts. Samuel Johnson said, "Without frugality none can be rich, and with it very few would be poor." Mies van der Rohe said, "Less is more." He, however, was an architect and not a mother of three growing children. Two of the children have special diet needs due to their C.F., so I will have to be selective and creative.

So far the reactions to the idea of my experiment have been mixed. My thirteen-year-old son said he was running away. My ten-year-old daughter said, "What?! Are you trying to kill us? Did you consult with Dad?" My five-year-old daughter said, "Great. Can I get a toy?" While my fifty-year-old husband said, "Do they have wine? Do we all have to suffer?"

So stay tuned as this American family embarks on an adventure in frugality and healthy cuisine à la The 99 Cent Only Store.

Are you a plan-B kind of person? How are you surviving the recession? Share your strategies with other moms in the Recession Survivors group.




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14 comments so far | Post a comment now
Monica May 18, 2009, 3:01 PM

Since the recession I’ve reorganized my thinking also. I agree we have our favorite whatnots but that 99 cent only store is looking pretty good lately. They have a freezer section and not too badly unfresh vegetables (you know ok if you are going to use them right away). And of course plenty of canned food and cleaning products. I had committed to check out the store first before I go grocery shopping to see what it is that I can pickup there first for less and then hit the Walmart or Fresh and Easy. Our local Dollar Tree has even decided to add a frozen food section. I’d like to see what kind of recipes you’ve come up with.

Mae May 18, 2009, 3:37 PM

Okay … you’re making me feel the urge to follow suit!! A Dollar Tree just opened up near us and they have a refrigerated section but no fresh stuff. Hmmm….. I think my kids would be just like Max … LOL

QponCutie May 18, 2009, 3:43 PM

Sounds like a fun experiment! Maybe I can try something similar!

Marla Fisher May 18, 2009, 4:49 PM

Hey that sounds like a great idea! Email me offline will you? Marla Fisher

Elese  May 18, 2009, 9:04 PM

Pam - This is an amazing idea!!! 99 Cents Only Stores have been a blessing to many communities including mine. In this story you make it acceptable to take up one of options that come to mind when trying to provide for our families during uncertain times like the ones we are experiencing today.

I would love to get your feedback on similar topics for everyday living. Can you please kindly send your email address offline? This is most definetly an adventure I want to continue hearing about.
-Elese

mercaties May 18, 2009, 10:46 PM

I was watching this show this morning that had this “money saving expert” on about how if you followed her tips you could feed a family of 4 on 20 a day (620 a month) I burst out lauging at the t.v. I spend about 300 a month between shopping at Dollar tree and Walmart and my family eats very healthy and my cuppboards are always full.

rick May 19, 2009, 10:39 AM

only problem I see, lots of canned goods are packed in China

jane jones May 19, 2009, 11:45 AM

pity i live in England, wish we had 99pence stores, food has become so expensive over past 18 months, try to cut down but some cheaper food absolutely yuk

The 99 Cent Chef May 19, 2009, 2:10 PM

A week should be no problem. Eggs, milk, cereal for breakfast. Canned tuna, lettuce, tomatoes, bread for lunch. And if you are lucky, ground turkey (meatballs) with tomato sauce and pasta for dinner. I have more ideas on my food blog, good luck and bon appetit!

Gigohead  May 19, 2009, 4:18 PM

The Dollar Tree in Middletown is all I need to feed my family during my weekends in my summer home in the Catskills. I buy milk, eggs, frozen TV dinners, generic cereal, beef patties, butter and frozen meatballs. My kids love it!! I’ve actually done food shopping for about $20 bucks and we eat for a few weekends.

Karen May 20, 2009, 10:06 PM

I can’t help but notice, that you mention having wine twice in the article~ as you mention all the healthy choices that you pride yourself on, for healthy living ,, you might re think the whole alcohol thing~ just sounds like a contradiction ~ Anyway I wasn’t impressed with the 99cent store idea thats a way of life for many people ~but for those people that live under a rock ,,Im sure they will appreciate your Idea?

Mrs Embers May 21, 2009, 8:38 AM

Wow… you guys have vegetables and frozen foods at your dollar stores? We have some food at the big stores, but nothing like that. I could get tea, chips, cereal, cookies and maybe some condiments at ours, but certainly not enough for my family to live on for a week.

rider May 28, 2009, 11:47 AM

What a great idea to feed your family with purchases from the .99 cent store.That shows what can be done, if “we tighten our belts” I say “well done” Pammie, I enjoyed everything.

trouble October 8, 2009, 11:02 AM

I’m resourceful.One year, I made Christmas dinner from the food at CVS and my Japanese husband thought it was the best meal ever. The 99 Cents Only stores in So Cal are fantastic. They carry fresh produce, frozen and deli foods. I could easily live on the food there for a month.


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