California on a Budget: Another West Coast Perspective

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Tammy Luna of Tammy’s Recipes moved to the West Coast from the Mid West at the same time as we did. She has embraced her new locale and it’s so great to read how they make ends meet in the Seattle area.

Recently, Tammy shared specifically how they live economically in the higher priced Pacific North West.

Tammy says,

Food is slightly more expensive here overall BUT there are still great sales and quite a lot of stores to choose from! I like to get my groceries at Costco to keep things as simple and affordable as possible (having 4 young children, only 1 vehicle, and the weekend traffic being NOT fun!), but there are so many stores and farmer’s markets and the options are virtually limitless!

I love that the weather here is conducive to getting out a lot more (no freezing cold winters or blazing hot summers), and there are beautiful parks and places to go for FREE! We’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to parks and trails and beaches!

It may not be California, but a lot of the same practices apply whether you live in Southern California or another more expensive area. There’s so much carry-over amongst higher-cost-of-living-areas, that we can most definitely learn from one another.

What’s the silver lining to your high priced locale?

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  1. I live in the midwest and have only visited the west coast, but I am jealous of all the fresh fish, seafood, and much longer season for farmer’s markets. And when you put it that way, the “blazing summers and freezing winters,” I do wonder why I love to live in Michigan so much. But, I do love the four seasons and we have an ever increasing food culture that’s supportive of local farms, microbreweries, and cheeses, so I can’t complain *too* much.

  2. For one thing, I love the varieties I can get – and the fact that if I want to spend extra on organic meat, at least it’s readily available (and probably cheaper here in LA than it might be in less urban areas). As Wendy mentioned, the farmer’s market is great – I’ve been getting most of my produce there for the last five months. As I wrote about a while back over at Chief Family Officer, the produce may not be certified organic, but the farmers use a lot of organic techniques – no chemical fertilizer or pesticides, etc. And the prices are less than I would pay for organic produce at the market – most of the fruit I’ve bought has been priced at $2/lb, a steal for “semi-organic” grapes and peaches.

    Also, because I’m in a large urban area, I have access to most stores – all three major drug store chains, Ralphs, Vons, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, plus Target and great malls. Albertsons and Walmart are out of the way but if there was some unbelievably good deal, I could get to them. So of course, I get all the free stuff from The Drugstore Game.

    And we still get all the loss leaders at the markets, so if you’re willing to shop at multiple markets and match coupons with sales, you can still get the free pasta, tuna, yogurt, etc. I think it’s the non-sale stuff, i.e., regular prices, that are higher than the national average.

    Plus the bottom line is, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I could do without the smog, traffic and what not, but I love LA, with all that there is to do here, the diversity, the weather, etc. 🙂

  3. Hmmmm, good question! We live in the 3rd richest county in the US (Howard County, MD), but we are NOT among the rich, seeing as I’m a SAHM and my DH makes below the per capita income average. The real estate market is crazy and we haven’t been able to crack into it even after almost 5 years of marriage and 3 years of house hunting. BG&E (local electricity provider) is significantly more expensive than neighboring states, and gas is expensive, too (but not as expensive, I think, as CA!). All in all, it’s a very high cost of living around here.

    Having said that…….. one thing I love about the area is that we are close to DC and all the free educational entertainment there. We’re also a few hours drive or less from other local sites to see – Lancaster PA and Amish country, Gettysburg, PA and Civil War historic sites, plus nearby Civil War sites right in MD. Northern VA is also close by.

    And it’s wonderful to have pretty much every kind of store/restaurant known to mankind available within an easy drive. I don’t think I could live in a rural area (like my parents do in the UP of MI) where I had to drive half an hour to get to the only grocery store, even if it was a lot cheaper to live there.

  4. I am from Seatte, born and raised. In fact I lived my entire life, until 6 weeks ago, in South King County Washington. I can give you tons of great tips on cheap or free things to do with kids in and around Seattle. Anyone out there have the same tips for Phoenix? We moved here 6 weeks ago and are DYING in the exteme heat, but anticipate loving the winters. Aside from my in-laws we know next to no one here. I’ve got 2 boys, 2 & 4 and we love to get outside.

  5. I live in San Fran Bay area and the cost of living here even during a recession is excessive. I work part-time out of my home to help cut costs (daycare is on average $800/month/kid) and shop the grocery fliers. We buy our vegetables from the local ethnic stores and whatever fruit is under $1/lb at the store or the local produce market….and yes, that means sometimes we just have apples and bananas but it’s still fruit! I buy chicken and ground beef from the local Asian market and stock up on other cuts when they are on “super sale” at the chain markets.

    Most importantly, I compare and track prices. I have a pricebook on my iphone that keeps track of products, prices and even caculates “per unit” prices so I’m comparing oranges to oranges. I stay away from Costco – I find better prices at the smaller ethnical stores on the things that we eat AND I’m supporting a local business.

    The major saving came when I cut almost all processed foods out of our diet and switched to a more “paleo” diet (meat, eggs, fruit, vegetables, nuts, fats). My health has improved triplefold, I’ve lost 40 lbs, and, best of all, our grocery bill actually went down! LOL Weird, huh?

  6. We just moved from Ohio to Southern CA this summer. I am still trying to get a hang of shopping here. My husband loves coupon shopping so he snags all the “freebies” and I do our weekly shopping at Trader Joes.
    The thing I miss the most is thrift stores!!!
    I am absolutely loving life here so far, though. Hitting the beach or local parks is amazing. The scenery is beautiful!

    1. @Deb, my mom has great success with thrift stores in Santa Clarita. Are you not finding them or are they more expensive?