|Our kitchen table for Easter week -- the rabbit is a garden ornament|
Oh, I can feel it already. This is going to take discipline. I'm beginning the month with a deficit of $77.40 to subtract from our budget of $175. So, I have $97.60 for the month of March.
March 4. Cash and Carry has mozzarella and pizza blend cheese (mozza, provolone and cheddar), grated in 5-lb bags for $9.98. I buy 2 of each (4 bags total, 20 pounds). The expiry date is in August, so even if I don't freeze this, it will keep a long while. While I was in the deli walk-in fridge, I checked the prices of other cheeses, and it appears that cheese prices are falling. Grated cheddar was about $10.98 for 5-lb bags, down about $2.20 per pound. This is good news for shoppers. I also bought 2 10-lb bags of fresh carrots, at $3.48 each (works out to 35 cents per pound). They also had 25-lb bags of juicing carrots there, for $11.48. But at that price, those carrots were about 45 cents per pound. Always pays to compare unit prices. Total spent today, $46.88.
What I didn't buy, as you might be interested in what I resisted -- bananas at 49 cents/lb. I was hungry for fruit, so they were tempting. I still have about 15 pounds of oranges at home, and several frozen bananas. I'll survive. We'll be buying lots of bananas when the oranges run out in just 2-3 weeks. And I already posted, on March 5, on not choosing the frozen peas, split peas and soy milk.
March 6. At Fred Meyer to buy a couple of non-food items, also run by the dairy case looking for markdowns. I find gallons of milk marked down with about 8-10 days left before expiry, at $1.50/gallon. I buy 4 gallons skim milk and 1 gallon 1%. This milk is lower in fat than I prefer to buy, but we'll live. I'm still making yogurt at home with whole (4%) milk, so the overall dairy consumption is higher in fat (this is a concern for the one daughter who needs to constantly work at keeping weight up). I also buy onion powder (32 cents) and garlic powder (75 cents) from bulk section, for a couple of specific recipes.
And . . . this is where I'm human like the rest of us. I've been craving beef like crazy. Almost obsessed with beef, at times. I thought of running by a good hamburger joint and picking up lunch, but that would cost just over $5, for the quality of burger that I prefer. I checked every markdown package of beef. They were all about $11 to $15, and still the price per pound was so high. I went back and forth between the freezer section (with preformed burger patties), the regular meat section, the butcher counter, the markdown meat section. I think I spent a half hour ruminating on beef. I finally decided on going to the butcher counter and asking for 6 ounces of the super lean (7% fat) ground beef. I would split this in two portions, 1 for today's lunch, and freeze the other portion for a day in the future. I spent $2.03 cents on beef today. And that was for just 6 ounces -- that's how expensive beef is in our area. But in my mind, I rationalized it this way. I could have gone out for a $5 burger, and had a good quality meat patty, but with white flour bun (which I don't care for). Instead, I spent $2.03 for 2 patties of meat, cooked just the way I like them, and no white flour bun. (note: the meat was very good, I had the patties 2 days apart, and I felt satiated for beef for the time being. But as soon as this grocery spending freeze is over, I'm going to make beef a priority in our budget, once per week maybe, instead of once per month.)
Total spent at Fred Meyer $10.60
March 6. Dollar Tree -- I buy 2 quarts of soy milk to get through the month for my own use. Spent $2.00
March 14. It's felt weird not going to the grocery stores as much, but a nice kind of weirdness. I'm saving gas, money and time. But today I want to make my bi-monthly stop at Cash and Carry. I have to be in that area to get my daughters from the main transit station, as both had activities and work on campus, today (Saturday). Cash and Carry's ad's run every other week. There's not a whole lot that I want this time around, but they do have garbanzo beans and loaf sharp cheddar on sale. I buy a 25-lb bag of garbanzo beans ($19.29 -- that's about 77cents per pound) and a 5-lb block of sharp cheddar ($10.98 -- $2.20 per pound). We like garbanzo beans cooked, as is, in salads, in tabbouli, in hummus, and in garbanzo bean soup, both the pureed version and the tomato broth version. These will be a nice change from pinto beans. And the sharp cheddar is for sandwiches and homestyle macaroni and cheese. Spent $30.27, for a total month to date of $89.75.
I still need to pick up some heads of cabbage, and whatever other basic items that I find at their lowest price for the season, i.e. white sugar and white flour, as I'm very low on both, or eggs, but those will hopefully be on sale the week before Easter at Walgreen's. Fortunately, our freezer still has plums, strawberries, rhubarb and blackberries from last summer, and our garden is producing some greens (watercress, sorrel, kale, mustard greens, chives and parsley) for use now, and I just planted a new batch of kale and lettuce under a row cover. I'll get the spinach planted this week. And we still have canned pumpkin, canned tomato paste, canned stewed tomatoes and canned pineapple in the pantry, and plenty of fresh carrots, shallots, onions and potatoes in the fridge. For meat, I have 2 whole turkeys and 2 hams, still. I'll be roasting a turkey this week, to give us plenty of meat for several meals this month.
March 17. Dollar Tree for miscellaneous stuff. But I did pick up 1 quart of soy milk, as I used quite a lot of my stash of soy milk for cakes/frostings/homemade macaroni and cheese this month (so I can eat it too). Spent $1
March 17. Safeway had the lowest price on cabbage this week, for my stores. I bought 4 heads, at 49 cents per pound. Not a stellar price, but for fresh produce, 49 cents per pound beats most other vegetables, and gives us something to eat fresh, as in slaws. Spent $5.10.
Total spent month to date -- $95.85
It's March 28 today. I'm planning on swinging by QFC to pick up 1 ham, at $1.29/lb. This means I will go over our allotted amount, by about $10 for the month. I will go into April with a considerably smaller deficit than previous months, so I feel okay with going over.
March 28. I did go to QFC, bought 1 ham at $1.29/lb. Spent $11.52.
Also went to Fred Meyer, to use a coupon on eggs and redeem a courtesy voucher for $2. 18-count eggs were on sale for $2 (or $1.33/dozen), limit 2 with coupon. I thought I'd redeem my voucher from when I bought a box of rotten salad greens last month, so in that sense, the eggs worked out to be about 66 cents/dozen. Also found 2% milk in gallons marked down to $2.00/gallon. I picked up 4 gallons. Not a stellar price, so only bought enough for the next few weeks. (Earlier this month I found gallons of milk for $1.50/gallon.) Total spent $10.00
For the month of March, I spent a grand total of $117.37. That put me over budget by $19.77, which I can handle. This means that next month (April), I will have $155.23. One more month of working extra hard at keeping my grocery spending in line. I've already been making up a list of must-haves for next month, and will try to stick to that list, plus any stellar deals that I come across on essential foods (produce, meat, dairy, baking basics, beans and whole grains).
I will say this about my shopping this month. Although I went over budget, I didn't buy a single questionable nutrition-wise, food. I bought milk, eggs, cheese, meat, fresh carrots, fresh cabbage, dried garbanzo beans, onion and garlic powder, and soy milk. You cannot get much more basic than that.
And to prevent needing to do a humongous shopping once April 1st rolls around, I've been very careful to use our ingredients wisely, looking for ways to prepare favorites without eggs, using less sugar, looking to the garden first for our produce needs, and minimizing food waste. We're eating very well. I've started keeping a log of all of our dinners. It helps me to see what we're in fact eating. When I read our past menus, I can see for myself that no one is going hungry, being deprived of nutrients or missing anything special. I'll be happy to post some of those weekly dinner menus, if anyone is interested to know just how I use these very basic ingredients.
Until next month. . . can you believe tomorrow is April already?!