Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Do you know what I love about January grocery shopping?

There isn't a whole lot of it! I save time and money these first couple of months of the year.


(My kitchen fridge only looks this bare a couple of times per year, from late January through most of February. It does make for easy cleaning of the inside of the fridge! Don't worry, there's still plenty of food in the garage fridge, freezers and pantry.)


When January rolls around, my grocery shopping makes a major shift away from the stock-up pattern of fall and holiday season shopping. I just don't find a lot of great deal in January. So, I coast on what's in the pantry, fridge and freezer.

Several of the grocery purchases that I make in early January, are made not in grocery stores, but while clearance shopping or miscellaneous other shopping, like at the drug store, or fabric and crafts store. Those stops don't "feel" like regular grocery shopping. And the grocery stops that I do make have far fewer purchases than in the stock-up months.

When I do make those grocery stops, I try to plan ahead, so I don't need to go back to that particular store, any time soon. As when I buy bananas at Trader Joe's. Over half of our bananas are eaten by way of smoothie. And both fresh and frozen bananas work well in smoothies. So, in winter, when I'm most apt to buy bananas, (as no fresh fruit is coming from our garden), I buy twice as many bananas as I believe we can eat fresh, with the intention of freezing half. Once perfectly ripe, I peel and halve the bananas, and place all of the halves into shallow freezer containers. They break apart easily, so I can use just one half at a time, when making breakfast or lunch smoothies. Doing all of this stretches the time span between my trips to Trader Joe's, to match up better with my Cash & Carry twice-monthly shopping (about how often I actually make it to Cash & Carry in January and February).

As for spending less in January than other months, here's what I've spent the past few years for January groceries. In 2013, I spent $137.35. In 2014, I spent $119.29. And in 2015, I spent $93.87 for January groceries. This year, for the month of January, I'm on track to spend about $145 to $150 (while higher than previous years for January, it's about $20 to $30 lower than my monthly average of $171 for 2015).

So, besides saving money and time, what does this mean for me and my budget? Well, it means that I can bank some cash for future months of grocery spending, so those big stock-up months won't hurt so much when I see those totals. It also gives me more freedom to really stock-up when I find rock bottom prices on favorite items.

And the bonus for buying less in January and February -- my pantry and freezer become much more manageable in their organization.

Do you also find that you shop far less in January, than the rest of the year? Or do you typically shop for about the same amount every week?

27 comments:

  1. After the flurry of the Holidays, my shopping for January has been dramatically reduced as I focus now on really hitting up all the garden produce I put up last Fall. Collard, kale, beets, turnips, greens, broccoli, carrots, red and green cabbages, pumpkin, peppers, squash, tomatoes, zucchini, applesauce, cantaloupe, corn. So much work at the time to process it all, whew..., but now is the pay off, when meal prep is often just a matter of grabbing a bag or two from the freezer. Tonight's dinner for example will be Black Bean Chili (tomatoes, peppers, squash, corn) over Savory Corn Waffles. Nice to be able to stay out of the stores;

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    1. Hi Patience,
      Oh wow! It sound like you're able to put up a lot of garden fruits and vegetables! That's so terrific! I can imagine how much work that all was. But as you say, now you can just sit back and enjoy it all. Your dinner for tonight sounds delicious!

      I went through the grocery store ads the other day, and it was nice to just think, "not much I want"! It feels peaceful.

      Have a great day, Patience!

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  2. Ha, Lili!
    My refrigerator looks like yours ALL THE TIME!. It might be full for a while and in a blink it's empty again. We had two different kinds of soup over the weekend, dinner leftovers and small amounts of cottage cheese, yogurt, etc. but that is now all gone! It is looking like I need to get to the store for a few fresh items but I'm going diving again tonight in the freezer. I told my husband Sunday morning that I needed to dive and he offered a life preserver! But he sure smiled when he realized there was french toast for breakfast made out of that old stale bread. He also noticed the freezer level has gone down drastically.

    Lately I'm feeling like making one skillet dishes and hearty soups. We've been eating a lot of chicken soup and potato soup with bacon but I want something a little different for a change.

    Alice

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    1. Hi Alice,
      Oh, too funny! When I read your comment, for a second I was thinking, "diving?". I get it now. Going diving is a bit like treasure hunting. I wonder what treasures you'll find today?

      So it sounds like you make very good use of your freezer. Kudos to you! I think that's very wise. It surely must keep you from having wasted foods, due to spoilage. Most food spoilage happens in the fridge. Not having a full-looking refrigerator, all the time, helps to keep an eye on what is in there.

      Have a great day, Alice!

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  3. Although the month is not up yet, our food spend this month (actually only two weeks of shopping since our return) is $139.74 for dad and $138.89 for us. We do share with him some of the foods we cook for ourselves (like the Japanese soybean paste soup, or miso soup, yesterday), and occasionally we'll sneak a muffin or carrot that we bought for him. He has specific foods that he likes to have on hand (which we prepare or buy ready made and freeze in portions so he can serve himself). Compared with past years, combined for dad and us, is still less: $402.13 - 2015, $375.75 - 2014, $297.23 - 2013...January in these years have all been short months too. Toiletries and eating out are still included in the food budget, but I now keep track of OTC medicines separately, whereas before I would include in food, like the expensive coQ10 from Costco and husband's omeprazole. (Also the membership fees for Costco and Sam's are included with food.)

    Aside from my dad's same every week purchases, our shopping and menu planning revolves around what is available at the farmer's produce stand. And unlike stores, I can't see ahead of the day I'm there to know what we're going to buy. So it is difficult to plan our meals in advance. Last week, we bought $5 okra and this week $5 luau leaves. Buying these bumper crop, bargain produce is really helping to keep our food budget down.

    YHF

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    1. I don't make smoothies with our frozen bananas, but they are so delicious eaten frozen. I have been snacking on our frozen banana slices whenever I open the freezer door. Sometimes I prefer this treat to a piece of candy or ice cream.

      YHF

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    2. Excellent work, YHF! What do you think are some of the factors in your reduced grocery bill for this January over previous Januarys? Have you felt deprived in any way?

      While you never know in advance of visiting the farmer's market, just what you'll find to buy, that situation is not too removed from not knowing what you'll buy for the week until you read the ads (for traditional grocery stores). I don't know what I'll find on sale from week to week. But when I find a great deal, I stock-up, then find ways to use it. This way for shopping and planning runs counter to all of the advice to plan a menu, then figure out your grocery list after (which is still far better than not knowing what in the world you want to eat, until you get to the store, then shopping according to hunger).

      Sometimes, I make the banana portion of the smoothie, first. It comes out very think, like soft serve ice cream. And I'll eat several spoonfuls of this banana "ice cream". It's quite delicious. I may try frozen bananas on cereal, sometime. Frozen blueberries are my treat. I eat those right out of the freezer.

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    3. Thanks:) I think we are not eating as much...my husband thinks so, and we are very well stocked so the spending so far has been on sale items. Although he is in charge of food spending, at least that was the agreement, I am the one suggesting a shopping trip based on my coupon deals, like today, we're headed to Costco to buy $20 Clorox to earn $5 Savingstar.com rebate. Not bad six 121oz bottles of Clorox for about $15 net cost. He is not opposed to it since it helps trim our food expense. Also Savingstar has a 100% rebate on a bar of Almond Joy or Mounds chocolate, offer expires tomorrow. Plus it is senior day at Savers, Goodwill and Salvation Army. I like to look at their yarn and craft items. I told my husband that I will not be buying any more yarns until November (our suitcase was half stuffed with wool yarns from Vegas), but senior discount days are always fun days to shop. Just looking...:)


      YHF

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    4. The bananas that I buy and freeze are called "apple" bananas. I'm not sure if the other banana varieties will be as tasty eaten as frozen slices. At the farmers market I can find bargain bags selling for $1 each (about 3#). At stores, premium, unblemished apple bananas are priced a few dollars per lb. Here is a description of the banana:

      "Hawaiian Candy Apple Bananas

      What is a Hawaiian Candy Apple Banana? A Candy Apple Banana is a nutritious, tasty and sweet banana grown right here on the lovely Big Island of Hawaii. It is low in calories, hight in potassium, a good source of Vitamin B6 and fiber. Candy Apple Bananas are naturally sweet with sucrose, fructose and glucose and have 3 times more Vitamin C and 1-1/2 times more Vitamin A than your regular banana varieties."

      YHF

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    5. Interesting! I'd never heard of apple bananas. Thanks for sharing that.

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  4. Not really sure if my spending is different for January than other times of the year. I haven't kept that good of records all the time. :( I do know my weekly shopping varies. I HAVE been shopping weekly the past year or so, at least most of the time, and have been debating changing that. Usually, twice a month I do a big shop, then just pick up odds and ends such as fresh produce, bread, and milk in between. Thinking of going back to once a month shopping with a smaller trip in between for the fresh stuff, or else two big monthly trips with no smaller trips in between. Less distraction and extra buying from the seasonal items that way, but I would also miss some of the weekly sales. :/ Decisions, decisions.

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  5. Hi Cat,
    Hmmm, there are pros and cons to weekly vs monthly or twice monthly shopping, that's for sure!

    You could do a big shopping once a month, then plan to stop in for spectacular deals when you see them. But you would miss unadvertised deals.

    As far as milk, bread and produce, could you use your freezer more for those items? I bake bread every other week and freeze half, so I don't have to bake so often. And milk, you already know that I freeze milk as I find great deals. For our house, I can keep about a 3-week supply of milk in the freezer. With produce, a good method is to use the highly perishable items first, then move on to long-keepers and finally use frozen and dried for the end of the time between shops. Even with a family that enjoys salads with dinner most nights, this is doable, but beginning the period with leafy salads, then moving on to cabbage, carrot and celery-based salads (I made a great celery salad recently, and no one missed the leafy stuff).

    So, it's a matter of what your menu planning and shopping style is, I think. Either way can work to your advantage. Good luck with the decision.

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    1. I used to do monthly, when my kids were younger and husband often gone (military), plus we homeschooled so I didn't want to be gone from home a day each week. It worked fairly well, but best when I planned our meals a month out to be sure I had all ingredients. Not sure where we go wrong, but thawed milk hasn't worked well for us. Seems to take a LONG time to get past the slushy phase and I didn't usually remember to thaw early enough to avoid that. Maybe I could somehow plan that better? Any tips? We don't find good deals on half gallons here, so it's usually the full gallon size.

      I guess for me right now, besides avoiding the yummy impulse buys at Aldi, the appeal is simply going less often. I don't mind grocery shopping at all, but now that I've been hiking more, I try to fit most other errands/chores on Tuesdays and Thursdays and am trying to minimize errands where I can.

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    2. Cat, for frozen milk, with our rate of consumption, when I first open the thawed milk from the fridge, I then transfer another gallon from the freezer to the garage fridge. We do have our share of slushy milk. I find I can shake it really hard and break up the ice, then pour the glasses for the table earlier in the afternoon (and the slushiness mostly melts by then. Alternatively, when caught out, and the milk is still mostly frozen, I've screwed the lid on tight, laid the jug on its side in the microwave and zapped it 30 seconds at a time, taken out and shaken really hard to break up ice, and microwaved it until thawed enough to pour out a combo of slush and milk (to let thaw by the glass). But, you're right, thawing a gallon of milk in the fridge takes 4 days, at least. I sometimes speed things up by placing it on the counter for half a day, first.

      You don't have to make a decision that will last forever. If you're thinking you might want to try once a month or twice a month, you could just try it out for 1 month. Then look back and see if it saved you time that you enjoyed having to spend in other activities (like hiking), or saved money that you had wanted for something else. Or maybe you'll find that the work in extra planning wasn't enough to offset the time saved by not shopping. A trial of a month could help you figure this out. And it would change things up, which I think always makes life more interesting, even the mundane aspects of life like grocery shopping.

      And you might find this choice to be a seasonal thing, too. For me, with a garden, I don't produce shop in the summer months. we get our produce from the garden (with the exception of melons a couple of times per summer). So, my break from shopping also happens in early to mid-summer.

      Good luck!

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  6. Ha,ha love the oranges in your fridge. Looks like my fridge in the basement.
    Funny how different ideas save us all time differently.
    At different times I Ah e purchased meat from a butcher, then my local grocery store began selling with 50% off stickers, particularly on their speciality/organic meats. Alas, those days have ended. They now reduce only to 30%. The pickings are slimmer. So... I was purchasing my chickens locally. Then a pig, now a cow. All in their own freezers. It may seem like a lot but the overall cost savings both monetarily and time wise are immense. Anyone in my household can pick up the remaining shopping items, usually loss leader produce.

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    1. Hi Teresa,
      It does have that look like someone might think, "gee, someone has an orange preoccupation!" Lots of oranges this time of year!

      Can I ask -- how did you find a local poultry farm for the chickens? There's farmland up north of us, and I've found a place for beef, but I think buying chickens from a farm would be an easier starting point, for me as well as others. If you could share your experience. Thanks.

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    2. Sometimes when you put the word out you find sources.
      My previous "chicken" lady was the sister of a friend. I started because she raised her own chickens and they were cheaper than any store bought ones.
      She then moved out of the country. I was at a craft sale and purchased some honey and frozen sausage from a vendor. I struck up a conversation and said I was looking for a chicken producer. He said his wife raised chickens every spring. Maybe about 10 -12 years ago this happenned. I started with the chickens and honey. They are pork producers also so I eventually moved to pork also. I do see other chicken producers at one of the Farmer's markets. At this same Farmer's Market I found my local beef producer.
      For the pork and beef producers you can purchase generally anytime through the year. Chickens are generally raised in the spring with purchase in summer and into the fall , dependant on the producer.

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    3. Thank you, Teresa! I have a couple of farmer's markets I can check later this year. Thanks for this information!

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  7. I don't keep close enough track to know for sure, but my grocery habits are taking a major left turn with the opening of a Sprouts Market about 3 miles away. Don't know if you have Sprouts there, but their produce prices - especially the sales - are generally pretty amazing. I'm getting sale prices in January that I wouldn't normally expect to see this time of year. Can't wait to see what happens when more things are actually in season! And their regular price on eggs is cheaper than the sale prices at King Soopers (Kroger). I generally like to shop at the stores right in my neighborhood, but it's hard to turn down prices that good!

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    1. Hi Cat,
      Are you eating any differently with produce prices much lower at Sprouts? I haven't seen a Sprouts in our area.

      I know what you mean. I have a couple of stores that have great prices, but are kind of out of my way. I do have tor rearrange some of my errands to fit stops at these markets in. My favorite ethnic market is one of them. It's close to Home Depot, a store I only shop in spring and summer. So I don't make it to that ethnic market as often.

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  8. I love using up what we have on hand because, like you mentioned, it helps so much with the organization of everything. It's weird, but I love using stuff up. lol

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    1. Hi Belinda,
      It does have a satisfying feeling to it, doesn't it? To use things up and know that you really got full value from items by using them. And then to have the neat-looking cupboard or pantry to see every time you go into the kitchen,

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  9. I looked at your grocery spending and I feel jealous (have said this before). My grocery tab for just last week was over $60. I first thought it was a lot of produce but realized it also had a As for the oranges in your refrigerator I make a cold fruit salad every week to store in my refrigerator which consists of 1 grapefruit, 2 oranges, 2 Apple's, and any other cheap fruit. I cut up my fruit and put it in a big covered container and use it up during the week either as a snack or a side dish. I love having that available in the refrigerator. By the way I live alone in case you are wondering. I would love to have your celery salad recipe but since celery us $2.49 a stalk now in my one and only grocery store I think it will be a while before I buy any. I just had shoulder surgery and am relying on very easy cooked meals these days and meals that had very little prep. Hopefully all will be well by the end of February and I will be able to share my food with my neighbors again.

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    1. Hi Susan,
      That fruit salad sure sounds refreshing! I'll remember that!

      I know, it can be frustrating to hear that a different area has many shopping venues and therefore competitive prices. I sometimes feel the same sort of jealousy pangs when I read of better gardening climates. But every place has it's nice points, too!

      I'm sorry to hear you're recovering from surgery. Do take good care of yourself! I hope you have reached the point where the pain from the surgery is subsiding. As I said, take care!

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  10. We have more oranges than that in our garage right now. Thankfully, they haven't frozen. We always buy oranges this time of year from the local high school who goes to Florida to pick them up. It's a common fund raiser around Christmas. Unfortunately, the navels we got this year (1/2 case) are not good at all. Very disappointing, but I just consider it a donation instead of a bad buy. Luckily, the tangelos are quite good.

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    1. Hi live and learn,
      what a great fundraiser! But a shame the oranges weren't better this year. Can the oranges be used for something else, like juicing, smoothies, or marmalade? That's a good way to look at it -- you helped the local school.

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  11. I agree with you, Lili. January sales flyers just don't float my boat, so our grocery expenditures always go down. I am tempted by the Tillamook Cheese at Fred Meyer this week, though. Even my little five year old guy loves their pepper jack. Melissa

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I'm so glad that you stopped by today. Please comment, and let me know what you're thinking.