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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Grocery and household shopping plans for January

For the most part, we are well-supplied with food items, right now.

I am running low on brown rice and vinegar. I have a constant need for heavy whipping cream (though maybe not as much as previously), whole milk, instant powdered milk (as a protein and calorie boost for one daughter, mixes in to many things)and nuts for snacking (sunflower seeds are our most affordable nut/seed, with peanuts not far behind, but almonds are definitely a preference for snacking). I've also just used the last of the onion powder, which is nice for quick soups, sauces and gravies, and the last of the solid shortening for making pie crusts.

With regards to produce, we have some fresh oranges and a handful of apples and pears remaining. January is a good month for finding oranges on sale, so I'll be looking for those, priced below 40 cents/lb. In addition, I usually find avocados at a reasonable price in January and February. At Cash & Carry last February, I found medium avocados in a 16-ct bag, for 44 cents per avocado. I'll be looking for similar pricing on avocados again. As well, we are back to buying bananas from Trader Joe's twice per month. At 19 cents each, Trader Joe's has the best deal going on bananas in my area.

I'll be watching the ads, online, for Cash & Carry and Fred Meyer for the best deals, and quickly peruse the front page of the mailed ads from Albertson's and QFC. Interesting, Albertson's ads have been looking strikingly similar to Safeway's ads this past year. I did a bit of research and discovered the two companies merged early in 2015. And now their sales duplicate each other. This is great when an item is a loss leader, if I need it immediately and one store is out of stock. But it's lousy for variety in weekly sale items (and potentially for competitive prices). For me, this does save me time looking over the ads, as I can just skim one store's ads, and ignore the other's. For non-traditional grocery stores, I'll also make a late-in-the-month pass by Imran's, the nearby ethnic market that carries a small, but well-priced selection of produce. I'll be looking for fresh apples (last spring they had apples, still crisp, for 39 cents per lb).

And that's about it for January grocery shopping plans.

In addition to food items, I have a few household items that I'm looking for. For the last year, I've been taking one household item at a time to find a less expensive version or way to buy/make it.

I'll be looking for bathroom tissue, again. Last May, I bought a case of 96 rolls online, from Staples. We are now running low, and I'll need to buy a new supply soon.

I am also looking for laundry detergent. Mid-summer, I found an institutional-size package of laundry detergent at Cash & Carry, priced competitively to my homemade soap. The commercial stuff really does a better job on "man smell". But my skin (eczema) prefers melted, sensitive-skin bar soap. So, I've been alternating between the two. I'm about out of the institutional-size package of laundry detergent, but have plenty of melted soap, to use until I find a deal on commercial stuff.

I also opened the last box of automatic dish detergent, yesterday, so I will be pricing the various brands, looking closely at institutional sizes. I've been pretty satisfied with Sun brand, sold at Dollar Tree for 20 oz. I'll compare that one to what I find at Cash & Carry.

Other household items on my list include low watt lightbulbs, plastic wrap and window/glass cleaner. The window and glass cleaner is on my list for trying a homemade version. One of my daughters cleans the inside of the downstairs windows, as well as all mirrors, each week. She prefers to use a spray bottle of solution. And we just finished off our supply of bottled glass cleaner.

Commercial window/glass cleaner costs $1 at Dollar Tree, in the refill jug (64 oz). This is the recipe I'll be trying for this Saturday. This homemade version cost me just under 48 cents for 64 oz, with far less plastic waste. The majority of the window cleaning solution is water. No sense paying for the water, or the larger plastic jug to hold the water. I'll make it up 16 oz at a time, so I don't have to store extra, and this amount will work well in our spray bottle. Plus, if I don't like how it works on glass, the individual ingredients are still available for other uses.

Homemade window/glass cleaner

2 oz. 70% rubbing alcohol
12 oz water

pour alcohol and water into spray bottle and shake up. Add the following ingredients, and shake to combine:

1 tablespoon ammonia
1/8 teaspoon liquid hand-washing dish detergent
more water to fill to 16 oz

Dollar Tree sells ammonia in 64 oz bottles. That should last about 2 years, at 1 tablespoon per recipe. I picked up 1 bottle of rubbing alcohol at Fred Meyer on Senior Day, yesterday.

And, although I am all shopped out, I will be making one more pass by Penney's and Macy's at the mall, later this week, checking out their clearance in the men's sections. There are a couple of winter men's accessories that I realized after I was done shopping that both my husband and son could use. So, I'll be looking for those items on deep discount, and save them for next year.


  1. Your planning ahead is so detailed! Maybe this is where I go wrong. :/ I feel like for every thing I get right frugally each month, I mess something else up. :P

    Anyway, I was thinking you have Target there. If so, every few months/weeks they put out a mobile coupon for $15 off $50 in household, which includes TP. I was able to combine a sale on Scott products with this (and maybe a gift card offer...trying to remember) and score about 6 months' worth of TP quite inexpensively, and it was decent TP, too. Might be worth looking into. I had checked Staples here after you mentioned it but it wasn't the best deal for us AT THAT TIME. There is a blog called totallytarget that matches up the coupons/mobile coupons/cartwheel/sales that you might find helpful.

    1. Thank you, Cat! We do have Target, and I will check into their sales/deals.

      One of the things that really helps me out is keeping my spending journals and referring back to them. I can easily see what a good price was the previous year, and know one when I see it this year.

    2. Cat, I rethought part of my comment to you. A saying has been going through my mind. "Don't compare your insides to someone else's outsides"
      You still have young kids, and are busier than you will be when you reach my stage. If you can manage to get half of things right -- as intended frugally, that is doing very well. Imagine where you'd be if you weren't as intentional in your spending as you are. You're doing great. And all of this takes time to figure out. And just when you think you know the best way/place to buy something, it all changes on us.

      Just wanted to be more encouraging than I was in my bleary-eyed moment this morning.

  2. Yes, we are now into the season of deep discounts for clothing--I need to check into what my kids need next and do some shopping, maybe next week.

    1. Hi Kris,
      good luck with the clothing shopping. I have found some amazing deals in past years in January. Hope that holds true again this year!

  3. I was out this morning for an appointment & stopped at a few places looking for discounted items but did not find anything. But I was already out so no extra driving involved.

    1. Hi Rhonda,
      When I as at Michael's last week, I was surprised how quickly things had sold out. And I had the same feeling when shopping for after Christmas clearance candy, for next year. There wasn't much left, and the prices weren't always so great.

      I'm glad that you weren't out any extra gas in checking for discounts.

  4. What kind of washing detergent did you find in industrial sized containers? I am trying to find a balance. I have a friend who was actually using Simple Green, but I haven't tried it.

    Do you ever make orange marmalade? I like to when the prices drop on oranges. I still use your tip and keep the peels zested and frozen.

    1. Hi Busy Bee,
      The laundry detergent is Simply Value, in the 35-lb bucket. The label says it does 200 loads, which I think is about what we've gotten from that bucket. I bought it at Cash & Carry, a restaurant supply store, on sale in the summer. I checked this store, this morning, and not in my price range right now.

      I've made marmalade a couple of times before, with mixed success. I may try it again this year.

      Have you found a recipe which results in thick marmalade, using regular oranges? (I've been told that most US oranges don't have the pectin that Seville oranges have, so the marmalade comes out runnier.)

      Thank you for the reminder, on making marmalade! And now that I have thicker skinned oranges again (easier to peel), I should start another batch of candied orange peel.

  5. I'm still looking for a good dishwasher detergent. Is your water very hard? Our water has a lot of minerals in it because we have to neutralize it so we don't get holes in our pipes. I'd be happy if I could buy my dish detergent at the Dollar Store.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      We have soft water, here. Do you follow Carol's blog?

      She also uses Sun detergent, found at Dollar Tree. Carol is in Connecticut. I don't know whether she has hard or soft water there. But worth asking. Maybe she'll chime in, here.

      Anyway, Sun powder auto dish detergent has worked about as well as Cascade powder did for us. The liquid auto dish detergents at Dollar Tree did not work for us. They left a film on all of the glasses.

    2. I checked out Carol's blog and it looks interesting. I also checked out Consumer Reports for what works best in hard water. No easy answer, but will be experimenting.

    3. Did Consumer's Reports have some suggestions for hard water detergents?

  6. Eggs are 2 dozen for $3 at Safeway. Need coupon out of flyer.

    1. Thank you for this information! I may pick up a couple of dozen eggs this week!

  7. Before Albertson bought Safeway stores last year, I found great loss leader bargains with the Just4you coupons at Safeway. Since their merger last year, prices seem higher and there are fewer coupon deals. In fact the only time I shop there is when I can double up with coupons and rebate. On top of the manufacturers and store coupons redeemed in-store, I can earn additional online manufacturers coupon and rebates which Savingstar pays by mailing a check or depositing in PayPal. Sometimes I have to question my sanity when I go through these lengths...but it's there, so out of habit I feel compelled to save as much as I can. One day I hope I can close my eyes and pretend the deals are not there lol

    I would love to be more organized, but as much as I am not, my meal plans are even hope improving there I think. Plus this year, we've decided that my husband will control the food dollars, sticking to $300/month. He said he can do it. I want more time to work on my rug hooking :)


    1. Hi YHF,
      That will be interesting to see how he manages. And in any case, it will give you more time and mental energy for your own pursuits. I think it's a great idea if both partners can have a shot at working with the grocery budget. That way, everyone gets a feel for just how hard it is to manage on a budget, and how much things cost. (Answers the question of why can't we have chips and soda everyday like other families, or whatever the foods are that are of high desire.)

      For the past year, I haven't found much of anything to buy at either Safeway or Albertson's. I hardly ever see anyone in the Albertson's, near us, now. It's a shame, but I hope it is making an opening for a new store to flourish, with more competitive pricing. We have a Winco that just opened. It's a bit out of my way to visit, but I'll try to add it to my list of stores/errands this year.

    2. Yes, especially my husband who is pickier than me about the foods he eats, and his "got to have" snacks that are not cheap. I can subsist on bean dishes and kangkong but he would prefer to snack all day than eat these foods everyday. I will still do the coupons and sales on basic supplies, but he will pay for the rest of food purchases from a fixed allotment (less the sales deals that I do). It will be interesting....I hate to be the naysayer denying him the foods he like, so this is our solution to reducing it further. Like you said so well, everyone should have a shot at working the food budget to gain understanding why denying our favorite foods is often necessary to controlling total spend. In addition, this year we are going to be reimbursed for my dad's food whereas in previous years I figured his foods in our budget. I said $300 in relation to 2014 average monthly spend of $522, so after carving out roughly one third, we're hoping to spend $200 per month for husband and I.


    3. YHF, I'll be waiting to hear if he has an "epiphany", regarding the cost of some foods. I grow weary of explaining how expensive some foods/beverages are. Good luck to him on this. Your new food budget is small, for your region, but I think it's doable with some work.

      One of the bonuses to these kinds of experiments is you often find new foods/dishes that you enjoy, that you never would have tried, if not pushed to save money. Never a gloomy cloud without a speck of a silver lining

    4. Yes, I am purposely pushing our limits for the next nine months to learn creative ways to be more frugal. Once these daily habits are learned, I know we can live more comfortably on a fixed retirement income. Instead of working up to the day we retired, I figured use this unemployed period to teach us "extreme frugality". I am hoping this period will teach us depression era lessons that will stay with us for a long time even after we receive our retirement checks. I often thought of frugality as our third leg in retirement since we don't have private pension.


    5. You'll do well, I'm sure. You are motivated to make this work, and that is half the battle.


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