Thursday, March 3, 2016

My grocery, household and garden shopping plans for March

In planning out the spending for this month, I am keeping a couple of events in mind. It's a busy, busy month ahead.

Groceries

I have a much larger grocery budget than usual this month, due to surpluses from previous months. But I want to take care that I don't blow it all too soon.

First off, the week leading up to St. Patrick's day should yield sales on cabbage and corned beef. While I don't do a traditional SPD dinner, here, I do always pick up a few heads of cabbage.


Then, we have my daughters's 21st birthday. I'll make a special meal for that dinner. I'm not sure what that will be and whether or not I will buy anything extra for that dinner. We often take our kids out to a restaurant for birthday dinners. But this year, we're doing things a little differently. We'll eat a home-cooked dinner and scratch-baked cake, and push that birthday dinner budget (another budget category, "holidays and celebrations") to their special 21st birthday gift.

As it is their 21st birthday, they will receive as their birthday gift, a trip to San Francisco, for a few days over their spring break. Neither have been to SF before. I took our son, there, about the same age. So, it just seemed right that I should take the two daughters there, to mark this occasion. I studied the airfares over several months, and checked daily, twice daily at times. I booked the flights the afternoon that the prices fell. (Really, I had checked the prices in the morning, and still high, then by mid-afternoon the fares had dropped to half.)

I looked into many possibilities for places to stay, and best dates, price-wise for that stay. It was an amazing difference in lodging cost, just moving our dates to one part of the week, from a few days later, and staying one night less than we'd originally planned.

So, in lieu of a restaurant birthday dinner, we're saving that money, to put towards this trip. And in order to eat on the cheap while in SF, we plan on bringing some food items from home, for putting together a couple of picnic meals, and all of our snacking. Some of those items that we'll bring, we'll be buying as extras for our trip, such as shelf-stable packages of hard salami and some sliced cheese, with a loaf of bread and some crackers, plus nuts and dried fruits. We'll also do a little grocery shopping while there. But the SF grocery stores are notoriously more expensive than suburban supermarkets. We will be paying for all of our groceries in SF with grocery money from this month's grocery budget.

I do feel fortunate that what my daughters want to do in San Francisco is not in the budget-busting category. They want to see a play, go to an art museum, see the Golden Gate bridge, shop in thrift stores, and visit Chinatown.


We also have Easter to plan for, at the end of the month. I have little bit of Easter candy from last year, including a bag of jelly beans, that I'll put into small dishes on the Easter dinner table, as I did last year.  (I used sherbet dishes at each place setting, filled with jelly beans. It was a fun thing to have on the table and enjoyed by everyone -- especially my friend's mother who joined us.) I have a ham in the freezer, and potatoes and frozen green beans. I'd like to buy some yams and asparagus to go with the dinner. Prices for both of these are always lowest at our local produce stand, which opens the Thursday before Easter. We'll likely have a rhubarb pie for dessert. Easter breakfast/brunch will be put together with what we have, here, so no extra expense other than the yams and asparagus.

Other food items that I'll be buying in March -- cabbage, mid-March, St. Patrick's Day ads (depending on the price, but likely 3 to 4 heads, they'll keep in the refrigerator for a couple of months), 50-lbs of all-purpose flour (at the Cash & Carry), fresh fruit like apples and bananas (the ethnic market and Trader Joe's), cocoa powder (Trader Joe's, our best price on cocoa powder in the area), carrots (a 25-lb sack, if that's the best price per pound, at Cash & Carry, 25 lbs would last us through the spring months), butter (supermarket, good sales often just before Easter, looking fro $1.99/lb) and of course, eggs, eggs, eggs and more eggs. I am hoping for another 99 cents/dozen sale at Target or Walgreen's. Last year, Walgreen's did not have eggs in their ad, but when I went into the store, they were in sale. Last Easter week, I bought 22 dozen eggs. Given that I still have about 7 dozen eggs in the freezer, 22 dozen later this month would be enough to last until late summer, I believe. I will freeze most of these eggs that I do find for around $1 a dozen. I am assuming prices will have gone up on eggs, as well, and the deal on eggs might be $1.19/dozen or thereabouts. I have 2 hams in the freezer, already. I may buy 1 more ham during Easter week, if $1.49/lb or less. That would give us 1 ham for Easter, another for around Mother's Day, and the third ham to be baked in early fall. Spring is also a good time to pick up whole chickens, in our area. I like to buy a couple of whole chickens for the freezer, to cook on the grill in summer.

These items are what I plan to buy, given the right price. I'll also pick up other deals, as I find them.

Household

For household shopping, we need coffee filters and shampoo (Dollar Tree), acetaminophen, ibuprofen, vitamin C, laundry detergent or more bar soap for melting for homemade laundry soap, I'll use my senior discount at Fred Meyer, for the OTC's, and hope for detergent to go on sale at Cash & Carry, or else buy the bar soap at Dollar Tree.

Garden

Seeds for annuals, fertilizer for the vegetable beds, a couple of replacement boxwood for the 2 that didn't survive, in the hedge, some pavers to complete a walkway in the yard, lily bulbs and garden soil and/or compost. I have a couple of gift cards to Home Depot that I will use for much of this. The gift cards were bought by me, when Fred Meyer was offering 4 X the fuel rewards on gift cards in December. They do this a couple of times per year. I buy gift cards then, to stores I frequent, to get the maximum of fuel rewards that I can use in a month.

The lily bulbs are cheapest per bulb in the "value pack", as opposed to 5 bulbs per pack. The "value pack" often gives you an assortment, you don't get to choose the variety of bulb. But the cost savings (several dollars, if buying 30 or more bulbs), more than compensates for the lack of color choice, for me. I priced the value pack the other day, for $12.99/15 bulbs (or 86 cents/bulb). In comparison, if I want a specific variety, 5 bulbs are priced at $8.99 (or $1.80/bulb). And if I use my Senior discount, this takes another 10% off the per bulb price, down to 77cents per bulb. I am hoping to use some of these lily blooms (if they coincide with some summer events, here), for part of some floral arrangements. If the timing doesn't work out, at least I'll have some pretty flowers for coming years. (I'm going to start these in pots on the deck, too, like I did for the daffodils, with hopes of getting a jump start on growth.) These lilies will be planted in the same general area as the daffodils, within view from both the house and the deck.


It didn't seem like I had much on my shopping list. LOL But in rereading what I've typed, it might be an expensive month. Fortunately, we are only spending what we have already set aside.

Are there any specific deals you usually find in March, or whenever Easter falls?

19 comments:

  1. Wow. I've "known" you for a long time. I remember you blogging about ways to handle college costs. And now the girls are 21!

    I love your idea of a trip. I went so SF once (for a conference--I added an extra couple of days on to my trip to see the area, since the expensive part of the trip aka airfare was already paid for) and it was fun. Vacations create lifelong memories.

    So funny you posted about this today. I'm in the process of planning a summer vacation for us to the Smokey Mountains. In searching around, the most comfortable and cost-effective lodging is renting a condo--and by looking early, I have more options open to me than if I waited till the last minute. We can prepare our own food in a condo (although I plan on eating a few meals out) and the condo I am looking at is in walking distance of most of what we want to do, saving on parking costs. The national park is free ... there is live musical entertainment on the streets in the evenings, again for free ... we plan on driving, not flying ... so I think we can have a fun experience and not go overboard with costs.

    My favorite food deal around Easter is eggs, but I will also look for butter sales. My hubby is in charge of corned beef & cabbage.

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    1. Hi Kris.

      I had to chime in to say that my family and I took a vacation to the Smokey Mountains in August 2014, and it was wonderful! We didn't want to leave.

      You are on the right track with renting a condo that is within walking distance of the shops and restaurants. It was our first trip to the Smokey Mountains, and we didn't think about that. We rented a cabin that was a very short drive from town...but not within walking distance. We did a lot of meals in our cabin, but had a few restaurant meals as well. My husband was very frustrated by the traffic and trying to find parking spaces every time we wanted to eat out or go to the shops. Not even halfway through our trip, we said to each other that when we go back we will rent something in town and walk!

      The national park is so beautiful! Maybe you've been before, and already know this, but if not be sure to drive the Cade's Cove Motor Trail. Beautiful scenery and lots of historical spots to check out along the way. The Roaring Fork Motor Loop is also very scenic. Be sure to go to Clingman's Dome...the highest point in the Smokey Mountains. The walk to the observation tower is kind of long, but the views are spectacular.

      One thing we weren't prepared for, is that driving the Motor Trails or in the park in general takes a little longer than we thought due to lower speed limits, sightseeing traffic, etc. We weren't prepared for this, and got extremely hungry one day and it took us almost two hours to drive back to Gatlinburg. We had packed bottled water, but not snacks and I wished we had.

      We saw a bear outside our cabin, and a mama bear with three cubs on the Cade's Cove Trail. It was such a great vacation!

      If you like pizza, Big Daddy's Pizzaria is wonderful. They use brick ovens. The kids loved it because they do individual pizzas with so many choices. I had ham, pineapple and onion with goat cheese. I still dream about that pizza. Lol.

      We can't wait to go back to the Smokey Mountains. Last year, we went to Western North Carolina, and drove a lot of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and that was beautiful too. My husband and I like living in Ohio for the most part, but if we moved it would be to Tennessee or North Carolina to be close to the mountains.

      Hope you have a wonderful vacation!

      Angie

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    2. Hi Kris,
      It has been a while since I began blogging, hasn't it? How about you? Your son is middle school, right? He was early to mid-elementary when we first met online. And you daughter wasn't more than preschool or Kindergarten that first year. We must be having fun, because time sure has flown!

      Summer vacation planning. Your trip sounds like it will be amazing. Can I come? I've never seen that part of the US. My husband grew up part of his years in Kentucky, so he's a little familiar with the Smokies. Are you going through airbnb or vrbo? There are some great rentals available through both of those sites. My son has used vrbo for several of his vacations. He loves that he can get a place with a kitchen, and often have a fair amount of solitude (as opposed to a hotel room, where you have maids and other people milling around just outside your door). Have fun planning your vacation!

      Yes, we are really looking forward to this trip to San Francisco. Even though I grew up in So. Ca. I've only been to SF one other time in my life, so this is exciting for me. I have a hard time really enjoying restaurant dining. I think because it always seems so overpriced to me. So, picnics are just my style. Especially so if the weather is lovely, and we can find nice parks to take our picnics to.

      Help me out, here -- what is the appeal of corned beef? I do like it thinly sliced and cold for sandwiches, but as a hot meat/roast I just don't get it. How does your husband cook it and serve it? What could I do differently with it, other than just cook according to package directions, that would make it better?

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    3. Hi Angie,
      I just had to say -- that must have been some pizza! Have you tried replicating it at home? If so, what did you do differently from you regular way of making pizza?

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    4. I love corned beef as a boiled dinner with cabbage/potatoes/carrots so I guess I'm not much help to you. With the sandwiches, my hubby does a grilled one with thinly sliced apples on it that is oooh so good.

      Son in 7th grade, daughter in 4th. Trying to get in some good vacations now that they are old enough to remember and can participate in more things. :)

      Angie, thanks for your input!!! At first a cabin in the mountains sounded good, but in thinking about my family's interests, I switched gears. My daughter and I enjoy some hiking, but not the "death marches" the guys enjoy going on. We will do some family activities, but if my daughter and I want a quiet day, we have the option to do so. We had also thought about going to Lookout Mountain in GA but decided that might be too much (driving from MI ... ). My husband and I were both in Gatlinburg as kids but that was a loooong time ago and things change. I will use your ideas, for sure!

      My favorite city in the world is Charleston, SC, in case you ever want a vacation idea ... or west Michigan is lovely! :)

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    5. Oh, and Lili, I am using VRBO. First time for me. Usually we camp. :)

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    6. Hi Lili.

      The pizza was amazing! I think it was the fire baked crust, and the local ingredients that made it so special. Or maybe it was partly being on vacation that made it so special. I have not tried replicating it at home, because I don't think it would be the same. :)

      Kris, I am laughing out loud about the 'death marches'. :) I would not enjoy that either. We have done a few moderate hikes in Ohio and enjoyed it, nothing too strenuous. Our main deterrent from hiking in the Smokey Mountains was bears. We prefer looking at the bears through glass...as in car windows or cabin windows...instead of up close and personal. I know lots of people hike in the mountains without issues with bears, but I guess it's a hang up with our family. Lol.

      I've wanted to get to Charleston, SC, thanks for mentioning that. I'll have to google Lookout Mountain in GA. We've talked about Michigan, as well. In fact, I have the travel guides at home. We seem to have fixated on the mountains for now, though.

      We have only taken four 'big family vacations'. I realized a few years ago that the boys were old enough to enjoy the trips, and that my oldest would be moving out soon.

      We went to Cass, West Virginia for the first one and took a train ride on an old logging train to Bald Knob (the second highest point in WV), explored the local state parks and went to Seneca Rocks and Seneca Caverns. It was our first trip to any mountains, and we were hooked.

      Our second was to Lake Erie. We spent a day at Cedar Point. We took a ferry to Kelley's Island, rented a golf cart and explored for hours. Then we did something my husband and sons really wanted and spent a day fishing from a charter boat.

      The Smokey Mountains and western North Carolina were our third and fourth trips. My oldest son is now 19. He moved out last fall into his own apartment, and is working and attending college. I'm so glad we took those vacations together. Lots of awesome memories.

      Oh, back to Michigan...my husband's step-grandmother is from Michigan. She suggested when we vacation there, we go to Mackinaw (I think) island. She loves it, so we'll have to check that out.

      We used VRBO for the first time last year for our North Carolina vacation. We were very happy. For less than half the cost of a hotel, we rented a three bedroom, two bathroom cottage. It was clean, beautiful, and convenient to Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway. We will definitely use VRBO again!

      Angie

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    7. Angie--

      Where are you in Ohio? I lived near Sandusky for 3 years and was a couple of blocks away from Lake Erie. I grew up going to Cedar Point and lived close enough to Put-in-Bay to go there several times (never made it to Kelley's Island, though). I used to take road trips to Amish country--so beautiful there, and the food was delicious. (Berlin, Walnut Creek, and my favorite, Charm--because we could get our picture taken in front of "Charm School" which greatly amused me).

      My husband's family is in Illinois so we've done smaller trips there--lots of Abe Lincoln sites. They are close to Missouri so we've taken advantage of that and gone to St. Louis and Hannibal (childhood home of Mark Twain). We've camped a lot of places in Michigan. This is our first true family vacation out of state. We also want to do Yellowstone and will probably include South Dakota (Mt. Rushmore, etc.) as long as we are making the drive.

      If you come to Michigan, I think your best bet would be to travel up the west coast by Lake Michigan--so many pretty places there. Hotels get expensive in the summer, so if you camp at all, that would be more economical. Traverse City is gorgeous and has lots of variety of activities (northern west coast). Then I'd cut across to the Mackinaw area--Mackinaw City has a fabulous fort, Michilimackinac, to tour. Mackinac Island (pronounced the same way but spelled differently) is an emergency-vehicles only island and is very picturesque. Many people bike around it. You are right by the Mighty Mac bridge that goes to the UP--another fun thing to do is to go to Tahquamenon Falls. It's close to Lake Superior so you could see that, too. If you'll let me, I'll keep coming up with ideas for you, so I'll stop now. :)

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    8. Kris,

      I've lived in south central Ohio all of my life. My husband was born in Northern Ohio, near Findlay. His family moved around quite a bit, and he ended up in south central Ohio as well.

      My parents took my sister and I to Sandusky almost every year. We didn't take family vacations out of state. Sometimes we camped for a couple of days, sometimes we had a hotel room for a couple of days. We always spent at least one day at Cedar Point, and we went to Kelley's Island and Put-in-Bay. I have a lot of good childhood memories of those trips. When we took the boys to Cedar point three years ago, I was sad that the Space Needle was gone. As a child I always loved Frontier Town and remember looking around the shops, and watching the glass blowing.

      It is so funny that you mentioned Berlin and Walnut Creek. I have never been there, but will be soon. My husband's company is sending him there for a couple of days for business, and they encouraged me to go along. We'll be staying at a hotel in Belin. I'm excited. I've been looking online at some of the Amish shops I'd like to go visit.

      We are hoping to go to Yellowstone some day.
      Thanks for the tips about a Michigan trip. I jotted down notes, since we'll probably try to get to Michigan soon.

      Have a great day!
      Angie

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  2. Wow, I didn't know there could be a price difference in air fare, morning and later in the day (unless you caught it at the cusp of prices going down.) I know plane fares sometimes drop closer in, but not too close in before departure. We are not planning a trip right now, but I have some travel points that I want to use up before June, so I offered them to our son and DIL. I've booked trips from Hawaii to Bellingham twice before and the points used were always significantly lower than to Seattle. This year, despite fuel costs down, prices on those tickets are 50% higher. I've been searching weekly, and yesterday too (Wednesdays are supposedly known to be a good day for price drops). I'm using US Bank FlexPerks points which uses Orbitz search and pricing. This morning after reading your post, it dawned on me, to use Kayak to compare various travel vendors, maybe only Orbitz is higher than the rest? But it showed the same results, therefore the FlexPerks points required does seem to correctly reflect the current market on airfares. Do you find airfares today ridiculously priced despite the drop in fuel cost? I might try a search for another time of year for them, maybe fall break in October instead of spring break in two weeks. I know travel costs are significantly affected by US and global economic conditions. Our best travel prices were after the 2003 and 2008 recessions.

    Your daughters and son are so fortunate to be ushered into adulthood with a birthday trip. Just knowing how much effort goes into this, must make them feel very special.

    I've been buying eggs($1.30) and rice ($4/15lb) at roughly half off at Kmart with my SYWR email coupons. We also frequent our neighborhood grocer for short dated clearance, and noticed a few days ago, butter for $2.50. If no one buys this in a week, I'm sure the price will drop to ridiculous prices.

    YHF

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    1. Hi YHF,
      Yes, and I heard a few weeks back, that airlines were not going to be reducing fares to reflect lower fuel costs, this time around. Kinda of discouraging from a travelers point of view.

      But there are some deals if you can be flexible with what time of day you want to travel. Leaving SeaTac, if you're willing to leave on the 6 AM flight, you can save a bundle. And some of these super low fares have been advertised 6 or 7 months in advance, and then again at 2 months in advance. It pays to just keep checking, daily.

      I think being willing to change travel dates really helps, too. I was restricted to traveling during spring break, but by just shifting a day here and there, I saved $100s overall. And for your son and DIL, traveling from the mainland, I'd think spring break would be much more expensive than fall. It seems that families everywhere get the idea to go some place over spring break, but then by early fall feel like they just had summer vacation. Wishing you success in finding a good fare for your family.

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    2. That's a good point about the difference between fall and spring break. Never thought that to be the case. Thanks for this tip. I agree being flexible in dates can make a big difference. Supply and demand makes all the difference in travel. I'm just thinking if I told the two that the only flight out will be 6am from Seattle...ummm they will not look so happy.

      The deal about these Flexperks points is I get twice the value (2%) booking flights rather than turning them into gift cards or cash back, and I don't want to pay another $59 for annual fee just to hold this card another year. Sigh...

      YHF

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    3. Hi YHF I was looking for tickets to Hawaii for times from January to March. There were amazing deals depending on the day to travel, price drops mid week Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and some Saturday's. I even found VRBO's with odd days like this that could have accommodated our schedule

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    4. Hi TG,
      I like this site when looking for travel flights: http://matrix.itasoftware.com/
      It gives the lowest prices for each departure day for a month after the departure date and length of stay specified. It can be exact number of days or a range of days.

      Also: https://www.google.com/flights/

      It compares prices on various destinations.

      Great that you have found some good deals to Hawaii!! Great weather...I just came back from the beach today (looking for shells is my new retirement hobby) :)

      YHF

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  3. Hi Lili,
    You have a big month planned :). My daughter visited SF with a friend a few years ago. She purchased some sort of pass I will see if she remembers which one. Maybe it was the SF city pass. Some of the passes include transportation and entry to museums, Boat ride,Aquarium, and transportation, I think it might include the Muni pass ( cable car and bus. It seemed pricey but it included a lot.
    I think they also have a Bart pass. You probably have looked into all this but I just remember she found some passes that really helped with the things she wanted to do.
    Have a blessed day
    Patti

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    1. Hi Patti,
      there's a hop on, hop off city pass for a city tour that looks good. You can take the entire day to see all of the sights, for less than a guided 2 or 3 hour tour. My son looked into a muni pass for his last trip there, and said it was more expensive than paying individual fares, for what they needed, but I will look into it. We'll be taking BART from the airport, and walking from the BART station to our lodging. When my son and I went there, we found public transportation to be so wonderful. We brought backpacks instead of suitcases, so taking BART from the airport was easier, and I'll do the same with this trip. And my son and I walked a lot, which made the trip interesting as well as cheaper. We really like being able to just walk everywhere and really see a place. Which reminds me, I need to get a map before we go! We sometimes walk so much that we lose track of how to get back!

      Have a wonderful day, Patti!

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  4. The hop on hop off buses sound really fun. We did that when
    we were in New York to see the parade. It was something we always wanted to do. My daughter said she got the San Francisco city pass it included a lot of the things on her list. She was able to do this because her previous employers paid her airfare and lodging. She said she loved the view from The De young Museum. Back packs are the way to go when traveling. It sounds like you will have
    a grand time, how fun. We try to bring some food when traveling and also shop for groceries when we get there.
    What a wonderful celebration for you and your daughters.
    Blessings
    Patti

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  5. My son and husband went to San Francisco a few years ago and their favorite site was Alcatraz. Whether you visit there or not, I recommend you read, "Al Capone Does My Shirts". It's a kids book, but it's very good. It takes place on Alcatraz back when the families of the workers lived there. It's historical fiction in that way.

    It's interesting how a post about your March shopping and the price of eggs turned into a tourist seminar. Lots of good information.

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  6. That will be a special trip for you & your daughters. I'm sure they will always look back on that time with wonderful memories.
    Rhonda

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