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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Shopping and Gas This Week -- Mid-May

Now that I'm shopping in-person again, I can get more deals. At Fred Meyer I found both asparagus (1.99/lb) and a whole chicken (1.12/lb) on markdown, selling on the sell-by date stamped on the products. The asparagus was slightly wilted and the chicken needed using or freezing immediately. I wound up serving both for dinner that night. While I did find these deals, there were very few markdowns at Fred Meyer. In fact, they've completely eliminated the general clearance rack, having just a day-old bakery rack where marked down canned goods and pantry staples had once been. No markdowns in the dairy department and very few in meats.

Milk is now $3.09 per gallon at Fred Meyer, up 90 cents/gallon in the last year. I bought 3 gallons this time instead of 4. My milk decision is part of a growing trend in the US. Families are buying half-gallons instead of gallons, quarts instead of half-gallons, and for those families that use more milk (like mine) fewer gallons per shopping trip. The 3 gallons will be a 2-week supply for us. We normally use 4 gallons in the same time span. When we run out, we'll just have to be out for a couple of days. The upside to this trend is there could be some gallons that get marked down in coming weeks. I expect they'll be scooped up quickly, however. But someone will get a needed deal. I also bought a 5-pack of garlic (we ran out of our garden supply from last summer over the weekend), a 3-lb bag of onions, and 2 bunches of bananas. I spent $24.48. I also used my gift card to Fred Meyer (my Christmas gift from my husband -- I asked for it) to buy myself a pound of fresh strawberries. But I didn't count that into my grocery spending, as I see these as my Christmas gift. In November, I told my husband that the thing I really wanted was some spending money to buy special foods just for me. He was more than happy to give me this gift card, and I've been enjoying a treat now and then since the holidays.

I also shopped at Cash & Carry ChefStore (restaurant supply) for the first time in months. In the last month, raisins have increased in price by 65 cents per pound at Walmart. I checked several other stores around me and found raisins at a lower price per pound at Cash & Carry, sold in a case of nine 4-lb bags ($2.24/lb). Yes, that's 36 pounds of raisins. The best-by date is December 2022, 7 months out. A case is about a 9 to 11-month supply for us. I'll freeze several bags, which will keep them beyond that best-by date. (Dried fruit freezes well.) I also bought 15 pounds of fuji apples ($1.03/lb), 20 pounds of carrots (59 cents/lb), 25 pounds of lentils ($18.95), and a 13-oz container of chili powder ($4.09). I spent $131.26.

Walmart.com sometimes has great deals on Folger's instant coffee when bought in cases of six 8-oz jars. There's a limit of 1 case. Wanting free shipping, I added some supplements that my family takes. My cost for the coffee was $20.22. 

For the week, my grocery spending came to $175.96. Last week I didn't grocery shop, so I think I'm doing fine. I expect to be paying more overall on groceries, but I have yet to set a new budget amount. 

Gas topped $5 per gallon in my area for the lowest octane unleaded, $5.09/gal at Fred Meyer, $5.15/gal at 7-11, and $5.49/gal at Shell. We don't have a Costco membership, but Costco gas is the cheapest around at $4.89/gal. I use gasbuddy.com to find the lowest prices in my area each time I need to fill up. If errands take me to neighboring areas, I check gas prices online for those areas, too. 

Speaking of Costco gas -- my son and daughter-in-law (who do have a Costco membership) drove their own car down to Arizona the other week. We had 3 possible routes from which to choose, 1) straight south through WA, OR, CA, then over to AZ, or, 2) east through WA, OR, ID, then south through NV, and finally over to AZ, or, 3) east through WA, OR, ID, then south through UT, then into AZ. Each route had its merits and drawbacks. Due south through CA meant fewer mountain passes and frequent towns but much more expensive gas in CA. Through NV was definitely the shortest in time and miles, good prices on gas, but lots of mountain passes and a long desolate stretch where there are no gas stations. The route through UT was what my son and daughter-in-law chose, as there were enough Costco gas stations so they could get the least expensive gas the entire drive, even if it meant they drove some extra miles. The two of them are pretty careful about evaluating their costs, so I assume they costed out the benefit to driving extra but getting cheaper gas. My husband and I chose the route through NV. My brother advised that this route can be very desolate and said we should map out our gas stops before setting out. We topped off the gas tank at every gas stop we came across. Our small sedan got pretty good gas mileage, so even with a smaller gas tank, we did just fine. 

What's the shopping like in your area? Are you finding very many markdowns or clearance items? How are you changing your grocery shopping during this period of inflation? What's the lowest price on gas in your region?


18 comments:

  1. We moved from California to Oklahoma in February and when we left I think gas was at almost $5 a gallon. In Oklahoma it's currently at $3.89. Very thankful my husband and sons were able to get jobs within a couple of miles from home so that will keep our gas costs lower! I had assumed that food prices would be less here but I'm finding them to be about what they were in California plus there's an 8% sales tax I hadn't factored in so that is causing an increase in what we're spending as well. I've seen very little in the way of markdowns. I'm impressed you found a whole chicken! I haven't been able to get one for about a month so I'm wondering if it's somehow due to the avian flu, but I have been able to find chicken breasts.

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    1. Hi Trina,
      I would have assumed food costs would be lower in Oklahoma than California, too. That surprises me that they aren't. It also surprises me that there's sales tax on groceries. I can understand sales tax on restaurant meals or on non-nutritive food, as those are extras. But sales tax on regular food just seems wrong to me. I hope you have a large enough lot that you can grow a garden in Oklahoma.

      I am glad for you that gas is less expensive, there, for you. My brother and his wife drove from WA state to Bay Area, CA in February and commented afterward that gas was $5/gallon in CA at that time, and this was before the Ukraine/Russia thing. So, your experience with gas prices in CA was likely common.

      There were still several whole chickens at the store in my area of WA. The regular price per pound its higher, but availability is still there. I hope the Avian flu culling is coming to an end soon.

      Have a great weekend, Trina!

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  2. Food prices have gone up. Milk is fluctuating near $4 per gallon, eggs at Aldi was around $2.50+ depending on which one I go to. I found reduced price bread at GFS which is a restaurant supply store. They have a bakery bring in bread and it is very good bread. I found some on the discount rack several weeks ago and the date on the bread was the day I was shopping so it wasn't quite out of date. I froze 3 bags of Italian bread at $1.50 per bag a few weeks ago. I went back yesterday and found the same thing with bread expiring yesterday. I bought Italian bread, rye bread and some dinner rolls all marked down to $1.50 per loaf. I popped those in my freezer. We have a Big Top market that often has vegetables on a discount rack and we will buy those as well. I haven't exactly been looking for meat but I do still see the red "reduced" stickers almost every time I shop.

    I was thinking of buying a big box of frozen cinnamon roll dough at GFS yesterday (not sure if they even have that) but decided not to spend my money on something I can make at home. So, I found a recipe for cinnamon rolls that I can freeze and proceeded to make 96 premade cinnamon rolls to freeze. I baked 4 of them and we had those for dessert. They are delicious!

    Alice

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    1. Hi Alice,
      Great job on making your own cinnamon rolls for the freezer! You will enjoy those for many weeks, and your cost was so much lower than what you might've paid at GFS. Your other bread purchases were also a good value.

      The egg and milk prices in your area sound like they're creeping up. The prices sound high for my impression of Aldi. The $2.50/dozen for eggs may be related to the Avian flu. I hope that virus is dealt with quickly and egg and chicken prices can come back down. I still have a stock of eggs bought just before Easter as well as some in the freezer from a purchase a while ago. So I haven't checked our egg prices here in a while. Does GFS carry eggs, either in shell or in liquid form? When we've had high egg prices, here in WA, I've been able to get a better price per dozen or pound at our restaurant supply. FYI on price comparing between eggs in shell and liquid eggs, if buying liquid eggs (in a carton), a 2-lb container is roughly equal to 18 large eggs. Liquid eggs can be frozen in 3-tablespoon amounts (about 1 large egg) for ease of use later.

      Have a good weekend!

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  3. Even before supply chain problems, most of the stores around here eliminated their markdown racks. Not sure why. Prices are up and I'm still seeing a fair amount of empty shelves. One example is dry roasted salted peanuts. It seems odd that there haven't been any at either Aldi's or Walmart for a while now, but there have been unsalted and honey roasted ones.

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    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      That is and odd shortage, the salted dry roasted peanuts. My guess is there's an overall shortage of peanuts and the unsalted and honey-roasted just haven't sold off the shelves yet. What I would expect is when the salted dry roasted do come back in stock they will be at a higher price. I've seen that happen with many items at Walmart over the past year. They go out of stock and when they come back in, they're at a much higher price. That happened with both raisins and canola oil in this past month.

      Have a great weekend, Live and Learn!

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  4. Every time I go grocery shopping it seems like a new adventure in "What will the prices be today? What will the stores be out of today?". I read somewhere that cooking oil prices are going to increase so I'm trying to keep a stock on hand without going overboard. Our gas prices increased 30 cents in a day--fortunately I got it at the cheaper price but are now around $4.59/gallon. Milk is $3.89/gallon. We are big milk drinkers so we take a hit on that. I'm grateful for a little wiggle room in our budget.

    I recently joined the Panera rewards club. They have a "sip club" membership in which you can get a free beverage (and they have lots of options!) and it's good until July 4. You can get a free beverage every 2 hours each day (not that I do .... but still ... ). I meet up with my niece there frequently for an inexpensive outing (coffee and maybe a pastry) so it's come in handy. Passing this info along in case it's useful to anyone.

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    1. Hi Kris,
      Vegetable oil prices have already increased significantly in my area. I paid $4.88/gallon for vegetable oil at Walmart 8 months ago and today it's $7.82/gallon at Walmart and $7.29 at Target. I'm keeping some stock of vegetable oil on hand, enough to get through a few months. We're also saving all of our meat fat (in the freezer) to use in cooking. In addition to vegetable oil, wheat and rice have also been listed as having expectant price increases over the next few months. A brand of high quality flour (I use for yeast bread) that I bought for $4-something/10-lb a year ago is now selling for $9.12/10-lb bag. But Walmart's Great Value all-purpose is still reasonable. I just don't like that quality for bread dough. I have about 20 pounds of good bread flour (white flour) left. I'm thinking of starting to use half good flour/half Great Value all-purpose flour when making bread, and seeing if the result is okay with me.

      Your milk prices are surprising to me. I would have thought your area would have lower dairy prices. I hear you, on sometimes having to take a hit in some areas, especially if it's something your family really enjoys.

      Great info on Panera rewards club. My daughter was able to get a free bagel every day for a month a few years ago. Panera was on her way to school/Uni at the time, so this was especially a great deal for her. I'm glad you can use the beverage deal for when you meet with your niece.

      Have a great weekend, Kris!

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  5. Thats interesting about the milk buying habits Changing. I buy half gallons in cartons now because my usage fluctuates so much and I was tired of wasting so much. Its more expensive but I never have it go bad anymore.
    Sorry you didn't find many markdowns at Fred meyer. I havent been to one in a month or so. The one in Idaho falls doesn't have a markdown rack for anything but produce and bakery either, but we find a lot of markdowns on the shelves themselves. My dd is really good at spotting them, but it's rather time consuming.
    Gas is $4.28 a gallon here. I only use about 10-12 gallons a month so I can pretty easily absorb the added expense. My son drives about 35 miles a day for work, but he bought a $1000 commuter car a couple years ago so he doesn't have to drive his gas guzzling truck, and for the last few months he's been giving a coworker a ride everyday. They split the cost of gas so both of them are saving money.
    I've made that drive to AZ more times than I can count. Once you get into Southern Utah it's very desolate indeed, and the gas stations can be so dirty. Theres a couple I just won't stop at unless I have to. Both my kids that used to live down there have moved back home now, so I haven't been down that way since November 2019.

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    1. Hi Diane,
      It's frustrating when usage of something so perishable like milk becomes irregular. That's happened a couple of times in our family, and I ended up with about half of a gallon going bad that I needed to use ASAP. What I try to do now is freeze milk in smaller containers when we've reached the sell-by date and I still have lots left. In fact, I have about 4 pint containers of frozen near-expiry milk that I'll use in baking and cooking over the next 2 weeks to stretch our fresh milk supply. But I also realize that not every family likes milk that's been frozen. It does sometimes separate, sometimes really badly. I had some milk from Walmart that separated so badly after freezing/thawing that no one in my house would drink it as is. I had to make it into pudding and use in baking to get it used up.

      It sounds like your family is managing the price increases on gas. Good job on your son both buying an economical car and finding a commuting partner to help defray his driving costs. We're doing what we can to keep from driving too much. One daughter is substituting at a school within biking distance this week and my husband still works from home 3 days per week and takes the bus the other 2. The bus situation isn't ideal. It's been so very rainy and the nearest bus stop is over a mile away and requires an extra transfer to a commuter bus, plus my husband's disability makes it harder for him to get to/from the stop and home. So we've been giving him rides to further bus stops, but ones along commuter bus lines.

      On our drive to AZ, some of the gas stations were okay with regards to bathrooms, but some were pretty awful (think local hook-up site, judging by the vending machine in the bathroom). The state run rest stops in northern Nevada were outhouse-style with no washing facilities, and many had posted warnings about rattlesnakes. Yikes! I'm glad for you that your kids have moved back nearby and you won't be needing to make that drive any longer.

      Have a great weekend, Diane!

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  6. Gas here is between 4.39 and 4.49. Milk is something we usually don't have in the house as lactose bothers me. So, I buy almond milk which has gone up about dirty cents per half gallon. We have our own eggs so haven't been watching store prices. But, chicken feed and dog food have really jumped in price. We were in a WM two days ago and got a Boston Butt and a rack of ribs both a third off. They went into the freezer for family gatherings. Our Kroger affiliate doesn't have as many markdowns but I do find some. Mid Sunday morning after church seems to be a good time to find some marked down produce. Sometimes this works well but sometimes the produce is already rotting. I just have to go in with an open mind and noo expectations. If I find a good deal, great. If not,vI did check. Really watching the store ads and buying extras when there is a decent sale...harder to find all the time. Yes, I am seeing empty shelves. But, also noticing more other goods than groceries are sometimes really hard to find. We are just starting to get a bit from the garden. That will help a lot besides tasting so much better than from the store.

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    1. Hi Linda,
      I read a while ago that almond growers in California were facing shortages of water and higher almond prices would result. I'm lactose intolerant and prefer almond milk over some of the other alternative milks. I've also made my own rice milk and oat milk before. Right now I'm using a powdered soy milk. It's okay, but it has a heavy soy taste that I have to sweeten and flavor with vanilla in order to use it on dry cereal. I just eat hot cereal plain, now. But the powdered soy milk is fine when used in cooking, like cheese sauces. Thirty cents a half-gallon is a big price hike. (and ha ha on the "dirty" cents).

      Thanks for the tip on finding mark downs mid-morning on Sundays. I'll have to check out our local stores after church.

      I'm glad your garden is now beginning to produce. In just a few more weeks, most of our (all of us) gardens will be producing well. So there's hope for us.

      Have a great weekend, Linda!

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  7. Haha....almond milk up about thirty cents...not dirty cents! Sometimes autocirrect us hilarious and bizarre. Ugh!

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  8. We did more frequent grocery shopping when prices were starting to rise in order to stock up, so now thankfully we can take a short pass on higher prices. Now and then there is a good clearance deal, not always grocery, but that's what we seem to see more of. Savings is savings, so the trade off maybe better clearances in discretionary nonfoods items that are not selling as briskly, but need to be cleared for new merchandise. Recently at Home Depot, we found Olympic brand solid stains clearanced 90% off, saving $400 on 10 gallons. Each gallon was about $45 at regular price. We are building a play house for our granddaughter, so the savings was timely. We are also shopping thrift stores often to save. Yesterday, I bought a large bag (over 80 fat quarters of batik and quilt quality fabrics) that sell at least $3 each, for $13.49, saving at least $200, plus there were other nice fabric remnants in the bag too. Quiltng and crafting can be expensive, so finding deals in that department sort of makes up for higher food costs.

    Laura

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    1. Hi Laura,
      I did the same as I saw prices starting to rise. I didn't know how much to buy at the time for our supplies, so there are some items that I'm now needing to buy more of. I'm glad that you can wait out some of these price increases.

      That's an amazing deal on the stain for the playhouse. What a fun project! Your granddaughter will love it. Is this a playhouse for when she visits at your house or for her parents' house? My sister and I had a playhouse when we were little. My mom sewed small aprons for both of us, a valance for the window, and a table cloth for the little table. I still have my little apron in a box with my favorite childhood things. Those quilting pieces were also a great deal. My daughter (the one who likes to knit) has found good deals on yarns at thrift stores. You just have to be not picky about color or pattern.

      Have a great weekend, Laura!

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    2. We are doing much of the prep work including painting the individual pieces at home, then assembling it in their back yard, 30 miles away. Our son and DIL sent a picture from pinterest of the style they wanted. It is not the typical cute playhouse, but a structure large enough to fit an adult. Our granddaughter will not have any playmates (she's 10 years younger than her brothers) so her mother will spend time with her. I love this idea, as the house can get crowded with 3 teenage boys, and this can be a place for mother daughter meetings.

      So cute that you still have your small apron. Your mother made many special memories by the wonderful things she did for you and your sister.

      Laura

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  9. Thank you so much for the tip about freezing dried fruit. My husband bought me a small bag of dried apricots for a treat. There are just too many to eat right now, so I will freeze in small portions for a snack. Gas prices here are $4.49/ gal -- Midwest - near Chicago.
    Cari

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    1. Hi Cari,
      I'm glad you can use that tip. Yes, I freeze all of our home-dried fruit as well as commercially-dried fruit that we won't eat soon enough. I double-bag it to help prevent moisture loss. Enjoy those dried apricots!

      Your gas prices sound comparable to other parts of the mid-west. I read that gas could average about $6/gallon across the US this summer. That kind of puts a damper on travel plans for many, many families. Here in Washington state, they're prepping gas pumps and boards for $10/gallon and higher (allowing double digits in the dollar place). I can't imagine how some folks will even be able to get to their jobs at this cost. They cut back bus schedules and routes in the last year, so taking a bus is no longer viable for some folks. How I wish we could turn back the clocks a few years.

      Have a great weekend, Cari!

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