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Friday, August 17, 2012

August's grocery money journal -- mid month

August 5. This month most definitely will not be as good as last. How do I know? We're just 5 days into the month and I've spent $82.56 already. Some of that stuff was stock-up stuff, like two cans of coffee and 40 lbs. of sugar.  I also bought about $12 of produce. (Some of the produce items were really great deals, though, whole cantaloupes for 50 cents a piece, a bag of 5 green peppers for 99 cents, and my fav bananas from Trader Joes -- we search for the biggest ones, as they're priced by the piece, 19 cents per banana.) Whereas last month we tried to mostly eat out of our garden. And I bought some items for my Big Batch cooking later in the month. And always the milk, plus some marked down meat -- a couple of pounds of Italian chicken sausage. Plus I noticed a big jump up in price of roasted sunflower seeds, almost $3 a pound. Unroasted were still $1.49/lb. So I bought all that was in the bin, almost 9 pounds.  I use the sunflower seeds in my homemade sunseed butter. I still need to do some research and see if sunflower seed prices are expected to jump. I have noticed sun seed butter for sale in more and more markets these days. Demand could drive prices up.

So, I need to brainstorm more ways to save on grocery spending without compromising quality of our meals. One thing, I'll be making and using rice milk more often. I did buy a 1/2 gallon of soy milk at Trader Joes' the other day. But I think I'll hang on to that carton for my yogurt, and use rice milk every other place I might've used soy.

In my Big Batch cooking this month, I'll try to sub some barley-lentil mix for some of the ground meat. I don't like all that much ground meat anyways.

We'll continue to eat as much from the garden as possible. It's great that green beans and potatoes are now finally ready. Still waiting on the zucchini, tomatoes and carrots.

It's been so hot this week I haven't wanted to cook much. Tonight's dinner was sunseed butter on homemade sourdough bread, watermelon, green salad, green beans and blueberries for dessert.

Yesterday's dinner was also easy on me, leftover baked beans from earlier in the week, sourdough bread with pasta sauce and zucchini on top (instead of pasta, we used slices of sourdough, everyone thought it was good), watermelon, salad, and s'mores for dessert.

Lunch today was hot dogs wrapped in homemade biscuit dough, rolled up like crescents. Pretty good. And had watermelon with the dogs.

Now, I'll go research the sunflower seed crop and supply. Okay, so demand is up a bit, but prices shouldn't jump much. May be just one of those things at the store the other day, Still, I'm glad I bought the seeds that I did. I also researched this year's peanut crop. It's looking better than last years, thankfully. Peanuts can take more heat and drought than many other crops.  Maybe peanut butter prices will drop some this fall.

Aug. 12
I found milk, eggs and beef on sale this week. I stocked up quite well. 15 pounds of beef, 6 gallons of milk (several of those are whole milk for making yogurt!) and 7 dozen eggs. We've spent about $130 so far for the month. I do need a few things for the end of the month big batch cooking. I'm not sure what else I'll find on sale this month.

I'll be making pasta in a few days, as I'm getting low on pasta and don't know if I'll find it on sale any time soon. The garden is doing well. No need for much in the way of produce. I've gotten my autumn veggies planted. I like to plan ahead. It's been warm this week, which makes me not want meat. A great savings as a result. We've eaten a lot of bean dishes this week. Refried beans, garbanzo beans in pasta, and a nice soup with marinara sauce, barley, garden vegetables and more garbanzos.  Needed a quick dinner tonight, so made a batch of sourdough pancakes.

The freezer is beginning to fill up again. It was just a month ago that it was looking a little bare. I've been cleaning the pantry, one shelf at a time. Now I know what's in there, what I have to work with, and what to use up soon. I've been making rice milk again. Pennies a glass. But I do need to make sure I get protein, calcium and Vit D from other sources.

I made yogurt cheese (it's a lot like cream cheese), over the weekend. I used it in some smoked salmon spread. I'm not a huge fish eater, but even I thought this was good. I really liked the yogurt cheese. I can see making it again and again. It cost just 33 cents for 8 oz.

Hooray for teenage girls who love to bake! My daughters made a large batch of oatmeal cookies, something sweet in the house. Lunch was a salad, leftover homemade lavosh (this recipe will be posted tomorrow, Sat. Aug 18) from yesterday, yogurt and blueberries. Dinner tonight is more green salad, with some shredded cabbage added (free cabbage left here by friend of my son), refried beans from the freezer, rice and salsa. It's still warm and I have no appetite for meat. It's supposed to stay warm like this for several days. I think we'll roast hot dogs later this week. We'll be outdoors at least.

I've now made 6 jars of dill green bean pickles. They'll be ready to eat in two months. I'd like to make some other dill pickles, but my veggie supply isn't working that way for me.

We are mid-month now. I've spent $132 so far on food groceries (I don't include cleaning supplies, the once-a-month restaurant meal out and meals on vacation in this budget). Yesterday I wasn't with it. After the dentist, my jaw hurt all day, and still does today. Hard to get home cooked meals on days like that. But again, thanks to my daughters, we had a frugal and home cooked dinner. They made split pea soup, topped with plain yogurt, green salad and homemade carrot muffins. We're out of bread, so the leftover muffins became this morning's breakfast.

For dinner I'm making pizza. I'll do a (the dough recipe is in the comments of this post) double batch of the dough and bake half for a loaf of French bread for tomorrow and the next day. The pizza sauce is just my homemade big batch pasta sauce. I've got just enough mozzarella and cheddar to top one large pizza. And instead of pepperoni, I thin slice a beef hot link to go on top. This, with green beans from the garden, a salad and cookies for dessert should be more than enough for dinner tonight.

Later Aug.15. Squirrels had knocked apples off the tree, so instead of cookies tonight, we had a rustic apple pie (a large turnover-like pie made on a baking sheet instead of in a pie plate). Oh, and I found a loaf of bread in the freezer. This just made my day. So now we have 1 whole wheat loaf and 1 French loaf. Woohoo!! I don't have to bake bread in this mini heat wave we're having! (Seattle gets 3 days tops of heat per year, and we all melt!) Thinking we just had the loaf of French bread to get through a couple of days, I went ahead and made a large pot of cream of rice mixed with oatmeal (and flavored with maple and butter, should be yummy) for breakfast tomorrow.

I was in a cooking/baking mood today. I did another batch of Lavosh crackers. Most are gone now. I made "garbage soup". I seem to need to do that once a month to keep up with my supply of veggie scraps in the freezer. And this time, I used a sharpie to mark all the containers of stock for the freezer! When frozen, veggie soup stock sometimes looks a lot like frozen apple juice. Now that would be a bit of a surprise, taking a big gulp of soup stock, thinking it was apple juice!

I dehydrated another batch of oregano today. I read somewhere, that oregano is one of the few herbs whose flavor actually improves with drying. This was a large batch today. We've about gone through the batch from last month, already. I'm hoping to get one more large harvest before fall, and maybe that'll get us through next winter. I'd hate to have to buy oregano. That just sounds so odd, considering it's free in my garden. I may try digging up a stray plant and bringing it into a sunny window for winter. It would be so great to have a greenhouse to keep things growing all winter long!

Tomorrow night it's a cookout here. No indoor cooking on one of the 3 hot nights of the summer.

Aug. 16. We took our lunch to the beach today. Leftover homemade pizza, iced tea and fresh fruit from the gardens, blueberries and more of the apples the squirrels knocked off the tree. Afterwards, we splurged and stopped in at McDonalds and bought $1 sundaes. We asked if there's an extra charge for extra fudge topping. She said no. So we got our sundaes with extra topping. Yum! Doesn't hurt to ask. And as always, got tap water to drink to go with the ice cream. All of Seattle is melting today, it is so hot.

That's it for the first half of the month. To try and keep my spending down, I've spent a lot of time in the kitchen. We'll just have to see how the second half of the month goes.


  1. I've been noticing how much you bake in the summer. I don't do much baking then unless we happen to have a cool summer (ya never know in Michigan!). I've been meaning to try out your microwave brownie recipe but it's cooled off here now so I'm in the mood to use the oven again. :) I got a deal last week on English muffins at Aldi--now my kids are asking me to make them from scratch. Have you ever tried that? I have a recipe so I might give it a go one of these days. And it's cool enough to consider trying your pizza dough recipe--heating up the oven to over 400* just doesn't appeal to me in 90+ temps!

    I'm not sure I know of anyone who does as well as you do at keeping your grocery costs down! Thanks for giving us a peek at your day-to-day life!

    1. Hi Kris,
      I guess I do bake a lot year round. But I don't think about it much. I usually bake early in the day, before the kitchen heats up.

      I do make English muffins. I have two recipes. One is here on the blog. They're also known as sourdough skillet biscuits. They're not that much more work than making biscuits, except the rising time, and then "baking" them on the stove. Homemade English muffins are very soft and tender, but still have that chewy texture when split and toasted.

      I'm probably working harder at keeping spending down these months, as I'm trying to bank some money for extra grocery spending in November and December. But I also just like the challenge.

      I'm glad that it has cooled off there some. It sounded like a brutally hot summer in areas.

  2. Three hot days a year... ;-) We were ecstatic when it dropped below 90 yesterday.

    I love reading your grocery updates. With all the changes here I've had to give away a lot of my canned pantry supplies -- the silver lining is they're blessing someone else. I've spent a lot this month and really have less than 2 weeks food. Ugh! Sometimes that is how it goes though.

    1. Hi Shara,
      We are weather wimps here. Every summer, when we have our 3 day heat wave, we all talk about installing air conditioning!

      The amount of sodium in canned goods is horrible. I'm guessing that's why you gave away so much. What's good, though, you were able to bless someone else, as you said. And for future purchases, I'm seeing more and more reduced sodium or no salt added canned foods, especially in the canned veggies. It probably will be costly at first, as you try to figure out meals with dietary restrictions. This just may need to be an area where more of your budget goes. Fresh produce can be costly.

      Do you participate in CSA purchases? I know a lot of folks do. I'll be receiving my first box next week, and I'll see if it's a good deal in our area. We also like to visit u-pick farms. We know of one in our area, off the beaten path, that has fabulous prices. We bought a bunch of corn last year in September. I'm looking forward to gong back there again.

      We're trying to eat even more fruits and vegetables around here. And I'm trying very hard to cut back on sugar. This is difficult with kids who want cookies and such. But I'm working on it.

      Good luck with your adjustment to the changes! Soon, your old ways of cooking will be a mere memory.

    2. Shara--I checked out your blog but don't have any of the accounts necessary to leave a comment--but kudos to you for your efforts to get healthier! I lost 60 pounds 5 years ago with Weight Watchers (I highly recommend the program) and have kept it off and, as the saying goes, have never felt better. It's a tough journey but SO worth it.

      I have found that, ultimately, I have spent so much less on groceries than I otherwise would have if I hadn't lost the weight. Junk food costs money, too! And portion control ... you might need to buy more healthy cuts of meat but if you are eating less overall then you will save money. It will take awhile to see that but don't be discouraged. Your body will adapt to lesser amounts of food--really! It will! And I have found ways to include "fun" foods in a healthier manner. I bake a lot and have learned to tweak muffin/quick bread recipes ... a tablespoon of reduced-sugar chocolate sauce makes fruit more dessert-like ... I have learned to like skim milk lattes (you can make them yourself--put 1/2 cup of milk in a sealed container, shake it for a few seconds to make it "froth", microwave it for about 30 seconds, and add to coffee--not quite coffee house quality, but pretty good).

      Good luck to you!

    3. Kris, do you make your own reduced sugar chocolate sauce, or is there a brand that you've found you like? Also, love your idea for frothing milk. I'm going to try that with rice milk.

    4. No, I don't use the chocolate sauce a lot so I buy Hershey's. It's better than the generic versions I have tried.

      The frothing milk idea came from Reader's Digest! I add cinnamon to it occasionally. I love its simplicity and that you can add whatever you want to it. I became much more enamoured of cooking while I was losing weight when I realized I had more control of what I was putting into my body. Eating a more healthy diet (with occasional splurges) doesn't mean you have to give up taste or food quality!

    5. Thanks, Kris. I'll check out Hershey's. I'm trying to cut back on sugar, but still wanting treats from time to time.

  3. I like reading your monthly updates, LiLi. It sounds really hot up there right now. Hope you can find some ways to stay cool. I am so ready for fall and cooler weather. This was a very hot summer.

    1. Hi Belinda,
      Thank you. Keeping a log of what we're spending and brainstorming ideas helps keep me on track with the budget.

      Yes, we're having our annual 3 day heat wave. I can never complain, as I know the rest of the country has suffered so much worse weather than us. We're eating outside, sucking on popsicles, downing the iced tea, and leaving windows open as much as possible. It'll all be over in a couple of days.

      My tomatoes are loving this weather, though. They finally look healthy. And the dry heat has driven the slugs back to their slimy swamp.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. A couple of things:
    --Seven dozen of eggs--that's a lot to me. How do you use them all in a timely fashion?
    --Do you do anything special to dry your oregano? I was thinking about doing that with some of ours.

    1. Well, boiled eggs go into lunches, we eat (and that's 5 of us) frittatas and quiche for dinner a couple of times a week, my daughters and I are always wanting to bake something or other that calls for eggs (cakes, cookies, muffins, pancakes), I'll be putting together a large batch of cookie dough for the freezer in a week (that'll use about 6 eggs). In the last week we went through 2 dozen. I'd say we'll go through 1.5 dozen per week.

      The cartons were stamped with almost 4 weeks till expiry, when purchased. Seven dozen is one extra dozen over what I buy when I find them for under $1/dozen. But I knew I'd be doing lots of baking prior to school starting in a couple of weeks, which will use them up.

      I have frozen eggs before. There are instructions for freezing in Joy of Cooking. You can either stir in some salt or sugar, with each beaten egg, then freeze individual eggs, to use in baking. I know when I read it myself, seven dozen does sound like a whole lot, but I'm always surprised that we go through them all.

      For drying oregano -- after rinsing, I run through a salad spinner, keeping stems whole. Then I use a dehydrator, because it's fast. Without a dehydrator, I'd bundle about 6-8 stems together with string and hang upside down in a dry spot. Leave until completely dry and crackly. Then to get the leaves off, strip the stems with your fingers, over a large plate, scoop up all the leaves and keep in an airtight container. Don't bother crushing them until you cook. And you can add the stems to a veggie scrap container for making stock, if you keep one in the freezer.

      Hope that answers your questions.


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