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Sunday, September 30, 2012

September grocery money journal -- month end

I keep a journal of how much I spend on groceries each month. It's a running total, so I know where we stand with that part of the budget, at all times. And it's a place I can reread and find motivation to keep on doing what I do. I share it here, in case there's something in this that could help someone else.

Sept.16. Yesterday I dug the potatoes. I think there are about 20-25 pounds. Not a lot, but they will get us well into October. And I made enough salsa to last us through fall and maybe into winter. I may need to make another batch later this month, or early next, which means more canned tomatoes and jalapenos to buy.

Simple breakfast of oatmeal this morning. Sometimes simple is what I want.  I added maple extract, apple chunks and cinnamon, and made a large batch, so we'd have some to freeze for breakfasts on the run during the week. Lunch was a choice of two leftover soups, the girls' soup from last night (turned out to be a turkey, bean and vegetable soup), and the last of the vegetarian chili from mid week. Along with the soup was Yorkshire pudding -- my answer to "what bread do we have to go with soup"? I make it in a pie plate and serve in wedges.

Sept.19. My daughters had an assignment for their Health class which entailed a trip to the grocery store to check nutrition labels. I had plenty of time to check markdowns. I found 2 gallons of milk for $1.99 each and some almonds (for making more almond milk), for a total cost of $5.14.

Daughters' Health class also called for a trip to a fast food joint to find "nutritious" fast food. A turkey sandwich, chicken club salad, chicken fajita, and onion rings (okay, not part of the healthy dinner) later set us back $18.67. We could have just read the menu, but we were there, we were hungry, it was dinner time. 'Nuff said! (Lesson learned -- don't do these sort of research projects on an empty stomach!) Spending for Sept. so far, $79.09. So now, my plan is to stay out of stores and fast food places, unless really necessary, or a phenomenal deal.

Sept. 22. I harvested tomatoes today. Made fried green tomatoes with some of the green ones. Packed away all the green tomatoes that look like they'll ripen eventually. I lay them in crumpled newspaper in a large cardboard box. I keep every tomato separated from the next with newspapers. Then place the boxes in the garage to ripen slowly over the next month and a half. The tiny green ones I'll make into relish tomorrow, both sweet and dill. The plum tree looks like it needs harvesting this weekend. I'm hoping to get help from the family on that tree tomorrow afternoon.

We have so much ready to harvest or just harvested from the garden, I can't imagine needing much of anything besides eggs for the rest of the month. Maybe next month all this minimal grocery spending will catch up with me.

Sept. 26. Eggs on sale, 99c, limit one, so I stopped in on my way to pick up girls from school. I also bought corn tortillas, 1 banana, and some cabbage (39c/lb). Spent $4.91. But really needed the eggs, and the tortillas were for a casserole I was planning for dinner. I pan fried some tortillas in a bit of oil, then layered in a casserole dish with leftover baked beans, cooked lentils, some chili powder, cumin, garlic and salt, then cheese and salsa. I did this with 3 layers and baked for a Mexican lasagna. After baking, I topped with sour cream and chopped fresh tomatoes. It was quite good. And there was enough leftover for 1 lunch the next day. This time it is mine, as I'm working in the AM and won't get home for lunch until 1 or 1:30 PM.

Sept. 28. Stopped in to QFC to check for marked down milk. Found not just the milk, but tofu hot dogs, veggie Italian hot links, soy cheese, margarine, Hallowe'en candy for the trick-or-treaters, and a bag of candy corn (I'll use those to decorate October cookies this next month). I have found that in the past, I can usually score a deal on trick-or-treat candy about a month before Hallowe'en. I think the stores are hoping I'll eat what I buy on sale now, and have to buy more for the actual holiday. I have great resolve when it comes to not eating the candy, just to beat the store at their game. What made me think this was THE sale on candy this year for our area, was it was a 4-day sale. Most of the time, a sale that's limited to 3 or 4 days (or sometimes even a 1-day sale), the price is quite good, and designed to get you in the door and buying more of your groceries there that day. Total spent -- $19.57.

I was also looking for some herb tea. Didn't buy it at QFC, too expensive there. So went to the drug store nearby. I bought some blueberry/acai with antioxidants A and C tea. I'm trying to get off of using caffeine and sugar to get through my day. So I thought I'd try this tea. It was a bit expensive, at $3.99 a box. But if it will help me not want so much coffee and sugar throughout the day, it will be worth the splurge to me.

Sept. 29. The plums were not ready last week, but looked pretty good today. My husband picked them and I processed. I made 1 batch of jam, but ran out of jars. I dehydrated about 8 lbs or so for prunes (these are Italian prune plums). I left about 10 lbs. in the fridge for fresh eating. Most are frozen, for pies, kuchen, smoothies, and 3 more batches of jam. I think my husband picked about 40 lbs. I still need to make a batch of plum chutney and Chinese plum sauce. I've set aside plums and jars for that later in the week. It was a long day with the plums and I'm too tired to make those condiments now.

Sept. 30. So there it is for the month -- $107.56. That will leave me with $102.44 to add to the surplus from a couple of months ago, for a total surplus of $214.39. Holiday stock-up sales begin late October and run through Christmas. I expect I'll use every penny of this surplus stocking up on turkeys, ham, baking supplies, canned nuts, canned and frozen veggies, and any other great deals I find then. We'll also splurge a bit on groceries at the holidays and buy some things that I don't normally buy, like crackers, ingredients for spreads and fillings, puff pastry dough, and smoked salmon. I love, love, love William's Sonoma's holiday catalog. I go through the prepared party food section, and choose a few items to duplicate.


  1. When my son was taking health, they studied what is in Taco Bell's food, and he has never eaten there again. It was something about the fat they used.

    1. I do not even want to ask! But now I have another reason not to eat at Taco Bell. the first was mediocre food.

      I think schools should teach a combo health/easy meal prep course, something using very simple and fresh ingredients, to give tools to kids to fix a healthy snack for themselves, instead of always going to fast food places or 7-11. Maybe they'd still eat poorly as teens, but as young adults they'd be able to fix something good, healthy and easy.

  2. - 20 to 25 pounds is a great amount of potatoes, Lili. WTG!
    - Good deal finding marked down milk for $1.99 a gallon.
    - Your $18.67 healthy dinner made me think of our grocery shopping trip we made before dinner last night. I told my daughter afterwards, "Do not go grocery shopping when you are hungry!" Some lessons I have to learn over and over again. ;)
    - We love fried green tomatoes here. We had fried okra from the garden one day this week. My Dad taught me that trick about ripening tomatoes in a box with newspaper long after the garden is gone. He has had tomatoes as far into the winter as January. I've not had them last that long though.
    -$107.56 for groceries for one month. You are the Queen of saving money on your grocery bill, Lili! WTG, if I had a crown I'd give it to you. :)
    -P.S. I LOVE the Williams Sonoma catalog too. :)

    1. Wow! Tomatoes into January, now there's a feat! I think I had one tomato on Dec. 2 one year. But most of the time they're gone by early November.
      Definitely, have a big snack before shopping or these research projects at fast food places. That was a stooopid mistake on my part, to even think that we could just go in and ask questions.
      For what it's worth, I expect to spend every penny that I've saved on holiday stock-up sales. (And I'll likely spend the full allotted amount next month. We need a lot of staples now.)

  3. Wow, great savings. You can do a lot with 20 to 25 lbs of potatoes.

    I have to be careful to not shop when hungry, too. I also have to be careful and remind myself that there will be more food available. :-)

    1. The funny thing about shopping when hungry, is I don't simply buy more fruits, veggies and meat. I buy more junk and processed food. So from a health stand point its really important to me to have a snack before heading to the store, plus it saves some money.

  4. I found this post engrossing, I'm glad you shared. I had a moment when I read that you loved the Williams Sonoma catalog. My first thought was wow after saving so much by being so careful that's an expensive splurge, then the rest of the sentence had me laughing. I never thought of looking in their catalog to recreate the food items myself.

    I spend more than your $107 on just me for a month! I'm hoping I have even more success with the gardens next year to save more but that's amazing to do that for a family, when part of that was on a night out even!!

    Our state isn't allowed to put milk on sale around here, it's all price fixed. Everyone has to sell it for the same price (or higher). I don't buy milk but I think it's around $4 a gallon here all the time.

    1. That sounds so odd that they can't put milk on sale there. I understand why they do that, to insure that the dairy farmers can make a decent living. But it seems to go against the idea of making milk affordable for families with small children.
      When a new small market opens up, I just wait for the signs advertising milk at a low price. It seems to be the way around here to draw in new customers. And a new market just opened up along the highway on my drive to/from my daughters' school! I'm just waiting. . .
      So what does a store do with milk about to reach it's sell-by date? That's the kind of marked down milk I look for and find. I'd hate to think that they throw it out.

      Can you imagine the cost of doing a holiday dinner via William's Sonoma? I've never priced that out, but I'm guessing it would be around $100-125 for about 6-8 people. I just like to find things that they sell and recreate them in my own kitchen.

  5. Reading the part about trying to cut down on caffeine reminded me that you asked about my substitutes a while back and I don't think I ever replied. I like most herbal teas but Barley Cup is my favourite coffee substitute.

    1. Barley Cup. I've seen other brands of grain based substitutes. I tried one many years ago. I may give them another go. I do love coffee, but am now limiting it to 2 cups in the morning. I had slid into several cups throughout the day, plus loads of sugar, to boost my energy. I'd just like to find a way to boost my energy without caffeine and sugar. I always wonder how children can run and run and run, yet never drink a drop of coffee (although some do eat quite a bit of sugar). I want that back! Is it too late?!

  6. $100 for a month is amazing, well done :) I'm a little bit jealous of your 99c eggs, I can never get them for less than $4.50 a dozen. Make me want chickens, but not in this apartment!

    1. Hi economies,
      You weren't kidding when you said groceries are expensive where you are! I would have hens in a flash if eggs went up that high here. But I guess not in an apartment.

      My spending will be at least double that amount this next month. We need a lot of staples for the pantry. But I'm still hoping to hang on to the surplus for holiday spending.

  7. You did an awesome job! Supermarket milk here is $5.69 for 4 litres (close to 1 gallon) and a dozen eggs are $3 (commercial, not organic or free range).

    1. It's so funny, because when we first moved here, everyone told us that grocery prices were really high. And they are higher than some parts of the US, but I find so many great deals, I can't complain about the prices at all.


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