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Saturday, December 1, 2012

November grocery money journal -- month end

(To read about the first half of November, click here.)

Nov. 16. Turkey wrestling should be an Olympic sport. Getting those jumbo turkeys out of the freezers at stores and into my cart, then to my car, and finally to my home freezer, is a feat in and of itself. This morning went to Albertsons for their turkey deal. What a difference going to another store makes. Everyone was friendly and helpful. I wanted a bone-in turkey breast along with the whole turkey. They  didn't have the cheaper brand, so offered to substitute a more expensive brand. In recent months, I've not always been able to get a store to sub brands, when out of stock. So this was a pleasant surprise. This Albertsons in our neighborhood is my favorite of the regular grocery stores. Always helpful and kind.

Okay, so the "deal" here was spend $50 and get a turkey for $9. I thoroughly combed the flyer for best deals, comparing one store's sales to another's. Here I found the bone-in turkey breast, half hams and yams to be the star items. I bought 2 half hams (they'll keep in the fridge unopened until the beginning of January, according to the sell-by date; I can bake, slice and freeze up until then), 1 bone-in turkey breast (to be roasted, sliced and frozen for sandwich meat), 12 lbs of yams (yams don't keep more than 3 or 4 weeks for me, so I'll cook, puree and make into casseroles for the freezer), 4 cans black olives, 3 packages of bath tissue (Albertsons brand of 1000 sheet rolls, the one I usually buy anyways), and of course, that $9.00 - 22.5 lb turkey. Spent $59.14 on the food portion of the shopping (the bath tissue comes out of a household supply budget and not groceries). This brings our month-to-date spending up to $259.16.

And almost forgot, the Albertsons deal came with a bonus -- coupon for 5% off my next shopping trip, no minumum purchase required, plus $1.50 off any purchase over $15.

I had originally planned on buying 3 or 4 whole turkeys this year again. But the deals were not as good in our area, so rethought it all, and settled on the 2 turkeys, 1 turkey breast and 2 hams. It's good to change things up. We're now well-stocked for meat for the winter. I still have some beef in the freezer, and when I find whole chickens at a good price again, I'll pick up a couple of those.

Nov. 17. Running errands took me to the strip mall with the grocery store and drugstore. Picked up 1 gallon of marked down milk for $1.98 at the grocery store and 2 dozen eggs for $2.58 at the drug store. Total to date -- $263.72

Nov. 20. A few things on sale at Top Foods (local grocery chain) -- olives, butter ($1.88, limit 4), cheddar cheese ($4.99, 2 lb. limit 1), plus needed Lactaid milk and pecans. Spent $25.02.

Nov. 21. Wanted more butter and cheddar cheese, so stopped in twice to Top Foods. It's near daughters' school, so stopped in morning and afternoon. Between 2 stops, bought 8 lbs. butter and 4 lbs. cheddar, spent $25.02. Total spent for month so far -- $263.72

Nov. 21. Needed milk for weekend and cooking. Bought 1 gallon chocolate milk (yeah, you can cook with that can't you? No, bought it for the kids. They now think I'm a fab mom!), and 1 gallon plain old boring milk. Spent $4.68, total to-date, $268.40. And our kitchen is stuffed to the gills with food!

Nov. 23. Went out on Black Friday morning to our "sweet spot" (they have free donuts on Black Friday morning) -- Fred Meyer. I know, it's crazy to get out there on Black Friday, but we take great pleasure in watching all the other crazies scrambling around for deals. And we eat our free donuts, free apple juice, and free coffee (2 cups! it was 0'dark 30, early!) While there (have to do something while eating all those free donuts), I swung by the dairy dept and found 6 half gallons of milk for 99c each, 2 of which are whole milk, so will make more yogurt, and 2 - 5 lb. boxes of satsumas, for $3.88 each. I spent $13.70, bringing the total up to $272.28.

Also, on Black Friday, we have 2 other traditional stops. Just down the street from Fred Meyer is a nursery/home decor store. They are in full Christmas mode right now. Sooooo, all those lovely pumpkins they've not sold are in the way of the Christmas decor. The Friday after Thanksgiving we swing by there, most years to find sugar pie pumpkins and winter squash piled up on a pallet with a great big "FREE" sign. Today I got 10 sugar pie pumpkins, absolutely FREE. And no, I did not take them all. I left about 75 behind! I just don't want to have to cook more than 10 more pumpkins.

Last stop of the morning (before that free coffee wears off), is a local drug store chain. Every year they have cans of mixed nuts on sale the week beginning Friday after Thanksgiving. I bought 6 cans. We still had one last can left over from last year, which we promptly opened when we got home (gotta move that old stock on out of here). Anyways, spent $17.94 for the nuts. Total now $290.22.

I'm not sure there's all that more I want to buy right now, except for sugar, some chocolate for candy making, and whole chickens. We still have a fair amount of budget money in our surplus that I can tap into any time. In December I may want to buy more baking supplies, like dried fruit and plain nuts.

Nov. 29. We returned to eating a lot of soup this week. Lentil and vegetable soup, and pumpkin soup being the big favorites. I baked one of the hams the week before Thanksgiving. I cubed some for soups and casseroles, and thin-sliced some to use as breakfast meat. With some of the meat I put together 2 quiches for the freezer, for busy nights. We're having one of the ham and kale quiches tonight, along with a mix of sweet potato and Irish potato oven fries.

No one is particularly interested in eating any of the turkey leftovers in the freezer just yet. We'll save those for December quick and easy meals.  Turkey teriyaki, turkey curry, and turkey pot pie are on the must-make list for early December. I froze enough turkey for 6 days of sandwiches, 4 pots of soup and about 6 turkey main dishes.

My garden is still producing kale and broccoli, though the production has slowed considerably. Sometime early to mid-December I'll call it quits on the garden for the year. I leave the kale and broccoli to go dormant, then return for a quick season of about 3 weeks in late March. Then I pull them up.

I also still have pears and apples from our garden, in the fridge to use up. Some of the apples are beginning to soften, so those will go into a batch of applesauce in the next week.

Nov. 30. Cooked up some of the soft apples into applesauce this afternoon. Also made homemade mac and cheese with cheddar from a week ago. Applesauce, mac and cheese and carrot sticks for dinner, with Christmas cookies for dessert. I needed a little help getting into the Christmas spirit last week, so baked up a batch of Almond Crescent cookies, while listening to Christmas music. That did the trick.

So now, we're just coasting on what's in the fridge, freezer and pantry. I haven't needed to buy any groceries since Black Friday, a week ago. For the month, we spent $290.22. Our budgeted amount was  $210. But we had a surplus from earlier this year of $265.45. Our surplus now stands at $185.23 going into December.

Looking back to Nov. 2011 grocery spending, I spent $302.91, and  Nov. 2010, I spent $286.96, so I was in the same range this year.


  1. I see that you bought olives a couple of times. What kind do you get? Do you like to snack on them or put them into dishes?

    1. I love olives, all kinds of olives. These were just black olives. Mostly we add them to meals we're preparing. Between November and December, I usually buy several cans, as I see them on sale. And they'll be our black olive supply for most of the year.

  2. Your spending looks great! How long will that butter last for you? Is it just for holiday baking, or do you use butter for everyday?

    1. Hi Sandy,
      I bought 12 pounds of butter, and I'm hoping to find it on sale again just before Christmas. I'm trying to switch us back to using butter more often, and margarine less.

      In the past I've made a whipped butter spread with olive oil and butter. I think that was a healthier choice for us than margarine, and I plan on making that again. So, this butter will in part be for baking and part regular use as a spread. And with luck it will last 2 months or more (depending on how crazy I get with the holiday cookie baking!)

    2. Do you know how long butter keeps? Is it safe to keep some in a dish on the counter, so it stays soft and spreadable?

    3. This is what I've always heard --
      in the refrigerator, one month
      in the freezer, 4-6 months (depending on temp of freezer, 0 degrees F 6 months)

      In the fridge it could develop an off flavor, if over a month, but, I've kept wrapped butter in the fridge for several months without detectable change.

      In the freezer, it's the odors/flavors that it can pick up easily. So, if you wrap your butter in plastic or foil, you can keep it there longer than the 4-6 months. We're just now using a stick of butter, kept in the freezer for the past year. I had the cartons of butter in a large ziploc bag this whole time, kept at about 10 degrees F.

      In a dish on the counter, just get out how ever much your family can go through in about 5 days. That may just be half a stick. Keep it covered, and in a cool spot (not in a cupboard right above one of those under cabinet lights, and not directly under a light). The lid to the dish will slightly insulate it, and keep bugs and air born particles out.

  3. I'm going to have to keep my eyes open for a place that wants to give away free pumpkins in the future, what a deal. You do a fantastic job staying in a budget and feeding your family well.

    1. Hi Lois,
      check with your grocery stores a day or two before Hallowe'en. Ask them what they plan to do with the field (jack o'lantern-style) pumpkins that don't sell. I use to get several large pumpkins the day after Hallowe'en for free from our supermarket. This one market stopped doing this, and I don't know what they do with their leftovers. But for years I got all our pumpkins for cooking this way. Perhaps other stores are still giving away unsold pumpkins.

      You could also check with a florist. They often will have an autumn display using pumpkins and gourds. But when they get serious about the Christmas holiday season, they want to get rid of their autumn displays.

  4. I really enjoy your grocery journals! And I am always amazed by your American low prices, especially for milk, butter and cheese!

    1. Hi anexacting,
      thank you. I understand about the US low prices. I have a dear friend in Edmonton, who makes the same remarks. She found butter this week on for $2.49/package and said that was a fabulous price. There was a limit of 2, so she's stopping in every time she passes by that store.

      Now, on the flip side, my friend's son needed to go to the emergency room at the hospital recently. I commented on how expensive that must have been. Then she told me that in Canada, the ER is free. Seeing as how I'd spent 1 day in the ER a few years ago, and even with insurance my bill came to over $1000, a free visit sounded remarkable. So, maybe it all evens out.


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