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Friday, January 4, 2013

December grocery money journal -- month end

(First half of December grocery spending is here.)

Dec. 19. Here I thought I wouldn't be getting down to Trader Joe's while my daughters are out on winter holidays, but I've now been there 3 times this month! Stopped in today for more bananas, and some croissant dough. Trader Joe's croissant dough bakes up into crispy on the outside, tender on the inside croissants. It's one of my favorite treats. I set the dough to rise on a baking sheet in the late evening the night before, then bake them in the morning. Croissants have been added to our Christmas morning breakfast menu, along with a potato and egg casserole (assembled earlier in the month), grilled ham and blueberry muffins. I wound up baking one of the casseroles the other evening for a quick supper, and found it to be bland. I'll pile on more cheddar, and top with salsa after baking, next time I bake one up. (What I ended up doing with those casseroles was spooning a small amount of salsa on top, added some more grated cheddar, then baked. They turned out quite yummy. I repeated this with the last breakfast casserole that I baked on New Year's Day, as well.)

At Trader Joes -- spent $5.13

I've been helped by my daughters getting meals this week. They took over for two dinners. One evening they made a teriyaki turkey over garlic noodles. The next, they prepared a delicious carrot curry soup, with kale, cheddar and ham biscuits on the side. Last night we had some of the pumpkin soup that I made, plus the leftover biscuits from the night before. I've been scrounging in the freezer for lunches this week. I found leftover lasagna, turkey pot pie, and an assortment of odds and ends for making soups, stir fries and quickie lunch-time casseroles.

Dec. 21. While out Christmas shopping I picked up a gallon of milk (to get us through the holidays),  some chai tea, canned pineapple, 2 bags of cereal on mark down (85c per bag), and also found Italian hot sausages on mark down, so picked up 2 packs, to slice and use as pepperoni on pizzas.

My current best regular price on 2% milk these days is Fred Meyer for $2.59/gal, 10c less than Rite Aid.

Today spent $12.86, total for the month so far, $177.62.

Dinner last night was an old stand-by that I haven't made in a long time, rice and beans. Sometimes I forget to make something as basic as that. It's just cooked rice, cooked pintos, sauteed onions and garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt and canned tomatoes. I top this with cheddar and salsa.

Dinner tonight is a canned food and leftover feast. A casserole consisting of 2 hot dogs, leftover rice and beans, more pinto beans, onions, chili powder and salt, plus, some fiesta corn (canned corn with green pepper, salsa and black olives), and an apple and raisin salad.

We're having Christmas Day dinner at friends this year. I'm bringing a green, red and white layered jello salad, cheddar cornbread, and a pumpkin cake roll. Two of those items I can prepare on Christmas Eve. So, Christmas Day cooking won't be too much.

The jello salad should be interesting. We'll see how it turns out. I have a bunch of blue jello in the pantry. My plan is to use yellow food coloring to tint it green. I'll add either canned pineapple or chopped green apple to that layer. The white is a cream cheese, plain gelatin, lemon juice and sugar for that layer layer. Then on top, the red layer, which I'll make with a cranberry, gelatin and sugar layer. I'm not even going to try and unmold this. It would be pretty, but in case it were to slide around, or part wouldn't set as well, I'm just going to leave this in a clear glass souffle baker. (The jello salad was a hit! I used canned pineapple in the green layer. The cranberry layer was also delicious. I modified a recipe from Joy of Cooking for a cranberry gelatin salad. The cream cheese layer was a bit bland. If I make this again, I'll add more lemon juice to the cream cheese and gelatin.)

Dec. 24. Picked up tortillas for burritos for lunch. Just brown rice, black beans, cheese, salsa and seasoned with chili powder and salt. A quick and easy lunch for the kids and I. ($2.89)

Dec. 25. Breakfast was delicious! Everyone loved the pineapple-banana drink concoction. I had saved the juice that canned pineapple is packed in from a couple of cans of pineapple, in the freezer. This morning, I ran the pineapple juice and a banana through the blender for a refreshing drink, instead of the usual oj. Cost for that drink -- 19c for the banana, as the pineapple juice drained from cans would have otherwise been poured down the sink.

Dec. 28. Made a run out to QFC for marked down milk. Bought 9 gallons of milk, 1 gallon of eggnog and a bunch of marked down bananas (39c/lb) for $21.58. Guess who's making yogurt this afternoon?! (Did a quick calculation and my homemade yogurt cost about 50c per quart! I made over 3.5 quarts. So for about an hours work, while doing other things in the kitchen, I saved about $5 from what I would have spent on the clearance-priced yogurt, packed in quarts.)

Month to date total -- $202.09

Dec. 29. Oranges on sale for 48c/lb. Stopped in to Albertsons for about 20 lbs, plus picked up 4 avocados (69c ea), 1 green pepper (50c), more tortillas, whole wheat pasta (88c for 12 oz., bought 9 boxes), decaf coffee, 1 bottle sparkling cider, ground ginger (bulk) and whole cloves (bulk). Spent $27.73, total for month so far -- $229.82.

Monday I have errands to run and will pick up a few last minute treats for New Years Eve.

Dec. 31. Last shopping of the year. Went to Albertsons, as I wanted more oranges, plus goodies for New Year's Eve and Day. Bought 9 pounds oranges, a dozen donuts for breakfast tomorrow (clearance rack for 1.99), pretzels, little smokie sausages, frozen egg rolls, and fresh veggies to have with dip. Our New Years Eve menu is mostly snacky things like the little sausages, homemade biscuits (my daughters make better biscuits than I do), veggies and dip, mixed nuts, mini egg rolls, chocolates, pretzels, cheese cubes, orange slices, sparkling cider and flavored water. I had a budget of $10 for this evening. So, while I ordinarily wouldn't buy so many pre-made snacks, tonight it's in the budget. Spent $17.36

While at the store, I noticed all their Christmas merchandise was 75% off. I picked up 2 bath and shower gift sets for $1.37 each, to go into my daughters' Easter baskets, a bag of Dove chocolates, foil wrapped in red and silver, for Valentine's candies, and 2 bags of chocolate Christmas candies, to be double bagged and stored away till next Christmas.

I know this wouldn't work for many households -- couldn't keep hidden, or too warm, so would melt/get gooey, or problems with bugs/ants. It works for us. I buy Easter and Christmas candy on mark down right after the holiday, and save it until the next year. Even if buying a year in advance would not work for folks, it could be possible to buy red and green wrapped/colored candies to use for Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day. I did see bags of red and green M & Ms on mark down. Some folks buy these now, separate the colors, and use the red ones in cookies for Valentine's and the green ones in cookies for St. Patty's Day. Anyways, these things I bought come out of our holiday and celebration budget, so aren't tallied into the groceries for the month.

Total grocery spending for December -- $247.18, $37.18 over budget, but I have a surplus to draw on from earlier months to cover that. My surplus now stands at $148.05 going into January.

Grocery deals to look for in January
No. Hemisphere fresh produce such as oranges, grapefruit, avocado, broccoli, kale, spinach, chard, collards, celery, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage

So. Hemisphere fresh produce such as green beans, eggplant, corn, sweet peppers, summer squash, cucumbers, melons, berries, plums, nectarines, peaches

diet foods of all kinds, including "healthier" breakfast cereals like Special K and Kashi, frozen dinners, yogurt

Christmas clearance sweet items which can be used out of season, such as small candies (M & Ms) that can be used in place of chocolate chips in cookies, chocolate bars/candies to be used in s'mores, packaged mixes for Christmas cakes and cookies, fruit cake candied fruits (some recipes for sweet breads to be served for Easter use fruit cake mixes) and holiday frosting -- check for a mark down area in your grocery store

the last couple of days of January, look for items marketed towards the Super Bowl crowd. Super Bowl Sunday is Feb. 3.  You'll find deals on soda pop, chips and dip, sandwich fixings, and snack foods.

On the news yesterday they were saying that yes, we did avoid the dairy cliff, so that's a relief. No $8 gallons of milk in the US this next year. But they did say that still due to the draught last summer that devastated basic feed crops like corn, to expect meat, dairy and processed food (items containing dairy, corn or meat) prices to increase somewhat, just not doubled. So when you see a good deal on any of those items, buy what you can.

On the positive side, gas prices are expected to come down in 2013, not by much, but some, which we'll all agree is a good thing. Lower fuel prices *could* translate into a moderating effect on some of the draught-related grocery increases that have been forecast. In any case, lower gas prices for those of us who drive daily, will mean a bit of extra cash to offset any other increases.

I don't know about you, but I'm trying to just use what I have on hand for the next couple of weeks -- minimum grocery spending this and next week. I'll need eggs, some veggies, and lunch items like peanut butter and bananas. Otherwise, my pantry, fridge and freezer are plenty full.

With careful planning of meals, we should have more than what we'll need. It could mean a bit of repetition in our menus, but that's okay. Lack of restaurant-level variety in what one eats, is really a first world problem, now isn't it?

Do you find, as I do, that just after Christmas, the kitchen is still full of so many goodies, that there's no real need to spend a lot on groceries for a couple of weeks?


  1. I haven't bought meat in awhile and my overall grocery spending has been pretty low the past 2 weeks. You may be on to something with the full-pantry idea. I was thinking of it as "we are tired of eating!"

  2. Hi Kris,
    And I think in our house, we're just more interested in eating simple meals this week, which don't usually call for all that much in ingredients. I made split pea soup for dinner last night, and we all thought it was wonderful.

    I like to play a little mental game with myself, "how long could we go without grocery shopping, if that was necessary?" I think with our pantry and freezers as full as they are right now, we could go quite a long time.

    What simple dinners are on your horizon this next week?

  3. We had pea soup Sunday night! I made chili & cornbread last night and tried crockpot oatmeal this morning (with steel cut oats). Tonight is stromboli.

    I like to play that mental game, too! Right now we have a lot of ham, turkey, and venison in our freezer; I've also found a few packages of cooked chicken so I'm trying to use up my meat packages before they get lost. :) My husband cooks & freezes items frequently so with 2 people using the freezer regularly, sometimes keeping track of items gets tricky.

    1. I can imagine with your husband cooking and freezing things it could get quite confusing, just what's in the freezer!

      I noticed when my daughters began to cook more, and use the freezers, I had a much harder time finding stuff in there. I have always gone by a memory of where I saw something last, whether it was something in the freezer or my car keys. Now, having 2 other people moving things about, my memory of seeing something doesn't work so well. Oh well, time to find a new "system"!

      Stromboli sounds yummy! I bet your family will give a big thumbs up to dinner!

  4. Welcome back! I thought today was your first post, and missed yesterday's! I hope your holidays were wonderful!

    We have a full pantry here, too. I think I bought too much party food last month. My plan, though, is to move some of the treats out of sight, and see if I can hold on to them for an upcoming birthday (later this month, my sister's 45th birthday, I'm hosting a surprise party for her, I'll use the mixed nuts, some cookies I've frozen from last month, crackers and chips, along with some of the cheeses I bought), and Valentine's Day (a neighbor gave us a lovely box of chocolates that we haven't even opened. I've hidden it in the pantry to save for next month).

    We're actually quite tired of holiday eating. I made tamales and a salad for dinner last night, and my family thought it was the best.

    I like the idea of buying red and green candies to use for Valentine's and St. Patrick's Day. :) Very clever!

    1. Hi Sandy,
      Thanks! I'm glad you came back after my little break.

      What a clever idea, yourself, saving some of your goodies for future celebrations! It'll help your budget and save time for not having to do a huge shopping for your party.

      If you don't mind, sometime send me your recipe for tamales, or add here in the comments. I've never made them and would like to try. Are they very hard to do? Tamales and salad sound delish!


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