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Monday, September 30, 2013

September grocery money journal

It's the end of September, already! We did okay with grocery spending this month. Our pantry had some large gaps, at the end of August. So, it was time for a restock of some basics. But with a smaller grocery budget, I would have to be smart about this.

I did two things differently from my usual monthly shopping. One, I limited myself to basic ingredients. I wanted some bananas, popcorn and chocolate chips. But we have plenty of fruit right now (there will be a time for bananas this winter). Popcorn prices (at the cash and carry) are still reflecting the poor corn harvest from 2012 (79 cents/pound is too high for my budget for a grain). And chocolate chips are too snackable. I went with cocoa powder instead. At least with cocoa powder, you have to actually "do" something with it, to turn it into a snack. (I later found popcorn on sale at a price within my range for grains :-) )

As I posted earlier in the month, the other change I made was to think of grocery shopping as if I were stocking an institutional kitchen. For example, a case of canned tomato paste gave me a savings of 50 cents on each #10 can, over buying one or two of the large cans. So I bought the case.

I barely went over my $170 budget this month, spending a total of $176.30. I think that is pretty good. So, here's what I bought.

Sept. 1. Made a trip to the cash and carry, bought a case (6 #10 cans) of tomato paste, a case (4 gallons) of white vinegar, 50 lbs of whole wheat flour, 50 lbs of white sugar, 50 lbs of brown rice, 25 lb bag of lentils, 1 gallon of lemon juice, 35 lb container of vegetable oil, and 50 lb sack of onions. I spent $152.95

Sept. 1 Trader Joe's is just down the street from the cash and carry. I stopped in for a 9 oz container of cocoa powder. Spent $2.49

Sept. 1 Buying a turkey roasting pan at Wal-Mart, checked their price on salt, 48 cents a canister. I bought 2. Spent 96 cents.

Sept 4. Dollar Tree for kosher salt (good for pickling). Spent $1

Sept 4. Fred Meyer for bulk spices (ground cloves, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, cream of tartar). Also found popcorn on sale for $1.09/2 lb bag (that's 55 cents/pound). I bought 4 bags of popcorn (8 lbs) Spent $8.44.

Sept. 5. Albertson's for milk, whole milk at $1.79/gallon (limit 2 w/ coupon). Spent $3.58

Sept. 24. Albertson's for whole milk, 2 gallons at $1.99/gal, and salt for 25 cents a canister (really great price for salt, here). I bought 12 canisters of salt. Salt keeps indefinitely. This supply will last 1&1/2 to 2 years.

Total spent for the month, $176.30, $6.30 over budget, which will be deducted from October's budget.

At month's end, I am completely out of all-purpose flour, and will need canned tomatoes, too, this month. I'll be making a trip to the cash and carry this week. The new store special flyer is posted on Monday for each week. So, I'll be checking online to see what my store has on offer right now. (BTW, I believe that there are 52 Cash and Carry's on the west coast, most of which are in Washington state and Oregon, but a handful in California, Idaho and Nevada.) I'll also go by the produce stand to pick up jalepenos and garlic for making salsa. Even with buying most of the ingredients for salsa, it's still far more economical for me to make my own, than to buy salsa pre-made.

That's about it for now. I hope you've been finding deals at the grocery store this month, too!


  1. Congrats on your grocery spending! That's truly amazing for a family of four!

    1. Hi Sharon,
      Thank you! And not to be too detail oriented, but we're a family of five, here.

  2. One of my readers just mentioned a $10 off $50 coupon on Smart and Final's facebook page (Cash and Carry in Nevada). You may want to see if that exists for you.

    1. Brandy, thank you so much for sharing that! I looked up the details online. It's good through today, Sept 30, and in AZ, NV and CA. It won't work for me, but someone reading may find this very helpful. And an FYI, it looks like Smart and Final runs these coupons a few times [er year, through their facebook page. So, for anyone who shops at Smart and Final, it may be worthwhile to "like" their page (or at least check back every couple of months -- it's a great deal!) Again, thanks Brandy for sharing.

  3. Lili,

    The grocery posts are some of my favorites. I love seeing what you decide to buy and your "thought" process that goes into each purchase. DH and I budget $300 for all food and HBAs/cleaning products/vitamins/etc. You inspire me to think about lowing our budget and/or separate out the "food". That way I could see how much I spend on food vs. "taxable" goods. It still boggles my mind you feed a family of five on less than $200 a month! Bravo!

    1. Hi!
      thank you! I do have to admit that feeding our family on under $200 a month is a lot of work.
      If you separate out your food from your other household purchases, you may be surprised at how little you're spending, too! thanks for commenting!

  4. You know, before I entered this whole blog world, I would have never thought that I would like to read about someone's grocery shopping. But I do. I find the volumes that you buy in and the tracking to the penny interesting reading.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I think we all find some entertainment in reading about otherwise mundane things in each other's lives. It's the mundane that seems to connect us all. I'm glad that you find my grocery posting interesting.

  5. I agree about chocolate chips being too snackable, I only keep cocoa powder in the house now, so when I want chocolate I have to go through the effort of making it!

    I recently found a food co-op in my area. The next order's not until November, but I will be able to save around $6 a kilo buying 5kg of cocoa powder (plus it will be organic) and $5 a kilo buying 2kg of tahini. Plus I won't have to go to the shops every week :)

    Do you have anything like that near you? Or is it cheaper to just use your amazing bargain-finding skills?

    1. Hi Liz,
      I have no self-control when it comes to things like chocolate chips. Once that package is opened, I'm sunk!!

      Your food co-op sounds really great! For now, I get some of my best bargains through buying wholesale quantities. Some day, when I'm just shopping for the two of us, I have envisioned myself starting up a co-op out of my pantry -- still buying in large quantities, but sharing it out at cost with other like-minded people.

  6. Lili ~

    I am very interested in your grocery budget and just found your blog not that long ago. I have a quick question: from your grocery budget above which does list what you bought, I am just wondering what would you have feed your family for the month of September? I understand that this is too stock up your pantry but what meals did you actually cook? And do you eat meat?

    I am going to spend some time today reading your blog more - very inspiring from what I have seen.


    1. Hi Cathie,
      Thanks for your comment. Here's a post from August with about 3 weeks worth of our menus, to give you an idea of what we eat, for $170/mo.

      For this month, I'll write up a post in a week detailing our early fall menus. but to give you an idea of what we've had this week -- lentil curry, sausage-lentil-vegetable soup, baked beans, with hot dogs and corn bread, homemade pepperoni pizza, and vegetarian chili.

      It's been a bit lean on meat around here the past 10 days, in part, because we had meat every day on vacation (at least every morning at the complimentary breakfast, and for 4 dinners out). But I'll be roasting our last frozen turkey purchased last fall, this Friday.

      Mostly, for meat, I buy a lot of whole turkeys, whole chickens, half hams, and the occasional deal on beef, (usually a large roast, that I cut into meal size portions and freeze). When I find a markdown on other meats, such as hot dogs, bacon, turkey Italian sausage (our favorite for spaghetti), I buy what I can and freeze.

      Hope this info helps you!

    2. Lili ~

      yes thanks this does help. I am looking forward to seeing your menus. I am sure we would still consume a lot more meat then you but this does give me a lot to think about.

      Thanks again

  7. Awesome! I don't know how you manage it. When seem to go through more for a family of three. Awesome job!

    1. Hi Shara,
      My guess is that I have a lot of shopping venues nearby, whereas you live in a more rural area. That right there will give me an advantage with grocery prices. But you probably have us beat on things like housing and property/sales taxes. Living close to a major city has it's expenses, too! So, in some weird way, it all evens out, for those in/near a city, and those in a more rural setting.
      But thanks for the vote of confidence!

  8. I love that you found alternatives (cocoa powder) or were patient for your want items. I have to work at patience!

    I found lots of stock-up deals for peanut butter, cheese and butter last month. I bought several blocks of cheese which will last us 2-3 months. I won't have enough money this month, but next month I need to buy a 50 lb. bag of high gluten flour for bread and pizza dough. I also was down to my last pound of butter, and was able to stock up on that at a great price as well. Should last us several months as well.

    Thanks for sharing your list with us! It definitely shows me how I could do better.


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