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Friday, February 28, 2014

February Grocery Money Journal

There are just a couple of items that I am keeping a watch for good sales, this month, mayo and oats. We're trying to use up the contents of the freezers and pantry, so I won't go out of my way to buy produce or meat. But if I find a good deal, well . . .

Feb. 3 In-store coupons and sales at Albertson's. Mayonnaise (30 oz. for $2.49, I buy 4), Planter's peanut butter (16.35 oz, I buy 6), chicken hot dogs (78 cents/12 oz, w/ coupon, limit 6), butter (1 lb/$1.99, w/coupon, limit 2). We go through about 5-6 jars of mayo in a year. I may come across a better price, but likely with limits, so I buy 4 jars. That should get us through mid-summer, at least. While hot dogs are not great food, we do like our Saturday night cook-outs around the fire, beginning in spring, so these chicken dogs should get us started. Total spent $27.56

Feb. 6 Stopped by QFC looking for milk. Found 3 gallons of skim milk for $2.09 each, and 4 pints of whipping cream for 59 cents each. I've frozen the whipping cream already, some as cubes to add to soups/sauces, some in pints for making ice cream later, and some whipped and in mounds, to top dessert for Easter dinner. Spent $8.63

Feb. 6 Dollar Tree for soy milk, buy 4 quarts. Spent $4, total for month -- $40.19

Feb. 11 Dollar Tree for spinach seeds, 6 packets @ 25 cents ea, for $1.50 spent

Feb. 11 Albertson's to use coupon on whole milk -- 2 gallons at $2.29 each. Spent $4.58, for a month to date of $46.27

Feb. 12 Trader Joe's for 13 bananas, and 8 oz of cocoa powder. Spent $4.96

Feb. 12 Cash and Carry restaurant supply for 25 lbs of oats ($16.49), case of 12 qts of soy milk ($11.88), 40 oz bag of fresh spinach ($4.38), 40 oz fresh mushrooms ($5.48). Spent 40.41. for a month to date of $91.64

Feb. 20, stop by QFC on way home from work, hoping to find marked down milk. Instead I find red-taped bananas (49 cents/lb) and a marked down 24 oz. bag of broccoli florets for 99 cents (that's 66 cents/lb). Spent $1.71

Feb. 22 Albertson's for eggs on sale for $1.25/dozen, limit 4 w/ coupon. I buy 4. Spent $5

Feb. 23 I go online to see the Walgreen's ad on Sundays. Milk is $1.99/gallon for the week, limit 2. On the way to church I stop in and buy 2, and on the way home I buy another 2. Total spent $7.96

Feb. 25 I have a bunch of errands to run in neighboring town, all along the main highway. There are 2 Walgreen's along my route, one near home and the other, across the street from the post office (one of my errands). So this is how the errands go -- 1) stop at Walgreen's, buy 2 gallons milk, spent $3.98; 2) stop at Trader Joe's for bananas (buy 22 at 19 cents each, spent $4.18); 3) post office to drop something in the mail; 4) across the street to other Walgreen's, buy 2 gallons milk, $3.98; 5) Cash and Carry restaurant supply for 2 lbs of raisins, $4.59; 6) Gas at lowest price station in area; 7) go to first Walgreen's for 2 more gallons of milk, $3.98 total spent on these errands -- $20.71

Month to date spending -- $127.02

Feb. 27 There's a Walgreen's on the way to my Thursday job. I put an ice chest into the trunk of the car, with an ice pack, and stopped in at Walgreen's on the way to work, and then again on the way home from work, buying a total of 4 gallons of milk for $1.99 each (2 whole milk for yogurt, and 2 2% milk for drinking). Spent $7.96.

Once home, I was able to put 6 gallons into the freezer. Once frozen, I can turn them on their sides, and put them in the stand alone freezer, freeing up a bit of space in the larger freezer for another couple of gallons of milk.

If milk prices really do jump up 60 cents per gallon, as reported on the news this month, I should at least put off buying milk for another 2 months, with my frozen milk.

Total spent for the month of February -- 134.98


  1. Ack! I hadn't heard that milk prices are gonna jump. We go through a lot of milk. I had stopped getting Aldi's milk last summer after a couple of experiences with it going bad before the expiration date--the manager of the store assures me that the problem has been fixed, but I've been hesitant to buy it there again. Since their prices typically are 50-60 cents/gallon cheaper than anywhere else, I may have to get over my paranoia.

    I always think people are brave to post their food purchases online for the rest of us to read and critique. We aren't regular hotdog eaters, either, but we do like to grill them in the summer--and no, they aren't the healthiest of food, but they fall into that occasional fun snack category for me. Plus, they are super easy to bring along and cook when camping. Enjoy your tube steaks--no criticism from me! :)

    1. HI Kris,
      not just milk, but coffee, too! Coffee has already gone up a couple of dollars per canister at our local grocery stores, this year, and it may go up further, the experts are saying. I've been experimenting with roasted brown rice to stretch the coffee, here.

      With the milk, I'm just going to look harder for deals, and not assume that it'll go on sale again soon. I'll also price powdered milk again.

      Hot dogs are just so easy, and convenient. I figure if we eat healthy most of the time, then we're okay with occasional not-great food. And I do make my own buns, usually with half whole wheat flour. So, maybe that redeems them a little!

      Posting my grocery purchases online has made me think twice a couple of times, about purchases. And that's a good thing, both for our budget and for our health.

    2. Reading your comments below, I have to say, I've never heard of non-instant milk. I have found in the past that it wasn't beneficial, cost-wise, to use powdered milk vs regular milk, but it always pays to check on prices. I'm sad to hear that oat prices will also be rising, as oats are one of my favorites. Maybe I should go easy on our steel cut oats for the rest of the year so we can have some next year.

      I'm not really a coffee drinker--my husband is, but he mostly drinks it at work (the guys there all take turns supplying it) and on weekends at home. I usually buy him good coffee for Christmas and sometimes for Father's Day as that's something he really enjoys (it seems to go over better than new underwear or socks, which I also admit to giving him as gifts!).

    3. Kris,
      non-instant is what is typically sold to bakeries and restaurants. Sometimes natural food stores that have a bulk section will also carry it. For baking, it works just fine mixing in with the dry ingredients. For drinking, you need to mix it with a mixer or blender. In my opinion, it tastes better than instant. Instant milk has a burnt taste to me.

      The prices on powdered milk seem to run in reverse of liquid milk. When one is way up, the other seems to be way down. I priced the 55 lb sacks at the Cash and Carry late summer. At that time, non-instant was around $3 per gallon. Meanwhile, I can find marked down milk for around $2. If milk prices really do sky-rocket, I'll be comparing dry vs. liquid milk prices again, and checking the price with the distributor, as well. (My husband used to pick up the sacks at the distributor, and he tells me that Darigold is near our daughter's university, so maybe not so inconvenient now.)

      We do good coffee as gifts as well. My husband can usually find a survey or two, related to his field of work, that pays in $10 to $25 Starbucks gift cards, way more than Swagbucks. He gave me some Starbucks for Christmas and Valentine's Day. (How romantic! LOL!) I do know one of the ladies at our church who stocks the church kitchen with coffee regularly. Around November or December, I was working in the kitchen when she came in with a couple of the large canisters of Folger's (48 oz maybe?). She bought them at Costco and paid less than I do with a coupon or for store brand for 33 oz canisters. So, Costco may be a good place to buy coffee, if you know anyone with a membership.

      Yeah, the oats are a real bummer. Commercial cereal prices still seem to be low, so maybe the price hike is still yet to come. The wholesaler sets their prices based on the price of inventory acquisition. They have a high turnover of stock. The oats were likely very recently brought in. You know, our Cash and Carry now has steel cut oats in 25 lb sacks for about the same price. I thought about buying some, as I do love steel cut oats. But 25 lbs could prove to be a whole lotta oats, even at 75 cents/lb. And you never know, this next year could be a much better harvest. You just never know.

  2. I need to stock up on powdered milk. I planed to do it last year, but I never did. Today I opened a new box (purchased in 2009) and I see how close we are to running out. It may be time to make that a priority.

    I don't know if I asked you before if you have a Winco near you, but they have a 25 pound bag of rolled oats for under $15 (I believe it was $14.35, but I know Winco prices can vary by location). That's less than Cash and Carry.

    Have you considered giving up coffee? Or trying to grow your own herbal tea instead? You could even grow stevia to sweeten it instead of sugar.

    1. Hi Brandy,
      Do you use instant powdered milk, or non-instant? In the past we've bought 55 lb sacks of non-instant directly from the distributor or from Cash and Carry (the distributor is less expensive, just not as convenient). 55 lbs makes 55 gallons (1 lb of dry makes a gallon). The big drawback to the non-instant is it's not fortified with Vit D (or at least wasn't when we bought it, may have changed). Do you have someplace in particular that you buy powdered milk from, or do you watch for sales?

      The nearest Winco is about 30 minutes away, and in a direction I never go. But it is on my list of places to check out, should I be in that area. I've heard they have decent prices on bulk whole wheat pasta. Last summer, I paid about $13.50 for a 25 lb sack of oats at Cash and Carry. I was astounded at the price jump this month. Then I heard on the news about a poor oat harvest affecting cereal prices this coming spring. Yet another food item go way up in cost (fortunately we don't buy commercial cereal, but just do hot cereal or granola). I wavered on whether or not to buy the oats, at that higher price. In the end, I chose to buy it, as my one daughter who is trying to put on weight uses oats in her weight-gain breakfast shake.

      I'm working on reducing coffee. There are homemade grain-based beverage recipes online, mostly using roasted barley. I'm allergic to barley, so am trying to make a brown rice version. I've been using the brown rice to cut our coffee, so far by 25%. My goal is to make a pot in the morning of half brown rice, half coffee. I do switch over to teas at lunch and in the afternoons. And I'm working on my husband to do the same. This summer, I'll be harvesting even more of my garden herbs for tea. I grow lemon balm, chamomile, and a variety of mints. I've grown stevia the last 2 years. I'm able to harvest enough stevia to cover the summer months for iced teas. So far, it's all in the experimental stage for me. When I hit on the prime location in our yard, I'll plant more stevia. I use the dried stevia blended about half and half with sugar. That makes it more appealing to my tastes than straight stevia leaves.

      Once summer comes, my tastes just don't seem to like coffee much. I prefer fruit-yogurt smoothies as a morning beverage in warm months, and fruity-herbal iced teas for the rest of the day. I'm lucky in that regard, to not want coffee in warmer weather. I just need to move to a warmer region.

      I've never price compared between cocoa and coffee, but I also have been drinking more cocoa tea this past year. It's just a cocoa minus the milk, and much less sugar.

      I'm always experimenting. I just have to make my experiments budget-friendly now.

  3. Great price on the milk! I hate to think of the costs continuing to rise, but I'm sure they will.

    My hubby isn't ready to give up on the coffee so I shop around for sales and avoiding brand loyalty seems to help. However, he has switched to just having coffee in the morning and we do a lot of herbal teas the rest of the day. (I haven't tried growing my own though....I just rely on sales.)

    You're right about the hot dogs -- an occasional one isn't the end of the world. We buy a white meat turkey hot dog that my nutritionist recommended. She said it isn't perfect, but said life without a cookout or two is just plain I love her common sense approach to things.

    1. Hi Shara,
      I wonder if you could buy herbal teas online, for less than grocery stores, like through Amazon. I did mention to my husband that I probably won't have the budget to buy coffee at these higher prices. So we are trying to make what we have stretch as long as possible. (On the clearance rack at our Albertson's they had Maxwell House for over $9 a canister last week.Yikes!)

      When our budget was larger, I bought uncured hot dogs. The uncured ones at least don't have the nitrites. Trader Joes carries a couple of good uncured hot dogs (beef and turkey, I think). Also, Oscar Meyer has an uncured hot dog. I don't know how lean they are, though. What's the brand of turkey hot dog that your nutritionist recommends?

      I would add, life without a few s'mores would be sad, too!

  4. Kris is right. It's brave to post what you buy to eat. There are so many people out there with special diets that they chose for health or philosophical reasons. Sometimes they forget that one size does not fit all. When I occasionally post what we've been eating, I do think about what others may say. But not for long. Life's too short to worry about that.

    I see you got some fresh spinach and mushrooms with your "extra" money. Did you enjoy them?

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Yeah, I just have to not think about what one individual might think or say. It would be a huge time-waster to worry about something like that.

      The spinach and mushrooms were so great. Although I think we got more mileage out of the spinach than the mushrooms. We had salads almost every day for a week. It was a good use of our money, to have something like that for a treat!

  5. You can freeze cream that has been whipped? Good to know!

    1. Hi anexacting,
      Yes, I wrote up my mom's directions for freezing whipped cream, about mid-February. But basically, you just freeze dollops of whipped cream on a baking sheet lined with foil. Once frozen, peel off the foil and place in a freezer bag. To use, 10 minutes before serving dessert, place a frozen dollop of whipped cream onto each serving of dessert, and allow to stand at room temp for 10 minutes. It's nice to be able to use leftover whipped cream, or as in my case, to be able to buy some on mark down, for future use.

  6. I see milk prices rising here ... Costco is now at the $3 mark (expensive for here). As for coffee .. I've noticed that prices actually have gone down a bit ... and read that overall, supplies are going up.

    1. Hi DW,
      I was able to stop in to Walgreen's one more time, today, for another 2 gallons of milk (right next door to the library where my daughter needed to do some work). At least I have a 2 1/2 month supply now.

      The news from last week on coffee was about the crop-destroying, historic drought in Brazil (where most of the world's supply of arabica beans come from), coupled with an increased interest in coffee in nations like China and India (where tea had been the preference). The glut on the market reported at the end of 2013 is supposed to dwindle in the next couple of months. They expect a shortage of coffee supplies sometime late this year, early next (a total contradiction to what was believed just a few months ago).

      In the futures market this past Wednesday, coffee reached it's highest price per pound in over a year.

      I'm glad that coffee prices are low where you live, for now. The experts say to expect stability in the prices for another couple of months. But in our area, prices have already risen at the grocery store. I'll be drinking a lot more tea from now on!

    2. Ouch ... sounds like it's time for me to stock on coffee, then.

    3. Hi DW,
      That's my plan, if I can find a good price nearby. I'm scouring all the local grocery and drugstore ads (sometimes drugstores have decent sales on coffee), online and the ones we get in the mail. You never know, maybe it won't be as bad as some of the experts were saying last week! ;-)


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