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Thursday, May 8, 2014

April Grocery Money Journal (spent $43.52 per week)

If you think about all the ways you have saved big bucks over the years, you probably think of things like shopping around for a good used car, negotiating points on a mortgage, paying off your mortgage early, and shopping second hand. 

These are all money savers, that's for sure. But do you think about grocery savings in the same "big bucks" way? You should! You can save a whole lotta money on groceries. I know this from my own experience. 

I've been married about 27 and 1/2 years. Those first 12 months of marriage, I was careful with our spending. But I still managed to spend about $70 per week on groceries for the 3 of us. Then, I had a revelation about how much I was spending, and how much I could save over the course of a lifetime, if I just cut our grocery spending in half. No, make that more than half. My goal was to reduce our grocery spending to $30 per week. I did this basically overnight. So, for the last 26 years, I've been spending an average of $40 per week on groceries. Based on national "thrifty plan" averages of grocery spending around the $400-500 mark for a month for a family, I estimate that I have saved at least $230 per month, multiply that by 12 months, then 26 years, and I have saved our family a minimum of $71,760 !!!

If you add in that we have always, every single day, packed lunches for my husband and kids for work and school, we have saved an additional $60,000 over buying a quick-service meal in a school cafeteria or counter service restaurant. Those two figures, spending less on groceries combined with always packing (and not buying) lunches, comes to a total of over $130,000 !!!  That is a substantial amount of money, and will only keep growing over the coming years.

Careful attention to grocery spending has indeed paid off in big bucks for this family! 

Have you ever figured your savings on groceries, in total, over many years? I bet you've saved a bundled!

Now on to the grocery shopping for April.

April 1, 2014. Easter falls in April this year, so I will have a lot of opportunities to stock up on different items, at close to rock-bottom prices. Which means, I will be spending a lot of money this month.

I have my regular budget of $170, plus a carry forward surplus of $72.31, for a total available to spend on groceries of $242.31. In case you missed it, the carry forward surplus is the total of amounts not spent from the grocery budget, in previous months. I'm trying not to spend too much of that surplus, but hold on to it for future months. But we shall see.

April 3. QFC to check markdowns. I found 2 gallons of whole milk marked down to $2.29 each, and 4 containers of mushrooms for $1.19 each. The containers of mushrooms were marked as 8 ounces each. I took several over to the scales to weigh and found 4 containers right around 12 ounces each. That works out to $1.59 per pound (for a total of 3 pounds). A great price for fresh mushrooms. I used 2 of the containers fresh, in meals, and sliced and sauteed the other two to freeze for future meals. Total spent today $9.34.

April 4. Trader Joe's, hoping they have cocoa in stock again. They do! I buy ten 9-ounce containers, at $2.49 each. This is the best price on cocoa powder in my area, even beating the restaurant supply 5-lb bag price. Cocoa and chocolate products have increased in demand, worldwide in recent years. The prices just keep ticking upwards. Do you remember when you could buy a candy bar for 3/$1? Now the regular grocery store price on a single-serving candy bar is between 79 and 99 cents in my area. Market analysts expect the wholesale price on cacao to rise sharply in the next couple of years. My plan is to just keep us stocked. I'll buy additional containers of cocoa powder, as we use our supply, as my budget allows, and until the prices rise. In addition to cocoa powder, I picked up 3 bananas at 19 cents each. Total spent today -- $25.47

Fred Meyer as I had non-food items to pick up there. I also had a coupon for ground coffee, 33 ounce containers for $5.99 (limit 2). I bought 2, spending $11.98 Month to date spending -- $46.79

April 5. Dollar Tree for lasagna noodles. spent $1

Walgreen's has eggs for $1.29 per dozen. I'm not sure if eggs will be less just before Easter or not, so I buy 7 dozen. Spent $9.03

Cash and Carry restaurant supply for sugar in 50 lb sacks. They have an ad that can be viewed online. I check it most Mondays. Sugar is $18.75 for 50-lbs this week. While there, they have russet potatoes for $1.98 in a 15 lb sack, which works out to about 13 cents per pound. I just buy the 1 sack. Spent $20.73 for a month to date total of $77.55

April 11. Fred Meyer has in-store coupons each week. I find their ad online, then decide if I'll take family members with me. They have in-store coupons for butter ($2 for 1 pound), canned pineapple (88 cents for 20 ounces) and 8-oz bricks of cream cheese (88 cents). My 2 daughters came with me and picked up coupons, too. In total, we bought 6 pounds of butter (there was an additional coupon on 1 pound of butter!), 12 cans of pineapple and 8 bricks of cream cheese. Total spent -- $29.42.

Walgreen's has olives with in-store coupons this week, at 89 cents per can. I buy 10 cans of black olives and 2 jars of green olives, for a total spent of $10.68. Month to date spending -- $117.65

April 13. As it turns out, Walgreen's does put eggs on sale this week before Easter, at 99 cents per dozen. I pick up 10 dozen. I'll freeze about 5 to 6 dozen, and the sell-by date is mid-May on the rest of the eggs for fresh eating. Spent $9.90

Albertson's for cheese, 2 pounds for $4.99, limit 1 with coupon. I pick up 1. Spent $4.99

April 15. QFC has hams on sale for 99 cents per pound. Even though I still have a ham in the freezer, I pick up 2 more hams. Total spent -- $19.83. These don't have to be in the freezer until late May, giving me time to clear out spots for them. Month to date spent -- $152.37

April 18. Fred Meyer has butter on ad with coupon, again. I only need 4 more pounds to fill my stock, so one daughter comes with me. While there we find half gallons of skim milk for 75 cents each, that's $1.50/gallon! I figure I have room for 12 half gallons in my freezers, so I buy 12, and we get 4 pounds of butter at $2/lb. Total spent $17.00

Trader Joe's for bananas (19 cents each). 22 is my number. It seems to be the exact amount that we can go through without completely tiring ourselves of bananas. Spent $4.18

Country Farms produce stand. I'm there early enough in the day to find a full markdown bin. I buy 3 smallish heads of lettuce for $1 total, 6 green peppers for $1.98, 6 kiwi fruit for 99 cents, plus a small head of cabbage at 50 cents/lb and 1 large sweet potato at 79 cents/lb. Total spent -- $5.97 Month to date spending -- $179.52

April 19. The Easter bunny is doing a little last-minute shopping. While here I buy 1 box of green tea. spent $1.

April 23. After Easter, I stop by Dollar Tree for marked down Easter chocolate. This isn't great quality chocolate, but it works fine enough for s'mores during the summer. The candy is all 50 cents/bag. I buy 10 bags, plus 1 bag of marshmallows, for a total spent of $6. These bags of chocolate candy are 5 ounce bags. The standard size bag of chocolate chips that I buy is 12 ounces. The Easter chocolate works out to $1.20 per 12 ounces. The best price I ever find on chocolate baking chips is $1.79. If I compare the price of chocolate for s'mores to candy bars, the candy bars are even more expensive per unit, so after-Easter clearance chocolate candy is our best option, price-wise. And I have even used this clearance chocolate candy, all chopped up, and added to cookies, as a cheaper "chocolate chip".

Anyway, total month-to-date spent --  $186.52. Or, $43.52 per week. 

I did spend a little into our carry forward surplus. However, I still have $55.79 in surplus remaining *and* a very well-stocked kitchen. May looks like it will be a tasty month!

April was holiday month this year with Easter mid-month. I always spend more during holiday months, not because we buy extravagant foods, but because there are a lot of stock-up deals surrounding holidays. This April, that meant butter, ham, eggs, cream cheese and canned pineapple.

The next stock-up opportunities will be on bbq/picnic items, such as hot dogs, just before Memorial Day and 4th of July. Even the high quality hot dogs go on sale around these holidays. When given the choice, our family prefers Hebrew National beef hot dogs. Their regular price is around $5 for 7 hot dogs. They typically go on ad for about $3 to $3.50 a package.

Just curious, what is it that you find interesting about my grocery money journal? What would you have not bought, that found it's way into my cart?


  1. I am just astonished by your skill! I've recently managed to cut down a grocery shop to just once a week simply by buying 2 lots of milk at the one shopping trip. Previously, I would run out mid-week and then have to nip to the local grocery shop on the way home and of course there'd be things I'd *have* to buy there, so I spent more money. Now I need to figure out how to cut down more - my grocery bill is about $100-130 per week. I cook all our meals from scratch, make bread and other things like hummous, etc, all lunches are from home so I feel confident about that. I think I need to be more vigilant about sale shopping.

    1. Hi Jessica,
      Yeah, I think just even stopping in to the store mid-week can be a big mistake for a lot of people, even me. I'll tell myself that I'll just check my favorite markdown spots (packaged deli, dairy, produce, fresh meat) and then I'll have an extra $20 worth of stuff in my cart, when I only came in for 1 thing. I've had to be extremely disciplined with this,because that's a trouble spot for me. And sometimes stopping in that extra time is how I do save money, by buying more of a loss leader sale item that I want to stock up on. So it can be tricky.

      And I think a lot of how I spend so less is I have a lot of shopping options available here. I live in a well-populated area, so a lot of choices (and competition between stores bringing prices down), but also close enough to agricultural areas that we have farm stands, u-pick farms, and we have a large yard for growing a big garden. And a mild climate so our garden starts giving us at least a small amount of produce in late March, early April.

      What I'm saying is how small your budget can possibly be is all relative to where you live, so don't beat yourself up about it. My biggest tips for anyone trying to spend less would be to watch sales cycles in your area, and stock-up BIG when prices reach what you think is the year's (or season's) low, like ham for us this past month was 99 cents/lb. Even though I had 2 hams still here, I bought 2 more. We'll use these hams for dinners, of course, but also for any breakfast meat we want, instead of buying much more expensive bacon or sausage, for special occasion breakfasts.

      You're in Canada, correct? $100-130/week is actually quite good. Your grocery costs are higher than the US, across the board. Hopefully you have other things that are more affordable, like your healthcare, to off-set having to spend more on groceries than the US.

  2. How large is your refrigerator? 7 dozen eggs takes up a fair amount of room. And how do you freeze eggs? We spend a lot on groceries; family with 5 adults at the moment. We rarely buy highly processed foods like pop in the microwave and out comes a fully prepared meal. Everyone takes their lunches to work, I make our own yogurt, etc, but still we spend well in excess of $125 per week, sometimes $150. I need HELP! LOL So what is the most important thing to understand in saving this kind of money?

    1. Hi Linda,
      I have a spare fridge/freezer in the garage. In total, I have a small stand-alone freezer (size of a dishwasher), our old fridge/freezer, and our kitchen fridge/freezer, so I do have a lot of food storage space here.

      You're right, 7 cartons of eggs do take up a lot of space. My garage fridge currently holds about 9 dozen eggs (I've been meaning to get at least 5 dozen frozen, and will have to do that this week), 2 large hams, a couple gallons of milk, about 10 lbs of butter, 8 packages of cream cheese, and some produce. It looks pretty full at the moment. I use the kitchen fridge to hold just what we're eating for the week, plus condiments.

      I use the freezers to hold produce, meat, butter, eggs, milk and extra home-baked goods (breads, muffins, dinner rolls). My freezers stay near full year round.

      Freezing eggs, here's a post about what to do with eggs before freezing (you mix in either e bit of sugar or a bit of salt to stabilize the yolks, before freezing):

      Since I wrote this, I've found that I can pour the beaten eggs into muffin tins, freeze the whole tin, then turn out onto the counter once frozen. It takes a minute or two for the eggs to come out of the muffin tin, but once out, I can then put all the egg disks into a ziploc bag for the freezer.

      5 adults can be a lot to feed. As it happens, we're 5 adults here, too. But I do think that my grown kids don't eat all that much. Some adults eat much larger portions. So, for your family, feeding 5 adults might just be a whole lot of food.

      Biggest grocery money savers --

      --shop only the loss leaders in the ads (items at rock-bottom prices), and stock up BIG.

      --2 costliest grocery categories are protein and produce. With protein, I buy milk on markdown (clearance) when I find it, and freeze as much as I can fit in freezers. I buy eggs on sale at local Walgreen's (drug stores often put things like eggs and milk on sale, at lower prices than grocery stores). I buy as many as 10 dozen eggs at a time when on sale, and freeze a bunch. I never buy lunch meat (it's better for us this way, anyway). For meat, I only buy ham (Easter/Christmas sale of 99 cents/lb, and buy several), ground beef when on sale for $1.99/lb (buy 10 lbs at a time and ration out), whole chickens (79 cents/lb, stock-up buy as many as 8 whole chickens in a week and freeze), whole turkeys (Thanksgiving, finding best possible deal and buy 4 for the year). We don't eat very much fish. About once/month I fix something with canned tuna or some smoked salmon gifted to us (you can divide up a large package of smoked salmon and freeze in portions). If we could afford to increase our spending in any one area, it would be on fish. My family would like to eat much more of it.

      If you look at our menu plans (my last post, May 5), you'll see that we eat meat for dinner just 2 to 3 days per week. The rest of the week, our main protein is beans. This week, we're having meat 2 nights, next week 3 nights. We only have beef 2 times per month. Lunches are usually sandwiches or soup. The sandwiches are filled with peanut butter, bean spread or occasionally egg salad. Soups are vegetarian. (I can only fit so much in comments, so "to be continued" in next comment)

    2. Linda, here's next part of my comment--

      The other expensive grocery category for most families is produce. We grow about half of our produce. Instead of planting ornamental trees in our yard, over the years, we planted fruit trees. I have a large vegetable garden and keep it producing late March (over-wintered items like kale and chard, plus perennials like sorrel and watercress) through early November. When I buy produce, for fruit, I stick with the less expensive items like oranges in season, bananas and melons in season. I shop loss leaders and stock up, like oranges in December. I'll typically buy 20 lbs of oranges and keep in the spare fridge. I also shop a produce stand that opens the end of March and closes the first of November. I check their markdown/clearance bin and buy up whatever I can use. (Yesterday I stopped there and bought 3 small heads of lettuce, 6 green peppers, 3 grapefruit, all on markdown and will be used or frozen in the next few days). For long storage veggies, like carrots and onions, I buy those at a restaurant supply in 25 or 50 lb sacks. Our restaurant supply is Cash and Carry, but it's similar to Smart and Final, if either of those are in your area. I stock up on potatoes, pumpkin, squash, apples in the fall when on sale. When we run out of potatoes, fresh squash and apples, we simply don't buy more, until they're on sale again (like the following fall). I buy a small amount of canned fruit/veggies, items like canned pineapple, canned pumpkin, and buy frozen veggies in 5-lb bags at the restaurant supply.

      --on staples like flour, dried beans, brown rice, oats, I buy these at the restaurant supply in 25 to 50 lb sacks. My price per pound is very low on these items, bought this way. I bought a 50-lb sack of pinto beans this week. The price per pound was about 59 cents on those pintos, about half of what I'd spend/pound if I had bought them at the grocery store in a 1-lb bag. (to be continued, next comment)

    3. Linda, final part of comment --

      --breakfast can be expensive or cheap, depending on what you eat. We don't buy cold cereal, but have oatmeal, cornmeal mush, cooked brown rice (all with milk), or homemade granola, or homemade muffins or toast, often with homemade yogurt, or just milk. A big breakfast (like the kind with eggs or ham) is reserved for weekends. I only buy fruit juices when found on sale/clearance. I bought several half-gallons of oj last fall on clearance from the refrigerated section of store. I froze all of these, and we've been drinking them this winter. Otherwise, we don't drink fruit juice on a daily basis, but do make smoothies often and eat fresh, frozen and dried fruit with breakfast (add fruits to hot cereals, granola, muffins and yogurt).

      --shop every grocery venue in your area, including restaurant supplies, produce stands, specialty food stores like Trader Joe's (best price on bananas, cocoa powder, and tofu), drugstores, dollar stores and grocery stores. On Sundays, I go online and read all the ads that I don't get in the mail. I look for the loss leaders at every store. I fill in with basics from the restaurant supply and produce stand when our garden is not in full swing. Our dollar store (Dollar Tree) has a few surprises --peanut butter and lasagna noodles, cheaper than grocery stores most of the time.

      --buy in institutional size packages. This saves us a bunch. I buy canned tomato products in #10 cans (about a gallon each), by the case, raisins in 2-lb bags, vegetable oil in 35-lb containers.

      So, I hope I have hit on something you haven't tried and not just repeated everything you already do. Keep in mind that grocery prices vary from region to region, your family may simply eat a lot more than mine, and what you already spend may very well be extremely low for your situation. Hope this helps.

  3. Great job on keeping your spending low while stocking up! While I am nowhere as low on spending (in part due to buying some organic items due to cancer in my past) and probably never will be, I love reading blogs like yours to keep me inspired to keep trying to keep my own budget as low as it can feasibly be for us and my own family's way of eating. I really appreciate the breakdown and hearing how and what you do and what you eat to use those items.

    I have recently started buying more institutional sizes with the kids getting bigger (we have 5) and like buying this way. I have been looking for something similar to Cash and Carry in the bigger cities near us, thinking it would warrant a trip next time we go that way anyway (2-3 hours each to OKC or Dallas) but haven't found anything yet.

    1. Oh, and as to what I wouldn't have bought that as in your cart, that would be eggs. Ours hens are producing like crazy at the moment and I am trying to stay on top of production. Need to get on the ball and freeze some for use during their midsummer slump. :)

    2. Hi Cat,
      now yours is an excellent reason for seeking out the organics. I would do the same if I were you. In fact, there are several things that would never make it into my mouth, if I had cancer in my past (hot dogs, ham, dairy to name a couple). While there are a lot of organic options available, these can be very expensive.

      One thing I did, before finding Cash and Carry, was to "order" 50-lb sacks of some items from our local Health Food/Bulk market, when they had them in the bulk bins on sale. So, for something like Bob's Red Mill stone-ground whole wheat flour, it would go on sale in the bulk bins for 29 cents/lb, at our local store. I would ask to speak with the manager of that department, and "order" a couple of 50 lb sacks. I would still pay the 29 cents/lb sale price, but I wouldn't have to fill all those plastic bags, and they wouldn't have to refill the bulk bins. So it was in both our interest for me to just order a full bag or two. While you wouldn't save any extra money over the sale price, you would stock up at a good price, and reduce the chance you'd need to return soon, buy more and pay the regular price.

      Do you have a bulk health foods store nearby? This may be an option for stocking up on organic grains and legumes when they go on sale. If you're buying organic milk (and other dairy items), as well, you could buy a lot when it goes on sale (I know, probably not often), and freeze.

      We talk about getting chickens from time to time. Eventually we will. First, we have to come up with some sort of coyote-proof enclosure. Neighbors who keep chickens have had a real problem with the coyotes, here. The best solution we've seen in our neighborhood is a shed, enclosed by a chain link fence (w/ locked gate, chicken theft and vandalism has also been a problem here).

      I had no idea that hens go through a laying slump mid-summer. I just thought they laid spring through summer, and it slowed or came to a halt in winter. Very interesting. I like learning all these little tid-bits. I know, I'm fascinating to talk with at coffee hour after church. "Did you know that chickens go through a laying slump in mid-summer?" I'll dazzle them this Sunday!

    3. Well, maybe they don't have the slump everywhere. But here, during the really hot months (usually over 100 for most of July and August), they tend to slack off, as well as in the winter. Then in fall and spring, we're loaded with eggs. That's too bad about the coyotes there. We have them all over the place out in the country but living in town haven't had any issues so far, in the 5 years since we first got tehm.

      I don't really order much from the health food store as far as grains, as we have an Azure Standard drop here and most of those things we get from there. Also, butter (for about 2.15 per lb when I buy 15 lbs at a time), some cheeses, and whipping cream, as well as seasonal produce at times (not all of it, though). But I don't find Azure to have great prices on canned goods, so would love to find another source for those. We decided not to renew our Sam's Club membership right now and the nearest Costco is 3+ hours away in Dallas for now. Will keep looking for places, though...never know what we might find on a visit to OKC or Dallas. :)

    4. Okay, that makes sense about the hens and extreme heat causing a laying slump. It would still make an interesting ice breaker conversation piece!

      Have you checked Amazon's prices on some of the foods you buy. I have a friend who only buys GF oats, and can buy them through Amazon for less than any place else. Amazon's prices can be hit or miss. Some items are great deals while others are shockingly overpriced! Just a suggestion.

    5. Yes, we do get a few things from Amazon, including TP. I've found the same as you; some items for great prices and others ridiculously overpriced. Thanks for the ideas!

  4. The one thing I might have not put in my cart were the olives. That seems like a lot to me. Do you mostly cook with them or eat them as a condiment like pickles?

    1. Hi live and learn,
      You're right. Olives are more of a treat item, and a kind of pricey treat at that. I add them to salads (especially pasta salad), slice and add to homemade pizza, and make an olive tapenade to top crostini with. The cans that I bought are to last us until Thanksgiving when I'll find them on sale again.

  5. One thing I like to check in your grocery posts is: what are the loss-leaders, mark-downs and seasonal sale items that make it worth it to you to dip into your carry-forward surplus?!

    1. Hi anexacting,
      well, I try not to use that surplus money, as you never know when I might really need it. I try to dip into it only for true healthy foods (produce), and items that I have just a brief opportunity to buy (like the after-Easter chocolate to use for s'mores this summer). Some months I'm more disciplined than others. Other months, I just find myself getting carried away with non-essentials. Right now, though, I have huge motivation to stick to our budget, keeping our daughters in their school, without incurring student loans.

  6. I haven't calculated out our cost savings like you have, and I don't do nearly as well as you do with groceries, but when I think about how much money we save by eating at home versus eating out and by shopping sales/loss leaders/Aldi's, I know it adds up quickly. Sometimes comments from friends make me realize how our lifestyle choices have really saved us money--like when my friend told me recently that she pays $1500/month in child care costs. Wow. That's a whole lotta money. Don't get me wrong, I'm not judging their choice--it just reinforces to me that I'm pleased with our lifestyle. I'm not sure the amount of money I would earn working full-time would amount to all that much once expenses came out of my income. Posts like this one help reinforce that small decisions we make daily can add up quickly and it helps keep me motivated not to nickel-and-dime away my money.

    1. Kris,
      you bring up a very good point about frugality. By spending money carefully, we have choices. We can choose to send our kids to a particular school. We can choose to go on vacation. We can choose to live in the size of house we want. Or, like me, we can choose to stay home with our kids while they're young. If I hadn't been careful with our spending, staying at home while they grew up would not have been an option.

      If you could add up how much you have saved by not eating out much, wow, I bet that would be some total!

  7. Another question....How does one begin to do this kind of intentional saving? It seems like you'd need an awful lot of planning to begin.

    About 4 years ago we took money out of savings in order to begin stocking up on groceries but we weren't trying to save like you do. Instead we wanted to have a well stocked pantry (non fresh food) that we could "shop" from between pay periods as needed. We rarely run out of canned goods, pasta, or paper products anymore by keeping surplus on hand and that reduces our trips to the store where of course you always buy more than what's on your list. We also try to keep a certain stock in the freezer. And I make virtually all of our cleaning products from scratch including laundry detergent so that helps a lot.

    The fact that you have more than one refrigerator is a bonus. Of course if I had to buy another one it would take years to recoup that savings which isn't an option at this point.

    Living in central IL with a shorter growing period than you apparently have is also a factor. We do garden though, mostly tomatoes, lettuce, salad stuff, and last year for the first time, butternut squash. I still have some in my basement. We also have some raspberry bushes but last year the crop was poor and I wasn't able to make even 1 batch of jam. But I froze enough to make raspberry vinegar a number of times which makes a delicious dressing for salad.

    I appreciate all the details you shared. It encourages me that I can do much more to save money. My husband would never agree to meat only 2-3 times per week so we'll never be able to reduce our spending like you're able to. But we do buy pastured chickens at a phenomenal price two times during the year and stock up. Those chickens last us almost a year and from the bones I make chicken stock. So I am doing some things to get more for our money.

    The details you've shared have been most helpful. Thanks much!

    1. HI Linda,
      When I first made changes to how I grocery shopped, I went from shopping at just one store, to shopping at every store that I received ads from. It was 4 stores, I think. Prior to this, I shopped 1 store, and bought some of the sale items, but also bought a lot of regular priced items. Then, changing to shopping 4 stores, I had greater selection in what was on sale. I mostly bought loss leaders beginning that very first week, and stocked up as my allotted $30 allowed.

      I also changed what we ate that first week. We went from eating a lot of ground beef, roasts, stew beef and chicken breasts, to eating a lot of dried beans, and some chicken legs/thighs. INstead of buying whatever produce I was in the mood for, I bought inexpensive, in-season fruits and veggies. I stopped buying cold cereal, and bought oats from the bulk bins at one store and made oatmeal. I admit, those first few weeks, our meals were probably a little lop-sided, as I was stocking the pantry and freezer. But the meals were healthy, just a lot of repetition.

      A lot of changes unfolded over the years, like buying clearance items, or making most everything from scratch.

      That's great that you grew butternut squash last year. There might be other long-keeping veggies you could grow, that would keep into winter, when produce is so much more expensive. And hopefully your garden will produce better than ever this year!

      Our spare fridge is really old (over 35 years old), from when we first moved into this house. We're setting aside money now to buy a more efficient fridge/freezer for the garage. A good friend of mine has a husband who does electrical work remodeling homes. One day, he came home with a fridge/freezer in his truck. The owners didn't want it and gave it to him free. They were glad to have him haul it off.

      Making your own cleaning products is not only a money saver, but better for your health. Don't want to take any chances.

      Good luck, Linda!

    2. Also for Linda--

      We live in Michigan so our growing season is even shorter than yours. We have an upright freezer in our basement and being able to freeze and store produce has saved us a lot of money over the years. I don't know if you have tried this, but we cook up a lot of squash at once, portion it out in containers, and freeze it. It lasts longer than storing it in your basement and the thing I really love is the convenience--if I remember to put a container in the fridge the night before, all I have to do it microwave it for supper and it's a fast way to add a veggie (ok, technically a fruit ...) to our meal.

      My in-laws live in central IL and they double-crop--they plant cool-weather crops in the spring and again in the fall and they typically are able to pull off harvesting greens into November and sometimes December. Maybe that would be an option for you? (We do the same thing but our seasons are shorter).

    3. I do plant lettuce and spinach for a fall harvest. If I get the seeds sown by mid August I am guaranteed salad makings sometimes into January depending on the severity of cold. One year I picked fresh spinach in mid January but that certainly wasn't this past winter! I've found too if I let some lettuce go to seed from the spring planting and shake the fully ripened seed over the garden it will sometimes begin to produce another crop in the fall without my having to sow new seeds. Now that's cost and time effective! Two crops from one planting.

      I love butternut squash soup as well as cooked like hash brown potatoes either in a pan on top of the stove or in the oven. I wonder if it's possible to freeze the raw squash cut into cubes. I'll have to look that up. But I could certainly pre-cook the squash that I use for soup. And raw butternut squash tastes very much like carrots. We eat it that way as well. it's good with veggie dip.

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  9. Lili ~

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this! This is so awesome!
    I am nooooooooooooooooooooooo even in the same arena as you --- I'm outside trying to get in ;) hahaha but I am learning so much from you and so honored that you will share will us.

    I love that you figure out how much you have saved your family --- amazing that number is staggering! What an effect Mom's can have on their family's budget is unbelievable! I have never sat and figured out the cost but dang I have a long way to go and make improvements! So instead of being negative with myself for NOT saving a ton of money up to this point I'm moving forward ;)

    I also love how you roll money over --- sometimes I think of a budget as I have $300 to spend lets spend it all instead of let's spend less and roll it over --- smart! Very smart!

    I have been making some changes - which I have enjoyed up to this point, surprisingly enough ;) I love how you look for those "sales" and you take advantage of them - making the most for your family in the process!

    I have heard the same about the cocoa and bought myself 2 from Trader Joe's this week as well ;) - I am going to make a little stock pile. My hubby likes a certain kind of BBQ sauce and this week I found it at the Dollar Tree and bought him a little stock pile - he's happy. These small steps and changes will certainly help me in the long run and will make a difference for our family.

    As far as what made it in to your cart that would have made it in to mine ---- that many eggs ;) I only have one fridge and no where to put that many, oh and those olives would have SOOOO made it into my cart --- tapende yummy!!!

    thanks for all the inspiration,
    Cathie Bryk

    1. Hi Cathie,
      Thank you for your kind words!
      Yes, I'm stockpiling cocoa powder (could not live without my chocolate), coffee, and sugar. I know I can't totally avoid some of the expected price hikes, but I can put them off a little while.

      That is great that Dollar Tree carries the BBQ sauce your husband likes! I have found a lot of surprises there.

      It is a lot of eggs, I admit! (Sometimes I wonder at myself, if I've gone over the edge on stocking up.) I will be freezing another muffin tin of them today. These will be our eggs for baking in June. Then hopefully Walgreen's will have another sale on eggs sometime mid-summer.

    2. I have to say another thank you to Cathie for pointing me to your blog a few months ago (maybe a year now?). I don't always comment but I check in at least weekly to see what's new.

  10. Lili, I am so inspired by your lists! I do have a budget and I do buy in bulk whenever I can. But I never kept a list. I will try to do so, that will be fun to see what I spend during the year.

    1. Hi Maria,
      Sometimes I think all my list-making and record-keeping is a bit geeky. But I do actually refer back to these lists. They help me to see what a great price was a year ago, and what to look for in this year. I also can see just what I thought was a good amount of any one thing to buy, and can make my buying decisions accordingly. So in all, the lists really help me. Other people might find it too laborious to make lists and keep records as I do, and I understand that.


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