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Friday, August 1, 2014

July Grocery Money Journal -- spent $28.89 per week

July 5. Dollar Tree for 3 quarts of soy milk, and 1 bag of marshmallows -- for s'mores :) Spent $4

July 9. Country Farms (the produce stand). I check the mark-down bin first and find 1 1/2 lb. bag of broccoli florets (99 cents), 1  1/4 lbs of Rainer cherries (99 cents), then choose 2 watermelons (29 cents/lb), 2 cucumbers (2/$1), 3 small avocados (3/$1), 1 head of garlic (50 cents). I spend $11.58. Then I turn around and see they have added new items to the mark-down bin. I choose a bag of 3 bell peppers (99 cents) and a bag of 7 small and 1 large very ripe avocados (99 cents). I spend another $1.98.

July 9. Trader Joe's for 20 bananas (19 cents each) and 2 containers of tofu. Spent $6.78

July 9. Last stop at Cash and Carry restaurant supply. My daughters convince me that we "need" 1 gallon of molasses (otherwise we can't make more graham crackers, and then we can't make more s'mores!). Molasses was $13.39 for 1 gallon. I also buy a 12.5 lb bag of popcorn ($6.58), 2-lb bag of raisins ($4.59), 72-ct package of corn tortillas ($2.18) and 4 containers of tofu ($1.24 -- I didn't know it would be on sale here, it was about 20 cents less per container than Trader Joe's). Total spent, $31.70, for a month-to-date of $56.04.

July 13. I stopped at QFC after church and found milk and tofu on markdown. I bought all of the tofu (99cents/package, 7 packages) and 1  1/2 gallons of milk. Spent $9.70 You can freeze tofu, if you buy a package and only use part. The texture changes a little. It seems a bit grainier after freezing. For my purposes, this doesn't matter. I mostly use tofu in soups, mashed and in lasagna, in a chocolate silk dessert, and pureed in smoothies. A changed texture doesn't seem to matter.

One daughter went to Dollar Tree, so I had her pick up 1 box of lasagna noodles, for $1. Month to date spending -- $66.74

July 19.  I was out running errands and near Fred Meyer, so I thought I'd stop in to check for markdowns. I found 10 gallons of 1% milk at $1.50 each. I bought all 10! (And this was a challenge to fit into the freezers.) Natural peanut butter was also on sale, store brand, 3/$5. Unfortunately, the package has shrunk to 15 oz, instead of the former 16 oz. I still have some peanut butter at home, so I bought 4 jars. Also, down the baking aisle, I found powdered sugar for $1.59 for a 2-lb bag (bought 3 bags). This is less than I paid last fall, during the baking sale, so I went ahead and bought enough to get us through the baking season and hopefully enough for next spring's birthday cakes. Total spent -- $26.44

July 25. Safeway has whole chickens on sale for 88 cents/lb. This is more than last spring's price of 79 cents/lb, but I think it's a good price for right now. I buy 4 whole chickens. We still have a couple of chickens in the freezer, so with these 4 we should be able to get through fall with plenty of chicken. Also, they had 2-lb blocks of cheddar cheese on sale, today only, for $5, limit 1. Spent $23.89

July 25. Also go by Albertson's and buy 2 dozen eggs (medium size) for 99 cents/dozen. Spent $1.98. I thought this was a fabulous price on eggs, given how expensive eggs have become. However, on Sunday, checking Walgreen's ad, I discover Walgreen's has eggs on sale, large size 99 cents/dozen. Oh well. Total month to date spent -- $119.05

July 29 and 30. As I mentioned before, Walgreen's has eggs on sale for 99 cents/dozen, limit 4, this week. With 2 stops into Walgreen's I buy 8 dozen eggs, plus 1 package turkey bacon (6 oz -- 99 cents), and spend $8.91 in total. This is the end of spending for the month. Total month to date spent -- $127.96 which works out to $28.89 per week.

I was $37.04 under budget, which I'll add to my running surplus of $54.51, for a new running surplus total of $91.55. I'm banking this surplus for fall stock-ups, hoping to buy hams, turkeys, potatoes, autumn vegetables, butter, cheese and some canned veggies at that time. I expect we'll see higher prices this fall than last, so I want to bank about $150 for stock-up, in addition to my regular budgeted grocery amounts.

We are fortunate to have an abundance of garden produce right now. The red apples are ripening, blueberries have done well, blackberries are everywhere, plenty of lettuce and other leafy greens, plus cucumbers, zucchini, green beans and there's one almost ripe tomato, with more to come. I love looking at our dinner plates and seeing over half the plate has come from our garden or foraged berries. Our freezers are more full this July than last July, with hams, whole chickens, milk, butter, and ground beef.

Shopping very carefully and limiting extras has paid off for us. We have cut our grocery budget by $45 per month since last summer, and this despite rising food costs. I think I could cut our budget further, if I had to, but right now, I'd rather leave that extra amount in the budget, and buy more produce that I can't grow plus more meat.

The other thing that I've discovered is that I really prefer my home-baked goodies over anything store-bought. When I was in the store the other day, I was looking at a display of large chocolate chip cookies. They looked tempting, but then I imagined their shortening-ey taste, and realized that I could bake a much tastier cookie from scratch, using real butter, lots of real vanilla extract, brown sugar and some whole grains. I didn't make those cookies, yet, but got distracted with home-made blueberry muffins, also a delicious treat, adding some vanilla extract to the batter.

I had similar thoughts about packaged crackers. They look good, but then they often seem a bit greasy and taste of shortening. When we've wanted something with crunch, we've done fresh tortilla chips (from corn tortillas), crostini, or the occasional batch of crackers (usually of my daughters baking, they're the ones who really like crackers enough to bake some). Homemade can be much tastier than commercial products.

Well, that's it for July's grocery budget and spending. Last August, I spent very little on groceries, so it's possible that I will spend very little again this August. It depends on what I find at rock-bottom prices.



  1. You do an awesome job with your grocery budget. Your surplus is growing nicely! :)

    This week my Kroger had rock-bottom prices on peanut butter and jelly. I was able to stock-up on 16 oz jars of natural peanut butter at $1.49 each. The jelly was 18 oz jars of strawberry or grape for $1.49 each. I didn't stock-up quite as much on the jelly, but I did a little. I do make a lot of jam and jelly, but it seems like we always run out near Spring each year. We eat a lot of peanut butter and jelly, so the strawberry and grape will help stretch our stock a little.

    I just started on our last pound of butter. I stocked up during the Easter sales when it was around $2.00/lb. I'm afraid I must have underestimated how much butter we would use before the Thanksgiving sales. Butter in my area is $3.69/lb now. Yikes! I'm going to start looking at ads next week to see if I can find it cheaper anywhere.


  2. Hi Angie,
    that's an amazing price on peanut butter, especially as it's natural-style! We had a lot of years when we ran short of jam and jelly, too. Now, it's reversed. I have a surplus every year. So I'm looking for other ways to use the fruit that I used to use in jam and jelly.

    Oh, I hate it when that happens (with the butter). Sometimes, it's just that we went through it more quickly, like when my daughters decide to bake. They have this knack for finding the most butter-heavy recipes. When I'm in your position, I start using oil in everything I bake, and save the butter for just spreading on toast and bread, and even then I blend the butter with oil for soft butter, to stretch that butter even further. I've even made biscuits and scones with just oil, and they seem to turn out fine.

    Good luck finding a low price on the butter! $3.69 sounds high, but it's probably about that price in my area, too. I do occasionally find a store coupon for $2/lb for butter in the off-season. There's usually a limit of 2, though, and the coupons are hard to get extras of.

    1. I had forgotten about making soft butter. Thanks for reminding me about that!


    2. You're welcome. Maybe your butter will last long enough to find a sale!

  3. Lili- I’m so impressed with the bargains you track down. I’ve begun shopping at Trader Joe’s because of your blog.
    I’ve never cooked with tofu. I think I’ve only tasted it a few times. I’d love to see you share some of your tofu recipes.
    How do you use frozen milk, doesn’t freezing make the fat separate?

    1. Hi frugal spinster,
      We use frozen milk exactly as we would fresh. The kids drink it, it gets poured on cereal/oatmeal, cooked with. As for freezing milk, obviously, skim milk will have no fat to separate. But for 1%, 2% and whole milk (4% mostly), there can be some separation. It's usually not enough for my family to notice or care. I mostly use whole milk for making yogurt, which involves heating, and any separation doesn't matter. Some people say that they freeze all but whole milk, due to separation. But truly, it's not been an issue for our family. Maybe we're just not that picky?

      If you're interested in freezing milk for cereal, etc, you may want to try skim, 1% or 2% to start, and see if you like the results. You could even just do a sample freezing of the milk you currently have on hand. Freeze 1 cup overnight. Next day, thaw, and see what you think on the texture/separation issue. If you don't like how it thawed, then use that portion in cooking, and it hasn't cost you anything.

      I'll post a couple of our favorite tofu recipes soon. I think our two favorites are a vegan lasagna (no cheese, which works better for me), and chocolate silk (this is really good and you'd never guess it's base is tofu). With rising meat and cheese prices, tofu is actually becoming a cheap alternative for us.

      Trader Joe's is my favorite low-price store for a few items. I always get bananas and cocoa powder there. And when I've run out of sale nuts from the previous fall, Trader Joe's has great prices on nuts (as well as the non-ordinary dried fruit, like dried blueberries and cherries). Glad you are finding items that you like there.

  4. Congrats Lili for another extremely frugal month with grocery shopping. You are an inspiration for all of us. I only wish I could find prices as low. Regarding your comment about the cookies, I had the same experience when on holidays. I bought a few baked items at really nice bakeries but each time, I found myself thinking, my own baking is so much better! Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Jayne,
      isn't that the truth. I'm really disappointed in the mass-produced baked goods. My kids love packaged cookies, like Oreos, but they just don't taste as good as I know I could make at home (okay, so Oreos might be hard to pull off, getting the cookie so crisp, but I know I could make a tastier filling). The other day, when I was picking up milk at Fred Meyer, the bakery discount rack is right next to the milk cooler. It was lunchtime, and I was hungry. I was looking over the single serve marked down bakery items, and nearly bought a single serve brownie, for 79 cents. I thought it over for a minute and realized that I could make a fresher tasting, and more chocolatey brownie, in the microwave at home, a whole pan of them, for about the same price.

      I'm becoming a food snob, I suspect.

    2. While I do like packaged cookies like Oreos and Mint Milanos, I find I don't like bakery cookies very well. I like homemade much better. However, in a pinch, Aldi's bakery cookies are quite good and while they are expensive, they're cheaper than most grocery stores.

      Once again, interesting reading about your grocery shopping. I like how you are true to your budget and keep surplus for stock ups.

    3. Hi live and learn,
      I really wish we had Aldi here. I'd love to compare their prices to some of our local prices, as I've heard of many great deals there. Thanks for reading!

  5. Yikes ... missed walgreen's sale on eggs. Will hustle over tomorrow. Thanks!

    1. Hi DW,
      I want to go by Walgreen's one more time today, and pick up 4 more dozen. The 99 cents was an unexpected price from them, as their sale price lately has been $1.29/dozen around here. Hope you can pick up as many as you need!

    2. DW, did you make it out to buy some eggs? I hope you were able to take advantage of this Walgreen's sale. There's a Walgreens down the street from the bank, so I managed to get 4 more dozen when running to the bank on Saturday. I'm hoping that I'm set for eggs, for a couple of months now.

  6. Glad to see you're back! :)

    I forgot to tell you--my daughter is in 4H and participated with entries at the county fair a couple of weeks ago. She wanted to do a baking project so I had her make your microwave brownies! They turned out really well and she didn't have to deal with a hot oven (scary for an 8-year-old). I agree with you--homemade baked goods are almost always better than store-bought. Even our grocery store's bakery items typically don't look as good as what I can make at home--although Live and Learn is right, Aldi does have some tasty store-bought cookies (their Speculatius cookies--like a windmill cookie--are yummy, as are their maple leaf cookies).

    Glad you are feeling better. I read your previous post and agree with you that you need to add some fun and relaxation to your life--I find that every time I overdo it with my schedule, I end up sick. You'd think I would learn ... but I think we moms tend to bend over backwards for our families. Mostly that's good, but God created Sabbath for a reason ...

    1. Hi Kris,
      Thank you. Feeling a lot better. You're right about needing more down time and the Sabbath. The last two Sundays I've been trying harder to keep a Sabbath day. I was kind of forced into it the first of the two Sundays, but yesterday, I had it planned that all our meals would be mostly prepared already, laundry and other chores would be put off for another day, and I would just rest in the afternoon. I tried to actually nap, but it was too hot for daytime sleeping. But at least I wasn't making myself get work done.

      Great for your daughter with 4H and the baking entry! You know, the microwave might be a great baking place for her, no risk of burns and it would keep the house cooler. I also posted a cornbread recipe for the microwave about 1 year ago, that she might want to try. It's a favorite of one of my daughters.

  7. Congratulations on reducing your food costs. It is especially impressive with the costs rising like tey are.
    Every time I see your post about getting Ranier cherries for 99 cents per pound I am green with envy. On sale I can find therm here for 3.79 per pound. I only by 1 carton a year at that price, but I do enjoy them. Instead I have to buy Bings for my fresh cherry fix and even those are 1.99 on sale. I live in the wrong place for those crops, but right now I can buy a basket of just picked peaches for 5 bucks (about 10 pounds) and the same for tomatoes.I have a farmer at the farmers market and I have been buying from him for about 5 years. Loyalty is definitely rewarded.
    I will agree with you about home baked goodies. They are so much better tasting plus you can control everything that goes into them. Win/win!

    1. Hi Anne,
      Wow! What great prices on the peaches and tomatoes! I guess every area has it's great deals. Are you canning the peaches and tomatoes? Both of those would be so lovely to have in winter.

      About home-baked goods -- I worked at a wedding this past Saturday, in the kitchen,and had a chance to sample the wedding cake. The couple spent a fair amount on their cake and I was surprised that it just tasted so ordinary. A home-baked cake is so, so much yummier! And yes, I love that I can control what goes in and what stays out!

      Enjoy your farm fresh produce!

  8. I'm always amazed at the great deals you get Lili :) You must be eating amazingly with your garden at the moment.

    I'm living off my savings at the moment, so am trying to cut costs as much as possible. I'm mostly focussing on eating what I have in the house (since I'm a food hoarder), but am also doing things like eating more beans, sprouting and planting a garden :)

    1. Hi Liz,
      Good for you for eating more beans and sprouting, etc! Needing to live off of savings will only last a short while, then you'll be gainfully employed, with your PhD in hand. Very wise to have set aside some money for this transition time. Many students would not have thought that far ahead!

      Oh, the garden is producing well right now! Our tomatoes have begun ripening, as well as zucchini, cucumbers, kale, lettuce, chard, beets, blueberries, blackberries, early apples, rhubarb and green beans. I was going over what we have in stock (admitted food hoarder here, too) and I might just need a few things this month. That would be a boon to our rolling grocery surplus.

      Good luck to you!

  9. LOVE LOVE LOVE this!
    you inspire as always!

    I did better in July and have a long way to go but I can see that light at the end of the tunnel ;)

    You got so much for so little --- you inspire me to be more creative and careful about what I am actually spending. Thanks for the continue inspiration!

    Be Blessed,

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Cathie. You're very sweet!


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