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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March 2015 Grocery Spending Journal

Our kitchen table for Easter week -- the rabbit is a garden ornament

Oh, I can feel it already. This is going to take discipline. I'm beginning the month with a deficit of $77.40 to subtract from our budget of $175. So, I have $97.60 for the month of March.

March 4. Cash and Carry has mozzarella and pizza blend cheese (mozza, provolone and cheddar), grated in 5-lb bags for $9.98. I buy 2 of each (4 bags total, 20 pounds). The expiry date is in August, so even if I don't freeze this, it will keep a long while. While I was in the deli walk-in fridge, I checked the prices of other cheeses, and it appears that cheese prices are falling. Grated cheddar was about $10.98 for 5-lb bags, down about $2.20 per pound. This is good news for shoppers. I also bought 2 10-lb bags of fresh carrots, at $3.48 each (works out to 35 cents per pound). They also had 25-lb bags of juicing carrots there, for $11.48. But at that price, those carrots were about 45 cents per pound. Always pays to compare unit prices. Total spent today, $46.88.

What I didn't buy, as you might be interested in what I resisted -- bananas at 49 cents/lb. I was hungry for fruit, so they were tempting. I still have about 15 pounds of oranges at home, and several frozen bananas. I'll survive. We'll be buying lots of bananas when the oranges run out in just 2-3 weeks. And I already posted, on March 5, on not choosing the frozen peas, split peas and soy milk.

March 6. At Fred Meyer to buy a couple of non-food items, also run by the dairy case looking for markdowns. I find gallons of milk marked down with about 8-10 days left before expiry, at $1.50/gallon. I buy 4 gallons skim milk and 1 gallon 1%. This milk is lower in fat than I prefer to buy, but we'll live. I'm still making yogurt at home with whole (4%) milk, so the overall dairy consumption is higher in fat (this is a concern for the one daughter who needs to constantly work at keeping weight up). I also buy onion powder (32 cents) and garlic powder (75 cents) from bulk section, for a couple of specific recipes.

And . . . this is where I'm human like the rest of us. I've been craving beef like crazy. Almost obsessed with beef, at times. I thought of running by a good hamburger joint and picking up lunch, but that would cost just over $5, for the quality of burger that I prefer. I checked every markdown package of beef. They were all about $11 to $15, and still the price per pound was so high. I went back and forth between the freezer section (with preformed burger patties), the regular meat section, the butcher counter, the markdown meat section. I think I spent a half hour ruminating on beef. I finally decided on going to the butcher counter and asking for 6 ounces of the super lean (7% fat) ground beef. I would split this in two portions, 1 for today's lunch, and freeze the other portion for a day in the future. I spent $2.03 cents on beef today. And that was for just 6 ounces -- that's how expensive beef is in our area. But in my mind, I rationalized it this way. I could have gone out for a $5 burger, and had a good quality meat patty, but with white flour bun (which I don't care for). Instead, I spent $2.03 for 2 patties of meat, cooked just the way I like them, and no white flour bun. (note: the meat was very good, I had the patties 2 days apart, and I felt satiated for beef for the time being. But as soon as this grocery spending freeze is over, I'm going to make beef a priority in our budget, once per week maybe, instead of once per month.)

Total spent at Fred Meyer $10.60

March 6. Dollar Tree -- I buy 2 quarts of soy milk to get through the month for my own use. Spent $2.00

March 14. It's felt weird not going to the grocery stores as much, but a nice kind of weirdness. I'm saving gas, money and time. But today I want to make my bi-monthly stop at Cash and Carry. I have to be in that area to get my daughters from the main transit station, as both had activities and work on campus, today (Saturday). Cash and Carry's ad's run every other week. There's not a whole lot that I want this time around, but they do have garbanzo beans and loaf sharp cheddar on sale. I buy a 25-lb bag of garbanzo beans ($19.29 -- that's about 77cents per pound) and a 5-lb block of sharp cheddar ($10.98 -- $2.20 per pound). We like garbanzo beans cooked, as is, in salads, in tabbouli, in hummus, and in garbanzo bean soup, both the pureed version and the tomato broth version. These will be a nice change from pinto beans. And the sharp cheddar is for sandwiches and homestyle macaroni and cheese. Spent $30.27, for a total month to date of $89.75.

I still need to pick up some heads of cabbage, and whatever other basic items that I find at their lowest price for the season, i.e. white sugar and white flour, as I'm very low on both, or eggs, but those will hopefully be on sale the week before Easter at Walgreen's. Fortunately, our freezer still has plums, strawberries, rhubarb and blackberries from last summer, and our garden is producing some greens (watercress, sorrel, kale, mustard greens, chives and parsley) for use now, and I just planted a new batch of kale and lettuce under a row cover. I'll get the spinach planted this week. And we still have canned pumpkin, canned tomato paste, canned stewed tomatoes and canned pineapple in the pantry, and plenty of fresh carrots, shallots, onions and potatoes in the fridge. For meat, I have 2 whole turkeys and 2 hams, still. I'll be roasting a turkey this week, to give us plenty of meat for several meals this month.

March 17. Dollar Tree for miscellaneous stuff. But I did pick up 1 quart of soy milk, as I used quite a lot of my stash of soy milk for cakes/frostings/homemade macaroni and cheese this month (so I can eat it too). Spent $1

March 17. Safeway had the lowest price on cabbage this week, for my stores. I bought 4 heads, at 49 cents per pound. Not a stellar price, but for fresh produce, 49 cents per pound beats most other vegetables, and gives us something to eat fresh, as in slaws. Spent $5.10.

Total spent month to date -- $95.85

It's March 28 today. I'm planning on swinging by QFC to pick up 1 ham, at $1.29/lb. This means I will go over our allotted amount, by about $10 for the month. I will go into April with a considerably smaller deficit than previous months, so I feel okay with going over.

March 28. I did go to QFC, bought 1 ham at $1.29/lb. Spent $11.52.

Also went to Fred Meyer, to use a coupon on eggs and redeem a courtesy voucher for $2. 18-count eggs were on sale for $2 (or $1.33/dozen), limit 2 with coupon. I thought I'd redeem my voucher from when I bought a box of rotten salad greens last month, so in that sense, the eggs worked out to be about 66 cents/dozen. Also found 2% milk in gallons marked down to $2.00/gallon. I picked up 4 gallons. Not a stellar price, so only bought enough for the next few weeks. (Earlier this month I found gallons of milk for $1.50/gallon.) Total spent $10.00

For the month of March, I spent a grand total of $117.37. That put me over budget by $19.77, which I can handle. This means that next month (April), I will have $155.23. One more month of working extra hard at keeping my grocery spending in line. I've already been making up a list of must-haves for next month, and will try to stick to that list, plus any stellar deals that I come across on essential foods (produce, meat, dairy, baking basics, beans and whole grains).

I will say this about my shopping this month. Although I went over budget, I didn't buy a single questionable nutrition-wise, food. I bought milk, eggs, cheese, meat, fresh carrots, fresh cabbage, dried garbanzo beans, onion and garlic powder, and soy milk. You cannot get much more basic than that.

And to prevent needing to do a humongous shopping once April 1st rolls around, I've been very careful to use our ingredients wisely, looking for ways to prepare favorites without eggs, using less sugar, looking to the garden first for our produce needs, and minimizing food waste. We're eating very well. I've started keeping a log of all of our dinners. It helps me to see what we're in fact eating. When I read our past menus, I can see for myself that no one is going hungry, being deprived of nutrients or missing anything special. I'll be happy to post some of those weekly dinner menus, if anyone is interested to know just how I use these very basic ingredients.

Until next month. . . can you believe tomorrow is April already?!



  1. As always, I find these types of posts of yours so motivating. In fact, this morning I sat down and figured out how to save on flour in a whole different way than I had been thinking about it previously, thinking "Lili would be proud!" ;) I have posted a few times lately and had it not go through for some reason (some from phone, some not), and not had time to re-post. But I am still here and reading regularly. Thanks for all the thought and time you put into these posts.

    1. Hi Cat,
      So tell me about how you've figured to save on flour! I'm all ears!

      I know, Blogger can be a pain. Just this morning I had an issue with replying to a comment. I understand that there just isn't time to keep trying to repost. It's my hope that something I'm doing can help someone else, and that I can gain from other's experience, as well.

      Have a great day!

    2. Well, it isn't anything super creative, but something I just happened to realize I could do for at least this purchase to save. I specifically buy unbleached organic flour for our white flour usage (thyroid cancer history) and have been not finding great deals on it. The best price per pound I had found was by buying 50 lbs from Azure Standard, but due to my recently starting a part-time job, their pick-up schedule is hard to do at times. I called the local health food store to inquire about bulk pricing, which has been good on some items, but their cost was 50% more than the Azure price! And that was with a 10% "caselot" discount. My best price on 5 lb bags has been at Target, so I had an epiphany and realized I could use their current $10 gift card with $50 grocery purchase deal and the flour would come out to just barely lower than the Azure price (if I bought the amount of bags needed to satisfy the $50 purchase requirement), but I can pick it up on MY schedule and spend part of the $50 on other groceries if needed/wanted. And save an additional 5% with my Target debit card. :D

    3. Oh, and I also got the $1 off 3 Market Pantry baking supply coupon someone mentioned below, and will apply it as well. Every little bit helps.

    4. Oh, good deal, Cat! Every bit does indeed help! All those savings add up to something substantial in the end!

  2. I agree with you that the price of cheese may be falling. I noticed this with Costco's 5 lb shredded mozzarella. I haven't bought that type of cheese in awhile, but the price did hover in the $14 range then I think I saw $12 recently. I read in another blog, "Hundred dollars a month", that shredded cheeses have more fillers in them (less real cheese), so my first thought was the manufacturer may have added more fillers. We *look* at the "gourmet" cheeses at Costco, and they still look pretty high to me lol

    I also find ways around the high cost of beef. We only occasionally require meat in our meals, so stir fry pork usually fills the need (We slice and stir fry the frozen slab, then refreeze in meal portions) . We make stir fry dishes and soups when we have the desire for some meat protein.

    I love your table setting wtih the garden bunny (good idea bringing him or her from the garden into the home for Easter)!! Gracious living indeed, and true to your blog name.


    1. I would love to hear more about the meals you are able to make from basic stock ingredients. I am trying to be creative myself lol

      Yesterday, I tried your recipe from earlier this month, pinto bean patties. My husband said he loved it. I didn't have ready bread crumbs (without sacrificing bread slices) or barley, so I used leftover brown rice instead. I will be sure to use bread crumbs next time because the weight and texture of the patties was too dense with rice. I used a beef broth bouillon cube (with about 1/4c water) instead of frying in ham fat to get that meat taste. I was able to make 10 patties from about 2c of cooked pinto beans. Sam's Club was selling 10 lb pinto beans for $4.91, so I thought I would retry cooking from dried instead of buying canned. I think I need to cook the beans longer to prevent gassiness. I also would love to know your recommended way of cooking dry beans.


  3. OK...think I've exceeded my allotment of posts today...but came back to post a sugar (sweet) deal at Target. Buy 4 Market Pantry sugar (one of several selected products in this deal) and get one 12 oz bag of Nestle Chocolate Morsels (or can choose the 10oz bag of Dark Choc Morsels). In our area, the price is $1.74 for the 4# bag, but you can print some Target store coupons that apply: $1 off 3 Market Pantry baking items, $4 off $25 Market Pantry, Archer Farm, Simply Balanced products, $10 off 50 grocery (all can be stacked). There have been recent changes in our local Target coupon policy that disqualifies more than one store coupon per transaction, because I wasn't aware of this change the store cashier let it go. I used two of the $1 off 3 Market Pantry coupons for the 4 bags of sugar + 2 baking soda boxes (6 Market Pantry products = $2 off). All said and done (didn't use the $10 off 50 since I did not meet the $50 price level even before all coupons (poor planning should have bought additional $13 products and get $10 free), I did end up paying about $4.32 for 16# sugar plus get a free bag of choc morsels. I also used a 5% cartwheel for the sugar and a 5% Redcard discount.


    1. "There have been recent changes in our local Target coupon policy that disqualifies more than one store coupon per transaction,..."

      I should have said, "more than one IDENTICAL Target store coupon" can still stack the various different store coupons, and use more than one manufacturer's coupon. Our local Target store did not have the Archer Farm Ham available as advertised so that threw a loop to my shopping plans, plus their eggs is not .99 as in the mainland, but $2.99 per dozen. In hindsight, I should have bought an additional 5 dozen to meet the $50 coupon threshold and use an additional $3 off $15 perishable store coupon, to pay $2 for the 5 dz eggs.


    2. Hi YHF,
      Wow! You have the coupon thing down pat! I'm so impressed. I am using more coupons than I used to, but not near your level, that's for sure!

      With the cheese, the loaf cheese had also dropped in price over a few months ago. So, I'm hopeful. (Milk and butter prices are a tad lower, too, here.) The fillers that One Hundred Dollars a Month was probably referring to are the powders added to shredded cheese to keep the shreds from clumping. My bag lists potato starch, followed by cellulose powder. These two are so far down the ingredients list, after salt and enzymes that it can't be all that much in weight.

      I am more concerned with another ingredient on the list that I didn't know was there. It's an anti-microbial to reduce mold from forming. I don't know anything about this ingredient and will have to read up on it. But it does explain why the sell-by date is so far into the future on these bags of cheese. I remember just a couple of years ago having some shredded cheese get some mold within a month of purchase. Ugh! Another thing to have to watch out for.

      As for the cellulose powder, as an ingredient it's rather innocuous. Cellulose is merely plant fiber. Sometimes this plant fiber comes from wood pulp. While I don't relish the idea of eating wood pulp, from a nutritional and health standpoint, it doesn't bother me terribly. But here's my concern with cellulose derived from wood pulp. The process of deriving cellulose powder from plant matter can involve chemicals of unknown type and amount to the consumer. If I were to become puristic about cheese, I'd start by buying only block/loaf cheese. Drat! The shredded cheese was so convenient.

      I'm glad that the pinto bean patties went over well. They are a bit dense and heavy. Too much for me to want them on buns. But I do like them with something like a marinara sauce, or some sauteed veggies on top. And I make them smaller than I would a meat burger patty.

      The best advice I've read on preparing beans is to soak overnight, drain the water, then during actual cooking, drain off the water several times, and removing any scum that forms on the water's surface. You can add a piece of seaweed (kombu) to the cooking water, or a bit of savory. Both help make beans more digestible. I've also read that if you eat leafy greens, or yogurt with live cultures, with beans it's easier on the digestion. And I've found some beans just have more of the natural sugars that cause digestive issues. The smaller the bean, the easier to digest. One of the reasons our family likes lentils so much. I even soak lentils before cooking. I know most people do not presoak them. But I think it helps.

      Good luck!

    3. YHF I can identify with the notion of purchasing something and then determining later that maybe if I had spent a bit more I would have come out ahead.

      On Sunday my husband remembered I wanted to drop by a particular drug store that carries a cleanser that my son and one of my daughters use. When I was in the store I saw the other products in this line reduced but not the cleanser. At the checkout it came up (-$2.00) I had purchased 2.My husband determined that if I had purchased 7 I would meet the goal for the spend $50.00 receive a $15.00 gift card. Plus they were all $2.00 off so I would be ahead the cost of almost two. Brought them back later, not sure if they sold more or only had 3 extra. So only 5 instead of 7. I stood and tried to figure out what I could purchase for an extra $10.00 to get the $15.00 GC. ( Not even sure they would have returned the cleanser?) At a point I said to myself, " They are on sale, you have paid enough for one to be "free". Let it go :)

    4. Hi Teresa,
      Oh, I do that too. Or, as happened to me a while back, I brought the wrong coupon to Jo Ann's fabrics. I was only buying a small notion, but still I wanted to save my 40%. What I did, though, was not open the notion until the minute I wanted to use it. I had planned that if I was driving that way again, soon, I'd return it (if unopened), then re-buy it, this time with coupon. But as it turned out, I needed to repair a shirt, couldn't wait, so opened the package and used it. I figured I added many wearings to this shirt, saving as much or more than the coupon would have given me. So, I think I did okay on that item. And I let it serve as a lesson to double check my coupons before leaving the house.

      You did get a good deal on the product in the end. Just not the "prize" deal. I've found that as long as I'm getting most of the deals and good prices, that we're doing well enough. I don't have to get it all perfect.

    5. Lili, thanks so much for the cooking tips. I am thinking maybe I should save the water used for soaking konbu and cook the beans right in it. I'm trying to watch our water use since our water/sewer bill is going higher all the time. We have been sprouting lentils to eat with our salads or add to soup. The taste of lentil sprout is quite spicy!

      I just had to go back to Target and do the $50 coupon deal and buy the ham that was not available on the first day of the sale....I wish I could just let it go, like you, Teresa. I found out a little more about Target's new coupon policy. I should correct what I wrote earlier, that the Target store coupons can be they can't. It wasn't like this last year, of course the cashier gives a one time courtesy. So cannot use more than one identical and cannot stack. They said there is too much abuse and they issue coupons for customers to try out their products, not to load up at low prices. So there ends another bargain buying opportunity.


    6. Hi YHF,
      Oh sprouting -- that's also supposed to be good at reducing digestive probs with beans. I will try sprouted lentils, soon!

      That is such a bummer, with coupons at Target. Do you keep a price book at all?

  4. I'm hope the prices of cheese continue to go down because those are the highest priced items on our grocery list. Good luck on April's spending.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I understand completely. Cheese is more expensive per pound than most of the meat that I buy!

  5. Cheese has gone down in price for us this past winter, and milk has, as well. Bonus for my cheese-loving family!

    I'm jealous of your grape hyacinths .... your Easter table looks so pretty! :)

    1. Hi Kris,
      My family, too! I think it's the pizza and macaroni & cheese that they missed the most!

      Thank you! I hope you and your family have a lovely Easter!


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