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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Still working at keeping our grocery spending low -- I resisted the urge to buy more

To the wholesaler the other afternoon, I brought my "reinforcement team" (my two daughters). They come with me for their brute strength (those 25 and 50 pound sacks get heavy), and to remind me of what I've been saying about needing to get our out-of-whack grocery budget back in line.

My usual, when I find a great deal, is to buy a lot of that item. This week, it's sharp cheddar, at about $2.20 per pound, in a 5-lb loaf. Each loaf was $10.98. When I picked up a block of cheese, it just didn't seem like I would be stocking up by buying only one. I was imagining this 5-lb block of cheese getting gobbled up in a matter of weeks, and how we *needed* much more.

But I was also keeping in mind my goal of getting the budget back on track. I went back and forth on this one. A few blocks of cheese, or just one. It was tough, but I exercised some discipline, and only bought that one 5-lb block of cheddar. And I used some reasoning to come to that decision.

Cheese is not a necessity. We can get the same nutrients from milk, which I find on markdown often enough, to rarely have to pay full price for milk. So, while I would have loved to have bought several large blocks of cheese, my budget goal was more important this time.

I'm keeping a close watch on my spending. I tally up the receipts as I bring them home. For the month of March, I've now spent about $89.



  1. I feel your pain Lili, I'm right there with you. I overspent the food budget in December (big party). I "barrowed" from January's budget, that made me short in January so I again "barrowed" from February. Knowing I can't continue to rob Peter to pay Paul. I'm determined to not go over budget in March. The problem is its only March 17th and there is no cash left in the March food envelope. I plan to eat from the freezer and pantry for the next two weeks. It should work OK, my only concern is making the produce I have last 'til April, and after this week I won't be drinking milk. My second beverage of choice is iced tea and I have lots of tea in the pantry, ant there is always the frugalist beverage of all, tap water.

    1. Hi Linda,
      So, the good news, you do have a stocked freezer and pantry, and it's only 2 more weeks until April. Do you have much in the way of canned or frozen fruits/veggies? Anything in your garden coming up from last season? Right now, or chives are doing well, as is sorrel, watercress, sage and thyme. Although they're all herbs, I consider them produce and add liberally to anything I call a salad or soup.

      Do you have any cans you could take to recycling this month? And use those $$ towards groceries? I know you probably never buy soda, I don't either, but I collect cans on my daily walks through the neighborhood.

      I now have $7.85 in cash left for the rest of the month (and a $2 off any purchase at Fred Meyer coupon to use), if I want to be even. This is really tough. I'm pretty sure I have enough of all the basics, but still wanting to pick up cabbage today, and am very low on eggs.

      Wishing you success in getting all caught up!

  2. I recently bought a 5 lb bag of shredded sharp cheddar cheese from Costco for $12.29, so $2.46/lb. Not too bad, although still higher than the wholesale restaurant supply stores in your area.

    Lately, I've noticed some prices creeping higher. It's always a challenge when this happens and we have to think of cheaper substitutes or learn to do without. For fruits, we seem to be buying pineapples from either Walmart or Costco every week and forgo the more expensive apples and oranges (sad but true). I don't recall ever having to substitute fruits before. Where we live, rarely are fruits priced under $1/lb. If not because of higher oil prices, I can only assume we are pay higher food prices today because of drought conditions. Or like beef, supply and demand fluctuations has created a roller coaster of too low, then too high prices. Anyway, my goal is to find the lowest price menu plan that still provides the same nutrition. You're absolutely right, Lili, that milk is an equal or better substitute than cheese. Recently, we bought some short dated milk for $1.99/gal, and that forced me to use milk in chowder soups, which we haven't had in a very long time. We usually drink vanilla flavored soy milk in cereals (husband prefers this), but at $1/qt or less, I'm willing to substitute fresh cow's milk for soy.
    I really contemplating your post today...about not overstocking. Somehow, the more you buy, the more we are loosey goosey with how we use the surplus.


    1. Hi YHF,
      Oh that sounds so funny to my ears that fresh pineapple is the "cheap" fruit, compared to oranges and apples! But whatever is local . . .
      Can you get bananas at a good price there?
      I understand with high beef prices. There's only so much grazing land in Hawaii. supply/demand

      I have found that with some items, it is as you say, we run through stockups rather quickly (cheese last fall was one of those items). there items like rice or dried beans, not so much, so those are good for us to stock up on. But this month, I am being as judicious as possible with our purchases. It will all work out, and there's just a coupe of weeks left to the month.

      That's a great price you got on sharp cheddar at Costco. It is slightly higher than here, but not as high as I'd expect it to be in Hawaii.

    2. Pineapple works out to about .50/lb, also bananas are that price too. Apples and oranges are over a dollar most of the time.

      You're right about some items being consumed much faster the more we have on hand, and some not so much. Good point!! I have never tried a tight monthly budget, thinking being flexible to take advantage of sales is best. I think for the first time I'm motivated to put some brakes on and forgo some sales.


  3. I was looking through the freezer for a corned beef I knew was in there. It took a good bit of moving items before I located it. In the process I "found" a large amount of frozen chicken, beef, pork and broth. I don't think I will be buying proteins for a while. On the off chance there is a fantastic sale on ground beef in the next few weeks, I will go ahead and stock up on it. I make hamburger patties, freeze them on a cookie sheet and then vacuum seal them frozen into packages of 6 or 8. I have found they will easily keep 8 months if vacuum sealed. I understand completely the temptation to stock up while prices are low. Now if that money tree I planted in the back yard would just start blooming!

    1. Hi Anne,
      that's like treasure hunting! What great finds right in your own freezer.

      And although I'm keeping our spending as low as I can this month, I'm with you on if there's a spectacular price on beef this month, I would borrow from April, as good deals on beef are few and far between right now.

      Once your money tree blooms, collect some of the seeds for me, so I can plant one, too!

  4. Lili, do you think the fact that you are posting about grocery spending on your blog is helping you make the decisions you need to meet your budget goals? You seem to be a naturally disciplined person anyway, but I know public accountability helps me a lot.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Absolutely! I'm using this blog to keep me motivated, as well as accountable. I'm disciplined in a lot of things, but the grocery spending just seemed to get out of control, for me, these past few months. I hope I'm not boring everyone by posting so much about my grocery budget woes.

  5. You're not boring, Lil!
    Know what you mean about out of whack budgets. Had 2 stock-up trips this month, and ended up spending $15 more than planned last week. (Saw pork shoulder on for $1.49 lb, so that was part of it.) Don't regret the overage, but I need to hold it down the next couple of weeks.

    1. Hi DW,
      That sounds like a great deal on the pork shoulder! Good luck keeping your spending reined in for the next couple of weeks. I imagine there won't be a lot of deals again, until just before Easter.


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