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Monday, August 31, 2015

August 2015 Grocery Spending Journal

20-lb case of frozen green beans, I repackaged into gallon ziplocs

I have a budget of $185 per month now with groceries. I went over last month by $16.09. So, the remaining budget for this month is $168.91. Once again, I need to buy some "extras" to boost calories for one daughter. But we made progress last month, and I may not need to work so hard this month. She's doing great.

August 1. Fred Meyer for milk, on sale with coupon, 99 cents/half gallon, limit 6 (I bought all whole milk, some for yogurt, the rest for one daughter's drinking). Also I find 3 gallons 2% milk (the "regular" drinking milk for the family), at $2 each. Spent $11.94

The one really great thing, going into this month is that August is typically the month when I have abundance coming from the garden and orchard. We will likely have blackberries every day that we want, for the next 3 weeks. The early pears are days away from harvest. The garden is in full production right now, with tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, leafy greens, beets, baby carrots, garden beans, and potatoes. Produces is expensive. But with the garden doing well, I can pretty much skip buying fresh produce this month (with the exception of an occasional watermelon or bunch of bananas). We also have a freezer full of meat, now.

Aug. 1 Cash & Carry for canned, peeled, whole tomatoes in the #10 cans, 3 cases of 6 at $14.82/case. Also another half-gallon of heavy whipping cream for $7.48. spent $51.94

Dollar Tree for 1 quart of soy milk, spent $1

Aug 4 Senior discount day at Fred Meyer, where I received 10% off of every item I purchased. I found 12 oz boxes of whole wheat spaghetti on clearance, for 87 cents each (bought 4), 3  26-oz containers of table salt for 48 cents each, a box of powdered milk that makes 10 qts, for $7.10 (I stir the milk powder into liquid milk to fortify my daughter's milk/boost calorie intake, otherwise fluid milk is cheaper for me), 2  12-oz bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips for $2.06 each (a splurge item), 4 1-lb packages of butter for $1.79 each (coupon, limit 4), 90 cents worth of sunflower seeds from bulk section, $1.26 worth of chopped dates from bulk section, $16.77 worth of whole almonds (3.12 lbs) from bulk section, large can of decaf round coffee for $6.29. spent $48.52

total spent for the month so far -- $113.40
gosh the money goes quickly! I realize that we didn't "need" the chocolate chips or the decaf coffee. Those are luxury items for us. The dried fruit and nuts/seeds are healthy, but also a bit of a luxury. I use these in making granola and fruit and nut snack bars.

Over the weekend, a facebook friend sent me a "friends and family" coupon/pass for Fred Meyer. This was good for 10% of house brand food items. Milk was already on sale, 99cents/ half-gallon, limit 6, which I intended to pick up, as I'm low on milk, so an extra 10% on that and anything else that looks lie a good buy. I only wish I had more cash for shopping!! Anyways, this is what I bought: 6 half-gallons whole milk (use to make yogurt and for one daughter's drinking milk), paid 89 cents each, also, found gallons of 2% milk marked down to $1.50/gallon. I bought 6 gallons (this will be rest of family's drinking milk, and I'll freeze most of it), I paid $1.35/gallon. Large cans of coffee (30 oz, about), on sale for $5.99. This is not a hugely great deal, and I had planned on buying a case at Cash & Carry's case lot sale this week or next for $5.49 per can (buying 6 cans). Well, Fred Meyer's price with my F & F discount came down to $5.39, and for a slightly larger can!!!. So, I bought 4 cans (that's all I really could afford, otherwise I would have bought 6 cans). I also found butterscotch baking chips (11 oz bags) on sale for $1.60. Regular chocolate chips are $2.29, so I thought I could mix the two when making choc. chip cookies, bringing down the cost of the baking chips in cookies. With the F & F discount, I paid $1.44 per bag (bought 4 bags). That's all I could afford with this extra discount, as I'm still wanting to buy whole wheat flour and frozen veggies on sale at Cash & Carry this week or next. I'll be going over again this month. Rats! It's discouraging, but I'll get everything under budget soon. Spent at Fred Meyer today -- $40.76

Aug 21. Cash & Carry -- so I had been debating with myself over the frozen vegetables on sale in 20 lb boxes, green beans, peas and corn. I wasn't sure if I could fit a whole case into our already stuffed freezers. But . . . if I take out a ham, repackage some meat, thaw some milk -- hey, it just might fit. When I got to C & C, I saw how small-ish the cases looked, and figured maybe I can fit a case of green beans *and* a case of peas into in the freezers, forgo the corn, and hope for another sale down the road. So, that's what I bought, 1 20 lb case, each of peas and green beans, at $13.97 each (69 cents/lb). I also picked up anther 1/2 gallon of heavy whipping cream ($7.48), a 1-lb bag of sesame seeds ($3.66 and a 50-lb sack of whole wheat flour ($12.99). Total spent, $52.07

Aug. 22. I know this will put me way over, but it's been on my list for a while. I was placing an order with Amazon, and didn't have enough for free shipping, so I went ahead and ordered my gelatin a few weeks earlier than I had planned, putting this cost into August's budget, and not September's. The cheapest way I've found to buy unflavored gelatin is in canisters. And Amazon's price is cheapest if I buy 2 canisters. As long as it stays dry, unflavored gelatin keeps indefinitely. So, laugh all you want, I now have about a 5 year supply of unflavored gelatin! I use it for chiffon pies (Pumpkin chiffon Pie, anyone?), sorbet, various mousses and Bavarians, and fruit "jello" made with homegrown fruit. I paid $21.93 for the 2 canisters, almost half what I pay when buying the little packets in a food service box.

Total spent for the month of August -- $228.16, over by $59.25, YIKES!

You'll notice what I didn't buy -- eggs, way too expensive, and meat, we have plenty of meat to get through the next few months.

what I did buy, this month:

12 half-gallons milk
9 gallons 2% milk
2 half-gallons heavy whipping cream
1 quart soy milk
4 lbs butter

18  #10 cans of canned tomatoes
4 12-oz boxes whole wheat spaghetti
3 26-oz canisters salt
large box of powdered milk
2 12-oz bags chocolate chips
4 11-oz bags butterscotch baking chips
2 cups sunflower seeds
1 lb sesame seeds
3.12 lbs whole almonds
2 cups chopped dates
large can decaf coffee
4 large cans coffee
50 lbs whole wheat flour
2 lbs of unflavored gelatin

fruits and veggies
20 lbs frozen peas
20 lbs frozen green beans


  1. Lili,
    You are a good shopper! Look at all the goodies for the winter.

    We have a bit of an opposite problem than you do. Two of my three kids are a bit overweight so we are very careful that we don't buy snacky type foods. If it's not there they can't nibble. My husband does like a cookie or two for when he works so I have a batch of cookies made with mini chocolate chips and pecans frozen for him. My son, the overweight nibbler, has gone back to college so the cookies are "safe" in the freezer.

    We have a full-to-the-brim freezer and that is a real problem because now I can't find anything without taking everything out. My MIL has graciously offered room in her freezer for me to put a couple of boxes of things. She's alone and isn't ready to sell her chest freezer yet. I am going to bring a couple of boxes of veggies over to her freezer.

    I have very little meat in my freezer other than chicken quarters and few pork roasts and some ground pork and one pkg. of brats. Maybe there is a pound of ground beef but I can't find it with the freezer so full. Meat is too expensive right now so we aren't eating very much. Eggs are too expensive in the store but a guy at work runs a hobby farm and he sells organic eggs at $2 a dozen. That's the best deal right now so I'm buying them at work for now.

    I'm going to try to keep my grocery spending to under $50 per week for the next couple of months. Wish me luck!


    1. Hi Alice,
      Oh, borrowing space from your MIL's freezer sounds like a great solution for you. The other day, I was brainstorming who I could borrow freezer space from, in my area.

      That's a great deal on organic eggs. I'm glad you have that connection for them. We're down to not quite 2 dozen eggs, and I'm using them sparingly, now.

      With such a full freezer, you should be able to keep your spending on groceries low for a couple of months. I really need to do the same here. Good luck to you!

  2. So after I say what an incredible planner you are with your buy ahead deals, I might have to chuckle a bit over a five year supply of gelatin. Now that's really looking ahead. :)

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I know, a bit extreme, even for me. I've used the gelatin, twice now, though. Once for rhubarb gelatin (pureed rhubarb sauce with gelatin added), and the other for lemon gelatin salad (lemon juice, sugar, water, gelatin) with chopped apples (that were knocked off our tree by squirrels).

      I know that sometimes my shopping makes people smile or chuckle, and I'm happy to provide that!

  3. Hi Lili,
    I know my shopping makes people chuckle too!
    You did really great with the stocking up. That is how I usually shop too. It really burns me when on the rare occasion that we need something & have to pay full price.
    I am not sure but I think you have a Trader Joe's that you shop at sometimes right? Egg prices are way high here too, and I was in Trader Joe's last week & was surprised to see that their price for large eggs was $1.99 a dozen, which is much cheaper than elsewhere. I don't know if it would be the same in your area but may be worth checking out. We are in PA.

  4. Hi Rhonda,
    Thank you! I'll check our Trader Joe's when I'm down there. It used to be my go-to place for eggs, when I couldn't find them on sale any where else. The other good place I've seen for eggs, recently, was in our local Fred Meyer, in the 5-dozen packs, for $9.87.

    I really hate it when I have to pay full price, too. I think my sense of what a price "ought" to be is now very warped!

  5. Thank you for your side note about unflavored gelatin lasting forever...I have 2 boxes of gelatin from I don't know how long ago....over 10 years for sure. I don't see any "best by" or "use by" dates on the box. Many times I came close to throwing it away, but decided I'll open it up later to see first. We've always lazily used jello instead and I wanted to but never did make all those other fancy gelatin desserts (but now I may). Funny, I don't even remember buying them.

    This month, our food purchases totaled $317.01. I stopped all purchases two weeks ago because we are going to fumigate the house and didn't want to deal with more food items to bag. I am surprised that we have so much food and hardly made a dent to the the freezer and pantry shelves. Now I'm convinced I've stocked up pretty well and don't need to catch the sales as much.

    Have you tried drying your own fruits? We have so much sun (sorry to rub that in) I am seriously considering setting up a dehydrator and oven on our lanai to do some solar cooking when we retire. I'm sure a dehydrator appliance could do a similar good job. Especially in the PNW, while you may not have sun, I think you are blessed with bushes of berries and other fruits.


    1. Hi YHF,
      Great job on your groceries!!!

      We dry plums every September. Our plum tree is fairly prolific and we couldn't possibly eat fresh all of what it bears. So, drying them is a good alternative. I also dry rhubarb, in dices, to use in baking. And in years when our cherry trees have done well, we dry those for baking later in the year (but it takes a lot of cherries to amount to much of anything!)

      And yes, we do use a dehydrator. Almost a necessity here, for things like the plums which aren't even ready to pick until we're into the damp weather.

      Solar cooking sounds like a fun project for you after retirement. I've seen instructions for making your own cooker. It may not be too complicated.

  6. I am continually in awe of your ability to do so well on your grocery budget! We spent about $361 on groceries in August just for my husband and myself. We don't have a garden so produce definitely adds up. I also stocked up on some meat deals and built up in some other areas as well. Having said that, I know that we could do a lot better. This is just a bit lower than the USDA thrifty plan for groceries for a couple. I should be able to recoup some of this in the next couple of months. My freezer is full (literally, I can't really fit anything else in there) so meat purchases are out until the Thanksgiving sales. I do still buy things because I want to make a certain dish and while that isn't necessarily bad, I'm not taking into account the food I do have on hand and figuring out what I can do with that. We ate out only twice in August and I want to continue this trend (I was starting to rely on too much takeout). I don't count eating out as part of our food budget, but I do find that I better manage the food we have and what we eat when we eat at home more often. Living in Florida I expect to see better prices on fresh produce and I haven't really found that to be a reality. I also justify many purchases as "just a little splurge" but often I end up making several of these a month and that kind of defeats the purpose. :-/

    1. Hi Laura,
      I think you're doing well with your budget, keeping below the USDA thrifty plan. And so great that you limited your eating out! It's such a temptation isn't it? I have so many days when I just don't want to cook and would really like to just get take-out. But like you, I find I manage what we have better if I'm just focused on cooking all of our meals. And home-cooked is almost always much better from a nutritional standpoint. When I'm wanting to get take-out, I remind myself of how much better my insides will feel if I just cook at home, and that gives me a better quality of life.

      Also, about what I spend on groceries, please remember that I live in a place with a lot of shopping options. I really didn't realize how fortunate I am until I started blogging, and could "see" what shopping is like for so many other folks.

      I would have thought that produce would be less expensive in Florida, too. Go figure!

      What a blessing to have your freezer so packed! That will surely help you keep your grocery spending down in the next couple of months. Good luck with that!!!

    2. Thanks for the encouragement, Lili! I do have a tendency to get caught up in comparing myself to others -- not usually a fruitful practice when you consider all the variables. :)

  7. As always, you amaze me with how little you spend yet how well you and your family eat! Thanks for keeping track and sharing with us.

    As for the gelatin, I buy the canisters as well. They don't last so long here, just a few months, because I use it in protein shakes for extra protein and as a health supplement.

    1. Hi Cat,
      When I bought the 2 canisters, we had a discussion about whether or not this was a good purchase, because after all, we could just eat the fruit, as is. Then I remembered the protein content of gelatin! So, it's not an empty food purchase, just for the ability to transform the texture of food! And, I remember my mom drinking gelatin for her hair and nails. I don't know if it really helped, but I do remember this being a "thing" in the 70s.

      As a health supplement, what have you found with using gelatin?

    2. From my reading, I've learned that getting plenty of gelatin and vitamin C in the diet concurrently can help to build up cartilage. My husband has bad knees (minus most cartilage) from all those years of running while in the Army. I have joint issues due to lupus. So it seems worth a shot. Also, it may help heal the gut, which can help with food allergies and autoimmune issues. Win-win. :) Plus it adds protein to my shakes at less cost than protein powder. Or can be stirred into soups for added nutrition and protein as well.

    3. Cat, that's what I thought I remembered reading, about joints and gelatin. Some people also drink it for their backs, and claim it helps them.

      I'm so sorry you have lupus. You are, and have been, dealing with a lot. Yet, you have such an upbeat attitude. You're inspiring!

      That's interesting about gelatin maybe helping with gut issues. I'm going to give it a try. Thanks for that information!

  8. Great month for you, wow. How do you manage to get a senior's discount though? In your picture you don't look near old enough to qualify :).

    1. Hi Theresa,
      55 -- at one store you only have to be 55!! I can't believe they think that's "senior" but I'll gladly take it!!!!. I just turned 55 this past spring, and I haven't missed a senior discount day since then. I thought I would feel weird about asking for the discount, but not at all. I proudly ask for that 10% off every month.

      It's actually very smart of stores to offer this at age 55, as I'm still in the phase of feeding a large family, and could potentially spend a fair amount in their store on things I wouldn't normally buy. And as the discount is only good on store-brand items, they can eat that 10% in most cases, in hopes that folks will buy a lot of non house-brand items.

      And really, I DO need to update that photo. I'll get to that this next year!! Maybe then I'll look 55. :-)

    2. Lol my mom still refuses to ask for or take any senior discounts at 66. I am more like you though, if it is offered I'd be taking it :).
      I am 40 so no discounts yet.


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