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Monday, November 2, 2015

October 2015 Grocery Spending Journal

When I can see that I'm going over my budget, month after month, and I'm not purchasing a lot of convenience or junk food, then I know that I need to increase my grocery budget, and decrease some other element of the overall household budget.

We have been spending more on groceries in recent months, in very large part due to increased nutritional needs for a few members of the family. And I have gone over budget, every month, for about 1 year. So, it's time to increase the food budget, once again. I do this in fairly small increments, with hopes to catch up within a few months. I had been budgeting $185 per month for groceries. I have now increased that amount to $200 even.

Oct. 4 Fred Meyer -- I'm out of milk and it's on sale with coupon this week, 99 cents/half gallon, limit 6. I buy 6. spent $5.94 (and I hang on to my coupon for Tuesday's Senior Discount Day).

Dollar Tree, making a monthly run for an assortment of items. I also buy 1 quart of soy milk. spent $1

Oct. 6 Fred Meyer, for 10% off Senior Discount Day. The discount applies to house-brand items. I search the flyer and the store aisles for great deals on my "regular" items. I first make a pass by the egg cooler. I've been hunting down the very best egg prices in my area, and Fred Meyer seems to be the place. It's the Cherry Lane, 5-dozen large egg pack that is the best price per dozen, at $9.89, that works out to about $1.98/dozen. Fred Meyer can barely keep stock of these eggs at our store. They are frequently sold out when I get there. As I'd just used my very last 2 eggs (from a purchase in August) over the weekend, I was hoping FM would have these 5-dozen packs in stock. I made myself get out and early to the store this morning, for best chance of buying the eggs. There were only 3 packages left, when I got there. I bought 1.

Also, heavy whipping cream was on sale in quarts. I bought 5, at $3.86 each. I had checked Cash & Carry's price (online) on heavy whipping cream on Monday, so I could compare prices when I shopped FM. FM had the better price. The expiration date is not until December. These are quart containers, so I will only be opening what I need at a time, and can keep some of the cream "fresh", through Thanksgiving (whipped cream on pies!), and if there happens to be any leftover, at the end of November, I can freeze, whipped, in mounds to use at Christmas dinner.

I also had my coupon for the sale milk, and was able to use the coupon plus the senior discount, so today, I bought 6 half-gallons of milk, at 89 cents each.

On one of the end-caps, I noticed cans of coffee on sale, and they had French Roast, which is my preferred coffee. If I can make myself a good cup of French Roast, then I don't feel like I want/need to go to a coffee house for a cup. So, buying French Roast on sale, and with my senior discount winds up being an even better bargain that just my out-the-door price. I save by minimizing stops at coffee houses. The sale price is $4.99 (large can, about 31 oz, I think), my discount is another 50 cents off, so I pay $4.49/can, I buy 3 cans.

I also always check the baking aisle. I have a few go-to prices in my head for various baking items. Semi-sweet chocolate chips are on sale in 12 oz packages, for $1.99, I save an extra 20 cents with discount, so I pay $1.79/ 12 oz package. I buy 6 bags. Also, salt is now 49 cents/canister. With my discount, it's 44 cents. I buy 4. I like to buy things like salt in multiples. I rarely run out this way.

My last stop is the bulk bins, in the nutrition center aisles. I buy sunflower seeds, raw, hulled for $1.34/lb, dry-roasted almonds at $6.29/lb, pitted dates at $2.49/ lb, flax seeds at $1.06/lb, and onion powder at $7.19/lb. The flax seeds and the pitted dates were on sale this month, so I tried to buy a supply that will last us a couple of months. The sunflower seeds are so much cheaper than the almonds, and serve a very similar purpose in baking and nutrition, so I bought more sunflower seeds than almonds, and will use the s.seeds more for snacks than the almonds.

And while I was in Fred Meyer, I checked the candy aisle. Lindt truffles were on sale for 25 cents each. I bought myself one, just because. I'm saving it for an emergency, you know, like, someone didn't do one of their chores and I had to do it for them, or the toilet seat was left up, or someone spilled something sticky on the kitchen floor and I stepped in it barefoot in the wee hours of the morning, while making my daily stagger to the coffee pot. That sort of emergency merits a truffle for my pain and suffering! Anyway, I spent $74.17

October 9. Fred Meyer to buy 6 half-gallons of orange juice, 99cents w/coupon. spent $5.94

October 15. So far this month I've spent $87.05, and we're half-way through the month. After my overage from last month, I have $119.39 for the month of October. Sooooo, it looks like I have $32.34 left. Will I make it? I don't know. There's a few things I want from Cash & Carry later this week. I was going to get a 5-lb bag of Mexi-blend cheese for just over $10 a bag, but now am thinking about scrapping that idea. Mexi-blend is not a favorite of mine. I prefer cheddar. So, I may skip the cheese this week, and wait for cheddar. But C & C also has large cans of roasted peanuts. They are so nice to have on hand. I can put a bowl out for guests, add a quick protein boost to packed lunches, add to salads, stir-fries and curries. I'm still thinking on this.

October 16. Cash & Carry for a 25-lb bag of carrots (10.48) and 3 #10 cans of sliced olives (4.27 each). I spent 23.29. No peanuts or cheese, afterall.

October 16. Fred Meyer, pumpkins for carving (and I'll cook them, too) 19cents/lb, I buy 3. Acorn squash $1 each (I find 3 that weigh over 4 lbs apiece), I buy 3, and butternut squash, 39 cents/lb., I buy 2. Also while there, I find marked down 2% milk, at $1.40/gallon. I buy 4. I spent 16.96

October 28. Cash & Carry, specifically for a case of eggs (15 dozen --180 eggs), for $26.95, but also for 1 5-lb bag of pizza blend cheese (pizza blend has provolone and cheddar, in addition to mozza -- it's slightly better on my tummy than straight mozzarella), for $10.48, 1 gallon of mayonnaise, for $6.25 (just in time, as I just this week finished off the last gallon, bought in spring), and a 50-lb sack of onions, for $9.98 (that's 19 cents per pound). This time of year, the onions are new crop, so still have months of keeping in them. Total spent today -- $53.66

total for the month of October -- $180.96. With previous month's overages, I had $119.39 for the month, so I was over by $61.57. This is actually an improvement over last month. Last month, I was over by $80. I'm closing the gap, and I feel confident that by early next year, I'll be back on track. I've been really stocking the pantry, fridge and freezer, the past few months. I took an inventory of what we are needing, and it's not a whole lot for the next couple of months.

November, in the US, is THE month of fall to stock up on many items. I'll be looking for cream cheese, turkey, potatoes, celery, and sweet potatoes/yams.

If you don't remember, last November I bought 7 bundles of celery. I will buy at least 9 this year. We went through the 7 very quickly. I chopped and froze at least half of that celery, including leaves. Celery leaves can discolor with time in the freezer, so I used those first in soups, sauces, stews and casseroles. And last year's purchase of 90 lbs of potatoes was just about right, for our family. I'll stick to that amount again this year.

I was able to do several online surveys for Fred Meyer, this month. In addition to the fuel rewards points from purchases, I have 30 cents off per gallon of gas, to spend next month. I'll wait until I am on "empty", to get the most gas at that discount as I can.

What I bought in October:
milk -- 12 half-gallon jugs of whole milk, 4 gallons of 2% milk
shredded cheese -- 5-lbs of pizza blend cheese
heavy whipping cream -- 5 quarts
eggs -- 18 dozen
soy milk -- 1 quart

large bag of pitted dates from the bulk bins
6 half-gallons of orange juice
25 lbs of carrots
3 pumpkins
3 acorn squash
2 butternut squash
50 lbs of onions

Pantry items
3 big cans of coffee
6 bags of chocolate chips
4 canisters salt
sunflower seeds
flax seeds
onion powder
1 chocolate truffle
3 #10 cans of sliced olives
1 gallon mayonnaise

What I didn't buy -- I didn't buy any meat this month, as I still have plenty of chicken quarters, a whole ham, some ground beef, some pork roast, some ground turkey, some fish and some cooked turkey in the freezer. I'll be looking for whole turkeys and hams this holiday season, for the freezer.


  1. Not a bad haul, Lili! Good Job!

    I have to tell you about a not-so-good purchase we made. A few weeks ago when we were chatting about bacon ends and pieces we also moved over to the deli meat section. We had tried a really good ends-and-pieces hickory smoked ham and so we saw some reduced ends-and-pieces turkey sliced meat also. Basically it was a jumbled mess of meat but we're not particular. Two packages were reduced price and the color was good so we bought them. We tasted it when we got home and though it was good meat it wasn't smoked like we normally get. We divided it up into portions and froze it but nobody really would eat it. It wasn't smoked. I do not throw food away so one package because turkey tetrazzini for Sunday lunch with a roasted chicken. EVERYONE loved it! Haha, everyone, you just ate the meat you didn't even like!! One college kid came home with her boyfriend and they both took back a luncheon sized portion for a meal sometime this week. Oh, and the boyfriend just look the homemade sourdough bread and even asked if he could have some extra slices to take back. He never asks for anything because he is just such a kind, easy going fella but this made me happy.

    I also bought a second package of bacon ends and pieces but this one had a small bone in it that I almost broke a tooth. Be careful with those kinds of packages.


    1. Hi Alice,
      Ack! A bone piece. Yes, that would be disconcerting. I've never had that with bacon before.

      We're not huge fans of plain turkey sandwiches, but find we like them better when I salt and pepper the meat and add flavorful condiments like mustard. With your kids, it was probably just a case of expecting a certain taste and then not finding it.. Good save on the tetrazzini. That's the tack I take -- I just find a way to make whatever more palatable. I'll only throw away food if it has spoiled.

      Have a great day, Alice!

  2. I always enjoy reading your grocery spending journal. Although I also always feel a bit extravagant after reading, lol. You get a lot for your money. This month, I did keep my fairly moderate usual spending substantially lower than usual. The only downside I see is that I have depleted much of what I had built up in doing so. :/ Gotta keep working on this and improve. I also bought almost no organics last month but am still having mixed feelings on that.

    1. Hi Cat,
      I can understand having mixed feelings about organics or not, especially when you have health issues. It's a tough call. Don't let my choices influence your spending. If you have the resources to buy organic produce/meat and you feel it may help, then if it were me, then I would buy the organics. Two months before my husband's income was reduced by 30% I had been researching grass-fed beef, and we were in a place, financially where we could afford this, for our beef, and planned to move on to free-range chickens/eggs, too. Then our income was slashed and I had to put off that move with our food. For us, keeping an organic garden, I feel that we get a large enough share of organic produce to off-set the non-organic stuff that I buy. It's the meats that I'm more concerned with.

      If anyone were to analyze my grocery spending, I think the big takeaway would be that I don't buy convenience items. I think that is where the biggest savings lie, and likely the difference between my shopping cart and your average American consumer.

      Since my time is crunched several weekdays per week, I'm working on building up a freezer stash of my own convenience items. It's been hard to do, and maintain, as I will then think, when planning the night's dinner, "oh, I've got a such and such in the freezer. Why not just have that", even when it's a day when my time is not really compromised due to other activities/work.

    2. Lili,
      I also don't use convenience foods but my adult daughter living with us (new college grad, new teacher, trying to get a hold on living the adult life so we grant her a home with us for as long as it takes to get on her feet) likes to eat pizza rolls for a Sunday night snack after church. Do you ever make those and do you have a good recipe to make a bunch, freeze, then bake as many as needed? I think that's the only convenience food I buy (because I love my daughter!) but they are crazy expensive.


    3. Alice, do you mean like egg rolls, but with pizza filling, inside? If so, I don't see why you couldn't buy wonton wraps, fill with pizza fillings, deep-fry/pan-fry, then freeze.

      Many years ago, myself and a group of friends made fried wontons for a wedding reception, ahead of time, then kept them frozen until the day of the wedding. They came out of the freezer in very good condition. The filling on these had little water content (cream cheese and green onions), and that may have contributed to their good condition after freezing. So, my guess would be a wonton wrapper, filled with shredded cheese, chopped pepperoni and a bit of sauce, would freeze pretty well. Then they can be reheated in a toaster oven and crisp up nicely. Because it would cost so little to try this out (the cost of a package of wonton wraps, and small amounts of pizza fillings), this would be worth a try to see if it meets your daughter's liking.

      As for adult kids living at home, while they save to buy/rent a place to live -- we support that in our family. Our son does pay us rent, and contributes to chores, so there's never the feeling that he's sponging off of us. And we kinda like the guy! ;-)

  3. Good job Lili. You have to do,what you have to do. Always nutritious are your meals. I see your family is easy to please and try's new things.
    Good on the lack of convenience foods. It's the mouth/ taste feel, salt,sugar fat. There has been so much research as to how manufacturers strive for this, I think when the majority of meals are prepared at home these factors are lessened .Many times my family finds something too salty when packaged.

    1. Hi Theresa,
      Thank you.

      I've read about commercial food producers using sugar, salt and fat to make their products highly palatable (and hence repeat purchases and over-consumption).

      I agree, when you prepare foods at home, the recipes, themselves, don't call for as much fat, sugar or salt as a commercially-produced item. And there are some things that I find way too salty (canister potato chips is one of those items). And I could never add as much sugar to homemade iced tea or lemonade, as is in the containers of powdered drink mix. I think salt, sugar and fat are just the cheap ways to add flavor. Whereas, most of us who cook from scratch use garlic, onions, lemon juice, herbs and spices for extra flavor, when something tastes "flat".

  4. Hi Lili.

    You make very wise purchases, groceries have just gone up so much! I think increasing the grocery budget was a good decision. I know you will be back on track soon.


    1. Hi Angie,
      Thank you. And if this round of budget increase isn't enough, then I'll up it again, just a smidge, until it's just right. This is stressful, though. In November's budget, I have my big spend at our local produce stand (end of season). I went yesterday, with cash in hand, and spent a lot of time/energy figuring out what I could buy for that cash, weighing the items to both get the most for my money, and make sure I wasn't going over my cash allotment. Anyone who has ever bought groceries with only cash can probably understand this situation.

  5. You're doing a great job, Lili. Keep up the good work! Sometimes I get frustrated with our grocery spending, but like you, I don't buy convenience foods. When I look at what I actually buy, it's all good stuff. We just go through a lot of food around here. Thanks, also, for all of the Cash & Carry tips. I don't shop there very often because I have a Costco membership (the Executive Membership is free for me because I buy so much there). However, I've popped into Cash & Carry a few more times in the last few months because of your recommendations & have found a few items that are cheaper than Costco. So thanks!

    1. Hi Melissa,
      Thank you. I don't have a Costco membership, but I can sometimes compare prices online, for specific items. I was comparing Karo corn syrup yesterday, and Costco was cheaper than Cash & Carry, at C & C's regular price. Where Cash & Carry really compares favorably is when something is listed on their Hot Sheet or Weekly Specials, for our area. C & C's Weekly Specials are comparable to traditional grocery store loss leaders.

      They've just built a new Costco near us, and I'd like to go in sometime and check their prices on many of the items I buy in large quantity. Then do the math to see if it would be worthwhile to pay the membership fee.

      For now, Cash & Carry is my "costco without membership fee".

  6. I think you made a wise decision with increasing your grocery budget. Price points change, and so do family needs.

    1. Thanks, Kris!
      I think grocery prices remained somewhat stable for several years, then really jumped up, instead of just a slow and steady creep. Compound this with needing more nutrient dense foods, here, and it's just necessary to rearrange the budget a bit. Thanks for your support.

  7. I always enjoy reading your posts. I've started doing more math at the store because of your diligence with your shopping. I don't have a calculator, so i'm the woman who stands there muttering to herself while i look for a pen and paper. But, just today, i've learned that chips at GFS are more expensive than chips at DT per ounce. (I do not eat these but there would be mutiny if my husband din't have them with his work sandwiches.) I also bought eggs at DT, for the first time, after doing the math. I'm not too old of a dog to learn new tricks, apparently! Knowledge is power! Thanks!

    1. Hi momsav,
      Good for you!!! We all learn someplace.
      I do occasionally find myself without a calculator and then I'm the one digging through my purse for a pen and anything resembling a piece of paper. I figure it keeps my mind sharp, to have to do the math from time to time!

  8. Thank you for sharing your thought process. That is the real gem of your blog. Other frugal blogs do not share this as much, and are more show and tell. For me, not just "how", but the "why" is important.

    This month, I am in shock....we've spent $546.84 on food/eating out/toiletries. After the initial OMG, I realized that a lot of that spending went to stocking up on my dad's food. Our freezers are full to the brim with cooked carrots, squashes and papayas ($66.92 on just carrots alone). And maybe because we were so exhausted doing "his" chores, just like your truffle treat, while shopping for his foods, we made excuses to eat out ($123.76 on fast foods when the average is about $50/mo). I love the truffle idea and think it is so wise!!


    1. Hi YHF,
      So it sounds like your father is now very well stocked up for. This will ease your mind, especially when you take your trip. But I've been in the same mental place -- trying too hard to do one frugal thing, and then neglecting another. It's all a learning process, and I figure I'll get it close enough to "right" for the most part.

      I am doing something more, though, due to your comments and others. Im stocking what little space I have in the freezer with pre-made meals. It's only a few nights worth. But, it will give me that feeling of the luxury of convenience, and give me time for a few projects, or just having a fun afternoon.

    2. Just on the back of the napkin....if I add the $137.14 (dad's extra stockpile) + $75 (extra eating out) ...and $40.82 stocking up on Sam's (pinto beans and shiitake mushrooms) since we will not be renewing for awhile (normally I wouldn't have made this purchase this month)...subtracting these...our food bill would be around $300.


    3. YHF, that sounds pretty good. It helps to isolate each different contributing element to a total, to really "see" where to money went.
      As for the stock-up at Sam's, that makes sense, especially with the dried items (you're not exactly going to plow through those, simply because you have lots now). This will save you money down the road. That's part of what I'm counting on with my recent overages with the budget. My pantry (and now my second pantry, in a closet under the stairs), fridges and freezers are so jam-packed. Surely, all this stocking up will save us money, in the months after the first of the year, when not much is on sale at a great price.

    4. Great Lili, glad to hear you are giving yourself the gift of time to do what you want, or just relax and have fun. I am in the process of streamlining my life even further, so I can spend almost all day on my projects....I've have waited my entire lifetime to indulge this way. Getting old is not fun, but it has its perks too lol


  9. If after a year of VERY careful spending on food and you are always over budget, I agree that it is time to increase the food part of your budget.

    You are always stocking up on something when you find a good price (as most smart shoppers do), but it seems as if there is always something on sale to be stocked up on. Thus while the amount spent waxes and wanes some, it seems as if you spend a pretty constant amount year round. I think this is something that not everyone understands when they start to shop this way.

    Do you ever just live mostly one the items that you have stocked up on? As the practice would suggest

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Yes, we do have periods where we just use up what's on hand. January and February are lean months for good sales, so we just use what we have, then. This will usually clear out one of the freezers and a good chunk of the spare fridge. I've had an occasional month in late spring, too, where I've only spent about $45 or so for the month. So, it does happen.

  10. You are doing awesome, providing healthy, varied meals on so little! Even bumping up to $200/month-that's great. I aim for $100/person but barebones would be $67. Aiming to use up stockpile that I don't want to move in July.

    1. Hi Carol,
      Thank you.
      I can totally understand your situation. And it's very wise to run your surplus down in the months leading up to your move. If you are moving to a more affordable town, you may find that groceries are more affordable, as well as housing. So it would be silly to overstock on groceries in your high cost of living town, when you could just bank extra money, to do a very complete grocery shopping once you are settled in your new lower cost of living town.

  11. Hi Lili,
    I always enjoy the grocery spending journal posts. You really do an amazing job getting the very best deals. I don't think it will take you very long to get back on track with the budget.

    1. Hi Rhonda,
      Thank you! I appreciate the words of support.


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