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Monday, February 29, 2016

February 2016 grocery shopping journal

In going over the budgets for the next few months, we need to trim again. We have some costly expenses coming up. They're all good things, but expensive, nonetheless. So, I've trimmed the food budget, once again, to $190 for the month. I'm pretty sure we can make it on this amount, especially if I'm careful about treat items. It's just $10 per month, but that, combined with cuts in other areas, and we should be on solid footing for our little extra expenses this spring and summer. More on those to come!

I have a carry-forward surplus of $97.89, from January's very lean grocery shopping. So, for the month of February, I have my $190 plus 97.89, for a total amount of $287.89 available to spend on groceries!

Feb. 2 Senior discount day at Fred Meyer. I offered my daughter a ride to the transit center today, as it would save her one leg of bus rides (about about 75 cents in fares). Since there are actually 2 Fred Meyer stores between home and the transit center, I knew I could do my FM shopping right after dropping her off. I went to the FM which is closest to the transit center (not my usual one). As it turned out, I had to go to both FMs, as the first one was completely out of whole almonds. But I was able to snag deals at both stores, and take advantage of a "limit 4" coupon, at both stores. So, all worked out okay. Here's what I bought:

1st FM -- in the markdown bin, 3 10-ct boxes of instant cocoa ($1.07 each, instant cocoa at Dollar Tree has been packaged in 6-ct boxes for the last year or so, so this was a deal, I'll use it in gifty type things, as I usually make cocoa from cocoa powder when making for the family). Also in the markdown bin, Starbuck's Christmas Blend ground coffee, 10-oz bags, I buy 2 ($2.99). Still expensive for ground coffee, but will be nice for a treat, now and again. I froze one bag, hoping I'll not use it until next November/December, we'll see on that. Also bought 4 8-oz bricks of cream cheese (sale w/coupon, 99 cents, plus my discount, making each one 89 cents). Not included in "food" shopping, I bought an orchid plant as a gift to our host/ess this coming Sunday. They've invited us for Chinese New Year celebrations. I was very surprised at how relatively affordable orchids are now. I used to buy these for my grandmother and mother back in the 70s and 80s, and paid $25 to $30 per plant then. At Fred Meyer, they were $9. And I bought vitamin D3, B1G1 free, plus discount on the first one, so a good deal. And part of my working on spending less on household/health and beauty items this year. On food, at this Fred Meyer, I spent $12.75

2nd FM -- 16-oz whole organic mushrooms, marked down to $2.29, whole almonds ($6.29/lb, about half a pound), raw, hulled sunflower seeds ($1.34/lb, about 2/3 lb), the limit 4 cream cheese coupon, bought 4 for 89 cents each, 1 gallon marked down skim milk ($1.79), 16 oz whipping cream ($1.99), 2 dozen repackaged eggs at $1.07/dozen. At this Fred Meyer I spent $15.65, and they have a gas station onsite, so I was able to fill my tank for $1.68/gallon.

I use whole milk for one daughter. I still have 1  1/2 gallons of whole milk at home for her. With this 1 gallon of skim milk, I can use that for my other two kids, with a bit of whole milk added to each glass to bring it up to 1% or 2% milk fat. I can also use the skim in cooking, and could use it in a pinch for first daughter, in a smoothie, by adding lots of other fats, like peanut butter. The whipping cream we really didn't need right now. I'm not having to add any to milk for my daughter at this point. But I kinda developed a bit of fondness for whipping cream mixed with almond milk, in my tea and coffee. So it is a bit of a splurge! Just living it up! As well, the whipping cream will be nice to top desserts for the family, so I won't be drinking this stuff up by myself!

Feb. 3 stopped by Trader Joe's to pick up bananas for the month. I bought 28 bananas, for 19 cents each, spending a total of $5.32. I also got a sample of steel cut oats, turkey bacon and maple syrup, plus a small cup of coffee, for free.

Feb. 4 Cash & Carry I mentioned I was running low on brown rice, so I bought a 50-lb sack. This is a year's supply for us, $20.19 (about 40 cents/lb), also bought 2 gallons of white vinegar ($2.37 each), a bag of 15 medium avocados for $7.98 (53 cents each), Asian dumpling wraps, they're square like wonton wraps, 98 cents, 5 containers of tofu, 18 to 19 ounces each, varying firmness ($1.15 each), 5 lbs of sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded ($10.45), really great to find sharp Cheddar at this price, a 72-count package of corn tortillas ($2.37), 3 3-lb packages of frozen, chopped spinach ($2.48 each). I spent $59.90

If it looks like the makings of lots of Mexican and Asian food, well you're right! I'm hoping to make wontons (for soup), enchiladas, and tortilla chips for chips and bean dip and nachos. The frozen spinach will be an extra veggie for us. These 3 packages will last a couple of months. The soft tofu will be for smoothies for me, added to frozen blackberries, bananas and orange juice.

Feb. 4 Dollar Tree. The only food items I bought here today was a 12-oz box of crackers, similar to Ritz crackers (it was a bonus pack) and a quart of soy milk. Spent $2

This was not my usual Dollar Tree, but one near Jo Ann Fabrics. This Dollar Tree didn't have almond milk, or much of a food section compared to my usual one. But I was able to find all of the other items I needed, like toothbrushes, toothpicks, q-tips, shampoo, sandwich containers, toilet cleaner "dunks", a squeegee, and a large bottle (50 ounces) of liquid hand dishwashing detergent.

So far, this month, I've spent $95.62.

Feb. 7 Fred Meyer for milk and orange juice. I find 4 gallons of skim milk marked down to $1.75, and buy 4 half-gallons of whole milk for 99 cents, plus 2 half-gallons of orange juice for 99 cents each. Spent $12.94

Total for month so far, $108.56

I'm tracking my spending closely this month, and will do a tally after each spend. The good -- I am well-stocked in milk, now, enough to get through 2 weeks. The bad -- I've spent over $100 in one week.

Feb. 22. I didn't go grocery shopping last week at all. One week left to the month.

Feb. 24. back to gardening means back to Home Depot, now and then. Which also means a stop at the ethnic market for produce doesn't cost anything extra in gas (just down the street a half-block). It's worth looking around some of your stops for errands, to see if there's a small ethnic market in the neighborhood. Anyways, I bought 7 bananas, at 39 cents/lb (it worked out to 15 cents each banana), and 11 apples, a mix of Fuji and Pink Lady apples, at 49 cents/lb. Also they had green bell peppers marked down for 33 cents each. I bought 3. Total spent at Imran's -- $4.35

Total for the month so far, $112.91

Feb. 25 My day for Cash & Carry. I buy 10 lbs lean ground beef (80/20), for $19.90, 5 lbs of frozen peas and 5 lbs of frozen green beans, both $3.74, and a 35 lb box of soybean oil (8 to 9-month supply), for $16.90. Total spent, $44.28.

Total for the month so far,  $157.19

Feb.26 Fred Meyer for milk (on sale 99 cents/half-gallon) and orange juice (same price). I buy 5 milks and 1 orange juice. Also, butter is on sale, $1.99/lb, with in-ad coupon, limit 2. I buy 2. I found small boxes of Valentine's Sweatheart candies (the kind with messages on each heart), for 9 cents each. I bought 5. I'll double bag these and save for next year's Valentine's day, using them in decorations or to top cupcakes. Store-brand canned corn was on sale for 60 cents/can. I had a coupon soon to expire for 40 cents off 3 cans. So I bought 3 cans, spending $1.40 for 3, or 46-7 cents each. not a stellar price, but I ran out of corn this week, and Cash & Carry was out of the sale bags of frozen corn yesterday, so having these 3 cans will mean that I can make corn pudding for supper some night soon (it's one of those wonderful comfort foods for my family). I also got my Take5 candy bar for free, with my download coupon. So, in addition to the coupons I used, I also had a $9.31 reward from Fred Meyer, from fall quarter. We practically never qualify for a reward, with exception to fall quarter (rewards are tallied quarterly at FM), when I buy a few gifts there, and stock up on giftcards, at the 4X fuel reward in December. After applying my $9.31 reward to today's shopping, I spent $2.46.

Total for the month so far, $159.65

I am $15 short of a 50 cent per gallon fuel reward for next month. I may go back to Fred Meyer over the weekend, and spend just a little bit more, if I'm in that area, maybe buy more butter and milk, or do next week's shopping on Monday (new ads come out on Sunday at FM, here).

Feb. 28. My Girl Scout cookies came in, today. We bought 1 box of Thin Mints. Spent $4.

Feb. 29. I didn't get out to Fred Meyer over the weekend (busy at home). So, my spending for the month stands at $163.65.

My available amount to spend was $287.89 for this month. So, I now have a surplus of $124.24 to add to March's budget of $190. Or a total of $314.24 for the next month!

What I bought in February:

1 lb fresh mushrooms
35 bananas
15 avocados
9 lbs of frozen chopped spinach
3 half-gallons orange juice
11 apples (Fuji and Pink Lady)
3 green bell peppers
5 lbs frozen peas
5 lbs frozen green beans
3 cans corn

8 8-oz packages cream cheese
10 gallons skim milk
4 half-gallons whole milk
16 oz whipping cream
2 dozen eggs
5 lbs grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1 qt soy milk
2 lbs butter

1 package Asian dumpling wraps
5 containers tofu
72 corn tortillas

10 lbs lean ground beef (80/20)

3 boxes of instant cocoa packets (total of 30 packets)
20-oz Starbuck's Christmas blend ground coffee
1/2 lb whole, raw almonds
2/3 lb raw, hulled sunflower seeds
50 lbs long grain brown rice
2 gallons white vinegar
1 box crackers
35-lb box of soybean oil
5 small boxes Valentine's Sweetheart candies
1 Take5 candy bar (freebie)
1 box of Girls Scout cookies

What I have a lot of, still -- frozen fruit (some apples, lots of blackberries, rhubarb, plums and strawberries), butter and eggs, cream cheese, baking ingredients, peanut butter, meat, frozen green veggies, frozen pumpkin, canned tomatoes and tomato paste, jams, jellies, pickles and salsa. What I am low on -- all-purpose flour and milk.

This would be a good month to bake a cheesecake or 7, with all of the cream cheese I now have. And I'll start baking more pies and quiches, to use up the frozen eggs and frozen fruit.

My larger amount to spend this next month sounds like a whole lot to me. But I'm also keenly aware of how quickly that money can go, with just a few big stock-up items, like butter or meat. I'll try not to be too spendy this next month.


  1. I love having extra money in the grocery budget. I'm like you though, keenly aware of how quickly it can go. My grocery expenses were up for February, but we still did OK, so I will not complain. :)

    1. Hi Belinda,
      this will be the tricky part, hanging on to some of this surplus for future months. You did great this month!

  2. Wow, that's some great shopping (and cooking!) You're a wonder to me, Lili!

    I think I spent about the same as you this month, but did it all in one shopping trip. LOL That was our ONLY shopping trip the whole month, though. Hubby brought home one other gallon of milk (when we had birthday cake leftovers to eat.) Other than that, we made-do all month on what we had. We didn't get our food for the deal you did, but we sure kept the outflow down (for us!) this month! Hoooray!

    Have a great week! Sara

    1. You know, there's some merit to doing just one shopping trip for the month -- you save a ton of time and travel! You are doing awesome with using what you have on hand, Sara!

  3. Wow, Lili, sounds like you did exceptionally well this month, even for you! I am sleep-deprived due to a sick child so will be back to re-read when more lucid, as I love to see what you did with your buys.

    1. I feel for you, Cat! I hope you can catch up on sleep (and your sickie is feeling better) real soon!

  4. Good Job! We were at $399 for groceries for Feb. Then an additional $148 for non-food related things. Not bad but I think we should be able to do better. It's not altogether true that we spend $399 for food for Feb. since I bought two big pork roasts and sliced them into grilling pieces and stuck in the freezer for a later day. We only ate two of those slices so probably about $18 of it really isn't Feb. Same with 7 pkgs. of boneless skinless chicken breast I bought for grilling later on. At $1.49 per lb. that was a decent price but we haven't eaten this in Feb. so maybe another $20 isn't true to Feb.

    We're still snarking around the freezer for meals and lovin' it! Lately, I've been having yogurt parfaits from frozen strawberries and store bought yogurt. Cooked cabbage and mashed potatoes has also been a tasty change. I have lots of frozen cabbage and we all love cooked cabbage.

    Our sickness is gone and we're all hungry again so this is good!


    1. Hi Alice,
      I've never frozen cabbage before. Do you blanch it first? I am looking forward to lots of cabbage in March, with St. Patrick's day sales.

      Yes, you do need to take into account that some months you stock up on expensive items to use over several months. And that will always drive the overall spend up. You're doing great! And now you have all of that meat in store! I suspect there will be many tasty meals to come from it all!

    2. I blanch it first but my mom does not. I like it better blanched but do it quickly only a couple of minutes is all it needs.


  5. We're really holding the line on our food budget, this month so far with one day left, $197. This is just for the two of us, and not including vitamins and OTC drugs, but including toiletries and eating out. I carve out my dad's food items, and while there is some give and take like beans (bean patties), eggs, milk, toiletries etc. that we share with him, now and then we sneak a muffin or two from his freezer. I deducted $50 for the grandkids February visit (3 days of "meat based" meals, and a goodie bag of toiletries). Also this month, we had a lot of stocking up, about $120 went straight into the freezer and pantry shelves, 2 pork shoulder roasts, 2 industrial sized tomato sauce cans, 6 lbs honey, 6 trays of salmon ends, 10 lbs frozen IQF chicken thighs, Kirkland brand coconut oil, and lots of 90% off Christmas candies. The chicken and pork are for the grandkids visit next month.

    Generally, we are eating less. Out of habit, we eat breakfast as soon as we get up. On days that we are home, I want to slowly work up to breakfast, maybe after drinking a cup of coffee first. Lunch may be pushed back, and maybe only two meals that day. Also eating one meal a day, only salad, helps keep the food bill down. But all in all, we're not starving and we eat a good variety of foods. I also have been trying harder to save with promotions like SYWR points and Walgreens Balance Rewards. In fact, today, we may do a store pickup of toilet paper and bleach that were bought online at an incredible discount ($10 off $10 or more) at Kmart.

    Your monthly shopping recap is always interesting to read. We like to double up our errands too, and drop in stores along the way to check out any clearances and deals we may have missed in ads. In fact, we usually don't find more than a loss leader or two by reading the ads, but while at the stores, we find lots of reduced or clearance items that are not advertised, like the 90% off candy at Walgreens and the reduced milk and coffee at Kmart (paired also with surprise points and using points). The Kmart deals are so difficult to understand, but practice and patience has paid off.

    Great job on starting the year under budget and by such a wide margin!!


    1. Error...we bought not 2, but 4 industrial sized cans of tomato sauce from Costco. I noticed the price has dropped significantly, from around $4 to $2.89 per can (2.7c/oz or 21.6c per 8oz)


    2. That figure sounds fantastic, YHF! Do you find you have more time to find the deals in retirement, now? I know that my being home most of the time has allowed me to be economical in ways that I would not be able to, if I worked full-time outside the house.

    3. Yes, we can take our time while out shopping, not rush in and out. If we don't finish our shopping all in one day (since we like to beat the before and after work traffic mess), we can spread shopping over two days. Like today, we didn't have enough time to do the in-store pickup at Kmart, but we did go to four stores along our route. The monthly total is now about $235. So close, we didn't need more food...everything we bought except for watercress and tomatoes is for stock.

      Other changes, since retirement...we do not eat out during our shopping day, instead we learn to embrace a little hunger or stop and have a late lunch at home. Also we think things over thoroughly before making a purchase, much like you do, with calculator and paper in hand, or discuss a cheaper alternative, do price, we were trying to figure out how not to buy the expensive "furikake" (sesame/nori/fish seasoning) that our grandkids love in their spam musubi. Costco sells it for 86c/oz. I told my husband it's crazy to pay that much again, so we are determined to make our own from scratch. Thanks to google:

      Definitely, the internet has made it possible to take frugality to its further limits. There are offers to save or opportunity to earn rewards everyday on the internet. I don't want to spend my time that way, but it pays to spend an hour or two every morning on the internet.


    4. I shop very much like you do YHF. In between there might be a week of mainly produce. usually my cart is full of the loss leaders and clearance items. I go through my favourite cashiers who are my cheerleaders. I think I mentioned I had picked up saffron for .44 cents a package. This is a little hostess/basket filler gift I am giving to friends , particularly the foodie ones.

  6. Wow, that's a lot of avocados--we don't like them all that well so I usually only buy 1 or 2 at a time (Aldi has occasional deals--around 49 cents/avo). Do they freeze well?

    Sometime I'd like to go to Trader Joe's (a new one opened recently about 45 minutes away from me). It seems like they have a great variety of food to choose from.

    1. Yes, Kris, avocados freeze well, if pureed first with some lemon juice (1 tablespoon per large avocado). Then use this later for making guacamole or dressings or spreads for wraps.

  7. Even though you are reducing your food budget, it nice to see that you can still buy a treat or two from time to time. That's what having an overall plan and stocking up can do for you.

  8. Great job -- those are some awesome deals. I need to keep an eye out for a good deal on brown rice. I don't mind making jasmine rice most of the time, but would like to vary that a little.

    I have company in town so my last few days haven't been added into my total. I should be under budget this month as well, though. Good news for us, since January was kind of a bust!

    1. Hi Laura,
      Thank you. Yes, I hope you find a great deal on brown rice for yourself! And great job on coming in under budget!

      Have a great day, Laura!

  9. Hi Lili,
    I always enjoy your grocery spending journal posts. It's always great too see how well you do & all you get for your money. That was a great price on the ground beef. The price of any kind of beef has been ridiculous lately, a couple weeks ago I found 2 small beef roasts on mark down for $1.97 a pound, you can bet I snatched those up real quick as I refrained from doing a happy dance right there in the meat department!

    1. Hi Rhonda,
      I haven't found any beef roasts under $2 in a few years. I would have snagged those, too! Lucky you -- those will be delicious.


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