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Monday, August 1, 2016

July 2016 Grocery Spending Journal

July 4. Dollar Tree for graham crackers to make s'mores. $1 It's not a big box, but about 9 oz, I believe, plenty enough for s'mores for all of us. As I can't find graham crackers for under $2 a lb in the larger boxes in regular stores, this is a good deal.

July 9. Coming home from a day at the farmer's market (and no, I didn't buy anything at the market, but enjoyed the atmosphere, had samples and got some good ideas), we stopped at WinCo, mostly for the bulk bin items. I bought a pound of milk chocolate chips (for making candy this week), at $3.11/lb, about 2 pounds of raisins, at $1.79/lb, about a half pound of chopped dates (to add to overnight oatmeal), at $2.14/lb, a half pound of instant milk powder, at $4.19/lb (breakfast shakes and peanut butter balls), about a half-pound of soy beans, at 85 cents/lb, a pound of raw, whole almonds at $5.99/lb (for making candy and non-dairy milk), 1/10 of a pound of unsweetened coconut (for adding to homemade soy milk, adds flavor and fats), at $3.15/lb. I also bought another 72-ct package of corn tortillas for $2.18, and 9 bananas at 48 cents/lb. I received a 6 cent credit for bringing my own bag. Total spent -- $20.69

July 9. Next stop on the highway coming home, I ran into Cash & Carry, primarily for all-purpose flour (50-lbs for $11.68), but also bought a 2-gallon box of 2% milk for $4.40, 10 lbs of carrots for $3.89, a 3-pack of celery for $1.67, a gallon of mustard for $4.19, and 12 oz of onion powder for $3.71. Spent $29.54

July 13. Dollar Tree for ketchup. I am making some sloppy joe filling for a church supper, and I was given very specific instructions for making it (no modifications to the recipe). So, while I might ordinarily make my own ketchup substitution, I couldn't for this night. Fortunately, it only cost me $1, which I think I can handle in my budget. Spent $1

Total spent for the month, so far -- $52.23. I'm doing okay for the month. We're almost halfway through and I've spent under 30% of the budget. Cheddar cheese is on sale again at Cash & Carry, so I may pick up a few 5-lb bags, later this week or next. And I need milk, always.

July 15. Fred Meyer, mostly to get milk, on sale, and pick up my 3 Friday freebies from the last couple of weeks. What I bought -- 5 half-gallons of whole milk, 99 cents each, 1 half-gallon orange juice, 99 cents, 5 bananas, marked down, 49 cents/lb, 1 lb of organic mushrooms, marked down, $2.39, 1 package of hot dogs, 89 cents, and the freebies, 1 2-liter of cola, 1 46 oz bottle of cranberry, cherry and blueberry juice, 1 Gatorade snack bar. I spent $10.11

July 21. Cash & Carry for the sharp cheddar on sale, $8.98 for a 5-lb bag, I buy 3 bags, plus 15 bananas, at 42 cents/lb. Spent $29.91

July 22.  Fred Meyer, for the coffee on sale. I find 1 can of Folgers 1/2 decaf, 1/2 regular for $4.29 on clearance, and buy 2 cans FM brand reg, a 1 can decaf, at $4.99 each. I also find organic mushrooms on markdown for $2.30/lb, and I get my freebie, a can of Mt Dew Kickstart. Spent $21.65

Total spent so far -- $113.90

July 29. This should be my last grocery shopping of the month. Went to Fred Meyer for 5 half-gals of whole milk and 1 half-gal of orange juice, all 99 cents each with coupon. Also stop by produce markdown section, and buy 2 8-oz packages of mushrooms (99cents each), and 6 red-tape bananas, at 49 cents/lb. Next I head to the meat marked down section, and buy a 14 oz package of chicken Italian sausage (5 links), reduced from $4.99 to $2.49. And finally, I go to the clearance rack in the back and find almond paste for filling pastries, 8-oz containers for $2.69, I buy 2 and will save these for a special almond-filled pastry. I also got my Friday freebie of a 17 oz bottle of peach sparkling iced tea. Spent $16.76

Total spent for the month of July -- $130.66

Coming in to the month of July I had a surplus of $239.89. Add that to my budget of $190, and I have $429.89 available to spend on food this month. I underspent by $299.23. That will be my surplus going into August, which when added to the monthly allotment of $190, will give me $489.23 that I could spend, if I find good enough deals to want to stock up.

What I bought:


2 pounds raisins
1/2 pound chopped dates
35 bananas
10 lbs carrots
3 pack of celery
12 oz onion powder
1 gallon orange juice
2 lbs organic mushrooms
1 lb whole mushrooms
46 oz bottle of cranberry, blueberry, cherry juice (Freebie)

1 8-count package of hotdogs
14 oz chicken Italian sausage link (5 links)


1 pound milk chocolate chips
1/2 pound soybeans
1 pound raw almonds
1/10 pound unsweetened coconut
72-ct package corn tortillas
50 pounds all-purpose flour
1 gallon yellow mustard
1 bottle ketchup
2 liter of cola (Freebie)
1 Gatorade Fuel bar (Freebie)
4 large cans coffee/decaf (25 to 29 oz each)
1 can Mt Dew Kickstart (Freebie)
1 bottle sparkling peach ICE tea (Freebie)
16 oz of almond paste for baking


1/2 pound instant milk powder
2 gallons 2% milk
10 half-gallons whole milk
15 lbs sharp cheddar cheese

Mid-month, we were given enough sandwiches and produce to last through 2 family dinners. Also, several of us attended 2 church dinners, eliminating the need to provide for those meals. Our garden continues to provide most of our produce. Every morning, I slip outside to pick an apple from the tree to have with my breakfast, and my daughters take salads and fruit from our garden in their lunches each weekday. My son still gets all his weekday lunches provided at work, gratis.

I didn't find any stellar deals on meat this past month. It's just as well, as I've got the extra freezer unplugged for the summer, and we're still using up meat from prior purchases.

In going through my supplies, I've noted that we're running low on butter. I'm down to about 9  1/2 lbs. of butter. At our regular usage, this amount will last us until the end of September. Awesome butter sales aren't found, much, until around Thanksgiving (in November for U.S.). That leaves me with about 6 to 7 weeks either without butter or having to pay a lot more for it. So, I'm having to do some sneaky things, like keeping the butter in the fridge, all of the time. And not putting the whole stick into the butter dish at one time, but only half. When it's kept out, in a dish on the counter, we seem to go through the butter much faster.  So, I just keep popping it back into the fridge, and that slows the consumption down. And by limiting how much goes into the dish at a time, it seems to nudge people into using just a little less. I know it works for me. I'm also going to return to making our own soft butter (that post, with instructions, here). Utilizing these strategies, I should be able to stretch out our butter supplies an extra month. Also, this week, Fred Meyer has butter on sale, with coupon, for $2.50/lb, limit 2. $2.50/ lb is not an awesome price. However, this week is the week with the Senior Discount shopping day on Tuesday. So, I'll take my coupon on Tuesday, and buy my 2 lbs of butter at $2.25 per pound. That will help. And I'll keep a watch on prices around town for deals on butter.

One thing to keep in mind, if your family spends a whole lot more on groceries, than mine: all 3 of my kids have their own earned money, if they want packaged snacky foods, they buy them. So, I'm not spending any money on those things. I save a lot by practically never buying prepared snacks like chips, packaged cookies or breakfast/snack bars, boxed cereal, and sugary drinks (other than a couple of bottles of juice per month). Instead, we snack on fresh fruit, raw veggies, popcorn, nuts and seeds, raisins, toast/bread, peanut butter, muffins and homemade cookies. And I've shared with you our available beverages -- iced herb tea, homemade lemonade, orange juice, smoothies, milk, black tea/coffee (hot and iced) and water. The bonus is, snacking/eating the way that our family does, is so much healthier for us.

There are times when one of my kids would like some of the packaged stuff. And they're all free to buy what they want, with their own money, or they can try to replicate the item they crave, with a homemade version. Last weekend, one daughter really wanted a milk shake, and was lamenting the fact that she didn't have lots of spare money (most of both daughters's earnings goes towards tuition). She said that if she did have more money, she'd go buy a milkshake at McDonalds (was this a hint for me to buy a shake for her? Oh well, hint not taken!). I told her how I used to make myself milkshakes/frosties with milk, chocolate syrup and ice cubes, in the blender. She tried it and was thrilled to have made a shake for herself, for free. Same daughter had a pot-luck to attend at work, on Friday. She was asking what she could bring that wasn't dessert, as there were already lots of sign-ups for dessert. She didn't want to use her own money to buy something. So she came up with a batch of scratch biscuits. And then, the other day, she really wanted a couple of cookies. Not enough to bake a whole batch, just a couple. She found a recipe online that made 1 large cookie. So that's what she did. She's learning! I'm proud of her for finding and trying ways to make a substitute for an item she wants.

It's been important to me, to not only teach my kids how to cook for themselves, but also to learn how to accept a substitute for something they might want. Sometimes, our career choices are less than lucrative, but profoundly fulfilling in other ways. I want my children to be able to live free of the pressure to have everything that everyone else has. Most of us won't get to have everything we want, and accepting substitutes is a big help towards living with that reality.

Whelp, that's it for grocery shopping in July.


  1. Well, if example is the best teacher, your family sees one of the best in finding less expensive ways to do things. You certainly model that behavior well. I'm not surprised your daughters are figuring it out too.

    I noticed one of your freebies was Mt. Dew Kick Start. Is that like Red Bull? Mt. Dew already has the most caffeine in it of any regular soft drink. I wonder what they do to kick start it?

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Kick Start has has caffeine, coconut water and fruit juice added to soda. I don't know if it's any good. I was thinking of giving this can to someone I know who does drink things like Redbull. It would be way too much caffeine for me. I take the freebies, then figure out afterward what to do with them. Like the week I got cat food (no cats, here). I suppose I should NOT take them, and help the store in choosing things I'd like better, by making my preferences known. But I think the store has little choice over what's a freebie and what's not. I think these products are mostly promotional/new items. Most of them are products I'd never heard of before.

  2. Lili, Have you ever tried Aldi's graham crackers? I think* they retail for $1.49 or $1.79 the usual, large box. Also, can you share the sloppy joe recipe using ketchup? TIA Carol in CT

    1. Hi Carol,
      We don't ave Aldi here, unfortunately. But that's a great tip for anyone living near that chain!
      I'll find that sloppy Joe recipe. It's in my email somewhere.

  3. I calculated my grocery (all inclusive) spending for July and it was a whopping $800 and little bit. but this included some grocery deals and I stocked up a bit for two kids to start living in their own apartments. Non-perishable foods that can be stored for a few weeks so about $145 less on one grocery trip and then a few smaller groceries totalling about $30 each so I'm guessing my costs were about $595 which is within what I budget for each month.

    I'm like Lili in that I don't buy all the pre-packaged snacky foods nor ice cream or milkshakes just for a special treat. Make it yourself is my motto. Last night one kid what a rip open package of alfredo and noodles but since I don't buy them she found a way to make her own from ingredients in the house. My kids like smoothies at night during our hot spells so they had frozen a bunch of diced up fruit a long time ago and now use those in smoothies almost every night. No ice cream, just greek yogurt, milk, OJ and whatever else. Some even use peanut butter or chocolate syrup and protein powder. That's not for me! What I do like is a frozen chunk of mango or raspberry in my ice cold water!

    I will be buying a few more things this week for an open house/farewell get-together for my daughter who leaves next week. I already bought hot dogs/chili/buns but now I need to get a few more plates and cups. I think maybe some chips but I just don't know what else to have as a light supper.


    1. Hi Alice,
      Those smoothies your kids make sound delicious and refreshing, as does your mango and raspberry-flavored water.

      I hope your farewell party for your daughter goes well. Whatever else you plan for the meal part will be fine, I'm sure, as what friends and family really want is the opportunity to wish her well and hear about her plans. It must be emotional for you, though. Sending you hugs.

  4. Hi, Lili--

    Homemade milkshakes are delicious! :) And I think if we knew what was in the fast food versions, we'd be even happier to drink our own! ;)

    Looks like another good grocery month, Lili. I'm always impressed. We spent very little on food this month, making do using up what was on-hand, packing take-along meals when we were going out, and frankly being too busy to do a lot of fancier cooking. Some fresh raspberries and some cherry jam, given to us by generous friends, helped spice up our meals, too. :)

    Have a good week! Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      What a wonderful gift from your friends, the raspberries and cherry jam! I'm sure those items did indeed make an ordinary meal seem special.
      Good luck on all of your work. I can imagine just how busy you are, right now.

      Have a good week, too!

  5. today's detailed blog is very helpful, regardless of the level of frugality of your readers. We can all learn (or be reminded) frugal lessons from the information you've provided, both in terms of how one can stretch their dollars through careful shopping and/or making/searching for substitutes. Thank you!

    1. Hi Jayne,
      I hope its helpful. I sometimes wonder if I'm too detailed in my thoughts, here. Thank you for your kind words!

  6. $130.66 for a month of groceries is terrific, Lili. It takes a great level of frugality to meet a goal like that. It does mean more time in the kitchen, but it's worth it and it works. Like Amy D said, "to the core of my being I know it works". Great job. :)

    1. Hi Belinda,
      I'm working hard at putting aside as much as I can for stocking up, in late summer through fall. But you're right, it does take a lot more time in the kitchen. I like that Amy D quote. Sometimes that's all we need to know, that it is working for us.

  7. Great job, as always, Lili! I find it so frustrating that our Fred Meyer often times doesn't get the freebie stocked before the coupon expires. I think it has to do with customer demographics. Anyhow, have you ever tried the WinCo brand of graham crackers? I think they're a pretty decent deal (this time of year anyway) & I usually buy a couple of extra boxes & hide them for Christmas time when we make Hello Dollies. I like how you're gettting your girls to think about purchases. I'm trying to get my kids to do the same thing. Melissa

    1. Hi Melissa,
      I'll check again, but I thought I checked graham cracker prices at our WinCo. Maybe I missed that one. So, thanks! I'll be going by WinCo later this week, or over the weekend. What are Hello Dollies?
      The problem I've found with our Fred Meyer and the Friday Freebie is if it's a good one (like the month before Easter with all of the Easter/candy freebies), they run out very quickly. So, when It's good, I try to get out early the morning the Freebie is issued. Will your Fred Meyer make a substitution? I've asked them to do that for me a couple of times, and they've been happy to, for the most part.

    2. Hello Dollies are another name for seven layer or magic bars. They're expensive to make with the nuts, chocolate & butterscotch chips, coconut & condensed milk, but they're a tradition of my husband's family. They go together easily & they're always a huge hit. Yes, I have had Fred's make a sub on one of those freebies (a manager did it for me once), but a lot of times a store worker just says, "Sorry, never got it in." More often than not, I don't really care about whatever it is. It's stuff I normally don't buy (I know you don't either), but it's kind of nice to have that stuff to stick in a gift or as stocking stuffers. Another thing is those freebies can be ridiculously hard to find, so I often run out of time & give up. Melissa

    3. Oh, I know those! I'd never heard the name Hello Dollies. Yes, they are expensive to make. I've only made them a couple of times. I make a substitute condensed milk, and have used homemade graham crackers, in the past. They would be a nice gift at the holidays, even as stocking stuffers, individually wrapped, for my kids, in lieu of candy.

      I get it. I sometimes can't find the freebies either. The week they had the gatorade bars, it took me about 30 minutes just to find them. The cashier said she didn't think they'd even gotten them in, as no one was able to find them. I did notice last week, when the freebie was the sparkling iced tea, they had a large display right at the door. Maybe they only do that when they get enough stock.

      Thanks for enlightening me on the Hello Dollies!

  8. I love what you wrote in the final paragraphs....So true. Just as you wrote so well, good paying AND fulfilling jobs are not a given, so learning how to live on less will open vistas not otherwise available....not the other way around, which may or may not end well.

    I haven't figured our July spending. It is never a true reflection for just the two of us since we buy everything for my father, and have the grandkids over on weekends and vacation. I shift some dollars out of our food spending onto their spending columns, just to arrive at a ballpark spending for us, and have an estimate on how much of spending is on our grandkids. That way, I am fully aware and willing when we make our commitments, that is we are not doing it blindly. Spending on our grandkids should be with our eyes wide open, are we making good use of dollars there too?


    1. Hmmmm...not clearly said. I meant that if you don't learn to live on less, you are trapped having fewer job choices, because you would then have to take jobs that you don't like but do it only for the money. Is that what you meant? This is so obvious, buy many don't think it is possible. Easier to grow the pie, than shrink one's appetite....or so it seems. But I as well as you, think shrinking one's appetite is the easier, safer, saner...


    2. Hi YHF,
      Yeah, both my daughters chose career fields that aren't exactly lucrative. So, if they want to do things like travel or have a nice home, they'll have to make sacrifices somewhere. And the grocery budget is an area most folks can cut back, and save some money. But the idea of finding substitutes also works with clothing. You see something in a magazine or in a store that you like, then find a way to replicate it, for a fraction of the original cost.

  9. Lili,
    What a wonderful month you had with your shopping. Your always do so well finding great deals. This month
    we had a few of the meal boxes with all the dinner stuffs and the directions at our door. ONE was FREE
    and the other was deeply discounted. My daughter tried a starter box and had a coupon code. This saved us lots of money and I got to try some new dishes win win. If I was very wealthy I might use this service. It was a lot of fun and we found some new dishes we really like.

    1. Hi Patti,
      I've seen those meal boxes advertised. It's a great business idea. Does each box make one meal? I'm glad your daughter found the coupon codes for these. A nice diversion from "regular" cooking for the two of you.


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