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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January 2017 Grocery Spending Journal

Dec. 29 (I closed out December's budget on the morning of the 29th, so this goes into January's budget) QFC, next door to the tire place, when I got my tires replaced. We found almond "egg" nog (no egg, vegan) in quarts for 79 cents each. I bought 4 quarts. Also found 6 bananas on markdown, for 49 cents lb (still in fantastic shape, but had been separated from their bunches), and we bought 1 apple fritter to share, to have with the free coffee and popcorn, at the tire shop for our "breakfast". Spent $5.08

With the almond nog -- it was delicious, and I wished, later, that I had bought more. I can drink this non-dairy stuff, so a bonus for me. But the rest of the family enjoyed it, too. As I told my son, if you're willing to try something different, you can save a lot of money, and find new treats to enjoy.

Dec. 29 Fred Meyer, looking for a plant to take to my father-in-law. While there, of course I cruised by the markdown areas! We found whipping cream in pints for 99 cents each (I bought 6 pints). The sell-by date is at the end of January. I also found slabs of the Pillsbury sugar cookie dough (pre-rolled out sheets, for cutting with cookie cutters), I bought all 5 packages, at 55 cents each. And I found brown and serve dinner rolls for 89 cents, to serve on New Year's Day. I thought these were a bit of a disappointment. When you bake from scratch, you become selective concerning what constitutes a good bread product. total spent $9.58

I know, I could easily make my own cookie dough for sugar cookies. But this stuff is freezable. I get called every few months to contribute cookies to coffee hour at church. I knew my time was coming up, so I figured I could do heart-shaped cookies, just before Valentine's Day. This will be a time-saver, and probably cheaper than baking from scratch, given the price of butter.

December 31. We stop at a market to bring ice cream to go with the cake I baked for my father-in-law's birthday. Spent $3.99

January 3. Fred Meyer for Senior Discount day. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are on sale for $1.47/lb. I bought about 9 lbs. I also bought a half-gallon of almond milk for $2.25, 4 bottles of bleu cheese salad dressing, on markdown for 71 cents each, a package of ramen soup for 9 cents (markdown) a head of cabbage at 49 cents/lb, a box of pumpkin spice tea on markdown for $1.69, a box of Yogi herb tea on markdown for $1.88, and a 100 bag box of generic decaf tea for $2.24. My freebies this time were a16-oz bottle of Ranch dressing and a bottle of some sort of nutritional drink Body Armor. I spent $25.66

Sometime in December, I bought some peppermint oil for making peppermint patties. I forgot to list this last month. I used a coupon at Michael's and paid $1.99

So far this month, I've spent $46.30.

January 6. I stopped at WinCo and bought 5 cans of Del Monte pineapple chunks for 98 cents each, 5 lbs of carrots for $2.28, some vegetable soup mix, plus tortellini to add to it, and bean soup mix for quick soups at home, enough for about 10 servings of almost instant soup for my lunches on super busy days, at a cost of $3.41, or 34 cents per lunch. I also bought 1  1/2 lbs of broccoli crowns at 98 cents/lb, 2 green peppers at 48 cents each, 5 dozen medium eggs for $3.98 (80 cents/dz), and 4 double-size, individually-wrapped fig bars for 98 cents. Can you tell that it's now lunchtime? WinCo is not near my home, but near where I had an appointment from 11 AM to Noon. Total spent $17.84

Also stopped by Cash & Carry and bought 10 lbs of carrots for $4.09, 1 #10 can of tomato paste for $5.29, a super large head of red cabbage (I'd guess it's close to 4 lbs), for $1.24, a package of 3 bundles of celery for $2.39, 16 bananas, at 47 cents/lb, 5 lb bag of mandarin oranges for $6.88, 25 lb bag of lentils, for $22.57. Total spent $45.13

January 8. At Dollar Tree where I find bags of Christmas chocolate candies for 25 cents each 5-oz bag. I buy 5 bags, to save for making s'mores. Spent $1.25

January 13. Fred Meyer to get a prescription filled for my husband, buy milk, get gas, pick up freebies, and use a $2 off coupon before it expires. Interesting thing, in our area this past week, with the big storm in Portland, the trucks that bring milk to our Fred Meyer stores haven't been able to make it, here. So, when I got to Fred Meyer, today, they were nearly sold out of milk, with exception to some skim milk. That was all that was left. So, I bought 7 half-gallons of skim milk, with the intention of blending it with whipping cream, which I have at home, bought on markdown, still good. The milk was 99 cents each, plus I bought 3 half-gallons of orange juice, same price. I picked up my can of refried beans (Friday freebie) and my bag of blue corn tortilla chips (Friday freebie). I also bought 1 lb of mushrooms on markdown for $1.79, and 4 bananas at 49 cents/lb. My plan with the $2 off coupon is to get myself some lunch. It was after 2 when I finally had time to take a break for lunch. I went to the deli and picked out some kale salad (56 cents) and chicken-cranberry salad ($2.30), plus I splurged and box an individual serving bag of Pepperidge Farms shortbread cookies, for $1.19 (I did refrain from buying soda pop, however, so I wasn't completely indulgent). After my $2 coupon, my lunch cost $2.05, not terribly bad, I think. Total spent at Fred Meyer, $14.43

So far, this month, I've spent $124.95

January 21. My daughter and I stopped and bought donuts, on our way to the beach, for my second day visit. Not the wisest money spent. At least I'll never wonder what a maple-bacon donut is like. Total spent $3.98 (yes, those donuts are almost $2 each!! Yikes!!)

Total spent for the month of January --  $128.93

I had a surplus of $60.13 coming into January. Add that to my budgeted amount of $190, and I had $250.13 to spend for the month of January. Having only spent $128.93, I now have a surplus of $121.20 to roll over to February.

What I bought:


26 bananas
1 head of green cabbage
5 cans of pineapple chunks
15 lbs of carrots
1  1/2 lbs of broccoli crowns
2 green peppers
#10 can of tomato paste
1 head of red cabbage
3 bundles of celery
5 lbs of mandarins
3 half gallons of orange juice
1 lb of mushrooms


9 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breasts


4 quarts of almond eggnog
6 pints of whipping cream
2 quarts of ice cream
1/2 gal almond milk
5 dozen eggs
7 half gallons of skim milk


1 apple fritter
5 packages of pre-rolled sugar cookie dough
1 dozen brown and serve dinner rolls
4 bottles bleu cheese salad dressing
1 bottle ranch salad dressing (freebie)
1 package of ramen soup
3 boxes of tea
an individual serving of a nutritional drink (freebie)
peppermint oil
instant vegetable soup mix ingredients, enough for 10 servings
4 individually wrapped fig bars
25 lbs of lentils
1 can of refried beans (freebie)
1 bag of blue corn tortilla chips (freebie)
2 individual servings of deli salad, plus an individual bag of shortbread cookies, using a $2 off coupon to cut price in half, for my lunch.
2 maple-bacon bar donuts

So, yeah, there are a lot of treat items in this past month's grocery shopping. That just shows you how effective stocking up on staples in the months of November and December can be. We had enough of the staples to get us through this month, so well, that we could afford a couple of treats.

Going into February, we're running low on yeast, whole wheat flour, vegetable oil and eggs. I will also need some fresh produce to supplement the canned produce. our supplies of meat are beginning to go down, with exception to whole ham and whole turkey. Guess I'd better get the roasting pan out again!

How did your month's shopping go? Was this as lean of a month as you had intended?


  1. Good job on your accountability!

    Well, we apparently spent more this month. I'm guessing it was to restock what we used in Dec. and were low on things. We were about $490 all inclusive but I did buy my youngest daughter her food to take back to her apartment. She was gone from her apartment since before Christmas so she needed fresh everything. $78 from that was for her.

    We also cleaned our the freezer and needed chicken and ground beef so we bought between $75 and $100 of meat we found on sale for the freezer. This isn't all used in January but it was purchased in January so it stays in the total.

    Because my totals are all-inclusive, I added in a rug I needed for my son's room. It was a lovely brownish with black and grey around the edges and was 5' X 7' for $21. A very good price, hubby needed razors and it was my birthday so there were balloons and flowers--all stuff that doesn't get purchased very often. So our totals were a bit higher but not terrible.


    1. Hi Alice,
      Yes, when you add in all of the extra things, the total expenditures seem high. For us, you'll notice that I never add in things like hygiene or vitamins. Those two alone would drive our expenditures way up. Hygiene items come out of the same budget as household cleaners, bathroom tissue, detergent, moisturizer, stamps, lightbulbs. I'm spending about $45 roughly on those items per month. It's one of the areas in which I'm trying to spend less. And any birthday items come out of a different budget, too. A rug might have come out of a design/remodeling budget for us. I did buy a light fixture for the house. It's one I had wanted last spring, but didn't buy because of cost. I received a $50 off coupon for this company, so I went ahead and bought the light. That brought the total cost, including shipping and tax, down to $99. I thought about trying to use that coupon on something that was right around $50, but it was that light fixture that I had really wanted. So I saw this as a way to get that light for less. So, if you added in all of those things, our expenditures would have sounded much higher.

      And by the way --- HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ALICE!!!!!!! When was your birthday? I hope that you were treated like a queen on your day!

    2. My birthday was the 12th and I was sick as was my husband. I was sick on the 11th as well and tried to work on the 12th but went home sick. My daughter called me for my birthday from Jordan and then we got a WhatsApp video from my other daughter in Honduras where her little third grade class sang happy birthday to me! Mom also went to the emergency dept. on that day for gallstones and subsequently had surgery on the 13th so they forgot as did my son. I called my birthday this year a disaster!


    3. Oh No! You need a birthday do-over, Alice! I'm sorry that your day turned out that way. I am very glad that at some point flowers and balloons were bought for you! Again, happy belated birthday!!!!! Wishing you a wonderful next year!

  2. Over the past couple of months, you seemed to have relaxed a little in both cooking and buying. You're still doing an incredible job compared to the general population, but not quite as rigid as you have been. Do you think that you are a little more relaxed? Has anything changed to bring about this difference? From the outside, it seems healthy. We all need to learn how to relax and not worry about things when we don't do them just how we think they should/could be done. This is something that I have to work on myself.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I am fortunate in that I live where there are a lot of shopping choices, with a restaurant supply, WinCo (which has fantastic prices on many items), a Kroger store (Fred Meyer for us) which gives away free items every week, and several ethnic and produce markets. Having all of those to choose from really helps.

      What has changed? I think I was tired of being on the bottom of the totem pole. I'm trying to find balance in my life. I was running both my body and my spirit into the ground.

      I've also found that it helps our overall budget if I occasionally buy a single-serving or two of a treat item. Everyone else in the family has the opportunity to have small treats through work and school, so I'm doing the same for myself, every now and again. It keeps me from feeling deprived. And now I know what a maple-bacon donut tastes like and that it's not as awesome as I thought it might be! Fortunately, I haven't needed as much at the grocery store this past month, so there's been wiggle room to do these things.

      This next month, I'm not sure. I saw beef was at a good price at the restaurant supply, this week, at $2.58 lb for top sirloin, but in a 14 lb hunk. I have to decide if I want to spend that much of our grocery money, and if I want to deal with the hassle of cutting this into smaller pieces. But that and the other things I need could really drive our spending way up for February.

      Finding balance is hard for many of us. I wish you well with that.
      Have a great day, live and learn!

  3. Lili,
    You did great again this month! You always find the best prices.I was glad to see you bought donuts. I remember when we got donuts from the Ralphs bakery we felt so indulgent. It is fun sometimes.
    Have a great day.

    1. Hi Patti,
      So, what is it about donuts? We bought donuts twice, this month; once with the apple fritter and the second with the maple-bacon. I should get the deep-fry pot out and make a batch of donuts for our family this next month. I think they are fun to buy, especially with choosing which one you want from an entire case of different ones.

      I hope your day is a wonderful one, too, Patti!

  4. I know that if I was shopping alone, my shopping would be a lot leaner, for example this month it would mean NO honey lemon ginger preserves (4.5 lbs), Kirkland brand egg nog (14.5% alcohol (4.5 L), lup cheong sausages (7.5 lbs)...This month was a disaster in holding the budget in. I haven't added up the totals but I'm sure it must be higher than most months. Daily we watch our pennies so closely (good frugal habits), so hopefully a little stocking up on husband's treats will not be offsetting. At the very least, these items were bought on sale with coupon, clearance, or using SYWR points, however, not buying these at all would have been better. I find it so hard to hold the line on my husband all the time. Maybe also, I thought it was time to be nice to ourselves for being so disciplined last year with a little loosening of the belt. Just not everyday and all the time!

    Have a great day!!

    1. Hi YHF,
      If you can afford it, then treats for your husband from time to time seem to matter to him. What if you were to mentally set aside a fixed amount each month, just to cover his treats? I suggest this not to help lower your spending, but so that you might feel more comfortable in the moment, with his treats.

      Also, consider that last year you were still trying to figure out how well you would make-out with a retirement income. You were intentionally more stringent with spending, as a precaution, in case it turned out that living on a fixed income would be more difficult. It makes sense that now that you have seen you can live on a retirement income, that you loosen the strings just a little bit.

      How are the honey lemon ginger preserves? What do you use these in? Is it something that you would feel comfortable making yourself? Just a thought, as preserves seem to be way overpriced for what they are, as are pickles.

      Have a great day, yourself, YHF!

    2. The odd thing is...I am the one who notices the bargain prices, so I am the one who asks him. Sometimes I think he is just being nice back, so he says "OK". Who knows? We've been doing this our entire relationship, someone needs to straighten us up so we don't waste our time and money trying to think for the other person. I know how much he enjoys his snacks, and he knows not to even ask when we're in the store (since I shop by a very precise list), so we play this game to keep the peace, I think.

      I told my husband long ago, that I can live on just beans and rice and he thought I was kidding, but today, I live on my bean patties, although they are now baked bean squares lol He, on the other hand, has to eat a variety of foods, so snacks serve a purpose in our otherwise repetitious diet. I think it might be a good idea to set aside a dollar amount for him to spend as he pleases, but we have never budgeted that way, ever, since every penny has been a joint spending decision. We're really pretty sad...codependent?

      The honey lemon ginger preserves are quite tasty store bought, and he nibbles at it while drinking beer. Maybe I should try to learn how to make it myself, but I doubt I could replicate the exact flavor that goes so well with his beer.

      Today, I bought a cheap "electro-sun dehydrator" from Savers for $10. I have been wanting to learn how to dehydrate our garden vegetables, so we can process the bounty swiss chard, kale and collard greens. Fortunately we've been able to share with our elder neighbors who don't do much grocery shopping and our son and DIL, but we still have way too much and our freezer is overrun. Have you tried dehydrating fruits and vegetables, or meats?

      You're right, it's been a very challenging year last year trying to live without a retirement benefit for most of the year. I am very confident, even with modest inflation, we are frugal and self reliant enough to provide most of our needs ourselves. Another boost this week was installation of a "Time of Use (TOU)" meter with our utility provider, that cuts our electric cost about half during the day. So our annual PV overage should be even greater, hence the dehydrator and maybe an electric car when the price is right.


    3. Hi YHF,
      As long as you are comfortable with how it works out, so that it doesn't stress you, then it's working well enough to not need fixing, I think, with regards to buying your husband treats. Knowing that this is how it works for the two of you may be enough to forewarn you each time you shop, so that it won't be a stressful moment.

      About drying fruits and veggies -- yeas I've dried a lot of both, but the only leafy greens that I've dried are herbs. I've dried apples, bananas, watermelon, plums, cherries, strawberries, orange slices, mushrooms, onions, garlic, celery. Dried greens might be good for adding to soups and stews, or even green juices/smoothies. I've never dried meats, because of my fear of bacteria in something like that. One thing to know about drying foods at home, it's difficult to know for certain if you got enough moisture out with anything fleshy, so I find it's best to still freeze those items, to prevent mold. The leafy greens you should be fine on, though. They'll be brittle/crisp when dried. Hope this helps!
      Have a great day, YHF!

    4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Good point about getting all the moisture out. I've read that it takes about 24 hours to dehydrate, so we're thinking about breaking the dehydration session into three segments, and popping the trays into the fridge between segments. If all goes well, I may want to invest in a good quality dehydrator, but thought I'd try out the process first.


  5. It sounds like you really found some good mark-downs, Lili. Our Fred Meyer never puts out bananas or peppers in the mark-down bin that aren't in pretty bad shape. I buy them anyway, but I've read that you & Mavis (One Hundred Dollars a Month) are getting some really nice produce in those bins.

    This month my modified pantry challenge went o.k. Not as well as I had hoped, but o.k. I spent a little over half of what I usually do on groceries.

    I did price match butter at Walmart when it was on sale at Safeway & Albertsons for $1.99/lb. The limit in the ads was 2, so I made several trips over the course of the week (Walmart is on the way to pick up kids @ biology co-op) & I bought 10 lbs. I would have liked to have gotten more, but I think I might be able to squeak through until Easter sales on that amount (combined with what I already had in the freezer).

    As side note, I went to Costco last night & ended up buying 2 of their take & bake pizzas for my youngest girls' birthday dinner tonight. I knew we were supposed to have snow overnight (we did & it's still snowing) & that today would be busy (afternoon meetings, etc), so I just decided that those pizzas were worth it. My time & stress level are worth something to me these days. Melissa

    1. Hi Melissa,
      At our Fred Meyer, I find bananas and mushrooms that are still in great shape but on markdown. It's the only way that I buy mushrooms, now. Having that option is such a treat.

      It sounds like you did well this month, at about half of your usual! that's great! Yes, butter -- I am keeping an eye on prices for that item and hoping to find an awesome case sale at Cash & Carry. We are running low, ourselves. It's from all of the baking and treat-making around our house. As I work through the freezers, I'll count all of what I have remaining, and make rationing plans.

      I think that what you did by buying the take and bake pizzas was very sensible. I don't know what those cost, but let me give you a comparison. In our household, we allow a $35-45 meal out for our kids' birthdays. This past fall, we celebrated my son's and his girlfriend's birthday, together, with a lunch at a casual Greek diner. We spent about $50 including tax and tip. I figured because this was for two family members, going over by a little would be okay. My two daughters' birthday is coming up in March. We will likely go out to a family-style restaurant, like a Chinese one. We usually split 3 items, and eat every last scrap, but everyone gets enough. Our bill is usually right around $40 doing this. We don't eat out in restaurants, for the most part. It's a choice that we make, so that we have more money for other expenses, like travel. So, for a daughter's birthday, I think you did awesome, Melissa! It could have been much more expensive. As this kept your stress at a reasonable level (getting kids' birthdays put together IS stressful), you were a happier mommy, which is a gift in itself to your daughter.

      Have a great day, Melissa!

    2. We are having a late start on our day today due to the snow, so I'm going to take time to reply. Those pizzas were $9 each. My daughter had wanted me to make an Asian noodle dish she loves (which would have been fair bit of work), but when we saw an ad in the newspaper for a local pizzeria special, she changed her mind. Their giant pepperoni pizzas are $6.50 each in Jan.

      But when I got to Costco & I saw those pizzas, I did a mental gymnastics game. Given the impending snow & the drive way across town for those other pizzas, I decided to just get them at Costco. I stood there for about 5 min. trying to make that decision.

      I felt guilty about going to Costco at all last night. I had planned to go sometime today when the new pay cycle rolled around. However, given the snow, I decided to brave Costco (with 2 littles, by myself) because I had the money and it would save me time & stress driving in snow today. I decided I will put that grocery receipt in my Feb. grocery expenditures.

      My husband & I are in the midst of making a big decision right now & it's taking up a lot of my mental energy, so Costco pizza it is for the birthday girl.

      Also, I took your advice & bought something for myself with that $50 Kroger card I won. I bought 4 new potholders for myself to replace our others which were falling apart. Then I spent the rest on groceries (including a $5 jar of green curry paste for my second oldest daughter's birthday pork loin dinner--gasp! That stuff is expensive!).

      Also, I'm so glad I bought a 50 lb. bag of onions for $5.48 at Cash & Carry. I now wish I would have bought another bag. I just read in the paper today that there is now an onion shortage due to the onion storage sheds in Eastern Oregon & Idaho collapsing due to heavy snow. Melissa

      You have a good day, too, Lili!

    3. Melissa, I hadn't heard that about the onion storage sheds. On no. I feel badly for the farmers, but also the consumers. There's always onion powder/flakes, through places like Cash & Carry. or Costco. Later this spring and early summer, dried onion products may be more cost effective.

      I think the Costco pizza made a lot of sense for you, especially with the forecast for snow. You did the sensible thing. And it really wasn't that much to feed your family, for a special occasion.
      Have a great day, Melissa!

  6. It sounds like you've had a pretty good month. Our January was a little topsy turvy because I was down from surgery, but all in all we didn't do too badly. We aren't officially starting the 2017 budget plan until February, but I've done most of the shopping for February with the exception of a Sam's Club run. I'm experimenting with once a month shopping to see how we do. I can say that because I haven't been cleared to drive (and won't be until mid February) we have done a better job of sticking to a there is a silver lining in everything.

    1. Hi Busy Bee,
      How do you think produce items will do with once per month shopping? I just didn't get to a grocery store for the last half of January, and my daughters were scrambling to find fruits and vegetables to take to classes with them. I felt badly about that. This writing class that I'm taking is consuming my time, so I haven't kept up on shopping. For this next month, I have ben considering just doing one or two big shopping trips and see if we can manage on that.

      I do think your shopping just once for each month will save a lot of money. When I think I'll just get one or two things, I always buy far more items, and they're often treat type items that we could have done without. I also like the aspect of saving time by not driving so many days of the month.

      I hope you're healing nicely, now, and can get back to all of your normal routines, soon. Have a great day, Busy Bee!


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