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Thursday, March 30, 2017

March 2017 Grocery Budget Journal

I am posting this one day early as I will have another post tomorrow morning. Anything that I spend on groceries today or tomorrow will fall into April's budget.

Going into March, I have $343.65 for the month (this includes last month's surplus, plus my allotted $190 budget).

March 3. Stopped at WinCo after an appointment in that town. I remembered cash, this time, but forgot my bags. I could have saved 18 cents with my own bags! Oh well, next time. I bought a lot of fruit this time. I am hoping that this will be enough fresh fruit for 3 weeks. It may be. I bought an 8-lb bag of oranges for $5.78 (72 cents/lb), a 5-b bag of fuji apples, and a 5-lb bag of gala apples, each at $3.48 (69 cents/lb), 13 bananas at 48 cents/lb, a 5.25 lb bag of tangerines for $5.98 ($1.13/lb), and 1.72 lbs of red grapes, at $1.47/lb. The tangerines and grapes were not on my list, but I really wanted some variety in our fruit. The benefit with the tangerines is that they are so small that 1 bag has a lot of servings, in comparison to navel oranges. I also bought 1 bundle of celery for 78 cents. In the bulk section, I bought .41 lb of baking cocoa, at $3.08/lb, .86 lb of raw sunflower seeds, at $1.70/lb, 1.49 lbs of raisins, at $1.79/lb. WinCo's white vinegar is cheaper than Cash & Carry, so I bought 1 gallon of vinegar, at $2.38, plus a 72 ct package of corn tortillas (also cheaper than Cash & Carry), and a 5-dozen pack of medium eggs, at $4.48. I could have done better on the eggs, by about 20 cents, and for a larger size, at Cash & Carry, but I didn't have time to stop at C&C and I was low on eggs. Even at 89 cents/dozen for mediums, eggs are a cheap protein source, and easy for other family members to prepare for themselves. When I go to Cash & Carry, later this month, I'll pick up the other 5 dozen eggs that I need to get through a month. For all of the above, I spent $39.10. It sounds like a lot of money, to me, compared to many of my other shopping trips, but I did get a lot for that money. I filled 3 paper sacks, and didn't bother bagging the vinegar, oranges or eggs. If I had also bagged those items, I would have had about 5 bags of groceries.

March 7. Senior Discount Day at Fred Meyer, 10% off all house brand groceries, plus health and beauty and housewares. Milk was on sale, and we were very low, so I bought 7 half-gallons of 2% milk at 89 cents each, and 2 gallons of 2% for $1.80 each. I also bought 4 half-gallons of orange juice for 89 cents each. Right next to the dairy coolers are the markdown bins. Today, there was a lot of bread on markdown. I bought 2 packages of hotdog buns, 1 package of hamburger buns, and 6 loaves of a variety of bread, all at 59 cents per package. In addition, they had raisin English muffins for 49 cents per package. I bought 2 packs. I don't normally buy bread, but these were close to my price for baking from scratch. I froze almost all of it to use during a busy week coming up. Also in my cart today, 3 10-ct packages of flour tortillas (89 cents/package), 2 7-oz bags of pistachios (marked down to $2.49/bag, saving these for Easter baskets), a jar of powdered pectin (marked down from $4.99 to $2.99, good for another 2 years), 2 8-oz containers of sliced mushrooms (marked down to $1.29), a 3-pack of green bell peppers (marked down to $1), Chips Ahoy cookies (freebie), Lindt Easter egg (freebie), almost 18 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, at $1.47/lb, 2 half-gallons of soy milk (on sale, plus used 2 coupons, plus got my discount, so $1.79 each).  Total spent on edible groceries -- $63.63.

So far, for the month of March, I've spent $102.73

March 8. I was looking at my packages of chicken breasts that I bought yesterday, and I discovered that they overcharged me. I dug out my flyer and double-checked. I did the math, and it was nearly $7.00. I knew that I would be driving right past Fred Meyer later in the day, so I tore the labels off of the packages (3), and brought those, plus my receipt and the flyer to the customer service desk. The lady was happy to refund me, not the exact amount, but a rounded up amount, of $7.00 in cash. So, that brings my spending for the month down to $95.73. I love the customer service at Fred Meyer.

March 10. We really need a few items from Cash & Carry (laundry detergent, paper baking cups, plastic cling wrap, plus some food items). I bought 50-lbs of brown rice ($19.67), 28 bananas (42 cents/lb), 10 lbs of carrots ($4.08), 10 lbs of potatoes ($1.47), 1 head of Romaine lettuce ($1.47), 3 large heads of cabbage, around 3 lbs each ($1.28/head), two 3-lb boxes of frozen spinach ($3.08 each). I spent $41.26 on food items.

So far, this month I have spent $136.99 My refrigerator and freezer is very full. I might be able to get through the end of the month with only buying eggs and maybe cheese!

March 22. No shopping, but as I was thinking about what is still on my want-to-buy list for the month, I realized that we were gifted cheese last weekend, so I can do without buying that item. I will be buying eggs on Friday, though, and maybe more fresh produce.

March 24. Stopped by WinCo (and I remembered cash, and I had put two bags into the car after the last trip there). I bought 24 bananas, at 48 cents/lb, 6.57 lbs of gala apples, at 88 cents/lb, 1 large bundle of celery, 98 cents, a little over a pound of raisins, at $1.79/lb. I received a bag refund of 12 cents. Total spent, $12.67. Eggs were $4.98 for 5 dozen medium, which was more than I wanted to spend on eggs, so I skipped them, and will get eggs at Cash and Carry, another time. I've been reading some of your egg prices, and $1 a dozen for medium seems high to me. We still have eggs, here, so I'll just wait for a lower price. At the worst, eggs should be on sale for 99 cents/ dozen, large size beginning on April 9. I may even find more frozen eggs, as I rummage through the freezers.

While shopping at WinCo, I kept in mind that my produce stand would be opening in a week, so there was no need to buy too much produce. WinCo had asparagus for $1.88/lb. I'll wait to see what the produce stand has for asparagus before buying at WinCo. Broccoli was $1.99/lb at WinCo. I'm pretty certain that I can buy it for less at the produce stand. We still have carrots, celery, cabbage, onions, garlic and potatoes, in the fresh veg dept at home. Plus canned tomatoes, frozen spinach, canned yams and pumpkin. Lots to work with still.

Month to date spending is now $149.66

I've been thinking about this budget, for when my son and his fiancee get married. I will be lowering this budget to $160, I think.  I know he doesn't eat from home as much as the rest of us, as he is often with Angie; she cooks for the two of them and they eat out occasionally. Even so, I'm pretty certain that we can manage with $160 per month, for four of us.

This is where the spending ends for the month. Woo hoo! $149.66. That's under $5 per day, or 97 cents per person, per day. I'm $40.34 under budget. I'll roll that forward in the surplus; this gives us a surplus of $193.99. I'll add that amount to next month's budget.

What I Bought

8 lbs of oranges
16.57 lbs of apples
5.25 lbs of tangerines
65 bananas
1.72 lbs red grapes
2 bundles of celery
3 green peppers
2.60 lbs of raisins
4 half-gallons of orange juice
1 lb of mushrooms
10 lbs carrots
10 lbs potatoes
1 head of Romaine lettuce
3 heads of cabbage
6 lbs of frozen spinach

18 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts

5 dozen eggs
7 half-gallons milk
2 gallons milk
2 half-gallons of soy milk

.41 lb of baking cocoa
.86 lb of raw sunflower seeds
1 gallon white vinegar
72 corn tortillas
30 flour tortillas
6 loaves of bread
2 packages of hot dog buns
1 package hamburger buns
2 packages of English muffins
14 oz of pistachios
1 canister of pectin
1 package of Chips Ahoy cookies (Friday freebie)
1 Lindt Easter egg (Friday freebie)
50 lbs of brown rice


  1. Have your son and fiance set a date for their wedding yet? It seems so funny to me to think of lowering my food budget, due to the stage of life I'm in. ;)

    As always, you do a spectacular job of shopping for your family. I think produce prices are lower overall where I live. Interesting to compare prices.

    1. Hi Kris,
      No date, yet. Doesn't it seem funny? I never even thought this far forward before. But life happens, and we adjust. One of the other odd things I noticed this last year was that my daughters buy snack foods and treats for themselves, with their own money, now that they work summers, full time and sometimes in the school year, too. That diminishes my spending.

      Have a great day, Kris!

  2. What a lot of goodness you were able to purchase! I'll calculate mine tonight.

    Kris, our three kids are all very close in age (right now they are 23, 22, 20) and it happened very fast that they went to college one right after the other. Our grocery bill is now based on two people for the most part. So it happened fast for us but a bit more slowly for others if their kids are spread out. But I'm still struggling to get control of my grocery costs. I help kids buy they food once in a while, I have them and MIL over for dinners on Sunday, I like deals so I stock up on meat, etc.

    When the kids were home and we lived far away from everything, we would eat my hearty meals--meat, potatoes, veggies, packed lunched, cereals for breakfast, etc. and all that cost so much with growing kids and busy lifestyles. I can see it seems funny to you. How many kids do you have? Ages?

    These days I no longer go into the aisles of cookies or frozen foods. I don't buy those anymore. But all my kids are moving home for the summer, even the teacher daughter who lives in Honduras so I'll have that full house again. I think my grocery budget will skyrocket this summer.

    I don't know who can contribute to the grocery budget but that might be necessary and maybe I'll even send the kids out to do the shopping. I'm sure there won't be any unnecessary items!


    1. Hi Alice--

      My son is 13 and is a bottomless pit, haha--I think this is typical for boys this age. Wish I had his metabolism. My daughter is 11. We actually live very close to a lot of stores so I don't need to stay super-stocked up on any items. My husband loves to garden (so does my FIL) so we have a freezer in the basement which is primarily for frozen produce and meat purchases on sale, although I do insist on freezer space for bread and ice cream. I bake most of our treats and therefore avoid purchasing cookies/snacks for the most part (I do have a weakness for the Aldi maple leaf cookies on sale in the fall ...) except when we are camping--I find that homemade doesn't last as well (it also takes more room to pack) as purchased items (with all their preservatives!). I am not as thrifty as Lili with my food purchases but I do feel that we eat well for minimal cost, and we do love to eat! :) Seriously, I feel like part of creating a "home" for my family involves preparing tasty food and all of us sitting down and enjoying it together. Now that my mom is living in town, we try to have her over once a week (usually after church) so that we can all enjoy a meal together and catch up with each other's lives.

      How fun that you have your adult children returning for the summer. Extra cost, yes, but extra blessings. Is your daughter a missionary? I remember returning home from college or visiting my parents over a weekend as a young adult and it was SO nice to have my mom prepare favorite foods.

      I like to observe people at a different stage of life to see how they handle life challenges and what works or doesn't work. So much wisdom to be gained. I had my kids later in life and am probably not your typical mother of an 11- and 13-year-old.

    2. Hi Alice,
      Will any of your kids have summer jobs this year? Maybe you could provide bare-bones meals, like the cheapest sandwich fillings, peanut butter or egg salad. Then if they want something more expensive, that's on their dime. Same goes with breakfasts, oatmeal or homemade granola. If they want more, they can buy it. Easter is late, so you should be able to buy lots of eggs for getting through early summer, if your kids are in the group that gets out of classes in May.

      At the very least, you should have extra hands to shop and cook. Maybe there are foods they can prepare which would save money, like take care of the bread baking. Or maybe they could take charge of a vegetable garden, or help your dad out with his garden. Anyway, wishing you well with this.

      I never go down the frozen foods aisle any more, and only go down the cookie aisle when I have a freebie coming. Same with cereal. I think that saves us a lot of money.

      Have a great day, Alice!

    3. Yes, Kris, my daughter is a 3rd grade teacher down there and is also a missionary partnering with our denomination! She really is a Spanish teacher but had a hard time finding a Spanish teaching job. Her minor is ESL so she can also teach English as a Second Language. She likes it down there but it is a very dangerous country.

      Lili, I hope my younger two will have jobs but my oldest (from Honduras) might not because she is only home for June and July and then returns early Aug. She doesn't make very much so I doubt she can contribute to the grocery budget. She has to raise her own support (like most missionaries) and she's not able to get to 100%. My son will graduate so he is looking for a permanent job and not a summer job. Youngest daughter should be employed most of the summer at her college. She manages the dining hall and she also has been asked to be a Resident Assistant in the dorms for a group of Greek/Latin students (for a week).


  3. I came in under budget as well. Although I wish I would have spent even less, I have to keep in mind that it was a 5 week month.

    I'm hoping whole chickens go on sale this week, as I'm low on homemade chicken broth, which I need for the week of Easter.

    I picked up the apples at WinCo, too, Lili. I only wish I would have bought 4 bags at the $2.48 price instead of just 2. I went back a couple of weeks later & the price had jumped $1/bag.

    As always, great job, Lili! Melissa

    1. Hi Melissa,
      I hope that you find chickens on sale soon. It's usually right about now that I see them advertised at their yearly low price. I was hoping for a price of around 79 cents/lb; but I think it may be closer to 89 cents, this year.
      I only bought what I did of the apples as I was afraid they wouldn't be juicy, but old. I, too, wish that I had bought more!
      Have a wonderful afternoon and evening, Melissa!

  4. I know that when my first son went away to college, the food budget went down a lot. From the moment he was born, he was always been a big eater. When he was home, we never had leftovers. Have you thought about what you want to put the extra money from the food budget toward?

    1. Hi live and learn,
      there won't actually be "extra" money, as my son will no longer be living here paying us a little rent. It's like when you think there will be all this money after a raise, only to find out your insurance costs are going up twice as much.

  5. I love reading about your budget though I must that it feels like a daydream number to me at the moment. I know this is in part because I don't shop as carefully as you, but also a big part is simply having 5 active kids (now 7 to 16) who are growing like weeds. At least I can balance out the food spending by saving money on clothing with thrift shop and clearance shopping. :)

    You got loads of stuff for that number--excellent job as always!

    1. Hi Cat,
      I think if I had a family of similar composition as yours, my numbers would be so much higher, double would be my guess. And depending on their activity levels, it could be triple. Some teens really eat a lot. My teens never ate those super huge amounts, even my son. My son just ate "normal" adult amounts, as a teen. And now with my husband getting older (I'm not getting older, however, ha ha), he doesn't eat nearly as much either. There will be a day, in about 15 years, when you will be amazed at how little you spend on groceries, I'm guessing.

      I will admit, though, that I just don't buy convenience foods, like packaged cookies, chips or cereal, or beverages other than milk and real fruit juice (but ordinary juice, like oj or apple) and generic coffee/tea. By eliminating those sorts of foods, I probably save $50 - $75 per month. Going on the thought of $3 a week, each for juices, chips, cookies, cereal multiplied by 4 weeks, plus more expensive coffee like bags of Starbucks, that's over $50 per month right there. If I felt I had to have K-cup coffee, that might put me up to $75 per month extra. Anyway. Whatever works is what matters. If a family can find other areas to reduce spending, then that is what works. This is the big area that we've found works for our family.

      Have a great day, Cat!

    2. We do buy tortilla chips at $1.19 a bag (Aldi) but other chips are a rare treat. Once or twice a month I buy one box of cereal (usually under $1.50 at Aldi) for an occasional weekend breakfast treat for the kids. Cookies are rare--we usually make them if we want them. We drink water, milk, coffee, and ice tea (Not me, but the rest). I feel like we've cut the fat but still spend quite a bit. My 9 YO son who is still in a slim size must be in a growth spurt as he is eating amazing quantities of food. The 16 YO daughter has slowed down a bit but the 10 YO and 12 YO daughters are more than making for it. :P


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