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Thursday, August 31, 2017

August 2017 Grocery Spending Journal

Surplus from last month, $80.27.

Aug. 6. After church a quick stop in at Albertson's for a few very basic necessities. I bought 1 small jar of peanut butter ($1.99), a dozen eggs ($1.39), 1 gallon of whole milk ($1.79), a loaf of bread ($1.50), a large head of Romaine lettuce (99 cents), and 3 bunches of bananas (about 15) for $3.26. Total spent $10.92.

This should get us through several days. I hope to go grocery shopping on Wednesday and do a good stock-up.

Aug. 9. Fred Meyer -- I'm going out of town for a week and I want to leave a good stock of easy to fix foods behind. This won't be cheap! I find a large box of mixed variety donuts on markdown for $2.29, a package of hot dog buns (for tonight's dinner) for $1.25, 2 loaves of wheat bread for 89 cents each, large bag of tortilla chips for $1.25, package of hot dogs for 89 cents, package of Black Forest lunchmeat ham for $3.49, 2 dozen eggs for 79 cents/dozen, 5 jars of peanut butter (1 free with coupon, 4 for $1.49 each), 2 chicken strip frozen dinners for $1.29 each, 2 Marie Callendar frozen turkey pot pies for $2.50 each, a large veggies tray marked down to $4.99, and a smaller veggies tray with dip for $4.49, a deli bean, pepper and salsa dip bowl for $5.99, a box of frozen fish sticks for $5.79, a bottle of Ranch salad dressing for $1.67, a large bottle of vegetable oil for $2.29,  half-gallon of skim milk marked down to 89 cents, a 5-lb bag of carrots for $2.99, about a dozen bananas for 59 cents/lb. Total spent -- $57.14

A lovely facebook friend sent me a 10% off Friends and Family coupon (Thank you!) which I had every intention to use today. I printed it out (along with some other papers), put the coupon and other papers into my purse as I was getting ready to leave. At the last minute, I grabbed my purse and saw all of those other papers and thought "I don't need those with me right now, I'll leave them on the bed." Well, of course, I'd forgotten about the coupon until I drove into the FM parking lot. At that point I figured it would cost me about as much in gas as I'd save with the coupon, and I was short on time. So I missed out on using that coupon. Frustrating.

Spent for the month, so far -- $68.06

Aug. 21
When I got home there were actually a few things left from the convenience items I had bought, even a couple of donut halves -- kind of stale, but a quick zap in the microwave and a stale maple bar becomes edible. I do need to get out for a good stock-up of basics and produce. I decided to go to Cash & Carry, where I splurged on produce. I bought a 5-lb bag of frozen green beans ($3.89), 3-pack of celery ($1.32), 4 lbs of strawberries ($6.28), 3 lbs of red grapes ($4.28), 4 bundles of bananas (49 cents/lb), 2 heads of Romaine lettuce ($1.49 each), 3 pack of English cucumbers ($3.37), head of green cabbage ($1.18), 5 lb bag of baby red potatoes ($4.78), 32 oz of frozen cranberry juice concentrate, enough to make a gallon of cranberry juice ($1.99), an institutional-size can of Stagg chili ($9.87), 5 lbs of frozen beef meatballs ($11.89), 5 lb block of mild cheddar cheese ($11.69), 2 gallon box of 2% milk ($4.87), 12-pack of hoagie rolls ($2.72), 1 gallon of soy sauce ($5.69). Total spent $81.23.

What a contrast in shopping weeks, right? I came home from my week away determined to eat as healthy as I can, even if it means spending more on produce than I would normally. And I also wanted to build in some conveniences, and that's where the hoagie rolls, canned chili and pre-made meatballs come in. The chili weighs about 6 lbs. It could easily feed our entire family for 3 meals, with maybe a little leftover, and very little work for me. I have this can tucked away in a closet for now. My plan is to pick up several institutional-size cans of chili, soup or stew this summer and fall, to make for easy meals later on. The meatballs will be added to some homemade marinara sauce, pre-made in large batches, and kept in the freezer, for spaghetti and meatballs or meatball subs (with the hoagie rolls, already tucked in the freezer). The hoagie rolls will serve as buns for pizza subs, meatball sandwiches and a base for garlic bread. I froze them so they wouldn't get gobbled up as snacks.  The baby red potatoes were a real splurge for me, at almost $1 per pound. But again, these are a convenience item. They are pre-scrubbed, small, and ready to give a quick rinse, prick and microwave. One or two of them are just right for a quick addition to my lunches, or chopped and added to an otherwise meager dinner if topped with some butter, or added to a salad. And I wanted them.

I had wanted to pick up some cocoa powder, but at Cash & Carry it's overpriced unless you buy a 5-lb bag. So I also made a stop at Trader Joe's, where I bought a 9 oz canister of cocoa powder ($2.49) plus a 1 lb package of applewood smoked bacon ends and pieces for $4.49. I also enjoyed tasty samples and free coffee.  Total spent $6.98.

Total spent for the month so far -- $156.27

Aug. 26 Running errands, spending time with one daughter, going to the farmer's market (way overpriced, here), window shopping, we stopped by Fred Meyer to pick up whole chickens on sale for 87 cents/lb. I picked out 6 chickens, bought 1 loaf of bread for 89 cents, and got a free box of Annie's mac and cheese. Spent $28.36.

Total spent for August -- $184.63. I had $230.27 available to spend this month, which leaves me with a surplus of $45.64 to roll over to September.

What I bought


1 package hot dogs
1 lb ham lunchmeat
2 frozen dinners
2 frozen pot pies
family-size box fish sticks
5 lbs meatballs
1 lb bacon ends and pieces
6 whole chickens


3 heads Romaine lettuce
45 bananas
2 veggie trays
1 bean, salsa, pepper dip bowl
5 lbs carrots
5 lbs frozen green beans
3 bundles celery
4 lbs strawberries
3 lbs grapes
3 large cucumbers
1 head green cabbage
5 lbs baby red potatoes
32 oz frozen cranberry juice concentrate


3 dozen eggs
3  1/2 gallons milk
5 lbs cheddar cheese


dozen donuts
4 loaves bread
1 package hot dog buns
1 large package hoagie rolls
1 bag tortilla chips
6 jars peanut butter
1 bottle Ranch dressing
1 bottle vegetable oil
large can of chili
1 gallon soy sauce
1 canister cocoa powder
1 box of macaroni and cheese (freebie)

It doesn't look like a lot of food, does it? We're still using up all of our surpluses in the freezer and pantry, and getting a smidge out of our very poor garden. I may go shopping later this morning, or I may just try and wait this out until Senior Shopping Day on Tuesday. For the month, I stopped at stores 5 times (with 2 of those times on the same outing), which tells me that I am not spending a whole lot of my time grocery shopping these days.

I hope that summer has been easy on your grocery budget!

Foods that we are now out of, and what I am doing to get by:
  • fresh milk  -- mixing up powdered milk from the pantry
  • sliced bread -- baking biscuits; making pancakes; making an occasional batch of focaccia, plain and seasoned
  • bananas, grapes, other purchased fresh fruit -- using wild blackberries, and figs from our trees
  • mayonnaise -- making dressings with oil and vinegar instead; using individual packets of salad dressing which contain mayo
  • eggs (not quite out, down to 2 eggs, so saving those last two) -- using egg substitutes


  1. Lili, it's so nice that you feel well enough to do some of your regular posting again. Looks like another good month of grocery shopping even with the convenience foods.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Thank you. I am trying to find a balance between pushing myself to do the regular things in my life and giving myself a break when the dark cloud descends. Overall, I think my outlook is improving. It helps that a certain amount of stuff just has to get done.

      For my grocery budget, I've been using up our surplus, which I would need this fall to stock up on canned/frozen vegetables. I'll either have to find money elsewhere in the budget, or try and be more careful.
      I hope your day is off to a great start, live and learn.

  2. You did well, Lili! I came in slightly under budget, even with buying corn for freezing and peaches for canning (our peach trees did terrible this year--one farmer told me our cold spring affected everyone's peach trees). Next month is a long one, budget wise, so I'll be digging deep into our food storage & getting creative the best I can.

    P.S.--Do you ever load other Fred Meyer digital coupons? I got 10 jars PB there this month for $.99 cents per jar (2 different trips--5 jars each, the coupon limit). I also picked up some snack items for my daughter's upcoming birthday for super cheap using the digital coupons. The Coupon Project does lots of good match-ups. I don't have time to research this stuff by myself :) Melissa

    1. Hi Melissa,
      I do sometimes load other coupons onto my Fred Meyer card, if there's something I need in the coupon list. I used to be better at couponing than I am now. Maybe in the future I'll get that aspect together. Thanks for the tip on Coupon Project.

      All of our fruit trees did poorly this year, except the figs. we had that cold and wet spring which just kept on, and now so much heat and no rain. But we'll survive. I'm glad you picked up corn and peaches at a good price for freezing/canning. Good luck with your budget this next month. You did well for August, it sounds.

  3. I love it that baby red potatoes are a splurge item for you. Much healthier than, say, Oreos!

    It was smart of you to stock up on easy meals for your family at home when you went on vacation. Yes, a little pricier than normal, but if you make it easy, it takes away from the temptation to eat out and spend even more.

    When my transmission died on my car last week, I got home and made chicken pockets for dinner (basically, cooked and sliced chicken mixed with cream cheese plopped into 2 crescent rolls which have been formed into a square and baked). I told my husband, "Wow, didja see how quickly I got dinner on the table tonight even after my crazy afternoon?" and he said that he was surprised I didn't suggest takeout pizza. Funny thing is, the thought didn't even cross my mind. I guess we frugalistas are just programmed for DIY. :)

    1. Hi Kris,
      Ha! Yeah, those baby red potatoes were a splurge. For snacks I like microwaving, then slicing and pan-frying in a little butter/oil. They are so delicious. And I love that they are something better for me than Oreos. I do also love sweet treats, but I make most of those.

      I love your quick-to-make dinner from last week. Those pockets sound delicious, and far more satisfying than a take-out pizza. Excellent job, Kris!
      Have a great weekend!

  4. Hi, Lili--

    Looks like a good chunk of food for the amount you spent, as usual. :) Hooray for you! You're my grocery-thrift hero!

    About the number of shopping trips you make per month.... I haven't been to a major grocery store (or any other major store) all month, due to a complex set of circumstances (which are unimportant). But although I always hate to use up a lot of my back-up stores, because eventually I'll need to re-stock them, as you said for your fall supplies, I sometimes find it's a fairly economical thing. Don't you find that you are sometimes very thrifty and creative with your pantry/freezer stores when you can't get out or choose not to go out until a more practical time or sale time? I seem to do that. I haven't added it up, but I am pretty sure I saved a lot this month.

    Take care! Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      I know you shop far less than I do! I imagine that the backbone of many of your meals is your supply stored away in the pantry and freezer. And yes, definitely, I am far more creative in my cooking when I am running low on some ingredients. I made a really tasty cole slaw without mayo a couple of nights ago. It was a success and a twist I might not have thought of, if I had had mayo on hand.

      have a great weekend, Sara!

    2. Hi, Lili--

      Your coleslaw sounds good. I made one once with a no-mayo dressing, and it was a really refreshing change (though I like mayo dressings, too!)

      I've been shopping far less than I normally do, and I didn't write it very clearly yesterday. What I was thinking was that even spending a little more per-item than usual, I was so careful about only buying what I absolutely needed to get through the next couple of days, and thinking out of the box to make it stretch and work with what was on-hand, I'm sure that the meals I've made this month have been much more frugal than what I would have made if I'd had the wider variety of options from a bigger shopping at a bigger, cheaper store.

      I find that sort of encouraging, actually, because we can't all always access the lowest prices or best sales. It's wonderful when we can, but I've been glad to see how frugal (and still healthy) I did with limited resources, too.

      In another couple of years, hopefully we'll have a garden again, which would have helped me a lot in this situation, since minimal fresh produce was one of the things I had to buy.

      Hope everyone will have a safe, fun weekend! Sara

  5. Everything sounds good!

    We are in that weird weather stage where we know fall is coming and we want to eat heavier meals, but it is still hot and we don't want to cook a lot. I think putting the chili aside is a great idea.

    1. Hi Shara,
      Oh, I understand the warm weather of late summer vs. wanting cool weather foods dilemma. I wonder how much of this is hard-wired (need to fatten up a bit before true cold weather sets in) or emotional (anticipation thoughts of pleasant fall occasions)? Whatever it is, I do this too.
      Have a great weekend, Shara!

  6. Hi Lili,

    I would say you did just fine in spite of your circumstances. Everyone got food when they needed it so that's the important thing.

    I'll tally mine up tonight. I'm sure it's not good but after last month, I just don't know. Last month we were eating through a lot from the freezer and needed to buy a lot PLUS having five people home 100% of the time, we went through a lot. Now we're down to three, have a lot of veggies in the freezer (it's full to the brim) and there's a little bit of meat in there. So this month was getting the other stuff that we ran out of last month.

    I did go to the Amish store early Aug. and there little country store had so much stuff nearing the date of expiration and discounted that I bought a lot of stuff. Things like peanut butter, stuffing, a couple of cream soups, etc. The stuffing was 2/$1.

    Kris, I also had my transmission replaced toward the end of July. That and my AC needed attention that turned out to be a costly affair. But it was cheaper than buying a different vehicle. Things like that really bother me due to the expensive repairs but since we don't live close to public transportation, we have to have it done.

    We drink our breakfast in the morning these days so we now buy lots of discounted bananas to freeze, grapes, mango or peach if the costs aren't too much, greens (we often can get a bag discounted!), oatmeal, chia, peanut butter. I don't even have cereal or eggs/toast for breakfast much anymore. Maybe on a weekend.


    1. It was going to cost more than the car was worth to get a new transmission, so ... yeah. I now have a new vehicle. My dad was a GM employee so, thankfully, I qualify for the family discount, which is substantial. Hoping to have it paid off in a year. I was hoping our car would last another year or two, but life doesn't always go according to my plans (to say the least!). The good news is ... my old car had front wheel drive but this one has all wheel drive--you know how awful our winters can be. I really hate driving on the bad roads, so hopefully this will make it less scary and enhance my safety! Only trouble is, the car is wayyy more techie than I am. Trying to figure out what features I am likely to use and which ones to ignore.

      I don't have a great blender, so I don't make smoothies very often, which is too bad, as my kids and I like them and they are a good way to sneak in a lot of healthy foods. Yours sound so tasty!

    2. Hi Alice,
      Your trip to the Amish store sounded excellent. You picked up a lot of bargains which will come in handy this next month or two. Sorry to hear about the costly car issues. Those are never fun. But now your car is in good shape for a while, again.
      Have a wonderful weekend, Alice!


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