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Friday, October 23, 2020

October Grocery Recap

This was another expensive month. Are you finding this too, that your spending on groceries is far higher than usual? On paper, I had it all planned. Over the summer, I put together a large surplus pantry that I would supplement with some fresher foods throughout the fall and winter with a small-ish budget of about $100 to $150 per month. That sounds totally reasonable for my family. After all, how much can a few gallons of milk, produce, eggs, cheese, and a little meat actually cost each month, I reasoned.

So, in October I shopped in 4 stores, twice in Walmart, once in Dollar Tree, and once in Cash & Carry/SmartFood Service (restaurant supply). I spent $304.52. (Remember, this amount is to supplement all of the food that I bought for my emergency pantry. So about $150 to $200 more than I had planned for the month.)

Curious about this extra spending, I sat down and wrote out the reasons why I'm spending so much on food.

  • We're all eating 3 meals and multiple snacks each day, for 7 days per week. Obviously, we all must have been picking up food here or there, such as meals and treats offered at the office or school, or a midday break at Starbucks for a treat and beverage. Since late February, I haven't had so much as a single French fry from McDonalds, frozen yogurt Sundae from Menchies, or a donut from Henry's Donuts. Home-cooked meals have become a 3/7/365 thing for my household. 
  • I'm no longer able to shop at multiple stores each week to get all of the sales and deals. Instead, I am choosing just one store to shop at a time (except the week that I also went to Dollar Tree, as it's usually a quick stop) and buy all that I am wanting at that store, spending more on some items than I used to. Here's an example -- I won't be shopping at the year-end clearance at my favorite produce stand. I typically buy a lot of produce on that day, saving a hefty amount on our fresh produce for the next couple of months. But, that day is crowded at that venue and I don't feel like standing elbow to elbow as I pick through the apples. Instead, I bought 10 pounds of apples in bags at the restaurant supply, spending nearly double per pound what I'd spend at the clearance event at the produce stand.
  • I'm not shopping as often as I used to, so I'm not catching clearance markdowns on needed items, such as milk or meat. Instead, I'm paying full price on almost everything.
  • The least expensive brand on an item is typically sold out, now. As a result, I've had to buy more expensive brands than I'm accustomed. Example -- Great Value decaf coffee is $3.57/jar, while Folger's decaf is about $6.50/jar. I've had to spend nearly double on decaf on several occasions. Great Value canned pumpkin has been sold out since mid-August at my local Walmart. I broke down and bought Libby's pumpkin this week. I was still able to save some money by buying the #10 can at Cash & Carry, but it was not as much of a savings per ounce as Walmart's store brand.
  • I try to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible these days. I don't spend time in the aisles comparing prices, but instead make out a comprehensive list for each shopping trip and stick to that list like a fly on fly tape. I do make online comparisons as much as I can before I shop. But you often miss out on unadvertised deals when your only comparisons are made online before shopping.
  • We need treats. Face it, life during a pandemic is complicated for many reasons. If treat food can help us all in dealing with the stress, then that's what we'll do. I don't eat a lot of sweet, baked items, so some of our treats are foods like nuts, crackers, and pretzels, which all adds up.
  • I am feeding 4 adults while doing several other things each day. There simply isn't enough time in a day to make my own crackers and pretzels or other snacky foods. I bought frozen French fries this month, a processed food item that I would normally just make from whole potatoes. We could just always have oven-roasted potatoes, but back to needing treats -- French fries perked up a homemade burger meal.
  • We all eat a lot of fruits and vegetables in our household. A lot of fruits and vegetables. My garden provides for summer, but not much for winter with our appetites.
  • We're all being much more physically active, which results in larger appetites and more food.
  • I am trying to shore up our health with a larger variety of fruits and vegetables to get through the next few months. I think that I've bought more items like Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cranberry sauce, beets, and yams than I would normally buy in fall. Since my fridge space is limited, I am buying many of these items in canned form for pantry storage. Canned yams are more expensive than fresh yams in the fall. But they store on a shelf and not in my limited fridge space. 
  • It seems like there are fewer deals out there. Fred Meyer discontinued Senior Discount Day and their Friday freebies. There has been little to nothing on Walmart's clearance shelf. In fact, many of Walmart's regular shelves have been looking empty. At Cash & Carry, I got the last bottle of lemon juice that was on sale this week. Cash & Carry doesn't offer rain checks. So, I would have been out of luck had I not been at the right place at the right time. 
  • Many grocery items are more expensive this year. According to, the cost of food in September 2020 was 3.9% higher than the same month of 2019. 2020's food inflation is the highest it has been since 2011, when the cost of food rose by 4.5% over that of its previous year. While I moan about the current food inflation, it's really not that bad. The US hasn't seen truly significant food inflation since early 1981. From 1973 through early 1981, there were several years that saw double-digit food inflation. We can be grateful for a mere 3.9% increase today.
  • I think I am panic-buying food. I am afraid that I could run out of any particular ingredient in the next few months right during a period with high virus transmission in my area. Not wanting to run out for that necessary ingredient in an unplanned way, there is a part of me that is trying to prevent running out of anything. Now to qualify my fears, when I checked our counties "heat map" for most recent COVID cases, my immediate shopping area is right smack in the middle of the hardest hit neighborhood of our rather large county. In addition, case counts have nearly tripled in just the last month for this county.
These are not just excuses. Life has turned upside down with this pandemic. I've had to change how (and how much), when, and where I normally shop. The end result is a greater cost to keep my family fed.

So, since I know that we're all kind of curious what others have in their shopping cart, here's my list of what I bought (not with quantities, cuz I'm writing this from memory):

milk, cheese, eggs, beef, hot dogs, crackers/pretzels, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin, tomato paste, beets, corn, sauerkraut, spinach, green beans, peas, pineapple, applesauce, carrots, apples, a green pepper, broccoli cuts, cauliflower, mixed vegetables, blueberries, French fries, sugar, flour, salt, molasses, lemon juice, chili powder, ground ginger, curry powder, yams, cranberry sauce, graham crackers, cabbage, bananas, apple and orange juice concentrates, coffee/decaf, black-eye peas, toasted oat cereal, olives, candy corn, and a small amount of trick-or-treat candy (just in case) -- whew!

What I think will happen in November, December, and January is that I truly will not need to buy much in the way of groceries. My November list only includes celery, more carrots and bananas, oranges or mandarins, some sort of meat for Thanksgiving, sparkling cider, eggs, and milk. I expect that my grocery spending will be much lower in November than this month and last. 

So that's my grocery recap for the month of October. I realize there's still a week left to the month. However, I'm done shopping until November.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!


  1. We're all shopping a little differently these days, although I find when I'm not in the stores as much, there are fewer chances to do impulse buying. Even with a list, it happens from time to time. I'm not as disciplined as you are. :)

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Yes, that's an upside -- less time in the stores means fewer impulse buys. Thanks for helping to turn my thinking around.
      Enjoy your weekend, Live and Learn!

  2. My food expenditure is also higher this month as I prepare to hunker down over the next few months. Did purchase items for the holidays ahead. I don't want to have to go out of the Covid numbers spike.

    1. Hi Frugal,
      It sounds like we are of the same mind on shopping in advance. I've bought a few items for holiday baking and the main meal side dishes. Doing this shopping has eased my mind somewhat, knowing that I don't have to go out again, if the case counts begin to rise significantly.
      Have a good weekend, friend!

  3. Hi Lili. The grocery prices here in NE GA are the same. The prices are higher. Then there's the mask exhaustion. I have been depressed more times than I would care to admit. Since March 13th I've been making meals here as we decided to keep 13 yoa son here to homeschool.
    I had been overspending as well. Panic buying as you said. In October I had to put the reins on. I stuck to the 40.00 per week. I did run into Sam's yesterday and pre-spent on some items. They had a 6.5# bag of chicken breast on clearance for $7.91. I bought 3. I picked up a few items that we weren't out of but I didn't want to have to go back 30+ miles to get it again.
    I was in the middle of a pantry clean out when the pandemic hit and I was so unprepared. I have since purchased some emergency food items. We are stocked on that but I am finding out that I'm also having food cooking fatigue because I've been cooking day and night for months. The foods here, I'm just tired of cooking it. I hope this doesn't sound ungrateful. I am very grateful that we have it, just tired of trying to come up with meal possibilities. Thank you for sharing your list and information with us! Have a wonderful weekend!!

    1. Hi Lona,
      I can feel how difficult this has been for you. You don't sound ungrateful to me. You sound like I feel a lot of the time, simply stressed from all of this. There was nothing any of us could have really done to prepare for a pandemic. We plan for a lot of other types of emergencies, but not pandemics that have one to two-year lifespans. Try to find ways to be good to yourself, like an easy dinner from time to time (pancakes is what I made last night), or a peaceful walk, or listening to the audio version of a favorite book or favorite scriptures.

      Good job on the chicken breast haul. that's an awesome price and will be an easy thing to cook. And I agree, picking up things even when you're not out of them entirely will save time and effort down the road, especially as it sounds like shopping might be somewhat of a drive for you.

      Enjoy the rest of your weekend, Lona!

    2. Lona, I think we can all relate. Is there something you can do to break the monotony? I find getting outside, maybe with a friend, boosts my mood. Sometimes it feels like a lot of effort to go to but later I feel better. I hope you feel supported by us. That feeling of burnout is hard to push through.

  4. A few suggestions: have you looked into Walmart dot com for home delivery? If you order $35 worth, there is no shipping charges. While prices USUALLY are higher than in store, you are shopping from home. Items not found at your local WM (mine is not really a grocery store, it's pathetic) can be sourced via their on line store. Additionally, look for free trials/promos for local shopper delivery services or thru Instacart. Stay well!

    1. Hi Carol,
      Oh yes, is how I amassed a lot of our emergency storage late last spring, when I wasn't ready to be face to face in a store. I did find a couple of items were actually less expensive online at the time, while most were slightly more expensive. I was very impressed with When I had an item that was damaged (1 dented can out of a bundle of 4), they refunded my credit card for all 4 cans, even though only 1 was dented. I was really pretty amazed by how much I could buy online to be shipped to our home.

      I did the Shipt free 30-day trial through Target and Instacart's free first timer offer. What I didn't like about Instacart was the prices were marked up to cover the service, in addition to a service fee. Shipt was okay, but I didn't want to buy the $99 yearly fee to continue.

      I'm going to use the curbside pick-up for my next shopping in November. The one drawback to curbside pick-up is the purchase limit on many items, which means I have to go back sooner. But in summer, I used curbside and was pretty satisfied.

      It sounds like you've found a lot of options for yourself to get your groceries. Stay well, yourself, Carol. And enjoy the rest of your weekend!

  5. Lili...I think most of us are experiencing and feeling much the same as you. One thing I remember from your past posts is that you used to volunteer to serve at events and often got sent home with leftovers. Or found ways to get a freebie food

    item now and then. Those things are gone now. Plus, food is definitely higher now. And bargains hunting is not worth the risk of being out in public anymore than necessary. You never ceases to amaze me with your resourcefulness! I think we will all be thankful to have a stocked pantry in the coming months. I am trying to plan holiday meals and treats in my next couple shops.

    1. Hi Linda,
      Oh yes, I had forgotten about the fund-raising luncheons where I served (and as you recalled, I was able to bring home lots of goodies). Thanks for the reminder. I guess we are in a period where our options need to be limited for our health and safety. This too shall pass. I think that's a good plan to try and pick up holiday foods and treats very soon. I suspect that some items might be in short supply the closer we get to the holidays, in addition to simply avoiding being in crowded stores.

      Have a great day, Linda!

  6. While I haven't noticed a huge spike in prices, I have noticed limited availability of value priced options. And as you say, price comparison takes time and I try to limit my time in a store these days. All to say, yes, I'm spending more on groceries. I'm grateful we have a little wiggle room in our budget to allow for that.

    Having two high school kids in the house has meant we've had increased costs--cap and gown, yearbook, etc.

    I'm trying to look at this as a season of increased spending. I think it will level off at some point.

    It sounds like we are all in a similar situation ☺️. At least we can take comfort knowing that we aren't alone in what we are going through.

    1. Hi Kris,
      As I remember, having kids in either high school or college came with added expenses. But as you said, it does level off eventually.
      I agree, there is comfort in knowing we are going through this with others in the same boat.
      Wishing you a great start to the week, Kris!

  7. I'm with the group who has overspent lately. But I will say that I was in the same boat at Lona in that I was in the middle of pantry reduction (and a freezer reduction). My husband suggested we try to eliminate our deep freezer so we were headed in that direction. The pandemic has cured me of both of those. I couldn't get things I needed and shelves were so empty that I got a bit scared. I have overspent to fill that freezer and pantry once again as well as stocked bigger pantry in my basement. I also have a bit of wiggle room as well.

    I am not afraid to go out to get groceries but I am very quick about it. I don't browse and stick to my list. I feel like we would be able to live many months on what we have. I believe the home my son purchased said they would leave their little deep freezer. That is good news so when we move him in, I hope to help him begin filling that up so he has choices instead of shopping all the time. Same with his pantry. He has a Walmart rather close so maybe we will do a big Walmart pickup. He just can't be exposed as his work is in lab and research.


    1. Hi Alice,
      It sounds like you are very well stocked, now. I'm sure there's comfort knowing you have plenty. Those empty store shelves and lack of availability even online was sure panic-inducing, for just about everyone. Our generation has never before experienced this sort of situation, where foods just weren't available. For us, this was unprecedented. Older generations went through shortages during WW2.

      That is great that your son will have a deep freezer at his new house. When does he move in? Your a good mom to help him fill the freezer as he moves in.

      Have a wonderful day, Alice!


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