Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October Grocery Shopping Plans



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I grocery shop with a monthly budget.

I start with the things that are low in our pantry. Those are my priorities. Once I have worked on filling those, I will make other purchases based on what is on sale.

A couple of notes about last month's shopping:

A reader alerted me to the fact that Winco has their own brand of Parmesan cheese, and it is lower priced per ounce than what I had been paying at Sam's Club. I bought 3 containers, which is equal in size to one container at Sam's Club (and a savings of $3). This is half the amount of cheese I had planned to buy, but now I will be able to add that in to Winco trips more often.

I didn't buy any pork roast. It was on sale, but at $2.49 a pound, I wasn't ready to commit. I realize I will have to either do without or up the price per pound I will pay for meat. If I up my price per pound for meat, we will have to up our grocery budget, or have even more meatless meals. (One of my readers just pointed out that it is on sale again this week--again, it's $2.49 a pound. I'm trying to decide if I will up my price per pound and buy two of these this month, as this is our favorite cut of meat).

That said, I actually did make the exception and paid $2.48 a pound for turkey breast (in the sandwich meat section) at Sam's Club, which we sliced for sandwiches and took on vacation. Normally I would not buy this, but we had eaten all of our hams and decided that this expense, along with a 5 pound block of cheddar cheese from Sam's Club (which we also sliced for sandwiches), would come from our trip expenses. We also also bought 2 loaves of bread, a bag of pretzel sticks, and treated the children to ice cream cones while on vacation (also vacation expenses).

While on vacation, I used a gift card to a store that I had from a few years back (we don't have that store here). I was able to get a bottle of face lotion, 3 dozen eggs, and some candy with that. If I can keep the candy hidden long enough, it will go in my husband's Christmas stocking. (He knows I have it, so that may not work!)

I never did see a good sale on sour cream, so we went without.

We did not go through our oil or our margarine last month (some months we go through more than others, depending on what we have) so while I will continue to buy oil, as our supplies are still low (I want to build it back up to a year's supply of oil), I will put off buying margarine unless we really need some.


I bought pears last month to can at .25 a pound. I bought 72 pounds of pears for $18. These are still green in the fridge. I'll bring them out to ripen and can this week.

This month, the supplies that I see low are the following:


Pantry:

Tomato Bullion

Oil

Salt

Parmesan cheese

Brown sugar


Non-Food Items:

Baby Wipes

Bleach


Fresh Food:

Potatoes

Apples

Carrots

Milk

Mozzarella Cheese

Eggs

Halloween candy (not really fresh food or a non-food item, but it won't be sitting around in the pantry!)


I'll be watching blogs for deals on Halloween candy. We don't have a large number of children come through our neighborhood, so three small bags of candy is usually enough for us at home. We will also have a church trunk or treat, so I'll need additional candy for that. There are certain to be sales and coupons for these. However, I may end up buying the least expensive bulk candy choices from Winco, which are all $1.58 a pound, and include things like smarties and butterscotch. I'll make my choice based on what ends up being the lowest cost.

For October, I'll buy 30 pounds of potatoes. Potatoes will be a better price in November, and I'll stock up then. We've had lots of rice and pasta in the summer, but when fall comes, we are very happy to have potatoes again. For those who are new readers, check out my potato page on my website for information on how we store and eat potatoes.

I will look for another deal on apples, since they are in season. We ate the 40 pounds I bought in September. I will buy another 40 pounds, unless I can find them for under .99 a pound, in which case, I may buy more.

For the bleach, I'll be looking for some coupons and sales at Target for their brand (Up and Up). I use this to wash rags, clean the kitchen sink and inside the toilets. I still have a $5 gift card left to use at Target that will cover this.

I'll buy two gallons of oil. We didn't go through two gallons last month, but that's okay; by buying a couple of gallons a month I can build up our supply.

I'll buy two containers of tomato bullion, as we are totally out. We love this on rice; it's simply one teaspoon of bullion to one cup of water. Last month we had black beans with this rice and salsa (plus some cucumbers from the garden on the side) for lunch three times, and the children loved it, so I am looking to put this simple meal into rotation more often. (To season the beans, I mixed them with a little onion powder, salt, and a little lime juice). This option is much less expensive than buying tortillas and having bean burritos, since tortillas are .10 each, and with 9 at each meal, it can quickly become too expensive. For those who cannot find this bullion, it's the Knorr tomato bullion, and I buy the 4.4 pound container at Walmart. It's in the Hispanic foods aisle (the chicken bullion is there too, for the reader who was looking for it, but I just found out that our store has an even larger container of Knorr chicken bullion in the bulk section for .02 less per ounce).

I buy brown sugar in 4 pound bags from Sam's Club. I'll buy 5 bags for a total of 20 pounds. This is the C&H brand, and I haven't had any trouble with it ever going hard (Store brands go hard within a month; I don't know if those are beet sugar as opposed to cane sugar, or if it's because they have thinner plastic packaging, but there is a difference there. As a bonus, the ones at Sam's Club are still less expensive than the store brands during holiday sales.) Once the sugar is open, I put it in a container with a lid and a soaked brown sugar bear, which helps keep it soft.

The baby wipes I will get from Costco. I really like their brand; they are large, soft, sturdy, and aren't perfumed. I don't have a card there, but my mom does, so when I need some, she picks them up for me. A box will last me 6 months.

Winco has carrots for .39 a pound in a 10 pound bag. I'll buy one bag of carrots, plus the apples there.

I'll buy 4 gallons of milk, one of which I will make into yogurt using some starter that I have in my freezer. I may buy 3 more gallons towards the end of the month.

I'll buy 8 pounds of salt (two boxes at $1.10 a box) from Sam's Club.

I'll buy 5 pounds of mozzarella cheese from the Sam's Club, to use on pizza and other meals.

Albertson's has eggs on sale for .99 when you buy 4 dozen (this week). I'll have my husband pick up 12 dozen for me. They also have potatoes on sale for .20 a pound ($1.99 for a 10 pound bag of russets).

I'd like to buy as little as possible this month, so that I can have extra to spend in November. October is an important month for eating from the freezer and pantry. My freezers are much more full than normal this time of year, so we'll be eating from then to make room for turkeys in November and hams in December, and frozen peas and broccoli that should go on sale during those months. I really don't see a need to buy any items besides these this month (unless I find a really great deal), which will give me much more going into next month.

Are you planning to buy less in October to save up for holiday sales? For my Canadian readers, are you buying more in October during holiday sales?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments


My mom offered me some gourds that she bought from a farmer (in Oregon earlier this week). I was to choose 5 for myself, so I chose the 5 above and put them in a shallow bowl on my entry table.

I cut and brought in three huge bunches of basil.

I cut Armenian cucumbers and green onions from the garden. I cut up one Armenian cucumber and put it into two pints, and covered it with pickle brine from other pickles I had previously canned (that we ate this week) and put those two pints in the fridge.

I planted radish, beet, and parsley seeds in the garden. Hopefully these will come up; the other seeds I planted during a cool spell a couple of weeks ago never germinated, as the weather quickly returned to temperatures over 100ºF.

A wonderful storm came through and gave us some good rain. (It's now rained twice this month; this is highly unusual for here. Normally it rains one good day in January and one day in July, each for a few hours. About 5 other days  in the year are about 30 seconds of rain.) I turned off the drip system and sprinklers so that they wouldn't come on the next two days. I have never seen a storm like this in Las Vegas; it was like watching a summer storm over the plains states.  Even though it rains so infrequently here that the houses do not have rain gutters, I collected 16 gallons of rainwater in buckets to use to water my potted plants from below the valleys on the roof where the rainwater flows more heavily.

I was able to have the air conditioner off for a good portion of the day on Saturday, which saved about $7 in electricity. I am looking forward to the cooler days in the coming months that will allow me to lower my electric bill. In a month, we won't need to run it at all, but I will keep it off for as many extra hours as possible this month. A summer month of electricity is $13 a day, while a day when I don't run it (in the spring) is less than $3 a day. We still have several more hot days coming (it was 100º several days this week) but each extra hour I can keep from running the air conditioner will add up, resulting in a $100 or more savings on the next month's electric bill.

I found a book that I was planning to buy for Ezrom for Christmas in the clearance section of a bookstore for $2.99!

I used a gift card that I received years ago (but didn't have that store in our area) while on our trip to purchase a container of face lotion, 3 dozen eggs, and some candy (the candy will be a gift to my husband.

Before we left on our trip, I reprogrammed the air conditioner to 84º, so it would run less while we were gone (turning it off would have meant the house was over 100º, as it was over 100ºF outside. When it gets that hot inside, cabinets and door frames can be damaged by the heat). When we returned, I reprogrammed it back to 79ºF.

In the early mornings (when we returned), I turned off the air conditioner and opened up the windows for several hours to keep the house cool and freshen the air.

I updated my garage sale list in preparation for the neighborhood garage sale that I shop each October. I now have a tally of  how many of each item of clothing I need.

I worked out an arrangement to have piano lessons for Wren for trade. I will watch the piano teacher's children in exchange for a lesson every two weeks. Wren was wanting lessons and our piano teacher suggested this to us this week. My mom pays for a lesson for Winter and Liberty (every two weeks, rather than every week, to keep the cost down) and paying for another child to have piano lessons was not in her budget or mine. I will watch her two youngest while my other two have their lessons (our piano teacher comes to the house, so she can bring her children with her).

What did you do to save money last week?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments



I picked pears from the garden. I just had a few but I am grateful to have them.

I cut Swiss chard from the garden.

I mended 3 pairs of underwear.

I canned 6 quarts of pears from the pears I gleaned the week before last..

I purchased 72 pounds of pears for $18 (25 cents a pound). I put them in the fridge and will be canning them this week.


I cut branches from our pear tree to enjoy inside.

I made 8 loaves of French bread, a double batch of granola, a double batch of lemon poppyseed muffins, and pasta e fagioli.


What did you do last week to save money?


Note: I am spending time with my family the next few days and will not be able to moderate comments until late each night, so comments will take a few more hours than normal to appear over the next few days.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments


We enjoyed some rain on Monday. I collected 20 gallons of water from the roof and used it to water plants. The children enjoyed floating a few corks (it wasn't deep enough for their cork boats, so they took them apart and floated individual corks; I found the corks a few years back at a garage sale).

We enjoyed a beautiful rainbow and a wonderful sunset.

My husband was able to watch a football game online for free on ESPN3. He was thrilled!

I downloaded 10 free worksheets from Education.com (the limit for the month).


I printed a model project for school that I downloaded for free several years ago (a $10 off $10 deal while they were having the e-books on sale for $1 each; Scholastic regularly has these on sale for $1 each) for school. Ezrom made the model above from this book.



We showed Grandpa what Ezrom was learning about the Pueblo Indians, and since my parents had recently been to see the real thing, my dad came over to show the children some photographs they had taken there, and to teach a lesson about the people.

I was able to glean pears. I made a batch of pear butter.

There is a picture that my husband has liked for a long time. I ordered a poster of the image from All Posters.com. I went through Ebates first for 12% cash back, plus a 30% off coupon code. I paid for the whole thing with money I made through taking Pinecone Research surveys.

I canned 17 pints of dill pickles with the cucumbers from our garden.

We celebrated Liberty's birthday this week. I hung the banner that I had made for Cyrus' birthday. I made her a necklace, and also gifted her one of my old necklaces. I also made her some bookmarks. Her other gifts were much more than we usually spend for birthdays, but something she had long looked forward to: she got her ears pierced and she received her own set of scriptures. For dessert, I made brownies from scratch (I'll be making some adjustments and testing these several more times, and then they'll be up on the website!) and topped them with small white chocolate frogs. I didn't get any pictures, though! We had a great time and had her grandparents over for lunch and the party.

Blouse: free from clothing exchange. Sweater: purchased this week at a garage sale for .25. Skirt: gift from youth leader, from the thrift store.

Winter did a service project with her church youth group at the thrift store where one of her leaders works. Afterwards the leader bought each of the girls one thing from the thrift store. Winter came home with a beautiful skirt.

I went to a three garage sales on Saturday morning, all very close together. I found several books and articles of clothing, for which I paid .25 each. I found a sweater for $2. I found a length of fringe for $2, two picture frames for .50 each, and a beautiful, amazing queen's dress for $2, that my girls loved at first sight; it fits my 6-year-old perfectly. I also bought a dresser and a mirror.

Earlier in the week I found two brand-new matching dust ruffles for $5 on a Facebook garage sale site. These will go in the same girls' room after I am done ironing them.

I set a few of the books aside as Christmas gifts for Ezrom and the sweaters as birthday gifts for Winter.

What did you do to save money last week?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments



I cut apple branches from the garden. Something about having them on this table makes me feel immensely rich. I definitely need to cut some more often.



I cut zinnias from the garden.

I cut basil, red noodle beans, and Armenian cucumbers from the garden.

The children watched a few episodes of Little Einsteins for free on Disney Junior. I printed coloring pages for them from the same site. I printed free dot to dot pages from this week's Dover Children's Sampler and free coloring pages from here.

I listed a couple of items on a Facebook garage sale page and sold both the same day. This has encouraged me to get rid of some other items that are going unused and taking up space. I have decided to set a rather large goal of selling enough stuff to buy matching bookcases for the other side of the library! It might take me a while with some items only being $1 each (I'm planning on listing some children's clothing, among other things) but if I can do this, my house will be cleaner, definitely less cluttered, and I'll have a room that I have dreamed about most of my life.

We added to our emergency fund this week.

Underwater volcano experiment: sand, water, and the wax from a tea light, which melts like magma and pushes up through the wax to the surface of the water.

I cooked a large pot of black beans this week, from which we ate for several different meals, including black bean burgers, and rice and beans (twice).

I coked a pot of lentils to make lentil tacos. I made enough for us to have them again another time and froze those.

We made blueberry muffins,

I made French bread.

My husband cut his hair and the boys' hair. He also blew out the coils on the back of the fridge, which keeps it running better and longer.

Winter made a gift for a friend using supplies that we already had on hand.

What did you do last week to save money?

Monday, September 1, 2014

September Grocery Shopping Plans



I grocery shop with a monthly budget.

I start with the things that are low in our pantry. Those are my priorities. Once I have worked on filling those, I will make other purchases based on what is on sale.

This month, the supplies that I see low are the following:

Pantry:

Vegetable oil (Note: the oil I buy has 0 grams of trans-fats)

Powdered milk

Mayonnaise

Rice

Salt


Non-Food Items:

Toilet paper

Oxi-Clean Stain Remover Refill Bottles


Fresh Food:

Milk

Eggs

Margarine (Note: the margarine I buy has 0 grams of trans-fats and 6 grams of fat per serving)

Apples

Sour Cream


I'll be making a trip to Sam's Club to purchase toilet paper. We price toilet paper by the length, not by the roll, as some rolls are twice as long as others. The cheapest toilet paper we have found is POM from Sam's Club. Sam's Club started sent out sales fliers, where they are reducing the price of items for 3 weeks. Those items have a limit on how many you can purchase at that price. This toilet paper is on sale for $4 off a box, with a limit of 3 boxes (through the 21st). $12 off my budget makes this item definitely worth stocking, even though I'm not real low on this item.

I will be buying 2 containers of Parmesan cheese while they are on sale ($1.75 off, limit 2). I will buy a 64 ounce container of mayonnaise, 25 pounds of rice, and 4 pounds of salt at Sam's Club.

While the lowest way to purchase powdered milk is in bulk, my priority right now is making sure that we have more in the pantry, so I will be purchasing a smaller amount locally. I prefer instant powdered milk (as opposed to non-instant; you can read more about why and how I use powdered milk here). I will be buying the Kroger brand (from Smith's) in the biggest box they carry (4.4 pounds), and price will determine how many boxes I buy, but I hope to buy 2 or 3 boxes this month. California produces 1/5 of the nation's milk, and with the drought, I expect prices on milk will continue to rise (they rose 7.5% since last year). This will help us to fight inflation. Right now we are still using powdered milk I purchased in 2009, at a much lower price.

I will buy 2 gallons of Great Value vegetable oil and 2 refill bottles of stain remover (I have two 50 cent coupons for the stain remover) at Walmart. (update: Our Target now carries these and they are on sale this week for $4.74. I will be switching this item to my Target list, since Target seems to have sales on these types of items more often than Walmart. I ended up buying these at Target).

I'll make a trip to Winco to buy margarine. I buy the 3 pound tubs of Gold and Soft for $2.48 a tub. Once in a while I can find a coupon to make these about 50 cents lower, and sometimes they go on sale (note: they are currently on sale for $2.26) . I will purchase 4 tubs.

I will buy a few gallons of fresh milk at either Sam's Club or Winco. I'll make yogurt with one of these using some starter I saved in the freezer last time.

I will watch for a deal on eggs before buying any. We still have a few in the fridge that I will use sparingly in baking until the next sale.

With the money that is left, I will look for sales on pork roast and apples, both of which are usually on sale in September (note: Winco has Gala apples for .98 a pound. I purchased a bushel box, which was 38 pounds. These will be good in the fridge for months, if they aren't eaten before then). I also realize there is a possibility of seeing a case-lot sale in September. I will wait to purchase the powdered milk until later in the month, when Smith's is likely to have these items on sale, so that I just make one trip there.

I'll watch for a sale on sour cream. Lately, Alberston's has had the best sales on this. I wait until it is on sale for $1 a pound. My husband's office is in the same parking lot, so if this goes on sale, I'll have him walk over and get some for me.

I will watch Totally Target to see if there are any toiletry deals on items that I use that are worth stocking. The tampon deal at Target this week looks good; Target and Winco are in the same parking lot, so I will make one trip for both stores. I will take reusable bags to both stores; Target gives 5 cents off for each bag and Winco gives 6 cents off for each bag. I may make a second trip to Target later in the month if I see any great deals. Both of these stores are just a few blocks away, so it's not a huge expense in gas.

My new budget is $275 a month. Since I decided to stock up on butter last month at .50 a pound, I am $20.61 over budget into this month, so I will plan to spend $250 this month. The butter was frozen and will be used for baking throughout the next year.



Meals for the month of September will be based on what we have in the pantry, freezer, and garden. I have lots of chicken in the freezer (as well as some turkey, ham, pork, and corned beef--though I will be saving the corned beef until November, most likely, when potatoes are in season), and plenty of beans (black, white, and pinto) and lentils and mung beans in the pantry. I have frozen peas, spinach, and peppers, and a variety of frozen fruits, including peaches, blackberries, mulberries, figs, apricots and plums. In the pantry I have canned peaches, pears, grapes, tomatoes, tomato sauce, green beans, corn, pineapple, mandarin oranges, applesauce, pumpkin, pickles, mushrooms, salsa, beets and grape juice. I also have raisins, dried cranberries, dried figs and dried onions. I have carrots in the fridge, as well as some lettuce (I traded my mom 2 cucumbers and 2 pounds of butter for some lettuce today). Most of the frozen and canned food is from my own garden.

The garden is yielding apples, pears, green onions, herbs of all kinds (including an abundance of basil), Swiss chard, red noodle beans, and cucumbers.


My fall menu can be seen here. I don't follow this exactly; I base my meal plans on what we have and what is ready in the garden.

I don't have lettuce in the garden yet, but I will be planting some later in the month when the temperatures cool down (soil temperatures are still 10-15º too hot). That should mean lettuce in late October and November (I hope!). I'm planting Swiss chard seeds, radish seeds, parsnips, and beet seeds later this month as well. Our first frost can be as early as mid-November, but it is usually not until the second week of December.

The reason I can shop this way is that I maintain a well-stocked pantry (which you can see here) and freezers.


Notes: I already went to Walmart, Winco, and Target. I've bought 2 gallons of oil, 2 refill bottles of Oxi-Clean stain remover, 2 boxes of tampons, 4 gallons of milk, 2 large (26.2 ounces each) containers of Nutella (at Winco for $4.98 each in the front aisle when you walk in the store; I used 2 $1 coupons on these; they will be used on crepes in the months to come. This was a huge treat; I saw the coupons when I went to print the tampon coupons, so I decided to print them, and if I found a great sale I would use them; if not, I would toss them.) 4 containers (12 pounds) of spreadable margarine, and 38 pounds of apples. I've spent $93.18, leaving me $181.82.  Sam's Club will be around $80; that leaves me $100 towards some pork roast (if I see a good sale; if it's too high, I will pass) sour cream, powdered milk, eggs, and anything else I see worth stocking this month. I also have a $5 gift card to Target to use on my next trip that I got this time.

Non-prepared food is not taxed where I live; prepared food and non-food items are taxed at 8.1%