What I Spent, What We Ate

What I Spent

I went to the grocery store twice this week, once was more of a random trip to check out the grocery outlet/salvage type of store in town and the other was my regular trip to Aldi. I spent a total of $51.75 — WAY more than what I spent the previous two weeks. This brings my total to $82.85 and leaves me just $17 for the rest of the month. While I hadn’t planned, exactly, on this scenario, I AM glad that I went to the grocery outlet. I did purchase a few things that were unnecessary and fall outside of the dairy and produce categories. But…I don’t plan on hitting this store up more than once a month at most and wanted to take advantage of what I found. And the Aldi trip just reflected our need for produce. We’ll see how I do!

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At the grocery outlet I picked up a case of organic plain yogurt, two containers of organic cottage cheese, a jar of organic peanut butter, a bottle of chocolate sauce, two boxes of chocolate Moravian cookies (to use for a pie crust although Michael found them…) and a bag of cinnamon imperials which I can NEVER find here during Valentine’s day and they are one of my favorite candies. Obviously not everything was required, but for $10 I am okay with the splurges.

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At Aldi, I bought a bit more than I expected because of some sale prices and I picked up corned beef and coffee beans. Eggs were $.69/dozen, so I grabbed the limit of six dozen. I also picked up two bags of carrots ($.69/2lb bag), onions, a cabbage, bananas, strawberries, 2 pounds of asparagus, romaine lettuce, a large container of organic mixed salad greens, frozen raspberries, half & half, 2% milk, fake club crackers and tortilla chips. I also grabbed a pack of hamburger buns, which aren’t pictured. I  spent $41.75. Usually I get coffee beans at BJs, but the bag is expensive because it’s huge and I knew I would probably be tempted to purchase more than I needed. So we’re trying Aldi whole coffee beans, which are also organic and fair trade. We’ll see. You know I’m picky about coffee. 🙂 The raspberries were not strictly necessary, but I wanted to make smoothies using that yogurt and I don’t like blueberry only smoothies (cry me a river, right?). The corned beef was also not a necessary purchase, but Michael really likes it and it’s not easy to find at other times of the year, so…I indulged. And then the prices on carrots, eggs, onions, and asparagus had me stocking up. I noticed that quite a few items have reduced prices through 4/11, so I’ll be back next month to take advantage of those (cream cheese is $.85/pack). Anyway, without the coffee, raspberries and corned beef I would have been closer to just $20 for the week.

What We Ate

This week was not one for culinary wonders. We ate out quite a bit — a combination of birthday treats for Michael and then me just being totally off-kilter with my school schedule. It was mid-term and projects and exams took up most of my time. Our eating and my cooking was definitely kind of sad. As an FYI, our eating out budget is NOT the same as the grocery budget, although I do look at those numbers together.

Saturday: Vietnamese (out)

Sunday: Pizza (take out)

Monday: Tacos (take out)

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Tuesday: Cabbage Fried Rice

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Wednesday: Spaghetti with Sausage & Peppers Sauce, Green Salad, Garlic Bread

Thursday: Leftovers (Laura at class)

Friday: Bookclub (Laura), Soup & Salad (Michael)

One thing I realized this week was that prepping just a bit on the weekend really saves me during the week. This coming week is spring break and while it won’t be as busy as a normal school week, I’m really looking forward to getting some projects around here taken care of. That means that prepping over the weekend is going to be just as important as it would be during a regular school week. Also, you’ll also notice that my posted meal plan and the actual meals cooked bear little to no resemblance to each other. Ah, well. It was mostly an exercise to spark my interest and motivation. There’s a reason I usually post what we’ve eaten after the fact, not what we’re going to eat.

 

 

 

February Grocery Journal

I am really looking forward to this month. I’m proud of sticking to a low (low!) budget in January for our pantry challenge, but I’m ready to loosen the reigns a bit. Join me as I shop this month! In addition to regular weekly shops, I will also be stopping into my warehouse store for coffee beans, chicken breast, dried fruit, some assorted cheeses and some other items that are either best priced there or I can’t easily find other places.

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February 1 — I drive out to the other side of the city to Lucky’s Market. This is my largest haul from that grocer, yet. I spent $5 on four boxes of tofu (a really great price for this area), $.50 for a bunch of cilantro, find eggplant for $.88/ea (I buy three), avacados on sale for $.50/ea, and honeycrisp apples for $1.48/lb. I also grab 4 limes for $1, two bunches of organic kale for $.98/ea, and red grapes for $.88/lb. My total is $20.45. I used my reusable produce bags, too, which felt good.

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February 1 — I stop at Aldi on my way home an pick up bananas for $.44/lb, cauliflower for $1.99, mini cucumbers for $1.89/bag, multi-colored peppers –these were on sale for $1.49 so bought two, half & half for $1.89, organic milk for $2.95, 2 tubs of low fat cottage cheese at $2.29/ea, organic vanilla yogurt at $2.99, pretzel slims (Aldi version of pretzel chips) for $1.69/bag, regular tortilla chips for $.99, big dipper tortilla chips $1.49 and a small tub of ricotta cheese for $1.69. My total at Aldi is $26.31.

For the first week of the month (on the first day of the month!), I spent $46.76. I bought a lot of produce, which will definitely at least two weeks, and possibly into a third.

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February 5 — Argh. I leave shopping for Super Bowl treats too late. I had planned to purchase ready made wings but was a little horrified at the prices for a party platter. So instead I decide to make my own. Unfortunately, I have to shop at Publix since I don’t have time to get over to Aldi. Bummer because a 3lb bag of wings at Aldi is on sale for $4.99 while the same size bag is over $9 at Publix. I also need to purchase hot sauce, but am confused about which size is BOGO. My coupons don’t work and I have a TON of hot sauce on hand now. I also grab some salad dressing, dip and crackers, using coupons and rebates to make their final price not too bad. Still. My total is $32.48.

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February 10 — I stop by BJs after an earlier appointment. While out I received an email about some work that needs to be completed this afternoon, so I’m in a hurry. As a result I forget to get raisins. However, I do pick up everything else I really need. Dried plums (I really don’t know why we can’t say prunes…), coffee beans, boneless skinless chicken breasts, a large clamshell of organic baby spinach, crumbled feta, lots of peanut butter crackers, and grated Parmesan. I spend $57.73. Most of these items will last at least one month, probably more.

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February 10 — After BJs I also run into Aldi. I grab bread, bagels, tortillas, marshmallows, apples, bananas, green onions, granola bars, crunchy peanut butter, and three pounds of strawberries, which are on sale for $.99/ea. I spend $21.75.

At this point I’ve spent $158.72 so far in February. It’s a short month, with only two more likely shopping days. If I stick to basics, I should be more than set for the month.

February 12 — I need to stop by Walgreens to pick up medication for my husband. While there I pick up a bag of Santitas tortilla chips to go with the guacamole we have leftover from our fajita meal. I spend $2 on the chips.

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February 15 — I head out to Aldi, the Dollar Tree and Walgreens. At Aldi I buy a couple dozen eggs, which are on sale for $.89/doz. I also pick up cabbage, mini sweet peppers, 4 containers of baby bella mushrooms, green beans, mini cucumbers, potatoes, apples, carrots & bananas. They are having some fabulous produce sales and so even though I didn’t plan it, I stock up. These are all items I use either regularly OR use as much as possible when available. I also grab 5 cans of tuna (I had counted wrong in my inventory and we were actually out), a few boxes of mac & cheese, frozen peas, bagels, and raisins. I usually buy raisins at BJs, but forgot and didn’t want to make another trip. My total at Aldi is $29.50. At the Dollar Tree I pick up graham crackers for my cheesecake crust; I spend $1. I stop by Walgreens because I have some coupons that will allow me to pick up 4 full-size Snickers bars (my favorite) for $1. While there I succumb to the allure of reduced prices on Valentines day candy, too. I spend $2.23.

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February 17 — I have to run out to Publix. Right before my book club; not idea but a burned bean crisis and a lingering work project have made my schedule a little messy. I buy white beans to replace the ones I burned, frozen garlic bread, pasta which I get for less than $.40/lb with a coupon deal, grape juice, strawberries and cottage cheese. My total at Publix is $21.32 and I am racing home to beat the clock before book club starts.

At this point I have gone over my $200 budget — I’m at $207.22. I’ve also realized that the budget is going all the way out the window this month as I’ve just been notified that Zaycon will be delivering chicken breasts to my area on 2/21. If I want some, I need to get my order in ASAP. I’ve wanted to try this service for a while now, so jump on it. I pre-order one 40lb box of boneless skinless chicken breasts.

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February 21 — I have be at the pick-up site for my Zaycon order between 10 and 10:30 this morning. Luckily it’s just a couple of miles from my house, although they are using the parking lot of a church I’ve never visited. It’s a little confusing but once I’m there my pick-up goes really smoothly. The regular price for the chicken breast is $1.69/lb, but I have a new customer discount to apply, so my total for the 40lbs of chicken is $54.08. I also combined my errands and ran into Aldi while I was out — I needed a quart of half and half for my coffee (emergency!!); I spent $1.89 on that purchase.

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February 23 — I’m back at Aldi. This time I spend only $13.53 and am really only there for fruit as we’re really low. I buy apples, oranges and bananas. They also have green peppers for a good price, so I pick up two packs. We also need milk and cottage cheese. At this point my approach to my February grocery budget is “in for a penny, in for a pound.”

My total for the month at this point is $276.72. And normally I’d be done. But I’ve just received the Winn-Dixie flyer in the mail and see that they have smoked sausage and beef stew meat at a really great price during their “weekend sale” (they promote a few items at a really good price each weekend, only available for two days). So…since I’ve decided that I’m going to really focus on another pantry challenge in March AND since doing my freezer inventory has revealed a relative lack of beef stored by, I plan to purchase the maximum of each item.

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February 25 — My parents are visiting and while they and Michael are weeding the garden beds, I run out to pick up mulch and also stop by Winn-Dixie to grab the items mentioned above. In the end I take home four 14 oz packages of beef smoked sausage and 12lbs of beef stew meat. I know that some serious foodies scoff at buying the pre-cut stew meat, but for me it is a real time saver. It’s also more convenient because I can portion the beef into weights that will serve my two-person household well. My total is $42.27 and I think I am FINALLY done with my February grocery shopping.

My total for the month is $318.99 and I’ve gone over budget by $118.99. As I mentioned in a previous post about my budget…even though I allocate a monthly number to groceries, in fact I am working from an overall annual budget. Dividing that number by 12 just helps me keep a ballpark figure in mind as I shop. I’ve found that even if I go over some months, the months that I am under tend to even out over the course of a year. It turns out that using the annual calculation, I only need to make up $41. 26 in March. Normally I would plan to spend even less than that during a pantry challenge month, but I need to restock up on the protein powder that Michael uses. That will cost about $60. So it turns out that I will in fact be keeping a lean budget in March if I want to get my spending back on track. 🙂

  • January — $122.27
  • February — $318.99
  • March — $158.74 (projected)

 

Will I Do It Again?

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Today I picked up my Zaycon Fresh chicken order. This is the first time I’ve ordered anything through this company and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Besides four 10 pound bags of boneless, skinless chicken breasts! In the end I have 33 bags of chicken in my freezer, some cut into strips for fajitas, some cut into cutlets and some in two breast portions for stews and crockpot meals. This should last us at least until the end of the year, maybe longer. The whole process of trimming and prepping the chicken took several hours. I’m really pleased, though, that I have it prepped for how I like to use it — I really should be able to just grab it out of the freezer and go. I was a little too tired to take a picture of everything once it was done, though. 🙂

Overall, the chicken was comparable to other low-priced chicken I’ve bought before (on sale at Aldi and Winn-Dixie, for example). They are double lobed, so you need to split them and there is also some fat and cartilage that needs to be trimmed. Again, while I’d not purchased double-lobed chicken breasts before, the amount of trimming was comparable to other chicken purchases. I’d seen a couple of reviews where people either had to trim quite a bit or didn’t expect to have to trim at all. To be fair, the photo of the chicken on their website is beautiful and ready to cook. I am a cynical person who grew up in and around farms, so my expectations were somewhat less…idealized, I suppose. It was not hard to process and I found that the mess was pretty minimal, even with 40 lbs of raw chicken on hand.

The thing that probably has me most questioning whether or not I’ll do this again is simply the quantity itself. I DO like buying in bulk and having a year’s worth of chicken stored makes me happy. But it did take quite a bit of time to process the chicken. And while the price was very good, I can frequently find sales on chicken here that bring the price on grocery store chicken down to a comparable rate. With that in mind, I will probably NOT order through Zaycon again, not because the quality is bad or I am unsatisfied with my purchase. Just because it might not be the best fit, overall, for us. But we’ll see. Perhaps the allure of not buying chicken for a year will sway me to reorder.

What We Spent, What We Ate

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What We Spent

This week I spent $48.50 on groceries. This brings my monthly total to $207.22, seven dollars over my projected monthly budget. I’m having a hard time feeling too upset by this, though, as I took advantage of good produce prices at Aldi that will carry me well into next month. I also was well under budget last month because of the pantry challenge I set for myself. While I think having monthly target is helpful as far as keeping spending more or less in check, I actually tend to think of the grocery budget as an annual expense that I portion out over 12 months. But I know that there are ebbs and flows in expenses over the year, so I do expect some months to be high and others to be low. I will admit to some splurge and/or dumb expenses this week, though, which I will explain below.

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I spent $1 at the Dollar Tree on graham crackers; I made cheesecake as dessert for the bookclub I hosted and needed crackers to make the crust. I had been reading about others purchasing graham crackers from the Dollar Tree so thought I would try them out. They are really tasty, and since there are only two sleeves in the box, I am unlikely to have the crackers go stale before I use them up, a common problem when I purchased the bigger boxes previously. So while they’re not necessarily a staple, I know where I’ll purchase this item in the future.

I also spent $2.23 at Walgreens on candy. This was a total impulse buy prompted by a BOGO coupon for the Snickers. I then fell to the lure of clearance priced Valentine’s candy. I don’t buy this stuff too often because we have terrible impulse control. Especially during stressful exam weeks!! So…there is not much candy left. And that is $2.23 that really didn’t need to be spent at all. I also picked up a bag of tortilla chips earlier in the week at Walgreen (for $2), which we “needed” to eat with the guacamole made with all those avocados I bought last week. So my total at Walgreens for food this week was $4.23.

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I spent $29.50 at Aldi. I really hadn’t been thinking I’d spend that much, but the prices on the potatoes, mushrooms, cabbage, carrots and green beans changed my mind. Eggs were also only $.89/dozen, so I grabbed two cartons, even though we still had most of a dozen in the fridge. I miscounted the amount of tuna I had on hand (or Michael ate it..) when I made my pantry inventory, so needed to grab a few more cans. I suppose that if I were truly trying to be uber thrifty, I would have skipped restocking this until next month, but Michael likes this a lot for lunches or dinners when I’m not at home. Then, since I had forgotten to pick up raisins at BJs when I was there earlier in the month, I went ahead and just picked up a small container at Aldi. It’s more per pound, but will get us through to when I visit BJs again. Finally, I went ahead and grabbed a few boxes of mac and cheese. I knew by this point that I would be over budget for the month, so decided to just roll with it. Again, these will be used by Michael for quick and easy meals/sides. The peppers and cucumbers I picked up for bookclub, although I didn’t use all of them AND probably would have purchased at least the cucumbers anyway.

I also ended up spending $13.77 at Publix. I had a few coupons and then had a minor cooking disaster that I had to remedy fast. The following items were on BOGO: frozen garlic bread, welch’s grape juice, barilla pasta, and cottage cheese. I had coupons for the bread, grape juice and pasta, although my Publix did not have the specific type of garlic bread available so I ended up not being able to use that coupon (annoying). Normally I would have just foregone the bread, but had decided to give myself a break and use premade garlic bread for convenience alongside the Italian-esque stew I was serving that evening. So now we have lots of frozen garlic bread on hand and it is HARD for me to resist its carby, fatty allure (which is why I rarely purchase it). I also didn’t really NEED the pasta, but I didn’t have any elbow noodles and then with a combination of coupons, I was able to get for boxes of pasta for $.32/ea. I also bought some fresh strawberries to top the cheesecake and earlier in the day I had badly burned the white beans I was cooking from scratch to use in the stew. I did not have time to make more beans from scratch so had to pick up two cans, doubly annoying because I’d considered grabbing a couple of cans of beans at Aldi earlier in the week in case something like this happened. I didn’t take a picture of this trip as I was rushing home from work to finish cooking and cleaning.

What We Ate:

I really only cooked four times this week, but each dish I made fed us for several meals (lunches and dinners).

  • Oven Fajitas, Guacamole
  • Vegetable Beef Soup, Cheese Toast/Quesadillas/Bagels
  • Eggplant Lasagna, Salad
  • Sausage, White Bean and Kale Stew, Garlic Bread, Veggies & Dip, Cheesecake, Mulled Cider/Bellinis*/Water

*I have a separate budget for alcohol — we don’t drink a ton, but I’ve found that counting it as part of my regular grocery bill skews my understanding of what I’m purchasing.