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.

 

 

 

What I Spent, What We Ate

What I Spent

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I spent $10.15 at Aldi this week for groceries. As you can see, we needed fruit and half and half plus I really wanted to get some asparagus. A neighbor gave us a lot of grapefruit so we have plenty of fruit in the house. I will probably head there this weekend for berries and dairy, but overall we are good on most things during this pantry challenge. Of the $100 produce/dairy budget I have for the month, I’ve spent $31.10.

What We Ate

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Saturday: Lemony Greek Pasta Salad (lunch), Margherita Pizza

  • I was so pleased with this pizza! Also I successfully froze this dough a couple of weeks ago and two wonderful things happened: I remembered to use it AND I froze it in a plastic container instead of in a bag. I think the different container made it so much easier to use and also much less likely to get lost in the freezer. I will do that again for sure! The basil is from loeftover pho; they always give so much basil and cilantro along with the broth and meat and this time I brought home the extra (in addition to the extra soup — even the small is a huge portion). I was able to use the basil in several meals, although this was the last.

Sunday: Stir-Fry Noodles w/Asparagus, Mushrooms & Tofu

Monday: Cajun Red Beans and Rice

  • I used this recipe for the red beans and rice, but omitted the andouille sausage because I wanted to keep it vegetarian. This turned out really, really well!

Tuesday: Egg Roll in a Bowl

  • This may be a new favorite for us — it was really good and really yummy! I kind of did a mash-up of different recipes, but they are all pretty much the same, I think. If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend. Also it’s a great way to take advantage of the cheap cabbage that’s available now.

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: Tilapia (not sure if we’re having Parmesan or Horseradish Crusted), Roasted Asparagus, Baked Potatoes

  • Or maybe I will do a Cajun spiced and pan fried thing with the fish. I’m not sure yet, but we’re definitely having fish as it’s thawed in the fridge. Don’t want it to go to waste!

 

Thrift Store List: the Process

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So, part of the deal with participating in The Compact is looking to thrift stores and other resale outlets when we need to purchase something BEFORE buying new. I’ve done OK about not buying new stuff, overall…for sure my discretionary spending is down, but I haven’t been that creative about looking in thrift stores for items I don’t think will be there. For example, I went ahead and bought a bucket at the Dollar Tree the other week partly because I did need something right away, but also because when the thought of getting it used crossed my mind, I truly dismissed it out of hand. Two things happened: one, my right away task ended up not happening until a couple of days later so I could have checked a few nearby thrift locations. And two, a conversation with Nathalie in the comments reminded me that thrift stores often DO carry random items like buckets, even though I tend to think of them as primarily selling clothing.

As I thought about it I realized that I pretty much only have ever gone to Goodwill when I go to a thrift store. But there are so many more options; now that I’m keeping my eyes peeled, I’m seeing them everywhere. The other thing that has held me back is a general concern that I’ll wander into a thrift store and since shopping used items is OK, I’ll go crazy and come home with all kinds of unneeded random stuff. So I just haven’t gone. However, if I want to be really effective at this Compact thing and make it a true way of life and not just something I’m sort of enduring for the year, I need to actually GO to thrift stores and I need to learn how to NOT BUY things when I don’t need them. Hence, two goals:

  • Search out and visit new to me thrift stores in my city. This is basically all of them, so I’m going to check out some that have been highly recommended first and then work on more hole in the wall places that just seem to appear.
  • ONLY shop from a list of needed or wanted items. My list has a few different categories which I’ll explain below, but they are:
    • Home Projects
    • Household
    • Clothing (exluding undergarments and shoes)
    • Decor/knick-knacks

My exceptions for the Compact are consumables, ebooks and items needed to complete home projects.With home projects, the idea isn’t that I’ll start something frivolous, but we have a list of ongoing updates and repairs that we want to make to our home and property — and supplies for those projects are fair game for new purchases. An extension of this is completing partially finished projects; if buying something will help that happen, then I am ok with that. BUT. Even as I type this, I know that some home project type things DO show up at thrift stores, particularly places like the Habitat ReStore. So. The home projects category is a look here first, but keep in mind our timeline, color scheme, etc. I can buy new in this category if I have to.

Similarly, household items may or may not eventually be bought new. For example, if I want a new casserole dish just because…it’s used or nothing. But I need a new shower curtain liner and I would never have thought to look for this at the thrift store, but Katy Wolk-Stanley at the Non-Consumer Advocate mentioned finding one new in the wrapper at her Goodwill, so it occurred to me that I really should be checking thrift stores first for almost everything. However, I’m not going to wait forever on things like a new shower curtain liner, so there is some wiggle room to buy new here, too.

Finally, the clothing and decor categories. These are not items I need. At all. Ever. Except maybe a graduation gown and I actually had my mom bring down the two gowns I already have from previous degrees, so hopefully I can make those work. Anytime I say I need a new piece of clothing is really me saying that I want a new piece of clothing. At some point I expect that I’ll actually wear out my clothing and need to replace it. But my long years as a trend follower and habitual shopper mean that my closet is really full.

Same thing with decor. Anything that might fall into the actual “need” area here really would then belong to the home projects category. This is on my mind because I would like a few more spring related decorations (suddenly I am a sort-of seasonal decorator). There is nothing close to a need here, and I am not even sure I should indulge this particular want. But maybe…it seems like an opportunity to upcycle something, which could be fun.

That’s my approach for shopping going forward. I’ll share my actual list (which of course will be constantly changing) at some point just to start out with some accountability and to use this blog to track my progress in becoming less and less of a consumer.

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)