Grocery Geek: End O’ Month Report

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This week was a struggle as concerns cooking and groceries. I tried to stretch what we had instead of going to the store. We have a lot.

But, a lot of that lot needs significant preparation.

One night early in the week, the mystery freezer items that I had planned to experiment with just didn’t sound appealing. Hubby suggested a run for burgers. So tempting on a lazy summer night when we’ve got a Marvel Universe movie waiting to be watched!

Instead, I ran to Walmart and picked up groceries to supplement other things that I already had. My bill was almost to the penny the same as I would have spent on burgers and fries. While I was bummed to be going over budget, I was satisfied that I was stretching that $22 a little farther than if we just ate take out.

Β walmart – $22

A call for desperation dinners

The idea of having some “desperation dinners” on hand has hatched in my brain. Next month I plan on stocking up on quick and cheap meals for those nights when the alternative might be expensive, less-than-healthy take out. Those hot dog buns couldn’t be worse than what I’d get at the burger joint!

The week’s trend of running out of things was set. By Wednesday night we were out of milk, bread, crackers, fresh fruit, and coffee. Pride would have us limp along until we left on vacation on Friday night, but that meant two days of kids asking for stuff to eat — constantly. So, I picked up stuff to hold us over, meaning that we’ve gone over budget by a fair amount.

Ralph’s – $52

It helped that Ralph’s had some great sales to soften the blow.

watermelons – $1.50 each
sour cream – $1.88
chips and crackers – $1.49/box when you buy 4
coffee – $5.99
hot dog buns – $0.49 on clearance
Hawaiian rolls – $2.50 (a treat for the kids)
(unpictured) milk – $2.55
chicken drumsticks – $0.99/pound

Trader Joe’s – $40

That same night hubs and I stopped at Trader Joe’s on date night, so I finished off the staples stock-up with bananas, cereal, bread, yogurt, sunbutter, english muffins, cheese, turkey, kiefer, rice cakes, cream cheese, and bagels.

This week’s spending totalled $114. Added to previous weeks’ spending, I ended the month at $940, significantly over my budgeted $800.

But, we do have lots of organic pickles and jam! Ha!

Looking at the big picture

So far this year, our grocery expenses have bounced all around! But since we buy things in one month to use in the next month, it makes sense to average our spending over the course of a year.

  • January = $442
  • February = $800
  • March = $1142
  • April = $615
  • May = $820
  • June = $940
Total spent to date: $4759

Average monthly spending for 2012: $793.17

Whoohoo. I just squeaked under the average. Whew. [wipes sweat from brow]

I have a plan for next month. It involves a pantry challenge and making the most of what’s already here. Stay tuned. I’ll be sharing more about it tomorrow.

How’s your grocery spending going this year?

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  1. Eckert S says:

    Have you ever considered making your own kefir? It is incredibly easy, literally two minutes of effort each day. You just need starter “grains”. A friend gave me a tablespoon and they grow so quickly you can soon share grains with others. I use kefir for smoothies, for sourdough bread and in place of buttermilk for cooking. It cost the same as milk when you make your own. The only hard part of making kefir is finding enough people to share your excess grains with!

  2. Eckert S says:

    Have you ever considered making your own kefir? It is incredibly easy, literally two minutes of effort each day. You just need starter “grains”. A friend gave me a tablespoon and they grow so quickly you can soon share grains with others. I use kefir for smoothies, for sourdough bread and in place of buttermilk for cooking. It cost the same as milk when you make your own. The only hard part of making kefir is finding enough people to share your excess grains with!

    • @Eckert S, I was going to ask the same thing. I bought kefir grains from Cultures for Health & have been having wonderful plain kefir every day. I’ve been missing whole buttermilk for years and this serves and fills that place.

      I have some dehydrated some kefir grains if you’d like me to send you some so you can try.. Shoot me an email if you’d like some. I’d be happy to share.

  3. been there – ‘vacation’ time is hardest because of course when they’re busy and you’re at HOME it’s easier to get stuff prepped and think ahead than when you’re out and about SO much

    Here are my desperation dinners:

    Meatloaf – I make several at a time and freeze them – usually I’ll split them in half before wrapping in case I want to just grab half of one [say for sammies]
    I generally have salad and some sort of starch side I can prep quickly – honest earth makes great mashed potato packets that are just potato basically – no chemicals or yuck] – or pasta etc

    Brisket – we cook a big flat cut [the lean one] and there’s always enough for two meals – I don’t hold it – I toss it in the freezer for one of those days

    I’m looking for some chicken ones but I find that cooked chicken doesn’t please any of us after it’s frozen – dump chicken for the grill is good of course – thin breast pieces cook so quickly

    Meat sauce or meatballs over pasta – nuff said

  4. My quick and easy desperation dinners are usually:
    quesadillas with beans and rice,
    spaghetti w/o any meat,
    grilled cheese and tomato soup,
    I also have a carnitas recipes that makes a TON, so I will freeze the leftovers and use that in burritos with cheese and beans.

  5. Im still doing really good, but Im going to have to go on a meat stocking mission or missions soon.
    I get a family CSA share each week (all organic except for fruit) that I payed for last Dec (so no OOP for this) and this week, we got 2 big beautiful beefsteak tomatoes, 2 zucchini, a bag of sugar snap peas, a bag of green beans, a bag of spinach, a head each of red leaf & green leaf lettuce, 2 small broccoli heads, 1 cauliflower, 2 bunches of beets, a head of cabbage, and a bag of pickling cucumbers. Thats a lot of produce for the 2.5 of us. πŸ˜‰

    I also went to an Amish Produce Auction a couple counties away with 2 of my work girlfriends and I got 2 pecks of the most gorgeous (5-6 inch) zucchini for $2, a peck of pickling cucumbers for $1, 2 bunches of beets & gorgeous greens for $2.50, 3 doz farmers eggs for $5.25 ($1.75 each) and 6 quarts of fresh picked blueberries for $3 each so $18. I also shared a deal with my friends for fresh cut dill for $20 and most of it I froze already. I have some of it drying.
    I normally wouldnt have spent the $$ for the dill but my girlfriend goofed (so did I on the blueberries) and thought we were bidding the price for the entire lot when in reality it was for each bundle or quart. She was going to cry when she found out what she really bid on. We learned & we shared the cost of the dill mistake since it was the most pricy. My cost was $26.25 before the dill share. πŸ˜‰ $46.25 afterwards.

    I also went to a pick your own farm with a friend & we got fresh gorgeous strawberries. Now to be honest, we payed more than I could have got them from some of the local stores, but they were fresh picked by me, and they were beautiful & in my frig within an hour of getting home. I payed $23.57 for them at $1.99 a pound.

    II also stopped at local farm market and got bananas, nectarines, and a box (20ct) of the biggest, most beautiful ripe FIGS I’ve ever seen. I grew up in the sub-tropic region of South Texas and grew up on fresh from the tree figs so when I see them here (in Ohio) I jump on them. I have to say, this box of figs was the best I’ve had in probably 20 years. Its worth that $12.99 I payed for them. πŸ˜‰ I spent $16.94 total at that market.

    I also spent about $7 at another Saturday farmers market for beets with greens, kohlrabi, & tomatoes. I bought these from the Amish lady who provides them for our CSA so I know they’re organic. I also do double duty with the beet greens so I get 2 for 1 on those.

    I went to Costco and spent $50.14 stocking up on vinegar x2, organic cane sugar (from Texas!) and a 25# bag of rice, Mexican melting cheese, milk & 2 quarts of organic half & half. I cant remember what else I bought if anything but that is the bulk of it.

    I made 2 trips to Aldi and cant remember now what I got but I remember at least one non food item I got was $10. I spent $29.89 & 49.62 there, so $69.51 there.

    I also picked up milk once for $3.39 (yikes) around the corner when I had to have it for my kefir and it was late & all the local stores were closed except for convenience stores.

    My total for them all is $166.66. What a bizarre number. πŸ˜‰ We’re mostly consumed fresh veggies & meat from the freezer this month and a lot of salads, steaks, burgers, hotdogs & sausages from the freezer.

    I froze almost all of the strawberries & blueberries, the chard & beet greens, and I dehydrated most of the zucchini. I made 6 pints of spiced pickled beets, 16 pints of spicy dill pickles, 4 pints of mustard pickles, & 1 pint of spiced pickled onions & leeks. I still have a lot of produce to do something with besides eat it but I’ll get it done eventually this weekend.
    My pick up date for my next CSA box is on Tuesday. πŸ™‚

    • @KimH, Wow! I mean, really, WOW!!! What great prices you mentioned in your comment! I can’t believe you get food THAT cheap! I bet we pay four times that for most of the things you mentioned. We just have NO choice where we live, as we have only 2 grocery stores, and the nearest Walmart is 45 miles away. (Not that Walmart is a deal, really.) But, honestly, I am just in total awe of the costs you mentioned…. I can’t believe it!

  6. My first thought was, “Wow! They go through a LOT of mustard.” My fun time with summer food budget is my husband is home during the summer (teaches for university and any extra classes he teaches during the summer are online). Good thing he doesn’t mind going to the store for more food as he scarfs it all down before the kids can even get to it. The other is using the oven in 100F for 2+ months—and dh doesn’t grill in this weather. I cranked down the air yesterday and did mass baking day to stock up on baked snacks (fun considering it was 108 outside). Need some more crock pot recipes! Bacon/egg cheese sandwiches tonight.

    • Jessica says:

      The mustard was a really good price at Walmart, $1.34/bottle, so I stocked up. By, yes, we go through more mustard than ketchup.

  7. I would love to see a series on Desperation Dinners (although I think that phrase has already been used and/or copywrited? πŸ™‚ ). Since I’m not teaching lessons any more I’m actually home to cook dinner every night (yay!) and there are those ocasions when what you plan, or failed to do so, just doesn’t work out. I’ve been working on a list of quick pantry meals to keep around for those days and would love to see yours!

  8. Holy moley! Your grocery prices are shocking! I live in western Kansas…. far away from anything remotely resembling Trader Joe’s (although we do have Walmart), but our prices are more like this:
    watermelon = $4.95 (on sale)
    milk = $4.99 for 1/2 gallon
    starbucks coffee = $9.99 (same size you have pictured)

    Our meat might be cheaper:
    ground beef = $3.49/pound
    chicken pieces = $3.32/pound

    Fresh veg. and fruit is usually very expensive.

    • Jessica says:

      I hate to break it to you, but even my meat and chicken are under $3/lb on sale. It really is not cheaper to live in Ca, except for gas and land. Lol.

    • @Steph,
      What has really offset my grocery bill is that I tend to buy local and in season foods and I put it up by either dehydrating, freezing or canning it. I also garden & grow some of my own foods as well.
      Im also quite lucky to have the Amish produce auction close by.. as well as a great CSA that provides great Amish produce. You might think about finding a CSA in your area (localharvestdotcom) and see if something like it exists in your area. It might be a good fit for you.

      • @KimH, Oh, believe me, I’ve tried! lol The nearest CSA I’ve found is in Colorado… about 3.5 hours’ drive away. πŸ™

        I’ve started a garden…. we’ll see how that goes! lol

    • @Steph, Actually all of your prices are shocking to me.. except for the ground beef. And whats even funnier, when I moved to Ohio from Texas, I was shocked at how much food & the cost of living was here.. I guess I’ve settled in. πŸ˜‰

  9. Your grocery budget breakdown with the specific items you buy is very helpful to me. We live in SoCal as well, and I often get great ideas and inspiration from your posts. Sometimes I like to commiserate, too. Thanks for all your hard work.

  10. Forgot to mention my desperation dinners:

    Carne asada tacos– Sprouts had carne asada at 2.99 a pound. It thaws and barbeques up quickly.

    Ground beef tacos– Even if the ground beef is frozen, we just put it in the pan and scrape off the thawed parts from the “brick of beef” until it is all thawed and cooked.


    Can you tell we like Mexican food? πŸ™‚

  11. Shannon says:

    One of our favorite desperation dinners is breakfast. I actually plan breakfast for dinner several times a month. And I normally have some type of pasta on hand – mac and cheese (homemade); pasta salad in the summer or spaghetti.

  12. Awesome summary πŸ™‚ I stay on budget better in the winter… not as much produce to tempt me! BUT, as you said, the jam and the pickles are nice! Lol. Have a great staycation!

  13. Jen Fitzpatrick says:

    My grocery budget seems to be all over the place as well! I can’t seem to figure out what we’re all eating lately. I’m planning on having stuff for easy meals on hand, since it’s summer AND i’m going to try to convince my crew to eat some new things! Keep your fingers crossed on that one!

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