Saving on Groceries

I have shared before that our largest expense besides our mortgage is groceries. Yes, groceries are even higher than our car payment. Included in the grocery budget is all the cleaning products and paper products that we use in the house. On a positive note, I have been able to reduce our grocery budget over the past several years. When I started tracking our grocery budget I was spending around $800 a month. I will say that this included diapers for many years. Last year we spent $620 a month on groceries. This year, the grocery budget has varied significantly from $1100 to $175. I did an average of the 5 month and that put us at $540 a month. My goal for the year is $500 a month. I think this is doable as we continue to eat off the cow purchased last year which should reduce the budget as well.

In the month of June so far, I have spent $90.30! I am super excited about this! I am planning to have the lowest spending month ever for groceries. My goal for the summer is to keep spending below $200 for June and July.

Now on to the fun stuff, how am I planning to keep this goal reachable. First, we continue to earn at least $50 to $100 a month in gift cards from Swagbucks. I am using this earning for Walmart gift cards, to purchase toilet paper, sunscreen and all the other fun stuff that we need to keep the house running. I also received my Costco reward this month. I purchased laundry detergent, dishwashing tabs and such with it. A second way, is by using Norwex products for cleaning. I purchased the window cloth and a dusting system several years ago. Yes, the cost was upfront but after a year of use then I am saving money simply by using them. One of my new favorite ways of saving is looking through clearance section at Food Lion. I have been able to grab breakfast sausage, pastries, candy, juice and much more. This is all food that I know we will eat and usually priced fifty cent or less. I have also been going to Aldi on Wednesday afternoon, this is typically when they reduce bread and pastries. Finally, I am trying specifically to use what is in the garden, freezers and pantry. I even made a list of the items that we have in addition to several ideas of ways to use these items. In addition to the list of items we have, I started a stockpile list, these items I am going to watch for a good sale and build up our supply. I am eager to save as much money as possible this summer while enjoy a more relaxed pace!

Saving on Saturday/ Sunday

Saturday was a gorgeous spring day in North Carolina. The temperature was in the low 70s and no rain!  I took advantage of this great weather and the “Spring Black Friday Sale” at Lowes to get the Square Foot Garden up to date. We purchased 20 bags of garden soil at $2 saving $2.29 a bag for a total of $45, 2 green pepper plants,1 basil plant and a container of zucchini for $2.50 each saving a total of $5.12 and 7 small containers of annuals(flowers) saving sixty cent each for a total of $3.00.  The total saving for our two trips to Lowes was $53.10!  The garden beds are now full of dirt and we have started planting some of the vegetables. I was able to plant the green pepper and jalapeno plants that were purchased way ahead of time.  I have been successful at spouting both watermelon and pear tomato seeds. These will have to wait until the last chance of frost before planting outside. I am super excited about what we are planning to grow in the garden this year and the money we are going to save in the process.

I also shopped at CVS on Saturday. I had a raincheck for 2L Diet Cokes which I combined with ECB I already had to purchase 16 of the 2 L at sixty-seven cent each. We were out of razors at my house so I purchased multiple razors spending a total of $20 and saving $18.39. My total savings at CVS was $46.13.

On Sunday, Harris Teeter decided to run a “Super Double Coupons Event”. This means that they doubled all coupons up to $2.00. For me the bigger deal was the fact that they had a great sale of several items that we use and are easy to store including paper plates, Gatorades, Flour, cream cheese and gold fish.  Mom and I were able to find most items on my list except for the shampoo.  I spent $76.51 and saved $84.74 or 53%.

In all just this weekend shopping the sales, I saved $184!

 

March in Review

March was a different kind of month. I have really enjoyed the last week off for my spring break. I realized today that I would for 14 days(3 weeks) and have a long weekend at Easter. This should also work out timing wise so we can plant most of the square foot garden. This past week, I have spent a lot of time cooking and shopping!

We were able to stick to our menu planning for the majority of the month! Yesterday, Saturday the 30th was a total fail as we ate out breakfast and lunch. Dinner was a find your own meal, which meant lots of starch was consumed. I did not stick to the grocery budget in any shape form or fashion, in fact I spent $1100 for groceries this month. Check out this post if you want to see my rationale.

Driving is a way of life for use but I am just trying to get a firm idea of what we are spending each month in order to budget better, $565 is the number for March.

Unfortunately, we did not reduce our overall debt in the month of March.  I did keep track of spending. We ended up with 6 days of NO spending for the month. This appears to be a really low number to me. I would like to track April and hopefully will achieve at least 50% or 15 days of no spending for the month.

I have continued with completing either Bible study or reading at least 3 times a week!
I did not use the treadmill this month. I did have a doctor’s visit this past week and have lost 2 pounds in 3 months but am `5 pounds heavier than I was a year ago.  I am hopefully with the warmer weather and longer days to start walking on a more regular basis. The goal for April will be once a week or a total of 5 times during the month.

This is post number 15 for the month!  After two years, I have finally met this goal. Now to continue with the success!

We have continued to earn money with Swagbucks this month but are at our lowest point of $80 for the month. We have used this entire amount for working on things outside. The good news is that this means we have not spent anything on the square foot garden so we are eating free food at this point.

PLANS: One of the downfalls of my new job is that in both April and May my paycheck will be reduced by $500. I am going to track our spending very closely for now to try and maintain some balance. We will have 2 or more Baseball games a week but this should be less than $10 each week.  I plan to keep grocery shopping to a minimal of less than $100 as well. The countdown to summer is on; 12 weeks till I have an 8 week vacation!

What I did on Spring Break!

I have waited years to be able to post this! Actually, this was only a possibility starting in August of last year when I accepted the position with the Davie County school system. I had a couple of goals that I really wanted to accomplish while out and I am very excited to say that I was able to meet them all!

First I planned to make several trips to several different grocery stores in order to take advantage of sales and really stock up. I shopped at Shuler’s Meat Store,  Food Lion 4 times, Costco, Harris Teeter twice, Aldi at least three times, Walmart  and at 3 different Dollar Generals.  I talked at length about my grocery spending in this post. I was able to grab some winter clearance deals at Dollar General including gloves and fleece blankets for $1.50 each. Braxton got several new outfits.

Next on my to do list was cooking ahead. We are entering a busy season with baseball, art, church and end of school activities.  I can finally say that our freezer is full with easy to prepare and things we enjoy meals. I decided that instead of spending an entire day or two cooking, I would attempt to cook one extra meal each day.  On Monday, I purchased boneless chicken thighs and place them in two crockpots to cook while we did the bulk of our shopping. Dinner on Monday was a chicken from Costco with potato salad and cauliflower.  I did take the remaining chicken, sautéed some onions and carrots to use as a quick soup starter in the next couple of weeks.  Tuesday- I grounded up 3 roast from the freezer and made a 10# batch of taco meat (7 meals). I also shredded the chicken thighs and assembled 2 broccoli and chicken  casseroles for the freezer. We tried a new recipe for cube steak and loved it. Wednesday- I used the shredded chicken to assemble 2 chicken pies and 2 chicken pot pies for the freezer. Thursday- I grounded up 4 additional roast from the freezer to make sloppy joes out of 5 pounds (5 meals) and another 4 bags of browned hamburger meat to use as meal starters. Friday- We had grilled chicken for dinner, using up most of the salad ingredients in the refrigerator. I also assembled with some help 2 baked ziti.  We have a total of 23 prepped meals in the freezer!  On Saturday, Matt and I came up with a menu plan for the month of April. I will be adding to the freezer stash with hamburgers this week but otherwise cooking should really be assembling and heating for most of the month.

The final item on my to do list for Spring Break was cleaning out and organizing my closet.  I am wearing “real clothes” aka not scrubs to work everyday.  I needed to finish sorting through my clothes and getting rid of anything stained or out dated. I even managed to sort my pajama, underwear and socks.  I am very pleased with how neat and organized my closet is currently.

Sunday CVS Shopping 3/17/2019

I am starting to see a cycle with CVS shopping.  The best sales are usually January and February with a huge slack off after that, It has been true again this year. I have gotten in the swing of checking out the CVS sales every week. I have skipped a few weeks of shopping just because they had little to nothing that I need or use in the stock pile to grab.

Last week, I was able to score both cans of Diet Coke and 2L on sale for my stock up price. I only buy 2L at or below $1 each and I stock up at seventy-nine cent each.  I was able to purchase a total of 6 case and 16 2L this past week. Even better is the rain check I got for 16 more 2 litters.

This week was a great week to shop CVS. I spent a total of $6.83 and saved $37.60 or 85%. I purchased 4 bottles of body wash and a bottle of mouthwash in addition to most of the candy I will use at Easter.  I used only 1 coupon for $1 off Irish Spring Body Wash.  The other savings came from using ECB and coupons from the red machine. I started the trip with $10 in ECB and ended with $7.45 in ECB.  They have changed the rules for earning ECB with beauty products but I am anticipating getting another $6 in rewards when I shop next week.  This makes grocery shopping so much cheaper in the long run!

Random Tuesday Thoughts

  • We have spent more money on “unexpected medical cost ” in the past month than in the past 2 years. Matt had an infection under his crown, $17 prescription and $129 dentist bill, Lily had strep throat, $40 co pay and $5 prescription and Kendall has a virus that has kept her out of school for the past 2 days $40 co pay.
  • I am becoming more and more frustrated this month as I am tracking every dollar we are spending. We currently have spent $267 in the past 8 days. There is only one day in that time period that has been a no spending day.  $99 of that is gas and $40 for a copay. The rest of the list is wants not needs.  I am planning to continue until the last week of the month. I am really surprised at the amount of money we are spending and how fast it is leaving my accounts.
  • I spent some time this weekend and have planned out most of the square foot garden. We are going to try something different this year, planting/starting most of it from seeds instead of buying plants. I have been collecting seeds at fifty cent a pack over the past several month and will also be using seeds that I have stored for the past couple of years. I am going to over sow the area as well and may have to weed out some plants but this still appears to be cheaper option than purchasing the plants. I do need to buy probably 4-5 bags of soil to add to some of the beds but I have decided against buying the expensive $18 a bag and plan to use gift cards from Swagbucks to purchase at Lowes.
  • We have started 2 separate grocery list, one for Costco and one for Aldi/Walmart. I think that I have finally gotten everyone on board with the no grocery shopping until the end of the month. We ended up using French fries last night for the breakfast casserole because we were out of both hash browns and tater tots.
  • Hopefully Matt will get the buffet/ bar finished this weekend, we have had a delay in progress due to the weather and another delay due to items not being ready at Lowes.

Saving on Saturday 2/23/2019

The last couple of weeks, we have been doing things to improve the flow and function of our kitchen.  My plan is to show all the changes at one time. But in order to complete these updates as inexpensively as possible, I am using “free money”, gift cards that are earned via swagbucks or other apps.  I am also trying to use as many things as possible that we already have.  For example, while cleaning and organizing the laundry/ extra food storage, I found a dish rack that was no longer being used. I had Matt hang this on it’s side to hold lunch boxes. 

This cleaned off the dryer and even looks better.

Matt was able to put new brakes on the red car, saving all the labor cost!

The final big event was our church’s annual Ladies Banquet.  I have been asked to decorate a table the last several years.  This year with a little bit of planning ahead, I purchased all the items except for the center vase at the Dollar Tree. I borrowed the vase from my mother.  The total cost for the table was $25.  I am very happy with the results!,, What do you think?

Clothing

Beside groceries, you could easily suspect that clothing is one of our bigger expenses. Especially given the fact that prior to last fall, I wore scrubs four days a week. I probably spent less than $100 total on work clothing in those 12 years. Matt also has transitioned from wearing jeans and t-shirts to a more traditional work outfit. However, we have definitely been blessed over the years in the areas and we continue to receive blessing.

The girls often, at least once every 3 or 4 month have received bags of hand me down clothes over the years. Zach, since starting school has been gifted with clothing over and above any wants he could have. During the past several weeks, I began to notice that Kendall’s jeans were getting shorter and shorter and then ankle short. Lily has also been complaining about not have any “public” long sleeve shirts or sweaters to wear. Last Sunday, in fact, she ended up borrowing a sweater to wear to church from Kendall.  Matt and I decided that we really needed a trip to Goodwill and that we also need to take a good inventory of what clothing we had and what we needed.

At Goodwill, Kendall was able to locate a pair of jeans and a pair of capris that she really liked and Lily found 2 sweaters that she could use for layering.  The total spent was $14. We were also blessed by one of Lily’s  friend who after hearing Lily says she borrowed a shirt decided to clean out her closet and passed two huge bags of clothes down for the girls. I have been working on cleaning out my closet over the past several weeks and am actually at the point were most if not all the clothes that are left are unstained and something I have worn in the last year.  The kids all spent last Sunday afternoon and some time this week, going through and cleaning up their closets. I am so happy to report that each of the kids  has enough clothes not only for the rest of winter and spring but also the summer. Kendall “found” 3 additional swim suits in her closet that were the perfect size for Lily to finish out our needs list.

Matt and I have also been slowly, replacing some of our more worn out clothes, and updating some clothes as well. He needs mainly pants as his shirt collection is huge and I need more “professional” clothing as t-shirts are only allowed on Fridays. I receive lots of advertisements from multiple clothing stores on a daily basis. Today, I noticed that Old Navy was running a sale on dresses and jeans. I have been saving my Verizon rewards for the past couple of months and had two $5 gift cards from them.   I even remember to shop via Swagbucks. I am super pleased with the outcome. I purchased a pair of jeans for Matt, a pair of Khakis for Matt, 3 simple long sleeve dresses for me and a pair of bike shorts for either Lily or Kendall. I added the shorts for $2.08 in order to receive free shipping. I used $10 gift cards and spent a total of $45. I did receive $20 in super cash and another $5.69 from Swagbucks!

Eating from the Pantry

January is always a favorite month of mine because everyone is trying to save money and I can find lots of place to read for eating out of the pantry and freezer.  This year I have joined in.   Today, I am going to share some of the history of the whys and hows of this challenge in addition to what this is actually looking like at our house.

Let me give you a little background first. I dislike shopping most of the time. A trip to Costco is fun but otherwise I prefer not to go to the grocery store.  I live a busy life so I actually have to plan most of my shopping trips these days. Unfortunately, during the months of November and December, my life was a whirlwind. In fact, I do not have an accurate amount for my grocery spending in either of these months. Looking even a little bit further back and I spent $700 in October and $500 in September. So I have a variety of foods and had stocked up on lots of items so January is a good time for us to try and not spend and use up the items we have on hand. A huge plus for us is that we purchased an entire cow last April and still have a freezer of meat to pull out of.

So now the good news, as of today, I have spent $65.35 in groceries for the month. I am also at the point that I don’t anticipate going shopping again this month unless it is to purchase butter which I am down to my last 3 sticks of. Otherwise we are eating from what we have.

Next up the challenge and the reality of what our pantry and freezers currently look like.

The biggest challenge for the next two weeks is providing/finding snacks for the kids to take to school each day. One of the reasons I like to shop at Costco is the ability to purchase a large size of snack foods and not have to open 17 boxes each week.  After starting the pantry challenge I realized I had not purchased snack foods since October. Currently, we are REALLY REALLY low!  In fact, I just raided the snack bag in the van to provide enough of a variety of snacks to get us through the next 10 days of school. I am also planning to offer to pop some popcorn tomorrow as well.

We are also starting to run low on our preferred lunch foods such as soups, ravioli and chicken nuggets. Kendall really enjoys a ham and cheese wrap but we are limited to exactly one for the next two weeks.  I actually found 2 more packages of lunch meat in the freezer so if I can convince the kids to eat regular bread, sandwiches are not a problem.

Another noticeable area that we are running low on is breakfast foods. We have cereal but no pop-tarts. We also have some waffles left and some oatmeal. Currently in the refrigerator is one package of bacon and one package of sausage. We have around 2 dozen eggs left. I did buy a package of frozen biscuits today but they will only last a couple of weeks.

Other “changes” include the ability to see open areas in the pantry in the laundry room which holds extra condiments and cans. We also are able to close both freezers easily. Finally I have less than one half of a shelf of food in the laundry room.

As you can tell this has not been nearly as emptying as it could have been but I am also making a list for our shopping in February. I know that we will likely spend at least $300 but I hope to keep it less than $400.

Stock Up Prices and Saving at Harris Teeter

Unfortunately, we do not have a Harris Teeter in Lexington. I LOVE the deal they offer but usually miss several due to the travel that is involved in getting to the store. So one of the adventures we had this week during our snow break was a trip to Harris Teeter. I was excited to see that several items they offered on sale this week were at or below my stock up price.

#1- Flour- Stock up price is $1 or less per 4 lb. bag. Gold Medal flour was on sale for $1.47 a bag with Ibotta coupon of 50 cent per bag. The Ibotta limit was two so that is what I purchased. This is also my stock up price for sugar. Sugar was also on sale but did not have a rebate.

#2 Yogurt- Stock up price is 25 cent per container. Yoplait yogurt was on sale for $0.37 a container with a coupon for fifty cent off 5 containers which doubled to $1 off 5 containers.  Finally price seventeen cent per container. We purchased 10 containers at this price since we only had enough coupons for 10.

#3 Canned Vegetables- Stock up price is thirty seven cents per can.  We can purchase at Aldi for forty cent a can on a regular bases. The limit was 18 cans so I purchased 18 cans and my mother purchased an additional 18 cans.  Soups are usually way more expensive.

#4 Canned milk- Stock up price seventy seven cent a can. I usually do not buy this but I have found several  recipes that we want to find that use this so I went ahead and purchased the limit of four.

#5 Frozen vegetables- Stock up prices is less than $1 a bag. Green giant were on sale for seventy-seven cent a box. I am estimating that it will take 2 boxes for us to use as a meal. I purchased my limit of 10 and 8 on Mom’s card because she wanted the other two.

#6 12 packs of Soda- Stock up prices is $2.50 a case for name brand meaning coke or Pepsi.

#7 2 liter soda bottles- Stock up price for name brand $1 or less a bottle and for store brands seventy-five cent a bottle.

#8 Cereal- Stock up price $1 or less a box.

#9 Soup- Stock up prices is seventy cent a can for Campbells Tomato soup and fifty cent or less a can for other varieties of tomato, chicken noodle or cream of soups. Stock up price for Progresso or Chunky soups are $1 a can. These cans will make a hearty meal with little trouble so the expense is worth it.

#10 Ketchup or Mustard- Stock up price is fifty cent a container. I usually purchase 10-12 of these at a time at this price.

 

This trip to Harris Teeter ended up with 50% saving which I am very happy with. I also found it very interesting that I have saved $1070.78 this year!