Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Grocery Haul for the First Part of July and Menu Plan

So, I have had people e-mail me and ask if I had any advice on saving money at the grocery store.  

I find it funny, in an odd sort of way.  Back when the kids were still in diapers, I ended up running a coupon blog for my area of Alaska.  I and about three other people started blogs at the same time, realizing the need for bargain blogs in Alaska with how crazy things were going back then.  Back then I'd run to three stores in a day, with little kids in tow, to get whatever bargains I could with coupons.  It DID save me a bunch of money back then, I have to say that.  Coupons were a means to save money back then.  Unfortunately, coupons changed and getting good deals with coupons...it came to a point that I gave up on paper coupons for the most part at the store because they just weren't save me money anymore.  

Then E-Coupons became a thing and those HAVE saved me money and I love the convenience of being able to load them to my shopping card every week to go shopping, so I haven't turned my back on coupons all together, but I just don't carry a coupon binder with me to the store anymore.  And yes, I said "store".  With the stage of life I am in, with two older kiddos and one who is over 6 ft tall and special needs, going to multiple stores anymore...I just don't have the energy, or the time, to do it.  Years ago, I settled on Carrs/Safeway to do my shopping as I got better deals there on the things we normally bought, and back then I loved the fact that I could ask for someone to come out and help me load the groceries into my car while I got the kids into their car seats and got them somewhat content for the ride home.

Things started to change over the years.  Amazon started shipping more grocery types of items to Alaska, so I was able to peruse it every day looking for those illusive deals (still do hit Amazon about twice a day to look), so I utilize Amazon for bulk shopping a lot around here.  Covid happened and Pick up and Go became popular amongst the stores.

And thus leads me to what I am doing today to do grocery shopping.

My husband and I sat down a while ago and decided that with his two week pay schedule and how crazy inflation was, that it was just going to be worth our time to just do a "Pick Up and Go" order with Carrs once every two weeks and on the off week we'd pick up milk and that would be about it.  We have made a change with milk and we started picking up locally sourced milk about a year ago.  It is more expensive than the Lucerne milk we were buying (like 8.49 a gallon expensive), but the milk is unhomogenized, so it has more fat than normal whole milk you buy at the store, so the milk goes further around here and I find it keeps a LOT longer than the stuff we were getting trucked into Carrs from the Lower 48, which I was running into a problem with store bought milk going bad even before the expiration date on the milk last year, which is why we ended up switching.  I got tired of throwing money away.

Anyway, I've found some really nice advantages to doing the every two week grocery pick ups.  For one, I can put in my order a few days early (I normally do it on Wednesday) and I have till midnight that night to put in any edits I need to my grocery order.  No more, "Oh shoot!  I forgot..." moments after I get home from the store.  I can add or delete items as I need to in the order that day to make sure I get everything I need, which is nice.  I can also comparison shop right from the comfort of my living room on what items are on sale, which of this item is the best deal, etc.  Second, if the store is out of this or that item, most times they will offer me substitutions on my order and a lot of times I get upgraded to a more expensive product without having to pay extra.  One thing I've found to be a major advantage to this, as well, is that when meat is on sale, they have been out of things I wanted to get and they will substitute other packages of meat and not charge me extra (like chicken thighs were on sale B1G1 a few weeks ago and they substituted me out meat counter thighs, which were bigger and better trimmed, for no extra money on my part) .  This, to me, is a great advantage to using the Pick Up and Go option as I can not relate how many times in the past years I've had to rush to the store at the first day of a sale to HOPEFULLY get that item before the store was sold out of it and I was out of luck.  The final advantage I've found is one my husband loves probably more than I do.  No more moments of me running into the store for "2 items" and coming out with 20 because they were marked down or I ran into a sale or something.  We don't have to worry about having to get Alvah McDonald's to keep him happy or things like that.  It has really simplified the shopping and with how I'm getting busier and busier, or so it seems to me, it really has helped to alleviate one more thing I'd have to go run and do.  No more waiting in line with Alvah getting cranky because the person ahead of me is taking too long because of a price check or other things.  Seriously, I love this new way of grocery shopping. 

Am I missing out on deals?  Oh, yes, I am sure I am.  Do I think it is worth it, to me, to miss those deals?  Absolutely!

So, in this post, I decided to show one of my big "every two week" hauls of groceries and what we have on the menu plan to use some of those groceries in the next couple of weeks.  

First a warning.  I am not showing all of the groceries I bought.  Things I am not including in the pictures is my son's staple food items (frozen French fries, junk food) because they take up a ton of room to photograph.  I'm also not including snack foods (popsicles, any chips I might get for my daughter's lunch, etc) as I don't really consider those to be important to the menu plans around here.

So, let's get into what I bought and you can compare it to prices in your area.  Enjoy!

First up is the stuff I ended up sticking into the freezer or pantry downstairs as soon as I was done shooting the shot with my phone, so excuse the poor lighting...I didn't feel like hauling it upstairs just to haul it back downstairs.

So, I got...

  • 2 Packages Green Giant corn on the cob "nibblers".  This was a substitution for a 12 pack of Signature Select mini corn on the cob that I had a coupon to get for free.  So, total for those was $0.00.
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach:  $2.75
  • 2 packages Petite Broccoli Florets.  These were steam in a bag florets, but were cheaper than just getting some bags of broccoli to eat with cheese sauce at dinner, so I got them instead.  $4.51.
  • 1 Corned Beef Brisket:  $21.30
  • 2 packages spaghetti (Alvah is blowing through pounds per week, so this is going to end up being a common item in my grocery hauls):  $3.53
I just shared the totals there and not cost per unit on the multiples.

And now onto the main, very full table of stuff.  You will notice that I'm buying the bowls of melon and berries a lot as I've found that I am getting decent quality items doing it this way and it saves me from having to throw away the fruit scraps and things, so to me, it is worth it.  

I will break this down by different parts of the table as it seems easier, so let's go!

First up is the meat.  The totals are going to be a bit off from the actual as I used some fuel rewards to get $7.00 off of meat and they tend to apply a bit to each package of meat you get in  your order.  So, the corned beef brisket had a bit off of it because of that too.  Anyway, I got...

  • Land O' Frost Black Forest Ham (for my daughter's work sandwiches and also as a stand in for Canadian bacon on home made pizza):  $5.25 after 1.00/1 coupon (I won a 1.00 off lunchmeat coupon on the Flavor Adventure online game).
  • 2 Packages of Pork Chops on sale for $1.97 lb.  They substituted in pork chops that were $2.49 lb instead, but only charged me for the $1.97 lb.  $6.51 and $8.95 each.
  • Boneless, Skinless chicken thighs (I have started to buy these more as I've found them to be really versatile in my cooking and I don't end up throwing away anything at the end of dinner this way, so it is worth it to me to buy it this way):  13.05 for the value pack.
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, two pack (I am going to butterfly them to make a pack of four when I go to cook them):  $8.87 after a $2.00/1 coupon (won 2.00 off boneless, skinless chicken breasts on the Flavor Adventure game).
  • Waterfront Bistro Imitation Crab meat:  $3.13.  Put this into the freezer until I'm ready to use it this week.

Next up, working our way around the table a bit, we run into the produce.  In the first round/picture, I got...

  • 2 Heads of cabbage:  $8.37
  • 1 Cucumber:  $1.47
  • 8 Roma Tomatoes:  $2.96
  • 1 Bell pepper:  $1.47
  • 1 bunch Cilantro:  $1.47
  • 1 large avocado:  $2.75
Next picture:

  • 1 Bag of spinach:  $2.95
  • 2 bunches green onions:  $2.94

  • 1 bag Fuji apples:  Free, from a coupon I redeemed last month for some fuel rewards that were going to expire.
  • Melon bowl, mixed:  $6.88 (this is for snacking)
  • Strawberry bowl:  $7.47, personalized price.
  • Cantaloupe bowl:  Free (the bowls are B2G1)
  • Lighthouse Poppyseed Dressing:  $5.90 (not the cheapest dressing, but it was cheaper than getting poppyseeds to make my own dressing).
  • Pompeian Extra Virgin Olive Oil:  $8.84 after 1.00/1 coupon (this is for the son's pasta and Amazon was out of pretty much any olive oil for months when I went to see if I could order it, so this was the next best option).
  • 2 cans black olives:  $3.53
  • 5lbs of Unbleached All Purpose Flour:  $3.27 personalized price.
  • Buttermilk, 1/2 gallon:  $3.99 (it was only .49 more than a quart, so I just went with it)

Continuing here...
  • 1 box, quart sized freezer bags:  $3.19
  • 1 box, gallon sized freezer bags:  $3.93
  • 1, 4 pack, canned peaches:  $9.83
  • 2 packages Lucerne European style salted butter:  Free after a couple of won coupons from the Flavor Adventure game.
  • 2 packages Danish Creamery European Style butter:  $5.00 after a 2.00/2 coupon.
  • 1 bag shredded Mozzarella cheese:  $7.05 (I actually got this because Alvah has been on a kick where he wants to eat frozen cheese, and unlike the home grated stuff this stuff will separate and allow me to get him small bowls of cheese to eat straight from the freezer).
Okay, and now onto some things that aren't shown:

Ibuprofen and Tums (forgot to take pics before we put them away in the bathroom)
Alvah food and a bag of chips for the daughter's work lunches (she puts a big bag into small sandwich bags to give herself a treat to eat with her sandwiches).

So, all totaled I spent:

$311.61 after various coupons, discounts and other things were taken.
+$9.35 taxes and fees

$320.96 total spent.

That seems like a lot every time I spend it, but my grocery budget has just gone up the worse inflation has gotten (as I know everyone is in that boat), so really $160.00 a week for groceries for a family of four with a special needs teen who eats constantly...I don't think I'm doing too bad, honestly.  Sad, but true.

Okay, so it's more like 168.49 a week as we are spending 17.00 for two gallons of milk as well, so keep that in mind.

Anyway, let's move onto some of the meals I'm going to make with these groceries :).

1  For the following items, I'm going to be using them to make Farmhouse On Boone's Lacto Fermented Salsa.  I made some of this a few months ago and my husband and I loved it and just used up the final bits of it, so it was time to ferment a new batch.  So, for this recipe I'm going to be using...

  • 4 tomatoes (the rest of the tomatoes are slated for tomato sandwiches for my lunches)
  • The bell pepper
  • The Cilantro
The rest of the ingredients I already have on hand.

2.  For the corned beef and one of the heads of cabbage I'm going to be making slow cooked corned beef brisket with potatoes, carrots and cabbage.

3.  The spinach and strawberries will be combined with some crumbled feta I have in the fridge and some of the dehydrated pecans I have in the freezer to make a spinach strawberry salad.  I am going to put the poppyseed dressing on top of it to dress it.  This will be my second time making said salad and my husband and I love it.  

4.  The chicken breasts I'm going to slice in half butterfly wise and make four chicken breasts.  I'm then going to pound them flat and turn them into schnitzel and soak them in some buttermilk to give them a bit of tang.  I'm then going to bread them with some home ground sourdough breadcrumbs that I made.  I'm then going to take a stick of the European butter to make a yummy compound butter with some herbs and we'll have that on top of the chicken to make a lazy man's Chicken Kiev out of it.  

5.  Another half stick of butter is destined to make Easy Lemon Curd.  I got lemons last week on a good sale price and I used a couple to make this recipe.  I also got a really good deal on eggs a few weeks ago and bought five dozen to see us through for a while and so I used some of those in the recipe as well.  It turned out GREAT and I'm going to use the lemon curd to make lemon and strawberry cheesecake for dessert tonight (I made the lemon curd last night so it'd have time to sit).

6.  I will be using some of the buttermilk in lemon zucchini bread.  I bought a few zucchini with groceries last month and didn't get a chance to use it, so I grated it and threw it into the freezer.  Two tiny zucchini from the store netted me a cup of grated zucchini so I will pull that out of the freezer, ring it out and use it in the recipe as well.  And I will use another lemon from my bag-o-lemons I bought in this recipe as well :).

7.  The avocado, cucumber and imitation crab meat I'm going to use tomorrow to make sushi, along with some miso soup, for dinner.  I have some sushi nori (seaweed) to use up in the pantry, so I figured it would be a good time to use it.  I'll also use some of the green onions in the miso soup and the rest I will put in the freezer to use over the winter.

8.  The all purpose flour will be used to make sourdough items.  My two go-to recipes every week are Rustic Sourdough and Sourdough pizza crust...I double the pizza crust recipe and make breadsticks for the son out of the same dough.  Works great.  I'll also use some of the ham for pizza nights and we'll use a can of the black olives for pizza nights as well.  We tend to have pizza once a week around here, so we definitely keep stuff around to make it.

9.  The pork chops were gotten because they were cheap and will be used partially by marinating them in some type of marinade and grilling them later in the week (we are looking at the 70s and with how humid it has been this summer...that's not going to be a fun couple of days.  I might be grilling in the rain, but if I had to, so be it).

10.  The second head of cabbage may be made into coleslaw or some other cold cabbage dish or I might ferment it into fresh sauerkraut or make it into hot seasoned cabbage to go with sausages or something one night.  I'm still undecided, but I've found cabbage is a great versatile vegetable to have around.

11.  The melon bowls are for dessert or if my husband feels hungry after dinner at some point.  The chicken thighs will be used for sure, if in nothing else than in baked chicken as my daughter's favorite cooked meat is chicken, quickly followed by fish.

And there you go folks.  My grocery haul and how I plan to use it (God willing the produce keeps).  I'll probably be sharing grocery hauls more often to maybe give people some ideas.  Never hurts to get inspiration, I say.  


Quick Life Update: What's Been Going on Around Here

It's been nuts around here, per usual it seems.  I'd share Frugal Accomplishments, but I have to say that the last few weeks, there really hasn't been very many, other than I got the kids in for their dental visits and cleanings and they were cavity free and doing well (thank goodness) and I got Alvah into the eye doctor for the first time in a while and he's doing good...his nearsightedness got a wee bit worse, but he's not even close to really needing glasses, so that was a relief and a half to hear as trying to get him to wear glasses would be a challenge and then some.   

Bright side for those who want money saving tips, I'm going to have to come up with some as I had some unexpected things happen that cost me money the last few weeks.  Let's get into some of that.

The first one was I ended up having to take Prince to the vet suddenly.  I went to pet him one day and he yelped when I got near his mouth.  I could tell he was in pain and kept an eye on him over the weekend and the pain wasn't going away and he wasn't eating much as I could tell it hurt him to chew.  So, I ended up taking him to the vet.  The vet didn't see any bad teeth or anything (which was what I suspected was going on, so I was happy to hear his teeth were okay) and that his teeth were in good shape and he couldn't really see anything really wrong (other than Prince is fat, which I already knew that one for sure).   He suspected that Prince might have strep, so he gave him a long lasting antibiotic shot to see if that would clear things up and get him acting his old rambunctious self (it did) and gave him an updated rabies vaccine.  That visit, while worth it, wasn't cheap, so I have that to pay off on top of the medical bills that I've been trying to pay down.

And then the next day (no joke) I was making bread and my mixer just stopped in its tracks and I barely got it shut off before it was going to start burning up on me.  I couldn't get it to work right afterwards, so my husband took a look at it when he came home and after troubleshooting it said that it was just time to retire the old girl as something major was going in it this time.  The actual loss of the mixer actually hit me kind of hard.  That mixer made every batch of Christmas cookies my kids have ever eaten, it had made many batches of bread over the years, many birthday cakes and other goodies,  and it had been a great mixer that I had used hard over the last 16 years.  It just got past the point that my husband could fix it.  Rest in peace old friend.

My husband took a look at the NutriMill I had bought after the earthquake and decided he didn't want  me to use it as my everyday mixer as it was underpowered compared to a normal Bosche mixer and with how hard I ran my mixers, he didn't think it would live very long.  So, we talked about what to do and how to replace the Viking as I am constantly using my mixer and really couldn't be without one around here.  We thought about buying an actual Bosche, but I finally decided that I didn't want to go with a mixer that I might not be able to find replacement parts for, so after some debate (and my husband looking around to see what would be the best to go with for the sake of repair and maintenance), we settled on getting a KitchenAid.  

Unfortunately, trying to FIND a decent sized KitchenAid for my needs wasn't easy, so my husband spent one afternoon canvasing Anchorage trying to find at least a 7 quart KitchenAid mixer for me (we didn't want to go smaller than my Viking mixer as I will sometimes max out a seven quart when doing big batches of things).  He finally found a restaurant supply house that services the residential market too and we ended up getting an 8 quart Commercial KitchenAid mixer.  We went with the commercial mixer because it was available (a BIG plus as it seems that most everything is at least a month out on order up here right now) and it was set up more simply then the Professional line of KitchenAid internally, which would make it easier to work on, all the attachments are stainless steel (so, able to be put through the dishwasher...which sometimes I put my bowl in the dishwasher multiple times a day, so that was a plus for me), and it has a nice, powerful motor that would do everything I wanted it to do over the next countless years.  It is also really easy to clean as they didn't put on a bunch of plastic trim pieces or anything, so you can really clean it well in no time flat. 

And so, I welcome Black Beauty to my kitchen.  I do love it, I have to admit.  

The only downside is the price.  It was NOT cheap.  Neither was the Viking when I bought it so many years ago, but it still hurts to buy a piece of equipment like this.  So, I am going to work hard over the next few months to hopefully get the mixer paid off as I feel terribly guilty that my husband bought me a mixer for our anniversary (just worked out that way for when the Viking died) instead of buying something cheaper, but at least it is practical I suppose and my husband was happy to get it for me, which was really sweet of him.  I have used said mixer NUMEROUS times over the last few weeks and it works beautifully.  A definite bright side compared to the Viking is that I can put some dough on to knead in the mixer and walk away to do other things instead of having to lean on the mixer so it doesn't try to skip off the countertop.  And it is so MUCH quieter than my old mixer.  I couldn't believe how quiet it is as it is doing its work.  May it last many, many years and serve me as well as my Viking did.

So, yeah, it's been interesting around here.  I didn't know where else to put the updates this time, so I decided to just do a quick post about what was going on and I'll get into money saving things, garden updates and some other (hopefully) more fun posts here in the next few posts.  

I hope your summer is going well and you are all getting things done that is on your lists.  Enjoy!