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Sunday, March 31, 2019

Weekly $68 Grocery Total, Best Buys, and Update On My Goals



We've been immersed in our bathroom remodel project. So, my grocery shopping and menu planning have been abbreviated this week. Since I was able to bulk cook last Saturday, we actually fared very well. But, we've been coasting all week on last week's efforts. As of this writing, I am nearly out of all of my bulk cooking booty. Time to get back in the kitchen!

Here's a look at this week's best buys!

Store #1: Kroger (2 Locations): 


Yes, I really went to two Kroger stores on the same day. I really wasn't purposeful. I actually stopped at the first Kroger after driving across town to drop my son off at his weekly science class. But, I realized, after I left the store,  that I had forgotten to use my 55¢ off coupon on soy milk. Really, under other circumstances, I would never have stopped at another Kroger on the same day. But, about an hour later I realized that I was literally across the street from a different Kroger location. So, why not just run in and pick up that on-sale soy milk and use my coupon? It turned out to be a good decision. I found a ton of produce markdowns!

 Here's the scoop!

Half Price Markdown Greens!





 

 Half Price Markdown Veggies

 


 

Non-Dairy Half Price Markdown Yogurt

 

99¢ each on sale. 

I know! That's pretty expensive. But, if you have someone in your family with a sensitivity to dairy, then finding the non-dairy version of yogurt for just 99¢ each is really good. That's half the regular price, by the way. I bought 6 of them.

EXPERIMENT COMING SOON! Because non-dairy yogurt is so expensive, I'm going to try making my own. My 1946 stove has a standing pilot light that heats milk to a perfect 110 degrees. This is the exact temperature at which milk cultures. Years ago, when I still used dairy products, used to make homemade yogurt on it overnight all the time. I am going to try using some of this yogurt as a starter and culture some soy yogurt on my stove this week. I'll let you know if it works.

By the way, you can just glimpse the berries at the bottom of this photo. It looks like I didn't snap a separate photo of the berries. They were sale priced at just 99¢ each for two days. I got two cartons.

Regular Sale Items 

 $2.50 each, but I saved an additional $.55 with a Kroger physical coupon.

*If you don't have a Kroger store loyalty card, get one! They will periodically send you high value coupons, based on your shopping history.


 99¢ each - two day sale!





$1.29 a pound! 

Kroger total: $34.77!


Store #2: GFS 

 

GFS is consistently putting items on their markdown shelf at fantastic prices!


I don't get my veggies from my bread, but at $1.50 a loaf, this intrigued me. 3/4 cup of veggies in 2 slices of bread. I bought it because I thought it would be a hearty bread for the vegan pumpkin french toast recipe that I want to try later this week. I'll let you know how it turns out.


75¢ a bunch for bananas! Best price in town! 

GFS: Total: $5.30

Store #3: Mediterranean Mart


I've mentioned before that Mediterranean Mart is my very favorite ethnic store in town. I was almost out of date syrup. They sell a nice-sized can for about $7.00. 

When buying date syrup, look for products that have ONE ingredient. The only thing it should say is: "dates". Some brands add extra sugars. Dates are seriously sweet. You don't need any added sugars. I use date syrup when making homemade salad dressings, desserts, and muffins. If you're trying to reduce your use of refined sugar, date syrup is a very nice alternative and it's cheaper than real maple syrup (my other natural sweetener of choice). 

While I was there, I bought a big jar of olives. I didn't get a photo, because my family scarfed down that jar in about 48 hours. If you like olives and you are a Central Illinois native, Mediterranean Mart has a fantastic assortment of types and flavors to try.

Mediterranean Mart is located at the corner of Glen and University Streets, in Peoria, IL.  

Mediterranean Mart Total: $11.80

Store #4: Aldi


No photos of this one. My husband ran in to Aldi earlier this week. I think he said something vague on his way out the door like, "I'm running to Aldi for a couple of things." He left, "supervised" by our 11 year old son. That turned out to be not such a wise idea. Seems that when a really cute 11 year old asks his Dad for food that Mom doesn't generally buy, Dad gets it for him. But, since the total was under $20, the budgetary impact was limited. 

Aldi Total: $16.92

 

Grand Total for the week: $68.77

 

My Current Goals


Right now my goal for meals for my family is $60 a week. I actually have managed on $50 a week for the past two weeks! I've been spending slightly more than $60 a week on groceries, but several of the items that I purchased will last for more than one week. For instance, last week's killer deal on 30# of potatoes will last us for a month. So, we'll see in another few weeks if I need to inch up that goal by a few dollars.
But, still, $60 a week for food for a family of 5 (6 when my oldest comes home from college to visit) is absolutely crazy! I know! But, I'm keeping it for now for two reasons: 

1) This journey began because I was consistently overspending on food over the winter months and then trying to play "catch up" with the grocery budget during the growing season (when we pick up our weekly bushel basket of produce through our CSA membership). I was driving myself crazy, sometimes whittling down my food budget to $100 by December (NOT the time of the year when you want a limited grocery budget!). So, this year I decided to take the bull by the horns, pulling out every grocery saving device in my repertoire of money-saving devices! And it's working! I have cut what I generally spend in January, February, and March by nearly 50%! Best of all, my family has not noticed a thing. (Watch for a post later this week detailing the TEN tips that I use for the past few months.) 

2) The other reason I'm doing this is to PROVE to you that you can serve your family healthy food for an extraordinarily low cost! I hear it all the time: "I can't eat healthy. It costs too much." No, it doesn't! And I'm out to show you how to do it! 

So, hang with me, while I continue to chronicle my weekly grocery spending and bulk cooking sessions for you. 

Your Turn! 

What are your current goals for your budget? Are you working your way out of debt? Saving to replace a car or buy a new home? Are you striving to cut utility or food costs? Let me know in the comments section or e-mail me at underthemedian@gmail.com. I'll write a blog post, giving you my tips and insights on your personal goals. 


 


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Hope

Sunday, March 24, 2019

43 Pounds of Produce for just $23.00!



Once again, I combined HyVee's sales items with price matched items from other local stores, to get the very best prices on produce! Let's take a look at each item and what I paid.

HyVee Sale Items


99¢ for 5 pound bags.

Yes! I've been waiting and wanting a great sale on baking potatoes. They are an excellent source of fiber and fill up hungry kids. Plus, you an use them in an amazing number of ways!

HyVee put 5# bags of their One Step brand russet potatoes on sale for 2 days for just $.99 each!

I bought 6 bags. Yep! That's 30 pounds of spuds. I've got plans for them.


$1.00 each!
I bought 3.


Each of these little lovelies was $1.00 each. HyVee consistently has not only great prices on red peppers, but also really, large, beautiful peppers. 

Price Matched Items 

 

Aldis

 
Fresh Lemons - $1.29 for 2 pounds 



 

Fresh Pineapple - $1.29 each 

Mandarin Oranges (Cuties!) - $2.49 - 3 pound bags. 
I bought 2 bags.

Cantaloupe - $.99 each for 2

(Not as good as fresh-from-the-field!) But, a nice change from our regular fruit selections. 

Save-A-Lot

  Small avocados - $.49 each for 6

Total Spent: $23.52

Saved with Price Matches: $17.08 

Price match savings: 42% 

 Your turn!

Anybody else taking HyVee up on their price matching offer? How about grocery deals in your locale? Fill us in on your best buys this week. Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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Hope

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Timely Tip From A Reader Leads to GREAT Kroger Markdowns!




I received a message from a faithful reader this afternoon relating the glorious news that there were a ton of markdowns at our local Kroger in the produce department. That news got my attention! Making sure that I had the right Kroger location, I immediately headed out the door.


Ten minutes later I found myself in the store, staring at a glorious amount of bright yellow and orange markdown stickers.




Not only did I find half price produce, I also scored some great deals in the general merchandise markdown area.

Deals like this are exactly what I rely on to keep my grocery budget in line! I feed my family a whole foods diet for just $400 a month!

You can read my best grocery saving tips in these posts:

Three Food Prep Techniques Guaranteed to Save You Money

My Five Step Plan for Stretching Food Dollars

Before You Head to the Store, Do These Six Things




Without further adieu, let's take a look at the deals I scored today!

Produce

 $2.79 - 1 pound organic salad greens


How about 1 pound of organic salad mix! Yes, thank you! This is headed to church with me tomorrow night for Bible study. TIP: When you are following a specific diet (like I'm vegan) be sure to take at least one dish to every social occasion. That way you are sure to have something you can eat. 

By the way, I have taken my homemade oil-free salad dressings repeatedly to church functions and not one person has ever told me that they either missed the oil or could tell that it was absent. 

 $1.39 - 12 oz. salad mix

My 11 year old absolutely adores this salad mix! Yes, it's got some regular iceburg lettuce in it. But, it also has a nice mixture of romaine as well as other veggie chunks. He likes that he can throw it in a bowl and have a complete salad right off the bat without needing to cut up anything else. On a side note, he often eats salads without any dressing at all. Several of my other children do this too. They say that if they add dressing, they can't taste the greens well enough. 

 1 pound bags of sugar snap peas - $1.49 each

I have NO idea what I plan to do with these. Honestly, the kids just like them washed and set out on the table. They snack on them throughout the day. But, I may save one back for a recipe. Last time I scored this deal, I made an interesting soup with some of them. 

Any ideas? What can I do with my sugar snap peas? 

Kroger Stir Fry Kits - $1.49 each 

I am seriously in love with how simple and easy these are to use! I am not eating added salt products, so the flavor packets will either go in the garbage or be served separately for those who want to add the sauce. But, for $1.49 each you simply cannot beat the convenience of this great product! Dinner is on the table in 15 minutes when I use these! 

 100% Juice smoothie - 59 oz. - $2.09

I very rarely purchase juice. If my kids want juice, they get it while eating the piece of fruit which contains the juice. Really, juice is no more than glorified sugar. I want them to learn that we don't drink our calories. However, clearly, I made an exception. This product has no added sugar and a pretty decent ingredient list. So, my plan is to use it to make smoothies with actual fruit that I have in the freezer. I have a LOT of fruit left in the freezer from the winter and I need to use some of it up before this year's growing season. 

General Merchandise

 

Zevia mardarin orange sparkling water - 8 can packs for just $2.29 each!

You can never predict when you will find the perfect product in the general merchandise markdown bin! Our youngest son turns 11 this week and that means a birthday party is coming up soon with some of his favorite friends. This will be a wonderful natural product to serve at the festivities! 

Yep! I bought 4 cases. Just one case is for my son's party. The rest are for our weekly Friday evening picnics. Spring has sprung and soon we will be packing up supper and heading over to the river overlook on Friday evenings to connect as a family! My grown sons voted "Friday night picnics" as their very favorite childhood memory! 

 Dandruff shampoo - $2.99 each



Suave Professionals shampoo - $1.59 each 

 These were the big 28 oz. bottles! The 16 oz. bottles were the same price! So, of course, I cleaned the shelf of the larger bottles of shampoo.

This is where I tell you that I am aware that there are some pretty awful chemicals in most shampoos and bath and body products. It's not that I don't care. It's that I have to pick my battles carefully on my budget. And right now, shampoo is not it. 

Insulated gloves for just $2.49

By the time my youngest inherits clothing, which has been previously worn by three siblings, it's in pretty sad shape. Such was the case with his winter gloves. I found these marked down to $2.49. They were just a tad too big, but should be perfect by November when he needs them. 

What did I spend?

This was a serious amount of food and household items for just over $35.00! 

 A special shout out to my reader, Stacy, who put me wise to the tremendous bargains on my local Kroger's shelves! I love it when my readers give me their tips or offer a "heads up" on bargains and sales! If you have any advice or tips, we'd love to hear about them in the comments section below. 


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Do all to the glory of God, 

Hope

Monday, March 18, 2019

Feeding My Family of 5 for 7 Days for $50!


Our Journey



We have been on a journey all month long to keep my grocery budget from rapidly growing into an unmanageable, colossal giant! Traditionally, during the winter months I stretch the limits of our average budget for food way past where it should be. Then, during the growing season I count on the availability of fresh, seasonal, inexpensive produce to make up the difference. I was so tired of stressing myself out by May, that I decided to take the bull by the horns!

I've been bulk cooking for weeks now, and the savings are adding up! Here are my past three posts, in case you missed them and want to catch up on my progress thus far.

 Menu Planning When Your Fridge Is Empty

Three Food Prep Techniques Guaranteed to Save You Money 

I Cut My Grocery Budget in Half with Bulk Cooking

Today we tackle a topic that we haven't really discussed yet. How much does my average weekly food budget cost and what do we eat?

(Posts on my blog contain affiliate links. When you make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you.)

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This was my second week using The China Study All Star Cookbook.  Not only have I been pleased with the flavor of the dishes that we have tried, they have also been very economical to make!

We'll make our way through breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I'll show you each dish that I created with my 14 year old sous chef son and then add up the average cost of each meal.

At the end, we'll see how well I fared with keeping my grocery costs down to a dull roar.

Ready? Let's go!

Breakfasts: 

 

 Hot Cereal


We rotate between cream of wheat and oatmeal. This is the most nutritious, cost effective way we have found to feed our children. Real food keeps them full longer. We serve oatmeal topped with either fresh or frozen fruit, raisins, a few nuts, and a drizzle of real maple syrup. 

I could probably cut breakfast costs by not allowing the boys to add fruit or nuts to their cereal. But, it's a great way to add more fruit to their diet and I just really don't want to take it out of their day. It makes breakfast a little less boring when they can pick whatever kind of fruit they want. Breakfast is also more expensive that it need be since I buy only real maple syrup. Trust me, you don't want the high fructose laden syrups. I'd rather had them add just a drizzle of the real stuff.  

Old fashioned oats: $1.25 a pound from Aldi. 
Oatmeal Add-ins: $4.25 total for week
Farina: about $1.00 a pound from Mediterranean Mart. I buy it in bulk.

 

Total Cost of breakfast for the Week: $6.50


 Lunches: 

 

Side Dishes

Lunch is nearly always a bowl of soup, served with the following options: 

A slice of bread with natural peanut butter
Raw veggies
Fresh fruit. 

All items are bought on sale (most often price matched at HyVee.) 

Cost of Lunch Side Dishes: $8.00

 

Soups:

 

 1. Smoky White Bean 

 

 This is by far the most requested recipe on Under the Median. I created the recipe years ago to mimic bean-n-bacon soup without the added salt, preservatives, or other added unpronounceable ingredients. You begin with a base of a pound of white beans ($1.25) , add  tomato puree ($1.50), celery, onion, garlic, carrots, herbs, and spices ($.75). 

Total Cost (10 servings): $3.50



2. Red Lentil Chili 


Recipe from Forks Over Knives Website. Original recipe credit: Chef AJ 

This recipe begins with red lentils! If you've never used them, these tiny orbs are amazing! Like regular brown lentils, they cook up quickly, but lose their red color as they cook. I admit to stocking up on a case of these beauties this week. I received two generous gift certificates for Christmas to my favorite ethnic grocery store, Mediterranean Mart. Owner, Sieed, gave me a slight discount on the price of each bag, because I purchased an entire case. Each two bag was just $2.49. after the discount. The recipe calls for 1 pound of red lentils ($1.25), diced tomatoes ($.50), onion ($.25), red pepper ($1.00), garlic, dates ($1.00), herbs, and spices.

Total Cost (12 servings): $4.00

 

Total cost of lunch for the week: $15.50

 

Dinner: 

 

Entrees: 

 

1. Baked Potatoes with Mushroom Gravy 

 

Recipe from the Plant Based on A Budget website.

I got a big 1.5 pound package of sliced white mushrooms on markdown at GFS for $2.50 this week. Half of that package went into the mushroom gravy recipe.   I added onion, garlic, and unsweetened almond milk ($.25), along with seasonings and spices ($.25)

Cost: $1.75 - gravy 
     Cost: $1.00 - Potatoes 
 ____________________

Total Cost: $2.75


2. Pineapple Not-So-Fried Rice 

 


This recipe rocks! I used the recipe from China Study All Stars Cookbook. But, I found a very similar one on-line. Here's a link.

I used 4 cups of the mixed frozen veggies ($1.10) that I got from GFS several months ago. Here's the story. I thought maybe I was "biting off more than I could chew", but I got 30 pounds of frozen veggies for just $.55 a pound. What a deal! I still have a few pounds left in the freezer. But, I've done an admirable job trying to use it up over the winter. 

When I added the cost of a pound of brown rice ($.25 - on clearance at HyVee)  the jar of pineapple (on clearance at SAMS for $.80) and the minimal cost of a few slices of onion, garlic, and soy sauce, and some spices ($.75), the cost is very reasonable and will feed us for two nights.

Total Cost: $2.90


 

3. Coconut Curry Over Brown Rice 

 


Recipe from China Study All Star Cookbook 

We took some liberties with this recipe. It calls for a can of lite coconut milk. I buy any coconut milk only rarely, because of the high fat content. So, we used unsweetened almond milk ($.50) instead and added some non-sweetened coconut flakes. Additional ingredients include: pineapple chunks ($.80), two colored peppers ($2.00) onions, and flavorings and spices ($.50). We will serve it over brown rice ($.25) for two evening meals.

Total cost: $4.05

 

4. Stuffed Cabbage Rolls 

 

HyVee put their cabbage on sale for just 19¢ a pound for St. Patty's Day! Whew hoo! I grabbed two heads for just $1.00. The first head wound up as cole slaw with a tangy lemon ginger dressing for Bible Study on Wednesday night. The second head ($.50) will be perfect for stuffing with rice ($.25) and tomato sauce ($.25). This has a serious "yum" factor! 

Total Cost for 9 cabbage rolls: $1.00! 

 

5. Twice Baked Potatoes 

 

  Recipe from Dr. Colin Campbell's website

The recipe I made was very similar to the link above. Theywere divine. I added a cup of mashed white beans ($.10) to the pulp that I removed from the baked potatoes ($.60). In addition, a bit of sauteed onion and red pepper, herbs, spices, and topped with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast. 

Total Cost of 8 potato halves: $1.00

 

Side Dishes: 

 

1.  Homemade Baked Beans 

 

 Recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie

I've used this recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie for several years. It's easy to make and taste delicious! I prepared the beans the night before and then put the whole thing in the crock pot insert and threw it in the fridge overnight. The next morning, I took it out of the fridge and put the crockpot on "high". We left for church, returning at noon to a perfectly cooked pot of homemade baked beans. The house smelled amazing! 


When I prepare beans, I insure that the cooked beans completely fill my 6 quart pressure cooker. I remove extra beans, leaving enough in the pot to make a nice batch of soup. These were the white beans ($1.50) that I removed from the pressure cooker. I put them immediately into my six quart slow cooker. I added 8 oz. of tomato sauce ($.25), molasses, a bit of finely minced onion, molasses, brown sugar, and spices. 

Total Cost (12 servings): $ 2.00 

 

2.  Quick Apple Loaf  


Recipe can be found in The China Study All Star Cookbook

This was our first time trying this bread and it was a hit with everyone. Moist, flavorful, and gluten free because we made it with almond and a GF flour mix. The GF flours drive the price of this side dish up a little bit.

Cost (8 servings): $2.50

 

3. Salad

Dinners are always served with a large salad of leafy greens, a vegetable side dish, and sometimes fruit for dessert. We go through at least 2.5 pounds of fresh greens every single week. I get a large 2.5 pound bag of spinach from SAMS for $3.50. If I get organic, the price per week doubles. We add a handful of walnuts, a few raisins, 2-3 Tbsp of freshly ground flax seeds, and my homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

Total cost: $6.00

 

Total Dinner Cost for the Week: $22.20

 

Snacks: 

1. Gingerbread Granola 

 


I never cook on Sunday night. So, my boys will enjoy this homemade granola for supper on Sunday evening and for snacks throughout the week. This recipe is amazing! It has no oil and is sweetened by date syrup, molasses, and brown rice syrup. 

Total granola Cost: $2.00



2. Popcorn

We buy a 50# bag of popcorn from SAMS about twice a year. Air-popped popcorn is great fun for the kids. We add no oil, no salt. Best of all, they can make it themselves and then clean up afterwards! 

Popcorn: Cost (3 X per week) $2.00


3. Fruit

Fruit is sometimes offered at snack time. It is always fresh, in-season, and purchased on sale. I get the best price by going weekly to HyVee and having them match the best prices from all the stores in town.  

Fruit for 4 days: $3.00

 

Snack Total: $7.00

GRAND TOTAL FOR ONE WEEK: $51.20!

 Bear in mind that the cost I gave you for each dish reflecst the priced I paid for individual ingredients. For instance, I got a wonderful deal a while back on marked down brown rice at HyVee. I paid just $2.00 for 8 pounds! So, depending on what you have on hand, the recipes may cost you a little more (or a little less) to make. My main goal was to show you that when you effectively combine whole foods (bought on sale), ingredients that you have on hand, and bulk cook, you can save a LOT of money on your grocery bill! 

 

  Your turn!

Do you have any goals for your grocery bill? What are the main areas that you struggle with in keeping your grocery bill on target and on budget? How can I best help you? Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments section.

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Hope