Thursday, August 19, 2021

Sticker shock at the grocery store

This might be a tad long, so grab some coffee & enjoy the post :)

My gosh! I haven't shopped in 2 weeks and upon hitting Walmart again, I find that the prices of almost everything have increased. It seems like prices of everything are increasing overnight. How is a girl supposed to save money when our income doesn't increase as fast as the rising food costs? 

I have a few standard items that I usually stockpile at Walmart. My 'price book' is in my head & I can immediately tell when something has increased in price (I have a photographic memory). We only needed fresh milk and eggs after returning from vacation, but I figured I'd just add some stockpile items since I'm already at the store. I just wasn't prepared to see how much everything costs lately. The only thing that was the same price, were artichokes. I was very happy to see they had decent stock, so I bought 4 cans. The downside is that they were out of store brand peas again. Ugh, I just can't win.

So here's a list of price increases I noticed on my receipt. All store brand items (I'm usually a brand name girl, but most of the Walmart store brand items taste good, so I'm opting for the lower store brand price) :

Canned pineapple

Was $0.92

Now $1.18

Increase of $0.26


Canned chickpeas

Was $0.50

Now $0.62

Increase of $0.12


Canned mushrooms (big can) 

Was $1.14

Now $1.24

Increase of $0.10


Canned mixed veg

Was $0.50

Now $0.58

Increase of $0.08


2 lb Bag Fresh baby carrots

Was $1.92

Now $2.10

Increase of $0.18


3 lb Yellow onions

Was $1.68

Now $2.47

Increase of $0.79


3lb Red onions

Was $1.74

Now $2.98

Increase of $1.24


Bran Flakes (this price increased a while ago)

Was $1.92

Now $2.20

Increase of $0.28


Do they think that we won't notice these 'little' price increases? This is just a few things that I bought. Think of every other item that has increased. These little bits all add up to big amounts every week. 

The carrots actually cost more at the produce market. This is why I buy carrots at Walmart. The onions cost less at the market, but its always covered in black stuff (not sure if it's mold) and goes bad fast. I was definitely NOT prepared for the huge onion price increase. I might have to start planting my own onions. This is nuts!!


I first stopped at the produce market first (I do this so that I can fill in the gaps of whatever items they don't have, at Walmart). We ate down the fridge & freezer for 2 weeks leading up to vacation and really needed fresh produce. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the open bag of Sam's salad was still perfectly fresh. I line my fridge drawers with paper towel (I read years ago of preserving produce by wrapping it in paper towel, but that's too much work for me. Besides, how am I gonna see what's inside the p/t. So I've been lining the drawers with p/t for years & this helps keep everything fresh for longer)

Me thinking : I really don't need to buy a box ($2 clearance box).

Also me upon entering store : Lots of boxes! Yay!!!!....lol

I really really wanted a box of peaches (these boxes are huge), but most of the top peaches in every box were squashed. I was not prepared to deal with that mess, so I bought a box of apples for juicing. I'm also gonna make apple pie & apple cookies or muffins. It all depends on my mood. 


I wasn't gonna go to Sams, but I have this sense of urgency to just finish my stockpiling before S*&^%t hits the fan again. 

Not again!! Bloody sticker shock!! The Jennie O ground turkey now costs $3 more per package....grrrr. The Members Mark tissues also cost $2 more. I did buy the tissues, because it's still slightly less than Dollar Tree. Besides, it comes in a 12 pack, so one stop shopping for me. They had lots of tissues stock, but I'm no shelf clearer. I might get another pack on my next trip. I didn't buy everything I wanted, because I'm waiting on the new monthly coupon book. Hopefully the items I need will be on sale. 

I don't know if this is the start of t/p shortage again, but Sams only had a few packs of Charmin in store. I want the MM t/p (our preferred brand), because that's 45 rolls per pack and is much better than Charmin. The funny thing is that you can order it online & the limit is 10!! Say what?! I'm not trying to supply the whole town with t/p, so I'll just buy one pack and pay the $2 shipping. I still have a gc that will cover the cost.

I don't think I did too badly at Sams. I spent around $150 and stocked up on meat and a few other things. I bought 4 cases of Chobani drinking yogurt for DS, because it has a $2 Instant Value Q that's good until the end of the month. This is the lowest price anywhere.

Once I got home, I marinated the chicken tenders in BWW sauce and cooked a big pot of fajita chicken. Both are for freezing. We used the last fajitas from the freezer this week. 


Then it was off to CVS to redeem my $19 EBs that are expiring this week. I really should stop waiting until the last minute, but this week was fun. I used all DQs and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM DOUBLE DIPPED. Whoo hoo! Also, if you can find the large Doritos bags, they are clearanced to $1.09 (it's unmarked, so be sure to do a price check at the scanner)

2 x Irish Spring b/w $8.00

2 x Crest t/p 6.98

2 x Clairol hair color 16.98

2 x Almay makeup remover 13.18

1 x Revlon kiss balm 6.59

Less Irish Spring DQ (1.00)

Less $3/2 Irish Spring DQ (3.00)

Less $3/2 Irish Spring DQ (3.00)  No, you're not seeing double

Less $2/8 body wash DQ (2.00)

Less Crest DQ (1.00)

Less $3/2 Crest DQ (3.00)

Less $6/2 Clairol DQ (6.00)

Less $5/2 Clairol DQ (5.00)

Less $3/2 Almay makeup remover DQ (3.00)

Less Almay cosmetics DQ (3.00)

Less Revlon DQ (3.00)

Less EBs (18.10)

Tax 2.20

OOP $2.83

Earned $18 EBs ($3 Crest, $5 Clairol, $8 WYB $20 Almay/Revlon, $2 Irish Spring) and should get another $3 Beauty EB. So a small MM trip for me. Yay for 99% Savings!! (doesn't include beauty eb)

Retail value $59.31

Total Qs used : $24.00

Total rewards used : $18.10


I saw that Kroger had a digital Q for 18ct eggs for 97c. I discovered this on the last day of the sale price (phew), so I ran to Kroger and bought the limit of 5. You can't even find a dozen eggs for under $1. I think a dozen was $1.20 at Walmart. Milk prices have also doubled. 



I also stopped at Dollar Tree for some Barilla Pesto. I'm not a huge fan of the Genovese pesto, but at this price I'm not complaining. The grocery store jar is 6.2 oz, compared to this 5.6 oz jar, but it costs $2.99-3.19. It's hit & miss at the DT for this item, but there's a DT on every corner around here. I'll just check different stores whenever I'm out. 

As a rule, I only buy name brand food at DT. I'm picky about what goes into my body and don't want any food that's Made in China. DH bought frozen fruit at DT before & I discovered it's MIC (I always read labels). Same with food storage containers. I don't want anything that's toxic. They did have Rubbermaid containers, so I picked up 4. I love my Pyrex, but I can't always cart glassware with me when I'm out. 

Does anyone ever go to the DT for just one item & come home with way more things than you intended? This happens to me most of the time. I always check the entire store to see what's new. You just never know what gems you might find. I do love their books, but haven't been able to find anything good in a year. I'm an avid reader, so paying $1 per book works for me. 

Well I'm off to go try and earn a few $$$

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

I'm back!

Hi everyone

I apologise for not responding to comments sooner. We just returned from a vacation to the east coast. For security reasons (businesses at home), we never mention beforehand when we'll be away. I only tell my closest sibling in case I don't respond to them immediately, in case of emergency.

That vacation was way overdue and we enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, I'm ready to go on vacation again...lol. One week was not nearly enough. 

Some frugal things we did while away : 

* Packed snacks from the pantry. We ended up bringing snacks home, because we had too much. That's a good thing, right? 

* Used very little of the Starbucks & Dunkin Donuts gcs. 

* Took our single plate electric stove to cook breakfasts in our room. I paid $2 for that stove around 10-11 years ago & it is one of the best things I ever purchased. Also packed breakfast food and coffee. We took our big french press. This way we could have all the coffee we wanted.

* Only spent half of our food/restaurant budget. We ate out for lunch & dinner. I'm shocked, because we splurge on meals when on vacation. Frugality goes out the window when it comes to dining on vacay.

* Did zero shopping on vacation. I didn't even buy any souvenirs (something I love to do), because I just didn't get a chance.

I finally stepped foot inside a Safeway and got sticker shock at the east coast prices. Safeway is beautiful and reminds me a bit of Kroger. Now I know that everything costs more on both coasts, because my cousin from NY always raved about our low prices whenever she visited. $2.99 for Bush Baked Beans, compared to $1.99 we pay. Yikes. I saw many other price differences, but can't remember it all.

I did notice that some stores double coupons up to 99c or $1 (no doubling around here for years now). I can't remember which store it was, could've been Weis. We did pass Safeway, Weis, Food Lion & Giant.

We finally ate some Five Guys burgers in Pittsburgh. I've never tried it before, even though we have them around here. I was impressed with how good their burgers are (I'm a food snob. true story). I didn't care for their greasy fries, but they make a darn good burger. I also love that you can add any toppings for free. 

We couldn't get a hotel room at the PA/Ohio border (all fully booked), so DH decided to just drive the rest of the way home. We got home in the middle of the night and after 5 hours sleep, DS & I were up again. Boy was I dragging. I ended up doing laundry the entire day and went to bed early. 

On vacation, I dreamed that we came home to all kinds of ripe garden produce. That dream did not disappoint. I'm loving fresh tomatoes with my eggs every morning. Picked my first cucumber (I've never planted cucumbers before. I have 3 plants and they took over my entire patch) and what a monster it was. 13" long and thick. I'm gonna have to start pickling cucumbers. Chillies, that I forgot I planted...lol. I thought it was my green pepper plants that were slow to produce. Peppers & squash.

I'm so far behind with everything. Work, home, shopping. I need to weed the back and clean the front yard. I weeded the veggie patch before vacation and there's now a ton more. Ugh, I can't keep up with the weeds. I had to go grocery shopping. Actually, we mainly need produce and milk. I'll try to write a post tomorrow, because I got sticker shock at Walmart again. This is nuts!

I'll respond to comments tomorrow. My body still feels like it's on vacation and I'm not getting enough sleep. I have to try to go to bed a little earlier every night. Maybe that will help. 

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Back to stocking up

There's a few factors that made me go back into stock up mode again. Delta being the main one. I read international newspapers daily & have seen how Delta has crippled India & the UK. The UK is so bad with contact tracing (they have an app that they use to ping folks who need to quarantine), that they're predicting food shortages due to lack of employees, especially truck drivers who help keep the supply chain going. Australia (who's been doing so well) has been in lockdown again too. Same with my family & friends in South Africa. They're still currently in lockdown. In fact, I think their lockdown has been extended. 

Then there's the Suez Canal disaster. Yep, it happened a while ago. My sister in law has worked for a major shipping company for over 30 years, so I have a bit of an idea of how things work. I remember helping her when she had to work weekends. I remember typing up & sending Telex to their Swiss headquarters or maybe it was to different ports. I really can't remember, it was so long ago. Anyhoo, I know how she used to rush to work when a ship was late to arrive or depart or when containers weren't loaded on time. We lived in Cape Town (the reason for South Africa's existence. A little history lesson. Ships used to sail from Western Europe, all the way around South Africa (southernmost tip of Africa) to get to the east. This was way before the Suez Canal existed. So in 1652 the Dutch East India company decided to set up shop in Cape Town as a way station for ships who sailed to & from the east. You'll still find some original buildings, including the Castle of Good Hope that the Dutch built). So Cape Town (not South Africa's busiest port, that would be in Durban) is one of 2 SA ports for imports/exports. Hence SIL's job. I don't think people realise how one catastrophe like what happened recently, can set businesses back a long time. Add in the pandemic and it's even worse.

Then there's the rising food costs. Gosh, I can't keep up with price increases. I've seen many people blog about how packages are shrinking, while prices are increasing. This is nothing new though. It's been happening for years. However, we really feel the pain now that inflation's come to bite us in the behind. 

So I've decided to work hard towards filling in the gaps in my stockpile. I'm not going crazy like last year. We still have a really good stockpile. I've stocked up on paper products (Sams) and canned goods (Walmart). I need to remember to pick up another package of tissues/Kleenex at Sams. I only have 1 pack (12 boxes left) and that is too little to get us through winter. We keep tissues in all our vehicles (we have more than 2 vehicles) and in many rooms in the house. Same goes for disinfecting wipes and wet ones. There's a tub in each vehicle. 

I've made a standard list of things that I need to stockpile on each trip. There's only 10 items on that list. It's mainly canned goods, vinegar & bleach. I buy a bottle of bleach whenever I'm at Aldi. They have the large bottles for $2.50, whereas the grocery stores only have medium sized bottles for over $3. I'd like to have at least 6 bottles of each in my stockpile. I'm halfway there.

I'm hoping that we don't end up in lockdown again. I'm now over this darn pandemic. But if we do, we're fully stocked again. If things go well with this pandemic, then we'll at least be well stocked for winter. I'm not always in the mood to go shopping, especially after heavy snow. I just want to stay home & bake yummy treats. 

As for last month's shopping. I  hit Sams & the produce market as soon as the month started. Oh how I missed Sams. While Costco is nice, they just can't beat Sams. They don't have all the products I can find at Sams like ICBINB, drinking yogurt, muenster cheese (at least I couldn't find the cheese). I've also found that their packaged lunch meat is priced by the pound, whereas Sams has a fixed price. The big issue though is the Costco is pricier than Sams. I comparison shopped both stores and noticed that Costco was $1-2 more expensive on certain items, than Sams. The Costco membership also costs $15 more than Sams. I'll keep the Costco membership, but will mainly check the monthly instant savings deals. I just received an offer from Costco for a $30 gc if I sign up for auto renewal. That $30 is tempting, but I'm not even sure if I want to renew my membership next year. 

I went to Sams & the market 3 times last month. I didn't buy much at Sams the first time around, because I was waiting to see what good instant savings deals they'll have. I especially didn't buy DS's drinking yogurt, hoping that it will be on sale, but alas. No such luck. I had $75 gcs (thank you Ibotta) that helped pay for the membership & 10 lbs chicken breasts. I stocked up on meat and bought some drinking yogurt for DS & plain greek yogurt for myself. Then stocked up on some other items we needed.

I was so proud of myself for spending a less than I did in June at the produce market. That lasted until I had to go shop a 2nd time...lol . I only bought one $2 box of apples for juicing. The box had 17 kiwis too, which I peeled, sliced and froze for smoothies.  I also found pint blueberries for $1.19, so I bought 6. I froze 4 pints and we ate the rest fresh. Then we ran low on some fruit and beets, so I made another trip. I told myself that I was NOT gonna buy another box. That juicing takes work. So I walk into the store and see only 6oz blueberry containers for $0.69. No way. I just paid $1.19 for a pint on the first. This is way too expensive. Then I saw that the clearance ($2) section was loaded with boxes, so I just HAD TO go take a look....lol What do I see, a large amount of blueberry boxes. Shut the front door! Each box contained 12 6oz containers. Say no more! I picked up 3 boxes for $6 (36 containers). Sorted and washed it when I got home, then into the freezer. I got 3 full gallon bags out of those boxes. I'm so happy. It's my favourite berry. Last year I did the same thing and had 2 gallon bags in the freezer for winter use. 

This is why I've spent so much at Sams and the produce market last month.As long as I have meat & fresh produce, we have meals. The pantry is still well stocked. I added a few canned goods from Walmart. I'm adding little bits at a time, because I don't need much. I'm so glad I stocked up on those bonus size Rotel cans last year. You can't find the bonus size anymore. I'm having a hard time finding Walmart brand peas though. I love their 'no salt added' canned goods. I've never liked eating a lot of salt. You can give me tons of pepper any time, but not salt. I've also found that they're always low on store brand artichokes. I've been to 3 different Walmart stores and it's the same thing at each store. Is there an artichoke shortage that I don't know about? 

And just to make Kim & Sluggy jealous...lol. When I opened my car door at Walmart, I spotted a shiny penny right next to my car. I pulled a disinfectant wipe from the container and picked up that beauty. Then at checkout, I found another penny on the floor. I rarely find coins, but when I do, I always think of you ladies :)

Is anyone else stocking up or am I the only crazy one again?...lol

Sunday, August 1, 2021

July month end check in

July is probably the month that went by the fastest this year. I can't believe it's August again. This has been a crazy, stressful month. The entire week felt like Blue Monday last week. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. On top of that, I lost so many friends & family in South Africa to Covid last month. With the time difference, I get bad news first thing in the morning, so I'm back to dreading looking at my phone when I first get up. This morning I received a message from my brother that a friend from our baseball/softball club (my siblings & I played different sports year round when we were young) passed away. My family & friends are still in lockdown. Thankfully, my family have gotten their first vaccine shots. I'm more than ready for this pandemic to be over. I'm over losing so many people and I'd like for our lives to get back to normal. 

Last month was also very expensive. I knew that I'd break the grocery budget, but I didn't expect to break it by so much. I didn't plan on clothes shopping though, but more on that below. 


Groceries/HBA/Cleaning

Produce market : $125.84

Aldi : $30.89

CVS : $7.82

Kroger : $46.70

Meijer : $6.07

Sams :$225.44

Trader Joe's : 23.02

Walmart : $163.33

Walgreens : $134.11

Total OOP : $763.00


Earnings 

Ibotta : $20.43

Kroger Cash Back : $5.00

Total earnings : $25.43

Total cost after earnings : $737.57

My earned drugstore rewards are not included in this amount.I count them when I spend it. 


You can see how WAGS and the produce market are making me broke. I've been to Sams & the produce market 3 times last month. I did smaller purchases at Sams that's why the total's not too high (also stockpiled a few things at Sams). We've been eating so much produce, that we kept running out of fruit. It was cheaper for me to go to the market, than buy what we need at the grocery store

I was really happy to finally get into Trader Joe's. I've missed that place. I haven't been there since before the pandemic started. Every time we stopped by (the store isn't close, so we'd stop by whenever we were in the area), there was a long line outside. 

I finally got to enjoy some samosas again. I love this stuff and TJs is the only place where I can find it. I bought 3 boxes and we finished it in no time. These are mini samosas. The ones we have in South Africa are 2-3 times the size. 

The last time we were in SA (almost 10 years ago. Yikes!), I was so hungry, that I ordered 6-8 samosas at the deli counter (you can get all kinds of prepared foods like samosas, sausage rolls, meat pies, fish & chips, inside the grocery store) and started eating it right away. As a rule, I never ever eat food that I haven't paid for yet. Nor do I just eat in public like that. I'm all about cleaning my hands first, before touching any food and sitting down to eat. We weren't done grocery shopping yet and I was starving. So I just had the cashier scan the bag with leftovers when we checked out. Can you tell I love samosas?...lol

WAGS is making me broke y'all. I managed to redeem the last of my RRs last week (turns out I had $35 RRs) and now only have WC. WC doesn't expire for one year, so I'm taking a WAGS break. We don't need a single thing. I do need face wash & moisturizer, but I can get that at CVS. 

We've been eating out of the freezer the past week & will do so again next week. This not only helps clean out the freezer, but it gives my wallet a break too. My stockpiling post will explain more about the high grocery budget. I started writing that post about 2 weeks ago & just need to edit and/or add a few things. 


MONEY EARNED (SIDE HUSTLE)


GCs Earned $60 ($50 Mypoints, $10 Microstoft)

Personal items (things we've had listed for the past 2 years) : $88.92

2021 Closet cleanout : $21.33

Big goal : $35.36

Drugstore items : $53.48

Total earnings : $259.09


I only listed 2 of DS's items last month. I didn't even get around to checking my closet. 

Point earning sites are slow as molasses this year. I normally have $800-1000 earned by this time of the year. I'm not wasting my time trying to earn much more. There's far more important things in life. Besides, I've made headway with Christmas gifts. I'm not going all out this year. I'm just shopping for DH & DS, my mail carrier and 3 other people who have been a godsend during the pandemic. I already have an idea of what they want and already started my shopping. I need to ship a box to my family, but I already have the box packed. I just need to mail it. 


YTD Earnings :

GCs (point earning sites) : $400

Ibotta : $413.69

Personal items : $512.42

2021 Closet cleanout : $230.55

Big goal : $628.55

Drugstore items : $147.03

Total Earnings (excl Ibotta) : $1918.55


YTD EXPENSES (Clothing/shoes/accessories, Christmas gifts)

OOP  (July) $269.44


Now onto the ugly. I really wanted to cry when I read about Under Armour's semi annual sale. Not only were the sports bras I ordered cheaper, they also had extra discounts on it. After discounts, the bras came to $12 and running shorts $6. So I did the only logical thing. I ordered more bras. I work out every day and these bras wear out from constant wash & wear. 

I mainly shopped for DS, because he's the one who constantly needs new things. Okay, I bought a few things for myself...lol

DS

1 Sweatpants

4 Shorts

5 T-shirts


Me 

4 Sports bras

3 Running shorts


They also had a promotion for spend $100 get $20 reward card. Well, I didn't get my 2nd reward card, so CS sent me a $20 gc. I was about to redeem the gc, when I noticed that it says "does not expire". It turns out they sent me a regular gc. Yay! So I saved that baby for a rainy day. I did 2 transactions and they cancelled 2 items, but still rewarded me the $20 gcs. One of the items didn't fit DS, so I sold it for $20. So the 17 items are what's left after all cancellations and the sale.


OOP $187.50

Rakuten earnings : $18.45

Sold item : $20.00

Total cost after earnings : $149.05 (incl tax) for 17 items and I still have a $20 gc.

That's like paying $8.77 per item. Anyone who wears UA can confirm that this is a bargain, especially since you can't use any coupons or promo codes on this brand at department stores. 


Then I had some success at Kohls. I received a 30% off Mystery code and they finally have sweatpants in stock. Heck yeah, I had to get DS his sweats before the price increases during winter. I was surprised to see that they had lots of good clearance online. I also had to get DS new sandals, because he's not loving that pricey Keens I bought him. Oy vey. I bought 2 pairs at Kohls, so he could see which ones are more comfortable. We'll either keep the other pair or sell them. I added a few Christmas gifts to this order and purchased a business item (which I'm not including in the price). 

Well, it turns out that Kohls now only accepts 2 gcs online per order. As if things aren't bad enough already...grrrr. Not only are we paying higher prices for everything. They're now making it harder for us to save a bit by paying with gcs. I don't know why they have limits to begin with, because gcs are as good as cash. So I ended up paying way more OOP than I expected, because the mystery code is one time use. Which means I couldn't split my order.  I was not a happy camper. So I spent another $81.94 OOP. 

To add insult to injury, Mypoints now charges way more points for Kohls gcs than they did before. I think it now costs 200-400 more points. Ha, I wasn't falling for that. I looked for the lowest priced gcs & ordered Macy's ones instead. I do shop Macy's sometimes, so the gcs won't go to waste. 

Now, we are all set for the next 2 winters (well DS might need new sweatpants again next year) and next summer.  I do need new bras, but I'm holding out for a good sale. 


YTD OOP (clothing/shoes/accessories, Christmas gifts) : $1315.40


YTD side hustle income (personal, closet cleanout, drugstore) : $925.36

YTD clothing/christmas gifts expenses : $1315.40

YTD Balance ($390.04)


Yes, we are still in the hole. If I added my Big Goal numbers to that (like I used to in the past), we'd not only have a positive number, but we'd have money left over. However, I have that money earmarked for something else. 


Gift cards/rewards balances:

Macy's : $25.00 (I used one gc for household items)

Kohls : $10.00 (KC)

Target : $20.00

Walmart : $25.00

Under Armour : $20.00

Krispy Kreme : $30.00 (this is from 2 years ago)

Dunkin Donuts : $80.00

Starbucks : $43.58

CVS : $18.10

WAGS : $90.00

Total gcs/rewards : $361.68

Not a whole lot to work with, but y'all know that $360 is like $3600 to me. I know how to stretch all those $$$. The Dunkin Donuts gcs are compliments of PG. Scanning those receipts sure paid off.

Well, that's been my July. A month I'm glad is over and done with. Onwards to a few low spending months. I'm in the zone this month!

Black Friday shopping

There's method to my madness. Always remember my mantra when you read about my weird shopping trips. I had a plan for Kohls. I wanted to...