Grocery Shopping, Week 9 (Costco, QFC)

Eliyahu (5) with some apples we bought

I have bought lots of groceries in the past week! We made a trip to Costco (and spent a lot) and also got fruit and asparagus at QFC. I actually haven't totalled everything up -- yet -- so we'll see how much this knocks off of my remaining $346.82 (out of $420) for the month of February.

And last week, our propane tank for the grill went empty. I'm conflicted as to whether to count the tank refill as grocery money or not. I'm tempted to not include it, since I don't include things like electricity to use the oven, or water to wash the dishes. I mean, propane is more in the "utilities" category than the "food" category, right? :)

So, here's what I spent:

Local store:

Apples ($0.88/lb) -- pictured above
Propane tank exchange ($19.99) -- plus 9.5% tax

Total: $26.27

Groceries from QFC this week

Groceries from QFC:

Asparagus ($1.48/lb)            $4.88
Bananas ($0.69/lb)              $4.77
Donuts (yes, Joshua again!)  $1.00

Total: $10.65

Groceries from Costco this week

And then, the groceries from Costco.

Mission tortilla strips                     $3.39
Dry yeast (2#)                             $3.89
Mixed nuts (2.5#)                        $13.69
Organic sugar (10#)                     $8.89
Shredded mozzarella (5#)             $9.55
Shredded cheddar/jack (5#)          $10.99
Corn tortillas (100ct.)                   $3.65
Wheat bread (2 loaves)                $3.89
Romaine lettuce (6ct.)                  $2.99
Hidden Valley Ranch (2-40oz.)        $6.79*
Pink Lady apples (12ct.)               $5.99
Whole milk (6 gal.)                      $13.14
Nonfat milk (2 gal.)                      $3.95
Microwave popcorn (2-40ct.)           $11.78*
Old-Fashioned Oats (10#)             $6.89
Prego sauce (4-67oz.)                  $9.04*
Large eggs (5 doz.)                     $7.39
Chicken breast (6.5#)                  $15.25
Vanilla extract (16oz.)                 $6.79
Butter (4#)                                $9.19
Cottage cheese (3#)                   $4.79
Finish dishwasher tabs (100ct.)    $11.74*
Heavy cream (1/2 gal.)               $7.69
Bananas (3#)                            $1.47
Cream cheese (3#)                    $5.79
Avocados (5ct.)                         $5.99
Celery sticks                             $2.99

*= cheaper than regular price due to using a coupon

Total from Costco: $197.59

Total spent: $234.51

Total remaining in February's food budget: $112.31 (from $420)

So, the remaining $112.31 will need to cover the next... 11+ days at least. That seems very doable to me, since the Costco trip was just a few days ago and our fridge, freezer, and pantry are still very stocked. :)

More Costco groceries

Now, notes on the things from Costco:

The vanilla extract is because we ran out of our homemade vanilla extract and need to wait while we make more. We already had beans to make more, and just need to get the alcohol to do so. I'm excited to try this though, since I've heard great things about Costco's vanilla! :)

The dishwasher tablets were most likely not a good deal (as in, cheaper than the KS liquid I usually use). I plan to measure my liquid when I use it and find out for sure though!

And the popcorn? Okay, I admit... I was unable to resist getting some at that price. Joshua will take some to work with him to eat there. The rest... we'll get to enjoy at home. :)

Despite some of the unhealthier items, I feel a lot better about this grocery shopping post than the last one! :)

Is Costco Frugal? (Includes lists of some of my favorite buys at Costco, and pitfalls to watch out for!)

More Costco groceries

More Costco groceries


I love the Finish tabs. We got them last year b1g1 free, and have a months left I think. I've been debating whether or not to use the coupon this month, because it's not AS good as a deal, but my dishes are way cleaner, IMO.

I had heard that some (or all?) Costcos only carry the 120ct. containers of the Finish tabs, but would still accept the coupon for them, so I was anticipating a better deal than I ended up getting. I didn't see a B1G1 Free offer, but I did miss 3 months of coupon books when we moved! :(

I wonder... if there a Costco deals blog that would detail really good deals for me? :) I haven't seen any really worthwhile ones... :)

No, have not found one either that I like all that much but IF you find one, please please please share. Also, was curious about the milk. I buy 4 gallons when I go (for 2 adults and 2 older teens) and it last a little under 2 weeks, thankfully the famly drinks enough milk to not have any loss or spoilage. How long does your 8 gallons last and do you freeze it?

I find that the milk usually has a date of about 14-16 days, and I try to get what we can use in that time. If, near the end of this 2 weeks, we still have 1-2 gallons left, I will buy less for the next 2 weeks (i.e. I may buy 8 gallons now, have 1 gallon left when we go to the store in 2 weeks, and only buy 6 gallons that time. Then we would probably be about out of milk by the time 2 more weeks have passed...).

It sounds complicated, but somehow I never end up freezing milk and it never goes bad! :) The kids would love to drink glasses of milk so it wouldn't be hard to use an extra gallon if needed... :)

And -- I make a bit of kefir (2-4 cups per day), and Joshua drinks a homemade mocha frappuccino daily (that's 2 cups) so that is our minimum usage... :)

While living in the Seattle area we have found that it is less expensive to have our propane tank refilled then to exchange it. I don't remember how much less expensive, since my husband usually takes it. We have had it refilled at u-haul centers as well as gas stations.

Thank you for mentioning that! I had forgotten about that option! In Ohio, we would have ours refilled at our local hardware store. I definitely need to look into that option here! :)

Tammy - I made my own vanilla until I got my Costco membership (6 years ago). I think Costco's is cheaper than homemade and it's excellent quality. I hope you enjoy it!

Yes! We had bought some vanilla beans in bulk with a friend (to get a better price) so I will probably save a few beans for special desserts, make some vanilla extract with some, and then go back to Costco's vanilla. I love vanilla extract but it is not the spice that I over-use -- like cinnamon. ;)

I think you did a pretty god job! You spend less than us for sure and we only have 3 kids (3 and under).
God Bless,

Thank you, Katie! :)

I can make my own sauce, same or larger qty for less than you spent. We find the taste is MUCH better than the jarred stuff. Have you ever tried to make spaghetti sauce Tammy?

Yes, I have made spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce -- from fresh tomatoes. I need to perfect my recipe for the canned versions (using tomatoes and tomato paste, etc.)! We like our homemade better than Prego... but I did think I got a good price on the Prego for how thick it is (I basically only use it for pizza)... :)

I would love to see your recipe, by the way! :)

I make my sauce by eye and taste! No real recipe for me.

I use canned tomato products, such as puree, crushed, diced, and tomato paste. Whatever I can get on sale or at a discount store is what I use. I make a pan thats about 2 gallons and freeze up into ziploc bags. I use oregano, basil, garlic (fresh or dried), onion powder (or real onions if I have them), salt, pepper, and a small amount of sugar to cut the acid from the tomatoes.

The 'Prego sauce' made me laugh. I think I know a lot of women who drink that...! ;)

I live in the Seattle area, too, and am wondering if you ever shop at Fred Meyer? This is where I get almost all of my groceries, and the prices are great. I say that because last week they had organic apples for sale for $.88/lb. (and you bought regular apples for that price at QFC) and their asparagus was $1.28/lb. last week, compared to your $1.48. I look at all the local ads when I get them, but rarely can I find a deal at QFC that I'm impressed with, and Fred Meyer usually has something on an awesome sale every week. They're also in the Kroger family, btw. Just wanted to mention it in case you weren't familiar, it's definitely worth a look!

We do have a Fred Meyer here, but I don't go there often. QFC is literally walking distance from our house and so I use it to "supplement" Costco. :) I do see better prices at other stores... but it is not usually enough to make up for the extra trip/time (10-15 minutes each way... and then if I bought 5 pounds of asparagus, I would have saved $1!). Costco is just easier for us right now. :)

I would love it if Fred Meyer were the store "around the corner" though! ;) (Actually... that would mean we lived in a busy part of town... so maybe the little QFC is okay :D)

HI Tammy,

I noticed that you bought microwave popcorn and thought I'd share a new recipe that I found on making your very own for a fraction of the cost :) I tried it myself and it works great!
What's nice is it doesn't take too much longer than the store bought kind. The directions say to tape the bag closed, but I found it works just as well by simply folding the bag closed a few times.

I have heard of doing that, and want to try it some time! :)

You questioned adding the LP tank refill to your grocery bill...... no no.... utility all the way.

Refill vs Exchange.... here its like 19.95 to refill an empty (aka partially used) LP grill tank as opposed to 29.95 to exchange the same for a prefilled used tank..... Exchange is a total ripoff around here. But... there are about 12 places to exchange tanks - instantly, but only 2 to refill....... we are becoming creatures of convenience instead of practical sense.

Note: 1 of the refill stations is 19.95 no matter what..... but there is one refill station that only charges for what you actually used out of your cylinder (imagine that..... 19.95 to refill a cylinder you used only one weekend vs 6.95 for the actual LP you really used.... which do you prefer?) I passed out flyers at work applauding the 6.95 you should be charged vs the 29.95 everyone was paying.... BUT NOBODY SEEMED TO CARE. Oh well.

I'm definitely going to look into getting a refill next time instead of an exchange. :)

It would for sure be Utilities. I don't add my regular gas bill for cooking to my grocery bill! = )

Hi Tammy

I enjoy reading about your grocery shopping and how you save money! Unless I've missed it somewhere, I don't see where you post about buying non-food items such as shampoo, soap, toilet paper, paper towels, etc......just curious...are these items included in your monthly food budget or do you have a seperate budget for these items?

I don't have a separate budget for toiletries and paper products. The toilet paper will show up in my Costco trips (see here for example) and it is an OUCH when it does!! :) Still working on helping the kids use less... :)
I don't buy paper towels or paper napkins, and I don't buy many cleaning products at all (I use a few drops of bleach to clean the toilet, white vinegar in the bathroom, and have a bottle of Lemon Pine Sol that's lasting a long time!) so they rarely show up. :)
We do use shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, and mouthwashes, and I will show them when I buy them. :) We don't use a lot of shampoo, and about 2 years ago I got some HUGE bottles of Tresemme shampoo and conditioner at Rite Aid with a rebate so I paid very little and they are lasting a very long time (I did spend like $10 and got 8 bottles!!).
Anyway, keep watching and these things will show up... either when we run low or there is a good sale. :)

where do laundry products fit in? do you still make your own soap?

I haven't made my own laundry soap since we moved to WA 2 years ago. My in-laws bought me a huge bucket of powder from Costco which lasted over a year, and then I just bought another bucket to replace it ($14, I believe). Just trying to keep things simple in that area right now! :D

I wanted to send you my homemade ranch dressing recipe last time you posted about ranch dressing. But of course I got busy and forgot. I'm not sure if it is cheaper then buying per made however it is a lot healthier.

Ranch Dressing Mix

1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tsp dried dill weed
1 tablespoon dried minced onion
1 tsp salt
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp ground black pepper

Combined all ingredients and store in a dry place. When really to make

dressing combine 2 heaping tsp. (I use a little more) of mix with 1 cup buttermilk (or sour cream) and 1 cup mayonnaise.

It taste much better if you make it a day or two ahead of time.

Thank you! I'll try this! :)

Tammy, I love your blog!! I wanted to ask, do you freeze your milk? Thanks! Lesley

Thank you, Lesley! :)

No, I don't freeze my milk... I just answered this in detail on a comment above so scroll up for more details! :)


I bought them last year when they were BIGI and I cut them in half!! You do not need the whole thing for one load. I have made both containers last us about 6-7 months.

I may try that, but I have found that since I scrape and only very lightly rinse my dishes under cold water, plus I pack the dishwasher super full of dishes, that it usually takes a full amount of detergent to get them clean! :P :)

I am kicking myself for missing the B1G1 deal though! :)

It was a long time ago Tammy! I can't remember how long, And I don't know if you need to be an executive member to get all the coupons. I've heard conflicting stories from their employees. Anyway, I just wanted to mention that most of the time, a Costco coupon beats out most sales and coupons and allows for our family to buy things we don't usually keep around. I haven't decided about the soapballs, as we call them, but I LOVE to buy the microwave popcorn once a year. My kids prefer homemade with oil or butter, but the microwave bag, even with all of its health concerns, make an excellent after school snack when we need it. We buy a package of sponges on sale once a year, and use them judiciously. We are also getting a package of snapware. we have one and we need more for four packed lunches everyday! The Prego doesn't taste the best, but it sure can make a night where you were dreading cooking 15 minutes easier with less clean up, and you are still having a homemade meal. I love your ideas about time budgets. Homemade is never inappropriate, and always a great tool in your toolbox, but sometimes the little things that help us can really do a lot to better our day.
This is faulty theology, but I have always said I love God and his creation, so I use cloth diapers. However it is proof that God exists and that he loves us mothers dearly that he gave us disposable diapers. I think you can loosely apply the same ideas to spaghetti sauce and popcorn. :) There is a time to reap and a time to sow.

Tammy, I must be crazy but I love reading other people's shopping trips lol. It always hurts to drop such a huge chunk of cash at Costco and Sams, but it really helps save time overall. I love the convenience of buying laundry detergent once every 8 months, etc. just doing quick runs every week or 2 to the regular grocery store. Especially with kids, going to the store less is always better. Mine are older than yours and it's still hard :))

Thanks for your blog Tammy. I have enjoyed it for years, you always keep it real! :)


I noticed the organic sugar and am just curious how you decide what to buy organic and what not to?

Also, I totally understand needing to take the easier route (ie buying bread vs making it) sometimes. In case you haven't tried it though, homemade popcorn is SUPER easy. I did a tutorial on my blog here -

Just thought I'd share. :)

I don't have a specific formula for deciding on organic vs. not organic... thankfully we are able to get quite a few organic items for a good (competitive) price at Costco! :)

As for the sugar, I really prefer the taste of organic sugar for some things! When I use sweetener in coffee or tea, in a smoothie, or anything that's not cooked I prefer the taste of organic sugar so I splurge and use it for some things! :)

Thanks for the link!! :)

Now that you have moved to a house with a yard will you put in a garden this year? I love all the posts on any topic I was just curious!!

I don't believe I will have a garden here (the yard is small and rather shaded) but there are quite a few big flower pots sitting around that I could fill and use for an herb or container garden, and I may do that! :)


You should try and grow veg in pots, it is good fun for the kiddiwinks as well. Last year we successfully grew green onions, radishes, herbs, salad greens, tomatoes, pumpkins and courgettes (zucchini) and such in pots, and we grew potatoes in soft sided potato planters. My mother's neighbour grows potatoes them in big green trash bags but I don't like the way they look! Although I do have a garden, it is very shaded and also, with my arthritis and fibromyalgia, I cannot get down on the ground to dig, etc. Pots suit me just fine! At the moment, I have a rhubarb plant that I bought last year growing in a container. Almost time to get the pots out again! I have ambitious plans this year!



The Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord make his face shine upon thee; and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. (Numbers 6:22-26)


If you are ever at a yardsale or thrift store and see an air popcorn popper, buy it and buy a big bag of popcorn kernals. It will last a long time for just a couple of dollars. I am 43 and still have my popcorn popper from college. We use it for snack and when we have birthday parties or friends come over. It amkes a nice, healthy snack for very little money. Just an idea as an alternative to microwave popcorn.

Michele in No. Virginia

I was just watching a documentary-type show on the women who do mega couponing. One bought over 1000 dollars of food for 51 dollars total. It's very tempting ~ however many of the things purchased were prepackaged, chemical laden stuff I wouldn't eat anyways. You know, in the end there was a comment that they each spent several hours EACH DAY pursuing and organizing their coupons and shopping trips~! I felt totally released from the guilt I was feeling for not super-couponing :o) There are no extra several hours in my days!
Thanks for sharing your shopping days with us.

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