Circular savings

Twice in the last few weeks, I’ve tried to fill the 30 gallon tank of my 12 passenger van, and I’ve been cut off at $100, a few gallons shy of full.

I’m definitely avoiding unnecessary driving.

But today, I have a meeting on post, which is about a 25 mile trip.  After the meeting, I will head to the commissary (grocery store) which really does offer significant savings on many products.  They claim a 30% savings over the typical grocery store.  I believe them.  Even though they sell very few generic brands, often the brand name is cheaper than generic at the store.  Plus you can use coupons.  And meat is always cheaper, even cheaper than the sale prices I see locally.

But with the price of gas, I’m not sure if the drive is worth it.  Piggy-backing the trip because of the meeting, it is.

*******

Yesterday, the kids were distraught over the breakfast selections.  I was not making pancakes, and they were left with Cheerios.  There was moaning.  Resigning themselves to a lengthy fast, they thought ahead to lunch and discovered that we had no bread.  There was more moaning.

I dropped everything to bake bread.  Lunch was saved.

My kitchen was hot.

It’s been A/C weather for at least a month down here in GA. 

Bread is expensive, especially good bread, yummy bread, healthy bread.  I’d like to make my own all the time, but I wonder if, in the summer, the increased cost to cool my home is worth the savings. 

I thought about baking all the bread on one day, the old-fashioned way.  I would need to bake at least 8 loaves for the week.  I only have 2 loaf pans.  That’s all day baking.

I thought about buying 6 more loaf pans.  Loaf pans, new, cost $10-$12 at Amazon.  I could spend $60-$80 on loaf pans, so I could bake bread all at once, so that I could save on A/C costs, and so that I could save on bread costs. 

I’m not quite sure if spending $60 to “save” money is worth it.

I thought about hitting some thrift stores or yard sales to see if I could find any loaf pans.

That would use gas.

Spending money on gas to buy used loaf pans to save money on groceries and A/C costs doesn’t seem so brilliant either.

Since I’ll be on post, I’ll check out the P/X (which is like a department store) to see if they have any decent loaf pans for less than Amazon.  I’m not hopeful, since their selection is usually poor.

*******

My husband works not far from the commissary, and sending him to the store on a regular basis is another option for saving on groceries without spending money on gas.

I am loathe to lengthen his work day by another hour.

Then there’s the grocery shopping learning curve to deal with.  Buy this kind, not that kind.  Check to see if the coupon saves money over the usual brand.  Look to see what’s on sale and stock up.  Suddenly remember something not on the list.  Prioritize.

And not buy things that look yummy just because you are shopping at dinner time.  Right there, I think we’d lose any savings.

*******

Anybody else feeling the gas and grocery price pinch? 

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22 thoughts on “Circular savings

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. If you have space in your garage, you could purchase one of these electric roasting ovens. During the summer, here in Texas, I use it as an oven for anything other than homemade pizza. It will hold two loaf pans or one 9×13 casserole dish. You can bake your bread 2 loaves at a time if that's what you prefer to do and still not heat up your house. If there is not room in you garage to set up a space, you could also put it in a basement or another room that can be closed off. I have sometimes put mine in the laundry room which has it's own exhaust fan to pull the heat out. I know it sounds crazy, but I am pretty strict about not using the inside oven unless it's the stovetop during the summer months and this little electric oven has saved my children and their love of baked goods! I just made soda bread in mine yesterday. You can make cookies in it if you have a small cookie sheet.

  3. P.S. If you get one, you should know that you can remove the enamel roasting pan if you want to or not. Things bake just fine with it and without it but you HAVE TO leave in the steel roasting rack. That elevates your dish and allows heat to circulate under it which is what happens in your big oven. Trust me. I forgot to put the rack in once and it was a disaster.

  4. Definitely feeling the pinch. Fortunately the grocery store is 5 minutes away. This summer, however, I'm going to be driving a kid to summer prep classes and we are going to have to find a way to kill two hours in the middle of every day so I don't have to make four trips. Urg.

    Yesterday was our first A/C day. I had bread in the oven for a short time and felt the heat all day, so I can imagine what you felt. Do you have an extra freezer that you can stock up on store bread and freeze it?

  5. “Spending money on gas to buy used loaf pans to save money on groceries and A/C…” Yup, that pretty much describes my round and round cost decisions too. Have you checked craigslist for pans?

    I laughed at the husband-grocery-shopping bit. My husband is helpful and thrifty, but the sheer energy involved might negate the help he'd be providing – explaining where to find the obscure items, what a tomatilla looks like, and the hundreds of little ingrained budgeting standards (“please get a dozen eggs – if the next size up of eggs is only ten cents or less extra go ahead and get that size. Cereal under $2 a box, but only if it's a large…”)

  6. Lol, For my husband I just make a very detailed list, “we need the 30 oz jar of hunts tomato sauce on aisle 4” It took a few grocery trips to make the detailed list, but since we buy the same items every month it worked out, and for some reason he doesn't get distracted and remember that we *might* need more yeast and flour than I asked for, so we save money and pounds too. Did you check the thrift store on base? Sometimes there are steals there as well. I can't tell rank from the pic of you husband, but do you qualify for the airman's attic or since you said post, whatever the army has similar…hth

  7. Oh, gosh, yes. I'm right there with you. I do make the trip out to the commissary because the prices around here are too high compared to the commissary. But, we're only about 7 miles out from post though.

    The A/C has been running for a month as well. I do try to make as few unnecessary trips as possible but between therapy appointments for my son and ballet for my daughters, we're out and about every single day of the week.

    These gas prices and everything else they affect like food are just killing us.

  8. You don't need 8 loaf pans. You can probably only fit 3-4 in your oven. If you can fit 4, you only have to run two loads of bread and it doesn't take as long as you think. And that'll save you $40 in loaf pans, too. 🙂

    Feeling the grocery pinch? Yes. And I don't even buy too much at the grocery anymore. No meat, no dairy, and no eggs, which is a big chunk of the grocery budget, but all those non-perishables have really gone up, too. I seem to be spending almost as much money on half as many groceries.

    You know our gas jumped 30 cents a gallon this morning, to $4.10? Ridiculous. I'm glad I filled up yesterday, because it was $104 as it was. Sadly, Davey will be home this week and driving my van back and forth to work at Knox. My full tank won't last very long. 😦

  9. I feel your pain! We have 3 military bases in town and we live 1 mile from the border of one. But the actual gate takes us 15 minutes to get to and then the commissary is another 10-15 minutes from the gate. That's an hour long drive added to the time spent shopping. Since we don't live there and my husband doesn't work there, it's hard to justify the wasted time, let alone gas money. We're thinking of trying to plan our shopping a month in advance and making one giant trip. Any things we need before the next commissary run can be picked up while at local stores while running other errands.

  10. Charlotte, that roasting pan is very reasonably priced. I'll have to think about it. I mostly grill in the summer, and baked goods are few and far between. Sad that when I have the most time, it's too hot to do it.

    Barb, yes, I do have a full freezer and often stock it with bread, especially when the store does BOGO on my favorite types. It also makes stocking up on meat and other items at the commissary possible. BTW, since my bread maker broke, I've been using your blender white bread recipe. Fast, easy, delicious. Next time (tomorrow) I'll try it with the King Arthur's white wheat flour and see how that is.

    Jennie, I thought if I had 8 then the second batch could be rising while the first batch was baking and then I'd only have to run the oven for 90 straight minutes. Do you freeze your bread? If so, do you slice it first or freeze them whole?

  11. Ugh! Me, too!! Filling up the Suburban makes my stomach hurt. Have you thought about investing in a bread machine? You could probably get one pretty cheap off Ebay. It would be a one time investment, you could do multiple loaves a day. No heat from it virtually at all (so no increased AC costs). And you don't have to supervise it like you do the oven – does all the work for you.

  12. Perhaps you can replace the bread machine? We use ours just about every night, so the bread is ready in the morning. Baking at night you wouldn't notice the heat. I have a Zojirushi which is very expensive, but lasts a few years. I tried a cheap one from the store and it didn't last but a few months. We also use it for things like pizza dough, so we never get pizza out – saves more money! Also French bread or rolls only bake 20 min in the oven – less heat.

  13. Kris and Kimberlee – yes, I've been using bread makers for years and I do like them because of the minimal heat. I switched the roll and pizza recipes over to ones for the mixer and had no trouble, and was just trying to see if I could just switch to bread that way too. My kids prefer the bread made in the oven to the ones in the machine, and the slices fit in the toaster better too. Plus this one lasted just over a year which annoyed me…thought it should last longer. I'll check out that brand though and reconsider, Kimberlee. Thanks for the suggestion.

  14. I don't use bread machine anymore (I use the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes plan) but when I did, I never baked in the machine, I just used it to make the dough, and then baked it in the oven.

    Does your oven have a timer setting? Could you bake overnight?

  15. I have almost stopped shopping at the commissary in VA because of the distance (30 min if no tunnel traffic) and that 5% surcharge, no doubling of coupons, and tipping the bagger wipes out the savings. I have been hitting the loss leaders twice a week at the local stores and finding great savings.

    I also don't ever let my van's tank get below 1/2 gallon (learned that in Italy where they would have gas strikes and the stations would be closed for 1-2 days). I'm using about 15 gal every 5-7 days.

  16. I have a Zojirushi as well. Love it. I only use it for pizza dough so far. About the time I figured I would start making our family bread from scratch we realized our youngest had a wheat allergy. The learning curve for GF cooking is steep and painful.
    I have tried several box and scratch GF bread recipes but they aren't great and the other kids don't like them. Making GF bread for one child who doesn't eat a lot of bread (he wasn't raised on it!!) didn't make sense.
    Someday I plan to make bread for all of us. I am hoping the bread maker is still with us then. I got it from a mom selling it because she never used it. I think I paid $90. There are deals to be had!
    The reviews on Amazon and other sites for this machine were rave reviews. I knew that was the one I was going to get eventually and about one month later I found this one while at her house buying school curriculum!!
    Live on post. Shop at Commissary. It's working for now! 🙂

  17. I'm happy to see you muddling through this because I've been wondering the same bread/AC question.

    We do a once a week commissary/PX/barbershop/gas station run–33 min drive one way–and I try very hard to never need anything during the week so Bill doesn't have to go to the commissary and if I do, I get the very least I can at the cheapest local store. He's a better shopper than I am, but we're quicker since we can do 3 carts and 3 lists and the kids are learning to price compare.

    Yesterday, I decided in favor of buying bread for the rest of the pregnancy and then we'll see. The store bought bread tastes awful, but maybe that is because I bought the cheapest whole grain bread as a penance. The roasting oven sounds intriguing.

  18. I have an electric roaster and I think I'm going to have to do a bread trial in the basement. I'll let you know how it goes (unless you have one and you are trying it as well). I bought my roaster for under $50, so that definitely beats buying bread pans. BTW I use glass pans for bread — do you prefer metal?

  19. Barb, I prefer glass, but they had none at the PX. I bought two non-stick metal ones for $6.50 each. One advantage is that they nest with each other and my stone pan fits inside and my glass pan fits in the stone one, so my cabinet space is well utilized. I think I'll try baking in the evening, but not tonight with the late baseball game schedule.

  20. Decided to try my experiment today and the roaster is preheating now. I put it in my basement storage room which wouldn't get hot in the hottest heat wave — we should sleep down there in the summer!

    I'll let you know how it goes — even if you don't have one, it's good to know in case you ever come across a cheap one.

  21. Barb,
    I use glass pans too when I make bread and in my roasting oven I have to put them on a diagonal.

  22. Well, experiment failed — technical difficulties. The roaster never reach hot — it was about 100 degrees warm. Couldn't figure it out, so I baked them in the oven. Later I realized the power strip was only click on part way. Sheesh! Another day…

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