Cost analysis: Water consumption

After looking at our water/sewer/garbage bill, I have come to the conclusion that we use a ton of water.  Even during low water usage months, Mr. LL and I average (at the lowest) 50 gallons of water per day.  During peak season (May to September), water costs about $.022/gallon, including the sewer rate.  Our low flow shower head uses about 5 gallons of water per minute, and one toilet flush uses 1.6 gallons.

We have an on-demand water heater, so we have to wait for a while for the water to warm up.  Even if we took only 5-minute showers, it would still take a minute or two for the water to be tolerable.  In the winter, it takes longer for water to warm up.  If we each took a 7-minute shower at home every day, it would cost $1.54/day.  It would cost about $.21 to flush the toilet a total of 6 times per day.  For just bathing and flushing the toilet alone, it would cost about $52.50/month.  If we were able to cut down to 5-minute showers, we could cut our cost by $.44/day, or about $13.20/month.  That would be a 25% reduction.

It’s interesting to me to see that a shower costs $.77, because I haven’t ever looked at the bill closely enough to really parse out the costs.


Cost analysis: Powdered vs. fresh milk

I have bought powdered milk for about 6 years, but only recently did it occur to me to take another look at whether it results in any cost savings.  When we drink milk, we drink fresh milk, but our primary dairy comes from the powdered milk we put in our quick cook oatmeal every morning.  When we first started buying it, it saved us money.  Does it still?

Cost Analysis:

We can buy a gallon of milk at Trader Joe’s for $2.99.  At Fred Meyer, it costs $14.89 per 4 pounds of powdered milk, which makes 5 gallons or 20 quarts.  That comes out to $2.978 per gallon, which is a little more than 1 cent per gallon savings.  Not terrific.  However, just the other day 4 pounds were on sale for $13.56, which comes out to $2.712 per gallon, or more than $.27 per gallon savings.  This is nicer.

There are 16 cups per gallon, and we normally use 1/2 cup per bowl of oatmeal = 32 servings per gallon.  We can get 160 servings out of 4 pounds of powdered milk.  Assuming that we go through the full container in the next 3 months (or 11.4 weeks), we will save $1.39 over that time.

If I keep buying Fred Meyer dry milk at the usual price, I will save $0.06 every 3 months.  If we buy Walmart brand dry milk online (along with other goods to equal free shipping), it will cost $13.68 for 4 pounds.  Total savings: $0.254 per gallon, or $1.27 approximately every 3 months.

Bottom Line:

It is cheaper overall to buy powdered milk, but not that much cheaper.  The main pros are that it’s convenient (takes less time to cook than cold fresh milk), portable (my husband can take the dry ingredients to work, and we can take it camping), and lasts a really long time so we rarely ever experience spoilage.  The possible con might be that it’s not as healthy as fresh milk, but I haven’t really found anything conclusive on that.  Powdered milk is just one small cost cut that adds up to bigger cuts in our grocery bill.

DIY: Peanut butter

My husband and I have different peanut butter preferences – I tend to be a Jif girl, while he is a Trader Joe’s creamy salted peanut butter guy.  We eat peanut butter every day as part of our breakfast, so we go through a lot of peanut butter in a month.  Jif costs between $2 and $3, depending on whether I have a coupon or it’s on sale, while the Trader Joe’s peanut butter costs $2.79 per pound.

We decided to see if we could make peanut butter in our Vitamix blender.  We once tried to make it in our old KitchenAid blender, and the results were gritty and uneven.  A pound of peanuts (roasted, unsalted) at TJ’s costs $3.29, so we knew that this initial experiment would not end up saving us money.  However, if the peanut butter turned out well, and we could get bulk peanuts for less than $2.79 a pound, we would be able to control the ingredients and consistency and avoid additives and trans fats.

We re-roasted the peanuts in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, let them cool slightly, then poured the nuts, a bit of salt, and a teaspoon of canola oil into the blender.  Within minutes, we had a steaming, creamy peanut butter that tastes really different from store-bought.  It is very nutty and delicious, and I could eat it with a spoon.  We had a good time cleaning out the blender.

So creamy and delicious

So creamy and delicious


Cost analysis:

No savings for our experiment, but if we can find bulk peanuts for less than $2.79, it would be worth it.