Grocery Geek: The Produce Box Groove

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Subscribing to a weekly organic produce delivery is a great way to eat with the seasons as well as support local agriculture. We are finally getting into the groove with our regular subscription.
We started our produce box subscription back in late August. It’s been an amazing journey to eat with the California seasons and try out new foods. My kids have really liked some of them, and really not liked others, but we keep plugging along.

I’m trying not to waste anything; the freezer helps me avoid that as long as I process things quickly enough. Last week was the first week that we were able use almost everything. We still have that ginormous butternut squash in the pantry. His little brother arrived this week, so we’ll be having a squash fest sometime soon. My plan is simply to roast and puree them to use in baking.

This week’s box contained squash, clementines, thyme, collard greens, mustard greens, arugula, spinach, lettuce, watermelon radishes (red on the INSIDE!) pears, carrots, and potatoes. The greens are already gone as are the radishes and the oranges, so we’re on track to make best use of all these items. I also bought an extra bag of juicing oranges ($5 for 10 pounds), so our produce bill was $43.90 for the week for all organic produce.

I made one other stop – at Trader Joe’s, in part for “fun food” and part for the basics. I’m really not doing coupons anymore, I just can’t spare the time. And since I’m more bothered by food sources, hormones, and GMO’s than I was a year ago, Trader Joe’s is my best bet. The prices are reasonable, though not rock bottom and they offer some great guarantees on their products.

Like I said before, I’ve chosen to narrow my field of choices. As such, the challenge is on for sourcing the best ingredients for the best prices. I think I got the produce thing covered. Now to the rest of it.

The above Trader Joe’s run cost $87 which seems like a lot to me. But, seven loaves of bread, 2 gallons of milk, 2 pounds of butter, 3 pounds of oranges, 2 dozen eggs, etc. will add up. Trying to convince myself more than you, I think.

My weekly total lands right around $131. Not horrible. My monthly total for December is up to $370. If I stick to my target of $600, we could squeak under, but with Christmas, I’m willing to budge if necessary. I kind of have this $600 to 800 range in my mind. We’ve been eating at home a lot, so we’re not spending monies on eating out. And we’ve got two full freezers to make the most of. So, we’re good.

And that is all I’m going to say about that.

Do you struggle in your grocery shopping?

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  1. I was pretty good at couponing for a while and I noticed how much time it took and how I no longer had time to try things from scratch and I kept buying ‘products’. I didn’t like it and got tired of it. What I really wanted to do was cook my family food that was less processed and I just didn’t see how the two mixed, especially with my time constraints.
    I admire you for being able to feed a family of 8 with $600 a month! That is currently our budget also for our family of 6 but all of my kids are 6 and under plus we get clothing and things from the budget too. But, I’m working on it πŸ˜‰
    I never wanted to cook, or learn how when I was younger so I’m having to teach myself while kids run around and I’m sure you know how stressful that is!

    • @Candice, I don’t think you’re that far off, budgeting wise, if you buy clothes and other items out of that amound. $600 is my target, but it is creeping up there.

  2. Honestly? For Trader Joe’s you did really well! You didn’t get sucked into all the cool looking incidentals like I tend to do. πŸ™‚ Sipping chocolate? Sure, I’ll try it. A few bottles of Two Buck Chuck for mulling. Wait, they have those wonderful packs of Tahitian Vanilla caramels. And the garlic hummus. That stuff adds up! At least I’ve stuck to my resolve to never, ever venture into the part of the store where they keep things like the pistacio toffees and chocolate covered peanut butter pretzels.

    • @BethB, well, thank you for your encouragement! It is hard to resist the “fun food” at TJ’s. We used to make it a special occasion place, but now that it’s weekly, it’s easier to say no to some things.

  3. I used to use coupons…but that was before I started getting into healthy eating and real food. That is more important to me, than saving money on food…and I haven’t really found any coupons for the organic products that I buy. I LOVE Trader Joe’s. We have two of them in my area…and a Whole Foods, too πŸ™‚ Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather πŸ™‚

  4. I’ve mostly given up couponing for the holiday season also. I still clip a few here and there for things I know I’m going to buy but mostly I just glance at the store circulars every week and shop the sales. Our grocery budget for our family of five is $80 a week, but lately I’ve been going over because of my soda addiction. πŸ˜› Plus a birthday party last month that I didn’t plan ahead for (bad Mommy).

    • @Emily Kay, I used to have a Vanilla Coke habit. But, I realized there was a link between my cavities and the coke. Since I do VERY POORLY with anesthesia, it was easy to say no to pop. Plus, we save money — on groceries and dental work!

  5. Lisa Cooper says:

    I just use printable coupons now and not very many of those. Most of the time I can do better with store brands. I would love to be able to buy more organics, but usually the price is just too high. Recently I was thrilled to find that Aldi has crackers similar to Ritz but much less expensive and without the partially hydrogenated oil. In a month I will often shop at six stores for groceries, stocking up on the best and healthiest deals.

  6. I always struggle with grocery shopping. My husband and I are setting a goal to spend no more than $350 per pay period (1st, 15th monthly). This is for food, health/beauty items and misc runs to the store when we’re out of milk, bread etc. I don’t buy a lot of expensive foods, but my bills are always around $200 for groceries alone. I spend a good chunk on produce, and if meat is marked down I will stock up. I began meal planning and we only eat out once per pay period as well. I try and stretch out meals into other meals (if I make nachos, save half the taco meat for burritos). I am always reading on GCE and LAM about budgeting, grocery budgeting, meal plans etc. πŸ™‚

    • @Denise C., do you see that the struggle is lessening with the meal planning? Or is it still hard to make it under that amount?

      • Its still hard to keep it under our goal amout with meal planning. I live on the East Coast (near D.C.) where food is a wee bit more expensive (bread alone is close to $4 a loaf). We’ve cut back on processed foods, and make quite a bit from scratch, the food bill is still out of control.

        • @Denise C., when we went to “bare bones” budget, I found that I had to totally revamp our meals. We ate beans and rice at least two times a week (with some fun toppings), it was filling and a lot cheaper. (Sandwiches can be expensive!) Also, I lost a ton of weight because I wouldn’t overeat on beans and rice. LOL

        • I am reading about making my own bread, I just cannot stomach $8 for 2 loaves. It takes us about a week to get through 1 loaf, the other can be frozen. Have you ever frozen cheese? I can snag that on sale and would love to stock up.

          • I buy discounted bread at our health food store for a buck a loaf. I wonder if your stores do that? Yes, you can freeze cheese, if it is grated. It will be crumbly upon thawing if you freeze it in a big chunk. Even sliced doesn’t always thaw that well. Hope that helps!

  7. Yeah, not too many coupons for real food. However, I must say one thing I love about my Kroger (we don’t have a Trader Joe’s in north/central WV) is that they keep track of your buying trends on the shopper card, and then once every couple months, I get a stack of coupons in the mail for stuff I buy all the time, like my daughter’s coconut milk, organic coffee, organic chicken. I just used a bunch today!

  8. I love the coupons I get in the mail from the store I shop at all the time. It is for the things I buy the most! It helps a lot. I do struggle this past month in grocery shopping, not because it was hard, but because I did not have the time to cook as much because of basketball. I worked on crock pot meals, making things ahead, but everything is so behind!
    I am looking forward to using up stuff in my freezer and pantry this next while to save a little money too! Yesterday I made a taco soup from my pantry….home canned chicken broth with chicken in it, canned beans and tomatoes and jalapeΓ±o sauce served with some cheese from the freezer and tortilla chips. It was filling and went together in a couple of minutes.

  9. Do you find the produce box is enough? Do you have to buy extra produce at the store? We have the opportunity to join a similar buying club here, but I wonder if it will be enough for our family. We have 7 children. The baby doesn’t eat much, but the rest of them can put away some produce!

    • It has been overly so on some weeks. The only drawback is that there are sometimes items that I have to learn what to do with them, like rutabagas that are coming next week.

  10. Lovely produce! We ate a lot of produce from the farmer’s market during the summer months. Now that its winter and nothing really grows here, we are enjoying good meats and fats that we purchased from the farmers during summer. Lots of it. lol
    Its just me and my husband, our grocery bill comes to around $300-$350/month during summer and $200/month during winter. Thats because we buy produce loss leaders at the stores during winter(not so green i know, but what to do?). Frankly speaking, I struggle to keep my spending below this. Its hard with the rising costs of food. However, thats also an excuse to eat better. Couponing in food has become a thing of the past for us but we do use coupons on some non food products like soaps, toothbrushes, razor cartridges, etc.
    Jessica, have you tried baking your own bread? I do that a lot. Just saying. But I can understand, with so much work on your hands it must be hard to find time. Some conveniences are so worth it. Its great watching you feed your family of eight on $600/month. Amazing! πŸ™‚

  11. I’m on the east coast, but just spent 3 weeks in CA and got to go twice with my mom to pick up her Abundant Harvest orders. I’m jealous! πŸ˜‰ It’s fun to watch what you’re getting, though, because I know my mom has gotten the same things.

    I’m with you on the lack of time to do coupons … and on the being pickier about ingredients and sources. I’m spending about double what you’re spending, but I have a family of 10 and produce is more expensive here on the east coast. (It was a joy to shop in CA again, but it’s that much harder to face prices here now!)

  12. I also live near D.C., Denise. It was sticker shock when we moved here after living in CA! Even Costco is more expensive here.

    It’s also sad to see how much poorer the quality of produce is – especially when we’re paying more for it! Case in point: my mom bought several containers of fresh raspberries from Costco when we first got there. There were still a couple left when we went back home, and they were still good. I buy fresh raspberries at Costco here and have to make sure we use them within a day or two or be prepared to throw away moldy raspberries! πŸ™

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