Grocery Geek: Hey Big Spender

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grocerygeek-gceI’ve been pleasantly surprised that we’ve stayed under budget the last few months. Especially when it seems like my kids are eating me out of house and home.

When I went shopping this week, I realized why. We’ve run out of a ton of stuff. I spent a lot this week, replenishing the items that we’ve used up: lots of spices, vinegars, condiments, baking products, etc. Plus, I’ve done some canning so there was sugar, etc.Β Add to that upcoming birthdays, recipe testing for an upcoming book, and house guests who we want to love on.

Plus, feeding my kids before they eat us out of house and home.

It feels very odd to be sharing these grocery purchases — and the total — when we’re only one week into the month. One week!

I anticipate that we could be in danger of going over the budget this month. (In case you’re new, the target is $800 a month to feed 8 people at home, excluding my husband’s lunches and the occasional dinner out for the family.)

So, anyway, here’s how it went down for me, the big spender:

Trader joe's june week one


Trader Joe’s

I probably could have kept shopping at Trader Joe’s, but the cart was full and I was by myself. I replenished our stock of oils and vinegars, baked goods, fish, snacks, rice, bread, bagels, bacon, cream cheese, pasta, sunbutter, meat, milk, flour, etc. It seems like we were out of a lot of things.

I love Trader Joe’s and especially love their guaranteeΒ for their store brand items.

Total spent: $222

Walmart june week oneWalmart

I cruised by Walmart to stock up on other things like canned tomatoes and beans, hominy, enchilada sauce, coffee, tortillas, sauerkraut, sugar, noodles, and ziploc bags. It added up fast, even though Walmart is the cheapest game for these things.

Total spent: $62

sprouts june week one



If I have to buy produce, I prefer to shop at Sprouts. Their sale prices are pretty amazing. I got sweet potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, cilantro, bell pepper, avocado, Italian seasoning, cornmeal, and buttermilk.

Total spent $17

aho june week oneAbundant Harvest Organics

The produce box was beautiful this week. I wish I could say I had a fabulous use for the basil and lavender, but I didn’t. The green beans disappeared in a flash. The rest will be gone soon. It’s so nice to have this resource. Unfortunately, the price has gone up by a buck fifty. That adds up over the month. Bummer.

Total spent: $36

costco june week one


I’ve avoided Costco for awhile. Interesting to note that since I talked to Lynn on the phone during my entire shopping trip, I mostly stuck to my list. I did splurge on Nutella thanks to birthdays and company.

That’s a pretty nice excuse, don’t you think?

Again, I ended up replenishing things that we were out of: meats, cheeses, milk, juice, cream, spices, peppers, stickies, maple syrup, bread.

Total spent: $150

sprouts june week oneSprouts

I was back at Sprouts to top off our fruit supply and to buy a bunch of sausages for a weekend party.

Total spent $50 (half of that was sausages)

Weekly total: $537

Ouch, eh? I was hoping to do a big load of freezer cooking this month, so I’m not sure how we will swing it and still buy milk and fresh fruit. I’ve got $263 left in my budget unless I borrow from other categories, which I just might do. We’ll see.

June to date total $537.

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  1. G’day! I always like to see what and how much worldwide people spend, TRUE!
    I see you need to feed 8 which is not an easy task to do!
    Regardless of what a person’s budget is too!
    There is always a way to be more economical, without compromising tastes, food etc…and look forward to the rest of the month where you have the balance to spend left too!
    Cheers! Joanne
    What’s On The List

  2. I hate it when that happens!! I haven’t set us a budget yet but have started writing down everything we spend in an attempt to shock my family into eating less lol!

  3. I easily spend $800 a month on 5 people, the kids are 2,4 and 8 but they all have life threatening food allergies and require special diets so that is costly. (our son’s diet is almost all fresh fruit (mostly berries), soymilk/soy yogurt and fresh veggies and meats so I spend a lot on the 2 year old alone!) I long for the days when I got by with $100 per month/per family member. But my kids are totally worth it πŸ™‚

    • Diana, I’m right there with you. We don’t have life threatening allergies, but my son and I each have over 40 food intolerances and the entire family (of 5) is dairy free and gluten free. I’m also following a Paleo diet as I try to heal my stomach. It gets expensive fast when you can’t buy whatever produce is on sale but instead have to stick to a small list of foods you tolerate. Still, food is medicine, so it’s worth it.

  4. well, I wish I could say it was shocking to me LOL but I’ve had a similar experience this month. I used to buy so much, so far ahead, that we never ran out of anything. But it was crowding me out of my house and some was spoiling before we got to it [dry goods, not fresh]

    I’ve spent the last year trying to reform. As a result I occassionally AM shocked that I run out of stuff LOL – this month had a lot of that – already – and I can’t believe how high my spending is in only one week either!

  5. Tis the season, I think! We’ve been rushing toward the end of the school year, and now finally have a chance to replenish what we need! I, too, have spent more than I’d like this first week… but we’ll see how the month rounds out.

  6. I splurged a bit at the store this month. We ate from the pantry/freezer for 3 months so I was out of a lot of things. I stocked up a bit but I wanted some things on hand for our busy summer. Next month, I will have a bit more room in the budget as we will be picking up our bulk meat and are in the middle of CSA season. My plan is to slowly rebuild our stockpile.

  7. I know what to do with lavender! You make AMAZING shortbread. Take the lavender off the stems, mix it really well with the amount of sugar needed for your shortbread (I use this recipe: and then make your recipe. It surprises everyone I feed it to. And it’s delicious. Highly recommend.

    Also, we had the opposite grocery week. We spent about $60 (usually $100-125; my family is 2 adults and 2 cats) because we have almost all the basics. And peaches and nectarines are now in store! A couple weeks ago we definitely had one of your weeks, though. I love seeing your groceries, no matter how you take the picrtures. Thanks for sharing!

    • Molly, would you mind sharing how you fed 2 on $100-125 a wk? It’s just me & my husband, & I need help in this area. Do you have a website or a meal plan list? Thank ypu!

      • Jessica says:

        When there are two it seems that it’s too easy to spend a lot of money. My husband and I spent more on food during our pre-kid years than we ever have with kids. It’s odd. Meal planning, shopping from the sales, eating at home, and eating leftovers helped us change that.

      • Hi Cindy –
        We do shop at Aldi, we’re vegetarians, and we don’t eat out.
        Here’s our menu for the week:
        – breakfasts are bananas/oatmeal/peanut butter for me, and peanut butter/nutella sandwiches for my husband, plus coffee.
        – lunches and dinners are bean salad, regular salad, grilled cheese, omelets, and veggie burgers. If we eat all that, then tamales from the freezer and pasta.
        – snacks are fruits, veggies, and hummus
        My husband is way better at sticking to a list than me, so he helps a lot when I just put things in the cart at the store.

  8. I started out the month with a restock as well for our family of 4 for about $300. However most if is food we will take camping next week. I find that weekly produce is the constant that keeps going up now that everyone is home and eating non processed food.

  9. We always use our fresh basil to make margherita pizza. I know your family is big on pizza but didnt remember if I’d seen that one on your menu before. Do they like it? My kids inhale it.

  10. That happens to me much more than I would like. I love to cook and bake and make new recipes and make stuff for the freezer, and sometimes the grocery list gets outta control! I’m not good at reigning it back in either, I just sit and stare and can’t decide what I should remove from the list and live without. I would love any advice on that. But with what you’re dealing with, having house guests, I’ll tell you what I sometimes do to make the budget work out… I’ll set a certain amount aside from our non-food budget towards food, and consider it entertainment, like there’s this nice restaurant we really like to go to, but it can quickly add up to over $100 for 4 (or 5 when my oldest is home from college) and that just doesn’t fit in our food and miscellaneous budget of $225 per week (miscellaneous being like Windex and lipgloss and other stuff at the grocery store, but not stuff we would go to Target or Walmart for, since we rarely buy food at those places). So when I know there’s a big birthday dinner coming up or we’re doing some special meal, I just pencil in money to save from buying “stuff” (like clothes or craft supplies) towards the food budget. It works for us, because to me food is sometimes really an entertainment for us and it’s worth it to give up some of my shopping money, less clutter that way, too. πŸ˜‰ Now, I only do this for special occasions and if it’s a big amount that’s overwhelming our weekly grocery budget, but maybe something like that could work for you.

    • I just decide, that recipe is a no go on this trip. I have an issue with buying stuff and not using it. So I truly decide most of meals are the same ration and add one in w/ each restock or re-pupose leftovers to something new so I don’t keep buying. Since we have cut out porcessed foods, this has worked. I had retrain myself to modify recipes rather than start all over. The internet had been a life saver.

      We don’t eat out often, so when we go with out with DH family, they buy they alcohol. We can’t justify the $$ on drinks, water is so much better for you and free.

      • I need to be better about that. I tend to want EVERYTHING on hand for spur of the moment cooking and baking and that makes the list long, too. I think I’m going to try doing a mini pantry challenge for one week every month to use up things I have on hand, but didn’t get to cooking for one reason or another. I could really improve if I used up everything I planned for before buying even more stuff. At least we’re really good about using up fresh food… it’s just freezer items and pantry items that I tend to stockpile.

        I totally agree with you about ordering water at restaurants. I also plan what we’re ordering in advance sometimes, because I have three teenagers and they can REALLY put away the food. So in the car on the drive to a restaurant I’ll say, okay, everyone gets one entree, we’re not ordering appetizers or a dessert (or whatever’s appropriate for the occasion) because once I’m in the restaurant, I tend to cave.

        And I don’t want to imply that we go out to eat and spend $100 a lot… that’s just this one Brazilian restaurant with all you can eat steak, chicken, pork, amazing salad bar, potatoes, soup, 3 kinds of bread, etc. etc. It is SO good. It’s TOTALLY worth the $100+ to eat there, but if I had to fit it into our weekly food budget, I would probably fail… there’s always a need for milk, fruit, cereal, etc. and going out to this place, that’s just one meal. So I treat it like an entertainment expense. It’s only 2 or 3 times a year, so that’s okay. πŸ˜€

        • I am all about the experience of dining out.. not just fill the hole. hehe Special occasion dinners and occasional date nights make the $$ spent worth while. Sometimes its nice NOT do think about dinner or dishes.

          Mini challenges are a great idea!

          • Me, too. πŸ˜€ When we go out or go on vacation, my favorite part is always the restaurants. I analyze the dishes I like and figure out how to make them at home. For me, even cooking and baking are part necessity, part entertainment and part hobby. I love to cook. So, I’m thinking about making French macarons? Hey, buying almond meal isn’t cheap, but it’s certainly cheaper than a trip to the fabric store or the scrapbooking store or Ikea (decorating). And I try keeping that in mind and go easy on myself when I go over-budget on groceries, because cooking and baking are the cheapest hobbies I enjoy! ;D The real trick for us is when we decided to set a budget for grocery shopping, miscellaneous stuff, eating out and shopping (crafts, clothes) and that overall number is non-negotiable. If we over-spend on groceries, well, no one’s going to the movies or getting new t-shirts or getting craft supplies. Sometimes food just isn’t non-negotiable… you use stuff up and you HAVE to restock and there’s always something, and sometimes it just isn’t possible to stay in budget. And that’s okay. It happens. I think just being aware is the most important thing. Before I became a stay-at-home Mom, we both worked, and we didn’t budget anything, we had all this money and no time and I think I would faint if I could see what we spent each month on restaurants! But just the process of tracking things makes you more aware and thinking about what to do better, and it’s what I found works for us.

        • Brighid says:

          Except for special occasions, the restaurant rule tends to either a non-water drink *or* dessert. And I hear you about the teenagers. Most of the time they’ll choose the drink so they can get endless refills instead of the puny dessert. On the way home they might say “Can we get a box of ice cream for dessert at home?” and that usually flies. πŸ™‚

  11. Sounds like a lot of us are in this boat this past week or so. I took advantage of the kids being out of school and worked on cleaning out the random stuff in the fridge, freezers and pantry shelves. I cleaned out the spice racks, refilled containers and made a long list of needed items. I held off until payday and hit the stores… $250.00 later.. I have a fairly good selection in the freezer/fridge and shelves… But I also have rain checks and coupons for a bunch of items… It is always something!

    • “It’s always something!” Me, too! I resolve to be good and limit the list, and then, don’t you know it, there’s ALWAYS SOMETHING! It never fails. ;D But I AM getting better. We go to Woodman’s [super low prices, gigantic grocery store in the Northwest Illinois area (outside Chicago), and they have EVERYTHING] and my budget there is $100, Aldi, $100 (that’s all the milk, 10 boxes of cereal (I have 3 teenagers and one hungry husband that starts everyday with a giant bowl of cereal while he reads the NYTiimes on his laptop), eggs, cheese, bacon, hot dogs, etc. and that’s $100, then I budget $25 for Trader Joe’s. For a long time now, I’ve been going over every week… anywhere from $250 to $275. (That’s not just food, though, that’s also stuff like Windex, laundry detergent, shampoo, etc.) And the way it works for our budget is if I go over on food that takes away from our shopping/entertainment/miscellaneous budget automatically. So, that keeps me honest. ;D But I’ve really been doing better lately, so some of what you’re saying here must be sinking in. LOL!

  12. We had a week like that last week. my older 6 stayed with my parents who were in town for the last 2 weeks of May, so I shopped for very little only spending 25$ on week one and 19$ on week 2 getting things for the baby (well she’s 15 months). my husband and I used up a lot of what we had here. May 31st was grocery shopping day, my parents were leaving the 1st and we needed a lot. Normally we spend 250$ per week to feed our family of 9, which includes paper goods and cleaning supplies, my total from 3 stores was 700$. It was a little scary to have all that food to deal with, but nice to know I was starting out the summer with the house stocked up with lots of good food. It works out that I spentjust under 1200$ for the month of May, I do all my shopping on Fridays, there were 5 Fridays in May so I stayed under budget for the month. First week of June and I spent 49$ on dairy and fresh fruits and veg. Now I am wondering if once a month shopping with weekly trips to get fresh foods would be better.

  13. Ahhh … it’s them college kids being home for the summer that’s killing ME … The Boy and I did a run to Costco … had a very specific list and didn’t deviate too far from it, surprisingly … but I still spent … $497.34 … (it’s posted on my blog) … the thing was I spent $100 on seafood (mahi mahi and snapper are new discoveries for me at Costco, highly recommend both!) and then the d**n protein powder the Boy and Hubby insist on having for their preworkouts … my problem is I tend to go heavy on the produce and well, not a HUGE fan of veggies, although I”m trying, really, I am! I need to get the freezers organized and see what’s really in them … no better time than the start of hurricane season! Maybe a mini pantry/freezer challenge is called for? πŸ˜‰

    • Maybe your husband and son would like peanut butter and banana smoothies? Add a couple of tablespoons of almond butter instead? Maybe there’s too much fat in nut butter, though, I don’t know. Maybe Greek yogurt instead? I think it has tons of protein and would be similar to protein powder… even if they went half Greek yogurt/half protein powder, that might make a difference. It’s worth a try, because I know!, protein powder is OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive!

      College kid home AND my 13yoDS who is growing about an 1″ a day!!! When I look at him, I still look for his head to be where it was when he was 5yo and I’m always freaked out that I have to look up so far. Any day now, he’s going to top me, and I’m 5’9″, and we don’t even think this is the real growth spurt, we expect him to grow more when he’s 15-16yo! He’s the baby and he’s going to be bigger than all the rest of us. We ate this huge meal the other day, we were all stuffed, and then while he was washing dishes, I caught him eating three string cheese sticks because he was hungry… like 10 minutes later! Food just gets demolished with him around, it’s amazing! πŸ˜€

  14. Brighid says:

    If you haven’t already used the lavender, try making simple syrup infused with lavender. It makes an amazing lemonade! And if you haven’t used up the basil making pesto or salad, then save them stems and make another simple syrup. I know it’s pure sugar but if you’re having company in the summer, lemonade’s always a good bet in my book. The two herbs will make lemonade somehow special. And using basil stems has got to win some sort of award for frugalness!

    For us, it was last month’s grocery budget blown with two graduation parties. This month it’s restock, find what’s available for a pantry challenge and recharge from sweets, lots of meat and white bread rolls. I cannot find quantities of whole wheat hamburger, hot dog and sausage rolls available at reasonable prices. I bought *a lot* of Costco packages of rolls.

  15. That was like my bill last month. Horrific. According to the annual grocery expenditures, this is the end of June already. πŸ™‚ We’re doing definite pantry eating for the rest of the month. At least we are all stocked up!

  16. Last month was my killer month for food, but I had a big Memorial Weekend party with about 50-60 guests too.. even though we went “cheap” this year..
    My freezer is stocked to over-full, my frig is in good shape, my pantries are all stocked up (stuffed is really a better word) and my CSA started up this week.. Unless some sort of meat goes on sale, I probably wont be buying much of anything other than milk, bread, sour cream & cheese for quite a while..

  17. We haven’t bought anything this month at all. We are, thankfully, picking some things from the garden: figs, apricots, green gage plums, the first of the apples, blackberries, and a few other things.

    You can rinse and dry your basil, and then crumble it into dishes when you need it. Just put it in a container after it is dried.

    It was 114ΒΊ here yesterday, so the birds are attacking the garden more than they usually do. It also means what is ripening is tiny. I’m thankful for what we are getting, though!

    The plan is to avoid shopping for food for a while (maybe for a few months). I may buy some more potatoes but right now I’m doing my best to keep out of the store.

  18. Question: did your grocery budget double because of organic or because the children got taller, or both?

    We’re still at $100 a month for 9 of us, so I am working hard to find ways to keep it within our means as long as possible. The children have all been on a growth spurt lately!

    • Jessica says:

      Brandy, it was both of those plus we just had a little more disposable income. We were spending so little money before because we really had none to spare. Once we paid off our debts, moved, sold our house, and got a better job, we were able to include the little luxuries like organics — or simply “extra”. Lately, our kids are going through a lot more food and I’m not sure what’s up with that….

  19. Uh. Have you noticed that you’re raising boys? … teenage ones at that! They eat A LOT! No wonder they’re eating you out of house and home. The only thing that surprised me here was that you bought sugar at Walmart. I would have thought that buying it in bulk at Costco would have been more economical. But, we don’t have a Costco (just BJs) in our neck of the woods.

    • Ha! Yeah, could be that these kids won’t stop growing.

      As for sugar…. Walmart is the best place for the dehydrated sugar cane juice. Costco doesn’t even carry it. It’s not “healthy” but it is a bit better and either gmo-free or organic.

  20. We don’t really have a budget for food (I know, I know! Don’t throw things at me, Dave Ramsey fans!) but end up spending roughly $500 per month to feed our family of four. I have a 17 year old son who has zero body fat and an insatiable appetite, and a 7 year old girl who recently decided that she’s always hungry, all the time. We have in the last year went from highly processed foods (which there are a ton of coupons for) to a more organic, locally grown diet, which there are very few coupons for and extremely high prices where we live. I work full time out of the home, and my husband works three jobs. There is little time to cook ahead, but that is one area I am determined to make time for this year. I know we can trim our food budget considerably, and hopefully the coming of Trader Joe’s to our city will help with that. We have no Sprouts, Aldi, or anything like that here in Boise. πŸ™

    • Trader Joe’s has a lot of “fun food” so it’s easy to overspend there. If you stick to basics, you’re good though.

  21. I still think you should check out Frazier Farms next to Famous Dave’s BBQ in Vista on Vista Village Drive. You can get your produce there for prices less than Sprout’s. They have a double ad day on Thursday, so you can get last week’s and next week’s sale prices on that day. They have bulk items and bulk spices as well. It is worth just going to look.
    I have budgeted our groceries for years, since we have six in my family. It was only four of us for five years after moving to California, but the other two boys moved in with us, and we are back to square one. The only things I have problems with is sometimes I get bugs in my flour and dry products, even if they are in plastic containers. Never had that in the cool climate of Washington. I just don’t buy a large amount of those items anymore. Also, produce doesn’t keep as long, even in the refrigerator.

  22. Heather M says:

    So i was planning to start June with a bang, planning well and only buying fresh/things we were low on, a sort of mini pantry challenge. Out the window so far. June is insane so far, and not because of the usual end of school year crazies. Somehow I ended up leading a neighborhood fight against our state transportation dept (I’m president of our association, maybe that’s how?) and it’s coming to a head, taking tons of my time. And then horribly, a friend of my daughter’s passed away suddenly last Tuesday. It’s been incredibly rough around here, little sleep, very busy with so many things going on. I think my daughter ate Chipotle 6 times last week. Not gonna beat myself up. Things are unusual. Today I’m waiting on our lawyer and getting the house in order, laundry somewhat caught up. Haven’t shopped for any food in 10 days, just managed getting the bills paid on time. So also planning easy healthy meals and making lists for my mainstay stores: Costco, Trader Joe’s, and a grocery. Unfortunately we are very low on protein and almost no produce left. Tomorrow I’ll shop, unless more comes up with the neighborhood thing. Off I go back to my tasks, my Good Cheap Eats break is over. πŸ™‚

  23. Heather M says:

    BTW, my daughter is finishing up her junior yr of HS, and the friend was a senior, due to graduate on 6/20. Tragic situation.

  24. for the Basil:

    Basil-tomato sandwiches!! Toast some good bread, spread on some mayo, slice a tomato, and layer on the basil! Open face or closed, it’s THE summer food of all time! Hope you got to enjoy some of the basil! I envy you your big pile of it!

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