Grocery Geek: May, Week One

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I know how interesting it is to peek into someone else’s grocery cart, so the Grocery Geek is back! Here’s how I grocery shopped this first week of May.

Grocery Geek Reports | Good Cheap Eats

Costco, part A

I first started posting my grocery shopping when we were deep in debt and I had just discovered coupons. You can read those old Grocery Geek archives over on Life as MOM. As I realized that the two sites needed to be streamlined a bit more, I started posting those grocery reports over here to Good Cheap Eats.

I’ve been a little sporadic in sharing the grocery shopping over the last few months because I’ve really struggled in my time management. It takes a lot of time to lay out the groceries and take a picture and then track down my receipts for the exact prices on things and then type it all up. Sorry for being lazy.

Nevertheless I’m back.

My grocery shopping profile

To update you on my grocery geekiness:

  • I’m feeding eight people, ages 52, 42, 17, 14, 12, 10, 8, and 6. Five of those people are males. They eat A LOT!
  • I’m shooting for a budget of $1200, per the USDA food cost reports the last time I added up for people of our demographics. I live in Southern California where produce is cheap, but meat and dairy are not.
  • I’m trying to feed us mostly unprocessed foods, with a few “healthier” convenience items thrown in and a junk food splurge* here and there.
  • I work at home and teach six kids, so I don’t have as much time for fiddling in the kitchen as I would like.
  • I no longer use coupons on a regular basis, though I do love the coupons that Ralphs offers.
  • I have at least ten grocery stores within 5.5 miles of my house. It is easy (for better or for worse) to stop at several stores to get the best deals.
  • We mostly eat at home. My husband often packs lunch and breakfast to work, but sometimes has lunch out. We eat out for a date once a week. FishPapa takes one child out to dinner with dad once a week. We eat out as a family on average once a week.

Obviously, your mileage may vary. But, I’m constantly amazed at how well we eat without spending a crazy amount of money.

First week of May grocery shopping

This first week of May was a big stock-up week. I did a big round of freezer cooking and bought what I think we’ll need for week two. I’m hoping that even my eggs, milk, and cheese last through the week. We shall see.

Here’s how the grocery shopping broke down this week:

Grocery Geek Reports | Good Cheap Eats

Costco, part B


FishBoy17 has been practicing for his driver’s test. Lucky for me, that means he can take me shopping and drive the car as well as the shopping cart! We bought a lot of stuff because I was doing a big freezer cooking session. He about choked on the price tag. Costco does that to me, too. That does tell me I need to work in some meal planning and shopping into his own personal experience.

  • organic eggs $3.50/dozen
  • organic apples $10.99/dozen
  • Kirkland tuna $14.49/8 cans
  • burrito tortillas $3.49/2 dozen
  • soft taco tortillas $2.69/2 dozen
  • torta sandwich rolls $6.49/dozen
  • chopped green chiles $4.96/dozen cans
  • #10 can refried beans $4.49
  • organic juice popsicles $9.99/ginormous box
  • 8 cans black olives $8.99
  • 2 gallons milk $4.79
  • sea salt $2.79
  • 3 dozen dinner rolls $4.49
  • organic spinach $3.79
  • 4 packages bratwurst $13.99
  • cooked bacon* (yes, really) $7.99
  • 5 pounds shredded mozzarella $10.69
  • avocado oil $9.79
  • dozen bagels $5.49
  • guacamole packs $10.99
  • 2.5 pounds Tillamook cheddar $9.89
  • 6+ pounds lean ground beef $24.45
  • 2 dozen hot dog buns* $2.29
  • half gallon heavy cream $8.49
  • 6 bell peppers $5.79
  • large Fage yogurt $6.39
  • 2-pound loaves sourdough $3.69
  • large cooked turkey breast $16.08 (less than $4/lb)
  • 4-pound packs of butter $8.49
  • ginormous bag of tortilla chips $3.49
  • 4 packs of Thomas’ English muffins* $6.79
  • 2 loaves whole wheat bread $4.59

Is that all? Let me tell you. My children consume food at quantities that I cannot begin to explain. I’ve found that buying them food that is easy for the to prepare and making sure they have adequate protein has been really successful for us, particularly with teen boys. Knocks on wood, we haven’t had the “typical” negative teen experiences that folks always warned us about.

Total Spent at Costco $299.44

Grocery Geek Reports | Good Cheap Eats


I couldn’t find pepperoni or pita bread at Costco so I headed to Ralphs that night. Ice cream was on sale. 🙂 And so was coffee. I had two digital coupons and a paper coupon for the coffee which made it like $5. Unfortunately, I forgot to hand over my paper coupon. Wah. It expired that night which was the main reason I even went down the coffee aisle. Boo. I could have gone back, but I was too tired.

  • pita breads $2.99/dozen
  • pepperoni $6.99
  • ice cream $2.99/gallon
  • coffee $4.99/12-ounce package

Total spent at Ralphs $35.91

Grocery Geek Reports | Good Cheap Eats

Abundant Harvest Produce

The box contained apples, green beans, butter lettuce, fennel, chard (baby and large), strawberries, summer squash, bell peppers, savory, parsnips, and carrots. Nothing too crazy, but I generally have a hard time using up parsnips and fennel.

After a very frustrating experience dealing with some mistakes that the delivery crowd made, I decided to end our membership to Abundant Harvest Organics. I don’t need to go into it, but needless to say, I was disappointed.

This was our last box. My husband wondered if maybe they saved this one for me (knowing it was our last box) since it was so sad looking. Most of the apples were rotten by the next day — something that’s never happened before.

I’ve done some research and found that the local CSAs now offer home delivery. We’ll be looking into other options that are within our county.

Total spent on the large box $43.55

Grocery Geek Reports | Good Cheap Eats

Trader Joe’s

I planned out the meals for the next week and rounded out my shopping with a quick trip to Trader Joe’s.

  • red onions (2 lb) $1.69
  • frozen chicken tenderloins $7.99/2.5-pound bags
  • low fat milk $3.29/gallon (Costco is certainly cheaper!)
  • boxed cereal $1.99/box (my husband takes a box to work)
  • shredded hash browns $1.69
  • frozen peas $1.29
  • sour cream $1.69
  • ak-mak crackers $1.79/box
  • breakfast sausage $2.99/package
  • cucumbers $1.99/lb
  • cashews $6.99
  • almonds $6.49
  • corn dogs $3.29
  • string cheese $3.99
  • frozen oj $2.99
  • red grapefruit $3.99
  • broccoli slaw $1.69
  • avocados 4ct $3.29
  • snap peas $2.49

I think if I had to choose a store for variety, quality, and pricing, it would probably be Trader Joe’s. But, it’s not the closest to home and it’s bulk pricing just can’t compare to Costco. But, it’s so nice! Love it.

(Also notice that I pretty much avoid all the novelty foods at TJs. That’s the only way I can make it work in the budget. The tenderloins are my splurge because they ALWAYS taste great.)

Total spent at Trader Joe’s $92.40

grocerygeek-gceSo, I did A LOT of shopping already this month. I’m hoping that what I bought plus what we had already will last several weeks. The freezer is AS FULL AS IT COULD POSSIBLY GET. Plus, there’s ice cream.

We have two birthdays and two other special occasions this month plus company coming. So, we’ll see how long this lasts. I splurged on the baked goods this month. It’s so much cheaper to bake it myself, but I need a little margin and that’s how I’m getting it.

Total spent so far this month: $471.30

So that’s the Grocery Geek report. Let’s see how far we can stretch what I’ve bought. I’ll be sharing next week’s meal plan in the newsletter this weekend. Sign up here if you haven’t already.

And stay tuned for the report on this week’s freezer cooking over on Life as MOM.

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  1. Harriet says:

    Hi and welcome back! Thought I would share this with you…I make my bread and rolls homemade but I use the bread machine to mix my dough. Then I take it out and cook it in the oven. I was super busy this week and had a buttermilk bread recipe to try. So, I let the machine make it. My son said, “that thing makes bread?!” Bless him.

  2. Danielle says:

    I don’t know if your Costco carries it, but mine has starting carrying a two-pack of Kirkland brand hormone-free Greek yogurt. I think it’s just as good as the Fage and significantly cheaper. I use it for cooking/baking, my kids eat it straight with a tiny bit maple syrup or honey and my little one loves dipping tortilla chips in instead of sour cream.

    • I will check. I’ve been worried to try it because if I didn’t like it, it would be waste it or take it back. And I’m so lazy!

      • Crystal says:

        I love the Kirkland Brand Greek Yogurt- I wish it was 2% instead of fat free, but it tastes great. The texture is smooth, and I have been able to use it in place of sour cream for most things.

  3. cherie says:

    Good job – but I’m sorry about your produce box problems – that is frustrating and expensively so – I hope you find a new one that works better for you!

  4. I love grocery geek! Also, if you ever are in a “too busy for grocery geek” timeframe, a picture of your cart in the checkout line is fun, too. 🙂

  5. Wish I could buy ground beef at those prices. For 90% lean it is regularly priced at $5.99 a pound around here. Hormone free, 90% lean starts at $6.99 a pound. The closet Costo to our home is a 40-mile round trip, so the gas and time eat up any savings.

  6. Wow! Now that there is just my husband and me to feed I am impressed with your shopping. I can see some areas where I need to shop more at Trader Joe’s and sadly…..we have no Costco. Interesting and informative. Thanks.

  7. Lisa M says:

    Love Grocery Geek!!!!! Thanks so much for bringing it back. Thank you for the time you put into these posts 🙂

  8. I was thinking just yesterday – as I was catching up with plugging in receipts to Quicken – that I hadn’t seen one of these lately. I have been very pleased with our grocery spending lately. The pantry challenge in Jan was so-so, the Feb self-challenge went great, March was a little over budget, but April was back under again. We’ve had a few special expenses and splurges so far for May but pretty much no need to buy anything else the rest of the month. Except maybe milk. YTD is currently 15% UNDER budget. I assure you, it is not an extravagant budget, either, so I’m really impressed that we are keeping it so low. Despite best intentions, the freezer is nearly full again and the pantry is still fairly bursting (seems that never empties out no matter what I prepare, which is puzzling). We have again started the “Just Say No” campaign as there is simply no place to put more food!

    That just reminded me that I think today is the USPS food drive, so I’m going to put some in a bag before I go to work.

  9. Thank you for posting this. I have a family of 5 and our grocery spending keeps me up at night with worry! Looking forward to seeing what meals you put together.

  10. Yay! So happy to see the grocery geek posts back! They are some of my favorites! Thanks for taking the time to put this together!

  11. Whitney says:

    Thank you for taking the time to post this! I really do love your Grocery Geek posts!!! It’s even better than peering into people’s carts at the store.

  12. Very interesting to compare food prices…I have a family of four in central New Hampshire. I don’t have many options close by for bulk shopping (40 mile round trip to a bulk discount place) but I do have lots of small farms nearby selling produce, dairy and meats. The prices are high but the quality is fabulous so I trade quality for quantity and never really stock up on things. We spend $84/month on raw milk for example.

    I appreciate your taking time to do these posts!

  13. Sandra Johnson says:

    Pare the parsnips, cut in coins, and microwave till almost tender. Then sauté them in butter. My husband’s favorite.
    The fennel is so good roasted. I expected licorice, but no. It is sweet but so good.

  14. Sandra Johnson says:

    On second thought, I usually slice the parsnips into strips lengthwise.

  15. Amanda says:

    I have also noticed more rotten fruit in my AHO box lately. I’ve been thinking about going back to Farm Fresh to You. You might want to check them out as one of your options. They deliver and you can put certain items (like parsnips) on your “do not deliver” list. They’ll just substitute something else for you.

  16. So glad to see Grocery Geek is back!!! I have really missed it! Thank you for reviving it!

  17. Marsha says:

    I couldn’t even imagine how organized you are to keep this going. I admit that I drool over your cart as there is no way my budget would allow for this kind of spendage(although I only have a family of four). I do attempt to keep things as non processed as possible and I feel I do a decent job at it with the little money I have. I live in the dairy state so dairy and meat aren’t horribly priced but it’s hard to find good produce especially during the winter months. I’m hoping to get a little garden going at my house to help compensate the produce.

    • We are going to try a garden this year, too. But the child who was so Gung Ho a few months ago when we built the boxes is not so much now. Bummer.

      Also, I would never have thought to spend this much five years ago. But, with the cost of food and four ravenous boys, we’ve reworked our budget to allow this. It’s theoretically a food stamp budget for a family of our size, so I guess that’s okay?

    • Also, you know this isn’t what I’m spending every week, right? I bought for half the month at one time. 🙂

  18. Yay, Grocery Geek is back! Thanks for taking time to create these posts. I really enjoy them.

  19. Jillbert says:

    I love Grocery Geek because, well, I’m a grocery geek! Your Costco run looks similar to the ones we make. I have a question, though. What do you do with the big deli turkey breast? Do you have a meat slicer or just go at it with a knife? I’ve bought in the past but the thicker slices I was able to cut weren’t what I was after. Just wondering if there’s a better way to slice it or maybe I’m missing another type of use for that meat. Thanks!

  20. Kathleen Dunn says:

    This post is SO fun! The parsnips are an acquired taste, but fennel is super easy for even kids to love. Try chopping them in chunks with some carrots and potatoes and spread the veggies on a large roasting pan then put chicken on top and roast. If the kids don’t like the parsnips, there will be other veggies they like in the meal. Thanks for sharing all your great ideas!

  21. Love peeking into your grocery cart. Thanks for sharing!

    That ice cream looks yummy. Have a great week!

  22. Do you have in your area? I can’t remember which area of CA you guys live, but we have had great success with getting phenomenal produce for amazing deals. Lovely add ons and wholesome bread, etc items also. Worth checking out your zip code

  23. Hi I just started following your newsletter/blog. Just wondering what your monthly food budget includes? For instance do you include paper, cleaning products and vitamins? Also do you take money out of your grocery budget for your eating out budget?

    • I do not include non-food items in our budget. We have an entertainment budget from which eating out comes, but we typically can feed our whole family all 8 for about $35 at In-N-Out. That’s often what we get for our family dinner out, so it’s not too crazy of an eating out budget.

  24. Ok that’s what I thought. I have this conversation with people once in a while about their food budgets. They balk at my average every week. They thinks its way too high. I budget for $150 a week for a family of four. I still have one in diapers and one needs non dairy milk and yogurt due to allergies. I set that amount because I include diapers, wipes, vitamins, allergy meds, paper products and hba in my budget. The funny thing is the two people that asked me about my budget do not have to buy any type of beef product. That is all provided by their family that farms. Plus I am like you right in line with the usda guidelines for typical food budget. I need to figure out my eating out budget. I set it at $80 a month and I think that might just be too low. I tend to go over it. We really don’t eat out that much, but it is usually pizza ranch. That alone costs almost $30 for the four of us. Thanks for answering me back..

    • You know, it’s pretty much for those reasons of comparison that I started leaving those things out when talking with others. Probably not fair for them not to count the beef in someway since someone paid a cost somewhere. Ha!

      Eventually I answer every comment. Eventually. I have 300+ waiting in my inbox right now. 😉

  25. Jen Fitzpatrick says:

    I’m glad you brought this back this month! I needed a reminder that I’m not the only one going through food like crazy! I used to be able to go to a store and pick up snacky items and it would last for a month. Now I’m out after a week. We’re going away for Memorial Day weekend and as I’m looking in my pantry and closet, I’m not sure we can make it without a trip to the store before then. I might have to get really creative this week. Your site may be seeing some overuse!

  26. Jennifer H. says:

    I recently found your blog through your Pantry Challenge. While we didn’t do in January, I decided to give it a whirl in March as we were preparing for Passover. I was shocked that I saved about 60% in March on my groceries. Needless to say we’ll be doing it again late summer or early fall. Secondly, I also live in SoCal having moved from Texas after getting married over a year ago. So all of your comments on the price pain of dairy and eggs truly resonates. Good to know it’s not just me. I also see that you’re exploring options on CSA produce box delivery. I wanted to suggest you check out Farm Fresh to You. We have been using them for about 9 months now and there are various box options from which to choose. Also, they give you the option to customize your box so you wouldn’t the dreaded parsnips and fennel. For us it’s the radishes that are the first to go. While we are only two, we are very happy with all that we have received and love the flexibility that Farm Fresh to You offers.

    • Thanks so much for chiming in. I’m SO GLAD the Pantry Challenge worked for you. Welcome to California! I hope you love it as much as I do! I will check out FFTY. Thanks!

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