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Grocery Geek: June Week One

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Want a peek into our grocery cart? Here’s how I’m grocery shopping and feeding eight people on the cheap.

Grocery Geek | Good Cheap Eats

Earlier this week you would have thought we were doing a pantry challenge. The cupboards did not get refilled, and there’s been quite a lot of white space in the fridge and freezer.

I’ve been tired of playing Refrigerator Jenga and thought getting a second fridge might make things easier. The more I thought about it, though, I realized that the new ubiquitous stainless steel style doesn’t really go with our retro turn of the century cabinets. White is better for this house. So, then, I need to manage my one fridge better. This means, not buying more than it can hold.

We’ll see how long this lasts, though. FishBoy17 sat down with me at the table while I was meal planning yesterday and asked, “Can we buy some food?”

Apparently, someone noticed the white space.

I had hoped to keep my grocery runs down to two this week, but his request and the advent of my parents coming for all of Sunday and eating Whole 30 meant I needed to make another run. I still can’t bear to do my shopping at only one store and pay higher prices, so I made two more shops. I have freezer cooking to do next week, so I’m really trying to keep the groceries to a minimum.

But, when the kid asks for more vegetables, you can’t really refuse, can you?

Here’s the rundown on my shopping this week. As you read, keep in mind who and how I’m shopping:

My grocery shopping profileGrocery Geek | Good Cheap Eats

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.
  • work at home and teach six kids, so I don’t have as much time for fiddling in the kitchen as I would like.
  • 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.

Here’s how the shopping went down this week:

Grocery Geek | Good Cheap Eats

Trader Joe’s

At the start of the week, I thought I could just make one shop, so I did a fairly sizable stock up at Trader Joe’s. Last year at this time, it was my weekly one-stop shop, but since they changed their baker, I haven’t wanted to buy much in the way of sandwich bread. The new kind just isn’t that good. And their produce is a little hit or miss when it comes to pricing.

  • tater tots $2.29
  • frozen green beans $1.99
  • nectarines $2.29
  • frozen chicken tenderloins $7.99/2.50 pounds
  • sandwich bread $1.99
  • chai tea $2.49
  • eggs $1.99/dozen
  • organic peppers $3.99
  • shredded cabbage $1.29
  • carrots $0.79
  • broccoli slaw $1.69
  • organic snap peas $3.29
  • mushrooms $1.79
  • basmati rice $3.29
  • organic romaine hearts $2.49
  • cereal $1.99
  • black beans $0.89
  • organic spinach $1.99
  • organic grape tomatoes $2.99
  • light cream cheese $1.69
  • lemon $0.39
  • pepperoni $2.99
  • string cheese $3.99
  • organic pickles $2.99
  • organic tomato sauce $1.49
  • couscous $1.99
  • organic pinto beans $1.19 (they don’t sell conventional)
  • gold potatoes $2.29/3#
  • cashews $6.99
  • avocados $2.99/4
  • milk $3.29/gallon
  • milk $1.99/half gallon (FishPapa takes this size to work)

Total spent at Trader Joe’s: $121.75

 

Grocery Geek | Good Cheap Eats

Sprouts

I meant to go to Sprouts only once this week, but I forgot my phone and therefore my list at home on Wednesday night (Double Ad Day). They didn’t have both ads available, so I shopped from last week’s ad and figured I could come back later for the new ad stuff.

You will notice that I’ve transitioned away from buying all organics. I’m kinda conflicted about that, actually. I’ve heard from well-researched people that there isn’t a huge difference, so I kinda don’t know what to do. I bought four of the dirty dozen: grapes, strawberries, nectarines, and peaches because their sale prices were pretty amazing. Really not sure how to operate on this issue right now.

  • mangoes 3/$1
  • bananas $0.69/pound
  • strawberries $0.98
  • peaches $0.88/pound
  • nectarines $0.88/pound
  • blueberries $0.98/pound
  • organic salad greens $2.50 (apparently TJ’s would be the cheaper place for this)
  • grapes $0.98
  • red banana $0.45 for two — we wanted to try them

Total spent at Sprouts: $23.01

 

Grocery Geek | Good Cheap Eats

Ralphs

After my son asked for food, I took him grocery shopping with me. He likes to go when I go to Ralphs because they have such a great clearance section at the location south of our house. The north location has a great deli, coffee, wine selection, but I knew he’d enjoy browsing the clearance for protein bars. He was in luck! He found their Simple Truth bars marked down to 39 cents each!

Also, we stocked up on a few summer sale items, because we’re really trying to enjoy our summer days and have a treat every once in awhile.

  • tortilla chips $1.25
  • mayonnaise $3.49 – I still make homemade, but it’s nice to have a jar on hand for big salads, etc.
  • cottage cheese $2.49
  • milk $2.55
  • Talenti gelato 3/$10
  • Peets coffee $8.99 – good coffee is a must at our house. ;0
  • sweet onions $0.99/pound
  • grapes $0.99/pound
  • mushrooms $2.99
  • marked down veggie dippers $1.39
  • avocados $0.99 each – 50 cent coupon
  • Bai5 drink – free after coupon
  • marshmallows $2.99
  • nutrition bars $0.39 each
  • clearance bread and rolls $1.49 to $1.99 each
  • chocolate bars $4

I rely on Ralphs’ digital coupons, so I had extra value off these items, like $4 off a $40 purchase, etc.

Total spent at Ralphs: $58.49

 

Grocery Geek | Good Cheap Eats

Sprouts again

I went back to Sprouts to get the other things that were on sale for this current week.

  • strawberries $0.98/pkg
  • broccoli crowns $0.98/lb
  • cilantro 3/$1
  • tomatoes $0.98/lb
  • green onions 3/$1
  • italian squash $0.98/lb
  • napa cabbage $0.88/lb
  • organic green bell peppers $1.25 each
  • organic red bell peppers $2 each
  • organic celery stalk $1.99
  • organic cucumbers $0.99 each
  • organic fruit spread $3
  • pork tenderloin $2.99/pound
  • chicken tenders $2.99/pound

Total spent at Sprouts: $57.71

So, the week wasn’t horrible in terms of expenses. I will do a big shop next week to prep our freezer meals for the month — Get details about Freezer Cooking Days and join me! — but I’m optimistic that we’ll be at or under budget again this month.

Total spending for the week: $260.96

I’m honestly surprised at how much this all ADDED UP. Seriously, there was nothing too crazy in the mix. Full price on the coffee; the tea and jam were splurges. The chips, pickles, s’mores, and ice cream were not necessity, but the bulk of these shops was produce — and not all organics.

My husband and I have talked about how we can go meatless more often. My eldest is not crazy about that prospect, but I’m hoping that we can find meatless protein sources that will work for him (like quinoa and eggs). We shall see, eh?

It definitely is a battle to eat well and spend less than the list price.

How’s your grocery geeking going?

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Comments

  1. crystal says:

    I am that nosy person at the grocery store that looks in other people’s carts to see what they are buying, so I LOVE your grocery geek series. I would love to hear more about your organic vs. non-organic comparisons. I occasionally buy organic, but more often try to focus on local. I figure it is just better for us to eat fresh foods than junk, so I put most of our grocery budget towards fresh produce, meats, cheeses, etc, vs. packaged goods. And I know organic has benefits like less pesticides, and I want to support that kind of industry, it just isnt always feasible for our grocery budget. Anyways, I am rambling. I am just always curious as to what info people have come across on these subjects.

    • You know I am too impatient to do a ton of research myself, but I have a friend who is a research guru. She says she does about half and half organic produce, but focuses on dairy and meat being better quality. I need to pin her down on the details, though. She spends about $700 this way for a family of five with one being a toddler.

  2. kathy w says:

    I think you do very well with all the ages in your household. We really struggle with not having meat at every meal and I have tried and continue to dried a multiple of ways to different vegetables to no avail. I find it very difficult to put a balanced meal on the table that everyone will eat that is healthy and affordable.

  3. I gave up on organics long ago! Too pricey and not enough of a difference in my opinion. We also started the week with a pantry challenge. I had to make snacks from scratch a few days in a row. One day I made hard boiled eggs, another day I made oatmeal cookies. I hate to give my kids cookies for snacks but we were out of fruits and veggies.

    • Good job for making your own snacks. Honestly, I think that homemade cookies can be healthy, depending on how you choose your ingredients (whole grain vs. not, etc.)

  4. LeslieT says:

    I can’t believe you can store food for 8 people without a second fridge! How do you do it? I bought a fairly cheap one (basic, no frills, $400) years ago and keep it in the garage for those extra gallons of milk and juice, cartons of eggs, etc. That’s also where I store my freezer meals. I guess you could use ice chests or something…not sure how you keep from going to the store daily with that many people to feed, three times a day! By the way, those Talenti ice cream containers are great for freezing homemade broths, soups, and sauces. Don’t just recycle ’em…reuse ’em!

    • We have a fairly good size fridge and I do a lot of rearranging all the time. 🙂

      And, yes, we reuse the Talenti containers to store lemon juice from all the lemons we get from my dad.

      • We really needed a second fridge and found that buying a refrigerator without a freezer was a good solution for us. Lowe’s has a 17.7 cubic foot one that really fit our needs. They let us use a 10% off coupon on it so that helped bring the cost down a bit.

  5. I really, really reduced the amount of processed food we eat, and as you know, when I did that, my grocery shops became more expensive. I was really good at coupons, so it actually rose quite a bit. I decided that eating fresh fruit and vegetables was better for us than going back to that, and I just wasn’t going to sweat it when it comes to organic. I’ve read both that it really matters and it really doesn’t….since no one seems to know. For now, I’ll try to just buy in season, local if I can get it.

  6. Honestly I don’t know how you do the produce without a second fridge – it takes up SO much room. My fridge is crammed full lately too – and my freezer – I crave empty space – not sure what happened but it’s endless – a blessing but still

    You did great 🙂

  7. We try to purchase healthy and less processed foods and pass on the organic options. It is the only way to stay within our budget and still have lots of fresh fruits and vegetables along with healthy lean protein options. Due to medical expenses (emergency room visits cost a fortune!), we are doing a mini food pantry challenge this month. We have to get by on half our usual grocery budget. I told the kids the fresh fruits and vegetables are going to be limited to the low-cost variety (no berries or pineapple, which are two favorites). Usually I do lots of baking when we are pinching pennies, but the rapidly rising egg prices are not helping.

    • Good luck with your pantry challenge!

    • Tiffany R says:

      The price of eggs!! AGGHHH! I just noticed at the grocery store this past week – $4 for 18 eggs no free range or anything. I had no idea the price had gone up that much. I normally buy our eggs at Costco but wasn’t going there this week. I will make sure to buy more eggs at Costco next time.

  8. I feel very guilty when I look at your pictures with ALL THAT PRODUCE. I know if I transitioned my family to eating that much, our grocery bill would be much higher. My family just doesn’t eat salads and raw veggies very well, although they do have certain cooked ones they like. Just not very many and I’d feel bored eating the few they like over and over. The alternative is to put the healthy stuff on the table, they don’t eat it, I eat as much of it as I can, and the rest eventually gets tossed from the back of the fridge. Help!

    • Don’t feel guilty. Every family is different. Plus, there honestly isn’t a ton of variety here. What are the vegetables that they do like? I recently quizzed my kids on their likes and was really surprised. A lot of them really like celery. ?!

    • My family does better when the veggies are part of the main course – stir-fry, quiche, casseroles, stuffed squash/peppers. Honestly, this is why I don’t stress too much about organics. If I can actually get them to eat the produce, I’ll handle that hurdle later!

  9. This month is so far going great. I’ve spent a whopping $9. I wasn’t even being intentionally close-fisted. However, I went a bit over budget last month with some purchases right at the end of the month so I probably need to purpose to be cautious this week. That actually shouldn’t be a problem as the fridge and freezer is pretty full. I have a bunch of produce as well, which is only a good thing if I get it all eaten. And frankly, that probably won’t happen as I did over buy a bit and with only two of us, and he will never eat it voluntarily… some of it will probably end up in the compost pile. That will annoy me, but since I want to do some landscaping at some point, at least I’ll have good healthy soil to use. 🙂

    Red bananas do sound interesting. How do they taste?

    • Well, red bananas…. I don’t know. My little girls couldn’t get it open so they THREW IT AWAY. I was stunned. I have no idea where they would have gotten that idea, unless they mangled it so bad that it wasn’t edible. We have one left. Will CUT it open today.

  10. Kirstin says:

    I decided to prioritize not buying eggs from caged hens over buying organic fruits and vegetables.

    How do you wash strawberries before serving them? Did you post a recipe for a vinegar-and-water solution to wash produce once?

  11. i love seeing what you buy! I also don’t understand where you put it all lol I just stocked up on some produce for my family of 4 and could barely get it all in the fridge. I don’t believe in organic produce much. I love the blog “Nurse Loves Farmer” – you should check her out. My local store had a few flavors of Talenti on clearance for $.99! Yum.

  12. Vanessa B says:

    Early in the week I purchased, assorted pork chops, 9.3 lbs of BLSL chicken breast, 18 ct. eggs, milk, sandwich bread, bananas, yogurts, snack cakes, shredded cheese, etc. I divided and marinated the pork chops in a honey Dijon concoction; trimmed, butterflied and divided the chicken into into 6 bags of marinade, 3 fajita, 2 Italian and 1 pesto. All will be grill ready after an overnight thaw.
    Late in the week I went out for the sole purpose of buying my husband some quality deli meats since he decided to take his lunches to work again. But with taking 2 kids and my inability to resist a sale we came home with some extras. We came home with more bananas, spinach, red cabbage, ginger, deli meat and cheese, bacon, butter, juice, etc.
    My kids are young but summer is already becoming very food expensive! We’re already out of milk, yogurt, cheese and juice and almost out of fruit, eggs and bread. Snacks are an issue at our house. Any tips would be appreciated. ?

    • Good job on the freezer cooking!

      As for snacks, I tend to lean on the cheap veg like carrots, celery, cucumbers, and peppers. My kids will eat all of those, so I stock up on sale. I figure if they’re going to snack, that is a better snacking habit than something else.

  13. I too don’t know how you get by with one frig. I have 2 that are always pretty full and I have 5 kids. It’s a 20 minute drive to the closest grocery though. I too have opted for mostly non organic. They don’t police them enough. Some claims of organic are far from it sadly. I’ve decided local and homegrown are best.

    • We have six grocery stores in a 2-mile radius. I just end up shopping more often than I would like. I’d be really curious is a second fridge would save us money.

  14. gloria glass says:

    CI couldn’t make it with out 2 frigs. we have a 15-20 minute drive to the grocery and we have chickens so lots and lots of fresh eggs and with 7 kids, you have to come home with at least 4 gallons of milk. my hubby stops at the store during the week after work to get more milk, bread and anything that I forgot.

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