Grocery Geek End of January

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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.

GG costco

Okay, this was the final stretch, people. We ran out of proteins on Sunday night along with a lot of other things. While I might normally do a big stock up at this point, I did not this time. Because: termite tent is still in my future. So, I’m doing smallish shops and buying enough to get by for awhile. That’s not normally how I roll, but whaddya gonna do?

I think we may spend more in the long run doing this, but not gonna know until we run the gauntlet, right?

Grocery Geek

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

My grocery shopping profile

To update you on my grocery geekiness:

  • I’m feeding eight people, ages 52, 43, 18, 15, 13, 11, 9, and 7. 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.

Here’s how the shopping went down this week:

Trader Joe’s

I went to Trader Joe’s prior to our quick trip to Santa Barbara. My main purpose was to get travel snacks as well as food for when we got home. The cupboards were more than bare and I didn’t know when we’d come home or what state I’d be in for grocery shopping. Good thing I went since FishBoy18 stayed home. He woulda been doing his own grocery shopping. Ha!

Unfortunately, I can’t find my receipt, so I can’t give you details. Paid with my ATM card, so I know what I spent. Ha!

Total spent: $71

GG Ralphs (1)


On Monday I went to Ralphs to pick up some proteins and basics. Since the cupboard was practically bare, I also gave myself permission to cruise the markdowns. The total gave me sticker shock; that’s what quinoa and meat will do to you.

  • sour cream $2.49 each
  • coffee $6.99 to $7.99
  • cheerios $0.49 to $1.49 after sales and coupons
  • basmati rice $4.49
  • beans $1.69
  • calrose rice $2.19
  • cheese $1.88
  • orzo $1.69 on clearance
  • buttermilk $2.99
  • mushrooms $2.99
  • avocados $0.99 each
  • scallions $0.99
  • cilantro $0.69
  • onions $0.99/lb
  • fage $6.99
  • organic sandwich bread $1.79 on clearance
  • kettle chips $0.99 on clearance
  • quinoa $14.99 (I know)
  • pork roast $15.52 ($1.99/lb)
  • whole chicken $12.18
  • sourdough boule $2.29 on clearance

Total spent: $104


pictured above

Hubs and I headed to Costco on date night for gas and groceries. How romantic! It’s the most painless way to shop at Costco. He drops me off at the door and goes to get gas. By the time he’s done waiting in line, I’m basically done shopping. I don’t have to carry heavy packages, and he doesn’t have to text me to ask me what kind or where is it located. Win-win.

  • milk $4.29/2 gallons
  • eggs $7.29/2 dozen
  • avocado oil $9.49
  • olive oil $14.89
  • Tillamook cheddar $9.29
  • butter $9.99/4 lbs
  • babybel $10.99
  • chicken sausage $13.89
  • organic heavy cream $9.99
  • romaine $2.99/6 heads
  • bacon $10.99
  • sourdough $3.69
  • bagels $4.99/dozen

Total spent: $118


Late Friday I cruised by Albertsons for mozzarella cheese that I forgot to get at Costco.

Total spent: $7

Total spent this week: $300

Total spent in January: $669

So, not too shabby, right? Normally we’d be spending $1200 for the month, so using up what we already had on hand definitely shaved some off. I’d call this pantry challenge a success!

How did YOUR grocery shopping go?

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  1. We finished the month at $249 and that included a purchase of diapers, Tylenol and allergy meds. We typicall spend $600 so I am THRILLED!! It couldn’t have come at a better time for us, thank you!

  2. I wanted to come in between $50 and $100. I ended up at $80.18 so not as low as hoped, but within the allotted range. I’ll be shooting for the same <$100 goal again in Feb. I know last year's Jan pantry challenge was still $150 in purchases but Feb was $100.32 so I'm hoping to repeat the Feb self-control again. I know there are a couple of things the kid wants to buy that are on the pricier side, and I count his purchases in the family total, so I'll have to be extra careful myself. But THIS month… success!

  3. We finished the month at $155!! I did go to the store today because we needed milk and it was $1.98 a gallon at a store 5 blocks from my house. When I got there they had eggs for .99/doz so I got 8dozen because we use alot of eggs. They had bone in chicken breasts for .99/lb. so I grabbed 4 packs because I only had one meal of chicken left in the freezer and that’s a great price and I should be able to get 6 meals for 7 adult appetites if I use it for strips, alfredo, burritos etc. They also had pork chops for .99/lb and I got 3 meals from 2 packs of those for $10. All of those items will be used in late February. I am really excited to see how long I can keep this going and not have my grocery budget go back to $500-$600 a month.
    That Jessica for hosting this challenge!

  4. Laurie in CA says:

    Wow Jessica,that is awesome considering how many meals a week you fix! I think I would get worn out trying to fix 3 meals a day for that many people.

    Hubs went to Trader Joe’s to buy milk, bread, eggs and a few other things. He spent $21 and I forgot I purchased a couple items at Costco for about $15 when we bought the party dinner supplies. It puts our total for the month at $168. We normally spend about $450 so that is a huge savings for us. I’m carrying on into February and hope I can keep the February spending to $200.

  5. Heather M says:

    Well, last week of January and we spent exactly $0000 on groceries. The blizzard wreaked havoc on the immediate DC area. School ended up canceled 7 straight school days, the last 7 of the semester. Total disaster. They just can’t get their acts together in cleaning up the 2 plus feet of snow we received over the weekend. Roads are narrow, have lost lanes, etc. Several leading into schools are a single lane for both directions, which is a problem. We decided it was just easier to mostly stay home this week. Husband opted to take the metro to work instead of losing the street parking space, since there are very limited options on street— it’s huge piles of snow. We drove only short trips to the library, to pick up the hubs at the metro after dark, etc. So we not only saved in food $$, we saved in gas and any other spending. Until we finally broke down and ordered pizza last night. Had to be done. But that’s not grocery money. And I’m not shopping over the weekend. No way, no how. It’ll be nuts here. So we have escaped January spending a total of $209 on groceries. YAY!!! We’ll buy a little more in February, since we are out of some pricy items like salmon, shrimp, bacon, etc. But I plan to really curb spending until we clear out the pantry a bit more. Just too many random things in there that need to get used and I can still be creative. I won’t be replacing all of those pantry items, either. They just need to get used up. Hoping to keep spending under $400– allowing more because of our preference for pricier proteins we are out of! (Costco here I come next week!)

    • Heather M says:

      I should explain that we have a one-car garage, so one car is available without losing the street parking. 🙂

      • wishing you have better days soon….

        • Heather M says:

          We’re getting there! I’m jealous you’re in hawaii— 3 of my siblings live there with their families and my parents have spent the past 2 months there being grandparents. My nieces got to do the Play 60 thing with the NFL players up at Kahuku this week, so were pretty excited! 🙂

    • The blizzard had a good effect on the PC apparently. Haha! Glad you are all safe and warm.

      • Heather M says:

        It sure did! I had some friends come up to me at church today complimenting my instagram posts of last weekend. Thanks to the Challenge, i was extra motivated! Plus, the car hardly got used so we’ve “Challenged” our gas tank as well. WIN all around! 🙂

  6. I ended the month at $695 of my $1058 budget, saving $363 this month. If I was to subtract the special foods I purchased to host 2 birthday parties and 1 sleepover with 7 extra kids= $150, I?d be at $545. I?d say this is a success either way.

    thank you Jessica

  7. I spent $11.65 on food this month and am moving on into February. I did spend an additional eight dollars on a work potluck but am not counting that. I am amazed at how much money is left in my checkbook at the end of this month. Wahoo!

    • Wow! Really? That’s great!

      • It’s just the two of us and husband isn’t picky. We were down to two carrots and half a head of cabbage for our fresh veg until I bought some lettuce. Hope to continue for two more weeks. Right now I have dough in the machine to make your hot dog buns. The freezer still has three packages of assorted hot dogs/sausage.

  8. Have you checked your Costco for quinoa? Ours (in Canada) has it and it is generally the best price I can find.

  9. We ended up at a grand total of $84.28 for the month. Our normal spending is between $250 – $300 so we are, needless to say, very happy. Hubby was out running errands yesterday so sent grocery list with him for a few more pick ups for next week….milk, eggs, bread, lunchmeat, bananas were on the list. He did get every thing on the list but added ice cream and potato chips (because they were “on sale”) for a total of $27.53. Guess he though we could “splurge” since there was some extra grocery money this month, lol Very happy with our savings and will continue into February since our chest freezer is only showing a little white space and the pantry is not far behind it.

  10. Seeing everyone’s low totals this month is amazing! Our total for January is just under$1000 for four of us, which is obviously not a savings… I’m not surprised though. I bought a few bulk purchase items that will last for several months including dried beans, dried cranberries, peanuts, and organic sugar, as well as loads of produce that’s expensive this time of year here in New England. I’m ok with our total because we don’t eat out and we try to buy local meat and dairy which is pricier on average and supports our local farmers and helps me feel confident in the quality of our food:)

    great job everyone!!!

    • Laura, I think your total may be reasonable if it includes bulk investments for the next few months and higher priced dairy, vegetables and fruits. It may still be lower than it would have been otherwise.

      I don’t have exact totals for comparison, since I didn’t save receipts. I know my totals wouldn’t be nearly as low as lots of these. Partially because of high cost for some produce and dairy. I also did a bit of stocking up on some things we were low on. But I know that I didn’t spend much on things I would otherwise have bought, if not trying to use down the freezer and pantry. I also know I have used up some of the freezer and pantry supplies I needed to use. Soup is on sale this week, but I really have enough so didn’t buy more. I used to always buy when on sale, but have learned it is wise to check on hand supplies first. So, I will count that as a win. Also the freezer is starting to show extra space, finally.

      The challenge is meant to be adjusted for each of us to what works for us, and I know that every family is unique. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    • Never compare to the others. Only YOU know what fits your family’s dietary preferences and needs. Compare to yourself but not to other people.

  11. I have to admit that I love the weekly grocery geek! It’s so much fun to see how others shop. I don’t post because we are in a different situation. We raise all our meat and eggs. Besides seafood and fresh chicken I have all my proteins which makes my totals low compared to others. I am jealous of your produce prices though. I think you do very well feeding all your people on your budget. I know how much kids eat!!!

  12. We had to go into town this morning so picked up the milk we are going to need by tomorrow. While we were there, I found little hams, weighing about 1 1/2 lbs for less than $3. Bought one to slice for sandwiches this coming week and just one for the freezer to use in a few weeks time. Normally, I would have picked more for the freezer but was quite proud to stick at one!!! We also picked up eggs as hubby wants to make pasta soon and when hubby suggested buying fresh fish, I readily agreed. I really enjoy fish – hubby not so much so when he offers to eat it, I don’t say no.

    I think we have all the fresh produce we need for the next week. I do want to get some baking done as we are on the last loaf of bread, out of muffins and coffee cakes.

    I have spent $200 since January 1st but that includes just over $20 this morning and about $30 I spent when friends came for spper last weekend. So about $150 for the month, less than half our usual – I’m a happy camper!!!

  13. Omgosh, you all are doing such a great job! I’m at almost $1000 but that includes dog and cat food/products, paper products. Cosmetic and supplements. I don’t separate them out? Maybe I should?

  14. I’m continuing to go into February. As I’ve posted before, there’s only the 2 of us so when I’ve pulled out a roast or ham from the freezer, it makes dinner and lots of leftover protein. The roast or ham is used for other recipes and I have leftovers. I made a red sauce with left over pork roast and now there’s several containers of the sauce in the freezer. It’s like Stone Soup. We never get to the bottom of the pot! I’m not complaining since we’re very blessed to be able to have good sources of food available and are able to afford it. It just takes a lot longer to be able to talk into the freezer and have my voice echo in it! I bought milk yesterday along with butter and my produce box is coming Wednesday so we’ll keep trying to eat it down. Maybe I need to “borrow” the high school football team to come and have dinner. LOL

  15. Ok so what Ive learned is i will make more of an effort to meal plan and try new recipes, and work with the protein I have, except fish. Don’t throw away fresh produce either use it or freeze it. I saw someone freezing avacados. Stay on top of whats in my refrigerator no waste! Not literally lol….

    We have 2 teen boys my husband and myself eating 3 meals a day 6 days per week. …

    • Heather M says:

      teenage boys eat everything! SO much food. I have one and I grew up with 3 brothers close in age to me. my mom couldn’t keep them full– half a box of cereal, 4 pieces of toast for breakfast, etc. it helped that they were super active, 2 of them surfing hours on end every day(before and after school) as well as playing baseball and/or football and/or basketball. teenage boys are hits on a grocery budget for sure!

  16. I have not been still long enough to figure out our savings. I only know that I am positive spending is way down. I did very little shopping, and we almost never eat out. Good thing we did this challenge. Our oldest daughter is getting married in April, so all extra $ is ear marked for the wedding. Also, the recent ice and snow caused one of our 60ft. pines to start leaning…towards the house of course. The price to have it cut down and removed is $1100. ??? but, that’s cheaper than repairs I suppose.

    It’s on into February for us.

    Oh, and I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s posts. Nice to be a part of this group. You all have been kind and encouraging!

    • Heather M says:

      Tree removal is super pricy! But like you said, better that than the alternative! Good luck with the wedding planning!

  17. I finished the month spending approx $250 on food, but that included dog food. We only spent that much because hubby wasn’t totally into it and shopped when I wasn’t home. Still lots of food left for another few weeks. We are almost out of meats and frozen veggies that aren’t muffin supplies–like pumpkin I baked and put up. I suppose I need to do a donut making day. LOL. Instead of pumpkin bread I plan to use the dough in a mini-donut baker. Maybe the kids will eat up the five gallons of pumpkin I froze. LOL. I found various bags of seeds and things like peanut butter chips I may add too. I’m considering using a white cake mix I found, mixed with misc sweet cereal bits (like cocoa krispies) and seeing if they make a tasty donut too. These are more like donut-shaped muffins. LOL. You can add anything.

    • I’m making a pot of pumpkin soup right now! It freezes very well.

    • I have quite a bit of canned pumpkin, but I’m planning to use it in impossible pie, pumpkin bread and bar cookie recipe I want to try. The impossible pie works best for my hubby. I would probably like the pumpkin soup, but would be the only one eating it!

      I also have some cake mixes, but I usually use them to make bar cookies frequently with choc. chips added.

  18. Jessica S says:

    Daughter and I did a BIG shop today, the fridge was looking pretty bare. When husband (and boys) got home he looked in the fridge and was SHOCKED! lol I have spent less this month than usual, but still managed to stock up on items we DO use often that were amazing couponing/sales deals. I was able to use up almost all the freezer protein stash, tomorrow I am using the last of the pork and there is a random pack of hot dogs floating in there. I have been able to make use of lingering pantry items that needed to go and get a little more creative with routine meal items and/or leftovers. I love seeing all the creative items!

  19. I am a Costco shopper too. I see you frequently buy Tillamook cheese. I haven’t tried that brand before; out of habit I always just grab the Kirkland blocks. I should really check labels and price per ounce to compare these two brands. Is Tillamook a healthier or cheaper alternative than the Kirkland cheese, anyone know?

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