Grocery Geek – January Week 1

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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.

costco pantry

Since we’re into the Pantry Challenge this month and trying to use up what we have — down to zero in the freezers, please — my grocery shopping was on an as-needed basis. This meant that I made a few more stops than normal, but each stop was fairly small.

I’m sure that we will spend much less than our usual budget this month, but I’m feeling skeptical that we can empty the freezers. Time will tell, eh? As I mentioned on Periscope earlier this week, part of the challenge is just avoiding temptations, right? Temptation for me is the grocery store!

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:

GGJ1 albertsons simply orange


I had a gift card to Albertsons so I scanned their ads and found some great sales that complemented my pantry challenge meal plan. I’ve been super impressed with the quality of the fresh produce I bought. Total yum!

I mentioned in this scope that we always get sick during a pantry challenge, prompting me to go buy “sick foods”. I decided to cut that one off at the pass and buy the sick foods now. If I’m prepared, we won’t get sick, right? I loaded up on orange juice and noodles for chicken noodle soup. 😉

  • beans $.99/can
  • OJ $4.99/gallon
  • eggs $1.99/dozen (limit 4)
  • ground turkey $3.99/lb
  • fideo $2.69
  • organic baby greens $5
  • grape tomatoes $2.50
  • carrot chips $1.49
  • mangoes $0.69/each
  • avocado $0.99/each
  • pepperoni $4.49

Total spent: $52 FREE with gift card

sprouts GGJ1


Sprouts has great prices on produce so one day when we ran out of milk, I headed there to get the milk and load up on produce.

  • carrots $0.88/lb
  • clementines $2.88/2lb bag
  • kiwi $3.88/2lb
  • organic apples $4.99/3lb
  • organic potatoes $2.50/lb
  • organic bananas $0.48/lb
  • sweet potatoes $0.88/lb
  • mushrooms $1.99
  • onions $0.77/lb
  • larabars $1.25 each (for FishPapa’s lunches)
  • sparkling water $1.50 (for FishPapa’s lunches)
  • milk $2.99/gallon
  • cream $3.99/pint

Total spent: $51


(not pictured)

We go through a lot of milk, but don’t have room in the fridge to stock it all at once. I stopped at Ralphs one day, just for milk. I turned a blind eye to everything else.

  • milk $2.50/gallon

Total spent: $5


(pictured above)

That was a rough trip. So many sparklies! So many fun things to buy! I resisted and stuck to my list. That I left at home and had to have a child photograph and text to me. That’s how willing I was to stick to my list. 😉

  • bananas $1.39
  • cooking spray $4.99 (I cannot live without this. I tried.)
  • babybel $10.99
  • yogurt $6.39
  • butter $9.99
  • canned tuna $14.89
  • avocado oil $9.49
  • milk $4.29/2 gallons
  • Tillamook $9.29/2.5 lbs
  • heavy cream $9.99

Total spent: $77

Total spent this week: $133

So, I think we’re on track to save half our budget this month and HOPEFULLY empty out the freezers. I know I will need to buy a few things this next week so I’m trying not to feel guilty about taking two steps forward and one step back. At least that’s how it feels when you shop during a Pantry Challenge. You know?

How’s YOUR grocery geeking going?

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  1. Looks great. 🙂

  2. Jessica S says:

    I just got back from making the rounds of the local stores I love! When I left home I had 1 lb of baby carrots, 1 bag frozen strawberries and 1 bag frozen beans. Produce was a DEFINITE need. I have a decent amount of protein in the freezer so I avoided that section of the store in hopes of clearing out my stash. A quick tally in my head brings my total to close to $180.00.
    NOW- in that tally I have 16 rolls of paper towels and 16 double rolls of TP. I had to buy a box of sandwich baggies and 1 of snack bags. I now have 6 bottles of kids vitamins that were B1G1 free.. and I was able to use 5- $1.00 coupons on top of that. I stock husband on his lunch turkey, cheese and hummus( specific brand/flavor and not on sale). I stock the fridge on fresh veggies, fruit, and the extras like sour cream, whipped cream and a little more yogurt. I had some great coupons for some pantry staples that made the $ rock bottom low.. I used coupons that doubled and made 5 toothbrushes and 5 tubes of toothpaste free.
    All in all I am fine with what I spent knowing that for many items I am good for a long time!

  3. Heather M says:

    Our first shopping of 2016 was great. Only bought what we needed. Costco: $62 for: milk, pistachios, baguette, avocados, tomatoes, cucumber, laughing cow cheese(I love this stuff and they hadn’t had this flavor for months, so I was pretty excited, though it wasn’t planned), and a box of single serve Cheez-its. My son takes these to school every day and we really can’t live without these. I wish we could. And I spent $7 at Target on OJ and a few single serve frozen pizzas for the son. He eats them on occasion when extra hungry and they just need to be on hand. And we were out. We have piles of fruit from December: apples, oranges, grapefruit, and piles of frozen veggies plus some fresh still hanging on from december. Am guessing we’ll need more next week, but for now, we have healthy options and plenty to supplement the frozen and pantry items. 🙂

  4. I spent $42 on milk, eggs, chicken broth, canned beans and produce at Aldi plus shredded/block Kraft cheese at Meijer for ~$1.00/ea. Kroger has been having great closeouts on baking items so that has been my downfall…$0.79-0.99 Nestle Dark Chocolate Chips and Butterfinger Bits…which I bought 15 of ?. I am happy on the progress I am making progress in the freezer thus far. Hard to resist when I ?? grocery shopping!

  5. Today I received my first organic veg/fruit delivery since the weekend before Christmas. I spent $43.95. I probably won’t get another delivery until next month. With all of the rain, they can’t get into the fields to harvest a lot of the greens. and I have root veggies and apples coming out of my ears! I’ll supplement what I have on hand with some organic greens from Costco or Trader Joe’s and we should be fine.

    I’ve heard no grousing from the hubs so far this month. We’ve been able to eat really well with what we have on hand. I might have to get a little more creative towards the end of the month 🙂 So far this month I’ve spent $60.31. My normal budget is $450 a month (includes tp, paper towels, cleaning products). I feed three adults, have my 13 yo grandson everyday after school (he often eats dinner with us and our oldest son too unless it is poultry which he can’t eat). I also make baby food for my 1yo grandson with our organics delivery. My younger son will often drop by to see if mom has ingredients he needs for his family’s dinner (because he doesn’t want to go to the store and be tempted). I’m grateful that God has graced us with an abundance that we can share.

  6. michelle porter says:

    Trying to stick to $30 per week. Spent last night and got cheese, sour cream,milk.blueberries, fish, potatoes, 2 boxes of cereal, tea, salsa, 2 bags of tortilla chips, frozen veggies, bread and a couple other things I can’t remember. Today I spent $4 for fruit cups, noodles for chicken and noodles tonight, and a box of Annie’s organic Graham crackers. Probably should have bought a couple more of those. They were $1 a box. We are more than set for the week.

  7. Temptation for me is the grocery store too! I loathe most shopping, but will happily spend time go up and down the aisles at the grocery store. We are doing well so far with the challenge. I went to the store early this morning to get an early shot at the marked down meat since we have just a few meals worth of protein.

    • Great job! Hope you found some good markdowns!

      • Yes I found a nice 4 pound rump roast, a package of 8 blade steaks, and a package of 8 boneless pork chops. They were all marked down 60 percent! I am typically cooking for 4 to 6 people for dinner, I should have enough meat for the week with leftovers for lunch, which is just me and my husband since the kids eat at school. We are a family of four and have an extra friend or two for dinner three or four nights a week. Apparently, I am one of the few mothers that cooks full course meals. this has made our house a very popular place to hang out among my daughters’ friends.

  8. Stephanie M. says:

    So far, I think we are doing well considering how I normally shop. So far, I’ve spent a total of $96.41. While that may seem like a lot for just two people, most of these items were produce. We eat a lot of fruit/veggies and of course, there were a few other things thrown in like bread, English muffins, some salad dressing, some fideo (I never heard of that word before but I saw it in your grocery cart – I just call them soup noodles), some chicken broth, and milk. A large amount of veggies that were purchased were used for a chicken stir fry that I made earlier in the week, using up quite a few chicken tenders from the freezer. I also made a tortellini dish that called for fresh baby spinach. The broth and other veggies and soup noodles that I bought will all be used for the chicken soup I’m making tomorrow, thereby using up the one and only whole roasting chicken that I have in the freezer. So while I may have spent more than I thought I would this week, most of the things I purchased all went together with something I took from my freezer.

  9. I’ve mostly bought things like eggs, milk, bread, fruit and toilet paper this month at the grocery store. But hubby gets tired of the frugal meals so when I woke up he had gone and bought for today: bigger potatoes than we had, canned baked beans (I had dry started), shredded cheese (I had a block), and then ordered pizza and wings for lunch–but the pizza was free. It’s a weird, delayed day. The kids and I all basically got up so late that we skipped breakfast and hubby made his really late, so his pizza “lunch” was at 4:30 pm while dinner was cooking.

    L: random leftovers/pizza
    D: baked beans, baked potatoes, baked ribs. Brownies.

    Tomorrow will be leftover rib dinner. And, now I have to figure out what to do with a crockpot full of dry red beans softened with leftover Walmart smoked ribs. I got those on “clearance” for $2.50 and the Lb of beans for about 50c at the Commissary. Maybe I’ll figure out how to convert them to red beans and rice.

    • That seems both annoying and rude. I do hope you can convert the beans. If nothing else, you can finish the cooking and divide into smaller portions and freeze for later.

    • Yes, I’d proceed as planned and then freeze it for another time, like when hubby is stuck at home and can’t go buy something else. LOL!

    • Anna….you can freeze the beans and use them at a later time, if you can’t come up with a plan tomorrow. I always make a large batch of beans and freeze in small sandwich bags. This past week, I made 12 cups of seasoned black beans. Of course, they are taking up space in my freezer which I’m trying to pare down but it’s still a savings in the long run! 🙂

  10. My grocery budget is normally about $600-700 for 5 people (50, 44, 17, 15, 9) and two small dogs. That’s an average because in Feb and Dec we spend a whole lot more (tax $ and bonus) and some months I probably spend $200 for the whole month. But, that budget isn’t just for actual food. I include tp, dog food, shampoo, etc. into that money. It doesn’t include about $125/month for two kids’ school lunches, or eating out money. We only do that about once a month, except when hubby stops on his way to work for a hamburger probably twice a month.

    I coupon, some. I use Ibotta, some. Have a summer garden which I freeze, keep scraps and cook it all, have two friends who can’t handle keeping anything longer a couple of months so pass along peanut butter and a little misc food, and Mom visits about every three months and brings food by the trunk-full. Plus, my lunch is usually free at work. I normally shop at the Commissary, Aldi, and Kroger, though sometimes I’ll stop in Walmart quick and buy their deli markdowns.

  11. You are so inspiring! I was trying to do my own pantry challenge, but then it started snowing today and I freaked out and went to the store to buy all the things. But I’m not going again for 2 weeks, I swear!

    PS About the cooking spray…I go through phases with it. I put a little oil on a paper towel and smear it around the pans. It works just fine. And then sometimes, I just get too lazy and buy the spray stuff.

    Thanks for sharing, and BEST OF LUCK 🙂

  12. We are low on everything but protein and lettuce, but are preparing to head out of town to take our kiddo to see a few new specialists so we are trying to really just use what we have. We hit up Target and Sprouts for road trip snacks and made some protein bites and chopped some carrots. We spent about $42 total for eggs (for hardboiled eggs), cheese sticks, sunflower seeds, gummi bears, popcorn, larabars, cuties, apples, and water. Bonus, our hotel provides breakfast and a hot “happy hour” type snacks and drinks (for free!) So we just need to make lunches and only do dinner out when there are no gluten free choices at the hotel.

  13. My grocery shopping has been pretty minimal this week. I needed gas at Sam’s and needed laundry soap and bought a 5lb bag of grated cheese and found 50 egg rolls for $7.00. Today I stopped and bought eggs 18 for $1.99 I bought 2 packages because we eat alot of eggs and I want to bake this week to warm up my kitchen. I still need to get milk (it $1.78 a gallon this week) and bread. Otherwise we are good.

  14. I spent $30 today at the store. Usually I spend $80 – $120 each week. The things I bought today were not necessarily what I would have bought, or wanted to buy. We had company today for lunch, so I bought turkey and ham, 2 kinds of bread, lettuce, 2 bags of chips, etc. The good thing was that all of it was on sale and all of it will get used this week in school/work lunches. I also bought spaghetti noodles. Yes, I have some in my pantry. But, they were BOGOF and I had $1 coupons. They ended up being $0.40 per box (normally $1.79). They will keep. Our lunch company brought salad and all the fixings. And, they didn’t want to take it home afterwards so I gained all sorts of produce and 2 kinds of shredded cheese. 🙂

  15. Our usual grocery budget is $400-$450/mo. Usually it’s just hubby and me but we have one left in college. The college is close by do its not unusual for her to drop in for dinner and sometimes it’s her and 4-5 friends. Since July we have been eating whole foods which means I cook from scratch and we go thru lots of produce.

    We are moving on Jan 23 so this pantry challenge is great as its pushing me to use up what we have. Mostly. College girl is here for another week and she has a friend from out of state that’s returning a couple days early and she will be staying with us.

    This week I did 2 quick stops – 1 at HyVee for $0,99/lb pork roast, bananas, deli meat and salad greens – $14.
    A second stop at WalMart today for bread, trail mix, oatmeal, basil, hummus, avocados, pico, milk, eggs, apples, spinach, carrots, cheese, salad dressing, almonds*, cereal*, yogurt, coffee. About $78. * indicates for college girl to take back to sorority house with her. So that’s about $90 for month so far. About $110 less than I would have usually spent.
    I have meals planned for this next week. The week of our move will require creativity as I’m not shopping after the 17th.

  16. Went shopping today and spent $117. I had not shopped at all since Sunday when I spent only $79. The four of us ate all week with last week”s trip and what we had. I made sure I had enough milk and bread so I would not have to hit a store. Today I went with a very clear list and store coupons. I was able to get free carrots, free water, use a few other store coupons and also get $10.00 off my order. Stop and Shop mailed me $5.00 off $50 and emailed me $5.00 of $50. I could use both. My $117 included a large roasting chicken that I cooked today. It will be dinner for tomorrow and probably two more nights. One will be soup. It also included buy one get one steak, deli turkey, a dozen eggs, two loaves of bread, 2 gallons of milk, some more specially priced items and lots of produce. I usually spend over $150 a week and in two weekend and am just under $200. We had take out pizza tonight with company. After cooking all week it was fun.

  17. I’ve actually not bought any groceries at all this whole week. I’m at $15 for the month so far. Part of my personal pantry challenge goal is for minimal expenditure along with the white space creation, so I’m very pleased with the self-control progress so far. (Lofty goal is <$50, realistic goal is <$100) Thankfully my fresh produce is experiencing longevity while I try to use it up, and I have plenty of frozen veggies for when the fresh runs out. I keep forgetting about these winter squashes, though, so I'm going to need to use those really soon.

  18. I ran to the grocery store this morning and got out with only spending $27.53! So exciting since it is the first spending of 2016! Bought milk, lettuce, tomatoes, fruit, eggs, bacon, cheese, baked ham, turkey and hard salami lunch meat for the next couple weeks. Everything but the milk was on sale so felt pretty good when I walked out spending less than $30! They do a once a month big sale so I usually take advantage of too much which is why I am always joining in with The Pantry Challenge. lol

  19. Tastycook says:

    I’ve been to the store a couple of times and one time was replacing the things that I had thrown out because of age eg pizza sauce and ketchup. Don’t use them often but I do like to have them in the house. Also replenished a few things in hubby’s bathroom. When I shopped on Friday, it was because I needed milk and a little fresh fruit and veg. The store I went to had some really good deals so stocked up on coffee and washing up liquid as well as some small (what we prefer) chicken breasts – b’less and s’less. All told we’ve spent about $60 and that includes the stocking up that I did. Quite happy with that total.

  20. I crunched the numbers on last year’s grocery spending and it averaged out to $108.43 /week. This is slightly higher than I would like it to be for my family of 4. But the boys are growing and my 7 year old eats almost as much as I do.
    Going forward I’m asking myself :
    “Can I really save money if I join Costco?”
    “Will the kids freak out if I stop buying individually packaged yogurts and cheeses?”

    I did really well this week. I bought greek yogurt, sour cream, bananas, cabbage, cucumber and avocados spending $14.53.

    • That sounds like you’re below national averages. The USDA food cost reports estimate more for teen boys. Ahem. So, yes, it should start going up.

      I’d definitely play with finding alternatives to the packs of yogurt and cheese. I go back and forth on that. If I don’t buy the small yogurts, most of my boys won’t eat yogurt, so I have to choose.

  21. I found some great mark downs this week. Total spending $13.04.

    Loaf of Cuban Bread
    2 boxes of Special K cereal with vanilla/almonds
    1 can of Campbells Tomato Soup
    2 lbs bananas
    2 lbs pears
    6 boxes of Ronzoni pasta
    1 package of English Muffins (8)
    1 loaf of rye bread w/seeds
    1 loaf of Healthy Life bread
    1 package of 8 hamburger buns
    1 package of 8 hot dog buns
    2 boxes of donut holes (DH request)
    2 cans collard greens

    Dusted off my mother’s bread machine that I resurrected from the floor of a closet and made bread for the 1st time but it was too dense and heavy. Still edible tho.

  22. I’ve been doing this pantry challenge since Boxing day, and have only gone to the store 2 times! Once at the very end of December for margarine, milk and egg nog, and once yesterday for a few things: broccoli, beans, lettuce, potatoes and 2 different sizes of freezer bags.

    I also had a moment of weakness (because I made the mistake of shopping hungry) and bought some popcorn for myself to add to lunches, then felt bad that I hadn’t gotten anything for hubs, so bought him a bag too, of the flavour he likes. Total was $42.39, but half of that was the freezer bags, so I’m not counting that! They’re so darn expensive!

    I love to grocery shop, but it’s also been very nice to have more time on my weekends without having to run to the store!

  23. I’m curious about Avocado Oil, Jessica. When do you use it? In place of EVOO? Is it for health reasons or taste?

  24. Groceries are definitely my downfall! Hubby stopped at Costco yesterday for a handful of things but we hadn’t gone since right before Christmas, which is the longest we’ve gone between trips since the place opened in June LOL

  25. We are getting a quarter of a cow around Jan 20th, so I’m doing my best to create space. So far so good!! Most of my “stuff” is frozen from the garden, so we are rich in frozen bell peppers – I froze around 60 of them in August! And I have tons of frozen beans and rice, so I see mexican food in my future.

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