Grocery Geek: February End

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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 feb last (2)

So, here we are at the end of February, and while it was a short(er) month, we didn’t have the big bill that we do most Februarys when I’m restocking on the heels of a pantry challenge. In fact, we’re under budget for the second month in a row!

Since we still have the termite tenting to do in mid/late March, I’m running on a shorter supply. I’ve not been to Costco, and I’ve not restocked on things that I normally keep on hand, rather just buying things as I think we need them.

Due to a backsliding thyroid, I’m not feeling that well, so I’ve bought a few shortcuts (TJs potato salad, store bread, etc) and even those items haven’t sent the grocery spending through the roof. Kinda nice!

Grocery Geek

Grocer Geek is my weekly report of how I shopped for groceries, what deals I found, and my running total of how we’re sticking to a budget for groceries.

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

grocerygeek-gceTo update you on my grocery geekiness:

  • I’m feeding eight people, ages 53, 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 five of our 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 and college age son often pack lunch and breakfast to work, but sometime have lunch out. My husband and I enjoy 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:

sprouts feb last


I had a big meal plan and shopping list ready to go on Sunday and then ended up not going to Trader Joe’s like I had hoped. I made a quick stop at Sprouts to get us what we needed to get going on the week, including some frozen foods for Sunday night dinner. Yes, really. (They carry an Orange Chicken that tastes just like Panda without the risk of cross-contamination for my daughter with food allergies.

  • strawberries $3.98 (for a treat)
  • coleslaw $1.49
  • clementines $2.98/3#
  • bananas $0.69/lb
  • white rice $1.99
  • sparkling water $1.49 (for hubby’s lunches)
  • milk $2.79
  • 18-pack eggs $4.39
  • potstickers $3.99
  • Lings Orange Chicken $7.49/bag

Total spent: $50

grocery geek feb last


My kids don’t know what to think with this endless pantry challenge. We run out of things constantly. They texted me on date night to buy milk. I didn’t have my list for the week with me, so I just winged it at Ralphs.

  • milk $2.29
  • coffee $8.99 (we only like Peets and Starbucks, and there was no sale.)
  • eggs $2.99/dozen
  • rice $2.49
  • mushrooms on markdown $0.69
  • cucumbers $0.99 each
  • carrots $1.69
  • strawberries $2.48
  • large fage $6.99
  • ground pork $4.99/pound (for recipe testing)
  • carne asada $4.77/pound

Total spent $48

grocery geek feb last (1)

Trader Joe’s

I didn’t get to TJ’s until Thursday afternoon so I shopped for the weekend and beyond and will start over with a new meal plan on Monday. I did buy some more convenient items than normal. I am really lagging these days and need a little more help on the home front.

  • frozen green beans $1.99
  • rice crackers $2.69
  • French toasts $1.99
  • Ak-mak $1.79
  • carrots $1.49/1.5#
  • tilapia $4.66
  • org romaine hearts $2.49
  • hot dog buns $1.99
  • mushrooms $1.79
  • cereal $1.99 to $2.99
  • sandwich bread $2.99
  • avocado $0.99
  • onions $0.59/ea
  • string cheese $2.99
  • hummus $2.99
  • hot dogs $3.99
  • brie $5.29
  • plantain chips $1.69
  • butter $2.99/#
  • yogurt multi-pack $2.99
  • potato salad $3.99
  • corn tortillas $0.99
  • kale salad $2.49
  • tea $2.49
  • frozen chicken tenders $7.49
  • hot Italian sausage $3.99/#
  • ground turkey $2.99/#
  • bagels $2.49
  • olive oil $7.99
  • red wine vinegar $1.99
  • olives $3.49
  • tomato paste $0.89
  • garlic $1.99
  • pasta $0.99
  • pickles $2.49
  • taco shells $1.99
  • canned crab $1.99
  • maple syrup $16.99 (yes, prob cheaper at Costco)
  • refried beans $0.99
  • mustard $1.69
  • flour $2.99
  • sugar $3.49
  • mineral water $1.99

Total spent: $191


I made a last stop at Sprouts for some salad fixings and fruits and veg. Sorry, no pic.

  • 3# org apples $4.99
  • clementines $2.99/2#
  • org broccoli $1.49/#
  • org red bell pepper $2
  • red grapes $2.50/lb
  • baby greens $3.49/2 packs
  • garbanzo beans $0.89
  • feta cheese crumbles $3.70
  • parmesan cheese $7.83

Total spent: $42

Total spent this week: $331

Total spent in February: $1092

We didn’t end as low as I would have hoped for the month, but seeing as I bought so many convenience items and a fair number of organics, I’m not going to be disappointed. We’re still under budget by over $100, so that’s not too shabby!

How did YOUR grocery budget fair in February?

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  1. I am loving our new neighborhood grocery store. They focus on organic, non-GMO produce at reasonable prices. Today I purchased two 16 oz packages of strawberries for $3.00; 5 Kiwi for $1.00 and 4 ruby red grapefruit for $1.00.

  2. I spent about $1,100 this month about $50 over budget- but i stocked up on a few household items and some convenience food items since I was down with the flu for the past two weeks. I still feel pretty good about our spend. We stopped by our local farmer?s market and got some specialty items today to enjoy- fresh salsa, chips and taro hummus. I?m hoping to do some muffin mixes and freezer meals this weekend.

  3. We came in right about on budget at $900 or so and that will take us through the first week of March as well. We return to school Monday after being on break for the past week and March is going to be a doozy of a month so I’m trying to get ahead of the game by stashing some homemade convenience foods in the freezer (breaded chicken strips, frozen muffin batter, soup, garlic bread, meatballs, etc) as well as having a few luxury foods on hand to keep the blues at bay! Tabouleh, mozzarella and basil with tomatoes, snacking cheese and crackers, frozen fruit blends for smoothies and Popsicles, and some locally made sausage and chicken to round out easier meals. This time of year always feels a bit like being on a hamster wheel for me so I’ve got to be as organized as possible, especially with day-to-day necessities like food!!!

    I hope your thyroid issues relax a bit so you can feel better!!

  4. Hope you get to feeling better soon, Jessica.

  5. Hope you are feeling better soon. My sister struggles with thyroid issues as well (and come to think of it, she’s been having a rough go of it lately as well) so I know it is difficult. Grocery-wise, pantry challenge continued this month. For both months, my goal was to stay under $100. Jan was $90, and Feb came in $105. That averages out to my goal, so I’m happy. I actually could have held off on the last purchase today that bumped it over the $100, but the way the schedule goes this week, it was much more convenient to get it today. While we were there for the eggs and tomatoes, the kid saw something he wanted to buy but said he knew I was watching expenses so I probably wouldn’t want to get it. My response was, “We have an entire unopened package of that exact same thing in the freezer, so NO.” Guess I’ll be thawing that to use sometime soon. 🙂

  6. Jessica, hope you feel better soon! I think you did very well, considering you started the month with a depleted pantry and freezer. I’ve still been using up pantry and freezer so expenses are down.

  7. So I ended up on the low side for February, which is great. This last week I spent about $100, $75 of it at Trader joe’s, where I stuck to my list so well! All fresh items, dairy, and other needs. The other $25 was random stuff at Target and the local international grocery (we have many, this one is across the street from my gym. I really should shop their produce more often… it’s so cheap and plentiful and incredibly varied. I bought green onions and cilantro @ 0.50/bunch and parsley for 0.99/bunch– broccoli was 0.59 a pound, but I already had some!!). So my total for February was a measly $300 plus food out/takeout. We always eat out or do take out, and this month we even kept that to lower than usual. It’s a good thing, though, because I just got back from Costco where I stocked up on all the proteins in the universe, since we have almost cleaned out completely of protein! And I refuse to go there again until after spring break. They are building on the costco property, where costco will eventually be on the ground floor of a large building, and they’ve stolen all the parking which makes it really difficult to deal with, even on a quiet weekday. So i’ll be shopping infreuqently and in big way each time i go there for the foreseeable future. Next week’s grocery geek, you’ll get my low down. The check-out people were eyeing all the proteins and looking me up and down. Pretty funny (but then, it kind of was.). My best guess is we average $800-$1000/month on food, but I’m learning and improving my purchase choices, etc. Maybe 2016 will see a much lower average, without changing the quality of our meals, or possibly even improving it!

  8. Kirstin says:

    My local Sprouts carries Yangs (not Ling’s) frozen orange chicken. I thought it might be the same one that you buy, so I bought some too. I’m looking forward to trying it. Your Grocery Geek posts are always enjoyable.

    • So, I checked when I was at Sprouts last because Yangs sounded familiar too. The package says Yangs, but my receipt said Lings. So, yes, hopefully you’ll like them as much as we do.

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