Grocery Geek: February, Week Three

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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.

trader joe's feb 3

It’s been a pretty crazy week. We’ve had contractors in and out of the house, the stomach flu, and a lack of cooking mojo on my part.

I put together a very detailed meal plan on Sunday and did all the shopping for it — and then promptly proceeded to disregard it/not be able to follow it for a number of reasons. We may be due for another pantry challenge just to deal with the randomness I’ve got going.

The plus side of the week: I have the termite tent scheduled! So, we have a few weeks to eat up what we have left and get ready for a few days away.

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 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 five 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

pictured above

I had my eldest (age 18) go with me to shop. He threw in a few extra purchases, but he also pushed, loaded, and unloaded, so I’m good with that.

  • Akmak $1.79
  • organic sandwich bread $2.99
  • frozen chicken tenders $7.49 – TJs is now carrying an organic version of their frozen chicken pieces but the price point was a little higher than I wanted to spend.
  • rice crackers $2.69
  • Italian sausage $3.99/lb
  • ground turkey $3.99/lb
  • roasted almonds $6.49
  • shredded cheddar $3.49
  • mozzarella $3.79
  • string cheese $2.99
  • ham $3.49
  • salami $4.49
  • pepperoni $2.99
  • zucchini $1.99
  • sweet potatoes $1.79
  • bagels $1.99 to $2.49/6
  • corn tortillas $0.99
  • sugar snap peas $2.49
  • broccoli $1.79
  • flour tortillas $2.29
  • frozen berries $1.99 to $2.79
  • kefir $2.99
  • sunflower oil $3.99
  • cereal $1.99 to $2.99
  • cliff bars $0.99
  • penne pasta $0.99
  • refried beans $0.99
  • eggs $2.49/dozen
  • sparkling water $1.99/4 packs
  • pickles $2.99

total spent at Trader Joe’s: $161

ralphs feb 3


When the weather hits 86 and you can go to the beach, you pack a picnic dinner. So, I headed to Ralphs on Tuesday for easily packed food. It was pricier than eating at home, cheaper than eating out.

  • various sandwich fixings
  • rolls
  • chips
  • juice

Total spent: $42

I stopped at Ralphs again later in the week once the stomach flu hit the house. I picked up yogurts, bread, broth, and noodles for that purpose and a few other things since I was already there.

  • yogurt $0.60 each
  • milk $2.29
  • olives $6.49 – FishBoy18 was with me that time, too. Ha!
  • Tillamook cheese $10.99 after coupon
  • whipping cream $4.99
  • jalapenos on clearance! $0.39
  • macaroni $1.19
  • boxed mac and cheese $0.99
  • egg noodles $1.99
  • emergenc $10.99 after coupon
  • sourdough $1.99
  • Boursin $2.49 on clearance
  • butter $3.49

Total spent: $60

Total spent for the week: $263

Total spent this month so far: $761

So this whole “don’t stock up because termites are gonna get fumigated” is working out well, in terms of my grocery spending. I’ve still got more than $400 left in the budget for the month, and 9 days to go. I think we’ll be okay. Ha!

How did your grocery shopping go this week?

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  1. Love reading your blog, I am working on feeding our family of 4 for $200 a month and it can be really challenging as the boys are getting older. Mine are still small (6 and 19 months) so I just see it getting more challenging for me.

  2. Having a young man along to help is worth a few olives and extras in my book. I think you are doing very well considering you started without pantry and freezer backup and are trying to buy week to week. Especially so if you are feeding five guys, several of whom have to be teens or preteens. Young people do eat a lot if they are active at all.

    Sorry to hear about the flu, that does complicate things! Glad to hear the tenting is scheduled. It always helps to know when so you can plan more efficiently. Hope next week goes better for you.

    I splurged on yogurt on sale for 19 cents, limit 10, and bought two sacks of clementine oranges on sale this week. Other than that I stuck to basics as I am still continuing on the pantry challenge.

  3. I haven’t posted yet this month! Too busy at first, then I got sick. Which meant fiscal discipline took a hit. But overall, I think we’re still doing incredibly well. Which is good, because we are in desperate need of a protein stock-up, as we are down to a 7-10 days MAX of proteins and I hate having so little left in the house, in case of emergency. I will finish those proteins up before we really dive into the new ones I purchase, but I’m starting to get worried, because you never know. I think Costco will happen this week and it won’t be cheap. Because of that, I’m happy to report we’ve only spent about $200 on food so far this month! I didn’t buy a single thing until the beginning of the 2nd week in February. Mainly because, we were well stocked, I had meals planned, and wanted to keep the momentum going from the Challenge and the huge snowstorm that kept us inside at the end of January really got my cooking creativity flowing. It was a game of how long I could go before I finally broke down and went to the store. The second week of February I only bought items we needed. It was awesome. Then I got sick and last week I bought desperate measures food: frozen bagged complete meals, sausages and buns, chips, bagels, etc. Lots of convenience so I didn’t have to stand in the kitchen. That we’re only at $200 is fabulous. My guess is I’ll spend that much this week. So I’ll still be at about half my usual spending (800-1000/month, i think). I need to actually start tracking my spending better so I know what we spend on things. I’m not very good at that. (Don’t ask me about a budget… it’s in my head, so it’s not great. but we’re fine– but I should track our spending so we can figure out where we can cut back so we can take better vacations and have more $$ for college… I think I should do that this year.) I need some encouragement, I think. :/

      • Thank you!! I really need the budget part. We are blessed to not have any debt other than our mortgage and a very tiny car payment (0.9% hard to pass up and hard to pay off early…not really worth it). We also have emergency funds and other investments. It’s the saving for vacations, college (so we don’t have to sell some of the investments, etc.). It’s the not spending mindlessly. It needs to improve!

    • Heather,

      I don’t have a firm budget for food, and the amount for groceries varies depending on sales and stocking up. But back when we the budget was tighter and we were paying down some debt I used a spreadsheet to track bills and expenses. I had a list of bills in the first column that had to be paid; then columns for date due, interest rate, average/usual amount due, due this month, paid this month, and previous months. At the start of the month, I copied the usual amount due column and inserted it in the due this month column, then inserted a new column before the paid this month column for the previous month and changed the month at the top to the current month. All the columns had totals at the bottom, so it was easy to tell how much was due versus how much was paid. This gave me columns to compare previous months easily and helped me get a handle on spending. I didn’t include things like groceries and clothing, but they could be added or tracked in a separate area with the total showing in the main sheet. This was actually easier to set up than to describe if you have any experience with spreadsheets.

      • I’ve spent $67.62 so far this month as I’m trying to forge on with my February pantry challenge. Spent a bit more than I want too. However, DH is out of town and I’ve not spent any money yet this week. Hoping to keep it that way.

        Doing alot of experimental cooking like making my own bow-tie pasta and spaghetti noodles, crusty loaf of bread and maybe some pizza dough by the end of the week.

        Made some black bean burgers (which DH would never eat) for three dinners this week. Last night was BBB with bow tie and roma tomato sauce. Tonight is BBB with homemade spaghetti noodles with leftover mushroom gravy. Weds will be split pea soup which is now in the crockpot and the homemade crusty bread. Back to the BBB on Thurs. Hopefully I’ll be successful with pizza dough on Friday!

        Have a good week all!

      • That’s a good idea. Comparing to months’ past would be useful to see patterns, etc. I may have to do this! Thanks, Alice!

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