Grocery Geek: March, 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.

grocery cart

It was an amazingly uneventful week in the grocery department. I’m a little shocked, actually. Some weeks are filled with lots of little stops throughout the week. I guess I did pretty good shopping last weekend because I didn’t need to go again until today.

That’s what an endless pantry challenge will do for you, I guess. It will be several more weeks before our house gets tented for termites, so I’m not buying trying not to buy more than we need until the end of the month.

But, there’ve been a few good stock up opportunities that I just couldn’t miss!

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:

groceries in car



Last week I did my big shop at Trader Joe’s. This week Ralphs got my attention. I headed there twice.

On Sunday afternoon, I went to replenish our milk, eggs, and salad fixings, but while I was there…. I found a great sale on flour. Organic flour. And even though I’m not supposed to buy stuff so I don’t have to bag it for the termite tent, it was a price too good to pass up. You know how that goes, right?

I also found coffee at a really good price, so I bought extras of that.

For some reason, though, I forgot to take a picture. You’ll have to imagine that there’s a picture of this shopping trip, but there’s not.

My kids also treated us to a wonderful 3-course dinner date at home on Sunday night, so I bougt some of their ingredients* for that. It was totally worth it. So fun!

  • pound cake $4.49*
  • beef broth $1.49
  • sour cream $2.49
  • whipping cream $2.59 (on clearance)
  • cheddar cheese $7.99/2#
  • starbucks coffee $4.89 (on clearance)
  • eggs $4.29/18pack
  • tortillas $5.99/16
  • cheerios $1.49 to $2.49 after sales and coupons
  • taco shells $1.99
  • milk $0 to $2.29 after sales and coupons
  • spaghetti squash $0.99/lb
  • potatoes $3.99/10#
  • mushrooms $2.79
  • org spring mix $2.39 after coupons
  • org red peppers $1.99 each
  • bananas $0.69/lb
  • strawberries $2.48/#
  • cucumbers $0.99 each
  • org parsley $1.29
  • baby carrots $0 to $1.19 after coupons
  • fage $6.99
  • organic flour $2.49 (on clearance)
  • Dubliner cheese $4.99
  • kaiser rolls (on clearance)

Total spent: $135

crossed out grocery list

Ralphs again

I went back to Ralphs, thinking that all my coupons and sales (Save $5 when you buy 5 items) would payoff, but I’m skeptical about that now. I thought I was keeping track of all my WYB5 items and it looks like I didn’t have even groups of five, so I missed out on some savings. Boo.

There were also quite a few things on my list that I didn’t end up buying because the price wasn’t right. I think I like Trader Joe’s better. Hmmm….

  • frozen hashbrowns $2.39 after coupon
  • shredded mozzarella $7.99
  • ice cream $1.99 after sale and coupon
  • chili powder $4.99 (Costco has not had this for months)
  • canned beans $1.79/large can
  • tortillas $1.99 after sales
  • spaghetti $1.29
  • English muffins BOGO, $1.99 each
  • apple juice $2.99
  • crackers $1.99 after sale
  • sugar $1.99
  • natural sodas $3.00
  • milk $2.39
  • butter $1.99
  • greek yogurts free after coupons
  • sour cream $.79 after sale and coupon
  • Pirate’s Booty $2.29
  • individual yogurts $0.70 each
  • Fage $3.49 for large tub on clearance
  • buttermilk $2.99
  • eggs $4.29/18pk
  • 10# potatoes $3.99
  • cherry tomatoes $1.99
  • apples $1.99/lb
  • org red pepper $1.99
  • bananas $0.69/lb
  • org broccoli $1.49/lb
  • org green onions $1.29
  • org baby greens $2.39
  • oranges $0.99/lb
  • avocado $0.69
  • chicken breast $1.69/lb
  • bacon $3.99
  • salame $9.99
  • deli turkey $10.09
  • shrimp $6.74
  • hummus $1.99 after sales
  • pepperoni $5.99
  • rolls $1.99
  • clearance bread $0.99 to $1.79
  • MINUS $5 off produce
  • MINUS $5 off Order

Total spent $200

Total spent this week: $335

We have a ton of food at the moment but not everything that was on my list. Hopefully, we’ll make it a decent ways through next week.

How did YOUR grocery shopping go this week?

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  1. Harriet says:

    I store my flour in the freezer. Can you do that during the “tent event”?

    • I don’t know about your brood but mine have been EATING like crazy lately and it shows where all the white space is in the fridge! I did a huge shopping for us last Saturday but I found myself running into the local shop twice midweek. Once for bread as I knew I just wouldn’t have time to make any and again for turkey, hotdogs and some buns for an unplanned ‘summer’ meal. It’s supposed to warm up this week but it has been COLD here so the moral boost was in order. I spent about $250 this week which is a little more than one quarter of the budget so things should pan out in the end. We shall see…

      Thanks again for taking the time to do these fun posts!!!

    • I could, but I think I’d still have to bag it. I’ll freeze it after the tent.

  2. morgan gibson says:

    You can store in flour in the freezer during tenting. While I had to tent my house I bagged everything that I had in the freezer. I don’t like to take that chance. I just removed all the food in my house other when what I had in my freezers. The worst to move was the fish tank.

  3. I haven’t been “real” grocery shopping since the first of the year. Between Hubby being in a semi-retired state, he’s been doing most of the shopping, conservatively as we have the house up for sale and need to really eat down the 3 freezers and pantry! The freezers are showing GREAT progress … the pantry, not so much. Goes to show how much stuff just gets left behind in there all the time 😉 I will say my checking account has been looking pretty happy this year so far!

  4. I went to Stater Bros this morning with coupon in hand to get $3 off when you buy 4 boxes of Ritz. A few.hours later it dawned on me that I forgot to use the coupon!!!!!
    It’s only $3, but still. Super frustrating

  5. Your kids can cook for me anytime — looks yummy!

  6. Alice E says:

    I don’t know about there but flour is rarely on sale here, I can understand the temptation.

  7. I just updated my family food plan with the Hawaii USDA chart. For a family of 5- The thrifty monthly is $1450! I?ve been using the $1050- monthly low cost plan (which I just learned, doesn’t include Hawaii- they do a separate one for Alaska/Hawaii). This seems weirdly high- I don?t think we?re eating poorly for $1050/month. In fact the pantry challenge brought my budget down $100-200/month. I?m puzzled!

    • From what I know, the cost plans are to cover all meals eaten at home. For a long time they were high for our family, until my teen boys started out-eating their estimates. The last total I came up with was $1320 for our family and we were several hundred under that last month. I think it ebbs and flows? But, you feel good to be under, right? 😉

      • yes and maybe feeling like i?m going overboard on the meal planning, freezer meals, inventory, pantry challenge, DIY- baking, couponing…. 🙂

        • Heather M says:

          I know from my experience with 3 of my sibling living on Oahu and my own visits there, that if Costco isn’t your primary grocery store, you’re going to spend a lot of $$ on food. And even at Costco fresh items and dairy are priced higher than the mainland. So I think I get why the estimate is so much higher there. It is shocking how much a gallon of milk or a dozen eggs costs, vs the mainland. I love that you are doing all those things, though. it shows one can eat well and not spend way too much living there. Two of my siblings do really well with their grocery budgets, so I know it can be done like you are doing. But it could so easily go south!

        • I don’t know if it’s overboard if it’s what your budget can bare. I say keep doing what you’re doing unless it’s unrealistic for your schedule.

      • LeslieT says:

        Do those charts include non-grocery items like t.p., detergents, haircare, etc?

  8. I just love your blog! I love hearing how people live, especially in other parts of the country, and especially if their lives are very different than mine (no kids). I enjoy reading what you purchase, and am impressed that good cheese (Dubliner) is a purchase – cheese is important to me, good cheese that is. two questions – that looks like way more than 10# of potatoes? and what is Pirates Booty?

    • Thanks so much, Trish! We splurge on good cheese, good coffee, and organic produce when the margin of difference is doable. I don’t think one should be “cheap” just for the sake of being cheap.

  9. Stephanie M. says:

    Hi FishMama!
    Where do I find the USDA chart? I’m curious what the figure would be for 2 adults in PA.
    Thank you for your help!

  10. Heather M says:

    So I’m finally getting around to reporting my grocery spending for March! $299 on food at Costco (mostly proteins! We are restocked after depleting/eating up the languishing items). Another $45 at Target on random groceries. And another $74 at Trader Joe’s, and $35 at Safeway. We have too much food now, especially some fresh items that I overbought since we ended up having piles of leftovers and some evenings out at events/parties. And we are leaving this weekend for Spring Break. What keeps, keeps, and will get eaten as quickly as possible when we return (I see you, yogurt and apples, maybe not so much the cauliflower). Meanwhile, off we go to warm weather, beautiful beaches, and a much needed break from DC and the madness that is this town, not to mention the incessant political goings-on that I just can’t take anymore. 🙂

    Jessica, best wishes with the tenting!! Enjoy your long weekend!

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