Grocery Geek: April 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. 

Ralphs April GG

I’ll be honest. I’ve put off writing this post because I know the final tally is going to make some people drop their jaws. Sigh. But, in the efforts of full disclosure, I’m writing it.

When last I reported on our grocery shopping, we had finished off our March spending right on budget, give or take $10. I shopped “differently” the entire first quarter of the year since we were getting ready for a home fumigation; I didn’t want to bag up a lot of food, so we did a pantry challenge for the first three months of the year.

That left me with empty freezers, empty cupboards, and empty fridge. While I could have slowly restocked, I decided to take the savings from our Q1 and apply it toward restocking everything. I spent more at Costco than I think I ever have before. If not, it was close.

I also did a lot of freezer cooking for our family, for my brother’s family (as his wife starts chemo), and to take to my inlaws since we stayed with them earlier this week and didn’t want to impose on them and their grocery budget.

(I’ll be sharing my freezer cooking over on Life as Mom next week.)

Additionally, I’m doing a Whole 30 this month, so I’m cooking two meals in many cases.

What you’ll see today IS an anomaly. For those who are new here, you can browse through the Grocery Geek archives to see what is typical. This last ten days or so has not been typical, but I have a fair amount of food to get us through the month of April.

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 these past couple weeks:

Again, keep in mind that I had a $633 credit on my YTD grocery budget, meaning I can go over that much this month without breaking any “rules”.

Trader Joes April GG

Trader Joe’s

  • frozen tilapia $5.99/lb
  • frozen chicken tenders $7.49 (for 2.5 lbs)
  • cauliflower rice $1.99 (to see how it compares with homemade)
  • frozen organic spinach $1.99
  • frozen green beans $1.99
  • frozen vegetables $1.99
  • hatch chile salsa verde $2.79
  • corn tortillas $0.99
  • bagels $1.99
  • eggs $1.99
  • organic sandwich bread $2.99
  • green chiles $0.89
  • refried beans $0.99
  • cereal $1.99 to $2.99
  • taco shells $1.99
  • organic tomato sauce $1.49
  • black beans $0.79
  • crushed red pepper flakes $1.99
  • thyme $1.99
  • hot pepper sauce $2.29
  • pasta $0.99
  • crackers $1.99 to $2.69
  • onion $0.59
  • ground turkey $3.99/lb
  • organic pickles $2.99
  • coconut oil $5.99
  • shredded cheddar $3.49
  • sweet potatoes $1.79 for 2#
  • lasagna noodles $2.29
  • organic peppers $1.33 each
  • canned tuna $1.69
  • organic romaine hearts $2.49
  • pepperoni $2.99
  • string cheese $2.99
  • brie $4.70
  • organic persian cucumbers $2.49
  • brown mushrooms $1.79
  • baby carrots $1.49/1.5 pounds
  • milk $2.99
  • fish sauce $4.49
  • evoo $7.99
  • kefir $2.99

Total spent: $270

Costco April GG


Just for the record, I didn’t buy any Vodka at Costco. Or any booze for that matter. Whole 30, right? But they packed it in those boxes. I swear….

I did buy a lot of breads. I know it’s cheaper to make my own, but with cooking for different diets, I need a little help.

  • yeast $4.39
  • honey $13.59 (the 3 bears)
  • garlic powder $4.99
  • avocado oil $9.49
  • evoo $13.99
  • onion powder $4.59
  • salt $2.79
  • organic maple syrup $9.99
  • sockeye salmon $26.99
  • potstickers $10.69
  • organic green beans $6.29
  • mahi mahi $19.99
  • organic yogurt tubes $8.99
  • butter $9.49/10 pounds
  • Hebrew National hotdogs $11.99
  • organic blueberries $10.69
  • heavy cream $9.99
  • shrimp $13.99
  • shredded mozzarella $9.99 for 5#
  • Aidells chicken sausage $13.89
  • deli turkey breast $3.99/lb
  • Tillamook sharp cheddar $9.29
  • Asiago cheese $9.91
  • babybel cheese $10.99
  • Wholly Guacamole organic packs $10.99
  • quaker oats $8.39
  • pineapple $9.69
  • diced toms $6.49
  • milk $4.19 (2 gallons)
  • black olives $9.59
  • organic chicken broth $11.59
  • diced tomatoes in #10 can $2.79
  • organic tomato paste $6.79
  • fruit leathers $10.59
  • ground beef $3.99/lb
  • sandwich rolls $5.99
  • bagels $4.99/dozen
  • hummus single packs $5.99
  • mild sausage $13.99/4#
  • pork tenderloins $3.99/lb
  • hot dog buns $2.19
  • hamburger buns $2.29
  • tortillas $3.69
  • sourdough bread $3.69
  • rice rollers $6.99
  • sandwich bread $4.59 for 2 loaves
  • dried blueberries $7.59
  • King’s Hawaiian rolls $4.99
  • craisins $8.89

Total spent: $520

Sprouts April GG


You can see my scope of my Sprouts haul here.

  • cucumbers $0.50 each
  • xlarge avocados $1.25
  • limes $0.33
  • organic broccoli $0.98/lb
  • org grape tomatoes $3.49
  • organic grapefruit $2.98/4#
  • organic strawberries $2.50
  • organic sweet mini peppers $1.98
  • organic leeks $1.20
  • bananas $0.48/lb
  • organic coconut chips $2.99
  • organic Koops Dijon mustard $2.69
  • crushed tomatoes $1.69
  • diced tomatoes (because I forgot I had bought a ton at Costco) $0.99
  • sparkling water $1.39 to $1.60 (including CRV)
  • milk $2.49
  • safe eggs $3.99
  • cashews $7.99

Total spent: $68


  • organic fresh rosemary $0.50 on clearance
  • baby potatoes $3.99
  • cabbage $0.79/lb
  • red onion$0.99/lb
  • lemon $0.79
  • spaghetti squash $0.99/lb
  • organic romaine hearts $3.79 for 3
  • organic baby butter lettuce $0.79 on clearance
  • organic whole chickens on clearance $8 each
  • ground turkey $4.99

Total spent: $36

Total spent so far this month: $894

Subtract what I saved in January and February…. and you see that I’m not doing as bad as one might think. Honestly, we’ve got so much food on hand that aside from veggies and dairy, I think we’ve got food for the whole month. So, we’ll see.

How did your grocery geeking go?

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  1. Be proud of yourself and proud of your willingness to take care of your priorities without worrying what we will say. You are amazing! I’m glad to read your blog to appreciate how you handle life while feeding your family well. (Plus, your blog helps me feed my family well too!). My family has been celebrating my 4 year olds daughter’s ALL remission and the food budget has increased. Sometimes you just have to rejoice that you survived as a family!

  2. Melissa M. says:

    I know I spend that much at Costco every month and I don’t buy the extra doodads there–just food, t.p., dog food. So I say, “Kudos to you!” I’m also basically cooking for two diets (Trim Healthy Mama and regular fare). When we visit my aunt and uncle on the farm every few months, I always take all of the food for our tribe (10 of us) and for them. They let us stay in their little cottage free of charge, so I figure it’s the least we can do. P.S.–I watched the replay of your scope yesterday–so cool you did that for you SIL. Prayers for all of you.

  3. I really don’t think that’s too bad for everything you bought. When I do my Sam’s Club run every 4 months to restock it’s always $400-500. Since you’re close to stores you are used to a smaller stock up. I do have toilet paper and some cleaning supplies included, but we have most of our own meat. So, I say under your circumstances you did well. I know how much food a big family takes. It adds up so fast.

  4. Roberta says:

    Thank God you have the extra funds in your budget to help your extended family this month; I know they will appreciate it. (They say the Lord works in mysterious ways: Perhaps the extended pantry challenge due to the fumigating was just so that you could do this . . . . )

    Also, if my math is correct it looks like you still have a bit over $300 in your normal budget for the month. Since you really stocked up on proteins, even that amount might go farther than you anticipate. I think you’ll be just fine, and if you do go a bit over budget it was for a good cause. 🙂

    On another note, I’m so excited that we are supposed to be getting a Sprouts in our neighborhood! I’m always impressed by the prices you find there. I’m hoping we can too. Do they sell “clean” meats as well? I would like to transition over to better meats, but availability and price are thus far getting in the way.

    Oh, and the vodka boxes made me laugh!

    • Ha! Yes to all this. God has a plan for my grocery budget better than I do. And it was nice to be able to take food to my inlaws as well.

      Sprouts has organic meat as well as conventional. I don’t like how they market their meats in general. Cuts aren’t trimmed too nicely so you’re paying for fat and bone. :/ Also, their chicken is pretty horrible. I stopped buying it there.

  5. I really enjoy the “grocery geek” posts! The vodka boxes made me smile every time I saw them. The last time I went to Sam’s I hit the jackpot on boxes–i got vodka, scotch and a Captian Morgan!
    As I was reading your items I was keeping a list of things that would possibly last more than a week and I don’t think you did bad at all.
    We also did the Pantry Challenge thru February and I have been able to keep my spending at about $350 a month versus the normal $500-$600. It would be less if I wouldn’t buy meat on sale but I cave at .99 cent bone in chicken breasts and $2.04 lb 80% lean ground beef.
    I am also feeding 4 teen age boys on a daily basis (only dinners) on week days. My adult son probably eats here once or twice a week and my 10 year old grandson is here every other weekend as well so I know how quickly the food can disappear!
    Thanks for everything you do! I enjoy your blog’s and your recipes. Have a great weekend!

  6. Alice E says:

    Thank you for sharing these ‘Grocery Geek posts’ , I look forward to them and have found them inspiring. I have been the recipient of some ‘odd’ boxes from Costco myself! It seems to me you did very well, especially considering the freezer cooking for others, special diet issues and feeding teenage boys. Active teenage boys can go through a lot of food!

    I’ve started tracking grocery spending more precisely starting in March. We’ve been mostly eating down the freezer and pantry so my outlay, even including paper goods, vitamins and OTC meds was low in March for the two of us, but I did some restocking this week at the grocery store on cheese and frozen veg then went to Costco yesterday, which I only do occasionally. As a result I have already spent within a dollar of my total March spending in April. But I am still way under the USDA amounts for two retirees, so I’m okay with it. I had a rebate check to use at Costco, but didn’t figure it off my total so it isn’t as bad as it sounds I guess.

    One question do you add the sales tax into your total or not? While I know not all states do, here we pay sales tax on groceries.

    May I leave you with a comment my Grandmother made when I was much younger and complained about the rising costs of food, especially meat back in the 70’s. Referring to the cost of good food she said, “It’s a lot cheaper than medicine.” I have found that worth remembering, eating well helps keep us healthy and that is worth the cost and effort.

    Thank you for being here for all of us.

    • Here we do not have to pay sales tax on basic ingredient groceries (produce, meat, milk, eggs, etc) but we do pay sales tax on prepared foods (deli items or things the store cooks for you), beverages like sodas and bottled drinks, etc. Personally, I count it in my total since it is what I actually paid.

      I grew up with my parents saying the same thing as your grandmother, and I agree wholeheartedly.

    • California does not charge sales tax for food, but we do pay extra for bottles (like what bottled water or sodas come in), so that CRV (California redemption value) is added into my totals.

  7. I love Sprouts. I get great produce bargains at Sprouts especially in season fruits. I feel your pain with Costco too. Sadly it doesn’t take much effort to spend that much money at Costco. I find as Costco increases it’s organic offerings I spend more of my monthly food budget at Costco. Besides Costco in the last month I’ve purchased a year’s supply of hamburger, boneless chicken breasts, chicken thighs (for soups and broths), shrimp, and Alaskan cod. I also bought my Callebaut chocolates before the hot weather appears. My freezers are full and my wallet is empty but I’m satisfied with my preparations. I no longer shop regular grocery stores so coupons are worthless. My local organic buyer’s group has found many outstanding sources for procuring foods locally thus removing the traditional middleman from my supply chain and saving me money.

  8. I’m still plugging away on the freezer and pantry contents, so I’m not buying any meats or frozen items or general pantry items, but I have had to replace a few spices and I’ve gotten a bunch of fresh produce this month. I’ve also bought a box of kcups at Costco and the kid bought some things he wanted, so we are up to 70% of the budget already even though we’ve only finished 30% of the month. Hey, that’s the same ratio you are! Here’s hoping what I have will stretch a bit! (obviously the 100 kcups will last a while) I’m pretty sure I’m going to go over budget by the end, though. Since I know the purchases we’ve made have been carefully considered, I just quote the French phrase, “Tant pis, ce n’est pas grave.”

  9. I bet many of your readers, who are from a variety of faiths, would be honored to pray for your sister-in-law. Could you share any specifics if appropriate?

    • A belated thank you, Kathy. Right now Kim is about 2/3 done with her treatments for Hodgkins’ Lymphoma. Her recent PET scan came back clean, so we are very thankful. Thanks for your prayers on her behalf!

  10. We are in sort of the same situation this month after our kitchen reno started in mid-January and we had a new baby the beginning of February. I had put away a lot of freezer meals and stocked up at Costco and with Azure Standard, and then people brought us meals after the baby was born, so until this month my husband has just been running out to Aldi once a week for produce, milk, OJ, bread, cheese, and tortillas. (I’m gluten-free/corn-free, so I’d stocked most of my food already). I went over budget in January, but ended up about $600 under budget in March (We’re a family of 11 now, although my oldest is in college and was only home for about 2 weeks in March) and although I didn’t keep track of February, I don’t think it was terrible. By this month, though, the freezer and the cabinets were looking pretty bare! I just spent about as much at Azure as you did at Costco – actually a little more — and all I really have is staples. They’ll last for a few months, but I’ll need to buy meat this month, too. I buy in bulk a lot, but I’m never sure how to account for it. Bulk purchases can really blow a monthly budget.

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