Grocery Geek: April, Week 3

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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. 

sprouts april GG 3

As you know this month is an anomaly for me in the grocery department. Not only am I recovering from the Great Pantry Challenge of 2016 (aka When-We-Ate-Almost-All-the-Food-in-the-House-for-a-Termite-Fumigation), but I’m also doing a Whole 30 challenge.

I’m more than halfway through the latter, but it’s taken a little toll on my grocery bill. That’s to be expected when you are cooking for two different kinds of meal plans. It’ll all average out in the end as we spend what we saved the first few months of the year.

Also wondering if we’ll need to expand our grocery budget. Our kids are getting older and eating MORE. As we address certain issues around nutrition and eating habits, I really want to make sure that they are getting what they need. I’ve computed our estimated costs according to government numbers for March and it looks like our family is hitting the $1300 mark for the thrifty plan and then up again to $1325 when the May and June birthdays roll around. Whew.

Better than doctor’s bills, right?

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:

april GG 3 TJS

Trader Joe’s

I did go a little overboard on snack food at TJs. It was obviously a low moment on the Whole 30. Also, the littles played a game of Chopped on Sunday afternoon so there are some sweets in there that they used in the game.

  • potato chips (for the kids) $2.99
  • veggie chips (for me) $2.99
  • frozen churros (for Chopped) $3.99
  • frozen chicken tenders $7.49/2.5 pounds
  • 2# pink lady apples $2.49
  • pita crackers $2.49
  • cereal $1.99
  • taco shells $1.99
  • plantain chips $1.69
  • flour tortillas $1.99
  • milk $2.79
  • kefir $2.99
  • whipped cream $3.99
  • organic pickles $2.99
  • organic applesauce $2.79
  • black beans $0.79
  • eggs $1.69/dozen
  • organic chocolate syrup (organic is all they sell) $3.49
  • coconut cream $1.49
  • cashews $8.49
  • almonds $6.99
  • string cheese $2.99
  • sliced deli turkey $4.99
  • shredded cheddar $3.49
  • ground turkey $2.99/lb
  • basil plant $3.49
  • organic persian cukes $2.49
  • organic red peppers $1.50 each
  • organic power greens $1.99
  • brussels sprouts $2.29
  • dried mandarins $2.69
  • zucchini $1.99

Total spent: $121

april GG 3 Ralphs


Ralphs had that “buy 10 get $5 off” deal, and those are hard for me to resist. Those items are indicated by an asterisk.* I’m stashing some away for upcoming birthdays and special occasions.

  • triscuit $2.49*
  • Doritos $2.49*
  • Sunchips $2.29*
  • pinto beans $1.99
  • Special K $2.49*
  • small flour tortillas $2.99
  • milk $2.29
  • seltzer water $3.09 after CRV
  • romaine lettuce $0.99
  • serrano pepper $0.20
  • organic bananas (because they weren’t green like the others) $0.89/#
  • hot Italian sausage $3.49*

Total spent: $42


(pictured at the top)

In other news, I’m trying to wean my kids from dessert twice a day. I loaded up on fruits and veg so that desserts and snacks can take on a new look.

  • cantaloupe $0.88 each
  • 2# cuties $1.88/bag
  • cucumbers $0.50 each
  • xlarge avocados $1.25 each
  • large box organic baby spinach $3.98
  • organic golden delicious $0.88/lb
  • organic sweet mini peppers $1.98/box
  • red bell peppers $0.98 each
  • red seedless grapes $0.88/lb
  • bananas $0.69/lb
  • fage $2.50 each

Total spent: $38

Spent this week: $201

Spent this month to date: $1312

So, not too horrible. Looks like we won’t completely ruin the year’s average after all. My local ALDI doesn’t open until late May, but I’m really looking forward to seeing how it will change my grocery spending.

How was YOUR grocery geeking?

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  1. I spent $35 today, which was the last of our grocery budget for the month. The next week will be healthy meals, but not without any frills.

    Parmesan cheese $2.50
    Dozen eggs $1.99
    Chicken breasts $8.32
    Pork cutlets $2.62
    2 lbs pasta $2.00
    Navel oranges $2.99
    Grape tomatoes $1.99
    Pineapple $1.88
    Blackberries (3 6oz packages) $2.64
    Kiwi (4 for $1) $1.00
    Bounce dryer sheets $5.49
    Sales tax $0.93
    Total $34.35

  2. Melissa M. says:

    I hear you on the kids eating more. We are going through the same thing here. I’m also trying to wean my kids off of 2 desserts per day. We’ve gotten into a really bad habit with that one. Sigh. Great job on your Whole 30! From your Instagram feed, it looks like you’re killing it. Also, I checked out your new cookbook from the library. Now I may have to buy my own copy 🙂

  3. I think you are doing very well ! When you consider that your total includes stocking up after the ‘tenting’ and that you are feeding teenage boys, doing a whole 30, sharing freezer meals and stashing supplies for birthdays and special occasions. Yes, definitely better that doctor’s bills.

    I have been tracking my grocery spending for the two of us the last two months, and so far this month I have spent just under $230 including a minor stock-up at Costco to use the rebate coupon. Last month was about $200, however, I’m still using a lot of things from the pantry and freezer. When it is time to stock up on meat at a sale, I will be spending quite a bit in a lump.

    I envy your produce prices compared to my grocery store. I don’t usually buy produce or dairy at Costco because their quantities don’t work well with just two of us. Good luck with Aldi, I was not impressed years ago when I shopped there a time or two. There again packaged produce doesn’t work well with just two of us, usually. About the only things in produce I buy prepackaged are grape tomatoes, berries and mushrooms.

    Also, a general reminder when buying new brands including store brands, try a can first before you stock up on them. Years ago I was not happy with their store brand of soup. Otherwise, you might be like me last year with 5 more cans of something you don’t really like. I donated them to Harvesters, but it wasn’t a happy thing.

  4. I’m curious about your budgeting, do you set up separate accounts for groceries, eating out/entertainment, etc?

  5. Angela B. says:

    Aldi has completely transformed our grocery bill! I’ve really been impressed with the amount of decent food I can buy there, and it has lowered our grocery bill by a considerable amount. I’m not crazy about their chicken breasts or bananas and they often don’t stock enough for our large family to really buy all we need for the week of some things (like organic yogurt), but overall, I love shopping there. My husband just read me an article last night that said Aldi will be eliminating even more pesticides and beefing up their organic and gluten-free offerings, so it sounds as if things will only be improving, too.

  6. Aldi has changed my shopping completely. I love it. I make a list, I go to Aldi first and get as much as I can there, then move to my other grocery store for the rest. Most of their products are high quality…just a few that the family has rejected, which is totally fine! My spending has gone down about 15% using Aldi.

  7. I need to get back into my Grocery Geek mode – I’ve gotten lax in this regard as we’ve been empty nesters for the past 9 mos. Youngest is moving home from college in 3 weeks. Husband and I have been doing the 21 Day Fix program since July; we’ve done really well in reducing our carbs, eating appropriately sized portions and eliminating the processed foods. I can cook a meal and it’s enough for us to have dinner and lunch the following day – – that’s not going to be the case when we add another mouth into the mix. Going to have to re-think my plan. We spend about $425-$450/month now so I know I’m going to have to increase my budget – – this may seem high to some for 2 people, but I’d rather spend my $$ on healthy food than on doctor office visits. Produce accounts for a large portion of the grocery budget as does protein sources. (I’m rambling so I’ll stop…)

    Our oldest daughter is also doing a Whole 30 now. She’s on day 18, I think. It’s been a learning experience for her, but she’s enjoying it. And, I think it’s safe to say that she’s discovered some recipes that will remain in her rotation even after the Whole 30.

    • Your budget doesn’t seem that high to me, It falls in between the USDA figures of $366.80 for thrifty plan and $472.90 for the low cost plan for a family of two people over 50. If you are younger the figures are higher. I spend less, but tend to stock the pantry and freezer during sales and we do eat quite a few carbs.

      Produce and protein sources can both be expensive, but healthy and healthy food is definitely cheaper than the cost of sickness. Good luck with ‘Grocery Geek’ mode.

    • Can you tell me about 21 Day Fix in a nutshell? I’ve seen stuff about it but not ever looked into it.

  8. Allie Zirkle says:

    I’m dying laughing. DYING!!!! Who would’ve guessed that we’d accept a monthly budget of $1,300 for FOOD?! I never thought I’d spend so much. I average $1,100/month with five kids home, gluten free, no food dye, and no garden. Haha! Who knew?!

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