Grocery Geek: First Half of June

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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.

Costco GG June

Wow! The month is half over. Where did it go?! I already have a sense that back to school supplies are waiting in the recesses of the stores, ready to be stocked. How can that be? School just ended. But, time flies, faster than I would like it to. Groceries, too.

I was thinking yesterday about how different grocery shopping is now from when I first started posting my Grocery Geek updates EIGHT YEARS ago. My children were mostly itty-bitty, all under 11; I was pregnant with my sixth child; we were DEEP in debt, and our grocery budget was $400/month. Out of necessity.

I’m super thankful that we’ve got so many mouths to feed and that we are no longer in debt. But, I’ll admit that my pride has taken a little beating that I spend 3x that amount now.

I know it’s with good reason: I’ve got 3, almost 4 TEEN boys, food costs have increased dramatically, and we’re working to eat better. While I know “better” can look different for different people, for us, it means more protein and veg which are a lot more expensive than the cheap white breads that I filled my Costco cart with this month.

It sure looks like a lot when you buy a month’s worth at once!

Nancy sent me a snapshot from her recent edition of All Recipes magazine that presented some information about how much Americans are spending on groceries per month. I can’t find the article online, but it broke down like this: $989/family of 4; $625/couple; $284/single. Taking that into consideration makes me feel so much better. By their data, our family could presumably be spending close to $2k each month to feed us all, but we’re not. Whew.

Still in the back of my mind, I’m simmering strategies to get our costs down a little bit more while still feeding my family well.

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.

Here’s our shopping for June so far:

Walmart GG June


Walmart is one of my go-to spots for basics that are on the cheaper side. Costco is cheaper on most of these things, but Walmart is super close to home; I could walk if I had one of those French lady rolling baskets! Early in the month, we needed baking supplies for FishChick9’s baking practice. Here’s what we bought:

  • Tillamook loaf $10.92
  • salame $6.52
  • whipping cream $2.34
  • butter $3.97
  • milk $2.95
  • rice $7.74
  • flour $3.76
  • sourdough bread $3.98
  • ricotta $2.47
  • yogurt $6.48
  • shredded Tillamook $10.56
  • sunflower oil $3.98
  • chocolate chips $2.38 to $2.58
  • black beans $0.92
  • pinto beans $1.64
  • uncured pepperoni $3.86

Total spent: $106

Costco (pictured at top)

FishBoy15 went with me to Costco the first week of June so we could restock some basics and return the listeria-ridden green beans that were part of the recent recall. I’ve told the teen boys that their mid-day snacks could be sandwiches since I know they do better if they aren’t hangry. We stocked up on breads to store in the freezer for this purpose.

  • megajar mayonnaise $6.99
  • avocado oil $9.49
  • fruit leather $10.59
  • sourdough bread $3.69
  • mandarin cups $7.89
  • broccoli florets $3.99
  • fill pickles $6.89
  • organic pasta $8.49
  • hot dog buns $2.19
  • hamburger buns $2.19
  • bagels $5.49/dozen
  • baby carrots $4.49
  • heavy cream $9.99
  • shredded mozzarella $9.89
  • beef franks $8.99/4-pack
  • fage $6.39
  • maple syrup $9.99
  • sour cream $3.99
  • potstickers $10.69
  • mochi ice cream $9.89 (for my cart pusher and unloader)
  • chicken sausage $13.89
  • butter $9.49
  • bottled water $3.89 plus CRV
  • milk $3.99/2 gallons
  • mondo cans diced tomatoes $2.79 each
  • bacon $11.89
  • organic spinach $3.49
  • hummus single packs $5.99
  • mini babybel $10.99
  • org frozen pineapple $6.99
  • organic frozen berries $9.99
  • asiago cheese $8.31
  • sharp Tillamook $9.29
  • large deli turkey breast $14.96
  • English muffins $6.79
  • organic eggs $6.99/2 dozen
  • tortillas $2.99 to $3.69
  • whole grain bread $4.59
  • diced tomatoes $6.49
  • tuna $12.99/8 cans
  • cooking spray $4.99
  • red potatoes $4.59/10#
  • ground beef $3.99/pound
  • chuck roast $3.99/lb

Total spent: $472

Sprouts GG June


Typically Sprouts is my go-to for fresh produce. Again, it’s close to home and easy to make a quick run. I’ve flopped back and forth between buying organic and conventional. It seems currently that organic prices just aren’t within a reasonable margin for upgrading. I figure there are seasons for everything.

  • strawberries $1.50
  • pineapple $2.50
  • garlic 3/$1
  • ginger root $2.99/lb
  • green onions 2/$1
  • xlrg avocados $1.88 (these prove their value due to size and quality)
  • parsley $0.50
  • zucchini $0.98/lb
  • grapes $0.88/lb
  • sweet potatoes $1.29/lb
  • roma tomatoes $0.50/lb
  • mushrooms $2.49
  • bananas $0.69/lb
  • coconut milk $1.79
  • shrimp $11.98

Total spent: $42

Sprouts and Ralphs GG June


Ralphs tends to be where I get suckered into junk food. On this particular trip FishBoy19 was with me so he could pick out birthday snacks. I blame most of the junk food on him. Haha. Which is really ironic, since he’s the healthiest eater in the house! Usually the guy is eating all kinds of weird things, but on his birthday, his heart belongs to Corn Pops.

  • ice cream cones $1.49 to $2.29
  • pound cake $5.99
  • gelato $2.99
  • cream cheese $2.19
  • chips $1.99
  • beef broth $1.29
  • tomato sauce $0.49
  • eggs $1.99
  • corn pops $1.49
  • BBQ sauce $3.49
  • carrots $1.59
  • cucumbers 2/$0.99
  • raspberries $2.50
  • strawberries $2.50
  • grapes $0.99/lb
  • watermelon $1.88
  • mustard $1.79
  • ground turkey $2.77/lb
  • London Broil $3.99/lb
  • uncured ham $3.99
  • pepperoni $6.99
  • deli meat $12.00

Total spent: $123


Also in the preceding picture is a short stop at Sprouts.

  • blueberries $1.98/large pack
  • cantaloupe $0.98 each
  • coconut $1.99
  • bell peppers $0.68 to $0.88
  • sweet onions $0.50/lb

Total spent: $25

Sprouts GG June (1)


After taking a few months off making lunches for FishPapa, I got back into the swing this week, stocking up on the fixings for Easy Chicken Quinoa Bowls. I made enough for us both to have a yummy, healthy lunch. I find that when I buy veggies and have them ready to go, everyone — kids and husbands included — will eat them up.

  • bell peppers $0.68 to $0.88
  • organic romaine hearts $2.99
  • snap peas $1.99
  • romas $0.88/lb
  • mushrooms $2.49
  • agave nectar $5.29
  • quinoa $8.99
  • milk $2.49
  • Fage $3.49
  • cottage cheese $2.49
  • sausage $4.67
  • shrimp $6.15
  • green beans $1.99

Total spent: $54



I know that ALDI could be a great place for me to trim down our grocery bill, but it is the farthest store from our house, a good 30-minutes round-trip. I’m working up a list of their products that I know we like and that are the best price so we can easily do a monthly stock-up. The kids and I stopped there today while we were in the neighborhood.

  • quick oats $2.29
  • butter cookies $1.69
  • penguin crackers $1.39
  • raspberries $1.89
  • org strawberries $2.69
  • hummus $1.99
  • speculoos $1.89
  • pearl couscous $1.29
  • steel cut oats $2.29
  • Italian sparkling water $5.99 plus CRV
  • rice squares cereal $2.29
  • rice crisp cereal $1.39
  • wheat crackers $1.49
  • canned peaches $0.89
  • milk $2.19
  • whipping cream $1.99
  • crushed tomatoes $0.99
  • coconut oil $3.99
  • orange juice $3.39
  • frozen chicken tenders $5.79
  • cream cheese $1.29
  • granola bars $1.49
  • eggs $0.89

Total spent: $70

Total spent in June MTD: $892

So, we’re not quite where I’d like to be for the month’s midway point. In my defense, I did the big Costco stock up before I’d consulted with my family about eating preferences. Several of us want to eat more protein and fewer carbs, so we probably could have done with fewer cheese and pasta purchases. I’m not sure what to do about that. I could return some things to Costco, but that seems silly since we will use them eventually, just not at the rate I had anticipated when I first went shopping.

FishChick9 has also been baking a ton in anticipation of being chosen to compete on Kids Baking Championship. Thus the reason that us older folks need to eat fewer carbs the rest of the time!

I’m going to do my best not to go over budget again this month, but it will be a tight squeeze, I think. With careful planning, I think we should have most of the proteins we need as well as the carbs, of course. Will need to get more fresh produce in the next two weeks for sure.

How has YOUR grocery shopping gone this month?

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  1. We spend what I thought was a hefty amount for a family of four, especially with the kids so small. But between avoiding allergies (meaning almond and sunbutter) and upping our produce intake, there’s not much to be done!!

    I need to see if hubs wants me to whip up those bowls for his lunches. He’s trying to cut back on wheat specifically and I’m just not a huge fan of quinoa so it’s languishing in my pantry.

    How’s the produce at your Aldi? So many people rave about it but mine is awful. I rarely buy any except maybe potatoes and onions. Meanwhile my mom, 75 miles from me, has exceptional produce. I always thought we had the same distribution center but possibly not.

    • Have you ever made your own sunbutter? It’s so easy with a food processor, and extremely cheap, at least where I live sunflower seeds in bulk are very cheap, all you need is a little bit of time and effort

      • Unfortunately I’ve never gotten the right texture in my food processor or Blendtec (the regular jar). I pine for the Twister jar but it’s $100 so a LOT of jars of sunbutter to make it “worth it” 😉 And Costco stopped carrying the sunbutter which is a shame since the price was amazing. I also have trouble finding sunflower seeds that clearly state they are not from a factory that also processes peanuts!

    • The produce has been okay. I had to take one thing back, but the other items we’ve bought have been good and well-priced.

  2. Kirstin says:

    The last All You magazine was published in December, but the website continues.

  3. Jessica, you are doing an amazing job! For a family your size to live on 1200 per month is really hard. There are 4 of us and I juggle different stores and we spend 1100 a month some months? Food is expensive and how you prioritize healthy eating affects it alot!

  4. I’m lucky enough to have my Aldi right across the street from Costco, so I go to each of them once every two weeks and only do a light supplement at a “regular” store 1-2x per month. When Aldi was further, I would always get my spices, canned products, dried beans, oats, cereal, snack food, frozen veg (limited selection) and fruit there. The weeks I went they scored my dairy, lunchmeat, and produce spending also. I’m constantly amazed at how I can FILL my cart there and spend literally HALF of what I would pay at the grocery store.

    • Same here, Alison. It has been a godsend to my food budget!

    • Brandette W. says:

      Love our Aldi! We are originally from Southern CA and moved to the midwest. I had never heard of Aldi until we moved here. It is literally a God Send for saving big money on my grocery budget. I am easily able to buy weekly produce and grocery basics, but what I love the most is that I can stock-up on cases of things we use and store it in our basement storage room….all at rock bottom prices.

      Some of our families favorites from Aldi are: boxed cereals (seriously SO cheap compared to name brand), milk, eggs, heavy cream, produce (our Aldi is right next door to our midwest regional distribution center, we have excellent produce!), cheese & cracker stick snack packs, cookies (they now sell Girl Scout knock-off’s—so good!), all baking supplies (I do buy my flour & sugar at Walmart only because I like Gold Medal & King Arthur flour, and like to buy my sugar in big bags), all canned goods (this is a big area where I buy stock-up cases), frozen vegetables (their frozen steam broccoli contain all florets and NO stems!), 2.5 lb packs of 80/20 ground beef, cheese- both block & sliced, pasta (another area where I stock-up), cases of bottled water, qtips (cheapest place in our area), paper products- plates/bowls, foil, plastic wrap, plastic utensils, cream cheese.

      I do most of my regular stuff shopping here, then supplement with other stores. Of all the things we have tried at Aldi, there were only 2 we didn’t care for. Their boxed pasta mix like Pasta-Roni and the frozen Tilapia fillets. BUT, they have the most amazing return policy. You can return the item and receive a full refund AND either replace the item or have that amount in store credit to purchase something else. It’s called their “Double Guarantee”. With this type of customer service, I feel like I can’t go wrong trying something new at Aldi.

    • I’m going to try a similar strategy. I’m working on a list of things that I know we like and that are cheaper so that I can do a monthly stock-up. My local stores do a pretty good job of having similar prices on most of the things I buy, so it’s going to be interesting how the list ends up.

  5. I wish we had an Aldi store! My mother loves her Aldi’s. I shop Costco but I also like the 99 Cents chain for cheap produce. I also switch between buying organic and conventional produce. I always get my fresh mushrooms, green onions, cilantro, celery, shredded lettuce, shredded cabbage, and soft tortilla shells ($1 each) at that store. That’s a huge savings in my produce budget over other grocery stores. I just scored fresh berries (blackberries, red raspberries, and blueberries) $1/each to freeze and use over the next year. I hate UHT milk and refuse to buy it. I was paying Sprouts ($6/half gallon) for milk in glass jars in order to avoid UHT milk. Now it’s $1.99/gallon from my 99 Cents store. I feel like I won the lottery. Especially since I need to buy enough milk to also make my own yogurt and buttermilk weekly. I scored organic sugar ice cream cones and organic hard taco shells for $1/box (bought 12 boxes of each to stock up). I buy most of my other produce at Costco routinely- organic spring mix lettuce, 6 pack red peppers, organic baby spinach, English cucumbers, fresh pineapple, potatoes, sweet onions, and fresh garlic. I’ve ordered 3 cases (54 lbs) of sweet cherries to eat, make jam, and freeze next week. So procuring in season fresh fruits has been my grocery budget focus.

    I receive a couple of grocery trade publications. Costco is planning to branch out even heavier into organic produce in the near future. In fact Costco plans to cut back “on protein floor space” to expand more heavily into organic produce. So expect to see even more organic produce at Costco in the near future. BTW I also took back 3 bags of those listeria covered frozen vegetables to Costco. Since I don’t buy meat at the grocery store my food budget is skewed and difficult to track.

  6. Crystal Hankey says:

    I’m amazed by the sheer amount of food a large family has to buy and haul into the house then turn into meals. lol. I always wanted a large family but ended up with my two boys and all their friends stopping by to eat when they were younger. I cooked mostly from scratch and they ate it up. I worked but cooked out of necessity and because it was better food. Made me wonder how many other mom’s didn’t cook. The rule was everyone had to help clean the kitchen and put their dishes in the dishwasher! And as for leftovers I could go to bed with them in the refrigerator and they mysteriously disappeared before morning. Love your Grocery report. Take care.

    P.S. I’m visiting a friend in Kentucky for two weeks next month and the highlight of my trip is always Aldis and the Amish Fruit and Vegetable stands.

  7. Kids Baking Championship. That would be awesome. I watch that show. Good luck to her!

  8. Love seeing trips like this! One way to save money is to abandon the overpriced and unnecessary organic altogether. There are no added benefits, it uses extra pesticides, and just takes your money. Save your money for Corn Pops instead 😉

  9. Ikea here in Calgary, Canada had the French lady roller grocery cart at one time. Maybe you could find one there. 🙂

  10. Charyse H says:

    Wow, I thought I paid a lot for cheese! Same brand and all! Granted, I live a two hour drive from the factory, but that’s almost double! I would like to pay 1.99 for a bag of those Kettle chips my husband loves in his lunches, though!

    Grocery Geek is my favorite!

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