Grocery Geek: What We Spent in September

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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.

GG September

This month was a weird one. We started several outside classes that require the kids and I to be on the go in the mornings, not something typical for us. FishPapa also had a medical procedure that required him to be on a special diet for a week, thus prompting me to make some purchases I wouldn’t normally make. Yes, I could have made homemade pudding instead of buying pudding cups, but in light of our busier schedule, it was just easier to buy him the comfort food of his childhood.

However, amid all this, we were amazingly under budget! I guess I was so overwhelmed by everything else, I ended up shopping the pantry more often than not. That’s kinda cool.

My apologies for the lack of photos. It was a crazy month!

Grocery Geek

Grocer Geek is my regular 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

To update you on my grocery geekiness:grocerygeek-gce

  • I’m feeding eight people, ages 53, 44, 19, 15, 14, 12, 9, and 8. 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.
  • BEFORE YOU JUDGE ME FOR EXTRAVAGANCE, please read this post.

What We Spent in September:

Ralphs September again


There were several items in this trip that I stockpiled such as the tortilla chips and English muffins. We’re not going to eat that massive quantity in one week, but the price is a great way to stock up on items that we will eventually enjoy.

  • English muffins $2.49 after mega sales event
  • sugar $2.49
  • apple juice $1.49 after mega sales event
  • maple flavoring $2.99
  • unbleached flour $3.19
  • canned tomatoes $0.89
  • hot dog buns $2.29
  • tortilla chips $1.77 to 1.94 after sales and coupons
  • oats $3.49
  • grapes $0.99/lb
  • green onions 2/$0.99
  • roma tomatoes $0.99/lb
  • mushrooms $3.99/lb
  • avocado $0.99
  • cilantro $0.69
  • serrano chiles $1.69/lb
  • pears $0.99/lb
  • hot dogs $2.97
  • brats $2.99 after sales and coupons
  • minus $5.00 meat coupon

Total spent $67


This was a snacky dinner stop, a lazy Sunday alternative to going out to eat. The items were higher priced than I would like to pay, but altogether much cheaper than a meal out or spending the gas to gather the items at a cheaper store.

  • fancy cheese $6.75
  • fancy cheese $5.99
  • salami $7.99
  • large loaf bread $4.49
  • smaller loaf bread $1.49

Total spent $27

Sprouts September


  • broccoli crowns $0.98/lb
  • cauliflower $0.98/lb
  • apples $0.98/lb
  • green peppers $0.48 each
  • jalapenos $0.99/lb
  • oranges $0.98/lb
  • lemons 2/$1
  • red onions $0.48/lb
  • yellow onions $0.48/lb
  • yogurt $3.69
  • pita bread $4.99

Total spent $29

Trader Joe’s

  • pasta $0.99
  • frozen strawberries $1.99
  • sunbutter $4.99

Total spent $18


  • XL avocado $2.49
  • milk $2.99
  • eggs $1.99/dozen

Total spent $9


  • salt $2.79
  • Tillamook $8.99
  • feta $6.89
  • Fage $6.39
  • Pirate’s booty $4
  • cereal bars $9.29
  • avocado oil $9.49
  • olive oil $11.99
  • sourdough bread $3.69
  • deli roast beef $8
  • whole grain bread $4.59
  • milk $4.79/2 gallons
  • uncured ham $11.99 (2-pack)
  • shredded mozzarella $10.99
  • 4# butter $10.49
  • guacamole singles $8.79
  • 2 dozen organic eggs $6.99
  • romaine $2.99

Total spent $143


  • pasta $1.60
  • mushrooms $1.89
  • roma tomatoes $0.99/lb
  • Italian parsley $1.49
  • peaches $0.99/lb
  • pepperoni $5.99

Total spent $15

Trader Joe's September

Trader Joe’s

  • tater tots $2.29
  • shredded hashbrowns $1.69
  • green tea $2.49
  • hashbrown patties $1.99
  • baby zucchini $2.29
  • chicken tenders $7.49
  • string cheese $2.99
  • Brie $4.60
  • salami $4.49
  • pepperoni $2.99
  • broccoli $2.29
  • Ak-mak $1.99
  • 2# organic apples $2.99
  • almonds $6.99
  • 3# potatoes $1.69
  • drinking yogurts $3.49
  • sour cream $1.49
  • cottage cheese $1.69
  • cereal $1.99 to $2.99
  • milk $2.89
  • rice crackers $2.69
  • coconut milk $1.29
  • red wine vinegar $1.99
  • spice $1.99
  • garbanzo beans $$0.79
  • basil plant $3.49
  • eggs $1.29/dozen

Total spent $140

September Ralphs


Haagen-Dazs Butter Pecan is my best friend.

  • French bread $0.99
  • fresh tortellini $5.99 after mega savings event
  • sour cream $2.49
  • ricotta cheese $2.99 after mega savings event
  • Haagen Dazs $2.99 after mega savings event
  • baby spinach  $2.39
  • peppers $1.49 each
  • grape tomatoes $1.99
  • deli turkey $3.04 after coupons
  • salami $6.99
  • fancy cheese $4.99

Total spent $42


The melon ended up being rotten which is a bummer. I’m not one to take back rotten produce, though it certainly is tempting!

  • melon $0.98
  • bananas $0.69/lb
  • Fage $3.49
  • large eggs $1.99

Total spent $8

Trader Joe’s

  • chicken tenders $7.49
  • 3# potatoes $1.69
  • frozen green beans $1.99
  • eggs $1.29/dozen
  • cereal $1.99
  • grape juice $3.99
  • milk $2.89
  • drinking yogurts $3.49
  • whipping cream $1.29
  • cereal bars $1.99
  • string cheese $2.99
  • applesauce $1.99
  • pasta $0.99
  • 2# organic apples $2.99
  • olive oil $3.99

Total spent $70


The aforementioned pudding cups. If it helps, I bought the natural kind. 😉

  • pudding cups $3.49
  • broth $1.29 to $1.99
  • eggs $2.89
  • bread $2.99
  • noodles $2.00
  • rolls $3.49 to $3.99
  • whipping cream $4.99
  • mushrooms $3.99/lb

Total spent $37

Ralphs September


Ralphs is my go-to stop of the regular grocery stores. I can buy things that I can’t find elsewhere and it’s a big, roomy store that makes a quick stop for odds and ends go really quickly. I don’t have to fight any crowds.

  • cheese $2.99
  • milk $2.59
  • canned tomatoes  $0.88
  • hot dog buns $1.29
  • shredded mozzarella $7.99
  • tortillas $2.50
  • grape tomatoes $1.99
  • salami $6.99
  • fancy cheese $5.49
  • corn syrup $2.19
  • cilantro $0.69

Total spent $44

Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s is on our way home from our homeschool class day, so it makes for an easy stop. You can tell I have some regular go-to items at Trader Joe’s. Let me know if you’d be interested in a post about these items.

  • bread $2.49 to $2.99
  • drinking yogurts $3.49
  • buttermilk $1.99
  • tuna $1.69
  • brats $3.99
  • swiss cheese $3.99
  • uncured deli meats $3.49 to $4.99
  • organic romaine hearts $2.49
  • cereal $1.99 to 2.99
  • mushrooms $1.79
  • broccoli $1.79
  • 3# bag potatoes $1.69
  • garbanzo beans $0.79
  • sunbutter $4.99
  • cilantro $0.99
  • frozen green beans $1.99
  • potato salad $3.99
  • 2# organic onions $2.49
  • chicken tenders $7.49
  • 2# organic apples $2.99
  • corn tortillas $0.99
  • flour tortillas $1.99
  • carrots $0.79
  • eggs $1.29/dozen
  • cottage cheese $1.69
  • Akmak $1.99
  • rice crackers $2.69
  • garlic $1.69
  • pickles $2.99
  • sunflower oil $3.99
  • milk $2.89

Total spent $144

ALDI September


ALDI is proving to have the best prices on tomato products, something we go through a lot of. However, it’s so far from home, it’s not worth stopping unless I’m in the area which hasn’t been very often lately. The girls and I were in the neighborhood last night, so we stopped.

  • crushed tomatoes $0.79
  • diced tomatoes $0.49
  • sourdough bread $2.29
  • prosciutto $2.99
  • mozzarella cheese $3.29
  • carrots $0.89
  • sugar snap peas $2.19
  • hummus $2.19

Total spent $23

Total spent this month $816

Here’s how it’s looking for the year to date:

  • January $669
  • February $1092
  • March $1206
  • April $1435
  • May $1500
  • June $1215
  • July $1221
  • August $1338
  • September $816

Total YTD: $10495

That total divided by 9 months, brings our average to $1166.11/month which is UNDER our $1200 budget per month. 🙂

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  1. If you see the fire roasted diced tomatoes at Aldi, GET THEM. They mix well with beans for beans and rice or beans/cheese/tomatoes for nachos.

  2. I’d definitely be interested in post about your go-to Trader Joe’s items. We have one in our area, but I don’t get much there besides chicken tenders and the occasional bag of frozen potstickers.

  3. I would love a post about your favorite Trader Joe’s items. We like many of their items but these are our favorites: Wisconsin white cheddar, chocolate croissants, bagged small apples, brown eggs, sourdough bread, orange/mango/pineapple juice and of course the 3 Buck Chuck wine!

  4. Yes! I’d love to have a post about TJ’s. Especially if we can stock up a large family sized pantry for the winter,and have lots of freezer meals for the holidays ahead!

    • Are you looking for what to buy from Trader Joe’s freezer section? I don’t really buy many of their entrees.

      • No, I meant : what do you find most economical when purchasing food items from TJ’s, for preparing our own freezer meals from your recipes…your books, etc:)) Stocking up on chicken pieces? or caned items, sauces, etc?

        • Thanks for clarifying!

          I have some pet items (like the frozen chicken pieces) that aren’t necessarily the most economical, but that save time, so for me, they do save money. If you know what I mean.

          I do what I hear one person call “cherry picking”. I have a set beat for each store, things that I know are best priced there. So, I make the rounds each month to the different places. But my husband and I are going to do an experiment and shop the same list at four different stores and see if one is cheaper. Will keep you posted. 😉

          • Kathleenath says:

            Sounds good! Our TJ’s is more than an hour from us and when I go,(like once a month) I have to know exactly what I want and buy extra of it so that it makes my trip productive and worth the gas. We sock up on condiments and sauces, noodles, and some frozen meats,(meat balls) things that will keep on the shelf or freezer.
            Keep me posted on your experiment! I love all your ideas!

  5. Bought a whole chicken at whole foods the other day. Opened it up two days before the sell by date and it was bad. That sucker went back. I usually don’t for produce but meat and dairy for sure. It was time first time I’ve gotten bad meat there. First time for everything I suppose. I love seeing your months budget.

  6. I love Grocey Geek and would love to have a post on your go-to items at Trader Joes! And I hope your husband had a speedy recovery!

  7. Laurie in CA says:

    I’m such a geek! I love seeing what you buy for your small army. I fed two boys and a girl and they ate a LOT! I can’t imagine doubling that.

    I love Trader Joe’s. My go to items are their individually packaged cashews and trek mixes (I can throw one in my purse when I’m out for the day and not have to stop for lunch), bagged baby spinach, salem blue cheese, hummus, ak-mak, frozen organic brown rice, organic blue tortilla chips, corn tortillas, frozen orange chicken and of course the chicken tenderloins. I was proud of myself for resisting temptation and not sampling the pumpkin cream cheese muffins today. I knew I would be dead meat if I took a taste and they would wind up in my basket.

  8. Love you site! Do you ever add what your menu was with the items you bought?

  9. would love to see menus!!!

  10. Kim in az says:

    I’m curious – what do you do with all of the salami? :). I see it over and over on your lists. Is this a French thing? ;). I love a good salami sandwich with quality deli cheese but there is no way our family of ten would even go through as much as you appear to buy so I’m quite curious.

  11. Congratulations on your monthly total! Isn’t a stocked pantry a wonderful thing. ? I, too, would be interested in menus and/or a Trader Joe’s article. I don’t shop there, because it is out of my way and quite a bit further from here, but it is within reach for a special trip and I have been thinking about making an occasional trip the way I do with Costco. With only two of us, Costco sizes aren’t usually convenient for weekly dairy and produce purchases; however for canned chicken, basmati rice, pinto beans or frozen stuff they are great!

  12. Tiffany R says:

    Jessica, I would love to see more about what you buy at TJs. I go in there wanting to buy items and then walk out overwhelmed by the smallness of it. I know that sounds weird but it is normally crowded and everything is packed into a small space. If I knew what to buy, I would do better.

    I would love to see Costco posts also. I have the opposite problem in there. I am overwhelmed by the bigness of it. There is just so many items and I am never sure which ones are a good deal.

    This makes me sound like Goldilocks – too small, too big – I guess I shop at Kroger (Ralph’s for you) or Public because it is just the right size.

    And I’d love to see the menus for what you buy also. I am always looking for new things to make for the family for dinner.


    • A TJs shopping experience can really vary by location. They are never fun to shop in when they’re crowded and some locations are always crowded. (And they are notorious for having awful parking lots). I buy mostly ingredients as opposed to prepared entrees or fun food. Couldn’t afford it otherwise. lol.

      I will add a Costco post to the calendar as well. Thanks for the idea!

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