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Grocery Geek: What We Spent in December

Want a peek into our grocery cart? Here’s how I’m grocery shopping and feeding eight people on the cheap: the Grocery Geek report for December.

Can I just say that December was a weird month? I planned and shopped for holiday meals that didn’t happen. I planned and shopped for wildfires that did. I got some amazing sales and marked downs while grocery shopping. And I got amazingly ripped off when I didn’t read the fine print of a sale and was charged $40 extra for a roast that wasn’t all that great.

Ugh.

I went grossly over budget for the month, but at the same time, because I’d shopped wisely the rest of the year, our average over the course of the year is under budget! Also, on the plus side, I was able to do some freezer cooking for a friend and gift her the meals during a rough time.

I guess we could say that you win some and you lose some. We’re still winning in the big picture, so I’ll be content. Plus, since I did get some incredible deals, I’ve got a good stockpile of proteins to last us into the new month and the new year.

And you know what that means…. PANTRY CHALLENGE! I’ll have more details later today/early tomorrow so stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s

The Grocery Geek report

For those of you new here, Grocery 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:Grocery Geek: What We Spent in January

  • I’m feeding eight people, ages 53, 45, 20, 17, 15, 13, 11, and 9. 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 December:

Albertsons

  • lettuce $1.49
  • jalapenos $0.17
  • cilantro $0.89

Total: $3

Costco

  • milk $4.59
  • olives $9.99
  • heavy cream $9.59
  • organic brown mushrooms $5.99
  • shredded mozzarella $12.49
  • olive oil $16.99
  • Greek yogurt $5.49
  • broccoli florets $4.99
  • organic red bell peppers $6.99
  • Tillamook cheddar $8.99
  • organic romaine $3.99
  • uncured bacon $11.99 (2 pounds)
  • grape tomatoes $5.99
  • sourdough bread $3.69
  • organic whole grain bread $7.59
  • organic pasta $8.49
  • pork tenderloins $16.12
  • organic eggs $6.49
  • organic ground beef $19.99
  • chicken apple sausage $13.89

Total spent: $194

Sprouts

I purchased gift cards at a recent sale for Sprouts $100 for $89, so you’ll see adjustments to my final price to account for this savings.

  • asparagus $2.84
  • mushrooms $3.49
  • berries $0.98
  • apples $0.98/lb
  • organic baby spinach $4.99
  • organic broccoli $0.98/lb
  • raspberries $2.50
  • pears $0.50/lb
  • romaine $1.29
  • bananas $0.59/lb
  • bulk sausage $2.99/lb
  • salmon $6.99/lb

Total $67, $60 after discount

ALDI

  • eggs $0.54/dozen
  • bananas $0.29/lb
  • rollos $2.95
  • canned pineapple $0.95
  • organic pumpkin $1.39
  • onions $1.38/3#
  • mangoes $0.59 each
  • cabbage $0.29/lb
  • tomatoes $0.98/lb
  • 10# potatoes $2.39
  • 3 # apples $3.35
  • pretzels $1.29
  • cucumbers $1.39
  • milk $2.45
  • whole milk $1.72
  • crackers $1.69
  • sparkling water +crv $0.69 each
  • sugar $1.89
  • shredded cheese $2.59
  • tomato paste $0.69
  • deli meats $2.99
  • whole almonds $5.19
  • frozen green beans $1.39
  • organic hummus $2.29
  • frozen peas $0.95
  • steel cut oats $2.29
  • cottage cheese $1.29
  • jam $1.99
  • coconut oil $3.99
  • boneless, skinless chicken breast $1.89/lb
  • neufchatel cheese $1.29
  • sliced pepperoni $2.19
  • brie $2.99
  • fancy cheeses $3.49 to $4.99
  • carne asada $3.99/lb

Total spent $143

Ralphs

  • Cheerios $1.49 after sales and coupons
  • yogurt bars FREE after coupons
  • jello FREE after coupons
  • frozen potatoes $1.59 to $1.99 after sales and coupons
  • ginger ale FREE after coupons
  • mountain dew FREE after coupons
  • sour cream $1.99 after sales and coupons
  • lemon curd after sales and coupons
  • cottage cheese $1.49 after sales and coupons
  • vinegar $3.69
  • pretzels $3.00
  • baby carrots FREE after coupons
  • fresh vegetable medley $0.99 mgr’s special
  • sliced carrots $0.99 mgr’s special
  • fresh mint $0.79 mgr’s special
  • avocados $.69 each
  • bag of lemons $3.99
  • fresh berries $0.99 to $1.50
  • kiwi $2.99
  • Martinelli’s $1.59
  • power bar FREE after coupons
  • pork shoulder $1.99/lb
  • Italian sausage $2.99/lb
  • minus $5 meat coupon

Total $81

Ralphs (fire/emergency prep)

  • bottled water $2.99
  • applesauce $2.39
  • protein bars $0.33 to $.90 each
  • cereal bars $2.00 to $3.49

Total: $29

Costco (a lot of freezer cooking)

*for the bodybuilding son

  • canned tuna $12.99
  • avocado mayo $6.99 *
  • avocado oil $8.99
  • mushrooms $5.99
  • dates $7.99
  • bagels $5.99
  • butter $10.99
  • potstickers $10.89
  • cocoa $6.99
  • fruit strips $11.99
  • cucumbers $3.99
  • tortillas $3.69
  • milk $4.59
  • coconut milk $8.99*
  • olives $9.99
  • sockeye salmon $32.99
  • ono $19.89
  • ham $12.05
  • crackers $6.89
  • shredded mozzarella $12.49
  • Tillamook $8.99
  • uncured bacon $11.69
  • turkey breast $15.92
  • breakfast sausage $13.99
  • pickles $6.89
  • mayonnaise $6.99
  • hamburger buns $2.19
  • English muffins $6.79
  • sourdough bread $3.69
  • shredded cheese $12.69
  • organic bell peppers $6.99
  • broccoli $4.99
  • ground beef $22.48
  • ground beef $21.7
  • country strips $16.92
  • hummus singles $6.49
  • kiwi $6.99

Total: $393

Ralphs

  • lasagna noodles $1.49 to $1.69
  • frozen potatoes $2.99
  • puff pastry $2.24
  • ice cream $3.49
  • sauerkraut $2.79
  • eggs $0.99
  • heath toffee bits $0.99
  • chocolate chips $2.99
  • molasses $3.59
  • blueberries $1.48
  • sandwich bread $3.49
  • bubbies sauerkraut $6.99*
  • noosa yoghurt $1.29 mgr’s special
  • canned tomatoes $1.69
  • ground turkey $2.99 mgr’s special
  • chuck roast $2.99/lb
  • Italian sausage $2.99
  • chicharrones $0.49 mgr’s special
  • bakery breads $0.99 mgr’s special

Total $115

ALDI

  • spaghetti squash $2.99
  • cookies $2.99
  • serrano $1.49
  • canned beans $0.89
  • salad kits $1.69
  • cilantro $0.48
  • crushed tomatoes $0.99
  • frozen oj $1.19
  • bottom round roast $2.89/lb
  • deli meats $2.99
  • boneless skinless chicken breasts $1.89/lb
  • 3# apples $2.98
  • brie $2.99
  • romats $0.49/lb
  • corn tortillas $2.19
  • 10# potatoes $2.39
  • eggs $0.54

Total: $85

Sprouts

  • carrots $0.77
  • berries $0.98
  • cilantro $0.50
  • garlic 3/$1
  • ginger root $2.99/lb
  • green onions $0.50
  • oranges $0.98/lb
  • organic baby spinach $2.50
  • organic broccolette $0.98
  • organic apples $0.98/lb
  • organic celery $1.99
  • pink grapefruit $1.49
  • mangoes $0.25
  • sugar $2.50
  • bacon $5.75
  • salmon $9.79

Total $42, $37 after discount

ALDI

  • Hershey’s kisses $2.95
  • pepperoni $2.19
  • grapes $0.79/lb
  • fruit cups $1.69
  • frozen oj $1.19
  • organic thyme $1.99
  • sparkling water + crv $0.69/each
  • shredded cheese $2.59
  • vanilla extract $3.99
  • eggs $0.54/dozen
  • 2# shredded cheese $5.89
  • cranberries $0.79
  • taco shells $0.99
  • kerrygold $3.45
  • neufchatel $1.29
  • havarti $2.99
  • brie $2.99
  • bread $3.99
  • cilantro $0.48
  • boneless chicken breast $1.49/lb
  • milk $2.29
  • crackers $1.69
  • romas $0.95/lb
  • green onions $0.99
  • seedless cucumber $1.48
  • tortillas $1.99
  • crushed tomatoes $0.99
  • organic chicken broth $1.49
  • tomato sauce $0.29
  • diced green chiles $0.59
  • mini chocolate chips $1.79
  • bananas $0.29/lb
  • canned beans $0.89
  • pineapple chunks $0.95
  • carrots $0.94
  • sweet potatoes $1.47/bag
  • corn husks $2.89

Total: $120

Ralphs

  • Mission chips $1.77
  • sorbet $1.99
  • milk $2.59
  • truffle dust $1.99 mgr’s special
  • onions $2.49
  • 5# clementine $3.99
  • eggs $2.79
  • ham steak $2.00
  • pork loin $0.99/lb
  • sausage $2.99
  • bakery bread $1.49 mgr’s special
  • minus $2 ecoupon

Total $53

Trader Joe’s

  • Ak-mak $1.99
  • rice crackers $2.79
  • string cheese $2.99
  • whipping cream $1.29
  • raw almonds $5.99
  • cereal bars $1.99
  • tea $1.99 to 2.49
  • baking powder $1.49
  • sunflower butter $4.99
  • almond butter $5.99

Total $51

Ralphs

  • lime juice $1.99
  • deli bread $3.99 to $4.49
  • ice cream $2.50
  • sunflower oil $4.19
  • whipped cream $2.50
  • espresso powder $3.79
  • peppermint extract $2.99
  • sugar $2.16
  • ginger root $2.99/lb
  • cilantro $0.69
  • jalapenos $0.45
  • elephant garlic $1.99
  • bell peppers $1.49
  • limes $0.39
  • spinach $1.99 mgr’s special
  • veggie tray $2.99 mgr’s special
  • clementines $3.99
  • organic eggs $1.99 mgr’s special
  • NY strip roast $4.77/lb
  • NY strip roast NOT $4.77/lb, but this wasn’t clearly marked in the ads and I didn’t notice until we already ate it 🙁
  • pork shoulder $2.99/lb
  • Boursin $2.99 mgr’s special
  • sourdough round $4.49

Total spent $178

Ralphs

  • milk $1.89 mgr’s special
  • eggs $2.50
  • bagels $1.09 mgr’s special
  • salad kits $0.99 mgr’s special
  • berries $0.98

Total spent $17

ALDI

  • sparkling water + crv $0.69/each
  • 10# russet potatoes $0.99
  • cabbage $0.58/lb
  • organic cumin $1.99
  • whole almonds $5.19
  • grapes $0.79/lb
  • brie $2.99
  • pepperoni $2.19
  • crescent rolls $0.99
  • cocktail sausages $1.99
  • red onions $0.68/lb
  • sweet onions $1.99
  • limes $0.10
  • tomatoes $0.95/lb
  • boneless chicken breast $0.99/lb (I bought a lot)
  • Italian sausage $2.49/lb
  • seedless cucumbers $0.98
  • tea $0.99
  • eggs $2.49
  • frozen shrimp $4.59
  • carrots $0.94

Total $95

Sprouts

  • mushrooms $3.49
  • lettuce $1.29
  • XL avocados $2 to 2.50
  • whipping cream $3.69
  • ground beef $2.99
  • dinner rolls $2.99
  • cilantro $0.50
  • spaghetti squash $0.99/lb
  • yellow chili peppers $1.99/lb

Total: $34, $30 after discount

Costco

  • shredded mozzarella $11.99
  • Tillamook $8.99
  • bagels $5.99
  • sliced sourdough $3.69
  • romaine 6-pack $3.49
  • salami $13.89
  • bacon $12.99
  • cauliflower rice $3.99
  • greek yogurt $5.49
  • milk $4.59
  • organic red peppers $6.99
  • olive oil $15.49
  • avocado oil $9.69
  • minus executive member rebate -153.20

Total: $28

Total spent in December: $1712

Spent in 2017:

  • January $356
  • February $1015
  • March $1336
  • April $1347
  • May $390
  • June $1200
  • July $1354
  • August $1405
  • September $774
  • October $970
  • November $1065
  • December $1712

Total: $12,924

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Comments

  1. I’m really sorry about the wildfires CA has had to endure.
    Congrats on coming in under budget for the year! I am so happy you are hosting a pantry challenge . I participated last year and plan to this year as well .
    We had to raise our food budget this year because our 4 kids are little and growing all the time . We are still at about 60-65% of thrifty plan and I think we are all well fed. I just have to be careful with everything .
    Oh, and I said my library was ordering your cookbook, but they ordered 7, one for each branch!

  2. Happy New Year!

    Bravo for coming in under budget for the year–especially since you are feeding teenage/young adult boys. 😉

    We came in at $217.10 for December, and that means we had a monthly average of $293.66. I’m really happy about that, especially since last January 1 I wasn’t completely sure that my $300/mo. goal was going to be reasonable. (Of course, there are only three of us–53YO male, 52YO female, 13YO male.)

    I’m hoping to trim even more off the budget in 2018. I think I can if I’m careful. The freezers are packed and there are some things that end up being composted or given to the chickens, so I think I’m still overbuying. Son’s appetite is increasing, but my metabolism is slowing so we may balance one another out in terms of calorie consumption.

    I’m really looking forward to the PC. It made a big difference last year in terms of the monthly average, and it was a great learning experience.

  3. $200 on ground beef? Or a typo surely. Even with the hungry teenagers you have that’s a lot of ground beef!

  4. Thanks for another Grocery Geek! Love these posts! Super excited for the Pantry Challenge!

  5. Dh is between jobs and our freezers are FULL, along with pretty well-stocked cupboards as well. Bring on the pantry challenge!

  6. Hi Jessica, I’m going to attempt your pantry challenge again along with 2 bible studies, a diet and an exercise class haha, but. I know there is unidentified expensive meat lurking in the bottom of my freezer! And it’s January in Ohio 6°, nothing to do. I spent about $1100 In December on groceries? Don’t ask about November! Alot of cooking and baking.

    I’m taking inventory and doing meal plans tomorrow…..thank you for the motivation.

  7. Laura in NH says:

    When it is a big spend month it’s nice to have the year’s monthly average to see how it all evens out. I am going to aim to do this each month for 2018 so that I can see the big picture.

  8. We easily have enough proteins in our freezer to last 4-5 months (or more) except for salmon that I will need to replenish monthly. The pantry is pretty full too. There is just the two of us now but the grandkids are here often and it seems like we’re always feeding an extra mouth or two. I’ve gotten out of the habit of budgeting our food money so hopefully this will keep me on the straight and narrow budget path. The USDA thrifty plan for us is $362 a month. I’d like to see us keep it at $250 or less the next few montbs. My problem is Mr. Spendthrift. He went to the store today for 4 items and spent $26! Good grief!

  9. I’m thinking that I can go a whole month without buying meats – or at least 3 weeks. I’ve made a list of what I remember is in my freezer and began using down today. I had a package of sweet & sour chicken and added sliced “almost” soft green pepper and made white rice… huge meal, Monday – Friday I get a meals on Wheels lunch with milk, juice, hot meal, bread, and some type of dessert – I’ve gotten it since I got home from rehab therapy after my stroke. Since I’m not paying for my lunch, the food in my freezer and pantry should last a long time. I still will be buying milk and fresh fruits and veggies for dinners and weekends… I’m hoping that I can get by with less than $125 for the whole month – my goal is $100 but I will budget $125 just in case.

  10. Huh. This just cheered me up. I was thinking we’d spent more in Dec than we actually did. I dropped my goal from $225 to $200/month for last year. I ended up $207/month. That’s much closer than I’d expected! I’m keeping the $200 rate and going to seriously try to keep to it this time.

  11. I think you did very well considering it was December and the wildfires. I too have learned to watch closely for the dreaded ‘limit 1’ signage. Thank you for sharing this journey with all of us.

  12. Kelly Hess says:

    You are my hero! I only have 3 kids (11 year old boy, 9 year old boy, and 5 year old girl) and I feel like all I do is grocery shop, cook, wash dishes, empty dishwasher and take out the trash. I can’t imagine doing all that for 6 kids. You are awesome! Happy New Year!

  13. Doing my pantry freezer eating in May to prep for hurricane season. Last year we lost 500 worth f food from a full freezer and no power for a week. Many fared far worse but that was still a hit for us. So going to keep r p freezer to a minimum those months.

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