Grocery Geek: What We Spent in January

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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: the Grocery Geek report for January.

Kids in the grocery store

If you’ve been reading around here for more than a day, you know that this month was a little unusual. I haven’t posted new recipes or standard money-savings tips, but instead shared with you our family’s January Pantry Challenge.

We do a Pantry Challenge every January and in the month prior to a long vacation. It helps us save money, use up what we have, and avoid waste. This month I purposed to spend half our regular grocery budget and instead focus on what we already had in the freezer, fridge, and cupboard.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t grocery shop. As you’ll see, I most certainly did. But, I didn’t stock up on many sale items, I didn’t buy meat, and I didn’t buy whatever suited my whim at the moment.

Doing this “grocery shopping reset” each January sets the tone for the rest of the year. I go forth into budgeting, knowing that we have a little cushion. It’s okay if I go over here and there because we’ve got some wiggle room.

Last year my target monthly budget was $1200, but we averaged $1,077/month over the course of the year. I’m playing with the idea of making $1100 our new target. Not sure if I can swing it, but we did this month!

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 55, 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 $1100 this year, trying to beat what the feds think it will cost. Per the USDA food cost reports it should cost our family $1336.20 to eat all meals at home under the “thrifty plan” for people of our demographics.
  • We 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 January

produce in a cartSprouts

  • strawberries 3/$5
  • blackberries 4/$5
  • ginger root $2.99/#
  • 4# bag grapefruit
  • blueberries 3/$5
  • 1# bag Meyers lemons $2.99
  • organic baby spinach $4.99
  • 1# whole mushrooms $3.49
  • cornstarch $1.79

Total spent: $26

produce on the counter

ALDI

  • bagged apples $3.99
  • sparkling water $0.69 after CRV
  • organic apple cider vinegar $1.79
  • organic broccoli $2.29
  • organic bananas $0.68/lb
  • cucumbers $0.48 each
  • eggs $2.49

Total spent: $40

groceries on the counter

Ralphs

  • whipping cream $1.79
  • salad kit $0.99
  • cherry tomatoes $2.50

Total spent: $5

Sprouts

  • strawberries 3/$5
  • red bell peppers 2/$1
  • feta cheese $4.15

Total spent: $9

groceries in the cart

ALDI

  • eggs $0.99
  • applesauce $1.49
  • butter $2.49
  • cereal $1.99
  • steel cut oats $2.29
  • frozen green beans $1.39
  • sour cream $1.29
  • crushed tomatoes $0.99
  • tomato sauce $0.29
  • organic black beans $0.89
  • organic tomato paste $0.69
  • whole milk $1.75
  • organic spaghetti $1.09
  • milk $2.29
  • whipping cream $1.99
  • organic celery hearts $1.39
  • baby carrots $0.89
  • frozen orange juice $1.19
  • whole carrots $0.94
  • canned white beans $0.65
  • cilantro $0.38
  • lemons $3.49
  • onions $1.38
  • jalapeños $1.49
  • tomatoes $0.74
  • butter salad $1.89
  • mushrooms $1.97
  • blueberries $2.98
  • cucumbers $0.48

Total spent: $78

groceries in the cart

Sprouts

  • mushrooms $3.49
  • 2# clementines $3.96
  • green onions 2/$1
  • blueberries 2/$3
  • English cucumbers $0.77
  • jumbo avocado $2.50
  • organic baby spinach $4.99
  • organic apples $0.98/lb
  • grapefruit 3/$1
  • red onions $0.77/lb
  • spaghetti squash $0.77/lb

Total spent: $37

girl standing next to the grocery cart

Costco

  • milk $4.39
  • coconut milk $8.99
  • greek yogurt $5.49
  • big jars of amazing jam $5.99
  • dried dill $4.99
  • turkey breast $15.24
  • frozen berries $7.99
  • Tillamook $8.99
  • butter $10.89
  • single hummus $6.49
  • frozen green beans $6.99
  • organic eggs $2.69
  • tortillas $3.69

Total spent: $116

bread and other groceries on the counter

Ralphs

  • organic eggs $2.49 (mgr’s special)
  • bread $0.29 to $1.49 (mgr’s special)
  • kettle corn FREE (store coupon)
  • Larabar FREE (store coupon)

Total spent: $7

ALDI

  • sparkling water $0.69 after CRV
  • sardines $0.99
  • eggs $0.98

Total spent: $15

groceries in the cart

Sprouts

  • strawberries 3/$5
  • green bell peppers 3/$1
  • green onions 3/$1
  • blueberries 3/$5
  • English cucumber $0.98
  • oranges 2#/$1
  • 3# organic apples $4.99
  • organic green cabbage $0.99
  • sweet onions $0.88
  • chips $1.50
  • milk $2.79
  • deli meats $2 to $3
  • pepper jack cheese $3
  • bread $1.69
  • chocolate $6

Total spent: $50

ALDI

  • taco shells $0.99
  • eggs $1.04
  • onions $1.38
  • lettuce $0.95
  • whipping cream $1.99
  • green tea $0.99
  • organic baby spinach $2.49
  • milk $2.29 to $2.65

Total spent: $25

groceries in the cart

Ralphs

  • bread $0.99 (mgr’s special)
  • veggie tray $5.99
  • yogurt FREE after coupon
  • cucumbers $1.99 each (but twice the size of regular ones which were $1)
  • carrots $1.99
  • tomatoes $0.99/lb
  • organic granola $1.49
  • parsley $0.69
  • organic apples $2.99
  • minus $5 off $15 produce purchase

Total spent: $20

Trader Joe’s

  • hot sauce $2.29
  • red wine vinegar $1.99
  • almond butter $5.99
  • ice cream $3.79
  • sunflower seed butter $4.99
  • chocolate bars $2

Total spent: $21

Ralphs

  • lettuce $1.29
  • mushrooms $3.49

Total spent: $5

groceries being checked out

Sprouts

  • mushrooms $3.49
  • cilantro $0.50
  • organic potatoes 5# $2.99 (same price as conventional)
  • organic chicken broth $1.99
  • 18 ct eggs $3.49
  • blueberries $1.25
  • bacon $3.99/lb
  • sausage $3.99/lb

Total spent: $28

Ralphs

  • quart cream $5.29
  • pasta $1.09
  • French bread $1.59

Total spent $8

Total spent in January: $490

Total spent YTD: $490

My goal for the month was to spend less than half our regular budget. $1100 divided by two equals $550. Boom. We did it. Here’s hoping we can stick to $1100 through the course of 2018.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe great meals don't have to be complicated or expensive. There's a better way, and it won't take all afternoon.

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Comments

  1. Laurie in CA says:

    Wow, you did an awesome job! You are an inspiration to many! I came in at $170 which is about half for us. It makes me realize how much excess “stuff” I buy. We’ll be eating down the freezers for some time to come. We bought a half grass fed steer last summer and still have a LOT of meat ?

  2. Sha says:

    Great job staying under! My go to place for produce is Sprouts, they have good prices on both organic & conventional produce. Sometimes organic is less than conventional…as I see on your potato prices! Good find!

  3. Heather M says:

    Great work keeping your spending down. I have to say, seeing those produce prices almost makes me cry. A little envious of them, that’s for sure. we kept grocery spending to $232, which is way way less than usual, not that I actually know what our average is. That’s a goal this year, to track our spending more carefully. We’ve got a lot more going on spending-wise than we used to and it’s time to.

  4. Erica says:

    Even just from the entrance pic, your Aldi looks nicer than mine. And the produce you buy looks much better than what I see at mine. I tend to buy eggs, cheese, bread and a lot of shelf-stable stuff at my Aldi, but would like to be able to get more there, but most of the fresh food just doesn’t look great to me.

    • Stephanie P says:

      Our Aldi’s just went through a redo – now it looks more like hers. I will say I noticed after they made the store look better our prices went up a bit! But overall still much cheaper than most places.

      • Melissa in GA says:

        I think they’re having to up their game due to Lidl, their new competitor. We have a difference in stores in the SE, so maybe they are stream lining and making them nicer.
        I wish they would branch out to smaller, rural areas – they could put a hurt on these dollar stores in so many rural towns.

    • I have heard that they vary by location. Also, mine is only a couple years old.

  5. Karen J says:

    I’m always a little sad when the official PC ends. I was able to put a big chunk of money into savings this month due to not buying groceries- and then I get to take it out in a few months to buy tires-always such a fun way to spend $$$ 🙁

    My goal for 2018 is not to over buy “good deals” Even after a month of Pantry Challenge, I still have lots left. My freezer, however, is under control again. I discovered that I like meal planning. I don’t always make a certain meal on a certain day, but at least I know if I have everything available.

    Another goal is to find an ALDI, Sprouts, or Ralphs when on vacation. We don’t have either around here and I want one!

    Thanks to Jessica and all of you for your fun support!

  6. Pat says:

    Wow you did an awesome job keeping your people fed on under half your budget!!
    I need to figure out what my budget should be. Before the holidays I was cooking for 4 teen males, my husband and I on a regular basis I tried to keep our spending to $400 a month.. Now it is just my husband and I and I don’t have a clue.
    For Jan. I said $200 and only spent $103.29. I was able to buy the perishables we needed plus restock rice, ranch dressing, bbq sauce,miracle whip, coffee, spices, a case of individual applesauces, 10lbs ground beef, cauliflower and 10lbs of russets. All of those things should last thru most of February and some of them even into March.
    This month we will need to restock oatmeal,sweet potatoes and onions. We’ll see what happens!!

  7. Julies says:

    I only have 26 dollars to carry over to next month (we use cash envelopes ), however , I have several months of coffee now and 140 lbs of different meats and cod on order, paid for . February should be a pretty light month after buying most of the meat for the year.

  8. Sandy ONeill says:

    I also use the USDA thrifty amount as our goal. My difference is that this covers ours meals at home and the cost of restaurant meals. Last year we ended with about a $350 cushion. I was pleased.

  9. Stephanie P says:

    I spent a bit more than the half I wanted to, but I was able to put away $140.00 from our $400.00 budget. I am feeding four people, but none of them are huge eaters, and I feel like I should be able to spend less. Fresh food always adds up though – your produce prices are amazing! I’m scared for when my kids are teens!

  10. Laurie says:

    I spent half of what I normally do a month and I’m pleased. I still have chicken thighs in the freezer so am going to continue the pantry challenge. My produce prices are good since we have a Sprouts and I get a farmers box every month. The farmers produce box is great since we can pick what they offer and drop other things as long as I stay above the $35.00 level. It’s exposed us to veggies not available in the local stores. However, our meat prices are high and my husband was brought up on meat/chicken and few fresh veggies. I will be buying some whole chickens this week since they’re on sale at $.99 a lb. Ground beef is also on sale for $.99 a pound in a 6 lb. package. I haven’t seen that price for a long, long time. 80/20. I can vacuum pack it in 1lb. bags. Other than that, I’m going to try not to buy much this month except salad makings and milk.

  11. Roberta says:

    You did a fantastic job!

    We came in at $133.77 for the month, so I’m pleased. I’ll need to restock some things in February, and of course buy dairy and fresh produce, but I’m going to see how low I can keep our grocery spending. My average monthly target for this year is $250, but since the freezers are still full I’m hoping February will come in lower than that. We shall see.

  12. Felicia says:

    Friday – FEB 2nd

    My numbers came in $4.46 over what I wanted to spend but I bought a great ham marked down for $0.89/lb which geez, I couldn’t buy deli ham for that price! The ham cost $7.72 so no real complaints here!

    Bought 5 bags of mixed beans (10 lbs) yesterday. They are Great Northern and Pinto beans so today I began sorting the beans into two categories! For 57 cents/lb for dry beans, I could not pass them up! I’ll be set for awhile! 🙂

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