Grocery Geek: What We Spent in February

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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 February.

bouquet of flowers in a shopping cart

Hard to believe the year is 1/6 over, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but the last four weeks have FLOWN by. Didn’t we just finish the Pantry Challenge?!

Please press the pause button. Thank you.

In the Good Cheap Eats kitchen, my people continue to arrive hungry and ready to eat. I was in a great groove in January, but illness and a lack of mojo threw me off this month. I fell off my Buttermilk-culturing and bread-baking groove, but I’m ready to get back in the swing of things.

Thankfully, despite my lack of kitchen chutzpah, we did okay in the grocery shopping department, coming in UNDER BUDGET. And a lower-than-last-year budget at that!

Things I did this month that saved me more:

  • Shopped Ralphs on Thursday. The different store departments often mark things down on Thursdays. I tend to find some great deals this way. Friday mornings garnered me some good deals as well.
  • Checked the app. Before I shopped, I checked the Ralphs app and ad. I found a bunch of coupons that applied to sale items or manager specials.
  • Read the receipt! I checked the receipt before I left the store each time and found that coupons didn’t come off. This resulted in $3 back in my pocket the first time and $5 another time!
  • Created future meal plans after each purchase. Coming off the heels of the Pantry Challenge, I made a list of meals I could make with the good deals I found so that I would be sure to include those in my meal planning throughout the month.
  • Planned more meatless meals. I realized that with my people eating at least two pounds of meat at a meal at a target price of $3.00/lb, that we could easily save at least $70 a month doing more meatless meals.
  • Got a rain check for the $2.99/lb chuck roast. This is pretty much the best possible price in these parts. Sprouts didn’t have any when I went, so I got a rain check. Since I was close to budget, I was honestly pleased they didn’t have any. I don’t need it yet, but that’s a good price to buy it at. I can redeem it next month and stock up.

grocery reciept

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 February:


  • gallon whole milk to culture buttermilk $2.99
  • 20 oz. tortilla chips $1.77 when you buy 4
  • rice vinegar $2.29 after coupon
  • pasta $0.49 when you buy 6 (I bought 18!)
  • organic mushrooms $0.99 mgr’s special
  • 2 # bag organic apples $2.24 after sale and coupon
  • avocado $0.50
  • grape tomatoes $2.49 after coupon
  • protein bar FREE after coupon
  • organic grass fed beef $3.49/lb after mgr’s special and coupon
  • ground chicken $1.99/lb mgr’s special
  • ground turkey $2.99/lb after sale and coupon
  • clearance bread $0.50/loaf
  • minus coupon: $5 off $75 purchase (this goes before all other coupons)

Total spent: $54


I don’t order from Vitacost often, but I wanted more bread flour and they had the best price. I bought some household items and a few groceries to get the free shipping.

  • quinoa flakes $7.59
  • Real salt $7.49
  • 5# bag Bob’s Red Mill bread flour $4.69
  • instant coconut milk powder $2.97
  • BRM gf brownie mix FREE with purchase

Total spent: $23


  • boneless, skinless chicken breast $2.99/lb
  • 2 gallons milk $4.29
  • 6 qts. organic chicken broth $9.99
  • 2-pack dill pickles $6.89
  • coconut milk $8.99
  • uncured bacon $13.89
  • chicken sausage $10.99
  • turkey breast $3.99/lb
  • 4-pack hot dogs $10.99
  • salami $13.89
  • Italian sausage $13.99
  • ham $2.49/lb
  • cheddar $8.99
  • sourdough $3.89
  • chicken sausage $13.89
  • brats $8.99
  • shredded mozzarella $10.99
  • spring mix $3.79
  • frozen orange chicken $13.99
  • tortillas $3.69
  • organic red peppers $6.99
  • frozen potstickers $10.89
  • frozen berries $9.49
  • frozen shrimp $13.99
  • butter $10.59
  • active yeast $4.39
  • greek yogurt $5.49
  • Chobani $4.69
  • almond butter $6.99
  • canned tuna $12.99
  • mayonnaise $5.99

Total spent $336

grocery cart full of food


  • frozen green beans $1.39
  • eggs $0.98
  • pepperoni $2.19
  • fancy cheeses $2.99 to $3.45
  • organic canned beans $0.89
  • organic diced tomatoes $1.65
  • organic tomato paste $0.69
  • organic oregano $1.99
  • crushed tomatoes $0.99
  • parsley $0.99
  • tostada shells $1.39
  • whole almonds $5.19
  • sour cream $1.29
  • dry black beans $2.69
  • 10# russet potatoes $2.39
  • 80 corn tortillas $2.19
  • garbanzo beans $0.65
  • tomato sauce $0.29
  • wheat crackers $1.69
  • celery $0.49
  • taco shells $0.29
  • broccoli $0.89
  • yellow peppers $0.98
  • green peppers $0.48
  • lasagna noodles $1.49
  • woven wheat crackers $1.69
  • roma tomatoes $0.49
  • 3# bag apples $2.94
  • cilantro $0.48
  • mustard $0.75
  • green onions $0.99
  • cauliflower $2.39
  • organic ketchup $1.79
  • bottled water $3.49 after CRV
  • chicken breasts $1.89/lb
  • sparkling water $0.69 after CRV

Total spent: $111


  • garlic 3/$1
  • blueberries $1.25
  • jalapeños $0.10 each
  • oranges $0.88/lb
  • bananas $0.64/lb

Total spent: $9


  • milk $2.30
  • fresh ginger $1.98/lb
  • cottage cheese $1.99
  • eggs $0.98
  • sparkling water $0.69 after CRV

Total spent: $30

grocery cart in Aldi parking lot

Trader Joe’s

  • chocolate $1.49 to 1.79
  • sunbather $4.99
  • lemons $1.99
  • cranberries $1.49
  • raisins $2.99
  • sunflower seeds $1.99
  • pumpkin seeds $6.99

Total spent: $24


  • sports water FREE after coupon plus CRV
  • sparkling water 8-pack FREE after coupon plus CRV
  • cream cheese $1.29 mgr’s special
  • whipping cream $5.49
  • spinach $1.99 mgr’s special
  • organic chives $0.79 mgr’s special
  • mushrooms $2.29 mgr’s special
  • 5 # bag potatoes $2.99
  • bagged salad $0.99 mgr’s special
  • blueberries $1.25
  • English cucumbers $1.25
  • sparkling juice $0.99 mgr’s special plus CRV
  • b/s chicken breast $1.39/lb
  • minus $5 off $15 produce purchase
  • minus $5 off $15 fresh meat purchase

Total spent: $37


  • butter $2.49/lb with digital coupon
  • pasta $1.00 each
  • ziti $1.99
  • grapeseed oil $6.99
  • pickles $5.49
  • Larabars $0.49 mgr’s special

Total spent $32


  • mozzarella $10.99
  • raspberries $5.99
  • strawberries $4.99
  • pesto $7.89
  • avocado oil $9.69
  • sourdough bread $3.69
  • Tillamook cheddar $8.99
  • heavy cream $9.59

Total spent $71

Trader Joe’s

  • ice cream $2.99
  • Ak-mak $1.99
  • cheesecake $6.99
  • kefir $2.99
  • baby lettuce $1.99
  • salsa verde $2.99
  • eggs $1.99

Total spent $26


  • asparagus $1.48
  • cilantro $0.50
  • garlic 3/$1
  • avocados $0.69
  • organic apples $1.28/lb
  • leeks $2.49/lb
  • mango $1.29
  • roma tomatoes $0.98/lb
  • bananas $0.64/lb
  • gold potatoes $0.99/lb
  • dry black beans $1.49
  • black olives $1.99
  • pesto $4.99

Total spent $24

chipotle peppers on a grocery store shelf


  • chipotle peppers $1.50
  • bleu cheese $3.99
  • pasta $0.50 with digital coupon
  • asparagus $0.99/lb
  • green onions $0.99
  • bananas $0.59/lb
  • jalapeños $0.99/lb
  • pork shoulder $1.99/lb
  • shrimp $5.77/lb
  • bread on clearance $0.99
  • minus $2 off order

Total spent: $50


  • navel oranges 3#/$1
  • various teas $3.29 to $5.99

Total spent $17


  • cottage cheese $1.99
  • shredded potatoes $1.65
  • eggs $0.98/dozen
  • milk $2.29 to $2.65
  • sour cream $1.29
  • frozen oj $1.19
  • deli meats $2.99
  • roma tomatoes $0.95/lb
  • red bell peppers $0.79
  • beans $0.69
  • cheese $3.49
  • diced green chiles $0.59
  • organic diced tomatoes $1.65
  • Brie $2.99
  • feta cheese $1.99
  • red onion $0.68/lb
  • iceberg $0.79
  • green peppers $0.48
  • organic sandwich bread $3.99
  • organic baby spinach $2.49
  • almonds and cashews $5.19
  • dry beans $1.99 to $2.69
  • apples 3# bag $2.94
  • white onions bag $1.54
  • yellow onions bag $1.38
  • mushrooms $1.97
  • pepperoni $2.19
  • chocolate chips $1.79

Total spent $100


  • ginormous burrito tortillas* $3.69 to $4.29

Total spent $8

*cool, just like chipotle, but we decided they weren’t worth the extra expense on a regular basis. Costco is cheaper.


  • mushrooms $3.49
  • navel oranges 3#/$1
  • zucchini $0.98/lb

Total spent $7

groceries on the counter


  • eggs $0.94/dozen
  • milk $2.30
  • pork butt roast $1.49/lb
  • tilapia $4.99/2#
  • sourdough bread $2.89
  • monterey jack cheese $11.99
  • onions $0.99/3#
  • 10# bag long grain rice $3.99
  • frozen shredded hash browns $1.65
  • salad kit $2.49
  • broccoli crowns $1.28
  • flour tortillas $1.59
  • shredded cheese $2.59
  • 3# bag apples $2.94
  • organic oregano $1.99
  • Brie round $2.99
  • pineapple chunks $0.95
  • cuties $1.99
  • havarti cheese $2.99
  • green tea $0.99
  • chocolate bars $1.49
  • carrots $0.79/2#
  • wheat crackers $1.69
  • cookies $1.39

Total spent $87


  • strawberries $1.50/#
  • mushrooms $3.49/#
  • cucumbers 3/$1
  • grape tomatoes $1.50
  • 5# bag organic russet potatoes $2.99
  • red bell peppers $0.88 ea
  • bananas $0.64/#

Total spent $18


  • clearance noodles $0.79
  • clearance yogurts $0.69 to $0.99
  • honey $2.99
  • organic applesauce $2.50
  • organic apple juice $2.50
  • clearance chips $1.49
  • saltines $1.99

Total spent $20

Total spent in February: $1084

Spent in 2018:

  • January: $490
  • February: $1084

Total spent YTD: $1574

That’s an average of $788/month!

Our lean January plus coming in under budget in February has set us up with a nice cushion for the year. I’m hoping that we can continue to squeak by at this $1100/month, despite the federal estimate being more than $200 higher.

As I look back at the month’s purchases, I know I was disappointed in that bargain chicken from Ralphs. It was tough every time we cooked it, even when we marinated it. I’ve still got one flat of it left, so tell me your secrets to making it more tender!

Avocados have also been a poor purchase this month. No matter where I buy them, they’re just not worth it. Which is very disappointing since we love avocados.

Other than that, I’m pretty pleased with my shopping this month. I’ve got some items in reserve, like the ground chicken I bought on clearance and froze, a bag of shrimp I bought on sale, and one pork loins left from a December/November sale. Oh and the tough chicken. Humph.

How is YOUR grocery geeking going?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Betty Sievert says

    Maybe cooking it in the pressure cooker will make it more tender. Couldn’t hurt to try.l

    • ire says

      Agree. IP is especially good for tough cuts of meats ( or in this case, tough chicken).A little frying all around first ,then 20 min .If you feel like , you can put it in the oven for a crisp texture for 5 min.Personally I like to rub herbs like rosemary and/or thyme before I put the chicken in IP.I know people put even frozen chickens (without gizzards) in IP successfully.While I like to thaw it first ,kind of tells you how good at tenderizing IP is.

      • Been there, tried that. I’m wondering if they knew it was a bad batch and they marked it down so low.

    • We did that with one of the early flats. Usually chicken in the IP is awesome. Not this chicken. 😐 LOL

  2. June says

    That is the cutest basket pusher I have EVER seen! I am so envious!

  3. June says

    I use that avocado oil from costco a lot, I like it. After reading about all the hormones and antibiotics in milk, I eliminated buying heavy cream and bought organic whole milk for drinking and cooking and i started just investing in 1 gal of organic milk per week then increased as i felt the need. 🙂 your a great inspiration and mom…..

  4. Katie says

    Instead of buying bread flour, consider buying Bob’s gluten flour. You just add one or two tablespoons to the pile of flour in the bowl and mix as normal. It gives a nice consistency.

    • Are you thinking of vital wheat gluten? That’s not a bad idea. I used to use that all the time when I had a bread machine. Will have to scare some up.

  5. Alice E says

    You might try slicing those b/s chicken breast across the grain in thin strips and stir frying them or breading them as chicken strips. The main thing is the slice across the grain to avoid the stringy, tough issue, I think. No guarantees, but that is about the only thing I do with chicken breast. Your could also dice them raw, stir fry and use in soup or stir fry type dishes.

    I really prefer dark meat, and tend to find chicken breast a bit tough and stringy in general, although my nephew manages to grill them and get tender by watching the temp closely so they don’t overcook.

    Good luck,

    • Corrie R says

      I agree with slicing it against the grain for tenderness. Additionally, there is an Asian process called velveting that I frequently employ. It gives the chicken that super tender texture that you find in good Chinese restaurants.

    • Thanks for the suggestion!

      • Alice E says

        Hope some of it helps, I like the suggestions for buttermilk and sauce or cheese, but I wouldn’t shred it since the shreds might still be a bit stringy. but slicing across the grain in chicken salad, soups and casseroles seems to help. That is what I do with the l/o chicken breasts when we buy rotisserie chicken, since we tend to prefer dark meat, the cold breast get diced and repurposed.

  6. Laura says

    If it’s B/S chicken breast that is tough I would shred it up and use it in soups, casseroles, tacos, etc. If you have it mixed up with other stuff, in particular something fatty like cheese, you won’t notice the toughness as much.

  7. Ann says

    you can try cooking the chicken slow in the crock pot with lots of liquid. don’t over cook it and then shred it up for recipes. Or you could pound it out with one of those meat tenderizers

  8. Rebecca says

    I heard that coconut milk tenderizes chicken….maybe something to try out.

  9. LeslieT says

    What about asking the Ralphs store butcher to grind up that tough chicken for burgers or something else?

    • I wish the butcher was still full-service. They’ve completely downsized at my local store.

  10. Kathy on Ohio says

    As far as the chicken goes maybe marinating it in buttermilk might help.

    • We did that for one of the previous flats, but not for more than an hour. Another commenter mentioned that for overnight soaking. Will give it a go.

  11. Amber S says

    My mother always swore by soaking her chicken in buttermilk over night. And since buttermilk is kinda your new thing… But I also think asking to grind to is a brilliant idea! My go to fall back would be throwing them in the Instant pot with salsa and shredding.

  12. Janet says

    We had illness here as well and illness does have a way of derailing the budget. We went $39.71 over on the food budget; mostly for comfort items such as ginger ale and saltines. We also went $46.64 over our drugstore budget with the typical cold pills running $15 a box not to mention cough syrup, cough drops and vaporub, it adds up quickly.

  13. Julie says

    Have you looked much at Aldi vs Costco? We recently got a Costco and I am wondering what would be better to buy there. We do most of our shopping at aldi and some at another local discount grocer.

    • Yes. I did a grocery store showdown last winter and compared prices of the things I buy a lot at Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Costco, and ALDI. ALDI and Costco were the winners, so I’ve focused most of my shopping over the last year there. This month was a bit of an anomaly with more stops at Ralphs because they had good coupons/sales.

      The thing about Costco is that they base their pricing and selection on nearby competing stores. I have three Costco’s within 20 miles of my house, and they sell different products and/or the same product at different prices. It’s a big case of YMMV.

      As for Aldi, even though the manager told me when they first opened that prices were the same nationwide, this isn’t true, at least for meat and dairy case items. Readers are reporting different prices than I find. My boneless skinless chicken breast is always $1.89/pound.

      I would suggest keeping your own price book so you can see how it all plays out in your local stores.

  14. Melissa says

    I’m wondering about Kroger affiliate digital coupons. When I buy “Wahoo!” mark down products at my Fred Meyer store, the digital coupons on those items never come off. Are you having problems with this, too? I figured that if I bothered to go to customer service about it, they’d say those coupons don’t apply to mark down products, even though they are manufacturer’s coupons. I have always had success using paper manufacterer coupons on mark down products. I know the store gets fully reimbursed for the value of the coupon plus about 8 cents for handling.

    • This has been a varied thing, and I’ve gotten different answers from different people who work there. The last person assured me that digital coupons apply to clearance items. One of the times this past month when a coupon didn’t come off, it was for that, but they manually adjusted it for me. I think it’s a “your mileage may vary” kind of thing. It won’t hurt you to ask. I think they regularly have issues with the app and digital coupons, so most people at my store are used to making an adjustment.

  15. Jill says

    Slow cook chicken. Little salt and pepper and a little water if needed but I rarely do always works. I use meat for soups enchiladas casseroles so if it’s a little dry when I freeze it it still works great and super easy!!

  16. karen says

    I saw feta on your list. If that’s something your family likes, try the feta in brine from Costco. It’s more expensive than ALDI but tastes so much better and lasts forever. I make a new batch of brine to store it every few weeks.

    The pantry challenge saved my sanity (and wallet) this month when our freezer stopped working! It was fairly empty thanks to the pantry challenge, so everything fit in the fridge freezer and I only had to toss a few things (that probably needed to go). DH was able to fix it with a $20 part, so we’re back in business.

  17. Danielle B says

    I had a batch of chicken from Kroger do that from me. It was horrible bc we have absolutely no wiggle room in our grocery budget, so I either had to find a way to use it, or replan for several meatless meals. I put the chicken in the crockpot with chicken broth (made from bullion cubes), garlic, onion, parsley, and a good amount of butter. I let it cook all day, and thanks be to God, it was falling apart and tender enough to pass muster with everyone.

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