What we spent on groceries in December (2018 Averages)

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Want a peek into our grocery cart? Here’s how I’m buying groceries and feeding eight people on the cheap.

young man in grocery store with bags of marshmallows

Hey, hey, hey! Here we are, not only at the end of the month, but the end of the year. Time sure flies. Especially when there’s grocery money to spend.

The year has been good to us. I’ve had some ups and downs healthwise, some culinary triumphs and at least one dinner that wasn’t fit to eat.

On the plus side is that we’re still in the black. I was holding my breath while I tallied all the grocery receipts, but it turns out we did okay. Scroll down for more details.

But first, an explanation of the photo of this handsome, young man. He’s my second born, 18 years old and a freshman in college. He is also my right hand man, particularly when it comes to grocery shopping.

We were in ALDI one day earlier this month and he spied ghost marshmallows on clearance for 17 cents a bag. Seeing as your s’mores and your rice krispie treats don’t care what shape your marshmallows are, he promptly scooped up an armful of packages and bought them for his own special stash.

Cracked me up!

And made me proud. All this penny pinching pays off when your kids know the value of a dollar and how to spot a good deal. Reminds me of the kid who bought 16 bags of potato chips….

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 March | Good Cheap Eats

  • I’m feeding eight people, ages 55, 46, 21, 18, 16, 14, 12, and 10. 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 most recent USDA food cost reports it should cost our family $1373.30 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 four 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 I spent on groceries in December:

groceries from Costco laid on kitchen table


  • peeled tomatoes $2.99
  • heavy cream $9.59
  • shredded cheddar $12.69
  • canned tuna $13.99
  • butter $11.19
  • Martinelli’s 4-pack $6.19 after CRV
  • Greek yogurt $5.59
  • cucumbers $3.99
  • raspberries $5.49
  • organic mushrooms $5.99
  • tostada shells $3.49
  • cornish game hens $14.99
  • frozen salmon $19.99
  • organic pasta $8.79
  • flour tortillas 43.69
  • frozen tilapia $16.49
  • frozen ono $19.89
  • crumbled feta $6.89
  • uncured bacon $13.99
  • apple cider vinegar $5.69
  • power greens $4.99
  • avocado oil $9.69
  • raspberry jam $6.99
  • mild Italian sausage $13.99
  • ground beef $24.10
  • olive oil $14.99
  • hummus singles $6.49
  • shredded mozzarella $11.79
  • half ham $10.85
  • pork loin on clearance $17.11
  • pita bread $3.39
  • Tillamook $8.99
  • minus Executive membership rebate

Total spent: $280


  • eggplant $0.98
  • zucchini $0.98/lb
  • red bell peppers $0.98 each
  • grass fed beef $2.99/lb
  • minus $5 coupon

Total spent $27


  • eggs $1.49/dozen
  • milk $2.25
  • frozen green beans $1.19
  • sparkling water $0.65 after CRV
  • bottled water $3.49
  • taco shells $0.99
  • tortillas $1.95
  • grapes $0.75/lb
  • deli cuts $2.99
  • cranberries $1.98
  • enchilada sauce $1.79
  • green onions $0.99
  • bagels $1.99
  • b/s chicken breast $1.89/lb
  • peeled garlic $2.99
  • black beans $0.89/can
  • broccoli crowns $1.25
  • mushrooms $0.99
  • mangoes $0.39 each

Total spent: $100


  • tomato paste $0.69
  • brown sugar $2.57
  • jalapeños $0.14
  • Italian sausage BOGO $3.69

Total spent: $8

fruits vegetables and other groceries on kitchen table


  • tomatoes $0.98
  • cilantro $0.77
  • cranberries $0.98
  • apples $1.29/lb
  • lettuce $1.69
  • cucumbers $0.98
  • apples $1.48/lb
  • red bell peppers $0.98/each
  • mangos 3/$1
  • bananas $0.59
  • organic bottled juice on clearance $2.99 each
  • breakfast sausage $2.00
  • rump roast $2.77/lb

Total spent $62

unbagged groceries tossed into trunk of car


  • sparkling water $0.65 after CRV
  • dried pinto beans $2.89
  • black beans $0.89/can
  • bran flakes $2.29
  • cereal $1.99
  • tortillas $1.59
  • chopped spinach $0.99
  • pepperoni $2.19
  • tea $1.89
  • cream cheese $0.99
  • bagels $1.99
  • 10# russet potatoes $2.49
  • eggs $0.99
  • swiss cheese $2.99
  • sour cream $1.29
  • enchilada sauce $1.79
  • almond milk $2.69
  • baby lettuce $1.99
  • country style pork ribs $1.99/lb
  • b/s chicken breasts $1.89
  • frozen potatoes $1.46 to $1.69
  • cottage cheese $1.99
  • organic ketchup $1.49
  • milk $2.25
  • mustard $0.75
  • cilantro $0.45
  • Brie $2.99
  • green onions $0.75
  • garbanzo beans $0.69

Total spent $122


  • awesome raspberry jam we went back to stock up on before it’s gone $6.99
  • bottled water $6.99
  • white vinegar $3.69
  • shredded cheddar cheese $12.69
  • whole roasted turkey breast $17.28
  • Tillamook $8.99
  • organic spring mix $3.99
  • cranberries $2.99
  • tortillas $3.69
  • raspberries $7.99
  • hummus singles $6.49

Total spent: $103


  • brown sugar $1.98
  • white sugar $2.56

Total spent $7

Trader Joe’s

includes vacation snacks – I gave the each kid a $5 budget to splurge

  • baguette $1.99
  • white cheddar puffs $1.99
  • crackers $1.39 to $2.79
  • kettle corn $2.49
  • chocolate milk $2.69
  • chips $2.29
  • vinegar $2.29
  • string cheese $2.99
  • drinking yogurts $3.79
  • almonds $5.99
  • pecans $4.99
  • brioche toasts $1.99
  • almond butter $5.99
  • elderflower soda $3.49
  • vanilla yogurts $2.99
  • chocolate $1.99
  • eggs $1.79
  • red wine vinegar $1.99
  • hot sauce $2.29

Total spent: $81

groceries on conveyor belt at grocery store


And a few more travel snacks, etc.

  • beef jerky $3.99
  • soda $4.99
  • sparkling juice $5.99
  • buttermilk $3.19
  • protein shake $2.49
  • yogurt $0.79 on clearance
  • coffee drinks $1.67
  • carrots $3.49
  • mushrooms $1.49 to $2.39
  • clearance produce $0.99
  • kale chips $3.99 after coupon
  • aloe juice free after coupon
  • yogurt $1.99
  • salami $5.99
  • Boursin BOGO $5.99
  • energy shot free after coupon
  • saltines $0.59 on clearance
  • coffee drink free after coupon
  • lemons $3.99

Total spent $65

bags of groceries in back of SUV


  • eggs $1.49
  • sour cream $1.29
  • cream cheese $0.99
  • cocktail sausages $2.49
  • cottage cheese $1.99
  • crescent rolls $0.89
  • frozen orange juice $1.19
  • shrimp ring $6.99
  • 10# russet potatoes $0.99
  • oranges $1.99
  • grass-fed cheddar $2.99
  • avocado $0.48
  • deli cuts $2.99
  • instant oatmeal $2.99
  • swiss cheese $2.99
  • bacon $3.49
  • diced tomatoes $0.69
  • Brie cheese $2.99
  • smoked salmon $3.99
  • butter $2.89
  • crushed tomatoes $0.99
  • frozen appetizers $2.99 to $5.89
  • diced green chiles $0.59
  • fire roasted tomatoes $0.75
  • pineapple $0.95
  • sugar $1.89
  • crackers $2.99
  • tomato paste $0.39
  • sparkling water $0.65 after CRV
  • yellow onions $1.39
  • crackers $1.75
  • taco shells $0.99
  • mushrooms $1.79
  • kiwi $3.89
  • cilantro $0.48
  • apples $1.99
  • pepperoni $2.19
  • peppers 3-pk $2.99
  • broccoli crowns $1.45
  • banana $0.39/lb
  • pomegranates $0.99
  • milk $2.25
  • buttermilk $0.99
  • pork ribs $3.74 to $4.31

Total spent: $143


  • organic b/s chicken breast $9.53 to $9.89 on clearance
  • roast beef $3.99 on clearance
  • tortilla chips $1.67
  • coffee $5.77
  • powdered sugar $2.57
  • cooking sherry $3.19
  • carrots $3.49
  • mushrooms $1.19 on clearance
  • organic spinach $0.74 after clearance and coupon
  • jalapeño $0.20
  • Martinellis @.109

Total spent $69


  • avocados 2/$1
  • oranges $0.98/lb
  • celery $1.48
  • pasteurized eggs $5.99

Total spent $11

cases of flour stacked in foyer

Bob’s Red Mill

  • case artisan bread flour $21.49/4 bags
  • unbleached, all-purpose flour $15.99/4 bags
  • whole wheat pastry flour $15.99/4 bags
  • whole wheat flour $15.99/4 bags
  • minus 30% discount

Total spent $90

Spent in December: $1168

Spent in 2018:

  • January: $490
  • February: $1084
  • March: $1224
  • April: $1009
  • May: $994
  • June: $1095
  • July: $1354
  • August: $1624
  • September $787
  • October: $1278
  • November $1117
  • December $1078

Total spent YTD: $13,134

That’s an average of $1102/month!

So here we are. All said and done, we did pretty well. We averaged only $2 over budget this year, which means….

I’m gonna see how low I can go in the new year. I’m feeling a little gazelle intense, so we’re going to see if we can lower our food budget to $1000. It will be tricky, especially since the feds say we should be spending several hundred dollars more.

But, I’m gonna try!

In the meantime, the Pantry Challenge starts up this week so we can get a great start on our 2019 grocery budget. I’ll be posting pics of my freezer and pantry at the end of the week when I share the first weekly update on Saturday. Stay tuned.

How was your grocery geeking this year?

About Jessica Fisher

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

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  1. That’s so awesome! We’ve been in limbo as we are between houses, so grocery shopping has changed. I can’t wait to get back to my old shopping routine!

  2. Laura says

    Well done!! It would seem that end of end Costco member rebate is timely! I need to look into a members buying club around me I think. I’ve also heard rumor that an Aldi has opened about an hour south of me. Interesting to see if I could combine the two for a monthly trip…

    Anyways, we came in right on budget for December at $710 for the four of us. I’d like to whittle that down to $550-600 moving forward. We’re buying a whole pig this month which should help in the long run. I also need to capitalize on the produce I spent so much time harvesting and preserving. Our shelves are filled to bursting with jams, jellies, relishes, sauces and tomato products. The January pantry challenge will be good for us! My target budget for Jan will be $350.

  3. Christine says

    Great job! Our average for 2018 was $945 per month. There 4 of us, and we are in Massachusetts so prices are fairly high. We came in between low and moderate. I would like to get us to between thrifty and moderate. That includes a good deal of local meat that is much pricier. I hope the pantry challenge and Kitchen Winners Circle will get us there.

  4. Janet says

    We spent, on average, $730 per month, which put us halfway between the thrifty and low-cost plans. Now that we’ve had about a year to adjust to cooking for wheat allergies I think we can get back to the thrifty plan. that would translate into an annual savings of about $900.

  5. Julie says

    Exciting ! We ended up with 507/ month although I know a few times I spent food cash at another store so probably a little less. That’s about 60% of thrifty plan for my family. I am joining the pantry challenge again! Going to get the year off to a good start and feeling gazelle intense to get real progress on paying off house.

  6. Terry calkins says

    This past year we sold a rental house. It paid off our house, car and left us a little savings account. I can finally breathe. Now we have only my social security to live on until hubby gets his starting in June. The goal is to live in that without touching the savings account….I’m always up for a challenge. This year we spent an average of 140.00 a month on groceries. I’m going to attempt to get it down to 100.00 a month. With a full pantry and full freezers to start, garden and fruit trees it just might be possible

  7. Patricia says

    Began my Pantry Challenge yesterday, January 1st, by a (for me) huge shopping trip to Acme. They were having a huge sale – BOGO on ribeye steak roasts and baby back ribs, BO get 2 free. I also found Italian sausage 2 lbs for $6 and since they were out, customer service gave me 6 coupons for price later purchase, thats 12 lbs of sausage. Spending $83 and savings $97 – didn’t actually have to purchase but this will last me the entire month with meats and dairy. Today going to Walmart on Senior Shopping Bus – milk and a few veggies and hamburg rolls for freezer for Jan. Today will be a big pot of chili enough to make into 6 meals with rice and salad. Then defrosting pork chops to make them three different ways to pop back into freezer in individual containers. I may be spending less but cooking more this month. Making small banana bread and 4 banana muffins and a cornbread to go with chili. Love this month for the challenge.

  8. sahmpaw says

    What is CRV at Costco? And is the Executive Membership worth it for the rebates?

    • California Redemption Value. You get charged extra any time you buy beverages in cans or bottles.

      The executive membership has always worked out for us because we shop there so often and in such quantity. I imagine it could lose its effectiveness if ALDI carried everything we needed.

  9. Roberta says

    We came in at $296.61 for December. (That does not include some food item Christmas gifts, as I took the money for them from our Christmas budget.) Our total for the year came in at $3,128.49 for the three of us, which averages out to $260.71 per month. That was about $11 per month more than I was hoping for, but it was still about $33 per month less than last year (and we’re still well below the Fed’s “Thrifty” amount). February, October, and November were our most expensive, with December coming in a close 4th.

    Our freezers are still out of control, but the fridge and pantry are in good shape. My main goal for the January pantry challenge is to tackle the freezers (and spend as little as possible, of course; it really helped the bottom line last year).

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