One Month of Groceries

Over the course of a month, we buy an astronomical amount of food.  It takes a lot of food to provide 450 meals per month for our family of five.  I wanted to show what we put in our grocery cart in a typical month to produce those 450 meals.

The typical articles I see on grocery shopping tend to be either “high end” or “low end”.  On the high end, you see a lot of buzz words like organic, free range, grass fed, or local.  The low end articles focus on bulk buying, couponing, or stretching a grocery dollar as far as possible.

The Root of Good’s grocery spending comes in somewhere comfortably in the middle of those two extremes.  We don’t try to buy the absolute cheapest foods, but rather focus on buying a variety of foods that taste good and prove fairly nutritious overall.  It seems to be a good compromise of cost, nutrition, and intrigue for us.

If we chose to keep grocery expenses to a bare minimum, gustational boredom would quickly set in.  Our stomachs would soon betray us and demand more dining out (where exciting meals can be found in abundance!) and more prepared foods (yummy microwaveable entrees and toaster cuisine).

 

Putting our grocery cart under the microscope

I’ll admit to never paying much attention to the details of our grocery shopping.  We definitely pay attention to prices and what we buy on an item by item basis.  But I never felt the need to break it down any further than a monthly total “grocery” expense.

Why not?  It’s a lot of work and I’m not convinced that knowing exactly what we buy would change what we buy.  Information has a cost to collect, and the benefit from having that information seemed of low value.

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In spite of that, I decided to buckle down, get over my laziness, and keep all my receipts for one month.  I also photographed everything we purchased at the grocery store.  The end result is that we are now more mindful of what we buy and how much we spend on different categories.

This post might come off as painfully mundane to some of you, but for others I hope it serves  as a starting point on your quest to diversify what’s on your plate and save some money while you are at it.  I’d also welcome tips on how we can improve on what we are buying to get more bang for the buck or cut costs without giving up the variety of what we buy.

At the bare minimum, I hope this post is interesting as an anthropological record of daily life for our family of five in the southeastern United States.  I read a couple of beautiful photo-filled books a while back called “What I Eat: Around the World in 80 Diets” and “Hungry Planet: What the World Eats (skip Amazon, get them from the library!).  Both books are a great cross cultural sampling of what people eat around the world.  These books made me think about how lucky we are in America to have access to a variety of inexpensive and healthy foods (if you know where to look and how to shop and cook).

 

The groceries we bought

I categorized our purchases into the “basics” (dairy, grains, produce, protein, and seasoning), “small luxuries” (drinks, alcohol, and junk), and “household goods” (which aren’t really food at all).

1-protein-grainsWe spent a total of $556 for one month of groceries at these stores:

Aldi and Walmart are both within 1.5 miles of our house and we drive to these stores (and have lots to carry back home with us).  Food Lion and Dollar Tree are in our neighborhood, and we usually walk to these stores (<0.5 miles).

 

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Here is the summary of our basics, small luxuries, and household goods:

One Month Of Groceries

CategoryAmount     
Dairy49.76
Grains38.59
Produce133.41
Protein89.82
Seasoning10.52
BASICS SUBTOTAL322.10
Drinks11.11
Alcohol28.21
Junk67.01
"SMALL LUXURIES" SUBTOTAL106.33
Household goods107.81
Tax19.58
TOTAL GROCERIES FOR 1 MONTH555.82

 

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After gathering all this data and categorizing everything, I’m not too surprised with the results.  We spent roughly 60% of the grocery budget on basics, 20% on small luxuries, and 20% on household goods.  At $556, we spent slightly more than our long term average of $520/month, but that might be because our long term average is inching up due to inflation (CPI and number of mouths to feed).

Tracking our spending with Personal Capital -

Tracking our spending with Personal Capital – only $421 spent on Groceries in March! 

It’s hard to know for sure whether our grocery spending is higher for this month since our grocery spending fluctuates significantly month to month depending on what’s on sale and whether we are hosting any big parties or holiday gatherings.  That is why we track all of our spending closely with Personal Capital so we can keep tabs on our general spending trends over time.  Looking at just the last six months, we are averaging closer to $500 per month on groceries.  Spending $556 on groceries in one month isn’t out of the ordinary.

 

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Here is a summary of all the basics we bought during one month.  It’s a looong list.

Groceries: The Basics

ItemQuantityCountSizePriceTotal
asiago cheese (block)18 oz3.493.49
butter spread145 oz1.991.99
cheddar cheese (grated)11 lb3.493.49
half and half creamer132 oz1.691.69
milk, 2%11 gallon3.453.45
milk, 2%11/2 gal.2.092.09
milk, 1% *11 gallon00
red velvet cake yogurt16 oz0.390.39
ricotta cheese216 oz1.793.58
sour cream316 oz1.293.87
whole milk mozzarella cheese61 lb3.6922.14
yogurt (plain)232 oz1.793.58
DAIRY SUBTOTAL49.76
bagels, cinnamon and raisin1620 oz1.691.69
bagels, everything3620 oz1.695.07
bagels, plain3620 oz1.695.07
cereal - Honey Bunches of Oats115.5 oz11.00
cereal - Kix *112 oz00
flour - self rising15 lb1.551.55
French bread (sliced, from bakery)116 oz1.111.11
Italian bread (sliced, from bakery)116 oz1.111.11
lasagna (dry noodle)69 oz.0.663.96
lasagna noodles11 lb1.491.49
oatmeal (quick 1 minute)142 oz2.292.29
pasta (ABC shaped)17 oz0.430.43
ramen noodles (beef, 12 pk)1123 oz each2.092.09
ramen noodles (oriental)53 oz0.21.00
ramen noodles (shrimp)63 oz0.21.20
spaghetti noodles42 lb1.495.96
tortillas (flour)31017.5 oz1.193.57
wheat bread *116 oz00
white bread *420 oz00
GRAINS SUBTOTAL38.59
artichokes (canned)314 oz13
artisan lettuce14 heads1.691.69
ataulfo mangoes5each0.592.95
avocados2each0.991.98
baby carrots (bagged)61 lb0.694.14
bananas33.6733.67 lb0.423514.26
basil pesto (jar)18.1 oz2.782.78
black olives (canned)26 oz wt.0.991.98
blackberry bush115.995.99
blueberry bush115.995.99
broccoli crowns11 lb1.291.29
celery 21 stalk0.991.98
chipotle salsa (can)17 oz0.720.72
colored sweet peppers (fresh, small)11 lb1.491.49
cucumbers30.391.17
grape tomatoes31 pint0.992.97
green cabbage1.851.85 lb0.490.91
guava paste114 oz0.980.98
mangoes (big)100.686.8
mangoes (ataulfo)40.692.76
multi colored bell peppers531.999.95
pasta sauce (tomato-based, canned)1724 oz0.9415.98
peas (frozen)316 oz0.952.85
pickled jalapeno peppers (jar)116 oz1.491.49
pickled jalapenos (sliced)112 oz11.00
pickled jalapenos (sliced, canned)128.2 oz1.541.54
pineapple4each1.194.76
raspberry bush125.995.99
roma tomatoes1.121.12 lb0.991.11
russet potatoes110 lb2.292.29
salsa (medium)424 oz1.696.76
spinach (fresh)29 oz0.991.98
strawberries61 lb1.197.14
white cap mushrooms68 oz0.794.74
PRODUCE SUBTOTAL133.41
bacon bits22.5 oz1.492.98
beef - top round steak2.622.62 lb2.9657.77
chicken breast tenders13.3613.36 lb1.4218.97
chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)5.475.47 lb1.699.24
eggs (large)71230 oz1.8613.02
genoa salami (deli sliced)0.48.48 lb5.992.88
ground beef (85% lean)11 lb2.792.79
ground turkey (85% lean)11 lb1.691.69
hot dogs41 lb0.993.96
pepperoni (deli sliced)0.49.49 lb5.992.94
polska kielbasa314 oz1.995.97
salmon (skinless, wild caught)21 lb3.997.98
sausage links (maple flavor)46.4 oz0.592.36
sliced pepperoni27 oz1.993.98
smoked ham sandwich meat (sliced)11 lb3.293.29
PROTEIN SUBTOTAL89.82
chili seasoning mix (hot and mild)41.25 oz0.491.96
cream of chicken soup (condensed)210.5 oz0.591.18
cream of mushroom soup (condensed)410.5 oz0.592.36
french fried onions16 oz1.991.99
garlic powder15.5 oz0.990.99
italian seasoning11.35 oz0.990.99
taco mix31.0 oz0.351.05
SEASONING SUBTOTAL10.52
BASICS TOTAL322.10

* Note: The milk, cereal, and bread with $0 cost were gifts from family that had extra food.  We give food to others, they treat us kindly in return.  

 

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Mmmmm healthy produce…

How about those 33.67 pounds of bananas we bought in one month?  Kids love those things and they are a healthy breakfast, snack or dessert.  We bought a bunch at a slight discount toward the end of the month to make banana bread birthday cake for our two year old’s birthday party.  We later found some off the shelf chocolate cakes that looked tastier than banana bread, so we ended up with almost 15 pounds of very ripe bananas.  We still made some banana bread and ate a lot of smoothies over the next week.

6-produce-dairyWe spent $18 on fruit bushes.  I stuck this expense in the grocery category because we hope these bushes produce blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries in copious quantities in another year or two.  One month after planting them, they are growing well and seem to be established nicely.  Berries are ridiculously expensive at the store, so it won’t take more than a pint or two of each berry to pay for these bushes (which should produce for many years to come).  If so, that will be a higher dividend yield than our stock portfolio!

Under the “dairy” category, you might notice we only drank 2.5 gallons of milk in one month (for a family of five).  We get dairy in other forms like cheese, yogurt, and sour cream.  No one in the family likes to drink glass after glass of milk.

 

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Next up is our “small luxuries”.  Fun stuff to eat or drink.  Not always nutritious but generally delicious.

Groceries: "Small Luxuries"

ItemQuantityCountSizePriceTotal  
coconut juice (canned)217.6 fl oz1.082.16
cola (regular)12 liter0.690.69
juice boxes (100% juice)284.3 oz1.262.52
kiwi strawberry juice164 oz0.890.89
mango guava juice164 oz0.890.89
mango sparkling juice2750 ml1.983.96
DRINK SUBTOTAL11.11
Liebfraumilch wine (castles are cool)1750 ml3.993.99
sparkling rose wine (bubbly!)1750 ml3.993.99
wine7750 ml2.8920.23
ALCOHOL SUBTOTAL28.21
cake icing216 oz0.751.50
chocolate cookies (oreo style)115.5 oz1.791.79
chocolate crème cake320 oz2.998.97
donuts (bavarian crème filled)161.51.50
donuts (from bakery)11329 oz2.392.39
Easter chocolate figurines18.8 oz1.351.35
food coloring1411.00
grape jelly132 oz1.591.59
Hershey's kisses211 oz1.432.86
jellybeans (Starburst)314 oz0.982.94
kettle style potato chips (barbeque)18.5 oz1.791.79
kettle style potato chips (jalapeno)18.5 oz1.791.79
lemon gelatin13 oz0.360.36
Lindt chocolate truffles (white choc.)19 oz22.00
M&Ms (plain)111 oz1.431.43
marshmallow "peeps"2103 oz0.51.00
microwave popcorn1223.15 lb55.00
mini chocolate eggs (Cadbury)210 oz1.432.86
orange gelatin33 oz0.351.05
peach gelatin13 oz0.360.36
peanut butter eggs (Reese's)17.2 oz1.431.43
potato chips (barbecue)110 oz1.491.49
potato chips (plain)110.5 oz1.491.49
potato chips (sour cream and onion)110 oz1.491.49
pretzel sticks116 oz1.291.29
strawberry preserves112 oz11.00
toffee ice cream bars11230 oz1.991.99
tortilla chips - nacho cheese211 oz1.192.38
tortilla chips (plain)113 oz1.191.19
truffle chocolate eggs15.29 oz1.51.5
vanilla frosting116 oz11.00
vanilla ice cream11.75 quart1.991.99
veggie crisps (jalapeno)14.5 oz0.990.99
wheat thin crackers110 oz1.251.25
Whoppers robin eggs310 oz13.00
JUNK SUBTOTAL67.01
"SMALL LUXURIES" TOTAL106.33

 

We didn’t drink all nine bottles of wine in one month.  There were still four or five left at month’s end.  It’s easier to stock up at once and get a mix of different flavors.  All wines were in the $3-4 range (here’s our take on wine).  We like Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw “3 Buck Chuck” wines better than what we actually bought, but Trader Joe’s is so far away (almost three miles!).  The wine with a castle on the front of it was pretty tasty at $4.

 

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At $11, we didn’t spend a lot on drinks.  We bought one soda for our son’s birthday party.  We drink a few two liter sodas per month, and very infrequently drink juice.  Most juice ends up as a mixer or in sangria.

Some of the junk food spending was for our son’s birthday party.  A few bags of chips, the ice cream, some chocolate, and the three chocolate cakes were purchased for our guests.  The large assortment of candy and chocolate was post-Easter clearance items that should last for many months to come (if we can keep it hidden from our kids and ourselves).

 

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Next we have our household goods.  This category catches everything that isn’t food like toiletries, personal hygiene and beauty supplies, medicine, diapers, paper products, and soaps, detergents and cleaning supplies.

Groceries: Household Goods

ItemQuantityCountSizePriceTotal
9V batteries1211.00
AA batteries1811.00
air freshener (can)28 oz0.981.96
allergy med (Zyrtek generic)3140.882.64
baby wipes3560.852.55
bandaids (cloth)1300.960.96
bandaids (plastic)11000.880.88
chap stick (generic)220.881.76
coffee filters12001.191.19
cough syrup14 oz11.00
dayquil tablets (generic)180.880.88
diapers - size 536211.8335.49
dishwasher detergent (liquid)275 oz2.975.94
facial tissue31841.193.57
febreeze (generic)133 oz11.00
napkins12501.491.49
nasal decongestant tablets1240.880.88
nyquil/dayquil liquid (twin pack)1224 oz9.429.42
nyquil-type softgel tabs (generic)280.881.76
sensitive toothpaste (Colgate)22 oz0.941.88
teeth whitening treatment kit1714.9714.97
toilet paper19,216 sheets10.7610.76
toothpaste16 oz0.850.85
ziplock freezer bags1401.991.99
ziplock sandwich bags11001.991.99
HOUSEHOLD TOTAL107.81

13-household-junkThese types of non-food items that we buy at the grocery store or Walmart seem to fit best in our budget as part of our grocery category.  Some items are food related (coffee filters), others (like batteries) are not.

This list covers most of the stuff we buy routinely, plus our occasional shopping spree to restock the medicine cabinet after a particularly rough winter and spring cold and allergy season.  Check out the generic Zyrtek we bought for $0.88 per box instead of $13 for the exact same thing in the name brand.  Nice.

 

How did we do?

Compared to national averages, we did pretty awesome.  The US Department of Agriculture reports average food costs for individuals and families.  A family of five like ours is projected to spend between $700 per month for the “thrifty” food plan up to $1,400 per month for the “liberal” food plan.

At a total of $448 for food (ignoring the $108 spent on “household” goods), we spent only 64% of the “thrifty” food budget and a mere 32% of the liberal food budget.  Take a look at all the fresh fruits and vegetables and stacks of meat and dairy goods we bought in one month.  It’s hard to believe we are living on a fraction of what is considered “thrifty” by government standards.

 

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We even loaded up on around six months worth of chocolate (thanks, post-Easter discounts!).  That’s an example of buying non-perishable goods when the prices are low and consuming them over time.  In any given month, we will find something at a steep discount and stock up.  Finding things that we regularly consume in the clearance section is like winning the mini-lottery.

I pay close attention to prices, but rarely clip a coupon.  In fact, zero coupons were clipped during the month of grocery shopping I’m showcasing in this article.  I probably found a few attached to products in the grocery store and used those when the overall price of a given product was below what I normally pay.  Otherwise I ignore coupons since they tend to take a ton of time to clip, sort, and use.

 

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What types of meals do we make with all this food?  Like many families, the same ten or fifteen meals make a routine appearance at our dinner table.  In no particular order:

  • spaghetti with marinara (and meat or meatballs and veggies)
  • fettuccine with alfredo sauce (and salmon/shrimp and veggies)
  • lasagna (homemade)
  • pizza (homemade)
  • roasted chicken or pork with rice and veggies
  • seared beef or salmon with rice and veggies
  • stir fry with rice and lo mein
  • pad thai
  • soup (chicken and veggie or pho)
  • tacos, nachos, burritos, quesadillas
  • honey ham
  • chili (pork, beef, chicken)
  • salad
  • hot dogs
  • philly steak, chicken, or sausage subs
  • eggs and rice
  • chicken, beef, pork, or fish curry
  • sushi

That’s what we typically have for lunches and dinners.  There are a lot of variations within each of those recipes, so the diversity of meals is quite a bit larger.  Reflecting back on the last five months, we also made spring rolls, egg rolls, empanadas, tamales, fried rice, and gumbo.  Almost every meal includes meat, and purely vegetarian meals are rare.

 

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We didn’t shop at the Asian grocery store this month, but these are some of the items we have on hand from previous trips. Background, from left to right: coconut milk, sliced bamboo, canned skinny mushrooms, pad thai sauce, ta-dang chili paste, red curry paste, green curry paste, massaman curry paste, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, bean curd vermicelli noodles (Singapore noodles), rice pho noodles. Foreground, left to right: sliced dried black mushrooms, roasted nori seaweed wrappers for sushi, pho seasoning bullion cubes. Not in picture: 50 pound sack of thai jasmine rice.

 

Breakfasts are usually pretty simple and quick with bagels, toast, cereal and milk, fruit, yogurt or oatmeal.  On the weekends we sometimes have a “good old fashioned” breakfast with waffles or pancakes, eggs, sausage or bacon.  Or biscuits, gravy, ham or sausage, grits, and eggs.

 

I hope you enjoyed a snapshot of all the groceries we purchased in one month.  In the next article, I share our frugal grocery shopping strategies.

 

Does your grocery cart look like my grocery cart?  Anything we are doing wrong?  How can I optimize my shopping even more?

 

41 comments

  • Check what Aldi has for your milk prices – we can get a gallon of milk (skim through whole) for $2.98 here (vs $3.09 for costco, and $3.58 for WalMart). If it’s a store you go to on a regular basis anyway, might be worth it. Also, the equivalent of “3 buck chuck”, Winking Owl, at Aldi’s is pretty good, if slightly pricier ($3.99-$4.99) if you’re not heading to Trader Joe’s.

    I should try to figure out what we spend on the details of our groceries, but with us, a monthly spending isn’t very clear because we buy so much in bulk at Costco every 4-5 months – especially our meats

    • The seven bottles of wine we bought at one time was Winking Owl. It’s $2.89 per bottle here, so roughly the same price as 3 Buck Chuck.

      The milk prices are at Aldi’s. For some crazy reason, we seem to have more expensive milk than other parts of the country. It was almost $4/gallon recently and now it’s back down to $3.45 at Aldi (more like $3.80-$4.00 at the grocery store or Walmart). Luckily we don’t drink a lot of milk.

      We have that problem of analyzing month to month spending because we’ll buy in bulk occasionally. Like the 50 lb sack of rice we buy once every few months. And I stock up on non-perishables at a sale our local grocery store runs in January, June, and sometimes September/October where they offer an extra $.25 off any store brand goods (on top of sale pricing), which cuts the cost big time on inexpensive items priced around $0.50 or less.

  • Wow, what a breakdown!

    On the wine front, we used to get cheap trader joes wine but eventually noticed that due to our (lack of) drinking habits we were regularly throwing away the last 3-4oz of wine in a bottle. In the normal course of a week we just weren’t drinking it often enough to use up a full bottle before it became cooking vinegar.

    Boxed wine to the rescue! The kind we get works out to be equivalent to $3.75 a bottle but keeps just fine for over a month. Plus we think it’s tastier than TJ’s… though that could just be our experience drinking half-bad wine just to avoid throwing it out 🙂

    As for the rest of the list, man you are doing great. I don’t think I’ve ever seen chicken for less than $2/lb in the Boston area… and that’s for a whole chicken you break down yourself. It’s a big reason we’ve gone mostly vegetarian.

    • Maybe we will revisit boxed wine. We probably go through a box worth in a month. Although the variety of different types of wine throughout the month is nice. I figure we could probably come out the same or slightly better on price with boxed wine. I think the old stereotype of boxed wine is slipping away, too!

      $2 is about the most I’ll pay for any kind of chicken or pork, and if it’s a cut with bones still in, $1 to $1.50 is as high as I’ll go. Beef is another story. It’s hard to find any cut under $3 these days.

    • If you have “leftover” wine you can freeze it into 1/2 cup “pucks” in a muffin tin, then store the pucks in a freezer container. You can use the wine pucks for cooking when a recipe calls for some wine.

    • I was impressed with the breakdown too. This is the first blog post I’ve seen that has detailed all the grocery items. Very helpful for those who want to cut down their grocery bill!

  • The expertise you have in saving money is impressive and I love the guidance you give in your blog, though I fully admit a lot of it is not in line with what I’m willing to do, myself! One thing I’m surprised you did not touch on is a Co-OP or CSA farm especially there in NC. We live in CT and our local CSA ends up providing us with fresh veggies/fruit from June to December for about a dollar a pound! Also, I think saving money is admirable, but money is power and if that power is to be used for good, it needs to get onto the right hands. I actually don’t have much interest in retiring early (shocker!) but I do see excess spending as one way Americans tend to funnel their money into the “wrong” hands. When you make decisions on what you purchase and from whom, you direct your money, thus power as well. If saving money is your only goal then very good for you! But for those more cognizant of the connections to the cost, there’s more behind the cheap milk at Walmart than just getting cheap milk. Also, you and you family are really phenomenal at saving – obviously! In your advice to others, do you include a giving plan? Shouldn’t we direct some of our money to supporting organizations that are the “good” hands, doing work for the causes we believe in?

    • The CSAs and co-ops don’t seem to present good value propositions since we routinely pay less than $1 per pound for fresh produce and have a choice of how much we buy of what and when we buy it. In my next article I’ll touch on why we buy what we buy, and there’s a big section on produce. One of the things I’ve noticed is that Aldi sells a lot of local produce. They source it from inexpensive wholesalers which are (no surprise!) getting the produce from nearby farms. Their supply chain is probably a lot more efficient than a CSA which is why the end consumer (me!) pays less than if I bought from a CSA or monthly subscription type produce service.

      As for a giving guide, I’ve touched on donating and charities a little here and here. I don’t have any worthwhile advice on how much of your money you should give away – it’s a very personal choice.

      • Thanks for sharing!

        Winco (if you have it in your area) also has great produce prices. In the southwest most of the large Mexican markets have cheap produce as well. The tradeoff is that it’s not as trimmed and cleaned as what you’d find in the local Safeway/Kroger branded store.

  • Impressive! I’m a single guy, mid-20s, somewhat active, and admittedly lazy, so I spend ~$300/mo on groceries (maybe $25 or so additional on household stuff.. paper towels, soap, etc).

    I do all my shopping at Trader Joe’s though, and try not to buy fresh food in bulk since I have intermittent work-travel which would cause me to lose a bunch of groceries. I also don’t really care about the prices, since almost anything at the grocery store is less than eating out, AND healthier overall.

    I think the biggest thing that I do which drives up my cost is all the semi-prepared things I buy (e.g. frozen stir fry for $5). It makes for some expensive meals, since I usually add some chicken that I grill and it comes out to $6-7 for a meal that I made, but it also takes maybe 10 minutes and tastes really fresh compared to the cheap meals I could get for take-out.

    All in all, not a huge area I care to improve, it’s all those darn drinks/meals out with friends that bust the budget!

    • You’re in that tough zone of grocery shopping for one person. We can’t buy in bulk at Sam’s or Costco because I don’t think our family of five who eats at home almost all the time could consume all the bulk food before it expires. Some things might be slightly better deals in bulk than what we are getting, but it’s not worth the extra time and effort (and membership fees) to add another store to our shopping rotation.

      I think you highlighted a great point – even though you are spending $5 on a frozen stir fry, you are still saving money versus dining out and probably eating healthier, too! That’s how we think of more expensive grocery purchases or spending on pure luxury items (like coffee and wine). I can drink 10 cups of wine at home for the price of 1 cup at a bar or restaurant. Same math for coffee. Well, I guess 10 cups of wine or coffee at home wouldn’t be healthier than 1 cup at a restaurant, but you get my point. 🙂

  • Holy crap this article must have taken FOREVER to put together, wow… Good for you man, solid stuff right there! And I’m even more impressed that you included alcohol since most of those other articles you allude to tend to skip out on them for one reason or another.

    • I think I throw a lot of stuff into the “grocery” category that many exclude. My rule is keep expense tracking/budgeting simple. I buy wine and beer at the grocery store, so it’s “groceries”. I buy hard liquor at the state run ABC liquor store, so it goes into “entertainment”. That’s mainly because I’m too lazy to separate out wine and beer from groceries. 🙂

      And you are right, this article took a loooong time to put together. I spent a few hours at least entering in all those receipts, staging and photographing the groceries, and processing the photos. Glad another blogger can appreciate the monumental amount of effort required!

  • Damn, that’s a detailed post! I’m a big fan of Aldi’s but there aren’t too many by me. I buy many of my groceries at Target and I often buy their generic “Market Pantry” brand. I also shop at Asian Supermarkets and find their prices with regard to fruits/vegetables and meat hard to beat.

    • We might shop at target but it’s a little farther away than our superwalmart. Prices seemed pretty similar from what I saw the times I’ve been (with walmart at a slight cost advantage).

      Asian supermarkets are definitely hidden gems. The one we visit is pretty small and doesn’t offer many fresh meats and not many veggies. For fresh stuff at the asian store, we get bean sprouts, green onions, limes, and that’s about it. Sometimes we’ll get fresh herbs there, as they are pretty cheap compared to the grocery store.

  • Coffee filters but no coffee? Where do you get coffee in bulk at such great prices that you’re not buying monthly!

    • Most recently I bought a couple of 2 lb cans online as a filler item. Maxwell house something or other blend. $5. We aren’t too picky when it comes to coffee, but I’m going to try to find some dark roast stuff next time I get a big can.

  • Wow, your grocery prices are insanely cheap. I pay $6 a gallon for milk and buy 2 gallons a week for the two kids. I don’t waste milk either. They drink water otherwise. We spend around $600 for a family of 4. I noticed a bit of processed foods.

    But good job on keeping prices down.

    • I try to shop where prices are cheap!

      Yes, we buy some processed foods, and this month might have been more than ordinary. Lots of post-easter candy, but we still have a lot of it over 2 months later! We do buy a fair amount of snacks like potato chips, tortilla chips, etc but they are often part of a meal (and not just snacks).

      • Wish prices were cheaper where we live. I try to shop sales and freeze meat from Costco. I also cook a lot from scratch, I have frozen pasta sauce. I make quinoa with spinach and black beans. I make a lot of rice, meat, and fresh veggies dishes.

        Tonights dinner is rice and homemade smoked pork ribs with broccoli and corn. Not cheap the cost of ribs but my DH loves smoking. Does the 3-2-1 method. The three racks from costco was $35.

  • I also vote for boxed wine and switched from bottles a few years ago. I prefer Franzia over Vella, but I swear the stores all raised the prices of the Franzia Cabernet & Merlot by $3 as soon as I started buying it!

    Maybe you’ve posted this before and I missed it, but I don’t recall you mentioning buying, and preparing/partially preparing, food in bulk in order to freeze. I only cook for one so I’ve started focusing on bulk cooking and freezing. For instance, I’ll make a vat of chili, ragu, marinara at a time and then freeze individual servings (or a serving for 5 if I had to feed 5). My biggest saver has been chicken (any meat) broth. Boil those left-over bones, skin and parts (which can all be frozen in a baggie until you have enough to justify cooking) for 4 hours and you can easily have 8 cups of broth, then freeze in 2 C batches in baggies. Broth is so expensive in the store that this one is a no-brainer for me. I used to do it in a crock pot but now I get it done in a pressure cooker for 2 hours. There’s so much more that I freeze but you get the idea. Any thoughts on doing that to save time and reduce grocery costs?

    Nice post – thanks for sharing!

    • Kj,

      We actually do cook a big batch and then freeze leftovers for a simple meal at some point in the future. Right now in our freezer, we have individual servings of hot dog chili, beans cooked from scratch, pulled pork taco filling, guacamole (in ice cube form), and chicken and bean chili. In addition to that, we have 5-6 family sized bags of NC barbeque (the pulled pork kind). That’s like 2-3 weeks of meals without needing to cook anything, so if we get busy we always have something delicious on hand.

      As for bones, I don’t usually cook the broth ahead of time, but I’ll keep the bones and scraps from chicken or turkey and freeze them for later so I can add to soups. Mrs. RoG also requests the shoulder blade bone from the pork shoulders we buy so she can use it as a base for the times she makes pho.

  • I buy bread for 50 cents sometimes at my discounted bread store. Their normal price for soft tortillas is $1.00. They have snacks, too. It is worth checking to see if you have one in your area. (Sometimes their 50 cent shelf has items that are about $2.50 regularly).

    • We have a couple of bakery surplus stores very close to us. Agreed – great deals on bread, bagels, and other baked goods. At one store, we were able to buy two grocery bags of bagels, bread, and snacks for $5 (if you buy $5 of more, you get another extra free item).

      The dollar stores near us also sell the good whole grain wheat bread for $1.

  • this is amazing to see all categorized for the month! did you shop at each store looking for a “good deal” or just go at will to each store? We have an Aldi in Waco, TX and have been really enjoying their low cost produce.

    • I’ll usually hit Aldi 1x per week. Then maybe 1 or two other grocery stores if they have good sales that make it worth my time. There’s a food lion grocery within walking distance so I’ll often take a walk up there for the exercise and grab a few things on sale.

  • Justin,
    I am totally jealous of your access to Aldi’s, I live in a High Cost of living area so the nearest full service discount grocery store is 25 minute away. I notice that you pay $1 for a can of artichokes. I cannot find that for less than $3.25 in my area.

    That said…I recently discovered a dry goods kind of store. Think: flour, sugar, spices, specialty sauces, grains and potato chips($3 for a box of single serving kettle chips 72 count..score for school lunches). They are a mom and pop and open only 4 days a week so they sell no fresh fruit/veggies.

    One awesome thing here is the cultural diversity. Because of that, I have learned how to cook a wide variety from different cultures. This diversity lends access to Koren, Japanese and East Indian stores that have greatly reduced prices on items we love to cook with. Curries, spring rolls, pho, masala are our favorites and they can be made much more economically than a typical western diet.

    • Those artichokes were from Dollar Tree. They are sort of hit and miss but have some great deals if you look around. I see in the pic next to the artichokes is a fruit jam. It actually has real fruit in it and is delicious. Just bought some raspberry jam of the same brand from Dollar Tree. I also found out they have 18 eggs for a buck too (though they are medium size vs. the large we usually buy at Aldi for $0.69-.99 for a dozen).

      I haven’t found any deep discount grocers around here but I did find one in the foothills of North Carolina where my parents are from. Some incredibly good deals on about to expire or just-expired packaged foods and non-perishables. We loaded up on some goodies there before heading out on our 3 week vacation to TN, KY, and Canada. $0.05 granola bars were awesome.

  • Thanks. I need to do better at this. I’m new to your blog and saw your grocery total for November and thought oh wow it’s an FI family that spends like we do. Then I read on..so thanks for this post I’m seriously taking notes.

    • Ha ha, yeah we do pretty well on the grocery front. 🙂 I know some families spend $1000+ per month on groceries routinely so I guess our $1200 might not seem out of the ordinary (except $900 of it was gift cards!).

  • I don’t cook much, so what I have to eat is pretty much refrigerator-to-mouth. I love Aldi’s for their wine, my preference is their Burlwood, but I love DOLLAR TREE for cleaning supplies, coffee filters, and especially TOOTHPASTE. Aldi’s is also good for yogurt and lunch meat (I like their Black Forest ham) I split my drinking between ONE diet coke every other day and water in between. I only buy the 12-ounce diet coke cans when I can buy them (often at Walgreens) at 3 sleeves for $9. I live alone, and obviously don’t need much. BUT when I find something at a deep discount (Oreos, Chips Ahoy) I’ll buy them and put them in my refrigerator….they can last for months.

    • We shop at dollar tree too. They have a good store brand of sensitive toothpaste that’s usually $3-4 at Walmart (And probably $6 at a grocery store or drug store!). Works well when needed, and the youngest kid says it’s “less spicy” than the regular toothpaste (anything to get him to brush his teeth!).

      I’ve noticed a lot of the $1 store stuff is slightly cheaper elsewhere (like walmart’s $0.88 generic medicines and some cleaning supplies in the $.85-.96 range). Not enough to worry too much about since the dollar store is more convenient than Walmart.

  • Amazing. Where do you find 85% lean turkey for 1.69? I’ve never seen such cheap prices on all of those foods listed above (Vermont checking in).

    • It’s Kirkwood brand which is Aldi I believe. Probably one of their weekly “super duper great buys” on meat. I don’t recall seeing ground turkey that cheap lately but then again I don’t buy much ground turkey. I’m guessing $1.99/lb is pretty standard sale prices for ground turkey here.

      • Kirkwood is Costco’s store brand. Can’t say enough good things about Costco, even though I’m a household of one at present (my DH is permanently in long-term care, unfortunately), and I’m relatively young. Bought us glasses for us there with every bell & whistle available – about $235 each. Save a large part of my Executive Membership just by buying bottled water there – Aldi, Walmart, Meijer, etc., can’t touch Costco’s Kirkland brand @ $2.99/40 bottles. Buy large meat portions and freeze them. Bought a nice laptop and TV from them at prices I couldn’t beat elsewhere. Love the fresh produce and their frozen fruit in the winter months, along with their bagels and muffins. Paper products, food for church mission project, gas, office supplies, baking supplies, Propel for DH. And the prices on clothes can’t be beat (not wealthy, but don’t do garage sales). Also buy large quantities, share with friends, and they pay me back. Their 2% rebate and their Visa Citi rebate card is also great.

        But I’m also careful, some things are less expensive at Meijer and the variety is somewhat limited at Costco.

        Sorry if I strayed beyond food. And I don’t work for Costco ☺.

  • I also missed coffee ,one of my main expenses, and washing liquid and softener on your list.Wondering if you don’t buy anything from fresh goods markets, but then we live in Greece and every Saturday I do a big shopping on the local market for greens ,potatoes,fruits and fish.That comes to about 20 Euros a week and covers all the fresh food. Meat prices on your list seem to be much cheaper than here, chicken breast costs 7 euro a kilo and beef about 7-8 euro a kilo.Lidl brings on offers but you have to catch the day when it is just brought into the store,otherwise the packages are bulky from air or chicken has changed colour, what is not really appealing.Yoghurt has no problem with being near out of date ,I always buy discounted because I don’t believe it goes off easily. The freezer is a great solution for anything bought on offer and my advice is to empty it out every three month to keep control of what is inside and might be too old to be consumed.

    • Maybe I wasn’t drinking coffee that month. I tend to have a cup in the morning along with Mrs. Root of Good (about 3-4 tablespoons of ground coffee, which must be about 60 ml??). We usually buy Maxwell House, Folgers or Yuban. Ground coffee, some kind of dark roast. Though I’m not too picky (however some store brand coffee is absolutely terrible!). The name brand stuff we buy is routinely on sale for USD$5-6 for a 30 ounce container (900 grams??). Those things last a month or two at a cup of coffee per day for each of us. Pretty low cost. For the fancier coffees, they run 2-3x the price we pay ($5 for a 12 ounce / 350 gram bag).

      Laundry detergent and fabric softener sheets we buy once every few months. The detergent is ~100 loads worth for $5-6 at the grocery store (Arm & Hammer – a name brand here), huge jug full. 80 fabric softener sheets are $2 or so at Aldi. So that’s a couple bucks per month for laundry supplies.

      I’ve noticed meat in the US is rather cheap. Chicken and pork especially. We live in the state with the largest pork production and it’s never more than $1-1.50 per pound for shoulders and pork loins. Just bought 2 huge 7 lb racks of ribs for $1.49/lb and 2 huge shoulder roasts for $.99/lb yesterday (those are considered great prices here though – not available all the time).

      We freeze some stuff like meat, and that drives the average price down because we stock up when the great sales happen (like yesterday) and never buy when it’s full price. Also helps keep food costs down because we ALWAYS have some awesome meat in the freezer that serves as a base for a good meal.

      • Ground coffee is not as cheap here, if we buy brand name like Jacobs it costs 8 euro for 500gr ,or supermarket brand 6 euro,it is still ok in taste. On offer it goes down to 5 euro (half a kilo) the cheapest and we are big coffee drinkers since we work all day and need it to keep us going. Consuming one package a week it comes to 24 Euros a month.

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