One of the classic pieces of advice for trimming grocery budget spending to buy in bulk, and I followed it faithfully for a long time.
But then we moved. ALDI was just down the street and a trip to Costco meant inconvenient hours and fighting traffic.
I chose convenience, thinking I wouldn’t be saving much anyway, and I was sorely mistaken.
March’s grocery budget report inspired me to try shopping in bulk again, despite Costco being out of the way. I’ve been on an over-budget streak since moving to Georgia, and April was my official “last ditch effort” so to speak, to REALLY hone in our grocery spending again.
So for April, I did everything by the book:
- I talked to Mr. Crumbs.
- I inventoried my pantry, fridge and freezer.
- I meal planned.
- I looked at all the circulars.
- I made a shopping list.
- I shopped bulk at the beginning of the month, then once a week thereafter.
- We ate every single leftover (no matter how odd it might have been) and threw nothing away.
I know for a fact that this alone works, but there was a slight kink in the plans:
We hosted company for dinner one night (3 extra mouths), and we hosted family for 5 days (5 extra mouths).
How exactly did we make 28 extra meals AND STILL come in at budget? Here’s my grocery budget spending report!
Grocery Budget Spending for April 2016
Costco – $112.08
peanut butter, 9.99
pretzel sticks, 5.29
colby jack 2lbs, 4.49
crushed tomatoes #10 can, 2.99
jarred peaches, 9.99
This was the very first trip of the month (bulk first, remember?) and the best items to buy in bulk are the ones you eat all the time. For my family, that’s peanut butter (we make chewy peanut butter chocolate chip granola bars weekly), cashews (husband snack), cheese (grilled sandwiches, salads, snacks), canned tomatoes (easy pizza sauce and creamy tomato soup), coffee, carrots, apples and onions.
A few of the non-staple items include anchovies, romaine and Parmesan for various Caesar salads; jarred peaches because my son LOVES peaches and milk on his oatmeal, pretzel sticks as a treat for the kids, spinach for a spinach pesto recipe and smoothies.
It’s worthy to note that before I went shopping at Costco, I looked over all my receipts for the year so far and wrote down how much the item cost per ounce at ALDI next to the item on my shopping list. That way I knew whether or not Costco was cheaper than ALDI as I was shopping.
Then I took all my numbers, crunched them up and wrote the mind-blowing post on which is cheaper, Costco or ALDI.
ALDI – $95.11
string cheese x2, 2.79
linguine x2, 1.29
pepperoni x3, 2.19
frozen corn x2, .95
grape tomatoes, 1.49
frozen spinach x2, .99
butter x2, 2.99
red potatoes 5lb, 2.29
fresh mozzarella x3, 2.69
cream cheese x2, .99
diced tomatoes x4, .55
antibiotic-free chicken, 6.82
antibiotic-free chicken, 7.76
antibiotic-free chicken, 8.21
mini chocolate chips x2, 1.79
organic yogurt, 2.49
It’s official – we’re a 3 chicken family. My goal is to serve one chicken each week, with another roast of some sort the remaining week. For April, we already had a pork roast in the freezer leftover from a previous month, so it was just chickens to fill the freezer.
Again, since this is part of the big monthly shopping trip, you’ll find lots of staples and multiple quantities to get us through the whole month.
Some of the pantry staples include pasta, pepperoni and mozzarella for homemade pizzas on Friday, butter, string cheese for school lunches, red potatoes for dinners, diced tomatoes and bacon.
A few things I bought specifically for our meal plan were frozen spinach and cream cheese for spinach alfredo, grape tomatoes and yogurt and lemons for various Caesar salads, chocolate chips for the aforementioned granola bars and also these amazingly delicious black bean brownies.
See oats on the list? I normally buy these in bulk because we eat a lot of them. However, there were enough oats in the pantry to get me through most of the month. Since a full 10 lbs wasn’t needed, I bought a smaller package to reduce the actual money spent.
ALDI – $10.95
strawberries x2, 1.29
smaller pasta, 1.29
sweet potatoes, 2.19
This trip was made almost a full week after the big monthly shopping trip. The kids were going to be on spring break the week after, so I needed to have plenty of produce available for snacking and I wanted to take advantage of the weekly sales at ALDI.
Farmer’s Market – $13
red butter lettuce
green butter lettuce
This was opening weekend of the farmer’s market in my town and beyond an exploration trip, we needed some not-staple veggies!
I used the chard to make savory pasta with bacon and chard, roasted the turnips one night, made delicious salads with the lettuces and topped them with green onions. And you bet I’m regrowing my onions in a glass of water!
Costco – $10.70
Although it seems like multiple trips, the previous ALDI and farmer’s market trips were made on the same day. This trip to Costco was not originally intended for groceries, but I picked up maple syrup wince we were there. If we hadn’t already been at Costco, I would have likely done without.
Walmart – $8.27
vital wheat gluten, 1.98
chili powder, .98
diced tomatoes x2, .72
whole milk, 2.39
We’re now on the third week and although I didn’t NEED any of these items at that particular moment, they were on my list for later in the week and I didn’t think I could get a couple of these things from ALDI. Plus I was already at Walmart for a different reason anyway.
Peanuts were to experiment with a different flavor of granola bar, vital wheat gluten is for a couple of bread recipes but also to make our own bread flour (add 1 Tbsp to 1 cup all-purpose flour). Chili powder for the spice cabinet, tomatoes for the pantry and milk for coffee and making kefir.
ALDI – $40.76
pineapple x2, 1.29
chicken leg quarters, 3.75
cantaloupe x2, .99
bell peppers, 1.29
sweet potatoes, 2.29
cottage cheese, 1.99
avocadoes x2, .49
snap peas, 1.29
kalamata olives, 2.79
This trip was my “official” week 3 shopping trip and as you can see, it was mostly produce. I shopped the sales at ALDI to have tons of fresh produce for the week, but also picked up chicken leg quarters for additional lunches, feta and kalamata olives for Greek dishes, eggs and sweet potatoes for the best breakfast ever and cottage cheese to boost the protein in our smoothies.
ALDI – $37.59
cantaloupe x2, .99
fresh mozzarella x2, 2.69
Italian cheese, 3.99
blue cheese, 1.99
pepperoni x2, 2.19
organic yogurt, 2.49
red potatoes 5lb, 2.79
antibiotic-free whole chicken, 7.17
antibiotic-free whole chicken, 6.68
It is worthy to note that this particular trip was made at the END of week 3 and done SOLELY for company. I did it this way for two reasons:
- so I could see where our budget would be if we weren’t feeding extra people
- so I could see how much food we truly needed upon their arrival
If we didn’t have 5 family members coming in town for 5 days, I know we would have been just fine with what we already had in the house. But because we were hosting, I picked up some extra items to have ready for meals.
The cantaloupe was largely for snacks. Mozzarella, blue cheese, yogurt and pepperoni for buffalo chicken pizza. Whole chickens to grill for dinner, served alongside potatoes. Italian cheese (I believe this was Parmesan) for Caesar salads.
Costco – $12.98
This trip was also for company, but I had forgotten these items at ALDI the day before and we were at Costco anyway. Apples for snacking, lettuce for salads.
ALDI – $4.67
red grapes, 1.98
all-purpose flour, 1.39
This trip was the very last day of the month, intended to be enough produce to hold us over through the whole first week of May. Aside from snacking and meals, the flour was for homemade bread and pizza dough.
Total Monthly Grocery Budget Spending for March 2016: $346.11
My monthly grocery budget is $330 for four people and while I was over by $16 this month, this is the first month where I’ve even come close to hitting my budget after moving to Georgia and I’m so very excited about this!
Next up – evaluation time. I’ll leave mine here – you leave your thoughts/comments/ideas in the comment section below and I’ll reply.
1. Shopping in bulk at the start of the month – at Costco – saves money.
It was this realization that inspired me to keep track of the top items I buy at both ALDI and Costco to truly see which was cheaper. According to that post, I would save nearly $80 by shopping Costco first. The fact that I was able to make an extra 28 meals this month is proof in the pudding that shopping at Costco at the beginning of the month helps to keep me within budget.
2. Shopping once a week saves money.
There were a few additional trips in there when I was at a store for something else entirely, but for the most part, I strictly shopped once a week for my family and the resistance to run out for one or two items paid off.
3. Shopping monthly and weekly forces me to be intentional.
Intentional with creating meal plan, when creating the shopping list, while shopping and as we eat throughout the week.
Every shopping list, both monthly and weekly, needs to cover the appropriate time span. If I forget something, it gets postponed to the following weekly shopping list. Or we do without.
How did you do on your grocery budget spending for April?
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