Okay folks, I’ll just say this up front in case anyone thought I was a perfect shopper, perfect budgeter and always had my act together.
I don’t. And I’m WAY over budget.
There are a lot of reasons why… New month. New year. New state. New stores. New schools. New rules. New routine (sort of). Minimal kitchen (still).
None of those are excuses, oh no. The blame lies on me, but I share our circumstances so that if you’re ever in similar shoes, you can a) know that you’re normal and b) be as prepared as you can (both mentally and financially).
Before we jump into numbers, let me share a little background info make sure we’re all on the same page:
- My family and I moved from California to Georgia last December. We packed 2 weeks worth of clothes and kitchen necessities in the car so that the kids and I could sorta kinda cook after the moving truck left. The moving truck hasn’t been delivered, so we’re still cooking with minimal kitchen tools: the cast iron skillet we packed, a cookie sheet my aunt gave me as we drove through Texas and a 2 1/2 quart dutch oven I bought shortly after we arrived. My assistant (and friend) Rachel has also loaned us her extra crock pot.
- The kids’ new school has a no-nut policy.
- The grocery stores are very close to the kids’ school, but there’s a 30+ minute gap from when I drop the kids off to when Aldi opens. Which means I tend to default to Publix.
- Costco is ALWAYS packed. Always.
- We’re trying not to buy too much in bulk since we don’t anticipate being in our 1 bedroom apartment (and minimal kitchen) much longer (although this might change). We also packed a good bit of pantry staples in the moving truck and hate to buy something we might have plenty of in just a few weeks.
- We’ve been house shopping since we arrived, which means not being home for a good portion of most days. Combine this with not having our typical kitchen tools at our disposal has made meal planning tougher than usual.
Okay, with my brain spillage out of the way, here’s my grocery shopping for the month of January.
Food Prices and What We Spent on Food January 2016
Publix – $49.55
pork roast, 11.51
whole chicken, 9.76
toilet paper, 6.59
oatmeal BOGO, 2.85
kale BOGO, 2.99
I tried making bread shortly after we moved here, but it was practically impossible. I wan’t home long enough, I don’t have the pans for baking and without a mixer, I was using every other utensil I had on hand. Which meant I couldn’t cook anything else at the same time. So I moved on to plan B and we’re buying bread for the interim.
Pork and chicken for meals, milk for coffee and kefir, oatmeal for breakfasts. My husband has been on a pickle kick ever since devouring a jar in Missouri on his way to Georgia, so the pickles are for him. Mustard is a staple condiment for us, kale for salads and meals, cocoa for my homemade powdered foundation.
Aldi – $30.17
mandarin oranges, 2.69
whole turkey, 14.36
grape tomatoes, 1.79
baby carrots, 1.49
Butter is a staple and all this produce was for the kids lunches. They ate it all too!
Since their school is nut-free, I’m experimenting with buying turkey and making turkey sandwiches for lunch when there isn’t leftovers from dinner. So far so good – that one turkey has lasted a month!
Aldi – $86.34
crushed tomatoes x3, .95
chicken stock x2, 1.39
cheddar cheese, 2.49
brie cheese, 2.99
string cheese, 2.79
shredded cheese, 2.79
canned peas, .99
green bell peppers, 1.79
baby carrots x3, 1.49
sweet potatoes, 2.19
green smoothie, 3.39
butter x2, 2.69
blue cheese, 1.99
grape tomatoes, 1.79
colored peppers, 2.29
olive oil, 3.49
maple syrup, 6.49
This is the first trip of the month where I had a few ideas for meals in mind, namely stuffed bell peppers, buffalo chicken & potato skillet, this awesome tomato sauce for spaghetti night, vegetable stir fry and tacos. You’ll notice a few different cheeses in the cart. Cheese and crackers are a treat for Mr. Crumbs and I on the weekends, and since we don’t have a cheese grater, I’m buying some whole (for grilled sandwiches and snacking) and some shredded (for tacos and toppings).
A few of the items are staples – olive oil, flour, ketchup, butter, eggs, onions, potatoes, maple syrup. I don’t have my immersion blender so it’s store-bought mayo for now (here’s my homemade recipe, if you’re interested). Homemade tortillas are a bit cumbersome for the same reason as bread, so we’re buying those too.
String cheese for lunches, salmon for my lunches and chicken stock because like tortillas (and bread), it’s just not happening right now.
Publix – $35.56
contact solution, 17.59
buffalo sauce, 4.49
salsa verde, 2.49
We packed enough toiletry items to last about a month, but we were running low on a few essentials. Buffalo sauce for the chicken & potato skillet I mentioned and salsa verde for tacos.
This trip was immediately after the Aldi trip above, so this was “supplemental” rather than “main,” and I think this is the route I need to take going forward (see my lessons learned below for a better explanation).
Publix – $4.07
sourdough bread BOGO, 3.99
The one thing Publix has going for themselves are the buy one get one free sales, and since we’re not making bread, I stocked up for lunches and grilled cheese nights.
Publix – $7.63
hamburger buns, 2.29
Milk again for coffee and kefir, hamburger buns for BBQ pork sandwiches (that big roast from the first trip up top made 7+ meals!).
Whole Foods – $10.68
family green salad, 9.99
whole roasted chicken, 6.99
lasagna pasta, 2.99
pasta sauce, 2.99
I don’t shop at Whole Foods often, but they sent us coupons in the mail for free food so I couldn’t help myself! The first 4 items listed were free. The apples were 99¢/lb and I thought we’d use the veggies in a one-pot pasta dish with the pasta and sauce we got for free.
Publix – $33.24
green smoothie BOGO, 4.49
greek yogurt BOGO, 5.69
coconut oil, 3.99
pickles BOGO, 2.99
string cheese, 3
bagels BOGO, 1.87
paper towels, 1.34
mandarin oranges, 4.99
This is me shopping with an “almost” decent plan. I went to take advantage of their BOGO’s again, and picked up a few other items we were running low on.
You’ll notice more cheese than usual partially because of the no-nut rule at school. I’m trying to make sure the kids get enough protein in their lunches and this makes it easy to supplement if they’re having leftovers like spaghetti that don’t have much of that nutrient.
Laundry is a MASSIVE chore, so we’re using paper towels instead of our cloth napkins (which are in the moving truck anyway) for now. We’re making them last by tearing each one in half and re-using if they weren’t used during a meal. So far this is only the second roll we’ve purchased in the 8 weeks we’ve been here.
Publix – $56.39
sourdough bread BOGO, 4.29
prosciutto x2, 6.99
sharp cheddar x2, 5
tomato puree x2, 1.99
whole chicken, 8.09
goat cheese, 3.29
bacon x2, 4
Bread was still BOGO so I stocked up again and both of these loaves are in the freezer as of the writing of this post! Mr. Crumbs was in cahoots with The Girl and they requested grilled cheese sandwiches with prosciutto and tomato soup. I added a whole chicken to the cart, some more specialty cheeses, bacon and crackers.
I should note that on this day, Atlanta metro shut down at noon in preparation for a winter storm. I thought it was fitting to have nice cheese and bacon on hand, in case we were stuck indoors for a few days!
Costco – $102.61
russet potatoes, 7.99
sweet potatoes, 7.99
peanut butter, 10.99
chicken wings, 14.05
grape tomatoes, 5.99
Our first bulk trip since moving to Georgia. You’ll see lots of produce and staple items like butter, coffee and peanut butter. While the kids can’t have peanut butter at school, they can at home, so we’re incorporating it more into snacks and breakfast as a protein.
We thought the Super Bowl was three weeks ago (oops!) and in celebration, we’d celebrate with a wing night and fries (i.e. roasted potato wedges). Turns out we got the dates wrong, but we had wings anyway.
Publix – $49.04
rice noodles, 3.49
BBQ sauce, 1.77
salsa verde, 2.50
chicken stock BOGO, 2.75
coconut milk x2, 2.50
olive oil, 8.99
great northern beans x2, .91
diced geen chilies, 1.19
cream cheese, 1.50
sharp cheddar cheese, 2.50
panty liners, .99
sour cream, 2
tortilla chips, 2
sourdough BOGO, 4.29
Mr. Crumbs requested stir fry over rice noddles, so that explains the odd-for-us (and costly) item. A few pantry items for that particular recipe (coconut milk mainly) and items for this ah-mazing white chicken chili.
I got a spiralizer for Christmas (thank you Aunt Tammie!) so we’ve been experimenting with various veggies like zucchini and sweet potato. Curly fries are coming soon, I can feel it!
Olive oil and chicken stock are staples.
Aldi – $25.39
in-shell peanuts, 1.69
coconut oil, 4.99
shredded cheese, 2.79
pork chops, 6.46
mandarin oranges, 3.99
Our current situation is a bit more stressful than we’re used to, so I’m finding myself wanting to snack often. I’m being proactive and picked up a bag of peanuts instead of tortilla chips. Coconut oil for cooking, produce for eating. No recipe in mind for the pork chops, just a decent deal and it wasn’t chicken.
Dollar General – $2
corn starch, 1
Taking my own advice, I checked out a new-to-me store. I got a few supplies the kids needed for school, but also bought corn starch and paprika – the former for make-up and the latter for cooking.
Total Monthly Grocery Spending for January 2016: $492.67
Okay. Now for the self-evaluation (and I’m open to your evaluation too – leave it in the comments below!)
Lesson Learned #1. I need to shop at Aldi first, every time.
I’ve been sharing some of my trips on Instagram and you wise folks have told me that Publix is expensive. Going back through my receipts confirms that I need to listen to you.
Publix is SUPER convenient. It’s open after I’ve dropped the kids off at school and the shelves are stocked consistently. It’s become too easy to shop for the whole list while I’m there, and the 50¢ to $1 price difference per item is adding up.
If I can employ lesson #2 below and have something productive to do with the 30 minutes I have to wait for Aldi to open, then I’ll be golden.
Lesson Learned #2: I need a shopping routine.
Halfway through the month I realized that I was shopping way too often. I need to shop less, and buy more when I’m out.
I also need to strike the balance between cooking enough for more than one meal, but not for several weeks – I don’t have enough storage to support batch cooking and packing lunches!
My goal is to shop on Fridays, which will require me to meal plan at least a little bit in advance (it’s a good thing really).
Lesson Learned #3. I need to brave Costco.
Having a well stocked pantry was so crucial to our budget in California and I need to implement the same concept as much as I can in our current living situation. This will likely be slow-going, since buying in bulk naturally costs more up front.
Costco also opens at 10, which means I’d have to find something else to do in that 90 minute time frame while I’m out in the morning.
Shopping Aldi first, then Publix and then Costco will satisfy this, but it’s just going to take me some time to figure out which place has the best deals.
Lesson Learned #4. I need to price compare to available sources online.
I knew where to get the best price for what in California like it was my job, because in a way, it is! I need to work towards having the same skill set here in Georgia.
This means comparing bulk prices to Amazon, getting familiar with sales and looking into online options like Thrive Market and Azure Standard. This will take time, but just a few minutes of comparing my shopping list each Thursday will help tremendously.
As I’m going back through my expenses, the fact that Aldi isn’t open when I’m ready to shop is a bit of a hindrance. I need to come up with something to do in that 30-40 minute time frame so that I’m not tempted to just go across the street to Publix. Since I’m not super-familiar with what Aldi stocks (and I’m pretty sure it varies, right?), I can’t shop Publix first and then Aldi.
Maybe that’s a good time to work on my book proposal, eh? 😉