My Shopping Lists: Saving Money at the Grocery Store

If you’ve been reading along, you know my tricks for spending just $175 a month on organic food and how I plan my meals.  I kept track of all my grocery expenses for six weeks and calculated that I spend an average of $175 a month on groceries.  What, exactly, do I get for that amount?

Here’s what I bought in one month:

$66.00  (Veggie delivery every other week at $33.00 each)

$ 3.94 (Fred Meyer: flour)

$ 9.97 (Fred Meyer: peppers, frozen spinach, tortillas)

$24.30 (Trader Joe’s: beans, olive oil, dried fruit, frozen beans, jam, shells and cheese, peanuts)

$17.59 (Fred Meyer: oil, spices, beans, popcorn, lime, lentils, cilantro)

$ 4.08 (Whole Foods: oats)

$13.40 (Fred Meyer: tea, yeast, eggs)

$6.66 (Fred Meyer: canola oil, onions, pretzels)

$10.10 (New Season’s: milk and eggs)


$155.96 TOTAL

(Note: Why did I buy oil three times in a month? Well, I ran out of canola oil and olive oil at the same time. When I went to buy canola oil, they were out, so I bought vegetable oil instead. The next time I went to the store, they had canola oil again, so I stocked up on it. Don’t worry–we don’t usually go through so much oil!)

During this month, I spent less than my average of $175. I tracked for two more weeks to arrive at that average. As you can see, I tend to go shopping frequently and spend just a little at a time. This is because I don’t have a car and walk to the stores. (I wrote about saving money by not buying in bulk here. Joy countered with her bulk-buying tips here.)

I know some people have strict food budgets. I don’t. It was interesting tracking my expenses for six weeks, but it wasn’t a habit I’d like to keep up. How do you budget for your grocery shopping? Any money-saving tips you care to pass along?

This post is a part of We are THAT Family’s Works for Me Wednesday blog carnival.


  1. My budget is $140 a week, although my emphasis is on natural, whole ingredients and avoiding chemicals (no food colors, no MSG, no BHA/BHT/TBHQ, no artificial sweeteners, etc.) We have 10 people in our family, including baby-to-come.

    I blog my weekly grocery trips here

    I wish I had a Trader Joe’s nearby! I use the Mexican markets as my greengrocer right now.

  2. While our food budget is $700 a month I do like to read ways to get quality food for the best price.
    We like to shop at Fresh & Easy, Whole Foods and farmers’ markets. Since living in Vegas getting to farmers’ markets has been difficult. (they are few markets and Whole Foods in Vegas)
    Thank you for sharing your tips!

  3. i have a line item in my budget for groceries because it’s obviously an area i’m going to spend money on every month but i don’t adhere to it very strictly. i give myself a generous amount so i can afford all the quality food i want and if i don’t spend that much it’s fine.

    i save money on groceries by planning out all my meals based on what’s on sale and then buying exactly the right ingredients to fill in all the gaps. meal planning has significantly reduced my spending even though i’m buying much better quality foods now.

  4. Trader Joe’s has great canola oil that’s expeller-pressed. (I wish we hadn’t moved away from TJ’s!)

    We spend more than this in a month, but our grocery budget includes cleaning supplies, paper goods, toiletries, etc. so I’m not sure how it compares. I’m wondering, though: can you actually eat whole meals from what you listed above? It seems you would have to have bought a *LOT* of beans for that to be enough food. Or is there something else to your food budget that I’m missing?

  5. Rachel, my list includes cleaning supplies and paper goods as well; I just don’t buy many of those and didn’t happen to buy any in the six weeks I was tracking expenses. (I discussed this here.) I probably spend $50/year or so on all that stuff.

    In my menu-planning post and breakfasts and snacks post, I showed exactly what we eat. We did indeed make breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks out of all of that, but they may not look like “full meals” to some, since we don’t eat meat.

  6. You can save your money while grocery shopping by using grocery coupons at and get discount offers on every items.

  7. My budget for a family of 3 with another on the way is $300 a month in the midwest. I plan my meals for every night of the week and usually go shopping for 14 days of food at a time. I use any coupons that I can and I always shop on days that my grocery store honors double coupons. I try to never buy paper products or cleaning products at the store unless I have a coupon that would make them comparable in price to a retail store.
    Buying organic is trickier because my grocery store has a very small organic section in their produce department and only certain items are available to me. I try to buy the dirty dozen organic when possible, but some things- like peppers- are way too expensive for me to buy organic. When I want to purchase five green peppers for my recipes I would have to pay $12.50 for organic vs. $5.00 for regular peppers. Sometimes you just have to wash them the best you can and hope you got them nice and clean!
    All in all I think making very specific lists based off of menu plans worked very well to trim down my grocery bill. I am still looking for some great meatless recipes that I can introduce to my meat-loving husband so I can cut the meat costs from my grocery list!

  8. I have a family of 5, and pets. My typical shopping trip per week is going to cost me anywhere from about $200 to $300 depending on whether or not I need diapers and paper goods or pet foods. I buy from Stop & Shop mostly. Ideally I like to get my diapers, paper goods and cleaning supplies from Walmart, my meats from an local IGA; time does not always permit me to shop at several stores, however. (It’s impossible to fit an infant car seat in the shopping cart along with a toddler, and still have room for groceries). I have shopped online but it costs me money plus tip and I don’t like the produce they select for me, and if it’s warm out my pershibles don’t do well.
    I used to be an avid coupon user but I figured that in most cases coupons just bait me to buy more expensive items and/or more of something I don’t need more of.
    I also once joined a Costco but realized my savings were spent on the membership fee, plus my family likes more variety, and also, I don’t have room to store THAT much bulk.
    I cook from scratch but supplement some meals with mac and cheese or ramen noodles, i.e.
    I’ve baked bread but it’s very time consuming and isn’t really much savings when you consider the cost of flour and yeast that goes into making 2 loaves of bread….(although, it’s a lot healthier because you control the ingredients).
    Neither my husband or I drink alcohol, so that right there is a huge savings. I do think, however, that the cost of coffee is neglible, which is our indulgence.
    And I buy generic whenever I am not sacrificing quality (or too much thereof) in doing so.
    I guess all in all considering my large household, I don’t do too bad.

  9. Carolyn, you asked in the saving money on groceries post that you wondered about the quantity of the groceries I was buying in this list. Remember this list is a few years old, so costs are higher now. I’ll try to remember what the quantities of some of the things were. I really shop only at Fred Meyer and Trader Joe’s, so nothing is in a crazy large container or anything. Here are some examples:

    –The $33 veggie box that I get every other week yields about 14 lbs. of vegetables.
    –I usually buy the 5 lb. bags of Bob’s Red Mill flour. (I used to spend less on generic but decided to go local/organic.)
    –The oats were probably $.99/lb.; I usually wait until the bulk organic oats go on sale for that price, then stock up.
    –I’m not sure how much tea, yeast, and eggs I bought. I buy the yeast that comes in a fairly large bag (.5 lb?) and then keep it in the freezer. I haven’t been baking that much lately, though.

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