Grocery Shopping Woes

January 2nd 2011 / 2 minutes to read

I just got home from the grocery store and again, I am dismayed at how EXPENSIVE it is!

Those berries? On sale! Blackberries for a pint container were $1, the strawberries for a 1lb container $2.50, and the pint of blueberries was $2.00. Considering how we ALL love fruit around here, I thought that was a great deal, especially in the winter.

However, the overall bill was AGAIN over $150 and I don’t understand it. The only meat I purchased was chicken breasts (on sale) and a rotisserie chicken for chicken salad for my lunches this week.

I menu plan AND write out a specific grocery list. I don’t buy extras. I do know I buy a LOT of produce and I am not willing to give that up in favor of processed junk.

The cashier even made a comment to me that she’s never seen me spend less than $100 a week on groceries. I don’t know if I should be offended or not.

I feel like either I will spend a ton of money on healthy GOOD food, or spend barely any money on food that will be slowly killing us over time. The second of which is simply not an option.

Do you have any tricks, tips, suggestions on how to help cut down the grocery bill in the winter without sacrificing healthy produce?

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Do you have a GFS (gorden food service)nearby? You can
sometimes buy produce cheaper there. I like to buy in bulk when I
can. Blueberries and strawberries can go quick here, so getting a
large container is nice. Make sure to figure price per quart tho,
because sometimes smaller stores have better sale prices.

Reply to Justthe10

It looks like we have one “coming soon” in a town about 25 min from here. I’ve never heard of them before!


They are phenomenal! They are inexpensive and they allow
you to buy bulk products without the membership!

Reply to HillyG

Very cool! I will have to check them out when their location opens up by me!

Jenn Collins @ Monkey Butt Junction

We have saved a lot of money but gardening and canning. In summer we eat fresh food out of the garden, and during our long Wisconsin winters we have a nice stock of canned food.

We stay far from processed foods too, preferring to eat fresh, whole foods, which do tend to be pricier. My best lesson learned last year was to not assume that prices are at all similar from store to store. I was astounded at the price difference on some of our staples between our usual grocery store and the Target grocery – Target was often much cheaper! I never would have guessed it.

Reply to Jenn Collins @ Monkey Butt Junction

Oh yes, we plan on having a MUCH larger garden this year. Last year we had strawberries, herbs, and tomatoes. This year we sort of joke of turning half the backyard into an edible garden!

Oh wow I NEVER would have thought Target would be cheaper when it comes to food!


I totally understand… I found when working our budget, that buying produce, and healthy foods, especially shopping someplace like Wholefoods increased our total food bill by at least $60 a week…
I have been able to get down to about $150 every two weeks, but then again, we eat out a couple nights a week to that should essentially add into our bill for food.

It just sucks that if you want to eat good, it is so costly. I wrote a post about it a couple months ago : Is Organic Out of Reach for Low Income Families :

Reply to Danielle

I don’t even buy organic ANYTHING, just can’t afford to do it.

We don’t eat out unless it’s a special occasion, for example, Danny will turn 9yrs old on the 9th and he wants pizza, so we will be getting Lou Malnati’s (famous Chicago pizza), but that’s it.

I make Keith’s lunches all week, just sandwiches, fruit, chips.

I get so overwhelmed because there’s just no other place to “shave” money really and I want us to be able to SAVE money per month at some point lol.


Believe me… I know…
Will was buying lunch for the longest time and we stopped that. I told him he can get sandwiches, or something frozen to take along, but we cant afford $9 a day for two week periods… It is just too much!

It is insane how much it costs to eat!

Reply to Danielle

Thankfully I never had any struggle to Keith on board with taking his lunches! I make AWESOME sandwiches LOL!


This is in no way helpful now, but I buy a ton of berries in the summer when they are cheap and freeze them. I also switch to a lot of apples in the fall/winter. I wish markets had coupons for produce instead of just frozen/processed food all of the time. You could also up the cheaper veggies (celery, sweet potatoes, carrots in the winter).

Reply to Amy

I have a big bag of strawberries in the freezer that we picked last summer, however once frozen, they are useless for anything but cooking/smoothies!

We also eat a lot of apples/oranges in the winter but it gets SO old so quickly.

OH we are ALL about the sweet potatoes! IN FACT tonight’s dinner (well technically last night as I post this) was a baked sweet potato topped with mexican chicken! SO good.


I find that produce is much more affordable at farmers markets and stuff, which aren’t an option this time of the year. I would agree, that store to store is much cheaper. But I also know that the produce at some stores LASTS longer, and I’m willing to pay a little more for lettuce that doesn’t wilt as quickly because it’s fresher. Alright, well I’m not helpful.

Reply to Alena

During the rest of the year, the grocery bill tends to be more manageable due to the local farmer markets, farms, and our own garden, sadly we have MONTHS of snow and bitter cold weather first!


I don’t ever spend less than $100-$120/week on groceries. We eat lots of produce, and I have a 3 year old boy and a 5 year old boy. They both just eat a lot. I figured one day that if I spent $140 on food for a week for 4 of us that was about $20/day and only about $5 per person. I’m okay with that. While it’s a lot compared to our total percentage of spending compared to others $5/day isn’t too much for me.

Reply to Casey

Oh yes. My boys eat a LOT! I am constantly amazed at how much food my little one can put away LOL!!

Oh see when you break it down like that… it’s not so bad. It’s just spending that LARGE amount per week that shocks me.


We are a family of 6 but we rarely get by under $150. If I actually buy a ton of produce and other healthy stuff we are talking the $200 plus range. It really sucks that if you we are short on money one week we have to do without a lot of that healthy stuff. I have read a lot on the subject of grocery costs, etc. Especially the issue of the poorest being in the poorest of health because they can feed their family and fill up on stuff like ramen noodles rather than fresh produce, etc. It’s really depressing. I have always thought we were better off buying good food and doing without other things. I know of people who are thrifty at the store (processed! junk!) so they can have money for other luxuries. Ugh.

Reply to jeanette

Both my husband and I have made healthy food a priority so we NEVER go out lol. Glad we are homebodies anyway!

I just wish I could figure out how to get the bill closer to say… $100 rather than $180-200 per week.

Kimberly Gauthier Photography, Portrait Photography

We’ve started buying all of our fruit from Costco. Luckily
the two of us LOVE fruit so we demolish it before it goes bad. We
have fruit trees on our property (apple, plum, peaches) and plan to
grow blueberries and raspberries this year. We’re fed up with the
prices; so we’ll grow everything ourselves!

Reply to Kimberly Gauthier Photography, Portrait Photography

OMGOSH I am so jealous over your fruit trees!


I know my mom used to spend at least 250/week on our 5
person household. She is big on coupons so those would knock out a

Reply to jenn

If only they had coupons for produce!!


That’s true. I know she would go to jerry’s a lot for produce, as do my grandparents.

Reply to Jenn

This being winter, I don’t buy much in the way of fresh fruits and veggies. Apples (always on sale under $1 per pound somewhere), oranges (Aldi’s), potatoes and onions (usually at BJ’s or Costco), carrots, cabbage, bananas, OCCASIONALLY lettuce or pears or celery.

I sprout a lot of mung beans and wheat, I buy lots of frozen fruits and veggies when they go on sale, I grew and canned and dried as much as I could over the summer. Those are the bulk of our produce we eat over winter.

The choice really isn’t between fresh produce and processed junk.

But, yes, food prices are rising, and going to continue to rise. The cold spell in Florida did great damage to the produce there, especially your strawberries and my cabbage. Grain supplies are extremely low due to 2010’s drought across Europe and the US’s Ethanol mandate. The flooding storms in California aren’t helping the produce prices, and the drought across much of the US’s winter wheat producing areas will put further pressure on supplies and prices.

Still, in the US we pay a far smaller proportion of our incomes on food than they do in almost every other country. It’s 10% in the US, vs 16% in other western countries, and 32% or higher in second and third world countries.

Why is it that we spend less of our money on food as a country?

Joni Rae

You can do it- I do it every week- and I don’t buy processed food.

Instead of a rotisserie chicken buy a whole chicken every week and bake or boil it. Then you have meat for sandwiches, salads, and you can make a soup or stock. Buy seasonal fruit in the summer at farmer’s markets and freeze them for winter- in winter buy more apples- and sometimes oranges are cheap too. Switch to eating more veg in winter as well, squashes and sweet potatoes, etc are reasonably priced. Eat less meat- like WAY less- and lots more beans. I make black bean burgers, burritos, beans and rice, bean soups, etc for my family and they are very filling. Buy meat on sale in bulk- I bought six organic whole chickens today, as they were buy two get one half off- and stuck them in my deep freezer (get a deep freezer- they are SO WORTH IT!) Last spring I bought 30 lbs of grass fed organic ground beef and steaks @ $4 a pound at a friend’s farm to last us the year.
Make EVERYTHING from scratch. I even make bagels and pretzels.

I got loads of ideas :) I’ve been doing this a LONG time.

Today’s grocery bill was $140 to feed my family of six but I don’t have to go the store again for at least two weeks if money gets tight.

Reply to Joni Rae
Joni Rae

I meant buy two get one free. I don’t know why I wrote half off. Weird.

Oooh. I almost hashtagged “weird”. Too much twitter.

Reply to Joni Rae

Oh we don’t eat too much meat at all during the winter, can’t afford to! We eat a lot of black beans for tostadas, or basic cheese lasagna, pastas (all whole wheat or whole grain) and so on.

I just can’t stop buying the veggies/fruit. I told Keith that I want us to go over the most recent receipt to see where the hell the money is going because I just don’t understand.

1) Check if your store sells store brand organic products (dairy, bread, cereal, etc.)
2) Email the companies that make your favorite products telling them how much you like them. Nine times out of ten they’ll send you coupons.
3) Only buy the fruit and veg that’s seasonal and/or on sale and plan your meals accordingly. That means no berries in the winter and no citrus in the summer, but it makes you appreciate it more when it’s in season!
4) Buy frozen fruits and veg when you can. (For things like smoothies and soups). Recent studies have shown fresh frozen fruits and veg retain all the same vitamin and mineral amounts as fresh.
5) I love the idea to use less meat. Make meat more of a side dish than a main course. Eggs and hearty grains like bulgar wheat can sometimes serve as a meat substitute too.

And totally can stuff like others suggested. I’m hoping someone teaches me how to can this summer! Please forgive the typos. I’m typing on my phone while the little one sleeps next to me!

Oh I don’t even buy organic, it’s WAYYYY too expensive especially when combined with the taxes here.

I’m going over what I bought today and I can’t really think of anything I could have used a coupon on! Even the canned tomatoes (I use them for pasta sauce instead of buying the jarred stuff) I get the store brand which is usually 50 cents cheaper than everyone else.

I do only buy the fruit that’s on sale, totally lucked out on the berries for this week!

I love LOVE frozen peas and corn, so easy to toss a handful in whatever I’m making!

I would LOVEEEEEE to learn to can/jar food this year too!


Hey Sarah,

I know what you mean about the cost of food! Here in Euro-land it’s even worse! I don’t have many suggestions except repeating about having a little garden if possible. Maybe a friend wants to do one too and you can grow different things and swap?

Congratulations on eating properly – I whole-heartedly agree that I’d rather buy less of good stuff than more on stuff we don’t really know where it comes from. We’re really lucky here too to be able to by directly from farmers (chickens, eggs, veal, beef…) – but still it ain’t cheap! We try to make meals go a long way….

Reply to Andree

Ah I wish I had local friends especially local friends with gardens!

See, the rest of the year, it’s not so much of an issue, it’s really Winter where we struggle because there isn’t much in season.

Here’s a link to an article on more upcoming food issues…

I hate to think how much everything will cost in 5 years from now.

It is harder for us in the winter. In the summer, the Farmer’s Market helps us along, as do friends’/family gardens.

As far as the comments from the cashier, I *loathe* comments from cashiers. I occasionally get comments about the snacks I buy the boys (the boring, healthy stuff), hummus, avocados and so on. And I just want to say, “SHUT UP!”

OH yes. “OHHH are you making banana pudding with ALLLLLLL those bananas!?!?!!!” Um… no? We just like bananas.

Or the school comments “OHHH what GRADE are you in?!!” We homeschool/unschool. “OHHH I KNOW SOMEONE THAT DID THAT and their kid is AWFUL, are YOU awful little boy!?!?” like WTH.

It’s to the point where I hardly make eye contact with the cashiers anymore.


Buy locally (CSAs, Farmer’s Markets) and don’t put a high priority on “organic” food.

Buy frozen out of season (not fruit though unless you want to make pie or smoothies)

Buy meat from a butcher in bulk and freeze it. Most meat can be frozen for six months, no problem.

COSTCO for pantry items (or meats).

Reply to Lynda

Oh. I don’t buy anything organic. Costs too much.

Winter is the only time we struggle because otherwise we use the farms, farmer markets, and our own garden for produce.

I really should renew our CostCo membership, best place for toilet paper LOL!


I’m not tedious about meal planning, but food prices have really been on the rise the last 3 or so years. Many comments already discuss good ideas, but it boils down to things are just more expensive! I bought groceries last night for me and the boyfriend: $112! (Granted we did need a lot of things because we’ve been out of town so the cubbards/fridge were bare!)

Reply to Audrey

We make sure to use everything we buy too so that I’m not accidentally buying extras and what not.

Only downside to living in the midwest, lack of produce in the winter!

Meal planning and buying in bulk are my two tips for bringing the grocery bill down. It’s hard when the healthy stuff costs more than the unhealthy stuff.

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