Help! I Spend WAY Too Much at the Grocery Store

GroceryPicConfession time: I am awful at food shopping. I want to be that mom who can stay away from the grocery store and survive on once a week trips. But that is not the case. I don’t know if it’s because I am not very good at planning or my general lack of organizational skills. Most days I am frazzled. Most days I run to the store after work with three small children in tow. Most visits I drop at least $150 (did I just admit that out loud?) and still need to go back two or three times more during the week. What am I doing wrong??

Where I Shop

I shop at Whole Foods because it’s the easiest place for me. Yes, I am paying for convenience. I know where everything is located, and the people who work there are friendly. They have the coveted “race car” cart, which can hold 2/3 of my kids (and don’t even get me started about when I see a single child in a double cart.). My kids are also used to the food available to them at Whole Foods. My spoiled kids will accept nothing less than the $2/container yogurts or the $8 piece of cheddar cheese. I wish I was joking but I’m not. I’ve tried cutting corners, and it ends up with a lot of wasted food. I know, this all sounds ridiculous … even to me. Hence why I am sharing it with you.

What I Buy

On an average trip, I end up buying 4 containers of raspberries (at least one gets eaten during the shopping), 2 pounds of cherries, 2 pounds of peaches, a pint of blueberries, 2 containers of blackberries, a bunch of bananas, 3 bell peppers, a container of hummus, 2 packages of squeezey yogurts, 6 Fage yogurts, a piece of Seaside cheddar cheese, 2 cans of olives, 2 bottles of wine, chocolate, 2 packages of precooked bacon, a package of pepperoni, hot dogs, milk and eggs. This usually runs me about $150-$200. That amount will last about 3 days. And then the cycle repeats. Notice that not much on that list is for me to actually cook a family dinner. Where am I going wrong?? I know the one time I actually buy more fruit or veggies will be the time they end up not eating it.

Advice That Hasn’t Worked

I know some advice will be something like, “Cook family dinners.” That is easier said than done. My kids are starving by the time I get them home from school, which is in the 4:45 – 5:00pm range. My husband gets home about 6:00 – 6:30pm. I am not about to force my kids to wait that long to eat. And then there is the pesky problem of the baby. He wants to go to sleep by 6:00pm. When does that leave me time to actually cook for all those people? So most nights, I set the girls up with a buffet of berries, cheese, and whatever else they ask for. If they want me to cook something, its usually eggs. On the weekends, I do attempt to cook but that is just another trip to the grocery and another $150 spent. Where am I going wrong?

Where Am I Going Wrong?

My husband and I joke that we need a line item in our budget just for berries. When the baby starts eating table food, I think that might be true. My kids are like locusts! I don’t want to deny them healthy foods, but at the same time, we spend so much on groceries. And with summer right around the corner and the kids being home all day, I suspect they will just end up eating more since school will not be providing lunch and snacks. Yikes!!

This summer, I am going to attempt meal planning for dinners. I’m not sure that will help, but I can try. Using coupons is not my thing. My biggest budget downfall is on fresh items. So if anyone has any tips or tricks they would like to share, please do.


  1. Buy berries in bulk from a wholesale club. Sometimes they have organic and sometimes they don’t. I use an organic fruit/veggie spray to clean non-organic fruit. Berries are just significantly cheaper at Sam’s than at whole foods. So much so that buying in bulk will still be cheaper than one trip to WF. (Ex: Lb of raspberries = 4.98 organic)

  2. I recently found that a local grocery store has a pick up service. I order everything on line and then swing through a drive through and they load it in. The service costs $10 and while that may sound like a lot, I’ve discovered that I more than make up that $10 in the lack of impulse purchases. It took about an hour the first time to go through and pick out the things on my general list (and I’m pretty boring – I cook the same things every week pretty much and we eat out on average of 2x a week) but once that list was established it has been very quick to go back in and knock off a couple of things I don’t need to replenish that week or to add on a couple of things. I make the order in the morning and run by to pick up in the afternoon on my way home from work – if they have this in your area, it is worth every penny in my opinion!

  3. Have you heard of Wildtree Simple. Healthy Workshops? Meal plans for 10 healthy, natural freezer meals complete with shopping lists, prep instructions and a representative available for help and costs average just $3 per serving!
    Crockpot plans would give you 10 meals really stress free considering all the time constraints you’re facing! You’d spend around $150 but you’d have dinner for weeks!

  4. FROZEN FROZEN FROZEN!!! (no, not the movie….).
    If you are short on cooking/planning time, buying frozen fruits and veggies is the #1 way to prevent waste and always have something on hand. We do farmer’s markets or pick-your-own when things are in season and freeze extras then do grocery store during off season. Farm Markets can actually be cheaper than the store for organic, esp if you get to know your farmer and they throw yoy an extra zuchhini or two on your trip!

    We are also part of a CSA and mid-may will start getting a large box of produce weekly from a nearby organic amish farm. You pay up front for the season and receive a variety of what they produce. It comes out to about $15 a box and is usually enough for the whole week for 2 adults and 2 toddlers.

    Foe meat buy organic whole chickens or the “griller” packs with the skin and bones and make a big batch once or twice a week in the crock pot or oven. The bone/skinless chicken breats are like 3x more expensive.

    We shop at Trader Joes, mostly for frozen, and a store called Fresh Thyme in our area. If you have a Kroger (they go by different names depending on area) they have a store brand organic line (from food to cleaning products) great organic produce selection, and good sales.

    Your shopping bill will probably not get any smaller doing primary shopping at Whole Foods, even if you meal plan. There are plenty of grocery stores now that offer organics and have better weekly sales so you can stock up on favorites – nothing on your list seemed like a specialty item only WF would carry. And most stores have the same type of layout anyway, how hard would it be to find hotdogs in a different store?

    We also got a freezer and should probably get a costco membership. They only had one or two options for frozen org veggies when i shoppes with my parents membership a couple years ago (broccolli or spinach? Hmmmm) maybe it’s better now. We spend too much on food also but most is due to my sugar addiction and buying random convenience foods or fast food (mostly for myself) instead of sticking to a food and snack plan for the whole family. But when we do have healthy meals made ahead and a plan in place it is less stressful for sure.

  5. Make a menu for dinners and shop from it. Prepare freezer meals that go in the crock pot, so it’s ready when the kids are hungry and you and your husband can eat it later. The Internet is ripe with 30-minute or less quick and easy weeknight dinners. Only buy in-season fruits and vegetables. If your kids live on fruit and berries, a Costco membership will pay for itself rapidly, and wine is much cheaper and the variety is fantastic there. They offer an organic version of nearly everything, if that’s a concern for you. It’s the only way I find reliable produce at reasonable prices. And the carts are huge and will fit 2 children in the seats. There are also Rouses and Winn Dixie locations that have the coveted cart cars. My daughter eats with us at 6-6:30 pm (she’s 5). She has a snack every day (fruit, cheese, crackers) at 3pm. She sometimes whines for dinner early but she knows dinner is coming. With planning, and explaining to your children that you can’t have exactly what you want right now, you can do it, eat balanced family dinners and save money.


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