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. Another yummy, healthy, not hideously expensive “fast “food is Ikea frozen meatballs. They are
    small Swedish meatballs and I nuke em in the microwave. Kids like them b/c they’re small. Whenever I am near an Ikea, I pick up a few pkgs and keep them in the freezer. They also sell a sauce, creamy gravy. I serve the kids meatballs and sauce over biscuits. I use the frozen biscuits in the sack from Pillsbury instead of the kind in the tube. They taste great and it’s all pretty fast. The biscuits have to be done in a regular oven but it’s all pretty quick. Also, try the Quiche Lorraine from WF. I serve a slice, microwaved, with sliced apples on top and a tiny dash of cinnamon and a dollop of plain yoghurt on top.. It takes only one minute per slice, I put the apple slices and cinnamon on first so they cook, too. Put yoghurt on after it’s cooked. Kids like it. And it is real food. Quiche is egg and cheese so they’re getting some protein.

  2. If your kids are consuming piles and piles of berries, then you might want to consider Costco runs. We used to be a WF family until we discovered the joys of Costco. We still have to make WF runs once every 1-2 weeks but now we go to Costco once a week a we are done. The berries are awesome. Yep, I buy non-organic but they sell organic berries there, also.
    Also cheap at Costco: three year cheddar blocks (we also love seaside cheddar and my son will live off of cheese if I let him), bananas, organic bread, eggs (18 organic eggs for $6.99), and milk.

    • YES! We were in the same rut and switched to Costco for fruit in particular – it’s worth it! I also love there other things too – including the organic hard boiled eggs they have pre-peeled. Costco for berries is worth it!

  3. I also used to plop down way too much money at WF. And although I still shop there once a week, my main grocery is now Costco. If you get an executive membership and do the bulk of your shopping there, your membership pays for itself and then some since they give you a percentage back of what you spend every year. And they offer great organics and higher quality meat too! We also eat a lot of yogurt, and I started making my own ( super easy and much cheaper). I still spend crazy amounts of money at the grocery feeding a family of 5 but I think the higher quality foods are really important.

  4. COSTCO! Is the way to go for berries and fruit. If you notice at whole foods, their berries are not always organic and sometimes at Costco, they are. Plus you get a giant container for about the same price as a little container at whole foods. Plus they have so much awesome frozen foods and prepared foods and organic frozen items including fruit. I do a once a month giant trip to Costco ($300 – 500) and it lasts us a month. We only run to whole foods for milk during the week. At Costco, I get meals for the week, snacks, cleaning supplies, etc. We have a Family of 4, with two growing boys. Plus, I’ll go to hollygrove market once every two months and cook from what is there. They send you a weekly email and you can just shop there when you like what they are offering, plus they deliver. Look into good eggs as well,they deliver fresh meats. I will also do ‘plated’, blue apron or hello fresh. They deliver the meals already prepped, you just cook them. There is also green fork which has really healthy ready to go meals. Plus, I meal prep (get an idea of what I’m going to cook or if we are going to eat out, eat frozen, or eat leftovers) on Sunday night. Good luck. It’s like a full time job to feed the family!

  5. I agree with Nilong ^^ I too used to shop at WF weekly and would spend $75 on a few things. I now go maybe once a month. We recently got a costco membership and it is the best decision we have made. You can get organic chicken breasts, organic ground beef, organic eggs ($7 For 24) -a gallon of organic Orange juice For $7 , Apple & Eve organic juices, frozen fruits and vegetables and a lot more! They even have the stony field yogurt pouches. Aside from shopping there twice a month, I go to the farmers market weekly for fresh fruits and vegetables. Costco doesn’t always have organic fresh fruit, and at the farmers market I can get a pint of blueberries for $4 as opposed to the $10 that WF charges – there are weekly farmers markets around town so I would suggest that. I also go to holly grove after I leave costco to get grass fed milk, it’s about $7 for a gallon. Def beats whole foods prices!

  6. I’m envious you can shop at the Whole Paycheck like that. If I did I’d spend that much, too, but if I could afford it, I would. With only one modest income, we cannot afford that. When I was single I shopped there, but not now. It sounds like you’re doing fine. If you find yourself in a financial crisis, though, I’d suggest going to Rouse’s instead. I’d say that it’s great that you go to the store twice a week so you can get fresh food regularly. It seems you feel guilty for going more than once a week. In my opinion, if you only go once a week, it means you’re probably eating a lot of processed, unhealthy, untasty food, because produce and meat simply don’t last more than a few days. I plan out what I’ll be fixing for the next few days, say Friday to our next trip on Tuesday when our fresh food runs out. I’ll plan dinners and get what I need for those and factor in leftovers for lunch, sandwich fixings, eggs or cereal for breakfast, plenty of fresh fruit, etc. Nothing is an impulse buy–after 2 years of buying for my family, it works like clockwork now. Granted, I only have 1 kid, not 3, and I’m not working right now and have the time to fix dinner every night (it’s not easy even with 1 kid sometimes wanting to be held), but I’m on a very tight budget and I have to make it work inexpensively, but I won’t sacrifice quality. I feel I do very well spending about $100 twice a week, with homemade meals every night and plenty of fruits and vegetables, but my husband feels it should be less expensive.

  7. I too feel like I hemorrhage money when I go to the grocery store(s). I say stores because I have to go to WF, Rouses, & Costco. Maybe I don’t HAVE to, but I do. That being said, with 3 kids you should definitely be going to Costco. I only have one five month old so right now I doesn’t make sense to buy everything in bulk. Other advice, WF has really good prices on the dried beans, rice bin thingamajigs so you could do that. I get chickpeas from there & make my own hummus. So easy. Hope this helped! It is nice to know we’re not the only ones who are having this issue.

  8. Try to make some freezer meals on the weekend. There are tons if blogs to help you streamline the process so it will only take an hour or two. If you do that twice over month and fill in the leftover nights with hot dog/ prepared foods / berry buffet you’ll see a big difference!

  9. I feel your pain! I don’t go to WF often, only when in New Orleans about once a month or so, but when we go there, I often leave with 2 bags of groceries I can *carry* and have spent over $100. Ugh. I get tired of the couponing and sales ad ideas, to be honest, because I’m just too tired for all that and don’t feel like I have time. And something those tips don’t take into account is that there are very rarely coupons for fresh foods, and don’t get me started on the expense of a special diet! I don’t have much to share with you but just wanted to say that I’m in a similar boat (except with guilt because I get home earlier than you do, and most days it is in reach to cook dinner, but it’s just overwhelming!).
    A couple of ways you could try to save some money (depending on what your kids will actually eat) is to cook up some pasta one of those nights while they are eating the berry buffet; then you’ll have the pasta ready for the next night and can just add some jarred sauce to it and even jarred roasted peppers or mushrooms, etc. I also rely a good bit recently on tortillas; my daughter loves quesadillas with Daiya (vegan) cheese, and my husband and I stuff the tortillas with whatever is on hand (stir fry leftovers, shredded cabbage from a bag, prepared pico de gallo, etc.). You might want to replace one day of berries (which, yes, very popular with my child and always $$$, no matter the season) with organic apples, which can be purchased in bags, so they hold out longer and are cheaper overall. Oh, and for meal planning, I learned from the book “Simplicity Parenting” to have a theme in place for each night of the week – Monday is Mexican, Tuesday, Italian, Wednesday, soup, etc., so that you don’t have to go through limitless choices of what to eat on a given night.
    Thank you for sharing your experience–it made me feel better!

  10. You can use a lot of coupon sites to your advantage without using coupons. For instance, couponmom lets you choose which stores is in your area and then you do a search for something; example ground beef, it will tell you which store has it the cheapest. I remember my children going through phases of liking something that was not in the budget. If you feel you can get a yogurt that is just as wholesome as the one they like keep the container and switch it. If they were older you can say if we can buy these items and they are cheaper for whatever time limit you choose, we can always use the money and go to…name special place maybe picnic in park. I also, love the crock pot and when my family was really on time crunches with many children in sports i cooked something that could be warmed up in the microwave. You can cook something on a Monday night for Tuesday into Wednesday and keep ahead of dinner. You can even cook parts of the meal ahead to be quicker. Make sure no one in the family lets their eyes be bigger than their stomach. Only get out what you will eat. If at all possible put what is left in a place wrapped well in the fridge for the child to eat later or next day. Food goes on sale in cycles too. Just google it. This is a coupon thing and knowing the schedule you can stock up when things are on sale. You do not need to coupon to do these things if you do not like or want to coupon there are tricks that can cross over.


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