August Grocery Spending: Single Mom With a Toddler Outside DC

Photo credit: Mike Mozart, CC BY 2.0.

I volunteered to track my grocery spending as soon as I saw the idea in the comments. I don’t think I spend an exorbitant amount on groceries, but sometimes I’m surprised by my monthly average ($482, according to Mint). And I always feel guilty when I have to throw away food that’s spoiled.

Background: I live with my two-year-old in a suburb of DC. We don’t have a car, so I get some groceries delivered and also do grocery runs on foot (the stroller is handy for hauling home gallons of milk). Earlier this summer I stocked up on a case of wine ($190) and a large delivery of pasture-raised meats and wild salmon ($366.40) — that’s why you won’t see alcohol or meat in my grocery receipts for August. I’ve also been getting a fruit and vegetable box delivered every other week through a local company that “rescues” produce other stores have rejected.

Since I have a full-time job and a toddler, I primarily cook on the weekends. I like to have a lot of variety, so I try to cook things I can freeze and eat as leftovers later in the month. My son’s daycare provides his breakfast, lunch and snacks; I bring my own food to work most days and buy breakfast or lunch two to three times a week. We eat dinner together every night and eat meals together on weekends.

Given how I shop and cook, I organized my grocery tracking roughly by weeks, listing all the groceries I bought, what I cooked/ate that week and what food I threw out. I did not track restaurant meals. During the second week of August my son’s daycare was closed; I took the week off and we had a staycation at home. I both cooked and ate out more than usual that week — my freezer is so full from all the leftovers that it’s hard to close!

Looking at every grocery item I bought during the month of August revealed a few patterns. I definitely shop more when I’m bored; during my week off I made a lot of trips to the grocery store for no particular reason. I’m pretty good about eating what I cook although I could be more deliberate about using some of my freezer stash each week so it doesn’t overflow. I’m guilty of impulse shopping both online and in store — I tend to “stock up” on sale items when shopping online and in person I seem to buy a lot of desserts! And while I love the concept of the rescued produce share, that made up the bulk of my food waste. After my last delivery I put it on hold for two months to figure out whether I want to continue.

Overall, I spent $362.79 on groceries in August — more than I hoped to spend, but less than my average based on the past year. August was an expensive month for me overall so I’m hoping to keep grocery spending under $250 in September. I’m happy that I ended the month with a fairly full pantry and freezer, and some ideas for reducing food waste and impulse buying.

August 3, Safeway delivery

Smuckers Preserves Red Raspberry (18 oz): $2.50

Quaker Oatmeal Instant Peaches & Cream Flavors (10 packs, 1.23 oz each): $1.99

Quaker Oatmeal Instant With Real Raisin Date & Walnut (10 packs, 1.3 oz each): $3.98

Quaker Oatmeal Instant Apples & Cinnamon (10 packs, 1.51 oz each): $1.99

Quaker Oatmeal Instant Original (12 packs, 0.98 oz each): $1.99

Lucerne Sour Cream (16 oz): $2.00

Lucerne Half And Half  (32 fl oz): $3.29

Lucerne Cheese Natural Pepper Jack (16 oz): $6.29

Limes, Large: $0.30

Ginger Root: $1.26

Value Corner Milk Whole (1 gallon): $7.98

Lucerne Cheese Ricotta Whole Milk (15 oz): $4.89

Lucerne Butter Salted Sweet Cream (16 oz): $4.49

Kame Milk Coconut (14 fl. oz): $2.79

Delivery fee: $6.95

Fuel surcharge: $0.28

Total $46.09

What I ate

  • Zucchini and ricotta galette (4 meals)
  • Frozen pepperoni pizza (2 meals)
  • Burrito bowls with refried beans, rice, squash, bell peppers, onions and corn
  • Breakfasts: zucchini muffins, frozen pancakes, oatmeal
  • Snacks: cheese and crackers, PB&J, yogurt

Food waste

  • Roasted beets that I meant to turn into pickles
  • Two oranges that went moldy

August 10, Whole Foods delivery

365 Organic Orange Juice No Pulp (16 fl oz): $0.99

Tazo Tea Black Tea Awake™ English Breakfast Tea Bags (1.8 oz): $4.49

Cascadian Farm Organic Cereal, Cinnamon Crunch, Whole Grain Cereal (9.2 oz): $3.99

Cheerios Gluten Free Cereal (12 oz): $2.99

365 Organic Crushed Tomatoes With Basil (2 cans, 28 oz each): $3.98

365 Organics Organic Whole Peeled Tomatoes (2 cans, 28 oz each): $3.98

365 Organic Chicken Broth (2 boxes, 32 fl oz each): $4.58

365 Half & Half (32 fl oz): $1.57

365 Vitamin D Milk (128 oz): $3.19

365 Organic Shredded Mozzarella (16 oz): $7.99

noosa Lemon Yogurt (8 oz): $2.29

noosa Strawberry Rhubarb Yoghurt (8 oz): $2.29

Emmi Gruyere Cuts (6 oz): $5.49

365 Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli (16 oz): $1.49

Annie’s Organic Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese (3 boxes, 6 oz each): $8.97

Applegate Natural Chicken & Sage Breakfast Sausage (7 oz): $5.49

365 Organic Light Brown Sugar (24 oz): $3.79

Red Star Active Dry Yeast (0.75 oz): $2.59

Banana (~0.26 lb): $0.24

Driscoll’s Raspberries (12 oz): $5.99

Annie’s Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies Baked Snack Crackers (2 boxes, 7.5 oz each): $7.98

Free delivery due to buying $30 of promotional items

Tip: $4.22

Service: $4.22

Total: $92.80

August 10, Hungry Harvest delivery

Fruit/veggie share: $15

Clementines (1 lb)

Cucumber, Seedless (1 ct)

Kale, Green (bunch)

Plum, Black (4 ct)

Potatoes, Baby Golden (bag)

Radish (bag)

Snow Peas (bag)

Zucchini (2 ct)

Dozen eggs: $2.49

Delivery fee: $1.99

Total $19.48

August 14, Safeway in store

Cento sun dried tomatoes: $4.99

Combo meal (chicken tenders, potato wedges and coleslaw): $7.00

Tax: $.42

Total: $12.41

August 16, Whole Foods in store

Precut watermelon (1.5 lbs): $6.00

Precut mango (.84 lbs): $6.75

Whole Foods brand goat cheese crumbles: $4.99

Mini key lime cheesecake: $2.99

Chocolate chip muffin: $2.00

Total: $22.73

August 16, farmers’ market

Four peaches and one quart of blueberries: $10

Seven grain bread: $5

Total: $15

August 18 Vigilante Coffee

Coffee beans (12 oz): $15

Total: $15

August 19, Safeway in store

Signature Kitchens Canola Oil: $1.99

Lucerne Whole Milk (1 gallon): $3.99

Lucerne Unsalted Butter (1 lb): $4.49

Applegate Genoa Salami: $5.99

Total: $16.46

What I ate

  • Baked pasta with sausage and cheese (3 containers that make 3 servings each, froze 2)
  • Chorizo, kale and potato soup (5 servings, froze 2), served with toast
  • Zucchini fritters (about 5 servings, froze most)
  • Savory corn and cheese pancakes (about 4 servings, froze most)
  • Pasta salad (3 servings)
  • Creamy roasted tomato balsamic soup (3 servings)
  • Frozen pizza (2 meals)
  • Breakfasts: cereal and milk; silver dollar pancakes with breakfast sausage; chocolate/banana/hazelnut mini muffins (froze lots of leftovers)
  • Snacks: Plum cake and peach cake (6 servings each); cheddar bunnies; cheese and crackers; fresh peaches

Food waste

  • Package of ground turkey (let it sit in the fridge too long after defrosting — it looked okay but smelled rank)
  • ½ of plum cake (turned moldy after a few days on the kitchen counter)
  • Watermelon (kiddo normally loves it but kept rejecting and it spoiled)

August 22, Safeway in store

Store brand tomato paste (6 oz): $0.69

One jumbo yellow onion: $1.45

Four bulbs of organic garlic: $1.99

Total: $4.13

August 24, Hungry Harvest delivery

Fruit/veggie share: $15

Beets (1 lb)

Bell Pepper (2 ct)

Mango (2 ct)

Orange (2 ct)

Organic Lettuce (1 lb)

Organic Pluots (1 lb)

Red Onion (2 ct)

Summer Squash (1 ct)

Delivery fee: $1.99

Total: $16.99

August 24, Safeway in store

Lucerne Whole Milk (1 gallon): $3.99

Cabot Cheddar Cheese: $3.99

2 chocolate eclairs: $2.99

Dozen roses: $9.99

Tax: $.60

Total: $21.56

August 26, Safeway in store

Stonyfield Yogurt mixed berry smoothies (4 ct): $4.99

Toms of Maine toothpaste: $4.99

Chocolate cake slice: $2.99

Total $12.97

August 27, delivery

10 boxes of Carnation Breakfast Essentials, French Vanilla flavor (I mix this with my son’s milk to boost his calorie intake)

Total: $54.85

August 30, Safeway in store

Lucerne whole milk (1 gallon): $3.99

Lucerne half and half (1 pint): $2.00

Marie Callender’s chicken and bacon pot pie: $3.34

German chocolate cake slice: $2.99

Total: $12.32

What I ate:

  • Pasta with pesto and fresh tomatoes (2 servings)
  • Eggplant, zucchini and chicken curry (5 servings, froze two)
  • Baked pasta I made earlier in the month (3 servings)
  • Pot pie
  • Breakfasts: oatmeal, yogurt smoothies, leftover pancakes from previous week
  • Snacks: cheese and crackers, eclairs, cakes, pie (I ate a lot of desserts this week)

Food waste

  • Tofu
  • Snow peas, radishes and grapefruit from previous veggie share
  • Half and half (for some reason the bottle I had in the fridge kept curdling in my coffee)

This piece is part of The Billfold’s grocery budget series.

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