Grocery Geek Presents: Convenience Buys & a Costco Stock-up

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This past week I’ve made a concerted effort to get a handle on feeding my family “nutritious and delicious” foods that are also easy to get on the table.

As I mentioned last week, we’ve shied away from a lot of the processed foods that were regular staples in our pantry a few years ago. I explained that we’re at a crossroads of sorts trying to up the nutrition, feed hungry boys, and stay in the black.

On Sunday afternoon, I spent a couple hours prepping foods for the week — and it was such a help throughout our days to be able to grab a box of veggies or cheese slices straight from the fridge. (I’ll share more on this tomorrow.)

But, in addition to making my own convenience foods, I marched forth bravely and bought a few storebought things as well. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

I spent about $70 at Trader Joe’s on dairy, pantry staples, snacks, and some convenience items like potstickers and hummus.

Then a trip to Costco after a long and tiring doctor’s appointment turned into a big stock-up venture. Hubs met me there, and we had a mini-date at the warehouse tossing into the cart cheeses, milk, crackers, dried fruit, bananas, potatoes, breads, bagels, ground beef, steaks, fancy cheeses, juices, honey, vinegar, sea salt, and a few convenience items, like  pita chips and mashed potatoes. Yes, really.

We had a “good time” and ended up spending $300 at Costco. Yes, really. However, the items that we bought will carry over into next month, I’m pretty sure. But, I’ve spent my grocery money for the month — and there are still 10 days to go. I may go a little over budget if we need milk or fruit before the end of the month. Thankfully, we have the cash, so we’ll just spend less on something else.

In the meantime, my kids have plenty of things to snack on and I’ve got lots of items to work with. Seeing as my manuscript is coming back to me at the end of next week, I’m going to need all the convenience I can get!

Have I been irresponsible? Have I blown our money? Have I caved?

I don’t think so. A glance at the grocery ads in San Diego county show me that I’m not missing much. I’ve bought good quality food and plenty of it. I’ve splurged on convenience, but (hopefully) without sacrificing taste or nutrition.

Where  do YOU splurge?

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  1. For me personally I splurge on frozen Kashi meals for lunch. I’m trying to watch what I eat (and stay away from the cafeteria at work) while eating as little processed as possible, Kashi lunches help me do that even though they are expensive. Pre-packaged isn’t all evil, even though the non-evil brands tend to be pretty expensive. I read an article recently that listed the best companies for buying healthy pre-packed foods, I wish I could find it but I remember Kashi, Amy’s & Paul Newman being on the list. It’s all about finding the right balance between convenience and spending money. Which it sounds like you’ve done very well 🙂

  2. I really like Trader Joe’s hummus and pitas.

    My current beef with them is why, oh why, do they sell hot dogs in packages of 8 but buns in packages of 6? Drives me nuts.

    1. Buns and dogs never match! We usually buy Hebrew National which only has 7 in the package, so the buns are always off. LOL

    1. TJ’s is NOT cheap. But, it’s fun. There’s always something gourmet and delicious to pick up.

  3. I splurge on artichoke hearts for great Italian dishes and good dairy from grass fed free cows that are not mistreated being kept pregnant having their baby calves taken away from them for veal. It’s eye opening what is going on.

  4. I so appreciate your posts on grocery shopping! I find it a continual challenge to feed my family of seven with good foods at a good price. Sharing how much you spend and what you are buying is reassuring me that I am doing alright. 🙂 Thanks!

  5. I splurge on good coffee, either at Costco, or at our friend’s roasting company. Also, while at Costco, I purchase sun-dried tomatoes and marinated artichoke hearts for taste-like-restaurant pasta dishes, salads and pizzas.

    To me, green beans are green beans (frozen or canned). I can ‘doctor’ them up however, and they’ll taste good. But, bad coffee is REALLY bad, so we buy good coffee beans and grind them ourselves. Able to make all the froo-froo drinks at the shops for a fraction of the cost.

    I splurge on Greek Yogurt, too. It’s just good. I should experiment with making it, I guess. But with working and home schooling, I have begun to see my limits. Pick my battles. Realize I am not super-woman!

    Other than cereal and the occasional pop-tart (Sundays are crazy busy around our house…pastor’s family), we eat mostly non-processed foods. Well, at least 80% non-processed. Yet, if I see a super sale on cake mixes (like less than 60 cents a box), I get them. It makes life easier when I have unexpected guests drop by, or need to take a last minute treat to someone. Did you know cake mix cookies are SUPER EASY!

    So, again, I think making sure you have it balanced allows for the splurges (either financial splurge or convenience food splurge).

  6. We have a family of 5 with kids ages 11, 14, and 16 and live in So Cal, too. I have marveled at how you’ve kept your budget down seeing that we don’t have double and triple coupons and a local Aldi out here! We spend about what you do and I think you probably use more coupons. Which means I need to step it up in that area so I can lower my costs a bit! Your boys will have larger appetites over the next few years and your budget will have to adjust. You’re doing a great job providing nutritional meals while keeping costs to a minimum. Keep doing what you do – you’re a motivator to all of us out here!

    1. You’re sweet. Thanks. I don’t know that I use a lot of coupons. It’s been months since I did a lot of that. But, I usually bake from scratch. September is going to be an incredibly busy month for us, so I am not necessarily going to have a ton of time for that. I think that is where I’m going to have to have some wiggle room.

  7. my most recent splurge??? Well, I was DYING to try the new Crystal Lite “mocktails”…and NO one had them except Publix for 3.99 a pop. No coupons. No sale. And I bought THREE flavors. Yep. It killed me…darn near killed me….but worth every drop! If you don’t spoil yourself…who will … right?? 🙂

  8. I love TJ’s and those strawberry breakfast bars are really yummy. I think Tj’s is pretty cheap when it comes to the quality they provide (Although their produce is kinda lack luster).

    Have you tried their PB cups? Those things are to die for!

  9. Coffee!!! Our kids are grown and so we can wiggle more in the splurge areas. Oh and the occasional ice cream.

    Thought of you and your last post about the prices of groceries going up as I was praising God for peelie coupons on the Mission Tortilla chips at Kroger this morning. Making homemade salsa from our garden and got the chips for .69 a bag. 🙂

  10. I had to laugh. I, too, spent my morning yesterday at Trader Joe’s and then Costco! I think it’s okay to go over your grocery budget if you are purchasing items for long-term use. I purchased a 5# bag of mozzarella and a 5# bag of cheddar yesterday. While worrying over spending the money (which is a better per lb price than any of the sales in the last few weeks) I realized that I can freeze it to last a few months. I now have one lb of each in the fridge and the other 4# of each in the freezer, in individual 1# bags.

  11. Must have been the week for spending at Costco! We did too! I splurge on fancy cheese. Our local wine shop (Wine Thieves) does a Friday night tasting for $3 a person and cheese pairing. They sell the cheese you are trying. Then we choose an under $10 bottle (or two!). I also splurge on coffee, I order our beans from a local roaster.

    The sales haven’t been all that fantastic in the Bay Area either!

  12. I think it’s all about moderation and balance. If you stick to your budget most of the time, that gives you wiggle room for some conveniences during busy days and seasons. It’s part of making it all work. It’s sort of a reward for doing things right.

  13. We splurge on raw milk, fresh eggs whenever possible and so much produce it’s honestly hard to believe. I love TJs for their frozen Orange Chicken. The seasoned and ready to cook frozen fish from Costco is also a good compromise food for us. Straight from the freezer to the table in less than 30 minutes is a lifesaver some days.

  14. So good to hear what everyone spends their ‘convenience food’ money on!

    For me it’s usually school lunch things – nothing is more challenging for me than getting foods they WILL eat that I want them to eat at school LOL:
    At costco:
    Frozen Dumplings
    Chicken Meatballs
    Turkey Burgers

    At TJs:
    frozen fruit for morning smoothies – actually I sometimes get this at costco too
    Teryaki Chicken – i add some cooked chicken to this to stretch it – makes great ‘rice bowl’ type lunches
    carrot packs

  15. I heart Trader Joes. We just got home from there, in fact. My splurges are usually for my family. My husband and 3 year old love good quality gouda cheese.

    And, I am starting a Costco price comparison to grocery store prices which has turned out really interesting! The Costco haters have nothing to say to it 🙂 So far, I’ve done Baking Goods, Snack Items, Nuts and Dried Fruit, and Breakfast foods. I’ll post another segment this week, and hope to go through the whole store.