Grocery Shopping Motherlode

Go straight to the list, skip the chat:  Grocery Shopping Motherlode

There were times in our family’s life when we couldn’t afford to buy our six kids a lollipop at a softball game.  Literally every dollar I spent was compared to a gallon of milk, because we went through about a gallon a day, between drinking and cooking.  A typical grocery shopping trip looked like this:

The three older kids would each be pushing a grocery cart.  Two younger children would be laying across the bottom racks of two carts to connect them, like a steel-basketed bullet train, and the baby was in the seat of the first basket.  I would alternate between holding the list and the calculator,  holding the baby, holding the coupons, and holding my breath that nothing got broken.

We shopped about once a week or every two weeks at most.  Average monthly grocery bill: between $600 and $800, and this included toiletries, household goods, pet food, cleaning supplies, etc.  It wasn’t unusual for our grocery receipt to be five feet long!  Our older kids took perverse delight in telling the checkout clerk that we’d be back next week for the same amount of food.  It usually dropped the poor clerk’s jaw, which gave the kids a good laugh.

Alright, so that being said, we’ve had to learn some tools of the trade to become a semi-pro shopping team.  (See… you knew there was a reason we had all these kids!)  We’ve also had to deal with a couple of food allergies (me to dairy, and Margo to soy).  We’ve read books on coupon clipping, conparison shopped everything from big box stores to bread thrift stores, and scoured second hand stores and libraries for resources to help stretch every single dollar.

Today on Facebook I was invited to join a coupon club.  And while I’m no longer shopping for 8 people on a weekly basis, I’d offered to share some of the kitchen helper files I’d created in order to manage the kitchen chaos.  You’ll find here some downloadable forms that I’m glad to share with you.  They are in Microsoft Excel format, and you can edit them by downloading them to your computer and opening Excel.  (If you don’t have Excel, would you let me know?  I’d be glad to convert them to pdf for you.)

When you download the file, you’ll find four files within it.  They are:

  • PRICE COMPARISON – a list done about a year ago, comparing prices of items we regularly purchased, from Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart, Aldi, and Schnucks.
  • FREEZER INVENTORY – a list of everything we could ever want to put in our freezer.
  • PANTRY INVENTORY – a list of everything we could ever want to put in our refrigerator and pantry.  Both lists are organized first by category and then by alphabet.
  • ALDI PRICE LIST- if you’re lucky enough to have an Aldi store near you, then you really can save a lot of money on your groceries.  Even though most of our kids no longer live at home, we still shop Aldi every week, and our grocery budget for 4 adults is $150 a week, and still includes pet food, cleaning supplies, toiletries and the like.  This list was originally compiled by a discussion group, and I edited it for my own tastes.  But my prices are about a year old.  So I checked and there’s a gal who is keeping a current price comparison on her blog!


1.  Edit the lists to add the food items you usually buy, and delete the ones you don’t.

2.  Print your lists.

3.  Clip the lists to a clipboard, or put them into a binder with sheet protectors.

4.  Go through your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry.  Mark an X for each item you have in the list.  For example:  if you have five 6-oz cans of tomato sauce, then mark 5 X’s next to the tomato sauce in your list.  As you use the cans, put a line through an X each time you use one.

Bonus points:  Print out a pantry list and put it on a clip board.  Tie some yarn around a sharpened pencil and hang the pencil from the clip board.  Hang a hook in your pantry or dry goods/canned food cupboard.  Put the clip board on the hook.  Repeat on the front of your refrigerator and freezer with those appropriate lists.  Every time you use something up from the list, mark it off.  Now take your lists and go shopping.  You are a semi-pro shopper, because you’ll never have to return to the grocery store for something you forgot to put on your list, and you saved money and time, too!

If you’ve read this far and haven’t downloaded the list yet, here’s the list link again (so you don’t have to scroll up):  Grocery Shopping Motherlode

A final note about coupons:  they can be a great help to you, if what you usually buy is an item that you have a coupon for, AND if the item is on sale.  But in reality, coupons present a lot of temptation to buy things that might not be in your budget.  So keep your head about you when it comes to clipping those coupons, because you could actually be spending more money than you would save.

If you need help with knowing what’s on sale at your local grocery stores, try this wonderful resource:

And if you need some help with your finances in general – you know, things are a mess, and you just don’t know where to start – then I can’t recommend Ellie Kay enough.  She’ll get you back on track and get your finances under control.  Go check out her website, at


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. patricia
    Nov 05, 2011 @ 16:37:08

    Very interesting!

    The link doesn’t work though.


    • Charlene
      Nov 06, 2011 @ 08:23:52

      Thank you SO much for pointing that out, Patricia. I’ve fixed the link now. And if you can’t get it still, would you let me know? Thanks in advance.


      • melissa
        Feb 28, 2012 @ 00:37:02

        Nope . the download does not work

      • Charlene
        Feb 28, 2012 @ 11:08:27

        Hi Melissa,
        I just checked to make sure, and the download worked fine for me. When you click on the link you should get a dialog box asking you if you want to open or save the file. Choose open with Microsoft Office Excel, and you should have no problems with the spreadsheet.

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