Grocery Diaries

How a Vegetarian Family of 6 in Delaware Spends Less than $100 on a Week of Groceries

updated Jun 5, 2020
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groceries on table
Credit: Courtesy of Christine

Name: Christine
Location: Dover, Delaware
Age: 52
Number of people in household: Six: myself, my husband, and our four kids ages 8 to 14.
Occupation: Financial Services Rep
Where did you shop? Lidl and Aldi
How much did you spend? $92.73
Dietary restrictions? We are vegetarians.

How did you choose where to buy groceries?

Lidl was one of the first grocery stores in our area to require masks and social distancing. They also have a good variety of organic, vegetarian, and vegan products with decent prices. Aldi is a few doors down from Lidl, so I usually head there to get whatever I can’t find at Lidl. (Aldi also tends to have better sale prices on produce than Lidl.)  

What time did you shop and what was it like?

I got to Lidl around 1:30 p.m. after helping my kids with their online school work and prepping and eating lunch. (Grocery shopping rule #1: Don’t shop hungry!) The store allows only 100 customers at a time and once the limit is reached, a line forms outside. Thankfully I was able to go right in. Signs are posted all around the store stating that customers must be wearing face masks and there is an employee in the entryway making sure everyone is properly masked and offering cart wipes and sanitizer. I keep a mask in the car along with hand sanitizer, so I was good to go.

How did you meal plan?

I took a look at the sales flyers for Lidl and Aldi and considered a few recipes based on a mix of those items, plus what was in my pantry already. The local farmer who sells me eggs gave me four large butternut squash last time I was there, so I found two recipes that will use up a couple of those. I always make sure to get a convenience meal or two, for when I have no time or interest in cooking, or so we have something the kids can make. Ready-to-bake pizza is an easy one for the kids to doctor up with extra cheese, sliced onions, diced tomatoes, and canned mushrooms. I also always like to have a couple of frozen veggie lasagnas that can be tossed in the oven and served with veggies and dressing or cubed watermelon to make a full meal. 

A note on pantry staples: I hate having to constantly buy the same things over and over, so if it’s something we use frequently and is shelf-stable, I will order cases and store them in our pantry. Whole Foods is great for this because they offer case discounts. Last year I bought multiple cases of canned seasoned black beans, refried beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans (sensing a theme here?), pineapple, peaches, pears, lentil and vegetable soups, jarred applesauce, olive oil, jars of coconut oil, and bags of rice. I also purchase crates of produce from farms during the summer and can my own stewed tomatoes, salsa, and pasta sauce. This makes it so that the basics are readily available. Even if I can’t make it to the grocery store, I know I can serve a meal of chili or pasta and sauce or whatever the pantry holds.

Credit: Christine

What did you buy?

Pantry staples: Tortilla chips, 2 jars of marinara, 2 jars of roasted peanuts, 2 cans of coconut milk, egg noodles, ground flax seeds, crackers, brioche rolls, and plastic wrap.

Produce: 5 English cucumbers, 6 bananas, 2 pounds plum tomatoes, 5 pounds potatoes, 3 pounds yellow onions, 5 avocados, 3 pounds baby carrots, 4 pounds strawberries, cilantro, and 4 watermelons. (Yes, four.) In my defense, the watermelons were on sale. If I cube a single melon, my family will eat it with every meal and it will be gone by the end of the day.

Frozen and prepared meals: 2 veggie lasagnas and 2 cheese pizzas.

Dairy and dairy alternatives: 5 cartons of almond milk — we use it in coffee, tea, cereal, and baking so that amount will last us less than 10 days. I also got a 12-ounce bag of mozzarella to add to the layer of cheese on the ready-to-bake pizzas.

What couldn’t you find?

Corn on the cob, green onions, tortillas, and Beyond Burger patties. I have Beyond Burger meat in the freezer but the patties were on sale, and they’re so easy. I’ll still make burgers for dinner but will form them myself out of the frozen packs.

What do you plan on making?

  • Pizza with extra cheese, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms. 
  • Beyond Burgers on brioche buns with tomato, onions, and pickles from the pantry (no corn on the cob so maybe oven-roasted potato fries and watermelon). 
  • I couldn’t find tortillas for the squash and black bean enchiladas so I’ll make it as a layered casserole with rice instead. 
  • Angel hair with spinach and marinara sauce (no recipe, I just add a box of frozen chopped spinach to jarred marinara).
  • Nachos with seasoned black beans, tomatoes, cilantro, home canned salsa, and diced avocado.
  • Vegetable soup with egg noodles, carrots, onions, potatoes, canned stewed tomatoes, and whatever open bags of frozen veggies are cluttering the freezer (think: lima beans, corn, Swiss chard, and green beans).
  • Butter chickpeas with butternut squash instead of the recipe-specified tofu served over basmati rice with cilantro. 
  • Strawberry muffins using this bread recipe. My kids will make this.

How is this different from how you normally shop? 

Normally I do a small weekly shopping trip and then swing by a different store one day after picking up my son from school. I also usually go to the bakery while getting my daughter from her weekly activities. Because my kids are now stuck at home and bakeries and non-essential stores are closed, I do one full shopping trip for basic things while wearing my face mask, social distancing, and dousing myself in hand sanitizer. Then we hunker down for the rest of the week until I have to do it again a week or 10 days later.

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