I’m a Driving Instructor and My Husband Works Odd Jobs — We Spent $141 on a Week’s Worth of Groceries and Came in $9 Under Budget
Location: Reno, NV
Age: 36 (me) and 31 (Christian)
Number of people in household: Two (my husband, Christian, and me, plus our cat, Blondie, and a baby on the way)
Occupation: I’m a driving instructor and owner of a tax office franchise and my husband is a self-proclaimed trophy husband. He is waiting on his work permit so he does odd jobs in the meantime, and helps me at the tax offices (I have two office locations).
Salary: $1,600 to $1,900 per month, after tax from driving school (can vary on number of lessons). It’s outside of tax season, so that is my only income. Christian brings in $800 to $1,000 per month (varies on workload).
Where you shopped: Costco; Marketon, a Nevada-based Hispanic grocery store; Walmart; and Winco, a regional grocery store
Weekly food budget: $150 per week, after WIC benefits
Amount spent: $141.06, after WIC benefits
Where did you shop?
Teaching driving lessons takes me all over Reno, Sparks, and Carson City, so I end up shopping at Marketon, Walmart, and Winco this week. Christian and I go to Costco this week for bulk items (it’s pretty close to our home). He also likes to look out for any freebies on Facebook, and ends up finding a posting for free fruit. I also get some items from my mom, so I try to take those into account before shopping.
What’s your grocery strategy?
I shop weekly at one or more places while working (after or between driving lessons or appointments with tax clients) or while running errands. I keep reusable bags and sometimes a cooler bag in the driving school car or my personal car.
I try to use up the WIC benefits as soon as possible (I wasn’t able to get any modifications due to having gestational diabetes). They don’t roll over and are good for the entire month. Some of the items are shelf-stable (rice, beans, frozen juice), so they’re easy to buy when getting other groceries. Christian (or anyone else) can also eat these items, which helps keep the grocery budget low.
We go to Marketon on Thursdays or Fridays for the weekly flyer specials (you can find them all over the store, online, and outside entrance). We get our bulk items at Costco: mainly non-perishables or items we use up quickly, like corn tortillas or salad mix. For remaining items, like milk and other staples, we’ll go to Winco or Walmart (whatever is closer at the time). I like to buy our snacks and nonessentials when they’re on sale.
My mother loves to feed me and always gives me leftovers, like salsa or anything she thinks I (or sometimes, we) will eat. She has hens, so I always have free eggs and I usually bring her egg cartons and scraps to feed her chickens. She’ll occasionally give me veggies from her garden or slaughter a chicken for me. I always tell her not to, but she does what most moms do. Since the pregnancy, her giving has been in overdrive (in both food and baby items).
How do you meal plan?
Due to gestational diabetes, there’s a list of items I have to limit or cannot have (mainly reducing the amount of carbs and not having sugar/sweet items). When I’m working as a driving instructor, I pack items that don’t require reheating and are easy enough for me to eat between lessons (I only have a cooler in the school car). On days I have a bit more time between lessons or am working at the tax offices, I will pack items that I can eat leisurely, like salads or soup.
Both tax offices have a microwave and fridge, so I can pack items to be reheated, and there are office snacks that Christian can raid if needed. We used to get fast food at the restaurants or places close to our offices, but it’s now tough, given my dietary restrictions.
I’m the one who does most of the cooking, so I try to make items that we can and will both eat with slight modifications. (I don’t like raw/chopped onions, for example, and Christian isn’t a fan of seafood.) I batch cook or prepare a few items that Christian can reheat at home or eat as is while working on a job.
While I don’t mind eating the same things for weeks on end, Christian needs a bit of variety. We will go to Marketon and Costco together so we can have each other’s input on what we buy and make during the week.
What did you buy?
- Celery, $0.39
- 4 hass avocados, $2.00
- 6 cucumbers, $2.00
- Turkey ham, $5.14
- 1/2 pound finely chopped pork, $3.11
- 1/2 pound Mexican longaniza, $3.52
- 1.30 pounds loose carrots, $0.65
- 1 strawberry drink mix, $0.50
- 1 peach drink mix, $0.50
- 1/2 gallon 1% milk, $2.49 (paid with WIC benefits)
- 1 bunch cilantro, $0.79
- Limes, $1.19
- Cactus pears, $0.93
- Crema Mexicana (no salt), $2.54
- Chili serrano, $0.18 (WIC benefits)
- 1 bunch cilantro, $0.79
- 1 ear white corn, $0.99 (WIC benefits)
- Russet potatoes, $0.40 (WIC benefits)
- Limes, $1.58 (WIC benefits)
- Italian squash, $1.13 (WIC benefits)
- 1 squash chayote, $0.99 (WIC benefits)
- Mexican squash, $0.66 (WIC benefits)
Total: $24.05 [$32.47 – $8.42 (WIC Benefits)]
- Organic popcorn, $4.99
- Corn tortilla (6-inch), $4.29
- Corn tortilla (4.5-inch), $2.89
- Sabritones, $5.89
- Chilifritos, $7.39
- String cheese, $10.69
- Casero cheese, $8.89
- Butter, $10.99
- Cottage cheese, $4.89
- Ice pops, $8.99
- Cereal, $8.44 (WIC benefits)
- Grape tomatoes, $4.48
- Yogurt, $2.36 (WIC benefits)
- 1/2 gallon 1% milk, $2.08 (WIC benefits)
- 1 pound cheese, $4.18 (WIC benefits)
- Organic spring mix, $4.98
- 1 dozen eggs, $1.74 (WIC benefits)
- 1 pound brown rice, $1.44 (WIC benefits)
- 2 pounds beans, $2.42 (WIC benefits)
- Chocolate chip cookie dough Greek yogurt bars, $4.48
- Avocado ranch dressing, $3.98
- 2 cans frozen guava juice, $3.36
- 3 cans frozen apple juice, $3.81 (WIC benefits)
- Rice cakes, $1.48
- Ranch dressing packet, $2.98
- Hot links, $4.98
- Sausage, $4.98
- Sparkling water, $1.74
- Bacon, $4.69
Total: $42.13 [$68.60 – $26.47 (WIC benefits)]
- Frozen Greek yogurt birthday cake bars, $4.98
- Peaches and berries [1 time $30 WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP)]
- 36 eggs (Mom)
- 2 to 3 pounds of tomatillo milpero (Mom)
- 16 ounces homemade green salsa (Mom)
- Bag of nectarines (Facebook Group)
Grand Total: $141.06
Thursday: Breakfast Toasts, Graham Crackers with Peanut Butter, Sandwich with Side Salad, Tacos, Cottage Cheese and Fruit, Salad with Shrimp Fritters, and More Tacos
It’s my Friday! I only have two lessons (instead of the usual three). Before breakfast, I check my glucose and put in my morning insulin (the first of three doses) with Blondie as my audience. While I wait the required 15 to 30 minutes to eat, I toast a slice of Dave’s Killer Bread (bought during a previous week’s shop) and grab the last two-hard boiled eggs from the fridge and slice them. When the toast is done, I spread on some mayo, place the eggs on the bread, and sprinkle some salt. I also make two slices of peanut butter toast for Christian and make sure Blondie has enough water and food for the day.
During my first lesson, Christian texts me to say he’s received an INS letter stating his work permit is on its way. For the rest of the lesson, I brainstorm what we can do to celebrate. While I have my mid-morning snack (peanut butter with graham crackers), I decide I will go to Marketon and buy stuff to make tacos for dinner after my shift is done.
After my second (and final) lesson, I have a small sandwich with a side salad before heading to Marketon. I buy just enough for one or two meals because I’m getting my monthly WIC benefits the next day. I love Marketon’s meat section; the taco meat is pre-seasoned and marinated and I can get as much (or as little) turkey ham as we need. It’s one of the only places we can get turkey ham (it’s different from sliced turkey or chicken). However, things don’t go as planned — Christian wants tacos for lunch, not dinner.
I had already eaten, so I prep the garnishes and reheat the tortillas while the taco meat is cooking, which Christian eats with my mother’s homemade salsa. After he finishes, we head to Costco. My brother-in-law is coming to stay the night before his flight (we live close to the airport), so I buy a few extra items in anticipation of that Sunday meal. The Melona bars catch Christian’s eye, while I’m tempted by the Yasso bars. (I read that many gestational diabetics loved them.) I decide against them, figuring I can buy a smaller box at another grocery store. After our Costco trip, I have 1/2 cup of cottage cheese with a peach for my mid-afternoon snack.
For dinner, I repeat the same insulin routine. While waiting for the 15-minute timeframe to lapse, I decide not to have the longaniza I bought from Marketon for dinner. Instead, I make a salad and add two shrimp fritters (tortitas de camaron, although we refer to them as “shrimp patties”) my mother gave me a few days prior. Christian makes himself more tacos, along with my mother’s salsa. It’s the first time I slightly deviate from the strict meal plan.
For a nighttime snack, Christian has a Melona mango bar and I make my NORA (Nettle Leaf, Oat Straw, Red Raspberry Leaf, and Alfalfa) tea for tomorrow. I started drinking NORA tea at week 16 of my pregnancy. I have my 1.5 graham cracker sheet with peanut butter after applying my last insulin dose and head to bed.
Friday: Toast, Loganiza, Rice Roll, Pistachios, Turkey Ham Sandwiches, Salad, and Snacks, More Sandwiches, Cottage Cheese with Fruit, and Graham Crackers with PB
I have an appointment with one of the high-risk doctors about my pregnancy. After my morning insulin routine, I have a slice of toast with a small piece of longaniza (I ran out of hard-boiled eggs) and a cup of NORA tea. On my days off or when I have a late start, I like to deviate a little from my now typical hard-boiled eggs and toast routine. I pack Christian his water bottle along with a lunch of a sandwich, Doritos, and an apple (he’s going to work with a gentleman on a side job today).
After breakfast and right before heading to my appointment, I boil and peel a dozen eggs that I got from my mom for my weekly breakfasts. I pack a small bag of pistachios and a rice roll because the doctor’s office doesn’t allow food inside the office. It’s a long wait (something comes up with another patient) and I am very hungry after the appointment. I eat my pistachios and rice roll before heading to Winco.
After my grocery trip, I head home and submit an online report because I noticed some of the packaged produce wasn’t deducted out of my monthly WIC benefits (we get $44 for fresh, canned, or frozen fruits and vegetables). I pack a lunch of spring salad mix, turkey ham and cheese sandwiches with mayo, grapes and sparkling water (for me) to take to the tax office. Christian finishes work early and is tagging along, so I pack enough for both of us. During the off season, I go into the offices a few times a week to check voicemails and meet with clients. We’re also teaching tax classes in an effort to recruit new employees for the next tax season, so sometimes I (or we) stay a bit longer at the office. I’ve had issues with takeout (wrong order, forgetting to make the order, etc.) and can’t have most of the office snacks, so it’s best to pack extra food.
For lunch, I have a sandwich, salad, grapes, and some sparkling water. Christian has an ice pop, salad, and sandwich. I pack a small portion of cottage cheese with blackberries (bought during a previous shop at the farmers market). My husband also brings some Sabritones to the office and eats those while I stare at him; it’s one of the few times I want something I can’t have.
I soak some beans to cook for tomorrow when we get home before we take naps. I wake up close to 9 p.m. and realize that we slept through dinner. Christian is still sleeping, so I head to the kitchen. I had never missed a dose of insulin or any meals so I wasn’t sure how to deal with this deviation. I decide to have a smallish dinner/slightly larger snack: cottage cheese with the last bit of the farmers market strawberries and two sheets of graham crackers with peanut butter. Then I apply my bedtime insulin dose (yup, Blondie is watching me again). It doesn’t affect my morning numbers the next day.
Saturday: Leftover Sandwich and Salad, Breakfast Toast, String Cheese, Wheat Thins, Salad with Shrimp Fritter, Fried Chicken Tacos, Cucumber, More Tacos, Muffins, and a Frozen Greek Yogurt Bar
Christian has a sandwich and salad left over from yesterday’s lunch for breakfast along with a fruity drink he makes with a packet of Zuko’s drink mix. After doing my regular insulin routine and having the usual breakfast (toast with two hard-boiled eggs), I start preparing tomorrow’s dinner. My original plan is to make enmoladas (think: enchiladas with mole sauce instead of the usual enchilada sauce), but there isn’t any mole in the house.
I’m debating going to the grocery store, but Christian says we should use what is at home instead of buying more items, so I make fried tacos (tacos dorados). I cook the soaked beans, and boil the chicken breasts (freezer stash) and some potatoes. Blondie begs for chicken on my stool, so I give him a piece once it’s fully cooked. (He’s learned that begging from the stool vs. the floor or counter yields better results.)
After preparing the taco ingredients, I take a break to have my midmorning snack (string cheese and Wheat Thins). Christian runs errands and I use the rest of the morning and early afternoon to make and fry the tacos. Midway, I take a break for lunch: a salad with the last shrimp fritter/patty and two large chicken tacos made with corn tortillas. When I check my insulin an hour later, I see my numbers are within the normal range. I finish cleaning and take a break.
I do my dinner insulin routine and have half a cucumber and three tacos (made with the small corn tortillas) with a dollop of sour cream, and Christian has several large tacos. After dinner, I bake the keto-friendly muffin mix I had previously bought at the food co-op. The muffins are pretty good, but the crumb is different from traditional recipes.
For my bedtime snack, I have a Yasso bar and muffin (this doesn’t affect my morning numbers either) after the bedtime insulin routine. I don’t see if Christian has a bedtime snack.
Sunday: Breakfast Toast, Leftover Tacos, PB Sandwich, Charcuterie, Leftover Muffin, Greek Yogurt Bar, More Tacos, Salad, and Yogurt and Fruit Bars for Dessert
I do my usual insulin morning routine and have the usual toast with two-hard boiled eggs. Christian has some tacos for breakfast and I share a keto muffin from last night. He doesn’t like the taste, but finishes the muffin. I can’t find my water bottle, but I have a growler so I grab that instead along with my food for the day.
After my first lesson, I fill my growler with water at 7-11 (it costs 50 cents). I have a pint of milk with my peanut butter sandwich (doesn’t affect my numbers; I was told to consider milk as a carb as well as protein). Christian eats leftover tacos for lunch as well. I tell him to make sure there’s enough for his brother because I don’t want to cook again.
My second lesson gets canceled (sick student), so after running an errand, I head to my final lesson. Afterwards, I head to Walmart to pick up birthday cake-flavored Yasso bars. I eat my charcuterie (cucumbers, Bavarian Meat jerky sticks (bought prior to food diary), string cheese, crackers) in the parking lot before heading in.
Once home, I put the bars, my cottage cheese, and peach I had packed for my last lesson in the fridge. My husband has left to get his brother (he lives on a dairy 70 miles away) so I rest while having a muffin with peanut butter and a Yasso bar for my second snack. After my break, I make a pitcher of Zuko’s drink mix and prepare the taco garnishes. I’m glad I made the tacos ahead of time.
I’m not sure when Christian and my brother-in-law will arrive, so I do my dinner insulin routine and have dinner alone. Shortly after I’m done, they get home. For dinner, I have tacos with salsa and cream, my brother-in-law has his with cream (he doesn’t like hot/spicy food, so he only puts a tiny dab of salsa) and Christian has salad because he was “sick” of eating tacos (there are other things he can eat but chooses not to because he’s being lazy). My brother-in-law brings some Squirt cans and has one along with his tacos.
For our bedtime snacks, I have a birthday cake bar. Christian and my brother-in-law have mango Melona bars.
Monday: Breakfast Toast, Turkey Ham Sandwiches, Leftover Muffin, Graham Cracker with PB, Salad, Mini Pizza, Cottage Cheese and Fruit, Salad with Shredded Chicken, More Pizza, and Graham Crackers
Christian takes my brother-in-law to the airport while I’m still in bed and we have breakfast together when he gets back. While I do my usual breakfast insulin and toast with two hard-boiled eggs routine, my first lesson gets canceled. I savor my coffee with a splash of milk while getting ready for my second lesson. Christian has two turkey ham and cheese sandwiches.
For my mid-morning snack, I have a muffin and a graham cracker sheet with peanut butter. I pack a salad and turkey ham and cheese sandwich for after my second lesson. Christian works at a pizza establishment and has a free mini pizza for lunch.
I’m heading back from the lesson, and Christian messages me about a Facebook post for free pears and nectarines on a local buy nothing group. I grab some bags at home and head to the address on the post. Only a few nectarines are left when I get there, so I grab those. It’s raining and cold, and I’m in the mood for chicken stew/caldo, so I go to Marketon to grab some ingredients.
I eat the cottage cheese and peach I saved from yesterday once I get home. For dinner, I have a salad with shredded chicken (leftover from Saturday) at the tax office, while getting ready for my tax classes. (I packed my dinner insulin with my salad.) Christian has the rest of his pizza (he works pretty late). For my bedtime snack, I have two graham cracker sheets with almond butter after the bedtime insulin.
Tuesday: Breakfast Toast, Cereal, Mini Loaf with Almond Butter, Turkey Ham and Cheese Sandwich, Snacks, and Chicken Stew/Caldo
I have the usual two eggs with toasted Dave’s Killer Bread. I saved coffee from Monday, so I warm it up and add a splash of milk. Christian has a bowl of cereal and milk. There is a miscommunication for the pickup spot with my first lesson, so that lesson is inadvertently canceled. I head home until my second lesson.
I have half of a mini loaf with almond butter for my midmorning snack, and start to prep the ingredients for the chicken stew/caldo. I use the new-to-me spiralizer for the zucchini noodles.
After my second lesson I have a turkey ham and cheese sandwich with grapes, and almond butter with a muffin and popcorn after my last lesson while heading home. I quickly make the chicken stew (it smells pretty good!) and pack some in a food jar/Thermos to take to the tax office.
Halfway through my three-hour stint at the office (Christian didn’t tag along, but he had stew), I do the dinner insulin dose and have my stew. I’m pretty tired when I get home, so I don’t have my snack and just put on the bedtime insulin dose.
Wednesday: Breakfast Toast, Rice Roll with AB, Leftover Stew and Muffin, Snacks, KFC, Salad, and Turkey Ham and Cheese Sandwiches with Avocado
I have the usual: two eggs with toasted Dave’s Killer bread, this time without coffee. I’m not sure what Christian has because he leaves before me.
After my first lesson, I eat my rice roll with almond butter and think about when I’ll be able to have lunch. (My last two lessons are fairly close together, which complicates my need to eat and use the restroom).
I had packed some stew and a muffin for lunch. I decide to eat it right before my second lesson, and have my snacks before and after my last lesson. Due to some last-minute changes in the drop off, we end up driving to a destination that is close to my last lesson (a school), which makes me happy, but also upset because I could have stuck to my usual eating routine.
While I wait in the parent drop-off/pick-up zone, I have string cheese, crackers, and two nectarines. After dropping off the student at home (it was prearranged), I have a bag of popcorn, more nectarines, crackers, and the second string cheese on my way home. After I get home, I prep some turkey ham, avocado, and cheese sandwiches and salads for Christian and I along with my dinner insulin. Christian helps me pack the food. While I’m at the tax office, I want KFC chicken.
Since I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, I haven’t had KFC. This location is quieter and right outside the door (maybe 10 or 15 steps), so I take my office phone (Christian has left to do something) and head over. I order a three-piece meal and unsweetened iced tea ($10.82). I shred one piece over my salad and eat that with my sandwich. Christian can’t find his sandwiches (I tell him he must have left them on the counter while he was packing the food), so he eats the remaining two pieces of chicken and all the fries.
After we got home, we head to bed, as we were pretty tired. I take my bedtime insulin without my bedtime snack.