I’m a Teacher and My Partner’s an Engineer — We Shop Mostly at Aldi and Just Spent $66 on a Week’s Worth of Groceries
Location: Terre Haute, Indiana
Number of people in household: 2
Age: 22 and 24
Occupation: I’m a teacher; my partner is an engineer
Household Income: $94,000
Grocery shopping for how long? One week
Where did you shop? Aldi and Meijer
How much did you spend? $66.02 for groceries and $28.98 for takeout
Dietary requirements? None, although we try to limit meat (especially red meat) and added sugars
Where did you shop?
I shop mostly at Aldi. There’s a Meijer right next door that I’ll go into after I go to Aldi to pick up anything I couldn’t find. I also buy items from Flashfood, which is located in Meijer’s customer service area. I found out about the company earlier this year when I noticed a big industrial-sized fridge wrapped in Flashfoods decals. They partner with grocery stores to help sell food that’s about to expire. You purchase items through the app, which shows pictures of what is currently available, and pick them up from the fridge. I’ve had some incredible finds, including a box of 15 red, orange, yellow, and aloha bell peppers for $5, rolls of puff pastry for $0.50, and big pieces of salmon for $2.50.
Once in a great while I’ll stop by Kroger during the week if I really need something. I also go there when I run out of my favorite cereal, the one item I consistently purchase at Kroger. It’s delicious; I wish Aldi would make their own version.
What’s your grocery strategy?
I’ve found that, if I plan for all seven days, we usually end up with too much food, so I generally plan meals for Monday through Friday. On the weekends, we either eat leftovers, make something new with what we have, heat something stored in the freezer, or occasionally get takeout.
I typically meal plan on Wednesday night and go grocery shopping right after work on Thursday. I take stock of what pantry staples and meat we already have and plan from there. I only buy meat that is heavily discounted and then I freeze it for later. We have no specific dietary restrictions, but I try to cook with a lot of extra vegetables, incorporate meat up to four times a week (red meat only once), and avoid added sugar. I also avoid buying products from companies when their employees are on strike.
How do you meal plan?
I use Whisk. It’s a really great (free!) app that streamlines meal planning and grocery shopping. I have all of my recipes saved to my account by category. (I can save recipes directly from a website by copying and pasting a URL or by manually adding the information.) I have categories for different types of meat, as well as a meatless category. So, if I know I have ground beef in the freezer and rice in the pantry, I go into my “ground beef” category and find a recipe that uses rice. It makes utilizing ingredients and reducing food waste much easier.
There’s also a meal planning tab where I can directly add recipes to each day of the week, as well as a grocery list tab. I can add to the grocery list directly from the recipe or directly from the meal plan (it will pull up a list of all the ingredients needed to make all of the recipes in my meal planning tab for the week, and I just deselect the ingredients I already have).
Shopping lists can be synced with other accounts, so my partner has access to the list in his app as well. Then either of us can add something to the list when we run out. You can also have multiple grocery lists, so I also keep a freezer inventory of the meat I have in the deep freezer to use while planning. We also have dinner with my parents and sisters once a week, either at my parents’ house (they cook and I bring dessert) or at our house (I cook and they bring dessert). This week it’ll be at their house, so I’ll be making an apple tart with all of my Flashfood apples.
What did you buy?
- 2 dozen eggs, $4.58
- Peanuts, $1.75
- 1 pound of unsalted butter, $2.89
- 1 bag of chocolate chunks, $2.49
- 4 bananas, $0.68
- Blueberry bagels, $1.49
- 5 roma tomatoes, $0.95
- 1 bag of spinach, $1.49
- 3 bell peppers, $2.99
- 1 package of Neufchatel cheese, $0.79
- 1 bag of grapes, $2.11
- 16 2-bite brownies, $4.99
- 1 container of strawberries, $2.49
- 1 pound of baby carrots, $0.79
- 1 loaf of bread, $0.79
- 1 can of diced tomatoes, $0.64
- 1 can tomato paste, $0.45
- 1 can great northern beans, $0.52
- 12 cans AHA sparking water (Watermelon lime), $3.38
- 12 cans AHA sparking water (Citrus + Green tea), $3.38
- 1 small butternut squash, $1.97
- 1 can of pumpkin pie filling, $1.39
- Udon, $2.99
- Large bag of frozen broccoli, $3.99
- Ghirardelli chocolate bar, Free
- Toll House Cookie Dough, $2.50
- 3 small containers of raspberries, $4.55
- Spool of ribbon, $1.99
- 27 apples and 4 avocados, $5
- Small bottle of Fairlife chocolate milk, $0.50
- Plain Dannon yogurt, $1.00
Grand Total: $66.02
Monday: Creamy Chicken and Orzo with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
I have to be at work early so I throw two frozen croissant breakfast sandwiches in the microwave while I get ready. Whenever I see croissants discounted at the store, I grab them to make these sandwiches and store them in the freezer; they make a great quick breakfast. After they’re defrosted in the microwave, I pop them in the toaster oven to get crispy. For lunch, I eat my last oatmeal bite and a kiwi. My boyfriend makes himself a fruit smoothie.
Dinner is creamy chicken and orzo with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. I’m out of oatmeal bites, so I make another batch after dinner. Halfway through I remember I’m out of peanut butter, so I make a batch of that too.
Tuesday: Family Dinner and a Homemade Apple Tart
About a year ago, Aldi was selling frozen croissants, both Nutella-filled and plain. I had a feeling they would be temporary, so I grabbed a couple bags of each. My intuition was correct and now I’m on my last bag. They take a while to bake but are delicious; I like them as much as homemade croissants. I make some scrambled eggs as well. I eat an oatmeal bite for lunch with an apple (same lunch every day — it’s quick, easy, and doesn’t need to be reheated). My partner finishes off the chicken and orzo from the night before.
Tuesday night this week is family dinner. It’s at my parents’ house, so I make an apple tart. It’s not as pretty as I intended, but it tastes pretty good.
Wednesday: Avocado Toast with Scrambled Eggs
I notice that my avocados from my produce box are beginning to creep into too-ripe territory. Hoping to slow them down, I put three in the fridge and make avocado toast with the other, along with some scrambled eggs. Lunch is yet another oatmeal bite with an apple (I vary the fruit if I have things about to go bad, but my standard is an apple). My partner makes his standard lunch smoothie. Dinner is udon and pork stir-fry.
Thursday: Takeout from a Local Irish Pub
The remaining avocados are staring me down when I open the fridge in the morning, so I decide breakfast will again be an avocado toast with scrambled eggs, only with sourdough toast to spice it up. Sourdough and avocado do not end up pairing well. I eat another oatmeal bite for lunch with an apple. My partner eats the last of the orzo.
We decide on a whim to get takeout for dinner. I set our grocery budget to $350 a month even though we typically don’t use that much on actual groceries. We use the extra to get takeout once a month or so. After much deliberation, we order from a local Irish pub: a fish sandwich with potato cakes and a corned beef and potato quesadilla with pepper Jack-stuffed pretzel bites. It’s all delicious.
Friday: Butternut Squash Pasta with White Beans
I make myself soft-boiled eggs with toast for breakfast while my partner eats a bagel with cream cheese and a spoonful of peanut butter. For lunch, I eat an oatmeal bite and an apple and my partner drinks a smoothie. Dinner is a new recipe: butternut squash pasta with white beans.
Saturday: Biscuits and Gravy
I’m heading over to Indianapolis to take an aerial silks class and grab lunch with a friend, but I get up early enough to make homemade biscuits and gravy. Lunch is at The AMP, a new-ish food hall with over half women- and minority-owned or -led businesses. For budgeting purposes, we only put groceries and takeout for both of us in the grocery budget. When either of us get dinner or a drink individually or with a friend, we budget it into our personal spending amounts for the month. I spend $11.16 for an order of toasted ravioli and a lemonade, then $4.96 on a chocolate-covered strawberry and a chocolate-covered Oreo at a different stall. I think about my partner drinking his standard smoothie and consider bringing him something home, but I conclude that it won’t be good by the time I get home (an hour-and-a-half drive). By the time I get back it’s nearly dinner time; I make lentil Bolognese with penne, another new recipe.
Sunday: Sausage and Peppers with Boiled Potatoes and Spinach
I make a batch of pumpkin muffins for breakfast with the intention of eating one and passing on the rest to my family. After some cleaning and a long walk to a friend’s house and back, I make a quesadilla with chips and guacamole for lunch. My partner makes yet another smoothie. For dinner, I sauté the remainder of the sausage and peppers with boiled potatoes and spinach. This is one of my favorite types of meals to make: Something I sort of make up that pulls together a bunch of random leftover ingredients to produce a very tasty result. I think that’s what I love most about meal planning and cooking — figuring out the most efficient, cheapest, and creative way of utilizing ingredients to keep our grocery budget low and reduce food waste while still creating delicious meals.