Grocery Diaries

We’re a Family of 4 in New Jersey and Shop Mostly at Costco and ShopRite — Here’s How Much We Spent on Groceries This Week

published Jul 14, 2022
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Credit: Food: Shutterstock; People: Courtesy of Ilona; Design: Kitchn

Name: Ilona
Location: Glen Ridge, NJ
Number of people in family or household: 4; my husband (Justin) and me, and two kids
Age: 32 (me), 36 (Justin), 3 (daughter), and 1 (son)
Occupation: I work in finance, doing valuations in the life sciences industry and Justin works in data analytics
Where you shopped: Costco, ShopRite weekly and a local produce shop, the GreenGrocer. 
Weekly food budget: Up until around six months ago, my weekly food budget was $75/week at ShopRite (lately the ShopRite bill has been coming out to around $90/week), plus a $300 trip to Costco every six to eight weeks.
Amount spent: $319.81

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

Where did you shop?

I mainly go to ShopRite weekly and to Costco every six to eight weeks or so. There is also a local produce grocery store, the GreenGrocer, that participates in Too Good to Go, an app that connects shoppers to restaurants and grocers selling surplus food at a discount. For $5, I can pick up about $15 worth of produce that is starting to wilt or maybe dairy that’s close to its best-by date. Sometimes, towards the end of the week and if we’re running low on veggies, I’ll pick that up (it’s a surprise bag) and incorporate it into the meals. It’s a fun way to try new things I wouldn’t have thought to get on my own. 

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

What’s your grocery strategy?

I start with the circular and store app to see what’s on sale or has coupons. I also glance at Ibotta, a cash back coupon app, and see if any of the items I’m already buying are on sale. There are some weekly staples on my grocery list, but I am mostly flexible and go with whatever is on sale. I get my paper goods and pantry staples from Costco. I usually restock these things when they’re on sale, either Kirkland brand or the brand-name product, whichever is cheaper.

How do you meal plan?

Both kids are in full-time daycare so in addition to family meals, I need to plan out daycare lunches and snacks. I have a few ideas in mind based on what’s on sale that week, but I also have to play it by ear depending on the temperaments of my two toddlers or if I stumble on a recipe I want to try. 

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

What did you buy?


  • Broccoli, $1.77 (on sale)
  • Nectarines, $1.85 (on sale)
  • Avocados, $4.99 (on sale)
  • Blueberries, $2.49 (on sale)
  • Peaches, $1.03 (on sale)
  • Bananas, $1.77
  • Celery, $2.49
  • Cornmeal, $1.59
  • Gluten-free wholegrain bread, $6.99
  • Vidalia onions, $2.99 (on sale) 
  • Cocoa powder, $3.19
  • Olives, $1.29 (on sale)
  • Organic grape tomatoes, $3.00
  • Yellow grape tomatoes, $2.50 (on sale)
  • Organic baby spinach, $4.99
  • Potato chips, $1.69
  • Mushrooms, $2.99
  • Cucumbers, $2.99
  • 1 gallon organic whole milk,  $5.99
  • Shredded cheese, $3.98 (on sale)
  • Boneless pork chops, $9.78 (on sale)
  • Deli meat, $2.45 (from the manager’s special section, which is the same meat just cut haphazardly and 50% off) 
  • Sliced cheese, $1.68 (same 50% managers special)
  • Salmon, $11.75 (on sale) 
  • Strawberries, $2.99
  • Cereal, $3.69 (on sale + coupon) 
  • Dried basil, $0.99 (on sale)
  • Flower bouquet, $15.99 (on sale)

Total: $101.98 (minus $8.97 in coupons, plus $1.06 sales tax)

GreenGrocer (via the Too Good To Go app)

  • Bread
  • Broccoli
  • Siete grain-free tortilla chips

Total: $5


  • Frozen organic vegetables, $8.99
  • Cheerios, $4.39 (on sale)
  • Pita chips, $4.99 (on sale)
  • Pumpkin flax granola, $10.98 (on sale)
  • Polly-o string cheese, $11.49 (I remember when these were under $9)
  • Dried mango, $12.59
  • Grape tomatoes, $6.69
  • Organic hummus, $6.99
  • Sliced havarti, $9.89
  • Bananas, $2.29
  • Grapes, $6.99
  • Peaches, $9.99
  • Strawberries, $4.29
  • Dates, $11.99
  • 1.5 gallon organic milk, $10.89
  • Ramen, $7.99 (on sale)
  • Organic chicken stock, $9.99
  • Bagged kale salad, $6.99
  • Organic fruit bars, $8.79
  • White fish salad, $12.99
  • Steak strips, $11.99
  • Wine, $7.99
  • Seaweed salad, $8.39 (on sale)
  • Pretzel crisps, $4.39
  • Potatoes, $8.29

Total $212.83 (plus $1.59 sales tax)

Grand Total: $319.81

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

Saturday: Oatmeal, Leftovers, and Homemade Pizza

I’m planning on going shopping tomorrow, so I’m scavenging the cupboards and making meals out of what is left from last week’s shopping trip and pantry items. We ran out of milk, so I make oatmeal with evaporated milk for breakfast. Lunch is leftover broccoli mac and cheese from last week and cut up veggies. I have a ton of canned tomatoes from the ShopRite Can-Can sale, so we use those along with other pantry staples to make homemade pizza dough and pasta sauce to use tonight and later in the week.

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

Sunday: Fried and Scrambled Eggs, Salmon with Rice, Birthday Brunch, and Pork with Roasted Potatoes

I have the remains of last week’s spinach and a fried egg for breakfast and I go to the grocery store before the kids wake up. My husband makes himself and the kids scrambled eggs while I’m out. Later on, they have salmon with rice for lunch, while I meet my friend for brunch for her birthday.

After I get home, my mom comes by and brings over raspberries, a watermelon, and cherries. I’ll be adding those to the kids lunches this week! I also have ‘baba soup’ in my fridge, which is chicken soup my babushka made. She makes a few containers a month and they are earmarked exclusively for great grandbaby consumption. If the kids won’t eat what I make, they’ll usually at least have the broth from babushka’s chicken soup. It’s also a staple for my son’s daycare lunch. 

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

I use half the family pack of pork, sauté it, and make some roasted potatoes for dinner. There is an inverse relationship with the amount of effort I put into a meal and my children’s willingness to eat it. This is an involved recipe with lots of sautéing and a sauce that has to be reduced, so they each have maybe half a bite.  After dinner, I prep daycare lunches for my daughter and son.

My daughter usually has a cold lunch, so I put it in a Bentgo Box while I put my son’s food in random small containers (glass for things I’d like heated). I try to include fruit, protein, dairy, and carbs with each meal. It’s hit or miss whether they come back barely touched or completely empty. And when they come back empty, I’m not sure if that means they ate it all or threw it on the ground. 

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

Monday: Breakfast Free-for-All, Pre-Packed Lunches, Leftover Salmon and Team Lunch, Plus Homemade Pizza

I work in the office today so I have to catch a train. Everyone takes longer getting up because the kids got up multiple times to flop around our bed throughout the night. Breakfast ends up being two spoonfuls of peanut butter and an applesauce pouch (for my son), and some dry cereal (for my daughter). I eat a granola bar at my desk. Justin has cereal once he has the house to himself. 

I have lunch with my team and Justin finishes the salmon and rice with some spinach. My daughter has the yogurt with granola, olives, grape tomatoes (sliced longways because …choking), broccoli, and the fruit I packed last night for lunch. She also has some apple, banana, and hummus for snacks. She gets two snack times a day at school. Once, like a year ago, Justin packed her lunch and only included ONE snack, so she was forced to pick at her uneaten lunch during the second snack time and she likes to remind us of that terrible oversight every chance she gets; now it’s at least two snacks. My son has soup, hummus, salmon and rice, oatmeal, watermelon, strawberries, sliced grape tomatoes, and a banana.  I don’t know his snack schedule and he doesn’t talk yet, so no complaints from him. 

For dinner, we have homemade pizza made from the dough and sauce I made this weekend and some strawberries. My daughter was complaining of a tummy ache during the day and had a small fever, so she also had chicken broth. (Negative rapid test; that’s always the first thought when there is any ailment. And with two toddlers in daycare, there’s always symptoms.)  

I eat deli meat and cheese out of the fridge while prepping their lunches for the next day and listen to my true crime podcast as I pit cherries with a metal straw. 

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

Tuesday: Spinach and Cheese Omelet, Breakfast Sandwich, Pre-Packed Lunches, Turkey Sandwich, and Pork Chops

For breakfast, I put out watermelon for the kids, which no one touched, and dry Cheerios. My son sees me refilling a container of granola bars so he demands one and inhales it for breakfast. My daughter doesn’t have anything. They both have a morning snack at daycare so … it’s fine. 

After we get them out of the house, I make myself a spinach and cheese omelet and have that with the leftover roasted potatoes and some salsa. My husband has a granola bar and a breakfast sandwich.

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

I mostly work from home, which offers great flexibility, especially with young kids. (For example: It turns out my daughter had some stomach issues so I pick her up in the middle of the day for a doctor’s appointment.) The problem is that I am so close to my fridge that after I finish any task, I run down to the kitchen for more coffee and/or snacks throughout the morning. For lunch, I have a turkey sandwich and chips.

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

My kids each have the lunches I prepped for them the night before: pizza, corn, pork, dates, pitted cherries, strawberries, and blueberries (for my daughter); sliced grape tomatoes, baba soup, strawberries, pitted cherries, granola and yogurt (who doesn’t love a parfait?!), pizza, pork, corn, and Goldfish (for my son).

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

I try to block 30 minutes on my calendar to make dinner during the day at least once a week, if possible. Between calls today, I fry the remaining pork chops, which we all have for dinner later. Part of my dinner is also whatever is salvageable and uneaten from the kid’s lunches.

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

Wednesday: Toast, Pre-Packed Lunches, Leftover Pasta and Turkey, Oatmeal, Ramen with Leftover Pork, and Brownies

The kids have toast for breakfast. I eat their sad leftover toast pieces and my husband skips breakfast. (He skips breakfast a lot and I don’t know why!)

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

For lunch, I finish the deli meat by having another turkey sandwich, plus I finish last week’s broccoli mac and cheese. For lunch, my husband noshes on a granola bar.

I thought I’d give my daughter a special treat and spread Nutella on a crepe and roll it up with some strawberries and raspberries. I also packed her broccoli and pasta, avocado, peach slices, Cheerios, and Goldfish for lunch and snacks. My son has a yogurt parfait, fruit, cucumber, tomatoes, avocado, potatoes, leftover mac and cheese, and Cheerios.

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

I plan on making brownies for book club tonight, but then I realize I got my dates mixed up and book club isn’t until next week. (I’m going to completely forget this book by then.) I already have brownies on my mind, though, so I make them anyway. I use Katherine Hepburn’s recipe, which is dangerously easy since you just mix everything up in a pot on the stove. 

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

I eat sad leftovers from my daughter’s lunch for dinner. She has a sore throat so that Nutella strawberry wrap was not so much a treat as a painful acid bomb in her mouth. It basically disintegrated in her lunch box. She very considerately mixed the raisins with the avocado. I will pack her a very bland lunch for tomorrow. (My son’s lunch box was completely empty, so either he ate all the things or tossed them on the floor.) I make oatmeal for the kids and Justin has the leftover sliced pork with some ramen.

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

Thursday: Avocado Toast with Egg, Pre-Packed Lunches, Leftover Pork, and Homemade Broccoli and Potato Soup with Crusty Bread

The kids have toast for breakfast again. I spruce up their leftover toast by topping it with avocado and a grated hard-boiled egg, which was a thing I saw on the internet a while ago and mentally bookmarked to try later. My husband has a granola bar for breakfast today.

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

For my daughter’s lunch, I pack things I hope won’t irritate her throat, including cold pasta, a peanut butter sandwich, shredded cheese, cucumber, celery, avocado, and egg. My son has leftover oatmeal, berries, egg, a peanut butter sandwich, Goldfish, avocado, and roasted potatoes (the potatoes come back uneaten from his lunch for the second time now … I’ll give up adding them after this).

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

I use the Too Good To Go app and spend $5 for a mystery bag of goodies at the GreenGrocer. It makes for a fun, spontaneous, Russian-roulette dinner. We get a loaf of really good bread, a head of broccoli, and some tortilla chips. Since I already have broccoli from ShopRite that I need to use up, I make a broccoli and potato soup and eat it with the crusty bread and have it for lunch (as does Justin). My fingers are crossed the kids like the soup because my husband doesn’t, so it’ll be soup for me the rest of the week if it’s not kid-approved. 

For dinner we have leftover pork chops and I also have soup. My daughter ends up not liking it, but my son eats two bowls so … SUCCESS!

Credit: Courtesy of Ilona

Friday: Eggs and Toast, Pre-Packed Lunches, Leftover Pork with Rice and Kale Salad, Plus Eggs, Leftover Soup, and Whitefish Salad

We all have eggs and toast for breakfast, and my husband and I head to Costco first thing in the morning after sending the kids to daycare. I’m much more spontaneous with my Costco shopping, which is probably not very practical since if we don’t like something, we’ve committed to a lot of that something.

For lunch, Justin picks at the snacks we got from Costco and I have leftover pork, rice, and kale salad, and snack on the pita chips and hummus later in the afternoon. Continuing the nothing-too-irritating trend, I packed my daughter bread with butter, rice, celery, cucumbers, Goldfish, and cheese. My son gets all the roasted broccoli soup my little gourmand could want, avocado, pork, berries, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, and a yogurt parfait.

I talked up the seaweed salad, but my daughter wasn’t a fan of the texture, so she ends up with scrambled eggs and some string cheese for dinner. My son has more broccoli soup and string cheese and I eat spoonfuls of whitefish salad in front of the fridge and my husband finishes off some of the remaining leftovers.

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