Grocery Diaries

I’m a Writer and My Husband’s a Customer Sales Associate — We Just Spent $146 on a Week’s Worth of Groceries

published May 12, 2022
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Credit: Food: Shutterstock; Photo: Courtesy of Jessica; Design: Kitchn

Name: Jessica
Location: Eugene, OR
Number of people in the household: 4; myself, spouse, and two school-aged kids
Age: 35
Occupation: Writer (combined salary of $45,000)
Where you shopped: Fred Meyer, Grocery Outlet, and Market of Choice
Weekly food budget: $150
Amount spent: $146.32

Credit: Courtesy of Jessica

Where did you shop?

I usually hit Fred Meyer for pantry goods. I started using their grocery pick-up service, which I find to be a quick and easy way to get the bulk of my groceries. It also frees up time, so I can do small shops at a few other places. I try to swing by the local farm stand where my friend works. She usually has free or discounted produce for me. Then, if meat or bulk items are on my list, I head to Market of Choice. Finally, if I have time, I’ll check Grocery Outlet for deals on baking supplies or lunch snacks for my kids. I don’t shop at all of these stores every week; where I go depends on my list and what sales the stores are offering. 

What’s your grocery strategy?

I keep a running list of ingredients that I used up throughout the week. I also always check my pantry to see what I’ve got or what I need to use. Then, and I know this sounds weird, I check the weather forecast for the week. Spring around here means it could be 60 degrees and beautiful, which is perfect for light, summery meals, or in the 40s and rainy, which is when I’d want to make warm, comforting foods.

With two kids, I also try to think about what we’ve got going on time commitment-wise for the week. My budget has been more of an idea than a rigid guideline lately: the price of food fluctuates so much from week to week that I sometimes adjust what I plan to make, or if I catch a really good deal I’ll stock up for future weeks.

This week was a pretty big shop, which is why I came within $4 of my weekly budget ($150). If I have a lot in the pantry and I’m just picking up a few things, I can usually keep the shop closer to $100 for the week.

Credit: Courtesy of Jessica

How do you meal plan?

I work from home, so that totally frees me up to make a lot of things from scratch: yogurt, chicken broth, granola, peanut butter, pizza dough, etc. I aim to come up with a menu that has six dinners for the week. Typically, I leave one night as a wildcard or leftovers night. I try to do a mix of vegetarian and a few meat or seafood meals. I love trying new recipes, but I try to include a mix of meals I know my kids will eat. If I’m making something that might be a tough sell (looking at you, lentils), I’ll make dessert on that night as an incentive.

Lunches are totally an afterthought for me: Usually my husband takes the leftovers, the kids eat at school, and I just poke through the fridge and come up with something quick for me. I plan a bit more for breakfasts: I’ll make a big batch of granola, muffins, or yogurt to eat during the week.

What did you buy?

Fred Meyer

  • Red pepper, $1.99
  • Oat-coconut milk, $3.04
  • Whole grain bread, $3.99
  • Butter, $6.00
  • Ricotta, $ 3.49
  • Pecans, $6.70
  • Coffee, $6.99
  • Broccoli, $2.74
  • Carrots, $2.49
  • Pasta sauce, $4.38
  • Bananas, $1.35
  • Apples, $3.99
  • Tofu, $1.67
  • Mozzarella sticks, $6.77 (for next week)

Total: $55.59

Grocery Outlet

  • Goat cheese, $2.99
  • Applesauce, $4.98 (jar and cups)
  • Sandwich bread, $2.99
  • Dark chocolate baking bars, $1.98
  • Cereal, $2.49
  • Romaine lettuce, $3.99
  • Lime, $0.59
  • Frozen blueberries, $4.99
  • Cottage cheese, $3.49
  • Mango lassi kefir, $4.00
  • Greek vanilla yogurt, $3.99
  • Milk, $8.98
  • Eggs, $3.99
  • Yogurt cups, $1.00

Total: $50.45

Market of Choice

  • Ground beef, $17.73 (froze 1 pound for next week)
  • Deli turkey, $8.10
  • Garlic bread, $2.99
  • Jalapeño peppers, $0.48
  • Persian cucumbers, $3.99
  • Ice cream, $6.99

Total: $40.28

Grand Total: $146.32

Credit: Courtesy of Jessica

Sunday: Apple Breakfast Cake, Leftover Quiche, and Buttermilk Roast Chicken

There’s not a lot in the fridge right now; I’m planning to get groceries over the next few days. I use up the last egg and apples to make a whole-wheat apple breakfast cake. For lunch, I eat quiche that was left over from dinner with a small salad. I let the kids be in charge of their own lunches. My 6-year-old makes a quesadilla and has carrot sticks, and my 8-year-old eats cereal. 

For dinner, I cook buttermilk roast chicken that I’ve been planning to make forever. We have it with roasted potatoes, green beans, and sweet-salty roasted Brussels sprouts with pecans. “Classic chicken dinner” is a family favorite and it’s nice to make something that I know everyone will eat. Plus, we’ll have leftovers I can use to make dinner tomorrow. I do half of my grocery shopping after dinner because we’re out of milk and eggs. Then, I make some quick blueberry jam to go with lunches this week.

Credit: Courtesy of Jessica

Monday: Greek Yogurt Parfaits, Leftover Quiche, and Chicken Soup with Cornmeal Dumplings

For breakfast we have quick Greek yogurt parfaits with some of the blueberry jam. There are a few pieces of the apple cake left, too, so I have that with some coffee. My husband is home for lunch and we both finish off the leftover quiche. The kids have school lunch. 

Yesterday was beautiful and summery, but today is rainy and cool, so I make chicken soup with the leftover chicken and veggies from yesterday and homemade stock. It is a really comforting one-pot meal that I top with cornmeal dumplings. 

Credit: Courtesy of Jessica

Tuesday: Toast with Goat Cheese and Homemade Blueberry Jam, Pad Thai, Salad, and Pizza

We have whole-grain toast topped with goat cheese and blueberry jam with mango lassi yogurt drink on the side for breakfast. I pack lunches for the kids today: sandwiches, apples, cucumbers, and yogurt. My husband has today off and the kids are at school, so we go out for Thai food. We each order pad Thai and the portions are huge! We save half of our meal to eat for dinner.

Credit: Courtesy of Jessica

My husband and I share the leftovers and I make a big tossed salad. The kids have tossed salad and some pizza. After dinner, I prepare some breakfast stuff for the next few days; I bake a batch of bran muffins to use up some buttermilk and bran cereal I had kicking around. I also bake nutty maple granola.

Credit: Courtesy of Jessica

Wednesday: Greek Yogurt with Homemade Granola, Leftover Chicken Soup, and Crispy Tofu with Steamed Rice and Broccoli

We have Greek yogurt with the granola I made last night. I make my youngest his favorite drink: warm milk with honey and nutmeg. For lunch, I warm up leftover chicken and veggie soup with dumplings from the other day and freeze the remaining portion, so my husband can take it to work next week. I also pack lunches for the kids. They have bran muffins that I made yesterday, applesauce, cheese, and some nuts. 

We’ve had meat for the last few days, so I want a vegetarian dinner. I cook some crispy tofu with a sweet chili sauce and make steamed rice with broccoli. Everyone but my 8-year-old loves this. 

Credit: Courtesy of Jessica

Thursday: Homemade Porridge with Ice Cream, Turkey Sandwich, Leftovers, Baked Ricotta with Sautéed Beets, and a Crumble for Dessert

This morning, I make porridge with Bob’s Red Mill hot rice cereal and oats that I cook with milk and water. I am feeling fancy today, so I add honey, cardamom, walnuts, and dried apricots. Supposedly, my great-grandma used to eat porridge with ice cream on top for breakfast, and I’m more than happy to continue this tradition. I plop a little vanilla ice cream on top of our bowls and it melts into a sweet, creamy topping.

Credit: Courtesy of Jessica

For lunch, I make a quick sandwich with whole-grain bread, deli turkey, and lettuce, with some cucumbers on the side. My husband takes the leftover rice, tofu, and broccoli from last night. Dinner is another vegetarian meal that I can put together easily. I’m trying a new recipe (baked ricotta) and serving it with sautéed beets and their greens. I put it all together with garlic bread and a small salad. There are plenty of little parts to this meal, so everyone’s sure to find something they like! I make a rhubarb-blueberry crumble for dessert.

Credit: Courtesy of Jessica

Friday: Waffles, Turkey Sandwich, Snack Foods, and Vegetable Curry with Rice

Today both kids are home sick. My kindergartener has a cold and he requests waffles for breakfast. I made a big batch, but it was just the two of us eating them, so there’s plenty of leftover waffles for the next day. Lunch is a turkey sandwich for me and snack foods for the kids; they have yogurt, applesauce, and crackers with peanut butter.

I am planning on grilling, but it starts raining and my sick kiddos want comfort food. I check the fridge for veggies I need to use up and make a mild curry. I cook peanut-coconut curry sauce and add chickpeas, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and red bell pepper. We have steamed rice on the side. 

Saturday: Leftover Waffles, Free-for-All Lunch, Burgers and Fries

We have lots of waffles left over, so I toast them and top them with bananas, maple syrup, and walnuts for breakfast. Lunch with all of us home on the weekends is kind of a free-for-all. I have leftover curry and make my youngest a PB&J. My older son wants a tuna sandwich and my husband makes himself a pita bread pizza. It’s the day before I grocery shop, so we try to use up whatever’s taking up space in the fridge. I fire up the grill and make hamburgers, which are always a huge hit. While the burgers cook, I make oven fries and fry sauce. We have cotton candy grapes on the side.

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