Grocery Diaries

We’re a Family of 2 in Iowa and Shop Mostly at Hy-Vee and Trader Joe’s — Here’s How Much We Spent on Groceries This Week

published Jan 20, 2023
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Collage of Jordan in center with silos of food
Credit: Photo Credit: Shutterstock and Courtesy of Jordan; Design: The Kitchn

Name: Jordan
Location: Ankeny, IA
Age: 29
Number of people in household: Two; me and my husband, Colton (plus two golden retrievers)
Occupation: I work in healthcare administration, and my husband works in commercial HVAC sales.
Where you shopped: Hy-Vee, Trader Joe’s, Fleet Farm, and Fareway
Weekly food budget: We don’t have a set budget, but we try to stay under $200 per week (excluding household essentials and toiletries)
Amount spent: $169.46

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

Where did you shop?

I did most of my shopping at Hy-Vee, which is the dominant regional chain in our area. I also made the 30-minute trek to Trader Joe’s. There are only two Trader Joe’s stores in the entire state of Iowa, so I take full advantage of our proximity to the West Des Moines location. While shopping at Fleet Farm for other household items, I picked up some cereal we were out of. My husband also makes an unexpected mid-week trip to Fareway to grab a few things. 

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

What’s your grocery strategy?

I typically shop on the weekend and try to buy enough food to get us through a full week. This strategy is more successful some weeks than it is others. I choose to shop at Hy-Vee because of the company’s “fuel saver” program, which allows me to earn money toward gas for my car when I purchase select items or spend a certain amount. I also enjoy Hy-Vee’s wide selection and the fact that the grocer’s “helpful smile in every aisle” slogan almost always rings true. 

Because it’s a bit of a drive to get there, I only go to Trader Joe’s once every few weeks. I’m constantly in search of something new to try and, as a member of the “Favorite Trader Joe’s Products” Facebook group, I get a lot of great ideas from the reviews posted there. I usually go in with a short shopping list and then grab whatever new or exciting things jump out at me. I realize this may sound frivolous or irresponsible, but because we don’t eat out often, I feel the loose approach to spending is more easily justified. I also suffered from an eating disorder for about a decade, and a huge part of recovery has been re-discovering and exploring different foods. Trader Joe’s is the perfect place to do just that!

How do you meal plan?

My husband, Colton, and I don’t follow a specific meal plan, but approximately 70 percent of our groceries are consistent from week to week. We both rotate through the same three to four meals for breakfast and lunch. When it comes to dinner, I plan to cook two larger dishes per week and hope that the leftovers get us through at least Friday night. 

I’m terribly indecisive, so I always start by asking my husband what he’s in the mood for. If he doesn’t have anything specific in mind, I have about 10 fallback recipes that I can turn to for simple, quick, and tasty meals. This week, I plan to make one of our favorite dinners (frittata), as well as an entirely new recipe I’ve been wanting to try (BBQ chicken casserole).

What did you buy?


  • Yellow onions, $1.34
  • Garlic, $0.50
  • Pink lady apples, $2.99
  • Red bell pepper, $1.50
  • Riced cauliflower, $2.99
  • Premium romaine salad (2 packages), $7.98
  • Moroccan-style power bowl, $3.89
  • Greek yogurt (4 cups), $4.00
  • 2% Greek yogurt, $4.79
  • Skim milk, $4.48
  • Eggs, $3.99
  • Chicken breast, $7.06
  • Italian-style turkey sausage, $4.49
  • Kettle corn, $3.49
  • KIND snack bars, $4.99
  • Larabar snack bars, $6.79
  • Pancake syrup, $3.29
  • Juice, $2.29
  • Mountain Dew Zero, $8.59 (including $0.60 deposit)
  • Gatorade Zero, $6.48

Total: $87.33 (including $1.41 tax)

Trader Joe’s

  • Brazilian-style cheese bread, $4.99
  • Blueberry waffles, $2.79
  • Buffalo chicken wrap, $5.49
  • French onion focaccia bread, $4.49
  • Mini mint ice cream mouthfuls, $4.49
  • Chicken soup dumplings, $3.49
  • Pork and ginger soup dumplings (2 packages), $6.98
  • Crispy jalapeño pieces, $2.99
  • Organic Kansas City BBQ sauce, $2.99
  • Brown sugar oat creamer, $1.99
  • Chocolate granola bites, $2.99
  • Strawberry kefir, $3.49
  • Joe-Joe’s cookies & crème granola, $3.69
  • BBQ & black pepper Toscano chopped salad, $3.49

Total: $54.35

Fleet Farm

  • Peanut butter Chex cereal (2 boxes), $7.78

Total: $7.78


  • Gatorade
  • Ice cream sandwich

Total: $20 (estimated amount spent)

Grand Total: $169.46

What did you make?

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

Monday: Blueberry Waffles, Banana, Oatmeal, Leftover Goulash, Apple, Salad, Yogurt, Snack Bars, Our Favorite Frittata, and After-Dinner Snacks

I’m up bright and early to feed the two most important members of our household: our golden retrievers, Ari and Mia. While the girls eat and get some exercise in the yard, I start the coffee pot and throw two frozen blueberry waffles into the air fryer. I hadn’t eaten frozen waffles in years, but I’ve been on a real kick after impulse-buying the pumpkin flavor at Trader Joe’s back in October. I top my waffles with syrup and add a banana on the side. I spend the next 30 minutes eating, drinking two cups of coffee, and finishing my daily crossword and word puzzles. I started working from home when we moved here in April, and I’ve loved having time in the mornings to ease into the day. Colton is heading into the office today, and he packs a salad and yogurt cup for lunch. He doesn’t have time for breakfast before he leaves, so he digs into the stash of instant oatmeal that he keeps at work for busy mornings.

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

My favorite time of the day is, undoubtedly, snack time. I have at least three, if not four snacks every day. My mid-morning nosh is almost always a snack bar, and today’s selection is a KIND nut butter filled bar. I also have a Mountain Dew Zero while I power through some work tasks. For lunch, I have a bowl of beef goulash (from a mix!) that’s left over from the weekend, with a dollop of sour cream on top and an apple on the side. It’s warm, hearty, and really hits the spot. I grab a couple of Andes mints out of the refrigerator for dessert. Colton eats his salad, yogurt, and a granola bar that was provided for free by his company.

I snack on cottage cheese and chocolate chip granola bites as I finish out the workday and prepare to take the dogs for their daily walk. When we return home, I get started on one of our favorite dinner recipes: a frittata with Italian turkey sausage, red pepper, and goat cheese. I always use honey chevre, and I love the way it balances out the spice of the turkey sausage. We both devour our portions with a side of Trader Joe’s French onion focaccia bread. If you shop at Trader Joe’s and have not tried this focaccia, YOU MUST. It is French onion soup in bread form, and I mean that in the most delicious way possible. 

After dinner, I bake some chicken breasts that I’ve been marinating all day in creamy Italian dressing. We’ll dice them up so that Colton can use some in his salads throughout the week, and I’ll use the rest for another dinner recipe. I finish the evening with a treadmill workout and snack on some almonds and kettle corn while watching an episode of The Sopranos. Colton watches the NCAA National Championship football game while eating a Larabar and yogurt cup with granola.

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

Tuesday: Banana, Yogurt Bowl, Oatmeal, Snack Bar, More Goulash, Apple, Goat Cheese Salad, Cottage Cheese, Yogurt, Granola, Leftover Frittata, Chicken Wrap, and Wine and Cheese Night with Friends

I wake up earlier than usual this morning so that I can get a run in before work. I prefer to exercise in the evening, but I’ve got my monthly “wine and cheese” gathering tonight and won’t have time to work out later. I eat a banana before heading downstairs to the treadmill. Post-workout, I make a yogurt bowl with plain Greek yogurt, peanut butter, crushed peanuts, and my favorite jam, plus two cups of coffee. I consider myself to be a jam connoisseur, and the strawberry almond flavor from New Canaan Farms is absolutely divine. Colton is working from home today and eats a packet of blueberry instant oatmeal later in the morning.

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

Today’s mid-morning snack of choice is a Larabar. I also help myself to a Gatorade because I’m feeling a little dehydrated. Lunch is the last bit of the “goulash” soup and an apple, with two Andes mints for dessert. Colton makes a salad with goat cheese, croutons, honey mustard dressing, and pickled jalapeños and poblano peppers that he canned during last year’s garden harvest. He forgets to add the chicken we baked last night, but that just means he’ll have more for another day!

I have afternoon snacks of cottage cheese and granola bites, while Colton opts for a Coke Zero and a yogurt cup topped with granola. I log off the computer and take the pups for their usual walk. Afterward, I have a piece of leftover frittata before heading to “wine and cheese” night. Our wine and cheese group is comprised of 10 ladies (all similar in age), who met through various connections over the years. Each month, we take turns hosting an evening of food/drink and girl talk at our respective houses. Although I knew some of these women before we moved to our new town, it’s been the perfect way to gain some new friends in a new place. Our host put together a wonderful spread this month, and all of the meats, cheeses, and accompaniments are delicious. I’m currently in the midst of my first-ever dry January, so I choose to forego the wine this time. 

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

A couple of hours and many laughs later, I return home with enough time to watch an episode of The Sopranos before bed. Colton reports that he had a wrap made with the aforementioned chicken, as well as two slices of leftover frittata, for dinner. He also points out the box of Trader Joe’s chocolate croissants that have been in our freezer for ages, so I decide on a whim to set them out to rise for breakfast tomorrow.

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

Wednesday: Chocolate Croissants, Banana, Lunch Out, Apple, Salad, Barbecue Chicken Casserole, Rotisserie Sub Sandwich Out, and Kettle Corn

I knew it would happen, but I’m still amazed by how much the croissants rise overnight. The 25-minute bake time is torture — especially with the incredible smell emanating from the oven. I let the croissant cool for a few minutes before attacking it, and it was 1000% worth the wait. On days like today, I’m reminded of why I chose to pursue eating disorder recovery. Past me would have never eaten something like this for breakfast, and I cannot stress to you enough how much of a shame that is. I also drink my usual two cups of coffee and finish out the meal with a banana. Colton eats his croissant a couple of hours later and says that it reminds him of the pain au chocolat he frequently ate while studying abroad in France — high praise! 

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

Colton has a three-hour drive to attend a work meeting, so he grabs a turkey sandwich at Jimmy John’s on the road and pays for it with his company card. I have a routine eye exam late in the morning, and afterward I decide to treat myself to lunch from a local café. I order a grilled chicken wrap and potato chips (the total is $13.34, including a $2.00 tip). The chicken wrap has avocado, goat cheese, crushed pistachios, and a special sauce, and it’s one of the best things I’ve eaten in a long time. This is turning out to be a VERY tasty food day. I eat half of the wrap in my car on the drive home and have the rest when I’m back at my desk. This is a filling lunch, so I’m not hungry again until around the time I start preparing dinner.

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

Dinner tonight is a barbecue chicken cauliflower rice casserole I found on one of my favorite blogs, Erin Lives Whole. I’ve been following Erin for a few years, and her recipes have never let me down! (She also seems like a great human being, so give her a follow if you like good food, lifestyle tips, and golden retrievers.) While the casserole bakes, I eat an apple and toss together the BBQ & Black Pepper Toscano chopped salad kit from Trader Joe’s. The casserole turns out to be delicious (no surprise), and I eat a piece with some of the salad, plus two Andes mints for dessert. Colton doesn’t finish up with work until about 6:30 pm, so he stops by Subway on his drive home and orders a rotisserie chicken sub sandwich. (He pays for it with the company card again.) I end the night with some kettle corn while watching Married at First Sight, and debrief on Colton’s day when he arrives home.

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

Thursday: Yogurt Bowl, Banana, Snack Bars, Moroccan-Style Wrap with Hummus, Apple, Leftover BBQ Chicken Casserole and Frittata, Salad, LOTS of Gatorade, Kettle Corn, and an Ice Cream Sandwich

After yesterday’s exciting croissant breakfast, I’m back to a yogurt bowl (usual toppings), banana, and coffee today. I’ve made it to the bottom of the yogurt container, which means the dogs are in for a special treat. They love yogurt and peanut butter, and I always let them lick the container clean when it’s nearly empty. Colton isn’t hungry this morning, so he skips breakfast and heads straight down to his home office for a work-from-home day. After breakfast, I microwave a frozen Moroccan-style power bowl and mix it with roasted red pepper hummus for use in lunches the rest of the week. 

I’m having one of those days where I can’t tell if I’m feeling hungry or nauseous, so I try a KIND bar in the late morning. I don’t feel worse after, so maybe there was some hunger mixed in there. For a late lunch, I make a wrap filled with the power bowl/hummus mix and have my usual apple on the side. Colton eats leftover barbecue chicken casserole and salad for lunch, and he likes the casserole as much as I did! He grabs a Larabar to round out the meal and heads back downstairs to work. 

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

It was definitely not hunger earlier. As the day goes on, I feel progressively more nauseous and develop chills and body aches. I also find out that almost all of the girls from our wine & cheese group have the same symptoms. Ugh. After my 3 p.m. work meeting, I spend the rest of the day on the couch.

We’re out of Gatorade, but Colton is kind enough to go out to buy some more. He also brings home a Thelma’s ice cream sandwich (a well-known local company), which I’ll save in the freezer until I’m well enough to actually enjoy it. (He doesn’t remember the total amount spent on these items, but I’d guess it’s around $20.) I feel like I should try to eat something, so I have a Larabar and some kettle corn later in the evening. Colton has leftover frittata for dinner and a double chocolate ice cream sandwich for dessert. Let’s hope this illness will be short-lived!

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

Friday: Oatmeal, Snack Bar, Cottage Cheese, Banana, Sub Sandwich Out, Leftover Casserole, More Gatorade, and an Ice Cream Sandwich

I wake up feeling slightly better than yesterday, but I’m still nauseous and achy. I don’t want to risk upsetting my stomach too much, so I decide to try a packet of instant oatmeal topped with peanut butter. The coffee might be pushing it, but I’d rather be sick and caffeinated than just plain sick. Colton is running behind this morning, so he leaves the house without breakfast.

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

The oatmeal sits alright in my stomach, so I decide to try a Kind bar in the late morning. My appetite never really reaches “meal hungry,” but I snack on a banana and cottage cheese in the afternoon and have some dry Chex cereal a bit later. Colton has a sub sandwich from Jersey Mike’s, paid for by his work.

We both have leftover barbecue chicken casserole for dinner, and I pair mine with a bit of the leftover salad kit. I actually felt hungry prior to this meal, but my stomach ends up not agreeing with it. I spend the rest of the evening on the couch with more Gatorade, and Colton joins me to watch a 20/20 special on the recent murders of four University of Idaho students. It’s been an intriguing, albeit horrifying, case to follow. Afterward, my stomach feels queasy (hungry?), so I eat a spoonful of peanut butter in an attempt to settle it before heading to bed. Colton grabs a mini mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwich on his way downstairs to play video games.

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

Saturday: Breakfast Sandwich Out, Waffles, Banana, Beer and Snacks, Leftover Casserole and Salad, Soup Dumplings, and an Ice Cream Sandwich

Colton is up very early this morning to go ice fishing with a couple of friends. I will never understand what compels people to go fishing in the literal freezing cold. They tell me their space heaters keep them “super warm,” but I still don’t buy it. He stops by a gas station to buy a breakfast sandwich on his way to the lake. Back in our warm house, I wake up feeling much better! Breakfast is blueberry waffles with loads of syrup, a banana, and a cup of coffee. 

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

Colton and his friends snack on beef jerky, granola bars, and an undisclosed number of Busch Light beers throughout the day while they fish. I have another wrap filled with the power bowl/hummus mixture for lunch, as well as an apple and an Andes mint. I take it easy in the afternoon, since I know my body is still recovering from this bug. The dogs and I go on a walk, and then I walk/run on the treadmill for about 45 minutes. I have a post-workout Larabar and decide to watch The Greatest Beer Run Ever.

The movie is a heart-warming story and keeps me entertained until I’m hungry for dinner. Colton and his friends decide to go to a local bar after fishing, so I keep things simple by polishing off the last of the leftover barbecue chicken casserole and salad kit. A few hours later, Colton arrives home and decides to heat up one of the packages of pork and ginger soup dumplings that are always stocked in our freezer. They’re his favorite “lazy meal,” and I don’t think he’d complain if he had to eat them every day. 

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

I decide to dig into the ice cream sandwich I’d saved from a couple of days ago. I’m not typically drawn to this specific dessert, but so many people rave about Thelma’s products that I decide it’s worth a try. This one is mint ice cream sandwiched between two double chocolate chip cookies. Per all the hype, it’s delicious. The ice cream is light and airy, almost the consistency of marshmallow fluff, and the cookies are perfectly fudgy and chewy. It might just be good enough to make me an ice cream sandwich convert. I head to bed fairly early, hoping that I’ll feel completely back to normal tomorrow.

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

Sunday: Oatmeal, Banana, Moroccan-Style Wrap with Hummus, Apple, Chicken Sandwich, Snack Bar, Shrimp Stir-Fry, and Smoothies

I wake up today feeling great! I decide on oatmeal with peanut butter for breakfast, paired with the usual banana and coffee. Colton isn’t hungry for breakfast, so he just drinks a Gatorade. I spend the rest of the morning running errands, including a trip to the grocery store to stock up for the week ahead. 

After grocery shopping, I make yet another wrap with the last of the power bowl/hummus mix and the final tortilla from the pantry. I always find it satisfying when I plan for just enough food to get me through a week. I have my daily apple on the side. Colton whips up a sandwich with sourdough bread, the baked chicken from earlier in the week, goat cheese, and a packet of Chick-fil-A sauce from our refrigerator stash. He also snags a Larabar for dessert.

Throughout the afternoon, I finish some household chores and take the dogs on a walk. It’s a balmy 40 degrees here today, and I’m thankful to end the walk without frozen fingers and toes. I grab my own Larabar for a pre-workout snack and head downstairs to the treadmill to complete the running series I’ve been working through the past couple weeks. This series is set in Mallorca and Menorca, and I’ve really enjoyed learning about the culture on these two beautiful islands. 

Credit: Courtesy of Jordan

I shower after the run and get to work on tonight’s dinner: Trader Joe’s gochujang vegetable stir-fry with shrimp over jasmine rice. The stir-fry and shrimp are both pre-cooked and frozen, making for an especially quick meal. The best part is that I got these items for free when I recently helped my brother move out of his apartment. His loss = our dinner!

Colton is in the mood for a smoothie, so he makes enough for both of us to enjoy with our meal. He mixes frozen berries, protein powder, peanut butter, a banana, and oats, with milk, and the result is delicious. It’s also filling, so this meal tides both of us over for a few hours. 
I eat an evening snack of kettle corn while watching yet another episode of The Sopranos. I know this show is probably considered old at this point, but it’s a classic for a reason, and I’m glad I finally decided to watch it.

Colton snacks on a bowl of Chex cereal while playing video games late into the night. He’s not working tomorrow due to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so he won’t need to be up early. We end the week slightly above our target budget, but given the trip to Trader Joe’s and extra supplies related to my illness, I’ll call it a win.

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