Grocery Diaries

I’m a 27-Year-Old Office Manager Living in Iowa — I Spent $40 at (Mostly) Aldi on a Week’s Worth of Groceries

published Jan 19, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Aldi, Karin

Name: Karin
Location: Mt. Pleasant, IA 
Number of people in household: 1
Age: 27
Occupation: Office Manager
Household Income: $35,000
Where you shopped: Aldi, Hy-Vee 
Weekly food budget: $30 to $40
Amount spent: $40.37

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

Where did you shop?

My main stop is Aldi — it always has good deals on my go-to staples, and the smaller selection helps curb impulse purchases. I then stop at Hy-Vee or Walmart if I need specialty ingredients that Aldi doesn’t have or if there is a sale item I want to pick up. This week I went to Hy-Vee. All three stores are very close to each other, so it is not too much of a trip. 

A few times a year, I also go to a bulk foods store to stock up on dried beans, grains, and spices.

What’s your grocery strategy?

Throughout the week, I keep a running grocery list and add items if I notice I’m running low. Sometimes, I have recipes in mind ahead of time and add ingredients I’ll need to my list as well. Right now the farmers market is closed, but in the summer I usually start there and make my meal plan based on what is in season.

Once I’m ready to shop, I check my Aldi circular. I use the ad as a springboard for recipe ideas, combined with anything I need to use up from my pantry. Seasonal ingredients tend to be featured and less expensive, which also helps me eat more seasonally — a bonus! 

I shop either Saturday or Monday, depending on how much food I have left from the previous week as well as if I have more complicated recipes that I want to meal prep on Sunday. 

How do you meal plan? 

Usually, I will start with the meal that has the most perishable ingredients. I don’t always get around to every meal on my list, so this strategy has really helped me avoid food waste. I also plan meals that use the same ingredients to minimize waste while still having some variety. Cooking for one makes it challenging to avoid monotony — especially when I’m also meal prepping. 

I batch cook about a pound of legumes each week and make a loaf of bread. I try to switch up the bean type from week to week, and usually freeze some for more ready-to-go options and emergency meals. From this, I usually prepare two or three four-serving meals and stagger them throughout the week. 

I don’t mind repeating meals, but I don’t like eating the same thing twice in a row. So I try to have at least two options available, as well as a few meals free for changing plans or spur-of-the-moment decisions.

What did you buy?


  • 3 pounds gala apples, $2.29
  • 1 pomegranate, $1.69
  • 11 ounces preserves, $2.79
  • 6 ounces Havarti cheese, $3.29
  • 1 pound split peas, $0.99
  • 8 ounces sliced provolone, $1.69
  • Tajín, $2.25
  • Cauliflower, $2.79
  • 8 ounces cream cheese (2), $2.78
  • 1 gallon whole milk, $2.65
  • 8 ounces Asiago cheese, $4.39
  • 4 pounds sugar, $3.09
  • Brown gravy mix (2), $0.90
  • Ranch dressing mix, $0.50

Total: $32.29 (no tax)


  • 1 grapefruit, $1.50
  • Salsa, $2.54
  • 1 pound ground beef, $4.04

Total: $8.08 (no tax)

Grand total: $40.37

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

Sunday: Black Vanilla Chai, Beans and a Quesadilla, Movie Snacks, Caramel Flan, Mac and Cheese, and Grapefruit Half

Sunday is my sleep-in day, so I get up around 9:45 a.m. I don’t feel hungry yet, and I need to go grocery shopping. There is a big winter storm coming in on Tuesday and I want to beat the rush. After a mug of tea with Stevia, I head out. 

I go to Aldi first, but realize I forgot my list at home! I decide to just wing it, which means my groceries are less cohesive, and I have more impulse purchases than usual. I only come a little over budget, though, so it could have been worse. 

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

With me, no list means I get cheese. I splurge on Havarti and Asiago, which I love on bread. I also pick up more split peas because they are on sale. (I might not use them this week because I just had them last week.) I’ve been in the mood for citrus, but Aldi’s selection is underwhelming, so I stop in at Hy-Vee to grab a grapefruit. Hy-Vee is running a meat sale, so I also pick up a pound of ground chuck. 

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

Once I get home, I make a caramel flan to take to my sister’s and have a bowl of pinto beans with cheese and a quesadilla before heading over. At my sister’s, we watch a movie and enjoy the flan along with snacks. I have some jalapeño potato chips and pretzels.

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

I stay longer than intended and, after the long drive home, I do not feel like cooking. I find a portion of mac and cheese in my pantry and spruce it up with some added provolone.

Afterwards, I have half a grapefruit for dessert.

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

Monday: Grapefruit, Leftover Fajitas with Rice and Pico, Apple, Beans, a Quesadilla and Street-Style Corn

I wake up late, so I have the other grapefruit half for a quick breakfast before leaving for work.

After a busy morning I head to lunch at 11:30 a.m. I have leftover fajitas with rice and pico, from dinner with my sister-in-law on Saturday, and cut up my last Granny Smith apple from a couple of weeks ago. 

Tomorrow the big storm will be coming through, so I try to clean out the fridge ahead of a planned day of meal prepping on Tuesday.

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

I have another portion of the pinto beans I cooked last week and mix in the end of a bag of mozzarella. I make a quesadilla to finish off the bag of cheese as well, and make a quick side of steamed corn with Tajín, mayo, and my last lime. I still have some beans left, so I pack them for lunch later in the week.

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

Tuesday: Baked Oatmeal with Greek Yogurt and Strawberry Preserves, Split Pea Soup, Meatballs with Corn and Roasted Vegetables, Cake, and Herb Bread

I wake up to several inches of snow and more coming down. After confirming I’m not working today, I go back to sleep. I finally get up around 9 a.m. and decide today will be a baking day. I start with making a batch of baked oatmeal and have some for breakfast, along with Greek yogurt and strawberry preserves I made last week. I portion the rest out for the remainder of the week.

Afterwards, I make a mix of salisbury steak-inspired and spicy soy-ginger meatballs using some of the green onions I grow on my windowsills (they needed to be used). I bake my meatballs, so I add the last carrots from last week’s shop to roast, along with the extra onion slices.

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

I’m starting to get hungry again, so I thaw the last portion of split pea soup from my freezer as the meatballs cook. I also nibble on the vegetables once they are roasted, and try one of each meatball flavor. They are both good! I stick the spicy meatballs in the freezer for later.

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

I want something sweet and to try something new, so I make half a recipe of hot milk cake. I eat two slices while it’s still warm. They are super delicious. I also mix up a loaf of herb bread (Italian seasoning, basil, onion & garlic powder & a couple tablespoons of tomato paste). With the cold, the bread takes longer to rise than usual.

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

I have corn, roasted vegetables and meatballs for dinner, then follow up with two slices of fresh-baked bread — always irresistible. 

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

Wednesday: Baked Oatmeal with Greek Yogurt and Strawberry Preserves, Beans with Street-Style Corn, Apple, and Meatballs and Bread with Onion-Mushroom Gravy

I have another portion of baked oatmeal for breakfast and then get a ride to work. I will need to dig myself out properly once I get home.

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

For lunch, I have the rest of the refried beans and finish off the corn. I also snack on an apple.

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

My brother helps with clearing the snow. After an hour-and-a-half shoveling heavy, frozen snow blocks I am exhausted and ravenous. I toast two huge pieces of bread and heat some meatballs. I thaw some mushroom onion gravy from a couple of weeks ago for dipping the bread. It’s comforting and filling! 

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

Thursday: Meatballs and Bread with Onion-Mushroom Gravy, Apple, Cake, Pomegranate, Cauliflower Soup with Cheesy Toast, and Cheese Slices

I don’t feel hungry, so I bring my breakfast to work, but don’t end up eating it. 

For lunch, I have the last of the mushroom gravy, along with a thick slice of my bread, and more meatballs. I finish off with another apple. 

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

When I get home, I snack on a slice of cake topped with strawberry preserves.

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

Then I chop the rest of the roasted carrots and onions, and turn them into cauliflower soup with about two thirds of the cauliflower. I freeze half the soup for later and add curry spices to the half I’m eating tonight. I break open the pomegranate and nibble on it as the soup finishes simmering, then toast two more slices of my bread with melted provolone. I have a couple of plain cheese slices as well. 

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

Friday: Baked Oatmeal with Greek Yogurt and Strawberry Preserves, Takis, Cheese Slices, Pomegranate, Apple with Peanut Butter, Tea, and Noodles with a Cheesy Cauliflower Sauce and Garlic Toast

I wake up to more snow, super-cold temperatures, and wind — another non-work day unfortunately. After sleeping in, I have yesterday’s portion of oatmeal. 

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

Throughout the morning, I snack. I finish off a bag of Takis and have several slices of cheese, the rest of the pomegranate, and an apple with peanut butter. I also have several cups of hot tea — mostly black vanilla chai and lemon ginger. 

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

For dinner, I improvise a cauliflower garlic sauce and add Havarti cheese and the rest of the provolone as well. I have a generous portion over egg noodles (finishing a bag from my pantry) and turn the last slice of bread into garlic toast with more Havarti. I freeze the bread heels to turn into breadcrumbs in the future.  

Credit: Courtesy of Karin

Saturday: Cake, Cheesy Cauliflower Pasta Gratin, and Red Beans

I have the last two slices of cake for breakfast. The hot milk cake recipe I used didn’t dry out over several days (even unwrapped!), so it’s definitely a winner.

I turn the rest of my cauliflower pasta into a gratin with breadcrumbs and a bit of Parmesan. The added crunch takes the pasta up a notch — it is a great cozy meal for the freezing temperatures. I have the rest of it for dinner. I decide to start meal prepping for next week, and batch-cook red beans in my pressure cooker, with tomato bouillon, garlic, and bay leaves. They smell so good when they’re done, so I have a small bowl.

At Kitchn we believe setting a food budget for you and your family is an essential part in getting your financial life in order. Don’t know where to start? We have a guide for that. Want to share your Grocery Diary with Kitchn? See how here.