Grocery Diaries

My Boyfriend and I Both Work 2 Jobs — We Spent $82 at (Mostly) Aldi on a Week’s Worth of Groceries and Came in $9 Under Budget

published Oct 23, 2023
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graphic collage of the authors, an Aldi receipt, and icons of a shopping cart, a dollar sign and an apple
Credit: Photo: Courtesy of Emily; Illustration: Isabela Humphrey

Name: Keara
Location: Madison, WI
Number of people in household: 2 adults (my boyfriend, Cody, and me) and our three pets, PepperJack (dog), Gremi (cat), and Annala (cat)
Age: 29 (me) and 35 (Cody)
Occupation: I work as a full-time senior consultant for a local software company and pick up shifts bartending at a local bar and restaurant for extra cash. My boyfriend works full-time as an installation technician for a fire and security company while also working part-time as a bartender at a sports bar and restaurant. 
Salary: Our combined income varies based on the amount of bartending and serving shifts we pick up, but primarily we make between $145,000 and $160,000 per year.
Where you shopped: This week I shopped at Aldi and one of our local farmers markets.
Weekly food budget: Roughly $250 a week, including dining out and drinks.
Amount spent: $240.98 ($81.67 on groceries, $159.31 on dining out)

Credit: Keara

Where did you shop?

This week I shopped at Aldi and the farmers market. I usually start out at Aldi and make other stops at other local grocery stores, like Metcalfe’s, for anything I can’t find at Aldi. We are also very lucky to have local farmers markets a significant portion of the week from spring through fall, so sometimes I flip my grocery shopping plan and start my week off with a stop at a farmers market for local items and produce then fill in the gaps with an Aldi run.

Credit: Keara

What’s your grocery strategy?

My main focus with our grocery strategy is limiting food waste. Due to this, I have found that for our household two smaller grocery runs a week work best for us. This gives us the flexibility with our meals that we need when we may change plans throughout the week, such as picking up additional work shifts, unexpected outings with friends, as well as eating through unexpected leftovers. 

I primarily do our main shopping run on Saturday or Sunday and I will then plan on a lighter trip to the store for fresh produce that we need based on the remaining meals for the week. Our bigger grocery run is to stock up on basics and staples that we have depleted throughout the week. We also use this grocery trip to grab random items that are on sale that we will later incorporate into meals. We stopped buying produce only once a week because we have found that we do not effectively eat it all before it goes bad, so we purposefully keep only what we can go through in a few days on hand.

Credit: Keara

I also keep a running shopping list on our Alexa that my boyfriend and I can add items to throughout the week. This has really helped us with keeping track of which staples we need to buy or what we are running low on as we cook, as well as making it really easy to check off items as we shop in-store. We also have a very well-stocked secondary freezer with meat from hunting season and splitting purchases (such as a quarter cow, or whole pig) with friends and family. I also am lucky and receive bison from my parents biannually and we keep a decent amount on hand.  

How do you meal plan? 

We tend to have a large amount of meat in our freezer. I start my meal planning by doing a quick evaluation of what we have on hand or haven’t eaten in a while. This week we are focusing on venison and bison that we want to get through before the next deer hunting season kicks off so we have more room in the freezer. I also take a look at what other perishables may be left in the fridge from the previous week that we either need to cook or eat soon. 

After I’ve done a quick inventory, my boyfriend and I usually have a brief chat about what meals we want for the week. We typically do not plan every single meal, but we plan on cooking enough to cover lunches with leftovers or meals that we can repurpose for other dishes. We both enjoy cooking and usually rotate who cooks dinner every other night in our house, discussing which meals we want to cook and with what ingredients so we don’t accidentally use up something the other person needs. My boyfriend, Cody, recently had surgery, however, and cannot stand for long periods of time, so I am doing the bulk of the cooking temporarily for a few weeks while he recovers.

While we discuss what we want to cook for the week we also touch base on any social plans that will impact meals. Every Sunday morning we grab brunch with friends, and this week is no different. In addition, friends are going to come over to play board games while watching the Packers game and I will need to grab some additional snacks.

Credit: Keara

Cody also makes sausages as a hobby and likes to try out new recipes; this week he wants to try out a new version of venison Italian sausage, so we are including that in our meal plan. 

We’re also focusing more on pulling food from the freezer this week. Before shopping, I pull out some venison chili we froze a few months ago, as well as some pork chops, venison and pork for sausages, and a pound of ground bison.

What did you buy?


  • Deli sliced ham, $3.19
  • Olive oil, $3.49
  • Everything but the bagel seasoning, $1.85
  • Organic cumin, $2.39
  • Crab dip, $3.29
  • Chili pepper cauliflower dip, $3.99
  • Mustard $2.84
  • Maple syrup, $5.99
  • Pub pretzels, $1.99
  • Rice cakes, $2.99
  • Pretzel snack pack, $3.99
  • Cookie snack pack, $2.99
  • Turkey bacon, $3.49
  • Sunflower salad kit, $2.99
  • Southwest salad kit, $2.99
  • Mixed peppers, $2.69
  • Eggs, $1.09
  • Pumpkin cider, $7.99

Total: $60.67 (includes tax)

Farmers market

  • Butternut squash, $2.00
  • Fresh cider, $8.00
  • Kale, $3.00
  • Cherry tomatoes, $3.00
  • Onions, $5.00

Total: $21.00


  • Ground bison
  • Venison chili from previous week

Dining out

  • Sunday brunch, $92.31
  • Dinner, $67.00

Total: $159.31

Grand total: $240.98

Credit: Keara

Sunday: Brunch with Friends, Snacks, Ciders, Sausage Testing, and More Snacks

I ended up working a 13-hour bartending shift the night before, so I sleep in later than normal. When I wake up my boyfriend and his friends have picked out a brunch spot to meet at by 10:30 so we can all be back home in time to catch the Packers game at noon. Every single day of the week, I start my morning with homemade cold brew and unsweetened almond milk and I drink this while getting ready to head to brunch.

Credit: Keara

At brunch, I order a pretzel to share for the table because I didn’t eat two meals the day before due to work and I am famished. For my meal, I have eggs, bacon, hash browns, and a biscuit with a bloody Mary to drink. Cody has a croque monsieur sandwich and a salty dog to drink. We finish the meal with two steins of Festbier and order a crowler to take home and have with the Packers game. 

Credit: Keara

After brunch, everyone heads to our house to watch the game and play board games. I put out the snacks and ciders I got at Aldi for everyone to munch on and break out the crowler from brunch. After the game is over, we cook up some sausages and slice them into rounds for everyone to snack on and give feedback while playing board games. Cody also set out some leftover cheese and crackers to go with the sausages. We snack on all of this until the end of the day.

Credit: Keara

Monday: Eggs, Turkey Bacon, Toast, Leftover Fried Rice, Leftover Chili, Banana, Pretzels, Pork Chop, and a Salad Kit

I get up early on weekdays (usually around 5 a.m.), so I start my day with my normal cold brew and take the dog on a walk. I work from home on Mondays, so I have time to make my typical breakfast. I cook one egg over medium while pan-frying some turkey bacon and a piece of toast with jam and I eat this while starting to go through my emails. Cody gets up a few hours later and grabs some leftover rice from the fridge and fries that up with two eggs to make a breakfast fried rice.

Credit: Keara

I do not like spending my lunch break cooking; I prefer to leverage the time to walk the dog, step away from my laptop, and get some fresh air. So, I like quick and easy things for lunch. I grab a bowl of the chili I pulled from the freezer, reheat it in the microwave, and grab a Coke Zero to drink. Cody also packs leftover chili and reheats that for his lunch as well. 

Credit: Keara

In the afternoon, I get a little hungry and slice a banana up as a snack and top it with some cinnamon. I also grab a pack of pretzels and a Poppi as I feel the afternoon slump setting in.

Credit: Keara

Dinner tonight is one of our quick and easy meals. Cody is making another batch of sausage so I want to give him as much space in the kitchen as possible. I grab the pack of pork chops, season them, and throw them in the air fryer. While those cook, I mix up one of the salad kits I purchased at Aldi. I serve dinner with the remaining ciders from the weekend. We like to eat dinner together at our dining room table and catch up on our days with each other. Cody finishes making sausages after dinner and we plan on trying some later this week.

Credit: Keara

Tuesday: Yogurt, BBQ and Burger Work Lunches, and Dinner and Drinks at a Favorite Bar

This Tuesday is different from my usual Tuesday; normally I work from home this day as well, but there is an in-office event that I will be attending. After I walk my dog, I pack up my cold brew and head into the office. I am very lucky and my work provides a grab-and-go section in the office called our “Pantry” that is stocked with snacks from Costco, so I stop by that on my way to my desk and grab a Chobani yogurt for my breakfast. Back at home, Cody isn’t hungry and skips breakfast. 

Credit: Keara

For lunch, my work is catering Beef Butter BBQ. It comes with these absolutely amazing baked beans called Smoked Apple Pie Baked Beans, so I load those up on my plate with a pulled pork sandwich, a side of veggies, and a piece of cornbread. I also grab a Coke Zero to have with my meal while chatting with coworkers. Cody’s boss also takes him out to lunch and pays for the meal; he orders a burger with a side of fries.

Credit: Keara

We get a text asking if we want to meet up for some drinks after work with a friend, and we both have rough days so we agree to go out and skip cooking. We go to one of our favorite bars and order a few drinks, and after a few hours we order some dinner. I have a shrimp wrap with fries and Cody has a cheesesteak sandwich with onion rings

Credit: Keara

Wednesday: Avocado Toast, Turkey Bacon, Chili, Ham Sandwich, Grilled Chicken, Veggie Kebabs, and a Salad Kit

I have difficulties sleeping today and I get up even earlier than normal. This gives me enough time to cook some avocado toast (which is really just leftover guacamole on toast with a fried egg) and some turkey bacon. I eat this with my normal morning cold brew and pack up the dog to come into the office with me. Cody skips breakfast again today, but has a cup of coffee in the morning.

Credit: Keara

For lunch, I pack some chili with me so after I take the dog on a walk I reheat that and eat it at my desk. There is also a massive pile of candy to grab so I take a KitKat back to my desk with a Coke Zero to snack on in the afternoon. Cody brings a ham sandwich to work and eats that over lunch.

Credit: Keara

We’re having beautiful weather today, so we decide we want to grill for dinner. While Cody pulls the grill out and gets the charcoal going, I get some chicken out and season that and throw it in a bag with our sous vide. We like using the sous vide before grilling so we don’t end up overcooking the meat on the grill and just get a good char for flavor. I also slice up two of the peppers I bought and an onion and make some vegetable skewers to cook on the grill with the chicken. Cody starts cooking at the grill and while he’s doing that I make the other salad kit we have left. We purposefully make enough chicken and veggies that we can reuse those for lunch the next day. We snack on some of the veggies while cooking and sit down together at the dining room table to eat.

Credit: Keara

Thursday: Eggs, Bacon, Toast, “Clean Out the Fridge” Salads, Banana with Granola, and Bison Bowls

I’m working from home today, so I cook an egg, a single piece of leftover bacon, and toast with jam. I eat this while going through my emails with my cold brew, and Cody also cooks himself some eggs and toast. I use up the last of my cold brew concentrate from the fridge, so I grind up another pound of coffee beans from the pantry to make more tonight.

Credit: Keara

For lunch, I’m making a clean out the fridge’ salad.” This is something I tend to do a few times a week to use up any odds and ends in the fridge and prevent food waste. Today, I am using the leftover chicken and veggies from last night’s dinner and add them on top of some leftover greens. We also have some feta cheese in the back of the fridge so I add that to the salad with some sunflower seeds and make a vinaigrette to go on top. Cody eats this while working from home for his lunch and I eat it at my desk during a meeting and drink a Coke Zero.

Credit: Keara

In the afternoon, I get a little hungry and slice up an old banana and top that with some granola from the pantry.

Credit: Keara

Dinner tonight is a bison bowl that was inspired by a recipe from DamnDelicious’s meal prep cookbook. She has an awesome Korean beef bowl recipe that I like to use the sauce recipe for to make my own bowl. I use the ground bison I pulled out of the freezer and a bag of frozen stir-fried veggies and get that going. While they cook, I make the sauce for the bowl and cook some rice in our Instant Pot. I serve everything together and top it with some toasted sesame seeds to finish. We eat at the dining room table again and catch up on each other’s day.

Before bed, I put the coffee beans I ground up earlier in the day in my cold brew maker and fill it with water. I leave this on the counter overnight and will place it in the fridge when I get up in the morning.

Credit: Keara

Friday: Fruit Smoothie, Lunch out with My Dad, and Salads with Leftover Beef and Chicken

This morning I am not feeling like my usual egg/toast/turkey bacon breakfast after I walk the dog, so I throw some bananas and blackberries that are looking a little sad from last week into the blender with some almond milk and have a smoothie with my cold brew. I have these while I am in my first meeting of the day, and Cody skips breakfast and heads straight to work.

Credit: Keara

Unexpectedly, my dad is in town and asks if we want to join him for lunch as a treat. He lives four hours away, so we both sign off early from work for the day and we go get some fish fry and beers with my dad at a brewery in the suburb next to us. I order fried perch and it comes with coleslaw and mashed potatoes, while Cody has a brisket sandwich with fries. My dad orders fried haddock with coleslaw and a baked potato and we spend a few hours at the brewery chatting and eating lunch.

Credit: Keara

We both are not very hungry after eating such heavy lunches, so I decide to whip up some more leftover salads. I make one just like I did for lunch on Thursday with leftover chicken, veggies, feta, and sunflower seeds on mixed greens. I make another salad for Cody using the leftover beef from Thursday night’s dinner with some sliced bell pepper and Parmesan on top of mixed greens. We break from our tradition of eating at the dining room table together to eat on the couch while watching the Brewers play.

Credit: Keara

Saturday: Eggs, Fried Rice, Bean and Cheese Quesadillas and Greens, Gnocchi with Sausages and Peppers, and Wine and Pretzels

On Saturday I head to the farmers market. I love going super early to beat the crowd, so I get up at my normal early time and get a long walk in with the dog before heading downtown. I put my cold brew in a to-go Thermos, grab my reusable bags, and head out. While at the farmers market, I have an idea for a pasta dish for dinner. Almost all of the produce stands have some late-season cherry tomatoes and kale, so I pick up both and think about making pasta with some of the venison Italian sausages Cody made on Monday. Cody sleeps in and makes himself some eggs and fried rice with leftovers from the fridge while I am out shopping.

I skip breakfast, so when I get home I make us an early lunch. I grab some tortillas that have been sitting in the fridge, a can of refried beans from our pantry, and some frozen shredded cheese from our freezer to make some bean and cheese quesadillas with a side of salsa. I heat these in a pan and grab the rest of our mixed greens and dressing from the fridge to have as a side. We eat together at the dining table and both have Coke Zeros to drink while we talk about our plans for the evening.

Credit: Keara

For dinner, I decide to make my pasta idea from shopping earlier. I slice up two of the sausages and start browning them in a pan. While they are cooking, I prep the kale, cherry tomatoes, and some dried shelf-stable gnocchi that I have in the pantry. Once the sausages are cooked I add the veggies and gnocchi with some fresh garlic, dried Italian seasoning, and some butter. I then finish the pasta with a squeeze of lemon juice and some shredded Parmesan from the fridge. Cody and I eat together at the dining room table and have a bottle of wine that was left over from a previous dinner party with friends. I also grab us packs of pretzels to snack on while we finish the wine and watch a movie on the couch.

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