Grocery Diaries

I Work at a Liquor Store and My Partner Works at a Cafe — We Spent $96 on 11 Days’ Worth of Groceries

published Mar 17, 2022
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Credit: Person: Courtesy of Kristen; Food: Shutterstock

Name: Kristen
Location: Providence, RI
Number of people in household: 4 (me and my partner, two roommates, and all of our pets)
Age: 46 and 32
Occupation: I’m a liquor store employee and part-time dog handler. My partner is a cafe worker and noise musician.
Where we shop: PriceRite, Urban Greens Co-op, and Good Fortune
Amount spent on groceries this week: $95.57
Dietary requirements: I avoid wheat products and beef; my partner eats everything.

Credit: Courtesy of Kristen

Where did you shop?

I went to PriceRite, Urban Greens Co-op (where we get a monthly member discount), and Good Fortune (a gigantic Asian grocery store). We’ve tried buying our week’s worth of food at just the Co-op or Good Fortune in the past, but both spots put us over budget, so we buy most of our groceries at PriceRite.

Credit: Courtesy of Kristen

What’s your grocery strategy?

Our budget is $50 to $70 for each week, no matter whose turn it is to plan, shop, cook, and clean (we rotate each week). I take a couple of minutes to organize our shelf in the fridge (we share the space with our roommates), remove anything we don’t intend to eat, look for any ingredients I might work into the coming week’s batch cook, and check on our pantry items, while my partner just wings it.

I write my lists in an app on my smartphone (my partner writes a paper list). My list is always in the order I walk through the store (his is not). If I’m shopping at more than one spot, I plan my route to save gas and time. I don’t like to linger indoors, so I shop fast (my partner likes to look around and not rush). I usually go over budget stocking up on pantry items, while my partner goes over budget on our snacks, so at least that evens out.

How do you meal plan?

Typically, we batch cook three different main dishes. We also buy breakfast sandwich supplies and snacks. The three main dishes usually add up to about 21 quarts of food, more if there’s a big pot of soup or stew on the menu. Batch cooking is helpful with our busy schedules, and having meals ready to grab and go keeps us out of the way of our roommates who cook each meal on a daily basis. So, a batch cook keeps us fed for seven to 12 days, depending on the menu. This week’s menu, for example, ended up feeding us for 11 days!

Credit: Courtesy of Kristen

The batch meals take three to six hours to produce and pack into two-cup deli containers, which we refer to as boxes. We wash dishes as we go. When the prior week’s batch cook starts to dwindle, we have a brief chat about using up leftover meals or ingredients and address any missing items we need. 

Over several years, the method has worked for vegan, vegetarian, raw vegan, keto, and DASH diets; we currently enjoy an omnivorous, Mediterranean-esque diet. To ensure that our menu doesn’t get dull, we make a few different dishes that rely on exceptional flavor-building and our shared interest in wide-ranging cuisines. Our pantry, a dedicated kitchen cabinet, is our best friend, with all the spice, acid, heat, and specialty ingredients we need to shake up our meals. We don’t typically need convenience or restaurant food, but sometimes pizza or going out to dinner greatly improves our quality of life! 

What did you buy?


  • Pork tenderloin, $10
  • Blood sausage, $4.48
  • Plum tomatoes, $0.95
  • Bean sprouts, $1.49
  • Firm tofu, $1.79
  • Peeled garlic, $5.99
  • 5-pound bag red potatoes, $3.99
  • Chopped kale, $2.99
  • Seedless cucumber, $1.29
  • Vidalia onions, $1.23
  • Sweet potatoes, $2.97
  • Jalapeno pepper, $0.45
  • Lemon, $0.67
  • Deli-sliced turkey, $5.06
  • Deli-sliced cheddar, $2.02
  • Sprouted grain bread, $4.99
  • Vegetable stock, $1.79
  • Canned diced tomatoes, $1.39

Total $53.54

Urban Greens Co-op

  • Salted potato chips, $3.79 (minus a $0.50 manufacturer’s coupon)
  • Irish sausages, $6.28
  • Avocados, $3.98
  • Charitable round-up donation, $0.45

Total $14.00

Good Fortune

  • Vietnamese rice noodle soup packs, $3.96
  • Chinese cilantro, $1.99
  • Frozen raw peeled tail-on shrimp, $11.99
  • Rice paper skins, $2.79
  • Mandarin orange, $0.37
  • Rice flour mini shells pasta, $2.49
  • Beef marrow bones (for my dog), $4.44

Total $28.03

Grand Total: $95.57

Credit: Courtesy of Kristen

Sunday: Breakfast Sandwiches, Pork Tenderloin, Pizza, and Miso

My partner makes us breakfast sandwiches, using eggs and provolone cheese from last week’s shopping, on sprouted grain bread with turkey and tomato. We drink water and hibiscus-rooibos-orange peel tea that I blend from bulk packages and bag myself. At work, I have a lunch box of jerked pork tenderloin slices, beer-braised kale, and chimichurri Hasselback sweet potato. It’s spicy! I drink a lot of water at work, and today tasted some new wines at the liquor store. My partner has a late lunch/early dinner of pizza at his weekly game night. I’m still full from my late lunch, so I drink a mug of miso broth, then sip on a Calvados-fortified vintage cider from my personal alcohol collection.

Credit: Courtesy of Kristen

Monday: Egg Sandwich, Cold Pizza, and a Trio of Sausages

I make a quick egg, tomato, and provolone sandwich on sprouted grain bread and sip hibiscus tea blend while my partner has a slice of cold pizza. Before work, I have a lunch box of colcannon, Irish sausage, and blood sausage. The colcannon uses up last week’s leftovers: three Yukon gold potatoes and a half head of cabbage. I like the simplicity of my ancestral Irish food and the lunch box is a cold-weather favorite. My partner has a leftover box of brown rice, Chinese sausage, and chicken, made during last week’s batch cook. I bring a box of pork tenderloin baked in my friend Jackie’s Shame The Devil jerk marinade and kale (no sweet potato in this box) to eat at work for dinner and taste a mead and a sake. My partner has a colcannon and sausage box at home.

Credit: Courtesy of Kristen

Tuesday: Breakfast Sandwich, Shrimp Rolls, and Leftovers for Dinner

I buy a London Fog from a local employee-owned coffee shop to sip at the dog park while my dog Argo plays. At home, I make a breakfast sandwich with sprouted grain bread, leftover provolone and two eggs, tomato slices, and a spicy truffle mayonnaise. My partner makes a breakfast wrap at work with egg, sausage, bacon, tomato, and spinach.

Credit: Courtesy of Kristen

For lunch, I assemble shrimp summer rolls in the kitchen while my roommates are out, using all the ingredients I prepared during the batch cooking session on Saturday: mandarin orange marinated shrimp, baked salt and pepper tofu, radishes, bean sprouts, jalapeño slices, sour-pickled celery, sweet-pickled cucumber and carrot. My partner skips lunch, still full from breakfast, and has a pork, kale, and sweet potato box for dinner. I eat a colcannon box and an avocado for dinner while at work, then have a microwave popcorn snack when I get home.

Credit: Courtesy of Kristen

Wednesday: More Breakfast Sandwiches, Leftovers, and a BBQ Date Night

My partner makes a lox sandwich at work, with cream cheese, tomato, and onion on multigrain bread. I make the same breakfast sandwich I made yesterday, but with one egg instead of two, and no mayo. For lunch I eat a colcannon box, then snack on a handheld ham and cheese mini quiche, and a can of carbonic fermented red wine while waiting for my partner to pick me up from work.

Credit: Courtesy of Kristen

He skips lunch and we have a rare date night! Our shared BBQ dinner costs $139, including tip, for two orders of ‘buy one pound get a half pound free’ wings (one Carolina BBQ sauced and one peanut butter and jelly sauced), a brisket plate, a side of mac and cheese, and six drinks. I normally avoid beef, but the brisket is legendary, so I eat two slices. We box up more than half of the generously portioned meal to go.

Credit: Courtesy of Kristen

Thursday: Date Night Leftovers for Breakfast and Lunch, and Soup Packets for Dinner

I eat half of a pork, kale, and sweet potato box with the rest of the peanut butter and jelly sauced wings for breakfast. My partner makes a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich for breakfast at his cafe job. At work, I have a colcannon box for lunch, and my partner eats the rest of the date night leftovers at home. We have a late dinner and watch a movie: I make a rice noodle soup pack and the other half of the pork, kale, and sweet potato box from breakfast; he has a regular noodle soup pack and adds slices of Asian fish cake from the freezer.

Credit: Courtesy of Kristen

Friday: Bagel Sandwiches and Summer Rolls

My partner makes a ham, avocado, cheddar, tomato, lettuce, and mayo sandwich on an everything bagel for a late breakfast at work. At home, I make the same sandwich without lettuce on sprouted grain bread with plain Kewpie mayo. I assemble summer rolls at lunchtime, eating two after cleaning up, and the remaining five at work for dinner. My partner, still full from breakfast, skips lunch and makes himself spring rolls for dinner for the first time!

Credit: Courtesy of Kristen

Saturday: Leftovers for Breakfast and Dinner, and Lunch On-the-Go

I heat up a colcannon box and my partner adds the last two eggs to a pork, kale, and sweet potato box. At lunchtime, we are out running errands, so we grab two fast-food sandwiches and tater tots with unsweetened iced tea. For a late-evening meal, we split a pork, kale, and sweet potato box over rice noodle soup packs. We still have summer roll ingredients and a few lunch boxes to finish, so this week’s groceries will carry us through until Tuesday when it’s my partner’s turn to meal plan, shop, and cook.

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