Grocery Diaries

I’m an Editorial Assistant in North Carolina and Shop Mostly at Trader Joe’s and Target — I Spent $52 on Groceries for the Week

published Mar 2, 2023
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Collage showing grocery diary author Kylie with some of the foods from her grocery list like cucumbers, mini peanut butter cups, mushrooms, and red onions.
Credit: Photos: Courtesy of Kylie; Shutterstock

Name: Kylie
Location: Cary, North Carolina
Age: 28
Number of people in household: 1
Occupation: Editorial Assistant
Where you shopped: Trader Joe’s, Harris Teeter, and Target
Weekly food budget: $50
Amount spent: $51.67

Credit: Courtesy of Kylie

Where did you shop?

This week I went to Trader Joe’s, Harris Teeter, and Target. Trader Joe’s is great for frozen stuff and produce, and some items I can find for a cheaper price. I usually start out at TJ’s and then head to Harris Teeter, but sometimes I skip HT and head straight to Target. It depends on how much time I have, how long my list is, and what’s on the list. 

What’s your grocery strategy? 

I check weekly ads online at HT and Target and mark off which things from my list are on sale. I also look at the Target app and list the price of each item on my phone. Since I go to Target last, I keep an eye out for everything at the other two stores. I often find at least a few items that are cheaper, which is awesome! 

I start at TJ’s to get whatever I can; it tends to be pretty cheap for a lot of the things I need, especially if I’m not getting a lot of prepared food. Whatever I can’t get at TJ’s or HT, I get at Target. There’s a great store about 15 minutes from my house and the drive there is beautiful, so it’s one of my favorite parts of the week. 

Three places sounds like a lot, but grocery shopping is a part of self-care for me. I like being out in the world and walking up and down the aisles. I always look forward to it. If I’m in a rush, though, I order curbside delivery from Target and call it a day. Fortunately, I had more time this week to make my usual rounds. 

How do you meal plan? 

love meal planning so much my friends probably wish I’d shut up about it (they’ve also asked for my help with it!). I used to sit down and do it once a week, but having a tight budget makes it more of a puzzle, which is part of the fun. 

I start out with a list of what I already have: This week I have salmon, frozen berries, bacon, honey, and various breakfast foods. Then I decide what I want to make for my food blog. It can be a real challenge to create new recipes and stay within budget. After that, it’s a balance between using what I already have and what I feel like eating. 

I tally up my total on the Target app to get an estimate of what I’d spend. If it’s close to $50 or under, my work is done! If it’s more than a few dollars over, it’s time to start moving things around. Sometimes that means I have to simplify my meals or swap one out entirely, but that’s OK! I like the challenge. 

I typically plan one big meal, one blog meal, and two smaller, lower-effort meals. I also have to make something for work lunches. I find the whole day is a bit of a slog if I have a bad lunch. I’m also just one person, so I end up eating a lot of leftovers. 

What did you buy?

Trader Joe’s

  • 1 beefsteak tomato, $1.29
  • Baby bella mushrooms, $2.69
  • Peanut butter cups, $0.99
  • Cherry tomatoes, $2.69
  • Salsa verde burrito, $4.49
  • Organic yellow mustard, $1.69
  • Feta and onion pastry bites, $4.99 

Total: $19.26 (includes $0.43 tax)

Harris Teeter

  • Whole milk, $1.79
  • Ranch dip mix, $2.19
  • Iceberg lettuce, $1.79
  • Watermelon juice, $3.29
  • 1 cucumber, $0.69
  • 3 cosmic apples, $3.88
  • 1 red bell pepper, $1.67

Total: $15.78 (includes $0.48 tax)

Target

  • Red onion, $0.74
  • 3 potatoes, $2.67
  • Caesar salad kit, $3.19 
  • 8 ounces shredded Colby Jack cheese, $2.29
  • 16 ounces sour cream, $1.99
  • 1 avocado, $0.89
  • 1 lemon, $0.65
  • Caesar dressing, $3.89

Total: $16.63 (includes $0.32 tax)

Grand Total: $51.67

Credit: Courtesy of Kylie

Saturday: Leftover Breadstick Bites, Burrito, Potato and Mushroom Skillet, Watermelon Juice; Girl Scout Cookies and Milk

I sleep in late on Saturdays, so I don’t usually wake up in time for breakfast. While I’m out shopping, some Girl Scouts are selling cookies. I can never resist these, so I use money out of my treat budget to get two boxes (Tagalongs and Adventurefuls) for $10. I have an unusually beige lunch of leftover breadstick bites, a salsa verde burrito from Trader Joe’s, and a little bit of sour cream

Credit: Courtesy of Kylie

Dinner is a potato and mushroom skillet with Colby jack cheese and a glass of watermelon juice. One and a half of the potatoes I bought are bad, so I might have to get creative if I end up one meal short later in the week. 

Credit: Courtesy of Kylie

Evening dessert is one of my favorite parts of the day. Tonight, I settle down with a few Girl Scout cookies, a little cup of milk, and an episode of Gilmore Girls

Credit: Courtesy of Kylie

Sunday: Fried Eggs, Leftover Potato and Mushroom Skillet, English Muffin, Peanut Butter Cups, Cajun Salmon Caesar Salad, and a Strawberry Toaster Strudel 

I stayed up too late watching Bones last night, so I sleep past breakfast again. I fry a couple of eggs to go with some of the leftover potato and mushroom skillet, and toast an English muffin with butter and jam. A couple of Trader Joe’s peanut butter cups round off brunch. 

Credit: Courtesy of Kylie

On Sundays I almost always test a blog recipe. This week it’s cajun salmon Caesar salad with avocado and lemon — or it’s supposed to have lemon, but I accidentally threw it out. I’ll have to pick up another one tomorrow. It turns out solid, but needs some adjustments before it’s good enough to post. 

I’m too full from dinner to want my usual 8:15 p.m. dessert, but I get unexpectedly hungry around 11 p.m. and end the night with a strawberry toaster strudel

Credit: Courtesy of Kylie

Monday: Cereal and the Last of Potato and Mushroom Skillet, BLT, Fruit Snacks, Granola Bar, Cookies and Milk

I didn’t sleep well so I wake up nauseous and skip breakfast in favor of hydrating. For lunch I have some cereal with whole milk alongside the last of the potato and mushroom skillet. I struggle to get enough calories, so I try to incorporate more in any way I can — whole milk is a good one and so is adding condiments. 

Credit: Courtesy of Kylie

For dinner, I test a recipe for my favorite restaurant BLT, and it turns out SO good. I eat it with fruit snacks and a granola bar, and finish off the night with Girl Scout cookies and milk

Credit: Courtesy of Kylie

Tuesday: Hot Chocolate, BLT, Fruit Snacks, Wheat Thins, Peanut Butter Cookies, Leftover Salmon Caesar Salad, and Peanut Butter Cups

Every month my department has a social coffee outing. I order a hot chocolate, but because it’s for work I don’t pay for it myself. The whipped cream is really good; I think it’s also chocolate-flavored.

Lunch is another BLT, fruit snacks, and some Wheat Thins that have been hanging around my pantry since mid-November. In the afternoon, my boss passes around peanut butter cookies, which is an excellent way to get through that 2 p.m. slump. 

After work I pick up a lemon and some extra Caesar dressing for the last of the salmon Caesar salad. I wanted something fast tonight because Cassandra Clare came out with a new book and I’m eager to get to it. Because I’ve already had hot chocolate and a cookie today, my dessert is small: two TJ’s peanut butter cups

Wednesday: Granola Bar, BLT, Wheat Thins, Fruit Snacks, Peanut Butter Cookie, Snack Board, Root Beer, and a Peanut Butter Cup

My yogurt went bad early, so I grab a granola bar for breakfast instead. Lunch is the same as yesterday: BLT, Wheat Thins, and fruit snacks. I’m definitely running low on meals; those bad potatoes messed things up just a bit and I’ll probably have to pick up some stuff. 

My boss is back with the peanut butter cookies, so I take one. 

Credit: Courtesy of Kylie

Dinner is a snack board: crackers and Boursin; tomatoes, red peppers, and ranch; and feta and caramelized onion pastries from Trader Joes. I’m having some fatigue and joint pain today, so I drink an emotional support root beer and eat another peanut butter cup before going to bed a few hours early. 

Credit: Courtesy of Kylie

Thursday: Donut, Granola Bar, Cheese and Crackers, Veggies and Ranch, and a Personal Pepperoni Pizza

I start the morning off with a donut from work. This is much more exciting than the granola bar I stashed in my purse, so I save that for later. Lunch is the granola bar, cheese and crackers, and some veggies and ranch. 

I often run out of steam late in the week, so I pick up a personal pepperoni pizza on the way home. This does not come out of my grocery budget, and it’s delicious. Ever since I found out they sell fresh Pizza Hut pizzas at Target, they’ve become a particular weakness of mine. 

Credit: Courtesy of Kylie

Friday: Granola Bar, Snack Board Leftovers, Fruit Snacks, Alfredo Spaghetti, Steamed Broccoli, and Cookies and Milk 

Another granola bar for breakfast — I really wish my yogurt hadn’t gone bad so fast! Lunch, again, is snack board leftovers and fruit snacks

For dinner, I do a quick, easy meal of spaghetti mixed with jarred Alfredo sauce, steamed broccoli, and lemon zest. 

The Girl Scout cookies make an appearance again, with another mug of milk. I’ll miss these when they’re gone! 

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