Grocery Diaries

My Husband and I Are Both Retired Teachers Living in Arizona — We Spent $146 on a Weekly Grocery Haul and Came in $34 Under Budget

published Aug 23, 2023
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Credit: Mary

Name: Mary
Location: Tucson, AZ
Age: 67 (me) and 70 (my husband)
Number of people in household: 2
Occupation: Both retired teachers
Salary: Monthly take-home pension of $8,000
Where you shopped: Natural Grocer, Tucson Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), and Whole Foods
Weekly food budget: $180.00
Amount spent: $145.60 

Credit: Mary

Where did you shop?

We shopped at Whole Foods and Natural Grocer, and picked up our weekly Tucson CSA box. We also take a trip to Costco for certain items every three months, what I call “quarterly shopping.” There’s only two of us and the purchases there are in bulk, so we didn’t need to shop there this week.

What’s your grocery strategy?

We eat a plant-focused, high-fiber diet, the best dietary pattern I’ve found for living with my IBS. We prioritize whole food ingredients, with many of our grocery items being organic; we try to minimize consumption of highly processed grocery items and cook most of our meals from scratch. We do include meat and dairy on a limited basis weekly. 

We maintain a substantial pantry and utilize a small freezer to make the best of bulk items purchased in a quarterly shop at Costco, which averages out at $12 per week. We support our local community supported agriculture (CSA) with a weekly purchase of locally grown organic produce for $24 per week. (This week’s produce share includes roasted chilies, small eggplant, two corn on the cob, two yellow onions, three large Yukon Gold potatoes, one head of lettuce, one bunch long green beans, and a bag of dry Mayacoba beans.) I use the loyalty savings program at Natural Grocer, and we are Amazon Prime members, which provides further discounts on sale items at Whole Foods. 

How do you meal plan?

I write a detailed meal plan and grocery list for the upcoming week, gathering my calendar, predicted CSA share list, grocery sales flyers, and recipe sources. An hour of planning eliminates daily 5 p.m. stress and keeps our food waste to a minimum. A quick check of the fridge, freezer, and pantry determines ingredients around which I may want to plan meals. This week, I was greeted by a bit of frozen leftover BBQ chicken, an avocado, last week’s goat cheese crumbles, a bag of frozen plant picadillo, and half a bag of snap peas. 

Leftovers are used for lunches or frozen to be repurposed in new meals; this is particularly true for meats, which are frequently added as a condiment in a vegetable dish. I typically bake once a week; there are just two of us, so this provides a selection of baked goods in the freezer for easy breakfasts and desserts. 

I also maintain a food blog, where I organize and share recipes I’ve developed. Often, meals are planned around a recipe I’m working on. 

What did you buy?

Tuscan CSA

  • Roasted chilies
  • Small eggplant
  • 2 corn on the cob
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 3 large Yukon Gold potatoes 
  • 1 head lettuce
  • 1 bunch long green beans 
  • 1 bag dry Mayocoba beans

Total: $24

Natural Grocer

  • Half gallon oat milk, $4.35
  • 32-ounce grass-fed whole milk yogurt, $3.69
  • Curry tofu nuggets, $7.29
  • 3 ears bi-color corn, $5.97
  • 2 cans chickpeas, $1.98
  • 1 can black beans, $2.99
  • 1 avocado, $.99

Total: $26.26 (includes $1.00 off for loyalty discount)

Whole Foods

  • Boxed oat milk, $2.49
  • Farro, $2.99
  • Pitted kalamata olives, $2.99
  • Plain skyr, $1.12
  • Cooked shrimp, $7.55
  • Organic red bell pepper, $4.61
  • Organic broccoli, $4.59
  • Organic eggplant, $8.55
  • Organic green onion, $1.49
  • Organic cilantro, $1.39
  • Organic Italian parsley, $1.69
  • Roma tomatoes, $2.06
  • Cherries, $8.69
  • Organic cauliflower florets, $4.29
  • Baby Bella mushrooms, $6.68
  • 1 cantaloupe, $3.99
  • Organic baby arugula, $3.99
  • Shishito peppers, $5.99
  • Yellow peaches, $4.84
  • Organic strawberries, $4.99
  • Whole chicken, $10.86

Total: $95.34 (includes $0.50 BYO bag discount)

Grand Total: $145.60

Wednesday: Avocado Toast, Cherries, Wheat Berry Grain Salad with Apple Slices, Corn and Shishito Salad and Tahini Roasted Broccoli, and Fresh Fruit and Yogurt

Breakfast today is whole-grain sourdough toast, topped with sliced avocado, a drizzle of sesame butter, toasted pepitas, and pomegranate arils from the freezer. I maintain a sourdough starter to make our bread and other baked goods, as I find sourdough leavened bread much easier to digest. We eat it with fresh cherries, our own juice from our citrus grove, and cappuccino.

Credit: Mary

Lunch today is wheat berry grain salad with snap peas and chevré, using several of my leftover ingredients from the fridge, served with apple slices and iced tea. 

Credit: Mary

Dinner today is my food blog test meal, with corn and shishito salad and tahini roasted broccoli. The salad is a copycat recipe based on a meal I enjoyed on the Maine coast last summer. Just for the record, the salad recipe isn’t ready for prime time yet, but the broccoli is delicious. We finish the meal with fresh fruit and yogurt, drizzled with honey and a sprinkle of toasted sliced almonds. 

Credit: Mary

Thursday: “Everyday” Cinnamon Rolls with a Mix of Fruit and Nuts, Leftover Grain Salad with Cherries, and a Summer Grain Bowl with BBQ Chicken  

For breakfast today, we’re enjoying my “everyday” cinnamon rolls, baked with a blend of wheat and buckwheat flours. The rolls are paired with a mix of toasted pecans and walnuts, fresh figs, juice, and an oat milk cappuccino. 

Credit: Mary

Lunch is a repeat of yesterday’s wheat berry grain salad with cherries.

Dinner is a tweak on a summer grain bowl with farro at the base, tomatoes, black beans, sautéed corn, avocados, and peppers. I’m adding some of my CSA roasted chilies, cilantro, and the chopped BBQ chicken from the freezer. This is an absolutely delicious one-dish dinner, great for hot summer evenings.

Credit: Mary

Friday: Frozen Sourdough Pancakes with Berries, Syrup and Toasted Pecans, Lunch at Olive Garden, Falafel, Pita, and a New Eggplant Salad

For breakfast, we pull a stack of whole-grain sourdough pancakes from the freezer. Thawed overnight, we enjoy them with berries, syrup and toasted pecans. On-sale fresh strawberries combine with economical frozen blueberries for the berry medley atop the pancakes.

Credit: Mary

Lunch today is out at Olive Garden with friends. It is good: I order the unlimited soup-and-salad combo, with minestrone soup. My husband goes all out on spaghetti and meatballs. The bills for meals eaten out come from the budget line for entertainment in our spending plan. 

Dinner is Mediterranean, Middle-Eastern style. An easy air-fryer falafel combines with pita bread and tahini. We try a new recipe for eggplant salad, with roasted eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, olives, and vinaigrette. This salad will do double duty, as it’s one of the dishes I plan to take to a luncheon tomorrow, for my women’s group. (A whole chicken poaches in the slow cooker, to be made into cold chicken with walnut sauce, also for the luncheon.)

Credit: Mary

Saturday: Muesli with Flax Meal, Fresh Fruit and Toasted Pecans, Falafel and Eggplant Salad Leftovers and Cold Chicken, and Luncheon Leftovers for Dinner

Breakfast today is quick and easy, homemade muesli from the pantry topped with flax meal, fresh peaches, strawberries, and toasted pecans. We add oat/hemp milk and microwave very briefly to warm through.

Credit: Mary

My husband eats falafel leftovers for lunch. I take my eggplant salad and cold chicken with walnut sauce to share with my women friends. Others at the luncheon provide stuffed grape leaves, tabouleh, pita, and baklava for a Middle Eastern feast. Leftovers of everything come home with me to make an extremely easy dinner for this evening.

Credit: Mary

Sunday: Almond Butter Toast with Fruit, Pesto “Meat” Crumbles, Baked Sweet Potato, Leftover Eggplant Salad and Cherries, Texas Caviar, Poblano Soup and Green Beans 

Standard Sunday breakfast is quick and easy; whole-grain sourdough toast with almond butter and fruit spread. We eat it with fresh peaches and the last of a pint of fresh figs, our orange juice, and oatmeal cappuccino.

Credit: Mary

We exhausted our leftovers from last evening’s dinner, so some cooking is required for lunch. I keep small cubes of pesto and “meat” crumbles of lentils and walnuts in the freezer, which come out to accompany a baked sweet potato from the CSA for Sunday lunch. We finish off the eggplant salad and have cherries for dessert. 

Credit: Mary

Dinner this evening is Texas caviar, a fresh corn and bean salad with Southwestern spices. We serve it as a dip with tortilla chips along with my poblano soup and the remaining CSA green beans, quickly simmered with basil and dill. 

Credit: Mary

Monday: Fruit Smoothie, Oat Muffin, Leftover Texas Caviar and Cherries, Orecchiette with Mushrooms, Broccoli and Walnut “Sausage”, Mixed Greens, and Dark Chocolate with Almonds

The heat of an Arizona summer calls out for a frosty fruit smoothie this morning. I popped one of my fresh peaches, chopped, into the freezer before bed last night, and it hits the blender with frozen banana, cherries, oat/hemp milk, and almond butter. Blended with vanilla, almond, cinnamon, and cardamom, this is a breakfast favorite, accompanied by an oat muffin and oat milk cappuccino.

Credit: Mary

Lunch today is the remaining Texas caviar, served with chips and cherries on the side. 

Dinner tonight is orecchiette with mushrooms, broccoli, and walnut “sausage” accompanied by a crisp, mixed greens salad with red wine vinaigrette. Dessert is a section of a dark chocolate bar with almonds.

Credit: Mary

Tuesday: Granola with Berries, Toast, Leftover Orecchiette, Green Salad, Cherries, Cauliflower and Tofu Curry over Rice, and Shishito Peppers

We try to have whole-grain cereals for breakfast several times per week. This morning we finish the week with homemade granola, topped with berries and oat/hemp milk. It’s also served with whole-grain sourdough toast and orange juice.

Credit: Mary

I toss a fresh green salad to accompany the leftover orecchiette for lunch, served with fresh cherries. 

Tuesday afternoon is our pickup of fresh CSA vegetables, so dinner needs to be easily prepared after we get home. Tonight that’s cauliflower and tofu curry, made with cashew milk and the curry-marinated tofu, served over rice. We’ll finish off the shishito peppers on the side, quickly pan seared.

Credit: Mary

And that’s a wrap for the week. Time to hit the grocery store tomorrow morning…

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