Grocery Diaries

We’re a Family of 5 in Indiana and Shop Mostly at Walmart — We Spent $160 on a Week’s Worth of Groceries and Came in $40 Under Budget

published Feb 15, 2023
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Graphic collage of Natalie, the author of the photo diary, surrounded by items from her grocery list like cherry tomatoes, penne pasta, banana, and broccoli
Credit: Photo: Courtesy of Natalie, Shutterstock

Name: Natalie
Location: Tell City, Indiana
Age: 37
Number of people in household: Five; me, my husband (41), and our three children (12, 7, and 5)
Occupation: I’m a house cleaner and my husband is a mailman.
Where you shopped: Walmart
Weekly food budget: $200
Amount Spent: $159.66

Where did you shop?

To save time, I mostly shop at our local Walmart. The closest other grocery stores are a 30-minute drive away. If I find myself near a Kroger, I like to stock up on a few favorites, like BBQ baked tofu and vegetarian sausage, but that wasn’t the case this week.   

What’s your grocery strategy?

I always have a plan and make a list. Usually, I order my groceries online to be picked up later that day — this saves time and so much money! I also like to keep things simple and stick to our favorites. 

Even though we are not vegetarian, we only eat meat about once a week. We supplement protein with beans, tofu, and frozen vegetarian chicken and sausage, although the kids eat chicken and sausage meat. I typically buy the same fruits and vegetables each week. This week, we came in under budget, in part, because we ate a few meals out this week. (We had dinner at a restaurant, lunch at a friend’s house, and dinner with our relatives.)

How do you meal plan?

My kids are a little on the picky side and we also have a few allergies in the home (I’m allergic to chicken and all seafood), so I keep our meal plans on the simpler side. We rotate through a two-week plan. We eat a lot of pasta and Mexican-inspired meals. Along with breakfast for dinner every Thursday and, of course, pizza night! Our meals can get a little repetitive, but this also keeps dinnertime happy and calm. There’s no meltdowns, for example, because of new, unfamiliar recipes. 

Credit: Courtesy of Natalie

What did you buy?


  • Cumin, $3.14 
  • Celery, $1.74 
  • Wheat bread, $2.33 
  • Cucumber, $3.94 
  • Avocados, $2.72 
  • Broccoli, $5.70 
  • Cherry tomatoes, $4.98 
  • Lettuce, $2.97 
  • Milk, $3.16 
  • Apples, $5.46 
  • Bananas, $1.33 
  • Nature Valley granola bars, $4.16 
  • KIND bars, $5.54 
  • Parmesan, $4.98 
  • Jif peanut butter, $6.78 
  • Nutella, $3.74 
  • Wheat tortillas, $2.88 
  • Deli turkey, $4.48 
  • Almond creamer,  $4.90 
  • Breakfast sausage, $3.46 
  • Cabot cheddar, $10.48 
  • Bagels, $4.32 
  • Dave’s Killer Bread English muffins, $4.88 
  • Frozen french fries, $7.12 
  • Kodiak Bear Bites, $5.38 
  • Annie’s macaroni and cheese, $2.88 
  • Annie’s Bernie O’s, $4.84 
  • Bear fruit rolls, $7.18 
  • Garlic powder, $3.97 
  • Baby carrots, $3.12 
  • Penne pasta, $2.52 
  • Heavy cream, $2.98 
  • Ground turkey, $4.60 
  • Caesar salad kit, $3.98 
  • Tomato sauce, $1.76 
  • Southwest salad kit, $3.98 
  • Canned chickpeas, $1.56 
  • Light brown sugar, $1.78
  • Butternut squash, $3.94 

Grand Total: $159.66

Credit: Courtesy of Natalie

Friday: Granola and Granola Bars, Bagel, Tomato Soup and Cheese Quesadillas, School Lunch, Very Ripe Pears, and Poutine

Our fridge is pretty bare, and I have a grocery pickup today. The kids find some granola bars and eat them while we drive to school. I have the rest of our peanut butter granola with almond milk and coffee. My husband leaves early for work every day and I usually pack his meals. For breakfast today he has the last bagel with peanut butter, an apple, and coffee. 

Mid-morning I have my second cup of coffee while finalizing our meal plan and grocery order. My kids eat the school-provided lunch most days; today is pizza day! I pack my husband a Thermos of tomato soup. (Our favorite is the carton of Pacific Foods Organic.) He also has a cheese quesadilla and baby carrots. I have some soup and a quesadilla, too. Later, I pick the kids up from school; we munch on some very ripe pears and head to the library. 

Tonight is movie night, so we make it fun. For supper, the kids request poutine. We use frozen french fries, shredded white sharp cheddar (not traditional, I know!), and homemade brown gravy. 

Credit: Courtesy of Natalie

Saturday: Oatmeal, More Pears, Frozen Waffles, Baked Beans on Toast, and Lentil Soup with Bread

The kids wake up hungry; I make them some oatmeal and serve that with some very ripe pears, which they eat while watching some cartoons. I sip on coffee. When my husband wakes up, we both have some coffee and protein waffles we found in the back of the freezer. We eat them with peanut butter and a banana. 

We spend time doing volunteer work in our community this morning, and come home hungry! For lunch we have baked beans on toast topped with a little shredded cheddar (I grew up eating this!). Everyone loves this simple, comforting meal. 

Dinnertime is getting close and I completely forgot to plan anything for tonight. It’s cold here, so soup sounds good. I look through my recipe book for something made with basic pantry ingredients; I find Cookie and Kate’s Best Lentil Soup and I have all the ingredients! We all enjoy a bowl with a slice of bread. 

Credit: Courtesy of Natalie

Sunday: Granola Bars, Vegetable Soup, Assorted Sandwiches, Éclair Cake, and Taco Night with Relatives

We’re rushing around a bit because we need to leave early this morning. We all grab granola bars and head out for the day. At lunch we are with some friends. We have vegetable soup with assorted sandwiches. They made éclair cake for dessert. Yum! 

We head about an hour away to pick our son up from a sleepover with his cousin and we stay there for dinner. We have amazing homemade tacos with barbacoa beef, corn tortillas from the Mexican food market, cotija, crema, and salsa. They are delicious!   

Credit: Courtesy of Natalie

Monday: Oatmeal, Bagels, Apples, Breakfast Sandwiches, Out to Eat for Burgers and Fries, and Chili 

It’s a holiday, so my husband is off work and the kids are, too. The kids all want different things for breakfast: The kids have oatmeal, bagels, and apples. My husband and I have breakfast sandwiches with veggie sausage. (I have some avocado on mine.) We also have coffee. 

We have some shopping to do and decide to stop at a burger place for lunch. Kids’ choice! We have burgers and fries. We usually go to a restaurant once every two weeks, so when we go out, it’s pretty special. For dinner we have chili topped with a few blue corn tortilla chips I find in the pantry, sliced avocado, and shredded sharp cheddar cheese.   

Credit: Courtesy of Natalie

Tuesday: Cereal, Breakfast Sandwiches, Salad Kit with Sliced Turkey, School Lunch, Chai Latte, Homemade Apple Turnover, and Butternut Squash Risotto with Caesar Salad

Today we’re back to our normal routine, so we all wake up pretty early. I pack my husband’s breakfast and lunch. Today he has a breakfast sandwich, sliced apples, and coffee for breakfast. His lunch is a southwest-style salad kit topped with sliced turkey, and some celery sticks with peanut butter. The kids have cereal with bananas and are off to school. When I get home I have a toasted English muffin topped with avocado and an egg with my coffee. 

For lunch, my kids eat the school cafeteria lunch and I have the same salad as my husband. It’s a beautiful day, so I get some yard work done and come in for an afternoon treat. My friend gave me some Four Sigmatic Chai Latte mix. I have that with an apple turnover that my mother-in-law made. For dinner I made Cookie and Kate’s Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with a Caesar salad. The kids don’t touch the salad, but they love the risotto!  

Credit: Courtesy of Natalie

Wednesday: Another Breakfast Sandwich, Bagels, Sliced Apples, Energy Balls, Yogurt, Leftover Risotto, Turkey Sandwich, School Lunch, and Creamy Tomato Penne with Steamed Broccoli

I pack my husband the same breakfast as yesterday. The kids eat bagels and sliced apples when they wake up and leave a few apples on their plates. We’re in a rush to get out the door, so I eat a couple of energy oat balls I made the day before with a random yogurt cup I find in the fridge and have some coffee. 

At lunchtime I’m starving! I eat leftover risotto and salad. (I eat cold leftovers all the time and I really don’t mind.) I’m cleaning houses today, so I eat in my car. My husband has a turkey sandwich with carrots and ranch and the kids eat the school lunch again. 

After my house cleaning, I pick the kids up from school and they snack on some strawberries that were given to me. I’m getting hungry so I have an apple with some almond butter. For dinner I make a creamy tomato penne pasta with steamed broccoli. The kids love the pasta and even munch on some of the broccoli. (Yay!) The pasta I used is a high-protein pasta and there’s some cashew cream in the sauce, so it’s a pretty filling and satisfying meal. 

Credit: Courtesy of Natalie

Thursday: Granola Bars, Breakfast Sandwich, Avocado Toast, Leftover Pasta and Lentil Soup, Almond Butter Sandwich, School Lunch, Pancakes with Sausage for Dinner, and Popcorn Before Bed

It’s another busy morning; the kids run out the door with granola bars. My husband has the same breakfast as yesterday with coffee. When I get home from taking the kids to school, I make myself some avocado toast with a poached egg. 

I’m cleaning a house today, so I pack my lunch to eat on the run. I have leftover pasta and broccoli from last night with my big water bottle. I pack my husband some leftover lentil soup from Sunday with carrots and an almond butter sandwich. My kids eat the school lunch again. 

We have to leave the house around 6 p.m. for a weekly activity. The kids are used to breakfast for dinner on Thursday. It’s easy and yummy! Tonight my son helps me make pancakes with sausage and sliced apples. We get home around 9 p.m. and we all snack on some air-popped popcorn before bed.  

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