Grocery Diaries

I’m a Business Analyst in Seattle — I Spent $85 on a Week’s Worth of Groceries and Came in $15 Under Budget

published Sep 29, 2022
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Credit: Food: Shutterstock; Person: Courtesy of Nicole; Design: Kitchn

Name: Nicole
Location: Seattle, Washington
Age: 31
Number of people in your family or household: 1
Occupation and salary: Business Analyst, $95,000
Where did you shop: Puget Consumers Co-op (PCC) Community Markets, Trader Joe’s, and one of the nearby farmers markets
Weekly food budget: $100
Amount spent: $84.67

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

Where did you shop? 

I did the bulk of my shopping at PCC, a local co-op chain close to my apartment that I’m a member of. I also went to one of the multiple mid-week farmers markets in my city to pick up some in-season produce, and made a quick stop at Trader Joe’s. 

What’s your grocery strategy? 

I write up a weekly grocery list with the items I need based on my meal plan (more on that below) and what I already have in my fridge and pantry. I generally try to format the list in the order that I walk through the store so I am less likely to forget something.

I’m not super strict about buying off-list items, but I’m pretty good at sticking to what I need. Avoiding food waste is important to me. I usually walk to the grocery store, about 20 minutes from my home, so I tend to make multiple smaller trips during the week as opposed to one large haul in order to minimize food waste and to reduce how much I have to carry home.

My grocery budget is separate from my food budget for eating out at restaurants, cafes, bakeries, etc., so I don’t factor that into my grocery shopping.

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

How do you meal plan? 

I work from home with a good deal of flexibility in my schedule, so I know that I’ll have time during the weekdays to cook or prep things for meals in between meetings and work. I really enjoy cooking and I don’t eat much takeout, so I generally plan on cooking all of my meals for the week when meal planning. However, I almost always end up going out for at least one unexpected meal, usually with friends.

I’ll survey any perishable items that I need to use up, as well as items in my freezer and pantry that I want to incorporate for the week. (I was visiting my family last week so I have some leftovers from my trip to start off my week.) For produce I already had some plums, baby Yukon Gold potatoes, green onions, and early season asparagus from last week’s farmers market to use up. From there, I see if I have any recipes bookmarked that sound good, particularly ones that call for in-season produce.

I don’t mind making a meal and eating it for several days in a row, which works out well, as I live alone and most meals end up generating leftovers. I usually plan for at least one breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and dessert for the week, with additional meals planned if I know a recipe will only be enough for one or two servings. I’m also working on minimizing my consumption of animal protein, so I try to prioritize vegetarian meals.  

What did you buy? 

Puget Consumers Co-op (PCC) 

  • Mini seedless watermelon: $0.00 ($6.99, but I had a coupon) 
  • Organic baby spinach: $4.49 
  • Avocado: $3.00 
  • Organic cucumber: $3.11 
  • Organic lemons: $1.29 
  • Bulk carrots: $2.38 
  • 2% milk: $3.49 
  • Tamari: $9.29 
  • Organic rolled oats: $6.49 
  • Pita chips: $4.69 
  • Sour cream: $2.89 
  • Farro: $9.59 

Total: $50.71 

Farmers Market 

  • 5 ears of corn: $4.00 
  • 3 zucchini, 1 cucumber, 1 onion: $10.00 
  • Half a loaf of sourdough, 1 canalé: $10.35 

Total: $24.35 

Trader Joe’s

  • A dozen eggs: $4.49 
  • Gouda cheese: $5.12 

Total: $9.61 

Grand Total: $84.67

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

Wednesday : Protein Shake, Leftover Pancakes, Greek Yogurt with Plums, Leftover Beef Stroganoff, and Homemade Pizza

I hit the gym for strength training first thing in the morning, so I make a protein shake with unsweetened soy milk, homemade cold brew, and vanilla protein powder and take it with me to drink on my way home after my workout. My fridge is a bit bare after being gone for a week, but thankfully my parents sent me home with enough food to get me through until I’m able to do my grocery shop later today.

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

I reheat one of my Dad’s pancakes — his specialty and my absolute favorite — with some plums and greek yogurt for breakfast. I have leftover beef stroganoff and some more plums for lunch, and then I made a quick pizza dough so it has time to rise before dinner. I hit the grocery store to stock up for the week, and I cut into the mini watermelon I got for free for an afternoon snack.

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

For dinner, I made Smitten Kitchen’s adaptation of Jim Lahey’s potato pizza, which uses up half an onion and the Yukon gold potatoes I had lying around, as well as some fresh rosemary from the little herb garden I keep on my balcony. I threw together a spinach & cucumber salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette on the side. I usually like to end my day with something sweet, so I have a couple of Trader Joe’s cookies that I keep in the pantry for dessert. 

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

Thursday: Leftover Pancakes, Greek Yogurt with Plums, Leftover Pizza, Watermelon, Canelé, Corn Farro, and Cupcake

I eat the second leftover pancake I brought back from my parents’ house for breakfast, with the last of the plums and Greek yogurt again. Instead of my usual homemade iced soy latte, I meet up with a friend at a local cafe and grab a Vietnamese Coffee; it comes to $7.24 with tip. For lunch, I have some of the leftover potato pizza from last night with a big bowl of watermelon.

In the afternoon, I go to one of my favorite cake shops with a friend and grab a cupcake and a slice of cake to have later tonight and tomorrow. (At $17 with tip, it’s pricey, but so worth it). Then I hit up a farmers market nearby to pick up some produce and fresh bread. The French bakery stand where I get my sourdough has the best canelés and I’m feeling a little peckish, so I grab one for a snack. The market is right across the street from a Trader Joe’s and I pop in to grab a dozen eggs and while I’m there I grab one of my favorite seasonal cheeses while it’s still around: Green Goddess Gouda.

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

For dinner, I use up four ears of the fresh corn I bought and make another Smitten Kitchen recipe: Corn Butter Farro. My dessert tonight is the cupcake I bought today. I knocked the box over in the car so it’s a bit squashed but still tasty! Before I go to bed, I cut half the sourdough I bought at the market today into slices and freeze them for the future, and chop up the rest into cubes and spread them out on a tray to dry out for tomorrow’s breakfast casserole. 

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

Friday: Zucchini Breakfast Casserole, Leftover Pizza, Salad, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Leftover Farro, and Cake

After a few days of sweet breakfasts I’m in the mood for something savory. I make a zucchini breakfast casserole for breakfast, along with a homemade iced soy latte. The casserole makes quite a lot for just one person, so I portion it out into servings for the next couple of days and freeze the rest for the future.

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

I have the last of the leftover pizza for lunch with another spinach & cucumber salad and homemade balsamic vinaigrette on the side. I have a massage scheduled for the afternoon and forget to pack a snack. By the time I’m finished I need a little something to tide me over, so I spend $9 and buy one of my favorite chocolate chip cookies and an iced latte from the cafe next door before heading home.

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

Dinner is leftover corn butter farro topped with Parmesan and some green onions that I’ve been keeping alive in a jar of water in my fridge. They’re a little pale, but still give me the oniony kick I’m looking for. I dig into the slice of brown sugar peach cake I bought yesterday for dessert. Before I go to bed, I start soaking some dried Rancho Gordo chickpeas from the pantry in preparation for making hummus tomorrow. 

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

Saturday: Leftover Breakfast Casserole, Homemade Hummus, Watermelon, and Leftover Farro

I start the day off with a homemade soy latte — hot today, because it’s unseasonably cool. For breakfast, I have a slice of the zucchini breakfast casserole I made yesterday, and then I make a batch of hummus. I’ve tried several recipes over the years, but my current favorite is from the cookbook Arabiyya: Recipes from the Life of an Arab in Diaspora by Reem Assil. I eat some of the hummus drizzled with garlic-infused olive oil and sprinkled with dukkah for lunch along with some peeled carrots, cucumber slices, and pita chips.

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

I am a little overly enthusiastic with my portioning, so I put the rest in the fridge and I end up eating it later on as a snack before I head out for the haircut I have scheduled. Dinner is more corn butter farro, and for dessert I’m in the mood for something lighter, so I eat some of the watermelon I cut up earlier in the week. 

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

Sunday: Turkey Panini at Brunch, Watermelon, Cheese Curds, Fried Rice, and Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m planning to get brunch today with a friend before doing some shopping, but I don’t want to wait for my coffee. I mix up a Vietnamese iced latte using the last of some coffee concentrate I bought on my previous Costco trip along with some milk.

The brunch place we’d planned on going to has a longer wait than we feel like dealing with, so we end up going to a deli instead, where I spend $20 on a turkey and Havarti panini and a Thai iced tea. The tea is a little too sweet for me, and the sandwich is disappointing. I only eat half.

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

I’m pretty hungry when I get home, so I dig into a big bowl of watermelon. It’s not quite enough to fill me up, so I eat some cheese curds after, and that hits the spot. I spend the rest of the day cleaning and doing chores around my apartment, and I cook up some basmati rice. I’m in the mood for fried rice, and it would be a good way to use up some of the odds and ends in my fridge.

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

Fried rice is best with day-old rice, and I toy with putting this batch in the fridge to cool and dry out for tomorrow, but my heart has already set its sights on fried rice for tonight, so fresh rice will have to do. I’m able to use the other half of the yellow onion I have leftover from Wednesday’s pizza, some carrots from my grocery haul, and the last corn cob from the market, along with some eggs and bacon. It definitely satisfies my hunger, and I’ve got enough left over for another meal.

For dessert, I rummage around in my freezer and emerge triumphant with a couple of toffee chocolate chip cookie dough balls. Whenever I bake cookies, I almost always put a couple of unbaked cookie dough balls into the freezer so that future me can experience the delight of a freshly baked cookie without all the hassle of preparing the dough. 

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

Monday: Leftover Breakfast Casserole, Hummus, Farro, and Homemade Sumac Cookies

I start the day off with a homemade iced soy latte, and I have another slice of the leftover zucchini casserole for breakfast. I’ve got a bunch of meetings today, and I don’t have a chance to eat again until I’m already pretty hungry.

With more meetings coming up, I make up a hummus plate sprinkled with sumac to snack on as I continue to work. I heat up the last of the corn butter farro for dinner, and I decide to make some cookies for dessert.

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

For my birthday last year, one of my best friends gifted me a copy of Cookies: The New Classics by Jesse Szewczyk. It’s become a tradition for me to bake a recipe once a month to bring to our next hangout. We’re meeting up tomorrow, so I leaf through the book looking for a recipe that I’ve yet to try and that won’t require me to go out and buy any new ingredients. I settle on the Vanilla Bean Sumac Cookies — fitting, as I already had the sumac out from lunch — and I mix up a batch, baking about two thirds of the recipe and freezing the rest for later. I have a couple for dessert and save the others for tomorrow. 

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

Tuesday: Leftover Breakfast Casserole, Leftover Fried Rice, Watermelon, Cheese Curds, Almonds, and Homemade Vanilla Bean Sumac Cookies

My cat has an early morning vet appointment, so I make up a homemade soy latte to go, then mentally prepare myself for the mutually traumatic experience of getting my cat into her carrier. We both survive, and I have a slice of the zucchini breakfast casserole when I get home.

Credit: Courtesy of Nicole

For lunch, I reheat the last of the leftover fried rice from Sunday. My friend and I are going on a hike after work, so I eat an early dinner. It’s a bit of a fridge/pantry clean-out, as it’s pretty hot out and I’m not in the mood for anything warm. I dish up the last of the watermelon and cheese curds, and a handful of rosemary Marcona almonds. I take the cookies with me and munch on a couple when we’re out. 

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