Grocery Diaries

I’m a D.C. Consultant — Here’s How I’m Shopping and Eating a Week Before the Election

updated Oct 28, 2020
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Credit: Courtesy of Sean

Name: Sean
Location: Washington, D.C.
Number of people in household: 2; Sean and his wife, Laura (plus their cat, Salem)
Age: 32 and 31
Occupation: Copywriter for a political consulting firm (Sean) and database administrator for a D&I firm (Laura)
Grocery shopping for how long? One week
Where did you shop? Giant, Whole Foods, and Amazon
Did you get your groceries delivered or did you go to the store? We went to the store. It’s just a seven-minute walk away, so it’s a good excuse to get out of our apartment.
How much did you spend? $55.80 on groceries, and $40 on takeout (covered by my office, which was nice!)
Dietary restrictions? I’m on the low-FODMAP diet for IBS. Laura very lovingly does it with me (most of the time).

Credit: Courtesy of Sean
(Most of) this week’s haul from Giant and Whole Foods

How did you choose where to buy groceries?

Convenience, selection, and savings. Giant’s selection is … well, gigantic. Giant often has what I’m looking for, usually at the best prices. For anything I can’t find there, I’ll look at other stores nearby. This week, that meant Whole Foods and Amazon.

We’d love to shop more at the local farmers market, but the prices are usually a tad too steep. Because we’re really trying to stick to a tight budget (more on that later), we just can’t afford it right now. Maybe next year?

Credit: Courtesy of Sean
A full fridge is a happy fridge!

What time did you shop and what was it like?

Grocery runs were a bit spooky at the start of the pandemic. Toilet paper shelves went empty, while the aisles were crammed full of folks, all packed in much closer than six feet. Laura swore off supermarkets after just one bad trip. Now we seem to have mostly acclimated to this new “normal,” give or take the occasional distracted shopper going the wrong way down the aisle.

I made two trips this last weekend, one on Saturday morning (Giant) and another on Sunday afternoon (Whole Foods). I usually grab all of our groceries for the week on Saturdays, but figured we could hit up Whole Foods on the way back from an outdoor church service on Sunday.

Credit: Courtesy of Sean
Weekdays lunches like this are, well, more of a moving target as we get closer to E-Day.

How did you meal plan?

Between my low-FODMAP diet and COVID-19, we make most of our meals at home. I set the menu based on what’s on sale, what coupons we have, and where we’ve already stocked up. That lives on a calendar in our kitchen.

I’ll make the same quick and easy breakfasts and lunches bright and early Monday through Thursday, and we order takeout for lunch to close out the workweek on Fridays. Then, on the weekend, we’ll sleep in a bit until Laura makes brunch.

For dinner, we alternate between cooking new meals and nuking the previous night’s leftovers Sunday through Friday. (We usually make some combo of lean proteins, gluten-free grains, and FODMAP-friendly veggies.) Then, we’ll split takeout on Saturdays, both to treat ourselves and to support our favorite local spots with FODMAP-friendly options. (We’ve got a socially-distanced birthday party this Saturday, though. It’s the first in-person party we’ve attended all year.)

Election Day is right around the corner. (Have you made a plan to vote yet?) In recent weeks, I’ve taken to cracking open a bottle of wine, spinning some vinyl, and making one big dinner for us on Sundays. It helps ward off those Sunday Scaries and leaves plenty of leftovers for next week’s dinners. It’s easily my favorite part of the week.

What did you buy? 

Meat: All good here! Our fridge and freezer are already stuffed full of what was on sale earlier in the month.

Dairy: One pound of ricotta cheese (for my one big FODMAP cheat for the week: lasagna), eight yogurts for Laura’s lunches, one small bag of shredded cheddar cheese, and half a dozen organic eggs.

Pantry: One box of Saltines, three cans of Pringles, one box of gluten-free lasagna noodles, and a jar of FODMAP-free marinara. Also, two packages of yeast. (More on that later.) Our cupboards were otherwise already well-stocked.

Produce: Two bananas, two tomatoes, one pound of organic carrots, some locally grown salad mix, and a head of “living” lettuce for sandwiches. Green beans that were about to go bad were waiting at the bottom of the fridge.

Pharmacy: We just ran out of those daily multi-vitamin gummies last week. Time to re-up!

How much did you spend?

Giant: $34.40

  • Pringles: $4.00 (on sale, three for $4)
  • Saltines: $2.50 (on sale, $1.19 off)
  • Marinara: $4.89
  • Regular yeast: $2.19
  • 6 eggs: $3.39
  • Cheddar cheese: $2.19
  • Ricotta cheese $2.79  (on sale, 20¢ off)
  • Yogurts: $3.50 (on sale, 19¢ off each, plus a digital coupon for 50¢ off)
  • Bananas: $0.57 for two
  • Tomatoes: $1.41 for two
  • Carrots: $0.99 for one pound
  • Lettuce head: $2.99
  • Salad Mix: $2.99

Whole Foods: $10.93

  • Gluten-free lasagna noodles: $3.99
  • Rapid-rise yeast: $6.94

Amazon: $10.47

  • Gummy daily vitamins, $10.47

Takeout – Friday Lunch: $40.00

  • Two burgers, fries, and a shake (my office covered the bill during the last month of the election — thanks, team!)

Total Cost: $95.80

Credit: Courtesy of Sean
Debate night provisions for a political consultant, courtesy of care packages from the office.

What couldn’t you find? 

Giant was out of rapid-rise yeast, so I bought regular instead. I then went back out for rapid-rise from Whole Foods the next day because it turns out that they are in fact different, and Laura’s focaccia recipe called for rapid-rise. Giant also didn’t carry the gummy vitamins we were looking for, nor the gluten-free lasagna noodles. So, we bought the lasagna noodles and rapid-rise yeast from Whole Foods and the gummies from Amazon. 

Finally, we usually buy two-pound bags of shredded cheddar cheese to last us through six to eight weeks of omelets, mac and cheese, salads, etc. They were out of the big ones this week, so, I grabbed a small eight-ounce bag instead.

Credit: Courtesy of Sean
Sunday Night Dinner in all its glory.

What do you plan on making?


  • Monday through Friday we have Eggbeater and cheese omelets, and toast with butter and jam (plus coffee for Laura).
  • On Saturday and Sunday we have eggs sunny-side up, crispy bacon, and toast with butter and jam (plus coffee for Laura).


  • Monday through Thursday we have ham and cheese sandwiches on gluten-free bread, with gluten-free cookies and granola bars for me, and yogurts and Pringles for her.
  • Friday we have burgers, fries, and shakes from Good Stuff Eatery, one of our favorite local burger joints.


  • Sunday through Wednesday we have FODMAP-friendly(ish) lasagna and gluten-free focaccia with green beans and salad. For dessert we have leftover three-ingredient peanut butter cookies that Laura stress-baked late last week.
  • Thursday and Friday we ate oven-roasted chicken thighs and carrots with gluten- and lactose-free mac and cheese 
  • On Saturday we had enchiladas and queso at a friend’s backyard birthday party. They covered the cost of the food.

Snacks and Beverages

  • On Sunday we had fries at Duke’s Counter with a few church friends. Our priest paid the bill. (He’s the best.)
  • On Thursday we had Garrett’s popcorn and debate night drinks. (Sent by my office. Thanks, team!)
  • Friday night cocktails to close out the work week. (My office covered the bill during the last month of the election. Again, thanks, team!)

How is this different from how you normally shop?

We definitely overspent while stocking up at the start of COVID-19. We’re also saving up for a down payment in D.C.’s super-expensive real estate market. Now we’re focused on spending less on food, plus using up all those reserves before we head down South after the election to close out the year working remotely with family. All told, we’re on track to hit $4,800 on groceries and $2,400 on takeout for the year ($600 total per month, on average).

We’re also trying to limit our trips to the store, both to reduce our risk and to help slow the spread. Now I make one big run on the first Saturday of the month to stock up on pantry staples, meat, and dairy. That just leaves fresh produce for the remaining weeks, unless we’re making something special or something’s on sale that’s worth grabbing.

The other big thing that’s different is the election coming up on November 3. Like meal planning and everything else, voting is different in 2020.

Here’s something you might not know about voting: Who you vote for is private, but whether you vote is public information. (Your friends and family can even look it up!) It’s how we know 100 million eligible voters didn’t cast a ballot in 2016. No matter who you vote for, though, we all know our democracy is stronger when more Americans vote. 

Your vote is your voice. It’s your power. If you don’t use it, someone else will. What’s more, a lot of this year’s elections — especially “down-ballot” races that much more directly affect our day-to-day lives — could be decided by a handful of votes per precinct.

Visit to learn more. This sleep-deprived (but well-fed!) staffer thanks you!

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