Grocery Diaries

I’m a Human Resources Program Manager and My Husband Is a Medical Resident — We Spent $62 on a Week’s Worth of Groceries

published Jun 23, 2022
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Credit: Photo: Courtesy of Rachel; Food: Shutterstock; Design: Kitchn

Name: Rachel
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
Number of people in your family or household: 2
Age: 27
Occupation: I am a Human Resources Program Manager and my husband, Phil, is a medical resident. We are exceptionally frugal when it comes to groceries due to his steep student loan balance.
Where you shopped: Harris Teeter
Weekly food budget: $75 (this does not include restaurants); depending on whether or not we need to restock staples, this can be as little as $45 or up to $100
Amount spent: $61.71

Credit: Courtesy of Rachel

Where did you shop?

We shop almost exclusively at Harris Teeter, simply out of convenience. It’s a mile down the road, whereas my favorites (Kroger and Trader Joe’s) are about half an hour away. Every now and then, we’ll go to The Fresh Market for meat and seafood. We’re willing to pay the higher price tag since it means higher quality, and will balance that out by cutting back elsewhere.

What’s your grocery strategy?

I usually do two grocery runs per week: one on Saturday or Sunday, and one on Wednesday to fill in the gaps of anything we may need for dinner for the rest of the week. I shop my pantry and freezer first, and like to rely on grains like rice, quinoa, or pasta. I often build meals around those. I buy the generic item whenever I can and, in many cases, can’t taste the difference. I am brand loyal, though, with select products. I also shop for seasonal items and sales! And I take advantage of Buy One/Get One free deals and freeze the extra meat and produce.

This week’s haul is pretty standard. I try to be intentional with what I buy; thankfully, I did not need to fill in a lot of pantry/freezer staples (oats, peanut butter, pasta) because we had a good amount hanging around from the past few weeks. I mostly grabbed fresh produce and dairy items — groceries I’d need to make the meals I’ve planned for the week. It came out to a little less than I usually spend, due to said staples and the fact that my husband is working nights. On weeks like these, he usually eats most meals at the hospital, although I like to pack him a midnight “lunch” to carry him through.

How do you meal plan?

This happened to be an atypical week. My husband was working the night shift, so the majority of his meals were consumed at the hospital. I work from home, so my meals are a bit more flexible; breakfast foods sometimes make an appearance for lunch, and my husband often gets his lunches comped by work.

Typically we plan to make two to three types of meals each week (we’re big fans of leftovers), and our general rule of thumb is at least one meatless dinner per week. While we have our favorite recipes, we often seek inspiration from food blogs or the NYT Cooking app. We’ll also order takeout or dine out one weekend night and have a “potluck” with whatever’s in the pantry and freezer the other night.

We like to incorporate variety, nutrition, and seasonality into all of our meals. It’s sometimes hard to know on a Sunday what we’ll be in the mood for later on in the week, but we try to make it work (this is why the mid-week run is so crucial) and repurpose ingredients. For example, Monday’s leftover chicken can become chicken salad for Tuesday’s lunch. I’ll also use up any leftovers from the previous week first.

What did you buy?

Harris Teeter

  • Oranges (2), $1.50
  • Kiwi (3), $0.66
  • Red onion, $1.32
  • English cucumber, $1.67
  • Avocados, $2.49
  • Grape tomatoes, $2.69
  • Blueberries, $4.99
  • Raspberries, $2.50
  • Bananas, $1.25
  • Frozen shrimp, $4.97
  • Oat milk, $3.49
  • Coffee creamer, $3.00
  • Eggs, $2.39
  • Skyr, $2.00
  • Feta cheese, $9.99
  • Gluten-free matzo ball mix, $0.75
  • Box of matzo, $1.12
  • Kalamata olives, $3.99
  • Artichoke hearts, $2.99
  • Chickpeas (2), $1.58
  • Whole grain bread, $2.00
  • Frozen veggies (2), $2.74

Grand Total: $61.71 (includes $1.63 sales tax)

Credit: Courtesy of Rachel

Saturday: Frozen Blueberry Waffles, Lunch with a Friend, and Chicken and Rice Leftovers

I pop two frozen gluten-free blueberry waffles in the toaster for breakfast. After I finish them I head to the store for today’s main event: grocery shopping. Following grocery shopping, I head to lunch with a friend. I’m a member of my city’s Yelp Elite chapter, and they put on monthly events to showcase local restaurants and businesses. Oftentimes, you can bring a guest. Today’s brunch is at a “healthy comfort food cafe” and I get a peach mango refresher and white bean Caesar salad. Lunch is complimentary, so I purchase a blueberry muffin from the cafe’s pastry counter as a token of appreciation, and break into it on the ride home.

Credit: Courtesy of Rachel

When Phil wakes up mid-afternoon, he polishes off the rest of the muffin before heading to work. Since I hadn’t yet had a chance to prepare anything, he plans to grab dinner at the hospital. I, on the other hand, eat the remainder of last night’s leftover chicken adobo with jasmine rice for dinner.

Credit: Courtesy of Rachel

Sunday: Banana and Peanut Butter, Avocado Toast with Egg Whites, Protein Pancakes, and Pasta Salad

I grab a banana and peanut butter to start my day. I usually like to have slow weekend breakfasts with Phil but with him working nights, I don’t put in the effort. I do some laundry and head to a power yoga class.

Afterwards, I throw together some avocado toast with egg whites, and slice up an orange. We just started re-growing scallions and they’re sprouting quicker than I can keep up with, so they’ll be making an appearance quite often this week. Phil gets up around 2 p.m. and preps a large batch of protein pancakes using the mix we had in the pantry. He saves the remainder for the coming days.

Credit: Courtesy of Rachel

I finally prepare dinner before Phil heads to work, and throw together a Greek-inspired pasta salad that sounded appealing with the warmer temps. Half of my pasta falls down the sink as I’m attempting to drain it, so I had to improvise with another type. I end up with a mix of whole-wheat rotini and red lentil elbows. I pack his portion in a Tupperware to take to work, and throw in a packet of the Trader Joe’s trail mix hiding in our pantry. I enjoy my dinner solo and prep overnight oats for tomorrow’ breakfast.

Credit: Courtesy of Rachel

Monday: Overnight Oats with Fruit, Chickpea Salad, Protein Pancakes, and Leftover Pasta Salad

I am a proponent of maintaining routine — especially since Phil’s is so unpredictable. While Monday morning starts with bedtime for him, it starts with spin class for me. Afterwards, I eat the overnight oats I prepped last night, topped with berries and kiwi.

Credit: Courtesy of Rachel

By the time lunch rolls around, I put together a favorite I’ve enjoyed for a while: chickpea salad. It is a great alternative to tuna salad and can be prepared in advance (another great use for our scallions, too!). I have mine on whole-grain toast, but sometimes enjoy it with crackers or even veggies for dipping.

Typically, an afternoon snack makes its way in there; today’s is a bag of trail mix from Trader Joe’s. I bought several bags in bulk a few months back, and am making my way through the remaining few. Because I work from home, I take a break between meetings to enjoy it with Phil while he eats his breakfast (protein pancakes, peanut butter, and berries on repeat for him; he also grabs a protein bar, apple, and Cheez-Its in the hospital cafeteria to hold him over through the night). Dinner for both of us is leftover Greek pasta salad.

Credit: Courtesy of Rachel

Tuesday: Fruit Smoothie, and Leftover Chickpea and Pasta Salad

I take an early morning spin class and enjoy a smoothie afterwards. Sometimes I get creative and make a whole smoothie bowl with the works, but today I’m pressed for time and just pour it into a Mason jar. I add a frozen fruit blend I had previously in my freezer, as well as bananas, almond or oat milk, and the protein powder and hemp seeds hanging out in my pantry. Lunch and dinner are repeats of yesterday for both of us.

Credit: Courtesy of Rachel

Wednesday: A Duo of Eggs, Tuna and White Bean Salad, and Impromptu Pasta with Broccoli and Leftover White Beans

I have a pre-spin breakfast of banana and peanut butter, and come back to toast some gluten-free blueberry waffles with egg whites and berries. Phil has whole-grain toast with eggs, and a smoothie made with frozen fruit, peanut butter, and oat milk. For lunch, I throw together a tuna and white bean salad — a recipe I copied from one of my favorite specialty markets. While I forgot to snap a picture of mine, I had it on whole-grain toast, and packed some for Phil to take to work with cucumbers, cheese, and crackers. He also grabs some snacks at the hospital.

Credit: Courtesy of Rachel

Mid-afternoon, I have some yogurt with kiwi, hempseed, and flaxseed. The workday gets away from me and, after having grand plans to make a shrimp dish, I realized shrimp probably wasn’t the best thing for Phil to take to work in his lunch box the next day. Instead, I finish off a box of lentil/sweet potato pasta I had in the pantry and air-fry some frozen broccoli. I throw in the remaining white beans in the fridge for good measure. I want something sweet before bed and polish off a square of coconut dark chocolate while prepping overnight oats for the next morning.

Credit: Courtesy of Rachel

Thursday: Banana and Peanut Butter, Overnight Oats, Avocado Toast and Egg Whites, and Delivery for Three

I start the day with a pre-spin banana and peanut butter, and enjoy the overnight oats I prepped the night before for Phil and myself when I’m back (he eats his once he gets up). He packs himself a skyr and bag of trail mix before he heads to the hospital. The workday flies by and, once again, I find myself eating avocado toast, egg whites, scallions, and a not-pictured orange for good measure.

That evening, I have a quiet night in with two girlfriends who are also med-spouses. We order ramen for delivery and split an order of onigiri as an appetizer (I pay $15). The doctor Phil happens to be working for that evening buys all the residents Chinese takeout, so dinner is covered on his end.

Credit: Courtesy of Rachel

Friday: Dairy-Free Raspberry Yogurt with Berries, Avocado “Toast,” a Smoothie, and Wood-Fired Pizza from Our Favorite Bakery

I sleep in on Fridays, and wake up at 7 a.m. to enjoy a leisurely walk around my neighborhood. Temperatures are supposed to reach a scorching 95 degrees this weekend, so I take advantage of the outdoors before the heatwave hits. I come back and eat some raspberry coconut milk yogurt with the remaining raspberries on top, and am still hungry after, so I snag one of the protein bars Phil brought home from work.

Fridays are often my busiest days and this one’s no exception. I realize there’s no more bread left, so I make avocado “toast” with a square of matzo and sprinkle some feta on. It’s cardboard-y, yet delicious enough that I forget to snap a photo.

Credit: Courtesy of Rachel

Phil is off today, transitioning from nights to days, as he has to report in at 5 a.m. tomorrow. He sleeps through most of the morning, and wakes up mid-afternoon. He has to go back to the hospital (on his day off!) to meet with a medical student. Before he leaves, he makes himself a smoothie with frozen fruit and oat milk and matzo with peanut butter. My lunch inspired his breakfast!

On his way home, he swings by our favorite bakery that happens to make the best wood-fired pizzas, and orders a “Funghi Bianci” (white pizza with ricotta, cremini mushrooms and spinach, as well as a loaf of rosemary focaccia for the weekend, which comes to $22.) We split the pizza and break into the focaccia, with some olive oil for dipping. I rarely eat takeout two nights in a row, but did pretty well scrounging up my meals earlier in the week. With Phil back on his regular schedule next week, I resolve to do some more robust cooking and shopping.

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