How a Retired Chaplain and Her Husband Eat on $150 a Week in Atlanta, GA
Welcome to Kitchn’s Grocery Diaries, where a real cook like you shows us what they bought, cooked, and ate over the course of a week.
Location: Atlanta, GA
Number of people in family: 2
Occupation: Semi-retired hospital chaplain
Household income: Around $88,000. I’m retired and living on social security and investments. My income last year was about $28,000, and my husband (who still works) made $60k.
Weekly grocery budget: $150
Grocery store of choice: I rotate between Kroger, Sprouts, Trader Joes, Fresh Market, and Whole Foods.
Day 1: Sunday
Breakfast: My husband, Rob, generally goes to Kroger at 7 a.m. on Sunday mornings. But today we watched tennis all morning and just ate whatever we had in the house, which turned out to be the rest of a box of Raisin Bran and the rest of a jug of milk.
Grocery run: Rob’s Sunday grocery shopping list includes things we’d like to make for dinner, packed lunch ingredients, and sweet snacks he likes to have around.
Lunch: Rob went grocery shopping at noon to both Kroger and Fresh Market and by the time he got home, we were both pretty hungry. We ate seafood salad from the Fresh Market deli along with tortilla chips and cheese. Rob also ate a large slice of apple pie. He is a runner and manages to stay slim no matter what he eats. I, on the other hand, can only eat a sliver of pie. It is a problem in our household that Rob can eat lots of high-calorie food and I can’t. He buys it, and I stare at it all week, often giving in to temptation. He forgot my bread, so I make a quick run to Fresh Market to buy Dave’s Killer Good Seed Bread thin sliced. Seventy calories a slice and so nutty and chewy!
Dinner: We both love Caulipower frozen pizza (with crust made from cauliflower.) We get Margherita-style and I jazz it up with whatever we have in the fridge. Tonight it was red onion, green olives, grape tomatoes, and grated Parmesan. It’s quite tasty and is only 330 calories for half the pizza! Quick, easy, and fairly healthy.
Day 2: Monday
Lunch: After several hours of serious housecleaning (something I only do every few weeks), I had a container of Siggi’s Mixed Berries O% yogurt with a few fresh strawberries. I also ate another slice of Dave’s Good Seed bread. Rob usually eats lunch at the hospital cafeteria (where he works). He will spend about $5/day there four days this week.
Dinner: Because Rob is on call this week, his schedule is erratic. Tonight, he’s home late at 8:30 p.m. instead of 5:30. Knowing that, I just have something easy ready: hot dogs. I feel like I should be embarrassed that two grown adults like hot dogs, but we do. We buy Kroger’s Premium Selection All-Beef brand. I put so much pickle on my dog that it qualifies as a vegetable. For a side, I clean some fresh strawberries and slice them up. I add a sliced banana that needs to be eaten before it goes brown. Rob also eats more pie.
Day 3: Wednesday
Breakfast: Once again, the usual smoked salmon on Dave’s Good Seed Bread. I finish off the bottle of V-8. I catch up on paperwork and head to the pool at our apartment building to exercise.
Lunch: I eat a container of Siggi’s coconut yogurt topped with strawberries and eat another slice of Dave’s bread. I spend the rest of the afternoon in the dentist’s chair getting a crown replaced. Because I feel sorry for myself when I am done, I go to nearby Southern Custard and get a hot fudge sundae with pecans, whipped cream, and a cherry. It is heavenly.
Dinner: On the way home from the dentist, I stop at a place called Souper Jenny’s which has several locations around Atlanta. They make fabulous fresh homemade soups and salads. In the late afternoon, they sell what’s left of that day’s soups in containers. I buy a container of Artichoke Asparagus Soup and a thick hearty chowder full of potatoes and herbs. I serve it for supper. I devour it, but my husband turns his nose up at it and makes himself another hot dog! And more pie. I remember the sundae and pass on pie.
Day 4: Wednesday
Breakfast: The usual — toasted bread and smoked salmon. But no V-8 today. Instead, I drink half a bottle of Yoga 1. This green juice, made by Arden’s Garden, is the best I’ve ever had. It’s a local juicer. I’ve never seen it in any grocery stores outside of the Atlanta area. Too bad.
Lunch: Protein shake — frozen banana, berries, protein powder, ice cubes, splash of milk.
Grocery run: I go to Whole Foods this afternoon to shop for the rest of the week.
Dinner: I have been wanting to try a nachos recipe I saw demonstrated in Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago, except I end up modifying it. First a layer of tortilla chips; then a layer of pulled pork (instead of pulled rotisserie chicken); then I chop grape tomatoes, red onions, and avocado (instead of store-bought pico de gallo) for the next layer; then shredded cheese. Into the oven for a bit, including on broil to melt cheese. Top with globs of plain yogurt (instead of sour cream.) It was very good and easy. There was plenty left for both of us to have for lunch the next day. Rob finishes off the apple pie.
Day 5: Thursday
Breakfast: Same as always.
Lunch: I eat the rest of last night’s nachos and some melon chunks. After lunch, I go to a yoga class.
Dinner: We split the bag of Asian Inspired Salad. This is my favorite salad. I probably have it once a week, although not always this brand. I also peel and section a few tangerines and add them to the salad. I usually buy Cuties or Halos, but they were not available. It is a lot of salad, but that’s all we have. I fret that there was no protein in it, so I eat a yogurt too.
Day 6: Friday
Breakfast: Once again, same as always.
Lunch: A melon protein shake. I put the rest of the melon chunks in the blender with protein powder, ice cubes, frozen banana, and a handful of fresh spinach. It’s so good and refreshing and a lovely light green. Melon is absolutely the best thing to put in a protein shake. It has a strong sweet flavor.
Dinner: Another salad! Rob stopped at Newk’s on his way home and picked up his fave, a Black n Bleu Salad. We split it. I pick off the bleu cheese — not my favorite. However, the salad has slices of nice roast beef on it, so it feels like a complete meal. He also bought a slice of lemon cake. It’s all his.
Day 7: Saturday
Grocery run: Rob gets up early and goes to Kroger.
Breakfast: When he returns, he cuts up berries to put on chocolate-covered waffles and pours maple syrup over the concoction. I was not up yet, but I would not have eaten that. I slept so late that I did not eat breakfast, but threw on my clothes and went to the recycling center before it closed at noon. I ate a tangerine in the car.
Lunch: I was starving when I returned, so Rob and I climbed into our bathing suits and went to the pool where our apartment community was hosting a pool party. They served typical picnic fare — hamburgers, baked beans, veggie tray, Sunchips — and also fresh shrimp (a nice touch). We jumped around in the pool for a while too. Eat, swim, eat, swim.
Dinner: Another party. This one was a farewell party for work friends of Rob’s. It was held at a local pub and billiard parlor called Twains. The host picked up the tab. Neither Rob nor I were very hungry after our picnic lunch, but we ate some appetizer plates, including Southern Egg Rolls (deep fried, of course). I drank ginger ale, and he had a Moscow mule. We were home by 9:30 because neither of us are party animals by a long shot.
1. How did you set your food budget?
Now that it’s just my husband and me, we eat very simply and frugally because we’d rather spend our time and money on other things. We didn’t intentionally set a food budget; this is just how it evolved over the last few years. It doesn’t change much from week to week unless we go out for a nice meal. Then we make up for it the next week.
2. What are the kitchen ingredients you can’t live without?
Grape tomatoes, red onion, avocado, yogurt, bananas, bread, chicken broth, milk — and for my husband we have to have a pie, cake, ice cream, or cookies in the house!
3. What’s the budget recipe you always rely on?
Take pulled rotisserie chicken, a couple of jars of chicken gravy, and frozen peas. Put in the bottom of a casserole dish and tear up a can of refrigerated biscuit dough to plop on top. Bake until biscuits are done. My grandchildren LOVE this, but so do adults.