Grocery Diaries

How a Minnesota Family of 5 Spends $177 at Aldi on Groceries Every Week

published Jul 24, 2023
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B+W photo of family on graphic background with mushrooms, avocado, bell pepper, bread design elements
Credit: Shutterstock, Ruth

Name: Ruth  
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Age: 33
Number of people in household: 5; my husband (also 33 years old) and me, and our three kids (ages 7, 5, and 3)
Occupation: I’m a freelance writer, and my husband is a stay-at-home dad
Where you shopped: Aldi
Weekly food budget: $200
Amount spent: $177.38

Credit: Ruth

Where did you shop?

Aldi! The essentials are often less expensive there than at other stores, and the quality in the one near our house is excellent overall. I like to cook a variety of meals and Aldi keeps a limited inventory, so we often supplement Aldi orders with Target pickups or a visit to Trader Joe’s (I love the corn salsa). We didn’t need to shop elsewhere this week because Aldi had everything on our list and only canceled a few nonessentials from our online order. 

What’s your grocery strategy?

My husband and I split grocery tasks in a way that works for both of us — he orders groceries and then picks them up with the kids after taking them on an outing (he’s a stay-at-home dad), and I cook dinners. Cooking is therapeutic to me after a long day hunched over the keyboard.

As our family has grown and gotten busier, we’ve found a hybrid of prepared and homemade food fits our lifestyle best. For example, I make most entrées from scratch and then use salad kits or bake-from-frozen bread as a side. We love fresh fruit and vegetables, and we’ve found that supplementing fresh with frozen fruit and vegetables is just as yummy and more affordable. Steam-from-the-bag peas, corn, and edamame are meal-savers.

How do you meal plan? 

My husband and I plan meals together. We used to make one big shopping trip a week, but then we found we often made separate trips to the store for extra milk or a missed ingredient. So we started shopping twice a week instead, planning three or four meals at a time. We vary the meals by proteins, starches, and cooking times. I have a shelf full of cookbooks and rotate family favorites with new recipes.  

As our kids get older and eat more, relying on leftovers for lunch is risky. So we keep easy lunch fixes on hand. Breakfasts are also predictable — eggs, toast, bagels, cereal (hot and cold), and sometimes the fun stuff, like pancakes, on the weekends.

We keep a legal pad in our kitchen to write down staples as they run out (think: butter, olive oil, flour, rice, and car snacks, like granola bars). Then when the time comes to put together the official shopping list, we can decide which recipes we want; check the fridge, freezer, and cupboards; and add whatever we don’t already have to this list. 

What did you buy?


  • Fettuccine, $2.19
  • Tofu, $2.19
  • Italian bread, $4.09
  • 12-grain bread (x2), $5.30
  • Flour tortillas (x2), $4.30
  • Cannellini beans (x2), $1.78
  • Chicken broth (x2), $2.90
  • Black beans (x3), $2.55
  • Raw shrimp (x2), $16.45
  • Whole milk (x2), $5.90
  • 1% milk (x2), $5.90
  • Half-and-half, $2.85
  • Sour cream (x2), $3.78
  • Frozen sweet corn (x2), $2.10
  • Dino-shaped chicken nuggets, $8.79
  • Frozen sweet peas (x2), $2.10
  • Ham deli meat, $6.05
  • Breakfast sausage, $2.55
  • Smoked sausage, $3.55
  • Ground turkey, $4.65
  • Crushed red pepper, $1.35
  • Crimini mushrooms (x2), $3.98
  • Watermelon, $5.49
  • Arugula and spinach mix (x2), $6.38
  • Cucumber, $0.79
  • Avocados (x2), $1.30
  • Bell peppers, $2.99
  • Sweet kale salad kit, $3.29
  • Sunflower salad kit, $3.29
  • Tomatoes, $2.19
  • Tortilla chips (x2), $4.20
  • Frozen french fries, $3.09
  • Colby cheese, $2.19
  • Italian blend cheese, $3.19
  • Sharp cheddar cheese, $1.65
  • Eggs, $1.05
  • Whole-milk vanilla yogurt, $4.19
  • Frozen fruit, $7.69
  • Chicken thighs, $6.81
  • Pepperoni, $2.85
  • Pizza sauce, $2.09
  • Apples, $3.55
  • Onions, $2.45
  • Caesar salad kit, $2.75
  • Bananas, $1.10
  • Whole-wheat crackers, $2.45

Grand total: $177.38 (includes bag and pickup fees)

Credit: Ruth

Monday: Fried Eggs, Cereal, Snacks, Ham Sandwiches, Fruit Smoothie, and Shrimp Scampi

My morning starts before everyone else with creative writing and a cup of coffee. My eldest wakes up and drifts into the office to say good morning. Then my husband is up with the other two. He makes breakfast for the kids, fried eggs today, and I assemble a bowl of Honey & Oats cereal and milk to eat with them.

The family is off for their adventure of the day. My husband packs granola bars, pretzels, and mini-oranges for snacks. Lunch is ham sandwiches with pickles, cheese, mayo, and spinach (no pickles for the youngest). The kids play in the sprinkler in the afternoon, and my husband makes a fruit smoothie (frozen berries, frozen bananas, whole milk, a section of chocolate bar, and a scoop of peanut butter) for everyone to enjoy.

I make shrimp scampi, fettuccine, corn (from frozen), and a salad kit for dinner. Shrimp scampi is a favorite meal because all three kids love it, and it feels fancy without breaking the bank. I use pantry staples like cooking wine and lemon juice to make the sauce instead of white wine and fresh lemons. I’ve tried both ways and, honestly, the cooking wine is better — just don’t sample it!

Tuesday: Fried Egg and Toast, Cereal, and Leftover Scampi, Apples and Peanut Butter, Ultimate Ramen, and a Holiday Gathering

Today I make myself a fried egg and toast for breakfast, and the kids have Frosted Shredded Wheat cereal. My husband microwaves leftover shrimp scampi. He likes savory foods and will often repurpose whatever is in the fridge into a hot breakfast — sometimes with an over-easy egg on top.  

The family is off in the van for another adventure. I cut an apple into slices, put a pad of peanut butter next to them, and bring the plate into my office, hoping for inspiration on a tough assignment.

Lunch is “ultimate ramen”: Boil peas, carrots, spinach, celery, and mushrooms in ramen broth, add noodles, crack an egg or two into the whole thing, turn off the heat and cover. Wait three minutes, and then devour. Be careful — it’s hot! I love adding toasted sesame oil, hoisin sauce, and cilantro.

We drive to my parents’ house for a Fourth of July gathering for dinner. I cut up a whole watermelon to bring along.

Credit: Ruth

Wednesday: Cereal, Yogurt and Granola, Chicken Nuggets and Peas, Smoked Sausage Soup

Everyone eats Honey & Oats cereal for breakfast today. I have a Nadiya Hussain cookbook on my shelf brimming with fun breakfast ideas that I can’t seem to get into. Someday breakfast will be peanut butter and jelly bakes and fruit parfaits instead of cereal.  

I bring a cup of lemon, honey, and ginger tea into my office to sip during a morning meeting. I return to the kitchen for a mid-morning break to fix pumpkin flax granola and whole-milk vanilla yogurt. My husband and the kids are off on another adventure, and he sends me a text asking if I’ll preheat the oven so he can make nuggets for them right when they get home.

Premade nuggets are a fun, quick-fix lunch. My husband microwaves a bag of frozen peas to accompany them, and I eat with the family. One of my favorite parts of working from home is having impromptu time with my family during the workday. I make smoked sausage, spinach, and white bean soup for dinner, which I serve with take-and-bake bread and a salad kit.

Credit: Ruth

Thursday: Eggs, PB&J Sandwich, Oatmeal, Cereal, Cucumbers and Dip, Leftover Soup, and Ground Turkey Tacos

Without the rhythm of school, the summer days start to blur together. Today two kids have eggs for breakfast, and the youngest munches on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. My husband makes himself oatmeal. I pour a bowl of Frosted Shredded Wheat cereal.

My husband slices a cucumber for the kids to eat with ranch dressing for a snack, and I sneak a few pieces. Lunch is leftover soup. I make ground turkey taco meat for dinner, which we load into tortillas alongside greens, black beans, sour cream, tomatoes, onions, salsa, and sliced avocados.

Credit: Ruth

Friday: Cereal, Leftover Taco-Night Nachos, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Teriyaki Tofu Stir-Fry

Today everyone has cereal for breakfast. For lunch, I layer tortilla chips on a tin foil-lined baking sheet and add cheese and all the leftover ingredients from last night’s tacos. After the nachos have baked for about 15 minutes, they are ready to be gobbled up.

I end my workday early to make chocolate chip cookies with the kids in the afternoon. They help measure dry ingredients and “sample” chocolate chips. For dinner, I stir-fry cubed tofu with bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms and serve with a homemade teriyaki sauce and white rice. My husband and I love spicy foods, but we’ve learned to tone it down for our kids. They tend to like sweet/savory sauces like teriyaki best. 

Credit: Ruth

Saturday: Strawberry Pancakes and Sausages, Trail Mix, Sandwiches, Homemade Pizza, and Popcorn for Movie Night

Saturday morning I make pancakes and sausage for breakfast. After experimenting with many pancake recipes over the years, I finally found one with an acceptable level of fluffiness. I add whatever fruit we have in the household — bananas, frozen cherries, blueberries, etc. This morning it’s strawberries from the week before.

We share trail mix on our morning hike and fix ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch. Dinner is pizza. I make the crust from scratch but use premade pizza sauce. I briefly sauté sliced bell pepper, mushrooms, and onions and add them, along with shredded cheese and pepperoni, to the pizza base.  

Saturday night I make popcorn to eat with a movie; tonight it’s the Bollywood blockbuster Brahmāstra. Although I can’t eat snacks at night because of chronic heartburn, my husband does have snacks for special occasions (like movies). He pours most of the popcorn into a large Tupperware for the kids and me to eat the next day. My treat is a glass of coconut water over ice.

Credit: Ruth

Sunday: Honey Toast and Cereal, Oven-Fried Chicken, Leftover Popcorn, Snacks, and Quesadillas with Leftover Chicken

Today my youngest and I have honey on toast for breakfast. The others have cereal. And then we are off to a church gathering. I make oven-fried chicken for lunch and serve with french fries, boiled green beans, and cottage cheese. I don’t typically make formal lunches on Sundays, but today we had an afternoon outing scheduled, and I didn’t have time to bake chicken for the evening meal.

Before heading out to a gathering at the park with friends, the family eats leftover popcorn. I pack granola bars and wheat crackers. Dinner is quesadillas with leftover chicken, black beans, spinach, cheese, and onions. 

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