Grocery Diaries

I Work in Retail and My Boyfriend Is a Tax Examiner — We Spent $158 at (Mostly) Aldi on a Week’s Worth of Groceries and Came in $8 Over Budget

published Dec 28, 2023
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portrait of couple and aldi receipt on graphic background
Credit: Sarah

Name: Sarah
Location: York, PA
Number of people in household: 2 (me and my boyfriend, Chuck, plus our cat, Figgy Puddin)
Age: I’m 43, and Chuck is 42.
Occupation: I’m a retail associate and Chuck is a tax examiner.
Household Income: $60,000
Where you shopped: Aldi, Weis, Target, and Grocery Outlet
Weekly food budget: $150
Amount spent: $158.23

Credit: Sarah

Where did you shop?

This week Aldi and Weis (a local chain) were my biggest shops. Chuck and I also hit Target and Grocery Outlet for items that aren’t available anywhere else, like almond butter (with no added sugar or oil) and flavored decaf coffee. About once a month I stock up on meat and paper products like toilet paper at BJ’s Wholesale Club, but I didn’t need to go this week.

Credit: Sarah

What’s your grocery strategy?

When I first moved to this part of Pennsylvania last year, I found the number of stores to be overwhelming, so I researched which places offer the lowest prices overall. I use those stores’ apps to quickly compare prices on individual items. For example, this week my preferred brand of milk is $4.19 at one store, $4.59 at another, and out of stock at a third. I make shopping lists in the apps based on which items have the best deals and try to hit each store throughout the week to buy all the groceries we need.

Credit: Sarah

How do you meal plan? 

We usually eat the same things for breakfast and lunch, so there’s not much planning involved. For dinners, I start by writing down the days of the week and anything going on that may affect mealtime, like if I’m working a late shift or we’re going out.

Next, I consider our nutritional goals. We eat a primarily Mediterranean-style diet focusing on fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and a limited amount of whole grains. Earlier this year I had bariatric surgery, which completely changed our diet. We’ve both lost weight and have seen improvements in our cholesterol and health in general. It’s been a huge learning curve with lots of trial and error and we’re not always perfect, but we feel great and will never go back to our old ways (no more huge bowls of cereal for dinner!).

By building this framework, meals sort of plan themselves. For Meatless Monday we always have tofu, and we do our best to incorporate fish and seafood twice a week. My stomach is only 20% of the size it used to be, so we have a lot of leftovers — especially if I roast a whole chicken, pork loin, or the infrequent beef round roast. We have “big salads” several nights a week and just toss in whatever protein I make. I’ll also make quinoa, whole-grain pasta, or brown basmati rice for my boyfriend. 

Additionally, I’ve found that keeping a well-stocked pantry with tons of spices, oils, and vinegars allows me to try new recipes on the fly on days that I have the time. So while I usually have a meal plan, I also stay flexible. 

What did you buy?


  • Yogurt, $3.69
  • 2 bags coffee, $11.98

Total: $15.67


  • Canned tomatoes, $1.50
  • Family-size pork chops (BOGO free), $12.81
  • Fresh tomatoes, $1.99
  • 2 packs mushrooms, $5.98
  • 2 packs polenta, $7.38
  • Fresh romaine hearts, $3.99
  • Fresh baby spinach, $5.99
  • Eggs, $2.49
  • 2 packs yogurt, $8.38
  • Shredded Parm, $2.39
  • 2 containers milk, $7.98

Total: $60.88


  • Old-fashioned oats, $3.95
  • Thin-sliced bread, $3.85
  • 2 packs baby spinach, $5.78
  • Frozen blueberries, $3.65
  • Frozen Brussels sprouts, $1.19
  • Frozen asparagus, $2.79
  • 2 packs frozen sweet peas, $1.90
  • Yogurt, $3.49
  • Frozen strawberries, $3.29
  • 2 packs brown basmati rice, $4.58
  • Fresh tomatoes, $2.89
  • Chocolates, $3.49
  • 100-calorie mixed nut packs, $2.89
  • Chocolate clusters, $3.49
  • Raw mixed nuts, $3.49
  • Chopped pecans, $3.39
  • Baking soda, $0.89
  • Pure vanilla extract, $3.49
  • 6 tuna pouches, $5.10

Total: $63.59

Grocery Outlet

  • 2 jars almond butter, $11.98
  • Chocolate bar, $1.49
  • Fresh bananas, $1.06
  • Fresh pears, $1.57
  • Fresh pineapple, $1.99

Total: $18.09

Grand Total: $158.23

Sunday: Breakfast Out and Leftover Chicken Stir-Fry

The first thing on our minds when we wake up Sunday morning is the fact that we are out of coffee. We both have the day off, so we do a coin toss to decide if we should just quickly run to the store and buy a bag, or go have a leisurely sit-down breakfast somewhere. I call heads and breakfast out wins. We take our time and enjoy our fresh strawberry crepes, French toast, eggs, bacon, sausage, and, of course, coffee. With tip, we spend $35.87. 

Afterwards, we stop at Target to pick up two bags of hazelnut decaf and a large container of plain nonfat Greek yogurt. We skip lunch because we’re still full. I spend the afternoon cleaning our apartment and making applesauce and then turning the applesauce into oatmeal protein bars for us to snack on throughout the week. 

Dinner is leftover chicken stir-fry from the night before. 

Credit: Sarah

Monday: Yogurt, Oatmeal Protein Bars, Egg and Toast, Leftover Ham, Tofu Steaks, Salad, and Cut-Up Vegetables

On Monday, Chuck has to go back to work bright and early. He makes his usual yogurt and frozen berries, sprinkled with a mix of oat bran, flax seeds, hemp seeds, wheat germ, wheat bran, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds. He also has an oatmeal protein bar and a cup of coffee, and takes a Thermos full with him to work. I wake up about an hour later and have a big mug of coffee with vanilla protein powder, something I learned to do after surgery because getting a certain amount of protein daily is essential to weight loss. I have to wait at least 30 minutes between eating and drinking (another post-surgical rule), so a bit later on I make my usual egg, veggies, low-fat cheese, and one piece of whole-grain toast. The only thing that varies is the veggies; today it’s bell peppers and red onions, which I sauté before adding the egg. 

I have off today, so I visit Chuck at work for lunch. I take him leftover ham, Brussels sprouts, and sweet potato from dinner a couple of nights ago. I’m full from coffee and breakfast, so I skip lunch and we just sit and talk in my car. Afterward, I head to Weis to do some of our weekly grocery shopping. 

When I get home, I have an oatmeal protein bar with some milk

For dinner, I make us tofu steaks with extra-firm tofu, which Chuck puts over a big salad. I have mine with a side of some of the tomatoes, carrots, and zucchini he cut up because a whole salad is too much for me. 

Tuesday: Yogurt, Turkey and Spinach Wrap, Banana, Mixed Nuts, Egg and Toast, Protein Bar, Pork Chops with Veggies and Rice, and Oreos

Tuesday morning is much the same, with Chuck having yogurt and going off to work. I’m also working today, so he packs his own lunch. We’re finally out of leftovers so he puts some rosemary herb turkey slices and some spinach in a low-carb wrap and grabs a banana and a pack of mixed nuts for his afternoon snack. I have my usual protein coffee, egg, veggies, low-fat cheese, and toast later when I get up. Today I opt for mushrooms and spinach as my veggies.

At work, a customer is so excited about finding packs of Oreo cookies for 50 cents each that she generously gives me one out of the four that she purchases. I text Chuck and ask him if he wants to have Oreos with me “like in the old days” and he agrees. On my break I eat an oatmeal protein bar, anxiously awaiting dinner and cookies. 

He gets home at 4 p.m. and I get home at 5 p.m., and I quickly whip up some of the pork chops I found (buy one get one free!) at Weis, along with veggies and rice with curry spices

Ironically, when we dig into the Oreos, we realize that they don’t taste quite right, only to read the package and find that they were made in India. Oreos made in the U.S. list sugar as the first ingredient, with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) later on the list as well. These Oreos, however, list flour as the first ingredient and no HFCS. They aren’t as sweet as we’re used to, and the texture seems off. We have fun eating them together anyway.

Credit: Sarah

Wednesday: Yogurt, Egg and Toast, Chicken with Mushroom Gravy, Polenta and Peas, and More Yogurt with Cherries

For dinner, I make one of my own recipes — chicken with mushroom gravy — and serve it over polenta with a side of peas. It’s dreamy, creamy, and delicious. After eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch most days (yogurt and egg with toast again today!), we like to indulge once in a while. There’s a theory that says if you limit your food choices it’s easier to stick to your weight loss goals because your brain isn’t getting excited about “novel” foods and causing you to overeat them. It’s boring but effective for us. 

Later that evening, I have a high-protein yogurt for dessert, doctoring it up with some almond extract, cocoa powder, and frozen cherries

Credit: Sarah

Thursday: Yogurt, Egg and Toast, Turkey Wrap, Protein Bars, Banana, Beef Biltong, Leftover Pork Chop, Salad, and Yogurt

I work late on Thursday, so after the usual breakfast (yogurt) and lunch (turkey wrap) for Chuck, he cuts up the last curried pork chop from Tuesday and puts it in a salad for dinner.

On my break, I only have time for an oatmeal protein bar and some beef biltong. It leaves me pretty hungry, so after work I have a plain yogurt. I read the food log Chuck has been keeping for me and discover that his lunch turkey wrap was made a little more interesting with the addition of some jarred olive tapenade left over from last week, and he had a rare mid-afternoon snack of a protein bar and banana.

Credit: Sarah

Friday: Yogurt, Egg and Toast, Leftover Chicken, Egg with Spinach and Mushrooms, Chocolate, and Salmon and Peas

On Friday I have off, so I take Chuck some leftover chicken and broccoli and we sit in my car on his break while he eats. After waiting five hours since his yogurt breakfast he’s always eager to see me show up with food! But somehow I’m running late this morning and don’t have time to eat until after I get back from visiting him, so I’m the one who has to wait.

Back home, I have my usual egg, spinach, mushrooms, low-fat cheese, and toast, which counts as breakfast and lunch today.

Afterward, I visit Aldi to get the rest of the groceries on my list for the week and replenish staples like tuna, bread, nuts, and frozen fruits and veggies. I ask Chuck if he can stop at Grocery Outlet on his way home because it’s right by his work. It’s his favorite store so he’s always ready to go, and it has the almond butter we like. He also picks up some fresh fruit (Aldi’s selection is looking scarce when I stop in earlier that afternoon). Neither of us knows at the time, but we both “accidentally” come home with chocolate candies and end up eating all of them. 

For dinner I make salmon and peas, which I serve with lemon wedges.

Credit: Sarah

Saturday: Oatmeal, McDonald’s Breakfast, Turkey Slices, Fruit, Turkey Wrap, Tuna Salad, Almond Butter Toast, Protein Bar, and Yogurt

Saturday Chuck has off, but I have to work a late shift. He has his yogurt breakfast but I can’t make my egg because there’s work being done in our kitchen. Chuck goes to get me breakfast from McDonald’s (one meal, which costs an astounding $9.11), but the greasy food doesn’t sit very well after last night. 

The plumbers finish their project and I head to work after eating some slices of turkey for lunch (the only thing my stomach wants after all the chocolate and grease). Throughout the day Chuck munches on a banana, grapes, a turkey wrap, and then has a tuna salad for dinner. 

He ends the evening with some toast with almond butter and a shot of bourbon

At work, I have the last oatmeal protein bar and then a yogurt when I get home. The scale says I lost two pounds, so I call it a successful week.

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