Grocery Diaries

I’m a Full-Time Student and a Vegan in Idaho — Here’s What I Made with a $29 Grocery Haul Last Week

published Dec 16, 2021
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Credit: Food: Shutterstock; Person: Courtesy of Shannon; Design: Kitchn

Name: Shannon
Location: Boise, Idaho
Age: 21
Number of people in household: 1
Occupation: I’m a full-time college student with a part-time job on campus; most of my food spending money comes out of my summer job savings.
Dietary requirements: I’m vegan.
Amount spent on groceries this week: $28.65

Credit: Courtesy of Shannon

Where did you shop?

I live in walking distance to a WinCo grocery store. I enjoy bringing a reusable grocery bag with me to the store because it is far sturdier than a paper or plastic bag. I was pretty proud of myself for fitting all of my groceries in one bag. Also, I only made one trip to the grocery store for the whole week.

What’s your grocery strategy?

Before I head to the store, I make a meal plan for the week and will almost always bring a list with me while shopping; otherwise, it’s very easy for me to get distracted from my original goal. My list is typically centered around three main dishes that will become multiple meals through the week, two smaller-portioned dishes that are a bit more specialized with pricier ingredients (I will specifically buy only enough food for them to last me one meal), and staples that fill in the gaps in my diet, like breakfast foods or snack foods. I also keep a regular supply of spices and oils in my pantry, which didn’t need any replenishing this week.

How do you meal plan?

My plan is to make the dishes with more perishable ingredients first. For instance, I make it a point to have the pinto bean salad (one of my specialty meals this week) early in the week because I want to eat the avocado before it turns brown. I also factor in the length of time and the equipment needed for each dish. Because I own one pot, I make the soup last because I know it will make more than two meals’ worth. (I’ll store the leftover soup in the pot in the fridge, making the pot unavailable for any other dishes.)

What did you buy?


  • Yellow onion, $0.55
  • Garlic,  $0.48
  • Cauliflower, $3.17 
  • Baking potato, $0.42
  • Red yam, $0.86
  • Pumpkin, $2.68
  • Bananas, $0.81 for three
  • Roma tomatoes, $0.87 for two
  • Lemon, $0.33
  • Cilantro bunches, $1.16 for two
  • Serrano pepper, $0.07
  • Avocado, $0.78
  • Dole salad mix, $1.28
  • Kale, $0.98
  • Zucchini squash, $0.18
  • WinCo frozen berry medley, $1.98
  • Blue Diamond almond milk, $1.98
  • WinCo Hot Sauce, $0.98
  • Canned diced roasted tomatoes with green chiles, $0.65
  • Canned tomato sauce, $0.67
  • Canned tomato paste, $0.42
  • Canned salsa verde, $0.88
  • Bulk nutritional yeast, $0.71
  • Lime chili plantain chips, $0.47
  • Pinto beans, $0.27
  • Garbanzo beans, $0.71
  • Lentils, $0.30
  • Roasted sunflower kernels, $0.37
  • Raw pumpkin seeds, $0.56
  • Spaghetti, $0.62
  • Old fashioned oats, $0.84

Total: 28.65

Credit: Courtesy of Shannon

Monday: Banana Oat Cake with Frozen Berries

For breakfast, I have a banana oat cake. I mash one third of a banana, and combine it with coconut milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, frozen berries, and oats. I microwave the banana oat mixture for two minutes and thirty seconds. 

I’ve also prepped a pumpkin for tonight’s dinner, so for lunch, I have seasoned roasted cauliflower — tossed in hot sauce — served on a bed of salad mix, garnished with roasted pumpkin seeds. (I roasted the pumpkin seeds in the oven and they make an excellent garnish and snack throughout the week.)

For dinner, I make a chickpea and pumpkin kale salad. (The pumpkin is steamed in the
microwave.) I was originally going to make a more authentic pesto with basil for my salad dressing, but I couldn’t find any basil at WinCo. I look up an alternative recipe for pesto without basil, which I will use throughout the week as a garnish for my meals.

Credit: Courtesy of Shannon

Tuesday: Pinto Bean Salad

Breakfast is overnight oats with banana and cinnamon, which I prepare the night before and let them sit in the fridge, so the oats are soft when I wake up. For lunch, I have a pinto bean salad. I do some homework while the pinto beans simmer on the stove for an hour. I make spaghetti with pumpkin tomato sauce for dinner. The sauce is made in my blender with the pumpkin that I steamed in the microwave and canned tomato sauce. I leave the skin on the pumpkin when I blend it, as the skin contains almost all the pumpkin’s nutrients.

Credit: Courtesy of Shannon

Wednesday: Zucchini Stir-Fry

I have a banana and berry smoothie for breakfast; I added kale to the smoothie for extra nutrients. Lunch is leftover Buffalo cauliflower served in a salad. For dinner, I make my zucchini stir-fry with the leftover banana peel from the smoothie — a banana’s best nutrients are in its peel.

Credit: Courtesy of Shannon

Thursday: Cauliflower Potato and Tomato Hash

I make oatmeal with frozen berries in the microwave for breakfast and have leftover pumpkin spaghetti for lunch. For dinner, I attempt to make aloo gobi with potato and cauliflower, but in a misguided attempt to reduce the oil content, I add too much water. IMO, the dish becomes too mushy to be reasonably called aloo gobi. It still tastes delicious, but ends up being more of a cauliflower-potato-tomato hash.

Credit: Courtesy of Shannon

Friday: Sweet Potato Kale and Chickpea Soup

Breakfast is another banana berry kale smoothie. I eat the leftover sautéed zucchini and banana peel for lunch and make a sweet potato and chickpea soup that night for dinner. The soup uses the rest of the kale, and the remaining cauliflower stalk bits.

Credit: Courtesy of Shannon

Saturday: Lentil Curry

I have another banana berry oat cake for breakfast and, for lunch, leftover cauliflower-potato-tomato hash. For dinner, I make lentil curry, which comes together in less than 20 minutes!

Credit: Courtesy of Shannon

Sunday: Leftover Soup and Curry

For breakfast, I have a banana berry oatcake again. The rest of the day, I continue to make a dent in my leftovers: for lunch I have the sweet potato, kale, and chickpea soup (there’s still a lot of soup remaining), and for dinner I finish off the lentil curry!

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