How a Family of Two Eats for $150 a Week in Wilmington, North Carolina

How a Family of Two Eats for $150 a Week in Wilmington, North Carolina

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Ariel Knutson
Oct 8, 2018
(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Welcome to Kitchn's Food Budget Diaries series, where we show you how people around the country spend money on what they eat and drink. Each post will follow one person for one week and will chronicle everything that person consumed and how much it costs them.

Name: Christine
Location: Wilmington, North Carolina
Age: 36
Number of people in family: Two adults (me and my husband), one dog, 19 chickens
Occupation: I'm a marketing specialist at a software company; my husband works part-time as an adjunct lecturer while he prepares to go back to school.
Household income: $70,000 a year (combined), plus the occasional freelance gig.
Weekly food budget: $150 (includes groceries, alcohol, and restaurants)

Editor's Note: Christine submitted her food budget diary before hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas. Christine, her husband, their dog, and all of their chickens are safe, but the community of Wilmington continues to suffer. Please consider donating to their local Food Bank to help in the aftermath of the hurricane.

We waited to publish Christine's food diary in light of the tragedy. As such, you'll notice that some of the references she makes are out of season.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Day 1: Saturday

7:00 a.m.: I sleep in because it's the weekend; my husband already left for work an hour ago. His teaching schedule varies each week, and the days are long — eight hours in the classroom, plus a three-hour round-trip commute. It's not ideal, but it pays well and it's flexible, which is really important as he applies and interviews for graduate school.

Before he left, he ate his usual breakfast: two eggs, hash browns, and four pieces of buttered toast. He's one of those people who eats to live and prefers big meals so he doesn't have to deal with snacks. (I, on the other hand, live for snacks. Opposites attract, I guess.) He also filled his Thermos with coffee for the long drive, and then made a small pot for me before he left the house. The way to my heart is through caffeine.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

7:30 a.m.: I feed our dog, an 8-year-old rescue who, at a generous 120 pounds, is definitely overweight. (He's working on it.) Then I pour a cup of coffee, add a splash of almond milk, and sit down to plan our meals for the week.

We keep our food budget pretty tight, especially for an active couple who rarely eats out, and I credit this entirely to meal planning. I always start by reviewing what we have on hand. Today, that includes potatoes, a few onions, a block of feta, and a head of broccoli exuding that distinct "now or never" vibe.

8:15 a.m.: I drink another cup of coffee with almond milk as I drive to the YMCA, where I attend my favorite workout class: kettlebell! We swing and squat and curl and crunch for an hour, and by the end I'm exhausted and starving. On the way home, I swing by the grocery store.

9:45 a.m.: I alternate my weekly grocery trips between Trader Joe's, Aldi, and Costco. Today is Trader Joe's — my favorite. I zip through the store, stick to my list, and am in and out in 20 minutes. (Okay, fine, that four-pack of rosé was not on my list, but I regret nothing.)

Trader Joe's

7 bananas, $1.33
1 bunch of cilantro, $1.99
Personal watermelon, $2.99
1 pound Brussels sprouts, $2.49
Shredded green cabbage, $1.69
Shredded carrots, $1.49
Cucumbers, $1.99
5 ounces mixed salad greens, $1.99
3 red bell peppers, $2.97
1 bag of lemons, $2.49
String cheese, $2.99
Corn & wheat tortillas, $1.99
Half gallon almond milk, $2.69
6 ounces triple creme Brie, $3.37
Goddess salad dressing, $2.29
Spicy peanut salad dressing, $2.99
Vegan Italian sausage, 4-pack, $2.99
1 package baked tofu, $3.69
1 package extra-firm tofu, $1.99
1 package tempeh, $1.99
2 loaves of whole wheat bread, $5.58
Peanut butter, $1.99
Peppermint herbal tea, $1.99
4-pack of rosé, $4.99
2 cans chickpeas, $1.58
1 can white beans, $0.79
Tri-color quinoa, $3.99
2 Trail Nuggets, $2.98
Yellow lentil brown rice spaghetti, $2.99
Farro, $1.79
Shredded hash browns, $1.99

Total: $79.06

10:30 a.m.: Back at home I unload the groceries and pull a few things from the fridge that are past their prime — a cucumber, a sad bag of salad, and half an avocado. I absolutely hate wasting food. Not only is it bad for my budget, but it's also bad for the world. Luckily we have a flock of 19 backyard chickens who, in addition to giving us fresh, delicious eggs, are enthusiastic composters.

Once the groceries are put away and the chickens get their snack, I finally feed myself. Two fried eggs (thanks, ladies!), two slices of toast (I found a loaf of Aldi's sprouted bread in the freezer), and homemade tomato jam.

12:00 p.m.: After the 2016 election, I decided to get more active in local politics, since it seemed like the most effective way to make a difference. Spoiler alert: It's a lot less glamorous than you think! Today, my civic duty involves canvassing for Democrats running in the midterm elections. At the county headquarters I meet a neighbor, gather our materials and maps, and turn down the organizers' offer of free snacks — I packed a reusable bottle of water and a Trail Nugget.

As it turns out, I left my Trail Nugget on the kitchen table (nooooooooo) and I drink all my water in the first 30 minutes because it's literally 100 degrees. We walk for almost two hours and meet a number of mostly nice people. Finally, soaked with sweat and starving, we return our extra materials and part ways.

While I'm out saving democracy, my husband reports that he ate two peanut butter and banana sandwiches on sprouted bread for lunch.

3:30 p.m.: I'm bordering on hangry so I make a quesadilla with two corn & wheat tortillas and some shredded cheese left over from last week's taco-themed birthday party. I also drink three pints of water, then realize we're almost out.

Last year we learned that our water is contaminated with a toxic chemical called GenX and isn't safe to drink. GenX can only be removed through reverse osmosis, so we fill our jugs at Whole Foods a few times a week. It's a total pain, but I can't bring myself to drink water I don't trust. (Yet another reason to vote in November!)

4:00 p.m.: I go to Whole Foods to get water, and then stop by Harris Teeter for a few things I couldn't get at Trader Joe's. The protein powder puts me slightly over budget for the week, but it'll last a whole month. I love grocery stores but three in one day is a lot, even for me.

Whole Foods

9 gallons of reverse osmosis water: $3.58

Total: $3.58

Harris Teeter

Vegan chocolate protein powder, $24.99
Mini fillo shells, $2.99
Panko breadcrumbs, $1.59
Vital wheat gluten, $3.49

Total: $33.63

5:00 p.m.: Between kettlebell, canvassing, and grocery stores, I'm beat. I sit on the couch and read for an hour — I have book club on Monday and I'm way behind.

6:00 p.m.: We're having homemade pizza for dinner. I make the dough using a quick recipe I got off the back of a packet of yeast years ago. Once the dough is resting on our pizza stone, I go out to the garden to pick basil and collect the eggs from the coop. Back inside, I make a double batch of my famous pesto and chop broccoli, yellow onion, red pepper, and two Trader Joe's vegan Italian sausages for the pizza. I also make a batch of tri-color quinoa for tomorrow, when I'll put together my lunches for the week.

6:30 p.m.: My husband comes home just as the pizza comes out of the oven. We each have three slices, and I put the last two in the refrigerator. We clean up the kitchen, then each have a beer while we throw the ball for the dog and watch the chickens do their evening routine. Our friends left a bunch of random beers in our fridge last weekend, so we won't need to buy alcohol for a while.

8:00 p.m.: The bugs are getting pretty bad, so we head inside. My husband got a trial version of Amazon Prime earlier this month to buy me a last-minute birthday present, so we see what can we can watch before we cancel it. (I refuse to pay $120 a year for a few extra shows and faster shipping, plus we rarely order from Amazon anyway.) We settle on Mr. Robot and y'all — it's REALLY GOOD. Can we make it through three seasons before our trial ends? We shall see. I have one more beer while we watch, and my husband has two.

10:00 p.m.: In bed by ten on a Saturday night — this is why I love being in my 30s. My husband falls asleep immediately and I read for half an hour before turning out the light.

Day 2: Sunday

6:30 a.m.: The dog wakes me up, but I don't mind. I'm one of those annoying morning people who is most productive before anyone else is awake. I feed and let the dog out, pour a cup of coffee, add a splash of almond milk, and head to my desk. I'm working on a novel and if I don't write first thing, it doesn't happen.

8:00 a.m.: My husband is up and we take the dog for a long, leisurely walk around the park before it gets too hot.

9:15 a.m.: I'm pretty hungry, but I also want to go for a run and that's hard to do on a full stomach. I compromise by eating a spoonful of peanut butter. My husband and I run four very humid, super-sweaty miles. It rains a little at the start, but it actually feels nice.

10 a.m.: When we get back from the run, we tag-team the chickens. He refills their water, and I top off their food. Then we shower, and then it's finally time for breakfast. For me: two pieces of sprouted bread, toasted, with two fried eggs and tomato jam. For him: three scrambled eggs, hash browns, and four slices of buttered toast.

10:30 a.m.: Since I'm already in the kitchen, I prep my Mason jar salads for the week. I used to roll my eyes at Mason jars because they were so trendy, but now I'm a convert. They're perfect for salads — everything stays fresh and crisp, and it's such an easy way to eat a bunch of vegetables in the middle of the day.

This week's salads are layered like so, from bottom to top: Trader Joe's Goddess Salad Dressing, chickpeas, chopped red onion, red pepper, cucumbers, and shredded carrots, crumbled feta, a half cup of tri-color quinoa, and mixed salad greens. I also cut up some watermelon for later and give the rinds to the chickens.

11:30 a.m.: I drink another cup of coffee, do some online shopping with my birthday cash, and schedule an interview for an article I'm writing. (Side hustle FTW.) We're feeling lazy, so we watch an episode of Mr. Robot.

1 p.m.: The sun is out and it's very hot, so we decide to take advantage of our free afternoon and head to the beach. Twenty minutes later, we're laying under an umbrella and sipping our four-pack of rosé. (I knew it would come in handy.) He eats a Trail Nugget, and I eat some watermelon.

5:30 p.m.: After a few hours, two dips in the ocean, and most of my book, we head home to prep dinner. I'm making a new recipe I found via Trader Joe's Instagram: cool and spicy noodle salad. I follow the recipe exactly, minus the peanuts and with the addition of some baked tofu. While the salad chills in the refrigerator, I call my interviewee and type up notes as we chat.

6:30 p.m.: We have not eaten enough today and we're both starving. Luckily this recipe makes a ton and we each eat two big servings. I'm not a huge pasta person, so I'm surprised by how much I like the recipe. It's the perfect end to a beach day.

7:45 p.m.: After cleaning up the kitchen, making the bed, and doing a few last-minute chores before the work week begins, we settle in for two more episodes of Mr. Robot. My husband drinks another beer and I have a cup of peppermint tea. In between episodes we make stovetop popcorn in the Whirley Pop (best gift ever) with coconut oil and nutritional yeast. My husband is still hungry, so he also eats the last two pieces of pizza from yesterday.

9:30 p.m.: We head to bed and read for half an hour before turning out the lights.

Day 3: Monday

5:30 a.m.: My alarm goes off and I drag myself out of bed and head to the kitchen, where I immediately pour a cup of coffee. Bless whoever invented the programmable coffee maker. Then I let the dog out and feed him. Once he's back in bed (lucky) I head to my desk for my morning pages. At some point, I pour a second cup of coffee and keep writing. The words are coming a little easier today, which is nice.

7:30 a.m.: For breakfast I fry up one egg, which I wrap in a corn and wheat tortilla. I also make a smoothie with a frozen banana, a cup of frozen strawberries, a scoop of chocolate protein powder, two tablespoons of PB powder, and 1 1/2 cups of almond milk. This is my standard smoothie recipe, which I started drinking after I realized that my diet was 90% carbs. I fill my travel mug with more coffee and almond milk, then head to work.

10 a.m.: Each Monday starts with a department-wide meeting, which is a nice way to ease into the week. Once the meeting is over, I start in on my coffee, which is still hot. I also swing by the kitchen and fill my 32-ounce Nalgene bottle with filtered water. My beverage choices always fall into one of the following categories: coffee, water, alcohol. No juices, nothing sparkling — I like to keep it simple.

Once my liquids are in order, I start working. I'm taking PTO next week to meet my brand-new nephew, so I have a ton of work to do. Vacations just mean working twice as hard before and after your trip, but it'll be worth it when I get to smush his cute little face.

Some time in the middle of the morning, my husband eats his usual breakfast of eggs, hash browns, and toast. This probably won't vary for the rest of the week, or for the rest of his life.

12:30 p.m.: I pour my Mason jar salad into a bowl and eat it at my desk while I scroll through Twitter and Instagram. Every day I swear I won't eat at my desk, and every day I do.

2 p.m.: In addition to my salad, I packed a small serving of leftovers from last night. I usually try to wait longer for my afternoon snack, but those noodles are calling my name. They're even better today.

3 p.m.: I refill my water bottle. Four glasses of water down, four to go. In related news, I have visited the restroom approximately nine times. #HydrationProblems. My husband reports that he ate a late lunch of two PB&Js.

6:30 p.m.: After I get home from work, my husband and I walk the dog and discuss our days. He is having leftover noodles for dinner, and I'm headed to book club. Whoever hosts is in charge of the main dish, and the rest of us bring sides and desserts. Tonight I'm bringing mini Brie bites, with homemade spicy peach jam a friend gave me. I sneak a few bites of Brie while I make the recipe, because Brie.

7:30 p.m.: We like to joke that our book club is more of a food club, where we all just happened to read the same book. The spread tonight is incredible — roasted cauliflower tacos with chipotle romesco on homemade tortillas, Spanish rice and beans, Mexican corn salad, cucumber avocado slaw, cut fruit, my Brie bites, and lots of wine. Dessert is Oreo truffles and coconut meltaways. This month we read the March trilogy, which is a graphic novel about the Civil Rights Movement, told from the POV of U.S. Congressman John Lewis. When I leave a few hours later, my stomach, heart, and mind are full.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

9:30 p.m.: I crawl into bed and read for a few minutes before turning out the light. I am asleep, as usual, by 10.

Day 4: Tuesday

5:30 a.m.: Good morning! My husband is working today so we get up at the same time. He takes care of the dog and I fix myself a cup of coffee, then immediately head to my desk. The article based on Sunday's interview is due today, so I work on that instead of my novel.

7:15 a.m.: While I write my article, my husband has his usual breakfast and, armed with a gallon of coffee, leaves for work. I finish writing, then take the dog for a quick 20-minute walk. This puts me behind schedule, but luckily my job is pretty lenient when it comes to start times — as long as the work gets done, everyone is treated like an adult. It's a nice change from some of my previous positions. As soon as I get back I take a quick shower, then make breakfast (two fried eggs, two slices of sprouted toast, tomato jam). If it isn't broke …

8:30 a.m.: Time to work! I drink my travel mug of coffee and almond milk and tackle my to-do list. I have no meetings on my calendar today, which rarely happens. Hopefully this means I'll get a ton accomplished.

11 a.m.: Progress is happening! I take a quick break to eat some watermelon I brought from home. I could eat a whole watermelon in one sitting, but I only brought about three cups. This is probably for the best.

12:45 p.m.: I eat lunch at my desk again (another Mason jar salad — I make four every week, which means I get one wild card) and read through my freelance article one last time before sending it off to my editor. I text my husband to find out what he had for lunch so I can include it in this journal. "I ate the rest of the noodles. Glad they are gone." I wasn't kidding when I said the recipe made a ton.

2 p.m.: The afternoon is dragging a bit so I eat a snack, hoping it will revive me. A handful of knock-off Rosemary and Olive Oil Triscuits I got from Aldi last week and a string cheese do the trick.

4:30 p.m.: The last two hours of the day are always my most productive — there's something about a deadline. As I wrap up some tasks, I eat a chocolate peanut butter Trail Nugget. I'm going to spin after work, and I know I'll need the energy to get through class.

5:30 p.m.: Thank god I ate that Trail Nugget. That was one of the hardest spin classes of all time. I drank 32 ounces of water over the course of the hour, and immediately sweated it all out. When I get home my husband has the dog leashed up, and we head out for a 30-minute walk.

7:45 p.m.: Dinner is a riff on a recipe I saw online. Farro with the rest of the pesto I made on Sunday, the last two vegan Italian sausages, and a side of green beans sautéed in an obscene amount of garlic.

8:30 p.m.: After we eat dinner, clean up the kitchen, and take care of the dog, we watch two episodes of Mr. Robot. We drink the better part of a bottle a wine and share a few squares of dark chocolate.

10 p.m.: Sweet, sweet bedtime. I'm too tired to read (thank you, spin!) so I turn out the lights and immediately go to sleep.

Day 5: Wednesday

5:30 a.m.: My husband gets up a few minutes after the alarm goes off, but I stay in bed and cuddle the dog. I finally get up at 5:45 and pour my coffee in the kitchen. Then it's back to my desk, where the novel is waiting. Despite all the coffee I drink, the writing does not go well today. I mostly just move a single scene from one chapter to another and back again, then stare out the window.

7 a.m.: To make myself feel more productive, I take the dog for a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood. Before he left for work, my husband ate his usual breakfast of coffee, eggs, and carbs galore.

7:30 a.m.: When I return from the walk I'm starving, so I fry an egg, toast a slice of bread, and top it off with Trader Joe's Everything But the Bagel seasoning. I also fill my travel mug with coffee and make my standard smoothie, which I drink in the car as I drive to work.

11 a.m.: It is possible that I've had too much coffee today. Better eat some string cheese to balance things out. I've been very productive, which is good. My vacation gets closer every day!

12 p.m.: My coworker dropped her car off to get serviced this morning, and asks if I can give her a ride to pick it up. This seems like a good excuse to go out for lunch! We head over to Epic Food Co., a fast-casual place near our office that specializes in salad bowls, smoothies, and sandwiches.

As we walk in I see they're advertising the Impossible Burger, which I've been wanting to try. Everything I've read mentions how this veggie burger "bleeds" but when they bring it to the table, I'm relieved to see it's well done. It definitely looks and tastes like meat (at least to someone who hasn't had a "real" burger in almost 20 years) but it's not life-changing and I probably won't order it again. The burger comes with all the fixins (lettuce, tomato, pickles, cheese) and is served on a whole-grain bun with a side of sweet potato chips. My coworker and I have a good time gossiping about various things and I'm glad to have lunch somewhere other than my desk.

Epic Food Co.

Impossible Burger + Sweet Potato Chips

Total, including gratuity: $15.40

3 p.m.: My husband gets home from work early. It's his Friday, so he celebrates with chips, salsa, and a Guinness while catching up on Reddit. Needless to say, this is not a well-balanced meal. He also reports that we're almost out of leftover birthday party beer. It was nice while it lasted!

5:15 p.m.: The Impossible Burger might not have been life-changing, but it did keep me full for the rest of the day. I didn't even eat my midday snack! After work, I go to the YMCA and do a 30-minute circuit on the weight machines. The trick to exercising in the evening is going straight to the gym. If I stop at the house first, I'll never leave.

7 p.m.: By the time I get home I'm pretty hungry, so I scrap the slightly more time-consuming dinner I had planned and go for something quick and easy: tempeh tacos. There's no real recipe for this.

My husband has his in corn & wheat tortillas; I serve mine over a bowl of cauliflower rice (I have a frozen bag from Costco and it only takes five minutes to heat up a serving in a pan). In the back of the fridge I find an unopened package of ready-made guacamole that expired a week ago and eat it anyway. I like to live dangerously.

7:15 p.m.: Just as we're finishing up dinner, our friend stops by. We offer her chips and salsa and a LaCroix. I don't drink sparkling water, but I'm at the age where you should always have a few on hand in case one of your pregnant friends comes over. We catch up for about an hour before she heads home.

8:30 p.m.: We have time for one episode of Mr. Robot. While we watch I eat a big bowl of popcorn, which I share with the dog. We're nearing the end of season one and I wish we had time to watch a second episode, but 5:30 will be here sooner than I think.

10 p.m.: Off to bed.

Day 6 - Thursday

5:30 a.m.: Alarm, dog, coffee, desk. There's nothing I love more than a good routine.

7 a.m.: My husband is home today, so I don't need to walk the dog. It feels a bit like fall outside (and by that I mean 75°F and only 85% humidity — coastal North Carolina can skew your idea of seasons) so I go for a quick three-mile run through our neighborhood. My average pace is 8:40 minutes/mile, which is faster than usual. I'm running a relay race on Saturday (the kind where you have to chug a beer before your lap) and this will be my last workout until the big event.

8 a.m.: I eat breakfast before I leave for work: two fried eggs, a ton of EBTB seasoning, and two corn & wheat tortillas. I don't even need to ask my husband what he's having. By now, you don't have to ask either.

8:30 a.m.: There are a lot of meetings on my calendar today. I drink my travel mug of coffee and try to crank out some work before they start.

10:15 a.m.: Time to eat my watermelon, which I packed yesterday and left in the office fridge overnight.

11:15 a.m.: I eat a handful of raw almonds, which I keep in my desk for emergencies. Running in the morning is awesome, but it makes me super snacky.

12:30 p.m.: I had a meeting right before lunch, and I have another one right after, which means I'm eating this Mason jar salad at my desk, per usual. I attempt to work while I eat and end up with a keyboard covered in quinoa.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

2 p.m.: More snacks! It's that kind of day. I have a serving of knock-off Triscuits and some Brie leftover from book club. I used to be vegan and went without cheese for years. I guess you could say I'm making up for lost time.

While I'm on my way home from work, my husband reports that he ate chips, salsa, and a banana for lunch. He also ran some errands, including a quick trip to the grocery store for a few essentials.

Harris Teeter

2 bunches of broccoli, $4
15-pack of beer, $16.99
Frozen shredded potatoes, $2.25

Total: $23.24

Whole Foods

6 gallons of water, $2.39

Total: $2.39

6:30 p.m.: When I get home from work, we walk the dog and my husband brings a beer. After the walk, I start dinner. A friend is joining us, so I make one our favorite meals: broiled tofu and pan-roasted potatoes and broccoli, all smothered in a vegan cheeze sauce from the best cookbook ever written, Veganomicon. It's the least Instagram-worthy thing I make, but we love it.

Somehow it still feels like fall, so we turn off the AC, open the windows, and have dinner on the back deck. Earlier in the day my husband mowed the lawn, cleaned the chicken coop, and hung the laundry, which makes it extra idyllic.

11 p.m.: I drink four beers (four! On a weeknight!) before our friend heads home and we finally call it a night.

Day 7: Friday

6:15 a.m.: I decide to sleep in, due to the later bedtime and all the beers. (Luckily they had a low ABV so I'm not hungover. These are things you must consider when you're in your 30s.) The windows are still open, the bed is super-comfortable, and the dog is very snuggly. After half an hour, I drag myself to the kitchen and pour a cup of coffee. Instead of working on my novel, I do some housekeeping on my laptop — check our budget, update this food diary, pay some bills.

8:30 a.m.: Last day before vacation! I drink my travel mug of coffee and make a plan to get all my work done so I can enjoy my week off. I also chug a lot of water to offset last night's shenanigans.

11 a.m.: None of the snacks I packed are appealing, so I grab a Luna Bar from the kitchen. My company offers a wide selection of free snacks, but most of them are highly processed (think: chips, energy bars, cookies, etc.) so I try not to make it a habit. At home, my husband eats his usual breakfast and walks the dog.

12:30 p.m.: I take my Mason jar salad outside and eat at a picnic bench near our building. I know I keep talking about the weather, but it's seriously so perfect today. July was non-stop rain and August was unbearably hot, so today feels like a gift. I must take advantage!

1:30 p.m.: Apparently the Luna Bar was a slippery slope. Now I'm craving something sweet, so I help myself to a bag of Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies from the office kitchen. At home, my husband has a triple-decker peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a banana.

4 p.m.: Since I'm out next week, I retrieve all my uneaten snacks from of the office fridge. Once I see the string cheese, I have no choice but to eat it.

5 p.m.: After work, I drive to a nearby bottle shop and beer garden to pick up my race packet. They're offering all runners a discount on draft beers, but I resist.

6:30 p.m.: My husband and I are both exhausted and debate going out to dinner instead of cooking. We stay strong (it's the end of the month and we're pretty much out of expendable cash anyway) and make dinner at home. Tonight the meal plan calls for chickpea cutlets, roasted Brussels sprouts, and roasted baby carrots. It comes together pretty quickly and we lounge on the couch and mindlessly scroll through out phones until it comes out of the oven.

8 p.m.: Finally, it's couch time! My husband finds a package of Thin Mints in the fridge and we eat a few handfuls while finishing off season one of Mr. Robot. I also make a cup of peppermint tea, which is a lot of mint in one sitting.

10 p.m.: Bedtime!

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

1. How did you set your food budget?

I started using YNAB two years ago, and it's literally changed our financial lives. After a few months of tracking our expenses, I started searching for ways to trim our budget and our grocery bill was the easiest place to start. We've spent as much as $550 a month and as little as $350 on groceries (not including alcohol or restaurants — I track those separately but lumped everything together this week per the guidelines.) Around $425 seems to be our sweet spot — still pretty frugal, but not so much that we feel restricted. Plus we eat 90 percent of our meals at home (including coffee), so that $425 covers a lot.

Also, my husband and I both get paid once a month on the same day, which means our weekly budget is more of an average. We're able to buy certain items, like coffee, in bulk, while other things, like a giant bag of potatoes, lasts more than one week.

2. What are the kitchen ingredients you can't live without?

Coffee, almond milk, peanut butter, chickpeas, cheese (for me), potatoes (for him), and eggs, which we get from our chickens. Note: If you think keeping chickens will help you save money on your grocery bill, YOU ARE WRONG. Yes, you'll spend less on eggs. But you have to buy food for the chickens and build them a secure home and clean up a lot of poop, and you will not come out ahead. So please, keep chickens because they're fun to watch, are excellent composters, and lay delicious, cruelty-free eggs. Do not keep them because you want to save money. This has been your PSA.

3. What's the budget recipe you always rely on?

Homemade pizza and veggie pot pie are both excellent end-of-the-week recipes when you need to use up a bunch of produce that's about to go bad. I also love shakshuka because it's cheap and easy but seems super fancy.

At Kitchn we believe setting a food budget for you and your family is an essential part in getting your financial life in order. Don't know where to start? We have a guide for that. Want to share your food budget diary with Kitchn? See how here.

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