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.
Location: Jacksonville, Florida
Number of people in family: 2 (my husband and me)
Occupation: I am a high school teacher and freelancer and my husband works for a cabinet company.
Household income: $40,000
Weekly food budget: $75 ($50 for groceries and $25 for eating out)
Day 1: Monday
5:30 a.m.: My husband gets up, works out, and gets ready for work. I roll over.
5:40 a.m.: My first alarm goes off. I hit snooze an embarrassing amount of times.
6 a.m.: I get up and begin to get ready. Over the past year, I have learned that if absolutely pressed for time, I can be ready in 30 minutes. Somehow I am "absolutely pressed for time" every single morning. One of these days I am going to force myself to get up earlier.
6:30 a.m.: I finish getting ready and head into the kitchen. AJ has already made coffee, put the tea kettle on, and warmed up muffins for our breakfast. I pour the boiling water into AJ's thermos for his lunch, leftover beef stew from yesterday's lunch. He typically takes a sandwich and snacks for lunch, but since we were out of town this past weekend for our anniversary, we have not gone grocery shopping yet, so he is making do with leftovers, an odd pack of crackers, a granola bar, and some cookies (the Aldi's version of Thin Mints). We are out of a lot of our essentials.
6:40 a.m.: We sit down for breakfast. Normally, we eat cereal for breakfast, but we have some extra muffins left over from Sunday school that we need to use up. I eat a blueberry muffin, and he eats a cinnamon muffin. We also each eat a mini pecan muffin that we brought home from the bed and breakfast we stayed in over the weekend.
We are running low on juice, which is typically what we drink for breakfast. I drink the rest of the apple juice, and AJ drinks the rest of the almond milk.
6:45 a.m.: AJ leaves for work, and I finish putting my lunch together. I take the rest of the beef stew, a few cookies, and a cheese stick. I usually eat leftovers for lunch since I have an available refrigerator and microwave in the break room at school.
6:55 a.m.: I leave for school. I drink my coffee on the way.
7:20 a.m.: I arrive at school and attend the teachers' meeting.
8 a.m.: Class begins. I teach at a small private school, mostly history classes, but one math class which is the bane of my existence.
10:05 a.m.: Math class. By the end of this class, I have normally stress-eaten a few pieces of candy from the stash in my desk. Today, I somehow hold off. By lunchtime, I am starving.
11:30 a.m.: AJ eats his lunch.
12 p.m.: I grade a few papers, then heat up my beef stew. I absolutely love beef stew, but for some reason I have never been able to make a version I am completely satisfied with. Yesterday's batch had slightly underdone vegetables and slightly overdone meat. I eat it quickly because I have a lot of papers to grade. I save the cheese stick and cookies to reward myself for completing my grading.
1:15 p.m.: I finish my grading and scarf down my snacks.
3 p.m.: School is over, but I have aftercare duty, so I head over to the aftercare room. I take my water tumbler with me to finish while I watch the students and stress over my grocery delivery schedule for the day. I'm starting a new side hustle today doing delivery for Shipt, and I am a little anxious.
3:45 p.m.: My last student is picked up! I put on my uniform and head over to my first store. My first shop is easy, and I finish it quickly. Unfortunately, my phone battery is running low.
4:15 p.m.: AJ picks up our grocery pickup order from Walmart. Our favorite place to shop is Publix, but we have found that we do not have the self restraint to stay under budget at Publix (BOGO's! Fried chicken! Produce! Samples!), so we have been sticking with grocery pickup from Aldi or Walmart.
Apple juice, $4.26
Watermelon drink, $1.50
Peach-mango juice, $2.68
Wheat & honey bread, $1.33
Turkey breast, $2.98
Aluminum foil, $.98
Chicken broth, $1.98
Colby Jack cheese, $1.84
Barbecue potato chips, $2.48
Almond milk, $2.88
Granola bars, $2.74
Total, including tax: $46.40
5:05 p.m.: AJ meets me before my next stop with a phone charger. I work on my next order. It goes fairly quickly, although I spend a disturbing amount of time searching for pre-packaged mini muffins and frozen chicken fries.
6:30 p.m.: I deliver my next order. My last order is not due until 8, so I decide to stop by the house to drop off my school stuff and eat dinner. I arrive home to find that AJ has swept and mopped, taken down the ugly blinds in the dining room, cleaned out his winter clothes, loaded the dishwasher, and randomly bought me a peach tree! I begin to think that I should do this delivery thing more often.
We eat some leftovers from last week: AJ eats a brat, and I eat some butter chicken and a chapati. He is full after his brat, but I snack on some baby carrots until it is time to leave for my next shop.
8 p.m.: Last shop is done! I head home, surprisingly not hungry after spending four hours staring at food. I take a bath, and then we settle in on the couch to watch some Psych and the new Home Town episode on HGTV.
10 p.m.: We decide we want something sweet, and AJ suggests affogatos. We have all of the stuff, so I start the espresso brewing while I put our lunches together. I pack a turkey sandwich, chips, a few cookies, a granola bar, and an apple for AJ.
Since we ate our leftovers for dinner, my options for lunch are limited to a very small portion of beef and broccoli. We have no rice to go with it. I take some pita chips instead. I also slice up half of a cucumber and pack some cookies and an apple for myself. By the time I finish the lunches, the espresso is ready. We each take two small scoops of ice cream and add a shot of the espresso, a drizzle of chocolate syrup, and a pirouline wafer.
Affogatos are by far our favorite dessert. We probably make them at least once a week.
10:45 p.m.: Bedtime!
Day 2: Tuesday
5:30 a.m.: AJ gets up and starts getting ready for work.
5:50 a.m.: I wake up, but negate the effects of waking up early by scrolling through my Instagram feed.
6 a.m.: I actually start getting ready.
6:35 a.m.: We sit down for breakfast. We are both eating cereal: I am eating Publix Bran Flakes (the one thing I will still let myself buy consistently from Publix — I have a small obsession with them) with almond milk and AJ eats Lucky Charms with regular milk. My husband has very few faults, but one of them is his breakfast routine.
6:45 a.m.: AJ leaves for work.
6:55 a.m.: I leave for work. I save my coffee to drink while I am on morning duty, monitoring our early arrivals.
8 a.m.: School begins! I am not in a teaching mood, and the first three periods drag by slowly.
11:15 a.m.: Before 4th period, I grab a few Starbursts from my drawer. My 4th period students are looking a little downcast today, so we play a quick review game and I award Starbursts to them for correct answers. By the end of class, we have all perked up a little.
12 p.m.: AJ eats his lunch.
12:15 p.m.: I heat up my beef and broccoli and eat it and the rest of my lunch throughout my free hour while grading papers. I am still not really full, but I am pretty busy, so I just keep working.
3 p.m.: School is dismissed!
3:02 p.m.: My youngest brother brings me a container of chips and salsa leftover from his lunch. I am still hungry from my small lunch, so I am ecstatic. I take them with me to aftercare, along with my water tumbler and my youngest sister's research paper that I am proofing for her.
3:45 p.m.: My last student gets picked up. I quickly run by the house, change into something more comfortable, and head to a local park to meet my other younger sister. We are shooting photographs for our blog we are about to launch. On the way to the park, I realize that I never put the chicken for our tacos tonight in the slow cooker before I left in the morning. I text AJ, and he offers to marinate and grill the chicken instead.
5:30 p.m.: Our photographs are done, and we head to a local Starbucks to work on the blog. I check my Starbucks app and find that I still have $3.45 on my last gift card. I order a tall caramel iced coffee with cream and sugar. The barista sweetly asks if I want the caramel and the sugar. Sheepishly, I go for just caramel.
Caramel iced coffee, $3.45
7:30 p.m.: We finish our work at Starbucks, and I head home.
7:40 p.m.: I arrive home and help AJ finish up dinner. He has made tacos and skillet potatoes. We both eat all of our potatoes; I eat two tacos and AJ eats three. He also snacks on some chips and salsa. I had my fill of chips and salsa earlier today, so I do not eat anymore. Over dinner, AJ tells me that his parents will be in town this weekend. We will probably go over to his grandparents for supper Friday night.
8:15 p.m.: I offer to clean up the kitchen while he takes a shower. While cleaning up the extra food, I decide to make extra tacos for our lunch tomorrow. I also make a mental note to make extra potatoes next time we have this meal because those potatoes would have been excellent inside the tacos. The tacos end up a little small, so I pack AJ some chips and salsa, a granola bar, and an apple. I pack myself half of a cucumber, a bag of kettle corn left over from our trip this weekend, and some baby carrots.
8:45 p.m.: I get to work on the blog. AJ finishes his shower and watches TV next to me for a little while. I must be quite engrossed in my work because, by the time I glance over at him, he is sound asleep.
9:55 p.m.: I wake up AJ, take my shower, and begin getting ready for bed.
11:15 p.m.: We finally go to sleep.
Day 3: Wednesday
5:30 a.m.: AJ gets up, works out, takes a shower, and gets ready for work.
6:05 a.m.: I get up and start getting ready.
6:30 a.m.: We decide to have cereal for breakfast again. I remember to drink some of the new juice we got on Monday. It is orange-peach-mango, and I really like it. AJ does not, so he drinks some almond milk.
6:40 a.m.: I put AJ's tacos in his thermos, and he leaves for work.
6:55 a.m.: I leave for work. I mean to drink my coffee on the way, but I forget, so I drink it while I am on morning duty.
8 a.m.: School begins, and I am weirdly hungry already. I put off eating anything until my 3rd-period class.
10:38 a.m.: I find some green pea crisps in my desk. They are highly unsatisfying, but at least they're something!
11:30 a.m.: AJ eats his lunch.
12 p.m.: I go to heat up my tacos. One of my students asks if I would like a piece of toffee. I accept a small piece, and it is incredible. I eat my tacos and eat my snacks slowly throughout my free period. I am still thinking about toffee.
3 p.m.: I head over to aftercare. AJ texts me that he just got asked to sing the solo tonight at church, so we will have to leave much earlier than normal. That leaves no time for dinner. I had planned to make a Low Country boil sheet pan dinner, so we are both quite disappointed.
4 p.m.: I head home.
4:30 p.m.: I get home at the same time as AJ. He takes a quick shower while I open the new planner I ordered from Amazon. I start adding everything in my planner and quickly get depressed.
5:15 p.m.: We leave for church. I have brought along some chips and a granola bar for the ride to tide us over until our late dinner. Traffic is not nearly as bad, so we make great time.
6 p.m.: We arrive at church. We are both really hungry, but we promise each other that we will make supper at home instead of eating out. AJ goes to practice. I head in to save our seats.
8 p.m.: Church is over, and we are done with our Sunday school teachers' meeting, as well. We get in the car, look at each other, and decide to pick up food on the way home instead.
8:30 p.m.: AJ decides on Wendy's because it is the most convenient. I get a chicken sandwich and a side salad. AJ gets a combo meal. When we arrive home, I realize that Wendy's has not given me any croutons. That makes it two for two on fast food workers caring more about my healthy choices than I do!
Wendy'sChicken sandwich and salad, $4
Combo meal, $6.69
Total, including tax: $11.44
9:15 p.m.: I make lunches for the next day. Since I did not end up making dinner, we are completely out of leftover options. I make us both turkey sandwiches and pack apples, carrots, chips, and granola bars for snacks.
9:45 p.m.: I take a bath and then get ready for bed.
11 p.m.: Bedtime!
Day 4: Thursday
5:30 a.m.: AJ gets up and gets ready for work.
6 a.m.: After hitting the "snooze" button four times, I get ready for work. We really are creatures of habit, so if, by this point, you are wondering if we will ever do anything interesting, sleep in, or eat something truly exciting, the answer is no. We are, for the most part, really boring.
6:30 a.m.: We decide to switch up our breakfast habits (I know, revolutionary). AJ heats up hash browns, and I toast a bagel. We have two bagels left over, but only about a tablespoon of cream cheese. I smear half of it on my bagel. I drink juice, and AJ drinks almond milk.
7:30 a.m.: I drink my coffee while on morning duty. My sister brings me a container of chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk for proofing her paper. I offer to proof all future papers. Then, I eat four cookies because she makes the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever eaten.
12 p.m.: I eat my lunch, along with another cookie. I hide the rest of the cookies under my coat to stop tempting myself. AJ's dad takes him out for lunch, so he saves his sandwich and snacks for Friday's lunch.
4:30 p.m.: I arrive home at the same time as AJ. We are meeting my family for supper at Bonefish Grill at 6:30 p.m. This means we have eaten supper late every day this week. Normally, we eat supper around 5:30!
6:30 p.m.: We arrive at Bonefish. We have a $25 gift card, so we know our options will be limited. After scanning the menu, we decide that we will have to split a meal to keep under budget. My parents order an appetizer, so we snack on that and some bread to help fill us up. We split an entree that comes with two sides. We pick a side each (garlic whipped potatoes and potatoes au gratin). The portions are a little small, but it works out alright. Our portion of the check works out to be $24.64.
Sirloin & crab cake dinner, $20.50
Total, including tax: $24.64
8:30 p.m.: At home, we consider eating cookies, but instead we watch some of the ACC and SEC basketball tournament. I make it through the first half and then fall asleep on the couch. By the time I wake up, it is bedtime, so we skip the cookies.
Day 5: Friday
5:30 a.m.: AJ gets up, and I get up 30 minutes later.
6:30 a.m.: We go back to cereal for breakfast. I should probably be tired of bran flakes by this point, but like I said at the beginning, I am obsessed.
6:40 a.m.: I realize that I never packed myself a lunch. I do not feel like making a sandwich, so I toss some carrots, sliced cucumber, an apple, granola bar, two cookies, and hummus into my lunch bag. I know I will regret this decision in about five hours.
11:50 a.m.: I look at my lunch and regret my decisions.
12 p.m.: AJ eats his lunch.
3 p.m.: I head to aftercare with my water tumbler.
3:50 p.m.: My last student leaves, so I head home. I am starving.
5:30 p.m.: After AJ and I get home and get cleaned up, we head over to his grandparents' house for supper. We eat over there once a month when his parents are in town. AJ's grandmother cooks very traditional Southern food, which, although not normally my favorite genre of food, is always delicious. Today, she has made pot roast, corn, and green beans. Since we have not eaten as many vegetables as normal this week, I load up my plate with carrots and green beans and try to limit the amount of meat and potatoes.
6:30 p.m.: We eat some spice cake with caramel maple icing for dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Grandma makes coffee, and we both drink a cup before heading home.
8 p.m.: We stop by Publix to pick up some stuff for a get-together tomorrow at my grandparents' house. Mom has requested that I make baked jalapeño poppers, and I am happy to oblige. All I need from Publix is a block of cream cheese and jalapeños. Even with the extra grocery trip, we are still right on our budget target for the week! We also manage to leave Publix without buying all of the BOGO's, which is always an accomplishment!
Jalapeño peppers, $2.61
Cream cheese, $1.50
9 p.m.: I assemble the jalapeño poppers, but save them to bake at Grandma's tomorrow.
10:30 p.m.: Bedtime!
Day 6: Saturday
7 a.m.: Normally we get to sleep in a little on Saturdays, but AJ has a meeting at church in the morning at 8:15, so we need to hurry. He leaves at 7:45, and I begin to put everything I need for the day together: jalapeño poppers, my Shipt uniform, an extra outfit for later, and my Sunday school treats. I also scramble two eggs and toast some whole-wheat bread to make a quick egg sandwich. I eat the sandwich and drink the coffee AJ has made for me on the way. AJ eats pancakes provided at the meeting.
8:40 a.m.: I drop off the poppers at my parents' to stay in their fridge, take a few pictures with my sister for the blog, and head to church for the Sunday school meeting.
9 a.m.: Meeting time! After the meeting, my mom and I pair off to make some visits. We stop at Chick-Fil-A, so my mom can get breakfast. I am still full from my sandwich, so I do not get anything.
11:40 a.m.: After our visits, we head back to my parents' so I can change and do a quick Shipt order while AJ is in singing practice.
1 p.m.: My quick order ends up being not-so-quick, but I get it done, change back into normal clothes, and grab the poppers from the refrigerator. AJ picks me up, and we head down to my grandparents'.
2 p.m.: I arrive at my grandparents'. The main course is various types of seafood (halibut, snapper, oysters, and shrimp), and there are all sorts of sides and appetizers. I quickly bake the poppers and bring them to the appetizers table. We all eat outside, standing up or sitting down wherever we can find a seat. The seafood is finished at all different times, so we all just eat whatever whenever it is available. By the end of the day, I have eaten one oyster (it was a steamed oyster, and right when I was eating it, my uncle loudly proclaimed that he always called oysters "chunks of snot in a rock." Never. Eating. An. Oyster. Again.), a small piece each of the halibut and snapper, several shrimp, a hush puppy, potatoes, corn, Gouda grits, buffalo dip, a few poppers, baked beans, cucumbers, carrots, and probably random bites of other foods that I cannot remember. AJ has eaten about the same. We are both stuffed, but several hours later, we find the space to eat some of Grandma's famous ice cream cake.
5 p.m.: I check the Shipt app and see several open orders, so we head home, and I get started.
8 p.m.: I finish my last order and head home.
9 p.m.: We take showers and get ready for bed. We are still full, so the thought of eating dinner never even crossed our minds.
10:45 p.m.: Bedtime!
Day 7: Sunday
6:30 a.m.: We both get up. Sundays are normally long days, but thankfully we both feel rested and ready to go.
7:40 a.m.: We decide to eat a quick breakfast before we go. AJ is running low on cereal, so he mixes some of my bran flakes with the rest of his Lucky Charms, and I try hard not to judge him, but I fail.
7:50 a.m.: We get everything together and leave for church. I drink coffee on the way.
8:20 a.m.: We get to church and load up with the rest of our team on a van to pick up some kids for church.
9:40 a.m.: We get back to church, drop off the kids, and head to our own classes. AJ teaches 9th and 10th grade guys, and I teach 9th and 10th grade girls. We bring some sort of breakfast or snack every week. Our teens would be most happy with Takis every single week, but I feel a responsibility to feed them a little better than that, so they only get Takis once a month, which happens to be today. They eat an absurd amount of Takis and drink two juice boxes each. AJ and I do not get the Taki fascination, so we do not eat any.
10:45 a.m.: Church time!
12:15 p.m.: Church is over, so we gather up our kids and take them home.
12:45 p.m.: We get back to the church and then head home.
1:30 p.m.: I preheat the oven, and AJ helps me prepare the meal: sheet pan shrimp boil and some roasted broccoli. For the main course, I peel about a pound of shrimp and cut up some potatoes, sweet potatoes, and peppers. Then I add some frozen corn. AJ seasons the broccoli with olive oil, salt, pepper, minced garlic, and some chipotle-roasted garlic.
2 p.m.: We sit down for lunch. We are both ravenous, so we eat a little more than we normally do for lunch. After we clean up, I get to work on my freelance writing. AJ watches some golf.
3:45 p.m.: We head back to church for AJ's next singing practice. I work on schoolwork while he is in practice.
5 p.m.: We both go over for choir practice. I sit next to my sister, and we get up to all sorts of mischief.
7:30 p.m.: After church, we go home and heat up leftovers we got from Grandma's yesterday. We have small portions of everything, but enough to fill us up.
9 p.m.: I put together AJ's lunch for the next day. I pack him a sandwich, granola bar, apple, chips, and a few cookies. I start to pack myself a lunch, but then remember that I have a half day at school tomorrow. I decide to wait until I go home to eat.
I check our menu board and realize I still have supplies for several more meals. We decide to wait until we run out of lunch and dinner options before going grocery shopping. I am hoping we can make it till Thursday!
1. How did you set your food budget?
Honestly, $50 just seemed like a good amount for groceries. It has been much harder to stick to than I thought it would, mostly because we are teaching Sunday school now and have to provide breakfast for 10 to 12 hungry teenagers every week. We are also busy all the time. Some weeks, we just run by Publix without really planning what to get, and then we spend $100 for a week's groceries because we are tired and hungry. Also, I count household items like paper towels, hand soap, and garbage bags as groceries.
AJ recently got a raise, though, and we are considering upping our budget to save our sanity.
2. What are the kitchen ingredients you can't live without?
Chicken breast, taco ingredients, chipotle-roasted garlic spice blend, eggs, bread, soy sauce, rice, coffee, baby carrots, lettuce, and ice cream. My husband would probably add crushed red pepper to that list!
3. What's the budget recipe you always rely on?
Chicken tacos! I switch up my preparation for this often, but most of the time, I cook the chicken in my slow cooker with a jar of salsa, some spices, and a lot of cilantro and lime juice.
I also really like a lot of the recipes on Mel's Kitchen Cafe: particularly her Korean Beef.
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