Grocery Diaries

How a Family of 4 Eats for $200 a Week in Mount Clemens, Michigan

updated May 24, 2019
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(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: Tracy
Location: Mount Clemens, Michigan (near Detroit)
Age: 44
Number of people in family: 4 (my husband, Mark; me; and two sons, 15 and 13)
Occupation: My husband is a mechanical engineer and I am an English comprehension rater and I also shop and deliver groceries.
Household income: $100,000 (only my husband’s, as my income fluctuates depending on the needs of the company I work for which dictates how often I shop/deliver groceries).
Weekly food budget: $200 per week, plus $25 every other week for dining out

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Day 1: Friday

4:45 a.m.: The first alarm goes off indicating my husband should get up for work. I go back to sleep.

5:30 a.m.: My alarm goes off and I head to the kitchen. Before any food preparation begins, I make a pot of coffee and feed our English bulldog part of her breakfast. While I make lunches for the day, my husband gets his breakfast ready. He eats essentially the same thing every day: banana, yogurt, the whites of two hard-boiled eggs (our dog eats the yolks), a small glass of orange juice, and a protein bar.

Lunch for my husband today consists of two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches — one on ciabatta bread and one on white bread (I misjudged our bread products for the week so lunches for today are pieced together with what I have), water, and a bag of cheese crackers. He drinks coffee at work most of the morning and then switches to water for the rest of his time there.

My oldest son left his lunch bag at school so he is unable to take the salad with chicken that I made for him. Instead, he takes peanut butter and jelly on plain tortilla shells, an apple, and carrot sticks. My younger son takes Annie’s canned ravioli, strawberries, cheese crackers, a bottle of water, and carrot sticks. He also takes two snacks for school — an apple and some potato crackers — along with a refillable water bottle.

6:00 a.m.: My husband leaves for work and I drink another cup of coffee. I am not hungry so I wait to eat.

6:30 a.m.: My sons get up to get ready for school. Caleb, my 13-year-old, is not typically hungry in the morning before school, but he appeases me by having something small. Today it’s a protein bar and a small glass of chocolate milk. He has track practice after school and he grabs a snack bag of pretzels to munch on in the car on the way to practice. My oldest has yogurt and an apple along with a small glass of orange juice.

7:10 a.m.: Before we head out the door for school drop-off, I panini a breakfast burrito and grab my to-go mug of coffee to drink on the way. The burrito is from a bulk batch that I made to help on those mornings where I need traveling food.

I check my phone to see if I have any offered shops. I do grocery shopping and deliveries for Shipt when I am not working online. I do not have any offers, but there is an order I can grab for later on in the day, so I grab that and head to Meijer to do my own shopping.

My grocery shopping preparation started on Thursday night. In an attempt to keep the amount I spend on groceries within the budget I set, I make a weekly/biweekly menu and shop based off store ads and fill in from there. I typically shop at Meijer and Aldi, but, depending on the sales and store coupons, I will also shop at Kroger.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

8:15 a.m.: I get halfway through the store when my phone goes off with a notification that I have an offer. I accept it, and my phone immediately goes off again for a second shop within the same delivery window. I accept that one also, as both orders are on the smaller side and the delivery locations are very close to each other. I go and pay for my groceries, load them into cooler bags, and head back into the store to shop for my two orders.


2 Aloha protein bars, $5.38
7 Skyr single yogurts, $11.13
2 Oikos single yogurts, $2
1 multipack of yogurt, $3.79
Single-serve Promised Land chocolate milk, $1.49
Meijer pretzel sticks: buy one-get one free (ends up being free)
Meijer pretzel twists, $1.99
3 Rx Bars, $5.97
16-ounce Smuckers natural peanut butter, $3.39
2 half-gallons Silk coconut milk, $3.98
Box of Annie’s cheese crackers, $3.29
Box of potato crackers, $2
Pack of La Banderita low-carb tortilla wraps, $2.99
2 jars of Planters lightly salted peanuts, $2.98
8-pack of Ice Mountain cherry flavored sparkling water, $2.09
Perfect bar, $2
2 Cracker Barrel snack pack cream cheese with pretzels, $2.84
Box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, $2.69

Total after coupons and store discounts: $61.29

10:15 a.m.: I quickly drop my groceries off at home, eat the remainder of a pint of blackberries, and fill my water bottle before heading back to Meijer to finish my grocery shopping.


4 pounds bananas $2.33
1 cinnamon roll, $.75
3-pound bag of organic carrots, $1.69
Grape jam, $2.39
Light corn syrup, $2.49
Frozen French fries, $2.09
Frozen crispy crowns, $2.09
Milk chocolate baking chips, $3.69
Honest tea, $3.69
1/2 pound sliced deli turkey lunch meat, $3.77
3/4 pound sliced deli salami lunch meat, $5.59
Box of graham crackers, $4.19
Box of frozen fruit bars, $4.29
Applegate Farms turkey sausage links, $3.59
3 pints blackberries, $2.94
3-pound bag of Granny Smith apples, $.99
2.15 pounds asparagus, $2.75
40-count box Lipton green tea bags, $2.99
Bag of Thomas mini-cinnamon sugar bagels, $2.49
2 pounds of strawberries, $4
Starbucks ground coffee, $5.99
Loaf of white sandwich bread, $2
Applegate Farms hot dogs, $4.39
Marzeretti balsamic dressing, $2.20

Total after coupons and store discounts: $73.38

12 p.m.: I put away all my groceries and make myself a smoothie using coconut milk, strawberries, banana, blueberries, broccoli, almond butter, and flaxseed. I typically have a smoothie for lunch almost every day. My son needs new sneakers so I drink the smoothie on my way to the sporting goods store. We finally wear the same size shoe, and he told me which ones he wanted, making this errand super quick.

1:15 p.m.: I arrive home, fill my water bottle, and head to the local YMCA to get in a quick workout before picking up my older son.

2:45 p.m.: My son and I arrive home and he eats the cinnamon roll I bought for him as a treat. I was going to make a pasta dish for dinner but am running low on time before I need to leave to do a shop and delivery. While I am at the store shopping for my customer, I realize for my back-up dinner I need to buy mozzarella cheese and Colby Jack.


Colby Jack, $1.99
Mozzarella, $1.99

Total after store discounts: $3.98

6:15 p.m.: I arrive home from my delivery and make chicken burritos for my husband using leftovers from Wednesday. He has a glass of iced tea and tortilla chips with his dinner. My sons make a pepperoni pizza made with thin crust refrigerator dough. They both have sliced apples and carrots. One has apple juice with dinner, and the other has a sparkling water.

I’m not really hungry so once my husband is done eating we head to the mall to go to buy a new digital scale (apparently my digital scale is not exact enough) and some doughnut cutters.

7:30 p.m.: We arrive home and now I am hungry — I end up eating the leftover piece of pizza from my sons’ pizza. My husband decides he wants to make doughnut dough but needs a few more ingredients; I head back to Meijer with my oldest son (we thankfully live close).


Marshmallow fluff, $1.39
Granulated sugar, $1.45
Unsalted butter, $2.79
2 dozen eggs, $2.99
Orange juice, $2.19
Maple syrup, $5.99
Eggos, $1.99
Cooking spray, $2.50
Bottle of sauvignon blanc, $9.99

Total after coupons and store discounts $21.88 (I had a $8 and a $3 coupon off of a total purchase) $21.88

While checking out, my son asks if we can get something to drink.


2 cans of Bai, $4.18

Total after store discounts: $4.18

8:00 p.m.: I make popcorn on the stove for my sons for a snack. I like using coconut oil and typically use white organic kernels, topped with a little butter and salt. It makes a big pot which they share. Typically there are leftovers, but tonight they eat it all. I might have snagged a couple of handfuls as they were watching television.

8:30 p.m.: My husband starts the dough for his glazed doughnuts while I have a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and my husband has a glass of red wine.

Day 2: Saturday

6:00 a.m.: I get up with my husband. He has his normal yogurt, banana, egg whites, protein bar, and orange juice. I make a pot of coffee, which ends up just being for me (oh darn, I do love my coffee).

He and a couple of our friends are heading downtown to Little Caesars Arena to wait in line to buy tickets to see Nine Inch Nails in October.

7:00 a.m.: I have another cup of coffee and figure out when I am getting my sons up.

8:00 a.m.: My sons get up. The youngest, who is running in a track meet to qualify for a state competition for Lutheran schools today, has a plain bagel with cream cheese and a small glass of chocolate milk. My older son has frozen waffles, sliced-up strawberries, and sausage links with a small glass of orange juice. On the weekends, they take care of their breakfasts and lunches.

9:00 a.m.: I remind my younger son to drink more water. I eat a breakfast sandwich. I end up making a couple of eggs, English muffin, and a slice of Colby Jack cheese with some leftover bacon from a couple of days ago.

While I’m eating I pack a snack for my son and I to eat during the track meet. He gets sliced strawberries, a pretzel/cheese snack pack from Cracker Barrel, some jerky, and some mini cinnamon bagels. For myself I pack strawberries, an apple, water bottle, and a Perfect bar.

10:30 a.m.: We leave the house and my son has a banana while we drive to the meet. His team made the state competition for the 4/100 meter race in two weeks in Frankenmuth, Michigan. So exciting!

11:30 a.m.: My oldest son makes his lunch — a salad I had made him the day before along with strawberries and a sparkling water.

1:30 p.m.: My husband arrives home and makes himself a couple of turkey and Swiss sandwiches on white bread, along with some chips and dill pickles.

2:00 p.m.: I have my normal smoothie, this one with coconut milk, spinach, flax seed, frozen banana and strawberries, and almond butter.

My husband starts rolling out the dough for the glazed doughnuts. The dough seems a bit dense, but it smells great. They rise for an hour, and he fries them up. I make a small pot of coffee for my husband and I to share.

3:00 p.m.: The kids have fruit Popsicles. While they are snacking, I prepare some of the chicken I bought for lunches for the following week. I season them with salt, pepper, garlic, and onion powder and bake at 350°F until they are done. While the chicken is baking, I also bake a tray of yellow squash, zucchini, and potatoes. I also grind up two pork loins and make half into two types of meatballs for two different dishes: teriyaki meatball bowls and pork meatball sub. I fry up the other half for pork and peanut dragon noodles. My sons love this dish! It is a great lunch for them to toss together on a weekend. I just keep the meat in vacuum-sealed portion sizes for when they are ready to make it.

5:45 p.m.: Breakfast for dinner. My husband has two egg English muffin sandwiches, sausage links, and crispy crowns with iced tea. My oldest has Eggos and sausage with an apple, and my younger son has scrambled eggs with pepperoni and mozzarella on sliced white sandwich bread along with an apple. I make myself coconut flour banana pancakes using this recipe and eat two of the four I make.

6:00 p.m.: We are not sure everyone at our weekly Saturday night get-together with friends will like the first batch of doughnuts my husband made, so he is on to round two. While looking for a cream cheese frosting I came across this recipe for cinnamon bun donuts. My sons give them two thumbs up, as they are the official taste testers.

7:30 p.m.: We arrive at our friends’ house and as soon as I walk in, my friend wants me to try a new beer (Rochester Raspberry Radler) he has picked up from a local brewery, I have some of that (it’s very light, almost like a beer spritzer?). I have half of a cinnamon roll baked doughnut that my husband made (it is delicious). My husband has some mixed drinks throughout the evening: rum and lemonade on ice.

8:00 p.m.: My kids snack on miscellaneous items that are set out for the night, including doughnuts, sliced vegetables, spinach dip, cake, and frozen pizza rolls. They both have water to drink.

8:30 p.m.: I make myself a cup of green tea and use some of the honey my friend has. Her aunt has a honey business and the honey is delicious.

9:30 p.m.: I have a second cup of green tea with honey.

12 a.m.: We arrive home. I have a glass of water and we all head to bed.

Day 3: Sunday

6:00 a.m.: Our dog wakes me up shaking her collar. After letting her outside for a bit, I lay down on the couch, hoping to fall back to sleep until I need to get up at 7. The dog tries to convince me she needs to lay down on the couch with me versus her bed. In resignation, she finally lays down on her bed. My husband wakes up at 6:30 and my youngest son follows at 6:45 a.m.

7:30 a.m.: We wake my oldest son up and we all eat breakfast. The kids have fruit, sausage, and frozen waffles. I have a protein bar and my husband subs out his eggs and banana with a smoothie to go with his protein bar. Everyone gets ready to head out for my older son’s soccer game.

9:00 a.m.: My son drinks water periodically through the game. I wistfully think about the to-go mug of coffee I left behind.

10:30 a.m.: The game ends and we head home for a mid-morning snack of leftover doughnuts and fruit.

12:00 p.m.: Lunchtime for everyone. My husband has leftover chicken burritos with chips and iced tea. Both of my sons have salami sandwiches with apples and chips, along with water. I have a smoothie with coconut milk, frozen banana, blueberries, peas, flax seed, and peanut butter. While we are eating lunch, I make up a dozen hard-boiled eggs for my husband’s breakfast for the week.

1:45 p.m.: I fill my water bottle before leaving with my youngest to drop him off at a birthday party. While there, he has a couple of fried chicken legs, a slice of pizza, a couple of breadsticks, and a slice of cake. Before heading home I make a quick stop at Aldi to finish (this is a dream, no matter how well I plan) my shopping for the week.


Orange juice, $1.99
Pineapple, $1.59
3-pound bag of Fuji apples, $2.99
Cheddar brats, $2.49
3 pounds boneless chicken breasts, $10
Pure vanilla, $3.55
Olive oil cooking spray, $1.49
Evaporated milk, $.55
Sub buns, $1.89
Plain bagels,$1.79
Loaf of white bread, $.85
Italian loaf of bread, $1.69
2 cucumbers, $.78
Celery, $1.19
2 pounds strawberries, $3.58
Salad mix, $1.98
Frozen sausage patties, $5.29
Frozen organic blueberries, $2.89
4.5 pounds bananas, $1.16
Organic grape tomatoes, $2.29
3 zucchini, $1.19
3 yellow squash, $1.19
Sliced Gouda cheese, $1.99
Sliced mozzarella cheese, $1.79
Sliced Swiss cheese, $1.89
8-ounce chunk of Colby Jack cheese, $1.60
2 cans sweet peas, $.88

Total: $59.29

3:30 p.m.: My older son is at a friend’s house and is treated to a smoothie from a café.

5:30 p.m.: It’s just three of us tonight for dinner, but I wanted to make something that would heat up well for my lunch tomorrow. I decide on open-faced chicken cordon bleu from the blog We have plain rice along with peas for my husband and roasted asparagus for me and my son.

6:30 p.m.: My husband decides to make beignets using this recipe (I am getting a little concerned my grocery budget will not be enough at the max end this week, as I did not take into consideration the extra costs for additional baking supplies).

(Image credit: Courtesy of Tracy)

7:00 p.m.: I leave to pick up my younger son from his friend’s house. When we arrive home the beignet frying is in full force. My younger son has a glass of water and I have a glass of wine while we all taste test the beignets.

Day 4: Monday

5:00 a.m.: My husband gets up and gets ready for work.

5:30 a.m.: I get up and make my pot of coffee and lunches for the day. My husband makes his breakfast — two egg whites, a banana, protein bar, and a small glass of juice.

6:00 a.m.: More coffee, I’m dragging today. I need to make sure I drink enough water — I’m pretty sure I didn’t yesterday and that is what is causing my sluggishness.

6:30 a.m.: The kids get up, get ready, and eat breakfast. They must have been well-rested because there were no reminders to hurry up. My oldest has yogurt, a cup of strawberries, two sausage patties, and a small glass of orange juice, while my younger son has a toasted plain bagel with cream cheese and a small glass of chocolate milk.

Lunch for my husband is a baked chicken sandwich on Italian with Gouda, mustard, and parsley along with cheese crackers. He also takes a snack of lightly salted peanuts with dried cranberries to eat before his spinning class at 6 p.m.

My oldest also takes a baked chicken/Gouda sandwich on Italian with parsley and mustard along with an apple, carrot sticks, peanuts (snack), and two beignets. My younger son takes a toasted salami, pepperoni, and mozzarella sandwich along with strawberries, carrot and celery sticks, cheese crackers, and two beignets.

8:00 a.m.: I arrive home from drop-off and make myself a skillet of roasted vegetables, scrambled eggs, Gouda cheese, and a sausage patty. I refill my coffee mug with the last of the pot of coffee.

8:25 a.m.: I warm up my coffee before starting my online job as an English comprehension rater. Monday through Thursday this week I work until 5 p.m. I don’t typically work that many eight-hour shifts in a week — it’s usually closer to 24 hours a week, with some weeks being shorter.

10:00 a.m.: I have a beignet and a glass of ice water with lemon.

12:30 p.m.: Lunch break time. I make myself a smoothie with coconut milk, strawberries, banana, pineapple, flaxseed, and peanut butter. Now I am freezing. I fold the last of the laundry and feed the dog. Since I have still not ordered a new dishwasher to replace our broken one, I wash dishes. The hot water helps, but not enough so I make one cup of coffee.

3:00 p.m.: Time for my last 15-minute break of the day. I fill our water pitcher and refill my glass of ice water with lemon. I quickly make dinner, a family favorite: skillet meatballs and noodles in creamy herb sauce from Cook’s Illustrated. I made the meatballs (substituting ground turkey for the beef) on Saturday in anticipation of being short on time this week for making dinner and serving it at a decent time.

3:45 p.m.: My mother-in-law brings my sons home from school and I send a bag of beignets home with her. My older son has a fruit Popsicle as a snack.

4:00 p.m.: My youngest son eats dinner; he has track practice at 5:30 and opts to eat before we leave.

4:45 p.m.: My older son heats up some leftovers for me from last night’s dinner, open-faced chicken cordon bleu and roasted vegetables. Eating later than 6 p.m. makes me feel overstuffed all evening so I avoid it when possible.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

5:30 p.m.: My husband has his snack of dried cranberries and peanuts before heading to his spin class from work. Before eating dinner, my oldest son heads out for a run. When he arrives home, he eats dinner (the skillet meatballs with pasta), a side salad, water, and a slice of Italian bread and continues to work on his homework.

After I drop my son off at track practice I drive over to Kroger to pick up a couple of items what we have somehow run out of since Friday.


2 single Honest Tea, $3.18
Pint grape tomatoes, $2.49
Oikos 0/0 yogurt, $1
Cliff bar, $1.25
2 Rx bars, $4
Bag of kettle chips, free (coupon)
4 Natures Path granola bars, $1.48 (clearance, I like to keep emergency snacks in my purse)

Total after coupons and store sales: $13

6:45 p.m.: I arrive home with my youngest and he eats a couple of beignets as a snack. He starts on his homework.

7:15 p.m.: My husband eats dinner. He has iced tea with dinner. Tonight instead of his normal three to four glasses of ice water, he has two glasses of red wine.

7:30 p.m.: I have a glass of wine.

7:55 p.m.: Both of my sons have a banana for a snack.

8:30 p.m.: I have a cup of green tea with honey.

9:30 p.m.: My kids head up to bed/read for a half-hour; my husband refills his water glass.

10:15 p.m.: The last time I remember looking at the clock, we were watching Elementary after getting caught up on Fear the Walking Dead.

11:00 p.m.: The backup alarm on my phone goes off. Off to bed we head.

Day 5: Tuesday

5:00 a.m.: My husband gets up and gets ready for work.

5:30 a.m.: My alarm goes off and I head downstairs to make a pot of coffee and lunches. Today my husband has two peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches and a bag of cheese crackers. He drinks coffee through the morning and water in the afternoon. My older son has a salad with baked chicken, peanuts, an apple, and carrot sticks. My younger son has a salami/pepperoni/mozzarella sandwich, strawberries, carrot sticks, and potato cheese crackers with a small bottle of water.

6:00 a.m.: I am on my second cup of coffee. I check my email and pay bills.

6:30 a.m.: My sons get up. Youngest has a protein bar and a small glass of milk while the older one has the same as yesterday — yogurt, strawberries, small glass of orange juice, and two pork sausage patties.

7:15 a.m.: I fill my to-go mug and we head out. When I return I get ready for work at 8:30 a.m. Before I start, though, I make myself breakfast. Today it’s a couple of scrambled eggs, roasted vegetables, Gouda cheese, and a pork sausage patty.

10:40 a.m.: My first 15-minute break of the day, I fill my glass with water, ice, and lemon. The vacuuming and sweeping needs to be done and I have just enough time to do that before heading back to work. Today’s prompts are harder than yesterday and the test takers are struggling. It has already been a long morning.

12:30 p.m.: Lunch break. I make a smoothie with coconut milk, blueberries, pineapple, strawberries, flaxseed, and peanut butter. I wash all the dishes and leave them to dry. My oldest will put them away when he gets home.

1:00 p.m.: More ice water for me before I head back to work.

3:00 p.m.: Finally break time! I make myself a snack of apple and sweet potato toast with walnuts, Fuji apple, and Gouda. I toast it for a couple of minutes to warm it up and melt the cheese. I also have another glass of ice water with lemon. I roasted some slices of sweet potato when I made my roasted vegetables on Saturday. My older son has an after-school snack of leftover beignets.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Tracy)

5:30 p.m.: Dinner tonight is chicken yakatori. We did a trial run of a food delivery service and it was one of the recipes we really liked. I only do the chicken and just add steamed rice and cooked vegetables for sides.

Day 6: Wednesday

5:00 a.m.: My husband gets up and gets ready for work and I doze off until my alarm goes off.

5:30 a.m.: I’m extra tired this morning; it’s a bit of a struggle to get up. I head down to make coffee and lunches. My husband makes his breakfast — two egg whites, yogurt, banana, protein bar, and a small glass of orange juice. Thinking ahead, I made up older son’s salad last night so all I need to do is add an apple, peanuts, carrot sticks, and some fig Newtons to his lunch.

My younger son took his normal toasted salami/pepperoni/mozzarella sandwich on white bread (aka salt on bread), strawberries, white cheddar potato crackers, carrot sticks, and the last beignet. For lunch, my husband took two smaller baked chicken sandwiches with Gouda, parsley, and mustard on sliced Italian bread and a bag of cheese crackers and a bag of peanuts mixed with dried cranberries.

12:30 p.m.: I make my smoothie of coconut milk, frozen banana, peas, strawberries, blueberries, flaxseed, and almond butter. While I eat that, I prep the taco meat for tonight. I grind up the trimmings I froze on Saturday when I prepped chicken for the week for lunches. I add in two breasts and this makes enough meat for a few meals. Once the meat is ground, I cook it up and when it has finished I add in my homemade seasoning mix and water and let it simmer.

2:45 p.m.: My older son arrives home and has some blackberries.

3:30 p.m.: My youngest has a snack of pretzels before track practice.

5:00 p.m.: I assemble the burritos for tonight’s dinner. The leftover white rice reheats quickly and I shred the block of Colby Jack cheese. Whatever I don’t use now will get used up either in eggs or leftover burritos for lunches. My husband has his snack of dried peanuts and cranberries.

5:30 p.m.: My younger son arrives home and he and my older son and I have our burritos. My youngest son has one burrito with meat, cheese, and rice along with tortilla chips and salsa. My older son has two burritos with meat and rice only. I eat one burrito with meat and cheese, along with some salsa.

6:15 p.m.: I have some water before heading to yoga.

7:00 p.m.: My husband eats his dinner and has iced tea.

7:45 p.m.: I make a cup of green tea with honey.

8:00 p.m.: The kids eat a snack. Tonight it’s fig newtons for my older son and my younger son heats up a tortilla shell.

Day 7 : Thursday

5:00 a.m.: The alarm goes off and my husband gets ready for work.

5:30 a.m.: My alarm goes off and I get up. I am a bit stiff heading down to make coffee and lunches (the yoga instructor introduced some new positions during last night’s class). I start the coffee maker while my husband makes his breakfast (the same as the last few days; he is a creature of habit).

I make my husband the same lunch as yesterday. My oldest son takes a sandwich of salami, oven-roasted turkey, and mustard on sliced Italian bread. My son also takes an apple, grape tomatoes, sliced carrots, a snack bag of peanuts, and a couple of the graham cracker bars my husband baked last night. My younger son takes his normal mozzarella/salami/pepperoni sandwich on toasted white bread, cut-up strawberries, carrot sticks, white potato cheddar crackers, and a snack-size Twix bar.

6:00 a.m.: I pour my second cup of coffee and glare at the dirty dishes in the sink and all over the counter. The baking session last night made a mountain! While I drink my coffee, I order a new dishwasher, which will arrive on Tuesday. I make a note to buy more paper plates when I shop tomorrow for the coming week.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

6:30 a.m.: My sons get up and start to get ready for the day. One eats a protein bar and has a glass of chocolate milk. While he showers, the other has yogurt, strawberries, two sausage patties, and a glass of orange juice.

8:00 a.m.: For breakfast I make up a batch of Kodiak Cake waffles. Instead of just using water, I substitute with whole milk and an egg. We have a mini waffle maker that makes perfect and cute handheld waffles. This batch makes enough for three servings of two waffles each. I put a tablespoon of almond butter on each and have three turkey sausage links.

8:30 a.m.: Time to log into work. I make sure I have my glass of ice water with lemon.

12:30 p.m.: Lunchtime! Today’s smoothie has coconut milk, frozen broccoli, strawberries, banana, blueberries, peanut butter, and flaxseed. I like to drink ice tea during warmer weather and really like sun tea. I fill our sun tea pitcher with water and a mix of Lipton ice tea bags and some herbal blueberry green tea. It is the perfect day and will hopefully be done by dinnertime. I finish my break by washing some of the mountain of dirty dishes and feeding our dog.

1:00 p.m.: More ice water.

3:30 p.m.: My youngest has pretzels as a snack before track practice.

3:45 p.m.: I grab a coconut yogurt to eat while finishing up my shift.

4:30 p.m.: I get done early with work and have enough time to grab my son from track practice at 5 p.m. I grab a banana for both of us and fill my water bottle.

5:15 p.m.: I start cooking the ground turkey for individual shepherd’s pie. The recipe goes together quickly and is one of our favorites. To speed things up tonight, I use the mashed potatoes I froze the last time I made this recipe for dinner. This is our favorite mashed potato recipe. I sprinkle some freshly grated Parmesan on top before placing the pies in the oven to finish up.

5:45 p.m.: My husband has a snack of dried cranberries and peanuts at work before he heads to spin class at 6:30 p.m.

6:30 p.m.: My sons and I eat dinner.

7:00 p.m.: I make a cup of green tea with honey.

8:00 p.m.: My husband eats dinner; my kids have sliced apples for a snack.

9:00 p.m.: I have a second cup of green tea tonight.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)
(Image credit: The Kitchn)

1. How did you set your food budget?

I set my current food budget based off what we currently have going on as a family. Therefore, while my budget right now might be $175/$225 per week, that amount might fluctuate depending on life. Sometimes I go way over our higher end of the budget. Normally in the summer, I am able to spend less due to my kids not being involved in extracurricular actives and not taking extra snacks and beverages to school. With fruit and vegetables being in season for our growing area, my costs also drop on how much I spend on those.

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

These are the kitchen ingredients and a couple of kitchen appliances that I use on almost a daily basis.

  • Rice
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Boneless, skinless chicken
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Peanut butter
  • Blocks of mozzarella, Parmesan, and Colby Jack
  • Potatoes
  • Coconut milk
  • English muffins
  • Tortilla shells
  • Spices and herbs, either fresh or dried
  • Carrots
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Soy sauce
  • Leftovers (if I know it won’t be eaten in a day or two it gets frozen)
  • My stand mixer with meat grinder attachment
  • Rice maker
  • George Foreman grill

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

I rely on taco meat every week. By doubling up the recipe and adding rice as a filler to burritos, tacos, or nachos, I am able to get a dinner and normally two lunches out of the meal. Not buying ground meat and using up the trimmings from the boneless skinless, chicken breast, using leftover rice from a previous meal, and making my own taco seasoning keeps the cost quite low.

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.