Grocery Diaries

How an Electrical Engineer in Indiana Spends $25 a Week on Groceries

published Jun 26, 2019
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Credit: Photos: Shutterstock, Design: The Kitchn

Welcome to Kitchn’s Grocery Diaries, where a real cook like you shows us what they bought, cooked, and ate over the course of a week.

Name: Ebony
Location: Evansville, Indiana
Age: 25
Number of people in family: 1
Occupation: Electrical engineer
Household income: $95,000/year
Weekly grocery budget: $25
Ingredients to use this week: Spinach, celery, pecans, chicken thighs, green beans, Brussels sprouts
Grocery store of choice: Sam’s Club, Aldi, Walmart, Ruler Foods

Day 1: Sunday

Breakfast: I start my day with Stove Top Pork Stuffing. I bought a box on sale for $1.67 at Walmart in their dented/bruised items section and ate about a quarter that I had left over from last week while watching Degrassi: The Next Generation on YouTube. Good morning!

Credit: Photo: Shutterstock, Aldi Logo: Aldi, Design: The Kitchn

Grocery shopping: After breakfast, I went grocery shopping at Aldi. I usually get a whole chicken every couple of months. It is easy to roast and then I can make meals out of it for a week. I use the fruit, spinach, and almond milk to make a big batch of smoothies and have those for breakfast or with dinner. The eggs are also great to eat hard-boiled for breakfast.

Morning snack: Time for some roasted peanuts and a yogurt from Sam’s Club. I do a monthly Sam’s Club run at the beginning of the month and usually pick up fruit, yogurt, and some sort of nut. Last time I went I got five pounds for $5.88! I’ll typically eat about three ounces of peanuts as a snack while watching YouTube. I bought the yogurts at the beginning of the month too at Sam’s Club. They were a great deal — 16 individual fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts for $8.98!

Credit: Photo: Shutterstock, Design: The Kitchn

Wine run: I ran out this afternoon to look for summertime drinks and found a sweet wine from Oak Creek for just $2.66. It hits the spot.

Lunch: For lunch, I open an $8 (6.6-pound) can of Del Monte Fruit Cocktail from Sam’s Club that I also bought at the beginning of the month. I separate it into about six containers and put them in the fridge for lunch and snacks this week. I have that and a tuna fish sandwich. I bought a 12-pack of StarKist from Sam’s Club a few weeks ago. I only use one can and that’s enough for two sandwiches. I eat one while watching YouTube and Angel on DVD.

Meal prep: I start roasting chicken using this NYT recipe which calls for paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder. When it’s done, I take out the chicken and pack it up into five lunches with vegetables and basmati rice, which I got at Aldi last week.

Credit: Courtesy of Ebony

Dinner: I have more fruit cocktail, chicken, and spinach that I got the week before from Walmart with a side of basmati rice. I am still working through a 20-pound bag I bought at Sam’s Club. I keep a pantry with staples such as rice and tuna, and always have some frozen vegetables to go with my baked chicken.

Late-night snack: I watch a few SNL clips and fall asleep after a little more fruit cocktail.

Day 2: Monday

Breakfast: I start my day doing some desk work and eat some Skittles I saved from last week in the cafe. (They were free!) I also make a cup of black tea.

Lunch: My office is welcoming out summer interns today with a free lunch. I have some thin-crust pizza and a can of Sprite.

Afternoon pick-me-up: Time for more desk work and I need some more black tea to stay awake. I like the Great Value Black Tea from Walmart.

Dinner: At 9:30 p.m I sit down with a tuna fish sandwich, spinach, fruit cocktail, blueberry Greek yogurt, and some baked chicken. I meditate and go to sleep.

Day 3: Tuesday

Breakfast: I’m not a huge breakfast person this week. I start my day with some green tea from Walmart. I got a box of 100 tea bags for $3.98 a while back.

Lunch: For lunch I eat my prepped baked chicken, basmati rice, and mixed vegetables; fruit cocktail; and a Greek yogurt.

Snack: As soon as I get home, I eat a few strawberries that I bought on Sunday.

Credit: Courtesy of Ebony

Dinner: I have some more chicken with a smoothie on the side. This smoothie has strawberries, blueberries, spinach, soy milk (to finish out the carton), and almond milk. I also have a glass of wine.

Tip!: When I make smoothies I will make a whole blender full and then put them into containers and freeze them or keep them in the fridge for later.

Day 4: Wednesday

Breakfast: I woke up super early today and started the day by journaling, meditating, exercising, and reading. After my shower I have two hard-boiled eggs and some sausage from Aldi that I bought two weeks ago.

Snack: I have a bit of the fruit smoothie that I prepped last night.

Lunch: I typically eat at my desk with the door closed to have an hour of uninterrupted time and will read while eating. Again, I have baked chicken, basmati rice, and mixed vegetables, plus fruit cocktail.

Snack: More roasted peanuts and YouTube!

Dinner: I worked a bit later today so I didn’t eat dinner until 10:30 p.m. If it is later I will eat slightly lighter, so tonight I have fruit cocktail, a smoothie, and wine.

Day 5: Thursday

Breakfast: I don’t feel like making anything for breakfast so I’m really glad I made a whole blender full of smoothies the other night. I start my day with a serving I stashed in the freezer.

Lunch: I have lunch at my desk to save my appetite. We are having a company picnic later and I know I’ll eat there! I stick to some strawberries, yogurt, and some fruit cocktial. I wash it down with a Twix and black tea.

Dinner: Free food! At the picnic, I talk with the new employees and interns and we have a feast. I have two hotdogs, two chicken breasts with sweet and tangy BBQ sauce, and two Redd’s Apple Ales.

Late-night work:. I have to stay up and cram a few more hours of work in to hit my goal this month, so I have some coffee with almond milk to cool it down. I’m up until midnight and have a glass of wine to wind down.

Day 6: Friday

Breakfast: I keep it simple with a peach Greek yogurt.

Lunch: Today I’m going out to lunch with my friends/coworkers. We usually go about once a week because it is kind of a trek to get to food. I have a fried calamari taco, waffle fries, and applesauce. My portion of the check is $9.84 total.

Credit: Photo: Shutterstock, Logo: The Tin Fish, Design: The Kitchn

Afternoon pick-me-up: I need some more black tea later in the afternoon to wake me up!

Snack: Our office still has a lot of leftovers from the picnic, so I snack on some watermelon, mango, grapes, apple slices, and carrots. We even get to take some leftovers home since it’ll just go to waste over the weekend, so I make sure to do that.

Dinner: I get home, relax, and clean part of my apartment. Once that’s done I have two hot dogs, wine, carrots, snap peas, and broccoli.

Day 7: Saturday

Lunch: I skip breakfast today and have an early lunch of — you guessed it — picnic leftovers. Two hot dogs, to be exact.

Afternoon snack part 1: I volunteer every other week and there is always extra food they want to give away. I took some snacks home, catch up on some reading, and pour myself some coffee. I also eat a dinner roll.

Afternoon snack part 2: I make a bag of popcorn and I burn the bag.

Afternoon snack part 3: I have some more fruit and vegetables from the picnic.

Dinner: I really stretched out that whole chicken because it’s for dinner again tonight. I also have two hotdogs, mixed vegetables, basmati rice, fruit salad, mango, pineapple, veggies, snap peas, and wine!

Credit: The Kitchn

1. How did you set your food budget?

Since graduation, I have been living on my own for about two-and-a-half years. When I first started living on my own, I bought alcohol every week and food a couple of times a week, whether that was eating out or going out with friends.

I was able to afford it but I also wanted to get rid of all of my debt in my goal of three years. I looked up budgeting and saving money on food and rent and I found the USDA monthly budget for different household sizes. I decided that I wanted to eat on less than the most frugal budget they reported. For me, it wasn’t hard. I really just stuck to the budget and found cheaper places to shop such as Aldi and Sam’s Club and stopped buying name brand for most food. I also started to eat more fruits and vegetables, which helped bring my food costs way down.

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

I always have rice because I buy it in such large quantities (white rice, basmati, and brown). I also always have tuna, some sort of frozen fruit for smoothies, and eggs because if I have a dozen of eggs I can make so many different, delicious meals without a lot of work.

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

Honestly I don’t really have a lot of recipes that I revisit that often. I look for something new almost every week and cycle through a bunch of different recipes I find online or in my Taste of Home: Recipes Across America cookbook that has recipes from all over the U.S. I have been working through that for the past few years and it introduced me to fried wontons, cream puffs, Caesar salad dressing made from scratch, and beef stew with sesame biscuits.

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 Grocery Diary with Kitchn? See how here.