Grocery Diaries

Here Are Kitchn’s Top 10 Grocery Diaries of 2019

published Dec 29, 2019
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At the beginning of 2019, we gave our old “Food Budget Diaries” series a mini makeover, revamping it as “Grocery Diaries” to give our readers a more 360-degree look at how people all across the country spend their grocery money.

Submissions rolled in and soon enough we were swimming in shopping receipts, grocery cart snapshots, and photos of home-cooked dinners and meal-prepped lunches. Since we’ve loved reading (and learning from!) everyone’s Grocery Diaries this year, we decided to pull together 10 of our favorites. Happy diary-reading!

1. Sarah from Greenville, South Carolina

Name: Sarah*
Location: Greenville, SC
Age: 32
Number of people in family: 1
Occupation: Risk Manager (banking sector)
Household income: $88,000
Weekly grocery budget: $125

In her comprehensive grocery diary, Sarah quipped that yes, she lives alone, and yes, she buys butter at Costco — what’s it to you? Her friends even joke that she should work at Costco because she loves it so much. Funny enough, Sarah also shopped at Aldi, Harris Teeter, and Publix all in the course of the week too. We nominate her for the award of Most Grocery Stores Visited in a Seven-Day Span!

Read more: How a Costco-Lover Eats for $125 a Week in Greenville, S.C.

Credit: Portrait of Women: Getty Images

2. Hanae from Grand Forks, North Dakota

Name: Hanae*
Location: Grand Forks, North Dakota
Age: 27
Number of people in family: 1
Occupation: Librarian
Household income: $56,000/year
Weekly grocery budget: $50

When Hanae first moved to North Dakota from Canada two years ago, she thought her grocery bills would shrink, but instead they shot up! To cut down on food spending, she decided to cut out most processed foods, use more frozen produce, and meal plan. Hanae is a librarian and does her weekly grocery runs after teaching a citizenship class for her local refugee integration organization. She shops at Natural Grocers for produce, herbs, eggs, and milk and goes to Walmart for everything else. These days her spending usually falls under $50 per week.

Read more: How a Librarian Eats for $50 a Week in Grand Forks, North Dakota

Credit: Photos: Shutterstock, Design: The Kitchn

3. Ebony from Evansville, Indiana

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

Ebony set a goal to get rid of all of her educational debt in three years. Even though she can afford a higher grocery budget on her engineer salary, Ebony is committed to eating on less than the most frugal USDA monthly food budget. She shops at Aldi and Sam’s Club, skips store brand where possible, and stocks up on pounds of rice, tuna, and eggs to make inexpensive meals on the regular.

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

Credit: Photos: Shutterstock, Design: Kitchn

4. Christine from Chicago, Illinois

Name: Christine
Location: Chicago, IL
Age: 35
Number of people in household: 1
Occupation: Medical lab tech
Household income: $30/hour
Weekly grocery budget: $100

Christine impressed us all with the fact that she goes grocery shopping via bike (weather permitting) and loads all of her items into the basket on the handlebars. She somehow managed to make it home with grapefruits, chorizo, avocados, apples, tomatoes, pears, cilantro, and green onion in tow!

Read more: How a Medical Lab Tech Feeds Herself on $100 a Week in Chicago

Credit: Photos: Shutterstock

5. Patience from Springfield, Oregon

Name: Patience
Location: Springfield, Oregon
Age: 21
Number of people in family: 1 (I live with roommates but we buy our own groceries)
Occupation: I work at Little Caesars Pizza
Household income: $1,000/month
Weekly grocery budget: $60

Patience got real about the financial challenges of living on your own, paying for school with unpredictable financial aid, and working part-time — and our readers responded with overwhelming support. During the course of her diary she spent $60 on food including free meals from family, roommates, and her job at Little Caesar’s pizza. (Free pizza and dollar Dr. Peppers make frequent appearances.)

Read more: How a Part-Time Pizza Shop Employee in Springfield, Oregon Spends $60 a Week on Groceries

Credit: People: Brat Co./Stocksy, Food: Shutterstock

6. Laurie from Atlanta, Georgia

Name: Laurie
Location: Atlanta, GA
Age: 74
Number of people in family: 2
Occupation: Semi-retired hospital chaplain
Household income: Around $88,000. I’m retired and living on social security and investments. My income last year was about $28,000, and my husband (who still works) made $60k.
Weekly grocery budget: $150

Laurie’s favorite breakfast is Dave’s Killer Good Seed Bread toasted with a little butter, and topped with smoked salmon. And there’s plenty of time for her to enjoy it in her newfound retirement. She says, “Now that it’s just my husband and me, we eat very simply and frugally because we’d rather spend our time and money on other things.”

Read more: How a Retired Chaplain and Her Husband Eat on $150 a Week in Atlanta, GA

Credit: Images: Shutterstock, Design: Kitchn

7. Rebecca from Brunswick, Georgia

Name: Rebecca
Location: Brunswick, Georgia
Age: 31
Number of people in household: 2
Occupation: Social Media Director
Household income: $43,000 a year plus $25,000 from my partner’s externship and miscellaneous jobs
Weekly grocery budget: $250

Rebecca and her partner fell on the higher end of the spending spectrum for our grocery diaries of the year. “We like real, delicious, organic food as responsibly sourced as possible. We try to shop locally when possible, and chooses trusted brands when we have to, regardless of price (within reason).”

Read more: How a Social Media Director Feeds Herself on $250 a Week in Brunswick, Georgia

Credit: Trail Mix, Broccoli, Sugar Snap Peas, Person: Shutterstock; LUNA Bars: Cliff Bar & Company; Design: Kitchn

8. Elliot from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Name: Elliot
Location: Pittsburgh, PA
Age: 34
Number of people in household: 2
Occupation: Neuroscientist; my partner Shannon is a Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator at a local art museum
Household income: $110,000 combined
Weekly grocery budget: $100

The best part of this Grocery Diary is how thoughtful and generous Elliot and his partner. Shannon. are to each other in terms of food. Read this if you love breakfast in bed, thoughtful pints of ice cream, and coffee deliveries.

Read more: How a Neuroscientist and His Partner Feed Themselves on $100 a Week in Pittsburgh, PA

Credit: Photos: Shutterstock, Design: Kitchn

9. Stephanie from Minneapolis, Minnesota

Name: Stephanie
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Age: 29
Number of people in family: 1
Occupation: Technical staff and graduate student
Household income: $72,000
Weekly grocery budget: $40

Stephanie is an extremely busy grad student who also works and travels pretty consistently. Her smart grocery shopping solution? A customized Imperfect Produce box, which she can order to be delivered as soon as she arrives home. That means she can meal plan around her produce delivery, with smart use of her pantry inventory.

Read more: How a Graduate Student Who Also Works Full-Time Feeds Herself on $40 a Week in Minneapolis, MN

Credit: Photos: Shutterstock, Design: Kitchn

10. Alicia from the Greater Wilmington area, Delaware

Name: Alicia
Location: Greater Wilmington area, Delaware
Age: 32
Number of people in family: 1
Occupation: Biotechnology
Household income: $78,000/year
Weekly grocery budget: Usually between $50 and $75

When Alicia reached out to us and expressed interest in recording how much she spends on groceries during her first week on Whole30, our curiosity was piqued! How much would she spend on Whole30-compliant groceries? Her total bill rang in at just over $75.

Read more: How a Woman in Delaware Spends $75 a Week on Whole30-Compliant Groceries