How a Social Media Director Feeds Herself on $250 a Week in Brunswick, Georgia
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.
Location: Brunswick, Georgia
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
Ingredients to use this week: Beyond Meat veggie burgers, organic chicken breast, organic ground turkey, brioche burger buns, organic spring mix, organic tomatoes, organic cucumber, organic carrots, organic olive oil, organic red peppers, organic black beans, organic canned tomatoes, organic shredded cheese, organic sour cream, organic tortillas, organic American cheese slices, yogurt, berries (strawberries and blackberries), organic oatmeal, Clif bars and Rx bars, Jeni’s ice cream, 12-pack Topo Chico, 12-pack blackberry Bubbly, 2 packs organic gummy bears (they’re BOGO), 3 avocados, 2 lemons, 2 limes, one loaf oatmeal bread.
Grocery store of choice: Harris Teeter and Publix
Day 1: Monday
Breakfast: I wake up to my alarm and immediately hit snooze. I need an extra minute or two even though I’m wide awake. I commence my morning as usual when my second alarm chimes: Let the dog out, put out fresh kibble and water for pets ( 1 precious almost 3-year-old puppy and 2 tubby tabbys). I blend my normal breakfast: 1 chocolate Orgain organic vegan protein shake, 1/2 a frozen banana, 1 teaspoon dark chocolate cocoa powder and a heaping scoop of Vital Proteins collagen powder. I pack that and a Yeti tumbler filled with homemade cold brew and dash out the door.
Snack: Feeling a bit peckish so I hit my work snack stash, which is looking a little sad: There’s half of a dark chocolate sea salt RXBAR, stale popcorn, and maybe 7 almonds. Adulting is hard. I settle on the almonds and when that doesn’t do the trick, I polish off the RXBAR.
Lunch: I try to bring in lunch to work as often as possible because I like eating in the park next to my office or watching SkillShare videos through lunch, and because I loathe paying for mediocre lunch options. Alas, my pantry is sparse after returning from vacation last night. I set out to find something delicious and healthy. After a bit of indecisiveness and driving around near the office, I settle on a local pizza joint that serves some tasty salads. I get a bed of mixed greens with artichokes, hearts of palm, olives, goat cheese, candied walnuts, tomatoes, red pepper, and olive oil balsamic dressing. The salad is divine and I think it would be pretty easy to replicate. I bring it back to my desk and decide now would be a good time to make my grocery list.
Snack: A client lunch resulted in a bunch of leftover pastries from a local cafe. I snag a lemon blueberry scone and a key lime LaCroix from the office fridge. I return to my desk and raise my desk to the standing position in an attempt to not fall asleep.
Grocery shopping: I head out of the office for the day and drive straight to the grocery store. I try to make my shopping list based off of the weekly ad, what’s in season, a mix of meals that will last several days (we love leftovers), and things we actually like eating. I buy organic filet mignon, organic boneless skinless chicken breast, organic bacon and eggs, oatmeal bread, organic turkey lunch meat, organic American cheese, lemon dill hummus, organic carrots, cucumbers, arugula, spring mix, tomatoes, lemons and limes, bananas, Rainier cherries, organic raspberries and strawberries, apples, sweet potatoes, organic whole-wheat tortillas, organic black beans, organic sour cream, organic pepper Jack cheese, four avocados, canned artichokes, canned hearts of palm, eight Siggi’s yogurts, a half-gallon of milk, and chocolate Blue Bell ice cream. I say a prayer to the sanitation gods that no one has licked it.
After waiting in line for 10 minutes, I whip my cart around and head back to the frozen food section where I grab our favorite organic frozen Margherita pizza to throw in the oven for dinner tonight. I’m definitely not in the mood to cook tonight.
Dinner prep: I get home and unload my groceries with my partner, J. We discuss our days (she’s still off but returns to work tomorrow). After everything is put away, I throw on some comfy shorts and a T-shirt and play with the pup. We’re fortunate to have a good-sized fenced-in backyard for her to play in. Back inside, I throw the pizza in the oven and slice a few tomatoes from my grocery haul and throw it in a salad bowl with a handful of spring mix and some kalamata olives I have in the fridge at all times. I dress it with Primal Kitchen Greek dressing while the pizza cools.
Dessert: Laundry done, belly full, and freshly showered, I savor a scoop of ice cream and promptly pass out, dreaming of the jade green water in St. Pete where we just vacationed.
Day 2: Tuesday
Breakfast/lunch prep: I wake up craving peaches and cream oatmeal, a regular occurrence for me. I keep a stash in the pantry at all times, so I grab a packet and throw it along with some leftover salad and pizza from the night before in my lunch box. Some Rainier cherries and a Topo Chico (also a staple in my pantry) are my lunch for today. I follow my regular routine and am out the door by 8. I give my anxious pup a CBD treat before leaving.
Breakfast (for real this time): I use the office microwave to make my oatmeal and add a tiny bit of sugar and cream. So yummy. I also eat my cherries and brew a cup of coffee from the office Keurig. Gross.
Lunch: It’s 2 p.m. and I’m still not hungry, but I have a client meeting at 3, and I know I won’t make it till 4 without food so I grab my salad and my Topo Chico and head back to my desk. I place an order on Amazon for my favorite meal replacement/protein bars (cashew butter GoMacro bars) and Maranatha almond butter. These items are significantly more expensive at our local grocery store, so this is a regular order for us.
Tea time: I’m needing an afternoon pick-me-up without caffeine so I brew my favorite vanilla chai. After letting it steep for five minutes, I add a bit of local honey and a touch of cream, all provided by the stocked work kitchen.
Dinner: Same after-work routine sans grocery store tonight. Pup is happily chowing down on her doggy treat so I head into the kitchen to whip up some dinner. On the menu tonight is sweet potato and black bean soft tacos. I follow this recipe from Simply Recipes, subbing the cotija cheese for the pepper Jack I bought yesterday. I also just mash the avocados with lime, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes instead of the tomatillo salsa verde. I dollop on a bit of sour cream and dinner is served.
Late-night snack: All showered and in bed with J munching on some popcorn and watching The Handsmaid’s Tale. Lights off by 10.
Day 3: Wednesday
Breakfast: I wake up to puppy kisses and although I usually snooze my alarm a few times, I roll out of bed and start my morning routine and take full advantage of the extra minutes. I make an extra-toasty Thomas’ English muffin with unsalted butter and a ripe peach from a trip to the farmers market last week. #bliss
Snack: The lack of protein in my breakfast this morning obviously getting to me. I find an RXBAR in my purse to tide me over.
Lunch: I crawl out of an exhaustive client meeting and I’m starving. My GF is working today so I’m heading home for lunch to let the pup out. I also make myself a peanut butter and local honey sandwich with a handful of cherries. I take care of the pup, eat my lunch in practically one bite, grab a yogurt and carrots with hummus to go, and head back to the office.
Snack: At 5 p.m. I dash out of work, but not before stealing 4 mini Milky Way bars from the office kitchen. #notsorry
Dinner: After a quick play sesh with the pup, I start on dinner. I’m making Southwestern grilled chicken salads with all the veggies. I pound 1 chicken breast to about 1/4-inch thick and make a dry rub with garlic, onion, cumin, red pepper flakes, and chili powder. I add some EVOO (kill me for that) to my nonstick skillet and get it super hot before adding my chicken. Chicken breast hack: Add salt and pepper AFTER cooking for the best flavor. It works wonders.
While my chicken’s doing its thing, I prep the veggies and make my marinade for the other chicken breasts in the pack to use for dinner tomorrow. I use a mixture of garlic, ginger, chili flakes, and sesame oil and throw it all in a container to marinate overnight.
Dessert: J gets home, we eat and talk about our days, shower, and head to bed early. Today was a long day for her and we can both use some extra rest … but first we have ice cream. YOLO.
Day 4: Thursday
Breakfast: J’s home this morning and on puppy duty so that means I get to sleep until 7. I take my time getting ready and eat a yogurt and raspberries for breakfast. Then I pack my lunch, which consists of a peanut butter and local honey sandwich, the last of the dill hummus and carrots, an RXBAR (okay, I like these but can my GoMacro bars get here already?) and some raspberries. These berries are the best I’ve ever had! I also fill my Yeti with cold brew J made last night.
Lunch: I happily take an early (for me) lunch because I have a meeting at 1. I walk to the park to sit in the sun. I last for 8 minutes before running back to the office to get out of the heat. I finish my lunch at my desk, but stand to eat. I dare to take a peek at Pinterest while I eat. I love this platform and how creative it is, but so many of my friends are on some form of diet or, as I like to call it, ”restrictive eating plan.” After spending a large part of my adolescence with an eating disorder and still struggling with body image in my adult life, I choose to not be around anything keto, Paleo, Whole30, etc. Ladies and gentlemen, this is self-care.
Snack: My meeting went well and now I’m famished. I eat my berries and RXBAR. I also get a delivery confirmation that my GoMacros have been delivered. Praise be.
Dinner: I head home and immediately start a pot of water to boil my chicken. I’m making the world’s best Asian salad with the crispiest chicken. I prep the rest of my ingredients and make my dressing while the chicken cooks. The salad is steamed edamame, shredded carrots, and broccoli florets, on top of spring mix. For the dressing I juice 2 limes, 1/2 a teaspoon of ginger powder, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1/4 cup of water, and 1/4 cup of sesame oil. After the chicken is boiled, I shed it and start a pot of water for my rice noodles. I put about 1/2 a cup of EVOO in the bottom of my nonstick skillet. I turn the heat on medium-high and let it heat while my noodles cook. I drain the noodles and assemble the salad on plates, leaving room to add my chicken.
The oil in the pan is super hot so very carefully I add the chicken in a single layer letting it fry golden-brown and flipping it over once after about 3 minutes. I place the chicken on a paper towel and salt and pepper it while it cools. I also go ahead and assemble a salad to bring for lunch tomorrow with some of the spare noodles, veggies, spring mix, and dressing. This is honestly the best way to make any chicken salad. It’s crunchy and has these crispy bits that taste like the best fried chicken skin that’s not skin.
Dessert.: We finish the night eating a scoop of ice cream each and watching The Handmaid’s Tale.
Day 5: Friday
Breakfast: This morning, I wake up almost restless. I jump out of bed and start my usual routine and decide to make a breakfast treat with my extra few minutes. I toast two slices of oatmeal bread and mash a whole avocado. I spread the avocado on top of the bread and add some sea salt flakes, olive oil (there, that’s better), a squeeze of lemon, and a dash of hot sauce. I’m ready to Friday. I grab the salad I prepared last night, along with the last of the cherries and a GoMacro bar and hit the road.
Coffee: I’m out of cold brew and have the time, so I swing into a local coffee shop for a nitrogen cold brew. $4
Lunch.: I literally can’t wait to eat my salad any longer. I found these cool salad jars at a T.J.Maxx recently and they’re a game-changer. They keep your salad fresh, crisp, and compact. I nosh on my salad and review a SkillShare tutorial on food styling.
Snack: God damn whoever brought these mini Milky Ways into this office. I snag 3 and get back to work. I knew it was going to be a good day! My boss lets us out a bit early, so I head home to let the pup out. J won’t be home for a few hours, but we have plans to go on a date tonight. I take a long shower and do my hair while snacking on some strawberries that are on their last leg.
Dinner: J and I arrive at our favorite local restaurant, a beachside bistro specializing in fresh catches, local produce, and seasonal flavors. I order raw oysters to start, a salad, and the catch of the day (which is grouper served with brown butter and caramelized onion risotto). I have one gin and tonic with lime with the oysters and two glasses of merlot with dinner. Too much yum. We’re stuffed so we turn down dessert because we have a local artisan ice cream shop in mind after our dinner settles. We head to the beach for a long walk. It cost us $50 dollars out of pocket (we had a $100 gift certificate).
Dessert: We make it to the ice cream shop just before the close. I order the Gorgonzola blueberry with bits of shortbread cookie. J gets the darkest chocolate with graham cracker and fresh homemade toasted marshmallows. I’m officially stuffed. We spent $10.
Night cap: Back at home, I relax with J and the pup. We each have two creature comfort Athena beers and then promptly take our old asses to bed.
Day 6: Saturday
Breakfast: The wet nose of my pup awakens me, signaling that it’s time to get up. I let her out and feed her and make myself a cup of cold brew from the batch J made last night when we got home. I drink it black while I make 2 eggs fried in 3 inches of olive oil that I let get super hot. I’m seeing a pattern here. Guess this is my signature cooking technique. I also make two slices of toast and slice a peach that is definitely on its last leg. J wakes up just as I’m finishing, so I repeat the same meal for her (sans the peach, which I replace with a juicy Granny Smith apple).
Grocery shopping: After a lazy morning, Jordan and I make our way to a produce stand 20 minutes away. This place has great local organic produce as well as other goods. This week’s bounty is blueberries and strawberries, peaches and cherries, arugula, spinach, tomatoes, peppers, okra, radishes, lemons, limes, avocados, basil, local burrata, honey, boiled peanuts, and a pound of black-eyed peas. Momma’s got some good cooking plans for this week. We break into the boiled peanuts on the drive home. We spend $28.
Dinner: Apparently a random family nap was called for after unloading our produce. We wake up hungry so I throw us some food together: random Melba toast I find in the pantry, leftover deli pepperoni and cheese roll-ups I keep on hand at all times, sliced peaches, some deli turkey from my last grocery haul, and some apricot preserves from Maine my neighbor gave us for pet sitting a few weeks ago. We take our makeshift charcuterie board to the living room and start binge-watching the new season of Stranger Things.
TV snacks: I pop open an Athena beer and get back to Stranger Things. A few minutes later, J asks me to pop some air-popped popcorn. A girl after my own heart.
Day 7: Sunday
Brunch: Sunday usually means 3 things in my house: going to brunch, grocery shopping for the week, and cleaning the house. Grocery shopping on Monday threw us off a bit and I still have quite a bit left. I decide to kind of wing it this week, as we’re heading out to see family and friends for a long weekend on Thursday. We’ll make do with what we have from the produce stand and randomness in the pantry.
We head to our favorite brunch spot where the wait is always off the charts, but we have an in with the owner. They seat us at a small table that we lovingly call “our” table in the corner. We start with coffee and talk to a few friends also brunching there. After a while, we order. I get an omelette made with tomatoes, onion, peppers, black olive, cheddar cheese, and salsa. I get toast and avocado on the side. I love mine, but I sneak a few bites of J’s banana pudding pancakes. We spend $48.
Snack: The house is clean, laundry is done, and dinner is prepped. I’m a little peckish so I grab a GoMacro bar and my phone and just veg out for a bit.
Dinner: I start prepping dinner for tonight, which is some pork chops we had in the freezer with mango salsa from my neighbor. I’m also making coconut rice and roasted carrots. For my pork chops I make a dry rub out of salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder, and brown sugar. I sear both sides on high heat in avocado oil then finish them in the oven. I make my rice in my Instant Pot using the Instant Pot recipe, using coconut milk instead of water. I also add a bit of ginger, honey, and salt to the mixture and let it do its thing. My carrots are steamed, then coated with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted at a high temp with the chops. I assemble everything in a bowl and we chow down. The Sunday scaries don’t set in because I f*cking love my job.
1. How did you set your food budget?
My partner and I set our food budget based on a few factors, the first and most important is that we like real, delicious, organic food, as responsibly sourced as possible. We don’t eat out too often and like to splurge when we do. We also try to shop locally when possible, and choose trusted brands when we have to, regardless of price (within reason). We occasionally rely on Amazon (face palm).
2. What are the kitchen ingredients you can’t live without?
I try to always have fresh greens, olive oil, salt and pepper, and a hard cheese on hand. We’re far from health nuts, but we love a good salad. We also always seem to have Blue Bell milk chocolate ice cream. Not sorry.
3. What’s the budget recipe you always rely on?
My favorite budget recipe is, by far, “dump salad.” Towards the end of the week when my produce it looking sad, I chop everything up and make huge salads. We make an effort to not waste food — especially given our budget is on the high end.