So I’m kind of a weirdo. I really enjoy grocery shopping. However, I don’t enjoy spending a lot of money on groceries. And probably like many of you, I also just don’t have a lot of extra room in my budget to be overspending on groceries. I love reading about other people’s grocery budgets and the different ways in which they stretch their dollars, so I decided to start tracking and sharing a week or two each month of my budget grocery shopping and meal planning strategy on this blog. My hope is to give others some ideas on ways they can tweak their own grocery budgets!
As it is right now in my household of 3 adults, we typically aim to spend between $40-$60 a week on our grocery budget.
And I think we eat pretty well! Sometimes it’s a little bit simple. It’s not often particularly gourmet. It’s definitely not always perfect, but I’m pretty happy with my grocery and cooking habits, which is why I want to attempt to break down (some of) my weekly grocery trips, including how much I spend and how much my meals cost, to encourage others who may be struggling with their own food budgets or who are looking for ways to change up their current routine.
A quick overview of my household: two of us are women (my mom and I) and one is a man (my boyfriend). None of us has any major dietary needs or restrictions. Two of us will eat just about anything, while the third is lot pickier. I do the majority of the cooking. We typically only go out to eat two to three times a month on average.
As for some disclaimers:
We all have different dietary needs.
Different people have different dietary needs and not everyone has the same definition of what constitutes a healthy diet. If what I do doesn’t work for you, that’s okay! This is just what works for me and my family, and I’m always trying new things.
We all have different preferences.
There are definitely plenty of changes I could make that would change both the overall nutrition and cost of my grocery budget. I think it would be easy to get my weekly budget consistently under $50. However, since we are eating and purchasing food collectively as a family I have to take other’s preferences into account, even if that means buying those expensive salad kits that my mom loves or limiting the number of times we eat potatoes in a week because my boyfriend gets tired of them quickly.
I rarely buy organic and I understand that is a part of how I keep my budget so low. I personally feel safe and comfortable buying conventionally grown produce and animal products. However, you should of course do whatever you feel most comfortable with. And if you choose more expensive meat products based on the ethics of their upbringing, I applaud you. It’s something I may consider in the future when my income changes. For now my personal focus is on eating less meat overall, especially less red meat, again keeping in mind the rest of my household’s preferences.
We all have access to different food sources.
Food prices can differ drastically depending on where you are geographically, what kind of transportation you may be limited to, dietary needs or restrictions, etc. If my budget doesn’t work for your life or situation, that’s okay! I’m not writing this to say that anybody “should” be able to do what I do or that they even would want to do what I do.
On to the food!
We do most of our grocery shopping between Food Lion (super average mid price grocery store chain – strangely it will also ALWAYS have a Chinese restaurant in the same shopping center) and Aldi. Occasionally we’ll pick up a few things from Harris Teeter (chain of generally overpriced grocery stores that will sometimes run ridiculously good sales) and I have a handful of things I pick up every few months from the Asian grocery stores or Sprouts.
I’m going to give both the total we spent on groceries, and the totals that each meal cost to make, because we don’t necessarily use every ingredient we buy each week or all of each ingredient. There are also certain staples that I try to keep stocked in our pantry regardless of whether we plan to use them that week (pasta, rice, flour, etc).
So the total amount we spent on groceries between Food Lion and Aldi was $50.42.
The total spent for all of our meals from Sunday night to the following Sunday afternoon was about $55.99.
I estimated and added $6 to the total to account for random peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, eggs, etc eaten as snacks or lunches for my boyfriend that our leftovers didn’t cover.
Here's what we got!
Sorry I don’t have my Food Lion groceries pictured, I’ll do better on that next time!
Instant Mashed Potatoes
1 Green Pepper
1 Can Corn
1 Box Stuffing Mix
1 Bag Salad Mix
And what we made!
*I don’t have lunches for the workweek pictured. I make work lunches for my mom and I from what I cook for dinner. My boyfriend works from home right now, so he ate either leftovers when we had them or made himself egg sandwiches for lunches.
Chicken breast with mashed sweet potato, carrots, and peas.
Total Cost: $8.55
Not only did this turn into dinner for 3 for less than $10, but it also gave my mom and I two days of complete lunches AND provided the protein for 3 additional lunches!
- Chicken $5.81
- Sweet potato $0.57
- Carrot $1
- Peas $1
- Butter $0.07
- Spices $0.10
Steak Fajitas on home made corn tortillas with homemade refried beans.
Total Cost: $6.98
I recently began making my own corn tortillas. There is definitely a slight learning curve at first, but it’s so worth it and so affordable. We ate all but a very small bowl of leftovers.
- 1.3 lbs Steak $4.60
- 1lb onions $0.40
- 1 green pepper $0.68
- Oil and spices $0.15
- Can pinto beans $0.49
- Butter 1 tbsp $0.07
- 1 cup Maseca $0.20
- Diced tomatoes w/ green chili $0.39
Pork Chops with zucchini, corn, buffalo roasted cauliflower, and cous cous.
Total Cost: $10.84
This was our most expensive meal of the week, but I intentionally made WAY more veggie sides than what we needed for dinner, so that I could fill out our lunches with them. The leftovers from this dinner completed our lunches for the remainder of the week, so I could spend the rest of the week not worrying about work food.
- 1.2lb pork chop $2.99
- Pork coating mix $1
- Buffalo wing sauce 4tbsp $0.25
- Cauliflower $2.69
- Zucchini $1.65
- Mexicorn $1
- Couscous $1.06
- Oil and Spices $0.20
Meatloaf with mashed potatoes and broccoli.
Total Cost: $7.65
We had half a bag of broccoli left over from last week’s groceries that I wanted to finish up. We ate about half the meatloaf, so there’s plenty in the fridge for another meal or snack.
- Ground beef $4.42
- Stuffing mix $1
- Ketchup $0.08
- Spices & hot sauce $0.20
- Eggs $0.10
- Mashed potatoes $1
- Broccoli $0.85
Chicken thighs, sweet potatoes, and mushroom skillet
Total Cost: $6.34
This is one of my absolute favorite meals to make. It’s all made in one cast iron pan, and the sour cream mixes with the juices in the pan to make a delicious sauce. Usually I serve it over egg noodles, but we forgot we were out. I also forgot that I wanted to add spinach. Oops. We ate 3/4 of this meal so some went into the fridge to be eaten later. And yes that is the correct price for the sweet potatoes. We bought several pounds on sale last week for 19 cents a pound. Fun Fact: North Carolina is the top sweet potato producing state in the United States, and it is our state vegetable.
- Chicken thigh 2.6lb $3.87
- Sour cream $0.75
- Mushrooms $1.19
- Sweet potato 2lb $0.38
- Oil and Spices $0.15
Leftover Night! Plus a salad.
Total Cost: $3.96
I’ve never lived in a house that had a lot of food waste. It’s always just felt like money going directly into the trash! I know not everyone likes leftovers very much (and thus my leftover lunches aren’t appealing to everyone), but I’ve always figured two things.
1) Make good food and you’re more likely to enjoy eating it a second time.
2) Every meal doesn’t have to be about getting the most enjoyment possible out of food. I’m not going to force myself to eat a plate of anything that turned out truly awful, but if I’m not really in the mood for leftover chicken and it’s what I have for lunch, I’m just going to suck it up and eat it anyway. It will still serve the purpose of filling my belly, and it’s not the end of the world if every meal isn’t exactly what I’m craving.
Our leftovers that made it to our Friday night dinner included almost half of a meatloaf and the leftover chicken skillet. We also had a salad mix that we hadn’t gotten to during the week, so that was our side. I like to bulk out these salad mixes with a couple extra cups of spinach, and I remembered to actually use the spinach this time!
- Leftovers 0.00
- Salad 3.49
- Spinach .47
Scrambled Eggs with Spinach, Beef Bits, and Cheese
Total Cost: $0.78
- Eggs .10
- Egg whites .20
- Spinach .23
- Free meat*
- Oil and spices .10
- Shredded Cheese .15
*My mom brought home some extra chopped beef from a catered event at work. Had we not had this meat, I still would have made my scrambled eggs the same way, just without the meat.
Korean Style Mapo Tofu
Total Cost: $4.54
Tofu (and Asian food in general) is one of those things that only 2 out of the 3 members of my household enjoy, so I usually only make it when our picky family member is having dinner out with her friends. Otherwise I would use it at least once a week. It’s such a wonderful cheap and versatile protein. This meal fed two of us, but could have easily fed 4 if I’d made just a bit more rice.
- Tofu .99
- Spinach .47
- Rice .50
- Green onion .79
- Oils and spices .35
- Onion .20
- Green pepper .79
- Chicken broth .45
Grilled Cheese and Meatloaf Sandwiches
This meal was utilizing our leftovers in the most delicious way possible. Grilled cheese is amazing. Grilled cheese with a slice of meatloaf in the middle is phenomenal. Trust me and try it!
Total Cost $0.35
- Leftover meatloaf 0.00
- Cheese .20
- Bread .08
- Butter .07
Food we purchased this week but did not include in any meals and have left over for the future includes 1 box of mac and cheese, 1 carton of chicken broth, several onions, a dozen eggs, 1 bag of carrots, half a loaf of bread, and cheese slices.