Location: Hohenwald, TN (recently moved from NYC)
Number of people in household: 2; my husband Jared and me, plus a dog and two kittens
Age: 36 and 34
Occupation: I’m a freelancer in the entertainment industry. Currently, I work remotely as an assistant to a TV/film professional. I’m also a theatre director/choreographer, amongst other periodic contract gigs. My husband is an actor, writer, and server at a local restaurant. We also invest in rental properties.
Where you shopped: Walmart, Powers Foodtown, and our local produce stand
Weekly food budget: I try to keep my budget between $75 and $85, but with inflation it’s probably been closer to $100 per week.
Amount spent: $64.76
This week I shopped at Walmart and our local produce stand. We moved to a small town this year to remodel an old farmhouse, and the town has very limited grocery options. I am new in town so I’m still learning the hours of the local farm stand. This week, though, I finally decided to swing by and check it out.
What’s your grocery strategy?
It can vary week to week because our favorite stores, including Aldi, Trader Joe’s, or Whole Foods are at least 45 minutes away. I strategically stock up on groceries from those stores whenever I run other errands nearby. I like to have a pretty well-stocked pantry, so if I use up an item, I make sure to replace it or even buy an extra on my next trip.
Having spent most of my professional life as a freelancer, I have found many ways to save and stretch my budget over the years. My biggest mantra is to cut down on waste as much as possible. We do this by eating leftovers, repurposing ingredients (making bone broth from chicken bones or regrowing green onions for example), and applying the first-in-first-out (FIFO) method for the fridge and pantry.
I also tend to shop using a multi-purpose ingredient and a nutritional bang-for-your-buck philosophy. For example, a big bunch of cilantro could be used in a curry one day, and on top of tacos the next. I’m also willing to pay a bit more for nutritional quality than something processed — grass-fed beef over prepackaged sweets, for example. I buy generic brands most of the time and have started cutting down on meat in my cooking. I’ve recently started using a cash back app, which comes in handy for extras, like alcoholic beverages and sweets.
I typically plan my shopping around two or three homemade dinners per week, and make sure we have breakfast and lunch staples on hand, as well as our go-to snack items. In our ideal world, I like to stick to more whole foods and from-scratch cooking. However, in the midst of a remodel, the time I’d normally spend on more complex meal prep time has been diverted to DIY projects around the house.
My mother-in-law lives close by, so we occasionally inherit a piece of cake or an overage of veggies (this week she gifted us some cherry cobbler, cucumbers, and tomatoes). My husband works in a restaurant and gets free or discounted meals at work. By default, we don’t eat out much because there isn’t a lot of selection beyond the fast-food restaurants in the town. We’ve also discovered some wild blackberries on the farm, which have been abundant. I also started a garden this summer. I don’t know if my produce will end up being any cheaper than at the store, but we’ll see!
I check what we have in our pantry and fridge that needs to be used up and meal plan accordingly. I try to keep variety in mind because we do eat leftovers quite a bit. It’s just two of us, so we usually only cook two or three dinners a week and eat the leftovers in between. We also tend to be creatures of habit, eating variations of the same thing for breakfasts and lunches throughout the week.
To utilize stuff from the farm stand and my garden this week, I plan to make a Thai basil dish with a protein and veg over jasmine rice. I also plan to make some sort of taco, as I had tortillas in the freezer (bought an extra when they were on sale) and the ingredients from my garden for pico de gallo, along with onions in the fridge I need to use up. I buy cilantro and green onions for both meals. Jared works at a restaurant, so he’ll get a few meals a week there, either free or discounted.
Total: $48.65 (includes tax and discounts/savings via cash back app)
Total: $4.45 (includes tax and discounts/savings via cash back app)
Saturday: Scrambled Eggs and Toast, Chili Nachos, Chicken Tenders, Cherry Cobbler, and Store-Bought Cookies
I wake up and make us scrambled eggs and toast. I have my eggs with chives and my toast with butter, and some sliced tomatoes from the garden. My husband has his eggs straight-up, and toast with strawberry jalapeño jam. We both drink several cups of coffee, mine with coconut milk.
After breakfast, I run out for groceries and stop by my mother-in-law’s and receive some extra produce from her. I also have a Pepsi Zero. I snack on a peach that afternoon, and chop up several more to have in the fridge for the week. We spend the afternoon on remodeling tasks. For a late lunch, I whip up nachos with some leftover cooked ground beef from the freezer and a can of chili beans. We both have these with cans of sparkling water from last week’s grocery stock-up. Because of the late lunch, I skip dinner when I get involved in more remodeling chores. My husband has chicken tenders, a roll, and a Popsicle at work. Late-night snack is cherry cobbler (gifted from my mother-in-law) and we both try those cookies I got at Walmart.
Sunday: A Smoothie, Eggs, Bacon, and Toast, Garden Veggies and Leftover Cheese and Ham Salad, and Domino’s Pizzas with My In-Laws
For breakfast I whip up a blackberry and peach smoothie. We have wild blackberries growing on the property and I’ve picked a ton! I also have lots of coffee with coconut milk. Jared gets two eggs, bacon, and toast at work for free. I have a relaxing morning, but I do a little more meal prep for the week. I take a package of chicken out of the freezer to defrost (we had beef yesterday), cut herbs from the garden, FIFO items in our pantry, and make iced tea, hard-boiled eggs, and a batch of refrigerator pickles.
My lunch is some cut-up garden veggies and leftover cheese and ham salad on crackers. Later I snack on a granola bar and sparkling water. Jared comes home from work and eats the last of the cherry cobbler. Dinner is pizza from Domino’s for a movie night with my in-laws, along with some fancy paleta-style Popsicles from a shop in town.
Monday: Hard-Boiled Eggs and Peach Slices, Leftover Pizza and a Candy Bar, Thai Basil Chicken, and More Pizza
My breakfast is hard-boiled eggs and peach slices. And coffee. Always coffee. My husband eats a hard-boiled egg and a granola bar. After my morning work session, I marinate the defrosted chicken two different ways.
I eat leftover pizza and have some iced tea. My husband has been out running errands and grabs a PayDay candy bar for lunch, to my chagrin. Later that afternoon I have a granola bar and a Coke Zero. I do much staining of wood trim that afternoon. I munch on a few chips and guac as well.
For a late dinner, I make Thai basil chicken with half the marinated chicken, rice, snow peas, zucchini, and jalapeño and Thai basil from the garden. I cook up the remaining jalapeño-lime chicken for later in the week and throw it in the freezer after it’s cooled. I also fix myself a pineapple blackberry mojito (leftover pineapple core from freezer, blackberries, and mint from the garden) after dinner. My husband has a midnight snack of pizza, chips, and salsa.
Tuesday: More Eggs, Peaches, and Toast; Leftover Ham and Bean Soup, with a Side of Tomato Slices and Pickles; Cheese, Turkey, and Crackers; Granola Bars; and Leftover Thai Basil Chicken
Breakfast for me was coffee, hard-boiled eggs, and sliced peaches. My husband eats strawberry jalapeño jam on toast and a hard-boiled egg. After my morning work session, my lunch consists of a serving of ham and bean soup I had stashed away in the freezer, along with some crackers. I also have tomato slices and refrigerator pickles on the side. I make my husband a Lunchables-style snack with cheese, turkey, crackers, pickles, and jalapeños.
In the afternoon I do a little work for an upcoming theatre project and putter around in the garden. Later I eat a granola bar and drink the free energy drink I got on Saturday. My husband eats a granola bar for lunch. He then runs some errands and takes his little brother out for ice cream. Dinner is leftover Thai basil chicken. My husband has chicken later on when he gets home from work. He also eats a midnight snack of some fancy cheese and crackers we have on hand. I may have stolen a couple. I also want something a little sweet and eat some applesauce with cinnamon sprinkled on top.
Wednesday: Greek Yogurt with Fruit, an Egg and Toast, Leftover Chili, Gumbo, Leftover Chicken, Burger and Fries, and Ice Cream
Today my breakfast is peaches, blackberries, and honey over Greek yogurt. My husband’s is toast and jam, an egg, and a half a grapefruit he finds in the fridge from last week. Lunch, once again, includes tomato slices. They are all turning red this week! I’d forgotten about the leftover chili from the nachos on Saturday. There is enough for a small bowl, and I add a dollop of Greek yogurt, cilantro, green onion, and a little sprinkle of cheese. My husband has a cup of gumbo and bread at work, at no cost. I also eat a granola bar around midmorning and then run some errands after work.
I’m at war with horned caterpillars this week, so I head uptown to look for some kind of repellant. It is so hot out I have a hankering for ice cream, so I pick up a gallon of cookies and cream for later. My dinner is leftover chicken again, and his is a burger and fries at work with his employee discount (about $5). We both eat ice cream for dessert later that evening.
Thursday: An Egg with Sausage and Applesauce, Grapefruit and a Granola Bar, Lunchable-style Lunch, Leftover Ribs, Tomato Sandwiches, and Ice Cream
Today I eat another hard-boiled egg, a frozen sausage patty left over form last week, and some cinnamon applesauce for breakfast. My husband has the other grapefruit half and a granola bar and coffee.
I have a granola bar midmorning and eat my own version of a Lunchable for lunch with string cheese and turkey roll-ups, crackers, pecans, and pickles. Jared stops by to see his mother on the way to work and eats leftover ribs, jalapeño poppers, and mashed potatoes for lunch.
After my morning work session, I do some more gardening and work for a theatre project. I’d planned on cooking chicken tacos for dinner tonight with the chicken I pre-cooked earlier this week, but my husband made homemade bread earlier today, so I can’t resist having my first tomato sandwich with tomatoes from the garden. So. Good. Jared has a sandwich and tortilla chips for dinner after work. We both have bowls of ice cream later in the evening.
Friday: Fried Eggs and PB&J, Turkey Roll-Ups, a Duo of Chicken, Beer, a Cupcake, and Ice Cream
Today I actually cook breakfast again. I ate two fried eggs with diced tomatoes and chives, toast with butter and jam, and coffee. Jared wakes up a bit late for breakfast, so he makes a PB&J on homemade bread.
My lunch is two string cheese sticks rolled in turkey slices, with garden veggies. I also eat a granola bar. Jared eats grilled chicken, broccoli, and green beans at work (for about $6 with his discount). I have to run a few more errands this afternoon, and I stop by Sonic and got a limeade slush. I get Jared a soda.
Before dinner I am feeling peckish, and munch on some chips and guac with a sparkling water. I make chicken tacos with garden pico de gallo and roast corn and zucchini as a side. Dessert is the last lonely peach from the produce stand. When my husband gets home from work he also eats a chicken taco plate. Our big Friday night event was hanging out at my in-laws’ pool. Jared buys some beer and also picks up a cupcake while waiting in the checkout. He also has a little ice cream later. I think his sweet tooth is bigger than mine!