Now that I’ve shown you my strategies for frugal grocery shopping, here’s a breakdown of this week’s menu and costs. If you’d like to specific instructions on how to accomplish fine-dining on a budget, visit these posts:

Menu Planning
This week’s menu is a little light because we weren’t home for two nights, so I’m actually including this week’s and last week’s menus so you can see how we really eat:

Sunday: Homemade pork sausage with fennel and onion, fried polenta with rosemary and onion, fresh mozzarella, and a walnut/gorgonzola salad
Monday: Rice penne with homemade marinara, chevre, and a feta/olive salad
Tuesday: Chicken fried rice with cashews, homemade potstickers, and a mandarin orange/candied almond salad
Wednesday: Crusted salmon with wild rice and a cranberry/pecan salad
Thursday: Chicken piccata with roasted red potatoes and a walnut/gorgonzola salad
Friday: Homemade fish and chips (cod with a rice flour batter), garden salad
Saturday: Roasted chicken, red potato salad with mascarpone, feta/olive salad.

Sunday: Leftover chicken, roasted red potatoes, caprese salad
Monday: Pan-fried sole with lemon juice and almonds, brown rice with currants and pine nuts, walnut/gorgonzola salad
Tuesday: Chicken lo mein, homemade potstickers, mandarin salad
Wednesday: Turkey sausage, yellow rice, black beans, fresh corn on the cob
Thursday: Both out for work functions
Friday: Pan-fried salmon with lemon juice, wild rice, feta/olive salad
Saturday: out of town

Breakfast for me is a fruit shake, for him a bagel and a banana.

Lunch for him is either a ham and cheese sub sandwich with onions, pickles, and green bell pepper, a tuna sub, or something he buys at work. He has fruit and a soda from work with his sandwich.

Lunch for me is either turkey, cheddar, and lettuce on a corn tortilla, tuna and lettuce on a corn tortilla, or peanut butter on rice cakes. I always have 1/8 oz. of chips, cut carrots, and a small piece of chocolate, too.

He doesn’t snack during the day. My snacks are Irish oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins, yogurt with cinnamon and flax seed, almonds, and fruit.

My dessert every night is one homemade chocolate chip cookie. He doesn’t usually have dessert.

grocery list

With the menu made, I make the grocery list. I organize it into three blocks: one block of farmer’s market purchases, one block of Trader Joe’s purchases, one block of Ralph’s purchases. Then I go online to look for coupons and check my coupon stash for the Ralph’s segment. On the list below, TJ is on the right, the market is on the left, and Ralph’s is on the bottom. On each stop, I mark out what I find. If I don’t find what I need at one stop I look for a substitute or look for at the next stop. This week, I wanted snapper, but I substituted sole when I got the store. Trader Joe’s fish is flash frozen, so it’s nearly as good as fresh fish.

Shopping Day
I head out around 8:30 Sunday morning to get a jump on the farmer’s market before it gets crowded. It takes 45- minutes to an hour. Then I head to Trader Joe’s, which takes 20-30 minutes, then finally I spend 15-20 minutes at Ralph’s.

Farmer’s Market

Farmer’s Market finds
My first stop is the farmer’s market. This week I spent $15.80 for all this:

  • bagels
  • romaine lettuce
  • red lettuce
  • red potatoes
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • red pepper
  • green pepper
  • tomatoes
  • corn
  • mango nectarines

Trader Joe’s

trader joe’s

The second stop is Trader Joe’s. This week I spent $51.62 for all this:

  • flax seed
  • wine
  • yogurt
  • frozen salmon
  • frozen sole
  • slivered almonds
  • chocolate chips
  • bananas
  • rice cakes
  • gorgonzola cheese
  • chopped walnuts
  • vitamins

Without the vitamins, which I buy quarterly, it would have been $8 less.

Ralph’s
Ralph’s

The last stop is Ralph’s. This week I spent $19.03. I couldn’t use any coupons, but saved a whopping 29 cents with my club card. I got:

  • brown rice
  • 1/4 pound Boar’s Head ham
  • 1/4 pound Boar’s Head turkey
  • turkey sausage
  • rolls
  • yellow rice
  • mandarin oranges

You won’t see some of the items listed on the menu because I already had them on hand. The caprese salad was designed to use up the mozzarella from the previous week. I keep frozen, pre-cooked beans in the freezer. I also buy chicken breasts pre-frozen in bulk.

My total for the week was: $86.45. Some people would think this is high for just two people, but given our menu and my food allergies, it seems very reasonable. A year ago, we spent closer to $100-$120 a week, but my new farmer’s market and Trader Joe’s strategy provides a big savings. As a comparison, I spent $25 a week when I lived alone and ate gluten. He spent about the same. Food costs have risen since then, so without my allergies, we’d spend about $60 a week.

Comments

2 Responses to “Eat Well for Less: An Example”

  1. maggy simony on October 24th, 2008 7:40 am

    I enjoyed an article that for once is about eating well and saving money. Your menus sound like mine.

    However, I don’t shop as well as you do and DO waste money often. Here’s what I’m going to do to save in this dreadful time. I’m 88, living alone.

    On the other hand I am more frugal than you on some things. Never buy household cleaning stuff and paper at the market–much better at a dollar store. Ditto nuts and vitamins — I find them cheaper at a health food store, but perhaps it may be because mine is a coop health food store.

    Here’s changes I’m going to make

    1. Only shop for groceries with cash.

    2. Volunteer at the Sunseed Health Food Store 4 hours a month — gives me additional to sr. discount another 10%

    3. Eat eggs/cheese for dinner one night a week — which means: 2 fish, 2 chicken, 1 port, 1 beef, 1 eggs and/or cheese.

    4. I am in the process of buying NOTHING but dairy replacements and fresh broccoli (have to have that 3 times a week) until I’ve cleaned out my freezer and pantry of each category of food there. NO THROWING OUT TO GET RID OF IT (rule for myself).

    You’re more of a salad person than me, although I love a good salad now and then. Do you know I finally figured it out, at 88 I’m sick and tired of CHEWING! But I steam at least 3 veggies every night, and spray with Smart Balance because(1) it’s good for me and (2) even Cook’s Illustrated PBS food program said in their blindfold test, people couldn’t tell the difference between it and butter. It is one of few health foods that does taste good.

    When I’m on good behavior and doing what I plan, I fix (after shopping) seven sandwich bags of washed salad makings, and seven of the vegetables for steaming. Then I’m more likely to have a salad for lunch than a sandwich with carrot and celery sticks (I’m home of course) and steamed for dinner.

    I like to substite a great coarse Italian bread or rye for potatoes/rice/pasta — less calories. A thin open steak sandwich from a divided up NY cut steak, is one of my favorites, with sauteed onion. I make it “Diane” with mustard, etc. So good!! For one old lady, I can get three delicious meals out of one such steak. Two sandwich meals and one stir fry.

    Just discovered another economy — Hillshire sausage. Makes a great meal steamed with sauerkraut (Hungarian style I stir in sour cream to the kraut when done), a boiled red potato and whatever vegetable. But then can also be sliced and packed and used as a coldcut sandwich on rye bread. Much cheaper than buying bologna, etc. at the deli counter. I LOVE greatbread sandwiches. I love meat, but I don’t need a lot to be happy — 3-6 ounces is PLENTY, depending on what it is.

    I do splurge on fresh parsley and eating fresh rather than frozen veggies. I never eat canned vegetables. Ditto herbs, and walnuts and such. I love to eat, and love to cook for myself.

    There is a farm a good half hour ride from me that is offering organic meat and stuff, and this year, once I’ve cleaned out my freezer, I’m going to see if I can’t buy from them, packaged in single portions — or at least small portions, enough for say, a month at a time.Or if they will cut it up and I’ll package and freeze it for myself.

    maggy

  2. Aryn on October 24th, 2008 4:48 pm

    You’ve got some great ideas there, Maggy. I don’t blame you for not wanting to chew anymore. :) You’ve spent a pretty long life chewing already.

    I’ll bet that farm will be willing to give you a great deal on their meat. Many people are doing that these days.

    If I did my math right, you were around for the Great Depression. Do you remember any good food tips from then that you can share?

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