Eat Well for Less: An Example

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.


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

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


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.


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.

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