Thursday, May 31, 2012

Meal Planning and a Grocery Haul

I love to eat. Obviously. And because I love to eat so much, I need to go into the grocery store with a plan. Specifically: a meal plan. Yes, I'm one of those people who sits down once a week, plots out every dinner for the next seven days, makes a list, and does her shopping. Are you surprised? (If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, then the answer is: probably not.)


Today was the first time I did a serious shopping trip at Whole Foods. I've been in the store a few times since it opened, mostly to grab one or two things or just gawk at all the pretty produce and fancy vegan options. But my cupboard was getting pretty bare and I was tired of eating plain oatmeal for breakfast, so I pulled out my list making supplies and got to work. I generally try to focus on cheap meals because I'm a broke grad student, but today I made an extra effort to be frugal, knowing all the temptations that awaited me at Whole Foods. I was able to stick pretty close to my list, grabbing only a few random items, and my total bill was just about the same as when I shop at Harris Teeter. I thought it would be fun to show y'all what I got, so I took photos before I put everything away.

First up: produce.


A five pound bag of potatoes and a three pound bag of onions (which should last us about three weeks), a container of pre-washed greens, two tomatoes, a bunch of bananas, two green peppers, a container of strawberries, a head of garlic, one shallot, three apples, two limes, one yellow squash, one zucchini, one cucumber, one eggplant, a bag of broccoli, and an avocado. Obviously, I would prefer to buy organic and local all the time, but my budget doesn't really allow that. Thus, I do what I can. I can't remember exactly, but I would guess at least half of this is organic. Also, I'm hoping our garden will start to yield some veggies soon, which means the pile of produce we have to buy will be much smaller.

Next up: frozen foods and pantry items:


Toothpaste and two bars of soap (one is for making my own laundry detergent - I hope to attempt that this weekend), two blocks of tofu, four Kind bars (on sale!), one pound bag of dried chickpeas (which was cheaper than the chickpeas in the bulk section - weird), polenta, a small can of chipotle peppers, a jar of Bombay curry sauce, four Naanwiches (on sale!), a bag of frozen shredded hashbrowns (Nathan eats them every morning), a half gallon of almond milk, two loaves of multi-grain bread, and four bags of bulk items (dried black beans, brown rice, wheat berries, and popcorn). 

(I'll probably need to get a carton of eggs and another almond milk before the week is through, but I was on my scooter and reached the limit of things I could safely carry home.)

Total bill: $89.02


This is on par with what I usually spend, and I have no idea if it's a lot compared to most people or not. Considering we eat almost all our meals at home, this seems reasonable to me. And depending on what kind of non-food items we need, and whether we're out of staples, like rice or beans or popcorn (which was the case this week), our weekly bill might be a little higher or a little lower. 

At any rate, I'm glad to see I spent pretty much the same at Whole Foods as I would anywhere else. The trick is to stock up on sale items, buy produce that's in season (and thus cheaper), and take advantage of the bulk foods section. Oh, and keep watering your garden. :)

18 comments:

  1. A proper Whole Foods grocery shop for less than $100?! You might be my hero.

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  2. I love getting a peak into what people buy at stores...especially yours because it is almost a mirror of ours. That's pretty much on par with our bill too. It breaks down to not much money per person/per meal.
    We do almost all of our grocery shopping at Whole Foods. While some stuff is can be more expensive, we've found the quality of produce to be a lot better than other stores so it's worth the extra money.
    It's weird what is cheaper in bulk vs. not. Some of the nuts we buy are a lot cheaper in the prepackaged bags.

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    1. I love the produce at Whole Foods! They had five kinds of sweet potatoes. FIVE KINDS!

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  3. Oh my gosh. You are my idol. I always have the best of meal planning intentions but end up making excuses and getting derailed and throwing out $100s worth of produce. To see that a) there are people who meal plan and STICK TO IT and b) have grocery bills of under $100 is so motivating and it gives me hope! Thanks for this.

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    1. I can't shop without a plan and a list. When I try, it's a disaster! Plus, if I have to figure out what to make for dinner when I'm already hungry, I can't focus and we end up going out for pizza. Which is delicious, but expensive!

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  4. That's about what we spend too. I don't know about you guys, but any leaner ($$) and it seems like not enough food and any more and we end up wasting or not getting through it before it goes bad. You definitely prove that you can eat well for reasonable $$, and at Whole Foods no less!

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    1. Same here. I hate getting to the end of the week and running out of things to eat. It happens, especially when I try to be extra thrifty, which means we make extra trips to the store, which means we spend even MORE money.

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  5. For shopping at Whole Foods I say you did very good! I applaud how much produce I see there :O), you got a lot of nutrition in that group of food :O). I am a runner as well, vegetarian. Read your profile, we are in East Texas. Though we are older than you guys. :O) It took us a while to get the farm :O), you will get there :O).

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    1. I used to live in East Texas, up until last August, when we moved from Nacogdoches to North Carolina. We're working towards that farm, slowly but surely. Your farm looks amazing!

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  6. You did a great job. That is a low price for all that at Whole foods. If you can get any of the same things at Trader Joe's, try then since they have the lowest prices anywhere. Also if not organic, you do not know if it is GMO. Anything with a Trader Joe's label is not GMO.

    To get the most for the least, you can buy organic potatoes (conventional is sprayed with a huge amount of pesticide), brown rice and get the beans in the bulk section. The organic beans in bulk are $2 a pound but make over 2 pounds of beans. At Trader Joe's they have a 5 pound bag of organic red potatoes for under $5. Whole Foods has the best foods, but they cost the most. Whole Foods has no spaghetti sauce without salt but Trader Joe's does.

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    1. Thanks Chuck! We don't have a Trader Joe's currently, but rumor has it one is being built in town. Fingers crossed!

      I always get dried beans. So much cheaper than the canned variety, and less waste, too!

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  7. I would say that bill is on the low side, so kudos to you! We usually spend over 100 per week at Kroger

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  8. Oof, I envy your organization! I can cook by the seat of my pants (leftovers ahoy!), but it's harder for me to stick to a day-by-day meal plan.

    As for your bill's total, that seems like an excellent amount for two people! I budget $75/week for me for groceries/wine/eating out/personal care, but these days I'm having a hard time sticking to it. I'm not a grad student any more, but my budget is basically the one I've been living on since my grad school days. It may be time to reconsider the numbers.

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  9. For two people, that's pretty good! My budget for myself and my boyfriend is $75/week but we don't by organic. Since a lot of that stuff was organic AND you shop at Whole Foods, I'd definitely say that's a huge accomplishment :) Good job! I always meal plan and do out my shopping lists. It's my favorite part of the week, haha!

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  10. I'm excited to learn how you make homemade laundry detergent. I bet it's a lot cheaper than store-bought detergent...

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    1. I'm glad you're interested! I hope to post it later this week. :)

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  11. I like to have a list of what to buy. i like to plan out meals and then write down the ingredients. My husband likes to impromptu go to the store and never have a list. W/o a list we buy no meal food or we buy 9/10 of what we need for meals. It never works.

    This post reminded me of my brother's blog http://grocerychopin.blogspot.com/ He posts all the time about what he buys and the prices.

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