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. :)