Based on an incredibly professional survey of my lady friends, they spend about $250 a week on groceries and eat out for lunch. For most of them, this was taking into account a $200 weekend grocery stock-up and a $50 midweek replenish. A large portion of the grocery bill is unnecessary snacks. They just seem to disappear as the week goes on. I also think that mindless grazing is how we get fat. We think of ourselves as strict dieters and clean eaters because we forget about the hand full of this or that.
My solution is divvying up portions for my family when I get home from grocery shopping on the weekend. People say, “Oh, that’s so disciplined. I can’t do that.” first, I simply cannot afford for my family to plough through food. I’m a public school teacher and my paltry income is published for all to see. Second, I work out in the mornings and have no time to put lunches together before school. Third, if I have food sitting unaccounted for, I will shove it all in my mouth. If it is gathered into a lunch, it mentally isn’t an option for me. If I have no options, I feel no hunger or cravings.
Here is the weekly grocery shopping list for my family:
3 paper towels
household need of the week (soap, Windex, or detergent)
5 small cans of tuna
dozen eggs to boil
$4 tray of giant chicken breasts with skin will last us 2 dinners
$3+ tray of pounded chicken breasts
$3+ bratwurst tray X2
$5 tray of boneless pork rib meat
6 bags of pre-made salads (This is where I am lazy)
1 bag of julienned broccoli
5 packets of unsweetened almond butter for my daughter
5 kind bars for my daughter
5 packets of lower calorie almond butter for me OR 5 pods of Almond milk
5 packs of carrot sticks
1 box spicy tea
2 packs of cheese sticks (manchego and cheddar)
5 tiny bags of Spanish peanuts for my daughter’s lunch
25 slices of uncured salami that I divvy into 5 bags of 5 for daughter’s lunch
bag of apples
bag of frozen peas
2 tubs of cut celery (me being lazy again)
box of sparkling water
Granted, I use salt, spices, oil, and aluminum foil to cook with and sometimes have to buy bodily maintenance stuff. With one or two of those items added in, we are at about $100. If people are coming over for dinner, it will go up to $120, $150 depending on the wine.
When I bring home the load of groceries, I get to washing the apples and boiling the eggs.
Then, I set aside five lunches for my daughter consisting of the following:
5 slices salami
1 kind bar
1 pack baby carrots
1 bag of peanuts (Not sure of amount. Costs about .40 cents on the bulk aisle)
1 tiny packet of almond butter
refillable water bottle
If she wanted more food, I would buy it for her. This is all she brings to school for morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack.
As I said before, all of my daughter’s food is put in separate bags. If I purchased a can of peanuts that I planned to put in her lunch every day, I would clear through the can in a mindless, post-work graze. I can’t physically or financially afford that. If it is divvied up and put in her area under the counter, I won’t touch it.
I also set aside five lunches and snacks for myself. My workplace is loud, hectic, stressful, unsanitary, and generally unappetizing, especially if I have lunch duty. Also, I really don’t have the access to or opportunity to eat additional foods that I didn’t bring. Therefore, it is very easy to watch what I eat during the school year.
Here’s what I bring to work:
2 boiled eggs pre-peeled
1 cup of julienned broccoli with spices and 1/2 tblsp of avocado mayo ready to go
1 small can of tuna
2 HEB sparkling waters (necessary for tuna breath)
6 small celery sticks
1 packet of almond butter or 1 pod of almond milk
Before school, I just have a giant mug of steamed almond milk and Nespresso. My daughter has tea. Neither of us want to eat in the morning; so, we don’t. It seems natural.
When I’m done with a day of teaching and about to set out on a night of sedentary grading (that’s what I make the big bucks for), I have another mug of steamed almond milk and 1/2 caff Nespresso. At the same time, my daughter microwaves herself some peas.
About that, I did not advise my daughter to have peas. I have no recollection where or when this pea thing came into her life. But, it is her preferred food at all times. For about a year, maybe a year and a half, my daughter will heat up some peas to watch Saturday morning cartoons and peas when she gets home from school. If she has cleared through them, then she just goes snackless. I know, I know. Peas are a legume. At least she isn’t eating Takis and Hot Pockets like the rest of the world.
I understand that I only have one child and she doesn’t ask for much, but I don’t believe excessive snacking by anyone in the house should be allowed to drive up the grocery bill. Yes, we get a little hungry; but, we aren’t going to die. Being a little hungry is normal, even possibly good for us.
Think of our parents and grandparents’ generations. My grandparents lived through the Great Depression. My parents were born during the rations of WWII. After school snacking was out of the question. Food was assembled and cooked, not easily had from a box or drive-thru. It is understandable that our parents wanted us to never do without. So, my sister and I would ride our bikes home from school, open up a fresh box of fat-free Triscuits and clear through them while “doing our homework” in front of Oprah and Jerry Springer. As soon as Mom came home from work, she would begin preparations for a huge multi-part meal, never bothering us about the snacks she knew we just ate and had to buy more of. She’s amazing and just wants us to be happy.
Growing up with the snack hose always on, my generation struggles with how to feed ourselves and our children. I was never truly hungry, and a sugar crash doesn’t count. Hunger is normal and it is fine for a child to be a little hungry, even very hungry. I would even argue that it is a hormetic stress that benefits us. But, I’m an English teacher. What do I know?
I do need to get off my high horse a little bit here. We usually eat out for lunch on Saturday and Sunday. That’s typically $40 each. Further, my husband buys a salad and drink every day. He also grazes on free almonds that his company stocks in the break room. So, The $100 thing doesn’t include that guy.
It is possibly to bring down that grocery bill. In fact, I would argue that the lack of variety and quantity in our food allows us to focus elsewhere. Further, it makes the times that we eat out even that much more fun.
I’ll leave you with a summary of my strategy:
- Pre-plan what nights you will be home to eat and if either adult has an evening meeting causing them to miss the family dinner.
- Buy one meat and one salad for each night that the family will be eating home together. For us, that is usually every night. Prepackaged salads are shockingly expensive, but for me they cut down on waste.
- Clean produce as soon as you get home from the store and divide it into days.
- Gather five lunches for each person and put in separate bags.
- Your goal should be to have an empty fridge by Friday or Saturday night.
I hope this helps. For me, this saves money and time in the mornings.