Every Other Week Shopping Guide

>> Tuesday, February 12, 2013

When I go grocery shopping for two weeks, I focus on basic staples that can be turned into a variety of dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (I was hoping to just take a snapshot of our latest receipt, but I can't find it!)

I've discovered a lot. For example, oats can be used in almost everything.

Here's a sample shopping list.

  • 10 pounds potatoes 
  • 8 pounds apples
  • 5 pounds carrots
  • 2 bulbs garlic
  • Bag cooking onions
  • 4 broccoli heads
  • 2 containers tofu
  • 2-pack almond milk
  • 2 containers veggie broth
  • Large container rolled oats (42 ounces)
  • Bag of bread flour
  • 2 containers (32 ounce) plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 large cans (28 ounce) whole tomatoes 
  • 2 large cans (28 ounce) kidney beans
  • 2 regular cans chickpeas
  • Large bag of frozen peas
  • 2 bags shredded mozzarella
  • 2 small cans tomato paste
  • Large carton (18) eggs
  • Large box of Kix cereal (treat for all of us!)
  • Bag of chocolate chips for cookie-making!

With this type of list, the total generally comes in around $80, leaving me $30 for the following week's haul if we're sticking to a $60 budget. As I mentioned in my last post, we have $100/week total for groceries AND entertainment, so sometimes we spend it all on food, other times not. It's just good to flex it that way. Generally we are able to stay within around $65 a week average for food.

I look at meal-planning in a two-week stretch. The meals are repetitive, but don't necessarily need to be. It's just easier that way when getting used to buying large quantities of the same ingredients.

Here's what we are eating this week and likely next.


  • Muffins for breakfasts -- latest recipe tomorrow
  • Egg + 1/2 banana for Ada's breakfast everyday
  • Ashley + Stephen eats eggs w/muffins or oatmeal + banana
  • Sourdough bread or other loaf of bread, sometimes 2 loaves
  • Applesauce, lasts the whole week for a side-dish/baby food
  • Tahini-free hummus (just chickpeas pureed with water and lemon juice + salt/pepper)
  • Crock pot veggie soup, lunches Monday through Thursday
  • Ada eats veggies strained out of the soup w/ applesauce + cheese or tofu
  • Dinner leftovers to accompany lunch
  • Stephen gets a sandwich with a coworker one day a week for lunch
  • On that day, Ashley picks at what we can find in the fridge

  • Veggie burgers + oven-baked fries + 5-minute naan for "buns" -- 2 nights
  • Breakfast for dinner night (eggs + potatoes + side veggie)
  • Tofu Stir-Fry Dinner w/ Broccoli + Onions + Rice
  • Pizza Thursday -- we started making our own, we have lots of recipes, saves like $15
  • Ada eats beans, tofu, peas, bits of our dinner, etc.
  • Misc. Night for dinner depending on leftover ingredients.
  • We usually make a special dinner or go out one night a week
  • I also make dessert 2-3x/week. A half dozen cookies, usually -- I have been using olive oil lately versus Earth Balance

I do most of the meal prepping on Sunday afternoon for week 1 and will do the same for week 2. It's fun to watch a gigantic bag of potatoes get used up with each and every recipe. Almost like a challenge to see just how many ways I can use them.


// Stock up on items that don't go bad in a week's time.

Broccoli is hearty, green peppers are, too, and both last the full two weeks. On the other hand, squash can be iffy and go limp. Carrots are robust for longer than two weeks typically. Mushrooms -- not on your life. It's all experimentation.

// Have a plan for what you buy. 

I can't stress enough the importance of meal planning. Once you get more used to it, you just know in your head what meals work + what foods you'll need to make them. But until it becomes second nature -- write it out on a piece of paper and write you list from it.Try to choose meals that utilize the same ingredients, like how we have potatoes for fries AND put them in our veggie stew AND use them for a side on breakfast-for-dinner night.

// Invest in a good spice collection.

I don't know what we'd do without our spices. They can make two completely same meals taste entirely different. Our favorites are curry powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, thyme, dill, fenugreek, rosemary, and -- oh, who am I kidding? -- we like them all!

// Consider making your own bread. 

Sometimes I joke with Stephen that I feel like we have to mill our own grain for everything we eat. We make virtually everything from scratch, which sounds exhausting and possibly insane -- but it really pays off for us. Plus, it doesn't take nearly as long as it sounds. We have a basic 5-minute naan recipe that we use to make bread to accompany meals on-demand, and this way there isn't any waste -- moldy bread -- at the end of the week.

// Keep it in sight. 

The tendency I have with buying things in larger quantities is to put them in the back of the cupboard. Forget they are there. I have done it more times than I'd like to admit, even when I have had the best intentions. It can be helpful to write out a pantry list somewhere in your kitchen and cross off items as they dwindle -- because you'll also see what you still have!

// Freeze meals ahead. 

If you're worried something won't keep, make it into a soup or other meal you can freeze and reheat the next week or more into the future. I also think freezing might help us save even more money AND time -- because shopping every three weeks or even monthly for the big stuff could then be possible. This is something I'm currently working on and hope to write more about soon. We love our upright freezer. One of the best purchases we've made.

// Learn how to substitute ingredients.

This tip can be handy if you have more of something left over than you thought you would. In muffins, you can use applesauce in place of eggs or oil, for example. You can also swap ingredients out of veggie burgers like crazy to fit your taste and available ingredients. I will try to write a post specifically on swapping sometime soon. It's one of the most useful skills you can develop in the kitchen. An easy way to start is stick with similar ingredients (garbanzos for canelli beans) in similar rations.

// If you have babies + toddlers, skip the kid-specific stuff.

We got roped into buying the special yogurts and snacks for a while, but we have resisted since the beginning of the new year. IT IS SO EXPENSIVE! Ada eats what we eat generally, though I do try to make some meals more kid-friendly and appealing to her. And while we occasionally keep around a few packets of baby food, we are considering buying reusable pouches to fill with our own purees when we're out and about.

A couple of you have asked us about our organics-buying policy. We actually covered it on Writing Chapter Three around this time last year. Here's that series of posts:

Buying Organic: Weighing the Costs
Organic Grocery Haul: $112.72
Organics: Responding to Reader Comments
Organics: Moving Forward

If you have any other questions or suggestions, let me know! I also wanted to share a few things from the comments section in the last post.

  • Allison shared: Why You Should Shop with a Cart, Not a Basket
  • Kristina suggested "to boost frugalness, make stock instead of buying it. I usually make mine out of trimmings-- a few weeks' worth of saved carrot peels, potato skins, parsley stems, celery leaves (I save them in the freezer) plus leek greens or an onion or two, a teaspoon of peppercorns, some thyme and a bay leaf. Fill up your biggest pot with water, throw everything in, and simmer gently for about an hour. Then strain and freeze. It's essentially free this way, which is awesome."
  • Shannan shared: "I usually make a big list of meal options and then make a grocery list of what we need in order to make those meals. That way, when we get home from work, we don't have to try and think of something to make. I pull out the list and we decide what to eat from there!"
  • Kim added: "Usually the second week becomes a clean out the fridge, freezer and pantry week. I make a few big meals that I can freeze like pasta fagoli. Pasta is so cheap that is makes for good fill in meals. I also keep baked cookies and breakfast foods in the fridge and freezer all the time so we aren't tempted to buy many snacks."

Thanks as always for all your tips + tricks!


Shop for TWO Weeks
Ongoing Grocery Saga + YOUR Tips
How Low can we Go?
$60 Sweet Spot
Eating Well Need Not Cost a Fortune
Grocery Bills: Progress
Grocery Bills: Even More Progress
Grocery Bills: What's Up Now?
Slashing Grocery Bills: We're Going Strong
Grocery Bills: Major Fail!
How to Store Bulk Foods
Cooking and Baking on a Budget: How To
How to Bake It Vegan: Common Substitutions

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