Reader Food Diary: Eileen’s Food + Spend

This post is by blog team member, Eileen, and is part of our Reader Diaries Series. To learn more about Eileen, check out our team page!


Hi there, I’m Eileen and I’ve been part of the 100 Days of Real Food team since September. When Lisa first proposed the idea of a Reader Diary, it made me think maybe I should take stock of my own daily food intake, and she was on board with me being the first entry to help kick off this new series!

It’s a new year, and I’m trying to be more mindful with many aspects of my life: quality family time, screen time, exercise, meditation and, of course, healthy eating. My goals through this process are to introduce new recipes to the family, send my husband with yummy leftovers so he’s less tempted to eat out for lunch, and to set a good example for my two children (12 and 7).

Reader Diaries Contest

As Lisa mentioned in her last “A Week with the Leake’s” post, we also want to hear what you’re eating at your house! Inspired by a “Cash Confessional” series on a website here in Charlotte, she thought it’d be fun to ask you to share not only what you are eating but how much you are spending on food for your family. We are still accepting entries and would love to hear from you!

All you have to do is submit what food you ate and purchased for one week and, if you are chosen to be featured, we’ll send you $50 to spend on groceries plus two signed 100 Days of Real Food cookbooks (one of each).

View the entry form here

Day 1

Our fridge was practically bare starting this 7-day project off, so my shopping cart was pretty much overflowing. A friend (who shall remain nameless) roped me into trying Whole30 for the month of January. I’ll be avoiding sugar, grains, dairy and legumes for the month. I purchased a lot more produce than I usually do, and a lot more meat (again, hoping to double meals and have plenty of leftovers). Which means I spent more than I typically do.

Groceries for the week (family of four): $ 294.40

Breakfast: My typical breakfast usually consists of 2-3 cups of coffee and some fresh fruit with yogurt (but I’m skipping dairy right now!). I don’t like eggs, so that is a big challenge with my breakfast options. The whole family was home so I prepared a batch of homemade sausage patties and shredded sweet potato hash browns.

Sweet Potato Hashbrowns and sausage

Lunch: We had a very “snacky” lunch on this day. I threw together an appetizer platter of mixed cheeses, grapes, sliced pears, almonds, salami, crackers, sliced carrots and cucumbers.

Dinner: Dinner was slow-cooked pork with roasted vegetables. The house smelled good all day!

Treat: Our treat for the night was an apple dessert. I peeled and diced a handful of apples, mixed with some coconut oil, cinnamon and nutmeg, then microwaved for a few minutes. Easy and delicious.

Cinnamon apples

Day 2

Breakfast: A bowl of fresh pineapple, a few slices of bacon, and I also heated up those leftover sweet potato hash browns (yummy!) with black coffee – probably 3 cups.

Lunch (pictured below): Chicken thighs and bacon over mixed greens with sliced carrots, avocado and apple. During the day I tend to drink water with lemon, or seltzer with a splash of my favorite Peach White Balsamic Vinegar. It sounds strange at first, but it really jazzes up the water and makes me look forward to drinking glass after glass.

Snack: Sliced apples with some almond butter.

Dinner: More of the slow roasted pork from last night and I roasted some Brussel sprouts.

chicken bacon salad

Day 3

Breakfast: I had an early morning doctor appointment so I had 1 cup of coffee, ate a small banana and took an RxBar on the road with me to eat on the way.

RXBar and banana
Lunch: I grilled a chicken breast and put it on a big bed of mixed greens and cucumbers with some balsamic vinaigrette. Since I typically work from home M-F, I have the ability to make my own lunches and not be tempted to eat out.

Grilled chicken salad
Snack: Herbal tea and a pear.

herbal tea and pear
Dinner: A new recipe: Beefy Ratatouille. This had a lot of vegetables in it so I was worried that my kids would balk, but the family really liked it!

Ratatouille on the stove
Treat: The family requested cinnamon apples again!

Day 4

Breakfast: Decided to make a smoothie for breakfast today. Banana, almond milk and 2 tablespoons of almond butter. YUM!

smoothie
Mid-Morning Snack: A handful of almonds and dried apple chips.

Lunch: I had leftover ratatouille. Even better next day.

leftover ratatouille

Snack: Tea and a bowl of grapes.

Dinner: This was a clean-out-the-fridge night. We each had either leftover pork, ratatouille or chicken with steamed broccoli.

Day 5

Fridays are a busy day for me, so it was great to prep dinner early.

Breakfast: Coffee, pineapple and an RxBar.

Lunch: Grilled chicken with cucumber and greens (again).

Snack: Sliced pear and 100 calorie pack of almonds.

Dinner: I roasted a whole chicken in my slow cooker today. Served with roasted Brussels sprouts and bacon.

coffee, pineapple and RxBar

Day 6

Breakfast: Coffee and sliced mango.

Lunch: Using Lisa’s tips, I used the leftovers from last night’s chicken roaster to make chicken stock overnight. For lunch, I added carrots and celery and a few pieces of leftover chicken for a delicious soup.

Snack: Smoothie (banana, almond milk and almond butter)

Dinner (pictured below): Slow-cooked chicken with artichokes and lemon. We’ve had something similar before, but I’ve never tried it in the slow-cooker.

We were low on milk (my kids drink a lot of it), so back to the grocery store. I had a small list, but since my kids were with me, I ended up with more in my cart than I planned.

Groceries: $70.11 Those darn impulse purchases!

Treat: The family requested stewed apples again. Good thing I bought more at the store today.

chicken and lemon in slowcooker

Day 7

Breakfast: Homemade roasted potatoes, blueberries and grapes.

Snack: Smoothie with blueberries and almond milk.

Lunch: Grilled some chicken sausage, over mixed greens with cucumbers.chicken sausage salad
Dinner: Taco salad with avocado, orange pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, bacon, salsa and ground beef sautéed with onions and taco seasoning, over greens. taco salad

After dinner snack: Tea

Reader Diary: Final Thoughts

For the week, I spent $364.51 on groceries for my family of four.

It’s been a long time since I sat down and looked closely at my grocery receipts, so seeing this total number for the week was a shocker. I’m going to keep monitoring it over the next few weeks to see if this is the norm, or truly the result of restocking my fairly empty fridge. That being said, we tried a few new recipes this week that were a success – and, as a result, I have new meals to work into the regular rotation! My husband was thrilled to have ready-to-go leftover lunches, which made eating out less tempting. By the end of the week, my 12-year-old was making the cinnamon apple dessert all on her own for the whole family, which I think is a win-win!

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29 thoughts on “Reader Food Diary: Eileen’s Food + Spend”

  1. Hi Eileen,

    Thank you so much for sharing. I really enjoyed reading your article and am impressed with all the fruits and veggies you ate!

    I do have a quick question. I am a Registered Dietitian, and I typically think of sausage and bacon as ‘processed,’ not necessarily real food. Out of your curiosity, what is your take on this?

  2. Thanks for for the honest look at how much you spend. I get so frustrated when people post tiny grocery budgets and then manage organic on top of it. It was nice to see visuals of what your family ate. I too would love to see grocery costs compared between regions of the country, perhaps winter vs. summer as well. My summer garden/local farmers market definitely helps keep produce costs down.

  3. I am “learning” how to eat better. I now use a Zero Water pitcher instead of buying water that helps my $49.0 a month food budget. I really need help on using that amount to get food so I can be free of junk and pain in my body.

  4. Today I tried the apple dessert. It was so easy to prepare and so delicious. I added some raisins. The kids absolutely loved it and were totally convinced, that I had added sugar (but of course I had not).

  5. I eat Whole30 (actually AIP) 100% of the time, and my family eats mostly Whole30 style almost all of the time. We started about a year ago. In that time, my grocery budget had to double, and I don’t even buy much organic. By removing grains and dairy (which are subsidized by the government) and replacing those with healthy fats and vegetables, we are much healthier, but our wallets are much lighter.

  6. That PB rxBar is not Whole 30 :) my husband and I are also doing a Whole 30 right now. We are on day 11, and I will say we have already blew through our entire months budget of food and I still have 20 more days left of the month. Thanks for the post so that I know I am not alone spending a ton of money on food!

    1. Eileen Schlesier

      Hello Stacie! Well you can tell I’m a Whole30 novice, because I totally ate peanuts in that RxBar! Thankfully a friend suggested I buy a multi-pack to try the different flavors out and I had others to choose from for the rest of the week!

  7. I’m always shocked when I see how much people spend at the store! I felt rich when our grocery budget went up to $150 a week for a family of five. I cook/pack 3 meals a day, 7 days a week. I make everthing from scratch and use organic as I can.

    1. I am very curious where you live to buy organic for such a small budget. We are a family of 6 and we can cut right down to bare bones, price match (and use coupons), only the cheapest item at the store, use meat sparingly (mostly beans, lentils and eggs for protein around here) and only buy certain items organic and we could never be near $150 a week. We also make everything from scratch and batch cook with sale items to freeze for meals later in the month. It’s a stressful point for me (obviously!) because I see others feeding their families healthful foods for so much less and I know the cost of living is higher where we live but I just have a hard time believing that’s the only factor. Is there some big secret I am missing?! We meal plan, cook from scratch, don’t buy pricey ingredients, buy on sale etc. Share the knowledge :).

      Maybe 100 days of real food could do a comparison of grocery budgets (with pictures) from different places in North America to see what our money is really buying us? Would love some real food comparisons!!

      1. Hi! I shop at Aldi’s and buy most all organic produce there. We are a family of 5 with 2 vegetarians and 1 pescetarian. We spend about $175 a week. It’s Aldi’s I’m telling ya!! I spend more like $250 at our other grocery store.

      2. Do you have access to an Aldi? I was resistant to shopping there, but I’m so glad I finally have them a chance. We also make everything from scratch, and I can get most things there. I shop every two weeks and average 250 per trip.

        1. Eileen Schlesier

          We also had a new Aldi competitor open near us called LIDL (pronounced lee-dil). It also has a good selection of organic items as well as bulk nuts.

      3. We live in Oklahoma which is a low cost of living area. I go grocery shopping biweekly mostly at Aldi. Our meat comes from a local family butcher shop, its less than $5 a pound when purchasing half a cow. We are not 100% organic but I would say 30-45% organic.

      4. Our family has two adults and a toddler and our budget is $180-200 per month on all real food that is not organic and not accounting for our milk and cheese. In addition to using meat extremely sparingly, I also save by buying fresh produce (especially vegetables,) and skipping the packaged goods. Not only does this help us eliminate processed foods and eat healthier, but it saves tons of money. Practically, I do a once-a-month Aldi trip for my packaged and most pantry items including some canned and frozen produce for around $80-$100. That leaves $20-25/week for produce and on-sale meats (not organic). When we lived in a city with ethnic grocery stores we could get cheaper produce and meats. Now we live in a small country town with one pricey grocery store and I have to meal plan after I shop, purchasing only the most affordable produce of the week. It helps tremendously to use vegetarian recipes, so I’ve learned to make a lot of Indian-style vegetable curries, sometimes heavily spiced and sometimes only adding turmeric and salt. I’m learning to season with spices instead of meat and I often use plain homemade yogurt to add creaminess and fat.

        1. One more thing…we only buy coffee grounds and milk; buying beverages adds cost quickly. We enjoy other beverages only occasionally.

      5. Thank you, everyone, for the great comments! We unfortunately don’t have an aldi or lidl around us. I miss having those stores available as we shopped there and at the market regularly when we lived in Europe. We’re in Montreal now and the market is consistently higher priced than the store and the discount places have very low quality. We’ve found some larger stores that will price match discount store prices which saves a few dollars. We’ve known some families who drive over the border to shop groceries every two weeks and they found it cheaper even with paying fuel, exchange and border fees. Maybe we’ll have to try it out :). If you ever want a grocery snap shot from Canada, I’m happy to help!

      6. oh and just to clarify, i was mentioning this in response to the awesome price point that Katie Wise is able to hit per week with her family. I am usually around the same point as the author.

    2. Eileen Schlesier

      For me (even with a marketing background), I tend to get enticed to purchase when I see a sign that says Buy 2 Get 3 FREE (especially if I can freeze some of those items). What I failed to mention in my blog is that my husband saved approx. $70 during a 5 day work week by bringing leftovers and not eating breakfast/lunch out.

      Another way to combat my impulse shopping is to use the Grocery Shopper service that my store offers. I place my order online and choose my pickup time. Not only does it save me time in the grocery store but if I refill an Rx and arrange to have it part of my shopping order the “shopping fee” is waived, so I just had all my shopping done for me for free.

  8. Your meals for the week look yummy! I’d love more info about the peach white balsamic vinegar – I have never heard of such a thing! What is the brand, and where do you find it?

    1. Eileen Schlesier

      Hi Sara! OMG…I cannot wait to share my source with you for the peach white balsamic vinegar. I live just outside of Charlotte and there is a store called The Southern Olive. It’s a family run business and they take so much pride in their products. They also ship, so feel free to check them out!

  9. Natasha Carrillo

    Awesome post! I love reading about all the different ways to make real food. It was cool to see what your family ate. And that grocery total – goodness! It just adds up so fast! I’m working on tracking ours this month to see how we fare.

    1. Eileen Schlesier

      THANKFULLY, I can confirm my weekly total was down after that shopping trip. I think my high total had to do with starting right after coming home from a week-long vacation. Before we left it was clean-out-the fridge/freezer/pantry night every night!

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