about me

    Emily Malone

    culinary arts grad. nutrition facts lover. vegetarian chef. marathon runner. country music maniac. failed dog trainer. barre fanatic. loving mama.

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    For general inquires, contact: EmilyBMalone@gmail.com.

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    Looking forward to chatting with you!


    What’s Cooking?

    Personal Bests

    5K - 23:28

    10K - 52:35

    15K - 1:38:14

    1/2 Marathon - 1:57:39

    Marathon - 3:50:58

    A Look Back.

What Does $125 Look Like in Groceries?

A lot of times I get emails from readers asking about my staple grocery items, or how I plan a grocery budget.  Explanations and emails can only help so much, and when I came home from Trader Joe’s on Tuesday, loaded down with 5 big bags, it dawned on me that I had the perfect opportunity to explain it all in pictures.  (Note: I was so frazzled from vacation that I forgot my reusable shopping bags, which never happens!)

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Since we were at the beach last week, we were out of pretty much everything besides our usual pantry staples.  As far as our regular loot goes, we always have a hearty supply of bulk grains on hand…

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Rolled oats, brown rice, white rice, quinoa, millet, and steel cut oats – all beautifully displayed in my beloved ball jars. 

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And aside from grains, our other pantry staples mainly come from the canned department.  Beans, coconut milk, tahini, PB2, tomatoes, etc.  I always make sure we have a lot of good options available for quick and easy (healthy) meals.

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But outside of grains, beans, and tofu – I replenish the rest of our refrigerator and freezer each week.  Since I was starting from scratch this time, these pictures are very representative of our weekly groceries.  Here goes…  The whole loot – $125!

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The main thing I buy fresh each week is produce.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are 100% necessity in our house.  We buy a TON of bananas for oatmeal and smoothies – probably picked up 15 or so this week, and I guarantee you they will be gone by the weekend.  I also grabbed 5 peppers, 6 ears of corn, 4 avocados, 6 grapefruit, an eggplant, and a small carton of jalapenos.

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Half of my overflowing cart was taken up by all these leafy greens!  Between salads and smoothies, we eat our fare share, so I try to get a variety – arugula, spinach, mesclun, and butter lettuce.  I would prefer to just buy heads of lettuce and cut down on packaging, but Trader Joe’s is all packaged, and I wasn’t hitting up two different stores.  Eight bags of lettuce for 2 people for a week – is that a lot?

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Next aisle of the grocery store – the FREEZER section!  I am all for fresh produce, but sometimes you need something fast and easy.  Even in the summer when produce is widely available, I try to always have a good stash of frozen fruit and veggies that I can throw in a pot and heat up if necessary.  And obviously in the winter, these become the main option.

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The vegetable group – haricot verts, broccoli, tri-blend of peppers, and a few mixed bags.  I love these for making stir fry too!

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Tons and TONS of frozen fruit!  We made loads of smoothies, so we go through a lot of these.  TJ’s has them for super cheap too, so I always buy a lot.  Two bags of mango, 2 bags of mixed berry, and 5 each of strawberries and blueberries.  I told you – I’m not messing around.

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In the carb department, we have English muffins (used as our sandwich bread and burger buns), rice cakes (my gluten free alternative), and some sandwich thins.

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And in the random category – applesauce, hemp protein powder ($10), soup, olives, hummus, and veggie dogs.  This category drove the total up a bit.

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That’s everything!!  Does that seem like a lot of food for two people?  Remember, when you eat healthy you can eat a LOT.  :)  I know not everyone has access to Trader Joe’s, but this same strategy can be applied anywhere.  It’s all about paying attention to prices and stocking up on things that can last on your shelves for a while.  Also, not to push my personal diet on anyone, but it really helps the grocery budget when you aren’t buying meat, cheese, and dairy.

Do you think that seems like a good price for that quantity and quality of food?  What are your best grocery store tips?

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Okay, I confess – it was actually $126.

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Happy shopping!  :)

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40 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Lauren     at 3:37 pm

Thanks for sharing! I love peaking at other people's grocery hauls.
My bf & I spend about the same amount each week at the store. We both eat a lot, but when you break it down that it provides enough for 2 people, 3 meals a day, plus 2 snacks, for a week (ok we might go out once), it really doesn't seem like that munch money.


Janneke     at 3:42 pm

Whoah that's a lot of food! But only because I eat teeny meeny compared to you and don't really go grocery shopping ;)
I do think that's a great price thugh! If you look into other sites that display their shopping habits you'll see others spending about the same (if not more) on food that isn't even HALF as healthy as yours – so great job!
I gotta hit up TJs more often now!


Therese     at 3:46 pm

My boyfriend and I spend roughly the same amount. Grocery prices have skyrocketed lately as is! MAN I wish we had Trader Joe's though!

I also love seeing peoples' groceries. What is with that?!


Ginna     at 4:18 pm

wow! Thats a lot of lettuce! We would be lucky to go through one bag in a week. I get so bored eating salad all the time. I have trouble making it interesting! I think thats a great price of stuff. We probably pay that much for 1/2 of what you have bought!


Kamaile     at 4:34 pm

That is a great haul for $126! I wish we had Trader Joe's in Texas. I've been in Seattle and really liked it. My best tip is meal planning so you're not just buying a bunch of random stuff and then get home and wonder how to make it a meal!


graduategourmande     at 5:15 pm

Ooh how is the TJ's protein powder? I want to try some and I'd definitely trust TJ's brand more than others!


Shauna     at 6:05 pm

Yup, that's a good price. My hubby and I eat pretty much a vegan diet and our bills run us around $160 a week.


Cara     at 6:07 pm

You make me miss Trader Joe's even more. I used to live next to one, but then I moved to Austin and they have none in all of Texas. boo. I am impressed by your veggie/fruit consumption. I need to take this as an example of what I should be doing.


Lisa (bakebikeblog)     at 6:21 pm

I love your jars of grains – such a great idea!!!


Emmalinda     at 6:31 pm

Random question–does TJ's have organic produce? (We don't have TJ's in CO.) We are making a commitment to buy as much organic produce as possible, which shoots up the grocery bill a bit. I am a dork, though, and I love to see what is in other people's carts. Thanks!


Pure2raw twins     at 7:06 pm

8 bags of lettuce is not too much! We love our green smoothies, so fruit is a must!


Sarah     at 7:11 pm

I really enjoyed this post! My boyfriend and I tend to spend closer to $80 a week but we also go on one large Sam's Club shop every six months and spend $175.
While, there are plenty of Trader Joe's and Whole Foods in our area, I have found shopping at Giant can save you a little more money. I typically stop into the Whole Foods (on my way home from work) for our whole grain pasta or other specialty items.
Thanks for the great post!!!


Heatha     at 7:14 pm

Those jars are so cute – I want some!
That's not so bad since you don't eat out a lot – you're probably saving money!


Anonymous     at 7:33 pm

LOVE trader joes :) And after seeing your total I feel much better about my weekly total! lol Feeding myself, my hubby, and my two boys HEALTHY food can get quite expensive! However, since we cut down our meat consumption to twice a month, that has also slashed our grocery bill!



kristin     at 8:16 pm

I love your pics of your Trader Joes trip. The one thing that I have noticed about TJ's is the produce. I usually try to hit Sprouts/sunflower since I recall them having awesome prices on produce, plus it helps me to buy whatever is on sale. I'm currently working on a list of what my staples cost at TJ's and what they cost at sunflower/sprouts so that I can determine where I should be going. Between all my shopping I usually hit 3-4 stores depending on what I need.


Emily @ The Front Burner     at 8:22 pm

graduate gourmande – the TJ's protein powder is pretty good! the only issue is that it only comes in chocolate or available, and we typically just buy unflavored. our favorite so far is bob's red mill.

emmalinda – TJ's DOES have some organic produce, but not everything. off hand, i know they have organic bananas, peppers, tomatoes, and oranges. but some things are only available in non-organic. i'm hoping to get lots of good organic produce this summer on the farm!


chasingcasey     at 9:02 pm

Thanks for sharing the grocery haul. It's nice to know you shop at TJs and regular stores like the rest of us. It's so funny how you have so much for two people! 8 bags of lettuce!? Rabbits! :)


Mellissa     at 9:09 pm

I love Trader Joes and especially love all the variety! Prices area always great and the quality of the produce is good.

I try to get veggies at a farmers market in the summer but I know Trader Joe's always has a good selection.


lee@In My Tummy     at 9:50 pm

Do you like TJ's produce? I always find it to be poor quality, especially the bananas. Maybe that's just my local TJ's though.


Larissa     at 10:02 pm

not to be a bummer, cause bagged salad are super convenient, but our family friend- a produce supplier to major grocery stores- has suggested not eating them due to the amount of chemical etc.. i havent done any research yet though, just though i would pass it along not trying to push anything.


VEGAN TICKLES     at 10:22 pm

Awesome post. My husband and I spend about $180 a week for just the 2 of us. Sounds like alot, but cook breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. And I try to buy as much organic as possible. All at Whole Foods. And I agree with lee@in My Tummy, I've also found some produce to be poor quality at TJ. Esp. the avocados and pineapple. I still love shopping there. such unique items.


Amber K     at 11:49 pm

That is an amazing haul! No TJs near me, but we do have a New Seasons, a Fred Meyer, and the bulk of our shopping is done at WinCo because it is CHEAP! We end up spending about $600 a month for two people. Definitely gotta cut down some, but I think it is some of the speciality stuff we buy. Pea protein, special powders, and organic produce jack it up!


Michela     at 12:18 am

It's great how you can stretch your budget so far! Just one question- if you don't eat dairy, how do you get your calcium? Do you take a vitamin or supplement?


Kath     at 7:05 am

$126 – woo! That is a LOOOOTTT of produce!! But a good deal for $126. Esp. with all the frozens!


Clare     at 7:22 am

$126 seems about right for two people especially since you guys eat lots of really good things. Thanks for posting this. I have three children under 8 and my grocery bill has SKYROCKETED recently. I have a bunch of snackers at my house! We don't have a Trader Joe's here in Canada, sadly, but we do live about 5 minutes away from one of the few Whole Foods in the entire country…NOT good for my grocery budget (but I love it anyway!) I giggled at your mason jars; my pantry looks just like that–I went on a pantry organizing rampage after reading Alicia Silverstone's book :)


stronghealthyfit     at 7:28 am

I think that's an ok amount to pay for such a big trip. My husband and I pay around $80 each week for our food, but we don't eat EVERY single meal at home. We work in restaurants, what can I say? I wish we had Trader Joe's in NH though!!


Kimberley     at 10:46 am

Wow, I need to stop shopping at Earth Fare exclusively and hit up TJ's. We probably spend close to $200/week (including wine which is a big %) and don't get as much loot as you did. Does Trader Joe's carry organic produce or is it all conventional?


Julia @ www.britbride.com     at 11:10 am

Just found your blog – I love it!! You are so pretty.

I am sooo jealous of those jars, and am going to copy!

If you have time, check out my blog, I am in the process of becoming a veggie so I have a feeling reading here will be useful!




Jaime Santos-Prowse     at 12:53 pm

I flat out DO NOT have the money to spend that much on food for a week, but I think a lot of your ideas are applicable for various budgets. (And $125 for the amount of food you got is certainly reasonable. It's just really far outside my means right now.) Paying attention to sales and buying in season is crucial. If nothing else, that can help people save money on really great food.


LC @ Let Them Eat Lentils     at 1:26 pm

Emily, I just found your blog and I have been wasting waaaay too much work time reading all your back posts :) I really enjoyed this post and hope you'll keep giving us glimpses of what you buy in the future. Also, wanted to echo one of your earlier commenters and say you should write a book on your red light/green light philosophy. Definitely catchy – I've been keeping it in mind over the last few days when I plan my dinners!


Deva (Voracious Vorilee)     at 1:38 pm

That's about how much The Boy and I spend a week on groceries, including lots of produce and meat. We get a good haul of food to feed two people plus three cats, and most of our meals are homemade.


fitfunandfabulous     at 2:21 pm

Thanks for this post! I so would love to be able to spend 126 a week on fresh wonderful healthy groceries!

I usually spend about half that, and make it work. I generally buy the same things as you, but less of them.


Emily @ The Front Burner     at 2:29 pm

lee – i haven't had a problem with TJ's produce, but I try to pay attention to expiration dates and quality when i am buying.

larissa – thanks for that info! i haven't heard that, but i will definitely look into it…

Michela – for calcium, I chew calcium tablets most of the time, and I also still eat CHEESE! :)

Kimberly – scroll up in the comments to see the reply on organic produce. YES they do!

LC – thank you!! I will consider that :)


Hillary [Nutrition Nut on the Run]     at 5:52 pm

Dang, girl. You weren't kidding around at TJ's! How do you have room in your fridge + freezer for all that food? My shopping trips look similar…divided by fifths ; )


Ashley     at 9:52 pm

Ahhhh I miss Trader Joes!! But there is an awesome local health food store here that I love that often has cheaper prices than Whole Foods. I never had luck with the fresh produce from TJ's though. You're a good shopper!! =)


Sarah     at 8:41 pm

Oh, so jealous – $125 is a steal!! When I moved to Australia from the US I couldn't believe it. I can walk out of the grocery store with ONE bag for $50. It's insane!!! I mean, those bags of lettuce would cost $50 all by themselves here. And the Smart dogs (which we only have a nasty version of veg hot dogs here made by a brand called Sanitarium) would cost $9!! No joke.

So, in answer to your question, I think $125 is an amazingly reasonable price for the quality and quantity of food you purchased. :-)


Ally     at 2:02 am

trader joe’s chocolate flavored protein powder is my absolute favorite- and i have tried MANY! it mixes so smoothly and has a fantastic taste.


Lauren @ Hungry Child in the City     at 2:53 pm

This was super helpful for me! I am trying to cook a few healthy meals a week and don’t know what I should have on hand to do so. I pretty much get bananas, yogurt and some chicken weekly, I never know what to buy. I also love the idea of everything in ball jars, thats a great way to keep things fresh and easy to see. Thanks!


Melinda     at 9:05 am

Wow- that’s alot of groceries for $125-mine never looks like that! You must eat a lot of raw foods with all of the salads and fruits- I wish we had a TJ’s here- they are the best!


mrsmadame     at 11:54 am

I love comparing other’s grocery shopping experiences. It scares me though because I have a family of 5 (3 girls ages 8, 6, and 1), and we are meat eaters. We keep it to chicken and turkey. Any suggestions on how to keep our weekly food bill under $170 per week.


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