How This Restaurant Pro and Food Blogger Feeds Her Family of 2 for Just $125 Per Week

She eats well — and stays on budget — by keeping all the essentials on hand.

Ashley Schuering, woman standing in an apple orchard preparing to bite into an apple
Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Schuering

Ashley Schuering lives in Nashville, Tenn. with her husband and two 70-pound dogs. As the food blogger behind Confessions of a Grocery Addict, she focuses on healthy, inexpensive eats that are quick to get on the table.

"While we're lucky to own our house and our older cars outright, COVID definitely took a hit on our accumulated household wealth," she explains. "As a result, we eat 99 percent of our meals at home. In fact, during the last year and a half, we've only eaten takeout three times!"

Here's how she stays eating well while sticking to a budget of about $125 per week, or about $9 per person per day.

Keep a Well-Stocked Pantry

"I have always been an avid cook, so we start out with a very strong pantry," she explains. "Keeping to $125 per week on food is not too tough when you have a lot of backstock on things like dried beans, flour, and other basics and have the time to cook from scratch."

Schuering is a self-proclaimed "grocery addict" — it's in the very name of her blog, after all. And she says "grocery shopping is something I find very pleasurable."

She most typically shops at Aldi for its affordable price point (even on organic foods) and proximity to her house. She shops at Kroger and Publix when Aldi doesn't have what she needs, and Trader Joe's makes it into the rotation about every six to eight weeks.

The couple also has a Costco membership, which pays for itself in dog food alone, she says, and they shop monthly at the big-box retailer.

"We also think that shopping locally is important for a healthy food system, so we hit various farmers' markets at least monthly," she says.

Further, they maintain a small vegetable garden and a lettuce table, "so during spring, summer, and fall we have some help from our plants," she says. "A friend also shares her eggs with us on occasion."

Prioritize Plant-Based for a Better Budget

Schuering says she loves to eat everything, but finds she saves the most money by eating a mostly vegetarian or flexitarian diet. "Vegetables, eggs, tofu, grains, and legumes are consistently less expensive than meat products, especially considering I prefer to buy organic, humane-certified animal products," she says.

The couple does eat some animal products, and for those she opts to wait until they are on deep discount, then stocking up and keeping the items stashed away in the deep freezer.

"I also turn to canned fish relatively often," she says. "Tuna in olive oil, sardines, and anchovies are all inexpensive, packed with good fats, and pack a big flavor punch."

Here's what a typical grocery list looks like for Schuering:

  • heavy cream
  • organic whole milk or oat milk
  • organic plain Greek yogurt
  • organic eggs
  • ciabatta, sourdough, or brioche
  • canned beans
  • canned whole tomatoes
  • canned fish, especially tuna in olive oil, anchovies, and sardines
  • dried rice, grains, or pasta
  • in-season veggies
  • cilantro ("I go through ungodly quantities.")
  • green onions ("Ditto.")
  • peeled garlic
  • onions
  • arugula
  • bananas
  • a shortcut meal like a bagged salad kit and a frozen pizza, or a box of mac and cheese and some frozen broccoli
  • avocados (on sale)
  • fresh fruit (preferably in season or on sale)
  • various cheeses (typically Parmesan, Cheddar, goat, and ricotta)
  • organic meat or chicken, but only if it is on sale
  • sustainably caught seafood (fresh or frozen, on sale only)

Buy Organic Over All

Schuering only buys organic (and humane-certified whenever possible) meat, eggs, and dairy. "Not only is it important to me personally, but also to the health of the environment," she says.

She purchases organic fruits and veggies whenever possible (they don't have to be certified organic, just grown without chemical pesticides). "If I can't find an organic version of something in the [Environmental Working Group's] Dirty Dozen, I'll find a substitute," she notes.

She also splurges on grass-fed butter. "It may seem absurd to spend $12 on four sticks of Kerrygold at Costco each month, but the price encourages me to eat it in moderation even though the flavor is obscenely delicious," she says.

Call on Hard-Working Ingredients

Schuering says her go-tos include tons of hard-working ingredients she uses in many different ways throughout the week. Among her most favorite are canned garbanzo beans.

"Not only are they delicious in roughly a gazillion ways — blended into hummus, roasted with oil and spices to make a crispy snack, added to salads or grain bowls — but they also have an extra ingredient that a ton of people just throw away. Aquafaba is an incredible substance that can be used for almost as many things as the chickpeas themselves. Do yourself a favor and save it. It also freezes!"

When money is especially tight, she reaches for bagged beans over canned food. While they take longer to cook, they cost just about a quarter of the price by weight.

Utilize Your Sheet Pan for All Meals

Schuering is a passionate fan of the sheet pan cooking method. "I am obsessed with my sheet pan. I cover it in parchment and roast any number of things for breakfast, dinner, or meal prep," she says. "Even if I'm super tired, I can always muster the five minutes of effort it takes to toss some meat or veggies in olive oil, salt, and pepper. The oven does all the heavy lifting!"

From roast beans to meats to veggies and even fruit, "everything cooks on one pan and you can compost the parchment when you're done for a super-fast clean up," she says. "Sheet pan meals for the win!"

Develop a Meal Planning Strategy

"As someone who writes about food, and works around it at a restaurant, for a living, I am lucky to have the time to think about food a lot," Schuering says. "I'm almost always thinking about what I want to eat next!"

Her meal planning generally revolves around whatever vegetables are in season and are on sale — two categories between which there is frequently a lot of overlap. She also derives a lot of inspiration from store mailers.

She compiles a short list of about five veggies for the week and builds her meal plan around them. "Sites like Allrecipes are a wonderful resource for finding recipes that fit my schedule and feature my preferred veg," she says.

She also describes herself as "pretty type-A and analog," so she keeps a list of the meals she plans to cook that week. "If any of the ingredients is less shelf-stable, such as berries, I'll move that meal to the top of the list" she says. "Otherwise, I pick depending on my mood and schedule for each day. If I'm coming off a restaurant shift where I've been on my feet all day, I usually want something fast with minimal prep and clean up — hence my love of sheet pan meals. If I'm writing all day, I can plan for more time-intensive recipes. Small prep breaks in the day give me an excuse to get up from my desk."

Take a Hint from Restaurant Storage

Schuering recommends home cooks can stretch their leftovers as far as possible using a set of inexpensive, reusable, multi-sized deli-tainers that have a universal lid, and keeping a roll of masking tape and a Sharpie easily accessible in the kitchen. "The deli-tainers keep you from having to fight with your Tupperware, and will also stack neatly in the fridge," she says.

She advises using the masking tape to mark the label with the date and contents. "If there is a short shelf life, be sure to pull it to the front," she advises. "Otherwise, eat within a week."

For those with multiple family members in the house, she recommends leaving reheating instructions (like "microwave for one minute and top with cheese" or "use as sandwich material"), which she says empowers everyone to make leftovers part of their daily routine.

And that in turn reduces waste — a win for the palate, a win for the environment, and a win for the budget, too.

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