How a New York Family of 3 Spends $189 a Week on Groceries

Nancy, husband, and daughter with Costco receipt graphic.

How a New York Family of 3 Spends $189 a Week on Groceries

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Name: Nancy
Location: Staten Island, NY
Number of people in household: 3
Age: 32 (me), 32 (husband), 8 months (daughter)
Occupation: High School Teacher (me), Accounting Manager (husband)
Salary: $0 (currently on childcare leave), $147,000 (husband)
Where you shopped: Costco and Lidl
Weekly food budget: $200
Amount spent: $188.56

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This week, I only made stops at Costco and Lidl, a discount grocery with German roots (similar to Aldi). The two stores are close to each other, so I usually treat it as one stop. We also bought takeout at the neighborhood Halal cart and had a meal out at Smashburger.

What’s your grocery strategy?

We like to stock up on our meat at Costco and usually only purchase it once a month. We always have a stash of chicken thighs (both skin-on and skinless) and ground beef. We’ll pick up steak, salmon, or pork at Costco as well, depending on what we’re cooking that week. 

I am a huge fan of planning things out and am a stickler for lists. I create my grocery list while meal planning, and have separate lists for each location I shop at. I usually prefer to purchase my produce from HL Asian Supermarket (the items are always fresh and at great prices), but it is a little out of the way. If I do not need any specialty items that week, I make do with the produce at Lidl. 

I keep religiously to my lists — except when it comes to snacks. I have a tendency to hoard different types of snacks (I like a variety!), but we’ve been running out of pantry space. Now, it’s two salty, two sweet, and one miscellaneous snack in the pantry at a time. Snacks do not go on the list; it is something I keep in mind to replace if I happen to finish one. I also avoid the snack aisle unless I’m looking to replace a snack, as I have minimal self control in that aspect of my life. 

I am new to cooking and meal planning, and am still trying to work out a system that works for me. Before having our daughter, my husband and I ordered takeout or ate out five or six times a week. We’ve since adjusted our eating habits to incorporate more home-cooked meals, so we can maintain our lifestyle while I am on childcare leave. 

As a novice cook, I am always looking for easy-to-cook meals with a manageable list of ingredients. I meal plan the day before my grocery trip. First I assess what I already have and create a list of ingredients that “Must Go,” then a list of staples I need to purchase for this week. Keeping the “Must Go” items in mind, I’ll go through my recipe book of tried-and-true meals, my favorite cooking sites, and Pinterest to help me figure out what to cook. Any additional ingredients the recipes call for are added to my grocery list for the week. 

My daughter has also started baby-led weaning, so I also make notations next to each meal to indicate how I can modify a portion of it for her. Currently, I try to cook dinner at least three times a week with enough for lunch the next day, and I supplement the rest of the week with eating at my parents’ house or eating out. The convenience of eating out and ordering takeout has been a difficult habit to kick! 

  • Organic A2 milk (pack of 3), $13.79
  • Roasted seaweed snack, $9.99
  • 2 dozen cage-free eggs, $4.99
  • Parchment paper, $12.99
  • Aluminum foil, $17.69
  • Shrimp cocktail, $14.02
  • Boba tea mochi, $8.99
  • Glide floss, $10.99
  • 2 hot dog/soda combos (from the Food Court), $3.00
  • Chicken Bake (from the Food Court), $3.99

Total: $107.38 (includes tax)

  • Organic tofu, $1.69
  • Brioche loaf, $6.89
  • Pineapple chunks, $2.85
  • 2 margherita salami, $4.98
  • XL baby spinach, $4.79
  • Peanut butter, $6.27
  • Bananas, $1.60
  • Cantaloupe chunks, $4.49
  • Chicken and lamb with rice, $11.00
  • 2 truffle mushroom single burgers, $17.38
  • Smash fries, $3.79
  • Smash tots, $3.79
  • 20-ounce fountain drink, $3.29
  • Strawberry shake, $6.09

Total: $36.62 (includes tax)

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Monday: Grilled Steak with Rice and Spinach, Milk Tea and Cookies, Leftover Steak with Rice and Mapo Tofu

I don’t usually eat breakfast, as I typically start my day around noon, unless I have an appointment. My morning routine is like clockwork: Wake up with my daughter around 8 a.m., brush my teeth, play with her in the bedroom until her first nap time around 10:30 a.m., then we both nap until about noon. My husband works from home and he prefers to skip breakfast, so we usually end up eating lunch together around noon. 

My husband is off from work today, for Memorial Day, so we cooked our meal together — him on the grill, and I at the stove. For our first meal of the day, my husband and I have grilled steak with a side of rice and sautéed spinach. We have Maggi Seasoning dipping sauce if we want extra flavor (primarily me). My daughter has a few cut pieces of unseasoned steak with a side of yogurt. My husband and daughter both have water to accompany their meal while I crack open a can of Pepsi. 

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After my daughter goes down for her second nap around 4:00 p.m., I relax with a cup of milk tea, chocolate chip cookies, and some mindless scrolling. 

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For dinner, my husband and I have some of the leftover steak from lunch, with rice and Mapo Tofu. I also finish off the can of Pepsi from lunch. I usually have a can of Pepsi a day.

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Tuesday: Leftover Steak, Toast with Peanut Butter, Scrambled Eggs, Milk Tea, Yogurt, Hot Dogs, Shrimp Cocktail, Chicken Bake, Halal Cart Combo, and Cookies

Our first meal of the day together is always as a family, although we don’t always eat the same thing. My husband polishes off the rest of the steak from the previous night before heading back to work. My daughter and I have toast with peanut butter and scrambled eggs seasoned with pepper. I have my meal with a side of milk tea and some ketchup for my eggs, while my daughter has hers with a side of water and some yogurt. 

My husband is able to end work early, so today is grocery day. We end up picking up dinner while we’re out as well. I get a bit peckish while at Costco and snack on a hot dog before we started shopping.

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On our way home, we pick up a chicken bake and another hot dog from Costco’s Food Court, then swing by the Halal cart for my husband’s favorite: a combo (lamb and chicken) with rice, salad, extra onions, extra white sauce, and some hot sauce. 

I polish off the day with an evening snack: my usual milk tea with chocolate chip cookies.

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Wednesday: Coffee, Croissant, Breakfast Bar, Banana, Leftovers, Rice, Eggs, Yogurt, Milk Tea, and Mochi

On Wednesdays, I get up earlier to take my daughter to a baby play group at our public library. My daughter ends up falling asleep in the car on the way home so I swing by a Starbucks drive-thru for my first meal of the day. I get a grande caramel macchiato and a ham and Swiss croissant. Thankfully, my students are generous and I am still working through the gift cards they gifted me last year, so this meal is technically free. I eat my meal in the car and listen to a podcast (learned my lesson before to never wake a sleeping baby). My husband grabs a breakfast bar and a banana in between meetings while I am out with our daughter. 

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For dinner, my husband finishes the rest of the cocktail shrimp with a side of rice, while I have my leftover chicken bake from yesterday with some scrambled eggs. I am overly ambitious the day before, thinking I could finish two hot dogs and a chicken bake within the hour. We have dinner early today, so my daughter is still up. She has some scrambled eggs with a side of yogurt as her solids for the day. 

I end my evening with my usual cup of tea but, this time I try my new snack: boba tea mochi. They are good enough that I’ll probably finish them, but the verdict is still out on whether I will purchase them again. 

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Thursday: Toast with Salami and Cheese, Milk Tea, Cantaloupe, Eggs, Banana, Yogurt, Green Smoothie, and Dinner at My Parents’

Starting off our Thursday, my husband and I have some toast with salami and cheese and scrambled eggs. I accompany my meal with a cup of milk tea while he just has water. We share some cantaloupe chunks and I also finish off the banana left over from my daughter’s meal. She has some banana with yogurt and a side of scrambled eggs. 

Early in the evening, I make us all a green smoothie with baby spinach, frozen strawberries, frozen pineapples, half a banana, and a dollop of greek yogurt. The smoothie holds us over until our dinner at my parents’ house. 

We’re lucky to live close to my parents, so we have family dinners every week. My dad is a great chef, so my husband always eats light during the day to ensure he has ample room for the feast on family dinner days. 

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Friday: Raisin Bread, Milk Tea, Soup Dumplings, Tangerines, Curry with Toast, and Yogurt

We start the day off with twisted raisin bread from the Asian supermarket, courtesy of my parents. To accompany my bread, I have my typical cup of milk tea. 

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For dinner, I make a new recipe: Hong Kong-style curry soup dumplings paired with some peeled tangerines for dessert. My daughter has some tangerines in a feeding pacifier, curry with toast, and her always present side of yogurt. 

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Saturday: Milk Tea, Pineapple Buns, Burgers with Fries/Tots and Strawberry Shake, Udon, and Spinach

We start the day early today — it’s a shopping day! — with a cup of tea for me and some pineapple buns for both me and my husband. When my daughter wakes from her first nap around noon, we head out together to Jersey for my monthly thrifting. 

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We stop by Smashburger first to grab some lunch. My daughter amused herself with some baby crackers while we eat. We both have a Truffle Mushroom Single and ordered sides of Smash Fries and Smash Tots. My favorite burger joint, no competition. I finish the meal off with a strawberry shake to share with my husband. 

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For dinner I really am not in the mood to cook, so I turn to one of my comfort meals. I make some Udon noodles mixed with sweet soy sauce, peanut butter, and sesame oil topped with a sunny-side-up egg. The sauce combination is actually delicious. I skip the peanut butter for my husband (he’s allergic), and instead add gochujang. He also has a side of sautéed spinach, which I am not feeling tonight.

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Sunday: Eggs, Salami, Toasts, Milk Tea, Yogurt, Green Smoothie, and Karaage Rice Bowls

On Sunday, my husband and I share some scrambled eggs and salami. My husband also has buttered toast while I have toast with peanut butter and milk tea. My daughter has some toast with a thin layer of organic peanut butter with no added sugars, scrambled eggs, and yogurt. 

For a snack in the evening, I make a green smoothie for everyone, baby included. 

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For dinner, I try another new recipe: karaage rice bowls (fried popcorn chicken over a bowl of rice topped with furikake, donburi sauce, and some Kewpie mayo). 

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