Why Grocery Shopping Like the French Do Helped Me Save $90

Plus, every meal we ate that week.
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If you haven't gathered this already, I absolutely love to cook and entertain, and that always comes with one huge downside: Groceries cost a lot of money. My fiance and I make grocery shopping a part of our weekend ritual. Every Sunday, we head to Trader Joe's or Sprouts to fill up our cart with anything that inspires us: bread, flowers, flavored butter, etc. Without direction, however, our cart often adds up to $150 for the week, which isn't horrible considering we almost never eat out, but definitely could be better! With the intention of saving money, I decided to try something new and was amazed by the results. On Sunday, I went to the store and bought only the basics: sandwich bread, milk, eggs, chives, basil, bananas, strawberries, frozen fruit, and yogurt (we had some things in the house already like onions, garlic, canned tomatoes, and spices). All of this totaled to $25.45. Moving forward, Rob and I decided each day during lunch what we wanted for dinner, and I only picked up the exact ingredients needed. At the end of the week, I was shocked when I only spent $63.36 ($25.45 + $37.91). 

The French have been doing this kind of "market shopping" for years; only buying what they need, when they need it. It felt so unnatural for me to do it at first, as I come from a family of six where you stock up on groceries and snacks, but now I'm a full-fledged convert. Here's what a week of shopping looked like for us (and the exact meals we cooked):

MONDAY
Vegetable scramble and asparagus 

Vegetable scramble and asparagus 

On Sundays, we always cook a bigger, recipe-driven meal for dinner, meaning we always have leftovers for lunch the next day. Last week, we tried out the tikka masala from Half-Baked Harvest's new cookbook, and it did not disappoint. When it came to Monday's dinner, however, we were feeling lazy, so we sauteed a ton of vegetables (mushrooms, onion, spinach) and added 5 eggs (2 for me and 3 for Rob) costing $3.89 at the grocery store. Afterward, I whipped up my favorite lunch: canned chickpeas, lentils, feta, and white vinegar over spinach (with leftover asparagus for good measure) which totaled $6.47.

Breakfast: Blueberry- Banana Smoothies
Lunch: Homemade Indian Leftovers
Dinner: Egg scramble with asparagus  (needed asparagus, mushrooms, & spinach)

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TUES
Chickpea salad with asparagus 

Chickpea salad with asparagus 

Tomato soup is not my favorite to photograph...

Tomato soup is not my favorite to photograph...

Tuesdays are incredibly scheduled for us. Since Rob is on campus at grad school from 7:30 AM to 11 PM, I like to have our meals be comforting, simple, and easy to tackle. Outside of the smoothie I make him on his way out the door and the lunch we pack, he won't be eating until 11:30 at the earliest, meaning he definitely does not want anything dairy-free, grain-driven, or remotely roasted. Instead, I warm up Trader Joe's tomato soup from a box and make grilled cheeses (2 for him and 1 for me). It's easy for me to make, creates almost no dirty dishes, and the soup can be reheated hours after I've eaten.

Breakfast: Strawberry-Banana Smoothies
Lunch: Feta, chickpea, lentil salad over spinach with white vinegar
Dinner: Grilled cheese & tomato soup (needed soup & cheddar cheese)

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WED
Morning smoothie featuring Bisou

Morning smoothie featuring Bisou

Starting to realize how not glamrous my food looks...

Starting to realize how not glamrous my food looks...

Due to the cost of meat, most of our protein comes from canned beans or the protein powder we sometimes add to our smoothies. I try to have at least two nights a week where we have actual meat in our dinner in order to offset this. This week I made pork chops with a homemade brine and sauteed bok choy before we headed out to see Mr. Klein at the Laemmle Theater. 

Breakfast: Banana-Blueberry Smoothie
Lunch: Feta, chickpea, lentil salad over spinach with white vinegar
Dinner: Pork Chop & Bok Choy (needed both items)

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THURS
Completely forgot to take a photo last week, so please enjoy an older one! 

Completely forgot to take a photo last week, so please enjoy an older one! 

Our beloved chickpea salad (feta, chickpea, lentils over spinach with white vinegar) typically runs out after two days, so for lunch that day I sent Rob to school with a PB&J and bought a Trader Joe's pre-made salad ($2.99) during my lunch break. For dinner, we made the soup that literally our entire office is obsessed with. This tortellini soup is so great because it makes leftovers for days, can be modified based on what you have in your house, and is a one-pot, easy to clean meal. Typically, I modify the recipe by using spicy chicken sausage instead of pork and cut the bread from the recipe (the tortellini is more than filling!).

Breakfast: Bananas
Lunch: Trader Joe's Salad for me / PB & J for Rob 
Dinner: Tortellini Soup (needed tortellini & sausage)

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FRI
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Like I said, the beloved tortellini soup makes a lot of leftovers, so looking forward to a big lunch, we both skipped breakfast that morning. For dinner, we wanted to make something warm and fall-inspired (in the hope that it would bring fall weather). This NYT pumpkin chickpea curry recipe is super easy to make, made mostly of canned items, and is delicious over rice. I added tofu to make it slightly heartier.  

Breakfast: No breakfast 
Lunch: Leftovers 
Dinner: Pumpkin curry (needed tofu, canned pumpkin, & jalapeno)

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SAT
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Dinner at Petit Trois

Dinner at Petit Trois

I truly believe the only way to enjoy a weekend is to not over-plan it. We often do a lot over the 2.5 days, but it is almost never planned ahead of time. Instead, whether we're nursing a hangover from the night before or sleeping in after a late-night showing, we can be found on our couch come 10 AM on any given Saturday. After a week of pretty healthy eating, we like to indulge in a buttery omelette and an occasional avocado to enjoy the morning not at work. 

Brunch: Omelettes
Dinner: Went out 💁 (which we usually do on Saturday, so I'm not factoring it into the grocery budget)

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SUNDAY
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Every Sunday, we have the same tradition: Rob makes some kind of brunch (pancakes, omelettes, etc.), and we watch the Saturday Night Live from the night before. It's the simplest thing, and we're not even that big of SNL fans, but the low-key morning spent together is some of the time I treasure most in my week. By noon, we're out the door, but until then, it's a lazy, cozy Sunday-in. 

Brunch: Homemade pancakes with coconut & syrup 

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By the end of the week, I was so shocked by how much money we saved (and how little food we wasted!) that I'm fully committed to this new way of shopping. Of course, I will have to do bigger shops here and there in order to get the staples that allowed me to make so many different things (canned goods, garlic, onions, etc.), but I know this new approach to shopping will help us toward our larger saving goals.