Our $70/week grocery cart

Last week we came up in the news again in CNBC with an article and short video, looking more into the monetary side of our lifestyle.   How much did we used to make each year?, how much did we save for the trip?, and our approximate yearly budget.

One of the questions that came up was how we were able to amass the kind of savings we did in the short time we did.  My simple answer was: we chose to live frugally as soon as we knew this trip was going to happen. We stopped taking all kinds of vacations and trips, except for a weekend of camping every year for my birthday, and we cut out all unnecessary spending. Cable was cut back to just Netflix.  Dinners out with friends turned into dinners in with friends. My little shopping sprees at the mall turned into occasional visits to Plato’s Closet (a trendy second hand store if you’re not familiar with them).

One thing that has always worked to our advantage though, and still does today, is because of the fact that we are not really foodies, we’ve always been able to keep grocery costs low.  Or let me rephrase that. We do like food, and we even aappreciate well prepared meals, but we can just as easily go without them if need be.

Personally I can attribute lack of interest in extravagant foods to my life growing up. I’m not trying to throw my patents under the bus here, because I’m sure this is true for a lot of families,  but we never had real homecooked meals. With two working parents and an early dinner time (5:30), our meals were simple. Spaghetti with sauce from the can; burgers or pork chops on the grill; a hamloaf thawed cooked in the oven. Throw in a side of applesauce and a bag of microwave vegetables and dinner was complete. I never minded though. The food tasted good to me, and I always left the table with a full stomach.

Although Matt’s father prepared delicious time laboring works of art every night, he never got the food gene passed down to him. Most days he actually considers eating to be a waste of time and is still waiting for his complete daily nutrition to come in pill form.  Yet one more reason I will never get him to pick up a spatula. So, whenever we need a quick or easy way to cut our spending, food is the first thing to fall by the wayside.

Ever since we moved to Indiantown especially,  our days are so full of work and our bodies are so tired through every stage of the day, what we’re eating is usually the last thing on our mind. Don’t get me wrong, its not like we could satisfy ourselves with a bowl of gruel,  but all we really want or need at this point is something to fill up our stomachs that doesn’t taste too bad.

Let me walk you through an average day of our eating habits:

Breakfast is 90% of the time a bowl of cereal with a cup of coffee. Cream and sugar in mine, black for Matt. Once in a great while it could be a bowl of oatmeal, or if we’re out of both of those (our chosen grocery store is 20 miles away), toast.

Lunch is a ham or turkey sandwich with cheese, and some chips for snacking. On very rare occasions we might have a bowl of Kraft mac’n’cheese. Water or soda for a beverage.

Up to this point there is little to no variation to our daily eating habits. This is what goes in our stomachs 7 days a week, 365 days a year. At dinner I can get a little more creative, but still try to keep total costs of ingredients under $5/night.

Some of my go-to favorites here are still hamburgers and chips; spaghetti and a meat with homemade sauce; shredded chicken tacos; and grilled pork tenderloin with baked or mashed potatoes. Sounds pretty tasty still, right? And because I did use my previous 2.5 years of cruising free time on my hands to brush up on my skills in the kitchen, they usually are. You’re still able to do that with a $70/week grocery cart?, you may ask. Yup, and that is because we have lowered ourselves to shopping at Walmart.

Not only do we make our weekly trips there, but we buy store brand as much as possible. And as much as we dislike the corporation, our wallets do appreciate the visit there.  Check out their prices of a lot of staple items we purchase.

Milk: $3.50/gallon

Malt-o-Meal cereal: $4.50 for 32 oz.

Great Value brand coffee: $6.50 for 32 oz

Loaf of bread: $0.98

Lunch meat: $3.50 for one pound

Sliced cheese: $2.25/8 oz

Potato chips: $1.85 a bag

Boneless skinless chicken breasts:1.99/lb

Ground beef: $3.50/lb

Pork tenderloin:  $2.99/lb

Flour tortillas:  $2.00 for 20

Ice cream: 3.00/gallon

Oak Leaf wine: 3.50/bottle

2 liter of soda: $0.99 for RC Cola from our local Circle K

Drinking water: $0.35 per gallon at a local filling station

We snack very little, and treats for us usually include a bowl of ice cream for Matt, and a beer or wine for me. We’re simple people with simple needs, and it has really helped us keep costs down in many areas of our lives.

Although I still really enjoy a good meal every now and then and would love to be set free in a grocery store with no budget, I’m ok with basic at the moment when it comes to food. Basic keeps the dream going. It puts miles under our keel and new stamps in our passports. So if you ask me if I’d rather have a high end meal or spend an afternoon swimming with pigs in the Bahamas, its a no brainer for me to put my culinary needs second.

I’d like to know about you though? Are your meals on board extravagant or ordinary?  What’s your favorite meal to cook on board? And most importantly, what cheap meal tips do you have for me? Jessica cooking first meal on Daze Off eating my birthday dinner   *Just a side note thatI’m without an actual laptop for 3 weeks while mine is being serviced, so I apologize for the few or off topic posts that you’ll be seeing over the next few weeks. Its hard to type out a post on my little tablet, and almost impossible to edit photos to the degree I’d like.

15 thoughts on “Our $70/week grocery cart

  1. I’m with Matt – dinner in a pill would be just fine! We’re pretty simple too – yogurt and granola breakfast, tuna salad lunch, simple dinner: beans and rice, curry chicken and veggies, mac n cheese – or, another breakfast for dinner! I do have a real weakness for potato chips. I could probably eat a bag a day and be very happy 🙂

  2. When we were on the hard I ate a lot of ghetto Mac (store brand Mac n cheese. Wally world is actually preferable to kraft for our crew) with kielbasa, those rice n beans bags with a can of peas thrown in or simple pb&j. Cheap and easy.

  3. We are just starting this adventure, testing the waters one weekend at a time on Lake Erie. I’ve found I spend much less when I’m on the boat. I buy food for the weekend and usually eat 1/2 of what I bought. I use a lot of one skillet meals I learned while camping.
    Our time aboard will get longer as we wind things down in this life I so desperately want to leave.

  4. We eat pretty simply while on board as well. Breakfast is almost always yogurt that I make in a thermos with whatever fruit we happen to have or else some cereal sprinkled on top. We rarely eat lunch, but might snack on some nuts, fruit or cheese in the afternoon. Jim is the cook on our boat, so dinner is usually quite tasty, but what we have depends on where we are and if we’ve caught any fish. Our freezer is teensy, weensy, so we can’t keep a lot of meat on board (and NO ice cream whatsoever…blah!). Many of our dinners start with canned chicken, and we’ve started getting very creative and have made several delicious canned chicken based dinners on the boat.
    Chris on S/V Radio Waves recently posted…Fish for breakfast?!?My Profile

  5. Your menu sounds great except I do not see the wonderful fish available in your area. We live in Stuart in the winter and my wife and I love mahi mahi and/or grouper. The Walmart in Stuart is amazing — we find their fresh vegetables are usually terrific and the fresh fruit is generally very good too. I’m not sure what you dislike about Walmart — millions of folks have better living standards due to the wide array of stuff sold at reasonable prices by Walmart. It has become an enormous corporation because it has been very well run over the years. I understand nostalgia for small mom and pop stores but the choices, sizes, and prices offered by Walmart are simply better than mom and pop stores can offer.

    Are you seeing the green slime talked about on national news in the Stuart area? It sounds awful. Our place is in
    Rocky Point and so far no algae blooms have shown up in front of our place.

  6. Make a menu list of meals and from that the grocery list…shuffle the meals for whenever you want them but stick to the lists. The science of grocery retailing has us buying way too much that we don’t need.

    I don’t know how Walmarts are laid out (and I will never will because they led the charge to sell North Americans jobs to the Chinese) but the rule for normal grocery stores is the walk the outside. Produce, meat, dairy, bakery, get out. Do not walk the inside unless there is an ingredient hidden in one of those aisles. If there is, park your basket on the outside, walk to where the hidden item is and get out of that aisle. You will be less tempted to pick up extra stuff if you don’t have a half empty basket in front of you.

    Use the cost per unit info on the price sticker to see if a deal / bigger size is really a deal.

    Don’t be shy about coupons and store apps. Using our store app (Loblaws) we regularly get bonus points on the stuff that we would normally buy. 20000 points = $20 off our next bill. Using the bonus points it does not take long to get the rebate.

  7. Holy crap! I just had hamloaf for dinner tonight! I get my grandmother to make it for me a couple times a year because it’s so delish and she’s the only person I’ve ever heard of that makes it.

    Apparently, nobody eats it anymore or even knows what it is. I took some leftovers to work for lunch one day and everybody thought I was making up the word “hamloaf” when I told them what it was! Lol! Glad to know I’m not alone!

  8. I’m with you on the Walmart. I don’t like the corporation, but am a hypocrite and shop there anyway, because of the prices. Spent the winter in Destin, Fl and there is a great Walmart there with pretty much everything you need, including great fresh vegetables, a deli and bakery. I loved the store. Try the Prima Della special at the deli, you get a pound of your choice of meat and a half pound of cheese for $9 I believe. Basically, the cheese is free. Eat well!

  9. We eat simply as well and, like you, shop at Walmart to help keep costs down. But where I really save money is at Costco. Despite living on a boat, I can still to buy in bulk (everything from paper towels to engine oil to boneless chicken).

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

  10. I actually really enjoyed this post! Good on you for keeping your food budget low. We do *pretty* well, but we have quite a different philosophy. There are those that “eat to live” and those that “live to eat”; we fall into the latter category! One cheap dish we enjoy is dahl. Saute garlic and onion in olive oile, stir in dry split red lentils and a few spices (e.g., tumeric, cumin, coriander, white pepper, cayenne pepper) and simmer, adding water gradually as it is absorbed until the lentils are soft and there is a soup-like texture. Pour it over rice. A tasty, filling meal 🙂 ~Jessie

  11. You gotta try Zatarans jambalaya mix. Comes in a box. Buy an onion and the cheapest turkey or beef sausage you can find. Chop up onion and cook, add sausage whenever you want, hot sauce to taste. It’s cheap and easy and tasty. Another favorite of mine is Campbell’s condensed new England clam chowder. Instead of milk use coconut milk. Cook some plain egg noodles and add to soup…eat with saltines. Filling and good calories count for boat work. Also cheap filling.

  12. Wow, $10 per day when trying to live on the cheap! The USA must be very expensive then. I just went through our expenses for the last 2 months and came to slightly less than €70 per week for the two of us. That’s including take-out and just buying whatever we feel like eating at the supermarket around the corner. That includes fresh bread, quality meats and plenty of snacks. (I live in a country with roughly the same GDP per capita as the USA)

  13. Lucy, I still love the taste of food too much to go for a pill, but Matt does love his sugary items like chocolate. ☺ I should get into more rice and bean dinners as they’te so simple and cheap…I just need to beef up my spice cabinet!

  14. Kelley, that’s so funny, we’re true blue Kraft mac’n’cheesers, its one thing we’ll always go name brand on. I used to love kielbasa meals, but Matt isn’t a fan. 😥

  15. Hey Jessica,
    Michelle and I have the fortunate ability of working on an offshore supply vessel where our food is paid for by our company. We use this time to make meals that are simple to make and with simple/few ingredients as well. This helps us in deciding what recipes/meals we like or dislike. I’m from an Italian family so pasta is always a choice for us, good thing about that though is there are lots of pasta dishes that are super simple. Just last week I made a Italian sausage and spinach fettuccine pasta(any pasta will do really) that only required one pan(unless you count the pot to boil pasta) and it was suprisingly delicious. Pasta Aglio e Olio is quick and easy too. Both of us do like a good burger too so that’s definitely a staple. Another genre, Hispanic/Mexican type foods are pretty easy to make as well if you like that type of food. Lately when working on the boat we have made vegatables and cheese our lunches.. Hope everything is going great in Indiantown with Daze Off!

    s/v Redemption
    Ronnie recently posted…Technical DifficultiesMy Profile

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