$138 A Week For Groceries - A Little Background + Days 2 & 3 Meals (Sunday & Monday)

I should probably share some background to put my grocery options into perspective for those of you who are new to my blog.

Bulgogi Style Chicken & Spaghetti Vegetable Chow Mein
$1.76 per serving

I live in Oceanside, in North San Diego County. To the north of us is that place where I grew up that some people like to call The OC. South of us are posher coastal communities like Del Mar (known for its racetrack among other things) and Encinitas, which is a yippie-chic beachtown that reminds me somewhat of Laguna Beach, but stuffier and unhappier. Encinitas is the kind of town that has a Whole Foods, if that means anything to you. Oceanside is not. If there's an ethnic enclave here, it's mostly Mexican and to a much lesser degree, Filipino and Samoan. Marines and their families do not an ethnic enclave make, but as Camp Pendleton is directly north of us, we do have a military contingent here as well.

What that means is that, notwithstanding the fact that our city is on the water, and there are some wealthy people who own homes directly overlooking it, this is a primarily middle/ working class neighborhood. If that doesn't much suit bougie folk, it serves us pretty well by driving down the food costs because our community simply will not sustain a high price point for groceries.

Within a 5 to 10 minute drive from our house are Sprouts, Fresh & Easy, Vons and Walmart. 10 to 15 minutes away are Mission Seafood, Ralph's and a couple of MexiMarts. 20 to 25 minutes away is a Trader Joe's, but I usually stick to Sprouts, Fresh & Easy and Mission Seafood with the occasional trip to the MexiMart. I sometimes make the incidental grocery purchase at the other places, but they are just that - incidental. Every once in a while I feel like I should love Trader Joe's more, but if I recall correctly, it always seemed to cost me more on the whole than my other regular options, so it's also become an incidental rather than purposeful grocery source if at all.

If I could blink and make one thing a grocery shopping reality in our general area, it would be a solid Asian market like 99 Ranch, but while it's nice to have the wide selection of fresh seafood, Asian pantry items, and some of the specialty produce you can find there, I've mostly been able to make do by shopping the so-called ethnic aisles of the markets available to me for the Asian condiments I need. They're usually not the brands I want, but they do in a pinch.

When I find myself back up north in OC or down south in Kearny Mesa, I make a run to 99 Ranch or H-Mart to stock up on things like fish sauce, bulk jasmine rice, bulk soy sauce, rice paper, vermicelli, pho noodles, gochujang, dwenjang (miso), and various Asian instant noodles among other things. Cost Plus (or World Market as you might know it) also has an alright selection of ethnic pantry items when you're in a pinch.

When I think about it, though it would be so much more convenient if I lived closer to a better Asian market, the truth is it's made me a much more resourceful and adaptable cook that I don't. In recipe development, it's also made me more aware of the limitations my readers might face when trying to replicate one of my recipes without easy access to certain specialty ingredients. I wouldn't trade the experience or education.

To give you a baseline, here's what I pay regularly for a few staples (non-organic):

- whole chicken:  $1.69 to $1.99 per pound
- gallon of milk:  $3.75
- a dozen AA large eggs:  $3.00
- a loaf of Italian bread:  $2.00
- carrots and onions: about $0.75 to $1.00 per pound
- gas:  $4.25 a gallon 

Generally speaking, metropolitan Southern California is a dream when it comes to ingredients. I don't have the best access to be found in the entire region, but it's certainly not the worst.

That said, even when I do have fairly easy access to what might be considered exotic ingredients for most, I try to keep my recipes as simple, adaptable, and accessible to as many people as possible. From time to time, this means I have to listen to weenies and blowhards tell me how I got it wrong because I didn't make it special or authentic or complicated or exclusive enough for their blowhard weenie proclivities, but to have just one person tell me they tried something new and enjoyed it because of one of my recipes makes it a million times worth it.

And on to the meals of Days 2 and 3.

As always, I've included a meal total and per serving total on the blog. The detailed ingredient cost breakdown HERE.



We all had a simple breakfast before heading out to hang with friends. I had a Peanut Butter & Banana sandwich, and everyone else decided to have cereal, except for Izz, who had milk and a banana.

Coffee for me, Dean, and Joey.


Lunch before paid air conditioning bowling was assorted Japanese noms out, and because we were having so much fun with them, dinner ended up being beer and pizza at our friends' place, where we left the big kids for the night because they also were having too much fun.

Since being out all day on Sunday was going to put me a day behind on this diary, it's lucky that I only have to account for breakfast. ;)




Since pizza usually sits in both our bellies for a while, breakfast was light. Toast with butter and homemade No-Canning Strawberry Jam (recipe HERE), coffee, and a peach each for me and Dean. More milk and banana for Izz. She's on a roll.

The kids had breakfast at Marcy's. (Friends who keep your kids safe, thoroughly entertained and fed are gold, aren't they? :) )



The big kids have been asking for kimchi forever, so I finally caved and made a fresh batch - just under a gallon's worth. My recipe HERE.



Mads' standing request - Vietnamese Summer Rolls. 16 of them between the 4 of us. Izz just had some of the boiled pork and a little bit of fruit, which, as I mentioned earlier, pretty much gets absorbed into the cost of the meal for 4.

LUNCH TOTAL: $8.88 for 4 servings, $2.22 per serving


Bulgogi style chicken thighs, a super easy and economical Spaghetti Vegetable Chow Mein, and some watermelon. Mads wouldn't normally be with us on a Monday, but it was Labor Day. Again, Izz ate a portion easily absorbed into the cost of the rest of our servings.

When we grill meats, with a few exceptions, I like to slice the meat before serving and portion it out to something a little more reasonable than the whole hunk of meat usually ends up being. This helps us to be reasonable in our consumption, and it usually means there's more left over to make another meal than there would be otherwise. For instance, I marinated 5 chicken thighs yesterday. If I'd served a whole thigh each (and some of them were quite large), we might have had 5 servings with a few bits of uneaten chicken left over on each plate, which we probably eventually would have eaten for guilt because it wasn't enough to put away for another meal and yet too wasteful to discard.

This way, I was able to put away enough for another 2 full servings of both the chicken and the noodles that didn't look or feel like other people's plate scraps. ;)

DINNER TOTAL: $7.51 for 6 servings, $1.88 per serving


Off to write up the Spaghetti Vegetable Chow Mein recipe. Back with that in a bit! :)


This post is part of my 30 Day Grocery Budget Diary. To see all the posts of this series in reverse chron order, click HERE.

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