How This Mom of Hungry Teens Spends Less Than $100 on a Week of Groceries

published Mar 7, 2022
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Groceries on a kitchen table by a bright window. Cabbage, veggies, bread, fresh veggies, bananas, oat milk, frozen mango, avocado, rolled oats, and more.

Name: Meleyna Nomura
Location: San Francisco East Bay, CA
Number of people in household: 4 (myself, my husband Tom, kids Parker and Leila)
Age: 34, 42, 14, and 10
Occupation: Writer 
Grocery shopping for how long? 1 week
Where did you shop? Raley’s, Trader Joe’s, Safeway
Did you get your groceries delivered or did you go to the store? Went to the store.
How much did you spend? $92

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Where did you shop?

I have a pretty long roster of regular grocery stores I rotate through depending on my needs, everything from Costco to our local grocery and butcher that’s a few blocks away. This week leaned heavier on the big chain stores. 

I had a free window of time Monday morning and ran over to the Raley’s even though I hadn’t meal planned yet. Unusual for me, but it had been a packed weekend, so I just grabbed some staples. I followed up with my regular meal planning and went to Trader Joe’s the next day to fill in the holes. 

What’s your grocery strategy?

I keep a spreadsheet of every dollar we spend on food, both on groceries and restaurant spending. I don’t have a strict budget, but I do keep an eye on the USDA Cost of Food Report. We have the privilege of being able to keep tabs on our overall weekly average versus being super strict week to week. Sometimes I come in under $100, sometimes it’s considerably more. (Like when I do a big Costco trip.) Our average grocery spending ends up somewhere between the low/moderate budget, closer to the low end.

I stock up during sales and at Costco to save. We have a deep freezer in the basement. It was a purchase I had been hemming and hawing over for years, and the pandemic finally pushed me to order one. It’s been really helpful for me, and I’m glad I finally went for it. 

Feeding kids is no joke, but feeding busy older kids is an entirely different ball game. Not only is my son Parker a very active teen athlete, but he stands at a cool 6’3”. My daughter Leila is also at that stage of late elementary school where she keeps hitting random growth spurts. Making sure we’re stocked so they can feed themselves easily and fairly healthfully is top priority when planning for the week. I focus on whole grains, fruits, and vegetables with some fun stuff mixed in. I have a background in science-based nutrition, and while a lot of parents are concerned about their kids’ protein count, I’m mostly concerned that they’re getting good fiber intake. At the same time, I very much look to my plate for pleasure. I want my kids to appreciate good food as something to enjoy, not just to fuel their bodies.

How do you meal plan?

I keep a list in my Notes app. I do the bulk of the planning from my computer and have it easily accessible from my phone to reference the rest of the week. Before I make a list or even think about what I’m going to cook that week, I paw through the refrigerator to see what’s leftover from the week before. I write that down at the bottom of my meal plan so I know what needs to be eaten first. 

After that, I fill in each day with all of the activities our family has that week. That way I know if I have to plan around a 5 p.m. carpool, or if my son Parker is going to need something substantial both before and after a three-hour baseball practice or a crazy travel tournament schedule. 

Sort of a funny thing I do when meal planning is that I look at the weather in the city where we live. 300 days of the year, it’s somewhere between 62–72°. If it’s over 70° I like to pick something that feels really fresh. I don’t want to be eating lentil soup when it’s 75° when I could probably just wait three days when it’s back down to 63°. I very much believe that that little extra bit of thought makes dinner all the more satisfying at the end of a long day.

Sometimes I lean heavily on recipes to give my brain a bit of a break. Eventually I’ll get tired of following formulas and end up in more of a creative mode. I’m somewhere in between right now, leaning more on family favorites. It’s our busiest season so I don’t have a ton of time to be perusing books or blogs for new ideas, but I also need to get dinner on the table in between a lot of other things. 

What did you buy?

Leila’s birthday party was over the weekend, which means I spent more than I typically do on snacks and treats the week before. I also ended up really busy with extra party planning tasks, meaning a couple of nights I resorted to last minute takeout. Oh, plus I bought a bunch of Girl Scout cookies from a neighbor. So not only did I have a bunch of extra expenses, but leftover groceries I didn’t get to. I went into the week knowing I needed to work through lots of leftovers and keep my spending tighter to help make up for the overages from the week before.



  • Bananas, $2.40
  • Broccoli, $4.00
  • Ginger, $1.50
  • Bell pepper, $2.00
  • Green beans, $1.80
  • Green cabbage, $1.80


  • 2% milk x2, $7.00
  • Oat milk x2, $7.00


  • Nova lox, $5.00
  • Pepperoni, $5.00


  • MorningStar plant based chorizo crumbles, $4.00


  • Whole wheat hamburger buns, $2.30
  • Whole wheat tortillas, $3.80

Miscellaneous grocery

  • Capers, $3.60
  • Decaf English Breakfast tea, $4.50

Total: $55.70

Trader Joe’s


  • Bagged avocados, $4.00


  • European style yogurt, $4.40
  • Organic tofu, $1.80


  • Mango chunks, $3.00
  • Turkey burgers, $3.30

Miscellaneous grocery

  • Taco shells, $2.30
  • Canned garbanzo beans, $0.80
  • Italian bomba condiment, $3.30
  • Oatmeal, $4.00
  • Ginger turmeric tea x2, $5.60
  • Blue corn tortilla chips, $3.50

Total: $36.00

Grand total: $91.70

What did you make?


I preordered a dozen bagels from a pop-up shop as a Valentine’s Day treat for my husband and me. We ate those for a couple of mornings, and then froze the rest. My son Parker pretty much sticks to cereal most mornings, Kix or Cheerios being his preference. My daughter Leila gravitates towards hot breakfasts like oatmeal and eggs. I finally replaced the oatmeal after having forgotten to pick it up the week before, so she went heavy on that this week. She eats it with bananas and maple syrup.


School lunch is free in California this year in response to the COVID crisis. Parker claims he doesn’t have room in his backpack or locker for a lunch box and gets school lunch most days. On the days they serve something he doesn’t like, he comes home very hungry. Even if I warn him and let him know he doesn’t like lunch that day. I do not know why teenagers behave like this. Leila will stand in line on pizza day and when they serve breakfast for lunch, but otherwise packs. She gets a lot of leftovers in her Thermos. Other favorites are cold soba noodles with tofu, peanut butter and banana in a whole grain tortilla, inari sushi, whole grain bagel with cream cheese, and strawberry slices. 

My husband Tom and I both work from home. Lunch is where I tend to indulge my personal whims and use up a lot of the leftovers. I had a pack of shiitakes from the week before and made a vegetarian mapo tofu I ate the first half of the week. I made the viral TikTok cabbage salad for the second half. Tom mostly ate soup leftovers, both from Tuesday and from the stash I keep in the freezer. He also remains a very big fan of peanut butter and jelly at 43 years old.

Snacks and treats

  • Leftover pigs in a blanket from Super Bowl Sunday were Monday’s after school snack. 
  • I had a leftover roasted chicken and made hoisin chicken and pineapple wraps, which were on heavy rotation this week for Parker. 
  • Quesadillas with MorningStar chorizo and frozen corn, turkey burgers, and peanut butter and jelly. 
  • Cara Cara oranges and kiwi, cucumbers and sliced bell peppers. 
  • Cheez Its and peanut butter-filled pretzels are perennial favorites. 
  • Smoothies were a pre- and post-practice favorite for both kids. (Our formula is typically plain yogurt, flax seed, banana, frozen mango, and frozen spinach.) 
  • Girl Scout cookies!


I leaned heavily on my freezer for proteins this week. Nearly every dinner we had this week had a component I had shopped from my stash.

The Daily Breakdown


It was Valentine’s Day, and also the day after the Super Bowl. I had a pot of oil out from frying chicken wings, so I decided to make kakiage tempura as a special dinner. Both kids had activities that afternoon, so my husband did the carpool run so I could focus on dinner. (Who said romance is dead?) I was going to keep it vegetarian to keep costs down (and because my daughter really pushes for Meatless Monday), but I decided to defrost some shrimp as a treat.


The last couple of days were gloomy and chilly so I decided on mulligatawny soup. It’s warm and cozy but bright with a little spice. I pulled chicken thighs out of the freezer and raided the pantry and fridge for staples like red lentils and sweet potatoes that I always have on hand. Leila loves this soup and I figured she’d devour it after her softball practice. But it’s not Parker’s favorite. He ate a bowl without complaint, then made himself a PB&J and an apple an hour later.


I made up for Meatless Monday with pasta with chickpeas, broccoli, lemon, and garlic. Parker had practice during our regular dinnertime. He had a chicken wrap and smoothie before practice. I made him a frozen turkey burger with veggies on the side when he got home. (Ok so maybe not so meatless, whoops.)


It was warmer today, and everyone was home during dinner! Ground turkey (from the freezer) tacos topped with a mango salsa and cabbage. I made a side salad from romaine leftovers and a creamy dressing from a very overripe avocado.


I decided on pizza. I don’t normally do homemade pizza on a Friday because it’s simply too much after a long week. My kitchen is very likely sort of chaotic from lingering things that did not get picked up over the week. (I do a big clean over the weekend.) But my kids had the day off for President’s Day so I made them do extra chores while I worked. I grabbed mozzarella out of the freezer and used the pepperoni I picked up at the store. I made the pizza and roasted some green beans, and we ate while Parker was at batting practice. He finished up all of the leftovers as soon as he walked in the door. Then he popped a gigantic bowl of popcorn on the stovetop for himself and took it with him to his Friday night Playstation session with his friends. 


I woke up feeling generally really unwell and decided to be cautious and isolate myself from my family before I could get a COVID test. This made for a pretty bizarre day. My husband’s not incapable in the kitchen, but he doesn’t have a ton of practice because I prefer to do the heavy lifting. I had him set up the rice cooker with brown sticky rice and pull a pound of ground beef out of the freezer for soy-sauced beef and cabbage