We currently budget $400/month for food shopping (it was a little over $500 when YaYu was with us). That’s for everything though, including paper products (except for toilet paper, which we buy separately from Amazon by the case), once-a-week farmers’ market visits, and health-related items outside of prescriptions. $400 is not very much when you’re living on Kaua’i, but we’ve worked out a twice-a-month shopping system and have so far managed to stay just under that amount every month. We use shopping hacks learned when we lived here before, and stagger purchases of proteins and bulk items from Costco. When we arrived back in 2014, our food budget started at $1000/month (!!!) as we figured things out, but it didn’t take long to get that down to under $600/month for four of us, and it stayed there as long as the girls were with us. Although prices are going up every week it seems, $400/month works now for just the two of us. We also budget extra at the beginning of the year to stock up on items like toothpaste, deodorant, and other toiletries so we don’t have to include them in our monthly shopping, at least not for several months.
Creating varied, healthy meals on a tight budget has been a long-time effort for me, especially when I was trying to feed a family of five. It remains a challenge now to create meals for Brett and myself that don’t break our monthly food budget but are nutritious and not loaded with calories. We’re committed to this budget as less spent on food each month means more for our travel fund and other things. It’s a constant balancing act though between wants and needs.
We shop at five different stores on the island:
- Costco: We spend the most of our budget at Costco, where we buy items we use frequently. We also buy the majority of our protein there, usually two or three different items every two weeks. While Costco prices are slightly higher here than they are on the mainland, we would not be able to maintain our budget if Costco wasn’t here. Buying a few high-frequency products in bulk means we always have a variety of food on hand to create meals. Once of the biggest constraints on our Costco shopping is that we don’t have the space in our apartment to store much, but we stagger our purchases so that there’s usually a good variety of items on hand.
- Walmart: I had never set foot in a Walmart until we moved here, but it’s become a big part of keeping our food costs down. Walmart is where we get the items we don’t need or want in bulk, like rice, flour or sugar, or things like sauces or canned vegetables and some dairy. The prices at Walmart are very low compared to any place else on the island. They have an awesome Asian food section, Hawaii-grown vegetables (like green peppers or onions, which can be hard to find at the farmers’ market), and it’s a great place to find niche ingredients at a lower price. I also prefer some of their store brands over name-brand because they don’t contain things like high fructose corn syrup, thickeners, or other additives. Who knew? Although I have nothing to compare it with, I’ve been told more than once that the vibe at our Walmart is very different from any on the mainland.
- Local grocery store: Big Save, Times, and Safeway are our go-to markets, although we prefer the first two (both locally owned by the same company). We shop at these markets for milk (1/2 gallon every other week), a few produce items now and again that we can’t get at the farmers’ market or Walmart, and for the very few items we can’t find at Costco or Walmart, like arborio rice for example.
- Farmers’ market: We are blessed to have such great markets operating year round, and with the produce so affordably priced. We budget $15/week at the market, and can bring home quite a bit for that.
- Amazon: I bought a lot more through Amazon when we lived here before, but the only three items we buy now are toilet paper, Pacific Foods roasted pepper and tomato soup, and Thai Kitchen pad Thai kits. The toilet paper and soup are delivered by subscription, and I only buy the pad Thai mix when I can’t locate it here.
Before we shop I go through our pantry, fridge, and freezer to see what we have on hand, and then make a menu before I make the shopping list. We always take something off the list before we shop, and then try to figure one or two things we don’t need or can do without while we’re shopping. So far it’s all working to keep us on track with our budget.
Here’s what we ate for dinner this past week:
Sunday: Tom Colicchio’s one pan pasta with ham and broccoli; pumpkin cake
Monday: Spinach and cheddar quiche; pumpkin cake
Tuesday: Ham fried rice; pumpkin cake
Wednesday: Grilled chicken & apple sausages; guacamole salad; rum cake
Thursday: Mini pizzas with leftover chicken sausage and green onions; rum cake
Friday: Breakfast for dinner (pancakes with lilikoi curd, sausages, and papaya)
Saturday: Cheese tortellini with creamy red pepper sauce; green beans; rum cake
Here’s what’s planned for next week, in no particular order:
- Chicken pad thai
- Egg foo yung with bean sprouts; egg drop soup
- Grilled Polish sausages in a bun; coleslaw
- CookDo pork & pepper stir fry
- Chicken adobo with bok choy
- Mini pizzas with roasted peppers and sausage
- Anniversary dining out
Rum cake will be our dessert all week.
Last week was a great one for walking. After so much rain, wind, and generally lousy weather for the past few weeks, this past one gave us two absolutely gorgeous days on Monday and Tuesday, with bright blue skies, soft breezes, and low humidity. We did our regular walk on Sunday although it was sketchy the entire time, but on Monday we went up to the park later than usual and were able to walk the perimeter of the golf course for a nice change of pace. We had debated not going because Monday way our day off but because the weather was so nice we couldn’t resist. On Tuesday the weather was if anything even better, and since it had been dry for a couple of days we headed back onto the trails through the woods, something we’d been missing. Both day’s walks were nearly five miles. Rain was predicted for Wednesday, but never showed up. However, my hay fever did show up and made me miserable, so I ended up taking the day off while Brett walked on his own. Thursday was once again gloomy, but we got in a shorter walk between showers, and Friday and Saturday were both lovely again and cool, and we did long walks each day.
We had hoped to be able to add another half mile or so to our distance this month, but it became pretty obvious toward the end of the month that was not going to happen. With all the weather-related interruptions there have been we feel grateful we didn’t lose ground, and were able to maintain our current pace and distance.
The doctor was very pleased with my weight the other day – 32 pounds gone since I was weighed at the doctors’ office last June. He said the walking is helping to combat osteoporosis in my hips as are the strength training exercises for my upper body. Maybe those upper body strength exercises are providing more benefits than I realized though because I have no trouble putting my palms up on my shoulders. I am pretty flexible overall (can bend over and put my palms on the floor without bending my knees, for example) but the shoulder one surprised me.