I love reading other people’s essential grocery lists – you know, the ‘must purchase’ items.  It’s like peeking inside someone’s medicine cabinet at a party.  Not that I would ever do that.


Our grocery list is a bit unusual in the fact that we’re both vegetarians, the Husband doesn’t eat dairy, and we try to avoid gluten (I’m sensitive, and Kristien just avoids it because it makes it easier to cook for the two of us).  Fortunately, there are still a ton of delicious foods for us to eat and enjoy. 


We try (try being the key word) to stick to a budget of $100 to $125 a week.  It’s certainly not a cheap trip to the store each week, but we eat the vast majority of our meals at home, and Kristien packs lunch to take to work. 


Our grocery ‘tricks:’


  • Before we leave for the store, I simply snap a picture of the inside of the fridge with my iPhone.  That way, we know what we have and what we don’t.  Otherwise, we end up with three bags of wilting spinach and no eggs.
  • I rarely go into store intending to buy specific produce (with the exception of spinach and bananas – we always need spinach and bananas!).  Instead, I try to only purchase what is on sale.  I won’t walk in thinking, “I need Brussel sprouts, asparagus, and raspberries;” I note on my list that we need at least two green veggies and a berry.  If the zucchini, snow peas, and blueberries are on sale, so be it. 
  • There are certain foods that are financially and time-wise ‘worth it’ for us to opt for the slightly more expensive convenience version.  Trader Joe’s frozen organic brown rice is a great example. 
  • If it’s something we buy every week, it’s on sale, and it won’t go off in the next few weeks, we stock up.
  • We each get to select one special purchase a week, and we jointly select an adult beverage.  The Husband often opts for a pricey pre-made sauce (he really likes curries), and I always get some sort of dessert (like a chocolate or cookie). We usually get a bottle of wine, but now that it’s summertime, we’ve been opting for cider.  This helps us stick to our budget and prevents us from buying a ton of expensive specialty items or treats.
  • There are many more grocery shopping tricks (and sample lists for various family sizes) in the Healthy Tipping Point book.


Here’s our essential grocery list.  Of course, we don’t buy everything on this list every week, and sometimes we buy other items, but these are our must-have basics. 



Gluten-free bread (I like Udi’s brand the most)


Gluten-free crackers

Rice cakes

Tortilla chips

Gluten-free oats

Cereal (I like Rice Chex; the Husband likes Panda Puffs)


Protein Sources

Eggs (at least two cartons)

Black, kidney, pinto, and baked beans

Gluten-free tempeh


Cashews, almonds, or pistachio nuts


Sunflower seed nut butter

Peanut butter (we always buy two, one jar is used for smoothies)

Dairy-free protein powder (not technically a grocery store item but worth mentioning)

Lentils (Trader Joe’s precooked)


Dairy / ‘Milks’

Cottage cheese

Greek yogurt

Sliced or shredded cheese

Unsweetened soy milk (we try not to go soy-crazy but appreciate the higher protein amounts in soy v. almond or rice milk)



Two or three green vegetables (usually two that are good in stir fries and one for roasting)

A berry A ‘hard fruit’ (apples or oranges)


Avocados (for the Husband; I’m deathly allergic!)

A starchy vegetable (such as sweet potato)


Butter lettuce (not the most nutrient dense but so delicious)


Condiments + Miscellaneous

Earth Balance (vegan butter)

Soy creamer

Loose leaf tea


Orange juice (we are in an eternal argument of pulp v. pulp free – PULP ALL THE WAY!)

Balsamic salad dressing (so versatile – I use it on salads, sandwiches, and stir fries)

Ketchup, mayo, and mustard

Curry sauce


Marinara sauce

Maple syrup

Coconut oil (for cooking and for rubbing into skin – it’s an awesome moisturizer)


Frozen Foods

Frozen brown rice

A few frozen dinners; usually Trader Joe’s Indian meals

French fries

Frozen vegetables (good in a pinch)

Frozen berries (for smoothies)


I’m proud to say that we just got back from the grocery store and not only did I not purchase any duplicate items (wahoo!), but I stayed within budget (double wahoo!).  My special purchase of the week:  this cake mix – with chocolate frosting.


Now – it’s you’ll excuse me, I have a cake to bake.


More grocery posts:


Combining Grocery Lists and Meal Planning

My Earth Fare Shopping Cart

My Trader Joe’s Shopping Cart

My Favorite Trader Joe’s Products


What are some of your essential grocery items?  What was your special purchase of the week?



  • jessika July 1, 2012, 4:42 pm

    The photo idea may be the most genius idea, ever.

    • Abby August 5, 2013, 9:29 pm

      I agree! Everyone should do it!

  • Katy July 1, 2012, 4:51 pm

    I love this post. The photo of the fridge idea is genius! Some of our essential items are:
    Arnold Bread
    Special K
    Deli meat
    fresh fruits and veggies (on sale)

  • Kelly July 1, 2012, 5:01 pm

    That is SO smart to take a photo of your refrigerator before you leave for the store!!

  • Danielle July 1, 2012, 5:08 pm

    Your fridge is so clean! Great tips.

    • CaitlinHTP July 1, 2012, 5:09 pm

      haha i cleaned it just for that picture.

  • Michelle @ eatmovebalance.com July 1, 2012, 5:10 pm

    Good idea about taking a picture.

    For any iPhone users out there . . . my husband and I both have the Dropbox app on our phones, and we set it up so we can share our lists. So, we have a list of items we regularly get for the grocery store, Costco, and Trader Joe’s. We are each able to check the items that need to be picked up that week. For example, my husband always does the Costco trip (I do all the other food shopping) and he went there this morning, but I was in the shower when he left. So when I got out, I grabbed my phone and checked “blueberries”, so when he accessed the list at the store, he could see I needed blueberries. 🙂

  • Hillary July 1, 2012, 5:11 pm

    I always need spinach and bananas, too! And Greek yogurt. I think I could live on that stuff.

  • luv what you do July 1, 2012, 5:27 pm

    The iphone picture is a great trick!!!

    A few of my essentials are nut butters, fruit, almond milk, frozen veggies, tea, edamame, sweet potatoes, and fruit. This week I bought a lemoncello melon…delish!

  • Katie @ Peace Love and Oats July 1, 2012, 5:30 pm

    I can’t believe you get all of that for so little! I’m awful with a shipping budget, I probably spend more than you do and I’m just one person! I need to stop making fun purchases at whole foods…

    • Maria July 2, 2012, 3:56 am

      I second that 🙂 but it is definitely more expensive to shop for one person unless you eat the same stuff day after day. You get more variety for your money the more people you are shopping for. Recently I created an excell spreadsheet to document my food purchases and I was pretty surprised. I love variety so I don’t want to cut way back on my food shopping, but I did realize that all the fun stuff is costing me way too much. This month I will be trying to cut down to 1-2 visits to the stores since that’s when I go crazy. I will also follow Caitlin’s suggestion and limit myself to one special purchase a week.

      • Maria July 2, 2012, 4:00 am

        That’s 1-2 visits to the stores per week 🙂

  • laine July 1, 2012, 5:36 pm

    My veggies and eggs are delivered from my CSA and my protein (meat) is in my chest freezer since I buy it in bulk from a farm store, so my grocery trips are mainly for milk, coffee and cheese.

    • Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed July 1, 2012, 9:18 pm

      I try to mix up our fruit selection based on what’s in season and on sale, but for veggies we always have peppers, mushrooms, and onions! We’ve also been hitting up BJ’s Wholesale for giant bags of frozen broccoli. I never get sick of broccoli with melted cheese as a dinner side!

  • Lindsey July 1, 2012, 5:37 pm

    I love the idea to take a picture on your phone! I always make a super detailed list (paper folded up into sections- produce, dairy, meat, frozen, etc) but I always seem to forget something on the list and then can’t remember if I have it at home or not!

  • Shannon July 1, 2012, 5:49 pm

    I am notorious for getting things that I already had in the fridge at home so I am loving your idea about taking a picture of the inside of the fridge! I will try that next time I go shopping 🙂 By the way I don’t think I have ever commented before ( I just started my blog), but I have read your blog for a good 2 years, love it!

  • Alexia (Dimple Snatcher) July 1, 2012, 5:51 pm

    love this post! mind sharing why your husband eats eggs but not dairy?

  • Nicole July 1, 2012, 5:54 pm

    I need to start taking photos so I don’t end up with duplicate items like jars of roasted red peppers and I know exactly how many cans of beans I actually have.

    I did take a sad photo of my cart today because all but two items in it were for my husband…soda, Oreos, beer, Doritos, Ruffles, hotdogs, Lunchables, and HungryMan dinners. I shop for two totally different people. My special treat of that trip was peanut M&Ms. Baby wanted some. 🙂

    I wish I could control my grocery budget, but it all depends on what the husband is out of, plus how crazy I went at the farmers market.

  • Jolene (Homespun Heritage) July 1, 2012, 6:01 pm

    Very interesting way to do your grocery shopping…As a mother of 4 going on 7 I find this topic always fun to chat about! We currently (with only 4 children) spend about $350 a month on groceries. I write a menu every 2 weeks and write my grocery list off that. I’m vegetarian (the only one) and we cook around severe food allergies (my 2 yr old has crazy ones). Our budget will likely go up by quite a bit (probably $100 a month or so) after we add our two 5 yr olds.

  • Breanne July 1, 2012, 6:11 pm

    Here’ a really good gluten free recipe my family loves. It could be Vegan sans cheese. A really good homemade pizza:

    Trader Joes Rice Tortillas
    Pizza Sauce (I like the Spicy kind by Prego)
    Whatever toppings

    Toast the tortilla until it’s crisp then add the rest and re-toast

    Yum, yum!

  • Ashley @ My Food 'N' Fitness Diaries July 1, 2012, 6:15 pm

    i always love seeing what others have on their grocery lists too. 🙂 a few of our MUST haves each week are: eggs, peanut butter, wheat bread, oats, and bananas. of course there’s quite a bit more, but i have a hard time living without those above items! 😉

  • Alex @ Raw Recovery July 1, 2012, 7:03 pm

    Hard cider is my favorite adult beverage! I love the different flavors too like pear and mixed berry. I think it’s a great idea to take a picture of the inside of your fridge and freezer. That sounds like the most convenient thing. I love cell phones.

  • Allie July 1, 2012, 7:18 pm

    Oh my goodness! You are allergic to avocados?! So am I! People always think it is the oddest allergy and I have never met anyone with it. I love avocados and I wish I could eat them but they make me ubber sick. It definitely makes eating Mexican out a pain in the butt! Thanks for sharing your grocery list! 🙂

  • BroccoliHut July 1, 2012, 7:56 pm

    I consider grocery shopping a hobby of mine, so I loved this post 🙂 My freezer is way more crammed than yours–I have a tendency to hoard frozen fruit.
    If you’re interested, I posted a few pics of my fridge/freezer a few months ago when I did a little spring cleaning!


  • Megan E July 1, 2012, 8:40 pm

    I showed this to my bf and now he won’t stop saying “PULP ALL THE WAY!” thanks.

    • Megan E July 1, 2012, 8:48 pm

      I remain a firm supporter of Team No Pulp 😉

  • Emily July 1, 2012, 8:52 pm

    This post is SO awesome:D From the perspective of being neither vegetarian nor gluten-sensitive I still find it useful. Thanks!

  • Emily July 1, 2012, 8:53 pm

    That wasn’t supposed to be a reply comment lol

  • Army Amy* July 1, 2012, 9:18 pm

    This post made me really hungry! So many yummy foods! I actually dread going to the grocery store. It’s so fun when my husband and I go together, but he’s been deployed all year, so it’s been a lot of solo trips. No fun. At least the people at my grocery store are amazing! They are so friendly and they always carry the groceries out to your car for you. Can’t beat that!*

  • Socal Rachel July 1, 2012, 9:28 pm

    I hate pulp! Why would I want to chew my beverage?

  • Teresa July 1, 2012, 9:28 pm

    Looks to me like you have trader joes soy ice cream, it’s godsend

  • Jen July 1, 2012, 9:32 pm

    I always shop off a grocery list/meal plan for the week so you’d think that would reduce duplicate items/wasted stuff, but no, there’s still lots of that. And apparently I have a fear of running out of tin foil and saran wrap, cuz at last count we have about 9 boxes of each in our pantry…not sure what that’s all about.

  • Keri July 1, 2012, 10:07 pm

    I’ve never thought of taking a pic of the fridge before I go so I don’t duplicate. What an AWESOME idea! Also, I love Pamela’s baking mixes. They always turn out great. I really am obsessed with the cornbread in the fall. & Brownies 🙂

  • Keri July 1, 2012, 10:11 pm

    Also, I try to follow the same budget, but have trouble when I add in household staples and toiletries. Does your 100-125 include things like paper towels, shampoo, etc.?

  • Marie-Santé July 1, 2012, 10:11 pm

    TEAM PULP!!!!!!! 🙂

  • Lauren July 1, 2012, 10:38 pm

    First, congrats on the birth of Henry! What a cutie! This was a great post and roughly what my husband and I go through week to week. I am vegitarian and he is an omnivore, but we often find some of my dishes that he’ll enjoy too. I had a question about milk- I discovered when I was marathon training that I was really sensitive to lactose. Greek yogurt seems to be ok, but straight cows milk isn’t. I tried almond milk, but didn’t like it or the Ca/protein content and opted for soy. Unfortunately I can only tolerate it in my cereal and don’t care for the chalky mouth feel- do you have any suggestions?

  • Katie July 1, 2012, 11:12 pm

    I like the one treat idea! That could be very useful for me in not buying as much “crap” thank you!

  • Caryln July 2, 2012, 12:03 am

    I always by veggies, greek yogurt, eggs, chicken, and almond milk. My special purchase this week was some granola that I haven’t tried before!

  • Dominique July 2, 2012, 12:21 am

    I’m pulp-free all the way but Sean is pulp so we go through the same debate. Since he’s not totally picky about the OJ, we usually get pulp-free. Our weekly must-haves are fruit, lettuce, yogurt, milk and eggs.

    I like the idea of only buying produce that is on sale. Our two closest grocery stores are two of the priciest in town but we go for convenience factor. One is literally down the street–a three minute walk.

    Oh and just out of curiosity, how much is your Udi’s bread (def the best GF-brand out of the four I’ve tried) and Rice Chex? I live in Toronto and they’re both usually $6. I’m desperately waiting for Rice Chex to go on sale at Walmart (for $3) because I refuse to pay that much for cereal.

  • Corrie Anne July 2, 2012, 12:52 am

    My favorite purchase was a Zevia. Loved reading about your system. Makes sense!

  • jameil July 2, 2012, 2:51 am

    I’m so sad you’re allergic to avocado!! It’s on our list at least every other week along with whatever veggies are on sale. We usually get in on a couple of BOGO or B2G3 free deals as well. We also get in on whatever meat is on sale. Oranges, bananas, pink lady apples and sale fruit. (I sense a trend in here somewhere…) Canned tomatoes, black beans, a frozen pizza, almond milk, cereal and chicken stock are always on the list.

  • AD July 2, 2012, 3:26 am

    As a former lover of the TJ’s steamed lentils, I know how easy they are to throw together for a quick meal- but have you tried cooking your own? It saves $$, and you skip all that extra sodium that’s in the packaged kind. If you buy regular brown lentils in the bulk bins (or in the dried bean aisle) you can cook 1 cup in 3 cups water or broth for 40-45 minutes and you’re done! Store in freezer or fridge- easy as pie.

  • Sara @ Real Fun Food July 2, 2012, 4:17 am

    That’s such a good idea – snapping a picture of your fridge! Seems so simple, but I never thought of that!

  • Ashley July 2, 2012, 4:53 am

    As a fellow gluten free girl I love Pamelas bread mix. Its super good and makes a bigger loaf than Udis

  • Kelly July 2, 2012, 7:11 am

    I didn’t know you were allergic to avocadoes? Yikes!

  • Lexi @ You, Me, & A World to See July 2, 2012, 7:38 am

    I am one of those major dorks that LOVES grovery shopping! Interesting to see how you do yours 🙂

  • Amanda July 2, 2012, 7:41 am

    We usually use a meal plan/shopping list, but it seems our vacation the other weeks has totally thrown us off our habit! I like the snapping a pic idea, could also work for pantry stuff too since its normally those things that we duplicate or forget about entirely. I also may need to make a trip to Trader Joe’s, I haven’t been in over a year and I forgot how awesome some of their stuff is.

  • Michelle McIsaac @ www.gloriouseats.com July 2, 2012, 8:13 am

    Grocery staples:
    Almond Milk
    Coconut milk
    spinach & bananas also!! Always!
    greek yogurt
    eggs & egg whites

    Smart idea to take a pic of the fridge!

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin July 2, 2012, 8:14 am

    That is such a good idea to snap a picture of the inside of your fridge before shopping! I can never remember what I have, so I always end up buying doubles of things! 😛

  • Molly @ RDexposed July 2, 2012, 8:20 am

    What a shame about the avocado!

  • Janae @ Bring-Joy July 2, 2012, 9:35 am

    I didn’t realize you ate gluten-free, too! I’m vegan (for ethical reasons/health & I’m lactose intolerant) & (mostly) gluten-free (have an intolerance to wheat).

    Love the phone idea, brilliant!

  • Laura July 2, 2012, 9:38 am

    I love this! My grocery lists change as my life change. A year ago a handful of supplements would make the cart along with rice milk and goat yogurt. Now that I’m in France it’s lettuce, meats, cheese and breads primarily.

  • Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats July 2, 2012, 12:14 pm

    Great post! I’ve seen that cake mix…is it any good?

  • Amanda K. July 2, 2012, 1:21 pm

    did you tidy up your fridge before taking photos? so organized!

  • Rebecca July 2, 2012, 1:53 pm

    EXACTLY how I operate!! 🙂

  • Amber K July 2, 2012, 2:10 pm

    Gluten-free pizza is a splurge, while we always make sure to load up on the basics. Fruit (both frozen and fresh)veggies,(both frozen and fresh, and tortillas are an every week thing. We stock up on GF pasta, quinoa and brown rice. So we almost always have some. Beans are another thing we stock up on. We’ve gotten down to pretty much just needing produce.

  • Julia H. @ Going Gulia July 2, 2012, 8:05 pm

    These are GREAT tips…especially the one about going in thinking that you need to buy some kind of greens & berries, rather than specifics. Btw, I hung out at Barnes & Noble today (yes, I do that, haha), and stumbled upon the HTP book! Great job on it 🙂

  • Dennis murray July 3, 2012, 1:17 pm

    I’d be interested to see how much of your cart is packaged foods versus fresh.

  • Diana @ frontyardfoodie July 3, 2012, 7:06 pm

    Taking a fridge pic, great tip!

    I go grocery shopping for us every two weeks. My budget is $100 for those two weeks but unlike you, alcohol is not a part of that budget at all.

    My husband is REALLY into trying crazy beers and we also homebrew so all said and done we might actually have a budget more like yours haha.

  • Killian July 27, 2013, 12:33 pm

    I am vegan and vegetarian I always have bees from birth and i am fine at the age of 12.

  • Rachel August 16, 2013, 12:02 am

    Just mastered the art of being vegetarian and getting ready to go gluten-free, so i am really encouraged by this post! Thanks!

  • Katrina December 27, 2013, 1:35 pm

    Oh my goodness thanks for this! I’m gluten and dairy free and trying to go mostly vegetarian. Its not easy. I’m off to explore the rest of your site now.

  • Tessa April 24, 2015, 10:11 am

    Great list! Very informative! I love most of this stuff! Another vegetarian product I always stock up on is Raw Revolution bars. They are so tasty! They’re also gluten free, raw, vegan, organic & kosher! You should try them =) check em out at http://www.shop.rawrev.com

  • star November 27, 2015, 8:51 am

    thank you!!!!!

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