How to Save Money Feeding Your Family

the Vicki Arnold blog uses affiliate links, please see the Policies page for more details.

How to Save Money Feeding Your Family from Vicki-Arnold.com

And no, this is not another gardening post. I will take the moment to say that growing your own food is the best money saving tip I have, but I’ve already covered that. So today we are talking strategies to feeding your family for $25 per person for a full week.

That equates to $3.57 per person, per day. To break it down even further, $1 per meal and $.57 for two snacks per person.

I’m just gonna tell you right now that this post is going to be long because I’m going to share a some general money saving strategies, a detailed menu plan with cost breakdown, a free meal planning packet, AND there is going to be a collection of resources known as a linky at the bottom. This linky will have other posts linked up because this post is part of the $100 Grocery Budget Challenge that was created in a blogging group I belong to called Inspired Bloggers Network.

$100 Grocery Budget Challenge Details

The challenge is to show that it is possible to feed a family on $25 per person per week. So $100 for a family of 4, $200 for a family of 8, etc. In our family, we have 6 to feed: 2 adults, 3 kids, and 1 toddler. My almost 10 year old son eats like an adult and we regularly have an extra preschooler.

Our typical grocery budget is actually $125/week, which is less than this challenge already for us ($150), BUT. Big but here. I usually go over that budget because we also have a Miscellaneous fund that I pull drive thru stops and meals out from. As well as any other dietary “splurge” purchases (think sweet treats). The challenge for me this pay period is to stick with the $150.

For reference sake, I’m supposed to tell you that we are in Indiana. And now, let’s get started.

How I Save Money While Grocery Shopping

Coupons are not a regular part of my grocery shopping, I just don’t have the time for them. I do use them when I come across them, I just don’t spend a lot of time hunting them down and clipping them.

And we don’t stockpile items for the most part. I do stock up when I visit certain stores, but we do not have large reserves of toothpaste, shampoo, and tooth brushes in our house.

  • Eat before I shop. I almost didn’t include this because it’s so basic, but I don’t do it approximately half the time so I apparently need the reminder. Grocery shopping while hungry = shopping with your stomach. And you want to shop with your brain. Your brain wants to save money, your stomach wants to eat.
  • Shop prepared. I am one of those people who dreads putting a meal plan together because I tend to dislike being told what to do…even if it’s my own plan telling me what to do. I would much rather prefer eating whatever I feel like it, when I feel like it. The problem with this is that is makes grocery shopping ridiculously expensive because you have to keep more things on hand to cook impulsively. However, taking the time to make a meal plan and a shopping list saves me time (and money) in the long run. I’ll share my meal planning strategy in the next section.
  • Bulk stores. We have a little specialty store in town. Folks around here call it a bulk store, but it’s not a REAL bulk store because the food comes pre-packaged (by the store workers), you don’t choose the amount you buy, but I digress. I buy things like oats (steel cut and old fashioned), specialty flours, and some spices here.
  • Independent discount stores. We have a little discount store run by the local Amish community that is about 45 minutes from my house. I usually make a trip once a month there. I buy things like granola bars, cereals, organic baby food pouches, and any other regular grocery items they happen to have. The items at this store are discounted because of dented boxes, torn labels, discontinuation, and past sale dates. We have occasionally picked up something that was stale (taco shells that cost me $.49) and something that just smelled off (a $1.20 bag of dried fruit) that we ended up pitching, but that has been a rare occurrence for us. I regularly buy outdated boxes of cereal for $1, boxes of organic granola bars for $1.25, and organic baby food pouches for $.39. The last trip I made, I bought a 12 roll pack of Scott 1,000 sheet toilet paper for $5. This is one store that I do stock up on whatever I can get when I do make the trek out.
  • Chain discount stores. There are two Ollie’s Bargain Outlets within 30 minutes of us. I recently discovered that I could also get organic granola bards for $1/box there, too! I already like to stop in here to check out their book selection so it’s not out of my way to walk across the store to see what grocery deals they have. My favorite score so far has been a $7.99 box of Larabar Alt protein bars, 15 bars! Big Lots also has grocery deals sometimes, but I am not in that store regularly.
  • Costco. I big puffy pink heart love Costco. We buy all sorts of things at Costco, like books, movies, clothes, batteries, printer paper, and the random awesome deals that show up. I drive almost 45 minutes every other week to go to Costco. That’s how much I love it. As far as groceries go, we buy organic broccoli florets, packages of bell peppers ($6 for 6), bags of frozen organic fruit for smoothies, butter, cheese, and much much more.
  • Manager’s Special & Clearance. I always look for these when I grocery shop. I know where they are in the local Krogers and can spot them in Meijer’s, too. It’s not dependable what you can find, but when you do find something, it’s usually quite the score. We like Larabars here. They are regularly on sale for $1, I found some on manager’s special once for $.75. Those quarters really do add up! I especially love when I find them on manager’s special and have a Swagbucks coupon to use on top of it. Score!

How I Meal Plan

Over the years, it’s changed. I’ve done the following:

  • Fly by the seat of my pants. We eat a lot of spaghetti and breakfast for dinners during these times. It gets old.
  • Detailed breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and treats for one week and two week intervals. I never stick to this.

Now, I do this. I come up with 7 dinners, 3-4 lunches, 3-4 breakfasts, and a handful of fruits, veggies, and other snacks. I put them on a piece of paper and then check them off as I use them. I make sure to mark if the meal is something special like a crockpot meal so that I don’t wait too long to start those. This seems to give me the balance of structure and flexibility that I need.

$100 Weekly Meal Plan

This is a sample of a $100 weekly meal plan for our home.

Breakfasts

  • Cereal – I buy these for $1-$2 per box. We will use 2-3 boxes per week plus a gallon of milk ($3 regularly priced, but regularly on sale for$2-$2.50 or free with other purchase promotions). We’ll overestimate to $9.
  • Eggs and toast – We have chickens that lay our eggs, which are not free because we do buy feed. However, it doesn’t come out of my grocery money and we don’t calculate the per egg cost. We are also often given day old bread from a bakery, which I freeze and we use as needed. The eggs I buy in the winter when our hens aren’t laying cost $2.50 per dozen. My husband eats 2 eggs for breakfast every morning and we will eat a batch of 6-8 scrambled eggs once or twice a week. So I will figure the cost for this at $7.50 for the eggs (3 dozen) and $2 for two loaves of store brand bread, for a total of $9.50 for the week.
  • Oatmeal – I buy this for $.79/lb. at the local bulk food store. A $3 bag lasts us well beyond a week because we don’t eat it frequently. I like to add cinnamon, a little sugar, and raisins. I buy our raisins from Costco, 2 – 36 oz bags for approximately $8. For a week’s worth of oatmeal we might use 1/4 of a bag, roughly $1. Sugar is bought from Costco as well, a 10 pound bag of organic evaporated cane sugar is $10. I use 1/4 cup for 6 cups of cooked oatmeal. I’m going to overestimate the sugar cost to $1 for the week. Total weekly+ cost $5.

Lunches

  • Leftovers – We eat a lot of leftovers for lunch. My husband takes them every day to work and we often have them at home. Cost = $0.
  • Pancakes – Sometimes we do bigger, more time consuming breakfast recipes for lunch. Pancakes and french toast are popular choices. I’ll use the 6 eggs left from the 3 dozen accounted for in our breakfasts for this. That gives me two lunches with a triple batch of pancakes. We often add chocolate chips to ours, but plain are just as yummy if I don’t have chocolate chips on hand (like now). I buy syrup from Costco, $6 for 2 huge bottles that last us months (obviously not real maple syrup). Flour and olive oil also bought at Costco. Baking powder is $2 for a can at Kroger. I buy Redmond Real Salt from Azure Standard. I used this article to help me estimate the cost, we make standard pancakes. Cost = $3.60 to have them twice in a week.
  • Sandwiches – Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches make an appearance in our diet roughly once a week. The peanut butter we use is $6/jar because it is SO worth it. Jelly is either home canned, $1 jars from the discount store, or $4 quart jars from Costco. We never use a whole jar of either peanut butter or jelly, I’ll call it 1/3 because sometimes we do put jelly on our toast in the morning. Cost: $3.

Snacks

  • Granola bars – These are the $1-$1.25 boxes from discount stores. With the average of 6 in a box, the cost per bar is $.21. The kids are allowed 1-2 per day, depending on the day’s activities and other factors (some days they are simply more hungry). I will figure 5 boxes at $1.25 each. Cost = $6.25.
  • Apples and bananas – A bag of apples and 3 bunches of bananas. Cost = $6.
  • Chips and salsa – Cost is counted with a dinner below because we have about half of what I buy for the meal left. Cost = $0.

Dinners

  • Beef and Bean Dip – This has beans ($2 for dry), diced tomatoes ($1), ground beef ($4), onions ($1), and spices (nominal). We buy a big bag of tortilla chips from Costco for $5 and will use it for this meal, as a side with tacos, and as a snack. This makes lots of leftovers, I’ll share a detailed breakdown with a recipe in the future. Cost = $13.
  • Spaghetti – My marinara sauce costs less than $7 for an 8-quart stock pot full. And it smells delicious as it simmers, too. We use 1/4 of that for a meal (freeze the extra), plus 2 boxes of spaghetti ($2). Cost = $4.
  • Pizza – I’ll use another 1/4 of the marinara sauce here (less than $2). I buy mozzarella cheese pre-shredded from Costco, $12 for a 5 pound bag. I don’t think we use 1/4 of the package, but I’ve never actually measured how much we do use ($3). We top our pizza with pepperoni ($3/package that we don’t fully use in one week), pineapple tidbits ($1), bell peppers ($2), and any variety of items we have left from other meals like onions, mushrooms, etc. I home make our pizza dough in my Kitchenaid mixer (estimating based on this to $1). This makes us 2 large pizzas, usually enough for leftovers. We pair this with home canned green beans ($0). Cost = $12.
  • Loaded Baked Potatoes – We actually successfully grew potatoes in our garden this year! But for the sake of this, I’ll estimate the cost of a 5 pound bag ($2 on sale regularly). We top our baked potatoes with sour cream ($1 on sale), cheddar cheese (bought at Costco, shredded at home for $8 for a two pound block of Tillamook medium cheddar, cost for this meal’s worth is $3), sauteed broccoli ($2), and bacon (Coleman’s uncured, $12 for 3 packages at Costco, $4). Cost = $12.
  • Tacos – We brown up 2 pounds of ground beef with an onion ($6). Other parts to this meal – taco shells ($1), tortilla shells ($1), salsa ($5 from Costco, see snacks), lettuce ($1), cheese ($3), sour cream ($1), and jalapenos ($3 for a jar that lasts us a few meals). Total cost = $21.
  • Veggie Stew – This is a pretty cheap meal to put together. I home make our chicken broth (so super easy) and will pair that with a can of tomato juice ($3) for the base. Then I add in a bunch of celery ($1), carrots ($1′s worth), a couple potatoes ($1), a turnip or two ($1), and an onion ($1). Then, voila! I have an 8-quart pot of stew. I’ll even toss in leftover corn, frozen green beans, and other veggies that I have leftover from other meals into the pot for a different soup each time. Total cost = $8.
  • White Chili – This is from one of the Fix It and Forget It cookbooks. It costs $10 for a large crockpot full.

And there you have it, a meal plan that will feed my family of 6 for a full 7 days for a total of $122.35.

Free Meal Planning Pages

I made a set of meal planning pages for you. There are two weekly meal plan pages, a page for shopping lists, and coordinating recipe cards.

Free Meal Planning Pages from Vicki-Arnold.com

Download yours today!

$100 Grocery Challenge Links

$100 Grocery Challenge

Below you will find more tips, tricks, and helps for saving money feeding your family.

Share your tips in the comments!

Speak Your Mind

*

Comments

  1. I love the spirit of this post!

    Although my family could not eat similar to this menu every week (too much starch & not enough fruit & vegs for us), every family gets in a pinch at some point in time. And when that happens, you gotta do what you gotta do :)

    I might have missed something as I was reading (and getting interrupted repeatedly), but say for dinner, if it is spaghetti night, everyone gets a plate of spaghetti and nothing else, besides a drink, right? We have frozen (non starchy) veggies from Sam’s for about $1.50 per dinner & (well rinsed & drained) canned fruit, also about $1.50 per dinner for 3 of us. That is an extra $1 per dinner or $7 per week, per person. Still not too bad!

    • I definitely see your point. We do not eat like this all the time and regularly have fruits and veggies in the house from the garden or from the store. I was mostly sticking with things I knew prices of from the store. I thought about putting a disclaimer on here that this is not a menu we eat week after week, but the post was already over 2,000 words, lol. Maybe I should share some more of our meal plans to give a more rounded view of what’s possible with this budget. Hmm..

      When we have spaghetti, we often have green beans (home canned) or a tossed salad (which you can do inexpensively from the store, too). Occasionally we have garlic bread with it, but not too often because that really makes for a carb-loaded meal. We also tend to eat a lot throughout the day, so a bowl of spaghetti (or two for my guys) is enough for a dinner for us in a time crunch. The kids will then typically have an apple or banana before getting ready for bed at night.

  2. Vicki,

    God bless you. You give some good ideas and some wonderful worksheets to use for meal planning. I do the spaghetti and tacos because these are so versatile. I allow my kids to put in or leave out whatever ingredients they like. I pray that I can plan for meals as I have type 2 diabetes and must eat healthily.

    Rebecca G.

    • I love taco night, it is so easy and everyone can make exactly what they want. We are fortunate to not have any special diet considerations, I know that really makes an impact on meal planning and grocery shopping. Praying over your meal planning efforts sounds like the best first step.

  3. i enjoyed this!

  4. Thanks for your post. We’re currently doing Dave Ramsey’s FPU and my grocery budget needs help. I’m in Ohio so prices are likely similar. I will have to look at Ollie’s. One went in our little city a few months ago and I would have never thought to look for food there. I would have thought the $1 a box cereal was crazy but Kroger had the Mom’s Natural brand on sale for that this month. Would you be willing to share/email me the name/location of the bulk and independent discount place? If they’re close to Ohio I might need a field trip or at least check them out the next time we drive thru Indiana to Michigan to see my brothers.

  5. Wow! Great job! I’m super impressed with the homemade jelly and canned green beans – neither are things I’ve attempted yet! O_o

    Our family of 5 (with three being 2!) spends about $150 a week, I think. The month before the babies started solids? Ohhhh about $80 a week. ;) Ayyyyyy, when they’re teenagers…

    And LOVE the meal planning pages!! Love your blog!

    <3

    • Thank you, Jennifer! I think $150 is perfectly reasonable for a family of 5 eating the way you do. When we did our GAPS experiment a few years ago, it I spent close to $200/week for 5 of us. When we removed grains and increased meat and dairy quality (and consumption), it drastically grew our budget. My husband and kids are very active and metabolize their food so stinking fast, they eat a LOT of food. This is really the heart behind our gardening. I WANT my family to eat lots of veggies and less grains, it just gets expensive if I’m not careful. Anyways, thanks for taking the time to read this beast. ;)

Trackbacks

  1. […] can be a great way to save time and money when it comes to feed your family. Vicki has this set of free meal planning printables available.  The printable includes a shopping list, recipe cards and two weekly meal plan […]