I’ve gotten several requests lately from readers asking how we feed our family of six for roughly $100 a week. We spend roughly $400-$425 dollars a month to feed our family. One sweet gal brought a smile to my face when she wrote “Do you mean $400 twice a month?” Nope. $400 for the entire month. As I started to think about how to share our tips, I realized that when I was looking online for ways to feed our family for cheap, I wanted details. Details about what they bought, how much they bought and what they served for meals.
So that is what this post (and part 2 of this post) will entail. I think you’ll be surprised to find that we feed our family relatively well on the little we spend. We buy only organic milk, flour, sugar and butter, for instance. We don’t eat a ton of junk. Here are the nitty gritty details on how we feed our family for $100 a week and on how you can feed your family for less too.
Plan, Plan, Plan
I almost hesitated to include this step because many people know it. However, most people are not doing it. Why, I’m not sure, but I suspect it might have something to do with not being sure quite how to plan and plan well. Here’s our detailed guide to menu planning.
- Make a list numbered 1-15. On that list, write down 15 meals that you can serve twice a month to your family. This is for your dinner meals. It’s important to be frugal on your dinner meals. Here are some of the things we serve for dinner meals:
- Chipotle Rice
- Beans and rice with homemade tortillas
- popcorn night
- meat loaf
- pot roast
- pizza night
- taco salad
- stir fry
- junk food night
- burgers and dogs
- potatoes and veggies
- leftover night
- veggie salad
- fried rice
- buttered noodles
- macaroni and cheese
- chicken noodle soup
- black bean soup
- cream of wild rice soup
- navy bean soup
- rice hotdish
- tuna hotdish
- Mexican lasagna (or Creamy Tacos Casserole)
As you can see, some of our dinner items seem costly, some do not. This is key – you have to sprinkle your menu with super cheap items such as popcorn or buttered noodles. I can make a big chunk of these meals for roughly $3 for our whole family of six.
Another benefit to having a serious, laid out menu plan is that it prevents you from making a take-out run because there’s nothing in the house. This will save you huge money.
2. Plan your meals so that the preparation of them fits in with your schedule. For instance, when we make soup, I make a ton of it (for cheap – more on this later) and freeze a few dinners’ worth so that on busy days I can just pull some soup out of the freezer and heat it up. Also, on homeschool co-op days when the kids and I are in town all day, I make this “junk food night” (more on this later) so that the only prep I need to do is to preheat the oven.
By making these two planning steps a must-do part of our menu planning, we help to keep our costs low.
Learn How to Shop Well
Shopping Well Tip #1: Too many people have NO idea what they’re paying for the food they buy. This ruins any chance of feeding your family on the cheap because you can’t know what’s a good deal and what isn’t. I can tell you, almost to the penny, what we paid for every item of food in our house. The large can of refried beans is $2.25. The bottles of juice are $3.98. The bagels are $1.42 a pack. The first step in shopping well is knowing the prices of what you buy on a regular basis. This will help you better be able to create a budget on the cheap. If you’re not good at memorizing, use your receipts to make a pricing list you can refer to as you menu plan.
Shopping Well Tip #2: Another part of learning to shop well is to know where the cheapest prices are on everything you buy. We buy the bulk of our food at Walmart, but all pasta and snacks are purchased from Trader Joe’s. Organic veggies and hot dogs come from Costco, cheese, coffee, oatmeal and eggs come from Sam’s Club. I also plan these trips for when we”ll be close to these stores so that I’m not wasting gas money driving from store to store.
Shopping Well Tip #3: Plan your menu around upcoming sales. For instance, if grapes are on sale one week, then you can be sure that grapes are what we’ll be eating for fruit on a given week. If the kids don’t want grapes, tough bounce. This is another key to feeding your family for cheap: don’t give in to kids’ demands. It’s perfectly fine to get their opinion, and we do that on a regular basis, but we don’t give in to demands for high priced snacks and processed crap food (excuse my language 🙂 )
Shopping Well Tip #4: Experiment and figure out which generic brands you can live with. We always buy the Sam’s Club bulk coffee beans and grind them ourselves. We will NOT eat the generic refried beans from Walmart. Yuck. Many generic brands are terrific, but some are horrible, so we experiment often and use generic when we are okay with the taste.
Shopping Well Tip #5: Buy quality where it’s important to you. In our family, we will buy only organic veggies, butter, flour, sugar and milk. We will only buy Daisy brand sour cream because it’s not filled with garbage. We will only buy Welch’s Farmer’s Blend 100% juices because the pesticides in the other stuff give two of our kids headaches. We only buy our beef and chicken from local farmers. We only buy Jolly brand non-GMO popping corn. These are our “no-compromise” items. It’s a small list, but it’s important to us so we make room for it in our budget by sacrificing other places.
Shopping Well Tip #6: Keep junk food and processed food to a minimum. The only time we ever buy chips, pop, processed cereals or other breakfast items and store-bought dessert-y stuff is if it’s a special occasion. Junk food takes up a HUGE amount of money in many people’s budgets. We limit purchase of these items to special occasions such as parties or camping trips.
I’m getting a little long-winded here, so I’m going to save our other tips for a part two post next week. In that post, I’ll share specifics on how we eat breakfast and lunch for cheap, our creative ways of making meals cost less and go farther, and will break down our monthly grocery budget in detail so that you can get specifics on what exactly we buy and how much it costs. Until then, happy shopping! You really can learn to feed your family for less!