I Feed My Family of 5 on $200 a Week—Here’s How
It's tough to stick to a grocery budget right now, but I use a couple strategies to save hundreds of dollars each month
I am the last person who should be writing this article. That was my first thought when I read my editor’s email about this assignment. Over the last year, our family’s grocery budget has ballooned quicker than my kids’ screen-time limits.
Inflation has affected all of us, and grocery bills have skyrocketed as food prices rise. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average weekly grocery bill for a family our size is $344.70; that means more than $1,400 each month.
There are times when my weekly grocery bill approaches that number, but for the most part, I’m able to keep it to $200 per week. Here’s how.
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Make a meal plan
Planning weekly meals and making grocery lists can be incredibly time-consuming. I’m sometimes shocked at how long it takes me to think through each day and what to cook! However, I don’t know a better way to save money at the grocery store than going in with a plan.
Start by making a grocery budget for the month. If you’re not sure where to start, look back at your debit or credit card statements from the last few months to see how much you normally spend. According to the USDA, the average American family spends 10% of its annual income on food.
Once you have a budget, look ahead at your week and think through meals. Note any nights when you’ll be away from home for kids’ activities or meetings. This will impact how much time you have to prep and cook dinner. Once you have your budget and cheap dinner ideas, then it’s time to tackle your grocery list.
To save time and money, I cook a double batch of a dinner recipe three times per week. This allows us to eat leftovers three nights per week. That takes care of six dinners, and on Fridays, we order out.
People assume that ordering groceries online is more expensive than going to the store—but it might not be. Ordering our groceries for curbside pickup saves us hundreds of dollars each month.
For me, shopping online is more efficient. I search for each item on my list and don’t get distracted by grocery store tricks. I don’t grab new foods off the shelf because they catch my eye. I stick to what we need and don’t make impulse purchases.
Another reason I love to order my groceries is that it allows me to keep an eye on the total bill. As I add items to my cart, I watch our bill go up and make adjustments to keep us under budget.
Shop your kitchen
When my kids complain that there’s nothing to eat, there are still cans in the pantry and leftovers in the fridge. Once I noticed how much food goes unused in our pantry and freezer, I started checking those supplies before meal planning for the week. No longer do boxes of pasta and cans of soup languish for months. If I have perfectly good food in the house, I build a meal around it.
Healthy staples like oats, brown rice, beans and whole wheat pasta make great bases for cheap, hearty meals. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Hearty Pasta Fagioli
- Spicy Cajun Sausage and Rice Skillet
- Chili Hash
- One-Pot Enchilada Pasta
- Black Bean Burritos
Decide what matters
When it comes to how you feed yourself and your family, there is no right or wrong. Each of us is trying our best, but sometimes there are too many goals to keep up with. It’s not always possible to make new, healthy, gourmet meals that your kids will happily eat while you stay under budget!
For our family, variety is not a priority—at least not right now. This is a season of life when I don’t mind eating the same meals each month. I know what everyone eats and which meals are quick to prepare on weeknights. If I can find cheap ways to cook these meals, then that’s what I’ll stick with. Fortunately, there are always new Aldi finds to spice up our dinner rotation.
Take some time to think about what’s important to you right now. Research grocery shopping tips and see if they help with your budget, then adjust as needed. Remember: You’re doing great.