Besides big things like rent, mortgages, and debt payments, groceries should be the next biggest part of your budget. While groceries are essential items, and need a healthy dose of money set aside for them, you can still cut back on this area of the budget. How, you may ask? With fruit menus and meal planning!
A big part of eating cheap also means eating healthier. It requires more cooking on your part and may mean changing the way you eat. But really, that’s a win!
I’ve outlined my approach to creating my grocery budget and some of my favorite meals that you can use to feed a family on a budget. By the end of this post, you will have already written your grocery list for next week.
How to make a grocery budget
Before you do any of the shopping or cooking, you need to make a grocery game plan. Many factors will affect how much you need to budget — including where you live, the number of family members, the age of your children, and how often you eat out at home.
For our family of 4 (plus pets!), we spend about $130-$150 each week on groceries, which includes things like pet food, toilet paper, and toiletries. Here’s exactly how I budget for each week!
1. Determine: How many servings do you need?
In fact, you don’t need to plan three meals, 7 days a week. Look at your calendar and see if there are days when you won’t eat at home, or where you might need to plan a quick meal.
Think about days when you can have leftovers or if you are the family member who only needs cereal or yogurt for breakfast. Plan only the number of meals you actually need.
2. Make a grocery list.
Usually, I make a grocery list once a week. I take my monthly grocery budget and divide it by four to determine how much I should spend during the week.
Before you make my list, you’ll need to take a look at what you already have. If you have any perishable items that will spoil next week, plan to use them and incorporate them into your recipe plan for the week.
3. Back to basics.
Most American diets rely on expensive proteins such as meat, dairy, and processed foods. Not only is this unhealthy, it’s also expensive!
- The bulk of your weekly grocery budget should be allocated to fruits and vegetables. When you’re on a budget, choose frozen whenever possible. They have no difference in nutrients, often cost less, and won’t spoil. To save even more, go for in-season vegetables. You can even try canning!
- Next, you’ll want to buy healthy fats and proteins. I like to stock up on nuts and seeds when they are on sale. For cheaper forms of protein, try tempeh and tofu. All other meats I buy in bulk. What I don’t need right away, I freeze.
- Next, you’ll also need inexpensive food items. Stocking your pantry with essential items ensures that you always have things on hand to prepare quick meals and stretch your grocery budget. This includes whole grains like oats, brown rice, pasta, couscous, etc., and things like beans and bakeware.
4. Go shopping.
Once you’ve set your budget, you’ll want to do your best to stick to it while grocery shopping. Always buy generic brands rather than name brands and look for anything on sale. Avoid packaged foods at all costs!
Although it may take some time, consider shopping at different stores for different items to find the best deal with the best quality. For example, Walmart is a great option for non-perishable products due to its low price, but it doesn’t have the best selection of products. Meanwhile, Costco offers amazing prices for buying wholesale meat for a family.
Coupons and price matching are also things you should consider when shopping for groceries. Another great money saving tip is to order groceries online! This way, you won’t be tempted to grab anything that’s not on the list.
Frugal Menu Planning: Recipes and Ideas
Here are some simple and delicious recipe ideas for any meal of the day – whatever fits on the budget. Each one would make a great addition to your family’s weekly fruit menu.
Breakfast ideas for frugal menus
If your family is like mine, most days of the week call for quick breakfasts. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun on a limited budget on weekends or special days.
These mini quiches cost only $0.40 each! It’s a great recipe for a quick breakfast or to serve alongside toast and fruit for a weekend breakfast.
If you love eating a big meal every morning, why not prepare some meals? These dishes contain eggs, bacon or sausage, broccoli, and roasted potatoes so you can start your day strong.
While pancake mix is already inexpensive on its own, it is a great healthy alternative. Spoiler alert, the two ingredients are eggs and bananas! And yes, it tastes good.
As a mother, I always try to introduce vegetables to my children whenever possible. Fortunately, these egg muffin cups make it easy to grab and go while still getting a good amount of protein and veggies.
This casserole is designed to be prepared the night before and then popped into the oven in the morning. It’s made with eggs, sausage, cheese, peppers, and bread to make a delicious French toast-like casserole.
Frugal menu lunch recipes
These lunch recipes are designed to be eaten several times a week for the whole family. They are either quick to make or easy meal prep.
Pizza and quesadillas are a staple in my house, so why not combine them? This simple lunch costs just $1.54 and is customizable to your child’s taste.
With these bowls, everyone in the family can make it the way they like it. Make it for an easy lunch or even as a family dinner.
As far as salads go, this one is very tasty and delicious. I love that lentils are the star of the show here, thanks to their super low price and healthy protein.
Avocados are a jack of all trades. They add some cream to this recipe, so it doesn’t require mayonnaise. Plus, it’s a healthy, fatty filling. Pair avocado with some chicken you bought in bulk.
Often times, I make more chicken than my family needs for dinner. Top up leftovers with some whole grain rolls and tangy salsa for a quick, healthy lunch at school or work the next day.
Dinner ideas for frugal menus
I find that dinner is the time when you have the most time of the day to prepare a delicious meal for the whole family! These recipes are designed to bring families together around the dinner table.
This is an easy meal that only requires a good hunk of pork and seasonings to create a filling meal for the whole family. Throw it in the oven, be patient, and you’ll have plenty of ham for dinner and leftovers.
The fewer ingredients, the better! A classic recipe, shepherd’s pie is one of the most affordable and filling family dinners you can prepare quickly.
It’s always a hit in my house, and it has chicken, onions, and peppers. Fajitas are easy to make and can be customized to your family’s preferences.
Every family needs a basic casserole dish. This dish comes loaded with broccoli, chicken, and a creamy cheddar mushroom sauce that kids will love.
Cheap quick dinners
Sometimes you’re in a hurry! But that doesn’t mean you have to eat out or eat processed foods. These foods are both healthy, quick and cheap.
The name doesn’t lie! This beef stir fry consists of tender beef slices and broccoli pieces tossed in sauce. It’s sweet and delicious.
A two-course dinner staple, this recipe consists of tender chicken thighs along with white rice cooked in vegetable broth and fried onions. It’s simple and delicious.
This is a simple recipe that uses cream cheese as the sauce. If you have picky little eaters at home, they will enjoy this pasta using leftover ham and mushrooms.
This is a great backup meal for busy nights. It’s a convenience food that’s freezable and makes a lot of food for a low price.
Recipes for frugal vegetarian menus
I didn’t want to leave any of my vegan and vegetarian friends in the dust! Here are some frugal recipes designed for all platforms.
A vegetarian take on the classic Indian dish. I love this recipe because it pretty much involves taking a bunch of jars and spices and putting them together in one pan.
Beans are one of the cheapest and healthiest proteins. You can prepare these enchiladas in advance for meal prep or cook them right away for the family.
Chili is another great recipe for families on a budget. This classic tempeh adds some extra protein for vegetarians.
If you need a simple but filling menu, try this cabbage and mushroom pasta dish. It uses a few pantry staples along with fresh cabbage (or uses frozen) and mushrooms.
That’s it for my frugal menu. These are just some recipes you can try that will keep your family healthy, all on a budget. Happy cooking!