Is it possible to survive on a $30 per week grocery budget?

I am single and have about $30 per week for groceries which I find hard to do and get a balanced diet. I do go to multiple stores to get the best prices and use coupons the best I can. The thing that bothers me, is when a staple item I use is on sale, I normally don’t have an extra $5 (let alone more) to spend to purchase it. How can I stock-up on sale items when I have such a little bit to get by with anyways? -Renee

Contrary to what many people may tell you, I think you can definitely eat well on $30 per week — and you can find a little wiggle room to buy ahead, too.

My husband and I both lived on a $30 per week grocery budget when we were first married. This included all the ingredients to make 21 meals for both of us each week, plus all household products.

A Can-Do Attitude Is a Must

Don’t let yourself think, “There’s no way I can eat on this small of a budget.” Instead, decide that you’re going to do the best you can with the resources you have.

Make it a game, of sorts, to see how well you can do on a little. By challenging yourself to exercise creativity and think outside the box, you’ll enjoy it a lot more. And when you’re enjoying something, it no longer seems so difficult.

Make Short-Term Sacrifices

In order to be able to scrape together enough money to start buying ahead and building up your stockpile, I’d encourage you to commit to eating really simply for a few weeks. Cut your grocery budget back to $25, and save the extra $5 to invest in those rock-bottom, can’t miss deals — or to purchase almost-free toiletries and household products.

If you’re thinking there’s no way you can eat on $25 per week, here’s a grocery list and menu plan I came up with:

Sample $25 Grocery List and Menu

Prices are approximate and will likely vary a little by area. You may be able to beat these prices with great sales and/or coupons.

Regular Grocery Store, Aldi, or Walmart

1 canister of oatmeal –$2
1 gallon milk — $2.50
1 bag of apples — $3
1 bag of carrots — $1.50
4 bags of frozen vegetables — $4
1 bag of frozen chicken breasts — $7

Dollar Store

1 loaf of bread — $1
1 jar of peanut butter — $1
1 jar of jelly or honey — $1
1 bag of dried beans — $1
1 bag of rice — $1

Breakfasts:

Oatmeal with milk (add in some chopped apples, honey, or peanut butter to change things up a little)

Lunches:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples, carrots

Dinners:

Beans and rice with steamed veggies on the side
Chicken, rice, and carrot soup
Baked chicken breast on a bed of rice, steamed veggies
Rice, chopped chicken, and steamed veggies mixed together and sprinkled with salt
Homemade refried beans, baked chicken, steamed veggies
Chicken and veggie stirfry served over rice
Leftovers

Yes, this isn’t a very exciting menu. But if you’re willing to scrimp for a few weeks and eat very simply, it will free up that extra $5 or so each week to start buying a few extra things that are on a great sale (like a bag of flour, like that incredible deal on strawberries — some to eat now, some to freeze for later, or that fantastic special on beef).

As you invest some of your grocery money in the rock-bottom specials and deals, this helps you to build up more of a stockpile so that, over time, you’ll be able to have more and more variety without increasing your budget.

For more grocery saving ideas, check out my 31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget series and find the best deals at your local store(s). Also, read my post Help! How Do We Cut Our Budget When There’s Nothing Left to Cut?

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Comments

  1. Kristin says

    DEFINITELY possible. I fed myself and my husband on $120/month for ages. I still don’t spend much more than that. It took a lot of planning and coupon clipping, but it’s definitely possible. The things I found most expensive were vegetables, but I bought what I could frozen and stretched them as far as they would go. Soups, stews, etc. Make everything you can from scratch. It’s pretty liberating. Another thing to consider is growing your own veggies.

  2. Diane says

    Thank you for your posts. They are always so inspiring especially during these trying times. You are doing wonderful things! I have a family of 5 and we aim for that per person. We don’t always succeed but it is great to be reminded to stick with it!

  3. Leah says

    I don’t have any prices, but this is a favorite of mine…
    Whole chicken… Day 1 Roasted in the oven serve w/ steamed veg.
    Divide leftovers… Make chicken salad from half of the meat and chicken vegetable soup made from the bones and some of the meat…. Add rice or pasta to make a little more hardy. (get mayo from dollar store.. pasta try to get it when it’s one sale or free and same for the pickles)

  4. says

    I love this. Even though I have a family of five, we get pretty tight on cash towards the end of the paycheck. Thanks!

  5. Amanda L says

    We aim for $50 a week for our family of 3. The baby is still young, but formula is EXPENSIVE. We tried to simplify our foods. We did buy some beef in bulk from a farmer by saving things up for a while. I try to buy whole cuts of meat and use them for several meals. We also skip most cleaning products and use baking soda and vinegar for many things. I actually start my list with the rock bottom prices and then fill in around those. I can use previous rock bottom finds to fill in the menu for weeks ahead. I’ve also found using a monthly menu and planning ahead with rock bottoms I find helps me stretch the money further.

    • Ann says

      Ask at your pediatricians office if they have any formula samples they can give you. I did that with my last child and sometimes they gave me enough to last a couple of weeks! It’s worth a shot – every bit helps!

      • Amanda L says

        Thanks Ann! We do get them now and then, but we’re on one of the more specialized formulas for a health issue. If the doc does get samples, they don’t part with them so easily. :(

        • Rebecca says

          if you are on a special formula for health reasons you maybe able to contact the manufacturer and let them know if it financial strain for you, my pediatrician gave me a contact number to do this when our son was on a special formula and we did not qualify for wic. The manufacturer sent us a whole case!

        • says

          Yes, Amanda, I would definitely contact the manufacturer.

          Another thought – when I worked at a daycare, some parents were actually able to get coverage through their health insurance for specialized formulas if they were for health issues. Just a random thought I had.

          I know how expensive even regular formula is…we are planning to adopt and I told my husband we need to start saving now for formula. :)

    • says

      You can some times find it discounted on places like Freecycle, LSN, and even your local CPC can help if you get in a bind.

  6. Angelique says

    It is very possible! My goal is to spend no more than $40 a week on our family of 4, and while some weeks I go over slightly, it is very do-able. Especially if you stock up on non-perishables or frozen items that you can use in other weeks.

    • says

      Can I ask if the $40 a week includes anything but groceries, like cleaning products, paper towels, etc? Not judging, just trying to decide if I could possibly be doing better. :)

      • Ellie W. says

        I feed my family of 4 on $40 a week. We don’t use paper products (we use cloth napkins rather than paper ones or paper towels). For cleaning products, I use vinegar & baking soda along with microfiber clothes. There’s not a thing in my house that can’t be cleaned with those! lol I use coupons to get dish soap for free or less than $1 (I don’t have a dishwasher.) Also, I make my own laundry soap (1 c borax, 1 c washing soda, 1 bar grated Fels Naptha) so I spend next to nothing on it! All that is why I’ve been able to stay at home & homeschool my kids! It’s not always pretty & fancy, but it gets us by! :)

        • Kayla P says

          That sounds exactly like my family, except that there are 7 of us! Our weekly budget is $50. We do the same things – cloth napkins, clean with vinegar and baking soda and microfiber cloths, and make our own laundry soap (we even use the same recipe! :) ) I also homeschool 2 of our 5 children right now, and I do feel that my part in the finances is making them stretch as far as they will go. Only by God’s grace can I make them go as far as they do! :)

        • Caroline says

          Curious on how the homemade soap does long term in the washer? We live in a hard water area, and found from a repair that using soap rather than detergent was clogging up the pipes in the washer. After that expensive repair on the advice of the repairman, I switched to liquid detergent only, not even powder. He said he has done hundreds of repairs because of soap build up in the inner workings of the machines. Other than that ditto everything except vinegar- hate the smell, dollar store or free with coupon cleaners work well enough to squeeze $2 a month into the budget.

      • Angelique says

        I have a decent stockpile of paper towels, shampoo, dish soap (have a dishwasher, but never use it), dental items, etc. I don’t have diapers stockpiled, but have 2 kids in diapers so that is separate.

  7. says

    I buy whole chickens when they are at rock-bottom price, and boil or roast, then bone. I can get at least four meals, sometimes five, per chicken, for two people.
    Chicken soup, chicken with noodles, Chicken with rice, chicken burritos or tacos, barbecue chicken, chicken and dumplings–just a few of the meals possible. I portion into meal-size packages, put in zip-lock bags, and put all the little bags in a gallon size bag and freeze.
    By having the chicken already cooked, my meals is half done, which saves time you can use to organize your coupons, and search the weekly adds.

    • Allison says

      If you put a whole chicken in the crockpot and season with salt/pepper, nothing else, it will actually fall off the bone. It was amazing to me to see how much chicken is actually there when the meat falls off. Then, I add onion and carrot tops and peels and about 7 cups of water and cook on low all night. Makes great stock! I get about 4 meals after we eat dinner that night (family of 4).

      • Amy says

        Thank you so much for sharing! So after I take away all the meat you leave the bones in there and add veggies and water and that will make stock? I thought there was more to it than that! Very easy!

        • Allison says

          Yes, that is it! I just take it out of the crockpot whole and remove the skin and bones and then put those back in with the veggies and water. The next morning, I strain the both out and discard the veggies. Once it cools in the fridge, you can remove the fat from the top and put it in jars/bags in the freezer (it will be like gelatin). You can save the fat in a container and use it to stir fry cabbage/onion/broccoli (or whatever you have on hand) with some ginger powder and then add rice and soy sauce mixed with some honey for fried rice. Delicious and only costs pennies. Cabbage lasts forever in the fridge and I use only a little frozen broccoli chopped small.

      • Amy says

        An awesome way to do this is to keep a gallon bag in your freezer, and whenever you have onion, celery and carrot scraps, throw them In the freezer bag. Then when you’re ready to make stock, you already have the veggies!

      • Caroline says

        Another good way is to Rotissere that chicken first or use pre-cooeked one from the deli. (The price is sometimes no more than a raw chicken and they cook it for you!) I got a rotissere accidentally from freecycle (thought I was getting a George Foreman grill.) But it makes a nice meal that tastes “special”. Then proceed as above. I save poultry fat to use in place of butter whenever possible – biscuits, bread, stir-fry, etc. This saves a considerable amount of money, one of the reasons I have rarely purchased chicken breasts.

  8. says

    I’ve found it helpful to make my own mixes – like seasoning mixes, baking mixes, etc. rather than buying them already made. I also make our yogurt in the crockpot which saves a lot of money! Having a menu plan is key – with a plan, I have been able to feed our family of 4 on $50 a week!

    Also, I recommend stocking up on items that are a good buy, as much as your budget will allow!

    Here’s the really easy taco seasoning mix that we use all the time:
    http://myongoingprojects.com/?p=15

  9. Susan says

    I feed my family of five and a cat on $120 a week, or $24 per week per person, and this includes all toiletries, cat food, cat litter, paper products, etc. Sometimes it is tight but we eat well and have treats every day. We do go out to eat one or two meals (breakfast, lunch or dinner — but not all 3!) every week. Life is for living, after all!

    • Rachel says

      That is a great budget for your family. I think the person asking this question is on a small fixed budget. The probably don’t have extra money to go out to eat much.

      I have decided to raise my budget for a family of four from 250 to about 300. And than decrease it 1-3% each month like Crystal suggests. I want to see how low I can get it without sacrificing our needs. We need to start seeds inside for our garden; this will definently help.

      • Susan says

        Yes — we do use restaurant.com certificates when we can buy them for pennies on the dollar and buy-one-get-one specials. My kids laugh because they know that if there is not a coupon or special deal, we don’t go! My point was that we spend less than the $30 the OP wanted to spend — it’s definitely doable! We tried on less, but it was too much to keep up with for me (I work full time), and this is a good number for us.

  10. Caroline says

    Our family goal for 12 people is $150/wk. I don’t always make it, and things like pull ups stretch the budget quite a bit, but that is my goal. For years my husband and I lived on a $100/mth budget and ate quite comfortably. Food has gone up since then, but I think the principles I used then are what help me to continue feeding my family now with much less thought. If a meal is going to cost over $10, then I don’t make it. Period. If I aim at spending less than $1 per person per meal (less for breakfast and lunch), then I fond we stay afloat. We splurge much less on food now then I did back then… gone are things like juice… but we still eat a very healthy and nutritious diet.

    • says

      Have you considered washable training pants? Definitely has saved us a ton, along with using cloth diapers. Our family of 4 eats on about $200 a month with toiletries. Cloth saves us at least $60/ month!

    • Christy Carden says

      Could you give some examples of meals? I spend about that much for a family of 4! I just wonder what meals I could make instead since obviously I’m doing something wrong!!

  11. Alyssa says

    I’m so thankful to see a post on a grocery budget this small! I sometimes get discouraged, because even the “tight” budgets people post about aren’t as tight as ours (just $150/month for our family of 4 (though one is just a baby and is still nursing)). With very careful planning, it is definitely possible! We certainly don’t eat gourmet, nor as much organic as I would like, but we do eat balanced and healthy. One thing I find to be very beneficial is to rarely serve a portion of meat by itself. For example, if I were to serve baked chicken breasts, my husband could eat 2-3 breasts himself. But, if I shred the meat to serve as a taco filling, for instance, I can bake just 3 breasts for the whole family. Also consider that with just one person eating the sample menu Crystal put together, there will probably be peanut butter and jelly left over, so that won’t have to be purchased again the next week–something else can take its place, like a $1 or less box of pasta, to work toward a stockpile!

  12. Brenda says

    You can do it! When I was single and in college I had about $40 a month to spend on groceries, and some how I managed. My parents would bring a few groceries now and then, and my boyfriend (now husband) would treat me out to special meals, but overall I was super frugal I did it!

  13. Sarah says

    I do think you can leave on $30 a week. My husband, two kids (4 and 9) and myself live on $50 a week and sometimes we have money leftover. For us the major thing that has helped us is simple meals and a menu plan. I purposely make sure that we have leftovers at least one night and also do breakfast for dinner one night (homemade pancakes, eggs, fresh fruit smoothies). If you meal plan, you can make sure you stay in budget. For any of the “fun” items that can hit your budget hard, I make them from scratch (i.e. cookies, muffins, doughnuts, etc.). For snacks, we usually have fruit, yogurt, smoothies or homemade trail mix. By not buying prepackaged foods, you can save a ton. You might also want to have at least two nights be meatless nights, since meat can be on the more expensive side. Don’t let people convince you that you can’t eat healthy on less money; it totally can be done!!

  14. Christina says

    Great job crystal! How inspiring. I am going to rethink my grocery list to see if I can simplify for awhile. We are paying off our last $6000 in debt, expecting a baby this fall, and possibly getting a job change and moving. So anything we can stockpile in the emergency fund would be great.

  15. Becky says

    I know I have found in the past, that if I had the time, which not everyone does, pancake mix can be another alternative that’s pretty cheap. I did it in college. I would mix together the apparipriate amount d powder and water and it would last me two or three days in the fridge. That one box lasted me quite a while. Not as healthy as oatmeal but it’s a pretty good meal :-)

  16. says

    You can do it! We eat a balanced diet on about $20/person/week, including toiletries, paper products, diapers for multiple bedwetters and a baby, etc. Do you have a bread outlet nearby, something like Franz or Orowheat? If you hit their close date rack, then you can score good bread for very little money. Just get as much as you can and pop it in the freezer.

    If you buy a couple spendier purchases each month, but rotate which items those are, then it will all balance out in the long run. For example, I spend about $13 for a 25# bag of oats, but then I don’t have to buy oats for quite a while. So, the money I’m *not* spending on oats the next month can be spent on stocking up on something else.

    Bulk purchases are often less expensive per pound, but I realize you may not have the wiggle room to make a bigger purchase. Perhaps you could split a bulk purchase with someone else. You’d both get a better deal per pound, but neither of you would bust your budget in the process.

  17. Chelsea says

    Yes, it is! Our monthly goal for groceries, diapers, and toiletries is $125 a month (family of 3.) I have found the 3 most vital practices for sticking within our budget are couponing/playing the drugstore game, creating a meal plan and sticking to it, and planning extremely simple (but still nutritious) meals. I have also applied many more of MSM’s tips for lowering my grocery budget (it’s a series on her blog), and they really have helped! Keep trying by applying one or two practices at a time and eventually it will get easier. :)

  18. says

    This was ever-so helpful. This is currently my situation, and I have been trying to do this. Thanks for the extra tips!

  19. says

    Our budget is $40 for a family of 5. (well, Mommy is eating for 2 right now. ;))

    I just want to chime in and say its very hard but very possible! Prayer is a wonderful thing. Some weeks its so easy just to be lazy but not so easy at the end of the month when there is no cash in the envelope.

    Its so much better not to grocery shop weekly. Try to do every other week.

    Make a menu. Look at your ad and see whats on sale. Find out when your stores discount their meat. Ours discounts ground beef to $1.49# every tuesday and thursday mornings. (Ground beef is reg. $2.99 sale here, gulp. Chicken is not much cheaper at $1.99# sale :P and I know that can be comparitivly (sp?) cheaper than some places)

    Keep your meals simple. I am not saying Renee’ you do this but often when I give out advice (that has been asked for by people) I am often amazed at the fact that people still want to create some amazing dishes on a limited budget. It just may not be the season to do that right now. That’s ok! :)

    It may not be possible to stock up when things are on sale. Honestly, and this probably wont apply for most, I cant. We have such a diet that does not allow wheat/gluten OR beans. :P But I do try to buy at least 1 extra pantry item to stock up on. One extra bag of rice one week, one extra can of tomatoes. BUT these are put aside as if I didnt have them. Last week they had an AMAZING deal on canned veggies. Canned veggies are typically on sale (store brand) for .79c They had Libby’s for 4/$3 with a $1 catalina wyb 4. I had a $1/4 coupon and a Albertson’s twice the value coupon (which will double man. coupons up to $1. Its the only doubles our town does and you are limited to 2 or 3… unless you are like me that goes around the neighborhood asking if anyone is going to use the doublers they got in the mail ;)) so I paid 4/$1 on canned veggies. We went without meat that week. I stocked up probably 20 cans. There are a few things we do canned veggies over fresh. But the idea is that you can do something similar when a sale comes up. Go without milk that week if you need too. Water is good for you. :)

    Also look for any other ways you can cut spending in yoru other categories. Can you use less gas one week? Just throwing that one out, I imagine not but thing outside the box. At first I always think, “No way! We’re barely getting such and such in our envelopes.” But over time I see a little light through the tunnel. Our electricity bill is $3 less this month. I was able to put $35 instead of $40 in our van this week and it DID last more than 2 weeks!

    I need to stop here and feed a newborn but wanted to add that its very easy for me to type this up with information… but some days I am at the end of my rope trying to make everything work out. I just want to cry. And then I pray. Sometimes my friend is soo willing to barter some of my free toothpaste/shampoo/etc for leftovers in her fridge. She cant eat them fast enough, or people dont like the leftovers and its such a blessing. Just keep trying. Dont give up. It wont be something that comes easy… it wont be something that changes overnight. Over the weeks… months… even years, you’ll learn little bit more and a little bit more and soon you will be able to give advice to others… but still ever learning yourself.

    • says

      You do very well!
      Praying- good advice. I always pray before I shop…while preparing lists, looking at sale prices on line, clipping coupons, and then before backing out of the driveway. God is able to provide exceedingly, abundantly, above all that I ask or think!

      • says

        What a GREAT post!
        And bartering with neighbors for leftovers.. what a wonderful idea! I try and share ours when I know we will have too much, but never really thought about just how much of a blessing it would be to those who are struggling!
        <3 you girly!

      • Danielle says

        Donna, love this idea of praying before you shop, menu plan, organize the trip, etc. I am going to have to do this to. because it is so true!

    • jay says

      Challice,
      I agree with you. I have been couponing for nearly 2 years now. Early this year, we decided to do the cash system for paying for stuff (after I gave hubby back his credit card and now lay out $240 for gas and groceries/month). When I went to prepay for gas at BJ’s (usually the cheapest), they didn’t know how to, but I was able to use $60 for two weeks to put gas in (not fill up) and currently I have a 1/2 tank left. Normally, I could have easily swiped my card and driven all over but I am very conscious at nearly $4 a gallon to drive less. Yup, a little more TV time, coloring time, play with your toys time and yup lets get creative….

      But I agree, the idea of $35 instead of $40 for gas, the drop the bill $3 adds up.

  20. missy says

    we spend almost $100/week for a family of 5! That includes food, all the paper products, personal items/care, dog/cat food, sometimes bullets (lol)! And sometimes we have money left over:) Also, laundry soap, dish soap, dishwasher soap, etc….I always go to Aldi’s first and then to Walmart. We live 1/2 from town and shop every 2 wks so i try to get all i can. Sometimes we run out…like now we are comepletely out of cereal, but that’s ok because I’m going stir crazy:) But menu planning is the biggest saver there is, along with making a list! I write out my menu and then add what I need to my list! Sometimes I’ll buy stuff not on my list if it’s a good price!

    • missy says

      I forgot to add that if you live by Kwik Trip they have eggs, milk, bread for cheaper than Aldi’s…..Also, around here we have a Mennonite store that sells organic and things in bulk for cheaper. They also butcher meat. So check around your area to see what they have to offer!

      • Melissa says

        I always watch Kwik trip, right now in my area they have 1/2 gallon bags of milk for $.99 and they did have eggs for $.99/dozen. We always stop there for bananas too at $.38/lb.

  21. Liz says

    Canned tuna, canned salmon, and eggs are protein sources that are inexpensive that we use in our menu regularly. They run about $1, $2 and $1.50 a can or dozen respectively here, and a dozen eggs can make quite a few meals. I also buy whole grain pasta and brown rice for about $1.50 a pound to add whole grains. Carrots, cabbage and cauliflour are for most parts of the year under $1 a pound here so they are good fresh produce fill ins, and apples at certain parts of the year are 3 lbs for $1. If you are willing to make your own pear or apple sauce when they are in season and freeze or can it you have great choices in the off season.
    You can definitely live off that budget, with some research and sale shopping. We spend around $75 a week for three people and that includes all paper products and cleaning stuff.

      • jay says

        My MIL brought us a bamboo steamer. I thought she was crazy.

        My child loves veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, soy beans, etc) that are steamed (ok, or grilled). Now I fully believe anyone who doesn’t steam is crazy. :)– ok, maybe not completely, but steaming does a delicious way to keep veggies eaten and nutricious.

  22. says

    Crystal I love this post!! My family of 4 eat on $75/ week but that’s because we eat out once or twice a week. There are some weeks where we don’t spend the full amount. Once you build a cash reserve (setting aside the $5) for those”can’t miss rock bottom prices” you will be all set. I purchase all of my fruits and veggies from an ethnic grocery store and can score all of our fresh foods for less than $5. maybe you have one in your area.

  23. says

    Taking advantage of free offers (lotions, shampoo, etc.) can help stretch the HBA items to allow a dollar or two to go towards stocking food. Swagbucks is great for Amazon gift cards, which can be used to purchase food; Recyclebank offers great coupons, which also can be used for food.

    Just last week I was able to get a box of Kashi cereal for $1 at Target with a Recyclebank coupon. That box would last a week and save $1 over the oatmeal, which you could then put towards stocking up, or buying another box for the pantry!

  24. Brandi says

    My best advice for this is shop Aldi, if there is one in your area. This being said, know what is a good deal and what is not, both Aldis and other places. On sale at WalMart often still isn’t less than Aldi regular priced. This just takes some time. I spend $50 a week on my husband and myself, so that is $25 per person. You can do it!!!

  25. Jan says

    Buy a whole chicken or at least split fryer parts when they are on sale- don’t waste your money on boneless skinless chicken breasts they are way over-priced and you will get a lot more meals out of one whole roasted chicken plus you can make soup with the left overs. In my opinion- split chicken breasts with the bone in and skin on taste the best!

    • Andrea says

      I agree with buying a whole chicken or parts.

      The bagged chicken breasts are convenient and fairly affordable, but they are typically injected with a salt water solution. We don’t need extra salt and I don’t want to pay extra for salt water.

  26. stephanie B says

    as a friend told me once, “every meal does not have to be a party in your mouth!” it’s true! we forget that food is there to nourish us and give us energy, it doesn’t always have to be a gourmet affair. great tips! thanks :)

    • Anne says

      I don’t want to listen to you….la la la la la :)

      This post has me thinking about how I can work in a few weeks of this kind of menu planning over the summer. Or at least designating a certain number of very frugal menu dinners every month and tuck the savings into our teenager’s college funds. Thanks!

    • Liz says

      Stephanie B:
      This made me laugh. You are SO right! My husband always says “Food is JUST fuel, that’s all.”

      • says

        Love that comment Liz!
        My older kids tell my younger kids similar things when there’s something on their plate that they’re not particularly fond of. And then add; “It’s just food. Eat it and be done with it!” ;-)

  27. Kristina says

    You can totally do it! My little family of 3 lives on $20/week and that includes groceries, toiletries, diapers, everything! It takes time and great sites like this to make sure you’re getting rock bottom deals and stocking up on freebies when you can. Keep a price list so you know where you can get things the cheapest and be open to store brands! Aldi and Bottom Dollar are great for cheap produce prices. You can often get frozen veggies for $1 or less, too. And like Crystal said get used to rice and beans – soon enough your stockpile will add up and you won’t be eating it all of the time! Then just keep saving every extra dollar you can find whether in your grocery budget or elsewhere and put it aside for those really great deals that you want to stock up on. Good luck!

      • Kristina says

        WOW! I’ve never seen eggs that cheap! Aldi’s around here just lowered them to .79 which I thought was great. And you’re so right, a great source of cheap protein. I’ve got an egg recipe (Migas from Pioneer woman) that I love to make for dinner, I’ve been making egg salad a lot lately, good ol hard boiled eggs and of course super yummy deviled eggs!

        • says

          Kristina,
          I have seen some very old cookbooks that had recipes for various casseroles. They would have noodles, veggies, and some sort of cream (dairy, gravy-like, or tomato) and top these with sliced boiled eggs. No meat!

          Quiche and frittata are both easy dishes to use eggs as the main for lunches and dinners. :-)

      • says

        eggs for .69 a dozen!!!! I go crazy when I can find them for 1.00 here in SW Mo…i was kind of disappointed aldi;s today had them at 1.29(2 weeks ago they were 1.19) but it’s still cheaper than 1.98 at walmart

        • lizajane says

          We’re in SW Missouri too, and we also have several Amish around us that sell eggs when they aren’t selling to the hatchery. One told me last week they had pullet eggs (much smaller than regular) for 30 cents a dozen. I didn’t need them since I get mine for free from a family member. They have small regular eggs sometimes for 50 cents a dozen. You might be too far away from them to get those deals, but it doesn’t hurt to ask around.

          • says

            I’m in Springfield so there’s no great deals like that here :(

            Even at the Farmer’s market they are usually $3/dozen and going through 5 dozen or so a week, that’s not very economical

          • lizajane says

            April – I work in Springfield so maybe we can work something out, especially if you’re going thru 5 dozen a week! Not sure how I’d contact you, unless Crystal can work some magic behind the scenes to give you my email address.

  28. Jan says

    One other tip we used when both me and my husband were out of work- see if there is a church near you that has a free or lost cost meal- sometimes called a soup kitchen- we would have Sunday lunch at a Chinese congregation for $2 a person and it was a nice meal- rice, steamed vegatables and chicken or pork- plus you get to meet some interesting people. Our church also hands out food once a week if you are unemployed or something we have had to use that too- I make sure I donate back now.

  29. Barb says

    Buy whatever meats and vegetables are on sale and use coupons on other sale items. Grow a garden or get extras from friends who garden. Pick your own berries and fruit in season(sometimes you can glean after the season for free). Cook and bake from scratch after you have stocked up on basics.

  30. Bonnie says

    Thanks for this post! We have been married for 27 years and raising children for as many, and I can still say that the most economical way to shop is to stay mostly in the perimeter of the store–produce, meats, dairy, and bread. Venture into the aisles for pasta, oatmeal, flour/meal, seasonings…maybe very few prepared items like ketchup, mustard. We live and eat well on very little considering there are 10 of us…14, soon to be 15 :-), on Sundays.
    I love these kinds of tips! You and your readers ROCK!

  31. Jennifer says

    Thank you so much for this post. It really inspires me to simplify. We’re a family of 6. We have my husband, myself, and 4 boys 14, 12, 5, and 3. We eat a whole foods diet. (mostly :) ) We normally spend an average $20 – $30 dollars per person a week. However we’re about to buy a half a cow and today I’ve been building a menu to give us the wiggle room to do so and not go over budget. This was a very timely post for me!

  32. Mandy Griffith says

    Thanks for the great tips. It’s even more challenging on a budget when you have multiple food allergies as i do–but you gave me some great inspiration. I love your website! Thanks for all the hard work!

    • jay says

      Mandy, if it helps, I find it better* to shop with food allergies. My son has a very serious all nut allergies. That allieviates us from buying extra candy, snacks, prepared meals, drinks. Mind you the pseudo peanut butter we use is pricy (as low as $5.99 on sale), we are eating much fresher foods and much much less non filling foods. I cursed the allergy when we first discovered it, but now I find it to be a blessing.
      *It is not easier — realize that there are foods you want or love and can’t have, but the internet has other options for food that makes up for it (I feel your pain)

      • Mandy Griffith says

        I have found that too! If you can’t have it you can’t buy it! That helps. Thanks for the great tips!

  33. Heather B says

    You can absolutely do it! About 5 years ago (before I got myself out of debt–thank you Dave Ramsey) I got my paycheck, made all my bill payments, including bare-minimums on my 5 credit cards, and at the end of all that I had $10 left for food–and that needed to last TWO WEEKS. No joke. I called a frugal friend (Thank GOODNESS for her!) and she told me to get the following: a dozen eggs, a bag of $1 spaghetti, spaghetti sauce, ramen soup, frozen veggies and cheap canned fruit. I had some other “stuff” in the house (crackers, frozen meat that I had NO clue how long was in my freezer), so that supplemented my small budget. I survived. I made it two entire weeks. And that experience was such a catalyzing moment in my life–it has been my personal life goal to NEVER feel that feeling ever again. But knowing it’s do-able is also a comfort. I have no doubt that you can do it, too!

  34. vmarir says

    Love this article. My husband and I and our infant ( table food )eat well on about 35 a week.. the local store by us always has potato 5 lb bags on sale for 1.99-2.99 and onions for under 2.00 a bad. Those are always incorporated into meals. Usually a bag will last for 3 meals to 5 meals depending. I also buy carrots at around 1.99 for a 3 lb bag. We spend around 3-4 bucks each day on the main parts sometimes less and eat leftovers for lunch and breakfast is oatmeal, cereal or fruit . We buy chicken quarters which are dirt cheap and do it with tomatoes and spices over pasta ( buy one get one ) or in the oven with potatos onions and carrots . Ramen noodles are about .39 a piece or les s and we make those an add butter no spices for a quick cheap lunch. Soups also freeze well and u can make a ton of it with some grilled cheese sandwhiches for dinner or lunch. Just to bring another element

  35. Mary says

    I would also suggest using any “extra” money that comes in to build a stockpile. Maybe from a couple extra hours at work, some online surveys, pet or baby sitting, etc. $20 to buy several pounds of meat at a rock bottom sale price will do so much to help your budget.

  36. says

    I have had that as a grocery budget for our family of four- but have used them in addition to what’s still in the cupboards. Last week, I had a $20 grocery budget that went like this:

    2.50 milk
    1.20 eggs
    1.00 2 lbs of rice (from bulk)
    $5.00 for doz. chicken thighs
    $5.00 for block of cheese

    This left just shy of $5 for produce, where you can get carrots, potatoes, spinach etc cheaply, or follow the sales…

    It didn’t cover EVERYthing, but it made what we had already stretch for even longer. Hillbilly housewife has a LOT of recipes on her site for stretching money and eating cheaply and well.

    Good luck! It takes research, but you can do this!

      • says

        Thank you! I have to admit that on weeks like that I pray on the ride over that I’ll make the most of what I have, and it never fails that I use all but 20-30 cents.

        • says

          Yes! Praying is a necessity on this issue. I’ve watched the Lord direct my steps over and over, while grocery shopping. Sometimes leading me to places I never go only to find mark down produce etc. Once I found strawberries 2/$1. I bought extra to make homemade jam for cheaper than I could every buy it. Another time I bought a HUGE leg of lamb for $10…I bought 2 and praised the Lord all the way home! One was so big that it fed my family for a week!

        • Linda G. says

          My friend just mentioned to me the other night that she holds up her grocery money to the Lord and asks Him to bless it and He surely does! I have forgotten to do so but those words have echoed in my ears ever since.

  37. says

    I think Crystal’s plan is great, but I probably wouldn’t save $5 for the first few weeks. I would add in a dozen eggs ($1.50), another fruit that is in season like strawberries ($1.50) and some cheese ($2). This will allow you to have more variety for the first week (mix up oatmeal breakfasts with scrambled eggs or cheese omelettes). You can even eat eggs for dinner and save some chicken for the following week. I think if you use the whole $30 for the first 3 or 4 weeks, you will be able to build up more variety so for week two you can maybe buy ground beef. And then you could have chicken one or two nights with ground beef for a few nights. By adding in eggs the first week, you would have oatmeal left over for week 2, so you could buy something else to add variety to your breakfasts for week 2.

    I say this because we recently moved, and I went back to our old house for a few days to clean out. There was no food in the house, and I didn’t want to eat out, so I went food shopping. It was hard to do it cheaply because I had no base supply. Normally, I’d have no problem spending say $50 for me and my three kids for a week, but starting from the beginning with no food on hand, $50 did not go far. That’s why I’d spend the full $30 the first few weeks before putting money aside to do bulk or special deals buying.

    • Allison says

      Just found your site and Facebook page, Donna, and love it! I can’t wait to make your chocolate oatmeal!

  38. LeaDawn says

    $30 a week is definitely do-able, but it does take planning. Our budget is $150 per month for our family of 3. $50 of that is for stock-up items (like great deals on meat and other freezable or non-perishables).I only go grocery shopping once every 2 weeks (unless there is a great deal). The week I go shopping we eat more fresh fruits and vegies. The second week we eat a lot more frozen or canned items.

    We have a fairly simple menu. Most of the items we eat are made from the pantry. We buy flour, sugar, wheat, oatmeal, and rice in bulk which saves us a lot. We rarely buy processed or pre-made type meals or items.

    When I make my shopping list, I look through my list of favorite meals (12 or 14 meal ideas) and make sure I have everything for those meals. Since we have a decent stockpile and many of the meals contain similar ingredients, I usually only have to buy 1 or 2 items per meal to complete it.

  39. says

    Great post Crystal. I think that $30 sounds like a small amount, especially when if you go into a store and just start throwing things in your cart it can add up very quickly.

    Buying produce in season is huge. Plus buy produce that you can really stretch, Kale for example is so super cheap and so healthy too.

    I also would suggest buying a whole chicken, cutting it into pieces and then boiling the bones in water with onions, carrots, celery to make your own stock. Then you can use leftover chicken and veggies from another meal to make a soup- add pasta or rice to make it more filling.

    If you find something with a really good price, be sure to ask yourself if you will even eat it. I know something that is normally $7 on sale for $1 sounds great, but its a waste if you won’t touch it.

  40. jay says

    I have fallen in love with Aldi’s. I guess you could compare shop at Walmart, but I am not a fan.
    for $2.80 this week (I only had a few $$ left over from last week’s cash grocery bill).. I got 2 bags of carrots, 1lb of strawberries and 5 bananas. Now, about 5 meals w/ strawberries and carrots are wildly versitle (bake, slow cook them, soup them, raw, etc etc)…

  41. says

    My grocery budget is $75-$100 per week for a family of nine which will soon be ten in August. It was $50-$75 per week, but we relocated temporarily for my husband’s job, and because the cost of living is higher in our new location, I had to adjust. We eat organic and natural foods as well as follow a Gluten free diet. We also raise many of our own foods as well. In addition, we also barter/trade with others. For instance, currently we have an abundance of eggs and fresh goat milk. If a neighbor has lettuce or butter or cheese or meat, we may trade eggs for what we need. We have also traded labor. Last year our neighbor raised meat chickens on our property. Then, using our chicken harvesting equipment and help from my husband and sons, the neighbor harvested the chickens. He very generously gave us half of the meat harvested! I have also given away canned goods to people who want to learn to can and come help me with the process. The budget includes toiletries, diapers (we mostly use cloth), vitamins, as well as groceries. When we were in TN I shopped in closeout stores and for mark downs in the regular store as well as using coupons. There were weeks in the winter when our garden harvest was finished when I did not even spend $25 and would have fresh fruit and veggies as well as some meat. I usualky do mot spend much at all on groceries once our garden is in full swing. It is much more difficult here in MI to find great deals, but we are getting by. I am always on the lookout for mark downs and hope one day to discover a closeout store in MI like the United Grocery Outlet in the South. Before I was married, I spent well less than $30 per week and ate nearly 100% local, natural, and/or organic foods (1998-2000). In 2000 I was married (still in college) and my grocery bill went up a little, but was still under $50 per week. Therefore, to answer your question, YES, I believe a person CAN live on $30 a week or less for groceries and still eat well. You may just have to work a little harder and be more creative, but it is worth the effort!!!

  42. Michelle K says

    For sure! I feed my family of 8 (with 4 eating like adults) for $75-$100 a week. That includes 1 baby in diapers, 1 kid in pullups and another in goodnights, and all toiletries. It can be done when you put your mind to it!

  43. says

    Can Renee do any gardening?

    We ate fresh turnip greens from our garden last night. That one meal more than paid for the seeds and we will likely have tons of them and maybe enough to freeze!

  44. Elizabeth says

    Where we live, I am not sure you could eat healthfully on $30 a week. Unless you grew all your veggies and fruit and had chickens. Maybe… I notice that many of the grocery stores on this site are not ones we have and we do not get such great sales. Even with couponing and the ocassional double coupon days…not even then. And we really cannot compare prices to what they were even 2 years ago, much less 7 or 8 years ago!! The cost has gone up significantly most places we go. If you ate vegetarian, maybe you would come closer to eating on that amount, especially if you ate mostly beans and rice and made everything from scratch…maybe! I appreciate the helps on this site, but sometimes we are not living in very comparable places I have found!! We live on the East Coast and travel some in other states, plus ocassional visits to Washington state and Idaho…so that is our experience.

    • Amanda L says

      I was just going to post something similar Elizabeth! Some of the prices people are posting for items are not even close to what we’d pay here. I shop sales and coupon as much as I can, but we live in a higher priced area. I think $30 is doable here, but its not easy. Prayer and having a good attitude go a long way, but we can only do so much about the prices. With the cost of everything constantly going up, it seems like we need more money for food, but there is less money to go around.

    • Wendy says

      Ditto here Elizabeth. Some of these prices that others are posting are unrealistic in our area. A gallon of milk for $2.50, peanut butter for $1 is not fit to eat. This is one thing I think you can’t scrimp on. I agree you could manage a few healthy meals, but would have to supplement with ramen noodles or some other cheap item. Also there wouldn’t be much variety at breakfast or lunch.

      • says

        Yes, like I mentioned, some of the prices will vary by area. I gave approximate prices that I know to be pretty standard for much of the U.S. — especially if you shop at the dollar store and buy store brands and/or what’s on a good sale.

        This is not meant to be a long-term plan, but I shared it to show that it is possible to eat for $25 per week to provide some wiggle room to be able to invest in higher-quality products so that, over time, you’re able to eat much better. Many times, short-term sacrifices can propel you to much more long-term success.

        And a committed can-do attitude, even when you’re barely squeaking by, can take you a long way!

        • Elizabeth says

          Glad to see you are calling this a short term plan!! Obviously, you can eat cheaper and get away with it, if not for terribly long…even in higher priced areas. We currently live in an area that is one of the higher priced resorts in USA. Soon hubby will retire and we will go elsewhere, one place has at least many of the different types of grocery stores you feature on your site, which should help.

          One not so healthy treat we enjoy at times, cheap but yummy, and I make it healthIER at least. Make up a package of ramen type noodles (one with the flavorings)…get it to the point that the noodles are broken apart and cooking, mix in flavor packet, lower the heat, drop in some eggs, put lid on and simmer at low heat for 7 or more minutes, depending on how cooked you like your eggs, and the size of the eggs. Then meanwhile, in small skillet stir fry some veggies (we like the oriental types and try to get them on sale at Harris Teeter, when it is b1g1 and I use about a half package). When finished divide contents into bowls and dump veggies on top!! This feeds the 2 of us very well. Might be enough for 2 adults and 1-2 children too.
          Elizabeth in NC

          • Wendy says

            I replied to your comment above Elizabeth and I live in NC too. No wonder we both thought these prices unrealistic.

          • Elizabeth says

            Well, hello Neighbor Wendy…yea, no wonder. We moved here almost 9 years ago (to be closer to family) and before we came everything we researched online said it was cheaper to live here than where we were in Washington state. Has that ever been a laugh!! What is sad is that NC is one of the poorer states as to income too…hubby often tells me he does not know how those who are not paid as well as he is can possibly survive. If you were a snowbird, we do get very little snow here and not every year, so MAYBE in the winter it is cheaper than some northern states, but groceries have always been so high. Things do NOT grow well here, we think the the soil is bad. Some do grow crops and succeed, much better than most home gardeners anyway. There is a veggie and fruit coop that has begun but last year it was about $27 a week for a small portion. Not all organic, but mostly. We live nearly an hour from an Aldis, Target, etc. We do have Walmart, but generally not very good produce, and not much organic. (I have seen them playing with the apples, throwing them into place…sigh). And my hubby who has shopped with me the last couple of years, laughed when I told him about $30 a week…his words: “You wouldn’t be eating healthy on THAT.” I have gotten some canned goods at dollar stores, but that is about it. We go up to Costco about 4 -6 times a year for a few bulk items. If our family was still at home, it would be work going monthly I think!! I am encouraged that there are still evidently a few places in the country that you can live more cheaply than we can here. One of the best ways we have found to save money here is to turn off our hot water heater, as it saves us probably 40% or more on that bill…a single person or couple should be able to do as we do. We do not run the dish washer or washing machine but about every 2-3 days and unless it is very cold, the water will remain hot enough for a short shower for at least 2 straight days. Keeping the thermostat at cooler in winter and warmer in summer helps too. To me that makes more sense as a way to save money, over scrimping on basic food.

            • says

              Have you considered a once-a-month or once every other month stock up trip to Aldi? It may save you a lot of money — and be worth the extra cost in gas.

              You’d want to calculate things out, but if you’ve not considered it, I’d highly recommend that you do — especially if you have a freezer. I’m guessing you may be able to save $100 per month or more by making a trip there once every month or every other month to stock up on supplies.

      • Elizabeth says

        Your suggestion about traveling monthly to do Aldis, would probably help others without our food constraints!! I have many food allergies, plus diabetes…so we read labels and when you do, you do not find many OK things in general. But we also shop Amazon, Vitacost, etc. for sales on special items we need which also helps. We have a small local health food store and they try to keep some things cheaper, even that are organic, such as apples and veggies. Cooking more from scratch helps as most people know. I got hubby to change to Almond Milk too, which is cheaper than organic lactaid milk here and he likes it ok. I have read it is actually higher in calcium too. He grew up on powdered milk, which obviously is not such a good choice for children (at least I think some of his health issues stem from some of the food lacks of his childhood). Not to say you must have milk, but you must get protein SOMEPLACE!! I do appreciate all the ideas people have presented here as with retirement looming soon, we need to cut back a lot more in many areas!!

  45. says

    It is posssible! I feed 8 people for $100 a month, and that includes stocking up on bulk items to save money.

    I have 4 1/2 months of menus at that price with recipes as well. There are recipes for soups, recipes with beans (not just beans and rice), French bread for .25 a loaf, desserts, and more.

    We don’t have an Aldi’s nor do the stores do double coupons here. Often we have nothing to spend on food. In January, I had some Christmas money from my grandma. I used $35 towards food. That’s all I bought in January, and with it I bought 50 pounds of oats. That will last us a while, and it means feeding the family for breakfast for .22 for EVERYONE (not per person).

    There are ways to get food even if you have nothing to spend at all. I have information on that on my site, too.

    You can do it!

    • Allison says

      Congrats on your new addition, Brandy! Hope you are doing well. Brandy’s site is great and will really inspire you to use what you have and cook frugally.

    • lyss says

      Please don’t think me critical, because I know that you seriously make do with very little. But I’m curious how you budget things like seeds for your garden and the water for it. Last summer we spent somewhere around $200/month just to water our lawn, so unless you use rain water or something, watering a garden is a big expense! I’m sure what you save on produce makes it worth it, but I’m curious how you budget that when you don’t have $.

      • says

        Lyss, Save seeds from the year before. Let things ‘go to seed’ and keep and store them. There’s trading places online too. Free for the stamp!

    • Andrea says

      Your suggestions are great for families, but it isn’t reasonable for one person to buy 25 pounds of oatmeal at a time. Buying in bulk saves a lot of money, but when you’re feeding only one or two, some bulk foods will spoil before being used up.

  46. Sporksoma says

    Would love to get milk for $2.50. Even the antibiotic-full, hormone-full, unhealthiest possible runs $4/gallon here on the MS Gulf Coast. The organic milk that we do buy is $5/gallon.

  47. vmarir says

    I already contributed but just found my ‘after’ budget for last week which means it reflects exactly what we spent .and ate
    Chicken quarters. Three were 3.29 one package another was 2.99 2 packages . Shake and bake 1.00 on sale bananas were .49 lb sale bought 3 lb carrots were on sale .49 a lb I bought two lbs potatoes 5 lb bag was 1.99 chicken breast I got just around 2 breasts for right around 3.00 bread for 1.00 on sale . Half lb ham ( on sale for 1.99lb ) , cheese, I ask by slice. One slice a day plus 3 for extras comes out to be under 1.25 paid around a buck . Pork chops there were 5 th in cutlets for 4.53 and a 3,lb bag of onions for 1.89 bought 4 apples for about 1.50 I bought Apple butter cuz oblige it and I splurged at 2.79 but that will last over a month for th ings like breakfast I bought one large green pepper .79
    Meals. Mon. Breakfast . Banal for hubby and a quarter of banana for son with oatmeal. Had ,(bought in bulk on sale ) Crock pot chicken with can tomatoes and seasonings. Had both . Lunch that day was a sandwhich for hubby and for me had some leftovers from night before . Tues same breakfast all three cept I skipped cuz rushing and lunch was leftover chicken for me and hubby a sandwhich . Dinner was pork chops with rice I had . Wed. Apple butter toastvfor me . Hubby Apple son Apple . Lunch. Left over pork chops . Dinner was chicken stir fryv wig onion and green pepper over rice I had. I made 5 of the potatos in to baked potatos tonight for lunchesb Thursday breakfast same as day before. Lunch for hubby was baked potato I had left over stir fry and forbdinner hubby had left over stir fry and I had a banana some fruit cocktail and Apple butter with toast. Made some ramen for myself to later. Son ate stir fry . I didn’t feel like cooking . Friday . Breakfast. Nothing for hubby and I . Son ate banana purree I made last week in freezer . We were rushing :) lunch for hubby absconded was a 1 menu item from wendys as we had an accountant appt . Dinner was chicken roasted in oven wig potato and onion and carrot.. next day. Fruit and oatmeal breakfast for all. Lunch was the baked potatobfor hubby and a piece of ham for son with half Apple . I made some freezer peroigies I had. Dinner. Chicken roast left over . Breaffast the next morning. Used up the rest of the fruit and had some oatmeal. Lunch we ate some of the extra left overs dinner Onion soup . Spices we had, we had beef bouillion we had and we skipped bread and melted the extra slices of cheese . And had cheese from the week before so we had grilled cheese with it. We do it mostly out of simplicity not frugality but I like the challenge. Sons lunches are not listed cuz he always eats leftovers wig carrot sticks or on & j winh carrot stick . This menu was the simpliest menu we had in a while but mainly cuz nothing was really on Sale :) . I went over ur budget a little but I make my budget 40 and I went way under mine, so I imagine it is possible :) good luck