How I Feed Our Family of 5 for $50 Per Week

Guest post from Emily of I Have Coupons for That

I have always enjoyed getting a good bargain on just about everything. However, it wasn’t until after my husband and I married (nearly 12 years ago) that I began using coupons on a regular basis. And while coupons helped save me money when I shopped, I also noticed that sometimes I would spend more than anticipated.

By the time our third child was born, I was shopping every two weeks at the base commissary, spending $250 to $300 each time I shopped. I couldn’t help but wonder what I was doing wrong.

Fast forward to today and I am now able to shop for the same items (for my family of 5) for only $50 each week — which saves us nearly $400 per month, or $4800 per year!

How did I do it?

It took a lot of trial and error and it was definitely a learning process, but sticking to the following “rules” helps me stay on track each week:

1. Carry your grocery-shopping budget in cash.

This was my first mistake. Carrying my debit or credit card provided room for overages at the register. By restricting myself to cash, I could only spend up to my allotted budget.

2. Use a calculator.

Keep track of the amount you are spending as you shop.

3. Shop small, save big. 

Instead of shopping twice per month, I now shop every Monday. My shopping list is smaller and I spend less.

4. Know what you already have. 

This used to make me so mad! I would purchase something because I had a coupon and would return home to find I already had three more of that very same item.

5. Make advanced meal planning a financially healthy habit. 

I prepare my meal plan one week in advance, working from my family’s sensible stockpile, pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Any items I may be missing to complete a meal are placed on my shopping list the bottom of my meal planner and those are the items I shop for on Monday.

6. Build a sensible stockpile.

Creating a stockpile that was practical and would sustain my family in between store sale cycles took some time. Now, I am able to rely on the items within our stockpile and eliminate the need to shop for those items. Without even leaving the house, I have already saved money!

7. Understand smart coupon use and store sale cycles.

Learning to better match coupons to store sale cycles will offer additional savings.

I was able to conquer our new grocery budget within nine months. Since that time, I have been able to maintain a budget of $50 per week for groceries and household necessities, without having to sacrifice preferred brands.
Emily is a born and raised Virginia Southern Belle, mother of three, proud military wife, and penny saver. She has an eye for things that sparkle and a love for a good bargain. She shares her daily frugal adventures at I Have Coupons for That!


Want to cut your grocery budget but don’t know where to start? I highly recommend checking out Grocery University. This step-by-step course has helped thousands of families lower their grocery budget — and it can help you, too! Read all about it here.

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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  1. says

    I think everyone works with what they’ve got – it sounds like she is a busy mama – and there are A LOT of people who buy convenience item and spend a whole lot more than she did – and we dont know if this was just one pic – we dont know if/when she buys fresh produce etc – maybe she just pulled a few things out of the pantry bc it was closer – she probably didnt realize how excited everyone would get 😉 – I personally work from home and my big kids are in school 3 days a week -that gives me a lot of time to make big batches of pancakes, cookies, soups, bread, etc – but some people just arent in that stage of life – it is SUPER impressive that she can make do with $50 a month even if it isnt all stuff some people in here would eat.

    lets all be nice.

    • Gloria Sponselee says

      She spends $50.00 a week, not a month. She always does her shopping on Monday.,,………

  2. Sarah says

    hi there!

    This might of already been brought up…. but I love the meal planning sheet that you used for the week. Do you have that posted on your blog to print out and use? Thanks!

    • Stephanie says

      Military commissaries will periodically sell items to military members and their dependents in bulk for discounted prices. For example, instead of buying one package of crackers for $2/box, they may schedule a case lot sale and sell a case of 18 boxes of these crackers for $27, effectively making each box only $1.50. I’ve only gone to these a few times, but my impression is it’s similar to discounts you might receive for buying in bulk at a store like Costco or Sam’s.

      • Kris says

        Case lot sales happen at several of the grocery stores where I live. You do not have to be military to get the good discounts. You can still buy most of the canned, boxed, refrigerated, frozen, or bagged food items individually at the cheap price but the stores stock up so you can buy them in bulk. There are huge discounts on these items and they are a great way to stock up.

  3. Michelle says

    I think that was a poor choice of picture since that is all junk food that I know I would never buy for my family. But, maybe it’s just a stock photo.

    However, the meal list didn’t look much better to me. Cold cereal, cereal bars, hotdogs, chips, etc. We just don’t eat like that but many do and it’s a personal choice. We spend $200 per week for a family of 3 and sometimes go over so I would love to only spend $50 per week!! I shop around, make almost all meals from scratch, shop coupons when available (hard to find for whole foods) but we also eat only grass fed beef, organic chicken and lots of fruits and veggies, nuts, etc. We also have some allergies so have to shop around those and that means we avoid certain foods that might save us some money. Each family makes a personal choice on what they can afford and how they want to eat.

    I will admit that the picture was off-putting to me & I almost didn’t read the article, but she did have some good tips like using a calculator. I shop with cash but don’t write what I’ve spent at each store and might start adopting that habit.

  4. Susan says

    Good plan, but my family won’t eat chicken 4x nights a week and my hubby won’t eat soup. Variety is the spice 9f life and this seems very dull

    • Cheryl says

      Same here, great idea but my husband is not a big chicken fan and the meals do look a bit boring. Good that it works for her family though, now, I just need to tweek it and try to get the same idea to work for my family

    • Cate says

      In my market we can usually find someone who has pork chops for 99 cents per pound. That might be another alternative to chicken.

  5. jackie says

    I agree with Michelle, that I almost didn’t read this article becuase of the pictures. I think a big misconception is that many of these articles encourage couponing and coupons, for the most part, are for processed and unhealthy food. I admit that as a working mom of 3, many times it was much easier to serve processed foods like rice-a-roni, stove top stuffing, etc. In our home, we have really tried hard to move away from that and move to eating ‘real food’. It does require more weekend cooking, and more planning, plus it’s more challenging to stick to a food budget but so important. As a nation, we are challenged to provide quality foods at prices most can afford. Many eat poorly because it is cheaper to do so. And that causes a whole host of problems.

    That said, I do like her idea of cash only and shopping weekly. I also need to make sure that I am using what is on hand first and planning meals to use it up before purchasing more. We waste way more food than we should!

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