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$70 Grocery Budget (+ why I stopped posting my menu plans)

I’m currently challenging myself to stick with a $70 grocery budget for our family of five. This includes almost all of our breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners + most household products (toiletries, laundry soap, etc.).

For live updates, be sure to follow my Instagram Stories. See all posts on my $70 Grocery Budget here.

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The last two weeks, I didn’t post our menu plan with my grocery posts. I did this intentionally — without saying anything — to see if people would notice and mention anything.

You see, it takes quite a bit of extra time to track what we eat and share it and it felt like the only comments I had been getting were pretty negative, nit-picky comments about our menu plan (most of these were coming in via email and on social media). I was feeling like a) people weren’t finding the menu plans helpful and b) it probably wasn’t worth my time to share the menu plans if they were only going to get critical comments.

But then… multiple people wrote in and last week and asked about the menu plans and told me you had found it so helpful. That was so encouraging to know that many of you actually do find the menu plans helpful. So, I’m happy to bring them back! 🙂

Here’s what we bought and ate this week:

Kroger Shopping Trip #1:

  • 2 loaves of bread — marked down to $1.79
  • 10 lb. bag of potatoes — $1.99
  • 2 cantaloupe — $0.99 each
  • Kroger vitamin D milk — $2.59
  • Total with tax: $10.77

As you know, I eat a lot of salads every week. This one was one of my favorites from this past week. (Marked down greens, leftover roasted asparagus, leftover Italian chicken.)

Jesse and I went out for a lunch date on Wednesday to one of our favorite places: Frothy Monkey. I love their Gail Salad with whole grain toast and butter. (Except yikes, that avocado looks nasty — I cut that bad part out before eating the salad!)

We already had a lot of groceries in our pantry, fridge, and freezer and there weren’t any really fantastic coupon deals at Kroger, but since I still had $59 in our grocery budget to use, I went to Kroger on Friday to see what markdowns I could find.

I was not disappointed. In fact, I kind of hit the motherlode of markdowns!

Kroger Shopping Trip #2:

  • Family-Sized Nabisco Crackers & Cookies — $1.99 with Friday-Saturday Kroger Digital Coupon
  • 3 boxes of Kroger cereal — $1.49 each
  • Frozen Turkey — $0.97/lb. with Friday-Saturday Kroger Digital Coupon = $6.43
  • Minute Rice — marked down to $0.69
  • 2 Wasabi Peanuts — marked down to $0.25 each
  • Ghana chocolate — marked down to $0.69
  • Multigrain bread — marked down to $1.29
  • 2 Whole-wheat Pita pockets — marked down $0.99 each
  • RX Bar — FREE with Free Friday coupon
  • 2 packages Kroger Sausage Links — $1.99 each with 4 Day weekend sale
  • 2 bags Salad Kits — marked down to $1.49 each
  • Simple Truth Eggs — marked down to $1.49
  • Quaker Oat Beverage — marked down to $1
  • 2 big bottles French’s ketchup — marked down to $0.89 each
  • 5 jars of Simple Truth Organic Corn & Bean Salsa — marked down to $0.79 each
  • 2 Simple Truth Greek Yogurt — marked down to $0.49 each
  • Chi-Chi’s pineapple salsa — marked down to $0.79
  • Hot Salsa — marked down to $1.29
  • Tomato Juice — marked down to $0.89
  • Total with tax: $49.23

I thought you’d like to see how yummy that bagged salad looks like on a plate. Here’s half a bag of the salad. I love that buying these bagged salads makes for such quick and easy — and healthful and inexpensive! — lunches for me!

a photo of Crystal Paine and her daughter

Kaitlynn went to 7th and 8th grade camp in Kentucky with 33 other students from church on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I am not a student ministry leader, but they were short on leaders who were able to come so I volunteered to go. And I had a blast getting to hang out with the kids, have fun with them, listen to them, love on them, and encourage them.

So Kaitlynn and I ate camp food for 2 days this week… and it wasn’t that bad! I was especially happy that they had a salad bar for lunch and dinner!

What We Ate This Past Week

Note: When you see the meals below, please remember this: I buy ahead often. Which means that when I find a great deal on something I know we’ll use, I buy as much as I can afford in our budget to have on hand.

This means that you aren’t going to see all of the groceries my shopping trip that I used to make all of the meals we ate.

Please also remember that I’m putting this out there and it’s not a perfectly balanced menu. This is just really what we ate — and I hope that it encourages you to see the real-ness and lack of perfection here.

Breakfasts:

  • Cereal, Oatmeal, Scrambled Eggs, Peanut Butter/Banana Toast

Lunches:

  • Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches, Salads, Leftovers, Blackberries, Cookies, Protein Bars (Jesse and I went out to lunch on Wednesday)

Snacks:

  • Cantaloupe, Cookies, Popcorn, Ice Cream, Crackers & Cheese, Refrigerator Pickles

Dinners:

  • Sunday — Frozen Pizza
  • Monday —Italian Chicken, Pineapple, Roasted Asparagus, Homemade Biscuits, Cantaloupe
  • Tuesday — Beef, Twice Baked Potatoes, Cantaloupe
  • Wednesday — Leftovers (The girls had pizza at church because they went to an activity night.)
  • Thursday — Meatballs, Mashed Potatoes, Pineapple, Refrigerator Pickles
  • Friday — Roasted Turkey in the Instant Pot, Fruit (Kathrynne was at a birthday party. Kaitlynn and I ate a quick dinner and then left to go to church to take the bus to camp in Kentucky!)
  • Saturday — Jesse and Silas and Kathrynne went out to eat. Kaitlynn and I were at camp.

Total spent on groceries: $60 — I have no idea how I managed to have a perfectly even number!!

Cashback earned this week: 50 points for submitting my receipts to Fetch rewards + submitting my receipt to iBotta rewards.

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60 Comments

  • Laura says:

    I’m so sorry you’ve gotten negative feedback-your menu planning/what you ate is honestly one of my FAVORITE things on your website. I feel like I speak for a lot of people when I say that your menus are helpful, frugal, and REALISTIC. I personally have used some of your ideas to help with my own menu planning, and it’s nice to know someone else eats salads AND pb&j’s😊👍🏻 Thank you!

  • Marie says:

    My hubby and I are actively saving to buy a house and get out of our apartment by February. I have two sisters getting married this year and they live up North and I’m down South. We’ll be flying in and out of NY three times in the next few months. We are also going to start trying for a family in 2020. I found your meal plans really helpful as we continue to save and your freezer meal plans are super helpful! I also suffer from a chronic illness, which makes it difficult to do anything certain times of the month. As my hubby and I both work full time and I feel so guilty when I’m out of commission, your freezer meals and grocery challenge helps to save for our dreams and goals and helps me to stock up the pantry and freezer so he is not left to cook when he is tired. Thank you!

  • Charleyne Sedore says:

    I appreciate how real you are. I have never heard you claim the meals would be balanced. I know your goal is to spend less and I definitely see that from you. Thank you

    • judith says:

      What an honest and helpful blog! My husband and I (retired from ministry) have added a border to our home who ears supper with us. But I work hard to use up every bit of what we have stocked up in pantry, fridges, and freezer. Which allows Hubs and I to go out for brunch on Sundays after church (about $20 including tip), a real treat. I use my Instapot and oven to meal prep as I can, and choose fresh fruits, veggies, and meats on sale. Having more time, now that I’m retired, gives me more flexibility for meals.
      Keep up the good work!

    • Aw, thank you so much!

  • Misty says:

    I have read this blog from the beginnings. One of my favorite parts is the new plans. We ALL need practical and fresh ideas. And I love seeing how you pull together dinners with your finds. It’s fun! Thanks for all your hard work!

  • Lorna Whipple says:

    Did you try the Quaker Oat Beverage? I just wonder how it was?

    • christi walton says:

      Our kids and I ate it…we got it for a 1.00 at our local grocery store. I mainly made oatmeal with it thought…and I think I did a little cooking with it. Its sweetened which I wasn’t thrilled with. It worked for pancakes well.

    • Jean Susan Bianchi says:

      I love your meal plans and look forward to them. If people say negative things dont even give it a secind thought. Your an inspiration and I read every post and look forward to them. May you be blessed through all your efforts to help those of us who are not as disciplined as you!

    • I think it would be best in smoothies or on oatmeal.

  • Tina says:

    I enjoy the menu posts. They’re helpful when I’m pressed for time and ideas. Thank you for bringing them back.

  • diane says:

    I like your plans. I actually just printed a recipe that your sister posted in her plan. Also, it’s nice to read the real meals that don’t take an inordinate amount of time of prepare or to see that other people eat leftovers a few times in a week some weeks. I’ve been following your blog for almost 10 years.

  • Kimberly Walker says:

    I love seeing your menu plans! It helps me to eat more salads! I am glad you didn’t listen to the naysayers who are mean and hateful and that you are posting your menus again!

  • Mo says:

    Crystal – I love when you and your sisters share their shopping trips and menu plans. It’s so easy to eat only what you’re raised on, only what those around you eat etc. and it’s too bad because there are so many wonderful recipes and ideas (for things like Snacky Lunches that are not “recipes”) that we miss out on when we aren’t able to learn from those around us! I can’t imagine the amount of energy and time that goes into these posts. I’m sorry you’ve gotten negative comments on them but it seems like that’s par the course when it comes to the online world 🙁 I would be willing to bet more people have been helped by and enjoyed your posts than bothered by them. Thanks for your site – it’s really helped me a lot since becoming a wife and a mom 🙂

  • Lori says:

    I love those bagged salads for a quick, easy lunch, also! One bag makes two meals, like you said, so I can eat on it for two days. I top it with the tuna from a pouch, leftover chicken or some deli turkey. Even better if you can get them marked down!

  • Tiffany says:

    Ummm….I’m a Dietitian and I get ideas from your meal plans! Love them! Thanks for bringing them back.

  • Krista says:

    Is there a certain day of the week that you seem to find more deals at Kroger than others? We have a Smiths here (kroger family) and I haven’t quite figured out the best day for mark downs.

  • Sheila says:

    My fussy husband won’t eat 3/4 of your menu items. Gets crabby when I try a new recipe. Sniffs my food to make sure I didn’t hide anything healthy in it. I would be happy to join you at your table and try everything.

  • Awmeme says:

    Love salads from a bag and the one shown looks delicous. Your one at your date lunch does too. However I have to say instead of just cutting that big chunk out I would have asked for another piece. You are paying for it and that looked like it was about half the piece of avocado.

  • Natasha says:

    I love your posts! They are super helpful! Question for you: how do you find the marked down salads/veggies/breads at Kroger? Do you find them on certain days of the week? 😊

  • Pat says:

    I love seeing your menu plans. It encourages me to plan dinners

  • Sally says:

    I really like following the link to the recipe on the menu. I’ve added several new dishes to our family’s menu plan this way. Since I don’t have the same stores I skim the purchase list and head to the menu to get new ideas.

  • CarolSue says:

    I really enjoy the Grocery Shopping and Menu Plan posts! These encourage me to stick to our grocery budget and give me ideas for different meals for my family. I also enjoy the posts from Bridgette and Gretchen! Kroger and Aldi are my two favorite grocery stores. Thanks so much for the hard work in getting these posts together!

  • Jennifer says:

    Thank you for taking the time to post your menu plans 🙂 I have used many of the recipes you have suggested or linked to. I always enjoy hearing about how other people eat, even though it isn’t necessarily what will work for my family. You and your sisters all remind me that it is possible to feed our families a yummy, balanced, healthy diet on a reasonable food budget!

  • jeanna leverett says:

    I’m a Kroger nut also. I just love Krogers because I don’t want to go to a million grocery store, Everyone has their level of savings that they are comfortable with. I spend more but I’m inspired by how little you actually spend. I enjoy seeing what you cook with it even if it doesn’t fit my lifestyle. I do have a salad everyday also and I’m bummed that I don’t get the kind of mark downs you get at your Krogers. lol FYI- I use my American Express and get 6% off my groceries also. I buy all my gift cards there and wine to get my 6% also. My point being is people just need to take what applies to their life and to not be critical. This is suppose to be helpful and fun. Good job!!

  • Jackie says:

    Thanks for posting. I love to see the grocery posts and menu plans that you have. I’ve been following you for years and you have helped me in so many different ways:)

  • Jenna Walker says:

    I hate complaining at restaurants, but I TOTALLY would have over that avocado! WOW! You shouldn’t have to cut out bad parts when you are paying to eat out.

  • Christine says:

    Why would someone want to criticize your food? I’m sad for them. Life and death is in the power of the tongue—choose life. Do not use any unwholesome talk except that will build others “UP” according to their needs.

  • Felicia says:

    We who enjoy your menu shares need to be equally as diligent to say how much we enjoy it. Sometimes we think that it goes without saying. Thank you for ALL that you share, it’s why I am subscribed! God bless you!

  • Kenci says:

    You are doing a amazing job feeding your family. Thank you for always posting real ways to save you have been saving me money for the last 10 years from a young single mom of 2 babies to a 30 year old with a family of 6. You have honestly been such a life line especially when I was a stay at home mom your posts gave me something to look forward to and break up my day.

  • Michelle says:

    I have followed your blog for many years and it has helped us out so many times. I love to cook but I am not very good with budgeting. You make my life so easy. You are God sent to our family. Thank you for all your amazing menu plans!!

  • Julie says:

    I can’t believe that people take the time to nit pick you! My mother always used to say “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!!”

  • Danielle Justine Spears says:

    Oh my gosh where did you find the pita bread? I looked all over my kroger for them. Oh found so many good discount on fresh produce lately. It wasn’t even items going bad right away. Always look.

  • Christina L says:

    Man 97 cents a lb for turkey at this time of year is a SCORE!

  • Elizabeth says:

    I don’t know if this will help…but I majored in Home Ec in college as well as many years since working on changing recipes to suit the many food allergies within our families (nope not in print yet…maybe some day)…and that is over 30 years so doing this part. I say you are doing FINE…just fine. If one looks at the WHOLE picture, not just the exact menu for one meal at a time…you are fine…no reason to worry. Ignore naysayers on this one!!

  • Dan Goldman says:

    Dear Crystal,

    Just want to say – don’t care what other people say, remember, you have a big army of supporters!

  • Amy says:

    I love your meal plans!! I pull a few ideas from you almost every week 💜 and your so encouraging and helpful!! Thank you 😊

  • Renee Johnston says:

    Great post!!
    What did you do with the breakfast/sausage what meal did you make with it.
    I got some of them when they were doing the buy 5 and get $5.00 cat back.
    Looking for sausage ideals😊
    Thanks

  • Danielle says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your meal plans. Being a working mom it can be hard to find time to come up with meal ideas. This helps me out so much. Thanks again.

  • Sarah says:

    I’m soooo glad to see the what we ate is back! I love it. PS—I live in Kentucky! I hope you had a wonderful time at camp while you we’re here. It’s a beautiful place to visit.

  • Guest says:

    I enjoy your menu plans and think (hope!) I commented last year that they have helped me release myself from unrealistic expectations that I’m going to have super fancy, fully balanced dinners every night. Sometimes we have a protein with two veggies and a starch and other times we have tomato soup and grilled cheese. Both are fine!

  • Julie says:

    I enjoy seeing your menu as it’s inspirational! I can always use new ideas. 🙂 I feel like living in the social media age, everyone wants to pipe in with a comment or criticism on every little thing. Haters gonna hate right?

  • Heather says:

    I have enjoyed looking at the menus. I have also been encouraged to look for deals at our Smith’s and other grocery stores. That said, Smith’s stopped taking Visa credit cards at our store this week (I have since heard they are trying it out in a few areas). Well, we mostly used our Visa credit card and I don’t use my debit card anywhere so I skipped going to Smith’s this week, at least. Maybe there will be some super deals in the future that will get me back into their store.

  • AMY L DUNHAM says:

    I love your Grocery Budget and Meal Plan posts…. they just inspire me. I love how you have a variety of choices for breakfast and everyone gets their own. I only have one daughter – but we have implemented this same routine at our house. I also look for the mark-downs now at Kroger. I have purchased the marked-down fruit, potatoes, meat and pantry items because you posted about it. I didn’t even know to look before. Thank you for being you.

  • Nicole J says:

    Crystal
    I’m very sorry to hear that you’ve gotten negative feedback
    I enjoy reading your menu plans and we have enjoyed /added to our favorites list several of the recipes you’ve shared
    In fact just this week I made 2 pans of the peanut butter chocolate cake mix cookies one to use as the treat in my boys lunches and one for a dear neighbor who had hip replacement surgery
    Keep up the good work 😊

  • Angela says:

    I love seeing what you buy and how you do the meals from it. Please don’t let the negative people stop you.

  • I loved your menu planning, so sorry to hear it was getting backlash!

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